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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