- I got the Islanders completely wrong. They’re trucking right along and setting new franchise point streaks. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong.
- I got the Flames right. In April of 2018 I wrote a piece of Brad Treliving and how disastrous he is. I missed the mark on the Giordano contract, but that thing is long enough that I’ve still got time to be proved right. But the Flames struggles this season are a direct result of Treliving failing, yet again, to provide his coach with a product that he can win with. He has spent his entire time with the franchise trying to solve his goaltending problem and every time he thinks he has it, the house of cards crumbles.
- Speaking of the Flames, Bill Peter’s job is not long for this world. I’m interested to see who his replacement is going to be. 0-5-1 through the last 6 games and out scored 23-5. He’s done and I think he might be thankful for it.
- The Sharks have pulled out of their nosedive and likely saved Peter Deboer’s hide. That woeful start to the season has been replaced by a 7-3-0 record through their last 10 games. With Vancouver, Arizona, Vegas and Anaheim all sliding back recently, the Pacific has tightened up a bit.
- John Hynes is probably done with the Devils. His minute and half post game presser after the 5-1 dusting by the Boston Bruins said more than he could have said in four times the amount of time. He looks exhausted and defeated and many members of that Devils team carried similar defeated looks on their faces after Boston’s 3rd goal. Barring some kind of spark and 2 strong, convincing wins on their upcoming back to back against Pittsburgh and Detroit, it seems unlikely that Hynes will last far beyond this weekend.
- The Sheldon Keefe era has begun but Toronto’s right side on defense is still scary. They started with Barrie, Ceci and Holl, and to be fair, Justin Holl looked pretty good tonight. The rental market for right handed defenders is SHALLOW this year. The best 2 options might be Sami Vatanen(if the Devils continue to be bad) and Mike Green from Detroit. Leafs have to consider what will be done with Muzzin and Barrie beyond this season while trying to beef up the unit to try to get back in the playoff hunt. They have some really hard decisions that they need to start thinking about sooner rather than later.
- The downfall of Toronto has helped mask some other surprising teams around the league. Tampa Bay and Nashville are both in positions they surely did not expect to be in. Andrei Vasilevskiy has not had himself a great start to the season, and that 9.5 million dollar AAV extension hasn’t even kicked in yet. If his pedestrian play continues, that contract could be yet another, in a long list of cautionary tales about spending big money on goaltenders long term.
- There is no shortage of teams in the NHL with struggling backup goaltenders. The Chicago Blackhawks could probably get a pretty penny in return for 2019 IIHF World Championship Gold Medal goaltender, Kevin Lankinen. I wonder how long it will take for some GMs to start asking. Also goaltenders playing in foreign leagues, who got NHL cups of coffee when they were younger, might want to consider comebacks. Looking at you Magnus Hellberg and Reto Berra.
- I’ve tweeted about him a few times, but my favorite “diamond in the rough” prospect this year is Carson Bantle, playing for the Madison Capitals in the USHL. The team is terrible and he has minimal help around him, but the 6’4 Bantle continues to produce points at a strong rate. He’s committed to Michigan Tech so if nobody takes a chance on him, we’ll get to see him in the NCAA.
- Your current goal scoring leader in the KHL? Nikita Soshnikov. I know he struggled to gain traction when he was with the Leafs and Blues but he really is such a special player and is one of my favorites outside the NHL right now.
The Next Coach To Fall
The Calgary Flames are bad right now. They have 23 points through 24 games played, so they’re under .500. Their last regulation win against a team that is over .500 was their 10th game of the season on October 20th, when they beat Anaheim 2-1. Since that game their record is 5-7-2 with 36 goals for and 46 goals against. That’s an average of 2.57 goals for. Their 5 wins included:
10-24-19: 6-5 Shootout win against Florida
10-26-19: 6-5 Overtime win against Nashville
11-2-19: 3-0 Regulation win against Columbus
11-5-19: 4-3 Overtime win against Arizona
11-7-19 5-2 Regulation win against New Jersey
But since that NJ win, Calgary has gone 0-5-1, and been outscored 23 to 5. During this span of games they experienced 7 consecutive periods of scoring futility, followed by a 3-2 loss and then a 5-0 blowout.
Now all of this could be considered a blip that Calgary will pull out of, but this is the same team that essentially wasted Mark Giordano’s Norris Trophy campaign with a first round exit. This is a team that won 50 games last season. After the overtime win against Arizona, Bill Peters was quoted as saying “I don’t love the way we’re playing. That’s obvious, right? The aspects … I don’t like are our starts. Our emotional engagement. Our physical engagement. And our execution with the puck.”
If he didn’t love it in the 4-3 victory over Arizona, I’d honestly hate to see what he says about it now. Ultimately Peters’ criticism of his own team might be his own undoing. General Manager Brad Treliving is not shy about firing coaches who fail to perform with the roster he has handed them. Peters is the third coach the Flames have had since Treliving took over as GM in 2014. He would be the third coach to make the playoffs in his first season and miss the playoffs in his second season as Treliving’s coach. By the time something happens a third time, you can call it a pattern. At some point the General Manager needs to take some responsibility for the team that’s on the ice, but it seems likely that won’t happen any time soon. Peters is probably done. I’ll be surprised if he lasts till the end of November.
The Lonely Islanders
I’m not saying the Islanders have had the worst offseason in the league, but they are definitely the first team that comes to mind when I think of a team not having a good offseason. Starting with the draft, the Isles took a player in the first round that most people figured would go in the mid to late second round. Even the European scouts I talked to thought this kid was good, but not top 25 pick good. Maybe we’ll all be wrong and Simon Holmstrom will be one of those guys that shocks us all and we wonder how other teams missed him. Lou Lamoriello and David Conte’s history with 1st round Swedish forward prospects doesn’t fill me with confidence though. Looking at you; Niclas Bergfors, Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby.
Robin Lehner walked for free and ALLEGEDLY the team made no real effort to keep him. They replaced him with Semyon Varlamov. They gave Semyon Varlamov a 4 year deal worth an average annual value (AAV) of $5 Million, WITH A NO TRADE CLAUSE. Did anyone think this was a good deal? I honestly thought Varlamov would be KHL bound after the Avalanche parted ways with him. I thought that no NHL team was going to give him starter money, term and minutes, and that he would not accept relegation to backup duty and a backup’s salary. INSTEAD, Lou Lamoriello whipped out the checkbook and gave Varlamov a big payday and effectively made him the de facto starter. Why? He’s 31, so that’s not really too old for a goaltender, but he’s got some hard miles. His entire career has been a struggle for consistency. Sometimes he’s very good, sometimes he’s really not. But it’s not like he’s a young goaltender trying to find the consistency that comes with veterancy. This is who he is and who he’s going to be. I’m just not sure what the Islanders saw in him that made them say they had to have him at that term and dollar amount.
The Jordan Eberle signing was good and the contract amount they got him for might actually be a bit of a steal. ESPECIALLY when you compare it to Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. I know the optics of letting another Captain walk out on you would’ve been disastrous, but $7 million per year for the next 7 years is a steep price to pay to avoid disaster. The Brock Nelson contract is a little more than I thought they should have to pay for him, but I can stomach that because he’s younger, actually plays center and the contract carries him from age 27-32. Anders Lee is already 29. Anders Lee will be 36 when that deal is up. How many of these 50ish points per year guys carry that kind of effectiveness into their mid 30s? How many manage to carry it beyond the age of 32? The odds are not in the Islanders favor of that Anders Lee contract being a problem sooner rather than later. It’s like Lou looked at the Andrew Ladd contract on his books and said, “You know what…I want another one of those waiting for me a few years down the road.” I wonder how much the dollar amount of those contracts is related to the Islanders seeming to circle back around to Lee and Nelson after missing out on Artemi Panarin. How much of that $6 and $7 million is spite money?
Speaking of Panarin. Not only did the Islanders miss out on Panarin, but they got to watch him go across town to the Rangers. He wasn’t the only one. Much has been said about the acquisitions made by the Devils and the Rangers. Good things are also said about their prospect systems. Nobody is saying these things about the Islanders. That in and of itself becomes a strike against them this offseason. The late addition of Brassard gives them more options and depth at center, which was certainly a franchise need. But, it doesn’t alleviate the fact that none of the kids leftover from Garth Snow, that are still in the system, look like they’re ready to make substantial NHL impacts. I’m at the point where I wonder why the Isles even bothered keeping Ho-Sang and Dal Colle. Ho-Sang has talent but clearly is a culture clash with the team, while Dal Colle is just so underwhelming that it’s easy to forget he was a 5th overall pick. The Islanders finished 2nd in the Metropolitan Division in 2019. I don’t know if I think they’ve managed to get any better from that 2019 team. With seemingly everyone around them in their division getting better, it’s hard to picture the Islanders duplicating last season’s success, this year.
10 Thoughts For August
It’s August and the news is slow. Here’s my short takes on some of the NHL stories I’m following right now.
- For Jake Gardiner to still be unsigned, he must have a handshake deal in place that is pending some of the RFA contracts still not done. I’m sure Jake isn’t sweating the fact that he’s currently unsigned.
- Brian Boyle is the most interesting unsigned UFA. There aren’t many teams, looking to be in the playoff picture, that couldn’t make usage of Boyle’s services. He also doesn’t command a huge salary. Really surprising to me that he’s not signed up somewhere.
- Marcus Pettersson has not signed a contract with the Penguins yet. Reports say Rutherford says the deal will be done before camp, but we’ll see. If I’m a team that is uncomfortable with my defensive depth, I’m on the phone inquiring about this player. The kid could really be something this year and the Penguins know it, but their defensive situation is so cluttered that they might be open to moving Pettersson for the right price.
- Taylor Hall was ranked as the 15th best wing in the league following a season where he only played 33 games. That’s really a testament to how high the regard for Hall is around the league. They call a guy the 15th best wing in the league, “Right now” and nobody knows for sure that his knee is properly healed. There’s no doubt in my mind that his lack of a contract extension as of August 13th is a calculated move by both his camp AND Ray Shero. Shero does not want to throw big money at Hall if that surgically repaired knee doesn’t give him back an Team MVP caliber player.
- Andrei Markov needs 10 games to get to 1000 NHL games played. He wants it to be with the Habs, but I don’t see Bergevin giving it to him. The Canadiens very unceremoniously jettisoned Markov a couple years back, and I haven’t seen anything to make me think they have an interest, currently, in trying to repair that breach they created. Markov probably comes pretty cheap and even though he’s 40, he has shown the ability to still play in the KHL. His skillset, and esteem in which he is held, league wide, would be beneficial to almost any locker room. Somebody should give him a shot.
- The Right Handed defender market somehow became flooded with expensive, middle pairing talent. It seems the NJ Devils might consider moving on from Vatanen and want to give Severson and Carrick the 2nd and 3rd pairing roles going forward. Calgary has allegedly been trying to find a buyer for TJ Brodie, while Buffalo and Ristolainen seem to be on different pages. I could see Anaheim being in the market for Brodie or Ristolainen and I could see Winnipeg being interested in all of them.
- Chase Priskie has said he will not sign with the Capitals. He was a four year starter and 2 year Captain at Quinnipiac as a high offensive output defender. Somebody is going to get an NHL capable right handed defender, and expend ZERO assets to acquire him. He obviously has somewhere in mind, if he’s turning down a chance to play in Washington. That, or he figured he can’t take a job from Jonas Siegenthaler and Radko Gudas and wants to find somewhere where he will have an easier time making an immediate impact. Vegas could be a good landing spot for him, as could Toronto, and Winnipeg.
- The only member of their defense that the Toronto Maple Leafs have under contract beyond this season is Morgan Reilly. I’d like to think Dubas is not sitting back and relying Sandin and Liljegren to make the jump, but their right side if they started the season today would be:
Jordan Schmaltz/Justin Holl
That doesn’t fill me with a ton of confidence.
- Jesse Puljujarvi is looking after his own brand in demanding a trade and I don’t disagree with his tactic here. In his 139 NHL games over the last 3 seasons, Puljujarvi has amassed 37 points. In his limited AHL action, he has 37 points in 53 games. He obviously thinks that he’s capable of more than this and he obviously holds the Oilers accountable for stunting his growth into a force at wing in the NHL. By vowing to play overseas this season if not traded, he’s betting on himself that he can be better outside the Oilers system and prove that he’s still destined for greater things. I’m not sure what the Oilers would demand in trade at this point, but Puljujarvi could be a great bet for a team like the New York Rangers, who are bringing in a ton of European Talent to preseason camp.
- Speaking of the Oilers, they’ve gone out and done the thing that I always harp on NHL teams needing to do. The Oilers have brought in Gaetan Haas from Bern of the NLA and Joakin Nygard from Farjestad of the SHL. Both players are 6’0 tall, 180 pound forwards from overseas leagues who have been accomplished scorers in their respective leagues. Haas really came into his own the last 3 seasons in the NLA average 0.79 points per game in a low scoring league. Nygard has averaged 0.63 points per game in the SHL but is more of a goal scorer, averaging 18 goals per 52 game season. These players aren’t likely to play beyond a depth role for the Oilers, but they are “free” depth that can possibly provide a jump in secondary scoring. When you combine these players with the value signings of Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco and Josh Archibald along with the acquisition of James Neal for Milan Lucic, the Oilers have quietly had a very productive offseason.