Thursday, 4 July 2019

How do you spell excitement? C-H-A-R-I-O-T

Brace yourselves: I'm not happy.  I don't like it.

Another Jet takes off: Ben Chiarot signs 3-year deal with Montreal Canadiens

1)  It's days like these I start to rue Karl Alzner.  Mostly, I deal with it, every team has a shitty player on an unmovable contract.  The Canucks have Loui Eriksson.  The Oilers have Lucic, the Flames have James Neal.  The Rangers have Shattenkirk, Staal, although those guys are on the team playing, our boy is in Laval.  

It's hard to squawk about Korl when the Canucks are stuck with Loui and a Luongo cap recapture of $3M for three years, and I'm subjected to the uproar concerning that every day.  But now that we went back to the well and took another veteran UFA defensive type who hits and plays well in his zone, because we whiffed on Korl, it's harder to ignore him.

2)  The scouting report on Ben Chiarot:

Has the requisite size all National Hockey League teams need along the blueline, and he displays the ability to use it as well. Was a good point producer in the junior ranks. Still a little raw in the defensive zone, he needs to tighten up and limit his mistakes with the puck in order to maximize his big-league potential as a defensive type.
Long Range Potential:Big, stay-at-home defenseman.

I was seeing Jordie Benn's departure as a positive, that we'd maybe be forced to live and die with Mete, Kulak and Reilly, fleet puck-movers, we'd see d-men pinching and rushing the puck.


3)  Putting a positive spin on things, maybe Ben Chiarot can/will be an asset?  Maybe he plays decently next year, like Jordie Benn season this year +, and we can trade him in Year 2 or Year 3 of this deal?  Once Alex Romanov comes over and takes over in the Top 4?

4)  I'd mostly given up on Jake Gardiner, but was hopeful we could work something out with Calgary and T.J. Brodie.  They're desperate to sell, need to shed salary to re-up Matthew Tkachuk, I was thinking we take on James Neal too and he finds his game again.  So from dreaming of T.J. Brodie with Shea Weber, to contemplating Ben Chiarot on our Top 4, that's quite the letdown.

5)  We maybe can still offer-sheet Charlie McAvoy?  Or Xavier Ouellet takes a giant leap over the summer?  Jayden Struble is a huge surprise at training camp?  No?


Monday, 1 July 2019

The Canadiens extend an offer sheet to Sebastian Aho, who accepts it!

The Canadiens' Marc Bergevin seemed like he was up to something, trading away Andrew Shaw and Nicolas Deslauriers yesterday, clearing away more cap space for a big July 1 move, it figured.

Well, he took a big swing today, extending an offer-sheet to the Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho, which the latter accepted.  This gives the 'Canes seven days to decide to match the offer, or accept the pre-determined compensation package of a first, second and third-round pick in next year's draft.

This is a five-year contract which carries a $8.4M AAV and is structured this way:

The TSN panel boys were perplexed that the offer wasn’t for more money, as Hurricanes GM Don Waddell stated himself, even with the understanding that a higher offer would have meant a greater compensation owed Carolina.

The Montréal press hounds asked Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin about this (4:05 mark), why not push the AAV up to $9M or $10M, to really make the Hurricanes sweat, but he matter-of-factly explained that the salary and structure was acceptable to the player, to the team, as was the compensation he’d have to fork over. He didn’t believe that making the yearly salary higher would rebuff the ‘Canes from matching, so they obviously think the bonus structure is the poison pill.

So basically this is a deal that the Canadiens and the player can live with, and it illustrates the point that TSN’s Bob McKenzie made a few years ago: there is no gentleman’s agreement between GMs preventing offer sheets, just the practical consideration that, as one GM explained to him, for an offer sheet to work, you have to make it so outlandish that it wrecks the other team’s salary structure if they choose to match it. You have to vastly overpay a player so the opposing GM tosses in his cards and pushes away from the table. The GM continued that, if you manage that, great, you ‘win’ the player, but now you have on your hands a contract that will wreck your own team’s salary structure.

It looks like Marc Bergevin tried to straddle that line, offer a generous contract and structure that only locks up the player for five years, when he can re-up at an even higher number, while at the same time not have the player cause jealousy and resentment in the Canadiens locker room if it comes to that. He tried to offer an onerous to the cash-poor ‘Canes but overall reasonable contract that when he has to negotiate with his other players, they can’t point to that deal and say “I’d like something crazy like that”.

And he made it too easy probably for the Hurricanes to match it, but now every player on that team will point at Aho and say “I want my money in bonuses up front”, and Don Waddell can no longer hide behind a ‘team policy’ reason not to grant that. So yeah, all that may come of this is ruffled feathers.

What happens if he does land in Montréal, if the Hurricanes refuse to match, which I would stake at a 25% chance?  Well, he immediately becomes the #1 centre on the team.  Max Domi can shift over to the wing.  Jesperi Kotkaniemi is the second-line centre, Phillip Danault is a more reasonably slotted deluxe third-line centre.  There is less haste in bringing up the kids Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki, to put them on the roster and hope they succeed, rather than letting them mature in Laval in due time.

It probably frees up a winger and/or centre prospect who can then be flipped for a left-shot defenceman who can play in the Top 4, since evidently Jake Gardiner is a no-go, for reasons.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Let's see where this leads within the next week.  And props to Marc Bergevin for a shrewd move, an attempt at improving the club with little downside, whichever eventuality befalls us.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Pre-UFA Frenzy thoughts on a busy June 30

Man, you turn around for half a day, and sports go crazy.  Lots of activity on this June 30, with Marc Bergevin making two trades to free up cap space and a couple of contract slots.

Andrew Shaw: So Shawzy goes back to the Blackhawks, as it was rumoured they wanted him back for a couple of seasons.  They're getting the band back together, Brandon Saad, standby for a Marian Hossa unretirement.

What a sideways move that turned out to be.  We got Andrew Shaw for $10000, used him for three years, and sold him back to the dealer for $7500 in today dollars.  We left the new rubber on the car, but they didn't make us fill up the tank.  They said if they find our Wilco CD in the trunk or between the cushions they'll mail it to us.

I've been fantasizing since he joined our team about how great it would look with Samuel Girard and Alex DeBrincat on the roster, and sans Andrew Shaw.  Last season, I came around to the fact that he could be a useful player, and now he's gone.

Good damage control by Bergie though.  After sloughing away assets for a while there, losing players on waivers, much to my strident, repetitive chagrin, he's been a step ahead mostly.  Like, trading away Hayden Hawkey for a 5th to Edmonton, I greedily groused that it could have been more, but now look at us.  He's going to go to August and go UFA on the Oilers.  Yay us.

And with Andrew Shaw, it's a 'sauver les meubles' trade.  We didn't save the house, but had the time to save/retrieve the contents from the fire.  The timeliness is admirable too.  That's another stack of poker chips for tomorrow.

Nicolas Deslauriers:  I would have preferred to keep him, I thought we could probably sneak through waivers down to Laval in October, but this may be better.  A fourth-rounder for him?  We traded for him two seasons ago and only gave up Zach Redmond to Buffalo, an AHLer, and we end up with a mid-round pick?  Nice work again, Bergie.

The Ducks probably wanted to add a little size and orneriness, with the Blues showing that toughness is still needed.  Him and Maxime Comtois should be a Franco One-Two punch down there.

Matt Duchene:  I was trying to be open-minded in case we landed him, didn't want to begrudge a(nother) player on our roster, it makes it hard to cheer on the team with Max Domi and Andrew Shaw already in the lineup, but now that it's quasi-official, I'm glad we're not getting Matt Duchene.  I thought it would be an overpay, and he wouldn't hit the spot necessarily.  

Sure, he's a centre, but he's not big, not known as a hustler or forechecker or any of the things that Claude Julien likes, he's not a rightie.  I didn't like that Uber incident, that reflects really poorly on him.  I didn't like how the Avalanche didn't skip a beat when he left town, the team actually took off, played better without him.  I didn't like how he was called out by Patrick Roy for celebrating his 30th goal too enthusiastically.  I didn't like how RDS' Eric Bélanger, a former teammate, is very cool at the notion of adding him to any team, how he's an odd fellow, not a bad guy, but a little off.

If we're going to pay 8 or 9 million to anyone, let it be one of our young guys who's worth it, not Matt Duchene.

Jake Gardiner: We've said all we need to say, I'd be okay paying him $7M X 7 if that's what it takes.  I prefer my two-year deal idea, but I thought that was necessary back when I proposed it, before the creation of more capspace with the Andrew Shaw trade/salary dump.  I think a 28-year-old getting a seven-year deal is palatable, might turn out to be Jeff Petry-cheap in Year 3 or 4.

I don't know which other teams are in the running, but like I said, playing on the first pair with Shea Weber must be attractive for anybody?  And having been in Toronto, I assume he's not afraid of the Montréal market, although it could play the other way, he's seen Anaheim, the palm trees and anonymity.  He might be itching to leave Toronto/Canada, slamming the door behind him, vowing "Never again!"

T.J. Brodie (and James Neal): This is Plan B.  I'm calling it.  He'll be our very affordable (for one more season) leftie first-pairing guy, but in exchange we also have to take on James Neal's anchor of a contract, 4 more seasons at $5.75M.  Maybe the Flames can hold on to a mill of that.

So that's it that's all, the defence is fixed, we've added a big guy who can skate and produce on the wing for $10M total?  We hope that James Neal can return to form, that last year was a blip on the screen, and he's back to the 20-goal season we expect from him? 

Ben Hutton: Plan C.  He's really not that good, but better than Joe Morrow or Jakub Jerabek, he's Nathan Beaulieu all over again, a guy who moves the puck well but somehow doesn't pile up the points.  Can't break a pan of glass with his shot.  Doesn't spend enough time in the gym, he's described as doughy.  Travis Green tore a strip off him a few times in the media two seasons ago, he showed up in respectable shape this year.  His usage numbers are not reflective of his play: the reason he gets so much icetime is that Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are injured all the time.

Andrej Sekera:  Plan D.  Really cheap deal, for one year.  The Oilers are already paying him with his buyout, we won't need to blow the budget on this guy, but let's see if he has anything left.  

Jesse Puljujarvi:  Offer-sheet?  Somewhere above $2M the compensation goes from a third-round to a second-round pick.  The Oilers don't have any room, they're looking to add pieces, maybe they don't fight it, they take the pick and cut their losses?  Although, wouldn't Marc Bergevin have already called Ken Holland and asked for an outright trade if that's the piddling return needed?  

Anders Lee:  No.  Too much money.

Mike Smith, Cam Talbot, Keith Kincaid: I don't really care who.  Any decent veteran who comes here, we'll cross our fingers that the Stéphane Waite approach works its magic and he turns in a banner year.  Heck, he squeezed one more season out of Anti Niemi, when everyone thought he was through, after being waived twice in a season.  

Just make sure it's cheap.  Nothing over $2M, preferably much less.  Carey's still going to, um, carry the ball.

I'd prefer not to lose Charlie Lindgren on waivers, but it looks like we might have to chance it in October.

Alex Galchenyuk:  Third team for the kid.  I hope he didn't grow too attached to the flip-flops.  Pittsburgh could be great for him, he'll be lethal on the powerplay I would guess.  Although he'd be another left shot, not ideal.  

Anyway, talent was never the problem with our boy, it's between the ears, evidently.

Corey Perry:  Non merci.  Suivant, next!

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Canadiens shouldn't beat around the bush with Gardiner

Here's a modest proposal for the Canadiens to significantly upgrade their defence corps yet not wreck their salary cap future: sign Unrestricted Free Agent Jake Gardiner to a two-year contract.

The benefits to the Canadiens are evident.  While they have $10M in cap space to play with at the moment, this bounty won't last forever. 

Next season, the Max Domi 'Prove It' contract comes to an end, and he'll have arbitration rights, he'll want to be paid.  Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen will also need new deals after finishing their Entry-Level Contracts.  Although they probably won't break the bank, they won't be as cheap as they are now.

In 2021, the party's over: Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Jeff Petry will all need new contracts or become UFAs.  Similarly, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling will come off their ELCs and merit significant raises.

Meanwhile, no big contracts will really have come off the books.  Carey Price and Shea Weber will still eating a big chunk of the cap, and Karl Alzner's anchor of a deal will still be around the Canadiens' neck, although they'll be over the hump with that one.  With the 2020 season's bonus (which many players obtained to protect against a potential lockout) having been paid, the Alzner contract can feasibly be bought out in 2021.

Still, this shows that the Canadiens can't enter into the massive six and seven year-contracts dance that the Sharks, Sabres and Flyers have kicked off.  All this young talent in the ranks will need to be paid in two seasons' time. 

So Jake Gardiner could be the lucky recipient of a lavish contract offer from the Canadiens, but not one with term.  At this point we may ask, "What's in it for him?"  Why would he accept a two-year deal from the Canadiens when he's liable to get a seven-year offer elsewhere?

The first reason would be an opportunity to win.  The Canadiens are a young fast team on the rise, with excellent goaltending.  It appears that the most glaring missing piece, a left-shot Top 4 defenceman who can provide offence, is something Jake Gardiner himself could provide.  He'd be like a sack artist who looks over a team that has offence and a great quarterback and coaching and just needs to improve its pass defence, its pass rush to be a Super Bowl contender.  He can be the final puzzle piece.

The second reason is counter-intuitive but still valid.  The NHL U.S. TV contract is coming due and will be renewed for the 2021 season.  It's expected that the new contract will have a main portion, probably to NBC, and a secondary one allocated to ESPN or Fox, with Gary Bettman finally coming to his senses, and realizing that ghetto-izing the NHL onto one channel is counter-productive.

So while currently the salary cap is going to be tight for the next two years, as the players tamp down on the 'escalator' to keep the escrow which comes off their paycheque in control somewhat, it should rebound nicely in two years time.  Instead of locking himself in for 6 or 7 years at an inopportune time, with few teams in a position to really bid for his services, and at a relatively lower salary, he can just do a two-year stint for a really high salary with a team that has that cap room, and then go back to UFA when the cap ceiling rises again and more teams will be in the bidding.

The fly in the ointment for him with this line of reasoning is that he's about to turn 29, so that's usually seen as a hockey player's 'last big chance'.  The odds of him getting another massive deal of 5-6 years at 31 aren't great.  But that's the situation he's in, he can't get the big seven-year offers from multiple teams, only a few have the room or the willingness to pay him that much.  He can't refuse to accept his situation.

If he did sign a two-year deal with the Canadiens, he'd be parked next to Shea Weber, and have Carey Price behind him to cover for his mistakes, not James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier.  He'd get all corsied up, he'd PDOminate, so he'd look great sitting across from GMs trying to negotiate a new deal in two years time.

Just to be very clear and to define the parametres we're batting around, Jake Gardiner is being touted as likely to receive 7 years at $6.8M by Evolving Hockey's free agent salary projection project, a document that has been wildly off in a few cases so far this summer but is a good starting point for discussion.  Jake Gardiner is a good defenceman, but maybe not a Top 15 or Top 20 d-man in the league, but that's the level he'd be paid at with this salary projection.

What I'm saying is, pay him more than that.  Pay him $8M a season for two years, and let him skate after that, to even greener pastures.  He wins, we win, everybody wins.

As demonstrated by the preceding, the only sane thing for Jake Gardiner to do is to come play for the Montréal Canadiens for the next two seasons.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

2019 NHL Draft: Notes on Rounds 2-7

So after a fallow first round in terms of trade, a spike of activity before the second round.

--So the Devils grab P.K., for loose change really, two second-rounders +.  I guess if Nashville didn't retain salary, their options were few, there was no bidding war, with most contenders out of the running when it comes to taking on $9M.

The haterz, those who call him inferior to Shea Weber, those who called him "fat", might spin this as a come-down for P.K., might schadenfreude that P.K. goes to NYC, but not at all really, he's in Newark if anything.  Shame, shame, shame, you negatrons...

--The Hurricanes get a first-round pick + for taking on Patrick Marleau and buying him out.  Elliotte Friedman thinks this is a prelude to an attempt at a return to San Jose.

I thought there was a Marleau-Kapanen deal possible for the Canadiens, where you don't even buy out Patrick Marleau, you wring every last bit of juice out of him next season.  He can still skate, he'd be a fit.

But there's the slight matter of his NMC, and how the Leafs wouldn't risk trading Kasperi Kapanen in-Division.

That's okay, there are still lots of opportunities to shark some team out of a prospect and picks in return for taking on a bad contract.

--Last year, I crossed my fingers to the point of dislocation and was ecstatic, gratified that Jared McIsaac was available at our spot to pick in the second round, but they veered hard-left and picked up unknown nobodies Alex Romanov and Jesse Ylonen.  So I'm ready to hear some obscure Euro names at #46 and 50.  Heck, they might conjure up a goalie out of thin air.

I decided I wouldn't mind Raphaël Lavoie at #46.  We could rant and rave about how we got great value, he was a Top 10 pick, really, who 'fell' to us, for unfair reasons, discrimination by English scouts as always, did you know he was 6'4"?...

If they picked Leason over Lavoie, TVA Sports would melt down.  Réjean Tremblay would go Unabomber and publish a 300-page screed.

--Do not trade up, especially for Lavoie.  Only if he falls in our lap.  All the players remaining are all on the same level, the same tier.  We don't need to pick one shlub over another so much that we overpay.  Take the shlubs as they come.

The only player I'd be overjoyed with our seconds would be Brett Leason, 6'4" right-shot right winger, he's a 19-year-old who had a monster breakout season after being passed over in the draft twice.  Had a great tourney at the World Juniors.  There's a chance he could step right into the lineup, or after very little time in Laval.

The other is Matthew Robertson, who we talked about earlier.  He plays for the Oil Kings, 6'3" leftie blueliner, was talked about in the same breath as Broberg or Harley at mid-season, although it was acknowledged he was less skilled on offence, but really good at defending, and tough.

Any two of those guys with our picks tomorrow would be great, but chances are these two will fly off the board early.  Realistically, I'm hoping for Samuel Bolduc or Alex Beaucage in the third, one of Nathan Légaré or Alex Campbell in the second round.  That'd make me happy, as a fanboy who wants local kids on my team and who's done zero scouting all year.  I've never seen these kids play, but I have opinions.

1)  Ottawa picks first, doesn't seem like they auctioned off that singular pick overnight.  Usually this pick is a prime opportunity to trade down with a desperate team, like the Sharks were to trade up and snag Jérémy Roy in 2015.

They grab Shane Pinto, and my man-crushes are not affected.  Let's see who slides down to #46.

2)  The Kings snap up 51-goal scorer Arthur Kaliyev at #33.  Not surprising he didn't last long.

3)  A run on goaltenders early helps our cause by causing players we like to fall.

4)  The Lavoie Fall arrests at #38.  He goes to exotic scenic Edmonton.  He might have the last laugh, playing with either/both of their great centres in a couple years.

5)  The Canucks grab Nils Hoglander, a 5'10" workout warrior who slipped a little bit.  Check out his workout videos on YouTube.

6)  Kaedan Korczak of the defenceman factory that is the Kelowna Rockets lands in Vegas in #41.  Intriguing right-shot offensive defenceman is how he's described, but he fails the .6 pts/game test, so I didn't really care.  Alex Vlasic taken at #43 by the Blackhawks, another defenceman I wasn't too keen on, not much offence demonstrated, but you have to be wowed by his size.

7)  Lots of trades, teams moving up or down, some of it caused by teams on the hunt for a goalie.  The Canucks get J.T. Miller from Tampa, in return for a package that includes a conditional first-round pick in 2021 or 2022.  Not sure what I think of this.

8)  Two picks away.  Will we get Matthew Robertson or Brett Leason?  At least two of them will be on the board.

9)  Both of them are available, and we're on the clock.  Nashville gets Egor Afanasyev, a big scoring winger from the USHL.

10)  We get Jayden Struble at #46, a U.S. high school player.  Apparently known for physical play.  6", 195 lbs.  I'll let myself be swayed by the pundits, then develop a fiery take on this pick

We're up again at #50.

11)  Leason?  Robertson?  Nathan Légaré?

Rangers take Matthew Robertson at #49, and the Canadiens trade down from #50, with the Kings.  According to Arpon Basu, they get a third-round and a fifth-round pick from the Kings.

12)  Vaguely familiar names being snapped up, no LHJMQ players being taken.  Opportunity for the Canadiens?

I guess Matthew Robertson's upside, his puck handling and mobility didn't measure up to the Canadiens' style.  He did clear the .6 pts/game test, 7 goals and 33 points in 52 games.

13) Samuel Bolduc gone to the Islanders at #57.  Doesn't meet the .6 pts/game standard, but at this point in the draft, with the tremendous size and fitness, with the untapped potential that scouts swear is there, I was ready to take the plunge.

Brett Leason, the big right-winger who was touted as a late-first rounder by a lot of draft watchers, goes 56th overall to the Capitals.

14)  The Canadiens are up at #64 and 77 in the third round.  I wonder if Marc Bergevin will trade some picks for others next year, as he did last year, and especially since the Draft will be held in Montréal.

15)  Mattias Norlinder at #64, a 5'10" 180 lb overager.  Passed over in the draft last year, 6 points in 14 games in the Swedish second-division, I don't know.

Actually I do know, I'll call it: he's a bust.  He's one of those picks that the Canadiens overthought, got too cute with.

I'll say it again, if you're going to reach, going to bend over backwards in the third round, do that with LHJMQ prospects.  Take a chance on a sneaky hunch on our boys.  Not a guy who's playing 2nd Division at 19.

This is Lukas Vejdemo picked late in the third round at 19 years old instead of 17 year old 6'4" right-shot centreman Nicolas Roy all over again.

I'm not happy, this is bullshit.  This is a seventh-round hunch pick.

16)  Pittsburgh grabs Nathan Légaré at #74.  I say it again: bullshit.

The Penguins got Samuel Poulin in the first round too.

17)  At #77, the Canadiens take Gianni Fairbrother, a defenceman out of the Everett Silvertips.

Brace yourself: he's an overager.  Passed over last year too.

There's more.  Not only did he not meet the .6 pts/game standard in his draft year, he didn't meet it THIS year, at 19!  This is Jarret Tyszka and Scott Walford all over again.

Another bust, I'm calling this one right now too, no waiting.

18)  Too many resources maybe?  Paralysis by analysis?  What are the Canadiens scouts looking at?  What are they looking for?

If there was a mondo productive kid who fell into their lap, I'd understand not looking at Québec kids, but they're picking through the dregs and the rejects, and taking kids who don't show the barest level of production.  It's the triumph of the eye-test and 'horseflesh evaluation' as decried in "Moneyball".

19)  Meanwhile the Leafs draft Mikko Kokkonen at #84, who's been playing in the Liga for three seasons (!), and set a record for most points by a defenceman under 18.  Which one of these latter two prospects would you rather have?  Which seems, on the surface, more likely to pan out?

20)  The Canadiens pick again at #108, and four times in the fifth round.  They're preparing their Samuel Houde media-soother pick for then, no doubt.

21)  Right after the Canadiens took Mattias Norlinder, the Preds took Alex Campbell, a local kid playing in the BCHL with Alex Newhook.  Right after.

And right after the Canadiens took Gianni Fairbrother, the Avalanche took Alexis Beaucage at #78.  The very next pick.

So it goes...

22)  The Kings nab Jordan Spence at #95.  Would have been nice...

23)  The Canadiens traded #108 to the Sharks, waiting to find out what we got in return.

CapFriendly tweets that we get a 2020 4th-round pick.  Doesn't seem like that's a great trade.  You postpone the pick one year, lose that value, and what are the chances that it'll be better than a mid-round fourth?  The Sharks are stacked, it'll be a low fourth-rounder.

I'm not negative, you're negative.

24)  Leafs on the clock at 124.  Canadiens have numbers 126, 134, 136 and 138.  But the LHJMQ cupboard is very bare.  Nothing left of any note.

25)  At #126, Jacob Leguerrier of the Greyhounds in the OHL.  Doesn't meet the .6 pts/game standard.  16 points in 68 games, he had 11 last season, in what should have been his draft year.


26)  At #131, Rhett Pitlick.  5'9", 160 lbs, 5 points in 7 USHL games.


27)  At #136, the Canadiens trade down/out.  Same deal as with San Jose, they trade a fifth this year for a fifth next year.


28)  At #138, the Canadiens draft 6'5" goalie Frederik Nissen Dichow from Denmark.

Sure, that's a reasonable pick.  I'll allow it.

29)  At #170, the Canadiens get Arsen Khisamutdinov, a 21-year-old 6'3" left-shot centre who had 5 points in 9 games in the KHL, 55 points in 41 games in the MHL.

Sure.  In the sixth round, why not.

30) At #201, the Canadiens take Rouyn-Noranda Huskies captain Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, fresh off his Memorial Cup conquest. 

A sop to the baying hounds of the dastardly French media, so so so much worse than the equivocal even-handed English media?  Maybe so, but I'll allow it.

31)  At 206, the Canadiens take Kieran Ruscheinski, a 6'5" 200 lbs left-shot defenceman out of the AJHL.  A late-bloomer with very little offensive potential, based on his stats.

In the seventh round, a perfectly adequate pick.

* * * * *

I'm tired.  I'm bummed.  I'm out.

Friday, 21 June 2019

2019 NHL Draft: Notes on the First Round.

Finally, we're here!  Second Christmas!  Better than Halloween!

The Vancouver fans do a great job of booing Gary Bettman into infantile frustration.  Lord, the smarm...

Wet shivering chicken move to use Henrik and Daniel Sedin as human shields, Gary.  How many kids in wheelchairs do you have ready to be deployed, waiting backstage?  Coward.

1)  Jack Hughes goes first.  Look, I'm not saying the kid's going to flop, necessarily...  I'm just saying, if it was my team's turn to pick first overall, I'd be bummed if on offer was a 5'10" shrimp.  The 'New NHL' is still very much a figment.  The league is a sham, the refs are eunuchs, the game is throttled by Gary Bettman's neglect.

In all seriousness about the kid, having not really watched him play, I'm just leery of how he was surrounded by a super-talented team.  I'd feel a lot better picking #1 if it was an Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid-no-brainer year.

2) Kaapo Kakko goes #2 to the Rangers, setting up the comparisons with the Devils' Jack Hughes.  Good for hockey in the States I guess, NBC will have more scheduling options than the Penguins.

3)  Kirby Dach goes 3rd, now more commonly known as the Kotkaniemi draft position.  There's actually lots of similarity with last season, 1 and 2 were locked in pretty much all season long, and then an open field starting at 3.  Although last season there was more agreement, at least initially, about #3, that Filip Zadina was most likely to go there.  Then again, maybe not, seeing him fall to the sixth spot...

Gotta love being able to draft a big huge right-shot centre in that spot.  We need a right-shot at centre in our lineup.  With Nick Suzuki not certain to play centre in the NHL, maybe it's something we can address tonight, with a precipitous fall by Dylan Cozens?

4)  Vancouver fans stealing the show, giving a warm ovation to 'Burnaby' Joe Sakic, which continues as they announce the Vancouver Giants' Bowen Byram.  There was no way Byram was getting by the L.A. Kings if the Avs hadn't picked him.

Do the Leafs regret the Muzzin trade right now?  Gave up their first-round pick for a left-shot d-man who wasn't really what they needed, and it didn't get them out of the first round.  Again.  If they could rewind the tape, would they keep their powder dry, and take another shot at a right-shot d-man now?  P.K. Subban in the Centre of the Universe?

5)  I don't want to visit the sins of the father on the son, but Alex Turcotte was a no-fly-zone for me.  As I wrote before about the 1983 draft:
(...) But no, we ended up with Alfie Turcotte. Alfie. Just the name sounded dumb, and his stats looked underwhelming in La Presse the next day. A small centre who scored 20 goals in the WHL, big whoop. I pronounced him a bust then and there, and wouldn’t you know I was right, like I so often am. Waste of a first-rounder.
Avast to Los Angeles ye be, poxy Turcotte!...

6)  The first surprise of the draft with Steve Yzerman, with no preamble and effusive thanks to the Canucks and city of Vancouver, just announces that Moritz Seider is the Red Wings' pick.

I wrote this about him earlier, when we were punting around if he might be a target for the Canadiens at #15:
The big German kid Moritz Seider screams to me of Luca Sbisa, a big plodder who could play with a shovel or pitchfork, it wouldn't affect his game when handling the puck.  Stay clear.
Moritz Seider is a righty, so not necessarily an area of need.
I'd steer clear, he played in the German league and only managed 2 goals and 4 assists in 30 games.  Would he have had even one point in Sweden or Finland?   It's so hard to evaluate him since he didn't play against his peers really.  Much easier to scout the CHL kids, compare them against each other.  
But he doesn't seem to have that offensive skill, his numbers don't wow me.  He'll never be a first-pairing defenceman I'm pretty sure, but York, Harley or Broberg definitely have that potential.  Seider is a big kid, but he screams third-pairing guy to me, reminds me of Luca Sbisa.
 7)  The 'Dylan Cozens falling to 15' dream is dead.  Buffalo snags him.  Rats.  I'm ascared he'll be another Ryan Kesler.  We get to play him five times a season now, plus playoffs.  If the Sabres ever make it back to the playoffs.

8)  The stupid Oilers snag Philip Broberg right from under our nose.  I was hoping he'd last to 15.

Who's going to play wing next to Connor McDavid Ken Holland?  Jujhar Khaira?  Uh?...

Pffft...  I hear his hockey IQ isn't all that great, that he's all style and no substance, has all the tools and no toolbox.

I'm not bitter, you're bitter...

9)  Trevor Zegras picked by the Anaheim Ducks' Bob Murray, who can't even pronounce the kid's name, called him "Zuh-Graaah".  We're unaffected by this, he was never expected to be in range for les Canadiens.

The Canucks are next, no trade announced yet.  Come on Jim Benning, send the pick to Nashville for P.K.

10)  The Canucks just go to the podium and nab Vasily Podkolzin.  Jim Benning tells Elliotte Friedman that the two-year contract in St. Petersburg of the KHL is not a worry for his team, that anyone they'd draft at this point would need two years of development.  Makes sense.  They get a big talented winger who some think would be a Top 5 pick without the contract considerations.

11)  The Coyotes take Victor Soderstrom, after trading a mid-second round pick to the Flyers to move up from #14.  He's described a little bit as a contrast to Philip Broberg, high IQ, right shot, not as flashy but really smart and effective.  Brian Burke says he's the best defensive defenceman in this draft.

There was a notion supported by a few mock drafts that the Canadiens would get the 2nd-best defenceman of the draft, or at least their choice of defencemen once Bowen Byram was off the board, that there are so many talented forwards that no one would be picking defencemen in the Top 15.  So there goes that notion.

I wonder if the Canadiens might trade down and take Samuel Poulin?  The only man-crush I have left is Thomas Harley.

12)  Matthew Boldy goes to the Minnesota Wild.  Brian Burke likes the size and skating, says every player on the USNDTP were asking to play on the same line as him.

13)  As expected, the Florida Panthers nab Spencer Knight, who the talking heads talk about as a no-brainer athletic goalie à la Carey Price, who'll solve your team's net issues for ten years.  He wowed the Combine with his athleticism. He mentions to Tara Sloane that he works out with Ben Prentiss, the man who worked with Martin St. Louis and Max Pacioretty among others.

14)  The Flyers take Cam York!  I didn't want him as our pick, so they take him off our hands.
Sigh...  I don't know what my aversion is, aside from his Lilliputian 5'11 1/4" frame.  I never was a big fan of this type of American d-men, I always thought Phil Housley and Bryan Leetch stole the thunder from our defencemen, they got all the Sports Illustrated ink.

I read a good profile of Cam York on RDS, it makes the good point that, as easy as his job might have been amassing points with that stacked roster, he's head and shoulders above the #2 guy.  Even if the other d-men were coasting on Jack Hugues, Cam York was twice as effective at coasting.

He also makes the point that he went head-to-head with all those forwards every day at practice, so he had to pick up his defensive game.

Uh-oh, does this mean we get shrimpy shrimp Cole Caulfield?  I never thought we'd have a shot at him, I never worried about this.  Be afraid...

And, what the hell happened with all the blockbuster trades?

15)  Cole Caufield.  Five foot seven inch Cole Caufield.

Okay okay okay, let's look at this logically.  We strengthen our right side, we add offensive talent.  Pure goal-scoring talent, that you can't teach, can never get enough of.

Nope, can't do it.  Doesn't fit.  I don't fit in this deal.  In the playoffs, he'll be crosschecked back to the Stone Age.

The talking heads compare him to Alex DeBrincat, which is fine and good, if you get him with a 40th overall pick or thereabouts.  But noooooo, we had to trade for Andrew Shaw, gift Chicago the 2nd-rounders we could have used to draft DeBrincat...

Sportsnet is flashing a graphic onscreen showing he's one of three shortest players ever drafted in the first round.

16)  'Burnaby' Joe Sakic grabs a player from his home province, the BCHL's Alex Newhook.

I'm in my deflated "Who cares?" mode, as usual after a Canadiens (disappointing) pick.

17) Peyton Krebs, partially-torn Achilles tendon and all, limps on stage to accept a Las Vegas Knights sweater from Kelly McCrimmon.  I kinda thought the Canadiens would pick him when he fell out of the Top Ten, if they didn't grab Thomas Harley.

18)  The Dallas Stars get Thomas Harley.  I hope they choke on him.

19)  The Senators take a player I might have liked, Lassi Thomson, a defenceman who can skate and score.  Now we have to face him five times a season.  I might be tempted to overtly hope the kid busts, but I prefer to reserve my hexes for future Bruins.

20)  It's a run on Finnish defencemen, with the Jets picking Ville Heinola.  Sam Cosentino correctly points out he looks like he's 12 years old.  Playing in the Finnish Liga against men, he had more points in his draft year than Miro Heiskanen.

21) With their first pick in the first round in years, the Penguins grab Samuel Poulin, mildly higher than expected.  I'm jealous, was hoping he might fall, that the run on Americans might push him down into range.

22)  The Kings select Tobias Bjornfot, and we verge into territory where I know nothing about the players.

23)  The Islanders take Simon Holmstrom, who Bob McKenzie had projected as a mid-second rounder.  Craig Button calls him a goal-scorer.

24)  This is the range where the Canadiens 'normally' pick, where we land the Mike McCarrons and the Nikita Scherbaks, from where we trade up to snag a Jarred Tinordi.  The players don't quicken the pulse so much when we get to this range.

In this vein, let me introduce Philip Tomasino of the Nashville Predators.  Point/game player in the OHL, 34 goals.  They can have him.  Leave me alone.  Let me sulk in my corner.

25)  The Capitals draft Connor McMichael.  Big whoop.  Carbon-copy of the guy before, a 36-goal point/game centre from the OHL.  Tainted by association with Dale Hunter.

The guy hosting the show for the NHL Network cracks that some wanted the Oilers to draft him, so they'd have Connor McDavid and Connor McMichael.  That would have broken Bob Cole's brain if he'd had to work that game, good thing he retired before that could happen.

26) Calgary take Jakob Pelletier, the second LHJMQ player taken, and the Raphaël Lavoie Fall Watch has begun.

At least the Canadiens won't get blasted by (sigh...)  JiC Lauzon, by Twitterers, for 'ignoring' him, since plenty of other teams are doing that too.

Oh, who am I kidding, the Canadiens are going to get blasted no matter what.

27)  The Lightning take Nolan Foote, he joins his older brother Cal in Tampa.

28)  Ryan Suzuki looks relieved to get picked in the first round, but I have to wonder how happy he is to go to a nickle-and-dime operation like Carolina.

29)  Brayden Tracey picked by the Ducks, don't know anything about him.  Bob McKenzie says he rose from 73 to 21 in the North American skater rankings from mid-season to the end of the season. Bob says seeing him taken here is no great surprise, he had him at #36 in his scouts poll.

30)  While waiting for the Bruins' pick, Bob McKenzie runs down his best-availables, mentions Lavoie and the director puts up a shot of the kid on-screen, then Arthur Kaliyev, and they show him as well.  Just as he is picking his nose.  Oops...

Bless the Canucks fans for showering the dirty Bruins on the stage with lusty boos.  Cam Neely tries to shoutout Maple Ridge, but that doesn't help.  Well done Vancouver.

They get John Beecher, a USNTDP centre.  May he stall in Providence.

31)  The Sabres close out the first-round with Ryan Johnson, a small skating defenceman.  I hope he caseystaums on them.

* * * * *

For tomorrow, I want oodles of picks, trade down when asked, at the drop of a hat.

Do not trade up, especially for Lavoie.  Only if he falls in our lap.  All the players remaining are all on the same level, the same tier.  We don't need to pick one shlub over another so much that we overpay.  Take the shlubs as they come.

The only player I'd be overjoyed with our seconds would be Brett Leason, 6'4" right-shot right winger, he's a 19-year-old who had a monster breakout season after being passed over in the draft twice.  Had a great tourney at the World Juniors.  There's a chance he could step right into the lineup, or after very little time in Laval.

The other is Matthew Robertson, he plays for the WHL Oil Kings.  6'3" leftie blueliner, was talked about in the same breath as Broberg or Harley at mid-season, although it was acknowledged he was less skilled on offence, but really good at defending, and tough. 

Any two of those guys with our picks tomorrow would be great, but chances are these two will fly off the board early.  Realistically, I'm hoping for Samuel Bolduc or Alex Beaucage in the third, one of Nathan Légaré or Alex Campbell in the second round.  That'd make me happy, as a fanboy who wants local kids on my team and who's done zero scouting all year.  I've never seen these kids play, but I have opinions.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

2019 Off-season musings

1)  The Oilers are trying to rid themselves of Andrej Sekera.  Not that he's bad, just very inconsistent due to injuries, and because of his $5.5M cap hit for two more seasons.  He's actually, when healthy, a pretty good defenceman, like a leftie Jeff Petry.

Is this an opportunity to unload Karl Alzner on them?  Smaller cap hit ($4.6M), but for three more seasons though.  

If we cobble together Milan Lucic in there, to really amp up their cap relief, maybe they throw in Jesse Puljujarvi?  They add in a pick, of course, something to make it worth our while like a second-rounder, and a fifth, and we give them a contract, an RFA like Charles Hudon or Daniel Audette, and call it even?

Andrej Sekera has the Oilers a little sour, but if he had a healthy season, he'd be really useful.  Not a #1 or even a first pairing defenceman, but a good complement to Shea Weber, someone who can play Top 4 in the league, while we wait for Alex Romanov and Phillip Broberg.  If he's hurt, LTIR anyway, no worse than having Korl in Laval, really.

2)  Instead of getting into a bidding war for Matt Duchene, who I am leery of, and have to think that Marc Bergevin is in the 'No' camp on, with the Uber-fiasco, should we look at Derrick Brassard?  Francophone, had a couple of tough seasons, the shine has worn off him with a couple poor seasons and the constant getting traded, so maybe he's now cost-effective?

Evolving Hockey has published a table of 'expected' free-agent contracts, they say it's based on past comparables, arbitration awards, etc., but a few contracts since then have shown them to be wildly off the mark, kind of like more a Craig Button draft ranking rather than a Bob McKenzie draft ranking.  Anyway, they have Derrick down for $4M for three seasons.

That's a lot more palatable than Matt Duchene, who they have at $7M for six seasons.  We'd have Derrick as a stopgap, he can play Top 6 if Max Domi falters, to give time to Jesperi and Nick Suzuki to get there, to bump Phillip Danault down the roster.  He gives the coaches another option, some flexibility, and time to insert the kids until they're truly ready.  When they are, we'd have Derrick as a trade piece we can unload on another team starving for a centreman.  He'd be a great trade deadline chip.

And again, instead of the steep cost of acquisition of a Ryan O'Reilly, who apparently the Sabres wanted Poehling or Suzuki for plus a first, we'd get Derrick Brassard free and clear, without giving up anything for him except the contract.  Nate Thompson starts the season in Laval and comes up when we get injuries.

3)  I want Phillip Broberg or Thomas Harley for our #15 pick.  One of the two has to remain on the board by the time it's our turn to pick.  Size and great skating ability, an offensive penchant, lots of talent there.  The descriptions of Broberg remind me of Nathan Beaulieu a little bit, "lots of tools but no toolbox", a kid who has oodles of talent but who some question the hockey sense of, but I'm willing to take a chance, with Joël Bouchard and Luke Richardson there to impart some magic.  At #15, we're not getting a flawless prospect, I'm willing to take a chance on him at that point.

Another thing we're not getting at #15 is another frigging centreman Luke.  We're taking a d-man, accept it.

4)  'We' complained about coaching under Michel Therrien, about development under Sylvain Lefebvre, about Jean-Jacques Daigneault not being Larry Robinson, and I bristled at a lot of it, since it was wrapped up in a lot of 'french coaches' intolerance.  I have to admit that, anecdotally, things have improved a lot, especially in the back end.

Joël Bouchard apparently straightened out Victor Mete in the span of a dozen games, he came back playing better, and raving about how beneficial his time down in Laval was.  Noah Juulsen also had a lot of complimentary quotes for the coaching he gets/got in Laval.

Luke Richardson seems to be doing more with less, getting the most out of the talent on hand.  The disaster that was the Joe Morrow-Jakub Jerabek clown-car defence two seasons ago settled down quite a bit under Luke Richardson.  Jordie Benn had a good/great season for himself in a contract year, after a lost season.  Mike Reilly had a decent half season before it fell apart.  He got a steady game out of Christian Folin, and Brett Kulak got here after passing through waivers in Calgary, played ten games in Laval before getting Top 4 minutes here.  Both of the latter have now re-signed with the Canadiens, at affordable sticker prices.

I'll re-state that the single piece of evidence that makes me think J.J. wasn't cut out for this was the Jack Todd reference about how J.J. wasn't the most illuminating speaker, how when he acted as the player rep for the Canadiens he confused more than he informed the assembled media.  Maybe he's adept at running a practice, but not suited for building up a kid's game, for communicating with them.


Friday, 12 April 2019

Jonathan Drouin, 2018-19 post-mortem

So what did we decide on Jonathan Drouin?  Is he a project still, should we expect more?  Or is he what he is currently, a mercurial winger who'll score in bunches and bring in 50 points, but disappear for long stretches of time?

In the post-season wrapups, it's almost like the journos are doing Marc Bergevin's job, they're acting like fans who still hope for more, treating Jo with kid gloves, to not affect his mood or his confidence.  I guess I'm okay with that, I prefer it to when we create a crisis, with P.K., with Max Pacioretty as only two examples, and have to trade away players at a loss, compared with Steve Yzerman or Joe Sakic, who can keep a malcontent for months/years until the price is right to sell.

But what did we arrive at?  Was there a couple of frank admissions that Jo was out of shape as the season wore on and ran out of gas?  That he reported to camp in reasonable shape but couldn't follow the pace by the end of the season?  Did I see that clearly laid out?

Or was this just a player sulking?  Which wouldn't surprise me, it wouldn't be the first instance of diva behaviour from him, but was this all this was?  A player who shut it down, because reasons, who got into his own head and... I don't know, what was he trying to achieve?  Was he trying to get traded?  Did he quit on the Canadiens, or, more precisely, on Montréal? 

As a last last question on the locker cleanout day, one reporter asked if he'd have long hair next season.  Everyone laughed good-naturedly, but is this where we are?  Was the hair a reflection of a flaw or lack of something?  Is this something which will become a non-issue we all agree is a non-issue, except because we have a hundred reporters at the rink and a thousand blogs, all of us discussing that it's a non-issue makes it an issue?

In many of the analyses, one of the priorities described for GM Marc Bergevin is to find a game-breaker, a high-octane forward.  Isn't the easiest way to get that forward is to wring more out of Jonathan Drouin?  Because isn't this the unspoken angle here, the elephant in the room, that Jonathan Drouin was going at half-speed, was loafing?  That Jonathan took the end of the year off, but if he'd kept stepping on the gas, he would have been the guy who gets you that important goal, who'll break the tie or score the overtime goal? 

Friday, 1 February 2019

Penguins acquire Nick Bjugstad, Jared McCann

The Penguins have tooled up for a playoff run, while their Crosby-Malkin-Letang window is still open, by acquiring Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers.  They sent Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan to Florida, as well as a second and two fourth-round picks.

Of interest to me is that Nick Bjugstad is included in that trade. When the Canucks-Luongo relationship was unraveling over two or three seasons like a slow-motion car crash, and he pined for a return to the Panthers organization (his wife is from there and reportedly never took to the monotonous Vancouver climate), rumours were that the one player the Canucks kept asking for was Nick Bjugstad, a big hulking right-shot centre in the U.S. college system at the time, and the Panthers kept shutting that down, he was one of their jewel prospects.

Since then, Mr. Bjugstad has suffered injuries/concussions, had a couple good/great NHL seasons, but other disappointing ones. Also, while he was a hot ticket in an age when dinosaur-mentality teams like the Bruins ruled the Earth, when anything but the most egregious holding or stick fouls were considered ‘defensive hockey’, a 6'6" centre was a hot ticket, but in the ‘new NHL’, where skating relentlessly is the order of the day, maybe he’s not such a precious asset.

Jared McCann is also noteworthy, on his third team at 22 years old. His 19 year-old season, one year after being drafted, he could have been sent back down to his OHL team for a final junior season, as is common for any but the most talented players picked in the Top 10 or so of any draft, but the Canucks chose to hang on to him and play him in the NHL. Whispers were that he and fellow Canuck first-rounder Jake Virtanen both had issues surrounding their attitude and work habits and preparation, and the concern was that they might coast through a final year in Junior on their talent, that the organizations they were on in Junior might not be the best environment to progress, to ‘learn to be a pro’.

Whether that was successful is debatable, both didn’t have a great rookie year, were healthy scratches at some point, and the usually soft-spoken Daniel Sedin memorably made a sortie in the media against some members of his team’s complacency, about its work habits and effort during games being unacceptable, that most believe was intended at least in part for the rookies McCann and Virtanen. Jared McCann was dealt to the Panthers that off-season.

Derick Brassard is also a bit of an enigma, talented centre drafted 6th overall in 2006, he’s now on his fifth team in the NHL. When he landed in Ottawa, there was a bit of media focus on how circumstances had made it so he was traded out of Columbus and NYR, but he’d now landed at home, he was overjoyed to play in/across the river from his hometown. He didn’t last two full seasons as a Senator. This is the fourth time he’s been traded, although to be fair, the word out of the Columbus organization was that, as trade deadline rumours heat up and Mr. Brassard nears unrestricted free agency, they’d have him back on the Blue Jackets, which is usually a good sign.

Lindsey Vonn succumbs to accumulated injury, retires.

Lindsey Vonn has announced her retirement from World Cup skiing due to health/injury reasons.

The words ‘courage’ and ‘toughness’ and ‘guts’ are thrown around routinely in pro sports, but all those apply in spades to Lindsey Vonn and her co-competitors. The unbelievable speeds they generate on skis on seemingly vertical surfaces and slopes of ice has to be witnessed to be comprehended.

TV robs the viewer of that perception, cameras pan along with the skier and make it seem like they’re crawling sometimes. It isn’t easy to attend one of these events slopeside for the average fan, you normally have to ski to a viewing area where you can catch them mid-course, mid-flight really. If you get the chance though, it’s almost like a hallucination, they blow by you faster than a vehicle on a highway would, there’s almost a shockwave when they speed by.

I’ve ridden the Whistler and Lake Louise downhill courses, not while they’re properly closed and fenced, but as a succession of runs, and yeah, you’re dumping speed the whole way, scraping your edges, there’s no way you can carve more than three turns before you’re a hazard to others or yourself or the surrounding timber.

For those who don’t know, the way they prepare the courses nowadays is to turn the surface into ice, they literally douse the whole run with fire hoses, daily. Snow falls on top of that, they groom it to pack it down, and hose it down some more. Races get cancelled when it snows, due to, uh, too much snow, the ruts the first few racers generate make it impossible for the following competitors to ski safely. In 2010, the entire run(s) for the Olympic downhills were closed on Whistler from the start of the season to February, they just babied them and groomed them and hosed them down all winter long, it was glare ice ten feet deep.

I remember Rob Boyd in the mid-90s, when the Whistler downhill was being held in November, a time of year when B.C. is usually socked by storm systems from the Pacific, being interviewed after another race had been cancelled due to too much snow, and the course workers being unable to keep up. The TV host tried to make it into a tragedy, and Rob just grinned and said no, it was terrific, all that snow, for everyone who loves skiing and riding, he and his buddies were going to go up and play in the powder once he changed into his non-race gear.

Knowing all this, to return to ski racing after suffering a crash and debilitating injury and months of rehab is even more commendable. That Ms. Vonn did so repeatedly, and returned to her previous level of performance, is amazing.

Congratulations are in order for Ms. Vonn, and I wish her good luck in her post-racing career and endeavours.