Category Archives: Hot Takes

A weekly look around the hockey world, mainly the NHL

Hot Takes – Nov. 26th, 2018

It’s been a few weeks I’ve gotten to a Hot Takes piece.  Also been a few weeks since I got to a Soups on HOCKEY podcast.  Little busy, little sick, little too much Oilers news has taken away from both.  But now, I’m back.  In pog form.  And there is PLENTY to talk about.  Of course as always I will get to the Oilers, but I have a lot to cover here.  I’ll start off with the somewhat significant trade last night.

 

The Coyotes get Nick Schmaltz, the Hawks get Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini.  So I wasn’t the biggest fan of any of these guys when they were drafted.  Schmaltz was considered highly skilled but highly lazy, Perlini was considered a word than rhymes with mussy, and Strome wasn’t labelled anything but real good but I always felt he was front runner.  I’ll never forget when he won the OHL scoring title going balls out on the final day of the OHL regular season to win it and then essentially no showing the playoffs.  So who wins the deal?  I’d say Arizona, though I get Chicago’s thinking.  They believe Strome in the same spot as Schmaltz can put up the same numbers, and then they add a top nine winger while doing the move.  Arizona is thinking “let’s shed these busts while they still have value and get a guy who can produce”.  It’s very much so “hockey guy” thinking vs “analytic” thinking.  Schmaltz probably does have character issues, but the Coyotes don’t care about that, just give them the 50 points.  Always makes me cringe because while character and grit can get overrated by old school thinkers, it’s probably more vital than analytics guys will have you believe.

 

How bout them Buffalo Sabres!!!  I didn’t see this coming this season.  Didn’t like the goaltending, figured Dahlin wasn’t ready for big minutes, didn’t have enough up front yet, but man they’re confidence just seems to be growing with every game.  A healthy blueline has helped a lot.  Zach Bogosian is a guy who has been really overlooked in his career.  He never became what he was expected to be, but man injuries really set him back.  When healthy he’s been a solid 2nd pairing guy.  Having guys like Bogosian and Jake McCabe, Kyle Okposo all healthy this season has been huge.  Just having guys you can depend on for certain roles is so massive for a team and they’re getting that.  16-6-2.  And the best thing is that market has deserved this.  One of the best US markets who now have two superstar talents to watch every night.  I don’t know if they’ll keep THIS going, but they definitely appear as though they’ve turned a corner.

 

The Sabres have a Nylander in the system who actually is playing, but the Leafs Nylander will be back playing soon.

 

They’re getting Willie Nylander back and I feel dumb that I ever bought the trade speculation.  Nobody will believe me at this point, but the more I thought about it the more I kept saying “the Leafs really aren’t under the gun here, just Nylander is because they will still have his rights to deal.  He’s still a big trade chip for them if he doesn’t sign.”  I still won’t be shocked if they do trade him this season, but they’re going to sign him for the time being.  Don’t sleep on the fact though that the Leafs have other assets to deal.  The system is solid, and they don’t need STUDS, just solid defenders.  If they’re serious about making a run at a Cup this season, I expect two or three pretty big moves to get them the pieces they need.  The hype has died down on them, and yet to me it should be going through the roof right now because they’re maintaining an elite level of play without Matthews and Nylander.

 

I’m going to say it again, I’m not really getting it with the Flames.  That’s not to say they suck, but I’m just doing simple math on them.  The blueline is much weaker this season, and the depth that they brought in which was supposed to be their key this season hasn’t really done much.  Neal has been a disaster thus far (I don’t buy it’ll continue like THIS, but to this point he’s been brutal), and Czarnik is what he’s been throughout his career.  So Lindholm is replacing Ferland’s offence, an upgrade of a 4th line centre in Ryan, but what else?  I know they’re good, but I keep hearing these things from the media as to why their going so well and I really just think it’s the same old things.  Monahan, Gaudreau, Giordano, Tkachuk, and great goaltending although not the same goaltender.  I’m interested to see if they can maintain the level they’ve been at lately.  We see these kind of wild flashes from this team a lot.  And that’s what this recent run has been is a little too wild.  They were TERRIBLE against the Oilers for nearly 40 minutes, and then world beaters in the 3rd, blitzed both the Golden Knights and Jets, shutout by the Golden Knights, and then blitzed the Coyotes.  They seem to be either sky high or extremely low.  They’ll be interesting to watch moving forward.  I think they are really good (despite how much I still get annoyed with the national love in for them), but as I say we’ve seen this script a lot with this group.

 

Ok, the Oilers.  Well I’ve beat it to death this week.  Had the piece Tuesday morning about how shocked I was McLellan hadn’t been fired, and then he got fired a little over an hour later, and I’ve laid out why I really like the Hitchcock hiring.  But now back to business and what needs to be done.  Just when you thought the path to 3rd in the Pacific was an easy road as long as you got it on track, the Ducks are going good and the Golden Knights are starting to get their false bravado back.  And while I don’t get the love in for the Coyotes, the Oilers have to actually separate from them before I can write them off.  The Canucks have fallen back here so it looks like it’s going to be a mess of a fight between average teams from now until the end of the season.  Point being here, the Oilers to get it going.  That was a dog shit effort in LA last night.  Dog shit.  They looked like a team who had the two points already written down before they took the ice.  Pathetic.  I keep seeing these opportunities on the schedule for them to gain some ground or pull away from teams and they don’t step on the gas and just piss away points.  5-4-1 against teams I had in the top 8 with my October power rankings, and yet they get one point against the Flames, Golden Knights, Ducks and Kings.  Just horrible and unacceptable.  I’m sick of hearing about how they “have nothing” when they’re hanging in with or beating the top teams.  They will rarely ever out work a team that’s below them or on par with them in the standings.  I don’t know why they’re so entitled.  I do know that they now have a coach who’ll really get after them for shit like that, but it’s infuriating.  They’ve captured 3 of their last 20 points.  If they weren’t in the Pacific this season would be over already.  I really believe Hitch is going to get them going and they’ll end up 3rd in the Pacific, but they were looking at potential for six straight wins after beating San Jose, and they’ve lost two in a row since.  It just couldn’t be more frustrating, but the fact is they’re due for a little run that will put them in that 3rd spot, and then it’ll be a matter of keeping it.

 

I don’t know what Hitch is going to do with the lines, but to me it’s becoming more and more obvious that McDavid should have Chiasson on one wing, and for the time being Caggiula but once back I’d have Rieder there.  It just goes back to needing to find guys who’ll be able to elevate with McDavid and allowing Draisaitl and Nuge to possibly create on a 2nd line.  Maybe a 2nd line of Nuge with Draisaitl and Puljujarvi eventually?  He badly needs to find a way to create at least a LITTLE depth.  But when a guy like McDavid wants to get his 12.5 per, that’s fine, he deserves more than that, and I’m not saying for a second Chiarelli has done even a decent job surrounding him with talent, but they need to find him guys he can elevate.  I don’t want to hear about how you need to get him a winger.  If their PP is top 10-5, nobody is saying a word about that.  Sid won a damn Cup with two rookie grinders on his wings, and even when he won his first one he had Kunitz (a 2nd line winger on any other team at the time) and a well past his prime Bill Guerin.  Sid has NEVER had the big time winger.  I’m not calling out McDavid or anything along those lines, but he needs to carry his own line and elevate guys and they need to give Draisaitl the offensive support five on five.

 

Call me nuts, but I feel like there is a lot of potential now for the Oilers and Blues to make a big trade.  I know talking today it would sound outlandish, but I wonder about Tarasenko?  I mentioned the Parayko the other day and really stand by that, but Friedman has mentioned lately that the Blues aren’t real happy with him.  It would largely depend on if the Blues wanted to blow things up.  If they did, then the Oilers have the prospects and picks to make something work if the Blues were taking back salary.  Remember how Tarasenko was going to just explode once he got out from under Hitch….Chances anything happens?  Slim to none.  I’m not going to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass and get them thinking that the Blues are just magically going to give the Oilers a couple players they could desperately use.  But if I was to put money on one team the Oilers could swing a big trade with for a big time player, I’d say the Blues.

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Hot Takes – Nov. 5th, 2018

There is a Deep Blue Sea 2?!?  What was the need for a 2nd one?!  When people used to bitch about how Hollywood had no original idea’s left, I kind of rolled my eyes.  But when Deep Blue Sea gets a sequel…that’s where I draw the line!  I went and saw that movie twice in the theatre.  Once was my buddy going on a bit of a blind date with this girl and I tagged along because I knew both of them, the other was…I really can’t remember, but I know I saw it twice.  I’m glad LL Cool J made it out alive, but it was pretty weird that he was the chef and the comic relief guy, yet lived.  At the start of the movie I would have guessed Sam Jackson would have mother fuckered his way to the end of it.  Another movie I remember going to was a really bad Schwarzenegger movie with Sarah Watts not long after Deep Blue Sea came out, and making out with her through the whole thing as some poor schmuck watching the show by himself was sitting like two seats away.  Ahhhh youth, where you think making out during a movie is something you should do with a date.  Only thing cooler than me that night was the Tommy Hilfiger khaki’s I was likely rocking.  This trip down memory lane is brought to you by Tahiti Treat, and by Bonkers (the candy, not the awful cartoon with the dumb cat).  Tune in next time for another episode of Soups on High School, onto hockey.

 

John Stevens is out as Kings coach, and that was so badly needed.  I think we all agree that it was his fault he has the oldest team in the league, the slowest team in the league, the biggest cap mess in the league, and that his elite goaltender has been hurt all season.  Good riddance John Stevens you cancer, and Pacific division you better get ready for the ambush the Kings are about to embark on now that they’ll have a coach in Willie Desjardins who can fix their speed, age, and goaltenders meniscus.  Hope you enjoy the new contract Drew Doughty…

 

Big win for the Leafs in Pittsburgh Saturday night, and I felt as though they really needed it.  On one hand, I feel as though with Mike Babcock behind the bench this team will never really be in trouble during the regular season.  On the other hand, as it stands right now the John Tavares “trade” is a one for five deal that the Leafs are losing badly.  Tavares in, Matthews, Nylander, Bozak, JVR and Komarov out.  I worry that things could go sideways here, and it really wouldn’t be anyone’s fault with Nylander holding out and now the Matthews injury, but I can already see the Toronto media turning on them a bit.  That’s not good, because the pressure is so ridiculous with this squad that I worry it could crush their season.  Again, shows you how stupid the media are collectively.  A month ago I’m bitching because they’re overrating this team so badly, now I’m bitching because you can see it coming that they’re going to now underrate them pretty badly.  Leafs fans, don’t get obsessed with where your team may finish in the standings.  The media will, but you shouldn’t.  Just worry about the Nylander thing coming to a head and Matthews getting healthy.

 

Speaking of the Nylander thing coming to a head, I feel as though he’s getting dealt.  Just seems as though both sides are dug in.  He is worried about getting dealt down the road, and they’re worried about getting him on a deal where they can deal him down the road, so he’s going to get dealt by December 1st.  Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday that the Canes would be “all in” on him.  So what does that mean?  Pesce?  I think Pesce would be for sure, and that would be a hell of a get for the Leafs, a perfect fit with Morgan Rielly giving them a very legitimate top pair.  But could they get more?  What would it take to get Pesce AND Necas?  That might be the move I’d be looking to make if I were Kyle Dubas.  Get your D-man but while you’re doing it get your replacement for Nylander as well.  Necas is a very similar player to Nylander.  I highly doubt the Canes would move him, but when it’s reported that you would be “all in” on a player, that sounds to me like they’d be willing to overpay.  I’m not saying they’d do Pesce and Necas for Nylander only, but perhaps for Nylander and Dermott?  Or Sandin?  I’d probably do Sandin over Dermott because I’m sure the plan is to have Dermott on their 2nd pair next season with Gardiner almost certainly gone as a UFA.  Something to think about anyway.  I have a lot of faith Kyle Dubas will do the best possible move he can here, but it does feel like he’s lost a lot of leverage throughout this process.

 

So I went off about this on Twitter last night and I’ll do it again here.

When will the media start speaking up about this absolute trash?!  And I know that it is the league, it’s not the refs, but it still needs to be ripped to FUCKING SHREDS and the media won’t acknowledge it.  Teams couldn’t be tighter then they are right now, so the refs are deciding a shit ton of games with their horse shit approach of managing games rather than officiating them.  Just a coincidence that teams get the same amount of PP’s most nights is it?  Just a coincidence that we hardly ever see 5 on 3’s is it?  Just a coincidence that when we do see 5 on 3’s that both teams will receive them in the same game is it?  And as I’ve said recently when I’ve bitched non stop about this, I’m not asking that everything gets called, just a standard be set in the games they STICK TO IT.  And how about we don’t put the whistle’s away until about 1:30 left in the third rather then 9:59?  Man, it just couldn’t be any bigger bull shit than it is and what’ll eventually happen is that the majority of the league is going to catch on that the strategy needs to be just do as much shit as you possibly can and challenge the refs to call everything.  And guess what’ll happen?  They won’t.  In my opinion you already see some teams doing this, like the Bruins.  Probably wouldn’t work against the veteran teams who have “earned the calls”, but against most teams it sure would.

 

Ok, let’s get to the Oilers, who have now gone 8-4-1 on the year, 8-2-1 in their last eleven.  The truth is that the last two loses they had, both should have been wins.  Cam Talbot had a bad night against the Pens, and then the special teams were disgusting against Minny.  Outplayed both teams, both should have been wins.  So as good as 8-2-1 looks, 10-1-0 would look even sexier!

 

What’s for real here?  Koskinen?  Chiasson?  The logical observer in me suggests this can’t continue.  If Koskinen or Chiasson are doing this with another team, I know for me I’d be saying “well that won’t keep up, they’re frauds right now.”  Having said that…I know what I’m seeing.  And what I’m seeing is two players who look legitimate in their play.  Nothing is cheap with either of these two.  With Koskinen, this isn’t exactly out of nowhere.  This is exactly why Chiarelli gave him that deal.  He rolled the dice that Koskinen could be the calibre of a starting goaltender and through three starts that’s exactly what he is.  And the team looks more confident with him in net at the moment.

 

I don’t like McLellan going with Talbot tonight.  It’s not because I’ve instantly given up on Talbot at all, I actually think we’re going to see his play shoot up because of the extra rest he’ll now receive, obviously the knowledge that he is now being pushed to up his game, but also the team pressure that will be taken off him.  And it actually isn’t a belief of needing to ride the hot hand.  The reason I don’t like it is because the Caps just saw Talbot who shut them down.  You give them Koskinen who teams still don’t have much film on, and a different look between the pipes then what they just saw.  Just my opinion, but in fairness maybe they know something I don’t?  MAYBE the thought is that you save Koskinen for the tougher team?  Because the Caps have been scuffling.  Lost three of four, but more so they only have one regulation win in their last nine (3-4-2 in that time).  And Talbot does have a .924 SV% in eight career games vs the Caps.  Again though, I personally like the idea of giving a team a different look.

 

Back to Chiasson.  He’s a guy who when Calgary signed him I was pissed about the Oilers missing on.  I liked him a lot just because of the size and speed.  Not that he’s a great skater, but for a 6’4 guy he can go pretty good.  I honestly didn’t know his shot was THIS good, but that’s why I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t legit?  When has Chiasson got to consistently play with a guy like Draisaitl before?  Maybe he has, but I’ve always known him as a 3rd or 4th line guy.  He does everything right out there, and while I realize that he is a streaky scorer, all he has to do playing with Draisaitl or McDavid is work hard and get open.  And it’s not like we haven’t seen this script before.  Pascal Dupuis bounced around the league and was a guy who had all the tools, finally started putting it together in Pittsburgh at age 30.  We just saw it with Patty Maroon two years ago, he was 28.  Should we be so shocked that a 27 year old with all the tools is emerging after given a chance to play with a high end centre?  We all know the way he’s scoring won’t keep up.  Even for the best snipers they can keep up THIS level of production.  But because he’s become such a solid all around winger, I do believe that he’s found a home in the Oilers top six.

 

If both Chiasson and Koskinen are legitimate, and the team continues to stay healthy, they’ll be a playoff team.  It’s as simple as that.  I mean, they don’t even have the special teams going good yet!  And you can see the confidence of the team has shot through the roof.  Since the Pittsburgh game, they haven’t been leaning badly on 97 either.  It’s crazy though that as good as they’ve played, you still see so many things that they’re still in the process of cleaning up.  The puck moving from the back end is improving, but still has so much more room to get better.  There were plays in the first last night by both Klefbom and Larsson where it was old habits.  Klefbom very early in the game ripped one along the boards from behind the net to Caggiula that caused a turnover when he had a lot of time to skate it and set it up.  After a great heads up play by Puljujarvi to skate it back and keep possession rather than dump it in while they were changing, Larsson fresh off the bench took the puck, skated it to the redline and ripped it into the Detroit zone.  No need for that.  There was zero pressure, just skate it back into your own zone, wait for the change, and break it out.  It’s coming though.  And while I hammered on McLellan early on in the season, maybe he had made the adjustments and the players were just taking a while to get that shit out of their heads?  Let’s hope we just see more and more of a team trusting their skill and being better game managers.  By the way, seriously that was a great decision by Puljujarvi.  The big knock with him is hockey sense and yet if you’d never seen him play and watched that Detroit game Saturday you would have said “wow that Puljujarvi kid is so smart out there, made a lot of very heady plays”.  This whole team man, it’s insane what a turnaround it’s been.  3rd in the West in points percentage, tied for 4th overall, and we all know the schedule they’ve had work with that let up for a bit but toughens back up HARD tonight and tomorrow facing the East finalists back to back.

 

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Hot Takes – Oct. 22nd, 2018

This can’t be right.  Full disclosure I’m doing a little bit of looking around right now trying to think of what the best topics are to talk about this week, and I look at the Tampa/Chicago boxscore from last night, Tampa had 33 shots in the 2nd?!?!?!  Not in the GAME, not a game, not, not the game that I die for.  We talkin’ bout the SECOND.  That’s what we talkin’ ’bout.  The second.  33 shots on goal in one period.  I can’t believe that’s only the most in 20 years and not the most all time.  Was that Colorado vs Tampa Bay from that season?  Avs were dominant offensively at that time, Lightning were a train wreck, it would make sense (seriously I didn’t bother to look it up nor do I care to because it really doesn’t mean much).  But wow, that is stunning.  And the Hawks have been playing well!  Unreal.

 

I guess I’ll start there because I picked the Lightning to finally make the final, and to play the Preds, and so its safe to say that my Stanley Cup final prediction is basically in the bag.  Preds are first, Lightning are three back with a game in hand, I just don’t see how it doesn’t happen at this point.  Seriously though, the Preds look GOOD.  Obviously got to watch both their games in Alberta and the Flames are playing good, the Oilers didn’t play that bad, but they have everything you’d want in the lineup and so when they get the goaltending pretty much no team in the league is going to beat them.  Meanwhile, you want to know something scary about the Lightning?  Their leading scorers are Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and J.T. Miller.  Stamkos only has one goal and three points so far.  Point is just so damn underrated.  I know he wouldn’t want to leave Tampa, but what an offer sheet candidate this summer.  I’d GUESS (assuming the cap goes up five mil next season) they’ll have 17 million for Point, Gourde (UFA), three defencemen, and Vasilevskiy is up after 2020.  I highly doubt Point would do it because it just isn’t in the nature of most players, but unless they shed Tyler Johnson, or Ondrej Palat, or ideally Ryan Callahan, their cap is going to be such a mess and Point could really cash in with a 7-8.5 per type of deal.  And he’s worth it.  The kid is terrific at both ends of the ice.

 

Did you notice the Buffalo Sabres are playing…GOOD?!?!  Couple of impressive wins in California, above .500, hope for their sake they can keep it rolling!  That’s a fan base you just tend to pull for.  There aren’t many actual real good hockey markets in the States, but Buffalo is one of them.

 

And if I’m talking about surprise teams to this point, how about the Vancouver Canucks?!?!  I meant to get to them last week and flat out forgot.  But a big win in Pittsburgh, then a big win at home against the Bruins, sure they lost in Winnipeg but the Jets coming off that disaster against the Oilers you can forgive the Canucks for being the bug on their windshield that night.  Travis Green had them looking good out of the gate last season, and I do think they’ll come back to earth because the blueline and the goaltending are…not great, but I like how they play and again, I really like some of their cornerstone pieces.  And I’m not sure Bo Horvat gets the love he deserves.  Some people liked him as much or maybe even a little more than Sean Monahan going into the 2013 draft.  That was probably mocked a bit at that time, would have been mocked mostly since, but now?  And I’m not sure we’ve seen the best of Horvat just yet where Monahan, while being awesome, I believe is what he is.  Horvat might live up to that Patrice Bergeron billing in more ways than just the style of game.

 

Then you have the BAD West coast teams, starting with the Kings.  You’d assume that them looking sluggish was in part because of Quick being out.  Then Quick comes back and it gets much worse against the Islanders and Sabres.  I knew it wasn’t going to be overly pretty with them this season, they’re SO SLOW, but those performances reminded me of the 2009 Edmonton Oilers.  A forgotten team in league history, and even though it was the season before the rebuild became obvious, I think for most of us who watched closely realized that a lot needed to change that season.  There were a lot of games like the Kings had this week at home.  The Kings have been A LOT better over the years than those Oilers teams were, but it still has the same feeling.  If you’re Drew Doughty, are you already regretting signing that extension?  Or at least getting nervous about what you have maybe signed up for?  There isn’t much hope there even if they do get things back on track this season.

 

Their closest rival are close to the same hockey team right now, but the difference is that John Gibson is playing incredible to keep them in it.  On paper, Ducks are 5-3-1, but have been owned.  On average, they’re being out shot 38-24.  They’ve played nine games.  This is getting to be a nice sample size, and have had Getzlaf, and had Kesler.  This team might be the shit team that most expected with the exception of me.  Mind you, I did have Gibson as my pick for the Vezina so maybe I’ll be proven right, but it hasn’t been promising that they’ve been dominated on so many nights so far.

 

Onto the Oilers, and things are much more promising this week than they were this time last week, but still a tough week lies ahead.  Keep in mind too, Winnipeg win was in OT and the Jets hadn’t been playing well to that point, Boston win was in OT and the Bruins were on the second half of a back to back (Talbot also probably stole that game for them).  So, nice wins, and confidence boosters which this team BADLY needs here early on.  But far from out of the woods and we saw why on Saturday night.  They didn’t play like garbage, but the coach seemingly prefers to lose 1-0 or 2-1 than win 5-4 or 4-3, so that’s what happens…

 

So let’s get to Leon Draisaitl.  I don’t mean to pat myself on the back here at all, but I noticed this act in the first game of the year.  He was dog shit all game, gets put on McDavid’s line and it wasn’t just that he scored, it was the body language.  He went from really sluggish to spirited.  I don’t believe that it’s ALL just because he wants to play with 97.  He needs a guy to do some heavy lifting.  The other guy he looked great with was Taylor Hall, a driver.  And you might say that he’s not a driver, which to that I’d say it’s not that simple.  To me, he needs someone who’ll gain the zone.  He seems to struggle on zone entries.  Last season I recall a lot of turnovers at the blueline.  I’m not sure if that’s what the numbers say, but I do recall a lot of them.  He needs a linemate who can gain the zone.  Both Yamamoto and Puljujarvi are guys capable of doing this, but I wonder with both (in particular Yamamoto when playing with Draisaitl) if they just try to defer to Draisaitl?  Leon does his best work down low.  As for the fans who are saying trade him vs the fans that are saying they would be morons to….he’s far from untouchable and has a contract that he’s nowhere near at the moment.  If he’s not going to carry his own line, then yes he is expendable.  But in saying that, you don’t give the guy away (that’s what always makes me laugh when people say you can’t trade a guy, who is suggesting that they give a good player away for nothing?!)  You’d need a 2nd line centre coming back who is worth his contract, and then either a number four D-man who fits, or a high end winger.  If for example the Hurricanes wanted him and offered say Necas, Faulk, and Terravainen for Draisaitl and Bear, you’d have to think about doing that deal.

 

I do believe with Draisaitl that two things need to be tried.  One for sure is telling him you’re going to give him his wish that he goes back with 97 for the time being (now being a good time to try it with Rattie out), but that it won’t be constant and he needs to be a team player when called upon to carry his own line.  Because the option is there.  I prefer Nuge with McDavid since McDavid seems to shoot when he plays with Nuge, but Nuge is willing to play the middle unlike Draisaitl seems to be and can play tougher minutes if need be too.  The other thing I would LIKE to see McLellan try is both Yamamoto and Puljujarvi on his line.  I know both are RW’s, but he clearly needs some talent to play with and while neither guy has hit their stride just yet, both are capable of providing the skill Leon needs to play with.  As I said above, he needs someone to gain the zone, or if they must play McLellan’s system then get the puck back for him when playing chip and chase (which could be the big reason Draisaitl prefers playing with McDavid is he’s the only guy who isn’t required to play that way).  Having said this, I highly doubt it would ever happen because of how stubborn McLellan is.  It would maybe happen for two shifts and if they didn’t produce four or five goals in those two shifts he would deem that it didn’t work and break them up.  McLellan runs his lines similar to how Monty Burns manages his softball teams.  Though in fairness to Burns, what he did worked out even though I disagreed with the decision at the time.

The other hot button topic after Saturday is another one I’ve been all over from early on and that’s Klefbom on the top PP unit.  I was on this last year in fact, and even a little in 2017.  Maybe I’m NUTS here and just don’t see it right, but to me, I’ve never understood why they see Klebom as this “must play” on the top PP unit.  Larsson moves the puck better and while he doesn’t have as big of a shot he has a pretty good one and when he’s decided to use it has shown to be little more mobile.  Not to mention he’s a righty that they don’t have on that top unit.  Nurse has maybe as hard of a shot, but the big draw with Nurse is his mobility and would be able to take advantage of break down’s on the opposing PK or backdoor plays sneaking into the slot while the puck is controlled down low.  We all know Bouchard looked better on the top unit when given the chance, but they look hesitant to put much on his plate right now, which I completely agree with.  He will be that guy, likely starting next season, but less is more with him right now.  And finally….again…Bear should be on this squad, on the second pairing not because he’s a number four but because they badly need the most amount of high end puck movers on the blueline they can play right now, and he’s the perfect fit for the top PP unit as well.  Bear is as good in his own zone as Benning’s been, and personally I believe he’s a better defender than Russell too but just not as good of a goaltender.  As for Klefbom, yes the shot is nice, but he’s playing VERY slow on the PP right now, doesn’t have great vision, not a ton of mobility even when he’s playing well, I just DO NOT GET IT.  And while I thought I was going to go this whole blog without ripping into Todd McLellan, it’s just more of what has gone wrong under him.  He very clearly has his favourites and has guys he for whatever reason doesn’t want to give a chance to, and this closed minded approach has really hurt the squad in my opinion.  Again, Peter Chiarelli has destroyed so much of what they had, but he’s still given McLellan enough talent to make the playoffs and McLellan produced a disaster last season, and while I’m ok with a 3-3 start considering the schedule, I still believe there is MUCH more that this team has to offer and worry he’s not the guy to get it out of them.

 

This will sound like it’s jumping on a bandwagon with the talk about him last week and now the recall, but I wanted to get to Cooper Marody.  If I ever get around to releasing my newest top 20 Oilers prospect list, I’ve had Cooper Marody pretty high on the list.  Admittedly, I didn’t know much about him when the Oilers acquired him, but started reading up, started watching Michigan games and highlights and it wasn’t difficult to see what they liked so much.  I’ve said this now a few times, but he might be a similar situation to Ethan Bear for me only he plays the middle.  Ryan Strome…I’m surprised that when I’ve brought this up people have defended him…isn’t pissing a drop offensively, and in his Oilers tenure it’s just become very clear to me that Strome isn’t an answer for the team.  I know he’s the 3rd line centre, but you need your 3rd line centre to produce these days!  Hell, you needed them to produce 20 years ago, but even more so now.  And while I’m going off memory, I don’t recall Strome even creating a scoring chance this season!  Marody’s short coming is his skating ability, but he’s about the same level of skater as Strome.  Similar size (though not as filled out at this time), both RH shooting centres, he’s very willing to go to the dirty area’s and take some punishment (which I wasn’t sure of coming out of Michigan and NCAA hockey), but where Marody has Strome is his puck skills and vision.  He’s a terrific playmaker and if you follow my stuff, you know how much I value playmakers and I really believe that as much as the league has become about skating, I believe that just as much or more so it’s about playmaking thanks to so much more ice now being available and the physical play having dropped off so drastically in the last five years or so.  I believe that next season, that 3rd line centre role will be competed for by Marody and Ryan McLeod.  Both could make the team, but they’ll be the two candidates for that specific spot.  It won’t surprise me though, especially now, if Marody is able to come up and make Strome expendable.  I had one guy on Twitter essentially say to me “there’s room for both”.  There is, but it’s a cap world my man, and the Oilers are up against it.  I wonder if Strome wouldn’t be of interest for the Canadiens?  For who?  Could you get Arturri Lehkonen?  He’s off to a good start, but they literally have nothing down the middle, and Strome might free up Max Domi to move to the wing where he’d be even better for them.  I don’t know, just a thought.  I’ve liked Lehkonen for a while now and felt he could thrive if given a high end centre to play with, but then again it is likely that the Habs see it the same way and would like to maintain his services being on the final year of his ELC.  Point being though that if you can shed 2.1 million and get better production, then you should do it.  Marody to me looks very capable of being a better version of Strome, and I mean soon.  Might not be on this call up, but soon.

 

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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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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!

 

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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.

 

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Hot Takes – Free Agency

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Cup Takes – June 8th, 2018

Good morning, welcome to Ovy’s world.  The look on that man’s face said it all last night.  All the years of shit he’s taken, especially after last season, what a moment that was.  Sometimes the Cup presentation isn’t what you think its going to be.  Nobody remembers Derian Hatcher lifting it when captain of the Stars, or either time Dustin Brown got to do it.  And its nothing against those players, damn good players, but they just don’t stand out.  Ovechkin’s though, that one is going to be iconic.  So I got a few different things to hit on today, but obviously the Caps are going to dominate this edition of what is normally titled “Hot Takes”.

 

First, as pumped as I am for Ovy, he wasn’t the MVP of the Caps in the playoffs.  I have no issue in the slightest with Ovy winning the Conn Smythe.  But if Brett Connolly has Ovy’s numbers, he isn’t beating out Evgeny Kuznetsov.  I talked about Kuznetsov at length a few weeks ago, so I apologize if I’m just repeating a lot of that, but I just can’t believe how far this kid has come.  After the 2016 playoffs I really believed the kid was just a second line winger who Barry Trotz was forced to use in the middle due to a lack of depth.  This year, he emerged as a legitimate first line centre and was the biggest reason the Caps won it all.  Right before they got bounced last year (went down 3-1 to Pittsburgh), I looked at their situation and said “they’ve got a second line centre as their first line centre (Backstrom), a second line winger as their second line centre (Kuznetsov), and a very good top four D-man trying to be their horse on the blueline (Carlson)”.  I truly believed that.  This year, Kuznetsov emerged as a very legit first line centre, and Carlson was all world.  You want the reasons the Caps won it all, those are the two biggest right there.

 

But they aren’t the only reasons, far from it.

 

Let’s not forget here that not every Cup is won equally.  And this is in no way to piss on the accomplishment, but its highly likely they don’t get here without seeing a completely gassed Pens team in the second round.  More importantly perhaps, is they don’t get here without having next to no pressure all season because everyone counted them out.  Its so freaky how similar this was to watching the 97 Red Wings run as a kid.  After three straight amazing regular seasons and three straight playoff failures, the Red Wings were a complete afterthought going into the 97 playoffs.  I’ve always liked the Caps, but I was pissing on their chances as much as anyone, if not more so coming into this post-season!  I wasn’t pulling against them at all, more so they were like the babe in high school who wouldn’t go out with me (hypothetically that is, because I got all the babes, shout out to Sarah Watts….that was for you flow).  You think you’re going to get her every time she’s single so you ask her out and every time she shuts you down.  And you HATE her, until the next time she’s single.  That was the Caps.  I picked them probably three or four different times, and every time they did what they did.  This time, had them going out with relative ease to Columbus….and here we are.  But seriously, having no expectations is massive for a hockey club.  Look at the team they faced in the final.  No expectations all season, thrived off it, got to the final and were the favourites, and all of a sudden they were a much different club.

 

“Local Boy Done Good”

Of course, the Golden Knights didn’t feel like a different club the entire way, and that picture is the moment they lost their mojo.  I said it on Twitter last night but I’ll say it again here: this save now goes from amazing highlight, to iconic NHL moment.  It might not be up there with Bobby Orr’s goal, but its living in the same part of town.  Given the stage and the circumstances, its as great of a save as we’ve ever seen in the history of the league.  Marc-Andre Fleury had a big one in 2009, Curtis Joseph had a stunner in 1997, Kirk McLean had an amazing one in 1994.  I realize those were all massive, all in game seven, but I really believe that Holtby’s was better.  And think about his road to the Cup for a minute.  He was benched the first two games of the playoffs!!!  They quit on him!  He was coming off maybe the worst regular season of his career!  And yet, here we are.  Vegas scores that goal, they keep their momentum, it would have been a really flukey goal which they were thriving off of all season, mentally that save completely shifted the series to the Caps favour, and basically sunk the Golden Knights.  (more on Holtby at the end of this blog)

 

I guess I should say something about the Golden Knights while I’m at it.  People get it twisted when I talk about them.  I don’t hate any of the players, love the coach, love the GM.  And I don’t believe they were a fluke (maybe the Winnipeg series), yet I completely know that they had everything bounce the right way for them this season.  Its so damn easy to play with no expectations, a scorching hot goaltender, and absolutely nothing going against you.  We finally seen it in the final, they were a different team once the bounces started going against them.  Once they got down in games and down in a series.  And in game four, they were the better team…and got shit kicked because the bounces went completely against them.  Last night in the second period the bounces started going for them again, and all of a sudden by the end of the period they were looking like they did in the Winnipeg series.  In the third, both Washington goals were off of fortunate bounces.  The team that “just doesn’t quit”, completely quit.  Except for they didn’t “quit”, just like any other team that has bounces go against them, their belief was fading.  They were living off momentum the whole way.  I’m not in anyway looking to take away how hard they worked or how great of a story they were, not at all.  But I try to be a realist, and the realist in me says that we’ve seen this happen a lot in the league over the years (1991 North Stars, 1996 Panthers, 2003 Mighty Ducks, 2004 Flames, 2006 Oilers, etc).  These teams all rode momentum, amazing health, and/or amazing goaltending.  Hey, the Caps were lucky too!  Look at the bounce they got in game three of the opening series vs Columbus.  Lars Eller’s OT “goal”.  Backstrom was able to return from injury, Kuznetsov wasn’t seriously injured from the hit McNabb gave him in game two, so without a doubt no matter who the team is you need to get bounces.  And its not as if anyone is saying the Golden Knights were lazy and didn’t work for it, but the truth is that they had just about everything that had to go their way, go their way.  Nobody should be the least bit shocked if they don’t make the playoffs next season, because now we’ll have new contracts in that room and there for bigger egos, teams will make the adjustments in the off-season to how they play, some of the personal will change, and expectations will be high.  A dream season, and I honestly mean this, congratulations to everyone involved (even though its likely only 50 people read this and none of them will have any connections to the Knights).  Now, go prove a guy like me wrong.  Prove you can fight through injuries, shaky goaltending and high expectations.  I’ll be the first guy to sing their praises.

 

Onto a few other things….

 

First, Lou Lamoriello shedding Garth Snow, well done Lou!  I don’t know who is happier with that, Islanders fans or Oilers fans!  But fleecing his buddy Peter aside, Garth Snow did an awful job as Islanders GM.  There was some stuff he got right, but at the end of the day, John Tavares is a borderline superstar.  And Garth Snow couldn’t build a consistent winner around John Tavares.  Sure, he had some ownership issues and budget issues early on in the Tavares tenure, but those faded as the years went on and the best they ever did was one win in the second round of the playoffs.  And now who will be the new GM?  Realistically, I’m sure it’ll actually be Lou.  But the title will likely be given to someone else.  And the coach?  I really believe the reason Barry Trotz never got extended in Washington is because he is leaving and he’s the one who wants out, not that the Caps want him out.  It could easily change now that they’ve won, winning cures all!  But we’ll see.  I will say for the Islanders, now that Lamoriello is in charge, I fully expect him to get Tavares re-signed.

 

So I got called a racist yesterday.  Yep.  My fear of taking Russian FORWARDS (not even a blanket statement of Russians, and not that I wouldn’t draft them, just wouldn’t take them as high in a draft as others because of how poorly they’re consistently evaluated) was ACTUALLY twisted into me being racist on HF Boards last night by a couple of posters.  I know this isn’t really to do with sports, but holy shit is this ever an example of society is operating today.  “I don’t like a fact that someone pointed out, so I’m going to look to ruin this person by playing the race card.”  Its disgusting.  And if either of those guys were face to face with me, no doubt neither would say such a thing.

 

Anyway, hope you’re ready for a ton of draft talk on here in the next two weeks.  Its my Christmas, and I’m fired up for it.  Two more mocks, one more top prospect list (likely top 62, no less than 50 again, maybe as much as a top 100), and a bunch of other blogs that I’m hoping to get done over this weekend and put out daily.  It’ll be super annoying, but if you know me, then you know that suits me perfectly.

 

In closing, congrats again to the Washington Captials and specifically to the entire Holtby family!!!  Couldn’t be happier for the them, and anyone will tell they are all just tremendous people!  I’ve only had the pleasure a few times, but I had heard that prior to meeting them and they completely lived up to that reputation when I did.  Braden has done Marshall, Lloyd, Lashburn, the entire area just so damn proud!

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

 

 

Hot Takes – May 28th, 2018

Not a ton to cover this week, but some pretty obvious topics.  Memorial Cup just wrapped up last night in Regina, the Oilers have rolled out their new coaching staff, of course the Stanley Cup final begins in Las Vegas tonight, and for me personally I got to play in a game that meant a lot to me.  So I’ll start with my Saturday night and the Jeff Torry Memorial Cup.

 

People were watching me play hockey, which made me dread going to the rink that night knowing people would know my great shame, which is that after going 14 years as an unsigned UFA, and three more years of trying to get my game back…I haven’t!  Well, I’m not sure how much I ever really had, but I know I’d be a hell of a lot better now had I been playing all these years.  Anyway, while dreading it a bit from that perspective, I was doing this for Torro.  And the rest of the boys were there for Torro.  And everyone who showed up (which I thought it was an AWESOME turn out) was there for Torro.  Something everyone needs to know about Jeff is that this was one of the truly and genuinely best people I’ve ever met.  I bitch about a lot of people (not an endearing trait), and I can count on my hands the amount of buddies of mine I’ve ever bitched about because they cause me any kind of problems.  I can very honestly say that Jeff was one of those few who just simply would go out of his way to make life easy for everyone.  There were a lot of people involved with the game who were tighter or more connected to Torro than I was, but he was a good buddy of mine and everyone there loves Torro and misses him a lot.  But So for everyone who helped organized that event (LRHF), sponsored the jerseys, anyone and everyone who chipped in, I just personally want to say thank you, and I’m sure those thoughts are echoed by a boat load of people.  We raised a lot of money for Project Sunrise and had a damn good time while doing it which is what Torro would have wanted.

Not an easy way to transition to other stuff now, so I guess I’ll just jump right to it.

 

The Memorial Cup final didn’t end up being the thriller we all hoped it would be, but what a tournament overall.  Final game aside, that was one of the best Memorial Cups I remember seeing.  I’m sure there are others that have been better, but I don’t know if I’ve seen them.  Every round robin game was exciting, and the intensity the semi-final was played with was terrific.  Full marks to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for the win, they were undoubtedly the best team in the tournament, and they did it with a total team effort.  There were no big stand out stars, just a very solid roster top to bottom who played their system perfectly.  But just tremendous hockey throughout.  Any of those four teams really could have won it.  Think about the Swift/Acadie game.  Swift was up 3-2.  They hold on, how different is the whole tournament?

 

Before I get to the Cup final preview, a little Oilers talk this week with the new coaching staff being rolled out.  On paper, it’s impressive!  Glen Gulutzan got the Calgary job from doing such a great job while in Vancouver.  Trent Yawney appeared to do a respectable job with the Ducks blueline while in Anaheim, though I put more of that credit towards their drafting and developing.  But Yawney’s big thing is going to be the PK.  Can he get the Oilers PK up to a top ten type level?  He’s done it a few times before.  And then you have Manny Viveiros.  And I don’t care what Todd McLellan says, I really believe that the pp will be Viveiros’ baby.  It is without a doubt THE flaw with the Oilers is their special teams.  And yes, personal helps.  Washington’s pp is consistently amazing mainly because they have about as perfect of personal for a pp as you can find.  But the Oilers definitely have the ingredients to be a top ten or even top five pp in the league.  So it’s mainly on this coaching staff, and if they don’t get the job done, Todd McLellan’s job is going to be in serious jeopardy.

 

So before I begin, it didn’t seem to matter where I went Saturday night, EVERYONE had an opinion on my opinion of the Golden Knights one way or another!  Partied with a few different groups of people, and I heard it from all angles.  Thanks for reading boys!  I assumed maybe four people did, but maybe it’s nine!  But one thing I’ll say is don’t confuse me not being a fan of the Golden Knights with me not thinking they’re going to win the Cup.  I truly believe they’re going to win the Cup.  That team just looks as though they have a feeling of invincibility right now, and I won’t be surprised at all if they sweep Washington.  And it’s not at all to piss on the Caps.  If Vegas sweeps, I believe it’ll be four real tight hockey games.  But Vegas wins those games.

 

Washington can win this series, no doubt.  I’m sure there are more reasons than this, but I got four big reasons why or how they can win.

  1. This is the first series where the Golden Knights are facing a team who also feel as though they’ve got zero pressure on them and perhaps this is the first series where the Golden Knights have more pressure on them then their opposition.
  2. The Golden Knights haven’t faced a squad this skilled.  The Jets have a better team than the Caps, but the Caps skill level is maybe unmatched.
  3. The Caps just beat two teams in the Lightning and Pens who bring the same kind of speed to the table that the Golden Knights do.  The Golden Knights speed shouldn’t be much different for Washington.
  4. Holtby can match Fleury.  The dirty little secret of the Jets/Golden Knights series is that Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t good.  He was fighting the puck in a lot of those four loses.  Holtby on the other hand hasn’t allowed a goal now for eight periods of play, and has been great since entering the playoffs in the third period of game two against Columbus.

But having said all this, I don’t think they will.  I believe the Golden Knights will sweep the Caps.  I don’t know why you wouldn’t believe the same at this point?  They have absolutely everyone committed to playing counter attack hockey, playing 200 feet, they make almost no mistakes, and when they’re getting outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury is just playing on a level that not even guys like J.S. Giguere in 2003 or Jonathan Quick in 2012 played on.  It’s funny, some people who are trying to sell me on why Vegas is so wonderful are getting testy about me pointing out that it’s mainly because of Fleury.  It’s just a fact though.  .947 Sv%.  It’s the all time best of anyone who played a minimum of ten playoff games.  It’s not taking away from their success, it’s just that he’s been far and away the main reason they’re here and anyone in that organization would say the same.

 

For me, I just hope its a great series.  Seven games, exciting hockey, maybe some OT’s because these playoffs have frankly sucked as a whole.  Two game sevens that were both blowouts, not many OT’s, not many high scoring games, not many hard hitting games, it’s bad by playoff hockey standards.  So I just hope that I’m craving the series to go to a 5th, 6th and 7th game more than seeing it end so others can join me in draft talk for the next month.

 

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