Hall of Famer, Who’ll Never See the Hall of Fame

AP_7701090263I love doing this site.  I want to someday get paid for talking sports in any form, but as you can see I literally do it for free.  And maybe more than anything I love talking about the history of each league.  I don’t know how well I know the NBA, but the NBA’s history I know as well as anyone.  Obviously I know the NHL’s very well too.  I’ve been a baseball fan almost as long as I’ve been a hockey fan, but MLB history (I’m talking pre my exsistence) I might know the least.  And I can’t get enough of knowing the past of the NFL.  And the team I love reading and hearing about more than any is the 70’s and 80’s Oakland/L.A. Raiders.

 

Ken Stabler passed away last Wednesday at age 69.  I wasn’t thinking about writing about him or the team, but then Colin Cowherd led his show on Friday talking about Stabler and the Raiders and it was so spot on.  The thing he said that I really agreed with more than anything was that Ken Stabler, all of the QB’s of his era, epitomized his team more than anyone else.  I’ve always thought that.  He was the PERFECT QB for the Raiders.  They had the renegade owner, renegade players, and they were quarterbacked by a guy who was nicknamed “the snake”.  He rocked long hair, a beard, and got any girl he wanted.  Guys wanted to be him, girls wanted to be with him.  In the 90’s we would have called him “the man”.

kenstabler

Stabler was the 1974 MVP.  He was at the center of just about every controversial moment of the NFL in the 1970’s.  The immaculate reception doesn’t happen without Stabler running for a 30 yard TD, giving the Raiders a 7-6 lead with 1:13 remaining.  The Sea of hands was originally named Super Bowl 7 1/2 heading in as the 2 time defending champion Miami Dolphins went to Oakland to face the seemingly unbeatable Raiders.  Stabler with seconds left scrambled, and really should have been sacked, yet found a way to flip the ball to Clarence Davis for the game winning TD.

 

 

You might think it was a fluke, but it happened with this guy in such big moments SO MANY TIMES.  The only year the Stabler Raiders won the Super Bowl (1976), Stabler had to bail them out in their first playoff game against the New England Patriots.  Sure, that game gets remembered for the roughing the passer flag against Sugar Bear Hamilton, but the Raiders were down 21-10 in that game, and Stabler led them back including scoring the winning TD on a bootleg.  Roger Staubach was considered to be the king of the comebacks in the 70’s, but Stabler wasn’t far behind him as the guy you would want at QB with 2:00 left and the game on the line.

 

The Immaculate Reception, the Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post, the Holy Roller, they all had names!  And Stabler was at the center of all of them.  74 MVP, Super Bowl XI, and had it not been for the Steelers he would have won 3 or 4 Super Bowls.  This guy had a 66.7% passing accuracy in 1976!  Do you realize how impossible it was to throw in the 1970’s?!  And this guy put up numbers that would look great by today’s standards!

 

How in the HELL is this guy not in your hall of fame?!  Sometimes the people voting on these hall of fames need to understand that sometimes it can’t be JUST about a guys numbers.  Stabler has the numbers too, but this guy was an icon.  He’s a Raiders icon, an NFL icon, and it is beyond ridiculous that he isn’t in the hall of fame.

 

RIP Ken.  This is one fan of your’s that never saw you play, yet won’t ever forgot you.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2015 NHL Draft: Best and Worst

2015_NHL_DraftI needed a week or so to decompose.  I went hard on draft week, pumping out a lot of pieces.  So I decided to take a week off from writing.  I kicked back, watched some Big Moma’s House, and lived it up.

 

But it’s time to get back to work.  Well, work would imply I get paid for this.  I don’t.  What I did was take a look at what 7 teams did on draft weekend.  The first 4 are obviously teams that I believe made out awesome.  I wouldn’t say the last 4 are teams that I thought were “losers”, but they did things that I wasn’t a fan of.  Yet, who am I to say?  That’s part of the reason I do this write up though.  It’s not about now, it’s to look back in 5-10 years and either say “I was spot on there” or else “I was a moron”.

 

Trust me, I’ll have to be the one to tell myself I got anything right.  Even some of my closest friends love to tell me…in a none “just busting your balls Campbell” way may I add…if I get something wrong.  I would never think to tell a friend “hey man, you remember when you said THIS, well I just want to make you feel like shit because I disagreed with it and now it’s proven that you’re wrong”.  I could care less if some “keyboard tough guy” wants to beak off at me, but guys who claim to be my friends, that’s a bit of a mystery to me.  To each their own I guess.  Ok, that’s my little rant/sob story, on with the write up.

 

Winnipeg Jets

I have to start with the Jets as everyone else certainly has in doing their draft day wins.  They needed a center and Kyle Connor fell into their lap at 17.  I’m not the biggest fan of Connor, but he’s at worst a 2nd line center who’ll put up 55-70 points a year.  Give him some time to develop and he could be better than that, which I’m certain the Jets will do.

 

I wasn’t a big Jack Roslovic guy.  The feeling was that while he’s versatile, he also lived off 2016 potential top pick Auston Matthews as he played most of the season on Matthews wing.  So I feel like they missed a bit with the 25th pick, but they more than made up for that by flat out stealing Jasen Harkins at pick 47.  How he fell to the 47th pick I can’t figure out.  The only thing that might have factored in was that he’ll be in Prince George for 2 more seasons and with it being such a shit show of an organization maybe teams were scared off by how his development would go.  But still, that’s no reason for him to fall that far.

 

Finally, they snagged one of my favorties in the later rounds Erik Foley with the 78th pick.  Foley works his bag off every night.  He isn’t a tall kid, but he’s thick, built a lot like Raffi Torres.

 

After that pick I really didn’t know much about their kids, but they knocked it out of the park…YET AGAIN.  Kevin Cheveldayoff is establishing himself as one of the best GM’s in the sport.

 

Los Angeles Kings

So it ended up that they didn’t have a pick until 43.  But they got Milan Lucic largely because of their 13th pick.  It actually was a deal that I feel like the Bruins did extremely well in as opposed to the Hamilton deal.  But the Kings kind of had to do it with how perfect Lucic fits their mold.  But what I really loved was the picks they made.  At 43 they took Erik Cernak who has a lot of tools and needed to go to an organization like the Kings who have a track record of developing kids.  So I really liked that pick.

 

But I LOVED them snagging Alex Dergachyov all the way down at the 74th pick.  Before the draft I stated they had to take a center.  An absolute must for them going in.  And here they got the guy they needed all the way down at the 74th pick.  He’s a King.  Big, fast, physical, he’s perfect for them.  He might not be more than a 3rd line center, but he’s going to be a great 3rd line center and I believe his style is much better suited for North America than Europe.  He’s another Artem Anisimov.

 

Finally with the 99th pick, Austin Wagner of the Regina Pats who is another perfect fit for what they do.  Plays with a lot of grit, unafraid to go to all the tough area’s on the ice, and has some offensive upside in his game.  This draft was the LA Kings doing what the LA Kings do.  Sit back, and collect guys who fit what they want to do.

 

Philadelphia Flyers

Again, I just loved what they did.  Provorov falling to them was a gift and now all of a sudden the Flyers blueline is looking scary good moving forward.  Provorov, Morin, Sanheim, Gostisbehere, Hagg and I maybe even throw Mark Alt into that group.  Not all of them are going to pan out, but it’ll be damn good regardless.

 

Then they moved up, paying a fair price to do so, to steal Travis Konecny at 24.  Leafs had to do it as they needed picks, and had zero need for another winger, and the Flyers could afford to do it at that point.  He is such a “Flyer”.  In your face, all heart, does anything to win, some were comparing him (kind of absurdly but nevertheless) to Bob Clarke prior to the draft.  So how could the Flyers not take THAT kid?!

 

But they still had to take a goaltender.  This organization has zero depth in net.  Well Hextall walked out with 2 solid netminding prospects in Felix Sandstrom and Matej Tomek at picks 70 and 90.  Tomek I believe was rated a 1st round pick by Redline Report going into the draft.  Both were pretty highly thought of coming in, and so the Flyers with no major needs left other than in goal managed to address it well.  Ideally you want a higher end guy like Samsonov or Blackwood, but most would argue (including me most of the time) that the 3rd round is where you begin looking at goaltenders.

 

NY Islanders

I’ll get into it later on here as to why I didn’t like the trade for the Oilers, but the Islanders got the better value of the deal simply put, especially if they had given up on Griffin Reinhart.  So Barzal at 16 was such a huge steal.  Not really a need for the Islanders but they just want to stockpile skill up front.  They did it again when they traded up from 33 to 28 to take Anthony Beauvillier.  Loved that kid, as you will too.  Small, but really skilled, really gritty, and a leader.

 

With picks 82, 112, and 147 they went value D-men.  Mitch Vande Sompel is small, but he’s highly skilled and can really run a PP.  Parker Wotherspoon is a lot like his brother.  Nothing flashy, just really solid.  Similar with Ryan Pilon.  At one time Pilon was considered a 1st round pick in this draft, and even coming in some still thought he might be.  Getting him at 147 was ridiculous and I’m not a big Ryan Pilon fan but he’s well worth it there.  If one of these 3 pans out it’s great for the Islanders, and I believe all 3 are going to be valuable prospects that are worth much more than their draft positions in a few years.

 

Pretty good haul for a team who came into the draft without a 1st or 2nd round pick.

 

There were other teams who maybe didn’t knock it out of the park, but I liked some of what they did.  The Leafs getting Marner, Dermott and Bracco when they came in with just 1 pick in the first 2 rounds was good.

 

The Flames obviously had a similar draft to the Kings.  Getting Hamilton was a huge steal, and then Kylington at the 60th pick was well worth the gamble and now that the Wheat Kings own Kylington’s rights, perhaps he comes and plays in the CHL and refines his game like he needs to do.

 

The Panthers getting Lawson Crouse is a scary thought moving forward.  That team is BIG, skilled, and can skate.  Nobody is talking about them, but if a Canadian team had Ekblad, Barkov, Huberdeau, Bjugstad, Crouse, Gudbranson and Kulikov to build around we would be drooling all over them.  Denis Malgin at 102 was a personal favorite player of mine too.

 

Boston Bruins

I’m not going to spend a lot of time here punting them in the teeth as they lay motionless on the floor, several others are more than ecstatic to do that.  The Hamilton trade was awful, then they reached badly with Calgary’s 1st on Zach Senyshyn who I really loved entering the draft, but loved at 25-35, not with a top 10 talent like Barzal still on the board.

 

They did have some steals though.  Brandon Carlo was awesome value at the 37th pick.  Daniel Vladar has big time talent and was great value at 75.  Jesse Gabrielle fits the Boston mold perfectly and they snagged him at 105.  Add to these picks, they turned Martin Jones into a 1st rounder in 2016 that the Sharks were dumb enough to give them, not lottery protected either.  Next year the draft lottery is for the top 3 picks not just number 1.  So the Sharks pick could realistically end up being a top 3 pick.  So it wasn’t as bad as some of the media and fans are making it out to be.

 

But you just can’t do one of these pieces without discussing how awful things went for the Bruins draft weekend.

 

Detroit Red Wings

Yep.  YEP.  I am saying it.  The Detroit Red Wings had a bad draft.  Now, time will likely prove me wrong as I’m sure they have taken a lot of kids in the past that nobody knew and they turned out to be Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Gustav Nyqvist.  But I didn’t like it.

 

Evgeni Svechnikov is a big time talent, but I don’t think he’s a kid you win with.  He’s inconsistent, he doesn’t play in his own zone, he’s just a lot of skill and quite frankly that is like most Russian hockey players these days.  They can play 1 on 1, but they can’t play a complete game that you need guys to do to win hockey games.  There was zero need for this kind of guy in the Wings organization and with a kid like Eriksson Ek or Colin White still there for them I just really didn’t like the pick.

 

They did go with a D-man at 73.  I have never heard of Vili Saarijarvi.  Doesn’t mean he sucks at all, I just had never heard of him.  5’9, 161 pounds.  Played in the USHL with Green Bay.  So he must have tore up the league right?  6 goals, 17 assists in 57 games.  Again, I don’t know anything about this kid, but being that small….I don’t like it.  Mitch Vande Sompel was still there.  5’10, 182 pounds and put up 63 points in 58 games in a much better league in the OHL.  It doesn’t make sense to me at all.

 

Only one other D-man the rest of the way, that was a kid named Patrick Holway in the 6th round.  I’ve been saying it for a few years now, I know Ken Holland is thinking that big D-man is going to come in free agency and they’ll be fine.  But I don’t think he’s coming.  Mike Green now isn’t what Mike Green was in 2009.  He’s often injured.  He was the 5th guy on the depth chart for the Caps this season.

 

And it isn’t the desired destination it once was.  Datsyuk and Zetterberg are nearing the end, and while they keep producing good young players, to develop another Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall is just too much to ask.  That was lightning in a bottle for the Wings organization.  So they really need to start investing in D-men.  It isn’t as if they don’t have ANY coming, but they can’t expect Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet to turn into anchors on the blueline.  Those are the only 2 top 70 picks they’ve invested in a D-man in the last 6 drafts.  That is going to come and bite them in the ass.

 

Edmonton Oilers

They had a bit of both.  I liked just about everything they did.  Obviously McDavid, but while I didn’t know a lot about Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, and John Marino, I did know about them and feel like they’re all really good prospects who just got lost in the shuffle a bit due to the fact that there were SOOOO many D-men who possessed a very similar skill set.  All 3 skate real well, all 3 are in great situations to develop, and all 3 have a real chance to play in the show.  And I loved the Talbot trade, I thought the trade was basically exactly what he was worth (a late 2nd and a 3rd).

 

What I didn’t like was the Griffin Reinhart deal, and it isn’t as if I don’t like Griffin Reinhart.  I think he’s going to be a very solid top 4 D-man, and he has all the tools to become a top pairing guy.  But the value was ridiculous.

 

You can’t sit there and say “well they’re just draft picks”, because every draft is different.  This one was special.  2013 was special.  2012 and 2014 were average to below average drafts.  2012 is the draft where Reinhart went 4th.  So while the average fan sits there and says “well he went 4th so the Oilers won the deal”, it’s not that simple.  Mathew Barzal was a gift falling to 16.  I had him 5th, liked him more than most, but anyone else would have told you he should be a top 10 pick.  He fell due to other teams wanting size in the top 12, and then Boston being idiotic with picks 13-15.  Barzal I really believe would have gone 4th in the 2012 draft.  I wouldn’t have him ahead of Galchenyuk, but at the time (note I say “at the time” for those who love to tell me how dumb I am after the fact) the same prospect would have ranked ahead of Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba, etc.  But of course, Reinhart is 3 years into his development so I understand paying extra for that.

 

HOWEVER, the 33rd pick in this draft shouldn’t have been the price for that!  The 33rd pick in this draft was worth what the 20th pick is worth in most drafts.  So you’re paying the 4th pick and 20th pick for the 5th pick if you compare this draft to the 2012 draft.  That’s gross.  And 2 other things factor in here.  1) the Islanders were shopping Reinhart.  They had given up on the kid.  2) Reinhart indicated afterwards that while he didn’t ask for a trade, it was known that he wasn’t happy with the Islanders and wanted out.  So how is it that the OILERS end up overpaying in this scenario???  16 for Reinhart seemed like a fair deal, and if the Islanders didn’t like it then the Oilers should have picked, they should have taken Barzal, and when the window were to open up for them to do the trade after the fact the Islanders would have given up Reinhart for Barzal.  They knocked on YOUR door, you have what THEY want.

 

Added to this, I don’t believe that Peter Chiarelli was really on board for doing this particular deal, but had the Griffin Reinhart fan club to put up with at the Oilers draft table.  Daryl Katz, Katz kid (who for some reason was there in the thick of things YET AGAIN), Bob Green, Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson, and absent but likely with input, Kevin Lowe.  I’m not saying they pushed Chiarelli into doing this, but I am saying that once the offer was made a ton of internal pressure went on Chiarelli to do the deal.

 

“Peter, we know this guy and he is wonderful.  He was the captain of a team we watch win the Memorial Cup, so he’s better than Darnell because Darnell didn’t do that”.

 

Already there is question of where Reinhart fits.  He’s got to start as a bottom pairing guy.  Well this team is already loaded with bottom pairing guys.  Moving forward, they already have 2 likely to be top 4 LH shot D-men in Klefbom and Nurse.  Reinhart will fit, and he can play on the right side, but he’s not really anything of the D-man they needed.  Let’s say they pick Joel Eriksson Ek, or Barzal.  Instead of having Reinhart, perhaps they sign Christian Erhoff.  In a year from now, you just finished a season with a better D-man, and you’ll have a major trade chip to play with whether that is Eriksson Ek/Barzal, or Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins.  That is going to fetch a better D-man than Reinhart.

 

Again, don’t get me wrong in all of this.  I like Reinhart.  As I’ve said, he’s got all the tools to be a top pairing guy.  I talk a lot of my list for D-men.  He has the intelligence, he’s a good skater (his first few steps need work but at top speed he’s great), great size, and while he doesn’t play mean, he’s not soft.  So it’s far from a dislike of the player, it’s just a dislike of the trade.  They overpaid, big time.

 

Colorado Avalanche

This is nearing 3,000 words, let’s make this quick!  Like the Oilers, I didn’t hate their draft.  You can’t reach for a D-man when there is nobody in sight, and at the 10th pick there was none in sight.  So they went with Rantanen who I believed was the best of the wingers in this draft after Marner (who is going to be developed as a center).  He fits perfectly with their forward group.

 

At 31, they got a good deal from the Sharks, but I personally would have held onto the pick and taken Jeremy Roy.  As many of you reading know, I was a huge Jeremy Roy guy going into this draft and he shouldn’t have fallen to 31.  This kid should have been a top 20 pick.  Had they just sat back and picked they would have walked out of that draft with Roy, Nic Meloche at 40 who was another kid I really liked, and Zadorov from the O’Reilly trade.  Boom, their blueline is now looking much better moving forward.  Which it still is, but Roy much like Tyson Barrie would have fit perfectly into the style Patrick Roy wants them to play.

 

But that’s what I really want to talk about is the O’Reilly trade.  They messed this up badly.  Going back years now, they messed up this situation.  I know Patrick Roy loves his former guys and that was a factor in the deal was getting Mikhail Grigorenko, but this kid has been a pretty big failure to this point.  As I said earlier with Svechnikov, he’s another Russian who has a world of skill but doesn’t know how to play a team game.

 

As for Zadorov, well he has a ton of raw talent too, but had behavioral issues this season and hasn’t been progressing well.  He looked ordinary at the Memorial Cup last season, and has a very long way to go.  For an elite 2nd line center like O’Reilly, the Avs should have been able to get a better deal.

 

So there you go.  Nearly 3300 words later, I’m done being wrong.  The Jets, Kings, Flyers, Islanders, Leafs and Panthers will be awful, the Bruins, Wings, and Avs will be amazing, and Griffin Reinhart will go onto win multiple Norris, Conn Smythe, and Hart trophies.  Don’t forget to check it out in 7 or 8 years to see how right or wrong this is, because one thing I know is that it is pointless saying anyone was right or wrong right now.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups