Where Does Your Team Stand?

The All-Star game was yesterday.  I hope you all did something else while that was on.  What a complete waste of time that game is.  The NHL hypes how great the 3 on 3 worked last season…it didn’t.  The John Scott story made it great.  It really goes to show you how incompetent the league is when they have all those top 100 players in town and they don’t have the foresight to do a draft and game with all of them.  It was important to do a game involving Justin Bieber, but not do alumni game featuring the top 100 players of all time?  You could have even added guys like McDavid and Matthews to the game, maybe had a line of Gretzky, Crosby and McDavid, but hey I’m sure the great minds in the NHL offices could figure out why that wouldn’t make money…

 

Anyway, the league is pretty poorly run, this is not news.  But while we hate the league, we still love the game and we have our favourite teams.  So with that being said, let’s take a look at where those teams are at going into their final 36-30 games.

 

Standings based off teams points percentage, which is the way everyone should be viewing the standings.

 

Anaheim

27-15-9 (.618)

3rd in the Pacific

They’ve been under the radar this season.  In the mix with the Sharks and Oilers fighting for 1st in the Pacific, but they really haven’t made much noise.  Not a bad thing at all.  But they really aren’t giving anyone much to talk about to this point.

 

Arizona

16-26-6 (.396)

7th in the Pacific

I’m starting to worry about the mix in the desert.  Dave Tippett can coach veteran players who are willing to play a 200 foot game.  The last two seasons though the Coyotes have gone really young, and they have been a tire fire.  Sure, they started good last season, but it was a pretty massive fluke.  They’re awful.  They have a ton of talent on the ice, yet they’re being coached to play 2-1 hockey.  That just doesn’t work.  The one great thing that’s happened for them this season is Mike Smith has been excellent.  This is great for the Coyotes in the sense that they now may have a chance to get that salary off their books should he agree to waive his NTC.  Calgary?  Dallas?  NY Islanders?  St. Louis?  Winnipeg?  They’ll have options.

 

Boston

25-21-6 (.538)

4th in the Atlantic

Nothing new here that you haven’t heard me say a lot since they fired Peter Chiarelli.  It’s a big mess in the front office there, it’s trickling down to the ice, it’s pretty clear that Claude Julien now isn’t getting along with people in the front office, they blame Chiarelli for everything that has gone wrong, they’re on their way to becoming a joke.

 

Buffalo

20-19-9 (.510)

6th in the Atlantic

The Eichel injury really set them back this season, but they still shouldn’t have been as bad as they were to start the season.  I have not been quiet about being a Tim Murray detractor, and I think the media is about to catch up.  In the past it’s been “man I love Tim Murray, I got a story about him doing something funny…”  Great, and how is he as a GM?  Gave up what turned into Colin White for Robin Lehner.  Made a terrible deal for Evander Kane.  I can’t honestly think of the move he’s made where I’ve gone “that really helped the Sabres out”.  Best thing for this team in my opinion would be to finish near the bottom of the East and let Terry Pegula clean house.  However seeing Pegula operate the NFL’s Bills, who knows if he can stir this ship in the right direction.

 

Calgary

25-24-3 (.510)

6th in the Pacific

I’m shocked at what’s gone down of late in Calgary.  I knew this team had a lot of question marks going into the season, but they’ve proven that when they simply get good goaltending, doesn’t have to be great, they’re a good hockey club.  But they have simply lost all their confidence.  They were fine until nine days ago, and that seemed to open the flood gates.  Chad Johnson got the start and was awful, and it was the Oilers, at home, which set them nine points back of the Oil, and they now have just a one point lead on both the Kings and Canucks who both have three games in hand.  The one red flag that I’m noticing which nobody else seems to be talking about is that Johnny Gaudreau has started to take a BEATING this season.  He took at least one big hit in every game against the Oilers this season, obviously the Komarov hit last week was brutal, and I’ve seen him take a lot of others.  This slump might be more physical than mental.  On top of all that as I wrote about last week, there are concerns over Brad Treliving perhaps being on his way out, which would likely trigger another coaching change, and literally in a matter of a week things have gone from looking great moving forward to being a mess.  The train hasn’t gone off the tracks just yet, but the concern is that it’s about to.  Hopefully the win in Ottawa get things pointed in the right direction for them again.

 

Carolina

21-20-7 (.510)

7th in the Metropolitan

They were VERY quietly moving up the standings after a bad start.  But then they ran into a buzz saw the last five games which saw them go pointless against Columbus (x2), Pittsburgh, Washington, and L.A.  I had them making the playoffs this season but it looks like that’ll be wrong.  They’re really well coached, and have a lot of young talent.  The biggest challenge they face is being in the toughest division in hockey.  No coincidence that four of those last five loses came against the top three teams in the Met.  But if they want to take this rebuild to the next level, they’re going to need guys like Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen to raise the level of their games offensively.

 

Chicago

30-16-5 (.637)

2nd in the Central

Meh.  It wouldn’t be “meh” for anyone else, but it is for the Hawks.  This team is on cruise control.  They’re going to the playoffs, I would guess they’ll end up playing the Preds in the 1st round, and just like two years ago I would expect a hell of a series once again.  But really, they don’t give you much to talk about during the regular season because they’re that damn good.

 

Colorado

13-31-2 (.304)

7th in the Central

Well, I’ve written about them already, so there really isn’t much more to be said.  It’s a shit show, as Edmonton Oilers fans are sympathetic to.  It’s going to be a fire sale from the sounds of it, though I would guess that much of the heavy lifting won’t happen until the offseason.  But this team needs more than just a fire sale.  Joe Sakic needs to step down, bring in a new GM, new coach (not a fair shake at all for Jared Bednar but you have to clean house), and you have make sure the blueline is overhauled.  This team is what the Oilers would be had they not won McDavid, don’t forget that Oilers fans.

 

Columbus

32-12-4 (.708)

2nd in the Metropolitan

They became the talk of the league on their 16 game streak.  But I really think this team is going to come crashing back to earth, if they aren’t already in the process of doing that.  Watch for them to have a rough end to the season.  Not saying they’ll miss the playoffs, but their schedule gets brutal in the last seven weeks of the season where they’ll play three games in four days once a week.  Seven sets of three games in four days, that’s tough.  They also have to start to get injuries at some point, Bobrovsky has started to cool off, guys like Atkinson, Gagner, Wennberg, and Foligno won’t all shoot above 15% for the rest of the season either.  They’ve just simply had everything go their way.  About damn time for the fans of this franchise, they’ve won two playoff games in 15 seasons!  I think they’re a playoff team, but truthfully I think by the time the playoffs roll around they’ll be a bit of an afterthought.

 

Dallas

20-20-10 (.500)

5th in the Central

It’s funny, nobody is really surprised at their drop off this season.  I know I picked them to get the 2nd wild card spot, and I GUESS they’re in the race for it.  But I don’t think they’re getting it.  Goaltending is too shaky, and I feel they went too young with their blueline this season.  It wasn’t great last year, but they were much more experienced.  Heading into last season everyone was raving about the offseason they had in 2015, yet I wasn’t a fan.  And then they had a great season finishing 1st in the Central, yet I still wasn’t a fan.  It was and still is a talented yet poorly constructed team.  Seguin and Spezza are two great offensive centres, but they’re perimeter guys who aren’t good away from the puck.  I think in time Seguin can become that player because of his speed but he isn’t there yet.  Also, Jamie Benn is the only physical/gritty forward they have in their top six.  Combine those things with a very young blueline and bad goaltending and you see why they are where they are.

 

Detroit

20-20-9 (.500)

7th in the Atlantic

Pretty sure that my call of them missing the playoffs is going to happen and if they want to get back to being a contender soon then they should start missing the playoffs.  This organization is weak on the blueline moving forward, weak down the middle moving forward, and they need to reboot.  I’ve said before, I don’t think it would take them very long because they have drafted well and do have some good assets, but as I’ve heard and seen some of their fan base and media contingency suggest, what difference does it make whether you miss the playoffs or get bounced in an extra five games?

 

Edmonton

28-15-8 (.627)

2nd in the Pacific

Tied for the most points in the Pacific at the All-Star break.  I knew this was possible and wrote about it in my season preview, but we’ve thought the Oilers were about to turn a corner a lot in the last seven years or so and they always fell flat on their face.  Going into the break we’ve seen their most impressive hockey of the season, and I really believe this team has yet another gear.  They’re big, tough, fast, and McDavid carrying the team has taken a lot of pressure off a lot of guys and allowed them to develop.  Now we are seeing RNH and Eberle playing really good 200 foot games and their offence is now coming around, and that’s in large part thanks to McDavid carrying the team through their struggles.  Next season they’ll add a much improved Jesse Puljujarvi to the mix.  They can still stand to improve a lot at the deadline however.  I believe the needs would be a 3rd line centre, a RH shooting offensive defenceman, a top 9 RW, and possibly a backup goaltender (we’ll see how Laurent Brossoit fares).  I highly doubt they would pay big for rentals, but some cheaper ones along the lines of Radim Vrbata, Michael Stone and Thomas Greiss I could perhaps see happening.  Playoffs this season, and I hope you’re ready for Cup expectations next season Oilers fans.

 

Florida

21-19-10 (.520)

5th in the Atlantic

Injuries have been the big problem with this club.  No Barkov, no Huberdeau, no chance.  They’ve actually done ok considering who is in their lineup most nights.  The problem for this team will be moving forward and the concern about going too heavy on analytics.  I don’t know how that’ll go, it’s never been done.  I’m a person who believes if you lean too heavy in any direction in life you’re likely setting yourself up to not so much fail, but avoid success (like that?!)

 

Los Angeles

24-21-4 (.531)

4th in the Pacific (2nd wild card)

They’re just quietly moving along.  They’ll get Jonathan Quick back in a month, and the big one which nobody is talking about is Anze Kopitar has yet to bust out.  He will, make no mistake.  He’s not finishing the season with 10 goals, probably around 20.  And probably above the 60 point mark.  While I really wish I had my pick back of them shocking the world and winning it all again this season, a lot can change in a few months and I did suggest at the time that they would start slow and finish strong.  However, being an Oilers fan I really don’t like the possibility of playing the Kings in the 1st round…

 

Minnesota

32-11-5 (.719)

1st in the Central

Welp…I’ll brag again.  I picked them to win the Central before the year in my season preview, I threw $20 bucks on it which will turn into $200 in April, and this is just a typical Bruce Boudreau team.  He is the best regular season coach in NHL history.  Yep, I’m saying that.  He can’t win for shit in the playoffs, but if you need a culture change like the Oilers needed or the Avs need now, you hire Bruce Boudreau.  Regular season, the man just wins.  Playoffs, especially in game 7’s, different story.  But for now Minnesota Wild fans shouldn’t care about that.  This has been a rejuvenating season for the Wild both in the standings and in the organization with a lot of prospects developing very nicely.

 

Montreal

29-14-7 (.650)

1st in the Atlantic

I’m not too high on the Habs even though I do think they can go relatively deep in the playoffs.  Carey Price elevates the team simply by being in goal.  He’s played bad by his standards over the last month, but as we seen last season his presence is just massive.  Now, a Matt Duchene deal goes down, that would change my tune on things, and I do think they have the pieces to get that deal done.  But until that happens this team is just too thin up the middle.  What if they play Boston in the playoffs?  Likely won’t, but if they did the Bruins can run Bergeron, Krecji and Backes against them and anyone of those guys could be a brutal matchup for a kid like Galchenyuk over a seven game series.

 

Nashville

24-17-8 (.571)

3rd in the Central

They’re coming on strong now.  They’ve taken a while to get their act together, but now they’re healthy, Jusse Saros is starting to see more games in goal (I believe he’ll be their starter come playoff time), and they’re going to be a problem for the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs if that’s who they get.  At the moment they look like a team who could win the West, and I’m not as down on the West as most are, I think this Preds team is THAT good.  This blueline hasn’t been healthy for a while now.  Obviously Subban is great, I can’t believe how good Ryan Ellis has become, and Roman Josi is their top guy.  Three guys capable of logging number one minutes, and Ekholm is a number two or three guy.  If Ryan Johansen plays to the level I believe he’s capable of, this team is going to be difficult for anyone to handle.

 

New Jersey

20-21-9 (.490)

8th in the Metropolitan

I never shut up about it, but I have to say it again here: they got crushed in the Hall/Larsson swap.  They won the value, but their blueline was already shaky with Larsson.  Without him, they’ve been terrible.  I GUESS you could make the argument that they’re in a playoff race, but I don’t see them being much of a factor down the stretch.  This is a very bare organization and as a big Taylor Hall fan I fear he’s going to be stuck with mediocrity or less for the next three and a half seasons.

 

NY Islanders

21-17-9 (.543)

6th in the Metropolitan

The coaching change has helped recently, and they seem to be making a push.  But I have my doubts they can sustain it, and I’m not sure it’ll make a big difference long term.  Much like the Devils, their prospect pool doesn’t look that good, they still have trouble drawing UFA’s despite a new arena, it’s not a good situation in Brooklyn at the moment.  And if you’re John Tavares, do you really believe you can win a Cup there?  Good for the Islanders and their fans if he does, but from the outside looking in I believe they’re never going to be much better than what they’ve been the last three seasons because they haven’t done too good developing their kids.  If Tavares isn’t willing to sign an extension come July 1st, I believe the Islanders have to move on, as difficult as that would be to stomach.

 

NY Rangers

31-17-1 (.643)

4th in the Metropolitan (1st wild card)

I’m not really buying them as anything of a threat in the East.  I guess they always are based on Henrik Lundqvist, but this team has got 21 goals out of Michael Grabner.  You really think that’s going to hold up?  Nick Holden has given them 24 points.  It’s just like Columbus in that they aren’t winning fluky, but they’re getting too good of seasons from too many guys.  That’s not to piss on what they’ve done either.  They’ve had a great season to this point and I wonder when people are going to notice that Alain Vigneault is an elite head coach in this league?  There are maybe three or four of them and he’s one of them.  But while it’s been a great season for the Rags, I just don’t see them getting out of the Metro.  It’s the Pens and Caps world, they’re just living in it.

 

Ottawa

26-15-6 (.617)

2nd in the Atlantic

You talk about under the radar.  The Sens season without Craig Anderson and riding Mike Condon has been amazing, and is getting absolutely zero recognition in this country thanks to the Leafs and Oilers having break out seasons.  But top to bottom this team is just real solid and while I have my worries about Guy Boucher as head coach long term, he’s now turned around two different organizations.  If they’ve been this good with Condon between the pipes, I would guess that they’ll be even better with Anderson back in goal soon.  I’m getting really amped about the possibility of the battle of Ontario returning this April after an 11 year absence.

 

Philadelphia

25-19-6 (.560)

5th in the Metropolitan (2nd wild card)

That 10 game streak, which had them see seven backup goaltenders and only one true number 1 goaltender, helped them fool people.  This isn’t a good team.  They’re well built moving forward, one of my favourites moving forward.  But right now they just aren’t that good.  Shaky goaltender, the blueline is going to be good but right now it’s a bit of a shit show.  Dave Hakstol has done a very good job in his year and a half there of getting a lot out of such a flawed team.  Playoffs are obviously possible, just like all the teams in the East, but I wouldn’t bet on them and if they do get in I can’t see them going anywhere barring trading for a top end goaltender or something along those lines.

 

Pittsburgh

30-13-5 (.677)

3rd in the Metropolitan

They’ve just cruised all season haven’t they?  A little under the radar, which is helpful.  I think of them the same way as I thought of the 09 Red Wings.  They were the defending Cup champs, and basically flew under the radar all season despite maintaining their spot near the top of the standings.  I would say right at the moment I’d have them as my Cup favourites.

 

San Jose

31-17-2 (.640)

1st in the Pacific

They’ve really surprised me this season.  I really expected a drop off, and it could still come, but they’ve been great since a rocky start.  I believe they’ll cruise to top spot in the Pacific.  The Oilers are playing great, but they’re due for a drop off, I still trust the Sharks a lot more.  Martin Jones has somewhat quietly become one of the top goaltenders in the league.  I always assumed he was another guy who was a product of the Kings system and would be horribly exposed in San Jose.  WRONG!  Very, very, VERY WRONG!  Definitely one of the favourites out of the West this season, look like the best bet in the Pacific come playoff time.  I wonder if now isn’t the time for Doug Wilson to make a big move which could possibly get this team over the hump?

 

St. Louis

24-20-5 (.541)

4th in the Central (1st wild card)

This team is slowly fading, and by the end of the season they might be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  Jake Allen is the big issue, as he is proving to be a guy who can’t hack it as a number 1 goaltender.  Now, maybe they go get a guy like Mike Smith as I suggested a week ago?  Doug Armstrong had him in Dallas.  But I wonder/worry for them that they’re going to stick with Allen no matter what this season.  To me, it was evident in the series against the Wild in 2015 that Allen wasn’t the answer long term, yet here we are with the Blues giving him another shot.  If they can shed Allen’s deal though, it would open up the possibility of Smith, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, some real solid options.  Other than between the pipes, nothing much to talk about.  Solid team top to bottom, just not in goal.

 

Tampa Bay

22-22-6 (.500)

8th in the Atlantic

I’m shocked at how big of a drop in play they’ve had since Stamkos went down.  Playoffs are still possible, but it sure is looking bleak at the moment.  Erik Erlendsson who covers the Lightning has hinted at the possibility of a coaching change in the last few weeks.  I believe Yzerman is using the Nikita Nesterov trade to Montreal as a bit of a test run for the team.  Maybe they respond with better play, maybe they quit, but at least Yzerman will get his answer which is more important this season than others seeing how Ben Bishop is gone after the season no matter what.  If they aren’t going to see the playoffs, Yzerman better get something for him.  It’s crazy though, this team even without Stamkos is far too talented to miss the playoffs.

 

Toronto

23-15-9 (.585)

3rd in the Atlantic

You might hate them, but for me personally I’m getting really amped at the idea of the Leafs getting in the playoffs, and I’m saying they will.  I’ll never back off the point that I want all seven Canadian teams to make the playoffs.  Doesn’t mean I’ll pull for all of them once they’re in, but the playoffs are much better when Canadian fans are packing the buildings.  I said it last year pre draft that I felt Matthews and Marner would be the Leafs version of Toews and Kane and so far that looks to be pretty spot on.  I don’t believe Mike Babcock gets enough credit with the job he’s done with these kids.  He’s the best coach in the league and it might not be close.  Think about this: it looks pretty good for the Leafs to meet the Sens in the 1st round of the playoffs.  Even better than that, it’s possible we get Habs v Leafs in the Atlantic division final.  That wouldn’t suck!  This team could stand to upgrade the blueline before the trade deadline.  The current group have really overachieved to this point in the season, but adding a couple of guys like a Michael Stone and/or Fedor Tyutin could be massive additions.

 

Vancouver

23-21-6 (.520)

5th in the Pacific

I can’t believe this team is legitimately in the hunt for a playoff spot.  Willie Desjardins to this point has to be a Jack Adams candidate.  Man, the goaltending looked weak, the blueline looked far too young, the Sedins looked to be fading and they hardly had anything else up front.  Yet here we are, granted in a Western Conference which is really down this season, but they’re in a playoff spot!  I can’t see them going anywhere should they get there, but as I laid out in the fall, this team won’t do a full on rebuild because their fan base has proven to be fickle in the past.  It’s a recipe for mediocrity, but it’s what they’re stuck with.

 

Washington

33-10-6 (.735)

1st in the Metropolitan

They’re back in top spot, and while that’s never a bad thing there is clearly something flawed with this club.  I’ve maintained that I believe a big upgrade at centre is needed, and with Matt Duchene available I would be looking to bring him in if I were GM Brian MacLellan.  This would allow them to move Kuznetsov to the wing and if the playoffs showed us anything last year it was that Evgeny Kuznetsov couldn’t handle either one of Crosby or Malkin.  Duchene is a 1st line centre.  Doesn’t mean you have to play him with Ovechkin, but they need a guy like him to finally take the next step in Washington.  You don’t want to build specifically just to beat one team, but I think the Caps have to do something big like this to give themselves a fighting chance against the defending champs.  Anyway, they probably won’t and I’m saying all of this for nothing.

 

Winnipeg

23-25-4 (.481)

6th in the Central

I’m not sure why so many in the Canadian media figured the Jets were going to the playoffs.  It’s as if we see a team making good moves and assume that good moves mean that a team is good.  The Devils won the value end of the Hall/Larsson trade, so they’ll make the playoffs.  They still aren’t good up front, they’re now really bad on the blueline, but they’re making the playoffs?  The Flames got Brian Elliott for cheaper than we thought he would be, had Matt Tkachuk fall to them in the draft, so they’re making the playoffs.  They’re still really thin up front and it’s been proven that Ken Hitchcock’s system makes the goaltender not the other way around, but they’re making the playoffs?  That was the Jets.  And it wasn’t even a move Cheveldayoff made, it was just simply winning the chance to pick Patrik Laine.  “PLAYOFFS!”  Why?  Their goaltending was a massive question mark and has proven to be weak, they’re extremely young, and they’re in a very tough division.  This team is going to be damn good in a few seasons, and I think they’ve played good thus far!  They just need to stay the course.

 

Midseason Prognostications:

*wild card winners

Pacific

1. San Jose

2. Edmonton

3. Anaheim

*4. Los Angeles

5. Calgary

6. Vancouver

7. Arizona

 

Central

1. Minnesota

2. Nashville

3. Chicago

*4. St. Louis

5. Dallas

6. Winnipeg

7. Colorado

 

Western Conference Playoffs

San Jose vs Los Angeles

Edmonton vs Anaheim

Minnesota vs St. Louis

Nashville vs Chicago

 

San Jose vs Anaheim

Nashville vs St. Louis

 

San Jose vs Nashville

 

Atlantic

1. Montreal

2. Ottawa

3. Toronto

*4. Tampa Bay

5. Buffalo

6. Boston

7. Florida

8. Detroit

 

Metropolitan

1. Washington

2. Pittsburgh

3. NY Rangers

*4. Columbus

5. NY Islanders

6. Philadelphia

7. Carolina

8. New Jersey

 

Eastern Conference Playoffs

Montreal vs Columbus (I have heard mixed reports on how this sets up if four teams from each division get in, but the last wild card team isn’t in the same division as the top seed, which is how I believe this will play out this season, amazingly it has yet to happen)

Ottawa vs Toronto

Washington vs Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh vs NY Rangers

 

Montreal vs Toronto

Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay

 

Pittsburgh vs Montreal

 

Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh vs Nashville

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Burning it to the Ground?

It is so easy to write about the Calgary Flames simply from a title standpoint.  Whether things are going great or going poorly, you always have that team nickname to fall back on!  Right now, things are going REALLY poorly in Southern Alberta.

 

Should I really go into my spiel which those who read my stuff have now heard hundreds of times?  Ok, once more.  I’ve maintained over the years, despite being an Oilers fan, I’m a Flames well wisher.  It’s best for the province when both teams are good, which in turn is best for the rivalry.  And don’t get me wrong, I want to beat no team more than the Flames as an Oilers fan, and I expect Flames fans to feel the same way.  But I don’t subscribe to this theory that it’s fun watching them be awful.  There was no joy from 1997-2003 in beating the Flames as an Oilers fan, and I’m guessing it was bittersweet for some Flames fans from 2007-2016.  For both fan bases, the other team should be a necessary evil.

 

So now that I’ve said that, let me pile on the Flames!!!

 

I’m kidding.

 

I’ve really liked the direction the Flames have been headed in since hiring Brad Treliving.  Yet all of a sudden in the last two weeks, everything appears to have gone from running smoothly to being on the verge of destruction.  The Flames have now lost six of their last eight games, the latest two coming in humiliating fashion.  One to the rival Oilers, the other to the likely hated by most (because if you don’t love them you likely hate them) Maple Leafs.  They’re now just clinging to the final wild card spot in the West, and if you go by points percentage (which I believe is much more accurate) they are on the outside looking in.

 

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night that Brad Treliving’s job could be in jeopardy as he still does not have a contract extension for next season.  Nobody is commenting on it, and as Friedman said on Saturday the whole situation is “really weird”.  Agreed.

 

If they are seriously thinking of letting him walk…are they nuts?!

 

I understand things aren’t perfect right now for the Flames.  I fully understand the very recent struggles this team has had, but this clearly isn’t about what’s gone down in their last eight games.  This appears to be yet another bizarre happening with an organization which has had plenty in the last 10 years or so.  And the one constant through it all has been Ken King.

 

Daryl Sutter leaving coaching to focus solely on being GM, that was bizarre.  Jim Playfair run out after one season as head coach to bring in a well past his prime Mike Keenan.  Jay Feaster hired as assistant GM…not by Darryl Sutter.  Rumours of Brent and Darryl Sutter being at odds during Darryl’s final season there.  Rumours of Jay Feaster not being given the green light to rebuild a clearly deteriorating hockey club with a very shallow prospect pool.  Brian Burke being hired as President of Hockey Operations while Feaster was still the GM.  That’s quite a freaking list boys!!!

 

From the outside looking in, it’s felt like Burke actually brought some stability to the organization, which coming off the job he did in Toronto, few thought he could do.  But the hiring of Treliving and the combination of the two of them has seemingly been tremendous.  Where is the wrong move for Treliving?

 

Since he’s been running the draft they’ve done an amazing job with things.  2014 they had one of my favourite drafts.  2015 I was so bitter that he got Dougie Hamilton for such a cheap price when he would have been a perfect fit for the Oilers (and the Oilers three picks they could have offered were better than the three Flames picks according to the draft value chart, but the Bruins wouldn’t deal with Peter Chiarelli), and then with his remaining two 2nd round picks Treliving made two real solid picks.  Last year, more of the same.  In fact, this is what I said in my write up on them as one of my six teams whose draft I liked:

“I’m not trying to be a homer for Alberta.  But the Flames are crushing it with Brad Treliving running the show.  I used to love destroying Jay Feaster, but I have nothing but praise thus far for Treliving.”

I don’t care how Sam Bennett is currently doing, that was the right pick.  As I said, the Hamilton trade before the 2015 draft was a steal.  Last year Tkachuk falling to 6 was a gift, but he didn’t screw it up.  The Brian Elliott trade, again I don’t care how it’s gone that was a no brainer deal to make, literally everyone in hockey praised him for it!  Chad Johnson, great signing to be the backup, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Michael Frolik, getting 2nd round picks for guys who were about to walk like Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell was all great!  Has Glen Gulutzan been a good hire?  Probably not, although this team when they’ve simply gotten good goaltending have looked like a playoff team.

 

And that’s the big difference.  You look back at 2015, and I was saying it at the time that things just simply snowball.  Analytically they weren’t a good hockey team, yet they maintained their roll all season.  You start to get bounces, you start to get massive saves, and everyone just starts to get this feeling in the room like nothing can go wrong.  All of a sudden guys start playing above their normal levels and you start seeing extraordinary performances like we did with all those late game comebacks they had that season.

 

This season?  Well lately it looks like they know they aren’t going to get that save or that bounce, and when it goes that way (as Oilers fans have seen for the previous seven seasons or so) guys tend to not have anywhere near the fight they would normally have.  Can’t we all relate to that?  I know it’s never easy as a fan to look at these guys as every day people, but if you start getting a few breaks one day like traffic isn’t heavy or there isn’t a long lineup to get your coffee in the morning or perhaps someone you don’t like isn’t at work, doesn’t that give you a lot of extra jump?  Vice versa, if it’s a day where it is basically the lyrics to “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette, you’re dragging your feet and have a tough time getting up for other things you have to do that day.

 

If Flames upper management was smart, they would realize that in 2015 this team was still in the beginning of a pretty big rebuild.  I wondered this at the time and it might be right in the long run that it was actually more of a curse than a blessing that the Flames had that amazing run in 2015 with McDavid and Eichel at the top of the draft.  What would make sense would be if management’s expectations started getting far too high after that season, but the way Friedman was talking yesterday morning on the FAN 960 is that isn’t it at all.  I believe he said “even if they make the playoffs I’m not 100% that he (Treliving) would be coming back.”  Wow!

 

I don’t know how else to say it other than this is going to be a MASSIVE mistake in my opinion should the Flames let this guy go.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Team Canada 2018 Pt.1

In the fall of 2012 there was no NHL hockey in sight.  The third lockout in the last 18 years was ongoing, so outside of tracking what most of the Oilers were doing in Oklahoma City (specifically Justin Schultz who got all Oilers fans hot and bothered with 48 points in just 34 games in the AHL that season), there wasn’t a lot to talk about.  One blog idea I did come up with however was looking at what the Team Canada roster might look like for the 2014 Olympics 15 months out.  Today, I have a lot of stuff I could talk about, and have talked about.  But these are the type of pieces that are fun to write, fun to read, and fun to look back at down the line.

 

I would say it’s 60-40 right now in favour of the NHL not going to Pyeongchang next February.  So this piece could easily be for not.  But really, who cares?  You simply can’t go wrong talking about a potential team Canada roster for a best on best tournament.  I didn’t talk about it when it came to the World Cup of Hockey (did I ever bother to mention that I believed it was a gimmick tournament?)  But this is the Olympics.  An ACTUAL tournament.

 

Should they go to the Olympics, and be healthy, this easily could be the best team Canada of all time.  I’m not saying that for shock affect either.  The stars aren’t aligning for the players to go right now, but if they do, the stars will have aligned for Canada to be amazing.  So here is the forward group I would project about 10 months out from being named.  I should add that I’m assuming that it’ll be 14 forwards, 8 defencemen and 3 goaltenders as it was in 2014.

 

Marchand – Crosby – Bergeron

Tavares – McDavid – Stamkos

Benn – Toews – Carter

Couture – Seguin – MacKinnon

Duchene

Marner

 

I think the first thing which is noticeable is no Getzlaf or Perry.  Now Perry didn’t make the gimmick tournament team originally and only was added because of injuries, so perhaps he isn’t all that surprising.  I’m still wanting both guys on my NHL team any day of the week obviously.  But the foot speed is fading and as we’ve seen in the last two Olympics you just can’t afford to sacrifice speed in this tournament.  Personally I was worried about both those guys the last time around!  They were terrific as you know, but four years down the road I just think there Olympic days are done.  Having said that, they’ll without a doubt be in the discussion for the squad.  More so Getzlaf who might be looked at for that 4th line centre role.

 

Another very large omission I have is Mark Scheifele.  I originally had him on the team.  The guy is damn near a point per game player and has done nothing but improve since coming in the league.  His 200 foot game is still a work in progress, he’s still weak in the dot, and while he’s not slow by any means, look at the wheels the three guys I have on that 4th line have.  That’s too sweet to pass up in my opinion.  Some people will scoff at having two players currently on the Avs on this squad, but again I’m looking towards next season.

 

Finally for omissions I have to talk about Taylor Hall.  It just became clear through injury after injury after injury at the gimmick tournament and how Doug Armstrong and the team Canada brass continued to pass on him that he isn’t one of their guys.  So if they passed on him in 2014 for St. Louis, and passed on him in 2016 when they had several chances to add him to that roster, there is zero reason to believe they’ll take him this time around.  Hope I’m wrong, I’m a big Taylor Hall fan, but I just don’t see it happening.

 

I really wonder whether or not the brass would have the balls to pick two guys like Seguin and MacKinnon for the 4th line.  Neither of those guys are great away from the puck, but both have next level wheels that I personally would have a lot of trouble leaving off the squad.  All that skill, all that speed, and I just don’t know how you say no to either of them.

 

Bergeron on this club might be a little sketchy with his play dropping off a bit this season, but I just think that he has to be on this team because he does too many things for you.  Worst case scenario is he’s your 4th line centre who wins virtually every draw and is your top penalty killer.  But we’ve seen how well he plays with Crosby, and he is great with Marchand, and those three together were unstoppable at the gimmick tournament, so I believe he would need to have a major decline between now and November to not be named to this team.

 

As for Marner, he’s a kid with an insane amount of skill, and Mike Babcock obviously knows him well.  Some of the thinking with Marner as well is that by November he will be viewed as one of the top wingers in the game.  Also, you always want to take younger guys where you can to get them some experience.  It’s not overly likely that a 14th forward would be needed, so it’s a safe spot to put a kid like Marner.

 

Lots of omissions who easily could make this squad (other than Getzlaf, Perry, Scheifele and Hall).  Ryan O’Reilly, Sean Monahan and Claude Giroux I would say are right there.  Sam Reinhart, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Ryan Johansen, Sean Couturier, and Bo Horvat are all kids I believe you have to keep your eye on moving forward.  Horvat specifically is a guy who is currently really emerging.  He’s another Bergeron.

 

Then you have the defence, and at this time it would take a miracle for the other countries for Canada’s blueline to look anything other than incredible.

 

Keith – Doughty

Vlasic – Burns

Brodie – Pietrangelo

Rielly – Subban

 

Could be one of the top Team Canada bluelines of all time.  This is a lot more balanced than 2014 was, because we know that in 2014 they insisted on lefty/righty combos and Canada was weak on the left side.  While the left side still isn’t AS good as the right, there is nobody on there who isn’t worthy of being there.

 

Can they finally get it right and have one of Brodie or Giordano on this team?  In 2014, Giordano should have been there.  It was bizarre that they were so desperate for left handed shooting D, yet Giordano was left off the team for Jay Bouwmeester whom by the time Bouwmeester was dealt from the Flames in 2013 was very clearly the better of the two D-men.  In 2015, T.J. Brodie emerged as another elite LH shooting D-man for the Flames, yet for the gimmick in the GTA (as it should have been dubbed) last fall neither guy was anywhere to be found…and Jake Muzzin was on the team.  Get it right people.  I would only take one, I would take the better of the two at the time of the selections and I believe it’s a complete coin flip as to who could be that guy.  I’m guessing Brodie, but it’s a complete guess obviously.

 

Morgan Rielly’s selection would be similar to Mitch Marner’s.  Babcock knows him, he’s had all the tough minutes for the Leafs and has held his own.  The offensive numbers haven’t been as great as expected this season, but those will come.  On the big ice he would thrive.

 

Omissions obviously include Shea Weber (losing foot speed much like Getzlaf and Perry), Aaron Ekblad, Kris Letang, Giordano (as I mentioned), Bouwmeester and Muzzin.  But again, all of these guys will be in the mix and you could easily substitute anyone of them for a guy I have on the team.  Kids/dark horses to watch for over the next year could be Josh Morrissey, Ryan Murray, Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot, Ryan Ellis, Damon Severson, Colten Parayko, Jared Spurgeon, and Chris Tanev.  Of course you never know, especially on defence, who could completely come out of nowhere.

 

Think about this too.  This could be the 1st PP unit for team Canada:

Crosby

Stamkos Tavares McDavid

Burns

Maybe put Benn in Tavares spot for that net front presence, maybe Subban goes to Burns role if they prefer more of a bomb coming from the blueline.  Regardless, I’ll just let you drool about this for a minute…

 

Done drooling?  It was good wasn’t it?!  Ok, so finally we have the tendy’s.  And unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’re going to get the hot debate that we had going into the 2014 games.  Even if Carey Price went down…or Price and Holtby went down, things are a lot different than they were back then.

 

Price

Holtby

Jones

 

Yeah….they’re seven or eight deep now.  I don’t have Devan Dubnyk on this team, and he just might be the best goaltender in the league to this point of the season!

 

The third spot in my opinion would be between Matt Murray and Martin Jones.  Total toss up in my mind.  Jones has been incredible this season, but Murray has played incredible when he’s been healthy.  I said Jones, but by November, especially if he has a 2nd ring, people might be screaming for Murray.  And the beauty of it with both of them is that they both have pretty good experience too.

 

You might be asking yourself “why one of them and not two time Cup champ Corey Crawford?”  Simply because of age, but make no mistake I’m a massive Corey Crawford fan.  Then you have Cam Talbot who I think is clearly on the outside of this picture, but would anyone be fearful of Talbot being as high on this food chain as the backup?  I wouldn’t.  The guy has been pretty damn consistent for a year now.  A hiccup when he first got to Edmonton, but since that adjustment he’s been outstanding.  Hell, if Mike Smith keeps up the way he’s played this season I believe he would warrant a look, and you likely have forgot that he was the 3rd man in 2014 (not even a question in the infamous words of Ken Holland who apparently can’t scout goaltenders because Jonathan Bernier was miles ahead of Mike Smith that entire season).  Even my man Cam Ward has his game back this season!  So there are zero issues between the pipes for Canada anymore, although I never really agreed that there were, but Canada is as deep as they’ve been since 2002.

 

And circling back to Dubnyk, he could easily be that 3rd guy too.  He might even be the backup over Holtby.  But I believe they would pretty much cement Price as the starter, Holtby as the backup early on in the process.  After that, it’s more of a chess game and they would likely lean towards a younger guy in that spot seeing how the likelihood of the top two guys getting hurt are pretty slim.

 

It’s insane with the club I just laid out.  There are literally no holes, and superstars all over.  John Tavares is essentially an afterthought on this club, and he would be the first line centre for most other countries.  I wrote it hours after the 2014 tournament was done, this could be the best team Canada of all time.  At that time I was more so focusing on McDavid teaming with Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Tavares, and MacKinnon (who is surprisingly not going to be a sure thing for this squad).  You add in that the goaltending and LH shooting D depth has improved greatly, which were the only spots people could SOMEWHAT point at as holes the last time around, and it just leaves no doubt that if they’re healthy it might be disappointing should they not only win, but exceed the domination we saw in Socchi.

 

IF the NHL decides to go that is…

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Conference Championship Picks ATS

Woah!  I’m running LATE on this one, so you read this, go make your picks, enjoy the games basically in one fluent motion because I’m not leaving you much time if you’re using these.  And literally not one person has ever told me they use these picks so I’m not really sure why I write these pieces.  I don’t make any money, I don’t get a big amount of readers, I guess I’m just a tool….a tool who would make you a lot of money if you paid attention…

 

So last weekend was perfect.  Very literally perfect.  4-0 on my picks ATS, and I hit on the over/under pick too.  Now 6-2 ATS in the playoffs, and if you want to include the regular season I’m now 49-39-7 ATS on the season.  Three games to go, so I guess I’m finishing above .500.  I’ll do the over/under picks for both these games too, just so we have more to bet.

 

Green Bay at Atlanta

Packers +4.5

Over 61.5

I don’t have a great feeling about this game either way.  All the analysis points towards the Falcons, but I think people are discounting how well the Packers as a team are playing right now.  The truth is that it isn’t all Aaron Rodgers, this team is getting big contributions all over the field.  People rave about the throw Rodgers made to setup Crosby at the end of the Dallas game, but why in the hell is nobody talking about the catch Jared Cook made on that play?!  That was spectacular!  So giving the Packers 4.5 points is just too many.  I know a lot of the sharp bettors in Vegas disagree with this, but I have to stick to my “pick the best QB” theory that I won big with last weekend.  While I’ve always been a bigger Matt Ryan guy than most, he’s not Aaron Rodgers who is playing at a level right now that maybe nobody in league history has played at.  As for the over, I just really believe Vegas is trying to set it at a number that scares people into betting the under.  I never win betting the under, so over it is!

 

Pittsburgh at New England

Steelers +6

Over 51.5

Everyone seems to be counting the Steelers out.  Antonio Brown has now given the Pats all the motivation in the world, Pats are at home, Steelers aren’t that good, on and on and on.  The Steelers are REALLY talented and as I’ve said all season, this team plays to their opponents.  So they played down to the Dolphins in the wild card game, they’ll play up to the Pats tonight.  Maybe the Pats blow them out, but the smart money for me is on the Steelers here.  They have a legitimate chance to win this football game.  I’m very aware of the Pats record against Mike Tomlin, I’m very aware of the Steelers short comings, but I just love the Steelers here.  As for the over pick, I see it as two elite QB’s facing two average defenses.  Weather this time of year is always a concern, but just ask yourself which is more likely: 24-20, or 31-27?  Take the over.

 

Ok so that’s four picks.  I like giving you five things to bet though, so I have a hockey game I like tonight.  Also, as I’m focusing on doing even more hockey this season, I’m considering doing NHL picks for Saturday nights once the Super Bowl has concluded.  Anyway, here is my first ever NHL pick on the site.

 

Nashville at Minnesota

Predators +110

This is obviously a moneyline pick, not the spread.  Dear gawd I hope you understand that’s not the spread.  Anyway, the Preds are winning this hockey game.  Watched them the two games here in Alberta and they were tremendous and are really making their move up the standings now.  The Wild just played a big and intense game against the Ducks last night, so they’ll be wore out.  Plus, the Preds are simply playing much better hockey right now.  Third game in four nights for them so it’s not as if they’ll be fresh either, but having that day off I just think the Preds are going to pull out the two points tonight.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Trade Deadline: Mike Smith

This is the first in a series of blogs on potential big name players I’m going to put out between now and the NHL trade deadline.  At the moment I’m more interested in looking at guys who aren’t impending UFA’s and more so looking at those who are a little less obvious and aren’t really being talked.  With these players it’s always more likely they get moved in the summer as opposed to the deadline, but the talks could easily start at any moment and if a team is desperate enough to add a guy for this playoff run perhaps a big deal goes down.  Not starting with the sexiest of names, but in the coming days and weeks, bigger names will be looked at.

 

So, with all that being said…Mike Smith.

 

If I’m the Coyotes, I’m selling high here.  He’s an All-Star, he’s a 5.667 million dollar cap hit, now is high, get him the f….udge out of town.  Look at who needs a goaltender.  Calgary, Dallas, NY Islanders, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.  Five teams, all of whom could make a deal for Smith work.

 

You maybe could add Philly into that mix, but I really believe that Ron Hextall knows they have things on the right path and can look for a goaltender possibly in the offseason.  Missing the playoffs this year wouldn’t be a big blow for a Flyers team rebuilding on the fly.  Smith wouldn’t cost much in terms of assets, and he’s locked up for another two seasons.

 

I think the price should be a 2nd round pick (keep in mind this is a weak draft class) and a prospect, but it’ll always vary from team to team.  What hurts Smith’s value isn’t as much his cap hit or his past few rocky seasons, but the other guys who will be available.  Ben Bishop in Tampa could go, as could Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ryan Miller.  But that still would leave two teams for one Mike Smith.  Also need to keep in mind that Smith has a no trade clause, so that could play a big factor in all this.  With that being said, let’s look at what the trade could be with each of those aforementioned teams.

 

Calgary offer idea: 2017 2nd round pick, Mason McDonald, and Tyler Wotherspoon.

I believe they’ll lockdown Chad Johnson, and if they could land Smith (who Brad Treliving knows well from his days with the Coyotes), I would suggest Elliott could simply be moved in a separate deal, so I don’t have him going to Arizona.  McDonald is struggling in the Flames system, but he’s still real young and well worth taking a shot on.  Wotherspoon is a kid who is on the cusp and just needs a legitimate shot to play in the league which he hasn’t been able to do in Calgary.  Three assets while dumping the Smith contract would be a nice win for the Coyotes.

Projected interest in Smith: 5/10.  I believe they would maybe kick tires, but if they don’t want to pay the price they’ll simply look elsewhere at a Bishop, Fleury, or re-signing Brian Elliott who has been inconsistent to this point but has been showing signs of breaking out the last month or so.  Plus, I frankly had a tough time coming up with an offer I really loved for both sides here.  The 2015 miracle run in Calgary has bought that organization some time with their rebuild if they need it.

 

Dallas offer idea: Kari Lehtonen, 2017 1st round pick (lottery protected), and Valeri Nichushkin.

Real tough here judging Nichushkin’s value.  He must still have value, but he’s a big gamble.  The Stars are in danger of missing the playoffs, and they might be getting to a point where they’ll throw in the towel on 2017, but with more stability in goal it could put them over.  And the Stars in this deal get out from Lehtonen’s deal, they actually save a bit on the cap next season.  The Coyotes take on Lehtonen’s deal, but it’s only got one more year left on it as opposed to the two years Smith has left.  So you add big time assets and the truth is that Lehtonen is capable of being as good as Smith.  He’s very inconsistent, but he can give you quality games.

Projected interest in Smith: 6/10.  That little more stability in goal could be huge for this Stars team.  But they’ll have to pay a bigger price because the Coyotes will have to take on one of Lehotnen or Niemi’s deal for next season.

 

NY Islanders offer idea: Jaroslav Halak, 2017 2nd round pick, and Scott Mayfield.

Pretty standard here.  Halak has another year on his deal which probably wouldn’t bother the Coyotes to have a starter still around at a lower price point, plus you add a 2nd and a RH shot D-man who is near ready to play, could likely step in for the likely departing Michael Stone next season.

Projected interest in Smith: 7/10.  Term is the big key here for a team that still has trouble drawing UFA’s.  Of course this is one spot where I could see Smith invoking his NTC.  No doubt though that they’ve had enough of Halak and need a new number one guy between the pipes.

 

St. Louis offer idea: 2017 1st round pick (lottery protected), Jake Allen, Jordan Schmaltz.

So believe it or not, I started writing this piece about a week and a half ago when Jake Allen looked to be losing his grip on the starting gig in St. Louis, but now as you know this situation has become toxic.  Theory with this offer is the Blues will have to pay more if they want the Coyotes to take on Jake Allen’s new 4 year/17.4 million dollar deal that starts next season.  Man, Doug Armstrong sure believed in Allen, and for what reason I in no way know!  The kid has fallen flat on his face in seemingly every big spot he’s ever played in.

Projected interest in Smith: 8/10.  This is my number one candidate for Smith.  Doug Armstrong had him in Dallas, they’re likely desperate to at least give Ken Hitchcock a real shot at a Cup before he retires, and I have to believe they’d relish the opportunity to get out from that Jake Allen extension if they can despite backing him publically.  Also if you’re the Coyotes, Allen might not be a bad risk to take.  Going from a Cup contender to an NHL after thought might be exactly what this kid needs, because he has the talent.  He just seems to crack mentally when the pressure is on.

 

Winnipeg offer idea: Michael Hutchinson, Eric Comrie, Jack Glover

Connor Hellebuyck is their guy, but it’s clear he’s not ready to be the starter.  Bring in Smith, and they could go with a 50-32 split for Smith next season, 41-41 in 2019 (are we ACTUALLY already talking about the 2019 season?!)  Eric Comrie without a doubt is the key to this deal for the Yotes as he would instantly be pegged as their goalie of the future.  Hutchinson and Comrie is already a pretty good deal for the Coyotes, a RH shooting D prospect like Glover would just be gravy.  He isn’t a sexy (or highly touted) prospect, but helpful.

Projected interest in Smith: 7/10.  The NTC could be a factor in a potential move here as well.  But the Jets are building something pretty great and Smith’s deal would come off the books just as Laine’s ELC is done.  He would stabilize their goaltending which as we seen against Montreal last week, is in complete shambles.  If Smith came in and stayed hot, it could get them in the playoffs.

 

Again, many of these teams could take a different route.  But I really like Smith as the answer for all of these teams.  Experienced, playing well, only two years left on his contract at a manageable cap hit, and again for the Coyotes it allows them to not only add assets to the rebuild but also find the longer term answer.  At 34, Smith isn’t it.

 

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NFL Divisional Weekend Picks ATS

Divisional round, divisional weekend, I don’t ever know what the f*** to call this weekend.  Wild card weekend, Conference championship weekend, this weekend doesn’t seem to have a proper name.  Anyway, you can figure it out.  It’s my picks against the spread which didn’t do AS bad as they normally do on wild card weekend.  2-2, although 2-3 a loss on the over/under pick.  But normally I get killed on wild card weekend.  There is definitely a trend on wild card weekend in that the games in the last five seasons seem to go either all one way, or all the other.  Anyway, while I normally get crushed on THAT weekend, I normally kick ass on THIS weekend.  Last three seasons I’m 10-2 picking this weekend.  Hopefully that will be a trend that continues.

 

Seattle at Atlanta

Falcons -5.5

This is messed up line, and it keeps moving the opposite way it should be.  I’m looking at this initially and I’m thinking “no WAY the Seahawks being the proven playoff team with the proven playoff QB and still a dominant defense, NO FREAKING WAY should they be 5 point dogs” (now 5.5).  I have to think that Vegas is baiting people into putting their money on the Seahawks.  So even though I had the Seahawks winning this game with my playoff preview, I don’t trust this line at all and am going to bet it the other way here.  I’m expecting a great game here though.

 

Houston at New England

Patriots -16

It’s a monster number, but I just cannot see this going another way.  I think the Texans could come out hard early, make people nervous about this line at the half perhaps being within 3 or 6, but then Belichick will make his adjustments and they’ll run away with it.  Osweiler will get badly exposed in this one, Brady will be able to overcome that good (yet I don’t believe they’re great) Texans defense, and in the end the score won’t be close.

 

Green Bay at Dallas

Packers +4.5

Aaron Rodgers vs a rookie QB.  A damn good rookie QB, but still a rookie QB.  I’m taking Rodgers.  Let’s not forget too that the Packers beat the Cowboys just two seasons ago in Lambeau on this same weekend.  Now you might throw the Dez Bryant disaster at me and say the Cowboys should have won, but you also had Rodgers on essentially one leg playing that game.  There was a lot of worry that Rodgers wouldn’t be able to play in that game going into it.  Yet he still won.  The key here will be the Cowboys defense as it’ll be up to them to at least limit Rodgers early.  If they can, it’ll be tough for the Packers to comeback.  But I don’t think they can.  Even without Jordy Nelson, I just think Rodgers and the Packers are too hot right now for the Cowboys to deal with.

 

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Steelers +1

So basically take the Steelers outright here.  And kind of the same thing here as with the Cowboys v Packers game.  The better TEAM top to bottom are the Chiefs, and I believe they’ll put up a hell of a fight (I think this is going to be a tremendous game).  But in the end, Roethlisberger vs Alex Smith in the playoffs?  I don’t care where the game is, and I know Andy Reid’s record is incredible coming off bye’s, but you have to take Roethlisberger in that scenario.  This is that scenario.  Also, I don’t see who would have an advantage with a storm.  Both teams have great running games, so to me that’s a wash.  But one thing I do like is while I harp on how the Steelers playing up and down to their opponents, I have to believe they’ll be up for this one.

 

Green Bay at Dallas

Over 53.5

If the Packers are going to win, chances are that this line will go over.  It’s that simple.  I’d love to go on and on about it, but that’s what it comes down to.  No weather issues, average defenses, great offenses, it’s a big number but take the over.

 

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April 1st, 2006

You might be wondering what the f*** this date has to do with anything.  You’re likely REALLY wondering what that picture is of.  I simply googled April 1st, 2006 and this is one of the first pictures which came up.  According to google, it is of the Zaney Woodruff Operation reunion.  So hey, thanks to them for there….music?  It looks like they would be a band…doesn’t it?  Anyway, it’s Saturday morning, January 14th, 2017.  Nearly 11 years after the aforementioned April 1st, 2006.  So what’s the significance of this date?  Well, I’ll tell you…first what happened to me on this date.  We’ll get to the significance shortly.

 

It was a sunny April 1st, a brisk spring day as I recall.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I have no clue as to what the weather was like that day.  But I do remember I had our baseball draft that day.  The Sweet Lou Whitaker was holding it’s 3rd annual player auction, and I had a team setup to win in 2006.  With star players such as Wily Tavares for only a dime, amazing Jays closer B.J. Ryan, and the ever flexible Ryan Freel I was sensing a title run.  I actually did make a title run that year, but at the auction that day I started a run on alcohol that was quite impressive.  If someone tosses a name out that has already been tossed or if you mention a name that has yet to be tossed and it’s not your turn to put a player up for auction, you have to do a penalty shot (I’m certain most of you know what penalty shots are, but for those completely useless dip shits out there…)  Didn’t have a list that day, so the penalty shots were a PLENTY.  Probably did 10 or so, in addition to drinking for the entire 7 hours of the auction.  You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with April 1st being significant, but don’t worry it’s coming shortly.

 

I survived though.  Felt pretty tipsy, but was holding my own, and I had to.  The boys were in town for the draft, and it was only 6 o’clock so I had a long ways to go.

 

Next up, a fight with the girlfriend.  So THIS was fun.  She’s in Edmonton, I’m in Lloyd, she’s a huge bitch (note I didn’t use the word “was”), I’m a freaking GEM, yet I’m piled and she wants to pick a fight with me on the phone while I’m drinking at my buddies…and did I mention I was smashed?  So this went on for a good hour, but in retrospect it might have helped me power through, because I had to stop drinking….as much as I was.  What?  If she’s going to go off on me I’m a least going to put my feet up and enjoy a nice cocktail while she does her worst.  Don’t worry, I’ll get to the importance of the date in just one second.

 

Once that was done, back to drinking with my buddies who were just sitting around watching TV.  This took place at the now famous Dale Wells’ household.  You know, the producer of the smash hit movie “Fences” starring Denzel Washington?  No seriously, I was drinking in the house of a Hollywood producer.  In fact, I’ve drank MANY times in that house.  I’ve slept in that house.  I’ve been sick in that house.  I’ve had sexual relations in that house.  The phone number for the house was 780-875-3757.  It probably isn’t anymore as Dale hasn’t lived there for years now, but you should still use that phone number to see if it’s still Dale’s.  Maybe someone will answer who isn’t Dale, but they’ll say “yeah, you’re not the first person to call this number looking for Dale, but I’m sorry you have the wrong number” and just when you tell them you’re sorry for bothering them and thanks, they’ve hung up on you and then you’ll be kind of pissed at that person for a minute or so because they didn’t have to be SUCH a dick and could have at least said bye at the end.  No no no, don’t you bail on this piece now, I’m about to get to the main reason for this piece and what was the big event of April 1st, 2006.

 

But before I do that, we then went out to the bar, where a LOT more drinks were consumed.  Somehow, after this day long bender mixed with all kinds of shots, rye, rum and lots of beer, I’m STILL standing.  And I’m not just still standing, I’m not stumbling and have my wits about me pretty good for a guy who is completely done.  I remember my buddy Geno showed up that night and he was rocking sweat pants in the bar, it was the greatest thing ever!

 

That’s not what was so special about April 1st, 2006 though.  What was so special about April 1st, 2006 was that….oh yeah, I put a dip in!  And I don’t chew, but when you’re MFing obliterated and one of your buddies whips out his Copenhagen and offers me a pinch of it.  Any other time I kindly decline, so much kindness when I decline things because I’m a good guy unlike that prick who’ll hang up on you without saying bye if you got the WRONG NUMBER!!  This time I accepted the dip, ANNNNNNNND anyone who chews will know this is when ALL the liquor hit me at once, and I could not get to that bathroom quickly enough.  To say I was a mess is such a gross understatement…gross being the key word there.  I’ll leave out some gory details, but I got home that night wearing only my boxers because my clothes were…unwearable we will say.

 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the whole reason for this blog and why April 1st, 2006 means anything of any significance whatsoever!  Damn, I basically just wasted a lot of your time!  Completely my fault.

 

It was the last time the battle of Alberta really meant something for both teams (see, I told you I would get to it).  The Flames were leading the Northwest division and if the Oilers wanted to have a shot at winning the division and getting home ice in the 1st round of the playoffs then they really needed to win this one in regulation.  Wasn’t much of a game, Langkow and Huselius  put on a show for the Flames, Horcoff got one back from Hemsky and Smyth to cut the Flames lead to 3-1, and then other than this nothing else happened:

Nice work Georges!

 

So you see now kids?  Enjoy this one tonight, because it’s been too damn long since a somewhat meaningful game to both teams took place after December 1st.  This is a pretty big game!  Not to those fans who have had competent management running their teams the last 11 seasons, but it is to us Alberta folk!

 

I hope you enjoyed my extensive breakdown of the game between the Oilers and Flames on April 1st, 2006.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Barrie Picking

The dismantling of the Colorado Avalanche is about to get underway.  Gabriel Landeskog rumours are popping up everywhere, the scout watch at their games is on, and you have to believe we are going to see upwards of 4 none UFA’s get moved off this roster, in addition to the Jarome Iginla types that’ll be on the move.  One guy who isn’t really getting mentioned as available or unavailable at this time however is Tyson Barrie, and he is the guy the Edmonton Oilers would likely love to get their hands on above anyone else.

It should be added that Dater is likely more plugged into the Avs organization than any other media personality out there.

 

It was no secret last offseason that the Oilers were extremely intrigued as to what was going to happen with Barrie.  From April until the week before the draft, most in the hockey world didn’t think he was about to be dealt, they knew it.  It was just a matter of when and to whom.  Then Joe Sakic came out and declared that Barrie wasn’t going anywhere, which cooled the rumours, but didn’t kill them seeing how he had said the same thing about Ryan O’Reilly right before trading him moments before the 2015 draft.  But things did get settled with the Barrie camp and he re-signed for 4 years/22 million.

 

The big question here for the Avs is why?  Why would you move this guy?  He is just now entering his prime, he’s locked down for the next three seasons, the Avs weakness is on the blueline, and D-men…especially right handed shooting puck movers….are near impossible to find.  So that’s a pretty damn good list of reasons not to do it, but I think there might be a few reasons for the Avs to pull the trigger on moving Barrie out if you dig a little deeper.

 

First of all, the return.  Again I’ll go back to “look at what the Devils got for Adam Larsson”.  I highly doubt anyone would give the Avs  one for one in the middle of the season for Barrie, but he would still net them a massive return.  Saying this immediately makes me think they’ll push any possible Barrie talks to the offseason with the reasoning being “there is no rush, and in the offseason we’ll have 30 teams looking to deal for him”.  I hear that logic all the time, but the truth is that GM’s aren’t anywhere near as desperate in the offseason as they are at the trade deadline.  Plus, for a 26 year old D-man with three years left, anyone who wants him in the offseason will be in on him now.  The offseason won’t make a lick of difference.  So if they did move him by the trade deadline, they would be doing so at his peak value.

 

Second, if this team is going to tear it down, they’ll likely look to be a cap floor team.  The fans in Denver likely aren’t going to be overly excited about another rebuild after they just went through an 8 year process that netted them two playoff appearances, neither of which were actual progression but rather just two lucky seasons.  So that could be a very empty building for the next couple of seasons, and they have some contracts which will be extremely tough to get off the books.  Yes, guys like Duchene and Landeskog are likely to go first, and they have big contracts.  But with any trade involving a big contract now in the NHL, salary pretty much has to be coming back.  So for example, Duchene will likely be dealt.  But they’ll likely only get as much as 3 million off the books for next season.  Then you have guys who are either unmovable or you’ll have to eat the same salary if you move them like Beauchemin, Varlamov, Johnson, Soderberg, Comeau, and Colborne.  And we know MacKinnon isn’t going anywhere.  So from a team budget point of view it could be in the Avs best interest to move Barrie.

 

Third, and this is more so a question, but do we know things are now good with Barrie and the Avs?  I know I always assumed the issue was between him and Patrick Roy, but I don’t know that it was JUST between those two, and I’m not sure others do either.  It could be the case, but it is something I would like an answer to and have never really heard one.  There is also the mindset that you simply just need to shakeup the room.  This core isn’t working, so you have to move on, and Barrie is a big part of this teams core.

 

So this leads to me to the Oilers, and IF the Avs were willing to move Barrie, what might they want?  Like I said earlier, it’ll have to be big.  One nice chip the Oilers have, especially for the Avs, is Caleb Jones.  He played great for the Americans at the World Juniors, he’s nearly a PPG player defenceman in the WHL this season, he’s not far away from playing in the show, and from a marketing standpoint he grew up in Denver.  He’s not a right handed shot like Barrie is, but he is a damn good prospect.

 

They’d also without a doubt need to part with their 2017 1st round pick (this would leave the Oilers without a pick until the 3rd round of the draft).  It happens in just about every deal for a relatively big name, and I believe you’re going to see a lot of 1st round picks on the move between now and February 28th.  It isn’t near as tough of a pill to swallow this year as it’s been in years past.  And besides, who at this point and time would you like the Oiles to get?  Cale Makar?  An undersized, right handed shooting D-man who you’re hoping will become a Tyson Barrie type?

 

I believe Mark Fayne would be in the deal.  The Oilers would need to shed his contract, and for the Avs you’ll have to take on some salary anyway so why not get a RH shot guy who can take the beatings from top lines for a season?  He’d be a cheap buyout after the season, or perhaps Vegas takes him in the expansion draft?

 

We are still lacking a pretty big piece in this deal.  So I believe the Oilers would need to take a very tough look at one of Oscar Klefbom or Brandon Davidson here.  Klefbom on top of all that would likely be too much, so I like Davidson as the guy even though I really love the game both guys bring to the table.  The tricky thing with Davidson could be that his value is a little unknown right now.  He’s proven he can play in the NHL, I see him as a solid number 4 guy as early as next season, but it’s tough to tell how other teams may value him.

 

It’s kind of weird talking about the Oilers packaging D-men (in this case one on the current roster and one who could be the top D prospect), but it’s become a strength in the organization.  You’d still have Klefbom in this scenario, plus Sekera, Nurse, Oesterle, Reinhart, and Simpson (don’t get me wrong, not saying we love the latter three, but they can play on a bottom pair).  You also have kids like William Lagesson and Markus Niemelainen in the system too who aren’t anything flashy, don’t put up numbers offensively, but they both look like solid stay at home types who have mobility, can move the puck and have a chance to play.  Finally, it sure sounds like they want to re-sign Kris Russell.  As I wrote about last week, that’s not ideal in my mind mainly because of what he may cost, but he would make them even deeper on the left side.

 

So for me, I think a pretty solid offer would be Davidson, Jones, Fayne and their 2017 1st round pick for Barrie.  From the Avs point of view you get a kid in Davidson who is actually only 26 days younger than Barrie, but will be a lot cheaper for next season, and the Avs have a need for LH shooting D-men.  You also add two big chips to your prospect pool, and as I said earlier a guy in Fayne who can chew up some tougher minutes next season that’ll shelter some of their kids.  Obviously for the Oilers, you fill a massive hole in your lineup.  He would bring some big time offensive punch from the backend that they lack, specifically on the PP where he would likely slide right onto the top unit.  Darcy McLeod did this great piece digging real deep on Barrie last spring:

http://becauseoilers.blogspot.ca/2016/05/oiler-right-shot-dman-search-2-tyson.html

 

They likely could do Klefbom who is a longer term and smaller cap hit straight up, but I feel like the organization having just committed long term to Klefbom like they did won’t want to move him unless of course it was for a guy they simply couldn’t say no to.

 

Would the Avs do that deal?  I don’t know.  I do believe that’s a real solid offer, but again I’m pretty high on Davidson.  Some might call that being a homer.  And I wouldn’t blame the Avs if they wouldn’t want to move Barrie.  You really need a solid blueline to do a rebuild, something that neither they or the Oilers had all these years.  But you also really need to build up the system.  And the Avs are a bad team with a very shallow prospect pool.

 

The watch is now on though.  Should the Avs be willing to move Barrie, expect the Oilers to be one of the teams most often mentioned as they continue to overhaul their blueline.

 

Before I get going today, I came across this post on facebook Saturday night.  I don’t know Tina or Jason quite frankly, but I know quite a few people that do and figured having a little platform I would try to help out and hopefully a few of you can do the same, so give the link a click and watch the video:

Tina Kenyon

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Wildcard Weekend Picks ATS

I f*****g HATE picking games this weekend!!!  The one year I nailed it, I intentionally picked the opposite of what I thought would happen.  Go back and look, I think it was 2014, I intentionally picked the opposite.  So I was finally right, yet went 0-4 because apparently god hates me.  My short legs and fat stomach weren’t enough for you hey bud?!  Like it’s not bad as in I go 2-2-1 or 2-3 every year.  Oh no, it’s pretty consistently 0-4.  So it doesn’t matter what I write here, I am completely f****d picking these games!  So yeah, don’t use these.  Having said all this, somehow I usually recover and win more than I lose in the playoffs.  So it’s literally just this weekend.

 

I did have an ok season.  Six games over .500 with a record of 43-37-7.  Not what I’d deem a success, but had you gone with my picks ATS all year, you would have won a little coin.  Again though, this particular weekend, use these at your own risk!

 

Oakland at Houston

Texans -4

I want to cry every time I think of the Raiders these days.  They were primed to be a serious threat to the Pats in the AFC, back in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.  That might not be a major gap for some organizations, but the Raiders are NFL royalty.  They’ve had some of the most iconic players and teams in NFL history, and as I always say sports are always better when those teams are winning.  No Derek Carr, no chance.  And the Texans are so boring, with only slightly better quarterbacking than the Raiders without Carr.  The ONE thing that gives me a bit of pause is that Connor Cook is ok.  He’s had all season to learn the playbook, all week to prepare, the Texans won’t have any pro film on him, and he fell in the draft in large part because of his personality, not his talent.  But it’s his first start, against a solid defense, on the road, in the playoffs.  Logically, you just can’t bet this game the other way.

 

Detroit at Seattle

Seahawks -8

Again, just like last week, while I like this Lions team and quite frankly will pull for them in this game, I just do not like the vibe coming from this team.  Matthew Stafford is too dinged up, and he’ll need every bit of zip on his ball he can get against this defense playing in Seattle.  The Seahawks secondary has been noticeably worse (as you’d expect) since Earl Thomas went down.  But Seattle at home in the playoffs, this team just has an invincible kind of feel in that scenario.  I really expect a Seahawks blowout here.

 

Miami at Pittsburgh

Dolphins +11

That’s too many points.  It’s a ridiculous line in my mind.  Sure, any line can be right, but the Dolphins aren’t much different with Matt Moore than they were with Ryan Tannehill.  And even though it’s a playoff game, this Steelers team can be REALLY sleepy, even with it being a must win game.  Look at the Ravens game.  No comparison between those two teams talent wise, and the Steelers were at home, yet they still just barely pulled that one out.  Steelers win, but I believe the Dolphins will surprise and keep this one at least within a TD.

 

NY Giants at Green Bay

Giants +5

Again, this feels like a ridiculous line to me.  Packers should be favored, but only by 2.5 or 3.  Game of the weekend without a doubt.  One of the best offenses vs one of the best defenses, Rodgers vs Manning, two of the most storied teams in NFL history, I said it on Monday that this one has all the ingredients to go down as a classic.  5 points?  Could happen.  But smart money goes on the Giants with that being the number.  I really believe this one will be a field goal either way.

 

NY Giants at Green Bay

Under 44.5

As I just alluded to, I expected this one to be a tight game, and I also expect it to be low scoring.  The Giants D, combined with the Giants offense, combined with brutal temperatures that are expected tomorrow and while I despise taking the under, I just don’t see how you can bet this one any other way.

 

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The Red & White is Blue Today

Well that sucked.  Not the game, the game was incredible.  Quite literally one of the best hockey games we’ll ever see.  And from a growing the game or growing the World Juniors aspect, it was a perfect outcome.  And if we want this tournament to mean something, we can’t win all the time (we also can’t give it to the same area three times in four seasons IIHF…)  We have to go through stretches where we only win gold once in eight years.  But that pesky outcome, as a Canadian, that was a pretty good kick in the balls.

 

And yes, I was wrong.  I puffed my Canadian chest out and declared Canada would win and win decidedly yesterday.  Meh.  I’ve been wrong a TON on here, and I’ll be wrong a TON moving forward.  Canada was just as good as I suspected they would be, but full credit to the Americans for having tremendous resiliency.  I in no way believe they were a better team, but they weren’t a worse team, and there were a few times (4-2 specifically) where they could have easily folded their tent and gone home.  Nobody would have said shit to them.  They didn’t, and now they’ve won three World Juniors in the last eight years…to Canada’s one.

 

Ironically now, we’re on basically the same eight year run as we were from 1997-2004.  One gold in eight years, four silvers (we’ve only got three silvers in this stretch), one horrible finish (8th in 98, this time around it was the 6th last year), and two bronze medals (this might be the most troubling for people this time around, as we’ve only got one bronze in three trips to the bronze medal game).

 

It seems like I’ve been writing this every year now since I’ve started this blog, but it feels like the reminder always needs to be there.  We’re still pumping out much more talent than anyone else, but for whatever reason with the World Juniors our country just goes through these stretches where we get away from doing things right.  And I really do believe a lot of it is mental.  When the pressure is off some of these teams, they’re unbeatable.  You can point to goaltending, and that is the main thing for sure, but it wasn’t last night, and last night you could always tell with the Americans that they weren’t fearful of the situation.  Zero pressure on the States, all the pressure on Canada.  The States have been getting the best of Canada lately too, so even though these are completely different teams then in years past, it still plays a factor just like it does with the Swedes never winning elimination games, yet dominating the round robin.  In 09, the States had a pretty similar team in terms of talent as they did this year, yet when they played Canada on New Years Eve and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, you had zero doubt Canada was going to comeback.

 

So once again, we’re left looking forward to next year.

 

It’s always so difficult to project.  You just never know who’ll end up making their NHL club.  But I would guess that seven of the nine potential returnees will be back.  I’d say Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Taylor Raddysh, Michael McLeod, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are close to locks to being back with this club.  The two who I believe are unlikely yet eligible would be Tyson Jost and Pierre-Luc Dubois.  Dubois wouldn’t disappoint anyone if he wasn’t back, he was very underwhelming in this tournament.  Jost, who as you know by now I’m a massive fan of, started off amazing and really cooled off as the tournament went on.  He is your captain in 2018 should he be back, I guarantee that.

 

The key there though is a 19 year old Carter Hart.  That COULD be the difference, though in 2004 I remember thinking there was no way goaltending would be a problem with Marc-Andre Fleury coming back after nearly carrying Canada to gold by himself in 03.  Anyway, Carter Hart and then I’m guessing at this point Mike DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires looks like he would be the backup, but it’s still way too early to project other players on the team.  If you want some names who appear to be safe bets for next seasons team….Brett Howden, Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Dennis Cholowski, Jordan Kyrou, Owen Tippett, Cale Makar, and Maxime Comtois.  But again, who in the freaking hell knows at this point what’ll happen.  In 2013 I guessed Max Domi, Tom Wilson, and Ryan Pulock would all be on the 2014 team….very wrong, though Domi definitely should have been!

 

I don’t like writing this piece.  I like the one I did two years ago talking about how that may have been the best team Canada ever in a non lockout year.  Man, I’ve done every type of piece on Canada losing the World Juniors now you can imagine.  In 2012 it was how we just had a few bad bounces.  2013 it was how many things needed to change (which they have thankfully).  2014 I talked about how more than anything the losing had become mental both for other teams believing they could beat Canada, and Canada not believing in themselves.  Last year I think I spoke about how things weren’t near as bad as they seemed as they were a bad bounce away from possibly knocking off the Fins who went on to win it all.

 

So forgive me if this piece is a little all over the place, but I’ve wrote about all the other reasons before.  Nothing really left to be said.  Hats off to our boys.  This is one of the few years that we had a damn good team, and just lost to another damn good team.  A shame that it wasn’t decided in a better way, but in fairness:

He’s right…that was pretty sweet.  Let’s close with that video, and hope more fun like this is on the way for Canadian hockey fans.

NOTE: Steve Downie misses the opening shot.  I’m certain this was Don Cherry’s fault for not showing enough shootouts on Rock’em Sock’em videos…

 

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