Hot Takes – Apr. 23rd, 2018

So I lied.  Last week I said I’d have a blog out on the Oilers situation, and while I actually did write it up, I still haven’t put it out.  The curse of doing this piece every week is that it really doesn’t give me a massive urge to write a whole lot more during the week.  That, and the fact that I’ve all but given up on the Oilers which makes them pretty damn difficult to write on.  But I put most of it in here, along with a lot of playoff talk, but to lead it off I’m going to start by talking about a league final heading to a 7th game.

 

I wish I could actually write about what’s been going on in the SJHL final, but I am keeping up with it and for those who aren’t, and as I stated we’re going to a 7th game tomorrow night in Nipawin after the Estevan Bruins took game six 4-0.  It has been back a back and forth series, and I highly doubt anyone has a good idea of who is taking it.  For the league, this is terrific.  It needed this kind of series.  No matter who takes home the title tomorrow night, it’ll be with a very heavy heart.  I’m very interested to see what kind of tribute is made to the Broncos, I’m certain it’ll be outstanding.

 

Before I get into specifics of the playoffs…I’ve been extremely disappointed with how awful the first round has gone.  Now, I did say on here about a month ago that I wasn’t anything excited for the playoffs.  Very few of the matchups looked intriguing, even the ones which were rivalries didn’t feel like they’d be great series for some reason.  I have wondered if the Broncos tragedy had a big effect on this though.  Because the first four games of just about every series were pretty dull.  Obviously not all of them, but the majority, which is SO rare in the NHL.  Then again, you have the league moving towards a “collegiate” style of hockey, and there for it’s zapping a lot of the grit and toughness out of the league.  I’m sure the former has a lot to do with it, but in life it’s very rarely just one thing that causes anything and I’m sure the latter is playing a big part in this too.  With that being the case….go Bruins, go Jets, go Preds, and go Blue Jackets because those are about the only teams left in it who are built with some grit and toughness and while I’m ALL for quick, skilled and high scoring hockey (though the high scoring part is still lacking), I want to see a league where you can win by building a team multiple ways.

 

Now, let me run through the series to this point.

 

Well the best one to start with is the way the Pittsburgh/Philly series ended.  “We don’t want to decide the game” mentality from an official led to deciding yet another game, and this time a series.  I would love it if the NHL would WAKE THE FUCK UP on this already.  Will they ever?  If I’m having any say over an NHL team right now, I’m demanding that my players take penalties at every turn right now because it is crystal clear that the refs would rather “keep the flow” and “let the players decide the game” rather than call it as it is.  It is just so disgusting to see.  Letang with a BLATANT trip, and it wasn’t called because the official didn’t want to put the Pens back on the PK after they had just been on one.  He was standing right there, it was clear as day.  He didn’t miss shit, he just didn’t want to call it because in his mind he “didn’t want to decide the game”.  In doing so, he decides the game because the trip directly led to a Pittsburgh goal.  It is so disgusting to see this shit happen time and time and time and time and time and time and time and TIME again.  And it ruined a tremendous game and very likely a tremendous end to the series.

 

Vegas vs L.A. made me look really pathetic (which really isn’t that difficult), but as I said last week I really don’t think it was as much being wrong about Vegas as it was being very wrong on the Kings.  I don’t know how that team made the playoffs!  They’re still a very slow squad.  I know having watched the Oilers all season that they would have taken Vegas at least six games.  Pisses me off.  The Golden Knights are fast, play on their toes, play with absolutely NOTHING to lose, and are going to be a tough out for the Sharks.  But if I’m Rob Blake or anyone in that Kings front office, I’m rebuilding.  And that might not mean getting rid of guys like Quick, Doughty, Kopitar or Carter (although the assets they would get for those four would be astronomical), but I’m gutting the other things like Toffoli, Pearson, and Muzzin who aren’t slow, but they aren’t quick and the Kings have just far too many guys like that.  You aren’t shedding guys like Phaneuf and Brown unfortunately for the Kings, so you have to move to those other players who you can.  They’d get a lot for those three, but they have to have the balls as an organization to acknowledge that and pull the trigger.

 

The Kings grouped in with the Ducks, Wild and once they’re eliminated the Caps all seem to be in NHL purgatory.  You can see that these teams all really need to rebuild and are highly unlikely to be legitimate contenders again without full on rebuilds, but they’re stuck with their aging stars whether it be for cap purposes or business purposes.  These teams can’t go the Oilers/Leafs route without ownership being willing to stomach empty seats for a few seasons.  I guess you could point to the Bruins and say they reconfigured things and are back to an elite status, but I’d hold off on that.  They feel to be like they’ve caught lightning in a bottle here.  They’re catching the perfect blend of veterans, players in their prime, getting a little lucky a kid like Pastrnak fell to them in the 2014 draft, and their young players emerging.  It’s just very rare, and despite how tremendous they currently look they’ve made an incredible amount of missteps while putting this together.  It’s not exactly a blueprint to follow, and again it’s just so damn rare.

 

I’m not sure what to make of the Ducks.  That was a pathetic playoff showing and the fact that Bob Murray is sticking with Randy Carlyle is ridiculous.  That team has had the talent to win the Cup the last two seasons and they haven’t got the job done.  Last year you can say they lost their starting goaltender and that sealed their fate.  This year though, they looked like a team which had something very wrong in the room.  For me, I’d probably can Carlyle and bring in someone like Dave Tippett who likes to play extremely structured, and isn’t always trying to play mind games.  Carlyle has a lot of Mike Keenan in him, and it just doesn’t work anymore.  Guys see right through and know it’s complete horse shit.  My guess is that since Bob Murray played under Mike Keenan the last two seasons of his career he strongly believes in Carlyle’s “tactics”.

 

The Jets/Wild was just a complete mismatch, and we all knew that going in.  It started out with the Wild missing Ryan Suter, and ended with the Wild missing Suter, Zach Parise, Eric Staal was likely playing hurt, and they were just completely done.  This is all really setting up perfectly for the Jets.  They haven’t been good long enough to where you’ll see them get comfortable, and they’re loaded everywhere.  A serious threat for the Cup.

 

Tampa/Jersey was boring as hell.  I don’t know what else to say.  I thought Jersey could give them a series, but I think what we learned is that Tampa’s 2nd half was a result of them getting bored rather than running out of gas.  They’re fine, and if Boston/Toronto goes seven then they’re going to have a major step up on whichever one of those teams they face.

 

As for the series which are still going…

 

Boston/Toronto hasn’t been the best at times, but I’ve found the entire series extremely intriguing and in both Leaf wins we’ve got tremendous hockey games.  They aren’t as good as Boston, that’s been proven through the first five games.  But Freddy Andersen can steal games, and the Leafs are going to have a ton of momentum going into tonight’s game, and if they pull this one out then they’ll have even more momentum going into game seven.

 

Washington/Columbus has been outstanding!  Full credit to the Caps in coming back, although I can’t help but think of where they’d be had Trotz just rolled with Holtby right from the get go.  3-0 with Braden starting.  I really believe that Columbus is going to win tonight and take this thing seven, it still has potential for yet ANOTHER Washington collapse, but it’s been far and away the best series to this point.

 

I hope we get two game sevens, but I think even more than that I’m just itching for the Preds and Jets to start.  I love the Jets in this series.  On paper, I like the Preds just a little more, but I’ve noticed something (and said it on here before) with the Preds a lot this season and that is that they like to flip the switch.  They get down in games and they comeback to squeak out a win, or they get up in series and they let up.  They clearly had this habit during the Avs series.  That shouldn’t have gone past four, and it went six, with three extremely tight wins.  And as I said earlier about the Jets, they won’t get comfortable.  So I really love the Jets to take this series in six in what would be considered a bit of an upset.

 

Before I get to Northern Alberta talk, Southern Alberta talk and it sounds like the Flames are going to introduce Bill Peters as their new head coach today.  I like it, I don’t love it.  Peters has been solid in Carolina, but his teams never really improved.  They were one of the most boring teams to watch in the league, a counter attack team, yet they never had the best goaltending.  One of the big questions in Calgary going into next season has to be can Mike Smith do it again?  He’s now been really consistent for three straight seasons, but he’s now 36.  So is Peters going to just miss getting a very good Mike Smith?  Is it perhaps nothing to do with who Peters goaltenders are but rather his system hurting them?  It’ll be interesting to see.  I THINK it’s going to work, but I really don’t know.  If I were Brad Treliving, I would have gone after Alain Vigneault or else waited for Barry Trotz.  But in fairness, ownership might not have been on board for one of those two guys as they would have cost a lot more than Peters.

 

Ok, the Oilers.  You can quit reading if you’re not a fan, and keep reading if you are one.  And I know this is around 10 days old now, but I’ll finally hit on it since I never bothered to put out that blog.

 

I’m disgusted by Chiarelli being brought back.  Absolutely disgusted.  He is terrible at the job.  He gets fleeced on trades, he badly overpays when doing contracts, and he’s looked to shoulder exactly zero of the responsibility for pissing away so many assets and so much cap space with zero results.  I absolutely loved it when at the Bob Nicholson press conference Jason Gregor had a spine (unlike most of the others in attendance) and suggested that Chiarelli be fired if the Oilers fail to make the playoffs again in 2019.  Nicholson, who is a glorified PR man and seemingly more worried about his golf game and barbecuing a “Bobby Nicks” burger, looked completely stunned that someone would actually question the decisions that are being made.  Who else is going to say it?  Stauffer?  Stauffer is too busy being giddy about his social standing in the city and around the league.  He knows Dan Baker who owns Pub 1905.  Ian Gallagher is Brendan Gallagher’s dad, Milan Lucic’s trainer, and Bob knows him too.  Bob also knows Hugh Porter.  Bob’s show is a perfect reflection of the organization to be real honest.  He tries to frame questions so his guests will paint the Oilers in a positive light, he’ll look to give the fan base false hope often when it comes to possible trades or signings, it’s become ridiculous.  It’s the same format, same texters, and same guests.  It’s lazy.  He’s not lazy.  He has an insane schedule during the season, I’ll never question the mans work ethic.  But the show is.  If he’s off, he has Brendan fill in who seems like a real nice kid, but let’s be honest, he shouldn’t be hosting that show.  And it’s a complete reflection of the organization.

 

Anyway, back to the team, and we’re stuck with Chiarelli so we’ll just have to deal with it.  But for the love of gord can we please get some word that they’re at least going to make SOME kind of adjustment!?  Could they perhaps bring in someone specifically appointed to do the negotiating for the team both contractually and in trade negotiations?!  Because the man can’t do either, it’s been proven!  If you’re going to keep him, fine, but figure out a way to put the damn reigns on him!!  The man has essentially given away Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall and Mathew Barzal in the last five years.

 

I didn’t mean to go off on Chiarelli again in that last part, it just kind of came out.  I meant to talk Todd McLellan, who also shouldn’t be back and will be.  But the difference with McLellan is he completely owned his end of things at his season ending presser.  And if a restructuring is done to the coaching staff (as is being rumoured), then I believe it could be a big lift for the team.  Jay Woodcroft as head coach in Bakersfield would be a good fit.  You want your farm team to be running the same systems that the big club does so the players coming up are much more comfortable, and you can slot them more appropriately in the lineup.  Then that would also open up the door for some high end assistants.  I like the idea of Glen Gulutzan coming in (as Elliotte Friedman has tossed out at least as an idea), as he’s been considered one of the top assistant coaches in the league for a long time now.  Jim Johnson needs to go, and I’d personally like to see someone with a bit more offensive pedigree brought in to run the D.  No, not Paul Coffey.  But someone with actual professional coaching experience who will do that.  The Oilers need more offence from the D, and they need them to play more on their toes at both ends of the ice.  Even with the guys they currently have they are capable of much more in terms of pushing the pace and contributing offensively.  Finally, I’d look to bring in someone to specifically coach the PP.  To me, the idea of someone strictly focusing on this is needed.  He can design multiple looks that can be used to counter different PK setups along with focusing on doing a boat load of pre-scouting on upcoming opponents special teams.  But…what do I know.

 

Stauffer brought up Ryan Ellis the other day on his show, which is interesting, because I brought Ryan Ellis up as a possibility last week.  Perhaps he’s a reader? (won’t be again if he’s reading this one)  But it would make a ton of sense, and while I’m a lot more often than not the guy who screams to keep your top picks, Ellis would be a perfect fit.  He’s a second pair guy, he can QB your top PP (only reason he doesn’t is because of who else they have), has a tremendous breakout pass, a bomb from the point, and is a RH shot.  Add to the fit on the ice is the fit in the cap.  2.5 mil next season.  They’d need to be sure he’s willing to sign an extension in Edmonton and what that would cost before pulling the trigger, but I’m intrigued with him.  I know a few people I’ve tossed this at have brought up concerns that he’s sheltered in Nashville, and defensively I agree.  I believe he’ll exposed more in his own zone with a different team.  But I also believe he can be a 50-60 point guy in Edmonton given the fit.

 

Another pickup I’ve failed to mention when I’ve talked about possibilities is Adam Mascherin.  He’s not signing with the Panthers and it sounds like the Panthers are going to trade him before he re-enters the draft.  His game reminds me a lot of Mike Cammalleri when he was young, but he’s got much better wheels than Cammalleri ever had and he’s thick.  Only 5’9, but nearly 200 lbs.  What I can’t figure out is if the Panthers get compensation if Mascherin doesn’t sign?  That used to be the case, but I can’t find it anywhere, so perhaps that was taken out in the last CBA?  Or I’m missing the reason Mascherin wouldn’t get the Panthers that compensation?  Regardless, he’d be a damn good prospect who could be bought relatively low from the sounds of it, and he’s immediately available to the team as he’d begin next season in the AHL.  If the Oilers could do the 2019 3rd rounder they acquired from the Islanders for Mascherin, I’d be all over that.  Honestly, I’d highly consider this year’s 2nd for Mascherin, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to cost anyone that high of a price since the Panthers are up against it.  The deadline is June 1st.

 

Finally, if I’m talking Oilers then I have to talk about the buzz that Keith Gretzky and the scouting staff is finally getting.  I’ve been pretty high on the job they’ve done for a while now as you know (if you read my stuff constantly).  But the one I really questioned was the trade up in the third round last year to get Stuart Skinner.  Dylan Wells was coming off a season where you could pretty literally declare he was the top goaltender in the CHL.  While I still remain sky high on Wells, since being dealt to Swift Current Skinner has gone to a completely different level.  In the playoffs, he’s got a 2.10 G.A.A. and a .935 sv%.  It’s tremendous to see yet another pick thriving and outperforming where he was picked.  In fact, the 17 draft so far has been ridiculous.  We have about seven years to go before everyone pans out, but as of now, six of the Oilers seven picks from last June look like very legitimate prospects, and as I’ve said in the past they have fixable flaws.  There are no Ryan Martindale’s or Travis Ewanyk’s whom basically had no upside right from the get go.  With Skinner looking so good, along with Wells, the organization may finally develop a goaltender.  They’ve only developed one by my count since the early 80’s (Dubnyk).

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Apr. 16th, 2018

Obviously this week I’m starting with the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Is it just me, or have these playoffs flat out sucked to this point?!  Sure, there have been some good games, but even the best series to this point is now 3-0, and has only produced nine goals total in three games.  Two series are 2-1, and out of the six games combined those two series have played, only one game out of the six was close.  And frankly that game wasn’t very good despite being 3-2 (game one Jets/Wild).  Here’s hoping things get better in a hurry.

 

The one mistake I badly regret isn’t disrespecting the Golden Knights so much.  I probably respect what they’ve done this season more than it seems in my writing.  But where I made such a bad mistake was thinking the Kings would beat them.  They’re better than the Kings.  No lie, five minutes into game one I could tell I made a massive mistake on the Kings.  Watching the Kings in this series really pisses me off that the Oilers didn’t get in, because if the Oilers just play decent this season they’re a better team than the Kings.  They have been getting beat to every single puck so far this series.  They’re easily the slowest in the playoffs, they lived off their great start, and I really believe that we won’t see this team back in the playoffs next season barring a pretty large overhaul of the roster.  Even amongst their young guys, they don’t even have one guy who is a real burner up front, and outside of Doughty I personally don’t believe they move the puck very well on the blueline.  I made mention at one point this season that they reminded me of the 2015 Vancouver Canucks who had a big start to their season, and comfortably made the playoffs.  But you knew that Canucks team was far from a threat, and most had the Flames (ironically another team who were playing way over their heads) to win that series and of course they did.

 

I’d say I made another mistake on the Leafs.  But A) I think we’ll see a team with a lot more intensity at home tonight, and B) I mentioned when picking them that I didn’t know how they’d react to playing a gritty team.  Clearly, it’s been very poor.  Now, if they don’t respond tonight or in game four, it’s going to be interesting how the organization responds.  All of a sudden they’re a team with a lot of holes (blueline, size, toughness).  And I know that those last two things are basically swear words for analytics people, and I’m not suggesting they go drastically overpay for a guy like Lucic like one awful organization once did, but they might need to address the lack of team toughness if things keep up like this because they’ve been BADLY pushed around.  I was texting with a buddy on Saturday night and said the response they had to it reminded me a lot of the 2009-2013 Canucks teams.  Anything they did in response felt like it was more for show than actual push back.

 

Now that the SJHL final has got going, I don’t think there is anyone who has any problem with how the league handled things.  I still believe they should have done the first two games in Humboldt with each team wearing a set of Broncos jerseys, but perhaps that couldn’t have been organized on such short notice.  I’m certain the league is going to do everything and more to pay tribute to the 2018 Broncos moving forward, so it’s definitely not something I’m too worried about.  Bill Chow, through all this, has done a PHENOMENAL job.  That can’t be emphasized enough.  Good luck to both the Bruins and the Hawks in the series which is now down to a best of five after splitting the first two games in Nipawin over the weekend.

 

I won’t lie, I have an urge to keep paying tribute to the Broncos on here.  I still can’t see something on the team without getting choked up, it’s ridiculous.  I’m sure someone is reading this and rolling their eyes or calling me a pussy, whatever.  Anyway, I don’t know how to keep paying tribute other than to keep those sticks out, wear your green and gold ribbons if you can get one, and keep donating to their Go Fund Me page, now up to $11.627 million.  And as amazing as that number is, that doesn’t include all the money that NHL teams, other pro sports teams, and other businesses in general will donate separately to the team.

 

As for the Oilers who as you know I always include in this piece, I’ve got a separate piece on the decisions and what not coming out tomorrow (and I believe it’s going to be well worth a read).  Around the trade deadline I wrote about how I would fix them, and I covered every move they could do, and really believe they do need to overhaul things.  But that’s not realistic with the GM they have who is now coming back for some awful reason.  I ran some numbers this week though, and as long as he doesn’t look for the disgusting overpays just to patch a temporary hole, I believe he could fix things.  He needs to make the blueline more mobile and add at least two pure puck movers, one of which has to be a RH shooting puck mover.  So you’re looking at Justin Faulk, Rasmus Ristolainen, Tyson Barrie, and maybe Ryan Ellis who is a UFA after next season.  Out of these four, I believe Barrie has the best chance of happening, though it’s not as sure of thing that the Avs will move him as it looked like it would be with the news that Cale Makar is going back to school next season.  Up front, Max Domi would be such a perfect fit.  I don’t think he’d be cheap, but I believe the Oilers have pieces which would be of big interest to the Coyotes.  And I really believe that Domi would thrive in a Canadian market.  He’s a highly emotional and intense player when at his best, and I’m sure that is being sucked right out of him playing in Glendale 41 nights a season, not to mention that he’s being used as a third line centre there instead of on the wing where he belongs.  Just those two additions I believe would be massive to next years roster.  I liked the Ty Rattie signing a lot, he was actually 50k cheaper than I believed he’d be, and they really need him to be a value deal next season.

 

One thing I’ve been adamant about though is how well this organization is drafting under Chiarelli.  If you’re looking to defend him as a GM, one thing you could say is that he hasn’t had the organizational depth and there for needed to use his bigger assets to make deals.  That would be fair, however that wouldn’t explain getting beaten to a pulp on so many of his big trades.  Anyway, while it’s not a pick, it’s all about the amateur scouting when it comes to Cooper Marody who looks like a hell of a player.  I’m at a loss as to why the Flyers gave him up, but perhaps it was a Justin Schultz type situation where he just wasn’t interested in signing with the Flyers?  Obviously we’ve only got to see him play three AHL games to this point, but oh wow is this kid smooth with the puck.  And I really love the idea of the Oilers becoming a high IQ team that can really throw the puck around.  You saw how well Nuge and McDavid clicked down the stretch.  Now they have Marody and Benson starting next season in Bakersfield together who can both really dish, and Yamamoto either joining the Oilers or Condors in the fall.  I really believe all three of these kids are going to be on the Oilers before too long, and in my mind you can never have too many playmakers on the team.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

Needless to say, the country needs this.  There are two things in sports that Canada badly needs right now.  One is the Jays, and the Jays to be good which out of the gate they sure have been.  Obviously not EVERYONE is a Jays fan in Canada, but they are without a doubt “Canada’s team”, and could really have a major part in the healing process.  The other is the Stanley Cup playoffs which thankfully begin tonight.  I don’t know about you, but I still can’t read or see anything on the tragedy without losing it.  And while I have some mild connections to the whole situation and feel that way, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this all must be for anyone who is directly connected, and there are thousands who are.  So we could all use a distraction for a bit.  Let’s hope that for all of us this ends up being one of the greatest playoff years ever.  Lot’s of OT’s, lot’s of series going the distance, high scoring, intense play, and for once some high end officiating.  But while we need this distraction, don’t confuse distraction with forget.  We’re never forgetting the 2017-18 Humboldt Broncos.

 

Pacific

1 Vegas Golden Knights vs WC1 L.A. Kings

I just don’t see it for Vegas.  It’s not just that the Kings have so much experience.  It’s not that the core of the Kings team have two Stanley Cups.  It’s not that Jeff Carter is finally back and looks terrific.  I mean, sure, that all helps a lot.  I wasn’t going to pick against Vegas no matter who they played necessarily.  But I’ve maintained since about December when I first wrote how the Golden Knights were for real and were going to the playoffs…this team is likely to get picked apart in the playoffs.

Kings in 5

 

2 Anaheim Ducks vs 3 San Jose Sharks

I believe everyone sees this as a coin flip, and everyone sees this going six or seven, as do I.  The thing people miss on the Sharks anymore is that this isn’t Joe Thornton’s team.  Couture, Pavelski, Burns, Vlasic, Jones and now Kane.  And they have a nice second wave of guys in Hertl, Meier and Donskoi.  I sound like E.J. Hradek right now rattling off names rather than actually looking at the series, but I think in the case of the Sharks it’s important to point out because we all believe it’s the same old Sharks.  But they face a lot of issues here.  I see a lot of the media pointing at the Sharks being under the radar, well the Ducks have been the better team in the second half of the season, they’re deeper both up front and on the blueline, and if John Gibson stays healthy he’s been the better goaltender this season.  I really believe this one will be one of the best in the first round, but I have a habit of picking the Ducks this time of year.

Ducks in 7

 

Central

1 Nashville Predators vs WC2 Colorado Avalanche

This is just going to be a complete beat down I fear.  I’m not afraid to say that I’ll be pulling for the Avs.  Probably not to win the series, but to at least take it six or seven.  But the reality is that I don’t recall seeing a mismatch like this since the 2005 lockout.  This is reminisent of 1999 when the Dallas Stars just had missed winning the Cup the year prior and were better that season, vs the Oilers who had barely squeaked in and without Curtis Joseph it really was just a hell of an accomplishment that they made the playoffs.  I’ve never felt more confident in suggesting that a series will be a sweep, although I really hope I’m wrong because I’d love to see MacKinnon put on a show and the Avs give the Preds a lot of fits in this series.  Plus, Avs head coach Jared Bednar is a Humboldt guy, so he might be carrying their torch more than anyone in the league right now.

Preds sweep

 

2 Winnipeg Jets vs 3 Minnesota Wild

I could see this one being a sweep too.  Coming into this season I didn’t have the Jets to make the playoffs, but maintained that if they got a goaltender then they’d really take off.  Well they got a goaltender, and I see them as legitimate threats to win the Cup.  I think they’re more of a threat to win it all this season than the Oilers were last season, and a lot of people going into last year’s playoffs like the Oilers to go deep (I’m talking national media, not homer media).  So that’s the Jets, and then on the other side of things I hope that we’ve all learned our lesson about a Bruce Boudreau coached team by now.  They just can’t do it in the playoffs, and while that would have been enough for me to write them off already, now they’re without their best player.  Not just their best defenceman, and I’m a big Eric Staal fan, but Ryan Suter is the MVP of the Wild and he’s now out.  MAYBE the Wild’s experience or Devan Dubnyk can extend the series, but I don’t believe the Wild have any chance in this series.

Jets in 5

 

Atlantic

1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs WC2 New Jersey Devils

Have I picked an upset yet?!  I don’t think I have.  Even though I’m pretty adamant about the Kings beating the Golden Knights, I’m pretty sure most have LA beating Vegas (just maybe not as quickly as I believe it’ll be).  But this one I believe has serious potential to be a major upset.  I like how the Devils matchup with the Lightning.  Right now, the Devils might have the better goaltending as Vasilevskiy has been terrible down the stretch.  The Lightning play with a ton of speed, but the Devils have just as much.  I obviously don’t love the Devils depth up front or on the blueline compared to Tampa’s, but the Devils couldn’t be playing with less pressure on them.  We saw last season with Toronto vs Washington how the big favourites can have so much trouble with the low seed with nothing to lose.  Ultimately, I’m going to take Tampa, and as I said with Washington last season (though it turned out to be wrong), a tight/close call type of series for the Lightning could be perfect for them moving forward.

Lightning in 7

 

2 Boston Bruins vs 3 Toronto Maple Leafs

Probably going to be the best series of the first round.  You have three candidates for this moniker: Ducks/Sharks, Bruins/Leafs, Pens/Flyers.  But this one is probably the two best teams to meet in the first round.  I’m not sure how the Bruins did what they did this season.  I wasn’t the only one who believed they weren’t even going to compete for a playoff spot this season, and yet they were competing for the President’s trophy in March.  But the Leafs have had their number the last two seasons.  And the Leafs, especially for being in the biggest hockey market on the planet, really don’t have much pressure on them.  Most in Toronto know how good they are, but most seem to think they’re well behind both Tampa and Boston.  I’d probably agree.  This really is a coin flip, most are going to say the Bruins get it done, the more I give this thought I keep coming back to how this Leafs team has skipped steps in their development which leads me to believe that the Leafs are going to find a way to get this done.

Leafs in 7

 

Metropolitan

1 Washington Capitals vs WC1 Columbus Blue Jackets

Entering the series, this one is of little interest to me.  BUT…when you look at everything, this could be the biggest dark horse for best series of the first round.  Two pretty evenly matched teams.  But the big thing for me is that the Blue Jackets appear to be peaking, while the Caps have just coasted as they always seem to do.  The decision to go with Philip Grubauer over Braden Holtby to start the playoffs is certainly interesting.  The thing I see in this series though is that the Blue Jackets have better goaltending, better defence, are a little faster, and much more physical.  I think they’re going to pound the Caps in this series.

Blue Jackets in 6

 

2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 3 Philadelphia Flyers

On one hand, the Flyers have no goaltending, far less experience, on paper lose almost every matchup.  BUT…the Flyers get up for the Pens.  We are very far removed from the 2012 season.  That was a much different Pens team, that was the Paul Holmgren/can’t keep their composure Flyers.  This version of the Flyers still has some passionate players like Giroux, Simmonds, and Gudas is a filthy SOB.  But for the most part they’re much more of a level headed and cerebral organization than they were six years ago.  I’m not sure this will be the series most are expecting, but I do believe it’ll be close and high scoring series.  Neither team has great goaltending at the moment, but then again Matt Murray has proven himself now in back to back playoffs and Brian Elliott is a battler who has a lot to prove after last years debacle.  Have to go with the champs here though.

Pens in 6

 

Conference Finals

Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets

I believe the Jets will pull the upset over the Preds in what could be the series of the playoffs.  Fast, physical, terrific goaltending, yet plenty of high scoring games.  AKA just like their regular season games.  Meanwhile, the Ducks will have two of those types of series with the Sharks and then if my predictions are correct the Kings in the second round.  If that’s the case, these two will beat each other up pretty bad, and I believe the Jets will be the team to limp on to the final.

Jets in 7

 

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets

At the start of the year, this is what so many people had in the East final.  As I said earlier, I believe that Tampa is going to struggle with the Devils but that could serve them well moving forward.  I wanted to say they’d play the Pens here, but I believe the Pens will see a long and somewhat physical series with the Flyers (again, not as physical as most believe, but it’ll still be physical), and then will get a similar series against Columbus and the Jackets could really pound the Pens into submission.  So the Lightning and Jackets, and if the Lightning are getting to this point then they’re clicking like they were early on this season.  And if that’s the case, I’m not sure the Blue Jackets would have much of a chance.

Lightning in 5

 

Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Winnipeg Jets

I can’t believe I’m picking the Jets to go to the final.  I really believe it’ll either be the Jets or Preds, and I don’t like how the Preds were seemingly always flipping a switch in games.  That’ll catch up with them in the playoffs, so by that logic I’m left with the Jets (and I really hope I’m right!!)  They’ll play Tampa, who frankly I don’t feel great about calling them to go this far.  But it might help Tampa that they didn’t cruise to the finish and had Boston push them near the end of the season.  If Stamkos is healthy, and Vasilevskiy gets right, this team should win it all.  If they’re getting to the final, I believe they’ll win it all.  The Jets will punish them, and the Jets won’t be anything of a pushover.  But ultimately, I believe the Lightning are winning their second Stanley Cup.

Lightning in 6

Conn Smythe: Victor Hedman

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Apr. 9th, 2018

Obviously a different tone to this one than the others.  I’m going to get right into it and a couple things I left out on my thoughts late Friday night.  First off, thank you so much for the kind words and all the reads.  You can’t really ignore how many reads your getting because as soon as the numbers are abnormal my wordpress app sends a notification that says “your stats are booming!”  And it honestly made me feel guilty because as I said off the top of it, it wasn’t about getting reads/attention.  It was about getting texts regarding the accident and hearing/reading rumours about what the numbers were, being worried, being terrified for the worst, and not being able to get my mind off it nor being able to put my phone down.  I got done on my treadmill around 6:30 PM Friday night, and that’s exactly when I saw the tweet from Bob McKenzie, completely unaware that it was already 45 minute or more old news.  I didn’t have supper until I think 9:20, because I couldn’t stop refreshing twitter, or Facebook, and couldn’t stop texting my buddies.  Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that I do appreciate those who took the time to read what I had to say, and the kind feedback from a few of you in particular (hope you know who you are).

 

One thing however that I wished I had added is that this was much more than a hockey or sports situation, this was a life situation.  That could have easily been a normal Greyhound bus with passengers of all walks of life.  I was writing about how it hit so close to me and I could imagine myself in the situation, but I’m sure for those who hadn’t played hockey or hadn’t played sports in general could still put themselves there and it likely hit home in a lot of different ways.  Another thing I missed on which was said by numerous NHL players the following day, is that you feel completely safe on those buses.  The drivers of the bus combined with the size of the bus really cut down the potential for anything serious to happen.  But unfortunately as we saw this weekend and had previously seen on December 30th, 1986, as long as you’re on the road then you’ll never be 100% safe.

 

Can’t speak for everyone, but likely for most when I say that while Friday was rough, Saturday was MUCH worse.  I’d rather have that slim bit of hope running through my mind while being terrified to find out the worst than I would be to know the worst.  I couldn’t get through anything about it, and if you found me annoying on social media that day I really do apologize for all the tweets, retweets, likes, FB posts, FB shares, etc.  But I just couldn’t stop.  I wanted to do SOMETHING that in SOMEWAY maybe helped and honoured the memories of all the victims.  And then you find out how you’re somewhat connected to so many of them or find them so relatable.  Like Tyler Bieber.  I felt like he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved.  I never met him, but he was from Humboldt and did the play by play for the team.  I attempted to be the Lloydminster version of that guy just a few years ago (thanks a lot Trevor….)  Everything I could find to read on him made me A) cry…a lot.  B) got me a little annoyed I wasn’t seeing his name out there enough.  Who is to say if I ended up getting the gig with the Bobcats that it wouldn’t have happened to me?  And maybe that’s a selfish way of looking at things, or me trying to make this about me, not my intention at all.  But it runs through a persons mind.

 

First thing I did when I found out the news was I asked my nephews if they knew anyone on the team.  Without even looking at my phone I know that Easton said “yeah, Logan Hunter”.  And speaking of Easton, and Chase, they played in Whitecourt this season (that’s probably the 94th time I’ve mentioned that on here this season…), where Stephen Wack played for 28 games during the 2016 season.  Both Hunter and Wack are from St. Albert, and another kid who was is Jaxon Joseph.  When I was 7 years old (for whatever reason) I thought his dad was just awesome and how great it was that the Oilers found this guy (being too young to know he was the 5th overall pick of the 87 draft and a key piece to the Paul Coffey trade).  For that reason, I followed Chris Joseph’s career really closely, always hoping he would find a permanent home in the league and really establish himself.  Even once he was done I’ll never forget he did an interview with Craig Simpson and Jeff Marek on HNIC radio about having moved back to Edmonton and becoming a fire fighter, and how he believed Edmonton was a great place to raise a family….obviously thinking of Jaxon as he said that.  Logan Boulet was from Lethbridge, as are my cousins and they knew him well.  One of my cousins is the same age and I’m GUESSING would have played with him at least at some point growing up.  My old coach and a guy I’ve known my whole life knew head coach Darcy Haugen.  Finally, one of my brother in laws best buddies, his daughter is dating Layne Matechuk who has made it out, but is in pretty rough shape and from the sounds of it not really out of the woods just yet.  And I know these aren’t direct connections, but I think you get my point here.  There are so many who aren’t far removed at all from your life.  I’m sure I’m far from the only one who has found this out the last few days.

 

It really is just a nightmare.  I can’t read up on anything or anyone involved without losing my composure.  And if I feel that way, and normally I’d be a little shy to admit that, but I know so many people feel that same way.  I can’t imagine what the families, billets, friends, and people in the community of Humboldt are going through.  And I know that is such a cliche, but I can’t come up with better words to do any of this justice.  During the press conference on Saturday afternoon, SJHL commissioner Bill Chow stepped to the microphone and the first words he said was “our worst nightmare has come true”, and that was just spot on.  If you ask yourself “what is the worst thing that can happen to a team?” this is likely it.

 

I’m adding this part in at the last second because I just came across an article about how the SJHL is suspending the season for now, which is without a doubt the right call.  And I seen a quote in the article where Bill Chow said “no matter what we decide, people are going to disagree with it”.  And that’s 100% right.  Two things crossed my mind as to how to handle it.  The first I believe is very unrealistic, but it would be for the league to get together and select a team on behalf of the Broncos made up of players and coaches from the teams who had already been eliminated from the playoffs this season and play out the season for the team.  Even if you completely loaded the squad, with only two or three practices being realistic, I doubt they could defeat a Nipawin Hawks team who have been playing together all season.  The other solution kind of sucks too, but perhaps you consider the series between the Broncos and the Hawks complete.  It goes down in the record books as a best of five which the Hawks won three games to one, not as a forfeit.  Then for the league final you play one or maybe even the first two games of the series in Humboldt, the Hawks wearing one set of Broncos jersey’s, the Estevan Bruins wearing another.  The second solution is the much more likely of the scenario’s, but they are also two examples of how people are going to have a problem.  The first solution is likely going to upset the Nipawin Hawks, and could upset the rest of the CJHL because what if the selected team ended up winning the series, winning the league, and advancing to the Royal Bank Cup?  Obviously that’s an amazing story and the one the rest of the country is all rooting for, but that is so very not fair to the kids who have worked their asses off all season to get to this point only to have an all-star team come along and beat them.  But on the other hand, the second solution is essentially a forfeit of the series for the Broncos, and while two games paying tribute to the team and the gate money it could provide to the victims would be ok, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.  What an awful position the league is in with this.  I’m sure they’d love to do something along the lines of the first suggestion, but you have rules you have to follow, you have teams you still have to be fair to.

 

There is so no way to transition this piece, and I probably should do two pieces today but I don’t want to promote blog after blog, so it’s just one.  The NHL playoffs are upon us.

 

Hot Take….which ironically is rare in these “hot take” pieces I do….the Kings are going to roll Vegas.  Roll as in I wouldn’t be anything shocked at a Kings sweep, I believe five games is very possible, and don’t see it going further than six.  I’ve said it pretty much all season and I’m sticking to it.  I don’t think the Golden Knights are going to have another gear, and I believe in a seven game series with a chance to truly game plan for them that they are going to get picked apart.  William Karlsson gets to see Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar every night.  Marc-Andre Fleury has had his demons come playoff time, where Jonathan Quick was been incredible at times.

 

I’ll go into all of it more in depth tomorrow or Wednesday morning when I do my playoff preview piece, but as for the rest I like the Ducks to take out the Sharks.  The Preds just may beat the Avs in two…but more likely the Avs take it to a fourth game.  If that ends up being the case, that is still such a terrific season for the Avs considering where they were entering the season.  Now with no Ryan Suter, I don’t see the Wild giving the Jets much problem either, so I’m expecting the Preds and Jets, and I’m expecting a classic.  I’m probably going to take the Jets, so we’ll have Jets and Ducks in the West final and from that point I really don’t know where I’ll go.

 

In the East, Columbus is taking out Washington, and the Pens will knock off Philly but Philly is going to play them TOUGH I believe, as they always do.  Probably going to call that one to go seven.  I actually believe there is serious potential for the Devils to upset the Lightning.  I don’t know if I want to make that call just yet, but the Devils struggled to get in the playoffs and are playing with house money.  Hall is red hot, Schneider is the type of goalie who can steal a series, and they can match the Lightning’s biggest strength which is their speed.  Add to this, the Lightning are limping into the playoffs.  Who knows how healthy Stamkos is going to be, and Vasilevskiy seemingly ran out of gas in the last quarter of the season.  Finally the Leafs and Bruins, my initial reaction is Bruins in six or seven.  But remember, the Leafs coming into this season had owned the Bruins, and still handled them well throughout the season.  It has the makings to be the best first round series.  I think Boston takes it due to more size, more experience, all the while having enough team speed to skate with the Leafs.  But last season the Leafs grit was never really tested in the playoffs against a Washington team which is big, but tries to finesse you into submission.  The Bruins will test their grit, and while I’m making it sound like a negative, it is just simply an unknown.  Maybe the Leafs will thrive off it?  It’s going to be a very interesting series.

 

As for a Cup pick?  I’m still not sure of that either.  The obvious one for many I believe is Nashville vs Boston or Pittsburgh.  I don’t know what I’m going to call, but I will say that in the West (assuming good health) I believe only Nashville, Winnipeg and Anaheim can win, and in the East Boston, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Columbus are the only squads I have faith in.  Which probably means that we are headed for a Vegas vs Philadelphia Stanley Cup final.

 

Finally, the Hart race.  This is all I’m going to say on it is that while I agree that if you’re a Hart trophy winner that your team should make the playoffs, if we ever come up with a WAR stat like they have in baseball which shows which players are most valuable to their teams, we are going to look like complete morons for not giving the award hands down to Connor McDavid this season.  If your team is going to the playoffs and you can have a draft of not just non playoff players but any players to draft for your team, just for these playoffs, probably 70-80% of you are taking Connor McDavid.  If he switches spots with MacKinnon, Hall, Giroux or Kopitar, is he the MVP?  Yes, yes he would be.  Hands down.  He’d likely have 120-130 points if he played on the Avs, Devils, Flyers or Kings.  The media gets stupid and FAR too technical with this shit.  When people way back when called the award for the best player “the most valuable player”, they were likely just looking for a classy way to say best player.  Over the years you’ve have more and more guys in the media looking to dissect the word “valuable” and there for it became the end all be all, not just for the Hart trophy, but for any MVP award in sports.  It’s ridiculous to me when I think about it.  Nobody in their right mind would want MacKinnon, Hall, Giroux or Kopitar for a game tomorrow over McDavid.  Why?  Why wouldn’t you want the most “valuable” player instead of McDavid?  Because McDavid is the best.  He’s the most “valuable” player in the league.  And I’m not just criticizing anyone who votes against McDavid, I’d probably have MacKinnon and Kopitar ahead of him too!  I’d probably have McDavid third.  I’m guessing the final three will be MacKinnon, Hall, and Giroux.  But it is stupid when you break it down like this and really think about it.  He plays on a very shitty team with a very horribly run organization.  He has zero control over that.  Let’s quit pretending that one player in hockey can have that kind of impact on an entire organization.  A goaltender, maybe.  But not a skater.

 

The reality is though that the media always pushes the whole “valuable” thing not because they believe it.  They push it because it then gives them an out to vote for the best story.  So you see a guy like Steve Simmons last week go on Twitter and say “What more does Taylor Hall have to do to win the Hart?” or something to that affect.  Well, he’s not any more productive than MacKinnon, and I easily made the case for Kopitar in response to him, but Simmons, whether it’s intentionally or subconsciously, wants Hall to win because it’s the best story.  Tossed away by the Oilers for next to nothing, only to comeback with a horrible Devils team and carry them on his back to the playoffs.  It’s a great story.  That’s why Kopitar has got next to no love for the award.  His point totals are there, his 200 foot game is worthy of the Selke, he’s carried the Kings back to the playoffs, yet hardly a whisper.  It really has become absolutely RIDICULOUS not just in hockey, but in sports as a whole how we view the “MVP” awards.  LeBron should win it year in and year out in the NBA.  Mike Trout should be on an incredible streak of wins in MLB.  Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady should be the only debate in the NFL the last few seasons.  And while last year all was right in the league as McDavid and Crosby battled it out, this year it really should be McDavid’s award yet again.  I’m ok with him not winning it, but more logic and less bias really does need to be shown when it comes to the award in the future.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

#prayforHumboldt

This is just cathartic for me.  I’m not doing this one for clicks or in hopes the right people see/read it like I normally do.  I’m doing this one because if I don’t write about it right now all I do is refresh twitter hoping/praying for ANY kind of good news on the situation.  And so far I’m asking myself why I put the picture up because when I first saw it tonight was Gord Miller posted it on Twitter and I literally just broke down.  I was having a tough time with it before the picture, but that just sent me over the edge.

 

So I hope the nephews don’t get sick of me talking about them on here but I have to tell this story.  They got home last night from Whitecourt, and I was on the treadmill, Steph is in Mexico so I’m home alone, headphones on so I can’t hear anything, and all of a sudden they’re walking down my stairs.  I’m glad I don’t have heart problems.  So they stayed for two or three hours just hanging out shooting the shit.  It’s not like I haven’t been talking to them all year, we text usually several times a week.  But in person with a lot of time to talk, we can really get into stuff.  And it was just non stop stories about the team this season.  Not on the ice, off the ice.  And you literally couldn’t wipe the smile off my face thinking back to it today, because I know exactly how great those times are.  I was pumped for the twins, and it brings back some of my favourite memories.  If you don’t play or have never played, you might not get it.  But if you have, you do.  You literally become a family.  There are guys on the team that you probably aren’t going to like.  But you get on the ice or you’re in the room or wherever you are and you don’t give that any thought.  You go to battle alongside these guys night in, night out.  It’s just different.  You might think “well I work with people everyday and don’t feel that way”.  Right.  It’s not the same.  I’m not even sure it’s entirely the same in other sports as it is in hockey.

 

I look at the friendships I have, and I’m lucky because I feel like I have a lot of close friends.  And just about all those friends are either guys I’ve gone to battle with, or guys who know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  So the thing I keep coming back to is how close to home this hits, literally and figuratively.

 

Literally, because it happened just four hours away from me, and I know kids playing in the league, who played in the league in the past, have watched the league in the past, etc.

 

Figuratively though is what’s rattling me the most in that I can put myself there.  They’re on their way to play the biggest game of the season.  You’re anxious to get there.  You’re likely having a ton of laughs or great conversation with the boys.  You’re thinking about getting in the room, getting the music going, stretching out, and getting your gear on.

 

There is a reason the mid 80’s documentary done on the Edmonton Oilers was titled “The Boys on the Bus”.  In that video, something that always stuck with me is what Kevin Lowe says, but it’s not Kevin’s words, but rather Paul Coffey who he quotes.  And he says when he gets away from the game it’s not the game itself that he’s going to miss, it’s the 30 minutes or so before taking the ice when everyone is getting ready.  And it’s SO DAMN TRUE.  I think back to when I was a kid, and we didn’t take buses often to our games, mainly just to provincial games that were a fair distance away.  But you loved going on the bus, there was something different about it.  And the times you have hanging out with the boys while on the bus, it’s just different.

 

I’m terrified of the news, and yet I’m on pins and needles waiting for it.  I guess you’re optimism is literally fighting your pessimism, at least with me it is, maybe not for others, I’m not all that normal.

 

Anyway, only reason I put this out there is in hopes of it maybe being as cathartic for anyone to read as it’s been for me to write.  Doesn’t make the situation one ounce better, it’s devastating, horrific, I can’t come up with an adjective that feels like it does the situation justice.  I have one slight connection to this team, don’t know anyone either on the team or involved with the team, and yet I feel like I know them all.  That could have been any team, any league, and I don’t think it would feel any different right now.  I got two nephews playing in the neighbouring league, same level of hockey, and that was the first thing their dad said to me tonight is that could have been them, and that’s tough to get out of my head too.

 

I don’t know how to end this because I want to put a positive spin on it but I just can’t find anyway to do it.  “Multiple deaths” is what the police have thus far confirmed, Darren Dreger said “the loss is believed to be staggering”, which just makes me even more sick to my stomach for everyone involved and not want to see what the end result is.  Glad to see that Parker Tobin of Stoney Plain sounds like he’s going to be ok as he mom posted about it on Twitter a short time ago.  So that’s one of you.  Still the rest of the team, the coaching staff, the trainers, the team bus driver, I’m praying I hear more good news on all  of you as well in the coming hours.  #prayforhumboldt

6 Mitchell Girolami LW * Feb 29, 2000 6′ 175 L Humboldt, SK, Canada
9 Graysen Cameron RW May 3, 1999 6′ 170 R Olds, AB, Canada
11 Jacob Leicht LW * Feb 14, 1999 5’8 155 L Humboldt, SK, Canada
12 Conner Lukan LW Jan 14, 1997 5’10 180 L Slave Lake, AB, Canada
13 Jaxon Joseph C Sep 15, 1997 6’1 201 R Edmonton, AB, Canada
15 Tyler Smith C May 28, 1998 6’1 185 R Leduc, AB, Canada
16 Kaleb Dahlgren RW Jun 10, 1997 5’9 185 R Saskatoon, SK, Canada
17 Evan Thomas RW Sep 6, 1999 5’11 180 L Saskatoon, SK, Canada
18 Logan Hunter RW * Nov 9, 1999 6’3 195 R St. Albert, AB, Canada
19 Matthieu Gomercic LW Jul 21, 1997 6’3 201 L Winnipeg, MB, Canada
20 Logan Schatz C Sep 16, 1997 5’9 170 L Allan, SK, Canada
21 Nick Shumlanski C Jun 12, 1997 5-7 150 L Tisdale , SK, Canada
23 Derek Patter C Aug 12, 1998 5’9 180 R Edmonton, AB, Canada
26 Brayden Camrud C Jul 24, 1998 5’9 180 L Saskatoon, SK, Canada
3 Xavier Labelle D Nov 17, 1999 6’2 190 R Saskatoon, SK, Canada
5 Adam Herold D * Apr 12, 2001 6′ 180 L Montmartre, SK, Canada
7 Stephen Wack D Jan 25, 1997 6’6 220 R St. Albert, AB, Canada
10 Ryan Straschnitzki D Apr 20, 1999 5’11 185 R Aidrie, AB, Canada
14 Bryce Fiske D Nov 6, 1997 5’11 185 R La Ronge, SK, Canada
24 Morgan Gobeil D * Nov 11, 1999 5’11 185 L Humboldt, SK, Canada
27 Logan Boulet D Mar 2, 1997 6’2 192 L Lethbridge, AB, Canada
28 Layne Matechuk D * Feb 7, 2000 5’11 175 R Colonsay, SK, Canada
30 Parker Tobin G Sep 22, 1999 6′ 185 L Stoney Plain, AB, Canada L
31 Jacob Wassermann G * Jan 9, 2000 6’5 195 L Humboldt, SK, Canada L
Darcy Haugan Head Coach/GM
Chris Beaudry Assistant Coach
Mark Cross Assistant Coach

Hot Takes – Apr. 2nd, 2018

I haven’t done this one now for a few weeks, which is a shame I’ve been too busy to do it because DAMN do I have some shit to talk about!  So I won’t waste time with a terrible opening.

 

I can’t not talk about my Friday night at the Grant Fuhr arena in Spruce Grove.  Now before I start, it’s a bit of a long story, and full disclosure I’m putting it in here because I’m still a little hot about it all and need to get it off my chest.  Now, I try to tell the truth as much as I possibly can not just on here, but in life.  We all lie in one form or another, but I’m not looking to be viewed as a hypocrite.  So I have to be honest about shit because A) I’ve got too guilty of a conscience, and B) because I always feel like when people exaggerate their stories they sound a bit ridiculous.  Now, one thing my therapist has told me (yes, I see a therapist) is that I’m one of the most self aware people he’s met.  I always tried to be that way, so it’s reassuring when you’re told that without broaching the subject.  I got confidence in my ability to tell the truth and my goal today is to tell this story truthfully and objectively.

 

Anyway, Friday night I go to check out game one of the AJHL North final, but much more so just to see my nephew play which as I’ve mentioned a bunch on here this season he plays for the Whitecourt Wolverines (two of them do actually, but Easton has had to miss most of the season with a broken ankle).  So there was one Spruce Grove “fan” at the game.  About 45-50 years old, wearing a jersey, blowing a horn, I’m pretty certain he wasn’t a billet or a parent, looked like he had his kid at the game (there was a kid sitting next to him around eight or nine years old and he had no seat on the other side) and really the only way to describe how he was acting was like a child.  Imagine an 11 year old kid who is a die hard fan of a hockey team, and going ape shit for everything.  That was this guy.  And hey, as much as I roll my eyes and think “how embarrassing”, it’s fine.  If you want to be like that, if you want to act like that in front of your kid, I’ll laugh at you, but it just is what it is and I don’t have a problem with it.  But this guy started inching towards the line.  I noticed when the Wolverines came out for the third period he had got up and tried to blow his little horn as much as he could into the Wolverines bench.  Ok, little obnoxious, but it’s not hurting anyone.  But then he stepped over the line.  The game is 2-2, just past the midway point of the third period, and Chase ended up taking a head shot.  How it wasn’t a five, I’m not sure because he was wearing the evidence of it being a head shot after the game.  He was clearly shaken up (didn’t stay down though), but when he went off the ice the trainer took him right to the room to check him out.  And the tunnel to go to the room is right beside the Wolverines bench.  In my mind I’m thinking “he’s without a doubt got a concussion and is going to be done for the series”.  This PIECE OF HUMAN SHIT got up out of his seat, ran over to the tunnel, started blowing his horn at Chase and then says “take a hit you pussy!!”.  I did NOT for one second hesitate to go over.  I kind of had a feeling when Chase was trying to skate it off he was going to go to the room, and I had a feeling this guy was dumb enough to do something along those lines so I was ready.  I got right into his face and told him “that’s my 17 year old nephew (he just turned 18 so I guess I lied there…) and you’re a 50 year old guy wearing a jersey at a jr. A hockey game calling a kid a pussy?  Call me a pussy, see what happens.  SIT. THE FUCK. DOWN.”  And to be honest he said something back but I was so focused on being ready to go someone I don’t recall anything he said, I think it was something like “no I’m not going anywhere”, and I could see this guy was shitting himself pretty good, so all I did was give him a little shove with my finger in the nose to kind of show him up and prove he wouldn’t even touch me.  And as I predicted, I gave him a chance to respond, he didn’t say or do anything else (though he tried to chirp at us once I sat down), and so I walked back to my seat.  Karma really is such a bitch, because that little push of the nose (and I swear that’s all it was) got him leaking really good!  Before I move on, I’m not a cocaine expert….but acting like an extremely hyper child with no supervision all game combined with a nose that bled so easily….is it possible he was coked out of his mind?  With his kid at the game?

 

But I’m not telling this story to make me sound tough.  I do love how it played out obviously.  But “security guard” got pretty rattled about it once he heard, came up near my seat and basically singled me out and yelled at me even though he missed what had happened with me and the guy.  And I was getting a lot of looks from him the rest of the game, so after the game because I try to be a good person and have a guilty conscience, I go up to the security guard and apologize for it.  I wasn’t sorry for what I did as I know I was 100% in the right (and in a lot of ways did the guys job for him because where he was located he was supposed to make sure fans didn’t get involved with the players), but I didn’t mean to make that guys night eventful and cause him problems.  This is what still has me rattled because I very much so regret having done that now.  Did he accept the apology?  Not really.  He tried to make me out to be the asshole, tried to lecture me, and caused more of a problem.  I barked back, trying to stay calm and respectful thinking “what is wrong with this guy?!”  I bring up what the guy was being like and that I’ve never done this at a game before and I’m guessing that guy acts like that often.  That REALLY struck a nerve with the old guy and his other security guard buddy who was standing with him.  The old guy was trying to claim he didn’t see what the jack ass fan had done to provoke it and tried to turn it into me saying he was bad at his job.  It’s funny, at one point he said “do lawyers and police officers see everything that goes on?”  I’m not sure what that had to do with anything, he was getting pretty worked up and desperate to defend the job he’d done.  But frankly, nothing he said really made sense from the get go.  I can literally show him or anyone else video of where he was standing and how he without a doubt would have seen what the asshole did.  His buddy, was trying to make the claim of it being an eye for an eye because “I’ve been to YOUR arena and the fans don’t act too classy there either”.  That’s funny, because I’ve never been to Whitecourt’s arena and have no idea what he’s talking about.  He also went onto say that what the jack ass fan was doing was “just chirping”.  No, it wasn’t you fuckin moron, he had to get out of his seat and run over to the tunnel to do that, to a kid who at the time looked like had a concussion.  Do your FUCKING jobs and sit the guy down.  They didn’t, so I did.  But these are your justifications as to why you guys are going to let that idiot continue acting that way?!?  And all you have to do is move him to a different spot!  Put him literally anywhere else in the arena (maybe minus behind the Whitecourt penalty box).  That’s it!!!  Just move him!  Don’t need to kick him out.  I couldn’t stand the guy, but I would have been cool with them just simply moving him.  Just move him so he can’t cause issues like that!  Trust me, I wasn’t the only person in the crowd that night who had a major issue with the guy, I just happened to be the only one who had a reason to go over to him.  And that’s all I was trying to tell the mall cops but they were literally more interested in “getting” Whitecourt fans (in their minds) then actually looking after the problem.

 

It was well beyond embarrassing the way these three grown ass men acted.  And hey, I’m well aware this isn’t an original story from a junior hockey game.  This kind of horse shit/petty behaviour goes on everywhere.  And I’m really not trying or intending to make myself out to be the victim here because in the end I humiliated the guy and nothing happened to me for doing it (other than some good bonding with my new friends from Whitecourt).  I’ll stand by what I did all day long, I was 100% in the right.  That jack ass deserved to be knocked out, and it took everything for me to not do that.  What is going to happen if that kind of “security” keeps up is there is going to be a brawl, which will lead to law suits, which will lead to those mall cops having the finger pointed at them for doing nothing, and finally will lead to Ryan Smyth having to hire actual security for Saints games, costing the team a shit ton of money and likely talent.  It was very obvious before any of the shit with Chase went down.  Just pathetic, lazy and flat out stupid as can be.  And if I’m right in thinking that guy was coked out of his mind at the game and his kid with him….that’s pretty damn low for both the jack ass fan and the mall cops for looking the other way.

 

Ok, deep breathe, I don’t like it when I want to fight people and know I better not because of how it will play out.  Onto some other hockey talk…

 

Such as the Flyers Ethnic Club, who had their season ending tournament in Viking nine days ago.  A bitter sweet ending to the Flyers season, as a couple of one goal loses relegated them to the B final where they were able to pull off a dramatic come from behind win to capture the B.  The turning point of the game occurred during the first intermission of the B final when the drunken ref (wish I was making any of this part up) tried to fight Flyers affiliate Jordy Dougan, getting himself ejected from the game (walk it off Marty….you get that joke hey Lowrie?  Nobody else will, but you do).  In all, good weekend ferda boys.  Enjoyed a lovely overnight stay at the luxurious Caledonia motor inn, had a lot of laughs, found out my 2016 haircut wasn’t as deadly as I had thought, enjoyed a couple dozen fog cutters with Jim and Giselle in the thriving city of Kinsella before retiring to our homes, and with absolutely ZERO chance of being invited back for next season because MOTHER F***ER did everyone hate us!  Oh, and you guessed it, I sniped the tournament winning goal…

 

I’m clearly not going to make it to CHL playoff talk, and need to hit on a few NHL items so perhaps I’ll do that now.

 

Start off with the Pens.  And really, there is nothing to talk about here, but something I got thinking about yesterday was that I truly believe they can three pea….win three in a row (I’m not paying Pat Riley royalties).  I didn’t think it was possible in the slightest when the season started, and it is a long shot, but I do think they can now.  So why could they win three straight after nobody went back to back in damn near 20 years?  The big reason I think it can happen now is because of how the game is changing.  I don’t have the numbers on this, but back to backs haven’t felt like anywhere near the challenge this season that they’ve been in the past.  And of course the reason is that the physicality is really disappearing from the game.  Physical/stay at home D-men are being replaced by undersized/puck movers, third lines that used to be checking lines are now scoring lines, and fourth lines that used to be purely fighters and grinders now have some finesse on them, and pretty much no fighters at all.  Hardly any team in the league anymore is built to wear you down, and I’m not sure that there is one of them left in the Eastern conference.  Think about the Pens last two runs.  Who did they really go to war with?  They’ve played 13 games against Washington, but the Caps don’t use their size and look to wear teams down.  Seven with Tampa and seven with Ottawa, both skilled teams.  They’ve maybe had one series (last year’s final vs Nashville) where they played someone six or seven games who could wear them down.  And really, the Preds didn’t play them physical at all.  Compare this run to the Hawks from 2013-2015 where they were literally an Alec Martinez fluke bounce away from winning three straight.  The Hawks played the Sutter Kings twice, the Chiarelli Bruins who were built to grind it out, the Hitchcock Blues, the Preds, the Ducks, these teams all looked to beat on you.  The Pens started their run just the next season, and haven’t faced any of that.  And because of that, they should be fine physically to make another deep run.

 

The Pens loss last night to Washington clinched another division title for those failures who’ll without a doubt be dusted by the time we reach the conference finals, and going into the final week of the season there isn’t much drama left in the standings.  Seeding is still up in the air, but it’s starting to become clear.  If I had my way, Boston would play Columbus, Washington would play Jersey (I’m pulling for Taylor Hall and feel the Devils can take the Caps), Pittsburgh playing Philly would be fun again (tough to believe we haven’t seen it in the playoffs since that shit show in 2012), and of course Tampa vs Toronto which I believe the Leafs would have a great chance to win seeing Tampa has got progressively worse as the seasons wore on.  In the West, I really would love to see Vegas get one of Anaheim or L.A.  I want to see if they can actually hold their own in a series against one of them.  San Jose will get the other and frankly either of those teams vs the Sharks should be damn good.  I would love to see the Avs get in, but let’s be honest they’re going to be dusted pretty quickly no matter who they get.  It’ll be Winnipeg and Minny, but as much as that’s maybe a rivalry due to proximity, with the Wild losing Ryan Suter I can’t see it being much of a series.  I’m not sure if it’s because we don’t have much Canadian content, no Hawks, or what.  But I’m worried these playoffs aren’t going to be all that great.  I mean, it’s the playoffs, so a shitty playoffs is still fantastic, but there is nothing I’m really amped up to see aside from the Jets making a deep run.

 

You know, they’ve lost three straight (last two to the Canucks and Flames which is extra humiliating), but I actually believe the Oilers will be back big next season.  31st PP should get drastically improved (especially if Bear can have a good summer and make the team right out of camp).  31st PK should drastically improve too no matter who the coach is (and I’ve said in the past I believe this problem is very much so mental considering it’s been the top PK unit on the road).  I really believe Cam Talbot will be much better next season.  And the blueline needs to be worked over, but the good news in that is they have D-men with value.  So you can look for a team whom may have a few too many puck movers and need a guy who is a little more of a stay at home type.  The only thing that worries me is if the current idiot making the trades is still making the trades, then who will he move?  Let’s not forget, they’re still looking at a pick in the 6-10 range.  Even though I’m not as high on him in my draft rankings, for the Oilers in particular I’d LOVE a kid like Quinn Hughes.  He’s exactly the type of player they lack on the blueline.  But the issue which would arise is that Hughes is capable of stepping in next season.  He’s playing at Michigan now, he’ll be 19 shortly after the season begins, it’s not like they’d HAVE to sign him and get him in the lineup, but I think they’d want him in there given the lack of speed and skill on the blueline.  Hughes is a LHD, so someone would simply have to go.  Nurse, Klefbom, Sekera, Russell, and then Hughes, not to mention Caleb Jones is going to be knocking at the door soon.  So while on one hand I am terrified by the thought of Klefbom going, I totally understand why Chiarelli might look at it.  If it’s me, Klefbom stays barring a big upgrade (Ekman-Larsson for example), Nurse stays and gets a long term extension.  Sekera is the type of guy they want more of, and it’s likely he just won’t have any trade value.  Kris Russell HAS to go and I don’t trust Chiarelli to move him.  I wouldn’t be afraid to deal Matt Benning, and it’s nothing to do with disliking Benning, but you can only have so many guys like him.  None of him, Klefbom, Nurse or Larsson are bad defencemen at all.  But having four of them just doesn’t work anymore.  Part of the Oilers speed problems this season weren’t slow forwards, it was defencemen not being able to transition the puck.  I have no doubt that next season we’ll see a much better Klefbom, Sekera, and Larsson, but the league will be faster than it was this season, and this season it was much faster than last, meaning the Oilers need to be a whole lot faster as a team than they were in 2017.

 

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