Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Thoughts (to be charitable) on the 2016 NHL Draft.

--Marc Bergevin sighting: there was incipient Panic Beard visible last night, but today, we can observe the protocol was interrupted. There is no alert level.  He is clean-shaven.

--A good point brought up by Marc Bergevin is that two years ago, the NHL forecast the salary cap for 2017 to be $78M, but it will in fact be $73M. It kind of puts decisions like the contracts the Blackhawks handed out, like P.K. Subban’s contract, in context. The Canucks’ Mike Gillis kept re-signing his vets, the guys that took him to the Cup final, to new deals, thinking/hoping the cap would keep rising and make them reasonable.

P.K.’s deal isn’t atrocious, it’s market level plus the Montréal surcharge, and is the newest of the top d-men, so it’s on the high side, definitely not a bargain, but we also have to take into account that his contract would have been thought to look better as time went by, like Carey Price’s, for example.

--Boy, TVA Sports is bad. On their scrawl, they are stating Jim Benning is under investigation for tampering, for stating he would contact the Lightning about Steven Stamkos, which is not what he said. It’s like they have a bunch of summer students running their broadcasts, but not the best students, those who spend their days at the pub.

For the record, Jim Benning said that he had contacted the Canadiens about P.K. Subban, and that he would call Steven Stamkos' agent after the draft.

--And they miked up Pierre-Luc Dubois, except they didn’t or can’t turn the mike off, and now everything he's saying as he’s finding his seat with his family, is interrupting the Pat Brisson interview they’re trying to conduct.

Thanks Gary, those guys are amazing partners! I feel very well served by this new TV deal.

--Pascal Laberge is listed as being from Châteauguay, but he has a nice meaty Lac St-Jean accent, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where he grew up.

--Switching over to Sportsnet, it's not a bad panel I have to admit. Mike Johnson, Damien Cox, Sam Consentino, and a requisite Talking Head.

I was afeared it would be Nick Kypreos and Doug McLean, with P.J. Stock off in the wings making booger jokes. So by dint of having low expectations, this is pretty good.

Always liked Damien Cox, from the “TSN The Reporters” days.

Mike Johnson is a good analyst, easy on the ears, liked him before when he was at TSN.

Sam Consentino knows his junior hockey, broadcasts games every week on Sportsnet. He malaprops with the best of them, but he’s not annoying or anything.

Requisite Talking Head is talking without tripping over his microphone, so that’s all we ask of him.

--And the Buffalo fans are doing their job.  Love it. Boo the Leafs, boo Gary Bettman back to the Stone Age, but cheer the kid getting drafted.

Well done, Buffalo.

And when will Gary give it up, or be told to give it up, and the NHL just hire a host, a representative to hand over the Stanley Cup, and to MC the Draft? Because now, it’s just embarrassing, it’s a guy who’s being stubborn, rather than stepping aside and letting things proceed without his presence interfering.

--It's announced we have traded for Andrew Shaw, in return for our #39 and #45 picks.  I think it's a relatively steep cost.

And we get another Blackhawk. Not sure if more smallish grit is what we needed.

We also send Lars Eller to the Capitals for a second-rounder in 2017 and in 2018.

Andrew Shaw will be an asset when the going gets tough, as opposed to Lars, who was amorphous when it started rocking and rolling. I’ll never forget him getting punched behind the net by a Bruin during the Winter Classic, getting dummied by Nazem Kadri.

I like that we picked up two seconds, and not this year, when the draft is thought to not be that deep.  It’s generally recognized that the second round is weak this year, and that the talent level plummets in the third round.

I wish we had used our two seconds to get back in the first round to catch a falling McLeod or Gauthier, but I guess Marc Bergevin found out that wasn’t going to fly today.

If anything, I’m sad for Lars’ wife, she was on 24CH last season, speaking eloquently about how she loved Montréal, how this was now their second home, with Copenhagen.

--Cue the outrage on social media, that Lars is a special player, who can play centre, he can play wing...

Hold on, let me get this straight… Now Lars can play wing? I thought that was only when Michel Therrien was torturing him that he played there?

--Critics are also hating this trade and wondering why it wasn't David Desharnais who was traded.  The simple explanation for me is that there was probably more of a market for Lars, while David is untradable I would think.

If we now accept that Lars will best serve as a third-line shutdown centre, we can see that players like Mike McCarron, Phillip Danault, Jacob de la Rose can all possibly assume this role.  Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn can also pitch in.

--First surprise: the Blue Jackets sidestep consensus #3-ranked prospect Jesse Puljujarvi to nab Pierre-Luc Dubois with their third-overall pick.

Okay, so all the talk about the Blue Jackets not being sold on Jesse Puljujarvi wasn’t all a smokeshow, then.

So we get a tall French-Canadian handsome kid with a trace of a French accent pro athlete in a college town? That boy is going to do some damage, he’ll be worn out for the actual games.

--One wag opines on Twitter, after the Oilers race to the podium to take Jesse Puljujarvi with their #4 pick, that even when they lose the lottery, they win the lottery.

--The Canucks are up.  I’d bet dollars to donuts they take Matt Tkachuk the Finnish d-man.

Funny how in the papers, on TSN 1040 Vancouver, focus has shifted from Pierre-Luc Dubois once the lottery was held, to right after the Memorial Cup, all the talk being about how to ensure to get the London Knight. But the last week or so it switched back to hoping the Oilers wouldn’t scoop out Pierre-Luc Dubois from under them.

In the end, Jim Benning got the defenceman he wanted all along.  Midway through the year, when it was thought the Canucks would draft somewhere in the middle of the first round, the Canucks GM had stated that it was time the Canucks picked up a defenceman to restock their farm system.

--Our turn up soon.  Will Arizona take Alex Nylander? Will Mikhail Sergachev slide past Buffalo? I fear not.

--So,  we get some fellow named Miguel Cigarshave?

Fudge I hate this pick. Dreaded it all day.

I kind of painted myself into a corner here. If they’d picked anybody else, I could have shrugged and said “Not my fault, I wanted so-and-so…”

Because I have absolutely no plausible deniability. I said “Book it” and everything, that’s a binding verbal contract, except written in ink, except in kilojewels on the internet.

So now I have to put up or shut up, here, kind of.

--When Craig Button was analyzing defencemen, he explained that Olli Juolevi was the safest bet, was the most solid in all areas, but that Mikhail Sergachev had the highest ceiling, the highest upside, and was more talented offensively.

I fell in love when reports of his size were being validated, that he was that big and that talented. When was the last time we picked a guy like this? Ryan McDonagh? Gilbert Delorme? Larry Robinson?

That he won the OHL trophy for best defencemen, as a rookie, and while adapting to a new team, country and language, was impressive to me. The way the coach described him, as really sociable, almost irrepressible, despite the broken English, was encouraging, endearing.

Then, he went to the Combine and showed that the size, strength, physicality was legit, and I thought we were losing him. He was too good I thought, the reports that he really charmed and impressed everyone with his stature, his personality and his communication skills, despite the language barrier, they were sinking any chance we get the kid.

So that we got our hands on my man-crush feels really, really good. I didn’t think we had a shot.

To re-cap, he’s a leftie d-man, but prefers playing on the right, so he’ll be flexible when injuries or roster considerations occur. He’s got a great slapshot, and an equally good wrist shot. His coach loves the cannon, but loves even more that he finds a way to get the shot on net. He can quarterback the PP, but also defend in his zone. He can reportedly get out of position to deliver a hit, but I don’t really mind that, don’t mind a mean streak.

So not a grand slam draft night, not over the moon with the trading away of the two second-rounders, but I feel this defencemen fills so many organizational needs that this is a great draft already.

--Let’s hope that Jake Bean doesn’t turn out to be the Erik Karlsson of this draft, and Mikhail Sergachev isn’t, correspondingly, the Colton Teubert.

--Julien Gauthier is a Nordique! The Hurricanes grab him at #21. I pre-emptively hate him already.

As long as he’s not a Bruin, Flyer or Senator, for now I’m okay with it.

Until Peter Karmanos is dragged away in handcuffs, and The Turning…

--Sportsnet showing a screencap of a Bruins-draftee Charlie McAvoy tweet from 2013:

“I hate the bruins so much”

Apparently, he’s from the New York area.

--Eff the Senators. I hope their Logan Brown is this year’s Hugh Jessiman.

--More Lars Eller anguish on social media:
“…people scorned him for not being a very good second-line center.”
Not at all. We scorned those who insisted he would be an offensive wizard and Top 6 centre if only Michel Therrien would just give him more ozone and release the Corset.

--Scouting report on Mikhail Sergachev:
McKeens: “His casualness is tough to take,” said one scout. “Sometimes he looks quite uninterested out there. Down the stretch, including the playoffs, with games on the line he would sometimes be asleep at the switch…leaving players alone in the slot to finish off games without so much as lifting a stick.”


--Interesting that the Canadiens are widely believed to have missed leadership, to have missed the dressing room contributions of players like Brandon Prust, Manny Malhotra, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Daniel Brière, etc., and now have added a gutsy, fiery, vocal player in Andrew Shaw.

Is this an indication from Marc Bergevin and his brain trust, from Michel Therrien and his coaches, that the Canadiens might have had too many choirboys, maybe too much character of the wrong kind? The milk-and-cookie set that Michel Therrien said not all players tend to be?

Also, and I’m asking the question here, not making a statement, but is it possible that Lars was a less-than-fiery type that the team wanted to remove from the equation? Maybe on a team with Ovie and Tom Wilson and Mike Richards and Bruce Orpiks and Justin Williams and Jay Beagle among others, he’s a better complement?

Here’s a cool Andrew Shaw anecdote:
“(Brian Burke) said they start every year’s scouting meetings discussing mistakes that they have made.
The specific example he cited was Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, who wasn’t drafted until the fifth round of his final draft-eligible season, yet has played an important role for the Blackhawks over the past couple seasons.
Burke said what stood out in their evaluation was that Shaw was too small, with the problem being that, “He doesn’t realize he’s too small.”

--Lots of discussion on Andrew Shaw, and how his contributions are more crucial, more valuable on a team that already has leaders like Jonathan Toews or Duncan Keith who "can actually play".

Our leadership corps is constructed in an unconventional manner. Our veteran leaders all left by various means, leaving our ‘young veterans’ to pick up the slack.

Andrei Markov, the eldest, is also the most economical with speeches and backslaps. He leads by example mostly, grimaces a lot. Was going through off-ice turmoil, with the very public breakup, on social media, with his former girlfriend, and the new relationship with his suddenly pregnant girlfriend.

Tomas Plekanec, the next Assistant in seniority, is also the silent type. Has a wry, cutting sense of humour. When he asked P.K. if he’d made the Canadian Olympic Team for Sochi and P.K. replied in the affirmative, Tomas said “Good. For us.” Meaning Team Czech. So not also the best team cheerleader, and he also underwent turmoil in his private life, being subjected to divorce proceedings, reportedly.

Max Pacioretty came in for his first season as Captain limping from his off-season tibial plateau fracture, which derailed his conditioning program, slowed him down the entire season.

P.K. Subban had a difficult season on the ice, and off as well, with reports of dissension within the team, in the dressing, much of it centred around P.K. and his outsized personality. He may have jumped his traces, maybe wasn’t pulling in the same direction as everyone else.

The most junior Assistant, Brendan Gallagher, had two long-term injuries that stopped him in his tracks, while he seemed as if he could have had a career year. Kind of hard for the junior guy to assert his leadership while idle.

And finally, as we were reminded, Carey Price is an essential part of this leadership corps, even though he doesn’t wear a letter. He also was absent due to injuries, for most of the year.

So it’s not like this was the optimal conditions, in hindsight, to shed guys like Manny Malhotra and Brandon Prust. Youngish vets like Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn have more muted personalities, and are relatively new to the team to boot.

To some degree, the same can be said for Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry, they’re both more laid back. Injuries played a role here too. And Alexei Emelin, if he leads at all, does so on the ice, by example. He seems like a nice enough guy, but the language barrier will always be a hindrance.

So two of the ‘official’ leaders are quiet, saturnine types, three were wracked by injuries, and one had a growing pains-filled season.

Yeah, it would be great if they “could play”, like Jonathan Toews or Sidney Crosby can, but I’d have settled for merely playing, especially in their first season taking over the reins.

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