2014 pt.2

 

I’ve pretty much only talked hockey for a few months now.  I’m Canadian, deal with it.  Also, its the dead season on the sports calender, so I need SOMETHING to talk about.  I had a Sam Gagner piece ready to go for last Monday, nearly 2000 words down the drain thanks to a pre 7AM MST deal struck between him and the Oilers.  So thanks a lot guys, it was a real douchy move to be so selfish and strike a deal that killed my piece.

 

Regardless, hockey Canada has given me something to beak off about.  Back in November I posted my team Canada roster.  Well since the camp invetations have now been sent out I decided to do a 2nd version, mainly because that one is now WAY out of date!  Here is that piece:

 

http://soupsonhockey.com/2012/11/12/2014/

 

Things look a heck of a lot different now, but the one thing I won’t move off of is that they have to build this team with major speed.  Again I’ll state, even on NHL in 2010 the speed these games are played at is just a totally different level.  Guys like Chris Pronger and Brent Seabrook looked average at best in 2010 because they couldn’t keep up.  So if I can figure this out, I would think hockey Canada will be able to.  Here is my forward group now:

 

John Tavares – Sidney Crosby – Steven Stamkos

Eric Staal – Jonathan Toews – Martin St.Louis

Taylor Hall – Claude Giroux – Corey Perry

Mike Richards – Patrice Bergeron – Brad Marchand

Patrick Sharp

 

Have to break this down before I get to the blueline.  No Rick Nash.  That may be a shock but I’m looking at it and asking myself “what kind of impact does the guy ACTUALLY ever bring to a team”.  The answer, not much.  Now he will have Ken Hitchock likely in his corner (former coach), but I have to think the people in charge will finally notice this.  But I completely understand the attraction.  6’4, 230, great wheels, great talent.  But he is a difficult guy to play with.  Sid had trouble with him in 2010, Columbus never found a guy to play with him, Brad Richards was terrible playing with Nash last season, it just can’t be a coincidence at this point.

 

I also still don’t have Getzlaf.  That is more of a result of the depth down the middle and him having good but not great speed.  If someone wanted to suggest that he be in Giroux’s spot on this roster I would be on board for that.  I’m a HUGE Getzlaf guy, but I think Giroux’s game is just a little better suited for the Olympic style of game.  Both are RH shot centers, and don’t kid yourself…it’s a big deal when picking these teams to make sure we have a lot of both RH and LH shot centers.

 

Another guy who wasn’t easy to leave off was Logan Couture.  I can’t stand Logan Couture’s act, but I can’t deny how good the kid is.  I think he may get left off the team because of his act, I just don’t buy that he’s a good kid in the room.  That’s not to say if he is a good team guy that he will be on the team, he falls into a category of star but not superstar which Canada has a ridiculous amount of guys in.  Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Jordan Staal, Jeff Carter, James Neal, Jamie Benn, etc.  Leaving guys off is simply unavoidable.  This country could send 4 forward groups that could compete with all the other countries.

 

Speed, speed and more speed.  The first line is loaded, but I could see if they wanted to have Stamkos playing with St.Louis, Giroux moving to his spot on the top line with Toews playing between Hall and Perry, but this is how I personally would have it.  Stamkos isn’t a great center, he’s a great sniper so put him on the wing.

 

I LOVE the 4th line.  For me, Marchand has to be on this team.  The kid is a winner because he is willing to do literally anything to win.  He is the best pest in the game, and doesn’t hit and run.  He also is one of the most clutch players in the game.  Brad Marchand isn’t an elite talent, but he is an elite component that the team Canada brass simply cannot pass up taking.

 

Now for the blueline, and I won’t waste anymore time:

 

Duncan Keith – Shea Weber

Marc Staal – Drew Doughty

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo

Kris Letang

 

First thing that surely stands out is Bouwmeester.  He was GREAT in St.Louis to end last season.  Add to that he has so many jumps on other guys.  1, his skating and again I won’t quit harping on it that is going to be a huge factor in this process.  2, Ken Hitchock is on the coaching staff so I expect he will push hard for J-Bo as long as he keeps up his play from the end of last season.  3, the familiarity with Pietrangelo.  4, he is a LH shot d-man and we don’t have a lot of elite LH shot d-men in Canada for some reason.

 

So Bouwmeester has A LOT going for him to make this team.  Would I take him over Brent Seabrook to start an NHL team with?  Hell no, but we aren’t talking about the NHL.  This is big ice and Seabrook has much more competition for a spot on this roster than Bouwmeester will.  Also, Seabrook got pretty exposed against other nations speed in the 2010 Olympics and didn’t see the ice by the gold medal game.  That won’t be lost on Mike Babcock.

 

As for the rest….its the same as last time so I won’t go into detail again.  But to me the top 5 should be the top 5 hands down, no questions asked.  Maybe some of you wonder about Marc Staal but he just fits in there perfectly.  He isn’t a high point producer, but he moves the puck well, skates well, and is an elite defender.

 

I personally wouldn’t have Letang, although I wouldn’t have the reigning Norris winner in that spot either.  If it were up to me I would have Dan Boyle as the 7th d-man.  Experience, more proven, moves the puck better, safer, Boyle would be the perfect 7th man.  But I think they’ll go with Letang no matter what.  He was dreadful against Boston in the playoffs and I think it would be a mistake, but it is also not like it would be a horrific choice…..it wouldn’t be Marc Methot!

 

I just don’t think Subban has a chance at all.  He’s had too many run in’s not just around the league but in his own room at times and I doubt that is a risk the brass will want to take, especially with 2 other d-men bringing the same type of skill set to the table, though neither Letang or Boyle have an eye for the open ice hit like Subban does.  But again, splitting hairs really.  Boyle would be my guy, I think Letang would be their choice, and Subban is deserving at a shot as well (likely on the taxi squad).

 

Finally, goaltending:

 

Carey Price

Cam Ward

Roberto Luongo

 

First of all, this absolutely stupid arguement of Luongo needing to be the starter because we won gold with him in 2010 is so bleepin’ ridiculous I can’t believe people who claim to know what they’re talking about try to make this argument.  It was 4 years ago!!!  And I’m sorry, but Luongo did absolutely nothing to deliver that win.  He didn’t win it for us, he just didn’t lose it.  Now my tune on @strombone1 has completely changed….mainly because of that twitter account.  He is the best athlete follow on twitter in my opinion.  But he shouldn’t be the starter on this team.  Having said all that, he makes this team.

 

I will understand the argument for Corey Crawford to be on this team too.  He isn’t elite, but he proved in the playoffs he can keep his head in big moments and I love that in a goaltender, that ability to battle.  He faces high quality chances playing in Chicago, so I feel like if he were in Phoenix he would be considered elite.

 

Braden Holtby is too young, but I will say he has shown to have all the ability and composure in the world.  I wouldn’t have much of an issue with him making the team.  I would trust Holtby more than Mike Smith.  I don’t know when in the hell hockey people are going to figure out that Sean Burke isn’t some miracle worker, and Mike Smith is just a product of playing in Dave Tippett’s system.  It makes life easy on goaltenders and with that their confidence rises and their game improves.  Away from that system, guys like that get BADLY exposed.  Smith has big talent, but I wouldn’t trust him.  Add to that, in the 2012 playoffs the Kings exposed how the guy can’t keep his head.

 

As for my number 2 goaltender….I honestly wonder if they left him off the training camp list to motivate him.  Because I can’t think of how in the freakin hell they would overlook him.  4-0 in game 7’s!!!  Cam Ward is the most proven big game goaltender this country has (other than the over the hill Martin Brodeur).  He is coming off an injury, so maybe that played a factor in the decision too, but my goodness I don’t see how if he’s healthy he isn’t there.  In Carolina he’s played in a wide open system so he’s definitely not a product of the system, he’s only 29 years old this year so he’s not too young or too old, it just makes no sense to me.  Game 7 in the 06 East final, game 7 in the 06 Cup final, game 7 in Jersey in the 1st round in 09, game 7 in Boston in the 2nd round in 09….in OT.  I.  Don’t.  Get.  It.  I’m saying he makes this team in the end.

 

And finally my guy, my starter.  Carey Price is easily the most talented Canadian goaltender.  Carey Price has played in a lot of big games in his young career.  But most of all for me, Carey Price plays with no pulse.  He is cool, calm and collected in big moments.  I think he is simply the perfect guy for us, and it’s funny because the media is in full panic mode over our goaltending, yet I guarantee if Price were a Finn or Russian or Czech or Swede we would be raving about how they have a guy like Price and we have nobody.

 

At the end of the day, it is a great debate and we really can’t go wrong with so many of our guys.  This is how I think it shakes down when you consider all the factors.  But there is no doubt that many of you as well as the Canada brass would see some things differently.  Nice to have this to discuss in the middle of summer though when many of us are yearning for hockey!

 

Follow me on twitter….just cause @TJ_Soups

They needed that

 

I said it last night on twitter and will say it again…if you pitched that fight as a storyline in Hollywood, you would be laughed out of the room.  That is the kind of thing that makes sports great.  You can’t script reality (you can script reality TV shows) and while that would be the most corny/ridiculous story, it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in the octagon.

The cocky, arrogant, unbeatable champion from a foreign country steps into the octagon ON JULY 4TH WEEKEND no less….to face the young, inexperienced and pretty humble American kid.  The American kid was trying very hard, but the seemingly unbeatable/evil foreigner couldn’t be caught and began toying with him, making fun of how no matter how hard he tried there was simply no way the scrappy American was anywhere near as good as the 10 time defending champion.  And then, just when the evil foreigner acted his worst by pretending a light jab wobbled him….BOOM!!!  Lights out, new champ!!!  That is the worst movie I have ever seen.  Somewhere, Sly Stallone is PISSED that his idea for Rocky 7 just got stolen!  I mean he even walked out of the octagon with the flag wrapped around him and Born in the USA playing!  That is an AWFUL movie!

But seriously, who didn’t want that to happen?!  Just total disrespect from Silva AGAIN in a fight.  That has been a long time coming where karma caught up with him.  I don’t question his ability and work ethic.  And I like guys who have a personality.  But this wasn’t the first time that Silva’s act had gotten ridiculous in the cage.  I guess since he hasn’t had any close calls since the first Chael Sonnen fight he felt like he could act like a jack ass.

That ranks right up there for me with the night that Randy Couture came out of retirement (although it had only been 13 months), went back to the heavyweight division after over 4 years away from it and fighting Tim Sylvia in a true “David vs Goliath” battle.  Sylvia was much bigger, much longer, much younger and the age of 43 Couture dominated Sylvia for 5 rounds to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title.

That was when the UFC was truely great.  At that time, the only fighter who was dominating a divison was Chuck Liddell who was upset later that spring by Rampage Jackson.  Every PPV, you had no idea what was going to happen.  Every card you didn’t hope for a huge upset, you were expecting it.  But in the last 2 or 3 years, the cards have been watered down in an attempt to spread out the talent to do more shows, and 3 guys have simply owned the sport (those being Silva, GSP and Jon Jones).

It has just become very stale.  I couldn’t help but notice my twitter feed last night (of course when am I not noticing it?!)  Nobody was talking about 162 other than Dana White of course.  Literally nobody else who I follow was talking about it, and I follow some BIG MMA fans and even some of the guys connected to the business who I follow weren’t talking about it.  Even after Frankie Edgar’s fight which was a great 3 round tilt with Charles Oliveira, nobody was saying anything.  And as I was watching it I said “the best thing that could happen is a shocker right here”.

I woke up this morning and I’m excited about the UFC again, and I can’t help but think other fans who were diehards but had somewhat drifted away from the sport are too.  I mean I still watch most of the cards.  I get together with my buddies to watch them, but its not a must like it was 4 or 5 years ago.  And sure, the unpredictability is only one aspect of it.  They have done a good job at recognizing that the amount of cards was getting ridiculous.  There isn’t a PPV on every 2 weeks anymore (at least that’s what it felt like), so they are taking the steps that they need to take.

But a fight like that was desperately needed!  Now the middleweight division is WIDE open.  It also now free’s up Anderson Silva to have the 2 big fights MMA fans have wanted to see against Jones and St.Pierre.  There should be a buzz around the UFC once again which had been lacking in the mainstream media and with casual fans for a few years now.  Even at the sports peak they never quite got over that hump to become a real mainstream sport.  We will see if this fight gives them the jolt they need to take another run at it.

 

Follow me on twitter…if twitter still exsists after it blew up last night @TJ_Soups

Poor decisions

 

What else are we supposed to call it?  “Free Agent Frenzy”?  That sounds like its a fun day where good things happen.  Rarely does anything good come out of this day.  USUALLY what we see are contracts like Brad Richards, Jay Bouwmeester, Wade Redden, Scott Gomez, since the 2005 lockout I would GUESS (total guess) that the ratio of good contracts to bad is probably 4:1.

So here is what we are going to do.  I’m going to give you 2 somewhat similar players and make the case why 1 guy could be a worse decision than your last bar pickup, and one guy could be a good decision like the last time you went home from the bar alone…well at least that’s my excuse for always going home from the bar alone!

 

Bad decision:

David Clarkson – He is going to get a gross deal without a doubt.  He is the most unique player available and while he’s viewed as a 30 goal scorer, there is a reason they call it a “career year”.  He basically had a 106 game stretch (82 last year, first 24 this year) where he was productive.  The rest of his career he hasn’t produced much.  And he’s 29 now, his best days of dropping the gloves are behind him.  I don’t in anyway dislike the player, but I fear what numbers we will see when he signs.  Shouldn’t be anything over 4 years/16 mil, likely will be 5 or 6 years/27.5-32.5 mil.

Good decision:

Ryane Clowe – While Clarkson is getting all the love, if I were a GM I would be paying all my attention to Ryane Clowe if you need a guy like that.  Clowe has virtually no buzz around him, yet he is the more proven of the 2 guys and is only a year older.  He had a bad year, but it was a messed up year.  Their career stats are pretty similar.  Clowe has 435 GP with 104 goals.  Clarkson has 426 GP with 97 goals.  But Clowe has 279 points, Clarkson only has 170.  Clowe is a career +18, Clarkson -32.  The Sharks have likely been the better team over that time, but not by much.  The Devils have had 2 down years in the last 3 seasons but for the most part have been a power in the East.  Clowe should be the higher paid of the 2, yet it sure doesn’t sound like that’s how it will happen.  If you can get him for 4 years/16 mil, it would be much better than what we’re hearing Clarkson will get.

 

Bad decision:

Andrew Ference – Like Clarkson, I love a lot of what Ference brings to the table, just don’t love what he potentially will cost.  He’s limited.  He moves the puck good not great, he plays physical but lacks size, he can play on your PP but can’t QB, he is solid in his own zone but can’t matchup with top lines.  He’s a number 4 d-man which is great, but I’m just hoping for some teams sake it isn’t for something like 4-5 years/16-20 mil.

Good decision:

Ryan Whitney – Maybe its the Oiler fan in me, but I’m still a big believer in the guy.  He injured the foot midway through the 2010-11 season.  Had the surgery, came back much too soon from it (the start of the 11-12 season).  I recall reading that you need 2 years to recover from that injury.  So that season was a write off.  Last year he probably would have been more than ready come training camp but the lockout happened.  So again, that screwed up his season.  He also couldn’t get out of Ralph Krueger’s dog house.  He has good size, has a great first pass, he has lost a step but I wouldn’t classify him as slow either, will get his nose dirty though not an overly physical d-man, and can QB a teams PP.  1 or 2 years/2-4 mil is low risk, high reward.

 

Bad decision:

Mike Riberio – I honestly don’t have a good feel on what some of these center’s will get, but I have no time for Mike Riberio basically no matter what he gets.  Congrats on being a PPG player!  That’s awesome!  You’re a center bud, play the postition.  Bad in the dot (44.8% last season, 46.6% was his career high in 07 and 2011), doesn’t play a 200 foot game, and is still a question mark in the room.  Now, the fact he is viewed as a bit of a cancer may keep the price down.  But I expect something along the lines of 3-4 years/15-20 mil.

Good decision:

Valteri Filppula – I wouldn’t have said this a few days ago to be honest.  He is a player I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to.  But I started looking at the numbers.  66 points in the 11-12 season, 200 foot player, he is experienced, comes from a winning environment, still only 29 years old, and check out these numbers in the dot starting with this past season: 55.4, 51.7, 51.5, 51.7, 52.1, 50.6, and 55.8 in 06-07.  He is damn good in the dot.  And he’s done all this in the Western conference which I believe is the more physically demanding conference.  Pretty impressive.  The reason much like Clowe and Whitney as to why Filppula may not get ridiculous money is because he’s coming off a poor offensive season.  But he’s delivered before when given the ice time, and his playoff stats are pretty decent too.  5 years/22.5 mil might not be a STEAL, but could be a good deal.

 

Bad decision:

Ilya Bryzgalov – Yes, a repeat offender.  He won’t get anything CLOSE to what he got with Philly.  But I could see him getting something like 3 years/12 mil.  Ridiculous!!  He is a product of playing in Tippett’s system and no national media it has nothing to do with Sean Burke!!!  Mike Smith was great for Tippett in Dallas without Burke, as was Turco.  Once they didn’t have Tippett their games fell apart.  Bryz might be a little better than he was in Philly, but he won’t be near the numbers he put up in Phoenix.

Good decision:

Ray Emery – I keep hearing that a lot of teams are interested, yet I hear they’re all interested in him because he likely won’t cost a lot.  If it stays that way and someone doesn’t get stupid this could be a steal.  17-1, 1.94 GAA, .922 SV%.  This was done playing in a system that is not goaltender friendly.  The Hawks are great, and they aren’t boring.  They give up fantastic scoring chances.  And Sugar Ray still put up those ridiculous numbers.  3 years/9 mil doesn’t scare me with him.

 

Bad decision:

Nathan Horton – I have always been a big fan of this kids game, especially with how clutch he was in the Bruins run during the 2011 playoffs.  I always thought he was a kid who was trapped in Florida and finally got into a great situation in Boston.  Now he wants to run back to a non hockey market because he doesn’t want the spotlight.  He sounds to me like a guy who is going to sign a fat new deal, and since he has his ring he is going to basically go half-assed the rest of his career.  Bob Stauffer has mentioned that there are certain reasons in Horton’s life as to why he may need to be in a Southern market (which usually means his wife wants him to be), but I still don’t like it at all.  That’s exactly what Ed Jovanovski has done the last 7 seasons.  I’m guessing a team like Tampa gives him 5 years/30 mil.

Good decision:

Brendan Morrow – He isn’t what he was, but if you understand that and pay him accordingly then you’re good to go.  Horton will deliver more offense despite probably being grossly overpaid.  But if you give Morrow a 2 or 3 year deal/5-6 mil (2.5 per for 2 years, only 2 if you give him the 3rd year) and put him on your 3rd line you will still have a very valuable player who will show up in big spots.  This is the type of move I expect a team like the Blackhawks to make to replace a guy like Stalberg.  Leadership, grit, experience and he’s still hungry to win a Cup.

 

Again, these are all subject to what they get.  If Bryzgalov gets the league minimum and Emery gets 5 years/25 mil then obviously the better move is to sign Bryz.  While some good decision’s will be made, the large majority of these will be deeply regretted by the GM’s who sign them in the next few years.

 

Follow me on twitter, a GREAT decision @TJ_Soups

 

2013 NHL draft wrap-up

 

A little late getting to this, but I have yet to do any kind of piece on what I thought about the draft and I know that all of you just CAN’T WAIT to hear my opinions on what I liked and disliked from the draft.  You ask, you shall recieve!!!  Here we go….

 

I won’t go pick by pick in the 1st round like I did last year.  Obviously you know I think the Avs made a bad decision taking MacKinnon over Jones.  I understand the Panthers passing on Jones for Barkov because of what they needed.  And that’s where you might say “you always take BPA!!”  Well the top 4 was essentially even, so if its even then it goes to need.  That’s why the Avs should have picked Jones (good luck fixing that average AHL blueline), but can understand the Panthers doing it.  They were desperate for a number 1 center.

 

The Lightning?  Horrific mistake, worse than the Avs and again that in no way is meant to take away from Drouin.  The kid will be a star.  But they haven’t won sh*t with Stamkos and St.Louis, how is Stamkos and Drouin going to be any different?  I know what would have won….Hedman and Jones as their number 1 pairing.

 

So the Preds get Jones at 4 and its a steal (and of course Pierre didn’t scream what a steal it was like he did with Larsson and Lindholm, the one time it would have been correct to do so).  The Preds still have other needs, but they at least realized they had a gift fall into their laps.  Now when they move Weber (could end up doing so next summer), they’ll have Jones to step in and they can focus on getting 2 or 3 high end offensive pieces.  And if he doesn’t move, then they’ll have 2 RH shot horses to anchor their top 4.

 

Canes taking Lindholm as I said in the last mock draft was the pick I would have made, Calgary got it right with Monahan, and the Oilers in my mind got it right with Nurse (I’m one of few who believed prior to the draft that Nurse has Norris trophy potential).  I’ll get back to Calgary and Edmonton later….

 

On to Buffalo, and I LOVED their draft.  They added 2 kids on defense and those picks could be just like Carter and Richards/Getzlaf and Perry were for their teams in 03.  Ristolainen has consistency issues but if he overcomes that he’ll be a stud, and Zadorov literally has no ceiling.  No doubt, he needs time to develop but you simply can’t find players who can do what he can.  And they weren’t done there.  Getting J.T. Compher at 35 was a great pick, such a well rounded player, and then they snagged hometown kid Justin Bailey at 52.  Bailey is a bit of a project but again a kid with a very high ceiling.  Nick Baptiste at 69 is a big kid who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty, snagged tendy Calvin Peterson in the 5th round who I know nothing about but if you read my stuff last year you know I love taking a goaltender in rounds 4-7 of a draft, they just knocked it out of the park.  Time will tell, but I was a big fan.

 

Personally, I had no problem with what Mike Gillis did.  I don’t like the guy at all, I have a lot of not nice things to say about him, and I hate the way he’s treated Luongo.  But he made the right move by dealing Schneider to help his team out and he picked a kid in Horvat who that organization desperately needs.  And Shinkaruk isn’t exactly what they need on the ice, but like Horvat he is a high character kid and that team hasn’t had much of that.  Its funny, they were 15 picks apart yet Shinkaruk I would say is more likely to make that team next season.

 

How about them Dallas Stars?!  Yep, picked a center just like I had it all alon….3 wingers with your first 3 picks?!?  A team that needs centers and d-men picked 3 wingers with 3 high picks in a draft loaded with centers and d-men.  Are you trying to be the Oilers errrrrrrrrrrrr (now that Jay and Dan have left us, I can use that right?)  You know how I feel about Nichushkin, Dickinson is a well rounded kid but not a ton of upside, and I feel like they picked Remi Elie too soon but that’s just me, I do like what he brings to the table.

 

Meanwhile Philly did well.  I knew Morin would be their guy, he was the top rated Q d-man.  They needed something, they love the Q, pretty simple math.  Then to steal Hagg at 41 was insane.  Time will tell on him, but that guy at 41 is awesome.  ARIZONA (had Phoenix, made sure I changed it) took Domi which was good I felt they should have taken a center, and got Dauphin in the 2nd round who had a really good U 18’s in the spring.

 

Then we have the Jets and while I don’t know if I personally would have picked Josh Morrissey over Zadorov, it was the safter pick and I felt like for the 2nd straight year they had a great draft.  Nic Petan and Eric Comrie in the 2nd round is where I felt like they really crushed it.  Both kids easily could have been 1st rounders, in fact Comrie probably would have been had he not got hurt midseason.  3rd round they take a chance on J.C. Lipon, and the 4th round they grabbed Jan Kostalek, a d-man out of the Czech Republic and I had someone tell me that he believes Kostalek is the best prospect to come out of there in a long time.

 

Columbus of course had and used the 3 picks and I liked what they did with the top 2 picks getting Wennberg (center) and Rychel (winger/power forward).  Don’t know much about Marko Dano to be honest, but that’s a Jarmo Kekalainen pick for sure.  Then they grabbed Dillon Heatherington at 50 which was a good spot to take him.  Not much offense, but already pretty polished defensively.  Also Oliver Bjorkstrand at 89 was a good pick, a lot of people who watch the Portland Winterhawks really like his potential.

 

The Islanders add to their blueline with Ryan Pulock, liked that a lot, Ottawa taking Curtis Lazar us Northern Albertans feel is a total steal at 17, and then the Sharks traded up to get Mirco Mueller.  I like the pick, I hate that they blew their 2nd round picks (one to move up 2 spots I’m guessing in fear that the Jackets would take him because of Ryan Murray), and the other on Tyler Kennedy (like the player, not worth a 2nd rounder).  Detroit taking Anthony Mantha at 20 I wasn’t a big fan of to be honest, but its tough to ever question them.  I did like their 2nd round though taking Zach Nastasiuk and Tyler Bertuzzi.  Nastasiuk has size and uses it, and Bertuzzi is a fearless pest, the type of player who is tough to find.

 

Toronto had a great day simply by getting a big center at 21 that I felt they have really needed.  I’m a bigger fan of Gauthier than most, but I think a lot of people felt they filled a pretty big need with that pick.  And then using some of their picks to bring in Dave Bolland was great.  I’m a HUGE Dave Bolland guy and believe he is a perfect fit in Toronto.

 

Back to the Flames who take the guy Jay Feaster felt should have been LONG gone by 22 in Emile Poirier.  Hunter Shinkaruk fell into their laps, Ryan Hartman was there, Zach Fucale was there (actually those latter 2 were there again at 28!) and they passed to take a kid who most had as a mid 2nd round pick.  They redeemed themselves a BIT by taking Morgan Klimchuk at 28, but I don’t think this was the draft Flames fans were hoping for.  They didn’t screw up the top pick though so it could have been worse.

 

Not a big fan of the Burakovsky pick by the Caps but not bad value at that point, they did however get a steal in the 2nd round with Madison Bowey.  Then the Carburners took Shinkaruk followed by the Habs who had 4 picks in the next 31 and I felt like they killed it!  I was a big fan of McCarron espeically for a team lacking size like they do, Jacob de la Rose has some nice potential as a big 2 way center, I’m a HUGE Zach Fucale guy and can’t believe he fell all the way into their laps at 36, and then to get Arturri Lehkonen at 55 was great value.  The kid doesn’t have size, but huge skill much like their pick of Sebastian Collberg in the 2nd round last year.  Much like the Jets, 2nd year in a row I feel like the Habs did great!

 

The Ducks did a good job adding to their blueline as I believed they should by taking Shea Theodore.  And then finally after the Jackets, Flames and Stars passed, the Blackhawks stole hometown kid Ryan Hartman at 30 which likely made it even easier to say goodbye to Bolland who meant so much to that organization.  Very similar players, and while Hartman won’t step in right away he will be there before too long.  A PERFECT 3rd line player who might be able to jump into a top 6 role.

 

As for those teams that didn’t have 1st round picks, the team that stood out were the Blues.  Tommy Vannelli at 47 was good value (they love their American kids), and I like William Carrier at 57 who is quite skilled and has ok size.  When a contender can draft well, they can afford to deal their 1st round picks…see Detroit.

 

Just to hit on the Oilers once more before I end this since the majority of you are Oiler fans.  Again, I liked the draft they had.  Yakimov is VERY intriguing, he is compared to Martin Hanzal.  Slepyshev has big talent (Gare Joyce has said he could play in the NHL next season if he is willing to come over) and was well worth the home run swing late in the 3rd round.  And to get Greg Chase in the 7th round…those who watch the WHL think that was one of the biggest steals of the later rounds.  A total pest who obviously has some flaws, he needs to improve his skating, but this could be a pick that pays off huge for the Oilers.

 

The one thing I didn’t understand was not making sure you get Zach Fucale once he fell to the 2nd round.  This team DESPERATELY needs a goaltender like that in the system.  And while Marko (as he wants to be called) Roy was a pick many applauded at 56, I don’t understand taking him over Eric Comrie.  But, time will tell.

 

I’m just an idiot running his mouth.  We have no idea how this draft will shake down, but maybe it will be fun (probably not for me) to look back at a piece like this in 5 years and see what was right and what was wrong.  I believed I would get 10 first round picks correct in my last mock draft and only hit on 4, so it shows you what I know.  Having said that, you should still believe I’m right about everything….

 

Follow me on twitter where I’m also never wrong @TJ_Soups

No shortcuts from pretender to contender

 

Coming out of the weekend, the Edmonton Oilers let their fans down big time.  Big changes were expected, Craig MacTavish talked a big game since the day he was hired and Oilers fans were of the opinion that the Oilers were going to be transformed into a playoff team by Canada day.  That didn’t happen and Craig MacTavish came right out and took the blame for talking a bigger game than he delivered.  But he also had a great line when he said “you generally default to no deal, rather than a bad deal.”  Bingo.

Oiler fans are sick of being told to be patient.  The national media got the fans hopes sky high heading into the shortened season this past year, and the team failed miserably.  It has now been 7 years of no playoffs, and they’ve been in rebuild mode since the 2010 trade deadline.  So naturally fans don’t want to hear that this team is progressing, they want results already.  But this whole time the Oilers organization, as screwed up and dysfunctional and as much of an old boys club as it is….they’ve preached that this isn’t about being a playoff team.  Its about winning CUPS, plural.

So how do you win Cups?  Do you trade 2 or 3 valuable pieces for Braydon Coburn?  I like Coburn a lot and is a very solid top 4 d-man in this leauge…but he’s not going to make a HUGE difference.  Some fans short term thinking is that yes in fact you make that move because it could mean that this team is closer to the playoffs next season.  We don’t know what was discussed over and over and over and over again between Mac T and Paul Holmgren.  But Mac made it very clear he was going to be aggressive and was willing to overpay, yet he still felt Holmgren was asking for too much.  Don’t you THINK that just maybe the asking price was ridiculous?  I would think so.

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Nurse won’t have the immediate impact others would have, but is the type of player you win with.

Another decision that had some fans down, was selecting Darnell Nurse over Valeri Nichushkin.  Nichushkin would step in next season, Nurse needs at least a year to develop.  Nichushkin is a 6’4, 205 pound power forward who has blazing speed and will take the puck to the net.  But he comes with a ridiculous amount of red flags.  His performance at the NHL draft combine was apparently horrible.  He quit during a few of the tests, he didn’t interview well, this is the kid you’re going to win Cups with??

Nichushkin made it clear that unless he was on an NHL roster next season, he was going back to the KHL.  Nice, sounds like a kid who is all about the team, not in anyway selfish….Meanwhile in the Oilers snagged Russian Bogdan Yakimov in the 3rd round.  Yakimov has pretty good potential himself, some compare him to Martin Hanzel, and Yakimov is staying in the KHL next season.  But his contract is done after next season and his agent Mark Gandler says that he is coming over to North America, and he’s coming to stay.  “He’ll play one more year (in the KHL), and then he’ll come to the NHL,” Gandler said. “If he’s ready, great, and if not, he’ll play in the American Hockey League for as long as it takes to be in the NHL.”  I want THAT kid on my team, not the kid who is essentially saying put me on the team…or else….

Meanwhile Nurse is 6’4, 190 pounds, is a gym rat, was the OHL scholastic player of the year, tough, physical, great skater, and is known for being a very high character kid.  In fact he already was wearing a letter this season in Sault Ste. Marie.  This kid is literally everything you look for in a d-man.  Some scouts are worried that his offensive game isn’t where it should be.  Well what characteristic doesn’t he posses that suggests that he won’t figure out the offensive end of the game?  Not to mention, he didn’t get much PP time this season because the Greyhounds had guys like Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller ahead of him on their top unit.  And he STILL put up 41 points in 68 games.  He will get that PP time next season.

I don’t know too many teams that win in this league by taking low character/high talent wingers.  Alex Semin doesn’t win, Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t win, Alex Ovchkin doesn’t win, want me to get away from Russians?  Fine, Rick Nash doesn’t win.  And this isn’t to say all of those guys don’t have high character, but the big power forward who can skate and is a sniper doesn’t have anywhere near the impact on teams that people think they do.  In theory they should, but they don’t.

Sure Kovalchuk was a top player on a team that went to the final just last season, but that was the exception to the rule.  Jersey could barely get past Florida, then caught Philly emotionally drained after beating Pittsburgh, then got the Rangers coming off of two 7 game wars, and if there was ever such thing as a 6 game sweep it was the Devils vs Kings.  The scores and 4-2 series were pretty flattering, the Kings were far and away the better team.  And the cherry on all of this was that Zach Parise was the guy who carried that Devils team, not Kovalchuk.

What does win in this league though is being great on the blueline.  I don’t think it is the first thing needed to win in this league, but you need great d-men.  The Oilers are now loaded on defense with Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Nurse, Jeff Petry all 25 and under.  Then they have wild cards in the system led by Martin Marcin, David Musil, Colten Teubert, Martin Gernat, Brandon Davidson, Taylor Fedun and Dillon Simpson.  This team is now LOADED on defense moving forward which is never bad.  Teams never stop looking for d-men so if you have a few you can deal you will have a much easier time trading then if you’re loaded with wingers.

Wingers are like WR’s in the NFL.  Fans love WR’s who put up big numbers and are atheltic.  But you simply don’t win with them unless you have things like a great offensive line or a great defense or most importantly a good-great QB.  Thinking you can win being built with high end WR’s and wingers is like thinking you can marry the stripper.  You have a “fun” night with a stripper, you maybe date a stripper for a bit, but you don’t marry the stripper!  You want to marry the girl who has a career and is cute and fun to go out with.  The equiviliant to that girl in the NFL are QB’s first and foremost, then defense and the offensive line.

The equivilant in the NHL to the girl you marry are 2 way center’s, top 4 d-men and of course great goaltenders all with high character.  This is why I can at least understand Oiler fans that want to keep Sam Gagner around, because while he isn’t a good fit with the Oilers top 6 forwards, he is a center that has all the character in the world.  Sam Gagner will be a clutch performer once he starts seeing the playoffs, much the same way Danny Briere is.

And this isn’t to say you can’t have wingers like Nichushkin on your team, but you need to be in the right spot to do it.  Teams who are still trying to build a contender shouldn’t be taking a guy like that.  And they especially shouldn’t be taking a guy like that in draft loaded with high end center’s and high end d-men.  Had the Oilers taken Nichushkin, it would have been the 5th time in 6 years that they would have taken a winger with their top pick.  You don’t win drafting like that.

The Oilers faced this issue at the 2012 draft with the top pick.  I’m not saying they made the wrong pick by any means, but I can see why it was so close.  Ryan Murray is simply one of those kids you win with and while we all love the enthusiasm and excitement that Yakupov plays with they were already loaded on the wings, had a big need (at the time) on the blueline and there isn’t a history in this league of winning hockey games with kids like Yakupov.  Now again, this isn’t trashing Yakupov in anyway at all.  He does seem to have a lot of the intangibles and high character that teams should desire, I’m just saying that Murray was the bigger need at had boat loads of character and leadership.  And remember at the time the Oilers didn’t have Justin Schultz.

Its flash vs substance.  Most fans love flash and have trouble admitting that rarely does it ever win out over substance.  Flash might get you in the playoffs, but it won’t win once there (see Washington).  And it isn’t limited to the NHL, look at the NFL, the NBA and MLB.  The teams who are all about flash are the Cowboys, the Jets, the Redskins and Bengals used to be like that, it simply doesn’t win.  Meanwhile the Pats see a kid like Aaron Hernandez being taken to jail and they cut him immediately.  They don’t need to sit there and see what will happen.  He became a problem and in the words of Brett Myers “boom, outta here”.

Look at the NBA.  Say what you want about Lebron, those who know him don’t have a bad word to say about him.  He dishes, he’s tremendous defensively, he does it all and now the Heat have back to back titles.  Carmelo Anthony has huge talent too, yet all he does is score…he doesn’t win.  Look at the Spurs.  That entire organization just keeps their collective heads down, not a lot of flash and just win year in and year out.

In baseball, the Yankees have spent BILLIONS in the last decade on flashy players, not to say they don’t get some guys with a high amount of character (they do have Jeter), but for the most part they’ve brought in a lot of “me” guys.  They have 1 title in that time.  When they had guys like Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius and Bernie Williams, they won 4 titles in 5 years.  The Cardinals are now what the Yanks were.  The Cards have 2 titles in the last 10 years, the Yanks have 1 and have probably spent 1 billion more on players in that time.

You don’t overpay in trades, you don’t chase big name UFA’s every year.  You draft high character kids at the important positions of need, and THEN when your team is established you can take the home run swings like that.  The Blackhawks are built that way, and they never made that stupid move of dealing 4 pieces for 1 that would have made them a playoff team.  It was a VERY rocky road, but once it popped, it did in a BIG way and now they’re the model franchise in this league.

Same for the Kings.  There road was almost identical to the Oilers to this point.  In 2009 (the 3rd year of their rebuild) they crumbled down the stretch and failed to get in the playoffs.  That offseason they didn’t make any drastic/stupid moves.  They added a few UFA’s, and took on Ryan Smyth in what was a salary dump for the Avalanche.  In 2010 they finished 6th in the West, 2 years later they won the Cup and are now right there with Chicago.

When you start looking for shortcuts in pro sports, that is when things go bad.  It REALLY sucks to have to wait for the Oilers to get their sh*t together and get back in the playoffs.  But straying from the plan now would waste all the misery the Oilers and their fans have suffered through.  They were essentially an expansion team when they decided to rebuild.  There were maybe 2 pieces in the entire organization to build around.  They didn’t have any money sunk into player development either.  This was a MASSIVE rebuild that was needed.  Things today are drastically improved since 2010, they’re on the right track.  Do fans really want things to go back to the early 2000’s where they were bounced in the 1st round every year by Dallas?  No, you want to be a serious contender year in and year out.  You want to be Chicago and Boston and LA and Pittsburgh.  You want to win Cups.  Don’t take shortcuts and you’ll get there, do take them and you’ll have gone through all this BS to get right back to where you were.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups