Hot Takes – July 16th

I have to start this today with a tribute to Ray Emery.  A lot of times when celebrities or athletes pass away, especially like this scenario where its so tragic and FAR too soon, we tend to glorify the person maybe a bit too much.  So I try not to do that.  But I can honestly say that Ray Emery was one of my absolute favourites.  He had a style all his own.  He was known as one of the best fighters in all of hockey…as a goaltender.  I Always LOVED the masks with the different boxers on them, especially his one in Philly with Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins on each side, and then Rocky on the back.  Initially, I recall Emery being nicknamed “Sugar Ray” which I just thought was AWESOME!!  But then “hockey guys” started calling him “Razor”.  Well that’s boring, what guy named Ray DOESN’T get that nickname?!?  Sugar Ray though?  That was beautiful!  Couldn’t have fit any better, and I never understood why that went away other than other players and the media being lame for lack of a better term.  Sugar Ray wasn’t lame though, the nickname or the person.  Dude was the coolest player in the league for a significant stretch.  I nearly bought a suit one time specifically because I seen Emery rocking it pre-game one night and just thought it was so cool that I had to have it (then found out the price and all of a sudden I didn’t have to have it).  There are two things in his career that don’t get the love they deserve.  One is his amazing comeback from the hip injury.  His career was done, I’m not over blowing that.  It was the same hip injury that ended Bo Jackson’s football career, and while Jackson returned to baseball, he was never anything close to what he was again.  And that kind of leads me into the second thing that deserved more love.  Because not only did Emery comeback from the injury, but people forget how incredible he was for the Hawks during the 2013 season.  17-1 with a 1.94 G.A.A. and a .922 Sv%.  He never saw action in the playoffs that spring (although I’m sure he was damn close to entering game four of the Stanley Cup final with Corey Crawford struggling mightily), but he was a big part of that Cup win for the Hawks.  They went 11-2 at home in the playoffs that season, only 5-5 on the road.  If they don’t get the goaltending Emery gave them that season, they might not end up with home ice throughout the playoffs and there for might not win that Cup.  RIP Ray, from every account you were an absolute gem, one of the coolest players in league history (of which there aren’t many) and will be sorely missed.

 

Not easy to transition after that, so I’ll just simply have to do it very clumsily like this.

 

So, its now mid July, and the Montreal Canadiens still have Max Pacioretty on the roster.  Everyone was quick to call for Marc Bergevin’s head after the Subban deal and I was likely one of the very few exceptions.  I don’t know if the problem is with Bergevin or with the Moulson family.  One thing I’ve started to look at lately is how much more say ownership has in certain organizations than we believe.  Fans and media will hear when a new GM is brought in that “he has full control to do what is needed to get this organization to the next level” or something to that effect.  But it really isn’t the case in so many scenarios and I wonder who is calling which shots with the Habs?  Nevertheless, they’re a complete mess and desperately need to rebuild.  For me, it was this off-season.  This was their last chance to salvage it.  And they’ve done next to nothing.  Now is the time to blow it up.  Trade Carey Price.  Trade Brendan Gallagher.  Trade Shea Weber once he returns.  Why?  You have an incredible draft class in 2019.  Then in 2020, you have the local boy who looks to already be a lock to go number one in Alexis Lafrenière.  So if you’re ever going to rebuild, what a terrific time to do it!  Its not as though they have NOTHING right now, but they don’t have anywhere near enough to make them much better than they currently are.  Granted, teams won’t be as willing to part with their 2019 first round picks as in other years, but for a goaltender like Price I bet they’d pay up.  Could you get both one’s from the Avs in a deal?  I bet you could, as they have a boat load of cap space and even though they just got Philipp Grubauer, we’re talking about an elite goaltender.  It just couldn’t be a better time to blow it all up for them, yet you get the sense that its not even on the table for them.

 

I have a LOT of Oilers I wanted to hit on today, namely two trade ideas I want to lay out (neither of which I’m expecting to happen).  But before that, I’m going to start with Mikko Koskinen.

 

Now, this should have been wrote right after the signing.  I’m sure it was by someone, but I haven’t seen it.  But it started to bother me that the signing was and still is getting as crushed as much as it was by so many fans and Ryan Rishaug….mainly Rishaug.  Normally, I’m with anyone ripping on Peter Chiarelli, and I’m not necessarily singing his praises here or even defending him.  But what I do believe is that people are looking at the signing all wrong.  The reaction is “2.5 mil for a BACKUP?!?  Look at what other backups went for!!!  What an awful signing!”  I completely understand where you’re coming from on that.  But what if you change the POV on that?  What if he just signed a STARTER for 2.5 mil?  That’s a low salary for a starting goaltender, isn’t it?  And they were quite clear on the fact that they weren’t looking for just a normal backup, they wanted someone who could play 30-35 games next season.  35 games is only six short of half the season!  And Chiarelli should be given credit for is his track record finding goaltenders.  He didn’t really find Tim Thomas, but he stuck with him in Boston and made sure that Thomas got a legitimate chance.  In 07, which was Chiarelli’s first season as Bruins GM, there were a lot of reasons to get rid of him or trade for an upgrade and Chiarelli simply stuck with him.  When he got here he did the deal for Cam Talbot which despite some rough stretches we all believe is a legitimate starting goaltender in this league and capable of carrying a team deep into the playoffs.  He brought Anders Nilsson back to the NHL and he’s become a solid backup who has produced some real hot stretches the last three seasons including one where it looked as though he’d established himself as the number one goaltender here.  Look at the talent the Oilers now have in the system between the pipes.  Chiarelli or someone on his staff has a great eye for goaltenders.  The other end of this is that while they paid that price, that was the rumoured rate for Koskinen and a lot of teams were seemingly willing to pay it.  Look at his numbers, its not just in the regular season, its not just in the KHL in general.  In three of his last four seasons, his playoff numbers have been better than his regular season numbers.  His numbers for Finland internationally have been stellar the last four seasons.  Now, I fully understand those numbers don’t tell a lot of the story as they can be padded facing greatly inferior competition at times, but we’re not talking about someone who has come out of nowhere like a Jonas Gustavsson was once upon a time (which admittedly is a dumb example for me to bring up because while I’m referencing when the Leafs signed him, one of the oddest and worst signings Chiarelli has made was Gustavsson to be Talbot’s backup).  Koskinen was the 31st pick of the 2009 draft.  I really believe that their thinking here is he’s got the ability to be a legitimate number one goaltender, and so should Talbot struggle again like he did last season, Koskinen can step in, carry them, and possibly even end up being the guy they go with heading into next season should things go bad for Talbot again.

 

So I’ve mentioned Brett Connolly a lot over the last two years, but I’m going to yet again.  What a signing by the Caps, and it pisses me off from the standpoint of them not needing what he does best.  The Oilers badly need that RH shot on the off wing for the top pp unit, Connolly can be that guy, and he hardly sees the ice during Caps man advantages as long as Ovechkin and Oshie are healthy.  They’re only paying him 1.5 mil for next season, so they have no need to move him.  The Oilers would have to pony up and make it worth their while.  And you don’t want to overpay, I get that.  But I can’t get over the need for a sniper to play opposite McDavid on the top pp unit, not to mention the chemistry I believe he could have with McDavid and RNH five on five (not that I have ANY issue with Ty Rattie, but I do believe Connolly could be better), and he’s only a 1.5 mil cap hit IF they could get him.  But again, what’s the price?  Would Slepyshev and a pick get it done?  The Caps could perhaps sign Slepyshev to a two year deal at the same ticket while adding a pick?  The Oil own an extra 3rd rounder in this next draft, though they pissed away their 5th on a goaltender they haven’t signed going into his final season of college hockey not that I’m panicking that they made yet another absolutely horse shit/beyond moronic/completely fucking careless personal move or anything…

 

Here’s another possible move that I’ve been wondering about that’ll without a doubt be much sexier to Oilers fans than Brett Connolly.

 

Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek ran down all 31 teams on the last 31 Thoughts podcast.  When they got to Edmonton, Friedman made it sound as if there is a bridge which is either currently or about to be lit on fire between the Oilers and Oscar Klefbom.  Maybe the gasoline is poured and one side is trying to get the lighter going but its a new lighter and they’re having issues knowing where you old it down so the lighter will light not that I’ve ever had that happen a billion times to me before.  Seriously though, he kind of compared it to the Dougie Hamilton situation in Calgary and I believe said something to the effect of “its the same deal, best to move on from the problem now before things get bad”.  Not an exact quote, but something to that effect.  Later on, they got to the Blues and Marek asked him if the Parayko trade talk was real, and Friedman believes it was or is.  His thinking on that is perhaps the Blues don’t want too much money tied up on the right side of the D, and they’re going to have to extend Alex Pietrangelo soon.  Add to that, the Blues left side all of a sudden looks relatively weak with Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson, both impending UFA’s, and both coming off disastrous seasons.  They have Vince Dunn, but probably don’t want to throw him to the wolves just yet.  So it made me wonder, especially with how talked about the Oilers always seem to be with Parayko (especially leading up to the draft) if there is a deal to be made there?  I believe the initial thought is “they’d need to pay a lot more than Klefbom”.  Would they?!  Go look at their career numbers, they’re VERY similar, and combined with their cap hits to me it would make them almost identical in value depending on what you’re looking for.  Parayko has more points in less games, but we’re talking 13 less games, and 9 more points.  By the way, Klefbom has 5 more goals than Parayko in his career.  And I honestly wonder if the Blues aren’t worrying that he already is what he’s going to be?  SO many defenceman step into the league, will look great early on, but never can really grow their games to the levels expected.  Think of Dion Phaneuf.  10 years ago, if you told somebody he’d never be considered a top 10 defenceman in the league they would have told you that you’re insane.  So with that being said, why would the Oilers want him?  Well, obviously they’d be banking on that not being the case, along with the obvious balancing out of the blueline and the big RH shot bomb for the pp.  Would the Blues do the deal?  If Friedman’s theory is correct then it does make a lot of sense for them.  Klefbom is 1.3 mil cheaper, has an extra year on his deal compared to Parayko, and they’re very similar defencemen who are the same age (in fact, Klefbom is actual a couple months younger despite being drafted a year earlier).  Just thinking out loud, but would Klefbom and Matt Benning for Parayko and maybe a prospect like Jake Walman make sense?  I really don’t know, and I’m really just putting two and two together here and spit-balling.  But to me, it does feel like a deal could be made that makes sense for both sides and improves both clubs.

 

Before I finish this today, its not hockey, but hockey is how I know and am buddies with the guy even though I haven’t got to see him in a long time.  Congrats Kurt!!  You’re really going to make me do this another nine times (at least) aren’t you?  I’ll do it, but just don’t expect me to come up with anything real original.  Seriously though, the guy is at an all-time great level right now.  I watched every run at the Stampede, and out of all his runs where he blew everyone away, the most impressive one was (I believe) Thursday night where he gets off to a slow start on the barrels, is fourth over half way through the race, damn near takes the heat, and ends up with the third best time of the night.  Its honestly like watching Tiger Woods in 2000 where you pretty much knew he was going to win every tournament.  Awesome to see!

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Hot Takes – Free Agency

The NHL>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>NBA.  I don’t know how else to say it right now.  The NBA has such a massive issue right now.  Off the court, the NBA is intriguing because of the four year limit on contracts.  But why would anyone even bother to watch the NBA at this point?  The intrigue is completely gone, and has been for what’ll be three seasons in a row.  Stars in their prime looking to gravy train there way to championships, it really is embarrassing.  Players are much more worried about their brand than winning.  Then take the NHL.  The Leafs, already a damn good team, add one of the best players in the league to the team.  Are they now winning the Cup?  Who the hell knows?!?  They have a chance, as do probably 10 other teams!  Its wide open.  Sure, we all wish the NHL had more off ice action as the NBA has so much off court action, but I’ll take the boring NHL news cycle with an intriguing product over an over dramatic NBA news cycle with what is rapidly becoming an embarrassing product.  So with that said, lets get to the off ice NHL talk.  Obviously the place to start is in Toronto.  This is going to take three paragraphs to lay out.  So first, I’ll give the praise.

 

Everything has fallen the right way for the Leafs during this build.  Its unreal when you think about it.  Sure, they didn’t get McDavid and were apparently very close to winning that lottery in 2015.  But since Brendan Shanahan came in, he has COMPLETELY turned this franchise around.  And when I say its fallen the right way, in no way do I mean that they’re simply lucky.  Not at all.  This organization is crushing it.  But Mike Babcock became a free agent in the summer of 2015.  They won Auston Matthews in 2016.  I believe that in time, the fall of Timothy Liljegren to the 17th pick in the 2017 draft is going to prove to be a massive break (even though that one will go unnoticed for now).  And now, John Tavares made it to free agency and he is now a Leaf.  You can look at them as breaks/bounces, and yeah in a way they are.  But they don’t happen unless the organization is being extremely well run.  They got Babcock to go there because Shanahan had a tremendous vision in mind.  They won Matthews because they did it right and were ok with bottoming out when a lot of organizations try to fight it.  They got Liljegren because they didn’t look to out-think the room like so many teams did when it came to potentially drafting him.  And finally this organization landed Tavares because they’re so well setup.  Being from Toronto, that’s a ways down the list as to why Tavares signed there.  He did because he’s seen this progression, his agent has seen this progression, and its simply the perfect time to play in Toronto because they’re now a contender.  So I’m really pumped up for Leafs fans.  But the key word here is the Leafs FANS…

 

Then you have my “boys”, the media.  Specifically, the Toronto media.  This is why the rest of the country simply can’t stand the Leafs.  Some say its the fans, every fan base has good fans and dip shit fans.  Are there more?  Yeah, because there are more Leafs fans in general.  More per capita?  Not at all.  But the media just gets so ridiculous when something like this happens.  So many of them are now claiming that the Leafs are about to win a Cup, they’re the best team in the East, for some reason believe that they’ll simply outscore everyone with the roster as is….SPARE.  ME.  The Leafs got shit kicked for the most part by the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.  They went seven, but the Leafs were only the better team in one of those games.  Freddy Andersen stole two of them.  So seven looked good, but they weren’t that close to Boston.  Boston got shit kicked by Tampa.  Tampa probably should have lost in five to Washington.  Soooo John Tavares just magically fixes their average blueline?  He just magically fixes the lack of size and toughness on this team?  This team isn’t built to play playoff hockey, as we saw in April.  And let’s not forget, they lost JVR, Bozak and Komarov on Sunday.  Good players.  It isn’t as if they simply added Tavares and the rest of the team is in tact.  I believe this team CAN win the East and possibly the Cup with this roster, but I wouldn’t say this move puts them ahead of Tampa, Boston, or Pittsburgh who lets not forget only missed winning a third straight Cup because they ran out of gas.  I’d say the Leafs would be SLIGHTLY ahead of Washington thanks to the Caps likely having a Cup hangover this upcoming season (probably more literally than figuratively), but that’s debatable.  So I’m in no way looking to piss on the signing, but its a bit of a love hate thing in that I’m pumped for the Leafs fans who have had to put up with so much garbage for the last 50+ years, but the Toronto media being so giddy and so unprofessional and being unable to take their homer goggles off to talk about this is disgusting.

 

The attention for Kyle Dubas now has to shift to the blueline in my opinion and already the incredible free agency class of 2019 has three of the top four D-men off the board.  Can he possibly land Erik Karlsson?  If Karlsson is a deadline rental next February, I see that happening.  Long term though, he needs to package up something really good and go hunting.  The guy I’d move is William Nylander.  I believe he’s going to be the odd man out, and they have a kid in Kasperi Kapanen who can move into that spot on the second line and they won’t lose a ton of production from what Nylander currently gives them.  Before writing this though, I had it in my head that they’d need to package Nylander, but the guys I believe could be had aren’t star D-men who would have amazing value.  They’re good, but Nylander on his own would at least come close to getting them that guy.  The number one team to look at for a deal here are the Hurricanes.  Dougie Hamilton?  Justin Faulk? (Faulk would need other pieces coming with him to get Nylander)  There is a great fit for a deal between these two teams.  Then you have Chris Tanev who has been rumoured to be on the move from Vancouver for the last few seasons.  In my opinion, there isn’t a better fit out there for someone to play on the top pair with Morgan Rielly.  He would possibly bring back another asset to even out the deal, maybe a kid like Kole Lind?  Then a bit of a wildcard idea I’ll toss out.  We heard Colton Parayko’s name on draft day, and the Blues could be in a cap crunch.  Nylander likely doesn’t interest the Blues, but maybe Nylander for a young D who could be flipped to the Blues to buy down on Parayko?  The Leafs have the chips to make something happen.  And while I believe Nylander will end up being the odd man out, they might be able to do it without using Nylander as the bait this season.  I also wonder if they aren’t going to sign Calvin de Haan next who would be a terrific fit despite not being a LH shot.  If I’m running the show, I believe they need two top four D-men brought in, AND I’d be looking to upgrade on Jake Gardiner.  Even if you’re taking back a guy who brings less offence, that’s cool.  This team is too soft to win in the playoffs, specifically on defence, and he is the exhibit A.

 

Ok, so I apologize to the Leafs haters who are now pissed at me for doing over 1000 words on them, but whether you love them or hate them, they’re an intriguing team to follow right now.

 

I thought we were trending towards July 1st being more and more reasonable?  How come GM’s can’t figure out to simply wait out these agents?  Why the desperation?  Guess what Philly?  JVR ain’t making much of a difference in your lineup.  7 mil per makes you SLIGHTLY better this season, and likely hurts you in years three, four and five of that deal.  Hey Doug Armstrong, 5 mil per on Tyler Bozak isn’t helping you.  I LOVE Bozak too, but he isn’t doing much for your team at all.  Bozak is a 2 mil per centre.  Is Bozak better than Derek Ryan by any measure?  Yet he made nearly 2 mil per more a season.  And I don’t like the Ryan signing by the Flames either!  But at least they only went about a mil over what they should have for a guy who is the same age, same size, same wheels, same righty shot, same production.  And I could go down the line on the deals that would make me puke if my team signed them.  Michael Grabner, Ian Cole, Leo Komarov, David Perron, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Ryan Reaves, just so many AWFUL deals.  Did we not learn one FUCKING thing from this years Stanley Cup final?!  The Caps had downgraded in talent from the year before, and won.  The Golden Knights had a group of cast off’s, and made the final.  Find the right fit, don’t go pissing away your cap money on guys who will nominally at best improve your team.  Its just ridiculous that so many GM’s get caught up in this stupid shit.

 

I mentioned the Derek Ryan signing, but the Flames did do better than most.  I’m not a big James Neal fan, but as someone pointed out to me, he brings a lot of qualities to the table.  He’s not Ferland, but obviously he has similar size and skating ability, and as you know can replace most or all of Ferland’s production from last season.  Ryan as I said, was about a mil more than I would have paid for him, but I do like him a lot.  Brad Treliving definitely needed to upgrade his roster and I believe he did so and at a better prices than most other GM’s  got.  I’m not sure either player makes the Flames a playoff team, but they’re a better team today than they were and neither deal should cripple the Flames situation down the line.

 

Are we seriously going to go into next season with Erik Karlsson still an Ottawa Senator and Max Pacioretty still a Montreal Canadien?  Its looking that way.  The league basically shuts down for the summer come mid July, so the clock is ticking.  And while I’m talking about trades, big shocker that hardly any have happened after “things are going to get crazy” never happened for the fourth year in a row.

 

I wasn’t the only one saying it, a lot of Oilers fans were, but wow was it great that he didn’t have cap space!  A) he likely would have overpaid for a guy like JVR or James Neal, and B) he was forced to make cheaper/more intelligent signings.  Kyle Brodziak as the fourth line centre for a mil and one year, I’m good with that.  He’s a good fit, I worry about the wheels still being good enough, but truth be told even when I’ve watched Blues games the last season or two, I haven’t noticed Brodziak too much.  Getting Tobias Rieder back was massive.  Just a year at two mil, and then he’s still an RFA, perfect.  You can’t help but wonder if he could be a fit with Draisaitl, but even if he’s not he’s a very legitimate top nine player.  Steve Tambellini’s biggest error (which from what I recall, he simply refused to give Rieder first round pick type money on his ELC which he had earned) is in a way now corrected.

 

I really don’t think Chiarelli is done though.  My prediction back in February on Patrick Maroon has come to fruition thus far.  I can’t help but wonder if something is holding up him signing somewhere?  Maybe a potential trade of another heavy/slower player?  I love the idea of Maroon on a one or two year deal for 2 mil per or less.  And the further we go into free agency, the more realistic that becomes.  But not without Lucic moving on.  Chiarelli also needs to clean up the blueline.  I’m not sure if he believes that, but everyone else sure does.  You could never convince me that Kris Russell isn’t movable as long as he’s willing to waive.  You could likely clear all of his 4 mil, and then look at bringing in a guy like Justin Faulk in a separate deal.  Ideally, this team needs to get more mobile on the back end and bring in guys who are much better puck movers than what they currently have.

 

Currently, in my opinion, the combination of the draft and July 1st has the Oilers at about a B+ grade this off-season….to this point.  Failure to address the remaining holes would have me concerned going into next season, but there is time to make the necessary adjustments.  But credit where credit is due, and so far, so good.

 

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