For lack of a better word, it was a special evening at the Centennial Civic Centre. It’s Gold Horse Casino family weekend, so most of the parents of the Bobcats are in town. Joining them in the Border City was the number 1 ranked team in the CJHL, the top team in the AJHL with a record of 38-3-1, the defending Centennial Cup champions, the Brooks Bandits. In case you didn’t gather it from the brief resume I just gave you…they’re pretty good! But on Friday night, the Bobcats were better as they stunned the Bandits by a score of 4-3.
The Cats showed early on that they were going to match the Bandits speed and managed to get on the board first at the 4:35 in as Cam Aucoin jammed a puck in front and Tanner Mack was Johnny on the spot to make it 1-0. The Bandits got that one back however at 7:48 as Randy Hernandez stripped Ben Bygrove of the puck deep in the Cats zone and then setup Ryan McAllister to tie the game. The Cats were not deterred though and at 13:39, after Alex Danis had a strong opportunity turned aside, Ty Mosimann showed off his patience and playmaking ability and found Brendan Morrow cross-crease who proceeded to put it in the empty net and it was 2-1 Cats. Before the opening frame was complete, Tanner Mack would add his 2nd of the game as he sent a bit of a knuckler on goal that beat Bandits netminder Pierce Charleson, and when the buzzer went to end the 1st, the scoreboard read 3-1 in favour of the home team.
In the 2nd it was a different Brooks Bandits squad. They looked to up their physical game and as you would suspect the intensity level of the game hit a peak. A total of 10 minor penalties were assessed in the period. Only one goal in the period however that came off the stick of Bandits forward Chris Pappas who made a great solo effort and then beat Josh Dias short side to cut the Cats lead to 3-2.
As great as the Bobcats effort was in the first 40 minutes of the game, the most impressive part of the evening was their 3rd period. They didn’t sit back on their 3-2 lead but rather took the play to the Bandits. Then a little over the midway point in the 3rd, Nolen Coventry took a nice outlet pass from Cam Aucoin right at centre ice and made a gorgeous…and I mean GORGEOUS flip/lead pass that Tanner Mack was able to skate into and put him in alone. Mack went five-hole on Charleson to complete the hat trick and more importantly give the Bobcats a massive insurance goal. Shortly after, Chance Adrian would be sent to the box for boarding. But the Cats penalty kill was just as impressive as their 5 on 5 play all evening. Several players sold out to block any shot they possibly could. A great example came on this PK in particular as Brendan Morrow blocked a Bandits point shot, then dove and swung with one hand on his stick to knock the puck into the neutral zone. And when the Bandits were able to get shots on goal, Josh Dias was there to make the stop, including an incredible pad save on Chris Pappas late in the Adrian penalty. The Cats finally did give up a power play goal with just 20.6 seconds remaining as the Bandits had a 6 on 4, desperate to tie the game as Trey Thomas would finally put one behind Dias. But that was as close as the Bandits would get as Dias stopped 23 of 26 shots, and the Bobcats snagged their biggest win of the season.
Going into the game, not only were the Bandits 38-3-1, they had only lost 6 games in regulation over the last two regular seasons. To say it was an impressive win for the Cats is definitely an understatement. Needless to say, Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube had a lot of thoughts on his team’s performance after the game. “I think that group just showed what they’re capable of, and that’s the biggest part of it. A full 60 minutes. And it was amazing to see from the coaching standpoint, just to kind of sit back and let the guys do their thing. And they rallied around each other throughout the entire game, executed, committed to the little areas of the game, and got rewarded in a very big way.” I asked coach Dube to put into words how special of a win it was, not only because of who they beat, but with all the parents being on hand to witness it. “When you have 17 or 18 of the 22 families here, that’s special. There’s no doubt. Brooks is a team that everybody gives their best against and hopes for the best, and we managed to get one on them. And I think it’s big for our group right now to realize what we’re capable of”.
This wasn’t some fluke victory where Josh Dias had to play the game of his life, or the Bandits had the worst luck imaginable, the Bobcats were FULL VALUE for the victory Friday night. Congratulations to the players and coaching staff who have worked their asses off all season, had a lot of brutal luck along the way (especially in tight games at the Civic Centre) and were very deserving of something good coming their way. Great job boys!!
It’s one thing to get beat and know that you deserved it. It doesn’t make anyone happy when that happens, but nevertheless…it happens. But when you get beat and deserve a better fate, those are the games that are extremely difficult to take. On Monday night at the Centennial Civic Centre, the Lloydminster Bobcats might have deserved better in their 5-2 loss to the Bonnyville Pontiacs. On Friday night, the Bobcats played an even better game against the Camrose Kodiaks and got the better of the play (5 on 5 in particular). Yet it still went unrewarded, as despite outshooting the Kodiaks 35-25, the Bobcats fell 4-3.
The Cats came out flying in the 1st period, dominating the play early and got on the board first as Ty Mosimann got the puck off a won draw by Chance Adrian. His first shot was blocked, but he got it back and rifled it top shelf on Kodiaks netminder Cole Tisdale to make it a 1-0 game. The Kodiaks managed to get that one back at the 11:32 mark of the period as Damon Zimmer put what appeared to be a harmless shot from the left boards on Josh Dias, but the puck found its way to the back of the net to tie the game. The Kodiaks gained a lot of momentum from that goal and made it 2-1 shortly after as Jarret Timmerman had a puck bounce perfectly to him in the slot off the backboards and all of a sudden the Kodiaks had the lead and would carry it into the intermission.
In the 2nd the Cats took back control of the game and were rewarded for it at the 11:24 mark of the period as Mack Stewart picked off a Kodiak pass and was able to walk in all alone and put a nice move on Tisdale to tie the game at 2. The line of Adrian, Mosimann and Stewart were tremendous for the Cats all night long as they not only produced a couple of goals, they looked dangerous every time they were on the ice producing numerous scoring chances. The Stewart goal was the only one we’d see in the 2nd, so the two teams headed to the 3rd all evened up.
In the 3rd, the Bobcats continued their strong play and you talk about getting rewarded for strong play, Jared Miller had been playing very strong hockey of late for the Cats and he finally got rewarded for that with his first AJHL goal to give the Bobcats a 3-2 lead. A similar goal to Stewart’s in that he picked off a Kodiaks attempted zone exit and took a heavy wrist shot that found its way through Tisdale. It looked as though it was the Bobcats night, but then a nightmare 3 minute stretch after the Miller goal did the Cats in as they ran into penalty trouble. A Lane Brockhoff goal on one power-play would tie it for the Kodiaks, and then a Connor Brock tally on the other power play would put the Kodiaks up 4-3 with just 4:53 to play. The Bobcats pushed hard, especially in the final minute of play, but were unable to get the equalizer and the Kodiaks escaped with the win.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, there’s a lot of positives you can take out of that game. But the minor details cost us again tonight. We out-chanced them, out-shot them, but we have to turn that into numbers on the scoreboard. A lot of positives, but they’re stinging more and more when you’re that close but you’re not getting rewarded at the end of the day” coach Nigel Dube said after the game. One of the brightest spots on the night was obviously Jared Miller getting his first AJHL goal and I got Dube’s thoughts on that. “Millsy’s done a lot of good things. He’s a sound, 200-foot player, and he’s been making some plays. Systematic wise, it was a great read, broke it up, and has a good shot on goal which he’s capable of doing. So it was good to see”.
The Bobcats are back in action next weekend as they hit the road for a Southern road trip starting in Calgary Friday night. Start time for that one will be 7 PM. If you’re unable to make the five hour trip for that one, all the action will be available on Hockey TV. The Cats will be back in action at home exactly a week later on Friday, January 17th as they play host to the top-ranked team in the CJHL, the Brooks Bandits. Puck drop for that one will be 7:30 at the Centennial Civic Centre. As always, if you can’t make it down to the rink, Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call for you on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!
One of my “new years resolutions” is to write shorter blogs and maybe pair them with my podcasts. I do these rankings and I dig WAY too much! So far, not good. I had these teams ranked when I sat down this morning, and I’m still nitpicking everything, write a ton on so many teams, it’s stupid on my part.
Anyway, what I’m looking to do here is rank these teams in terms of how close or far they are from winning a Cup. It gets tricky around 20-25 because you have to balance their chances of getting in the playoffs this season coupled with where they are in their rebuild. But keep in mind, this has little to do with how teams are playing lately as many power rankings do. I rank where I have the teams today, and I talk a little bit about them. Got it? Doesn’t matter, because here we go.
31. Detroit Red Wings
They supplant the Kings at 31st because the Kings at this point might actually have a shot at a playoff spot. I highly doubt they make it, but the Pacific is THAT weak. Several have said it already but I still will, this is not a bad thing for the Red Wings. Probably need a few years down here before they’re ready to go.
30. New Jersey Devils
I know they’ve been rebuilding it for a bit, this isn’t just starting. What worries me is that I’m not sure they had 1st overall picks in the right years. Hischier looks to me like he might top out as a high end 2nd line centre, and I personally see Hughes as a winger (a damn good one obviously). So while they aren’t starting from scratch here, they still have a lot of big pieces still to put in place.
29. LA Kings
Similar situation as to what I’ve just laid out with Jersey. The big thing I’d do if I were Rob Blake is move both Kopitar and Doughty out. They aren’t much with them, so why keep them? It is just prolonging things. Trade them, clear out over 20 million, get some great young pieces, speed this process up. They’re playing very well of late, but realistically where is that going to get them? Finishing 31st every year without Kopitar and Doughty is better than finishing 25th with them.
28. Anaheim Ducks
I’m frankly stunned that they aren’t better because this organization has done such a great job at drafting over the years, but it’s as if just a couple of missteps have set them back a lot of years. I believe you also have to start questioning Dallas Eakins all over again at some point.
27. Chicago Blackhawks
I wonder perhaps if they should look to move Kane just like the Kings should move Kopitar and Doughty. I can’t see any of the three being moved because of what they mean to the organizations, but Kane would still have great value and clear 10.5 million. Point being here that they aren’t going anywhere.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets
They have been playing extremely well lately, but they’ve had a ton of injuries including one now to Korpisalo. I believe that right now will be as good as this season will get for Jackets fans.
25. NY Rangers
I’m very intrigued at what they might do in net. I’d guess Georgiev would fetch them a pretty good player, because even though he only has a .908 Sv%, I really believe the kid is a damn good goaltender.
24. Ottawa Senators
I know what some of you are thinking. “Has he lost his mind?!?!” My rationale is this: They are currently holding TWO lottery tickets. At this moment, this club is a serious threat to own TWO top five picks. And this is a draft that in my mind has an all-time top five. And it isn’t as though they aren’t on the right track without having high picks like those. And then, add on to all of that, they have their own 2nd rounder, and the Jackets. So you’re looking at four picks in the top 40 of one of the deepest drafts of all time! People really need to start wrapping their heads around just how incredible of a situation this is starting to become.
23. San Jose Sharks
The ONLY reason they are this high is thanks to what started a year ago tomorrow with the Blues. But I really don’t think Jordan Binnington 2.0 is walking through this door.
22. Minnesota Wild
They’re coming on strong. It’s very likely the wrong thing to do, but then again I have to keep in mind that some of these organizations may want Cups, but they NEED playoff gates.
21. Montreal Canadiens
Brendan Gallagher is now out with a concussion, but they were already sliding. I’m not a believer in what they are currently building. Not what they’ve built, but what they are building. They have the look of an organization that will be in purgatory for a LONG time.
20. Edmonton Oilers
Their confidence is completely shattered. If they can get it back, ok. MAYBE they get in the playoffs thanks to a weak division. But I don’t believe they will. I’m hearing a lot about how much their schedule eases up this month. Yeah, it’s less of a grind. Not many cupcakes on it though. Remember Oilers fans: 25 mil in cap space this summer, Bouchard is going to be a terrific add on the blueline next season, Larsson is movable, Russell is likely movable after his bonus money is paid (only 1.5 mil in real dollars), this summer is huge for the Oilers, but this season really isn’t.
19. Buffalo Sabres
This team isn’t very likely to make the playoffs, but with the way Jack Eichel is playing and how improved their blueline is, they are at least pretty competitive. If they can find a goaltender, they might have a shot.
18. Calgary Flames
I just don’t know what to make of them. They look like they’re about to take off, and then they fall back into bad habits. Winning the Pacific won’t surprise me, and a 2nd half collapse won’t surprise me either.
17. Vancouver Canucks
The only reason I’m not higher on them is I wonder if their kids can truly carry them. But on paper, this to me is the best roster in the Pacific. It’s just a matter of the kids being able to carry them.
16. Arizona Coyotes
Taylor Hall gets them in the playoffs, maybe wins them the division, maybe wins them a round in the playoffs. But they’re looking to win playoff gates, not so much Cups. So it’ll be a great season for the franchise, but unless another move is coming I don’t think they scare anyone.
15. Philadelphia Flyers
They’re very much so under the radar, bizarrely so being Philly! In a terrific division, they’re holding up very well. I like the depth both up front and on the back end, just a matter of how Carter Hart will hold up.
14. Winnipeg Jets
It is awesome how they’re holding up with hardly anything on their blueline, but we need to be honest and say it like it is: Connor Hellebuyck should be a Hart candidate.
13. Florida Panthers
I keep saying it, but if Bobrovsky gets back on track, this team is going to be a serious threat come the spring. It’s funny, Barkov WAS the most underrated player in the league. Now, it might be Huberdeau.
12. NY Islanders
Yeah, I just don’t buy it. They’re having a tremendous regular season in maybe the best division in hockey, but does anyone truly believe they’ll go anywhere in the playoffs?
11. Colorado Avalanche
Moving forward, I think they’re set up to be the elite team in the West for years to come. I think a lot of people are confusing that with them being Cup contenders THIS season. I like them, but I can’t see this team seriously contending for a Cup THIS year.
10. Dallas Stars
The depth scares me up front, the lack of experience scares me a bit on the blueline, but this team is built for playoff hockey. And Jim Nill is in a position where he will be able to load up at one of these trade deadlines.
9. Nashville Predators
I still believe they’re going to figure it out. There is just too much talent on this squad, and we know that if there is a deal out there for them to upgrade, David Poile will pull the trigger.
8. Vegas Golden Knights
As far as being Cup favourites goes, they have a lot of work to do on their blueline. But the key ingredient here is that they look like they’re the best team in the very weak Pacific.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
They’re coming on really strong. Kyle Dubas shouldn’t be half assing this. He’s set them up to be in win now mode, so he better go all in come the trade deadline.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
ANOTHER major injury, this time to Jake Guentzel. The roster doesn’t look great at the moment, but as long as they continue to tread water they should be a force come the spring.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
They’re going to figure it out, it’s just a matter of when. I really believe this adversity is going to be a good thing for them come April and May.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
The depth of skill throughout this lineup is absurd. It’ll be interesting to see if they go after the type of goaltender who could put them over the top.
3. Washington Capitals
This top three is clear cut in the league, both in the standings and in terms of being Cup contenders. It’s the NHL, so it by no means is to suggest that only these three can win it all, but at the halfway point these three don’t just look the best during the regular season, but the best built to win in the playoffs.
2. Boston Bruins
They’re slipping a tiny bit here, but in reality, this team is fine. Did we seriously expect this team to keep the accelerator down all season long?!
1. St. Louis Blues
So this is a little recency bias, a little because of how closely I watched them one game in particular, but they played the Oilers on December 18th and normally I’d be pissed about mistakes the Oilers made in a game. Not that one. The Blues were completely suffocating all night long. I know it’s one game, but it’s just proof of how great they are right now because everyone is buying in. Combine that with a roster perfectly constructed to play playoff hockey and I’m not sure if they can be beaten in a seven game series right now.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Team: Everett Silvertips
Pos: C Ht: 5’11 Wt: 185 Shot: L
2020 Stats – GP: 15 G: 4 A: 7 P: 11
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.
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.
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.
Team: Swift Current Broncos
Pos: RD Ht: 6’0 Wt: 185 Shot: R
2020 Stats – GP: 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.
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.
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.
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).
Team: Spruce Grove Saints
Pos: LD Ht: 5’9 Wt: 155 Shot: L
2020 Stats – GP: 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.
Team: Chilliwack Chiefs
Pos: LW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 170 Shot: L
2020 Stats – GP: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Points %: .615 (T-12th)
Without Malkin they’ve played outstanding. Tomorrow, he returns (just in time to play the Oilers…lovely…).
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.
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.
Points %: .750 (T-3rd)
They just keep on keeping on. John Carlson, not a bad month…
Points %: .607 (15th)
I still don’t like this blueline, but they somehow make due with what they have. No other big concerns though.
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.
Points %: .833 (1st)
Look as though they’re primed for another deep run come this spring.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.