Wakey, Wakey People!

 

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Let’s not confuse what I’m saying here.  I’m not condoning the hit that Brent Seabrook laid on David Backes in game 2 of the Blues/Blackhawks series.  But since I’m a guy who can’t shutup, I have to speak up on this.  It has become a hot button topic.  It isn’t lost on me as to why, but the people outraged by this need to understand that this is sports, this is hockey players competing for the greatest trophy in sports.

 

A few months ago I had a piece on here ripping Richard Sherman for his post game interview with Erin Andrews (lucky man that Jarret Stoll is).  But my stance turned out to be much different from just about everyone.  It wasn’t lost on me that Sherman had JUST played the biggest game of his career, made the biggest play of his career, and was hyped up beyond belief.  My big problem was that most of what he said was A) manufactured and B) all of it was “look at me” and he said zero about his teammates.  But I had no issue at all with him being so hyped up.

 

What Duncan Keith said to Backes after the hit was NOTHING.

 

I get it.  You see Backes barely able to stand, he’s out on his feet and it looks brutal that he’s mocking him for it.  I would bet it was one of the more tame chirps in the entire game.  For example, in my final year of midget we started our season with an exhibition game against Provost.  Before I go any further, this story is rated R.  So kids….wash your filthy little faces and GET TO BED!!

 

Now where was I?  Oh yes.  Picture it.  Paradise Valley, 2000.  The PV Jets lead Provost 7-2 with just 20 seconds left in an EXHIBITION GAME.  Since the game is done, I decide to rush the puck, see if I can snipe one.  Just when I’m about to split the D I get tripped, and after getting tripped I receive an extra shot to the back of the head.  No call, because the game is done and it was harmless.  Except, I didn’t see it that way.  Provost starts back up ice.  I look at the clock to see only 7 seconds left and far behind the play are myself and the D-man who gave me the extra shot.  Nobody is looking, so what the hell?  I wind up and as hard as I can I two hand the kid right on the ankle.

 

Classless, I know.  But I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it, I’m telling you this because of what I said after.  The kid obviously screamed when I got him and went down, which drew everyone’s attention.  My reaction to this?  Ear muffs kids….”Ohhhhhh get the f*** up you f***ing p***y!!”

 

Again, in case you forgot….this was an EXHIBITION GAME!

 

This is what happens in most sports.  Not all, but most.  Was it classy of Keith?  No.  Was it classy of me?  HELL NO!  But it’s what goes on.  Everyone loves the playoffs and mainly because of the intensity in which the games are played with.  Well this is what comes out with this kind of intensity.  After the game, I’m certain Keith is hoping the injury is nothing too serious.  But in the moment you’re doing anything you can and saying anything you can to get guys off their game, and you HATE the opposition.

 

Here is another example.  I don’t condone half the words said in this clip, and again this is not for kids, not for the faint of heart so to speak.  This is a clip from the 1991 Stanley Cup final, after Brian Bellows had been hurt on his previous shift.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MNA0_n32Hc

 

It is BRUTAL out there.  In the illustrious words of Coolio….”if ya can’t take the heat, get ya ass out the kitchen”.  And it’s brutal that Backes might be out of this series, he might be the most underrated player in the game and is one of my favorites.  But it’s playoff hockey.  I’m sure he’s said as bad or worse to injured players.  Take a number, get your’s down the line.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

 

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I have a theory and it’s pretty well proven.  The more you know, the less you know.  When it comes to stuff like these predicitions, I look at every series and say both teams could easily win.  On TSN’s the Reporters yesterday they had the Bruins as the most sure team to advance past the 1st round.  REALLY?!?  Detroit was the hottest team down the stretch, now they have Datsyuk back and they might get Zetterberg back mid series!  It really looks like this 1st round is going to be nothing short of incredible.  Three of the four 2 vs 3 series are rivalries and should be amazing battles.  Only 1 Canadian team this season is a downer without a doubt, but five of six original 6 teams are in and such great storylines.  Some playoffs may not be as exciting as others, but they never fail to be tremendous….here we go again!

 

East

 

1970-Challenging Gordie HoweBoston (1st in Atlantic) vs Detroit (2nd wildcard)

DO NOT SLEEP ON THE WINGS!!  I don’t like the way the Bruins have seemingly cruised the last half of this season.  They haven’t been pushed at all, and now they’re facing an experienced team, the best coach in hockey, and the hottest team in the league the last month.  Congrats on the President’s trophy, you get the toughest 1st round matchup you likely could have asked for.  I touched on a lot of what I like for the Wings in the opening paragraph.  The key will obviously be Jimmy Howard stepping up for the Wings and he proved last year that he’s capable of doing just that.  The Bruins are loaded, I’m not denying that for a second.  But the Wings are such a brutal matchup for them.  I’m really tempted to take the Wings here, and since everyone wants to crown the Bruins Eastern champs already, I’m going to.

Red Wings in 6

 

50785254_slideTampa Bay (2nd in Atlantic) vs Montreal (3rd in Atlantic)

I hope this series is much better than I’m expecting, but I’m looking at it right now and it doesn’t get me too pumped up.  Neither team winning would be an upset, there is no rivalry, no storyline to get people excited, it’s just not intriguing to me.  Sure the Pens will likely blowout the Blue Jackets, but if the Jackets win a few and an upset looks possible then things will get juicy!  I will say that I am interested to see how Stamkos does in the playoffs.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of what an amazing sniper Stamkos is, but I’ve felt he’s been pretty overrated by the media.  50 and 60 goal seasons are great, but as a playmaker, defensively, in the dot, ability to play in any situation, that is the stuff I want to see improve in his game before I crown him a top 5 player in the league.  It’ll take away from his scoring, but there is a reason 50 goal scorers don’t lead teams to Stanley Cups and all around great players do.  As for what I think will happen…Bishop needs to get back.  He’s the only chance the Lightning have with such a young team.  I don’t think he gets back in time.

Canadiens in 6

 

20131101rldPensVsColsports0-3-1Pittsburgh (1st in Metro) vs Columbus (1st wildcard)

The only way the Jackets can win this series (and they can) is Bobrovsky playing incredible and Fleury doing what he has done in the last 2 playoff seasons.  I have a feeling that Fleury is going to get tough and play well.  People forget, he started last year’s playoffs with a shutout.  He was bad, but he wasn’t as bad as memory may say he was.  And he’s won before.  He stole game 7 of the 09 final in Joe Louis arena.  That’s a pretty impressive notch to have on your belt.  That’s a Nahreman Issa type notch on your belt!  We all know up front the Pens are the better team, and the Jackets just have hardly any playoff experience.  Also it feels like making the playoffs was the Blue Jackets Cup win.  I don’t love the Pens, but they should take this series.

Penguins in 5

 

548762_10150658657299858_412528342_nNY Rangers (2nd in Metro) vs Philadelphia (3rd in Metro)

I think most are going to pick Philly.  Completely understandable.  They’ve been the hotter team, and even though I haven’t checked the numbers on this, they’ve been one of the top teams in the league since firing Peter Laviolette.  But I like the Rangers in this spot.  They’re more balanced.  Now Mason isn’t expected to go in game 1.  I love Ray Emery, but can they trust him?  Even if Steve Mason plays most of this series, he has comeback from the dead this season, but who knows what he’ll be like in the playoffs?  I actually like the Rangers a lot in these playoffs as a darkhorse.  If Philly got….even the Pens, I would like their chances because they go to a different level for the Pens.  But I like Vigneault over Berube, Lundqvist over Mason, and the Rags blueline over Philly’s.

Rangers in 6

 

West

 

DUCKS LECLERC CELEBRATES AFTER OVETIME VICTORY OVER STARS IN GAME ONEAnaheim (1st in Pacific) vs Dallas (2nd wildcard)

The Ducks aren’t going far.  Their depth in my opinion is vastly overrated.  If you took Ryan Getzlaf off this team I don’t know that they would be in a playoff spot.  But having said all this, I don’t see why they should fear the Stars.  Who is the shutdown pair Lindy Ruff can use against Getzlaf and Perry?  I know Seguin and Benn will see a ton of Beauchemin.  Let’s not forget either, for all the praise heaped on Tyler Seguin this season, this kid has disappeared in the playoffs because he plays far too much on the perimeter.  And that was in the East, the West is MUCH more physical.  Will John Gibson get the start in game 1?  He probably should, and he’ll probably shine because he’s thrived at every level he’s played at.  I don’t believe the Ducks go past the 2nd round, but I believe they’ll get past the Stars

Ducks in 5

 

sharks-kings-handshakeSan Jose (2nd in Pacific) vs LA (3rd in Pacific)

You know I had the Kings here and went over all the reasons I loved them.  In fact, this is what I had…or I guess still have but you get it.  “The Kings are such a terrible matchup for the Sharks.  Experience, goaltending, defense, and even though they don’t score a lot they have guys who can put the puck in the net (Carter, Gaborik, Kopitar, Williams, Brown).  The Kings will look to wear down the Sharks.  It might be a lot like the Kings 1st round series with the Blues last season where the Kings dropped the first 2 games on the road but slowly chipped away and wore the Blues down.  And that was the Blues, who are built to play that game.  The Sharks aren’t.  The Sharks THINK they can win in the playoffs, the Kings KNOW they can.”

All this is true.  But the Sharks showed me something in the playoffs last year, and I think they realize this is likely their last kick at this thing.  I’m as big on the way the Kings are built as anyone, including Kings diehards.  But in the first round, with the Sharks likely being as desperate of a team as you’ll see, I think they get it done in game 7 at home.

Sharks in 7

 

download (1)Colorado (1st in Central) vs Minnesota (1st wildcard)

Forgot about the fact that the last game Roy played was game 7 of the 2003 1st round facing the Wild didn’t you?  Again I’ll say it, I have pretty much no clue how the Avs are in this spot.  Yet here they are.  The major edge is in net, where Varlamov has a little bit of playoff experience and has been incredible this season.  The rest of the matchups are pretty even with no Matt Duchene.  Miko Koivu, and Mikael Granlund matchup perfectly with Stastny and MacKinnon down the middle.  Suter is far and away the best D-man in this series.  The Wild will make this a long series, and I could see the Avs being upset here being so young, but I’m going to say they squeak by.

Avalanche in 7

 

LarmerSt.Louis (2nd in Central) vs Chicago (3rd in Central)

What an absolute DISASTER for the Blues to end the season the way they have.  Talk about getting punished, now they go from getting Minny which would have been a great matchup for them, to getting the Hawks with…at least as of writing this…are getting Kane and Toews back for game 1.  This is a BAD situation for the Blues.  I don’t like the Hawks to do it back to back, but I love them to get out of the first round.  And for the Blues, the team I picked to win the Cup at the start of the season, what a major disappointment this would be.

Chicago in 6

 

As for the rest of the playoffs….

 

Eastern Conference Champs

I love the Rangers in the East.  I just think they’re so well rounded as a team, and the East could be an easy road.  I expect Brad Richards to turn back the clock, Lundqvist to come up big, they have a real solid blueline, great balance up front, they’re experienced, well coached, and if you read my stuff you know I love teams who fly under the radar.

 

Western Conference Champs

I’ve been burned by the Sharks before.  And most think that they’ll get so beat up by the Kings that they won’t be able to stand even if they do get past them.  But if they get past the Kings, they matchup great with the Ducks, and great with the Hawks.  Logan Couture is the x factor for this team.  If he steps up, this team can win the West…and I’m saying he will.

 

Stanley Cup Champs

I think the Sharks finally do it.  They have a different feeling than they did from 06-12.  Those teams, even though they weren’t that different, were soft.  With home ice against the Kings they get past them, and then they’ll prove to be much deeper and better coached than the Ducks, and I believe the Hawks will wear down as these playoffs go along.  Even though the Rangers won’t have anywhere near the physical road the Sharks will have, the Sharks will be much more battle tested than the Rangers.

Sharks in 5 to win the Cup

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

You Can’t Fix Apathy

 

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I don’t recall where I first heard this to be honest, but it is so damn true.  If you break up with someone and you’re yelling and screaming at each other, you may hate each other, but hate is fixable because you still care.  Otherwise why are you even bothering with it?  But if you breakup with someone and forget they exist as soon as you press send on that text (at least that’s how I breakup with girls….) that isn’t fixable.

 

May as well talk about the Oilers mess some more!  Why not?  It’s so easy to pick apart.  You know that piece last week was over 4,300 words.  Far and away the longest piece I have done that wasn’t a mock draft or a season preview.  But this one isn’t so much ripping on the organization, it is more so a comparison of two fan bases and how to get the front offices attention.  And for once in my life, I’m going to praise the most mocked fan base not just in this part of the world, but in the league.

 

That would be the Vancouver Canucks and their fans.  Now, the Canucks are a pretty big mess as well.  The Aquilini’s are proving to be a real side show as owners of the team, and now Trevor Linden who has exactly zero games of front office experience, zero days as any kind of executive in any type of business, is now the President of Hockey Operations.

 

Like most hockey fans, not just Canuck fans, I LOVE Trevor Linden.  But this is 100% a PR move.  And yesterday I spoke in my piece on the Avalanche how that is simply not how you run a team even though it has worked out for them….well I believe it will inspire a lot of spin off’s around the league and we may already be seeing this in both Vancouver with Linden and Toronto with Brendan Shanahan coming in next week.

 

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It’s gone from THIS…
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Not quite to this, but pretty bad in short order in Vancouver

Now, while I don’t like the move by Canucks ownership, a serious change was brought on by the fan base.  How did they do this?  Apathy.  Fans quit going to Canuck games this season.  The day Gillis was fired I believe was the day before the deadline for season ticket renewals, which were rumored to be way down.  Chanting fire Gillis at Monday nights game might look like the reason on the surface, but it was the apathy shown by the people who weren’t in the building and they showed no signs of returning any time soon.

 

Which leads me to the Oilers.  The problem this fan base has is that they’re too passionate about this team, and won’t stop paying for the tickets.  Booing the team, throwing jersey’s on the ice, putting “fire Lowe” signs up around town definitely make the organization look bad nation wide and allows the national media to destroy them, but it doesn’t get Katz attention.

 

Oh sure, he comes out with some fake and completely insincere apology in the newspaper and hopes it gets people to simmer down.  But the reality is that it’s embarrassing but it’s not really hurting him.  What would hurt is if fans acted more like they did last night.  Last night I didn’t notice any booing (not that I watched a lot of the game), but the fans didn’t care.  Seats were still filled, but it is a start.

 

I’m sure right about now a die hard fan is reading this and saying “I’ll never bail on my team”.  Well wouldn’t you bail on a friend or a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse who constantly screws you over and treats you like garbage?

 

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m well aware that I’m the guy who says they have to stick with MacTavish and Eakins right now because there has just been WAY too much turnover that has really hurt this team over the last 2 summers.  But most fans don’t see things this way, and they demand change.  Well then ACTUALLY do something that will force change.  If Daryl Katz starts losing his season ticket holders, THAT is when he’ll start paying some serious attention to how his organization is being run.

 

Kevin Lowe should have been fired a loooonnng long time ago.  He is the root of this mess, yet Katz hasn’t cared and just let him run the organization further into the ground.  Why?  In part because the building was full every night and remains this way even after they’ve become the worst franchise in sports over the last 5 years.  Not hockey, sports.  Oiler fans, if you want change start thinking with your heads, not your hearts and hit the organization where it hurts.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Kids…Don’t Try This at Home!

 

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What an unbelievable season this has been for the Colorado Avalanche.  Now the word “unbelievable” gets grossly overused by hockey people, but in this case it is apt.  From 29th in the league to being just 2 points out of 1st in the West.  And this is the West, the far tougher conference.  But while I can rave about what a turnaround it has been in Denver, I’m still scratching my head and asking “HOW?!?!”

 

Any Avs fan who may read this might view this as a shot at the team.  It’s far from that.  It’s a shot at ownership.  It’s a shot at Greg Sherman.  But it sure as hell isn’t a shot at the players or Patrick Roy or Joe Sakic.  I just don’t know how the hell this has gone THIS way.  Let’s go all the way back to the 2011 season when things were blowing up.

 

First thing they messed up (Sherman did anyway) was the Craig Anderson situation.  Here was a goaltender who carried a bunch of nobodies to the 8th seed in the West in 2010, and yet they refused to give him a contract extension after doing so.  Talks got messy during the 2011 season, and they ended up dealing him to Ottawa for Brian Elliott who was terrible for the Avs, and they found themselves going into the off season without a goaltender.

 

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Shattenkirk was already headed for stardom with the Avs when they dealt him to the Blues

Then that same season, Sherman pulls off what everyone deems to be a simply moronic trade.  Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Avs 2011 2nd for Erik Johnson and the Blues 2011 1st.  The focal point of the deal was Shattenkirk and Johnson.  Sherman traded more for a D-man who already wasn’t as good.  Shattenkirk has been awesome for the Blues, and while Johnson’s numbers are up this season he still really isn’t near the number 1 D-man he was projected to be.

 

 

And he still wasn’t done.  THEN Sherman decides to fix the goaltending problem on July 1st, 2011 by trading his 2012 1st and 2nd round pick for an inconsistent and about to be departing for Russia Semyon Varlamov.  No, he wasn’t going to Russia just to go home for the summer, he was about to sign in the KHL.  He was basically useless to the Caps, and here come the Avs having just picked 2nd overall and looking like a complete mess giving up their 2012 1st in what at the time was projected to be an incredible draft.  Chances were that Sherman could have got Varlamov for two 2nd’s, not the extreme price he paid.

 

It looked like it was going to be Burke/Kessel 2.0.  But the Avs completely lucked out on the deal, at least as much as they could.  They actually had an ok 2012 and the pick ended up being 11th overall in what turned out to be a down draft year thanks to a lot of big time prospects getting hurt (Galchenyuk, Rielly) or completely falling on their faces (Nick Ebert…projected top 5 pick going into 11-12, ended up being the very last pick of the draft).  Add to that, Varlamov looked like the kid who shined for the Caps in the 2009 playoffs.

 

But then they sunk right back to the bottom last season.  The Ryan O’Reilly situation was handled horribly and even after getting the gift from Jay Feaster that would have netted them the 6th overall pick AND keep O’Reilly (because as you likely remember O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers) they got badly exposed as an organization for not having done their homework on the new CBA and made the ridiculous decision to match the offersheet and keep a player who desperately wanted out.

 

JonesMacKinnon
Jones made much more sense for the Avs even though it has worked out for Colorado

Then finally, last year’s draft.  People think because I hammered them for not taking Jones that I hated MacKinnon.  Hell no!  Always had them even, love Nathan MacKinnon and I was the guy defending him in the middle of last season while Jonathan Drouin was getting all the love that MacKinnon’s game was better suited for the pro’s and his upside was MUCH greater than Drouin’s.  And that isn’t to piss on Drouin either, but we’re talking about potential superstars.  ANYWAY, I maintained the whole way through that the Avs needed to take Jones.  They already had Duchene, Stastny and O’Reilly down the middle (pretty elite) and they had next to nothing on D.  Not to mention Jones was the hometown kid and how often will the Avs ever get to take a hometown star player?  But they went with yet another center and failed to even touch the blueline in the off season.

 

Oh yeah, and then there is the PR moves.  Sakic and Roy, as big of strictly PR moves as it gets!  The Kroenke’s whole plan was to just get the stars of their glory days back to being faces of his organization in hopes of filling the seats.  Sakic had been in the front office for a little bit of time, but wasn’t really qualified to be the President of Hockey Op’s (seems like hardly anyone given that title is).  And then Patrick Roy, while he had SOME success coaching in Quebec with the Ramparts, wasn’t turning the CHL on it’s ear by any means.

 

But yet, through ALL of this, the Avs are contending for the top spot in the West.  I’m sorry, but that is as much of a fluke that this team isn’t right there with the Islander and Oilers as the league’s biggest shit shows as I’ve ever seen in hockey!  Greg Sherman is STILL this teams GM (although most believe he has very little say).  And again I’m not saying these players are flukes, they have a lot of talent especially up front.  I’m definitely not saying Roy has been a fluke, he’s got his 12 forwards committed to play a 200 foot game which has allowed the D to jump into the attack and when D-men in today’s game can get that active they usually end up playing great in their own zone as well because their feet don’t stop moving.

 

Who knows if they’ll fall back next season and this is just a season where everything has bounced their way.  I mean, analytics guys will tell you that they simply will not get this kind of goaltending out of Varlamov next season (he will at least be nominated for the Vezina).  Who knows if their young forwards continue to have complete buy in, and weather or not this blueline can produce at this clip again.  But full credit to what the players and coaches have accomplished so far this season!

 

It is mind blowing that these kids weren’t affected by this mess and things have turned around THIS dramatically THIS soon.  I’m sure Avs fans would have gladly taken being in the playoff hunt this season.  Now they will have home ice in the 1st round, and might have home ice throughout the first 3 rounds should they go that far.  For the record, everyone is suggesting the Hawks will walk right through them should that be the 1st round matchup.  Maybe it’s just a matter of going the other way from the public and media, but I have a feeling the Avs will pull the upset in 7.  Nobody would play the “us against the world” card like St. Patrick.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

The Perfect Raider

 

johnny-manziel-threw-his-first-touchdown-pass-and-then-did-the-show-me-the-money-celebration

We need football back!  Well, maybe you don’t.  But I sure do, my Sunday’s now SUCK!  Now I have a stupid life on Sunday’s and do things instead of trapping myself in my living room.  So I guess maybe to keep myself sane I should just talk about it once in a while, and with still over a month to go until the NFL draft I wrote this “little diddy” about something I would love to see go down at the draft.

 

A lot of people reading this probably don’t know of the Raiders glorious past.  The Raiders had a 3 year blip on the radar in the last 23 years or so where they made it to Super Bowl XXXVII (37).  No, those weren’t the glory years.  The glory years were from about 1967-1985 when the Raiders were winningest team in the NFL.  They won 3 Super Bowls, went to 4, were in the most famous games in NFL history (Immaculate Reception, Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post, the Holy Roller).  And what made them so polarizing wasn’t just that they won, it was that they formed the identity of being a bad ass team.

 

kenstabler
Stabler was the perfect QB for the Raiders during their glory years

From Al Davis refusing to do what he was told by commissioner Pete Rozell, to starting QB Ken “snake” Stabler, safeties Jack Tatum and George Atkinson constantly throwing hits that would have them banned from today’s game, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw wearing casts for fake injuries to essentially use as weapons, Lester Hayes and Fred Biletnikoff using as much stickum as they could pack on their hands and uniforms, John Matuszak and Lyle Alzado being borderline psychopaths, they just had such a renegade team wore the black hat PERFECTLY (would you believe I wasn’t born until 1983?)  Well who would fit that mold better than one Jonathan Paul Manziel?

 

A.K.A. Johnny Manziel, A.K.A. Johnny football.  It isn’t just kind of a good fit, it is a perfect fit.  Now who knows at this point if Reggie McKenzie and the rest of the Raiders management sees it that way, but I sure do.  This is a kid who has all the personality in the world, doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks, and plays his own style that is not only effective but extremely fun to watch.  Off the field…well the kid is a rockstar!  Google some pics of him to see what I mean.  Will that style work in the NFL is the big question obviously, and I really have my doubts.  But I’ll be pulling hard for the kid to not only survive but thrive in the league.

 

But there are many football reasons for the Raiders to make this move as well.  Even though they recently brought in Matt Schaub who is a very solid starting QB in this league, he’s not a franchise guy and they haven’t had a franchise guy under the age of 30 since Stabler was partying until 5 AM and winning 12 games a year in 14 game seasons.  It is time to go get your QB of the future.  They’ve only used a 1st round pick twice on a QB in the last 30 years, 3 times in the Super Bowl era.  JaMarcus Russell failed to the shock of nobody, and Todd Marinovich failed to the shock of his father.

 

The difference between Manziel and Russell at least is that in 2007 you had to make a massive financial commitment to a high draft pick.  If Manziel busts, it won’t be anything to cut him.  Also as I said earlier, the Raiders have Matt Schaub who would be a great mentor and give Manziel a year or maybe even 2 to sit on the bench and learn the offense.

 

The Raiders have had a pretty good off season.  They didn’t have much of a choice really in having the most cap space with over 50 million available.  I like that they didn’t go out looking for the home run signing, and instead brought in a lot of well respected vets who still have a bit left in the tank.  It wasn’t just being a bad ass, veteran leadership was also a staple of those great Raider teams.  Justin Tuck, Tarell Brown, Antonio Smith, Maurice Jones-Drew, and James Jones are all guys who have had a lot of success in this league and will command a lot of respect.

 

I’m not even a Raider fan, but I constantly talk about it in all sports how it is just better when big markets/traditional powers are good.  Teams like the Leafs, Habs, Rangers, Knicks, Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Cowboys, Packers, Bears, Steelers, 49ers and of course the Raiders.  I’ll probably hate them if they get back to being the dominant team they were in the 70’s and early 80’s, but you need those types of teams that wear the black hat perfectly.

 

Manziel would be simply perfect for them.  He’s the type of kid who could be a culture changer if he pans out.  His teammates love him, he’s interviewing very well, and you are hearing more and more positive talk about his work ethic as we get closer to the draft (and yes I know what Viks head coach Mike Zimmer said about him the other day…it’s called a smoke screen).  Come that 5th pick, he better be on the board, and he better be there guy!

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Deep Ice Horizon Pt. 2

 

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Another Oilers piece.  I’m thinking about having just an Oilers section.  But then having just an Oilers section makes me a homer and I don’t know that Oiler fans would say I’m too kind to the team.  Usually when I write about them, I rip everyone apart from the players to the coach to the GM to 6 rings to the pharmacist.  Well good news…just kidding.  There is no such thing as good news when it comes to the Oilers these days.  Also the reason this is “Deep Ice Horizon Part 2” is:  A) I feel it’s the best title I’ve ever come up with…and nobody noticed….and B) this is a much bigger disaster now than it was last March when I wrote Pt.1.  So settle in because I’m about to go through this mess with a fine toothed comb.

 

First of all they aren’t firing the coach so just get used to him.  They can’t fire the coach.  So many fans want Eakins to be fired.  That would be brilliant wouldn’t it, giving these kids who pout about everything and refuse to buy in another new coach.  Essentially you would be saying “hey boys, it’s NEVER your fault so any time you want a coach gone you just refuse to buy in and play terrible”.  Just a terrific message to send…

 

Eakins hasn’t done a good job this season, that isn’t lost on me.  But as I’ve said a ton this year, he was the hottest coaching candidate last off season for a reason.  The Stars, Rangers, and Canucks all wanted this guy.  And do people forget the start of the season when he had this team playing an in your face style and outplaying teams?  It is tough to get guys to buy in when your AHL goaltenders are letting everything in the net and there for your system is failing to produce wins.  If they had the goaltending they have now at the start of the year this team would be in a lot better shape.

 

He also has no D to work with, no size in his top 6, and has no center’s who he can turn to in any situation.  All the fans know this information, yet a lot of them still want to pin it all on Eakins.  This team is no different from the 2012 team under Tom Renney, or the 2013 team under Ralph Kruger, they’ve just had a few more bad bounces and worse goaltending.  But they were getting destroyed and showing zero heart in 2011, 2012, and 2013 as well.  At what point do you stop blaming coaching?

 

Something that I went off about on twitter a week and a half ago was this absolutely moronic theory that they have “drafted wrong” and that is why things are the way they are.  Ken Campbell, P.J. Stock, guys….shutup.  You have good gigs, don’t ruin them by making jack asses of yourselves by talking about something that you quite obviously have little knowledge of.  Nobody was taking Seguin over Hall by the time the 2010 draft rolled around, and let’s not forget the Boston Bruins couldn’t get Seguin out of town fast enough last June.  And at the time they took Seguin, Landeskog was nowhere near the top 5 for the 2011 draft.  It was Larsson, Couturier, and far behind (in June of 2010) was Nugent-Hopkins.  Yakupov…I’ll get to him.

 

I’ve said this in the past but it can’t be stressed enough that the Oilers current issues stem from the teams draft record under the 6 rings (Lowe)-Pendergast error…era.  When the Oilers finally decided in 2010 that they needed to change the way they did things and rebuild the entire organization they had one guy to build around, Ryan Whitney….who wrecked his ankle in December of 2010 in the midst of a career year and is now in the AHL.  So this situation was as bad, or maybe even worse, than an expansion team.  They’ve had no quality veterans to carry the load.  Shawn Horcoff was never the same player after shoulder surgery in 2008.  Ales Hemsky always had elite skill but seemingly lost the passion to play in Edmonton.  Sam Gagner….I’ve picked apart his game enough on here.  Anyway you get the point.

 

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O’Marra busting has hurt the Oilers more than other busts

I’ve said for a few years that if just ONE guy would have panned out it would be such a game changer, and that was Ryan O’Marra.  6’2, 205, RH shot center who was known for his 200 foot game when he was drafted.  If only he had just panned out.  You can have your Gagner’s, Plante’s, Cogliano’s, Schremp’s, Pouliot’s, have’em all.  Just O’Marra, they would have such a vital piece to the puzzle right now.

 

This next part my be painful but I don’t know how many fans have thought about this before….they also could have the best duo in hockey right now if it wasn’t for Lowe and Pendergast being so incompetent.  Getzlaf and Perry should have been Oilers.  This isn’t a case of “Datsyuk and Zetterberg could have been on our team had we just been the team to take them in the 4th round”.  No no, this isn’t fantasy this should have been reality.  Let’s start with Getzlaf.

 

Oiler fans always refer to Parise when speaking of the 17th pick in the 03 draft.  But Getzlaf was still on the board and Getzlaf was the highest rated player left on Bob McKenzie’s board (8th I believe).  The Hockey News had Getzlaf ranked 9th.  CSS had him ranked 5th out of the North American skaters.  Marc-Antoine Pouliot put up 73 points in the Q at a time when the Q was easier to score in than….well you can think of a good joke.  Getzlaf put up 68 points in the WHL and the dub at that time was far and away the toughest league to score in.

 

The Oilers were looking for a big, RH shot center.  Yet they trade down to get an extra 3rd (J.F. Jacques).  Yep, this is fact.  They select Pouliot at 22.  6’2, RH shot center….remind you of anyone?  To pour salt in this wound, Kevin Lowe was on record prior to the 2002 entry draft as saying “when all things are equal, take a Western Canadian kid”.

 

So had they just stayed at 17 and picked the kid best suited to fill their need, they would have got Getzlaf.  So then how could they have got Perry?  They didn’t have a pick in the 23-28 range in that draft.  Right, this wasn’t on draft day.  This was later that December and this wasn’t a case of they COULD have had Corey Perry.  No no, they HAD Corey Perry.  Mike Comrie was dealt to Anaheim for Corey Perry and a 1st round pick (ironically used to select Ladislav Smid).  This is a fact.

 

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Who knows where the Oilers would be with these two

The deal was agreed to by both 6 rings and Anaheim GM Bryan Murray.  So what happened?  Well for those of you who don’t recall, 6 rings had 2nd thoughts and went to Comrie and asked for him to pay the Oilers 2.5 million to make the deal move forward.  Yes, this ACTUALLY happened for those who don’t recall (the 2.5 mil was his signing bonus from the previous contract).

 

So for all those media members who are looking for the answer as to what has gone wrong, well that’s what’s gone wrong is the people running the show from 2000-2007 failed miserably.  Management for the Oilers is such a shit show, but it is undeniable that they’ve had some awful breaks since June 17th, 2006.  Like nobody around the league saw Ryan O’Marra being a bust, he was one of the safest prospects in hockey when he came over in the Ryan Smyth deal.  The flip side to that is you have to be good to be lucky.

 

We should have expected this process to go longer than others have though.  You can’t pin it on Oilers management that the Western conference has become a complete beast of a conference during this rebuild.  It was the media that hyped this group through roof as the “next big thing” in this league and in doing so put a huge target on their backs, not Oilers management.  It isn’t on Oilers management that Edmonton as a city is a tough draw for UFA’s or players with NTC’s.  So while some members of the media want to crush them for their failure to do this, who was the guy that they had a chance to go get and failed to do so?

 

Where I’m going with all this is let’s just try to pin the right stuff on the right people.  Craig MacTavish isn’t to blame for this, he’s just been stuck with this mess.  MacTavish made one crucial mistake which was uttering the now immortal words “bold moves”.  That immediately got a lot of fans hopes sky high and expecting big things.  He’s done a real solid job thus far but he still has so much work to do.  He has to add at least 2 big bodies in the top 6 (1 of the 2 has to be a center), and he has to overhaul this terrible blueline.

 

One of the guys who likely will be moved to help acquire these pieces is Nail Yakupov.  I’m about to piss off just about the entire fan base with what I’m about to say.  A friend of mine, let’s call him Jonas W….no that’s too obvious….J. Wells, is going to come unglued on me once he reads this.  Well, truth be told he’s already livid that I wasn’t harsh on Eakins.  But this is where I’m at.  I don’t know if I dislike Yakupov, but I’m officially sick to death of the apologists for him in this fan base.  The kid has been SHIT this season.  It’s not on the coach, it’s not on his teammates, it’s on him.  Now if he was putting up good offensive numbers while getting benched and raked over the coals for his defensive play then fans might have an argument.  But he has been flat out TERRIBLE.

 

Yet all you hear from just about every fan is that it’s all Eakins fault and it’s because the team is such a mess and on and on and on.  It’s everyone’s fault but Yakupov’s.  I was talking to an Oiler fan about what Darren Dreger said/reported about him a few weeks ago and the fan shot back “yeah well Dreger is f***** clueless”.  No, he’s actually one of the top insiders in the game.  I’m of the opinion that most fans just don’t want to admit that the OWNER (the pharmacist) made a poor selection for this hockey team (of course I’m referring to the rumor that Katz overruled his people who wanted to take Ryan Murray and instructed them to take Yakupov).  He plays like Ovechkin, but the problem with that is he doesn’t posses Ovy’s size, speed, or shot.  And even with all those qualities, Ovechkin has the leagues worst +/- and has never led his team anywhere.

 

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I believe Yakupov won’t be in Oiler silks come next fall

Yakupov is by no means a poor skater, but to play the game he wants to he has to have game breaking speed and he simply doesn’t.  He’s got a great shot, but has no clue how to find dead spots in the offensive zone to get a look.  His hockey IQ is awful, he’s clearly never had to think the game.  And yeah he’s willing to throw hits, but he’s too small for them to have much impact.  Couple all of that with just horrendous defensive play and it makes for a kid who has hurt the Oilers all season, not helped and a kid who I believe will be packaged this summer in an attempt to find a guy who’ll improve the team either on the blueline or down the middle.

 

I can honestly say I was one of the very few on board for the Oilers taking Ryan Murray at the 2012 draft.  Ryan Murray isn’t going to be anything special, but intangibles get underrated by a lot of fans, and the whole “take the BPA” theory doesn’t work anymore.  It is too difficult to make big trades these days to simply take the best player and then make trades later so the pieces fit.  Now, there is the argument that they wouldn’t have landed Justin Schultz had they taken Murray or Griffin Reinhart.  I’ll listen to that logic.  But on draft day 2012 they were DESPERATE for D-men.

 

Now, Murray wouldn’t make this team much better right now.  But I have zero doubt Murray holds more trade value right now, and if a team were to move a top end defenseman they would be more interested in a kid like Murray coming the other way than Yakupov.  Does everyone forget that there were strong rumors prior to the draft that if the Oilers passed on Yakupov that he would fall to 5th?  Because that was out there.

 

And of course there is the issue of Igor Larionov.  Hall of fame player, bit of a child when it comes to his prize client.  I’ll never forget him declining an interview I believe for the TEAM 1260 on draft day and saying “if Edmonton doesn’t have time for us, then we don’t have time for them”.  Then this season he has to come to Edmonton to talk to the coach about his ice time….his ice time that he was seeing more of than the previous season.  Also, I would suspect Larionov will want his client to get the same deal as Hall and Nugent-Hopkins got, and I can’t see the Oilers wanting to continue that trend.  I fully expect Yakupov go to a team where he fits better, has better leadership, and starts lighting it up.  But you don’t win because of players like him, and he doesn’t make this team better.

 

I completely understand why the fans love him.  He shows an effort most nights (although not all over the ice), and he’s a fun loving kid.  That’s engaging.  But the latter can also be a huge distraction weather people like it or not.  The celebration after the Kings goal last season was a huge distraction.  He flashed 3 fingers to the crowd last year when he recorded his first hat trick in the last game of the season (score was 6-2 at the time).  I don’t have an issue with that stuff, but coaches and players do whether we like it or not.

 

Subtracting Yakupov and Gagner from this club is going to be addition by subtraction as long as they’re replaced with veterans who have size and play a 200 foot game.  A kid like Arcobello isn’t big, but signing him to a 1 way deal was a very smart move because the guy plays a good all around game, is hungry to prove his worth, and can play in all situations.  He can play on your 4th line, 3rd line, or 2nd line and contribute.  But Arcobello won’t be replacing either guy in the lineup.  It’ll be guys with size, experience and who can play a complete game.

 

Then you have Justin Schultz.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens with his contract situation this summer.  Thanks to perhaps worst management than what Edmonton has had in Carolina….Jim Rutherford decided earlier this season that on his way out the door he would stick his franchise with an albatross of a contract by giving Justin Faulk a 6 year deal for nearly 5 million a season.  Faulk, who has only 6 more points than Schultz having played 58 more games in his career got 6 years and nearly 29 million.  This is just getting stupid with locking down these kids just because they’re capable of tying their own skates.

 

But I’m sure Schutlz agent will be understanding that Faulk’s deal was just a case of one idiot GM going overboard on a players worth and he won’t look to get the same deal for his cli….oh right, Don Meehan is Schultz agent.  Well, congrats to Meehan and the entire crew at Newport Sports for the upcoming fleecing on the Schultz deal.

 

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Oilers could be in a tough spot working on a new deal for Schultz

Seriously though, MacTavish will just have to do a bridge deal with Schultz and there is nothing wrong with that.  A 2 or 3 year deal for 3 mil per is MORE than fair.  I haven’t been as hard on Schultz as some this season.  He’s a number 4 D, forced to be a 1 or 2 depending on the night.  He was playing hurt in the first half, and he’s really picked up his defensive game in the 2nd half.  The offense will come so people can relax about his numbers, and when an actual blueline is finally around him and this team has more than 2 or 3 forwards willing to play 200 feet, I’m sure he’ll thrive.

 

One thing this organization has done a much better job of is drafting and developing and they’re on the cusp of that really starting to show.  Marincin, Klefbom, Lander, Fedun, Pitlick and Arcobello have all come up this season and looked like pretty useful guys for this club.  They have a lot of quality guys in the organization so I thought I would take a look at their top 5 most important prospects.

 

Just to be clear here, we aren’t talking 1st round picks.  If we did, Nurse is obviously at the top and Klefbom follows him, and whoever would be the 1st round pick would likely top both of them.  And most important prospect doesn’t mean top prospect.  Marc-Olivier Roy might be the BEST prospect out of the kids picked in rounds 2-7, but another winger that doesn’t bring much size to the table isn’t high on the priority list for this team to have.

 

hi-res-172596668-bogdan-yakimov-83rd-pick-overall-by-the-edmonton-oilers_crop_exact1. Bogdan Yakimov  C  6’5, 210 – I’m going to guess most wouldn’t have him as the most important kid on this list.  I do.  Not so much because if he doesn’t pan out the organization is in trouble.  My thought process with Yakimov is that if this kid can reach his full potential, the Oilers would have a piece to the puzzle that I believe they’re more desperate for even more so than a top D-man.  Some think he has a chance to be a Martin Hanzal type.  Nobody should EXPECT that out of him, but that would be the perfect guy to play behind RNH.

 

moroz2. Mitch Moroz  LW  6’2, 208 – they need him to be what Ethan Moreau was 10 years ago.  I believe that season Moreau was the team MVP with 20 goals.  He was a big, physical, 3rd line player who could have easily been used in their top 6 if they had a team built like this one is now.  Things got pretty ugly with Moreau at the end, but pre 2008 you couldn’t find an Oiler fan who didn’t LOVE the guy.  I’ve heard others compare Moroz to Ryane Clowe, either would be a perfect fit.

 

jujhar-khaira3. Jujhar Khaira  C/LW  6’3, 215 – Pretty similar to Yakimov.  I do think there is still some question as to whether Khaira will play the middle or the wing in the pro’s, but he has real good size and while he isn’t overly physical he plays a real heavy game.  A Patrik Berglund type would be perfect and I’m not talking about Berglund when he first came up (47 and 52 points in 2 of his first 3 seasons, 38, 25 and currently 32 in his last 3 seasons).  Berglund plays both the middle and the wing for Hitch.  A very effective and heavy top 9 player.

 

20130704_chase6444. Greg Chase  C/RW  6’0, 204 – This kid has exceeded the expectations of the people who thought the Oilers flat out stole him in the 7th round last year.  85 points in just 68 games, and then played terrific in the Hitmen’s 6 series against Kootenay.  He’s in players faces, gritty, and as 85 points indicates he has some offense to his game too.  An Andrew Shaw type would be perfect.  Anything more than that is gravy.  And again you shouldn’t EXPECT that out of Chase, he still needs to improve his foot speed, but I believe he can become that type of player.  Played his first AHL game last night, had a goal and was the 2nd star.

 

1297542052935_ORIGINAL5. Laurent Brossoit  G  6’3, 202 – He has the pressure of being the main piece in the Smid deal who most believe they could have got more for.  Not a lot of people who watched him with the Oil Kings are big believers that this kid is much more than a puck blocker.  I say it much too often, but I want a goaltender who makes saves, not one who blocks pucks.  Looking at Scrivens and Fasth I would suggest MacTavish sees it that way too.  Add to that, this organization really lacks depth between the pipes.

 

All these kids except Chase will be in OKC next season which is a big plus for the Oilers as it’ll just give them a lot more depth.

 

As for the draft and what to do.  Bob Stauffer and I might be the only ones to think this way, but I 100% see the logic in taking a center over Ekblad should they go that way.  The Oilers blueline is a mess right now, no doubt.  But Schultz turns 24 this summer.  Between him, Marincin, Klefbom, and Nurse…not to mention the guys like Musil, Gernat and Simpson who are total wild cards but show promise, the Oilers moving forward are pretty set on D.  You can never have too many D, there is no debating that and the idea of Nurse and Ekblad as their top pairing in five years makes me drool.  But it is far from the obvious pick like so many fans and media want to make it out to be.

 

There are a lot of downsides with Ekblad.  A) is he dominating because he’s developed much quicker physically than the other kids his age?  B) D-men taken in the top 5 of the draft more often than not don’t live up to their billing.  C) as I’ve hit on already, moving forward their is a much bigger need down the middle than there is on D.  So it’s not as easy as “well our current blueline is terrible, let’s pick a D-man”.  But then again, with a system rich on D it’ll make it a lot easier to swing a deal for that 2nd line center as opposed to when they took Yakupov.  I was one of the idiots who said taking Yakupov should allow them to trade for their needs later on.  Wingers are a dime a dozen, even ones with the talent that Yakupov possesses.

 

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Most think Ekblad, but center might be the greater need moving forward

So while Sam Reinhart doesn’t bring the size you might want down the middle, he’s not anything small (6’1, probably 205 once he fills out) and is extremely intelligent on the ice.  As I’ve said in the past, he reminds me of Toews.  A poor man’s Toews, but would be an incredible 2nd line center.  Draisaitl whom the rumors suggest they love, has the size they covet (6’1-6’2 and already 205), but has looked lazy at times and bad in his own zone.  Sam Bennett is just slightly smaller than Reinhart but plays a big game.  Doug Gilmour is usually the comparison, Mike Richards is another guy I’ll use.

 

You also have those out there who’ll want them to deal the pick, but as I’ve said in a lot of other pieces weather it be on the Oil or my mock drafts, the value isn’t there for top 5 picks.  The GM who wants to trade in will claim it’s too big of a risk, and there for won’t give up much quality.  Tampa Bay traded out with Philly in 02, they got Ruslan Fedotenko.  Should the Oilers deal the 2nd pick for Troy Brouwer?  The return isn’t going to be Subban or Doughty or Weber like some people believe it would be.

 

There also is the state of mind that “you’ve come this far, why not take Ekblad and just wait out 1 final season to land Connor McDavid?”  And honestly, I get that.  The fan base obviously doesn’t want to hear that, but you’ve waited so long, what is 1 more season to finally land that once in a generation type talent which would take your potential from “could challenge for a Cup” to “will win multiple Cups”?  I’m not saying I’m on board for it, and I doubt they’re this bad again next season, but I will say it would be well worth it.  And it’s not like it is just McDavid in that draft either.  Jack Eichel isn’t far off McDavid at this point.

 

I’ll say this in closing this book on the 2014 Oilers….don’t expect anything big this summer.  Realistically I believe you’re looking at a couple of UFA signings on D (Nikita Nikitin and Matt Greene come to mind), and both Gagner and Yakupov being shipped out of town but it is really tough to say what they would get in return.  I do believe Yakupov packaged with one of Marincin or Klefbom and another piece could net something big, but only if a team needs to move a guy.  Eric and Jordan Staal reportedly could be had this summer, but then you have the hurdle of both having NTC’s and I doubt either would have interest in coming to Edmonton after this season even with all the talent and a new arena on the way.

 

It’s bleak, no other way to say it.  I don’t want to be known as a homer, nor do I want to be known as a pessimist, just a realist.  And the reality is barring an off season where the top 6 gets a lot bigger, a legitimate top pairing is brought in, and a true 2nd line center is landed this team might improve but in such a difficult division and conference I just don’t see them making the playoffs for a 9th straight season.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

No Canada

 

Congrats to the Montreal Canadiens on making the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.  You will be the only Canadian team to make the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, there for making you the best Canadian based team in the leauge.  Congrats, that is the equivalent of being the slimmest person who needs lap-band surgery.  Not that the Habs are in anyway bad, Marc Bergevin has done a great job there.  But they’re in the East, likely won’t make it past the 2nd round, and the rest of the Canadian teams have been garbage.

 

So what lays ahead for these 6 teams?  Will they make the playoffs next season?  ANY of them??  Many questions, and I don’t have all the answers because I’m just a douchy blogger….but I’ll try to answer a few.  So let’s start this off and I want to start with the Flames.

 

Now some might look at this and say I’m just an Oiler fan looking to trash the Flames.  I’m really not.  Full credit to them on a season that I didn’t think would happen.  I thought they were a sure fire top 2 pick team at the start of the year.  Bob Hartley should be a Jack Adams candidate in my mind.  But having said all of this, the Flames future doesn’t look too bright.

 

Now a Flames fan would likely tell me that it’s better to develop that winning culture, rather than be at the bottom and become who the Oilers have become.  Well, the Oilers are where they are because of their horrendous management.  The first year of their rebuild a lot of the media were raving about how great their room was at the end of that season despite being 30th overall.  With no expectations comes no pressure.  I guess you could be the Minnesota Wild who were a good non playoff team (whatever that is) from 09-2012.  Even after signing Suter and Parise to pair with all their young talent, they look like they’ll be a team stuck in no man’s land (make the playoffs, no shot at a Cup).

 

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Monahan is a great start, but the Flames still need a lot of work

But it is THIN for the Flames after Monahan.  They like the Oilers were, are stocked with small wingers, which really has been the Oilers major downfall.  They might snag a centre (Canadian piece, Canadian spelling) with what looks to be the 4th or 5th pick.  So they might get another high end centre with that pick which would be great.  But they still don’t have much coming on the blueline and while Mark Giordano isn’t old, he’s not that young either.  Maybe T.J. Brodie or Tyler Wotherspoon really overachieve, but you can’t depend on that happening.  But the Avs have been successful at least for this season being loaded down the middle with nothing on D so who knows.  To me it is vital that they end up 27th overall or worse to ensure they land one of Reinhart, Bennett, Dal Colle or Ekblad.

 

Entering the season the Sens looked like they were the most well setup Canadian team.  They had more depth in their system than the Oilers, they had more high end skill than the Leafs, and they seemed to be way better coached than the Habs.  I’m stunned at how their season has gone.  But now people will jump off their bandwagon and talk about what a mess it is.  At the draft when the Ducks use that top 10 pick, I’m sure the story will be how the Sens wish they had that trade back.  Well weren’t people just saying in July how the Sens fleeced the Ducks and then when Ryan was left off the Olympic team that it was such a mistake?  So which one is it?

 

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Spezza might be on the move, but the Sens still look real good down the middle for years to come

I still think this team is the best Canadian team moving forward, even better setup than the Habs.  Moving forward they’re great down the middle with Turris, Zibanejad and Lazar all under 25, Karlsson is a stud on D and they have some depth with Cowen, Ceci and others.  Robin Lehner needs to relax in net but that should come with experience and when it does he’ll be a star.  Add all this to Paul McLean who has had a rough year but I think he’s a top end coach in this league.  Maybe they move Spezza this off season, but if they do they’ll get a nice return and should be fine.  He puts up great numbers, but just seems to refuse to be the all around player you need your 1st line centre to be.

 

Of course 1st line centre has been a hot topic of conversation in Toronto all year.  I whiffed on them, I had them to make the playoffs comfortably, and a month ago it looked like they would.  Yet here we are, they’re all but eliminated and the city is in full panic mode about where this team is going.  They aren’t bad setup though.  They have some good pieces in place like Bernier, Bozak, Kessel, JVR and Rielly.

 

If I were Dave Nonis I would be using my 2nd compliance buyout on David Clarkson this summer.  This is  the last year teams will get to use their compliance buyouts (if they have any left, remember it is 2 per team), so why risk it?  If this is what he is, he’s a 2 million dollar player getting 5.25 per.  While the cap is expected to rise to 68-71 million, that is still a terrible contract.  They also need to upgrade down the middle.  I’m one of the few who was on the Tyler Bozak bandwagon before they re-signed him last summer.  But he’s not a legit number 1 guy.  He’s a real solid number 2, but not a number 1.  He reminds me of Craig Conroy and Shawn Horcoff.  Both were 1st line centre’s on teams that made surprise runs to the finals.  They had great all around games and could be used in any situation, but weren’t offensively gifted enough to be legit number 1 guys.

 

Jake+Gardiner+Nazem+Kadri+Boston+Bruins+v+3f72kRbto6el
If the Leafs take a run at Eric Staal, Gardiner and Kadri would be a good start of a package going to Carolina

I have no clue what might happen in Carolina this off season, and I do think the Staal brothers preference should they be asked to waive their NTC’s would be to go somewhere together if it’s possible.  The Leafs actually would have the cap space to bring in both, but they only have the assets to get 1 of them.  So I do think they’ll take a run at Eric.  Kadri, Gardiner, Stuart Percy and their 2014 1st would be a pretty good deal for both sides.  Some would try to tell me how they would have to move Rielly in the deal.  No they wouldn’t.  IF Carolina has a fire sale, teams won’t give their top end guys.  It just NEVER happens.  Didn’t happen for Nash, didn’t happen for Thornton, didn’t happen for Heatley, didn’t happen for Pronger any of the 3 times he got moved after the 05 lockout, it just NEVER happens that way and I wish people would finally figure this out.

 

More realistic this off season is a few UFA signings like maybe Joni Pitkanen?  Andrei Markov?  Either would be a nice addition at the right price obviously.  It isn’t a great year for UFA’s though.  So maybe let’s look at the draft situation and they appear as though they’ll pick 10-12.  As it stands right now (much will change between now and late June), Jared McCan is a possibility in that range.  He’s nothing flashy, but a real solid all around centre who has potential to be a Patrice Bergeron type.  If not him, maybe Roland McKewon who is a RH shot D-man playing for Todd Gill and Doug Gilmour in Kingston.  Either guy would be a real good addition.

 

Of course the Leafs slide has been masking the mess of late in Vancouver who are right there with the Leafs in the standings.  It could be an entertaining off season in Vancouver.  I don’t think they should rebuild per say, but they could stand to be renovated.  The Sedins aren’t going anywhere after signing those extensions before this season.  Gillis has to go, Torts should also go despite the 5 year deal.  That would be a good start, but then the question is who replaces them?

 

George McPhee might be out of a job in Washington.  He’s done a good job stockpiling talent in Washington, although not a good job in pulling the trigger on the deals he needs to.  Paul Fenton in Nashville has been talked about for many job openings the last few seasons.  Would ownership be interested in brining back Steve Tambellini who spent a lot of years in the Canucks organization including 3 with this ownership group as the assistant GM to Dave Nonis?  He was horrendous for the Oilers so they better not.  Speaking of Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin is another candidate.  Brad Treliving in Phoenix, Rick Dudley in Montreal (who is a Torts guy if they insist he stays coaching), lots of possibilities.

 

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Moving Kesler will net a good return and could be a blessing in disguise for the Canucks

As for replacing Torts, well that would all depend on who the GM is obviously, but I think they have to bite the bullet and get rid of him and allow the incoming GM to select his own guy.  The incoming GM will also have the pressure of moving Ryan Kesler as soon as he gets the job.  He doesn’t HAVE to, but he will get a great return for a guy who is one of the best 2nd line centre’s in the game but can’t stay healthy.  If the Pens offer Sutter, Pouliot and their 2015 1st I would be jumping all over that.  Sutter could take some pressure off Bo Horvat who’ll almost certainly step into the lineup as either their 2nd or 3rd line centre.

 

 

Other moves need to be done too.  I still think they can get something for Alex Burrows.  Time to go, the guy doesn’t have a good contract moving forward and even though he’s broke out lately, for the duration of his contract I’m betting you see more of the guy who had the enormous drought this season then Burrows circa 2011.  Alex Edler is another guy who should go.  He has never been the same guy since the Kings torched him in the 2012 playoffs.  Prior to that he was coming off an incredible season and looked like he was developing into a legit number 1 D-man.  He’s still a top 4 guy, but he needs a change of scenery.  They just have to guard against getting too young.

 

A team who is along the lines of what I’m thinking for young but not too young would be the Winnipeg Jets.  Now the Jets don’t get a lot of attention, and they’re really well run by Kevin Cheveldayoff.  But they still face a pretty steep hill to climb in the meat grinder known as the Western conference.  The one thing they MUST do is upgrade between the pipes.

 

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Next season, Pavelec should be replacing a legit starter on bad nights and not be the guy who constantly gets replaced

I’m one of those people who believed Ondrej Pavelec was going to become a top flight NHL starter.  Well it hasn’t happened and it is time to pull the pin on that idea.  He’s a solid backup.  But this team has no idea what he will give them night to night.  Jonas Hiller is a UFA.  Would he go to Winnipeg after so many years in the California sun?  Maybe not, but then again if the Ducks decide they can thrive with Frederick Anderson and John Gibson in goal what would be his other choices?  There aren’t a lot.  Maybe Minnesota….which isn’t much different from Winnipeg.  Maybe Jaroslav Halak is the answer?  Or maybe he re-signs in Washington, which would make Braden Holtby available.  They’ll have options and they have to take care of this problem.

 

 

They also could stand to upgrade their blueline.  There is talent on their back end, but obviously the biggest (literally) enigma is Dustin Byfuglien.  Teams will have great interest in the big man if he’s available, weather they’re looking to add size up front or some offence from their blueline.  I would be looking for another top 4 D-man in return, but perhaps a LH shot.  If Mark Stuart could be their number 5 D-man they would be in pretty good shape.  Bogosian on their top pairing, Trouba on their 2nd pairing, it could take great shape but they need to have the right guy coming back to do that deal.

 

I do love their size up front.  A key for this team next season will be if Mark Scheifele can take another step after a real good rookie season.  If he could handle the 1st line centre duties that would be a huge positive for this club.  Having said that it is likely much too soon to put that kind of pressure on him.  But still, their top 6 is Ladd, Wheeler, Kane, Scheifele, and maybe Byfuglien if Maurice chooses to put him up front all of next season….and if he’s not dealt.

 

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Still too many issues to count, but the Oil may have found something with Scrivens

And finally, the Oilers.  I don’t need to spend much time here on the Oil because I have another piece coming out all dedicated to their shit show season and what they have and what needs to be done and so on and so forth.  But I will say, the Colorado Avalanche were in the 4th year of their rebuild last year and finished 29th.  If the Oilers don’t literally have AHL goaltending to start this season they might not be anywhere near this mess.

 

 

 

I said it earlier, they had expectations where a team like the Flames didn’t.  So it’s pretty natural for these guys to just want this season to be done with already.  Come next fall barring 1 or 2 blockbuster moves, expectations will be extremely low and that will help them out a ton I’m certain.  They aren’t in anywhere near as bad of shape as they appear to be or as the Eastern media in particular make them out to be.  A shit show without a doubt, but it is fixable.  Having said that, don’t expect playoffs yet again next season.  A) the Pacific is too tough.  B) the West is too tough.  C) MacTavish won’t be able to pull multiple rabbits out of his hat.

 

This was an awful year for NHL teams in this country, that’s all.  The Oilers, Canucks and Leafs turned into shit shows, the Jets are what they are, the Flames are better than expected but still bad, and the Sens had an off year.  But I’m saying it right now, 4 of these teams can join Montreal in the playoffs next season (Canucks, Leafs, Sens and Jets).  The Flames will still need some time I believe, but they’re on the right track.  And while the Oilers get mocked for their rebuild taking time people forget that the Blues took 7 years rebuilding so it’s still too early to call it a failure.  Things will turn Canada….they can’t get worse!

 

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