SOH Hot Takes: 2021 Season
A day late, a dollar short. Well…I don’t know about the dollar short stuff, I don’t get paid for my blogs. At least not the Soups on Hockey ones. So it’s only a day late. But here are my hot takes for the 2021 NHL season!
Now, rather than forcing one for every team, I just left some teams out if I couldn’t think of one for them. But it worked out to the nice round number of 25. 25 hot takes, every Canadian team has one, etc. For example, I didn’t have one for the Avs. They’re great, and I’m a massive fan of what they’ve done in Denver, but I just simply don’t see a hot take that I’d have. What…Bowen Byram makes the team? They win the West? They trade for a goaltender? These aren’t anything controversial! What I’m going for here is takes that I believe COULD happen and/or takes that I’m not seeing anyone in the MSM discuss.
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This will be Ryan Getzlaf’s final season. Maybe not that hot of take to start these off, but I’m not hearing anyone mention this so far. I was told for years by a few loose connections to him that he always planned on only playing 10 years and then calling it quits. It’s the final year of his deal, and he’s still effective and could play elsewhere, but I believe he’ll hang up the blades.
Rick Tocchet is getting fired no later than the end of the season. Nobody in the media has mentioned this (that I’ve seen), likely because they really like Tocchet. But he isn’t Armstrong’s guy, and maybe more than that…what has he done for them? They play not to lose. In doing so, the system has crippled the performance of many players who don’t wear a glove and blocker. Conversely, those who do wear that type of gear, look terrific. Do people seriously not notice this? I believe Armstrong will.
Charlie McAvoy is going to be a finalist for the Norris trophy. With Chara and Krug gone he is going to get a lot more attention from the media without Chara, and likely see much more PP time without Krug, meaning that people are going to realize what some already do, which is that McAvoy is one of the best defencemen in the game.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will be their number one goaltender by the end of the season. I’m SHOCKED that Kevyn Adams didn’t do a damn thing to upgrade their goaltending this off-season. I thought we were going to see the complete opposite, which would be Adams badly overpaying to bring in someone either via trade or free agency. Luukkonen is one of the top prospects between the pipes in the game, and neither of Carter Hutton or Linus Ullmark are very large roadblocks.
This is Brad Treliving’s final season as GM. Everything aligned for the Flames to take a step back, clear out most of the “2015” guard who they’ve built around, and begin to build around guys like Tkachuk, Lindholm, Andersson, Valimaki, Mangiapane, Dube, etc. Yet, Treliving ended up just essentially maintaining. That makes no sense from what reliable insiders were saying were their plans…unless ownership gave Tree an ultimatum of “win a round or else”. Add to this, it has always been a bit of a weird dynamic between Treliving and Flames ownership. I’ve never believed in the group that they’ve built around, and can’t see them making any kind of playoff run, and if that’s the case then I believe Treliving will be out (although not long, as I believe he’s a quality GM).
They’re going to make a massive splash on the trade market. This organization has been stockpiling terrific talent in the draft, and already has one of the deepest current rosters in the league. We’re getting close to the time where Eric Tulsky I MEAN Don Waddell…loads up a package and attempts to bring in a star to help take them to the next level. The obvious acquisition would be a big-time goaltender, but I’m not seeing the tendy who would fit that bill at the moment, so don’t sleep on them going after a centre or a defenceman. And again, I’m not talking about them bringing in a good player like they did with Trocheck. I’m saying it will be a BLOCKBUSTER.
Duncan Keith is dealt. I don’t feel like this is a good one, but I had trouble getting one for every team (as you’ll see), but the more I gave this thought, the more I felt like Keith will want to move on and take another crack at winning. Corey Crawford is gone, Jonathan Toews is out, this is going to be a taxing season mentally on a proud vet. So taxing that I believe it’ll push him over the edge and he will green-light a deal. Now, maybe with the pandemic on and what that would mean for seeing his family, it crushes this theory. Entirely possible. But I’m still going to say that he either green lights a trade, or outright asks out to get another shot at the Cup.
Max Domi won’t last as their 2C. He and Torts are either going to love each other, or loathe each other, no in-between. And I really don’t know which one it will be, but I can’t see Torts liking him as a centre. Torts likes centres who play a complete game or at least commit to playing a complete game. That’s not Domi. Domi loves to dangle, he loves to get in the opposition’s face and loves to be a POS (I mean that as a compliment). But he’s never been too interested in competing for the Selke. I can’t see that flying with Torts, and I could actually see this being a one and done scenario. Now, I will add (because this blog was started long before the P.L. Dubois trade request), this won’t be the case if Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t get a centre back for Dubois (should he move him during the season). I doubt the trade goes down during the season (I’d put my money on the summer), but if it did, and if they didn’t get a ready centre back in the return, then Torts likely won’t have a choice but to roll with Domi in the middle.
This group has peaked. This isn’t too hot, but I just don’t see them getting near the final again. If you look at them up front, it’s pretty amazing they’ve been as good as they’ve been. Great goaltending and a great blueline, but not overwhelming. Everything just seemed to come together at the right time. But the reality is that Seguin and Benn are declining, they’re already limited offensively as is, I believe they’ll be good, but I don’t see them being anything more than a perennial playoff team from here on.
Jesse Puljujarvi will get his career on track. He’s not going to pop like I always assumed he would, but as the season wears on he will become an increasingly more valuable player for this team. Dave Tippett and Ken Holland are guys with reputations of working with players. It also appears as though they’re prepared to put him in a terrific spot to suceed, seeing soft minutes on a 3rd line with a highly respected vet in Kyle Turris helping him along. But more than that, people forget that Puljujarvi was once growing in the league and becoming an increasingly dangerous player. I’ve always gone back to this game, and the Canucks were bad at the time, but I don’t believe you can dominate an NHL game and not at least be a good player.
Puljuarvi did that night, and had been trending up all season prior to that game. And we don’t know when the hip issues began. Is he ever going to meet his potential of becoming one of the best wingers in the league? Highly unlikely. But can he be a 20 goal, 40-50 point guy who can be leaned on to play tough minutes? Eventually, yes, and I believe he will take significant steps towards becoming that player this season.
Chris Driedger will emerge as their number one goaltender. No doubt that the organization wants Bobrovsky to be that guy, and I do believe he can be a good goaltender again. Not what he was, not worth 10 million per, but solid. But they need to at least take the pressure off him and lighten his workload. Driedger was awesome for the Panthers in 12 appearances (11 starts) last season, posting a .938 Sv%. The Panthers need to ignore the Bobrovsky contract and simply run with the best guy they have. And more time for Driedger will likely do a lot of good for Bobrovsky.
Marco Rossi will emerge as their number one centre. Somewhat a necessity given their moves this off-season. But I’m a very big believer in Rossi and even though I wasn’t shocked he fell a bit in the draft, I was shocked he fell to 9th where the Wild stole him. He’s NHL ready, and given the extra time this fall to develop physically, I believe he is going to turn a lot of heads this season. I’m not saying it’ll will start this way at all, but by the end of the year, he will be their guy at centre.
EDIT: As of writing, Rossi was hurt in camp today. The extent of the injury is unknown but he is out indefinitely. Obviously, you can scratch this one if he’s out for a significant period of time.
The rights to Cole Caufield will be traded before the start of next season. Marc Bergevin was a mad man this off-season. You can tell, no matter how much some Habs fans want to live in denial, that he is a guy desperate to keep his job. So he began throwing shit against the wall. Nevermind the fact that his squad still has a lot of big question marks in key positions, how do you feel right now if you’re Cole Caufield? Anderson, 7 years. Gallagher, 6 years added to this final one. Toffoli, 4 years. Drouin, 3 more years. The paths for Caufield going to the show are closing up. Tomas Tatar only has a year left on his deal. If Bergevin lets Tatar walk, then Caufield may still feel as though it’s a good situation for him. I don’t get the sense that Bergevin is going to let Tatar walk though. That leaves one spot on the top nine for Caufield, with only two more seasons to go for him to become a UFA and simply pick the best situation for himself and his family. If Caufield doesn’t need the money, then I know what I would do. If it makes you feel better though Habs fans, I’m one of the few who question his ability to play in the NHL, so you might not even be losing an NHL player!
The dismantling will begin. Now, this was my call before they went out and made some excellent signings by bringing Mikael Granlund back and adding his old buddy from Minny, Erik Haula-famer (I LOVE that the guys in Minny used to call him that). But despite these very good signings (in my opinion anyway), I still see this as a slow, aging roster with suspect goaltending. Frankly, I was shocked that David Poile took Yaroslav Askarov with the 11th pick in the draft, believing he’d take a kid who was close and could help this group quicker. Not that it would have made a difference, but what I’m saying is that it’s good on the part of Poile to perhaps recognize the window is closing fast and that he is better off preparing for what is coming.
Noah Dobson is going to pop. Last season was a write-off, but his analytic numbers were actually pretty good. This year, I wouldn’t THINK they’ll dick him around like they did last season, and if they simply slot him properly and allow him to breathe, I think he’ll be back on the radar as one of the best young defencemen in the game.
Matt Murray will get his career back on track. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Pierre Dorion doesn’t even think his career left the track apparently! Hated the trade (I don’t believe Rutherford was getting anything close to a 2nd for him, everyone knew he was fucked), and like everyone else I wanted to puke when I saw the contract they gave him. Having said this, the guy has been beaten down by injuries and personal tragedy with his father passing away nearly three years ago. When he’s right, he is a number one guy in this league. 14 goaltenders have played 25 or more playoff games since 2016. Of those 14, he ranks 4th with a .921 Sv%. That’s irrelevant if we’re talking about someone past their prime (hello Mike Smith with his “best playoff Sv% of any active goaltender in the league). Murray is still only 26.
It’s not a hot take for just this season, but this team is going to settle in mediocrity. Their rebuild is done, and now that the dust has settled, do they have superstars to build around? Arguably Carter Hart, but even with Hart I ask myself “how much more is there?” Because Hart isn’t that big. He’s big enough, but he isn’t that big. He isn’t that athletic. He isn’t that agile. He isn’t that quick. He’s a guy who has always been incredibly technically sound. I love Carter Hart, but I just don’t know if the upside is there to be a superstar type netminder (some will be rattled by that because I “only” see him as a regular top 10 goaltender and don’t see him as a perennial Vezina candidate, how DARE I, hey guys?!) But let’s say Hart becomes that guy, who is the other guy? Provorov? POSSIBLY but I think a safer bet is just a good top-four guy. Myers? He continues to grow but he would still be an incredible long shot to get to THAT level. Now, that’s ok if you have depth. But I don’t see them having the type of depth they’d need to overcome a lack of elite players either. They’re deep right now, but the system isn’t stocked.
They’re going to miss the playoffs. Without Tristan Jarry standing on his skull last season, they were flat out bad. Jim Rutherford’s attempt to keep their window open is actually closing it quicker as he’s pissed away so much asset capital and cap space for very little return. They’re done. Part of this rationale is that they’re playing in a very tough division. But even if they do make the playoffs, this team isn’t scaring anyone.
They’ll be in the hunt for a playoff spot right until the end of the season. Most think they’re done, and they are. But what’s done are their Cup aspirations. This team still has the horses to drag their carcass of an organization into the playoffs. You think a guy like Logan Couture is going to just fade into the sunset? Or Erik Karlsson? Possibly, but I can’t see it. I believe this will be a team with something to prove after such a humiliating fall last season. I’m not calling for them to make it, but I believe they’ll be a bitch to play and will be very much so in the hunt.
Ville Husso will emerge as their number one netminder. So this one is funny. I did this same piece two years ago, and said the exact same thing. I was spot on with everything…except the goaltender who would win the number one job which of course turned out to be Jordan Binnington. Husso was always ahead of Binnington though, and despite some difficult years in the AHL, I still believe he can fulfill his promise.
Repeat. I hardly ever call repeats. I did it one time, 2017, and I stuck with that all season long. They aren’t going to be hurt by normal grind that defending champs face as they’ve had some long layoffs in between the regular season, and then even after the bubble they’ll have had the same rest as a standard champ. They also were swept in 2019 which could actually benefit them at this point. In fact, go back to 2017 where they missed the playoffs, 2018 they went to game 7 of the East final, then the sweep. So they haven’t been accumulating deep runs, just one every other year. Finally, they will get a healthy and very well rested Nikita Kucherov come playoff time thanks to the paper cut on his hip I MEAN HIP SURGERY…keeping him out for the entire regular season. That is going to be a massive advantage for the Bolts.
Freddy Andersen is in his final season with the club. I just don’t think it’s Dubas style to pay a goaltender big money. This is a guy who try to go dirt cheap with his backup, and kept Garrett Sparks over Curtis McElhinney because it was the better long term play (even though Sparks never looked like he had much potential). It just isn’t his style. Now, perhaps Andersen and his agent get a sense of the market next off-season and they re-sign with the Leafs at the last minute for a reasonable number, but I just can’t see him passing up the big pay day that is coming assuming he plays up to his potential this season. Add to this, if the Leafs let Andersen walk, there is expected to be quite a few quality goaltenders available for cheap on the trade market in the off-season as teams prepare for the expansion draft.
Braden Holtby is bouncing back. Braden’s career might end up being remembered as just another guy who was good playing for Barry Trotz rather than as a Stanley Cup winning netminder. But there is no denying that since Trotz left, his goaltending has remained terrific while Holtby’s game has spiraled. But as I mentioned in the Flames section, Jacob Markstrom has only looked good playing for one coach and that is Travis Green. Combine that with a lighter workload than what he was getting in Washington, and I believe that Holtby will have a very solid 20-30 games this season.
Peyton Krebs, 2C. Mostly because they are insanely thin down the middle and yet for some reason believe that having a number one defenceman is worth being horrendous at centre. But if you have read my stuff, especially my draft stuff, then you know how big of a believer I am in Krebs (well before we all saw him at this years WJC). This kid has a pro game, and even though I’d leave him in Winnipeg for another season, I believe he can handle the minutes that the Golden Knights are going to need someone to eat up. Cody Glass is a candidate for that spot too, but he did not show well in his limited time last season. I’m calling it now, Krebs will be the guy. It won’t be immediate, but by midseason, he will be in that spot.
Patrik Laine is getting dealt, but that’s not the hot take. What the hot take is will be that I believe they are going to fleece whoever they deal with. I don’t think it’s a given that it will be a major need for the Jets coming back the other way. They could use a centre, and they could use a defenceman. But if they for lack of a better word just punt on this one and take the best offer, I believe someone is going to give up something they shouldn’t for Laine. I’ve been over it a million times now, snipers don’t move the needle for teams. What if the Flyers offered Travis Konecny? I’m doing that deal if I’m Cheveldayoff. Konecny plays a give and go game, he’s fearless, he’d fit the Jets perfectly. Bad organizations think you win with Laine, good organizations KNOW that you win with a kid like Konecny.
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