Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Trade of the Season

For months, it was talked about that the Colorado Avalanche and the Nashville Predators were interested in swapping Matt Duchene. However, Nashville refused to give to the Avs what they wanted. On Sunday, the talks finally ended with Duchene getting traded. However, it wasn't to Nashville, as Ottawa entered the picture a few days prior to the trade getting announced. So, who gets what? Let's break it down:

  • Nashville gets Kyle Turris from Ottawa. Not exactly who you thought the Predators were going to get, but this one made the most sense, as not only does Turris slot in perfectly as the second line center that Nashville craved, but also did so without breaking the bank or their defensive core (more on this later). Turris also signed to a six-year extension with an annual cap hit of $6 million, thus ensuring that they don't have to worry about whether Duchene would walk after next season.
  • Ottawa was the team to end up with Duchene, and he will play immediately, as the Senators are taking on the Avalanche in Sweden this week, so he just had to change locker rooms. It's a fresh start for Duchene, who also gets the bonus of playing in his home province.
  • Colorado gets a first round pick in 2018 and a third round pick in 2019 plus Andrew Hammond and Shane Bowers from Ottawa plus a second round pick in 2018 and Vladislav Kamenev and Samuel Girard from Nashville. The Avs get draft picks, which is always important, and one of those is a first round pick in 2018, which they could leverage into something else if they choose to do so. Bowers was the Senators' first round pick in 2017, and figures to be a third-line player, at best while Hammond had one great season in 2015, but has fallen off considerably since. Kamenev became a victim of the Predators' newfound depth down the middle while Girard was dealt from the Predators' perpetual position of strength, as Alexandre Carrier and Dante Fabbro are also top blue line prospects who are in the pipeline.Both could be helpful for the Avs in the near future, as Kamenev has second line center potential while Girard could be the solid two-way player that the Avs need on the blue line.
So, who won the trade? Colorado got what they wanted, and in earnest, can rebuild with prospects and players that can help. Nashville got what they wanted in a second line center plus the security of knowing they will have him for six more seasons maximum and their defensive core remains intact. Ottawa gets the impact player that they needed down the middle, though it is hard to tell how much of an upgrade Duchene is over Turris, since their numbers are closer than one thinks. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fully Completely

In my early days of this blog, I used to fuse music with hockey, and in some cases, posted old interviews from online rags that no longer exist. For today at least, I return to my roots, though for reasons that I wish were better than this. From the moment that the world, and the country of Canada found out that The Tragically Hip's lead vocalist Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, it was an inevitability. Rather than wait out the time until his departure from this world, Downie and company would embark on one last tour of Canada. The tour would happen last year, with their last show happening in their hometown of Kingston, ON in a sold out K-Rock Centre. Today, the news broke that Downie finally succumbed to the disease, yet a legacy will live on, as there are many things being done in the name of finding cures. Where the Tragically Hip really leaves a legacy is within their own country, as they have long been known as Canada's band, as they embodied everything about Canada, right down to some major junior hockey clubs, particularly with the Kingston Frontenacs, who wore Tragically Hip themed sweaters for a game last season.

Rest easy, Gord, and know that a country will remember you for all you done in the time you were on this planet.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I Watched This Game: All the Action You Can Handle

Last night, the Nashville Predators had their home opener in which they would raise their first banner as last year's Western Conference Champions. There was no shortage of excitement and suspense on the evening from beginning to end. I watched this game.

  • Before the Predators took on the Philadelphia Flyers, there was the matter of raising a banner to rafters, with former captain Mike Fisher and current captain Roman Josi meeting at the banner to help raise it.
  • Josi was scratched from the game due to injury, meaning Samuel Girard was making his NHL debut.
  • The much maligned power play, at least to start the season, gets off the schneid for the Predators, as Craig Smith was able to put one away. He will need to return to 20-goal status if the Preds hope for something more than just a Conference title this season.
  • Smith's goal was all the scoring in the first period, and he also took a two minute minor for slashing late in the period.
  • The Predators look like they're going to pull away, as Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino score to make it 3-0 midway through the second period.
  • No, it isn't going to be a blowout, as before Yannick Weber's penalty gets killed off, the Flyers get on the board thanks to Andrew MacDonald.
  • Nolan Patrick follows it up with his first NHL goal to cut the lead to one. I like Nolan Patrick and think he another great player from the Brandon Wheat Kings system.
  • PK Subban goes to the box for two, but the Preds kill it off. Unfortunately, they're caught for having too many men on the ice, and have to kill that off, too. Valtteri Filppula ties it up, and with that, it is game on after two periods, with the teams tied at 3.
  • Travis Konecny speeds down the ice and puts the Flyers ahead.
  • A questionable Hartnell penalty leads to another Filppula goal to make it 5-3 Flyers.
  • Don't look now, but the Predators just woke up, as Filip Forsberg scored to make it 5-4 Flyers. 
  • Dale Weise and MacDonald get two minutes each, making it a 5 on 3 power play for Nashville. Hartnell takes full advantage, and ties it up, or does he?
  • The Flyers challenge that the play was offside, but get victimized by the Mike Sullivan Rule, and not only have the goal count, thus tying the game at 5, but also have to deal with the indignity of taking a 2 minute delay of game penalty. It's still 5 on 3, though one of the original penalties gets taken off because of the goal.
  • Forsberg plays hero, as he nets the final tally of the game, as Nashville caps off a momentous evening with a 6-5 win.
The Predators haven't made things easy in the first three games of the season thus far, but getting that win, particularly in the way they did, should serve as a confidence booster for the rest of the season. No Josi for the game, and no Ryan Ellis until January meant the Predators have to still figure out their blue line situation. The good news is that Girard looks like another potential keeper for a team that just comes out with quality blue liners left and right.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

NHL Predictions

The NHL season kick off tomorrow, and because I did so well at predicting what would happen last season (note: I did not), I am back at it again. Like last year, these set of predictions will have nothing to do with the season preview and all to do with just going off the cuff. This time around, it's being posted here as opposed to just being on facebook, as I intend to go into detail as to why I think this way.

  • I thought it would happen last year, and it didn't, but I am going to go with it once again and say Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will get traded. The Oilers are on the verge of salary cap hell, and Nugent-Hopkins' contract is the most logical one to get moved. Carolina has the prospects to offer and would appear to be the most logical choice. Nashville could be kicking the tires here, too, as their search for another center could lead them here. Plus, Nugent-Hopkins is under team control for four more years.
  • Matt Duchene will remain in Colorado this season. The Avalanche have overplayed their hand on what they could get for Duchene and are more likely to either trade him after this season or watch him walk after next season. Either way, this is something that could make a bad situation in Colorado even worse. Oh, and Colorado still hasn't fixed their Titanic-sized holes on the blue line.
  • Despite having the likes of Vancouver, Colorado, and Vegas breaking their fall in the standings, the Detroit Red Wings will win the draft lottery and like their baseball cousins in the Tigers, be able to expedite their rebuild with the first overall pick.
  • Charlie McAvoy will win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He's in a good spot with the Bruins having a still serviceable Zdeno Chara leading the way and an emerging Brandon Carlo taking the pressure off of McAvoy. His playoff cameo showed promise, and that promise will turn to production by season's end, particularly when Adam McQuaid goes down to his annual injury.
  • Carolina will finally end the league's longest current playoff drought this season. They've been building a solid blue line and their offense is starting to show, with Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho being viable options. Scott Darling will likely struggle a little, but he will find his footing eventually and be the answer in goal that they've needed.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers will be the first team to fire their head coach during the season, as Dave Hakstol was put on notice when the Flyers plucked Kris Knoblauch from Erie of the OHL to be an assistant coach. The Flyers have a lot of talent on paper, but far too few actually doing anything on the ice, namely Jakub Voracek and Cladue Giroux. That must change.
  • The New York Rangers are the most likely team that made the playoffs last year to miss the playoffs, as other than Kevin Shattenkirk, they did very little to change their roster. Now, they're planning on having 2017 first round pick Filip Chytil start the season with the team. That will not go over well. Remember how the Rangers almost screwed up Manny Malhotra's career by playing him before he was ready?
  • Nashville will be a far better team this season, as last year was about figuring out who to pair PK Subban with plus dealing with injuries. This year, they will still have injuries to deal with, but they are better prepared this time around with the depth having had playoff experience. Don't underestimate the importance of the Alexei Emelin trade, as he will be a presence in his own end. 
  • This is going to be the Blackhawks' last stand, as they prepare to enter their own version of cap hell. Anything short of a deep playoff run, and Joel Quennville is most likely walking away instead of being fired. 
  • The Stanley Cup Final will be the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers, and Edmonton takes home the Stanley Cup, with Connor McDavid being named the Conn Smythe winner.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Watched This Game: Preseason 2017 Edition

Preseason hockey came to Kansas City tonight, and it was the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild, and yes, I watched this game. The first period saw the Blues and Wild exchange goals on really good passes, with Brayden Schenn feeding Vladimir Tarasenko on the power play to make it 1-0. The Blues were exposed on the power play in the Nashville series last year, and putting Schenn with Tarasenko can only help matters, as evidenced by that goal. Charlie Coyle fed Luke Kunin, who was cutting in on goal to even the score late in the period, one of the rare times in the game that Jake Allen was unable to stop the puck. Curiously, Allen was pulled in the middle of the second period so backup Carter Hutton could get some time. A Blues goal in the second period left the score at 2-1, but the Wild would score early in the third period, as Kunin would cut to the net and force a shot from the point to go off a Blues player trailing him and past Hutton. With 4.3 seconds to go in the game, Coyle would take a Blues turnover in their own end and bury it past Hutton to make it a 3-2 final.

So, what can be taken from this game? For the Blues, fixing the power play saw some fruit with Schenn and Tarasenko together, the blue line is going to need some time to gel, particularly if either or both Jake Walman and Vince Dunn get time in the NHL due to injuries, Jake Allen is in mid-season form, and despite getting power play time, Tage Thompson is better served starting in the AHL. For the Wild, Mike Reilly is still not ready for NHL duty, as he had some lapses in his own end, Kunin impressed by going to the net on the first two goals despite being credited for just one of the two, and Devan Dubnyk may be needed to bail out the team once again, as they mostly had trouble getting the puck past Allen and Hutton.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stalled Take-Off


2016-17 record: 40-35-7 (87 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Blake Wheeler

It seems that no matter what the Winnipeg Jets try to do, there's always something that undermines their chances at making the playoffs. This time, it was goaltending. For all of the scoring that the Jets did, it almost always seemed that they needed all of it just to offset the goals that were being given up. With a new starter and improved blue line depth, they hope that the problem is solved on some level.

Offensively, Patrik Laine was exactly what the Jets hoped for and more, as he led the team in goals and helped elevate the numbers of Mark Schiefele and Nikolaj Ehlers. Though injuries wreaked havoc with Bryan Little and Matthieu Perreault, both put up decent numbers alongside Blake Wheeler. Bottom forward depth could be improved, but if Kyle Connor can stick with the NHL team, then it may take care of itself. The blue line has decent depth, but it was tested last season when Tyler Myers was in and out of the lineup for various reasons. Adding Dmitry Kulikov should help, as should an emerging Josh Morrissey. Dustin Byfuglien remains the top offensive option from the blue line. Goaltending was a major problem, as Connor Hellebuyck was not ready for the full-time starting job, and neither Michael Hutchinson nor Ondrej Pavelec were viable backup options. Now, Steve Mason assumes the starting job, and while he also has something to prove, he should push Hellebuyck to be better. The season before, both special teams units were horrible. Last season, the power play improved to the middle of the pack, a byproduct of the team's improved offense. However, the penalty kill was almost as bad as it was the season before, and as was the case before, staying out of the box might be a good idea, as the Jets were one of the most short-handed teams in the league.

Prediction: 6th in the Central Division

Once again, the Jets have a lineup that can compete with any team on most nights. However, the same problems are rearing their ugly heads, as they not only play in a tough Central Division, but also have questions about their penalty kill and it remains to be seen if Mason can in fact, improve the team's abysmal goaltending.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Weagle Has Fallen


2016-17 record: 55-19-8 (118 points)
Lost (yet again) to Pittsburgh (again) in the Conference semi-finals (again)
Captain: Alexander Ovechkin

The Washington Capitals were hoping to at some point in the last three years hoist a Stanley Cup. However, as it's almost always been in their existence, they once again failed to make it out of the second round. This time, it was another President's Trophy winning season that was followed by another loss to Pittsburgh. Now, they have the indignity of having to replace several key parts while dealing with a salary cap that threatens to be the noose on their chances of winning a Stanley Cup in the near future.

The Capitals still have a formidable core up front, with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin leading the way. However, Ovechkin slumped to 33 goals, far below what is normally expected of him, and like most Capitals, wasn't much of a factor in the playoffs. The problem is that 48 goals went out the door in the off-season, as Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson both were victims of the Capitals' cap problems. That didn't stop the Capitals from signing both TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov to long term deals, deals that the Capitals could be getting buyer's remorse from in a few years, particularly with Oshie. Secondary scoring has the potential to be a problem, which is why Andre Burakovsky will need to step up this season. If the forwards have the potential to be a problem, then the blue line is already knee deep in it. Three players are signed beyond this season, and unfortunately, one of them is Brooks Orpik. They were forced to let Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk walk while they saw Vegas take Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft. John Carlson could be on his way out after the season if the Capitals don't get creative with salary cap maneuvering. As for composition, it's Orpik, Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen, and whoever can claim a spot on the third pairing, as that is likely to become youth being served here. In goal, this is surprisingly the most stable part of the team, as Braden Holtby mans the net as a starter. He was fairly ordinary in the playoffs, but the team in front of him deserves just as much blame here. Phillipp Grubauer returns as a backup. The exodus in Washington is most likely going to be affecting the special teams, as Alzner and Williams were significant players on the penalty kill and power play, respectively.

Prediction: 2nd in the Metropolitan Division

For all of the team's inability to manage the salary cap and keep certain key players, the Capitals are still in decent shape as far as making the playoffs. They may need to rely more on a pipeline that is soon to be tapped out during the season, which could lead to yet another season of failure in the playoffs.