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).
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