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Obliterating The Myth About Tampa’s Drafting

I feel my stuff can get stale.  I don’t feel at all as though I’m a great, or even good writer.  I feel as though I might have interesting insight, but just as a pure writer I’m not good and haven’t improved all that much since I started doing this.  One thing I feel I could do to offset that is speak on more topics that I can not only give interesting insight/opinions on, but topics that don’t get wrote about that often.  Draft coverage has really taken off in the last three years or so, but I don’t feel as though there is much in terms of writing on it.  Taking deeper looks at prospects, looks back, certain narratives (which I’m hitting on today), and looking at scouting itself.  So this is hopefully the first of many pieces I do on the draft.  I’m still doing my own rankings, still going to do mock drafts as I really believe that’s where I shine the most, but add more to the coverage in general.

 

So to start this, I’ll hit on what is perhaps my favourite draft narrative going today.  “Tampa Bay gets it because they don’t care about the size of a player, they just take the most talented kids available”.  It was during last season when this piece was really sparked.  Corey Pronman had said something on Twitter.  I can’t remember what it was, but something along the lines of “what would you like to see me write about on the draft”.  And something I don’t often do is read the responses, but I scrolled through those ones, and came across Ryan Pinder of Sportsnet 960 in Calgary asking him to do a piece as to why other teams don’t follow the Tampa model of simply drafting the best player on the board regardless of size.  So as a guy who can list off just about every first round pick in order and the team that took them since maybe 2008, and knows the history of the draft VERY well since I started writing on it in 2012, I knew the answer to this.  I loved it, because I absolutely LOVE taking the completely lazy and unfounded narrative and destroying it.  Pinder was the straw that broke the camel’s back, he’s far from the only one to think this way.  So I’m not going to waste anymore time trying to think of a witty transition and get right to it.  Steve Yzerman started working for the Lightning in the spring of 2010.  Let’s take a good look at their drafts.

 

2010

Now, before I begin on this one, this was Steve Yzerman’s first draft, so I’m going to talk about.  However, this wasn’t Yzerman’s scouting staff.  Al Murray wasn’t hired as of this time, and I doubt many of the scouts they had at the time were with the organization much longer.  But I will include it thanks to Yzerman being there.  They took Brett Connolly with the 6th pick.  Today, Brett Connolly is scraping together a real good career after appearing to be a bust early on.  If I had to guess, some of that has to do with his hip injury in his draft year setting him back a lot longer than most believed it would.  But this wasn’t a good pick.  And it wasn’t a good pick in the moment, not just in hindsight.  Going into that draft, the consensus pick for Tampa was Brandon Gormley.  Before you say “that would have been WAY WORSE!!!” keep in mind that this was pre-draft.  Cam Fowler shouldn’t have got past the 5th pick in that draft, and he was still on the board at six where they should have been all over him.  They took Radko Gudas in the 3rd round, easily their best pick of this draft, and took two players sub six feet (both 5’11), and none of the other picks ever came close to playing in the league.  Not just didn’t play in an NHL game, but rather of the six other draft picks made those players only played a combined 19 games in the AHL.  Not the NHL, the AHL.

 

2011

This was probably their best draft to date, and was truly the first draft for Yzerman, and literally was for Al Murray.  2011 was all them, and they crushed it.  Namestikov with the 27th pick, Kucherov was a grand fucking slam at pick 58, Nikita Nesterov at 148 played 119 games for them, at 201 (7th round) they got Matthew Peca who they weren’t able to keep this past off-season but is looking like an NHL regular, and finally another grand fucking slam with Ondrej Palat at 208th overall.  Even goaltender Adam Wilcox taken in the 6th round and 178th overall has played in one NHL game.  So every pick they made has played in one NHL game, five of the six have played over 100, and four of the six are regular NHL players.  So that is an amazing draft, easily one of the best all time.  But let’s look at the size which is the point here.  For my money, as a guy who has been bias towards size (much more in the past than I am now obviously), my cut off is 5’11.  5’11 never felt “small” for me.  5’10 was dependent on the weight, and 5’9 I would consider a guy “small”.  Matthew Peca is the only player who qualifies for that in this draft.  Great pick where they got him, but I’m not sure there is a team in the league that would have passed on a highly skilled guy who was 5’9 by the 201st pick in the draft.

 

2012

The Andrei Vasilevskiy pick is what is remembered, but that wasn’t their first pick, and they messed up their first pick in this draft just as they did in 2010.  Filip Forsberg fell all the way down to 10.  That was a HUGE shock at the time, and by the time the Lightning picked there was no doubt he was the clear cut BPA.  Much like Evan Bouchard falling to 10 for the Oilers in this past draft, it was that surprising.  Yet the Bolts passed in favour of Slater Koekkoek.  Something I wonder about in hindsight is if they had a philosophy early on that they wouldn’t allow injuries to affect their thought process on players as much as others would?  Because with both Connolly and Koekkoek, injuries derailed most of their draft years.  Anyway, they messed up that pick, got it right with Vasilevskiy.  This draft sure wasn’t 2011, as really the only players still kicking around are Vasilevskiy, Cedric Paquette and the controversial Jake Dotchin.  Keep in mind though, this was still a very good draft.   Not Yzerman, Murray or their scouting staff’s fault that 2012 was a bad draft year.  They walked out with a star goaltender, a regular, and a guy in Dotchin who is still going to be hanging around the league as long as he can get his weight under control.  Again though, I’m here to talk about the size of these players.  Nikita Gusev was the only sub 6’0 player they took in the draft (5’11, not small in the eyes of a “sizest”), and all but three of the eight picks were players under 6’2.

 

2013

This is the one that probably keeps them awake at night to this day, despite the success they’re having.  They walked in with the 3rd pick in the draft.  The top two picks for everyone were Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones.  But the Florida Panthers badly needed a big two way centre, and as we seen in this last draft and the 2016 draft, if you need that guy then you better step up and grab him early (Pierre-Luc Dubois to Columbus, Jesperi Kotkaniemi to Montreal, Barrett Hayton to Arizona), which as you know they did and took Sasha Barkov (and it was the right pick).  This left the door WIDE ASS OPEN for the Lightning to step up and steal Seth Jones at three…and they took Jonathan Drouin.  And hey, all these years later, the Canadiens may have bailed them out for the mistake by giving them Mikhail Sergachev for Drouin.  Sergachev has that kind of upside.  But if they had Seth Jones and Cam Fowler on that blueline already, this team wouldn’t have needed to pony up for Ryan McDonagh.  This team might have a couple of Cups already under this regime.  And while you can play the “what if” game with so many teams, we aren’t talking about hindsight here.  In the moment, with all three of Connolly, Koekkoek and Drouin were suspect picks over the players which fell to the Lightning.  Anyway, again they took nobody tiny.  Drouin wasn’t considered a great skater for his size, but he was still 5’11 (is what I had him listed at pre draft, now listed at 6’0).  If you include Drouin, three kids they took (six total) were under 6’0, though again all three were 5’11 which I don’t know who would consider 5’11 small.  This wasn’t a good draft for the Lightning.  Drouin over Jones was a big mistake despite it being somewhat righted (I’m sure they’d move Sergachev for Jones right now), Adam Erne is very close to playing, and really that’s it.

 

2014

Its about to get better…right?  Nope.  Anthony DeAngelo.  At 19.  When everyone had bailed on him as a first round prospect.  Now, it wasn’t a GREAT draft, but there were pretty clear cut kids on the board most, if not all, had ahead of DeAngelo.  And I’m not going with the “hindsight” guy.  Easy to say now that they should have taken David Pastrnak.  Pastrnak really didn’t stand out above any of the other high ranked/undersized wingers that this draft class was flooded with.  But Robby Fabbri, Kasperi Kapanen, and Nick Schmaltz PROBABLY would have been my top three on the board, and likely for most (this was the year before I was doing prospect rankings, just mocks).  Again, not hindsight because if you’re going hindsight then the pick obviously should have been Pastrnak.  One thing about DeAngelo though was that he was under 6’0 (5’11 again).  This is the draft that gives them the reputation I’m speaking on today.  They took Brayden Point with the 79th pick.  Didn’t take him 19th, or 35th, or 57th, no they waited until the 79th pick, but they did take him.  He was the only sub 5’11 pick they made, but they did take Point who I love, I can’t believe that he’s not only a centre but a tremendous centre, and is maybe the most underrated player in the league right now.

 

2015

Once again, nine picks in this draft, none of them have their full story written yet as we get into the years with prospects still developing.  But two players sub 6’0, no players sub 5’11.  Anthony Cirelli so far looks like a terrific pick.  Other than Cirelli though, they have a couple of “maybe’s”, but they were in the final that season and looked to have done ok as they normally do.  Hey, I’m not looking to bash their drafting, just kill a myth about their drafting.

 

2016

This one is my favourite.  Obviously I’m reaching here if I’m saying who they hit on and who they missed on for a draft featuring players who are currently 20 years old.  We have no idea.  But I love this one that narrative which in case you forgot is “the Tampa Bay Lightning are the best drafting team in hockey and its because they simply just take quickness and skill.  They don’t care about size!”  OH.  REA.  LLY.  They had 10 picks in the 2016 draft.  You know how many of those picks were both under 6’0 and under 200 lbs?  0/10.  Their first pick in the draft was Brett Howden, who projects to be a third line centre/Shawn Horcoff type player.  Undersized/highly skilled Sam Steel went three picks later.  Libor Hajek projects to be a stay at home, number four/five type D-man, he was the second pick.  Undersized/highly skilled Alex DeBrincat was taken two picks later.  Boris Katchouk, power forward.  Undersized/highly skilled Sam Girard was taken three picks later.  Taylor Raddysh, 6’3, Chris Paquette 6’2, Oleg Sosunov 6’8, Otto Somppi 6’2, Ryan Lohin 6’0.  The only pick…of 10…in the entire draft for Tampa who was under 6’0 was Ross Colton at 118 who was 5’11, 200 lbs.  If you’ve been reading and thought “sure, but what has it been like lately, that’ll tell the story” shit are you dead wrong!

 

2017

Again, let’s not for a second suggest we know after one damn year that we know how their draft went.  But Cal Foote was the top pick.  Cal Foote is 6’4 and projects to be a shutdown/top four D-man.  I believed prior to the draft that they wouldn’t pass on Timothy Liljegren because he was much higher skilled yet still a RH shooting D-man (which it seemed pre-draft to be the obvious need/want with the 14th pick).  And again, much like 2016, this team didn’t take a smaller guy until their fifth pick which was 180th overall in the draft when they took Cole Guttman.  Guttman and Samuel Walker were both only 5’10, but again I’m going to say that I’m not sure any team WOULDN’T roll the dice on kids of that stature late in the draft.

 

2018

This is insanely early to look at what they did this past June, but I will anyway just for fun.  The top pick was Gabriel Fourtier and he’s only 5’10, so a good start for the false narrative.  Then they didn’t take another skater who was under 6’0 (though they took 5’10 goaltender Magnus Chrona at 152).

 

Again, this exercise isn’t done to shit all over Tampa and attempt to make anyone suggest they’re doing bad.  I’d be an absolute dip shit to suggest that.  Drafting is TOUGH.  Developing is TOUGH.  For me, the Lightning are in the elite tier in this league when it comes to the draft.  I’d probably say there are four teams in that tier, and the Lightning are one of them.

 

Having said that…

 

The narrative that this club simply drafts skill and don’t care about size is a COMPLETE crock of shit!  They have hit on a few of those types in the draft, but mostly they draft similar sized kids at the same rate as everyone else.  They just simply scout extremely well as an organization.  Yanni Gourde was a free agent signing, they didn’t draft him.  Tyler Johnson was another free agent signing.  Cory Conacher was too and the truth is that after an impressive stretch at the start of the 2013 season he has essentially been irrelevant in the league.  They drafted Matthew Peca, and let him walk as a UFA this off-season.  I can’t stress enough how horse shit the narrative is with Tampa.  They simply do a tremendous job of scouting, and a tremendous job of developing.  Al Murray is their head amateur scout and one of the best in the business (we’ll see if he stays on now with Yzerman gone), and Yzerman was a tremendous GM for them.  That’s it.  Its not some magic formula.  Its not out of the box thinking.  Its just simply a well run organization.  If you want to rave about the way they draft, then what you should be raving about is the fact that they are always looking to stock pile picks.  That’s it.  They didn’t hesitate to trade the aging Marty St.Louis in 2014 while firmly in a playoff spot.  They got two first rounders.  They constantly trade back in the draft and load up with picks.  They’ve never had less than six picks in the draft under Yzmeran.  26 picks from 2014-2016.

 

So let’s just put the nail in this coffin, shall we?  They aren’t reaching in the draft to take undersized/skilled kids where nobody else ranks them and having those picks perform incredibly.  They really just took ONE kid over all these years who was really undersized (especially for his position) and has crushed it.  By the way, the Jets took Nic Petan in what was considered a better draft with the 43rd pick.  So higher than Point, where is the narrative that the Jets just took the highest skilled players on the board?  But because Petan hasn’t worked to this point and the Jets are big, they don’t get credit for taking the undersized skill guy.  So weird how that works…

 

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Hot Takes – Oct. 15th, 2018

So I just got done tweeting about 90 Day Fiancé.  Steph made me supper, wanted to watch it, I can’t be the asshole who says “thanks!” and then goes downstairs to watch the Sunday nighter/ALCS/Jets and Hurricanes.  So I stayed up and watched it, WOW is that show deadly!!  It was so good, I had to put my favourite clips on Twitter, and now of course on here to share with you:

You’ll have to click that one a few times to see what I was talking about, my apologies.

Just TERRIFIC television!

 

I did manage to watch a bit of the Jets/Canes game though, and I wonder when it’ll be time to notice that the Jets really aren’t playing too well?  They finally showed up for the third, but this just hasn’t been pretty for them.  The win in St. Louis they were outplayed and won thanks to another Jake Allen disaster, the win in their home opener was against the Kings who don’t look good, and then they were outplayed in the first two periods of last night’s game.  I’ll get to the Oilers as I always do, but the Oil MIGHT be catching them at the perfect time.  There is no good time to go into that building, let alone when they have as much talent as they currently have!  But this might be it.  3-2 so no need to get worried about it, but no need for the Jets to change much at the moment either since they’re getting away with it.  Brossoit looked good didn’t he…the asshole…surprised Maurice didn’t save that start for Tuesday, but maybe he’ll go back to him after playing so well.

 

The Hurricanes are no joke though and that team is looking as though they’ve finally arrived.  All that heavy lifting that Ron Francis did for the franchise, and as soon as he’s out the door they arrive.  That’s such a shame.  But that team looks damn good right now.  Think about this too, they had just played in Minny the night before, so really it shouldn’t be much of a shock that the Canes ran out of gas in the 3rd (which was probably said a million times during the 3rd, I didn’t get to watch it with the sound on, too into 90 Day Finace).

 

Speaking of the Canes beating Minny, I know it’s early, and I know it’s kind of an “I told you so”, but they just look bad.  I don’t know what Paul Fenton is going to do there (I’ll get to one thing he might do), but it’s just such a bad situation there.  A lot of no moves, a lot of fat contracts, Carolina put 57 shots on Dubnyk Saturday!  Canes are playing well, but they’re playing THAT well?!

 

Anyone notice that Kyle Palmieri is scoring two goals per game?  The question is: is Palmieri as good as Matthews or that AHLer McDavid?…

 

So on Friday I put out my podcast and in the description for it I said how McDavid vs Matthews is ridiculous.  Well, one of my buddies who is a Leafs fan didn’t like that, didn’t like that I pointed out facts that suggested the Leafs are no better to this point than they were last year.  Context is very much so king these days.  I’m guilty of it all the time.  You see someone say something or hear them say something and you tend to only think of it the way you want to think of it.  Auston Matthews is AWESOME!  And for whatever reason, if you praise one of McDavid or Matthews you’re shitting on the other.  Not what I was doing at all.  But, I’m sorry, Matthews isn’t as good as McDavid and for the media to be making that case is just a little eye rolling.  I know what I sound like when I say that, it’s sounding like a homer Oilers fan.  I get why my opinion on this doesn’t hold as much weight as others.  But I just don’t see how you can look at the two play and think “Matthews is as good as him”.  One thing said to me was that Matthews is a better 200 foot player, but Babcock doesn’t give him tough minutes where McDavid has seen the tough match-ups for the last year.  But the big one is that McDavid creates, and I have NEVER been shy about my belief that snipers aren’t as valuable as playmakers.  And Matthews has that in his game, I’m not saying he doesn’t, but right now people are getting far too horny about him because of the rate he’s scoring goals at.  He’s scored over half his goals from the exact same spot on the ice let alone piling up the assists.  He’s the best sniper in the game right now for my money, which is such an vital piece to have!  But, I don’t think he’s any better at the moment than Stamkos was around the same age, or Ovechkin was around the same age.  And it used to drive me insane when people would compare them to Crosby, because it really wasn’t close.  Those players needed someone to create for them, Sid did the creating.  Matthews is living off being setup right now, on the most talented offensive team in the league, while seeing soft minutes.  McDavid is literally creating all the offence for the Oilers right now while being on a shitty PP and seeing the toughest match-ups each night.  So I’m not saying that it’s ridiculous in that Matthews shouldn’t be even considered a franchise player or anything along those lines, just that while he’s elite he’s not to THAT level.  Both McDavid and Matthews are FUCKING AMAZING PLAYERS!  No Leafs fan should ever take this as any kind of slight against their guy!  And Oilers fans, we need to chill about this because we all sound really thin skinned (which is a huge issue with the Oilers fan base) and should be secure about how incredible “our guy” is.  But for me, I’m not going to apologize for my philosophy on hockey or what I prefer in a player.  It’s apples to oranges as others have pointed out, and I without a doubt agree with that.  But until Matthews starts creating more offence, and seeing all the tough minutes, it really isn’t debatable with McDavid….or the best player in the league Sidney Crosby.  But I don’t get it, because if you say “Matthews is so good man, he’s just like Stamkos was at the same age”, that would be viewed as SUCH high praise.  And then if you say “McDavid is on that same level Sid was on at the same age”, again people would just love that and agree.  And then if you said “Stamkos was great but he just wasn’t Sid”, again about 99% of people would be on board with that.  But right now if you say “Matthews is great but he isn’t McDavid” and it’s go time.

 

Ok, onto the team that McDavid has to prop up all by himself.

 

That was as big of a 2-1 win against a terrible hockey team in October as you’ll ever see.  But they won, and they were better than they were in Boston, and they were better in Boston than they were against Jersey.  So it’s improving, and as I said earlier they just MIGHT be catching the Jets at a good time tomorrow night.  It’d be a massive win.  And a lot of people are talking about the meat grinder of a schedule they’re facing out of the gate here, and I agree.  When the schedule came out I said to my buddy how it was complete horse shit on behalf of the league that they started this way.  Having said that, what a chance to get the confidence sky high.  And really, it can be looked at as a no lose by the team (not the coaches or management).  But if you’re the team, you throw out what your record is after this stretch and simply say “we are 1-0 against non playoff teams, 1-1 against non elite teams.”  Any other win is gravy.  But just get through this stretch at .500.  That’s it.  I don’t think they’re going to, but if they win on Tuesday they’re 2-2 coming home.  Then all you’re expected to do is have a 2-2 home stand, which is doable (especially with two of the teams on the second half of back to backs).

 

But then again, is a respectable run just delaying the inevitable?  I can see pretty clearly what’s wrong with this team, and the head coaches outdated theories on how to fix it aren’t going to work.  The GM’s outdated way to build a team isn’t going to work.  This squad has a ton of talent up front and only one guy can produce because the rest of them are stifled in my opinion.  If you’re going to have a bad blueline these days, make sure they can at least move the puck!  Instead they have a bad blueline that can’t move the puck!  Stud blueline in 2004, it ain’t 2004 anymore!  I’ve brought it up lots by now, but Bear should be up and in the top four.  Bouchard as the number six is awesome, I’d have Garrison paired with him who can move it a lot better than Russell can.  Then you have Klefbom and Nurse, I am to the point where I would move one of them if I had to.  I adore both guys, but I just don’t think they can afford to wait for both guys to realize their potential, it’s go time.  I don’t know what that trade would be.  I’m obviously not suggesting moving them just to move them or giving them away, but I would be willing to move one if it meant a high end puck mover coming in.

 

I will give you a name though that could make a lot of sense, and that’s Jared Spurgeon.  And this could have been brought up by others already, I haven’t heard it but there are a lot of voices in Oiler land right now, tough to keep tabs on all of them.  Anyway, the Wild could end up busting up their team, I know he was a guy that Elliotte Friedman had said the Wild weren’t too happy with after last season, and they don’t have many movable guys.  He fits the money that Sekera being on LTIR free’d up, is a righty, can REALLY move it, so he has big intrigue for me.  Another year left on his deal after this one, I’m pretty sure you would be looking at Ethan Bear going in the deal, also a pick or another prospect, and then they’d still have to shed some money somehow.  Would Russell waive?  Would Peter ever even think of asking his boy to waive?  Probably not, but just something to keep in mind while we’re all looking at Justin Faulk there might be an even better fit out there in Jared Spurgeon.

 

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Hot Takes – Oct. 9th, 2018

Let me start this off by saying that I am SO SORRY to everyone I have on Facebook.  Why?  Because I asked them to “like” my fan page.  Being very serious for a moment, I can’t stomach doing that shit.  Self promotion, bragging up any accomplishments, hand outs, asking people for favours, I do none of these things easy if I ever do them at all.  I hate it.  Because I know for so many of them, they see “Tyler Campbell has invited you to like Soups on Hockey” and they just think “fuck off, don’t annoy me with that shit”.  Not that I do, but I know far too many people who that would be there actual response.  I don’t think that mainly because anyone who does that shit is probably thinking the same things as I just laid out when they sent it.  Anyway, for those who liked the page, or added the IG account for the blog/podcast, thank you.  I’m just trying to turn this thing into something more than it is, and have to annoy people (like I did with that) along the way to do it.  So again, thank you very much to any of you who did so.

 

Onto business.

 

It is going to be difficult to not talk about the Leafs this season, and buddies of mine who are Leafs fans might not like listening to me while they’re going good because I try to look at them more realistically, where when they’ll be down and getting piled on, that would be the time to see what I have to say.  2-1-0 to start, that’s good, and they’re fun as f*ck to watch!  But…Montreal?  Ottawa?  Chicago?  With Cam Ward unable to stop a beach ball?  And you didn’t get a regulation win?  People need to pay much more attention to THAT stat and less about that they’ve won two games.  And at the moment, with Nylander still out, are they anything improved from this time last season?  Tavares in with Nylander, Bozak, JVR, and Komarov all out.  Definitely not saying that they need to push the panic button, but the media is making them out to be unbeatable.  No, they are very beatable at the moment and have a lot of work to do.  Talented enough to contend for a Cup, but at the moment, that’s all they are.

 

They should trade William Nylander.  Not because of contract demands, although they do sound ridiculous.  But they should because they shouldn’t commit so much money to their wingers.  If Nylander gets 7.5 per to 8.5 per, and Mitch Marner is going to get from 9-10 per, and you have Tavares at 11 per, and Matthews likely to get 12 per or more, it is just insane!  If they had a top four defence that was all in their prime and all on bargain deals, then ok.  But they don’t!  I firmly believe they need two more D for their top four to be set.  And it’s not just needing the money for the blueline.  The easiest thing in the league to find is talented wingers, and the Leafs have a lot of kids who can fill a 2nd line winger role.  It just doesn’t make sense to me to want to sign Nylander to a long term deal with the intention of keeping him as part of the core.  If they do intend to keep him long term, then for now a bridge is the best move they can make in my mind.   His numbers aren’t likely to get better thanks to no time on the top PP unit.  But I hope for their sake that they plan to turn him into a piece that they really need.  Look at this offence right now without him.  It’s very ok!  Kasperi Kapanen is very capable of being a 2nd line winger.  And if he doesn’t work in that spot, there are about 20 of them available every year at the trade deadline for a 2nd round pick or cheaper.

 

Bigger goalie equipment looks good so far wouldn’t you say?!….Man this league is a joke.

 

Biggest problem in the NFL right now is the new roughing the passer rule.  Hey, at least it’s a league where the refs actually DO THEIR JOBS!!!!  Dinosaurs will say “if you called this game by the book then you’d have 60 penalties a game”.  Nobody wants that, but how about we have our officials focus just a LITTLE more on calling it by the book and quit being so fucking worried about the flow of the game?!?  When it is a strategy for teams to challenge the refs to call everything because they know they’ll only call a max of six or seven penalties against them, then we have a major issue.  The way the league and the dinosaurs want it officiated leaves the door wide ass open for bias, even if it’s just a bias towards the situation, it’s still a bias.  5 on 3’s NEVER get called anymore, the percentage of penalties called in a game to the number of infractions that occur is somewhere around 17%, anytime officials are asked to crack down on something (obstruction, slashing, etc) it last’s about a month and then fades away, 30% of the rules will be called to the letter of the law but then the other 70% will be all dependent on things such as time of the game/how many PP’s a team has already had/are we punishing them too much (AKA will it become a five on three), it is a JOKE!!!  Oh, you’ve heard this before?  Yeah, well, until we start seeing some change with the way things are done you’ll continue to hear it from me.  Who in the hell wasn’t RAVING about that Chicago/Toronto game on Sunday night?  That could be a normal game if the league got their heads out of their asses!  And sure, law of diminishing returns would kick in, but not to the point where anyone would ever get bored with it!  I wonder if I just draw this up in detail for Gary and title the whole thing “idea just like the outdoor games”, at least then we’d have at least 10 games a year that were good.

 

So this really isn’t about anything going on in hockey at the moment, but my fantasy hockey league is moving over to Fantrax from CBS next season.  We got both actually for this season, but mainly just going to use Fantrax as a test dummy this season.  And as I’ve come to find out (FAR TOO LATE), there are just so many more features on Fantrax than CBS.  We run a pretty detailed league too.  Keeper league, rookie drafts, free agent auction, contract extensions, 14 teams (possibly going to move it to 16 next season), you have to start a full lineup of 12 forwards, 6 D, 2 tendys, it’s a geeky and detailed league (and if you’ve done those types of leagues on both Fantrax and CBS yourself then you know how hard I’m kicking myself that I didn’t have us on Fantrax YEARS ago).  I ended up debating my brother in law on this though where one thing I love is that you can incorporate much more detailed stats and have your fantasy league much closer to reality.  Stats like PK TOI, takeaways/giveaways, net faceoffs won, corsi, fenwick, they have a stat I’m a big fan of that sounds gimmicky “Old Time Hockey” but it just combines blocked shots with hits and fights.  I love incorporating these kind of stats into the league so that a player who is really good doesn’t just put up points, he has to do everything.  Add to that, we have a deeper league than most, so it helps make more players valuable.  Maybe they don’t put up much for points, but if they see a lot of TOI, are on the PK, win faceoffs, etc. then they’re worth picking up still.  The brother in law hates this though.  He’s loves and only does keeper leagues that are this deep, but believes in keeping it simple as can be.  Goals, assists, PIM’s, goaltenders worth nothing, etc.  I’m not saying he’s wrong, but I just found it interesting and would love to know what other people think.  One thing that has really excited me with analytics from a selfish point of view is that since they’re more telling than traditional stats, they’ll be outstanding to use for fantasy purposes.  Would honestly love to know what people think on this.

 

Well, the next Oilers game both can’t get here fast enough, and yet I’m not sure I can even watch.  Look, we all know it’s ONE game.  But the problem is that it’s the exact same team we saw last season.  I mean, it’s not the exact same team, it’s a team that’s added a lot of speed since this time last season.  But it’s the same disorganization, same passiveness, same slow tempo.  If it’s just some guys that are doing things like being out of position or playing slower it would be the personal.  I said this all last season and I still maintain this: the team is good enough to make the playoffs and Todd McLellan isn’t getting anywhere near the most out of them.  This squad is player for player faster than Vegas for example.  Yet the Golden Knights play one of the highest tempo’s in the league, and the Oilers could be the slowest.  Some of that is a lack of puck movers on the back end.  This system might work better if they had five or six guys who move the puck as well as Bouchard can, but they don’t!  They need to play on their toes, and instead McLellan has them playing for the game to come to them and allow the opposition to dictate, and it doesn’t work!  They did this in 17, it isn’t as if this was new last season.  And how did this team do?  Against the WEST, amazing.  The West was still playing slow/heavy enough that it worked.  Last year, the league got noticeably faster and the Oilers were skated into the ice most nights.  Vegas had guys last season like Perron, Neal, Reilly Smith, McNabb, Engelland, they were not an overly good skating team!  They simply played on their toes!  And that’s how most teams play now!  And the Oilers are just playing this completely passive style which is a big reason in my opinion they’re such a weak team defensively.  People believe that being aggressive will hurt you defensively, but I can say from experience that it’s much easier to play the game in general when you’re never stationary.  Had the Oilers lost 5-2 playing aggressive and the PP looked good, I’d be so happy and encouraged right now.  McLellan didn’t learn SHIT over the summer.  I’m very willing to give this team time, I’m not meaning to sound like the sky is falling.  And hey, it was Europe and maybe they just weren’t as prepared as they needed to be for that particular game.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t REALLY worried about what I saw.  Skated into the fuckin ice by a team that’s good, and they are fast, but they aren’t THAT good or THAT fast.  Again, if it’s a couple guys, then it’s the players.  It is the team and if it’s the entire team and we know that they have the talent to be at least a solid hockey team, then it is the coach.  He should have been gone, as should Chiarelli, and while I don’t know if I can stomach another season like the last, because of the Oilers complete JOKE of an owner it might be needed.  Then again, the jackasses who call the shots for them are too busy golfing or making a “Bobby Nichs burger” to even notice they have a joke of a team.

 

Having ranted all this…there is a Matt Benning problem that the dip shit GM wouldn’t address for the second off-season in a row.  His Matt Benning fetish has to end.  He’s a bottom pairing guy, and makes both too much money and they have much more useful bottom pairing guys for him to even be on the team anymore.  So what do you do?  Peter won’t go get Justin Faulk as he very likely could, and maybe the other guy they could go after is Tyson Barrie and he won’t do that either (Waddell and Sakic are probably both waiting on him to add a couple extra 1st’s to the McDavid package he has on the table).  In my opinion, they need to carry eight defencemen if they aren’t going to shed one in a trade, and go with Ethan Bear on the second pairing.  I’m with you on what you’re thinking after reading that.  I feel the same way!  But here is the thing: at least Bear can REALLY move the puck and can add something to their PP (since they aren’t going to use Bouchard on that top unit).  Bear isn’t a top four defenceman, but they badly need a blueline that can move the puck.  Bouchard and Bear are their best puck movers.  I think this team badly needs those guys on the ice.  And yes, I know how bad Bear got exposed at times in his own zone last season.  He can get walked rather easily.  But Benning isn’t much better in his own zone, he’s not that much better of a skater, and he can’t move the puck or shoot the puck near as well as Bear can.  It makes me sick that Bear might be the best option in that spot right now, but he probably is.

 

But hey, why get down after just one bad game, right?  I’m sure seven of the next eight aren’t against teams that were among the best in the league last year, right?….

 

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Is Bouchard Being Rushed? Probably Not

As of writing this, Evan Bouchard is expected to dress in the Oilers opener today.  I’m posting this two hours ahead of puck drop, but writing it on the Friday night prior because I’m too useless to wake up early on a Saturday morning to do it.  So if it’s changed and you can read this…I’m still sleeping, but when I wake up I will be updating things right after I shower, go get my coffee, maybe feed the cat (I really wish we had a dog but we don’t yet), scroll through Twitter, think of things to take pics of and post on the new Instagram account, then realize the games started and settle into watching it, text my buddies right after the first missed call about what horse shit the officiating in the league is, but you better believe that in that 2nd intermission, maybe early in the 3rd if there is a lull in the action, I just might think about updating this should Bouchard end up a healthy scratch!

 

So I’ve been vocal the past few weeks talking about how Evan Bouchard making the team, not just for nine games but the season, doesn’t scare me at all.  It scared a lot of people.  I’m not sure after seeing him in camp that many Oilers fans are still scared, but nevertheless I’m sure there are some holdouts.  Obviously the big thing for me wasn’t the camp he had, but it’s the skill set.  He doesn’t have anything which you would consider “raw” or that needs big time developing still.  He’s played three years of junior.  He turns 19 in three weeks.  He’s physically mature.  He’s mentally VERY mature.  His IQ is off the charts.  His vision and passing is already at a very high level and will likely be elite soon.  His shot is already high end and will likely be elite soon.  His skating…which is his knock (stupidly), is real good.  I’ve made this point a lot, his skating is fine it’s just that he plays methodical and doesn’t waste energy he doesn’t need to.  So if he’s going to be a number six defenceman who sees some time on the top PP unit, absolutely keep him up!

 

Sometimes though, it isn’t enough to just say those things to people.  Sometimes, people need reminders of guys who were similar.  So I thought about some and now I’ll lay it out.  Guys who were drafted in the top 10, are similar players to Bouchard, and entered the league at the same time in their careers.

 

Wade Redden 1996-97

This is one I can speak to best seeing that our families are good friends, I know Wade, followed every step of his career very closely, and as a fat little fuck of a 13 year old kid I was giddy as can be that I knew someone playing in the NHL so I didn’t miss a game of his.  But I can say, he was great for them that season.  He played top four, got a lot of PP time, didn’t look out of place, and that was on a Sens team that was pretty much average.  They barely made the playoffs.  But as I said above, I’m looking at guys who all were or are very similar to Bouchard.  Bouchard is four months younger than Wade was when he broke in, similar abilities passing the puck, similar shots from the point, similar methodical/cerebral styles of play, similar maturity and IQ levels.  Wade definitely had more edge in his game but that might be where the differences between the two end.  And it’s not as though Wade was a crusher defensively.  Nobody ever thought throughout his career that Wade got rushed into the league.

 

Aaron Ekblad 2014-15

WOAH!  Hold up before you lose your shit.  I am NOT suggesting that they are the same guy.  But what I am suggesting is how similar Bouchard is in terms of maturity (both physically and mentally) and the fact that they both had three seasons in the OHL under their belts entering their rookie seasons.  Ekblad fit in perfectly right from the get go.

 

Ivan Provorov 2016-17

Like Ekblad, this is not an identical comparison (unlike the next guy), but there are a lot of similarities.  Stepped in at 19, three years junior under his belt (though only two in the CHL, other one in the USHL), cerebral, not really flashy, really mature, had no trouble.  Pretty certain that nobody in Philly believes they rushed Provorov right now!

 

Zach Werenski 2016-17

This is the best example of today’s players.  I’d say Werenski has a little more speed, and that’s it.  Nearly the exact same size, nearly the exact same scouting report, Werenski was three months older than Bouchard (just about to the day) when he stepped in, and we all know how good Werenski was for the Blue Jackets two seasons ago and continues to be.  He was on their top PP unit which for a while during that season was the best in the league (ended up 12th mind you), and as would be the case with Bouchard he didn’t need to run it, just play on it.

 

Feel free to call me out on guys who play and have a similar IQ and maturity at the same age as Bouchard does and I’ll be happy to listen.  But I’ll also bark back because I’ve gone through the drafts from the last 25 years and didn’t see guys that busted or even were anything disappointing, who play similar, stepped in after three years of junior, and busted.  Now, if you want the case for sending him back, and I’m not saying Bouchard is identical to this guy, but Alex Pietrangelo went back in 2010 as a 19 year old.  Last time I checked, he’s pretty damn good.

 

Sending Bouchard back definitely isn’t going to hurt him, nor am I saying it would.  But to me, you only send him back if you don’t believe you’ll use him.  I think the better play for the organization is to keep him as their number six D-man, and send Bear back to Bakersfield to further work on his skating and knowledge that he’ll be the first guy called up and that it’s simply nothing to do with where he’s at but more to do with having more low cost talent available throughout the season.

 

I completely understand the fears that this fan base will have.  You can’t trust management at all to do the right thing, we’ve seen all the kids who got rushed over the years (Smid, Gagner, Paajarvi, Puljujarvi, etc.), but this isn’t that.

 

From what I see of this kid, and mind you I’m just a “wannabe” scout, but I see a kid who is physically mature, mentally mature, and has an extremely high IQ.  I don’t see anything that would be considered raw in his game.  Those are the guys who need more seasoning in my opinion, not the guys who are smooth, poised, and mature.  He has the strength to play.  He might not be as intense of a defender as we’d like to see, but he won’t get pushed around either.  He has the skating ability.  With this one, people need to figure out that he’s a really good skater, he’s just not one of these undersized burners that so many fans and media fall in love with (again, he’s cerebral, he’ll skate the speed he needs to).  To me, the things he needs work on would be his stick defensively, his positioning defensively, and something that people better be ready to accept is that he isn’t going to lay anyone out at any time.  He has basically no edge in his game.  But lots of D-men play with a similar lack of edge these days.  It’s fine.  You can still learn to defend.  And the thing with a kid this intelligent and this mature is that he’ll be better playing with better talent, and he’ll figure it out quickly what he needs to do to thrive in this league.

 

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Edmonton Oilers 18-19 Season Preview

Well…here we go.  It starts tomorrow.  About 27 hours away as of posting this.  To say this is a big season for this organization would be an understatement.  And a lot of people want to write them off already.  Despite the fact that in 2017 you had Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, and Colorado all have similar disappointing seasons as the Oilers just did, all three had quiet summers as the Oilers just did, then all three had incredible seasons in 2018.  Washington subtracted last off-season.  Subtracted, and won the Cup.  Despite that, the media still believes that the more changes you make, the better you must be.

 

I feel good about this team entering the season.  I like the changes to the coaching staff, this organization is just now starting to see their good drafting of late begin to pay off, and I simply believe that the three biggest reasons for last years disaster are frankly damn near locks to be righted.  This roster is better than the one we saw 12 months ago…which was being picked to win the Cup by some.  So can they make the playoffs?  Yes, they should.  I feel like they’ll finish either second or third in the division, barring health issues of course and there is no way to predict health.  But expectations are now cooled, the ego’s have been humbled, and with that will definitely come better focus.  But let’s look at the big question marks entering the season, and I put these in what I see as the order of importance for the clubs success this season.

 

Special Teams

This is the biggest key for me.  And very few outside of Edmonton have given it the attention they should be for what happened with the Oilers last season.  31st on the PP, 25th on the PK (and pretty certain they were 31st at the trade deadline).  No reason they can’t change that to 15th on the PP and 15th on the PK, and combined that should also have a big trickle down effect.  A good PP is going to make teams hesitant to take penalties against you.  When you’re 31st on the PP, who is scared to take a penalty?  Add to that, a good PP will boost players confidence, it’ll take pressure off guys five on five, it has a bigger impact than we tend to give it credit for.  Conversely, when you’re awful on the PK as they were for 80% of the season, they were clearly scared to play aggressive most nights which was when they played their best in 16-17.  A good PK, or even trustworthy PK would help them get back to pushing teams around.  This one looks like a lot more of a sure thing and to me should be one of the top units in the league.  They were on the road, and they were post trade deadline.  In March/April, the Oilers PK was 90.2%.  Not on the road, no they were simply 90.2% on the PK for the last 19 games of the season.  I have a very good feeling that this is turning around, and I can’t imagine that the PP can’t at least be a top 20 unit in the league and to me should be top 10.  A lot of talk about their setup going into the season.  I wonder why they don’t try using Draisaitl in the net front role, put Nuge in the bumper spot, and use Rattie on his off wing for the righty shot?  You could then have a lot more movement, use McDavid and Nuge the same way the Caps use Backstrom and Kuznetsov.  Just a thought, because Draisaitl has all the elements in his game to thrive in that spot in front.  Size, toughness, hands, intelligence, to me he’s a perfect fit there.  And you can always have him switch off and setup on the half wall as well, and then the fear becomes “where the fuck is Connor setting up?!”  Finally, McDavid is going to shoot more on the PP.  I think we all know that’s coming, and will open up A LOT more for them.

 

Cam Talbot

We all hate reading anything into pre-season hockey (if you don’t, you should because there are a billion variables).  BUT, if one thing was a safer bet than anything else I’d say that Cam Talbot looking awesome while facing a lot of shots and facing high quality chances is a very good sign.  I’ve brought this up before but will again.  I have a theory that after 2017 he likely was both exhausted from the season and wanting to finally spent time with his twins who were born at the start of that season.  He finally had time off to enjoy with his family.  So he very likely didn’t put a lot of time in during that off-season, and who would blame him!?  I’m not saying that was THE reason for his problems, but it would likely have had a trickle down effect for him as it often does in life.  Wasn’t as ready entering the season, which hurt him mentally, and simply couldn’t ever get completely on track.  I’m not overly worried.  When I watch Talbot, I see a high end goaltender.  The talent, the demeanor, I believe he is a legitimate number one guy who simply had a bad season.  I don’t think he’s amazing, but I definitely believe he’s more like the guy we saw in 2017 than we saw in 2018.  Obviously it looks bleak for what Mikko Koskinen can give them right now, but Talbot would obviously be helped even more if Koskinen can be trusted to play in 25-30 games.  I wouldn’t write him off just yet either.  I’m very vocal about my dislike of the job Peter Chiarelli has done, but his track record with goalies is pretty damn solid.

 

The Right Wingers

The other aspect which looked terrific in camp, but unlike with Talbot it can be a lot tougher to tell what we’re going to get from these guys.  I THINK they all look great, but that confidence that all three appear to have would take no time at all to disappear.  I’ll give you something, I won’t be shocked if Rattie ends up on another line.  Not as a demotion, but rather he looks THAT good so far.  He just looks like a guy who needed a legitimate chance in the league, had a team show some legitimate faith in him and now has the confidence that he can thrive…legitimately since I’m using that word so often.  Yamamoto is going to be damn good.  It’s as if people have forgot that.  12 months ago this fan base was giddy at what they had found, and by January they were resigned to him needing a year in Bakersfield.  Hey, he still may.  But he brings a ton of speed, he’s a spark plug, and he’s highly skilled.  And then of course, you have maybe for me the biggest X factor on the team.  Some would say that’s Talbot.  Some would say it’s the special teams.  For me, those are pretty certain to improve at LEAST some from last season.  Puljujarvi though has a chance to improve A LOT.  He’s coming.  He is going to be a stud.  But when will that happen, I don’t know.  If it happens this season, I believe this team will become a contender, because you would then have an elite first line, with a dominant second line centre anchoring his line, and Puljujarvi and Strome would see soft minutes and I believe they’re games compliment each other very well.  I truly believe that Puljujarvi is going to be an elite winger.  I’ve said all along, you can see that his strength doesn’t match his size, which makes him as clumsy out there as everyone can see.  We’re seeing it a lot less.  Add to that, the language is coming.  Probably not the deal the Edmonton media makes it out to be, but no doubt that having a good grasp on the language will help some.  Chances are that we won’t see it all come together this season.  Safer bet is 20 goals and 40-45 points if he is actually as good as he’s looked.  That’s all he really needs to be.  But if he takes that big step this season, that would be MASSIVE for this organization.

 

Oscar Klefbom’s health

He’s close to a number one guy when he’s right.  I’d say he’s a low end number one or a high end number two guy, but a guy who can play in any situation.  He’s healthy now.  He wasn’t healthy last season as you all know.  I understand that people would say to that “he’s often hurt”.  Hey, fair enough.  He didn’t get hurt until game five of the second round against the Ducks in 17.  He didn’t sustain a second injury throughout last season.  In 16, he broke his finger which is freak and easy to do, and he missed the last half of that season because of a staph infection.  Remember when people used to question Taylor Hall’s health?  I remember going through all his injuries and it becoming clear as day that he just had shit luck, he wasn’t injury prone.  That’s how I’m feeling about Klefbom, it’s just been shit luck.  You can win with this guy as your top D-man, and he’s due to start having some luck on the injury front.

 

Nurse/Benning

This one is getting glossed over and really underrated.  I trust that what we saw from Nurse is at the very least what we’re getting moving forward.  And Nurse did his damage last season while facing the top opposition, so anchoring the second pair should be fine.  And I still believe Nurse has a lot more to give, the kids ceiling is ridiculous.  But it’s up to Benning to keep up and be a top four.  It’s not an easy ask.  Does he have the ability?  I think so.  I’d be lying if I said he for sure does though.  Most D-men who have good rookie seasons like he had get people more excited than they should.  Benning had four years of college as seasoning and then looked good as a bottom pairing guy.  And he’s not a guy with big upside.  But he can be a number four at some point, and this team REALLY needs him to be.  Out of all the things I’ve listed thus far, this is the one I question the most, which is a good sign in my mind, but it’s still the second pair and top four D-men so it’s definitely concerning.

 

Ethan Bear/Evan Bouchard

One of them stepping up would be massive.  I’m not sure Bear has the wheels to ever be more than a bottom pairing guy.  He has everything going for him with the exception of that.  Real high IQ and is an exceptional puck mover.  But he got walked quite a few times last season.  I definitely believe he’ll learn from that and figure how to take better angles on guys, but more than anything as everyone knows, he needs to add an extra gear to be a top four defenceman moving forward.  As for Bouchard, I would cringe at putting him in a top four role as a rookie, at any point.  I have no problem at all with him playing the entire season as a number six though.  He’s got the IQ and maturity he needs to play as a 19 year old (in 17 days that is).  As a number four, that’s terrifying, and it wouldn’t shock me if they did it should injury problems occur.  But as a number six, that really doesn’t worry me.  You could maybe even sneak in some extra minutes for him maybe with a guy like Nurse when 97’s line is on the ice, which would be against the top opposition, but we all know how that line dominates possession.  But I feel good as either of these two in the number six spot and we’ll see after nine games who wins it, though my money is on Bouchard as Bear going down would give them an extra option when injuries occur.  If Bouchard goes down, he’s gone.  Whoever wins it needs to start playing on the top unit PP instead of Klefbom in my opinion.  I know that’s potentially a big ask of a 19 year old kid, but he has all the tools to do it.  You’re not asking him to QB it, just be on it.

 

Adam Larsson

An underrated element to this team.  It is SO damn easy to underrate what Larsson does because of how they acquired him.  But he’s a top pairing guy.  I know he has zero flash in his game, but he is a composed guy, physical, terrific positionally, and his passing is overlooked as the guy can move it pretty well.  We all know now what was going on last year and impacted his game as it would with pretty much anyone.  Hopefully he is moving forward and in a much better place mentally this season.

 

Milan Lucic

He’s the lowest on the list because I believe if you simply look at the roster, they can get away with him meeting what most now expect from him.  They definitely need more than what they got from him in the second half, but that was just a case of the guy being defeated mentally in my opinion.  Lucic is one of the most grossly overpaid players in the league, but I highly doubt he’s as useless as he was in the second half.  35-40 points, 17-20 goals, that’s really all I ask!  Just do THAT.  And maybe I’m completely nuts here, and obviously you don’t want to pay a guy SIX FUCKING MILLION for this, but I’d prefer he be put in the best situation to thrive.  So why not put him on the fourth line and let him dominate?  I’m loud about wanting McDavid, Draisaitl and eventually Puljujarvi on their own lines to really tilt the ice, so why not have a fourth line that can do that too?  And I believe Lucic is talented enough to do that getting fourth line minutes.  Maybe I’m nuts, that’s fine, but they’re stuck with that contract so why not forget about getting what you paid for and maxing out what you can get from the guy?

 

Am I dreaming on any of that?  I really didn’t come into this trying to talk myself in or out of anything, just giving my opinion on what can be expected.  Health is health, we can’t predict it.  But assuming they have a healthy season, those things look pretty good and I don’t feel like I’m being unrealistic about any of it, but maybe I am?  You be the judge.

 

So with all that being sorted, let’s look at what we know.  There are some things we know for sure, and some things that we should know that don’t get talked about.

 

The top line

It’s easy to say McDavid by himself, but this top line looked AMAZING to end last season.  Nuge and McDavid to me look better than Draisaitl and McDavid did because McDavid will shoot it when playing with Nuge.  And Draisaitl can carry his line better than Nuge can, so it works incredibly well.  And as we saw first hand in 2017, and saw with teams like Colorado and Boston last season, you can ride a first line pretty far.  Another add here is that people underrate that Draisaitl didn’t ever work that well on the top line last season.  97 and 29 just never gelled the same as they did in 2017.  Had 93 gone to 97’s wing in late October, the whole season may have gone much differently.

 

Draisaitl

He’s one of the best number two centres in the league.  He spent half of last season away from McDavid and his production wasn’t much different.  He also only had 15 of his 70 points on the PP.  And yet most said it was a bad season.  Ok…so what’s a good season look like?

 

Faster

Brodziak isn’t a burner, but he’s a better skater than Letestu was at this point.  Rieder is a terrific skater and is replacing Maroon who I love, but is slower.  Not too slow, but slower.  Yamamoto is a burner.  Puljujarvi is a better skater as he continually gains strength.  Rattie isn’t an elite skater but good and very quick.  And then you insert one of Bear or Bouchard, not that they’ll play a lot, but both guys are the best puck movers the Oilers have and didn’t have either for most of last season.  What would make them a real fast team would be a good puck mover on the second pair, maybe a righty who can also skate great, has two years left on his deal at a little under five mil per….but even without “that guy”, this is a much faster team.

 

Talent coming

Cooper Marody, looks good.  Tyler Benson, I’m really high on him.  Caleb Jones, he’d be ready to at least come up to play some games if need be.  William Lagesson will be capable if called up.  And if Ethan Bear goes down as I suspect he will, he’s the first call-up.  It’s not a lot obviously but it’s four more kids than they had to use than this time last year (I know technically Jones and Bear, but they weren’t ready).  Last year there was Puljujarvi, and nothing else.  Next year at this time you can add Maksimov, Safin and McLeod to that (Samorukov too, but he’ll need a lot of time like Jones).  The system is getting a lot better, and nobody looks at that, but if injuries hit you need to have guys who can step in.   It’s still not good in Bakersfield, but it’s better.

 

If any other team had three seasons like the Oilers last three, they’d get the benefit of the doubt from everyone.  16, they had HORRIBLE injuries.  I really believe they would have been a playoff team had simply McDavid and Klefbom not gone down.  18 was anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  I really believe the Flames have more question marks than the Oilers do, but because the Flames never had the horrific years the Oilers did, and because they’ve been LESS of a disappointment in two of the last three seasons than the Oilers, they get the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t care though when it comes to the Oilers, it honestly helps.  It bothers me the Flames get so overrated because it’s members of the media being horrific at their jobs, but I really don’t care how they view the Oilers.  I feel good about them.  I’d feel MUCH better about them if they were taking a serious run at acquiring Justin Faulk, but without I still strongly believe a bounce back is coming.

 

Let me end this on a downer theory though.  The theory being that Connor McDavid isn’t happy, and in turn the rest of the hockey world is pretty pissed off at the Oilers organization.  That clip in the GQ interview about how brutal it was with the fans last season, I have to think that he was given the chance to retract that and he didn’t.  It pisses me off because I know things such as guys chirping him and his family outside Joey’s South Common (that’s where it looked like it was to me anyway), those guys aren’t Oilers fans.  Just because you live in Edmonton doesn’t mean you’re an Oilers fan.  I have a lot of friends who when they were 17-25 years old would have done the exact same thing.  The guys who did it were just dip shits who thought they were being funny and would get a reaction on social media by recording it.  You don’t need to be a hockey fan to know who Connor McDavid is, especially in Edmonton.  Anyway, that’s how it gets painted in the media, people close to him might be letting him think things like that are because it’s Edmonton and those are Oilers fans piling on him.   That incident aside though, if he is pissed and unhappy and, I wouldn’t be surprised, nor am would I blame anyone other than OEG management.  I have repeatedly touched on the national media love the Flames get yet again, and while this hasn’t played into that opinion, I do feel like there is at least a bit of disdain for the Oilers organization from them as well.  How could any of us blame them if that’s the case either?  This was their concern when the Oilers won McDavid.  What has happened since?  They’ve maybe been run worse than they were which is saying something, and they completely pissed away McDavid’s ELC.  I know what I just said about 16 being injuries and last season being everything going wrong, but if they make good decisions in the front office leading up to what happened last season such as not pissing away Hall or pissing away the 16th pick/Barzal, that season doesn’t happen.  I know none of this is news to any Oilers fan reading this.  So am I getting at?  I worry that the Oilers could be on thin ice with McDavid.  I know he is literally just now starting his eight year deal, but the organization will have the entire league breathing down their necks if this is the case.  I think THAT is why they’re not only getting a bit underrated entering this season, but nobody really saying anything positive.  People have just had ENOUGH of the shit show.  Everyone loves watching Connor McDavid and wants to see him succeed. Meanwhile you have an organization controlling that potential success who are incompetent and have a severe lack of self awareness.  Nothing new, I know.  And I believe this will be a playoff team.  Further to that, this team can challenge for a division title if they not only get things like special teams and Talbot back on track, but a Puljujarvi takes that big step and/or Nurse takes yet another step in his development.  But when you suck, things seldom bounce your way (look at my life).  To say it is a concern entering this season, is a massive understatement.  So I do worry that the ramifications of this season might be a lot more severe than searching for a new GM.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2018-19 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications

First off, I hope you’re enjoying the podcasts so far, and if you haven’t check them out yet please do!  They’re rough, and I’m well aware of that, but they’re going to get much better.  I’m not an overly confident dude, but I feel it’s something I can do very well in time and so it’s one investment I’m willing to roll the dice on and hopefully you will too.  But I’m still going to blog and just put out as much content as I can and maybe, somehow, some way, I’ll finally land that gig so I can actually do this for a living!  Because it’s getting old considering I’ve done this a long time now and still haven’t gone anywhere…not that I’m getting frustrated…oh yeah, season preview!

 

After watching last season, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that this league is about two things: goaltending (not at all news) and expectations.  These rankings are largely based on how teams are going to deal with their expectations, and how good or poor their goaltending is.  That’s it.  Because you can’t predict injuries.  We don’t know how big or small of impact certain injuries will make, and we don’t know which teams will get bit the worst by the bug.  And we BADLY underrate injuries.  For fans and media, it is actually awful how little we look at injuries and the impact they have on teams performances.

 

I said this in the podcasts but I’ll say it again, I have five teams as locks to make the playoffs.  That’s it.  Five.  And that’s assuming they stay healthy.  San Jose, Nashville, Tampa, Toronto and Pittsburgh.  And I truly don’t believe that there is one team in the league simply can’t make the playoffs.  Ottawa?  They can.  Vancouver?  They can.  Don’t think so?  Were the Sens not the Avs just 12 months ago?  Were the Devils not the Canucks?  Vegas?  2015 the Flames were supposed to be 30th.  So let’s not be stupid about this and count out anyone.

 

I was going to do my projections different this season.  All I was going to do was rank them in the order of which teams I had the best odds in each division to make the playoffs.  But that’s not fun!  We all get these DRASTICALLY wrong, but I get that it still makes for a fun read, so I’ll project everything and get a SHIT TON WRONG and it’ll be humiliating to look back on probably by November!

 

Pacific

1. San Jose

I worry big time about them from a Cup contending point of view that they now won’t have enough to get the centre they may badly need to put them over the top.  And Doug Wilson couldn’t ever get the Thornton/Marleau teams over the top because he built them the same way with big names and very minimal depth.  We’ll see if he can pull one more rabbit out of his hat.

Upside: Karlsson elevates everyone to yet another level, Thornton stays healthy and has one more decent season in the tank and the Sharks finally win their Cup.

Downside: Karlsson doesn’t have near the impact he’s expected to have, Wilson doesn’t have the bullets left to improve the team further, and they’re dusted in first or second round.

Projection: They’re making the playoffs, probably coming out of the Pacific, but I can’t see them making it back to the final with the way the team is constructed right now.

Underrated concern: The decline of Brent Burns.  I really feel like this was the biggest reason Doug Wilson went and got Karlsson is that he knows Burns is fading.

 

2. Anaheim

Don’t confuse Getzlaf and POS Kesler getting old with the team getting old.  And now, don’t confuse Perry going down as a big loss.  This team is setup to be good for a long time still, and the cap space Perry will create could open up a deal for a guy like Mark Stone.  Gibson, Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, Silfverberg, and Rakell, are all in their primes.  And then they have kids like Montour, Larsson, Kase, Terry and Steel who are really just getting going.

Upside: Getzlaf has one more big season, Kesler stays healthy, Perry’s cap room is used to deal for a big name player, and Josh Manson makes that jump from top four to number one D-man and they are contenders one more time.

Downside: Getzlaf’s decline accelerates, Kesler can’t stay healthy, Bob Murray doesn’t want to use Perry’s cap room, and they struggle to make the playoffs.

Projection: Most of these I’m going to end up saying it’s “somewhere in the middle”, and this is one of those.  Perry being out won’t hurt them and honestly might help them a bit.  By April, we might be talking about this as Gibson, Fowler and Rakell’s team.

Underrated concern: Re-signing Jakob Silfverberg.  That guy is one of the most underrated players in the league.

 

3. Edmonton

I’ve said it a million times already but I’ll say it once more: The PK won’t be nearly that bad again, the PP won’t be nearly that bad again, and Talbot won’t be nearly that bad again.  Add to that, a healthy Klefbom and the RWers all look great in camp.  They’re getting downplayed at the moment and it is so good for them.  Also, they also have a lot of elite level talent kids who have a lot of steps left to take.  I wouldn’t bank on all of them doing it at once by any means, but simply if one or two of them do it will make for a MASSIVE improvement to the team.

Upside: PK, PP, Talbot and Klefbom are all back to normal, and the RW’s (Rattie, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto) all meet expectations.  That happens, they’re competing for the division title or more.

Downside: Talbot’s pre-season was a mirage, Klefbom could gets hurt again, and the special teams struggle again.  I can’t see them being a bottom 10 team again, but missing the playoffs is obviously very possible.

Projection: I don’t view them as any better or worse than the Flames coming into this season, and the youth the Oilers have is higher end then the youth the Flames have, so maybe that’s the tie breaker for me is that if the Oilers have some kids take a step then it could be of bigger impact then if the Flames kids do.  Both I feel will be fighting for a playoff spot until the last two or three games of the season, and it’ll be a coin flip as to who finishes where and whether or not one of them, both of them, or neither of them get in.

Underrated concern: The second pairing.  Nurse should be fine, but Matt Benning as the number four…getting massively underplayed by most.

 

4. Calgary

If you don’t know how I feel about the Flames at this point then you don’t read or hear my stuff!  I’m not as down on this team as this may indicate or my blog/rant on them the other day did.  They’re in a group of four teams who I feel are all pretty even odds to finish in a playoff spot.

Upside: Mike Smith stays healthy and plays like he did pre injury last season, the blueline remains a strength and the new additions meet expectations.  All that happens, they will compete for the division crown.

Downside: I’ve laid it out a lot already.  But there is A LOT that could go wrong here and don’t like for their sake that there is so much hype around this team.

Projection: Fighting for one of these playoff spots.  Again, I actually don’t have shit against the Flames, or the CALGARY media!  Just how the national media is drooling over them.  Man I hope both them and the Oilers are back in.  First round matchup with each other, second round, whatever.  Why would either fan base want it any other way?!

Underrated concern: Their blueline.  Go down the depth chart and tell me just how much better it is than the Oilers.  I’m going to tell you, it isn’t the gap everyone thinks.  Every guy in that top four has a massive question mark.  Giordano’s age, Brodie’s decline since 2015, Hamonic’s decline since 2016, Hanifin hasn’t played in a top four role.

 

5. Los Angeles

I just don’t like them entering this season.  I feel like this team got off to a really hot start last season and lived off the fumes of that.  I don’t care what the scores were in the series against Vegas, they were completely humiliated.  Out skated to everything in the four games.  And they’re slower to start this season.

Upside: Jeff Carter is 100%, Kovalchuk lights it up and they get in the playoffs with a top three seed in the division.

Downside: They’re far too slow, Carter can’t do it anymore, neither can Kovalcuk, Brown comes back to earth, and Quick can’t stop the team bleeding.

Projection: What tends to happen with teams when they get rid of the long term coach who is hard on players like a Ken Hitchcock, Michel Therrien or Darryl Sutter is that the team gets an initial burst.  The 09 Pens burst took them to the Cup after firing Therrien.  The Blues in 2017 won a playoff round and then hard the best start in the league last season, and the Kings also had one of the best starts in the league last season.  That’s done though.  I don’t see them getting back in the playoffs.

Underrated concern: What’s coming.  It’s not so much that the core is now old, it’s that they don’t have anyone who can pick up much of that slack.

 

6. Vegas

I really thought about lying here.  I thought about putting them second and saying how they always proved me wrong so I’ll give them respect or some shit like that.  I don’t disrespect them at all, I just think that they’re going to be figured out.

Upside: Things keep rolling.  They ride the wave of last season and while I can’t believe they’d go back to the final, perhaps they win the division again.

Downside: The complete reverse of last season happens.

Projection: This was already said in my Hot Takes piece on Monday, but this thing is a powder keg waiting to blow.  The expectations in the organization, the mix isn’t the same, bigger contracts, bigger egos, unlikely to keep getting the bounces, unlikely to stay as healthy as they did, everyone now has a book on them and nobody will be taking them lightly.  I don’t expect things to go South early, but as the season goes on and more adversity comes their way, they’ll lose confidence, the room will get worse thanks to the expectations, and eventually they’ll end well out of the playoffs.

Underrated concern: William Karlsson.  We’re just so damn certain that what we saw last season was legit?  Could be, but it was one season.  Jason Blake had ONE season…

 

7. Arizona

A lot of people must be a hell of a lot smarter than I am, because I don’t see this team doing much this season, yet they all seem to think they’re either going to push for a playoff spot or be in a playoff spot.

Upside: Raanta plays 60 games while maintaining that sparkling .930 Sv%, Galchenyuk now gone from Montreal thrives out of the spotlight, Keller goes from terrific rookie to elite player and they sneak into the playoffs.

Downside: 31st.

Projection: I’m sure they’ll get better, but they were 29th, with a goaltender who had a .930 Sv% in 46 starts and an elite defenceman anchoring the blueline.  Galchenyuk in for Domi is going to take them from 29th to the playoffs?!  I just have a real tough time believing that.  And I haven’t been the biggest fan of what they’ve done in the draft either so no use tying to sell me on some of their other kids.

Underrated concern: Their drafting.  This team has been down now since 2013, they should have a lot more than Clayton Keller to show for it.  They have ok youth, but nothing to get too excited about.

 

8. Vancouver

This is moving in the right direction.  Please ownership, DO NOT F*CK WITH THIS!  They’re a stud piece away from being done with the heavy lifting, and honestly they are due to win a draft lottery.  Jack Hughes wouldn’t just be a thrill for the Hughes family, but he would round out the Canucks youth perfectly being the stud number one centre they could really use.

Upside: The team plays well above expectations and pushes for a playoff spot.

Downside: Ownership puts unreal expectations on them to get in the playoffs this season and they simply cannot deliver, leading to problems in the room and the firing of Travis Green.

Projection: The kids grow, but ultimately they just aren’t ready.  But man, they’re on the right track.  They just need to stick with this.

Underrated concern: Starting Pettersson at centre.  He’ll PROBABLY be fine, I’m as high or higher on the kid than most, but I’d still rather see them start him on the wing and just ease into his career.

 

Central

1. St. Louis

I’m not at all high on Jake Allen, and I HATED the Tyler Bozak signing.  But this team is great on paper.  O’Reilly is a huge addition, as much as I hated the Bozak signing I don’t hate the player and believe he’ll improve them a lot, the blueline was already damn good, and we know they have tremendous depth.

Upside: Jake Allen has a career year and the Blues are the top team in the West.

Downside: Jake Allen has another inconsistent season and the Blues struggle to make the playoffs despite all the great additions.

Projection: They just need him to be ok.  And I’m not saying I like the Blues better than the Jets or Preds when it comes to how this season ends up, but I think they’ll be a regular season beast where I doubt the division crown means much to those other two.

Underrated concern: Can Brayden Schenn repeat last season?  I feel like it was a complete mirage, and he did fall off after Christmas, but we’ll see.

 

2. Winnipeg

I love them, but as I’ll likely type 100 times between now and the end of their write-up here is…we’re SO sure that Conor Hellebuyck is going to repeat that, are we?  12 months ago I was ripping Kevin Cheveldayoff for not getting a goalie.  Everyone else was livid he got the extension he did and felt he shouldn’t have a job.  Now he’s the best GM in hockey.  Did we learn NOTHING from last season and how quickly things can change?

Upside: We all know what the upside is here.  It’s them skating around with the Cup.  As long as last season was legit, then that’s what definitely can happen.

Downside: I just hit on it, Hellebuyck comes back down to earth, but maybe just as important the teams defensive play goes back to what it was.

Projection: I have to believe they’ll be great.  They have so much more depth than say the Oilers had last season.  But the expectations and the fact that it was only ONE SEASON has me concerned.

Underrated concern: Paul Maurice in probably 20 years as a head coach in this league, something near that anyway, has only ever made the playoffs back to back ONCE.  Again, we’re SO certain that this team is great?

 

3. Nashville

You know what they are, and you know they’re competing for a Cup.  It doesn’t matter if they win the division or not.  It’s just about getting in and going on another run, maybe this time with more focus than last season.

Upside: Win the Cup, it’s that simple.

Downside: Don’t win the Cup, it’s that simple.

Projection: They’re a goaltender away.  Forget where I call them to finish in the division, that is more a case of them messing around with their goaltending and making sure things are ready come April.

Underrated concern: Centre.  Not a BIG concern at all, but I do wonder if Johansen and Turris are good enough to win a Cup with.

 

4. Dallas

Man, I REALLY thought that they’d thrive under Ken Hitchcock and just flat out didn’t.  Not that they sucked, but I thought he’d get them back near the top of the division.  I love their depth, and obviously love what they have coming on the blueline, but don’t confuse young and talented blueline with good blueline.

Upside: That young and talented blueline is a good blueline and they finish in the top three of the division.

Downside: Ben Bishop is very inconsistent and that blueline just is too young and they end up missing the playoffs for the third straight season.

Projection: I think they’ll get in.  They’re really talented.  I don’t know much about Jim Montgomery other than he was a journeyman 4th line centre.

Underrated concern: Jamie Benn’s contract.  It’s already starting to not look very good and has a LONG way to go, though with the CBA up soon maybe Jim Nill gets out from under it a lot sooner.

 

5. Minnesota

It just feels like this team is in no man’s land right now doesn’t it?  Bruce Boudreau can get the absolute best of his teams, but I’m not sure this squad has much more to give.  Their vets are getting up there in age, and their kids aren’t high end.  They feel like they’ve peaked.

Upside: Boudreau gets one more year out of everyone and they sneak in the playoffs.

Downside: They’re done, and the fall is harsh as their cap situation isn’t pretty.

Projection: Again, I think Boudreau will get what he can out of the group, but I just don’t think much is left in the tank.  They badly need a kid like Jordan Greenway to take a MAJOR step.

Underrated concern: Bruce Boudreau’s job security.  Paul Fenton isn’t the person who hired him.

 

6. Colorado

I loved watching them last season.  What a turnaround.  But to say it’s sustainable is false.  That blueline is still not great even though they have a lot of good talent on it either on the squad or still coming.  But to repeat last season I believe that not only Jost, but one or two more guys would have to really step up because these lines that get extremely hot for one season so rarely repeat it.

Upside: Everything goes right and they’re back in a wildcard spot.

Downside: They go back to what people saw them as this time a year ago.

Projection: I think they can compete for a spot, but just won’t make it.  I got them 6th, but I do believe they’ll be in the hunt.  The big question mark for me is the goaltending.  Varlamov is either very hot or very cold, and Grubauer looked good behind a great team with no pressure as the number two guy, this is different.

Underrated concern: Cale Makar going back to school.  They have to get him signed after this season, and after two seasons, he’d be uncomfortably close to being a free agent if I were Joe Sakic.  I’m sure he’ll sign after this season, but I was sure he’d sign after last season.

 

7. Chicago

You know, they were fine until Corey Crawford got hurt last season.  But while I’ve been a big fan of this team, it’s time to tap on them I believe.  I originally started writing this I had them 3rd and projected a bounce back.  But now with Crawford questionable, the roster just isn’t as good as I was thinking it was, the window has closed on the Hawks.

Upside: Toews and Seabrook get one last big season out of themselves and they get back in the dance with Stan Bowman pushing all his chips to the middle of the table to win one last Cup.

Downside: It goes from “coming undone” to “completely unravelling”.

Projection: So much depends on either Corey Crawford getting healthy or Cam Ward turning back the clock.  I really do believe that Ward could get rejuvenated playing in Chicago.  But to project that happening would be pretty bold.  But this roster all of a sudden just doesn’t look good at all.

Underrated concern: The depth.  Not that this is not talked about, but wow this team is SO THIN up front and on the back end.  Last year I loved them to bounce back big time, and they were fine until Crawford went down.  Now I’m asking what the FUCK has happened?!

 

Atlantic

1. Toronto

Well, they’re built to dominate in the regular season.  They have far too many holes still for me to like them come playoff time, so hopefully Kyle Dubas will fill those, but as far as the regular season goes they should be great.

Upside: Dubas pulls a rabbit out of his ass and lands them the defencmen they need and they have a parade in Toronto as they make it to the 2nd round….no I’m kidding Leafs fans, you win the Cup.

Downside: There is A LOT of downside for them.  The holes are big.  The blueline is too weak in their own zone.  This team can easily be pushed around as Boston showed last spring.  They lost a lot of veteran leadership this summer.  And couple all that with insane expectations both externally and internally, they’re extremely well setup moving forward but this thing has legit potential to come flying off the rails THIS season.

Projection: I feel as though they’ll have a big year in the standings, maybe win the President’s trophy, but that might be the worst thing for them come playoff time as it might convince Dubas to stay the course with the guys he has.  The blueline isn’t good enough and they can be pushed around far too easy still and until they address it at least somewhat, I’m not sure they can be a serious Cup threat.

Underrated concern: The expectations.  I’ve said it throughout but will again here, it’s a VERY young team with ENORMOUS expectations.  Anything of a slow start and you know the fans and media will be piling on.

 

2. Tampa Bay

Brutal way to end last season for the Bolts after a terrific regular season.  But they’ll be back this season and they’re primed for another run.

Upside: Win the Cup, no doubt.

Downside: Don’t win the Cup.  It’s just like Nashville.  Cup or bust.

Projection: I’m not expecting as good of regular season as last, but I believe it’ll help them come playoff time.

Underrated concern: They really could use a power forward.  I know they’re a speed team, but to me they have everything except that stud power forward.  Rare to find these days, but would be a massive add for them.

 

3. Florida

I loved them last season, and they nearly pulled it off!  I said it last year though, everyone focused on what they shipped out and not what they still had.  12 months later, everyone loves them!  Welcome to the bandwagon guys…

Upside: They could REALLY bust out here.  They remind me a lot of Winnipeg, only we already know how good their goaltending is.  Luongo quietly was awesome last season.  He does that again and they stay healthy, they might compete for the division crown.

Downside: Luongo starts to sharply decline, and if that happens, I’m not sure even with all their talent that they can make the playoffs.

Projection: I really believe they’re getting in the playoffs.  More than that, this team is built to do some damage in the playoffs.

Underrated concern: Luongo.  I’ve brought it up already, I know, but nobody is talking about how old he now is or that this could be his final season.

 

4. Boston

EVERYTHING WENT RIGHT!  And yet, nobody brings that up with this club.  They had kids peak and vets maintain at the perfect time.  No health problems, the top line got RED HOT, it just all went there way.  But the problem is that a lot of their big guns are old and could fall off at any minute.

Upside: Everything keeps going right.  If it does, they’re a threat for the Cup.

Downside: Bergeron starts to fall off, Chara continues to fall off, Marchand’s play comes back to earth a bit, and they fail to get in the playoffs.

Projection: The downside is basically what I see coming.  It amazes me how when doing these projections the media basically just expects everything to keep happening the way it was going last season.  I still think they get in, but barely.

Underrated concern: David Krejci.  He’s a 7.25 million dollar ticket who isn’t a 7.25 million dollar player anymore.  They at least need him to be a high end second line centre.

 

5. Buffalo

I have trouble getting as hyped about them as some are.  Not that anyone is calling for them to make the playoffs or anything, but they do like them a lot.  They lost Ryan O’Reilly.  These guys like Dougie Hamilton or O’Reilly, sure they might not be great in the room, but we DO realize these guys are awesome players and damn near impossible to replace, don’t we?!

Upside: Linus Ullmark is ready to grab the reigns in goal and lead them to a wildcard spot.  They haven’t had great goaltending since Ryan Miller left town, and I don’t know if Ullmark can do it, but he’d have to do it.

Downside: Jack Hughes is possible still.  They’re on the right track now with Dahlin, but they’re not done this build.

Projection: Saying they’ll finish 5th in this division isn’t saying much at all.  Basically 5th in the Atlantic is no different than 8th.  None of these teams are inspiring, but I do think Dahlin will give this club a big jolt.

Underrated concern: Their goaltending.  I don’t get why this doesn’t get more attention.  They badly need to land a high end guy.

 

6. Montreal

Trade Carey Price.  You badly need to rebuild, and he would bring in a lot.  I understand why you might want to build around him, but the chances are that by the time they rebuild it, he’ll be done or nearly done his prime years.  I’ve hated the way this club was constructed for years, and it finally caught up with them.  But hopefully they’ll tear it down now.

Upside: Price carries them to a wildcard spot.  If he does that, it’d be tough to give the Hart to anyone else, but he can do it.

Downside: They’re challenging the league to take Alexis Lafreniere rather than Jack Hughes with the top pick.

Projection: There is just barely too much there still to be awful.  I said the other day, said it when the trade was made, I believe Max Domi is going to be a great bright spot and thrive there.  But other than that, bottom of the league.

Underrated concern: Is it possible to have an underrated concern for this team right now?  It’s the Habs, and they’re in the tank.  Pretty sure nothing negative will get underrated!

 

7. Detroit

It is incredible how this team has gone from NHL royalty to a complete afterthought in maybe three seasons.  They had a damn good draft, but they don’t have much on the current roster.  I still think they’ll avoid being overly bad simply thanks to the culture and how well run the organization is, but I can’t see them being a big threat to the playoffs.

Upside: Jonathan Bernier gives them the kind of goaltending that he gave the Avs last season and the Leafs in 2014 and they pull out a shocker type season and get a wildcard spot.

Downside: 31st.  They’re a threat for that.  I don’t like much of what they currently have.  That blueline is pretty bad.

Projection: Bottom of the league, chance at Jack Hughes.  I just don’t see them doing anything.

Underrated concern: Again, that blueline is underrated in that it is horrendous!  Right now I’m not sure they have a guy you’d consider a top three!  Two number fours, and THAT might be generous to say!  Steve Yzerman is going to have a lot of work to do…

 

8. Ottawa

I got them 8th, as everyone else does, but I haven’t been quiet about the fact that I could see them pushing for a playoff spot.  Seriously.  As you can see, I’m not calling that to happen, but I’ve just seen it happen in this league too often where shit shows get used as rallying points.  Guy Boucher might have a real easy job this season, because he’ll likely get tremendous buy in.

Upside: Wildcard spot.

Downside: “With the first pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft, the Colorado Avalanche are proud to select…”

Projection: Yeah, it’s tough to not project them for this spot.  Still, I’d say 5th in the division definitely isn’t far fetched, but that shows you how awful four of the teams in the division are.

Underrated concern: There is nothing that is underrated for concerns with them right now.  Nothing.

 

Metro

1. Pittsburgh

This might be their last great shot.  Sure, Crosby and Malkin will be back next season and we’ll be saying it again, but as the years go on it is obviously going to get tougher and tougher.  With a 2nd round exit last spring, the rest could be a big advantage for them entering this season.

Upside: Third Cup in Four years.

Downside: Bounced by the Caps again this spring.

Projection: I love them to win the division, although they haven’t since 2014.  One of the favourites for the Cup though, and Jim Rutherford will look to make another big move to put them over the top.  Keep your eye on Matt Duchene speaking of that, they were Friedman’s darkhorse team when that was previously going on.

Underrated concern: Their age.  It’s not just Crosby and Malkin, six key contributors are all over 30.  The league keeps getting younger and faster, and this team in particular is built with speed.

 

2. Philadelphia

I don’t know if this team is overly good, but they made the playoffs…comfortably…with a starting goaltender who had a .907 Sv%.  That’s pretty damn impressive!  Very deep both up front and on the blueline, quietly Ron Hextall has built a damn good team.

Upside: They land that elite goaltender (Carey Price?  Jonathan Quick?) and if that happens, I’m not sure they can win a Cup but they’d be in the hunt.

Downside: Goaltending doesn’t improve and this season they don’t get the huge seasons from Giroux, Voracek and Couturier and struggle to make the playoffs.

Projection: I like them more than most.  That goaltender thing is huge and as I said, that’s impressive that they made it as comfortably as they did last season with such weak goaltending.

Underrated concern: Nolan Patrick.  He didn’t look GREAT last season.  I didn’t believe he was going to dominate or anything, but really didn’t get anyone too excited.

 

3. Washington

Finally.  Finally they’ve won their Cup.  This will go one of two ways this season, but I guess I should save those things for the next part rather than waste them on the opening.

Upside: With the monkey off their back, now they’re going to tear up the league.  Don’t expect the regular season to be overly good no matter what, but a deep playoff run could happen again.

Downside: They’ve won their Cup and so now they’ll have a lot of guys settle for one.  Probably too talented to miss the playoffs, but I doubt anyone would be overly shocked if they did.

Projection: So I guess it’s somewhere in between here, but we’ll see what they can do come spring time.

Underrated concern: What they’re going to do with Holtby long term.  He’s got two years left, and Ilya Samsonov now in North America.  It’s a good problem to have, but it’ll be interesting to see more than an “underrated concern”.

 

4. Carolina

This might be my biggest shocker for my picks.  No Columbus in the top four in the Metro, and I’m saying that the Canes finally arrive a year later than everyone else thought they were going to.

Upside: Scott Darling becomes the guy most thought he’d be last season and they finally start to click as an organization.

Downside: Tom Dundon continues to be a bit of a shit show and they continue to struggle.

Projection: I think it’s closer to the upside.  Dundon has been quiet and didn’t blow it up as most feared.  This squad got some of the soft out the door, Ferland will obviously upgrade their size and strength, Hamilton is a big upgrade on Hanifin, I’m sky high on Martin Necas and though I question Svechnikov he SHOULD be great.  They’re better and nobody notices!

Underrated concern: What they’ll get for Justin Faulk.  I still have to believe they’ll deal him, but I’m wondering if the reason they haven’t is because the return just isn’t there.  He’s not good in his own zone, and once they got Hamilton it was obvious Faulk was gone which probably killed his value.

 

5. Columbus

John Tortorella teams don’t have great staying power.  Artemi Panarin apparently wants to walk.  Sergei Bobrovsky doesn’t sound like he is going to stay.  Seth Jones is now out the first month of the season.  This is not looking good for the Jackets.

Upside: They withstand the loss of Jones, the contracts for Panarin and Bobrovsky just elevate their play and they finish top three in the division.

Downside: I don’t know if this is a downside for the organization, but for this season they trade both Panarin and Bobrovsky and take a step back to take two steps forward.

Projection: I don’t know if they’ll deal them, and they should.  This just doesn’t have a good feel to it.  Kekalainen needs to get something for these two.  This isn’t a Cup contender with them, and they’ve sold their season tickets, so get something before it’s too late.

Underrated concern: Brandon Dubinsky.  Is he done?  He’s a big ticket for what he might give them at this point.

 

6. NY Rangers

So here is my big theory: The pro game has never been more similar to an NCAA style than it is right now.  American coaches and coaches with NCAA back grounds are really starting to thrive behind the bench.  David Quinn could be a perfect fit for this club and while I only got them to finish 6th in the division, I wouldn’t be shocked if they had a surprise season.

Upside: Henrik Lundqvist gives them one final big season and gets them in the playoffs.

Downside: They’re a Jack Hughes candidate despite me thinking they’ll overachieve.

Projection: As I just said, I believe they’ll overachieve and be much tougher than most believe they will, but still miss the playoffs.

Underrated concern: How many more seasons does Lundqvist have left?  36, but still looks great.

 

7. New Jersey

Yeah, I’m not a big believer in this squad.  Could easily prove me wrong here, but I just think they BARELY made the playoffs with Taylor Hall having an incredible season.  So if Taylor Hall only has a 60-70 point season, and Corey Schneider doesn’t get healthy and/or back to form, what are they?  But in calling them to finish 7th, its not as though I believe they’ll be near the bottom of the overall standings, just in this division.

Upside: Either Schneider gets healthy and back to form or Kinkaid takes over and looks great again and they sneak back into a wildcard spot again.

Downside: The goaltending is awful and they come crashing back donw.

Projection: I don’t like the goaltending situation at all, but if Hall can produce near last year’s level, I believe we’ll see Hischier bust out with a big season this year, but I just don’t know.  The blueline isn’t too good, the goaltending, they have a ton of speed but not much else.

Underrated concern: I brought it up in my hot takes piece, Taylor Hall extension.  He had a great season obviously, but I’m not sure what they’re bringing long term that would make him want to sign?  A bad season could be horrible for their case.

 

8. NY Islanders

Speaking of big time franchise players leaving NY area teams….it is so ironic that just as Tavares leaves, the organization gets stable.  I was stunned he left after the changes they made, after they got the arena, but Garth Snow made that happen.

Upside: Mathew Barzal thrives playing tougher minutes and Robin Lehner starts to live up to his potential and they lead the Islanders to a playoff spot.

Downside: Yet again, a contender for Jack Hughes.  Barzal and Hughes down the middle, that’s some ok talent.

Projection: Barry Trotz tends to get the most out of his teams.  But yet I just don’t see this squad having success.  Tavares elevated so many players around him, and Barzal I believe is going to get exposed if he needs to play much tougher minutes.

Underrated concern: The Tavares for Komarov and Martin trade.  I worry they’ll lose that one.

 

Playoffs

P1 San Jose vs WC2 Dallas

Again, I feel like the Stars are going to have a problem in goal which will hurt them.  Also keep in mind, that blueline has tremendous POTENTIAL, but they aren’t there yet and likely won’t get there for a few years.

P2 Anaheim vs P3 Edmonton

Oilers get their revenge two years later?

C1 St. Louis vs WC1 Calgary

If the Flames get in, it’ll mean that Mike Smith was great again.  If Smith is great, I’d like the Flames to beat the Blues.

C2 Winnipeg vs C3 Nashville

Oh the outcry of these two playing in the first round that would come!  It’s the reality of the new format, and if you haven’t noticed…it is AMAZING!  They’d have to play at some point anyway.  This time around, more pressure on the Jets, Preds would have faced some adversity if they only finish 3rd in the division, Preds return the favour.

 

A1 Toronto vs WC2 Boston

Until Kyle Dubas realizes that they need an elite defender on their blueline and some grit, this team is going to get pushed around come spring, ironically in this scenario it would be by the same team that did it last season.

A2 Tampa Bay vs A3 Florida

This would be great to see!  This was actually a real good rivalry for a couple seasons in the mid-late 90’s, be cool to see it sparked.

M1 Pittsburgh vs WC1 Carolina

Hurricanes finally bust out, but no match for the Pens here.

M2 Philadelphia vs M3 Washington

Philly needs a goalie.  But if they get one, look out!  But I don’t think I can simply assume that happens so the Caps move on to play the Pens again.

 

West final

San Jose vs Nashville

If Nashville gets to this point, it’ll be either because Saros stepped up and won the starting job, or because they traded for an elite goaltender.  But I believe one of the two will happen.  San Jose, they’re thin, but I believe they have enough to get to this point.  If they meet up with the Preds though, keeping in mind that I don’t believe Doug Wilson has enough bullets left in the chamber to go get the centre I believe they’ll need, then the Preds will walk right through them.

 

East final

Tampa Bay vs Washington

I hate doing rematches because they hardly happen in this league anymore.  Well, not deep in the playoffs anyway.  I’ll say it here though and say that this time the Lightning get over the hump.

 

Stanley Cup Final

Nashville vs Tampa Bay

THIS year it’ll happen.  Last year it was expected, but this year it’ll happen.  I believe it’ll be a much more rocky road for both of these teams, which in the end will help both a great deal.  Could be a tremendous final if it shakes down this way.

Nashville in 7

 

Awards

Hart: Connor McDavid – As long as they get back in the playoffs.  They make it by a point and the media says “absolutely, no brainer here”.  They miss it by a point “you can’t give him the Hart!!!”  Makes sense guys, thanks for your logic, well thought out as all your lazy narratives are…

 

Ted Lindsey: Connor McDavid – This one is a pretty safe bet.

 

Art Ross:  Connor McDavid – As is this one.

 

Rocket Richard: Connor McDavid – THIS is the one where I’m going out on a limb, and I’ve been saying it since about March of last season.  When he plays with Nuge, he shoots.  And when he shoots, he’s at his best.  He’s going to shoot a lot this year, and even he knew it this summer which was why he worked on his one timer.

 

Norris: Darnell Nurse – Don’t call me a homer!!!!!…But seriously I like Hedman again.  I don’t know if anyone REALLY notices that this kid is now the undisputed best defenceman in the league, but he is and while Dahlin will start challenging that status in short order, Hedman is going to be the guy for at least two or three more seasons.

 

Vezina: John Gibson – Does anyone notice this guy?  2016, .920 Sv% in 38 starts.  2017, .924 Sv% in 49 starts.  2018, .926 Sv% in 60 starts.  So the older he gets, the more he plays and the better he plays.  We’ve always known he had potential to be elite, but now he’s reaching that potential.  The other thing is that the Ducks blueline is going from overrated thanks to youth and great contracts to legitimately elite.  That can only help Gibson.

 

Calder: Rasmus Dahlin – I’m not sure many coming into the season realize just how good this kid is going to be.  He might be on the top pair in Buffalo with Rasmus Ristolainen.  That would deserve the Calder all on it’s own.  He’ll need to put up points to be that shiny thing that gets the media’s attention, but I believe he will and maybe more important for this award and who votes on it is he’ll have a few highlight reel plays.

 

Jack Adams: David Quinn – As I always say, the trick with this award is that it is likely going to be won by the coach of a team you don’t expect to get in.  I got the Rangers JUST missing which would be a surprise for most, but they made it in then he’d get the love.  I could see Henrik Lundqvist having one last great season trying to get them there, and as I said about Quinn in the Rangers write-up, this league is more like NCAA hockey than it’s ever been.  I believe he’s a terrific fit for them, they have zero expectations and a fan base which will LOVE them if they simply play hard every night.

 

Conn Smythe: Roman Josi – Who the hell knows.  But Josi is great and if the Preds won the Cup you know he’d be one of the key reasons why.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Oct. 1st, 2018

Hey!  Hot Takes is back!!  I kind of wonder if this is just going to be another version of the podcast?  It easily could be, but we’ll see.  Until I start saying “this is pointless, it’s just like the podcast only out on Monday morning” then that’s when I’ll ditch it.  But for now, I’ll write it.  And the real shit starts this week!  As an Oilers fan, it doesn’t quite feel like that, it feels very anti-climatic, but they’ll get going on Saturday and get a bit of a break with the game in Sweden being a Devils home game.  Have to take advantage of that though.  But you don’t care, you just want me to get to my “hot takes” which for those who haven’t read this before, these aren’t hot takes at all, it just started out as a joke and now has just become the name of my weekly look around the league.  HOWEVER…for today, why not actually do that?!  So as I type this, I’m not sure I can come up with one for every team, but why not try having a “hot take” for each team in the league?!  So…let’s do this!

 

Anaheim – This is Randy Carlyle’s last season as their head coach, if he even makes the season.  The reason being that with Kesler so banged up, Perry out for probably the entire season, and Getzlaf on the back nine of his career, the kids are going to start taking control of this team this season.  Carlyle’s ways simply will not work with a younger group, so he’ll be on his way out.

 

Arizona – This team will badly underachieve.  Why is this a hot take?  Because a lot of people really like them!  Elliotte Friedman thinks they’ll make the playoffs!  I’m sorry, a team which had a goaltender with a .930 Sv% in 46 starts and one of the top defencemen in the league finished 29th, but now that they have an underachieving forward who struggled to play centre in the EAST they’re going to the playoffs?  Any team can make it, but this might be the most overrated team in the league at the moment.

 

Boston – They’re going to be 50/50 to get in the playoffs.  They MIGHT get 3rd in the Atlantic, they MIGHT get 4th in the Atlantic and if they’re 4th then the 5th place team from the much better Metro division could beat them out.  I believe absolutely everything went right for this team from December on.  They lived off their top line.  Bergeron has to start declining at some point, Chara will continue to gradually fall off, and I don’t believe Marchand can sustain the level of production he’s hit the last few seasons.  And none of that can happen for them to stay at that level.  I can see a hot start followed by a gradual decline throughout the season and it’ll be a coin toss if they get back in.

 

Buffalo – Tage Thompson is going to emerge as Jack Eichel’s trigger man.  The kid has great size, great wheels, and a GREAT shot.  Skinner is fine, he’s likely to have a damn good season, but I just think that Thompson can keep it simple enough to work with Eichel.  Skinner has rarely had a centre who can do all the work like Eichel can, so it might be a tough adjustment for him.  Thompson won’t need the puck, and that’s what’ll work with a kid like Eichel.

 

Calgary – Bill Peters will split up Gaudreau and Monahan and keep it that way.  They are awesome together, but they don’t NEED each other.  They’re both guys who can elevate their own lines, much like McDavid and Draisaitl.  And the Flames now have a lot of good players up front where Peters can find other good fits for these guys.  I’d put Tkachuk with Monahan and Lindholm and give them all the tough minutes.  Then Gaudreau with Backlund who can do the dirty work, and Neal who could live off feeds from Gaudreau.  Seems like a lot better use of the personal to me and Peters isn’t a dumb coach.

 

Carolina – Scott Darling is going to play up to the contract he signed last season.  There was not a goaltender who performed well for Bill Peters.  Was that coincidence, or something to do with the system?  I honestly don’t know.  The other thing though is that Darling hadn’t been a starter, and the year of experience was likely a big help to him.

 

Chicago – Duncan Keith is traded.  I feel like he’s still real good, and if Toews keeps trending this way then he can’t be traded, Seabrook definitely can’t be traded, and I don’t think Kane would be traded.  So that leaves me looking at Keith who has declined, but he’s still worth the 5.5 mil per he gets.  Is he a number one?  Those days are likely done.  Is he a number three?  Yep, probably for another two or three seasons.  So Keith probably gets you something good, as long as he’s willing to waive his NMC, but at this point and the way the Hawks are trending, I think he would.

 

Colorado – Tyson Jost breaks out offensively.  I don’t like that they rushed him a bit, but I believe he’s the type of kid who won’t be phased by it.  So offensively last season he didn’t add much.  But I believe he’s now going to really get it going this season.  50-60 point type season coming for Jost.

 

Columbus – Bobrovsky and Panarin are getting dealt.  I don’t know if this is that hot of a take, but at the moment everyone seems to think that Jarmo Kekalainen should keep them, and no he shouldn’t.  Keep them?!?  For what?!?!  This teams making a big run are they?  They’re setup to win the Cup?  Get real.  Take their big winning streak away from 2017 and what are they?  They’ve won three playoff games, that’s ALMOST enough to win a series.  They aren’t good enough!  They’re weak down the middle, they rely too much on their goaltender, it’s not a great team!  It’s a playoff team, that’s it.  So if those two are walking, you’ve now sold your season tickets, trade them and get what you can.  And hey, maybe Marc Bergevin would be willing to trade Price and you can turn around and flip those pieces to him.  But they shouldn’t piss around with this, it is such stupid management.  It was the same logic that Garth Snow ran with last season.  The Islanders weren’t winning shit, yet they still risked it.  If you’re in position to make a serious run, I get it.  The Jackets are in position to make a serious run at maybe making the 2nd round, nobody cares!  Trade them.

 

Dallas – Ben Bishop is supplanted by someone as the teams starting goaltender by seasons end.  He was kind of inconsistent last season, and that shocked me seeing how just about every goaltender playing in Ken Hitchcock’s system thrived.  Bishop was BETTER than he’d been, but he really didn’t thrive as I thought he would.  And he had been very inconsistent prior to that.  If he was a legitimate number one guy, Steve Yzerman wouldn’t have replaced him with Vasilevskiy.  That could be a bit of a headache for Jim Nill having nearly five million tied up in a backup goaltender.  As for who?  I know he’s very young, but don’t sleep on Colton Point.

 

Detroit – They have a sellout after opening night?  Man, this organization has gone from the elite to nondescript in a hurry!

 

Edmonton – McDavid wins the Rocket Richard.  When he plays with Nugent-Hopkins he shoots.  And when McDavid shoots he is at his best.  Add to this, we’ve all heard about him working on his one timer this summer, that’s a nice little add as long as he didn’t use Jordan Eberle’s one timer coach.  But I thought this at the end of last season to be honest.  He’s going to have that big time goal scoring season like Gretzky had in 82 and Crosby had in 2010.  I’ll say he doesn’t just get 50, but 60 (these are supposed to be hot takes not warm takes).

 

Florida – This is Roberto Luongo’s final season.  Like a few of the others, I’m not sure how hot this one actually is, but his contract is in the last season of good pay (by his standards anyway).  He only has 3.6 mil left on the deal, and that’s spread out over the next three seasons.  I doubt he’s going to stick around for that.  Maybe if the Panthers put it all together this season and come close to a Cup he takes one more shot (and that is possible, a lot of talent), but barring that I believe he’ll hang it up and allow Dale Tallon to go after a guy like Sergei Bobrovsky.

 

Los Angeles – Ilya Kovalchuk will be a complete bust.  Six mil times three years, WHY?!?!  Maybe he turns back the clock, but Rob Blake just looks desperate giving him that kind of contract.  And it was pretty obvious to me that this guy just wanted the life, not to win.  He shot down San Jose, it sounded like the Rangers and the Kings were who he pretty badly wanted to go to.  Neither are in a position to win.  This guy doesn’t play with much speed and never made many guys he played with better.  Not a fan of it for the Kings.

 

Minnesota – The rebuild begins this season.  Dusted in five by the Jets, the young talent is ok, but they don’t have a kid who can carry them anywhere.  It reminds me a lot of Detroit around 2016.  What’s the point in hanging on to that?  I doubt Craig Leipold will be a big fan of it, but with Paul Fenton now in as GM I would guess he is going to want to build a team more to his liking and I don’t know that the way they’re currently constructed that it’s to anyone’s liking.  This is really a bad situation that Leipold has got them into (I’ve heard Elliotte Friedman suggest that he’s a pretty hands on owner).

 

Montreal – Max Domi has a BIG season.  I get it that people hated the value for the Habs in the trade.  But while Galchenyuk has a boat load of talent, if he couldn’t tear it up playing centre for an Eastern Conference team then he’s going to do it playing in the West against MUCH bigger and physically demanding centres?!  But Domi, he actually had decent numbers last season, and more so I believe that he is going to thrive in a market like Montreal.  Very few in the league are made for the spotlight, but he is one them.  I wish they weren’t playing him at centre, he’s definitely better suited to the wing (like Galchenyuk), but he’s going to thrive playing against smaller teams in the East and in the spotlight.

 

Nashville – They struggle throughout the season.  Not to suggest that they’ll struggle to get in the playoffs, but I feel as though they will have trouble between the pipes as they try to figure out if Saros can be relied on for the long haul, and it’ll cause them to underachieve a bit during the regular season.  But I feel like it’ll be good for them to see some adversity.  You could see last season and I wrote it on here that it was too easy last season.  They were flipping the switch in a lot of their games and it finally came back to bite them in the playoffs.

 

New Jersey – I really had trouble coming up with one, but I finally thought of it last second.  This will be Taylor Hall’s last season in Jersey.  This is called hot takes and not accurate takes remember.  But I don’t see them being as good this season, I think a step back is more likely than maintaining or taking a step forward is, and I believe that Hall is going to take the John Tavares path and just sit back and weigh his options.  The Devils aren’t setup well even after the job Ray Shero has done.

 

NY Islanders – This is a pretty mild one, but Mathew Barzal is going to have a big digression.  He is now the man, and he’ll be asked to do a lot of heavy lifting that he might not be ready for.  Don’t bail on him as a player, there isn’t much around him, but he got very sheltered last season and is now being asked to be the franchise.

 

NY Rangers – They’re going to ACTUALLY do a proper rebuild!  This is already on going, but I just believe that they’re going to stick this out for the season, which is a bit shocking!

 

Ottawa – They’re going to be in the playoff race come trade deadline.  I’m not saying they’ll be in a playoff spot, but everyone wants to look at what they’ve lost and how much of a shit show it is.  12 months ago we were talking about what a shit show the Avs were.  This team still has some talent kicking around.  I know how shitty the blueline looks, how old Craig Anderson is, how chaotic everything is.  But they won’t rally around that?  They have absolutely NOTHING to lose this season, zero expectations.  They have a mix of a few front line guys, some real good kids like Tkachuk, Chabot, Colin White, Logan Brown.  They have some talent that has underachieved like Bobby Ryan, Cody Ceci, Mikkel Boedker, Magnus Paajarvi.  I realize the blueline looks weak at the moment, but watch who they maybe pluck off waivers in the next few days.  Finally, Guy Boucher is a difficult guy to play for, but I bet they buy in and when Boucher gets buy in his teams overachieve.

 

Philadelphia – They’ll make a big play for a big time goalie.  Who could that goalie be?  How about this…Jonathan Quick.  Hextall was with the Kings for a long time as the assistant GM, still has a lot of ties to that organization, I can’t see the Kings being very good this season, he’s one of the few movable big contracts they have, and the Flyers have a lot of bullets in the chamber now.  Hextall has done such a TERRIFIC job rebuilding this team, and now they might be a goaltender away from becoming elite.  They comfortably made the playoffs last season with Brian Elliott and his .907 Sv% as the number one goaltender.

 

Pittsburgh – They’ll make a massive splash on the trade market.  Phil Kessel is still there…for now…and Kris Letang eats a lot of unnecessary cap space, and if they could shed those two deals then they’d have a ton of room to add a big piece or two and really go hard for their third Cup in four seasons.  Crosby and Malkin aren’t going to have too many more cracks at this, so they’ll go hard as they’ve done, while they can.

 

San Jose – Erik Karlsson won’t improve the team much.  He wasn’t a BIG need for their squad, and now Doug Wilson hardly has anything left that would interest teams to help shore them up down the middle.  Is Couture a number one centre?  Borderline I’d say.  He needs a high end number two guy behind him, and it’s Joe Pavelski who is much better suited for the wing.  I’m not saying he doesn’t make them ANY better, but I don’t see them as serious threats to win the Cup and am not sure how they’ll improve on what they’ve got unless Wilson can literally rob a team of an elite centre…good luck with that.

 

St. Louis – Ville Husso is this teams starting goaltender for the first game of the 2019 playoffs.  Jake Allen is wildly inconsistent, and all they got to back him up was Chad Johnson.  I like Chad Johnson as a backup, not meaning to bash him at all, but he’s just a good backup.  Husso is a highly touted young goalie in their system, and I believe that Allen will really struggle at some point and they’ll give Husso a chance to come up and steal the job.  I believe that by April, he’ll be the best option for them.

 

Tampa Bay – Brayden Point starts getting recognized as one of the elite centres in the league.  Probably not that hot of a take, they were a tough team to come up with one for, but I personally never thought Point would be able to play the middle in the show, and he’s not only done it, he’s thrived at it.  Tyler Johnson is basically an afterthought.  Again I’m going to bring this up, Stamkos, Kucherov and Point should all be carrying their own lines.  Tampa has the depth to spread out and allow all three of these tremendous players really tilt the ice.

 

Toronto – William Nylander will get signed…and then get moved later on for a defenceman.  Kyle Dubas MUST shore up that blueline.  I still believe they’re two, not just one, defencemen away from being true Cup contenders.  That’s terrific that a lot of guys on the blueline can move the puck, they are awful in their own zone.  If you have the puck 60% of the game, and the other team only has it 40, that’s awesome, but if when you have it they know how to defend and they have it you can’t, then it sure takes away that advantage.  I’m sure that Dubas will look to shore it up by hanging onto Nylander, but the problem is that you can easily find a poor man’s William Nylander.  So you go get the stud D-man, using him and maybe a Liljegren or Sandin to do it, and you find that poor man’s Nylander in another deal because they’re a dime a dozen at the trade deadline.  This team is really flawed.  They can be pushed around easily, can’t defend, and are extremely young.  And now they have a massive target on their backs.

 

Vancouver – They will win Jack Hughes.  This pains me to say this because I see so many Canucks fans act like morons on social media.  And some of those actually think that Jack Hughes will just force a trade to the Canucks.  But what I do think is coming is that they’re due in the draft lottery.  And Hughes would be the piece to bring it all together.

 

Vegas – They implode.  Expectations, bigger contracts, bigger egos, Gallant will likely have trouble with buy in from everyone this season, the mix has obviously changed and who knows how guys like Stastny and Paciorietty will fit in, who knows if they can stay as healthy as they did from December on last season, every team now has a season of film not only a season of film but knows how to handle playing in Vegas, it just has every element to come unglued there.  I believe they start fine, but slowly fall back to where they’re in the playoff picture but struggling, and by the trade deadline they’re done.  They proved me and a lot of other people very wrong all throughout last season, so this probably will be too, but I feel as though the smart thing to do is stick my guns rather than conform and not have the balls to say what I really believe.

 

Washington – They’ll have another deep run in the spring.  I don’t know if they’ll win it, but I said it after they knocked off the Pens that they got the monkey off their backs and could thrive, and that’s what happened.  So while I’m not expecting a good regular season, I believe that they’ll be so loose in big situations and this team being one of the most talented in the league, that is such a dangerous combination.  I also think the coaching change to Todd Reirden, for this season anyway, will actually really help.  I LOVE Barry Trotz and he is one of the best coaches in the game, but more often than not good teams get a jolt from coaching changes.

 

Winnipeg – Josh Morrissey emerges as a legitimate number one defenceman.  He has WAY more to give offensively than he’s shown to this point.  He’s the stud D-man there moving forward, not Trouba.  Trouba is maybe a little more physically gifted, but the book on Trouba has always been his IQ.  Morrissey was CHL scholastic player of the year in 2013.

 

It is going to be fun for people to go back to this in April and see how wrong these all are.  But whatever.  Like most things I write, it is well thought out, and I’m not by any means guaranteeing any of these things to happen.  But…they could, and you better believe I’ll brag my ass off if I get some of them right and pretend I never wrote this if none of them do!

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

I Hate to be the Oilers Fan Who Hates on the Flames, BUT…

I’ve wrote a few of these now!  Let’s not lie, because I firmly believe that being completely honest is much more fun and people obviously have respect for it.  I get really annoyed by things that get badly overrated.  It’s a shame it happens to be who it is, because the narrative for anyone who reads this will be “typical bitter Oilers fan hating on Calgary” and it really isn’t about Edmonton v Calgary.  I pull for the Flames!  I want the Oilers to beat them more than when they play any other team, but I want the Oilers to beat the Flames at their best, not kick them when they’re down.  And in reality, what I’m bitching about today means nothing.  But I get annoyed by it, and when I’m annoyed I feel like I do my best work, so here it is.

 

The love that the Calgary Flames get from the national media is nothing short of completely nauseating.  I can’t figure out what it is, but since 2015, this team has gotten so BADLY overrated going into every season by the national media.  At this point, it has truly become head scratching.  And no matter what they do, how badly they under perform, or what wrong moves they seem to make, it doesn’t seem to make a lick of difference to the national media.  My theory for a while was that they all fell in love with the team after their miracle 2015 season.  But now I’m really starting to wonder if something more goes on that we don’t see.  Either way, when you think people might finally wake up and be honest about what their team is, it might be as bad now as it’s ever been.

 

How much is that roster truly improved from last season?  Brad Treliving (who I have always stated I’m a MASSIVE fan of) lost the Dougie Hamilton trade.  I know it’s viewed as a win for them because they got a bit of an odd duck out of the room.  But people, he’s a top 20 defenceman.  Borderline number one guy.  But for whatever reason, everyone assumes T.J. Brodie is going to step right in for Hamilton, Hanifin in for Brodie, and the blueline will be fine.  Well first of all, that blueline was the most overrated in the league last season.  They were getting compared to Nashville before the season.  Everyone assumes that it is because Brodie has been playing on the left side and he’s more comfortable on the right side as to why he’s struggled.  Did we ever think that MAYBE he just had a career year in 2015 like so many other Flames did?  Did we ever think that MAYBE he just fit under Bob Hartley and couldn’t play in a more structured system under Glen Gulutzan….and if you thought Gulutzan was structured, Bill Peters makes Glen Gulutzan look like Pat Quinn in comparison.  But no, Brodie will go to the right side with Giordano and he’ll be an All-Star is LITERALLY what everyone assumes.  Ok…

 

Let’s not forget Giordano who is now 35.  He’s not going to decline at all?  Duncan Keith apparently may as well retire at 35, but Mark Giordano is just entering his prime?  I really like Giordano, but I haven’t thought he’s looked anything too special the last two seasons, and wonder if he wasn’t living off Hamilton more than Hamilton was living off him?

 

Then you have Noah Hanifin, and again it’s just a complete assumption that Hanifin is now a top four D-man, when he was on Carolina’s bottom pairing last season.  I know that Hanifin will be a top four guy at some point, again I’m a big fan (I don’t know if the Flames have a player I really dislike other than Matt Tkachuk and that’s more envy than dislike), but Hanifin is nothing proven as a top four defenceman yet.  His partner to start the season?  Travis Hamonic, who looks shot and if he were an Edmonton Oiler he’d be pissed on by the national media.

 

Up front, and this is why I believe most like them, they got a LITTLE better.  But they didn’t get A LOT better.  I believe what people are blinded by is the value that Brad Treliving got.  It was actually similar last season when they got Hamonic.  I believe people were so infatuated with what they paid rather than the impact he would have on the team.  And with their off-season pickups it is a lot of the same.  They didn’t pay AS MUCH as most believed James Neal would cost.  But Neal has only hit 30 goals twice, has trouble staying healthy, is an average skater who is now 31 years old, and has taken a beating over the years.  The Preds had no problem exposing him in the expansion draft.  The Golden Knights didn’t seem to mind letting him walk this off-season.  Nobody signed him on the first day of free agency.  But apparently NONE OF THOSE ARE RED FLAGS…

 

Austin Czarnik.  A lot of teams were interested in him, a lot of people feel like with a true chance he can be a regular in the league, but he’s going to have a big impact is he?!?  Derek Ryan was a much better bargain than Tyler Bozak, and they’re almost identical as players.  But he’s worth 3 mil?  Paying a 4th line centre 3 mil a year is a great move?  Bringing in a 4th line centre to be a 3rd line centre is smart?  Apparently it is!  And apparently those two players are just going to move the needle tremendously.  This team isn’t going to miss Michael Ferland at all, and they added these three offensive stars up front.

 

Finally, Mike Smith.  Now, there at least is SOME chatter about Mike Smith being able to both stay healthy and repeat what he did.  But there is zero chatter about the fact that they were just barely in the playoff hunt with Smith playing incredible.  So if he simply drops off a bit this season, how good are they going to be with a SLIGHTLY improved roster?!  This is what I don’t get.  I’m running down this roster (both with my eyes and my words), and I’m not seeing this major improvement, yet it is just a slam dunk for the national media that they’re going to be great.  John Shannon said on HC at noon the other day that he believes James Neal could get 40 goals playing on their 2nd line.  MOTHER FUCKER THE GUY HASN’T GOT 40 SINCE 2012 PLAYING FIRST LINE WITH EVGENI MALKIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now he’s going to get 40 seven years later playing with Mikael Backlund?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  It just drives me INSANE as you can read, not because it’s the Flames and I’m an Oilers fan, but it is so clear that there is something not right with this!  I’m blown away with how overrated they’re getting!

 

I’m by NO MEANS suggesting the Flames can’t be good.  I have no doubt they can finish top three in the division.  If you think the Flames can finish top three, of course.  Can they finish ahead of the Oilers?  Of course.  They have some real good pieces and should be solid.  It’s the fact that it’s such a lock that the media has them as which drives me nuts.  The Oilers are being shit on, and I both get why that is (I’m not delusional) and honestly prefer it because we’ve seen a lot lately how much expectations can effect teams.  But I might argue the Oilers have less question marks than the Flames.  Are the PK, PP, and Cam Talbot all going to be THAT bad this season?  As long as all three are simply solid, don’t have to be anything amazing, just solid, just not horrific, they’re likely back in the playoffs!  And yet those things get glossed over!  Forget that I’m an Oilers fan, because I really do try hard to look at things objectively.  The Oilers question marks are pretty solvable.  Not to say they don’t have holes.  The blueline is suspect, Klefbom staying healthy is a massive key, and they’ll need some kids on the wings to really step up.  But the Flames have a lot too and it is impossible not to compare the two teams as a fan of either one will tell you.

 

I hope the Flames have a great season.  Oilers and Flames in the Pacific division final, how tremendous would that be?!  But let’s just get a LITTLE realistic on this team.  They COULD be good, but why don’t we wait until they prove it to be so sure that they are?

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – August 13th

So I had been wanting to write one of these for a week or so, and life has got in the way.  But I’m finally getting around to it now.  I had to scrap the opening of how “hot” these actually were as it was +30 or more most of last week.  But it isn’t today.  Its just ok out.  So that’s screwed.  And only a part of this is about anything real recent (the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup stuff), so nothing is really a “hot take” other than a few of those observations.  This might get renamed this season because if you don’t get that its sarcasm, which I’m certain most don’t, then its a ridiculously named piece.  Anyway, here you go.  Read this.

 

I’ll start it off with the passing of Stan Mikita, and I’m too young to have seen him play, but he was one of those players who doesn’t get the love that he maybe deserves from fans and the media, but was one of the most respected players all time by his peers.  The one thing I always go back to is what a terrifyingly dirty player he apparently was when he first entered the league, and then ended up a two time winner of the Lady Byng.  Imagine a guy like Brad Marchand winning the Lady Byng.  I can’t speak to whether or not that is exactly how Mikita played early on, but I’m guessing its not a terrible example either!  Probably would have won a Selke had the trophy been around in the 60’s, and how many people know that he held the record for most points in a season?!  Only held it for two years, but he had it.  The man who now holds that record took his first face-off in the league against Mikita.  He’s always felt like a very underrated guy among the legends of the game.  He’s always mentioned, but I can’t help but think Bobby Hull couldn’t have done a lot of what he did without Mikita doing a ton of the dirty work.  From all accounts, as great of a man as he was a player.  A legend.

 

I wanted to do a full blog on Jarome Iginla and didn’t get around to it.  So this is essentially it.  He made mention during his press conference while talking about the 2004 run “we even had some Edmonton fans pulling for us”.  I was one of those fans.  I wasn’t putting on a Flames jersey or anything along those lines, but that team was one of the most likable teams I remember watching, and Iginla was the biggest reason for that.  St. Albert kid, grew up an Oilers fan, as humble of a star as you’ll ever find, and the guy played the game EXACTLY how any fan would want a player to play.  He could score anyway he needed to, was fearless, and if things weren’t going his way he’d looked to kick the shit out of you.  And he didn’t pick his spots either.  Remember the 04 run?  Mattias Ohlund, who wasn’t much of a fighter but was a big boy and Iginla had enough of him in that first round series.  Derrian Hatcher who was a TOTAL spot picking piece of shit, and Iginla didn’t care that Hatcher had three inches and probably 25 lbs on him.  None of the Sharks would go him in the Conference finals that year because word had likely got out that its what would get him going!  Lecavalier obliged in the final though, and what a great tilt that was.  Maybe the best star v star fight in playoff history?  I don’t know of too many others off the top of my head.  Loved him.  Absolutely loved him, and I don’t care who your team is, I’m not sure how you couldn’t.  He’s a guy who deserved a Cup, and it really is a shame that he’s walking away without one.  But really, would it have changed anything?  Me personally I don’t think it would have.  Had they won in 04, and he been a winger who carried his team to a Cup, THAT would have changed my view on him!  But the fact that he was able to get that team to game seven of the final was insane.  That and the gold medal game performance in 02.  The more iconic highlight is setting up Crosby in 2010, but in 02 the combination of him and Sakic was just INCREDIBLE.  That season was his coming out party, and that game was his grand finale.  Remember, he wasn’t initially a camp invite that fall.  He was a last minute replacement for….Brendan Shanahan if I recall right?  I should look it up, but I like the challenge of seeing if I get it right (no joke, I hate looking things up because I feel like I should know, even if it looks more unprofessional).  Anyway, what a tremendous career, tremendous player, and again just like Mikita, Iginla has always been a total class act.

 

Last week (five days ago to be exact) was the 30 year anniversary of the Gretzky trade.  30 years since one of my earliest childhood memories, balling my eyes out.  I remember actually crying about it in my kitchen when the news broke, and then again when mom and I were out picking up the chicken we ordered from KFC (I probably didn’t even enjoy the KFC that night, and as anyone who has seen me knows…I love KFC!  At that age, I was all about the chicken skin, wouldn’t eat any other part of the chicken, just the skin and put it back in the bucket, don’t know how I became such a fat little fuck….)  And this might have been a few days later, but I just remember it was the news that Messier was going to be the Captain.  For whatever reason, Kevin Lowe was my second favourite Oiler as a four year old, and I thought he should be the captain.  So that crushed me, but in reality it was knowing that Gretzky was gone.  It really bugs me to this day from the standpoint of I was of an age where I barely remember it.  Certain moments here and there, but for the most part I remember watching post Gretzky.  My first game was in 89, we started going regularly in 90, basically the one time I really remember watching a game was when they beat the Bruins to sweep the 88 final and our neighbour came over and I just recall him saying “oh they won it already”.  Not anything about the game, just how it was so matter of fact that the Oilers won another Cup.  There were three more Cups left in that team.  Maybe not in a row, but definitely three more.  It still makes me a little sick to see all the stuff on it.

 

So the big reason I wanted to do this piece today was to talk about the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup.  First thing I noticed: This is annoying for a draft guy like myself, because what we saw last week is going to get extremely overrated by a lot of people who had never seen the tournament before.  I’ve never seen so many draft experts on Twitter.  And I’m definitely not claiming to be, but fella’s, you’ve never seen the tournament before, so how would you know how well guys performed when you don’t have another Hlinka tourney to compare it to?  SETTLE DOWN…

 

You would think Craig Button hadn’t seen it before with his overreaction rankings.  Dylan Cozens is now second?  Really?  And Alex Turcotte is now out of the top five?  Seriously?  Come on guys.  Alex Newhook, who shouldn’t have been cut from team Canada, he’s apparently out of the top five now too even though its highly likely that Newhook got left off the team just because he’s not a CHL kid.  I get it, Cozens looked great.  But Cozens performance didn’t really stun me, nor did Kirby Dach’s.  Now, some things I’ve heard about Dach have me questioning whether or not I should have him 2nd on my rankings, but the talent doesn’t.  Bowen Byram, same thing.  Vasili Podkolzin was tremendous but yet again, it wasn’t a big stunner that many are making it out to be.  I guess it is for guys who had never heard of any of these players, and I’m not trying to downplay it at all but I just think if you were going nuts about some of these players on Twitter or other forms of social media that you probably knew nothing about these kids before hand.

 

Obviously I’ve left out one big name to this point, but he deserves his own paragraph.  Alex Lafrenière is another kid who had a performance “up to par”, though that goal against the Swedes in the gold medal game was just ridiculous.  For me, his wowing me moment was in the U-18’s last year where he and Jack Hughes for my money were the two best players in the tournament.  Maybe its the Canadian in me, but to me, Lafrenière is going to be the better player….SLIGHTLY.  Offensively, Hughes will have the edge.  Hughes is a faster and slightly bigger version of Patty Kane in my opinion.  Lafrenière might be the more complete guy though, while still owning a tremendous offensive skill set of his own.  Lafrenière has the size advantage too.  Hughes isn’t tiny, but he’s not big.  Lafrenière might be 6’2, 205 lbs by the time the 2020 draft hits.  Either way though I believe it’ll be splitting hairs with these guys.  Its going to be awesome to watch them grow.  I don’t think either guy is generational, but not very damn far off.

 

The big surprise and the big surge up the rankings will be from Philip Broberg.  And no doubt, he should be well within everyone’s top 31 now.  But some are talking as if he’s emerged as the top D-man in the draft and he’s going top five.  If those people can tell me what else they saw from him other than elite speed, then I’ll gladly listen.  But be honest, he jumped off the screen with a few highlights and that’s why you’re so high on him.  At this point, he looks like another Jay Bouwmeester to me, which is a damn good top four defencman….but not someone I’d be overly excited about.  Bowen Byram is the much better defencemen of the two.  Byram is exactly what teams are craving in a D-man these days.  I love how active he is, not just jumping in the play but without the puck as well.  Keeps his feet moving, itching to read the play, itching to make a play, and yet when he gets the puck as we seen on that completely legal and not anything wrong with game tying goal against the Americans….amazing composure.

 

Speaking of that goal…I’m going to look at this from both sides.  I think we all agree, that was horse shit.  I felt dirty after Canada won.  The Americans were very wronged.  And as a Canadian, World Junior loses really don’t both me in the grand scheme of things.  We usually don’t have our full lineup, so it is what it is.  And yes, we did knock them off in the U-18’s last spring.  Having said that…this one worried me.  That was the Americans at about half strength…if that.  They didn’t have two absolute STUD players, both of whom might be better than any Canadian kid, not to mention several others like Cole Caufiled, Cam York, Alex Vlasic, etc.  And they technically beat us with our best.  That’s big time worrisome as a Canadian hockey fan.  The Canadian media has been itching for this to be the case for 20 years now, but I think it might finally be the case.  Not now, but 10 years from now, we might be a clear cut 2nd best internationally.  Now, having said that…a part of me looks at what happened to the Americans as a bit of karma.  You dip shits half ass it when you play every other country internationally and then play the game of your lives against Canada.  They’re LITERALLY more concerned with pissing off Canadians than winning anything.  Look at the World Juniors.  That team made a tremendous comeback and beat Canada in a shootout (of course), and then in the semi final against the Swedes they looked like they were playing a pre tournament game.  Its very obvious that you don’t care as much about winning as you do about beating Canada, so maybe next time play your balls off for the entire tournament and a bounce like that won’t go against you.

 

Anyway, if I had to redo my rankings today, I’m not sure my top 10 would look a whole lot different.  MAYBE Broberg gets into the nine or ten spot?  Cozens MAYBE moves up a spot or two?  Literally off the top of my head I’d probably go Hughes, Turcotte, Byram, Dach, Newhook, Cozens, Kakko, Podkolzin (and if I got a Russian kid this high then you know I must like him), Krebs and Broberg.  So….not a LOT of movement for me.  I question how much you’ve seen Hughes play if you currently believe anyone will challenge him.  I’m not going to ding Alex Turcotte for not playing in the tournament.  Byram moves from six to three, Dach slides from two to four, Newhook sides from four to five but even with getting cut from the freaking team I still am not going to ding him too much and prefer the centre over the next four who are all wingers in Cozens (up one), Kakko (down two), Podkolzin (up nine) and Krebs (down one).  Broberg is 10 but like I say I’m going to need to see more than just an ability to out skate kids.  Miles Wood can out skate a ton of players too.  Pump the brakes on the hype train.  And remember, this was the first showcase of the season for these kids.  We have a LONG ways to go.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

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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