If you know me, you know that I’m always itching to talk. I know I’m annoying, but I can’t stand silence. And I’m an AWFUL conversationalist. If I don’t know someone well or don’t know if you have an interest in sports, I’m fucked. Don’t know how else to put it. I know sports, I don’t know shit about anything else. Even the weather, it’s 50/50 at best. “Nice day out isn’t it?” I…I…just can’t tell. And you’re laughing right now, I work with an asshole who if you try to talk weather with the guy you’ll get an argument from him! It’s small talk, and the guy will look to argue with the small talk! And to go back to the awful conversationalist, if I’m in the wrong head space I just sound like even more of an idiot than I already am! A few Saturday’s ago I was at a wedding and was worried about where Steph and I were going to sit, so when I ran into people I knew I probably sounded like I was on something. No, just basically can’t walk and chew gum at the same time…
Anyway, sometimes I just want to talk hockey, and sometimes I’ll think of a lot of small stuff that I can talk about, but nothing big enough to write 500-1,000 words about. That’s what this will be for. I did it last year with the NFL and I loved doing it. The title is “hot takes”, but they really aren’t hot takes at all. They’re rationale takes, but that’s the joke so you can all go ahead and give me a courtesy laugh now….
I’ll start where everyone else will start right now.
What do you do if you’re Marc Bergevin? I was so wrong on this Habs team. I figured that they had enough on the roster to at least stay in the hunt in the Atlantic until the right trade came along. Don’t look like that is going to be the case. They still have a lot of time to see this thing through, but it’s really starting to look like a lost season already, and this should have been the year they really pressed to win a Cup with the Carey Price extension kicking in next season. Do you give into what Joe Sakic is asking for and go get Matt Duchene? For the Habs, that price is then likely to be Galchenyuk + to even land the defenceman the Avs want. Then you’ll need to add a lottery protected 1st rounder, and a prospect along the lines of Joni Ikonen. I’m a Duchene fan. He’s a fringe first line centre (keep in mind, my idea of a first line centre is a guy who can put up 60-80 points who doesn’t need any sheltering). But wow, that would be a steep price, probably too steep for me even with how bleak it is in Montreal. So maybe you go the other way? Off load bad contracts, and set yourself up to go hard after John Tavares this summer. Look to get rid of some guys like Brendan Gallagher, who might be a greasy player and a fan favourite, but doesn’t have either speed or size which in today’s game if you don’t have one then you damn sure better have the other! Real tough spot for Marc Bergevin.
Maybe the biggest thing that has bit Bergevin in the ass in his tenure as Habs GM is that his mandate was clearly to make the team bigger, and the league in the last three seasons has dramatically increased in speed. That’s how the Lightning are built. The Leafs are built. The Sens, not as fast as the previous two but still a very quick team. Meanwhile, the Bruins are slow. The Panthers don’t have much speed. And of course the Montreal Canadiens are slow. If they had a legitimate number one centre or at least real solid two way depth down the middle it would go a long way, but there is no more denying that speed is dominating this league right now.
Which actually leads me to the Kings, who aren’t at all doing it with speed and perhaps look like the best team in the league right now! I’m not surprised they’ve started hot. A lot of the analytics guys liked them to rebound this season. I didn’t, and I’m still a skeptic because I’m not sure they can stay healthy (hell, already bit with the injury bug with the Jeff Carter cut). But having said that, they look better than I even expected them to.
Plenty of good seating is still available in the brand new Little Caesars Arena for that Red Wings/Canucks matchup last night in Detroit. I guess it’s only “Hockeytown” when they’re at the top of the standings….
Bad loss by the Flames last night, real bad. I wasn’t at all surprised about the Carolina game on Thursday night. It was the same as the Oilers playing Ottawa. The NHL gives these teams the equivalent to bye weeks this early in the season, it’s ridiculous scheduling. And as we’ve seen a lot last year and so far this season, those weeks are killers for teams in their first game back. So while Glen Gulutzan lit them up for that performance, he might want to take notice that it’s not just his team, it’s every team because they aren’t sharp and they’re playing teams who are. But Saturday night, the Flames are playing an injury plagued Wild team on the second half of a back to back and blow a 2-1 lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the third. Add to this, they were facing Alex Stalock in goal and not Devan Dubnyk. The difference between the Oilers and Flames to this point has been Mike Smith. If not for Smith’s play out of the gate, this Flames team might only have one win so far on the season.
You know, Elliotte Friedman has brought up that Joe Sakic said something about having an intriguing offer on the table for Matt Duchene, but Friedge didn’t know who the team was. I wonder if it would be the Flames. They’ve been quietly mentioned as suitors for Duchene this whole time, and I’ve believed they should be in on any top end centre in the league if they want to counter what the Oilers do. I know their fans likely wouldn’t like this, but they could afford to part with T.J. Brodie to get him. If you sent Brodie and Sam Bennett to the Avs for Duchene and Nikita Zadorov, who says no? Zadorov and Bennett are both former first rounders with a ton of potential but yet to reach it, and Brodie is a top pairing D-man for Duchene who as I said earlier I have as a borderline first line centre. If you’re the Flames, Monahan-Duchene-Backlund down the middle is going to be a handful for anyone. And does it hurt the Flames blueline THAT much? You still have a great top three, and in the right situation Zadorov could become that beast of a D-man a lot of scouts knew he could be and next to Travis Hamonic or Dougie Hamilton could be the right situation.
Sandwiched between the Kings and the Flames in the Pacific right now is YOUR Vegas Golden Knights who are an unbelievable 6-1-0 so far! Chill on the record though. There wins are against the Stars who Ken Hitchcock had yet to of coached up and get the flaws out of their game, the Coyotes twice, the Bruins, and the Sabres. Saturday was really the first impressive win they’ve had, and while the Blues are hot early, a lot of people including myself don’t have them making the playoffs this season. In fact, the only team they’ve played that I had making the playoffs is Dallas and as I said, you knew it would take a bit for Ken Hitchcock to fix what ailed the Stars sloppy play last season. Its a great story, but I’m just saying you might want to go easy on how good you may believe they are. They get the Blackhawks tomorrow night, and that’ll tell a lot more than their first seven games have.
While I’m surfing around the Pacific, I may as well hit on the Oilers even though I did after the loss to Carolina last Tuesday. They’re coming around as I suspected they may. That loss in Philly wasn’t a bad one at all. Those afternoon games are brutal for the large majority of the league who never play in them. Boston, Philly, the Rangers, they constantly play in them. You could see the Oilers were really sluggish early on, and I honestly thought it was impressive they had it tied going into the third. Talbot has now had back to back strong games, the defensive zone play (not a coincidence) is improving a lot despite Oscar Klefbom looking really off, and they’re getting both Draisaitl and Caggiula back this week which should help the scoring issues out (though the PP really needs work, I’d start with sitting down Klefbom and giving someone like Benning or Nurse a chance with that unit). Speaking of Nurse, he’s definitely the bright spot for the Oilers thus far. Very early, and he isn’t seeing a lot of tough minutes, but he’s been a stud to this point. They need someone to step up with Sekera not only out now, but all season as Sekera is likely not to be the same until next fall. Perhaps Nurse will be that guy.
Love or hate them, the Leafs are the most fun team to watch in the league, and they’re damn good too. I’m not quite willing to say I was wrong to say they’d miss the playoffs, but they seem to avoid injury issues, and the big key is that Mike Babcock is just a different level of coach. To me, there are four different levels of coaches. You have the guy who’ll hurt the team, the guy who’ll neither hurt nor improve a team from what they are, you have the tiny window guys who normally win the Jack Adams but never last long term, and then you have the elite. And it’s so rare that you can find an elite head coach in the NHL. It’s either the 2nd or 3rd guy I mentioned. But Babcock is that elite coach and the Leafs have skipped steps other teams have had to do on their way to the top and having him behind the bench is the biggest reason for that.
Of course the site is now called “Soups on Hockey”, and neither the site nor this article will focus solely on the NHL, so to close today I’d just like to shoutout once more to my nephews on their big game yesterday for the Whitecourt Wolverines. Chase Haygarth with his first goal in the AJHL, setup by his brother Easton who added a snipe himself and was the first star of the game in a 4-2 win over the Drumheller Dragons. The Wolverines have now won four straight and currently sit second in the AJHL North.
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