Congrats to the Montreal Canadiens on making the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. You will be the only Canadian team to make the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, there for making you the best Canadian based team in the leauge. Congrats, that is the equivalent of being the slimmest person who needs lap-band surgery. Not that the Habs are in anyway bad, Marc Bergevin has done a great job there. But they’re in the East, likely won’t make it past the 2nd round, and the rest of the Canadian teams have been garbage.
So what lays ahead for these 6 teams? Will they make the playoffs next season? ANY of them?? Many questions, and I don’t have all the answers because I’m just a douchy blogger….but I’ll try to answer a few. So let’s start this off and I want to start with the Flames.
Now some might look at this and say I’m just an Oiler fan looking to trash the Flames. I’m really not. Full credit to them on a season that I didn’t think would happen. I thought they were a sure fire top 2 pick team at the start of the year. Bob Hartley should be a Jack Adams candidate in my mind. But having said all of this, the Flames future doesn’t look too bright.
Now a Flames fan would likely tell me that it’s better to develop that winning culture, rather than be at the bottom and become who the Oilers have become. Well, the Oilers are where they are because of their horrendous management. The first year of their rebuild a lot of the media were raving about how great their room was at the end of that season despite being 30th overall. With no expectations comes no pressure. I guess you could be the Minnesota Wild who were a good non playoff team (whatever that is) from 09-2012. Even after signing Suter and Parise to pair with all their young talent, they look like they’ll be a team stuck in no man’s land (make the playoffs, no shot at a Cup).
But it is THIN for the Flames after Monahan. They like the Oilers were, are stocked with small wingers, which really has been the Oilers major downfall. They might snag a centre (Canadian piece, Canadian spelling) with what looks to be the 4th or 5th pick. So they might get another high end centre with that pick which would be great. But they still don’t have much coming on the blueline and while Mark Giordano isn’t old, he’s not that young either. Maybe T.J. Brodie or Tyler Wotherspoon really overachieve, but you can’t depend on that happening. But the Avs have been successful at least for this season being loaded down the middle with nothing on D so who knows. To me it is vital that they end up 27th overall or worse to ensure they land one of Reinhart, Bennett, Dal Colle or Ekblad.
Entering the season the Sens looked like they were the most well setup Canadian team. They had more depth in their system than the Oilers, they had more high end skill than the Leafs, and they seemed to be way better coached than the Habs. I’m stunned at how their season has gone. But now people will jump off their bandwagon and talk about what a mess it is. At the draft when the Ducks use that top 10 pick, I’m sure the story will be how the Sens wish they had that trade back. Well weren’t people just saying in July how the Sens fleeced the Ducks and then when Ryan was left off the Olympic team that it was such a mistake? So which one is it?
I still think this team is the best Canadian team moving forward, even better setup than the Habs. Moving forward they’re great down the middle with Turris, Zibanejad and Lazar all under 25, Karlsson is a stud on D and they have some depth with Cowen, Ceci and others. Robin Lehner needs to relax in net but that should come with experience and when it does he’ll be a star. Add all this to Paul McLean who has had a rough year but I think he’s a top end coach in this league. Maybe they move Spezza this off season, but if they do they’ll get a nice return and should be fine. He puts up great numbers, but just seems to refuse to be the all around player you need your 1st line centre to be.
Of course 1st line centre has been a hot topic of conversation in Toronto all year. I whiffed on them, I had them to make the playoffs comfortably, and a month ago it looked like they would. Yet here we are, they’re all but eliminated and the city is in full panic mode about where this team is going. They aren’t bad setup though. They have some good pieces in place like Bernier, Bozak, Kessel, JVR and Rielly.
If I were Dave Nonis I would be using my 2nd compliance buyout on David Clarkson this summer. This is the last year teams will get to use their compliance buyouts (if they have any left, remember it is 2 per team), so why risk it? If this is what he is, he’s a 2 million dollar player getting 5.25 per. While the cap is expected to rise to 68-71 million, that is still a terrible contract. They also need to upgrade down the middle. I’m one of the few who was on the Tyler Bozak bandwagon before they re-signed him last summer. But he’s not a legit number 1 guy. He’s a real solid number 2, but not a number 1. He reminds me of Craig Conroy and Shawn Horcoff. Both were 1st line centre’s on teams that made surprise runs to the finals. They had great all around games and could be used in any situation, but weren’t offensively gifted enough to be legit number 1 guys.
I have no clue what might happen in Carolina this off season, and I do think the Staal brothers preference should they be asked to waive their NTC’s would be to go somewhere together if it’s possible. The Leafs actually would have the cap space to bring in both, but they only have the assets to get 1 of them. So I do think they’ll take a run at Eric. Kadri, Gardiner, Stuart Percy and their 2014 1st would be a pretty good deal for both sides. Some would try to tell me how they would have to move Rielly in the deal. No they wouldn’t. IF Carolina has a fire sale, teams won’t give their top end guys. It just NEVER happens. Didn’t happen for Nash, didn’t happen for Thornton, didn’t happen for Heatley, didn’t happen for Pronger any of the 3 times he got moved after the 05 lockout, it just NEVER happens that way and I wish people would finally figure this out.
More realistic this off season is a few UFA signings like maybe Joni Pitkanen? Andrei Markov? Either would be a nice addition at the right price obviously. It isn’t a great year for UFA’s though. So maybe let’s look at the draft situation and they appear as though they’ll pick 10-12. As it stands right now (much will change between now and late June), Jared McCan is a possibility in that range. He’s nothing flashy, but a real solid all around centre who has potential to be a Patrice Bergeron type. If not him, maybe Roland McKewon who is a RH shot D-man playing for Todd Gill and Doug Gilmour in Kingston. Either guy would be a real good addition.
Of course the Leafs slide has been masking the mess of late in Vancouver who are right there with the Leafs in the standings. It could be an entertaining off season in Vancouver. I don’t think they should rebuild per say, but they could stand to be renovated. The Sedins aren’t going anywhere after signing those extensions before this season. Gillis has to go, Torts should also go despite the 5 year deal. That would be a good start, but then the question is who replaces them?
George McPhee might be out of a job in Washington. He’s done a good job stockpiling talent in Washington, although not a good job in pulling the trigger on the deals he needs to. Paul Fenton in Nashville has been talked about for many job openings the last few seasons. Would ownership be interested in brining back Steve Tambellini who spent a lot of years in the Canucks organization including 3 with this ownership group as the assistant GM to Dave Nonis? He was horrendous for the Oilers so they better not. Speaking of Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin is another candidate. Brad Treliving in Phoenix, Rick Dudley in Montreal (who is a Torts guy if they insist he stays coaching), lots of possibilities.
As for replacing Torts, well that would all depend on who the GM is obviously, but I think they have to bite the bullet and get rid of him and allow the incoming GM to select his own guy. The incoming GM will also have the pressure of moving Ryan Kesler as soon as he gets the job. He doesn’t HAVE to, but he will get a great return for a guy who is one of the best 2nd line centre’s in the game but can’t stay healthy. If the Pens offer Sutter, Pouliot and their 2015 1st I would be jumping all over that. Sutter could take some pressure off Bo Horvat who’ll almost certainly step into the lineup as either their 2nd or 3rd line centre.
Other moves need to be done too. I still think they can get something for Alex Burrows. Time to go, the guy doesn’t have a good contract moving forward and even though he’s broke out lately, for the duration of his contract I’m betting you see more of the guy who had the enormous drought this season then Burrows circa 2011. Alex Edler is another guy who should go. He has never been the same guy since the Kings torched him in the 2012 playoffs. Prior to that he was coming off an incredible season and looked like he was developing into a legit number 1 D-man. He’s still a top 4 guy, but he needs a change of scenery. They just have to guard against getting too young.
A team who is along the lines of what I’m thinking for young but not too young would be the Winnipeg Jets. Now the Jets don’t get a lot of attention, and they’re really well run by Kevin Cheveldayoff. But they still face a pretty steep hill to climb in the meat grinder known as the Western conference. The one thing they MUST do is upgrade between the pipes.
I’m one of those people who believed Ondrej Pavelec was going to become a top flight NHL starter. Well it hasn’t happened and it is time to pull the pin on that idea. He’s a solid backup. But this team has no idea what he will give them night to night. Jonas Hiller is a UFA. Would he go to Winnipeg after so many years in the California sun? Maybe not, but then again if the Ducks decide they can thrive with Frederick Anderson and John Gibson in goal what would be his other choices? There aren’t a lot. Maybe Minnesota….which isn’t much different from Winnipeg. Maybe Jaroslav Halak is the answer? Or maybe he re-signs in Washington, which would make Braden Holtby available. They’ll have options and they have to take care of this problem.
They also could stand to upgrade their blueline. There is talent on their back end, but obviously the biggest (literally) enigma is Dustin Byfuglien. Teams will have great interest in the big man if he’s available, weather they’re looking to add size up front or some offence from their blueline. I would be looking for another top 4 D-man in return, but perhaps a LH shot. If Mark Stuart could be their number 5 D-man they would be in pretty good shape. Bogosian on their top pairing, Trouba on their 2nd pairing, it could take great shape but they need to have the right guy coming back to do that deal.
I do love their size up front. A key for this team next season will be if Mark Scheifele can take another step after a real good rookie season. If he could handle the 1st line centre duties that would be a huge positive for this club. Having said that it is likely much too soon to put that kind of pressure on him. But still, their top 6 is Ladd, Wheeler, Kane, Scheifele, and maybe Byfuglien if Maurice chooses to put him up front all of next season….and if he’s not dealt.
And finally, the Oilers. I don’t need to spend much time here on the Oil because I have another piece coming out all dedicated to their shit show season and what they have and what needs to be done and so on and so forth. But I will say, the Colorado Avalanche were in the 4th year of their rebuild last year and finished 29th. If the Oilers don’t literally have AHL goaltending to start this season they might not be anywhere near this mess.
I said it earlier, they had expectations where a team like the Flames didn’t. So it’s pretty natural for these guys to just want this season to be done with already. Come next fall barring 1 or 2 blockbuster moves, expectations will be extremely low and that will help them out a ton I’m certain. They aren’t in anywhere near as bad of shape as they appear to be or as the Eastern media in particular make them out to be. A shit show without a doubt, but it is fixable. Having said that, don’t expect playoffs yet again next season. A) the Pacific is too tough. B) the West is too tough. C) MacTavish won’t be able to pull multiple rabbits out of his hat.
This was an awful year for NHL teams in this country, that’s all. The Oilers, Canucks and Leafs turned into shit shows, the Jets are what they are, the Flames are better than expected but still bad, and the Sens had an off year. But I’m saying it right now, 4 of these teams can join Montreal in the playoffs next season (Canucks, Leafs, Sens and Jets). The Flames will still need some time I believe, but they’re on the right track. And while the Oilers get mocked for their rebuild taking time people forget that the Blues took 7 years rebuilding so it’s still too early to call it a failure. Things will turn Canada….they can’t get worse!
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