Didn’t have time to do my picks this week, which is the downside of doing NHL picks that you only have about a 12 hour window to do them. But with the Hot Takes, I have a little time to do them, so I can yap about pucks some more like I’m about to do.
As always….I start with the trainwreck that is the Edmonton Oilers. And I didn’t mean to go so heavy Oilers this week, but I go HEAVY Oilers so if you hate them…see ya.
Two weeks ago, it was panic button time. After going 3-1-1 in five game stretch, everything seemed a little better. Call me nuts, the Blues game was obviously awful, but I thought the effort was there against Dallas and they simply had every bounce go against them. The Antoine Roussel goal was a fluky one, as was the Jamie Benn goal to clinch the game. The puck is intended to be shot off the back boards and instead could not have been a better bounce for the Stars going right onto Benn’s stick whom had a wide open net. Those are so frustrating as a fan, because you can’t defend it! Sure, something probably could have been done so that cycle never of started, but the fact is that Esa Lindell takes a very low percentage point shot which because of an insanely lucky bounce becomes the perfect pass. When it rains, it pours. Are the Oilers done? Probably. The Blues tomorrow night in St. Louis, then the Wings Wednesday on the second half of a back to back. I believe three points are possible, but I believe one point is the most they’ll get. But they aren’t dead.
And they aren’t dead, not because they’re good. They aren’t dead because with all the injuries in Anaheim, and the Flames not looking all that good to this point either, they’re probably the clear cut third best team in the division, a division in which they’ve only played three games within thus far. That’s 17 games remaining against Calgary who haven’t beat them in five, Vancouver who’ll come back to earth before too long, Vegas who is coming back to earth already, and Arizona. They also have yet to play a team on the second half of a back to back yet, they have 11 of those left. So it’s easy and lazy to say “U.S. Thanksgiving” and make it the be all, end all like the media does. The fact is: weak division and a ton of games within the weak division still to come, so while it looks bleak, and probably is bleak, a big push is going to come.
As always, when teams don’t meet expectations, the media and Twitterverse take to piling on. Man it’s awesome to pile on isn’t it?! “Check out my unoriginal tweet of comparing two guys mistake by doing the hold my beer line”. Fucking tools. Soups advice: Don’t be a tool, especially a fucking tool. Anyway, Pierre LeBrun came out with a piece today on what a mistake everyone picking 3-6 in the 2016 draft made passing on Clayton Keller. He apparently (keeping it fair since I haven’t read it) makes it out to be that they passed on a hall of famer. SERIOUSLY?!?!? 25 games into this kids career we’re making him out to be this hall of famer, and we’re writing off anyone picked in front of him who hasn’t out scored him to this point. If you’re paying for the Athletic….why? If this is the case, this is trash. And from what is supposed to be one of their most respected writers, and this is the piece he comes up with?! Apparently he lumps Peter Chiarelli in with those other teams who passed on Keller. Literally….LITERALLY…Clayton Keller’s own family could probably be included in this….EVERY SINGLE PERSON had Jesse Puljujarvi ranked ahead of Clayton Keller in that draft. EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. Even the biggest Keller fan, Corey Pronnman, had Keller ranked 4th, one spot behind Puljujarvi. This is literally like saying “well the Colts shouldn’t have picked Andrew Luck because Russell Wilson has been better”. It’s just such a stupid, lazy, ridiculous narrative. Chiarelli has so much that people can pick at right now, there is zero need to lump him into this. And again in fairness, I don’t know if LeBrun did that here because I see absolutely no need to subscribe to the most arrogant and pretentious sports media outlet on the planet right now, but from what I’ve read on Twitter he interviews Chiarelli for the piece and lumps the Oilers into a group of teams which made such a horrific mistake passing on Keller. But if I got this right and this is the case….First off, let’s MAYBE wait until the kid has done SOMETHING more than be the top scorer on the worst team in the league? Second, it’s fair for a guy like Pronnman to go after guys about passing on Keller, but very few others. I didn’t have Keller very high going into the draft, 14th in my rankings, but I knew he was going to score and I stand by that ranking. If you’ve read my rankings and mock drafts you’ve read this a million times already but I’ll say it again: I don’t feel like building around undersized wingers is the way to build a hockey team, and teams picking in the top 10 of the draft for the most part have bigger needs which they have to address. Players like Keller historically have not been difficult to find, while centres and defencemen are.
I’m going to have a piece on the potential Team Canada for this years WJC tournament this week (in fact I probably could have put it out this morning), and one thing I’ve noticed in projecting the lineup is the only real weakness is on left wing. It isn’t REALLY a weakness as they will likely end up putting a lot of RH shooting forwards on the left side. But I have to wonder if they wouldn’t give Tyler Benson a late and out of left field invite to camp because of this? He’s missed most of the last two seasons, but has been scorching hot for the Vancouver Giants since returning, with 15 points in 10 games, and 14 of the 15 points have come in his last seven games. Two points a game in his last seven after missing most of the last two seasons. Now, don’t get me wrong. You can’t just blindly look at the point totals here. A lot of this production has been on the PP, and one of the apples was on an empty netter where he did next to nothing. But what would it hurt to simply bring him to camp and take a look? This is a kid who was at one time looking like a top five pick for the 2016 draft, and simply ran into a lot of injury problems beginning in his draft season. I HIGHLY doubt they will, but they should. He’s a special and rare case where you actually do need the training camp to see what you do or don’t have in this player.
Last week I talked about how impressed I am that the Rangers got the ship righted and are now fighting for a playoff spot. Well looking at the standings now 20 games in for most teams, I have to give a few other teams some love. I’ve sang the Leafs praises lately, but doing what they did without Auston Matthews, very impressive. If I’m a Leafs fan, I know they want Doughty. But realistically the play before the trade deadline might be John Carlson. Barring the Caps going on a massive run and looking like they may have a legitimate shot at the Cup, I believe they’re going to sell this year. They may make the playoffs, but much like the Blues last year I believe they realize that if they want to stay relevant then the move is to sell, and if Carlson doesn’t have a contract then they could get a boat load for him, and the fit with the Leafs is just too perfect.
I had the Islanders selling at the deadline, but so far they look like a very solid team who could do some damage in the playoffs. Matt Barzal emerging has definitely been the key. But what I’m so impressed with is the culture they’ve developed there. Since 2013 they’ve had a “next man up” and playing balls out style. It’s a lot like what the Preds were for so many years, or the Oilers had in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. They’re just a bitch to play every night.
And finally, the Avs! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they aren’t going away! Maybe the most surprising thing about the Avs for me is that Semyon Varlamov hasn’t been good. Yet here they are, sitting in a wildcard spot, legitimately. They won’t stay there, other teams will pass them. But considering where they were last season, and that they made very few changes prior to the season, and then coupled with the Matt Duchene situation, I find it pretty impressive that they’ve come out with a lot of fight this season and don’t appear to be going away.
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