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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