Category Archives: Hot Takes

A weekly look around the hockey world, mainly the NHL

Hot Takes – Apr. 23rd, 2018

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As for the series which are still going…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Apr. 16th, 2018

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Apr. 9th, 2018

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Apr. 2nd, 2018

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Mar. 5th, 2018

Spoiler alert, this one ends up being over 2,000 words.  What is wrong with me?  I started doing this article in particular to just write about 1,000 words each week on what’s going on in hockey, mainly the NHL.  Here I am doing 2,200 words on a Sunday night when I’m exhausted and just want to go to bed!  So you better damn well enjoy this!

 

I want to start off with Nashville, and they look amazing.  Won eight in a row.  Best blueline, four real solid centres, a terrific group of wingers, Pekka Rinne has been back to form this season, they look like the best team in the league….and I’m not sure they’ll even make it out of the first round.  It’s the same as Chicago last season, Washington just about every season, Boston in 2014, where you think there is just no way they’ll get bounced in the playoffs.  But it’s coming too easy for them, and as I said on Twitter Thursday night, they’re continually flipping a switch in their games and winning.  When you’re playing L.A. or Anaheim in the first round and you go to flip that switch, they won’t let you.  Especially the Kings.  This isn’t to say they can’t win it all, very obviously they can.  But right now I’m thinking that this team is fools gold, where last season I loved them going into the playoffs because they had to struggle through an inconsistent regular season.

 

Of course with the Preds, it’s not just that they’ve cruised through the season.  A lot of my thinking with them being primed for an upset is because of how brutal their division is.  They’re looking like they’ll get one of Anaheim or L.A. in the first round as I mentioned, but it’s still very possible it’s Minny or Dallas, and then they could get Winnipeg or Dallas (I think that ends up being the 2-3 matchup) should they get to the second round.  I along with most other Western Canadian hockey fans will be a massive Jets fan come playoffs, and the Stars are currently my dark horse pick to come out of the Western Conference.  I just think the Stars have everything you need to matchup with any team in the West.  Minny…well…Minny could win a round, but they aren’t going anywhere.

 

Minny might have the league MVP though.  I recall Bruce Arthur taking to Twitter two years ago and making fun of the Rangers for giving up next to nothing for Eric Staal at the trade deadline.  Yep, great call Bruce.  And sure, it didn’t work out for Staal with the Rangers, but I never felt like he was done because he still had great wheels.  Here we are two years later and the Wild have had him for a bargain the last two seasons.  Having said all this, I don’t think he’s the MVP for me.  But it’s tough because this is a year with no clear cut guy.  Taylor Hall is getting a lot of the love for it right now, but how does this work?!  You have a player in Hall who has only one more point then a guy who is also a Selke trophy candidate, and his team is higher in the standings.  Patrice Bergeron?  Nope!  Anze Kopitar.  And literally not one person is mentioning Kopitar!!  Kopitar is 12th in the league with 71 points, and as I said is one of the top two way players in the league, the next highest scoring King is 8 F’N 4th!!!  Dustin Brown with 45 points.  How is he not THE guy for everyone right now?!?  And again, he’s not even mentioned!!!

 

The media is just so ridiculous with how they view this thing anymore.  They all want to vote for the best story, not the right guy.  Last year at this time if you recall, Brad Marchand was getting into the mix with Crosby and McDavid.  Marchand had less points than Patrick Kane and the Bruins were nowhere near the Hawks in the standings, yet Marchand was the hot take pick while literally nobody mentioned the defending Hart trophy winner who was better than Marchand in every way you would view a Hart candidate.  This one isn’t going to be simple for anyone, so I won’t pretend to have the answer.  But my top three at the moment would be Nathan MacKinnon (I don’t care if the Avs get in, he should be in Vegas as a top three, unreal this season), Kopitar (would be my winner right now) and Taylor Hall.

 

Another guy who deserves MVP love right now and outside of his town is getting zero is Claude Giroux.  I can’t believe how completely non descript this Flyers team is.  Probably because they aren’t the most exciting team in the league to watch, and with Brian Elliott in goal nobody believes they’ll make it out of the first round.  But remember where that team was earlier in the season?  Fans wanted Dave Hakstol out, they lost 10 straight, it was a mess.  Ron Hextall stayed the course and now the Flyers are fighting for first in the Metro.  Pretty damn impressive.

 

It really is amazing the job that Hakstol has done when you consider that his starting goaltender is Brian Elliott with a .908 Sv%.  Everyone knows how vital good goaltending is in this league, yet it still gets drastically underrated.  It’s amazing how much we miss it when teams have unexpected seasons.  The first thing that should be looked at when you want to fire a coach is how the goaltending was.  We should also be looking at it when looking at Jack Adams candidates.  It’s 90% of the game.  If your goaltending is great, your teams confidence is going to go through the roof.  If it’s terrible, it’s likely they’ll fall apart because they won’t have the confidence to do anything.

 

Case in point, the Calgary Flames.  With Mike Smith this season, they’ve been right in the thick of the playoff hunt.  Since Mike Smith went down, the team has slid and it’s looking like the end is near for the Flames playoff hopes.  Crushing loss to the Rangers at home Friday night, they now sit four points out of the second wildcard spot, no games in hand on anyone, facing the Penguins in Pittsburgh tonight.  Talk about must win, though they do play the Pens very tough, they matchup well.  And this isn’t to say that they’re done yet, but it’s looking bleak at the moment.  I’ve harped on it a few different times in this piece throughout the season but I’ll say it again: If they miss the playoffs and that first round pick (not to mention the second rounders that they gave up both this year and next) is a lottery pick for a player who has just been a complete disaster for them in Travis Hamonic, I really wonder if it’ll cost Brad Treliving his job.  Now, you might say that it’s ridiculous, and you also might say that I’m always talking about how much I love the job Treliving has done.  Both very accurate.  But I’m looking at how the Flames upper management has operated .  Remember all last season when it was very bizarre how Treliving was left without a contract extension?  And remember how I was seemingly the only person even mentioning the possibility of Bob Hartley being on thin ice with Flames management late in the 2016 season?  Which isn’t to pat myself on the back for that one (maybe a little…) as it is to bring up that it wasn’t being discussed at all.  Neither is this.  I think it would be ridiculous, and even though it was a disaster to do the Travis Hamonic deal, and I know I didn’t like it for them as much as I would have for other teams, it was tough to not think it was a good deal at the time.  But Treliving had the ability to do a lot more homework on Hamonic than you or I did, and you wonder if he did everything he could?  If I’m Brian Burke, or someone above Burke in management, I know I’m asking how much homework Treliving did?  Because it didn’t seem like they were asking themselves “why is Garth Snow so eager to dump a top four D like this AFTER the expansion draft and while he’s looking to keep John Tavares in the fold?”  Now we know.  All his injuries seem to be catching up to him, and at 28 years old he’s looking like he’s shot and the Flames just gave up a lottery pick, a high second, and a 2019 second (if they miss the playoffs this year) which is currently expected to be a terrific draft, all for that shot defenceman.  Can you imagine having a GM do such a terrible deal?  Oh wait, Peter Chiarelli has done two of these…

 

That pick and having their own is going to soften the blow of this season for the Islanders a little, but its been a disaster for them as well.  Again, why the hell would John Tavares stay?  They aren’t going anywhere!  This is why I’d re-sign if I’m Tavares: They fire Garth Snow after the season (which unfortunately for Doug Weight would likely mean he’d be canned too), and they win the top pick with one of what’s looking like their two lottery picks.  If Snow stays and they end up picking about 8th and 12th, it’s just not enough.  They seem destined to be a fringe playoff team the way they’re currently constructed, and as I said a few weeks ago he could go to seven or eight teams this off-season who are at least that good if not better…without Tavares.

 

I haven’t had much Flyers Ethnic Club hockey to talk about lately, and last night was perhaps the worst performance of the season losing to the Cocks…well…Roosters.  No excuses, but star players Sam Sayeed and Cody Chickeness no showing the game was a massive blow.  The nine of us who did show probably made a better effort mowing down Jimmy Rogers delicious apple crisp in the post game snack than on the ice.  Even in defeat though, you guessed it, I once again sniped the game winning goal.

 

I actually don’t have much to say on the Oilers this week.  It’s stunning, and Chiarelli and McLellan both badly need to be fired and I worry that they won’t be.  So I won’t touch on that again, but I do have a few thoughts on some shit.

 

One is that Connor McDavid is going to get 50 goals next season…maybe 60.  Why?  He’s finally shooting.  He’s up to 30 snipes on the season, and the way he’s rolling he’s got a chance at 40 (only needs 10 in 17 games).  Elliotte Friedman had it in 31 Thoughts earlier in the season that he was told that once McDavid starts shooting the puck that the Oilers PP will be unstoppable, because all teams have done this season is take away any of his options.  With him, it won’t surprise me if he works like mad on his shot in the off-season so that not only will he have a game plan to shoot a lot more, but have a much harder and more accurate shot while doing so.  It’ll be interesting to look back at this in a year and see how accurate this will or won’t be.

 

Second…of all people, I’m going to ask this question….is it time to start getting worried about Jesse Puljujarvi’s development?  Remember the game against Vancouver on a Saturday night back in January and the team was fresh off the bye week.  Puljujarvi looked incredible that night.  Three points, and he could have had two or three more, far and away the best player on the ice.  Since that night, he’s been a ghost.  Some of that is opportunity, and as we’ve seen with Todd McLellan he seems to hate giving kids real opportunity.  He used Darnell Nurse on the top PP unit for literally one game, he’s hardly used Anton Slepyshev this season until lately, and Puljujarvi has not only been bounced around the lineup but still hasn’t had a real chance to be on the top PP unit.  Having said this, it was the case prior to his dry spell too, and you could see him progressing practically with every game.  I’m far from ready to give up on him, but earlier in the season I was thinking that he’d be ready to carry his own line (soft minutes line) heading into next season.  Now, I’m starting to wonder if he might end up being a kid who is just content being a 40-50 point guy every season?  Obviously, hope not because the talent is there to dominate.

 

Finally, big matchup for myself on the local front coming up as the hometown Lloydminster Bobcats will face Chase Haygarth and the Whitecourt Wolverines in round one of the AJHL playoffs!  Sucks balls that both nephews won’t be suiting up for the Wolverines in round one as Easton has been out since the end of November with a broken ankle.  He will possibly be back for round two, but they’d have to get there first.  If you’re from Lloyd, you know the Bobcats have been going damn good in the second half of the season, and I’m expecting a pretty good series.  If I had to guess…I’d say this will be a homer series all the way (just like the regular season series was with these two ) with the Wolverines winning in five.  Games one and two are in Whitecourt Thursday and Friday night, games three and four (if necessary) will be Sunday and next Monday in Lloyd.  You’ll want to get out to see this matchup.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Feb. 27th, 2018

Held off a day to do this.  Well, I actually just forgot to do it on Sunday night.  But then when I remembered I had forgot on Monday morning, I thought it would actually be fine since it was the trade deadline so it would make more sense to do post trade deadline.  I’ll hit on all the teams and what I thought of their moves or lack of moves, but as always, I must talk a lot…maybe far too much…about the Oilers, and once again Peter Chiarelli’s failure’s as a GM.

 

Let’s go over the whole weekend.  The Brandon Davidson trade, I hated it.  Now, some really liked it.  They liked it because they viewed it as “you can’t pay a number six/seven 1.6-1.75 million a season in a cap world”.  Others liked it because “you turned a waiver pickup into a third round pick in what’s projected to be a terrific draft”.  Real strong points.  Here’s why it was ridiculous though: Brandon Davidson shouldn’t be this teams six/seven, he should be their number five.  He’s proven under Todd McLellan that he’s a capable number five defenceman.  I would have felt extremely comfortable going into next season with Davidson as their five.  Maybe you’ll want to upgrade on this at next year’s trade deadline, but he was full value to get that chance.  Instead, going into next season as the number five guy?  Kris Russell, at four million per.  THAT’S my problem with it.  And you know that Chiarelli won’t even explore getting rid of Russell.

 

Next up, Letestu.  And this was actually a terrific deal.  I had to look at it twice.  Pontus Aberg, as I said on Twitter, I’m a big fan of!  Great wheels, plays with some balls, was looked at as a possible first rounder in 2012 because of the skill he possessed, and is only 650K next season.  So I really liked it!  How did Peter Chiarelli, a man who has lost so many deals lately crush this one?!  I could have heard this wrong, but it sounded like in his presser yesterday that Chiarelli said that the Preds approached him about doing it.

 

Finally, Patrick Maroon.  This was my major concern around Friday or so, when watching “Insider Trading” on TSN, Pierre LeBrun talked about the Oilers possibly being able to receive a first round pick for Maroon, but then went onto say that Peter Chiarelli wanted a prospect who was NHL ready.  From that minute on I really felt like Chiarelli was going to drastically drop the ball here and boy did he ever deliver on that!  Reading between the lines of what Chiarelli said at his press conference, it really felt like had they just wanted picks, they could have got something like a 2018 second and a 2019 third, or a 2018 first, or maybe even a 2019 first (guaranteed it would have been lottery protected), which as I said earlier is projected to be a much better draft.  Any of those would have been tremendous value for Maroon.  But Chiarelli just HAD to get that prospect.  Couldn’t not get a prospect.  And it couldn’t be any prospect, it had to be an older prospect.  Preferably a “ready” prospect.  Who did he get?  J.D. Dudek, who is being outproduced at Boston College this season by Oilers 2016 5th and 6th rounders Graham McPhee and Aapeli Rasanen…who are also two years younger than Dudek…and if you added either one of them to a trade offer you’d likely get laughed out of the room (although I personally like both and do believe they were great picks for where they were picked).  It’s just so FUCKING typical of Chiarelli.  He gets fixated on getting a certain return, and he can’t adjust that.  He doesn’t have a plan B, C, D, E, well you know the alphabet!  And if you’re going to be a good GM in this league, you need to have about 25 different plans ready to go, so you can adjust when things don’t go exactly as you have planned.  I shouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how a GM is going to completely fuck up a trade, but last week, I did!

 “Now, having said this, as I said the other day, this is where Peter Chiarelli fucks himself.  He has something he’s willing to deal, and he doesn’t seem to adjust his price and ensure he gets the best value.  Taylor Hall brought back Adam Larsson, when it should have been Larsson and probably two other assets.  Brandon Davidson brought back David Desharnais, when it should have been Desharnais and a mid round pick.  Jordan Eberle brought back Ryan Strome when it should have been Strome and a 2nd round pick.  But he seemingly gets the prototype of what he wants in his head, he just simply does the deal.  He wants a RH shot defenceman for Hall, he wants a veteran centre for Davidson, he wants a centre/winger with a cheaper cap hit for Eberle, and for Maroon there is some belief that he wants an older prospect who can play next season.  It would be so very much like Chiarelli to do Maroon for a kid like Ivan Barbashev or Adam Erne.”

Man, do I EVER wish he’d have been able to get one of Barbashev or Erne right now!!

 

How many more moves is this man going to get to make before Bob Nicholson and Daryl Katz wake the fuck up and get rid of him?  He’s ruining this franchise.  He could not have been given a better situation when he arrived in 2015, and it is shocking the way he has both pissed away their top assets for pennies on the dollar AND completely screwed up their cap situation.  Do they think Connor McDavid will put up with this horse shit forever?  Another year of THIS, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if McDavid is going to Jeff Jackson (his agent) and saying “get me out of here.”  In fact, it would be in everyone’s best interest if Jackson placed a call to Nicholson stating as much.

 

As for the rest of the league, I’ll try and keep this short (won’t for some), so I’ll just do a bit on everyone in the league.

 

Anaheim – Didn’t like it.  Feel like the Pacific is wide ass open and this team is about to have their window slam shut.  Can’t believe they weren’t going hard on Erik Karlsson seeing they had all the resources imaginable to pull it off.

Arizona – If one of you care, let me know.  I’m betting nobody gets a hold of me.

Boston – I’m not big on Rick Nash, he has an awful history of not showing up in the playoffs and specifically in big moments, and feel like this wasn’t much of a need for the Bruins.  So to pay what they did (and yes, I know part of it was shedding the Belesky deal…although they only shed half of it) is possibly going to be a case of them pissing away assets.  Their play right now suggests they’re a contender, but I’m not sure they’re making it out of the first round.

Buffalo – They did ok for Kane, but likely overplayed their hand by setting too high of an initial price on him.

Calgary – Treliving did what he could, which was next to nothing, because he pissed away his first and second round picks on a shot defenceman that he didn’t even have a need for.  That Hamonic trade…YIKES!

Carolina – Little surprised that Francis did NOTHING.  They’re in the hunt for the second wildcard spot in the East, they have deeper pockets with a new owner on board, and a lot of assets.  Maybe Francis is thinking “I’ll see if this group can do it and if not I’ll have my bullets saved for the summer”.

Chicago – Stan Bowman with a heist for Ryan Hartman.  I like Hartman, but you can’t turn down that deal.

Colorado – Kind of in it, but have really fallen off lately and because of that I agree with the move to just stand pat.  This season is a win for them already in my mind as I thought without a doubt they’d have the top odds to land Rasmus Dahlin.

Columbus – Liked it a lot.  They need some help to get in the playoffs, and they didn’t break the bank to get what they needed.  Letestu, Cole and Vanek are all cheap pickups, but make them better.

Dallas – Did nothing, don’t get it, but they feel like a hell of a dark horse pick come playoff time.

Detroit – Ken Holland, in likely his last deadline as Wings GM, did incredible in one deal, but then dropped the ball on Mike Green.  And hey, you might talk about Green’s neck injury hurting his value.  But A) they still could have done something, make everything conditional if you have to, or B) have done something about a month ago because they shouldn’t have been messing around with a rental who has a massive injury history.  Having said that, what a freaking heist for Tomas Tatar.  That was just stupid…but terrific for Detroit.

Edmonton – Read the opening.

Florida – A little surprised they didn’t do much (Frank Vatrano) with how they’re playing.

Los Angeles – Dion Phaneuf?  Ok.  I guess they were able to shed Marian Gaborik while doing it, but that’s not much of anything.  This team reminds me right now of the 2015 Vancouver Canucks.  After years of being good, they had fallen off in 2014, made some changes, made the playoffs, but really just lived off a great start.  By the time the playoffs rolled around, nobody took them seriously and they couldn’t even get by a Flames squad who fluked their way into the dance.  They were in no man’s land, which is where the Kings are today.

Minnesota – Speaking of no man’s land…it’s not like Chuck Fletcher could do much, but they’re just waiting to die so to speak.  No chance at being a serious contender, need to tear it down but have yet to do so.

Montreal – I was fine with what Bergevin did.  Plekanec got them a good return, and I liked getting Mike Reilly for cheaper than what they gave up Joe Morrow for.

Nashville – Their big trade was Turris.  I don’t like what they paid for Hartman, but I get the attraction.  I think that kid is going to flourish there playing less of a puck possession game and a lot more chip and chase and harder forechecking.  He’s a Laviolette type guy.

New Jersey – Most underrated team at the deadline.  I worry that Pat Maroon won’t fit, but they paid next to nothing for him and he gives them some size and toughness that they don’t have at all.  And I love the fit of Grabner with the speed they play with.  Combine those moves with the Sami Vatanen/Adam Henrique swap, and I really like how the Devils look both now and moving forward.

NY Islanders – I love Brandon Davidson, but he’s fixing nothing with that club.  They don’t play in their own zone and have weak goaltending.  I know Craig Anderson isn’t having a good season, but I’d hope they at least looked at him.  I’m just don’t get why John Tavares would go back to this mess.

NY Rangers – They’re tearing it down to the studs, and I applaud the move.  I’m not sure they got enough for McDonagh AND Miller, but they definitely got a good haul.  As I said earlier, they won the Rick Nash deal (especially with Nash likely going back as a UFA), and they did well for Grabner (especially with Grabner likely going back as a UFA).  They’ll likely sink in the standings now, have a shot at a top three pick, and are doing a good job at re-stocking the cupboard.

Ottawa – What more needs to be said about them?  What a shit show, and what a shame.

Philadelphia – Not surprised that Ron Hextall just stayed the course.  They’re playing with house money likely getting in the playoffs this season.  Now wasn’t the time to push all their chips to the middle.  Washington is falling off, Pittsburgh won’t be great for much longer, their time is coming.

Pittsburgh – Loved the Brassard trade.  If you’ve read my stuff, then you know what a big believer I am in having three centres.  Now, Mike Sullivan can put Phil Kessel back on the third line, this time with a better playmaker than Nick Bonino was.  I guaranteed they weren’t winning the Cup this season due to the grind being too much, but I don’t know now.  This was a hell of a move.  I do laugh though when the media drools all over Jim Rutherford’s dealings.  He missed the playoffs 15 of 20 seasons in Hartford/Carolina and was running the Penguins into the ground before he made a coaching change from Mike Johnston to Mike Sullivan.

San Jose – Sneaky deadline by Doug Wilson.  The only problem here is that they maybe should have done more.  But they got Kane for a bit cheaper than he probably should have gone for, and as a rental I believe Kane is going to be on his best behaviour and be a beast for them.

St. Louis – Doug Armstrong….WELL DONE!!!  The man refused to buy the bull shit.  He recognized that this is what his team actually is and ignored the standings which claimed they were an ok team.  The haul for Stastny was great, but more so the balls he had to pull the pin on the season.  No reason they still couldn’t get in the playoffs, but should they now miss they are even better setup than they were.  This could be a terrific rebuild on the fly by Armstrong when it’s all said and done.

Tampa Bay – Good job by Steve Yzerman once again.  It’s tough to believe that it was only two years ago I was writing a blog about how the media seemed to refuse to acknowledge that Yzerman was a bad GM.  And at that time, it really appeared to be the case!  But now, he got Stamkos to sign an extension that made sense for the team, did a terrific trade for Jonathan Drouin (didn’t piss him away for pennies on the dollar no names mentioned Peter Chiarelli…), and now has acquired McDonagh AND J.T. Miller (forgotten in the deal, good player), and didn’t blow up his system.  Sure, he dealt a 1st, Howden, Hajek, and Namestikov, but just go look at what is still in their system.  Easily could afford it.

Toronto – I like what they did.  I know they needed a defenceman, but this team isn’t ready yet.  Hell, they’re at least a year ahead of schedule.  And as of late, I’ve really noticed the need this team might have moving forward down the middle.  Now, they might move Nylander to centre again which would nullify that, but then why didn’t they do that instead of getting Plekanec?  They don’t want to.  So it’s best they hang onto that first round pick for now, and best they maintain a pick in every round as they did.  They look great for years to come, but the build isn’t complete so now isn’t the time to go all in.

Vancouver – The Vanek return was awful.  So that alone made me hate their deadline.  Jim Benning learned under Peter Chiarelli in Boston, so….yeah.

Vegas – That Tatar trade was embarrassing.  I don’t know what it is with the mentality of GM’s in this league where they believe that if they own a lot assets then they better start pissing them away.  George McPhee, you ACTUALLY think your team is going anywhere this spring?  This season is already a massive win, taking a series seven would be amazing, winning a series would be unimaginable, what in hell does an overpaid winger do to enhance any of that?!  What a garbage move.  If they had acquired Karlsson, that would have been impressive, but I wonder if they’re going to figure out that it’s best to maintain a winner rather then looking to go for a Cup and piss away their assets on average players?  Three chips that would have been much better used to get a Karlsson this summer.

Washington – Didn’t do anything, couldn’t do anything, won’t make it to the conference finals yet again.

Winnipeg – Best for last?  I don’t know if that’s the case, but Stastny sure gives them three quality lines.  This might be the deepest team in the league right now, and are primed for a run.  I wouldn’t take them to beat Nashville, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they beat Nashville.  And I think whoever comes out of the Central is winning the West.  So they’re a legitimate contender, at least to win the West.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Hot Takes – Jan. 29th, 2018

So let’s just get right to it because if you’re reading this then you know I do a blog pretty much every Monday, and you know what I’m going to be most fired up about, so why the hell would waste your time with some ridiculous opening?!

 

Well, I have to give the jack asses in power a little bit of credit, because it does sound like they’re going to at least some what try to fix the problem.  But man, it really has to get to the point of well beyond humiliating for anyone to get off their asses and fix a problem in the NHL doesn’t it?!  It’s absolutely incredible that these dip shits can’t get out of their own way to fix things.  The officiating is disgraceful, and it’s not the fault of the officials, it’s the way that they are being asked to officiate.  I wrote about it last week, these knobs running the league (*cough* Colin Campbell *cough*) have unwritten rules that supersede the ACTUAL rules!!  I watch Connor McDavid play every night, and he’s mauled every night.  He’s not only the fastest player in the game, he’s the fastest player with the puck in the game, and beyond THAT, he constantly is putting himself in positions with the puck where he’s a threat to a defender where the choice is to either take some kind of penalty or allow a grade A scoring chance.  He probably draws four penalties a night on average if the game is being officiated properly.  He’s 10th in the league in drawing penalties.  Number one?  Matthew Tkachuk….known league pest who the league will also adjust their rules to as I hit on last week to allow him to play his game.  And do NOT get that twisted, I’m not an Oilers fan right now crying because a Flame is getting the most calls while my beloved Oiler isn’t.  I applaud Tkachuk, because he’s smart enough to understand that the league and officials are so stupid that adjust the way they officiate to allow him to play that way!  If McDavid was more greasy about things, I truly believe he’d get more calls!  But because he doesn’t, and because he draws so many that it would slow down the game (which is the big mandate for officials is to call as few penalties in a game as they possibly can, it’s become clear that they believe flow and keeping the PP’s even for both sides is more important than properly officiating it).  This league is completely fucked, there is just no two ways about it.

 

Would you believe that this is 100 times a nicer rant against the league than I originally had written?  There was a lot of name calling in the original, which I still would have had no problem with, because none of them deserve respect from hockey fans.  If any of us were as incompetent as these people are at their jobs, we wouldn’t have jobs.  And yet these completely unqualified jack asses just keep getting or remain in these gigs.  And it’s league wide.  It isn’t just in the league offices, it’s around the league.  Each team (and I’m talking on the ice here, not off) is a business and these businesses are being run by “hockey men” whom have no business training at all.  We are living in a day and age where you have fans (far from every fan, but a small number) who are not only more intelligent about the game and how to run these businesses than the “hockey men” are, but can publicly document it for everyone to see.  And I’m not saying that the “hockey men” hold no value, they absolutely do.  But they shouldn’t be running the businesses, whether we are talking on ice or off ice.

 

And yet the king of all these businesses is Gary Bettman, and when his name gets tossed out as being a shitty commissioner people will talk about revenue “well when he took over revenue was only here and now it’s here so he’s done incredible”.  Nothing like comparing something to nothing and giving one fact with nothing behind it to support it.  Revenue’s have gone through the roof while he’s been commissioner hey?  And they didn’t while John Ziggler was running things?  And they haven’t for the commissioners of the other sports leagues?  And inflation in his 25 years as commissioner has nothing to do with this?  If you’ve tossed that stat at people you’re a complete moron.  And just because revenues have gone up in NO WAY shows what could be.  What if scoring is way up and there for offensive records are put in jeopardy and there for the game becomes much more marketable?  You think revenues might go up?  I bet they would, and under Bettman the large majority of his tenure has seen scoring much further down than when he took over as league commissioner in 1993.  Another thing a massive spike in scoring would do as I’ve hit on before is make the sport much more enjoyable and interesting to gamble on.  Currently, the spread in every hockey game is -1.5, and those odds are normally astronomical to win.  We should live in a world where you can bet the Pens favoured by 2.5 against the Kings and the odds be near 50/50 for it to happen.  8-7, 8-5, 7-4, 9-5, these are scores that we should be seeing regularly in the league.  It would make the sport so much better in so many ways.  But again, the people running it, who are led by their 5’4 troll at the top just refuse to make that happen.

 

Anyway, I could go on about this all night, let’s get to some good news before I sign off…

 

What a week for the Flyers Ethnic Club!!  Two wins which extends the streak to five…or ten….or something like that.  Big win over the Wanna-be’s led by their star player, you all know him, #14, Massive Douche.  And don’t get me wrong, Massive Douche played great.  He was on his game that night.  Couple of cheap shots, couple of horrible chirps, got off the ice every time shit got heated, he played his game to perfection.  But it wasn’t enough as it turns out it’s a good idea to be decent at hockey for all that to be effective and his squad fell to the Flyers.  Then last night (as you likely saw on TMZ), with the Flyers rolling, and the Mustangs still reeling from the beat down they received at the hands of the Flyers just two weeks prior, decided to forfeit the game just hours before the Flyers were to arrive.  And yep, you guessed it….Tyler Campbell ONCE AGAIN with the GWG!  And not just that, but the Soups on Hockey camera’s were rolling and caught Campbell celebrating his latest snipe amongst the Flyers faithful after the game:

 

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Hot Takes – Jan. 22nd, 2018

So I read an article last week that started off something like “The look on his face said it all.  As Tony Clark answered question after question by reporters, you knew what he wanted to say, but just refused to say the words.  The room was dark and ominous.  A child’s laughter could be heard in the distance”.  Something along those lines anyway.  I don’t write that way you may have noticed.  I basically write every piece the exact same way.  Try to be something interesting/humourous/so stupid it’s kind of funny, in the first paragraph and then get right into it.  The point here is this is sports.  So many of these guys writing on sports are much more worried with being writers than informing and educating people about what is going on.  When I read someone’s stuff, I couldn’t give a damn about how it’s laid out.  Let’s get to the point, get to the facts, get to the opinion’s, and quit wasting my time trying to script your movie.  So that’s my “opening” this week, me being pissed off about how most people do this.

 

Now on with act II….

 

My picks went 0-5.  Should I be anything surprised?  Set aside that they haven’t been good since October, look at the standings.  A damn expansion team is first overall.  Jersey is battling for first in what’s supposed to be the toughest division in hockey.  The two time defending champs are a serious threat to miss the playoffs.  The Jets are fighting for first in what actually is the toughest division in hockey.  The Blackhawks all of a sudden look like an average team (mind you, since Corey Crawford went out who was having a Vezina caliber season).  The hottest team in that division?  The Colorado Avalanche have now won nine in a row.  That team has about five NHL players up front, two NHL defencemen, and currently are running with Jon Bernier in goal and have won nine straight.  Teams like Washington, Boston, St.Louis and San Jose were fully expected to fade and instead they’ve either stayed the course or improved.  And of course the Oilers are the biggest disappointment in the league.  So this season is officially ASS BACKWARDS!!!  I could beat myself up over my picks all day, but it’s just a symbol of this season.  Everything that should be happening, isn’t happening.  We might be witnessing the most bizarre season in NHL history, definitely since 2006.

 

Another moral boosting victory for the Flyers Ethnic Club last night on home ice.  The pre game blockbuster that sent John Sloman and Casey Phipps to the Marwayne Imperials in exchange for two beef n cheddars, a medium curly fries and some BK chicken fries paid off in spades.  The trade really loaded an already full Imperials roster and left the ethnic club depleted, yet the Flyers managed to gut out tight defensive struggle.  Kayne Rowley showed why some have compared him to a young Dana Murzyn as he anchored the D, while the number one line of the Sedin twins and Sam Muhammad Sayeed produced the majority of the offence, and once again it was Tyler Campbell (I’m still him) coming through in the clutch with the GWG.  Flyers will be taking their show on the road for two this week, Wednesday night at the Multiplex, then back to Dewberry for a rematch with the Rusty Mustangs.  With the possibility of chicken or pizza being brought for snacks Wednesday, another two points is a virtual lock.

 

Back to less serious notes…

 

I might do a piece on this later in the season, but I’ll do the short version today.  And again I’m going to bitch about the mindset this league actually has.  Let’s run down the list of the unwritten rules which overrule ACTUAL written rules in the NHL:

  • If a player is so good that he draws penalties nearly every shift, then the unwritten rule is to ignore all of them except the blatant ones.  The theory is that it’s better to avoid slowing down a game rather than allowing your star players to shine.
  • Teams who have a reputation as a “defensive” team are allowed to get away with more because “that’s how they play”.
  • Players with the reputation of being a pest or chicken shit instead of being targets for officials are instead rewarded more and more as years go by because again, “that’s how they play”.
  • Teams who are on the PK have immunity from being called for tripping, holding, slashing, hooking, cross checking, interference or boarding because putting a team down 5 on 3 “wouldn’t be fair”.  Of course nothing can be done about high sticks or puck over glass penalties because they “have to call those ones”.

It’s just amazing to me, and I’m probably missing a bunch more.  The reason behind all of these is because “we want to let the players decide the game”.  Well, then why do you have rules in an actual rule book that counter this mindset?  Why don’t you want the most skilled players to be dominant?  Why are you rewarding teams who have less skill?  Why are you promoting playing like a chicken shit and doing things like diving and making dirty plays?  Why are you helping out teams who are on the PK?  You’re not allowing the players to decide shit, you’re giving weaker players and weaker teams a massive advantage.  The logic of the people looking after the rules and overseeing the officials is just asinine.  And they ACTUALLY believe that this is better for the product!  The fact that the owners haven’t figured out yet that these people are hurting the league and there for hurting their investments really blows my mind.  If I’m coaching a team or running a team I’m demanding, not asking, my players to dive every opportunity you have and to challenge the officials all game to make calls.  Hook, hold, trip, interfere, slash, etc. because these guys don’t want to make calls.  And the more often you do this, the less they’ll call because their goal is very literally to call as little as they possibly can to meet their goal of keeping the game moving.  If the league is going to continue to be a joke at running things, then players and teams may as well take full advantage of it.

 

The whole reason I started giving that shit thought this week was the Andrew Cogliano situation.  I’m probably on an island here, but I found that to be an absolute joke.  Not the fact that he got suspended, the fact that he was completely made out to be a total victim in all of it and that people around the league were actually suggesting he shouldn’t have been suspended because of his iron man streak.  FUCK RIGHT OFF.  Another example of how their is this “make it up as we go” culture in the NHL.  Thankfully the league stuck to their guns for once and suspended a guy based on his actions and not how it affected him personally.  So there was this outcry of support for Cogs, a tearful interview, and video tribute to him.  Like, this ACTUALLY happened for a guy because he got a two game suspension.  If the guy blocks a shot and it breaks a bone in his foot, nobody says shit.  “It was a heck of a streak, what a shame it had to end” and that would be it.  Instead, our soft as shit culture took over and it was made out to be as if the guy died….literally.  When Cogs retires, who in the hell is going to remember this if nobody says a word about it?  If he had got suspended for two games at the 237 game mark, and then gone onto play another 800 straight would we have then said “oh man, if only he hadn’t been suspended!!”  No, we would say he had an incredible streak of his own.  And if he continues doing what he’s been doing, playing in every game and ends up with another streak of say 200 games, who the hell will care about a suspension?  He’ll have played in 1,030 straight games which he was eligible for.

 

Last week I wrote a lot on Darnell Nurse.  This week I have to talk about Jesse Puljujarvi, and in a way the two are really similar.  Both have had the knock of having “no hockey sense”.  This is just a lazy narrative that “hockey people” have rolled with forever.  With some players, they’re simply so talented when they’re coming up that they never have to think the game.  So when they get to the league and can’t get by on their talent alone, they get that label of having no hockey sense.  If a player is an incredible skater but never has to go full out, does this mean he’s not a good skater?  My theory has been that if a player is intelligent that he’ll figure it out.  And this is why I can’t for the life of me figure out why the league doesn’t do IQ testing at the draft combine (a Wonderlic test like the NFL does).  If a kid has a high IQ, I’m betting he’ll be able to figure it out.  Nurse is starting to do that, and I’ve always said what I loved about him the most was his intelligence, all the while many people without knowing just how smart of a kid Nurse is wanted to label him as having “no hockey sense”.  ANYWAY, Puljujarvi has gotten this same reputation through his struggles.  Now with him, it’s tougher to gauge how intelligent he is given the language and lack of any kind of educational sources to go off of like with Nurse (OHL scholastic player of the year in 2013).  But it sure looks as though the whole “lack of hockey sense” theory is wrong with him too.  In my mind, it’s just a matter of gaining confidence.  He had it playing a weak team like the Canucks on Saturday, and even being the best player on the ice you can still see so much he can improve on which would take him to an elite level.  He still doesn’t drive the puck to the net.  And to me, that’s a bit like McDavid shooting more in that once Puljujarvi starts driving it to the net it’ll open up so much more and he will start backing defenders off.  A lot of his development will depend on his work ethic (which I’ve been told from an actual source…yes, I somehow have a source on this…is very good) and determination.  If he has those traits, the sky is very much so the limit with him.  I’ve said before, he has Rick Nash type ability.  His one timer still isn’t nearly developed (but I love that he’s not afraid to still try it), skating should improve the stronger he gets, the vision will improve dramatically the more comfortable he gets, it’s ridiculous how good this kid could end up being.  Not saying he’s going to get there, but it’s sure getting intriguing watching the rapid growth he’s made this season.

 

Of course the big news around the Oilers yesterday was Paul Coffey.  Man, just another example of how this organization is shady and shouldn’t be trusted by their fans.  On the surface, it looks like a harmless hire.  Every team should have a player development coach, if not a few (and yes, the role they described he’ll be filling is of a player development coach, not whatever they’re calling it).  But it just feels like Katz can’t get enough of the 80’s roster back in the fold.  And what qualifies Coffey to take this role anyway?  He’s 56 and has been out of the league for 16 years now.  He’s been coaching, but not at anything of a high level, it just feels like such a BS hire and that something really shady is going on that they’re going to drop on us at a later date, much the same as when Craig MacTavish was brought back in the 2012 off-season.  A year later he was the GM.

 

As for the team, they played one game against a shitty Canucks team on Saturday.  I don’t think much has changed since the last time I spoke on the matter.  But like I said last week, they have a chance to make things interesting again in this stretch.  Too tall of an order to get in the playoffs, but I’m sure fans would take a run similar to what Tampa Bay had late last season at this point.

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Hot Takes – Jan. 15th, 2018

I’ll just say it right off the bat here, with so many teams on bye weeks this past week, I don’t have a ton to talk about.  Probably won’t for the next few weeks as we’re going through bye weeks right now, then the All-Star break, it’s going to be February before there’ll be a lot going on in the NHL world again.  I should talk CHL trade deadline, I know.  This is called Soups on Hockey, not Soups on the NHL, but I really don’t get the bug to talk junior hockey until playoff time.  I will say that the arms race between the Warriors, Pats and Broncos in the WHL East division sure was intriguing (the Warriors definitely won it on paper getting Kale Clague!)  Anyway, a lot of this week focuses on Alberta.  A lot of Oilers as usual, but give props to the rivals when they’re due, and they’re very due right now.

 

Seven straight for the Flames, and it hasn’t been because of a weak schedule either.  Definitely caught a break in Tampa when Victor Hedman went down (the game was 1-1 and you could tell it took the air right out of the Bolts), but really that’s the only “bounce” they’ve got so to speak.  On one hand, I’m not surprised as I had them to win the Pacific at the beginning of the season.  But on the other hand, I wasn’t sure this team had this kind of run in them.  It’s a team of a lot of good, nothing great, which works for Vegas when you’ve got zero expectations/pressure and guys on the team shooting at over a 25% clip.  But for most teams, you need three or four guys to lean on.  However it’s working for them right now.  And don’t ever let it be said that Glen Gulutzan doesn’t know how to push the right buttons.  He knew this team was extremely inconsistent and picked the perfect time to go off on them and get their attention (Todd McLellan could stand to steal that move from his playbook).  I’m not sure if it’s sustainable, and I question if some of the media in Calgary will notice with so much of their attention on the Oilers struggles, but they’re a real good team that could easily come out of the Pacific.  The only problem is that Brad Treliving doesn’t have many bullets left in the chamber to add at the deadline.  I like a lot of their prospects (Valimaki, Fox, Parsons, Dube, Andersson, etc) but I’m not sure if they’ll have the kind of value to land a big fish, and I’m not seeing the need for many minor adds barring injuries of course.  Now national media, now you can start raving about them.  Not when they’re scuffling along…

 

You know, I’ll get to all Oilers shit a little later, but I’m going to hit on the offside rule rearing it’s ugly head yet again in their game on Tuesday.  Why do we even need to alter the rule?  Why not just alter the review?  Change the rule for just the reviews.  That way, linesmen don’t have to change the way they call it, the reviews go down even further than they have already this year, the spirit of the rule is upheld, and more goals will be upheld.  So Khaira doesn’t have his skate on the ice on that goal, but his body is onside, then it remains a goal.  If he is completely in over the line before the puck, THEN it’s no goal.  It would be an odd alteration, but I feel like it would work best for everyone.

 

Oh, the Blues are only 5-10 in their last 15?  Oh, the Blues are a middle of the pack team?  Oh, Brayden Schenn isn’t a 1st line centre?  Oh, Jake Allen is actually massively inconsistent?  Look, I don’t hate the Blues at all, but it’s like my rant about the Flames a few weeks back when they were playing like garbage and the media treated them like they’ve done no wrong.  The media just thought the Blues were so unbelievable to start this season.  Allen is Hasek circa 1997, Schenn is Messier circa 1990, Pietrangelo is Orr, Doug Armstrong is Sam Pollack, Mike Yeo is Scotty Bowman, like SHUT.  THE.  FUCK.  UP.  Why are these morons even more moronic than we expect them to be?!  The Blues aren’t anything right now!  Hey, they land John Tavares, totally different story.  All of a sudden then I’d love them to make some noise.  But all season, I could care less what they’re doing in October and November, they’re just an ok team which is going nowhere.

 

Flyers Ethnic Club with another big win last night out in Dewberry.  Former “Stang” Dustin Q. Harvie had a solid night between the pipes, Bobby Orr-cheski led the way on the blueline, Sedin twins one and two had big nights offensively, and linemate Tyler Campbell (that’s me, I’m him) had the GWG as the Flyers upped their record to 7-2-1 on the season.  Here’s the clip of Campbell sniping the GWG:

 

Onto the Oilers.  Ohhhh my Oilers.  Just when you get apathetic and want to call it a season, they have a week like this, followed by a weaker upcoming schedule, and it makes you say “MAYYYYYYBE”.  That maybe is more about them “maybe” getting back into the race than a “maybe” that they can make the playoffs because they would need to go about 25-4-1 over a 30 game stretch to legitimately get back in it.  But they very legitimately deserved to win in Nashville (and I’m not just talking about the offside, the Preds put home a puck that bounced off Adam Larsson’s face, pretty friendly bounce), came back to beat Arizona, and then of course came back to beat Vegas in OT.  Of course you know all that.  But now they come off the bye week to five at home.  Vancouver, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado.  I don’t know if they’ll sweep those four games, but they should (even with how well the Flames are playing, they’re just a match up nightmare for the Flames which is why the Oil have won six straight).  If you do THAT, then you get Tampa at home who now probably won’t have Victor Hedman barring an early return.  So that’s a lot more winnable then it once looked like it would be.  If they were to rattle off five straight (which would then be seven straight), then all of a sudden they have a pulse again with a massive three game set in California.  That’s glass half full.  The realist in me says they come out like complete dogs on Saturday against the Canucks who actually work hard, maybe go 3-2 on the home stand, and kick any optimism the fan base might have left directly in the teeth.

 

I alluded to it earlier, but Todd McLellan needs to wake up on this group and get after them a little more publicly.  You can’t constantly play that card, and I’m sure he gets the sense of late that this team needs a pat on the back more than a kick in the ass, but as a guy who gets down on himself often I can tell you even when you’re down on yourself, a kick in the ass can work as it’ll bring the fight out of you to start saying “fuck this guy, I’m gonna show that piece of shit!!!!!!!”  In other words, you tend to stop focusing on what’s going wrong and start focusing on what you need to do to make shit right.  And again, you can’t do it all the time, but once in a while it needs to be done even with a fragile group.  Yet he’s just continually patting them on the back.  I’m not going to go off on how he should be fired, I’m really not sure if he needs to go.  I can easily argue it both ways.  But no doubt he’s done one awful job with this team this season.  You look at things like that, the special teams (I actually don’t pin the PK on the coaching staff, because the PK is 3rd on the road!  So it’s clearly a mental thing on home ice), little things like positioning and spacing in the O zone, puck management, defensive positioning, you can point at coaching for all of it.  When it’s the same few guys, then fine, it’s the roster.  But it’s several different guys every night.  And I continually come back to this same point of while some guys may have thought the Oil would struggle to make the playoffs this season, nobody had them being THIS shitty.  So to pin everything on Peter Chiarelli is absolutely insane.  And I blame Chiarelli for a lot of it, no doubt.  He probably gets the large majority of it.  But please don’t tell me Todd McLellan doesn’t deserve to be questioned in all this, because he very much so does.  Take the PP for example.  We all get so frustrated at seeing the absolutely finished Mark Letestu being put out for it, but in reality if they have him as the one timer option he’s fine.  Not his fault if they can’t get him the puck, and he’s good in the dot which is also key to success on the PP.  But why is Klefbom continually being run out there when they are fully aware of his shoulder injury and inability to shoot the puck like he could?  It’s ridiculous at this point that Nurse hasn’t been given a significant opportunity in that role.  Also, anytime they look to move Lucic off the top unit they replace him with Maroon.  Why not replace Looch with Strome, use Strome in the bumper role where a right handed shot opens up more options, and use Draisaitl in Looch’s role?  Looch doesn’t primarily just stand in front of the net anyway, and Draisaitl has the size and hands to thrive in that role.  But what do I know?  The Edmonton media has taken up backing McLellan and taking full aim at Chiarelli, and I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with them liking McLellan and never having the access they want to Chiarelli.  Nope, not the media.  They don’t have rooting interests.  The only thing they’ll pull for is individual players they’ll tell you because that’s not having a bias when you like a player or players on a team more than other players.  Literally, this is their rationale.  This is what they literally tell us…with a straight face…that it’s ok when they’re bias towards a player they like…and they wonder why people trust the media less and less…

 

I should talk about Darnell Nurse again shouldn’t I?  I’m bias towards Darnell Nurse.

 

I wrote the piece on him a month ago, and in the three games this week he took it up yet another notch.  So are we seeing him go to yet another level?  Again as I just said, it is ridiculous that he’s not getting Klefbom’s minutes on the top pp unit.  I had to laugh driving home on Friday night listening to the post game show on CHED and Reid and Rob discussing whether or not Nurse is ready to QB this PP.  The D-man used on this PP is never going to QB it, that role belongs to 21 year old wearing 97.  He can walk the line better, his vision is definitely no worse than Klefbom’s, his shot is two or three times better than Klebom’s at the moment, and again I come back to the question of whether or not it’s possibly an edict from up top to keep his numbers down?  Because it’s making less and less sense as the season goes on.  He’s getting a fat new contract this summer boys and girls, don’t let anyone (Kelly Hrudey) tell you otherwise.  These D-men don’t get bridged, not after everyone around the league saw what happened after the Habs did that to Subban.  Pay Nurse 3.5 for the next two and then pay him 8×8 after that?  Or pay him 8×5 or 6 now?  You’re MAYBE going to save 2 mil, and then end up paying him 3 more mil then you could have got him at.  If you can get him to sign 8×5.5 tomorrow, I say you do it.  Of course this is Peter Chiarelli so he’ll likely give him 7 per just for the hell of it with his “ah fuck it, only 1.5 more than he’s worth” approach.  Anyway, back to Hrudey saying they should bridge Nurse for a mintue, it’s ironic Hrudey suggested that on Saturday being such a Flames homer.  Because Nurse right now isn’t far off what Dougie Hamilton was three years ago.  Imagine had the Flames bridged him for three years.  What would they be looking at paying him this off-season?  8 per?  8.5?  Not bridging him was the right call there, and its the right call here.  There is absolutely nothing about Nurse that suggests his play will be dropping off over the next two seasons.  That doesn’t mean he won’t have peaks and valleys.  Right now easily could be a peak, but again with this kid I’m going to point out the total package: IQ, skating, size, toughness and work ethic.

 

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Hot Takes – Jan. 7th, 2018

The first “Hot Takes” of 2018.  Obviously I’ll get to the Oilers and what a complete and humiliating shit show they’ve once again become, but before I do so I have to go around the league because that’s what this piece is about.  Don’t be so selfish Oilers fans!  Trust me, I’ll get to them…

 

I’ll start with the Avs.  Everyone wants to talk about what a great story Vegas is, but I have trouble wrapping my arms around it.  They got every break from the schedule makers imaginable, and they’re just on an insane hot streak much like the Jackets, Wild and Flames went on last year (combined playoff wins for those three last season: two).  I believe they’ll make the playoffs, but I believe it’ll still be a struggle to get in.  But the Avs got no breaks at all and were coming off a season where everything went wrong, and they did nothing in the off-season to really improve the club.  Yet they’re flourishing!  And not only is this team in the playoff hunt in the West, but all of a sudden their blueline moving forward has three studs to potentially build around.  Sam Girard, Cale Makar and Conor Timmins have the makings of a very nice trio.  The first two were known, but even a draft junkie like myself didn’t realize just how great Timmins was.  I did like everything I read on him leading into last years draft, but when a draft prospect has no flash in his game it’s tough to see the potential.  This is why I always harp on intelligence being a vastly overlooked skill.  If you can think quick, you’ll always find ways to improve.  It’s insanely early to suggest that will be three of their top four moving forward, and you’re looking at these three being 3-5 years away from being impact guys, but no doubt Avs fans should be excited about them, and excited at the huge improvement their team has made.

 

And maybe the most odd thing about all of it is Nathan MacKinnon taking off once Matt Duchene was dealt.  On one hand, I guess he started seeing more ice (I actually don’t have time to research those numbers, but it’s a safe bet), but on the other hand he’ll have started seeing top competition.  So maybe it was just a case of MacKinnon feeling like it was “his team” with Duchene out of the picture.  And that’s something I’ve always wondered about with Hall out of the room in Edmonton.  A lot can be picked apart on the Oilers right now, but that is one where the organization may have been right is to move on from an alpha dog like Hall so McDavid could more so take the reigns.  Even being close like they were, McDavid may have been hesitant to do so.  Doesn’t mean you needed to get killed on value while moving Hall though….Anyway, MacKinnon.  He’s second in league scoring as of writing this, and if the Avs make the playoffs combined with this continuing from him, he has to be the Hart winner.  A long ways to go, but he’s going to jump into the conversation.

 

The Avs success has got me to thinking…are there any truly weak teams anymore, or just teams who have the worst holes?  Look at Vegas, and looking at it statistically (so not at the actual roster), and they don’t have a flaw.  The Oilers have come crashing down this season, because they have an all time worst PK.  It’s not even a bad PK, it’s just horrific at home.  Going into yesterday’s game, it was the 4th best PK in the league on the road!  But that PK bleeds into their game because last season they were able to impose their will on teams and this year perhaps they’re too timid (especially at home) to play physical knowing that if they take a penalty, it’s a 45% chance of being a goal.  Last year, the Avs didn’t have goaltending.  This year they do, and look at not just a bit of a difference but the dramatic difference.  The Vancouver Canucks were a competitive team before Bo Horvat went down.  Now without Horvat, and Brandon Sutter was already out, now they can’t matchup with anyone down the middle and they’re getting obliterated.  The Islanders looked like a serious threat in the East.  Lost Johnny Boychuk and since then the blueline is a mess and they’re bleeding goals.  As bad as the Coyotes have been this season, it wouldn’t shock me at all with that roster to see them get a goaltending upgrade in the summer and be competing for a playoff spot next season.  The only organization in the league that I feel is truly bad at this point is Buffalo, because their confidence has just been beat into the ground much like the Oilers had been prior to last season.  It’s been a fine line between winning and losing in this league since the 2005 lockout, but in the last two or three years it sure feels as though that line has become even finer.  Fewer elite teams, fewer awful teams, and a ton of fluctuation in the standings year to year.

 

It’s easy to say having watched the Oilers just play them on Saturday, but it looks to me like the Stars are on the rise finally.  They’ve only played on the road in one of their last nine, so this could be wrong, but they sure took care of business while at home winning seven of eight.  Only four points back of the Blues now with two games in hand, and it wouldn’t shock me if they end up battling for top spot in the Central by late March.

 

Speaking of teams rising and falling, man I don’t get how the Boston Bruins are good!  You can point to all their positives all you want.  Charlie McAvoy being a tremendous rookie, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand.  Those guys are all great.  But they have a lot of slower players who are past their primes in key positions, yet they’re one of the best teams in the East at the moment.  Teams like the Bruins, Kings, Sharks, Blues, etc.  The media can spare me on speed being the reason teams win and lose in this league.  It has little to do with individual speed.  In the regular season in today’s league it’s just simply about depth.  Top nine up front, top four on D, and great goaltending.  Speed is overblown.  Team speed, sure, but that’s more of a sign of confidence than anything else.

 

The Bruins are about to pull away from the Leafs in the standings.  I haven’t heard it get much attention (although I’m sure Leafs fans notice), but the Leafs aren’t anything of the world beaters they appeared to be at the start of the season.  Teams have figured them out.  Now, obviously they’re going to the playoffs because I don’t know if you’ve noticed but beyond the top three in the Atlantic that division is a complete joke, but at the deadline they might look to do a lot of buying.  I’ve loved the idea of them going after John Carlson.  I feel like he would be a terrific fit in their system.  I would also look to upgrade at centre.  Babcock still doesn’t use Matthews head to head against other teams top lines, so they could use another guy like Kadri to do that.  I thought Bozak was that player, but I don’t know how much they like him these days (doesn’t seem like they do at all, but maybe I’m going off bad information).  I’m certain the Habs are going to eat half of Plekanec six million to get something for him at the deadline, so maybe he would be that guy?  I’m just spitballing.  They need a lot if they want to contend.  But then again, they still have a year left of Matthews and Marner on ELC’s, so the push to go hard after a Cup now likely isn’t there.

 

As for the Oilers….good gawd….

 

Let’s not forget that going into the Christmas break this team very much so looked like they were about to put a major stretch together and jump back into the playoff picture.  Had won four straight, and an eight game run where they looked like one of the best teams in the league.  They were dominating everyone five on five.  What in the hell happened over the Christmas break?!?  This is the point where I had originally wrote about how Todd McLellan is done and started discussing replacements and what else needed to be done.  It might surprise you to hear me say this, because I’ve slowly crept towards being in favour of that the last few months both on here and on Twitter.  But I said to a buddy yesterday during the game “You know what else I’d be cool with too?  Chiarelli putting out a statement acknowledging his mistakes, saying he’s going to adjust some of the ways he does things (AKA not take shit value for your assets), and saying Todd isn’t going anywhere”  He didn’t really do THAT, but he backed his coach, which should help the coach and the team settle down a bit.  I’m good with it, but now the build to next year begins.  This year has been completely pissed away.

 

So you obviously sell at the deadline.  Letestu, gone.  Maroon, gone.  For me Russell for sure needs to go to clear some cap space.  Most want Lucic gone, and I would be ok with that, but I can’t see there being a taker (not to mention I highly doubt Chiarelli would move him with their relationship).  But this doesn’t mean  that you can’t buy as well, you’re just not buying rentals.  Should a kid like Risto Ristolainen actually be made available by the Sabres, Chiarelli has to be all over that as he would be the perfect fit for what the Oilers blueline needs, and what the Oilers PP needs.

 

And McLellan has to get the ship pointed in the right direction here.  This team is already going to get a draft pick which will be miles ahead of where anyone thought it would be (I for one didn’t believe they’d have much of a draft in 2018 when all was said and done!), so while winning Rasmus Dahlin would be amazing it is not something this team needs to be a Cup contender someday soon.  So win games.  Get things back on track.  Look to make the PP and PK top five units from the All-Star break on.  Start using Puljujarvi on the top unit PP already!  It is the next step in his development, and what a chance they now have to really develop him.  The same could probably be said for Darnell Nurse or maybe an Adam Larsson.  Maybe you give them time on that top unit PP, and see if they can add more offence to what they bring to the table.

 

But I will say, if there isn’t much improvement between the All-Star break and game 82, this organization has to look at cleaning house.  You better not do it blindly and have competent people in mind to take those jobs.  You owe it to your fans, and you owe it to the young talent on this team.  You have to realize the blind luck and incredible gift you won in Connor McDavid and it’s vital they do right by him and get the best people possible in here to build a Cup winner around him.  With Katz money, the arena, the job they’ve done drafting the last few years, another high pick coming this year, and just about all of the pieces already in place it would have to be one of the most desired jobs in the league.  So doing something insane like promoting in house would be just an absolute nightmare.

 

Oh one more thing…analytics guys…I doubt any of you are reading this, but if any of you are…quit celebrating this as some big victory for you all and claiming that “you called this”.  None of you called THIS.  Sure, you might have expected the team to digress during the regular season (as did I), and you figured they would fight for a playoff spot.  Were any of you calling this when the team looked so good two weeks ago?  No, you weren’t, so shut up.  I know so many of you want to prove the media wrong.  I’m with you!  Such a large majority of the people in the media have no business having the voice they have and refuse to put in the work that many of us who blog and dig deeper do.  But just because the Oilers have been a train wreck this season doesn’t mean you won or have proven anything.  Keep your heads down and keep doing the great work that most of you do, quit looking to make it a fight.  Maybe then you’ll start getting the respect you deserve, because as a guy who appreciates analytics but doesn’t think they’re the end all be all, I want to like you guys.  But many of you make it damn near impossible to do so.

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