Soups Rankings: December, 2019

Think about what has happened in hockey in the last month?  Talk about a seismic shift!  And the Don Cherry thing, that was controversial, but nobody is going to disagree with Bill Peters being gone, and the weeding out of just how awful the “old school” coaches were to play for.  That prehistoric way of coaching has been outdated for a while now, but it is still shocking to hear the extent it went to.  And we can debate all day about the motives of the players who are now coming out, in a lot of ways it feels like piling on which I hate, but at the same time it is important to hear the stories to help remove the possibility of these things happening again.

 

Ok, onto business.

 

I wish I had more a window to do these in.  Where I fudged up (I’m sorry guys, I fudged up) is not being ready to work on these on U.S. Thanksgiving.  That way I could have had time to calculate my own numbers for each team.  Special teams total, that’s an easy one and something the Oilers are making me look at more.  Percentage of wins in regulation is something I’ve started to look at (kind of like points percentage but I do believe we need to give more love to teams who take the two points cleanly).  And also five on five goals excluding empty netters.  There are lots.  PDO is one I’ve always found to be extremely reliable, simply regulation wins, points percentage (which I listed last time), etc.  I’ll hopefully have time during the Christmas break to add those things up and perhaps come up with some kind of formula to better explain my rankings.

 

Anyway, the point here is I’m looking at the teams who I believe are closest to the Cup.  I also look at how far into a rebuild a team is with the teams near the bottom of the standings.  With all this being said, allow me to roll out the rankings.

 

31. LA Kings

Last Rank: 31

It’s just not a fun situation, and again I’m not sure Rob Blake is the man for the job.

 

30. Detroit Red Wings

Last Rank: 30

Stevie Yzerman has a lot of work ahead of him.  They’ve lost 8 straight for the 2nd time this season.

 

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last Rank: 25

I really don’t like where this team currently sits.  They have some good pieces, but barring a big move out of nowhere they look like they’re in a rebuild.

 

28. Anaheim Ducks

Last Rank: 22

I’m done believing that their young talent is going to emerge.  Bob Murray is going to have to do a lot more.

 

27. New Jersey Devils

Last Rank: 27

Last night was rock bottom, and they’re about to trade Taylor Hall (and I’m guessing P.K. Subban could go too).  But they’ve been essentially rebuilding for three or four years now.  As bad as it is, they’re in a good spot moving forward.

 

26. Chicago Blackhawks

Last Rank: 26

They are trying hard to rebuild on the fly, but I’m not sure it’ll happen while Toews, Keith and Kane can still play at a high level.

 

25. Ottawa Senators

Last Rank: 28

This has to be incredible for Sens fans given where they were in early April.  Team is getting better, team is loaded with good young talent, and they own their 1st.  Good for them, no fan base deserves what they’ve gone through.

 

24. NY Rangers

Last Rank: 24

They’re in the hunt for a playoff spot as we speak.  Not sure they’ll get there, but considering how it was looking they’ve done a good job at steadying the ship.

 

23. Minnesota Wild

Last Rank: 29

One thing we’ve all slept on this season: They still have Bruce Boudreau behind the bench, and Bruce Boudreau wins in the regular season.  11 of their 12 wins have come in regulation, they aren’t doing it on smoke and mirrors.

 

22. Buffalo Sabres

Last Rank: 15

Last night’s game doesn’t technically count (though I don’t make a lot of it because the Devils goaltending was just horrendous even by their standards), but they are showing signs that they may get it going again.

 

21. Calgary Flames

Last Rank: 11

Last time around I said they would be the top team in the Pacific by now.  OOPS!!!  Peters mess aside, this team only has 7 wins in regulation.  To put that in context, it is the smallest percentage of their wins (13) in the league at 53.8%.  But they are very much a Jekyll and Hyde team so don’t count them out.

 

20. Montreal Canadiens

Last Rank: 17

I don’t actually think they are as bad as they’ve been lately.  But Carey Price is their superstar, so when he struggles then obviously they will too.

 

19. Vancouver Canucks

Last Rank: 13

I still like this team a lot, gave my Oilers fits this weekend.  I just worry that the leadership core isn’t ready yet, but this team is big time on the rise.  Oh, and I HATE their coach (because he’s smart).

 

18. Florida Panthers

Last Rank: 12

There point totals look real good, but if you look closer, this team is ahead of Calgary only for the smallest percentage of their wins being in regulation (61.5%).  So far, Sergei Bobrovsky has been a massive bust, yet they’ve withstood it.  If he can get his game back together, they should take off.

 

17. Nashville Predators

Last Rank: 3

The biggest slide of any team in my power rankings.  The night I wrote the last ones, Nashville had just blown a game against the Flames.  I thought that win was going to catapult the Flames and the Preds would be fine.  Instead, the Flames remained listless, while it was the Preds hit the skids.  It’s mainly goaltending, and I worry Rinne is shot and that Saros isn’t good enough.  We’ll see.

 

16. San Jose Sharks

Last Rank: 20

They look like they are figuring it out.  I still hate their speed and goaltending, and they aren’t going to win a Cup barring Doug Wilson severely f***ing over another GM (which is possible), but they are much better than this time last month.

 

15. Vegas Golden Knights

Last Rank: 4

I worry about that blueline for them, and I also don’t like their lack of speed up front.  But A) they were right around where they are at this time last season and B) I’ve learned to not bury this team because they love to humiliate me specifically!

 

14. Arizona Coyotes

Last Rank: 14

I’m not a big fan of nearly half their points being a result of games going to extra time.  But they are really deep and I’ve never been shy raving about the job John Chayka has done there.

 

13. Philadelphia Flyers

Last Rank: 23

They have a team Sv% of .908 as of last night, and yet they are 6th overall in points percentage this season.  That is IMPRESSIVE!

 

12. Winnipeg Jets

Last Rank: 18

If Connor Hellebyuck keeps this up, he might not just be in the Vezina discussion, we might be talking about him for the Hart.

 

11. Edmonton Oilers

Last Rank: 21

7-5-2 in the month might not sound overly impressive, but considering how tough the schedule looked last time around it is pretty impressive.  Even in defeat, you can see this team is right there.  Probably should have beat both St. Louis and Dallas, awful effort in LA, and in their words an awful performance in Denver vs the Avs. Big difference is they are keeping their confidence up when things don’t go well and in the process you can see that it has risen.

 

10. NY Islanders

Last Rank: 16

I don’t get it other than Barry Trotz is just that damn good of a head coach.

 

9. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last Rank: 9

They look great even without Sid.  This window is closing, but in saying that you know that Jim Rutherford will look to load up at the deadline.  Taylor Hall?

 

8. Colorado Avalanche

Last Rank: 10

How this team withstood the injury issues they had this month, I’m really not sure!  But it goes to show you how good they are.  My concern entering the season was Makar being given Tyson Barrie’s spot…I think he’s doing ok…

 

7. Carolina Hurricanes

Last Rank: 7

They have been pretty inconsistent.  The big thing to watch for is to add a stud between the pipes.  That guy could put them over the top.  But the problem is, who?!

 

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last Rank: 8

Not at all surprised that they look poised to go on a huge run now that Sheldon Keefe is behind the bench.  Won’t be shocked if they win the division.  But to be a true Cup contender, Kyle Dubas has to address the issues, which are being tough to play against (i.e. gamesmanship, size, grit, etc.) and a backup netminder to ease the workload for Andersen.

 

5. Dallas Stars

Last Rank: 19

Unlike the Leafs, this team is currently built for the post-season.  In the regular season, it looks like a three horse race for top spot in the Central.  However, come playoff time I believe it is only a two horse race to come out of the Central (at this point) and the Stars are one of those teams.

 

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last Rank: 2

Point totals still don’t look good, the team still hasn’t hit their stride, but they very literally have it all.  And don’t forget: they own the Canucks 1st round pick.  Lottery protected, but in this draft a 1st is gold and could fetch them something big at the deadline.

 

3. St. Louis Blues

Last Rank: 6

Last time I spoke about how I wasn’t the biggest Vladdy Tarasenko fan, and I’m not.  But I assumed they’d miss him more than THIS!

 

2. Washington Capitals

Last Rank: 5

We tend to forget if they’d put the Hurricanes away last spring, who knows how deep they could have gone yet again.  Much like Pittsburgh, the window is closing (Backstrom and Holtby both UFA’s) but they look pretty damn good right now.

 

1. Boston Bruins

Last Rank: 1

I will still maintain that I’m not sure how this team is THIS good, but they sure are!

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So You’re Telling me There’s a Chance – Adrian gets the winner as the Bobcats comeback to win in OT

That game wouldn’t have happened in September.  That game likely wouldn’t have happened in October.  But in the Bobcats last home game of the month of November, it happened.  “It” being a 3-2 OT victory after a being down 2-0 early in the hockey game.  The Cats could have just folded their tent and went home, but they managed to dig deep and pull out the 2 points.

 

Just 0:50 into the game it was the Storm’s Jackson Wozniak getting a hold of a rebound and riffling it past Cats goaltender Garrett Larsen, and quickly it was 1-0.  Then, just as the Cats had killed off their first penalty of the game, William Schimek made it 2-0 Storm at 8:02 with a shot from the point that Larsen didn’t see.  2-0 and not even 10 minutes in, just a night after a real solid effort where nothing went right, those are the ingredients to say “oh woe is me” and drag your feet the rest of the night.  “You go down by 2, but there is a ton of hockey left.  And for this leadership group to rally the troops on the bench and to understand that with composure they can crawl their way back into it” said Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube after the game.

 

The Cats began that crawl at the 11:15 mark of the 1st as on the power play Chance Adrian showed good vision finding Brendan Morrow in the high slot.  He was denied, but Ty Mosimann was there to put home the rebound and allow the teddy bears to begin covering the ice.  Storm took that 2-1 lead into the room, but the momentum was in the Bobcats favour.

 

And it carried over to the 2nd frame as at 8:46, once again on the power play and after some very good puck movement throughout, the puck would end up on the stick of Mosimann who this time found Mack Stewart in the slot for the redirection and the game was tied at 2 and would go to the intermission with that same score.

 

As the 3rd moved on, the Cats began to really take over the hockey game.  Twice late in the period, Brendan Morrow made great plays attacking the net and forcing the Storm to haul him down resulting in power plays.  If not for the play of Kaeden Lane late in the game, the Storm would not have left the Civic Centre with a point.  He held the fort for them however, and we would go to OT, still 2 apiece.

 

The Cats simply weren’t going to be denied on Saturday as by the time overtime hit, they had imposed their will on the Storm and taken control of the game.  After controlling the play and a few good chances, Mosimann gained the zone and then found Adrian the trailer in the high slot and he ripped a wrist shot past Lane to give the Cats the 3-2 victory.  Without a doubt this was a character building win for a club that is starting to really grow the past few weeks.

 

Mosimann and Adrian were the offensive stars for the Cats, but it was a big night for the Cats defensive star of the game which was Garrett Larsen.  The native of Waukesha, Wisconsin got his first win in the AJHL and was full value for it with 29 stops.  “A big win for him to get his first junior hockey win and the quality of our tandem is a big part of this team” Dube said.  Things may not have started right for him, but like his teammates Larsen stuck with it and throughout the game you could see his confidence growing.

 

Opportunity now knocks for the Cats.  Currently 8 points back of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the standings, but they own a game in hand, and they travel to the Casman Centre for a back to back Friday and Saturday.  There isn’t just 4 points to be had, it’s a possible 4 points to be gained and all while maintaining that game in hand.  Taylor Pope will have the call of both those games on Hockey TV, and you’ll be stuck with me for the next Bobcats home game with Shane Tomayer away on business, I’ll have the call on the December 4th game at home vs the Spruce Grove Saints.  So perhaps even more reason to make it down to the rink, but if you cannot then check out my first ever play by play call on Hockey TV, or the MixLR app.

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November Rain

After a 10 day layoff, the Bobcats were finally back in action Friday night at the Centennial Civic Centre for the first of two this weekend against the Grand Prairie Storm.  The Cats were looking to continue their strong play on home ice of late as they’d taken 5 of a possible 8 points in their last four at home, and at least a 2 goal lead in each of those four games.  Unfortunately though, last night’s very strong effort went unrewarded as the Storm took it 4-1.

 

It was a strong start for the Cats as Alex Danis opened the scoring for his first in the AJHL with a beautiful snipe off a 2 on 1 break.  The snipe was great, the celebration was better as I’m sure it was mix of excitement and relief for Danis who has been coming on strong of late and just been a little snake bit.  “All week in practice he said this weekend’s his weekend for it, and I think he went through about 3 celebration’s and pulled the monkey off his back” head coach Nigel Dube said after the game.  “The kid is dedicated and works hard so it’s good to see.”  The Storm tied it just 3:44 later as Jackson Savoie made a great pass to send Carter Myrol in and even though he failed to literally light the lamp, he did get the puck past Cats starter Josh Dias.

 

In the 2nd the Cats just couldn’t catch a break.  Devin Sutton would put the Strom up 2-1 at the 3:58 mark as he tipped in a Brody Dale point shot, and then after about 3 different players fanned on a puck on its way to the slot, Lukas Jirousek was the one who finally found it and he made no mistake firing it past Dias to make it 3-1 Storm and it remained that way through 2 periods of play.

 

The Cats never said die all night.  Would have been real easy to sulk after a 2nd period where they outshot the Storm 15-10, yet gave up the only 2 of the period, but they kept coming.  A few adjustments made in the intermission resulted in cleaner zone exits and more speed through the neutral zone, but despite the effort they just couldn’t cash.  Brody Dale would officially ice it with an empty netter right before the final buzzer to make it a 4-1 final in favour of the Storm.  Final shots on goal were also in favour of the Storm 36-31.

 

After a solid effort by the Cats that went unrewarded, understandably coach Dube was a bit disheartened about how things went.  “After 10 days off, there was a little bit of hot potato with the puck early on, but we held on.  And then in the 2nd period we controlled the better parts of the play and outshoot them 15-10, but a puck goes in off one of our shin pads, and one off the back boards and we over skate a puck and they bury on it, and now we’re chasing the game.  But there was no quit in our game.  Until they got the empty netter with 4 seconds left there was no quit in our game.  There were definitely some positives to take out of the game.”

 

Cats get a chance at redemption tonight as they’ll have a rematch with the Storm again at the Civic Centre.  7:30 puck drop, and don’t forget that it’s Teddy Bear toss night!  So make sure you make it down to the Civic Centre and after the Bobcats first goal we want to see that ice covered in teddy bears!  However, if you hate fun, or simply can’t make it down, as always Shane Tomayer and myself will have the action HOPEFULLY on Hockey TV (been a lot of technical issues getting the games on their lately), or on the MixLR app.

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 10 WHL Prospects (November, 2019)

It’s that time again.  Vader time?  I wish!  I still remember when Vader hit the “Vader bomb” on HBK at In Your House International Incident (that was held in Vancouver) and I thought “that’s it for HBK’s title reign, Vader is taking it at Summerslam!”  But it was not to be for Vader.  Oh yeah, prospects!  It’s time to take another look at the 2020 draft-eligible prospects from the Western Hockey League.  Quite a bit of movement from my pre-season (pre Hlinka/Gretzky really) rankings.  Added to the top 10 are 6 honourable mentions.  Why 6 you may ask?  Why not a more common number of 5 or 10?  Well if you’d quit being an asshole about it maybe I’ll tell you!!!  Sorry, that was wrong of me.  ANYWAY…the number is 6 because I also include 3 kids out of the AJHL which I’m high on and 1 out of the BCHL.  That makes 20.  So I’m giving you 20 write-ups for the price of NONE!  Can’t beat that deal!

It isn’t a great year for the WHL.  Nobody to this point is truly separating from the pack.  But while the league lacks the high-end guys that the OHL does, and the superstar the Q has, it at least matches those leagues, and maybe even surpasses them in depth.  I’m not sure we’ll see a WHL kid go in the top 10, maybe not even in the top 15!  But from 16 to 50, I believe (at least at this point) we’ll see a big run on Western kids.

So here we go with number one, and at the moment for myself personally, it isn’t all that close of a race for the top spot.

 

1. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 20  G: 2  A: 11  P: 13

Last Rank: 1

Born: 01/18/02, Sherwood Park, AB

So if I’m saying off the top “nobody is really separating from the pack”, what then makes Guhle (still) the top guy on my list?  Upside.  And I’ve maintained this entire time that the upside on Guhle is off the charts.  Right now, I see Guhle as a potential Jacob Slavin type.  Not a big contributor offensively, but a terrific skater, moves the puck well, and a terrific pure defender (angles, stick, and positioning are all very advanced for a player in his 17 year old season).  Added to all that, Guhle has a lot of physicality in his game which a guy like Slavin doesn’t.  Not to compare his style to Slavin, but if you’re drafting Guhle I believe that is the type of D-man he can realistically become.  If the offensive game comes though (and there are signs that it is developing), the sky is the limit.

 

2. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 19  G: 13  A: 17  P: 30

Last Rank: 6

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

In my pre-season rankings, I had Zary 6th, mostly due to playing it safe.  He was I believe the 37th pick in his bantam draft, so he had very little fanfare.  It’s become pretty clear that he indeed is for real.  His 17 year old season nearly matched Kirby Dach’s, who of course went 3rd overall last season and has stuck with the Blackhawks this season.  Zary has a better 200-foot game.  In fact, if you listened to the podcast I did with SPR and Larry Fisher, Larry (who has seen Zary a ton) RAVED about Zary’s game and compared him with one of my favourite players in the NHL Bo Horvat.  Quite a compliment in my books.  Zary isn’t just putting up great numbers, he is a coach’s dream.  A player who can be placed in any role and thrive.  The skating isn’t concerning, but it is likely the key area he’ll need to improve as he continues to develop.  One other concern to keep an eye on: half of the production thus far has been on the power play.

 

3. Justin Sourdif

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 163  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 18  G: 9  A: 8  P: 17

Last Rank: 2

Born: 03/24/02, Surrey, BC

Sourdif slips a spot in my rankings, and he is off to a slower start than most believed he’d have, but having said this I am still pretty confident in his ability to reclaim one of the top two spots by June on this list.  Sourdif has good edge work, a really good first step, but his top-end speed could use a little work, which I wonder if that is just a lack of lower body strength at this point.  Someone who looks as though he has the frame to get up to 190-200lbs currently being only 165, that is very possible.  It’s funny, many will tell you his playmaking is better than his numbers suggest.  I know that’s what I’ve seen with him, but it has yet to play out that way.  What perhaps hurts his assist totals is the poor Giants powerplay which currently sits 19th in the league at 13.8%.  Sourdif actually has just one less point 5 on 5 than Connor Zary.  Another thing I really like with Sourdif is his willingness to get his nose dirty.  Might end up as a winger in the pros, but I do believe as of writing this that he is a true centre.

 

4. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 9  A: 13  P: 22

Last Rank: 4

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

Off to a really good start this season and I often talk about the “glut” of wingers in this draft.  It can be argued that Sourdif is in that group, I have no problem with that.  For me, Sourdif’s ability to play the middle slightly separates him from that group, and it really starts here with Jarvis.  Only 5’10, and only 172lbs, but he is very willing to engage in the battle and play in the tough areas.  I love kids who have a little gamesmanship and Jarvis brings that to the table as well.  But his calling card is his blend of speed and skill, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say both are a elite, both are really high end.

 

5. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 182  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 20  G: 7  A: 16  P: 23

Last Rank: 5

Born: 03/09/02, Calgary, AB

Another thing Larry Fisher said during our podcast was speaking about the motor that Wiesblatt has which is my favourite quality about the Calgary native.  You are getting a max effort every shift from a kid who skates well, isn’t tall but he’s pretty thick, shows no fear of going to all the dirty area’s on the ice, will throw his weight around and will play in your face all game long.  Combine that with really good skating ability and a high IQ, and Wiesblatt just feels like a kid who will be a very safe pick for any team that drafts him.

 

6. Jake Neighbours 

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 20  G: 4  A: 19  P: 23

Last Rank: 7

Born: 03/29/02, Airdrie, AB

I’m still not AS high on Neighbours as some are.  That’s not to say I don’t like him, I do.  But the skating does concern me a little, and he doesn’t get the pass some would for concerning skating from me because he’s already mostly filled out.  Hovering around 200lbs, it’s tough to suggest that his lower body strength will improve to gain more power in his stride.  It isn’t as though he needs to improve his skating by leaps and bounds to make it, but he needs to improve it quite a bit to become a top-six forward.  The IQ though is impressive with Neighbours.  He’s an extremely intelligent player, coupled with good hands, and good vision.  I won’t lie though, for me it is a concern that everything other than his IQ I just view as good, not great.

 

7. Pavel Novak

Team: Kelowna Rockets

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 19  G: 10  A: 11  P: 21

Last Rank: NR

Born: 04/16/02, Tabor, CZE

The WHL rookie is tearing it up right now for the Memorial Cup hosts.  Like Zary, I find myself deferring to Larry Fisher who watches Kelowna on a nightly basis.  “He’s a real offensive catalyst.  He thinks attack when he gets the puck, he’s always looking to attack.”  One thing I read in the summer prior to his arrival in Kelowna, was that his skating was a concern.  But I haven’t seen it being an issue (or if it was, it improved a lot over the summer).  One thing I don’t love with Novak is the fact that slightly over half of his production has come on the power play (as you can figure out by now, I put a lot of stock into even-strength scoring).  But this kid has really impressed thus far and given that he’s still likely getting adjusted to life in North America, his game may only get better from here.

 

8. Connor McClennon

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 156  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 19  G: 5  A: 11  P: 16

Last Rank: 3

Born: 06/25/02, Wainwright, AB

A bit of a disappointing start for me to McClennon’s season.  Not just the 16 points, but half of that production is with the man advantage.  And this Ice team isn’t near as bad as last years group was.  They don’t have Vegas 1st rounder Peyton Krebs back yet, but Michal Teply, 2021 draft-eligible Carson Lambos is putting up big numbers on the blueline (keep an eye on him for next season, an 03 who is putting up numbers that would have people buzzing if he were an 02 draft-eligible D-man), and I’ve just frankly expected more.  Undersized, but has a lot of weight and strength still to be put on.  He is never going to cheat you with his compete level, and his speed and skill is as good or better than any of the draft eligibles out of the dub, but it’s just been an underwhelming start.  Obviously lots of time for the kid from my neck of the woods to turn it around though.

 

9. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 20  G: 2  A: 11  P: 13

Last Rank: NR

Born: 09/20/01, Prince Albert, SK

I said it on the podcast I did with SPR and Larry Fisher, I fully admit I was flat out STUPID to have Schneider as an honourable mention the last time around.  I got too caught up in other kids upside and while I don’t like being “hot take guy”, that came off very “hot takey” in hindsight.  Not to say that I’m as high on him as most others seem to be, because I’m still not.  But I went overboard.  Schneider is a very safe pick.  Is the offensive production ever going to come?  I have my doubts.  But he’s a very good skater who makes a great outlet pass.  You’d think that would translate to more points (though in fairness, the Wheat Kings have struggled the last few seasons).  The guy Schneider reminds me of a lot is Travis Hamonic, who isn’t a point producer in the NHL but was a terrific top four defenceman during his time with the Islanders and able to log all the tough minutes.  Right shot, good size, plays a safe and physical game, plays for the Wheat Kings, you can see why the Hamonic comparison would come to mind for me.  And like so many of the WHL kids this season, I understand why so many have him higher, but I’m a tough grader on over-agers and believe we should be seeing more out of Schneider.  But again, very safe pick here, just not a big upside.

 

10. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 3  A: 12  P: 15

Last Rank: NR

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

The son of former NHL defenceman Jeff Finley.  Obviously the size is the first thing you notice about Finley, but his skating ability is terrific for a kid with his size.  Again I defer to Larry Fisher who has seen Finley more than I to this point, and he made a great point on how Finley has been placed in a shutdown role in Spokane.  To put up the numbers he has while seeing some very tough minutes is impressive.  Add to that only 4 of the points have come with the man advantage, and he is one of the youngest players in the 2020 draft.  There is a lot to like with Finley and I could see a lot of teams getting hot and bothered by his upside before we get to late June.

 

Hounourable mention

Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 162  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 4  A: 8  P: 12

Last Rank: 9

Born: 08/08/02, Lethbridge, AB

I don’t know what I can add from my last write up that I don’t want to say about Greig now.  But I’ll re-iterate that he has a lot of weight still to be put onto that frame, and with the weight could come the strength that he needs.  He plays a very understated game.  He seems to be a very coachable kid which was evident at the Hlinka.  Will he ever become a 1st or 2nd line centre in the NHL?  Unlikely.  You know who he reminds me of a BIT is Anthony Cirelli in his draft year.  A lot of similarities, and obviously if he were to pan out the way Cirelli has it would be a home run of a pick.  But that is the upside.

 

Michal Gut

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 15  G: 4  A: 7  P: 11

Last Rank: NR

Born: 08/16/02, Kaden, CZE

I can’t wait for Corey Pronman to make “Gut-check” jokes when writing about the Silvertips forward this season…A lot to like about Gut.  A good skater who is a very responsible 200-foot player.  One thing I like about him from a production point of view is again the lack of it coming on the power play as just 3 of his 11 points have come with the man advantage.  He’s not tearing it up by any means but putting up very respectable numbers thus far.  With any European rookies in the CHL, I give them more time to get adjusted to life in North America.  Perhaps he starts to really pop as the season goes on.

 

Daemon Hunt

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 0  A: 10  P: 10

Last Rank: 10

Born: 05/15/02, Brandon, MB

Hunt falls out of my top 10 this time around but is still very much in the discussion.  He is nothing flashy, and it’ll be difficult for the Brandon native to get a lot of attention (barring his numbers going way up) leading up to the draft.  But he defends very well (stick, angles, positioning are all strong) and moves the puck well too.  The skating is a LITTLE concerning.  He can make it with how it’s progressing to this point, but he could stand to add an extra gear.

 

Simon Knak

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 5  A: 9  P: 14

Last Rank: NR

Born: 01/27/02, Kloten, SUI

A pun lover’s dream.  If Simon gives draft junkies any glimmer of hope to be a high pick this season all we are going to hear about is what he has a Knak for…although I’ve heard his name pronounced ck-nak, so perhaps it’s all for not.  Regardless, this is a kid who I know has had SPR’s eye for over a year now.  He’s had good numbers in the WHL thus far but hasn’t truly impressed to this point to make the jump into my top 10.  Again, I have a lot of time for European’s in their first season in the CHL as they need time to adjust to such a massive lifestyle and game change.  Knak does appear to have a very good all-around game.

 

Kasper Puutio

Team: Swift Current Broncos

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 17  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

Last Rank: NR

Born: 06/03/02, Vaasa, FIN

Mr. Fisher talked to Sean and myself on the podcast about seeing him live and how the skating jumps out at you so much more than watching on TV.  That’s interesting because a right shot D-man who moves the puck really well and has great skating ability is someone I’m going to be pretty intrigued by.  One more time I’ll state (it’s getting old, I know), I look to give European’s playing their first year in the CHL more time to adjust, so he may only be scratching the surface at this point.  It’s a rebuilding Swift Current club, so he will get a little bit of a break on his point totals as we move forward as well.

 

Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 0  A: 3  P: 3

Last Rank: 8

Born: 08/02/02, Yellowknife, NT

Truthfully, he only gets an honourable mention because he was on my initial top 10 list.  A disappointing start to the season for Seeley, at least for me.  I was anticipating a big jump in his game offensively and it simply hasn’t happened for the Yellowknife born, Olds Alberta raised Seeley (had to work that in somewhere to clarify).  Still, the skating ability remains, the puck-moving ability remains, he’s not an undersized kid by today’s standards, and therefore he’d be an intriguing kid to take late in the draft at this point.  There is a lot of season to go and still a great opportunity for Seeley to rocket up my rankings, but it is imperative he gets going.

 

AJHL

Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  Crusaders

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 175  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 6  A: 27  P: 33

Born: 01/05/02, St. Albert, AB

What stands out about Benning is his skating ability.  Lately, the stats have started to come with that skating ability is the numbers.  His PPG at the moment is better than Cale Makar’s in Makar’s 18 year old season.  This is Benning’s 17 year old season (although as I pointed out last time, the age difference from Makar then to Benning now is only a little over 2 months).  Another thing to keep in mind is that Benning’s goal totals at the moment aren’t at the same rate Makar’s were, and simply put I do not believe Benning is as good as Makar was.  But the PPG numbers combined with the skating suggest Benning should be getting more attention than he is.  Makar plays highly dynamic where Benning plays cerebral.  A good comparison might be Jared Spurgeon.  Not a ton of flash, not always jumping in the play, but extremely intelligent.  If I were to have him ranked with the WHL kids, I’d put Benning 4th, but could make the case for him as high as 2nd.

 

Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 26  A: 19  P: 45

Born: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

So far this season, Savoie has done nothing to discredit my pre-season ranking of him being 24th on my top 32 overall.  Too ambitious?  It may have been.  I can be guilty of that and am never afraid to say so.  But we’re talking about a kid in a quality league putting up 2 points per game, and over a goal per game.  He gets overshadowed a bit by his teammate and good friend Michael Benning, but the fact of the matter is both these kids are putting up insanely good numbers in the AJHL right now and at least in the conversation to be a late 1st round pick (which in this draft can also mean that he doesn’t go until 62).  He’s a sniper with a terrific shot, but who is also very willing to play in traffic and go to the dirty areas.  He has an edge in his game that will serve him well moving forward.  If I were to rank him with the WHL kids, I’d likely have Savoie 6th (I guess 7th if both he and Benning were in there).

 

Ethan Edwards

Team: Spruce Grove Saints

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 155  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 21  G: 5  A: 5  P: 10

Born: 06/06/02, Grand Prairie, AB

Edwards isn’t a kid who I’d anticipate going in the top 100 in the draft, and it is probably more likely at this point that he doesn’t get drafted.  So why am I discussing him?  In my viewings, I see a kid who could really develop in the next few seasons and in my opinion would be worth using a late pick on.  Ironically, Edwards grew up with Benning and Savoie in St. Albert (despite being listed from GP).  Their bantam AAA team featured these three, Savoie’s younger brother Matthew (who as most of you know has a lot of people pumped for the 2022 draft along with Shane Wright and Brad Lambert), and a total of 12 players who are now playing either in the WHL, BCHL or AJHL (and will move to 13 once Matthew Savoie is eligible for full-time duty with the Winnipeg Ice).  Anyway, Edwards is every bit as good of a skater as Benning is.  The size will be a concern, and the numbers don’t jump off the page at this point.  But he’s a Michigan commit and will not be playing for big blue until the 21-22 season, meaning that a team who potentially drafts Edwards would have up to four seasons to allow him to develop before a decision is needed to be made on him.  Talent, going to a great program, and a lot of development time is a recipe for a late-round steal.

 

BCHL

Ethan Bowen

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 24  G: 8  A: 17  P: 25

Born: 05/14/02, Chilliwack, BC

Property of the Kelowna Rockets, he passed up the Memorial Cup hosts in favour of heading to North Dakota beginning next fall.  I wouldn’t say Bowen is a poor skater, but he lacks power in his stride.  Obviously, at 6’2 and only 170lbs, that should come as he puts more weight on his frame.  I won’t pretend to know a ton about Bowen, but he has been on my radar all season and I have made a point to check out a few Chilliwack Chiefs games on Hockey TV the last few weeks.  He’s a cerebral player.  He’s not a player who is going to wow you with a dynamic game.  Similar to Ridly Greig in the frame, lack of strength, and intelligent style of play.

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Don Cherry was Fired, and A Lot of his Detractors Showed Their Worst in the Process

Remembrance day is always a sad day no matter what.  Remembering such tragic events and that people had to give their lives for our freedom is pretty damn sombre.  But then the news broke that Rogers was getting rid of Don Cherry.  And while I want to do a bit of a tribute to a man who I view as the most entertaining hockey broadcaster of all time and a man who did a lot to grow the sport I love, there is also the other side to this.  I’m probably way out of my lane on a lot of this and should keep my mouth shut.  But like an idiot, I’m not going to.  First things first, I want to talk about Grapes.

 

Don Cherry

I got my first Rockem’ Sockem’ VHS (yes, I’m THAT old) from my Grandma Babb for my 8th birthday.  To this day, I can quote the entire video.  In fact, I’ve been wanting to start doing “watch-along” podcasts with different videos like that which are now on YouTube, and that will be the first one I do if or when I get around to it.  Anyway, I obviously was well aware of Don Cherry before I got that video, but after I got that video I became a massive fan of Grapes.  Coaches Corner became appointment TV for me on Saturday’s, despite not having the attention span to watch a full game (unless maybe it was the Oilers), I would know that Grapes would be on around 6:45 MST, and then starting in 1995 it would be around 5:45 MST (actually in that season and maybe 96 too, might have been 6:15 because I believe when HNIC first switched to doubleheaders they started at 5:30, not 5:00).  My Grandma knew I loved the Rockem’ Sockem’ videos so much that I’m not sure I ever again got a different Christmas gift from her (she got me 2 for my birthday, but of course they were always released around Christmas).  Even after they dropped off (around 7-10 they declined in quality), I’d still look forward to getting that gift, symbolic of one of my favourite gifts I ever received.  And you’d always watch the latest one once.  Even if they got bad, at some point on Christmas day (normally in that lull from about noon until 4 or 5) I’d be off to watch it with my brother, brother in law, nephews, whoever.

I’ve got his books, his videos/DVD’s, and watched Coaches Corner for years.  In more recent years, I haven’t cared whether or not I watched Coaches Corner, because if we’re being frank, it’s declined.  It’s what happens.  It just was no longer appointment TV for me.  Nothing wrong with that, and no doubt Don still had a big audience.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t continually be brought back.  But I still hold him in very high regard, have always understood that he shouldn’t have been taken overly seriously and that a lot of what he had to say was more schtick/brand than anything else.  “But he said X” yeah, and why are you taking it seriously?  He’s just being a loudmouth, that’s his schtick.

More than anything, Grapes reminds me of my Grandma who passed away a little over six years ago.  So when he was fired, a lot of that pain came back.

 

Outrage/cancel culture

Let’s be honest, people got “outraged” because it was Don Cherry, not so much because of what he said.  I follow a lot of hockey analytics people on Twitter for example, and a lot of them seem to watch Coaches Corner non-stop because they hate what Grapes had to say on hockey.  They wanted him fired, not because of anything controversial that he had to say, but because he had a different view of the game then he did.  If they were being honest, they would say they just wanted him gone, they didn’t care how.  In reality, they were likely the ones keeping his numbers up having far too little common sense to simply turn the channel.  But there is this desire to silence anyone who disagrees with anyone in anyway (speaking of all people).  And guess what?  It’s working.  Corporations are listening to this vocal minority.  The “outrage” about this is no different than it was for the latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special.  Is what’s being said truly offending people, or is it just that people are so thin-skinned these days that nobody can say anything?  It’s the latter, without a doubt.  People in general, no matter what your political affiliation, race, gender, etc need to get thicker skin.  Too many people love to play the victim card.  It’s something I talked to my psychologist about because I worry that I do it all the time.  A shit ton of people LOVE to play that card and it is an awful quality.

 

Hypocrites

So many people on social media love to look down on others as if they are so much morally better than everyone.  I think of a guy like Bruce Arthur, who will go after people on Twitter he views as pieces of shit (for lack of a better term).  Which is fine.  I have no issue with that.  But then you better be one damn good person.  A lot of people act this way online.  And you can tell with how they converse with people online that they aren’t.  They actually seem like the complete opposite of that.  Otherwise, why are you talking down to people no matter what the setting is?  I’ve got into it with people online and more specifically on Twitter, and I’m humiliated by it.  But I can at least say that I rarely do it, I’m not looking to do it as so many others are.  They’ll talk in one tweet about how they’re anti-bullying, and then they are looking to intellectually bully someone.  That’s not any better, jackass.  I go back to Bruce Arthur, and I have no idea if Bruce is perhaps the best person mankind has ever known, he could be.  But I do know that a day after he tweets #belletstalk, he is then looking to shout down or humiliate anyone who disagrees with anything he has to say.  I know when I get humiliated in more of a public setting, there are times that I get embarrassed to the point where I go into depression.  Do I “deserve” to get depressed?  Do I “deserve” to feel worthless and have suicidal thoughts?  Are there some people on social media who are pieces of shit?  ABSOLUTELY.  Is that everyone who might disagree with you?  Hell no it’s not and some people just don’t know how to articulate their opinion well or maybe just are heated in the moment but are actually a good person.  If you’re so much more intelligent than other people, how about we have the intelligence to know that you don’t know what might be going on in someone’s life and just walk away from it?  Those people would likely say that people just need to be more educated.  Well if I smack you in the teeth, shouldn’t you just hit a weight room or take some self-defence classes to fight back?

There are a lot of self-righteous people like I’m talking about above disgustingly dancing on the grave of Coaches Corner and claiming their reason is that Don Cherry would hurt people with what he would say.  And that’s not untrue, I’m sure this and other things have hurt people.  But they just want to use that as their crutch.  They are the same people who wouldn’t be anything even respectful, let alone gracious, to people in everyday life.  It’s all an act just because they believe it makes themselves look good.  Scott Burnside from the Athletic wrote earlier today that Rogers should look at Christie Blatchford as a possible replacement for Don.  Scott, you’re completely full of shit because the only reason you said that was to make yourself look “woke” to your readers (Scott also called for Ron McLean’s head in the piece, if you think Ron McLean should be fired from his job or that he’s ANYTHING other than one of the best people in the country, you should retire from writing because you are simply horrendous at your job).  Jonathan Willis did the exact same thing when writing about the Oilers GM opening last spring for the Athletic.  Fuck, Jon didn’t even mention the most qualified woman for the job!!  The woman he brought up didn’t have anything close to the qualifications for the job, and meanwhile, Meghan Chayka (sister of Coytoes GM John Chayka) was more than qualified and he didn’t bother to mention her.  If you MUST attempt to sound woke, AT LEAST get it right!!  That’s how you know these guys don’t actually believe what they’re saying.  I’m a guy that has ZERO issue with women getting roles predominately filled by men.  Could not care less who might occupy a job.  Gender, race, age, doesn’t even slightly matter to me.  I simply have one ask for any person getting any job: They’re qualified.  That’s it.

Back to my point here though which is looking to legitimately be a good person and not just act like it.

I know for myself, I look to beat people to the punch with politeness.  I think of anyone in the service industry, and how I’ll try to tell them to have a good day before they can say it to me.  Why?  Because I worry that others might not, and they are essentially forced to do that to customers, no matter how those customers might treat them.  I’ll look to hold doors open for people, and I’ll never forget the elderly man at the EPCOR offices in Edmonton 15 years ago who I did it for who was ELATED that I did that and exclaimed to me “apparently chivalry isn’t dead after all!”  I laughed and said “oh thanks” and then proceeded to go back to my apartment, go to excite.com, and look up what that word was he used…because at 20 years old and taking broadcasting, I didn’t know the word chivalry.  Look, am I a hero?  Of course.  But do I brag about it?  No….Seriously though, I don’t think I’m any kind of “do-gooder”.  I can pick apart a ton of things that I do wrong or should do better.  But common courtesy things like holding doors open, telling people to have a good day, showing respect by always shaking someone’s hand, I look to do non stop because you never know what someone might be going through and how you might impact that.  So why not do little things like that?  I deal with depression, and I don’t want anyone else to feel how I might when I’m going through that depression.

The easy thing to do on the internet is to be a social justice warrior and act like you care about everyone.  In most cases, those people are just looking for likes, the same as people are looking for likes for pictures of their kids on Facebook or likes for their beach body on Instagram.  It sounds good, but they don’t actually walk the walk.  If there is a quality I loathe more than any other, it’s being phony.  I really hate fake people.  I have an uncle who is the most fake person I’ve ever met in my life, guess how I get along with him.  It’s a disgusting quality in my books, and on social media it is all over the place.

 

Rogers

I’ve never been a Rogers/Sportsnet fan.  I knew they would do a poor job with the NHL package since desperately and wildly overpaying for it in the fall of 2013 (even wrote about it at the time how they were just looking to buy their way out of being a poorly run organization).  Whether or not you agree or disagree with Don Cherry being fired, announcing it on Remembrance day just shows how poorly this company is run.  It was disrespectful to the day and disrespectful to the man who perhaps does more to bring awareness to the importance of the day than anyone else in the country.  Wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to announce it.  Awful decisions are why Sportsnet is bleeding money and having to let so much talent go, and they proved it yet again with the timing of this.

 

The obvious bad in what he said

Back to the task at hand…I was in Edmonton on Sunday (November 10th) and was in Southgate mall (because Steph just HAD to go to Lululemon…although she also impressed me when she asked if we could go into Jersey City and later Lids where she bought a new Jays hat, brought a tear to my eye).  I made a point of looking for poppies because of what Grapes had said.  And in there, he was right.  Steph and I were in the MAYBE 5% of people wearing poppies.  It seems to me if I had to GUESS that it’s an urban thing, but even then I don’t want to generalize it like that, because it’s not as if Lloydminster is flooded with poppies on coats and shirts either.  And I’m sure as fuck not going to blame “immigrants” for not wearing one.  Those of us who have a few generations head start on them need to do a better job bringing awareness to its importance and lead by example.

For me, I do believe Rogers had no choice but to fire Don in the end.  From the outside looking in, it looks like Rogers were set to keep Don and just wanted an apology.  Don wasn’t willing to, and so how can Rogers bring him back (even if you wanted to suspend him)?  It was worded wrongly, and if you aren’t willing to clarify that, then yes you should be fired.  However, if he was willing to apologize on the air, then this definitely went too far.  It is painful to see such an iconic and from all accounts, a truly good man go out like this.  But if he had the chance to right the wrong and chose not to, then unfortunately, it was likely the choice that had to be made.

 

What can be done to further what he was saying

Let’s not forget the true point of what should have been taken here despite the way it was said.  We don’t do enough for our vets and we don’t do enough to honour those who have fallen on Remembrance day.  I’m guilty some years of not wearing my poppy, or at least not enough.

This is going to sound very “millennial” of me, but I believe it needs to be said because it actually could really help the issue.  Our government needs to look at not only how poppies are distributed, but how they can be improved.  Sounds funny?  Sounds ridiculous?  I’ve OFTEN relented from picking up a poppy when I’ve needed one because I don’t have any change to donate.  I rarely have any kind of cash on me.  I know I can simply take one and don’t have to donate, but then I’d feel like a complete piece of shit.  However, if I were able to donate while purchasing something, I’d be more than happy to add the charge to my purchase.

Then you also have the fact that the damn things don’t stay on!!  I just said this to my broadcast partner Shane Tomayer off-air a few weeks ago that they need something better.  The last four games we did I was wearing one and my head-set cord knocked mine off at least once a period.  They can fall off so damn easily.  They also can stab you if they aren’t pinned in properly.  I’d GLADLY pay a toonie for one every year in exchange for backs being put on them.  I’m well aware that I can find something myself (Steph and Shane both have something to ensure they stay on), but most are like me where they don’t think to go to such length’s, even though I’m well aware that we should.  Sometimes a person just doesn’t think, especially if they believe they’ve had the right intentions.

 

Let’s wrap this up

Grapes is going out on his shield so to speak.  He refused to apologize, which whether you agree or disagree, I strongly believe he should have.  And he didn’t, which I believe is the actual reason he is now gone.  But in his mind, I believe he was standing up for those who have fallen, and if that was in his mind, then good on him.  I don’t do a good enough job honouring those who have fought and/or given their lives for this country, nor have far too many of us.  Don has in a way sacrificed his career to bring more attention to this issue.  I guarantee you next November, you’re going to see a lot more people wearing a poppy.

As for Don himself, again, it’s a damn shame that he is going out like this.  But then again, Don has said in the past “Someday I’m going to say something that they don’t like and that’ll be it”.  And that is exactly what happened.  He’s 85 and has given those of us who enjoyed him damn near 40 years of entertainment.  For the faults that he has, his values are incredibly admirable.  I don’t consider myself an intelligent guy (in fact I often tell myself I’m just barely smart enough to realize how dumb I am), but I was intelligent enough to know to laugh off the things that I disagreed with and to incorporate the values he’d pass on.  And I believe there were MANY people who did the same.  Thank you Grapes.

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Soups Rankings: November, 2019

Power rankings.  They’re the WORST.  But here are mine.  Started doing these last year (although I didn’t have the time to do them all season as I had planned), and my method is different than simply ranking who the hot teams are in the moment.  That is pointless.  I try to look at where teams are in terms of being contenders, and at the bottom of the list (or top in this case because it descends) I shift my focus away from how well the teams are doing and more towards where they are as an organization.  For example, you won’t see Ottawa in the 31st spot because their rebuild is further along than other teams.

 

Ok, so with that awful intro out of the way, here are my rankings:

 

31. Los Angeles

Points %: .308 (T-30th)

For me, they’re the worst because the rebuild hasn’t even been able to start until they can clear out some of the bad deals like Quick, Brown and Carter.  So are they the worst team in the league?  Maybe not, but they’re in the worst situation.

 

30. Detroit

Points %: .346 (T-27th)

Again, not sure they are the worst team in the league, but out of the group that makes up the worst teams, they are further away than most.

 

29. Minnesota

Points %: 308 (T-30th)

The one thing I like for the Wild is that once Billy Guerin is able to rebuild this roster, he’ll have some real good D-men locked up to help things along.

 

28. Ottawa

Points %: .318 (29th)

Not much to say here, but at least the worst is over for this organization.  Bad now, but they have a ton of talent throughout the organization and might end up with two lottery picks this draft.

 

27. New Jersey

Points %: .350 (26th)

They wouldn’t be SO bad if they had any kind of goaltending, but they don’t have any kind of goaltending.  I’d trade Hall now because the offers aren’t going to get better.

 

26. Chicago

Points %: .364 (25th)

I really thought they found something in the 2nd half last season and were going to be able to build on that.  But it simply hasn’t happened.

 

25. Columbus

Points %: .500 (T-20th)

They work their asses off, but it just looks like they severely lack talent at the moment.  They’re in no man’s land, and I would guess Jarmo Kekelainen decides to sell this deadline to get the train back on the tracks.

 

24. NY Rangers

Points %: .450 (23rd)

Let this be a lesson to those who are fans of rebuilds: Just because you have drafted well and stockpiled the talent, doesn’t mean it’s ready to win.  This team got BADLY overhyped entering the season.  I overrated them too, but not anywhere near what some did.

 

23. Philadelphia

Points %: .500 (T-20)

Please don’t tell me they’re ruining ANOTHER goalie!!  Although, maybe Ken Holland can turn Carter Hart into his Sergei Bobrovsky?…

 

22. Anaheim

Points %: .571 (17th)

Maybe the most goaltender reliant team in the league right now.  John Gibson has a .920 Sv% right now, it looks as though he’ll have to be better than that to get them into a playoff spot.  But the scary thing is that he’s capable of doing so.

 

21. Edmonton

Points %: .679 (9th)

My fellow Oilers fans will be screaming at me right now and calling me a Frank Seravalli wannabe.  But it’s not an indictment on the team, it’s just that they haven’t had a chance to truly prove it yet.  November’s schedule is MUCH tougher than what they faced in October.

 

20. San Jose

Points %: .346 (T-27th)

Higher than most have them right now, I’m still going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can get back to being a contender.  But I was the one person who HATED the Erik Karlsson trade for them and HATED the Erik Karlsson contract, and this is why.  No cap space, no assets to deal, not a good situation.

 

19. Dallas

Points %: .393 (24th)

Like the Sharks, I believe the Stars are eventually going to get things going.  But they have holes.  Still not too deep up front, and while they have some real good young D-men, Sekera isn’t a number four anymore which is where they have him.

 

18. Winnipeg

Points %: .462 (22nd)

The news just keeps getting worse for the Jets with Byfuglien (if he even had plans of returning) now for sure out for four months.  Cheveldayoff has to bring in a quality D-man to help out his squad.

 

17. Montreal

Points %: .615 (T-12th)

Right about where I expected them to be and expect them to be all season.  Quality club, battling for a playoff spot, 50/50 whether or not they can get in.

 

16. NY Islanders

Points %: .727 (5th)

I don’t buy them, but I should one of these days because once again Barry Trotz is making chicken salad out of chicken shit.

 

15. Buffalo

Points %: .769 (2nd)

Still too early for me to trust them any more than this.  That goaltending just hasn’t ever proven anything.  But still, great start, and I do believe they’re much improved.

 

14. Arizona

Points %: .625 (11th)

There is nothing flashy about the Coyotes.  But they have built a team with quality all over the roster.  They’re going to be a bitch to handle all season.

 

13. Vancouver

Points %: .708 (T-6th)

I’m a believer in the Canucks.  The kids look great, they’re insulated with a lot of players capable of playing the tough minutes, and the goaltending looks fantastic.

 

12. Florida

Points %: .615 (T-12th)

It’s concerning that they’ve done so much of their damage in OT thus far.  6 of their 13 games so far have gone to OT.  Having said this, I believe they have all the pieces in place to jump into the top 10 on my list.

 

11. Calgary

Points %: .533 (19th)

I had this ranking before last night.  This team is about to take off now.  Top team in the Pacific by the end of November, guaranteed.  They ride momentum better than any team I’ve ever seen.

 

10. Colorado

Points %: .750 (T-3rd)

Just outside of true contender status, but the depth they’ve acquired is noticeable, and the loss of Tyson Barrie hasn’t been thus far.

 

9. Pittsburgh

Points %: .615 (T-12th)

Without Malkin they’ve played outstanding.  Tomorrow, he returns (just in time to play the Oilers…lovely…).

 

8. Toronto

Points %: .536 (18th)

To me, they remain a team that is a true Cup contender, but all of a sudden I’m fearing for them.  The Toronto media really seems to be turning on them as they like to do, and it remains to be seen how this group will handle that kind of adversity.

 

7. Carolina

Points %: .708 (T-6th)

Maybe the best run organization in the league right now, at least when it comes to amassing talent.  Question will be whether or not they have the goaltending.

 

6. St. Louis

Points %: .654 (10th)

I’m not the biggest Vladdy Tarasenko guy, but they are definitely going to miss him for the next five months.  Brutal blow, but still a great team.

 

5. Washington

Points %: .750 (T-3rd)

They just keep on keeping on.  John Carlson, not a bad month…

 

4. Vegas

Points %: .607 (15th)

I still don’t like this blueline, but they somehow make due with what they have.  No other big concerns though.

 

3. Nashville

Points %: .692 (8th)

Awful loss in OT last night, but still look like they have all the pieces in place to compete for the Cup.

 

2. Tampa Bay

Points %: .583 (16th)

I really don’t give a damn how they’ve started, they still have the most talented roster in the league.

 

1. Boston

Points %: .833 (1st)

Look as though they’re primed for another deep run come this spring.

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2019-20 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications (Guaranteed…to be Wrong)

Well, here we go.  It seems like every year I make these grand plans to do about a month worth of blogs leading up to opening night.  A new top 32 prospect list.  A mock draft.  A top 20 Oilers prospect list.  An Oilers season preview.  Do 2-3000 words on each division, coupled with my top 10 prospects for each team.  Yeah, none of that was done, and I barely got in what I did here.  And the big piss off is that this opening was left for last, most of this was written before the TSN preview show last night, which is essentially the same thing as this.  So if you’re still reading, you’re a true pal.  Before I begin, for you Oilers fans, I’ll have time this morning and I’m going to try to do a season preview podcast, so make sure you check that out (hopefully out around noon MST).  Without further ado, my prognostications:

 

Pacific Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights

I’m done not believing in them.  Once they got Mark Stone last season, they were right back to the beast they were in 17-18.  Add a good rookie like Cody Glass, trade chips to load up at the deadline, they’re a contender.

2. San Jose Sharks

Right there with Vegas, but they badly need to stay healthy.  They don’t have the prospect capital that the Knights have, and they’re an older team.  A lot of their season depends on what Martin Jones will give them.

3. Calgary Flames

I doubt that they’re going to be as good as last season as they had perhaps their five best players all have career years.  But don’t sleep on some of the kids they have coming either.  I believe Rasmus Andersson will be next to Mark Giordano by the end of the season, he’s that good.  Valimaki, Dube, Mangiapane, these kids are players who are ready to contribute.  What scares me is the goaltending, but they didn’t have that great of goaltending last season and still were the best team in the West.

4. Arizona Coyotes

I don’t see them improving on what they did last season.  They should in theory, as it is highly unlikely that they’ll sustain the injuries they did.  But I’ve seen it too many times before where teams feed off that adversity and then once everyone is healthy they’re underwhelming.  They’ll compete for the playoffs, maybe get in, but maybe not the improvement some believe will happen.

5. Vancouver Canucks

They’re getting real close.  I love the job they’ve done with this rebuild, and while I’m not sure that they’re ready, it won’t be long until this team is contending for the division crown.  Might come as soon as next season.  But if they want to make the playoffs this season, they’re going to need Markstrom and Demko to be one of the best combo’s in the league.

6. Anaheim Ducks

I’m sure Oilers fans really won’t like me having the Ducks ahead of them, but the Ducks have a very key ingredient that the Oilers don’t: elite goaltending.  John Gibson gives this team a chance to win every night.  I also believe that Dallas Eakins is going to do a good job there.  So combine those two things with a lot of real good young talent and I believe the Ducks will be at least challenging for a playoff spot.

7. Edmonton Oilers

There is a path to the playoffs, but they’d need so much to go right.  Smith and Koskinen have the ability to work.  James Neal has the ability to bounce back.  Nurse and Larsson have the ability to be a good shutdown pairing.  Bear has the ability to be a top four D-man.  Riley Sheahan has the ability to be a good 3C.  The team as a whole have the ability to be a terrific defensive squad that Dave Tippett loves.  So the path is there.  But what are the odds that all these things happen?  And what are the odds that IF all these things happen they also have perfect health?  It’s just so damn unlikely.  But they are on the right path, no longer have Peter Chiarelli taking a blow torch and a jerrycan to the organization.

8. L.A. Kings

I don’t have much to say about the Kings.  Easily the worst situation currently in the West.  I haven’t liked a lot of what Rob Blake has done.  I’d dislike their situation no matter who was the GM, but Blake has made a lot of missteps.  It’ll be interesting to see long term if Koptiar and Doughty want to stick around because it is going to be a long time before this organization is back to contender status.

 

Central Division

1. Nashville Predators

Essentially, it’s Subban out, Duchene in.  But the key here is Dante Fabbro.  Can he step into a top four role for the Preds?  I believe he can, mainly because of who his D partner would be.  He might be a better fit for the Preds than Subban was with how good Fabbro is defensively.  And Duchene makes them great down the middle and gives them speed up front which they were pretty hard up for.  As long as Rinne doesn’t fall apart, they should win this division.

2. Dallas Stars

Might be getting a bit overrated entering the season.  I’m still seeing a lot of question marks in key positions, combined with concerns over some guys being too young, some possibly being too old, and concerns for me whether the goaltending can be THAT good again.  Last year’s squad didn’t exactly set the world on fire and needed amazing goaltending to even get 93 points.  Most years that wouldn’t crack the playoffs in the West.  So I do like them to finish 2nd in the division, but I’m seeing some people loving them to come out of the West and I’m saying those people might want to slow down on that until they prove they’re worthy.  Ability is there to be that team though.

3. St. Louis Blues

Here is a question that nobody seems to be asking: do we KNOW Jordan Binnington is for real?!?!  I THINK he is, but we’ve seen goalies get scorching hot for half a season before and then fade away.  So that’ll be interesting to see.  Even if he isn’t though, this squad still has enough to get in the playoffs again.  Last year I picked them to win this division knowing that Jake Allen was as inconsistent as any goaltender in the league.  The Justin Faulk addition is interesting, and I can’t help but wonder like everyone else, is there another shoe that is going to drop i.e. Pietrangelo walks after the season or Parayko is dealt?

4. Chicago Blackhawks

If this team gets goaltending, they’ll get in.  I believe that is lost on a lot of people.  As bad as it’s gone the last two seasons, when Corey Crawford has been right they’ve been fine.  And now they have insurance with Robin Lehner, not to mention more experience on the blueline, and a hell of a pickup last season in Dylan Strome who was near a PPG player in 58 games with the Hawks last season.  I believe you can put the Hawks, Avs, and Jets in any order, but I needed to change some things from how TSN had it so I’m going to say the Hawks get in.

5. Colorado Avalanche

Much like with the Stars, we should probably slow down a bit on the Avs.  To my eye, this looks like the next power team in the league.  I have become a MASSIVE Avs fan over the last few seasons.  But let’s keep some things in mind here.  They only had 90 points last season.  They are relying on Cale Makar to replace Tyson Barrie’s offence.  They are planning to run with a guy in net who has never started 40 games in a season.  I really like this team and between MacKinnon, Rantanen, and all the amazing talent on the blueline they are going to be a blast to watch and a powerhouse.  But be careful in anointing them a contender just yet as they have a ways to go.

6. Winnipeg Jets

What a difference a year can make.  This time in 2018, it was Cup or bust and this was the best young team in the league.  Now, they’re a mess, mostly thanks to shit luck, and I’m really not sure if they’re going to get back to contender status anytime soon.  It won’t be this season.  This season they’re going to be hard pressed to make the playoffs.  That blueline is just such a mess.  They do have the one wildcard in Byfuglien.  If he comes back, the blueline could be OK, and I feel good saying they’ll get in.  But as of right now, I just don’t know if this blueline can get the job done and I’m a MASSIVE Josh Morrissey guy.  Ville Heinola was the 20th pick in the draft, he’s in their top four.  It’s bad.

7. Minnesota Wild

I don’t know if we’ll ever know the whole story, but what I know from afar is that this mess wasn’t ALL Paul Fenton despite what Mike Russo writes.  Craig Leipold has a reputation as an owner who loves to meddle and from the outside looking in I’d say his BIG issue with, Fenton was that Fenton wanted to rebuild.  Leipold has stated he thinks they can still contend.  What the FUCK is wrong with you?!?  This team is DONE, and no gross overpayment of Jared Spurgeon is going to change that.  I’m pulling for Billy Guerin, love the guy.  But I believe they got an owner who is never going to know how to let his GM’s do their job and build things properly

 

Atlantic Division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

The job Kyle Dubas has done keeping the core intact and keeping their window open has been very impressive.  Now, he got taken to the cleaners in a few of these contract negotiations, but at the end of the day they have a good system, studs locked down, what looks like a pretty good blueline, and are solid between the pipes.  I believe they take another step this season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

I honestly believe it would be good for the Bolts to not cruise through the regular season and face a little adversity through the season.  In the long run though, 1st in the Atlantic should mean absolutely nothing to them.  It’s Cup or bust.

3. Boston Bruins

It’s Cup or bust for these guys too.  The difference is that I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out with the Bruins.  When will Bergeron show his age?  Or Marchand?  Or Chara?  Or Rask?  At some point, these guys will digress and even though the rest of the roster is pretty young and talented, they would be in some trouble if a few of these guys finally start to fall off.  Until that happens though, they’re contending for a Cup.

4. Florida Panthers

I’ve loved them for years, and now they finally have their goaltending shored up and a proven head coach running the show, I can’t see why they wouldn’t take off with what they have throughout the lineup.  Top to bottom, this is a real good roster and if they make the playoffs, they’re built for the postseason.

5. Montreal Canadiens

A dirty little secret with Carey Price is that he’s only shown flashes of being an elite goaltender since his MVP season in 2015.  I’m not a big believer in what this team did last season.  But on the flip side, I expect Kotkaniemi to take a big step.  So I see them having a similar season where they push for a playoff spot, but it’ll be really tough given how good the top of this division is.

6. Buffalo Sabres

Finally, I actually feel like this team is building a playoff team.  This summer was far and away the best job that Jason Botterill has done, and even though they aren’t likely to make the playoffs, I expect them to be much improved thanks to that blueline adding some quality RH shooting puck movers.  The goaltending is still a massive question mark though, and while the media drools all over Ralph Kruger, I wasn’t a big fan of his in his season with the Oilers.  People point to his record and point to the fact it was in an extremely difficult Western Conference, but they actually got goaltending that season…and still didn’t come close to the playoffs.

7. Ottawa Senators

The dark clouds that hovered over this organization last season are now gone.  They didn’t give up the 1st overall pick, or even a top three pick in the Duchene deal, the Karlsson/Hoffman stuff is a thing of the past, and they have a lot of good young players ready to roll.  Will they be all that good?  No.  But they can now just focus on the rebuild and grow.

8. Detroit Red Wings

Stevie Yzerman is going to do a tremendous job in Detroit.  But the problem is that he’s inheriting a pretty big mess.  They still need another two seasons before the bad contracts are burned off and he can really start putting his imprint on this organization.  But at this time, it just doesn’t look promising.

 

Metro Division

1. Washington Capitals

Not a big reason to change this pick.  They’re well set up for another big season.  One concern might be between the pipes.  Braden Holtby has been digressing.  They probably thought that Ilya Samsonov would be ready to give Holtby some relief by now, maybe a 60/40 split.  But he had a rough first season in North America and isn’t ready.  But that is about it.  I like the centres, like the wingers, like the blueline, good goaltending, and as far as regular season goes they’ve been a dynasty now for the last

2. Carolina Hurricanes

It all depends on the goaltending that they get.  This roster is LOADED top to bottom, but the goaltending is a big question mark.  Petr Mrazek is inconsistent at best, and James Reimer has been digressing.  I wonder how long it’ll be before Eric Tulsky….I mean Don Waddell is calling up Alex Nedeljkovic to see if he’s the answer.  But that’s the only fear I have for them and do believe that Mrazak will be good enough to get them home ice in the first round.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

Still have them making the playoffs, but they’re digressing and it looks like the window has closed.  I’m not sure what in the hell Jim Rutheford has been trying to do with this blueline the last few seasons.  The man won with a purely puck-moving blueline, and now he’s trying to build with stay at home guys who can’t move it.  Brandon Tanev was apparently given the contract he was because they believe he’s another Connor Sheary?  Ok…that’s…risky, to put it nicely.  I hope I’m wrong because I’m a Sid fan and the league is better when he and Geno are contenders, but I don’t feel good about this situation.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

They’ll bounce back, but the big thing will be whether or not Carter Hart can hold up throughout the season.  He was impressive last season, but they’ll need him to give them at least 45-50 starts this season.  If he can (obviously at a high level), then they should win a wildcard spot because this squad is deep up front and real solid on the blueline.  Matt Niskanen is a very underrated pickup.  But they’ll need their goalie of the future to be a stud in the present.

5. NY Rangers

A lot of buzz around the Rangers entering the season.  Panarin, Kravtsov, and Kakko are three pretty big time wingers to add to the lineup (even if two of them are rookies).  But there is the issue with this team is are they too young?  What I don’t like is people are talking about them accelerating the rebuild.  When in the fuck does that ever work?!  That is code for “we don’t have any patience to do this right so we’re good with mediocrity long term”.  Having said this, it is the Rangers and they have the easiest time drawing UFA’s in the league.  So they might be the exception to the rule on that, but why risk it?  They can make the playoffs, but I’m not sure it would be a good thing for this organization long term.

6. NY Islanders

Man, I cringe predicting that they’ll take a step back knowing how great of a bench boss Barry Trotz is.  One of the keys to their success last season was they gave up I believe the fewest HD scoring chances in the league (hint hint if you’re looking for a sleeper fantasy goaltender, also buyer beware on Lehner).  Still, as much as I love Noah Dobson stepping in for them, and I love Mathew Barzal, I just am not sure how they did it last season and not sure how they can do it this season.  They can, but I don’t know how, so I’m likely to be very wrong on this prediction.

7. New Jersey Devils

They made a shit ton of noise, but I don’t believe they improved the team that much.  The goaltending is still a mess unless they know that Cory Schneider is going to bounce back, and maybe they do?  Subban is big if he’s right, and Hughes will make an impact, but 2018 was such a fluke for this team and last year was who they really were.  Calling them to finish 7th in this division doesn’t mean they won’t have a shot at the playoffs.  They can challenge for a playoff spot, but nothing more than that in my opinion.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Probably won’t be as bad as some are projecting them to be.  That blueline is still real solid, and Jonas Korpisalo has looked like a guy who can handle 50 games a season to my eye in the past.  But if you look at the division, I’m not sure how you can pick them anywhere else but last.  It’s not a big shot at what they have, they just don’t have as much as anyone else in the Metro.

 

Playoffs

Pacific

1P Vegas vs WC1 Chicago

Something we all here from commentators throughout the season when two teams who could potentially meet in the playoffs get talked about, it is quickly followed by “what a matchup that would be”.  There hasn’t been one potential series ever discussed in the history of the NHL where someone isn’t saying “wow, what a series that could be!!”  So I have to stick with this ridiculous narrative when predicting all these series.  So the G-Knights vs Hawks, potentially the greatest series in the history of the game.  Knights in six.

2P San Jose vs 3P Calgary

This could be the best series in any sport in the history of time.  Sharks in seven.

Central

1C Nashville vs WC2 Colorado

ISIS vs society takes a backseat to what this series would be.  Preds in seven.

2C Dallas vs 3C St. Louis

Remember World War II?  It will be forgotten because of how amazing Stars vs Blues would be.  Blues in seven.

Western Conference final

Vegas vs Nashville

Fuckin’ Preds.  The last few years I’ve been on their bandwagon.  This isn’t post them making the 17 final, I was on them that season too.  On paper right now, Nashville is a much more well rounded team than the Knights.  But if the Knights are sitting pretty in the standings come late February, I have to believe that Kelly McCrimmon will be going after a big time D-man to round out his blueline and possibly get this team over the hump.  And there is something to be said for this Knights team.  They just seem to be bulletproof.  So even though I believe the Preds would have the better roster, I’d like the Knights (at this point) to beat them.  Golden Knights in six.

 

Atlantic

1A Toronto vs WC2 Philadelphia

I’m more excited at the prospect of a Leafs/Flyers first round matchup than I would be to win the lottery.  Leafs in five.

2A Tampa Bay vs 3A Boston

Should this matchup happen, it might be the most anticipated sporting event since Ali met Frazier for the first time.  Safe to say it would be the greatest series in the history of hockey.  Lightning in seven.

Metro

1M Washington vs WC1 Florida

If we get Caps v Panthers in round one, I fully anticipate the Super Bowl ratings to be completely dwarfed.  Panthers in six.

2M Carolina vs 3M Pittsburgh

Hurricanes and Pens?  This would be better TV than Breaking Bad!  Canes in six.

Eastern Conference final

Florida vs Tampa Bay

The battle of Florida is alive and well!!!  I love the Panthers as a dark horse come playoff time as they’re much better built for the playoffs than they are the regular season, and they have a bench boss who knows how to coach in a seven game series.  Having said this, the Lightning are likely not going to give a damn about ANYTHING this season until the playoffs where I expect them to be on a mission.  Lightning in five.

 

Stanley Cup final

Tampa Bay vs Vegas

Would be a pretty exciting final.  But I think you’ve likely figured it out by now, I’m like most in believing it’s Tampa’s time.  I believe the Lightning would smoke the Golden Knights in four.

Stanley Cup Champions

Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Awards

Hart

John Tavares – It is going to be tough for any of the Leafs big three to win an award like this.  But then again, we would have said that same thing for Kucherov last year.  With Tavares, I just believe him being in his prime combined with him now being settled with the Leafs, I expect a career year.

Vezina

John Gibson – He was my pick for the award last season, and early on he was looking like he might be in line to win the Hart.  I’m guessing the workload, not just the amount of games but how much action he was seeing night after night, wore him down.  I believe the Ducks will be improved this season and with that could come a Vezina season from Gibson.

Norris

Victor Hedman – These days, he’s just simply my guy.  I believe he is far and away the best defenceman in the league.  If you had a draft of defencemen for this season, Hedman is the top pick by all 31 GM’s.

Selke

Aleksander Barkov – Heavily considered Barkov for the Hart, but settle for the Selke, the award we give to players when they actually deserve an MVP award but don’t give it to them because they don’t have as much flash as another guy…like two years ago when Taylor Hall won it even though any case for Hall could be made for Anze Kopitar while Kopitar was also one of the best defensive players in the league…

Calder

Cale Makar – The D-men who could challenge for this award this season are ridiculous.  Noah Dobson, Rasmus Sandin, Quinn Hughes, Erik Brannstrom, Adam Fox, etc.  I feel somewhat safe in predicting it’ll be a defenceman.  The big thing for Makar is he comes in with a lot of fanfare, and he is going to get the opportunities out of necessity for the Avs.  Kappo Kakko is going to be a big threat for the award, so is Jack Hughes, don’t sleep on guys like Cody Glass or Vitali Kravtsov either, but I can’t help but look to the crop of defencemen entering the league and select one of them, and to me Makar is going to be in the best position to win the award.

Art Ross

Connor McDavid – I don’t know why you’d risk predicting someone else at this point.  Far and away the most points in the league over the last three seasons, and despite the concern with the knee entering camp, he appears to be back to 100% health.  If the Oilers did make the playoffs, then it’d be shocking if he didn’t win the Hart given the perception of the team.

Richard

Brock Boeser – Most are expecting Pettersson to make another big step this season, and most are expecting big things out of Quinn Hughes.  Both of those players will be able to create for Boeser, especially on the PP.  And of course, we know already that this kid has the ability to finish with the best of them.

Jack Adams

Joel Quenneville – I would be pretty shocked if they don’t break through this season, and I don’t just see them breaking through, but I could see them challenging for the division title.  Might seem insane at this time, but they have all the pieces and if that were to happen, coach Q would be getting a lot of love for this award.

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The Boundary Battle of Alberta Preview

Saturday afternoon, Oilers alumni will take on Flames alumni as the Boundary Battle of Alberta will take place and the Lloydminster Centennial Civic Centre.  The 3 PM game is sold out and has been for months now.  However, the noon game was added and there are in fact still tickets available for it.  Just go to http://lrhf.ca/bboa or go to Boundary Ford to pick yours up in person.  Proceeds for this game are going to the mental health initiative Project Sunrise.  For me, that’s the big seller.  I’m a guy who has fought with ADHD, anxiety, and depression.  I hit the trifecta some might say!  But it’s nothing to make light of and I know what I’ve gone through and don’t wish it on anyone.  It’s constantly on my mind.  I never want to make people feel the way that I do when I’m at my lowest.  So that is near and dear to me.  But for a lot of people, they want to know what exactly they’re going to spend $25.00 a ticket on.  Well, thankfully I’m here for you!  Allow me to lay out exactly who will be taking the ice this Saturday in Lloydminster.

Edmonton Oilers

Rob Brown

The only man in the game who didn’t play for either team, however, Brown likely sees himself as an Oiler these days as an in-game analyst on 630 CHED broadcasts.  Brown had his breakout season in 88-89 as he put up an eye-popping 49 goals and 115 points in just 68 games.

Cory Cross

The local boy doesn’t get the recognition he perhaps should for etching out the career he did.  The 1st overall pick of the 1992 supplemental draft went onto play 659 games in the NHL, 113 of them with the Oilers.  Perhaps the highlight of his career was this massive OT goal playing for the Leafs against Wade Redden’s Sens at the height of the battle of Ontario.

Louie DeBrusk

Debrusk came to the Oilers in the fall of 1991 in one of the most famous deals in team history which saw Mark Messier shipped to the New York Rangers.  One of the most feared players in the mid-late 90’s, DeBrusk played 401 NHL games in his career, 228 of them with the Oilers.  He remains a fan favourite today doing a terrific job as the colour analyst for the team’s TV broadcasts on Sportsnet West.

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers

The top pick of the 2nd round in the 2002 NHL draft, the man known to Oilers fans as JDD first came on the scene early in the 08-09 season as he put on a show in back to back starts against the Devils and Rangers stopping 77 of 80 shots against in those two games.  JDD also got 48 starts during the 09-10 campaign.

Mark Fistric

A 1st round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2004 NHL draft, Fistric was dealt to his hometown Oilers right before the start of the lockout shortened 2013 season.  Fistric got into 25 games with the Oilers that season, 325 in his NHL career.

Doug Hicks

Cold Lake’s own was the 6th overall pick in the 1974 NHL draft by the Minnesota North Stars.  Hicks played in 561 games during his NHL career, 186 of them with the Oilers.  In fact, Hicks best statistical season came with the Oilers in their first season in the NHL as Hicks had 9 goals and 40 points in 78 games.

Georges Laraque

Big Georges remains one of the most popular Oilers not named Gretzky, Messier or McDavid.  Perhaps the top enforcer in the NHL during his time with the club, Laraque was the 31st pick in the 1995 draft and as it turned out he was far and away the top player of that draft for the Oilers.  695 NHL games in his career, 490 of them with the Oilers.

Ethan Moreau

When Moreau was named the captain of the team prior to the 07-08 season, I don’t recall any debate about it.  It was as if the fan base just collectively said “he better be”.  Moreau was a warrior for the organization.  The 14th overall pick of the 1994 draft, Moreau came to the Oilers the morning of March 20th, 1999 in a blockbuster deal that saw Boris Mironov go to Chicago.  928 games in the NHL, 653 of them with the Oilers.  As I mentioned, he was named captain of the team prior to the 07-08 season, which ironically may have been the most difficult stretch of his career.  Just seven games into the 06-07 season, Moreau needed to have reconstructive surgery on his shoulder.  Then in the 07-08 pre-season, he fractured his tibia blocking a shot, which forced him to miss the first 48 games of that season.  He then returned for 25 games, until yet another set back as he broke his leg and was done for the season again.  Some might hang up their skates after such an awful stretch.  Moreau however played nearly a full season in 08-09 for the Oilers and in doing so received the King Clancy Award for best exemplifying leadership qualities on and off the ice and by also making significant humanitarian contributions to the Oilers Community Foundation.

Fernando Pisani

If you’re an Oilers fan, then without a doubt your fondest memories of the club in the last 25 seasons came in the spring of 2006.  That entire season was special as it finally felt as though the Oilers could legitimately compete with the rest of the league thanks to the salary cap.  But after a bit of a disappointing regular season that saw the club really struggle to get in the playoffs, they went on an amazing run.  And right at the forefront of that run was Fernando Pisani with his unbelievable 14 goal performance.  The Edmonton kid was an 8th round pick of the club in the 1996 draft and clawed his way up the ranks before finally getting his shot during the 02-03 season and once he got his spot he never gave it up.  He played 462 NHL games, 402 of them with the Oilers.

Hunter

I didn’t realize before writing this that there is a big backstory to Hunter already posted here which is awesome so I don’t feel the need to make something up!

 

Calgary Flames

Mike Commodore

#PackYourShit and get out to see this guy on Saturday (see what I did there?!)…Commodore only played 18 regular season games in his career with the Flames, but it was where he broke through as a full-time NHL player, and he actually played more playoff games with the Flames (20) than regular season as he was a key contributor for the Flames during their amazing playoff run in 2004.  Following the 2005 lockout, Commodore would capture a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes.  He ended up playing 484 NHL games and has stated on numerous occasions how Mike Babcock was his all-time favourite coach to play for…well…maybe that’s incorrect…

Theo Fleury

If you don’t know this man’s incredible story by now, I’m not sure what you’re doing.  In 2009 he released his best selling autobiography Playing with Fire which is an absolute must read if you haven’t already.  Fleury was a rookie when he won the Cup with the Flames in 1989.  Six times he led the Flames in scoring.  He currently sits 5th for the Flames all-time in games played (791), 2nd in goals (364), 3rd in assists (466), and 2nd in points (830).  He represented Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 1998 Olympics, and the 2002 Olympics where he helped Canada win their first gold medal in 50 years.  Fleury played in 1,084 games in his entire career, and finished over a PPG (1,088 points).  The numbers are there to someday be enshrined in the hockey Hall of Fame.  And of course we can’t be talking about the battle of Alberta without mentioning that he scored one of the most famous goals in the history of the rivalry.

Jamie Macoun

Another key member of the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames team.  Macoun was one of the Flames top shutdown defencemen on a team that was one of the best in the league during the mid to late 1980’s.  Macoun played 586 of his incredible 1,128 career games with the Flames.  On January 1st, 1992 Macoun was involved in the biggest trade in NHL history, more famously known as the Doug Gilmour deal, and would go on to play a big role in the Maple Leafs revival as a franchise in the mid 90’s, before moving onto Detroit at the 1998 trade deadline where he would capture a 2nd Stanley Cup championship.

Dana Murzyn

The 3rd of the Flames alumni to play on the Flames 1989 Cup winning team.  The Calgary born Murzyn was initially the 5th overall pick by the Hartford Whalers in the 1985 NHL draft.  Murzyn was dealt to the Flames midway through the 87-88 season, Murzyn appeared in 21 of the Flames 22 playoff games during their run in 1989.  He would be dealt to Vancouver in March of 1991 and was a big part of the Canucks success in the early to mid 90’s as they would go onto win back to back Smythe division titles, followed by a trip to game seven of the Stanley Cup final in 1994 (though Murzyn had his run cut short due to injury in those playoffs).  He wrapped up his career in 1999, finishing with 838 career games.

Mason Raymond

The former Camrose Kodiak and Calgary native came up with the Vancouver Canucks during the 07-08 season and was a key contributor for the Canucks on their 10-11 squad which went to game seven of the Stanley Cup final.  After a season in Toronto, Raymond would sign with the home town Flames for the 14-15 season, a team which was expected to be near the bottom of the league.  Not only were they not near the bottom, they shocked everyone in the hockey world as they snuck into the playoffs and knocked off his former team the Canucks in the 1st round.  The speedy Raymond would finish his career with 546 games played.

Matt Stajan

Selected by the Leafs with the 57th pick of the 2002 NHL draft, he was dealt to the Flames during the 09-10 season.  Like Raymond, Stajan was a key member of that amazing 14-15 Flames squad, and scored one of the most important goals of their run in game six vs the Canucks.  The game was tied with under five minutes to play and it was Stajan who stepped up with game-winner as the Flames won their first playoff series since the 03-04 playoffs.  Stajan would go onto play 1,003 NHL games in his career, 558 of them with the Flames.

Harvey the Hound

Much like Hunter, I can’t do Harvey the Hound justice quite like the write up that can be found here, although we can’t talk BOA and Harvey the Hound without re-living the time Mac T got his tongue.

These are two great rosters which have been assembled.  It is pretty rare to see this kind of talent take the ice in Lloydminster.  More importantly, the money that will be raised for such a tremendous cause.  It is an absolute win-win.  Again, go to http://lrhf.ca/bboa or to Boundary Ford to pick yours up in person.

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Bobcats Taught More Tough Lessons in Loss to Saints

The Lloydminster Bobcats knew they faced an extremely difficult task opening the season with a home and home against the defending regular season AJHL North division champion Sherwood Park Crusaders, followed by a game against the defending post season AJHL North division champion Spruce Grove Saints.  And while the battle level was there again for the Cats last night, the results were not as they fell at home to a very talented Saints team by a 6-1 score.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00 and it is my advice that you get your tickets today as it is a pretty major announcement coming for the final addition to this game!

After a 1st period where not much happened and the game really lacked flow, things picked up in the 2nd as the Bobcats Cam Aucoin opened the scoring at the 2:32 mark, going top corner short side on Saints starting goaltender Max Duchesne.  A bit of a controversial goal tied the game for the Saints as Stanley Cooley hit Nathan Edwards in stride, very close to being offside but nevertheless, the Michigan commit made no mistake as he went top shelf with a backhand up over Bobcats netminder Garrett Larsen to tie the game.  Saints took the lead later on in the period on the power play as right off the face-off Stanley Cooley again the playmaker, this time spotting Cam Mitchell high in the slot for a perfect redirect, and the Saints went into the 2nd intermission holding a 2-1 advantage.  The Saints managed to get the jump on the Cats just 0:24 seconds into the 3rd as again it was Mitchell as the Nebraska-Omaha commit was able to walk into the Cats zone and let go a bullet top corner on Larsen for his 4th on the season.  Then just 0:55 seconds after that it was WHL alum Ryan Peckford scoring his 3rd goal in as many games to make it 4-1.  Jordan Biro would get in on the action at the 6:55 mark with an excellent tip off a shot that it looked as though Jaxsen Wyatt may have fanned on extending the Saints lead to 5-1.  Finally, Brett Trentham would pour a little more salt in the wound for the Cats with a late power play goal to close out the scoring.  Final shots on goal in the game were 40-13 in favour of the Saints.

 

The outcome looked the same as Saturday night, but I felt the Bobcats actually played a much stronger game in a lot of area’s.  For large stretches of the game they were very solid on the defensive side of the puck, Garrett Larsen made some really big stops and was both tracking the puck and staying square to the shooters all evening, I felt Ryley Hogan bounced back with a good assertive game tonight for the Cats as well.  It is a very young team, they haven’t played much hockey together as of yet, and their first three games of the season are against what very easily could be the two best teams in the league this season.  A very difficult task for any team in the league.

 

I asked Cats head coach Nigel Dube for his thoughts after the game.  “I thought for us, after the media timeout in the first period that we came out and pushed back.  And we probably had a 25 minute slot in there where we did good things, leaned on their D-men and got things going that way.  At times when we got away from the game plan and put pucks into the walls and off the area’s that we were targeting on the ice, they’re a team with speed, had momentum coming North on us and we gave them opportunities.  But we just need to regroup and go get them on Friday”.  Dube would like to see more discipline shown from his team next game.  “We took hooking, slashing, holding and high sticking.  Four penalties, two in the offensive zone, sending us to the penalty kill when we really don’t need to.  The penalty ratio was really off-set, and some of those we were deserving of tonight.  It’s something to work on.”  As the Cats move onto Grand Prairie for a set this weekend, Dube is looking forward to the challenge.  “You look at our first three, Sherwood Park, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove, now we’re playing hockey.  We come to the rink tomorrow, we’ll touch on a few things in video, and get on the bus to go to GP.  They’re a young team as well.  It’s their home opener so we have to be prepared for that.  But for us, we need to start shooting pucks and get back to our 10 shots a period minimum.  No matter where they’re coming from, we need to find a way to start being shooters.”

 

Puck drop in Grand Prairie both tomorrow and Saturday night is set for 7:30 PM, and you can catch all the action on Hockey TV.  Cats next home game will be Friday, October 4th as they take on Hayden Clayton and the Whitecourt Wolverines.  Puck drop for that game will be 7:30, and if you can’t make it down to the Civic Centre then you can check out Shane Tomayer and myself as we’ll have the call on Hockey TV, and on MixLR.

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Nothing Goes Right as Bobcats Drop Home Opener

On any given day, you can start off with the best intentions, work as hard as you can, set out to do everything the correct way, yet everything still conspires against you.  We’ve all had days like that.  Last night, that happened to the Lloydminster Bobcats.  After a very promising showing in Sherwood Park Friday night, the Bobcats simply could never get their game on track in the return bout Saturday night at the Centennial Civic Centre as a very talented Crusaders squad took it to them all night, defeating the Bobcats by a score of 6-0.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00!

It was an uphill battle for the Cats right from the get-go as just 11 seconds into the game a costly turnover led to a Kaden Bryant goal.  Then at the 12:16 mark Bryant put home his second of the game on a shot that Bobcats goaltender Cale Elder got a piece of, but not enough and it was 2-0 Crusaders after one.  Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube turned to Garrett Larsen to start the 2nd frame, however it was more of the same as the Crusaders put the pressure on and at the 5:14 mark Jacob Franczak made a beautiful stretch pass to Jarred White who had cheated into the neutral zone and he made no mistake going top shelf on the backhand which put the Crusaders up 3-0 and it would remain that score after 40 minutes of play.  The Bobcats entered the 3rd with a 35 second five on three power play, and despite not being able to capitalize on it, they were finally gaining a little momentum before Ty Mueller abruptly ended that as he fired a laser past Larsen to make it 4-0.  That goal seemed to really suck the life out of the building, as that goal was followed by goals from Franczak and Bryce Bader.  Three goals in 59 seconds from the Crusaders and it would remain that way as the Crusaders walked away with an impressive victory.

 

It felt from the broadcast booth that the Bobcats were badly gripping their sticks all night long.  Nothing was coming easy for the club.  Full credit to the Crusaders who have one of the best teams in the AJHL and will do what they did to the Bobcats to many teams in the league this season.  But the game the team played Friday night in Sherwood Park was impressive.  They weren’t intimidated by the Crusaders, they played loose, they showed they could take a punch and get right back up and keep fighting.  Saturday night, the effort level was still there, but the execution was far different.  They were two very different games.

 

After the game, Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube was taking the blame for the loss.  “As a coaching staff we’re six games in including pre-season and that’s on us to find a way to get these guys ready.  Tonight, we were off.  And when you play a team like Sherwood Park who is picked to probably win the league, you can’t be off, and as a coaching staff that’s on us.”  Dube went onto say “we had a little hiccup here in a couple area’s but we’ll be back to it tomorrow.  We’ll find ways to continue to grow.  19 new bodies and I can’t say that forever, but out of the gate here we’re going to have to learn and as a coaching staff we have to learn and execute what it takes to get these guys prepared every day.”  The schedule doesn’t lighten up at all either, as the defending North division champion Spruce Grove Saints are up next.  “For us, now we got to find the on.  We have a few days here, our practice on Monday and Tuesday will be structured a little bit different and we’ll look at it as game one on Tuesday and we’ll be good.  For us we can’t have being on and then being off.  Onus is on the coaching staff to sit down tonight, sit down tomorrow and execute a plan that’s going to help our guys and give them the resources to be better the next day.  That’s on us.”  It would have been VERY easy for Dube to point fingers after a disappointing home opener, but he showed great leadership with how he handled things.

 

The Saints roll into town Wednesday with a 2-0 record after sweeping their home and home this weekend against Drayton Valley, game time is 7:30.  If you can’t make it to the Centennial Civic Centre, then Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call on Hockey TV and on MixLR.

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