A monumental Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals probably downplays this connection for many,* but I still hold the striking feeling that the Chicago Blackhawks (in Game 3) and Miami Heat (in Game 5) were just flat-out, dog-tired.
Of course, it’s quite possible that I was merely projecting my own fatigue while watching Jonathan Toews and Dwyane Wade labor through some high-level competition.
It’s true that this abbreviated NHL season has been more of a sprint than a marathon, but there have been times when it almost feels like an endless set of Herbies. There haven’t been many moments to splash some water on your face and smell the roses.
It’s also clear that the next big race (aka the 2013-14 season) isn’t even waiting until the end of 2013’s final test of endurance to bend for it starts to get revved up.
Really, at this point, your playoff pool situation is likely either cemented or hinging on performances by guys who are already on your roster. So rather than belaboring the point by trying to explain things like why the Chicago Blackhawks power play is so putrid - my guess is that it’s at least partially because they’ve run into great penalty kill units and are facing suffocating playoff defense - it might be better to focus on the array of big news involving the NHL’s other 28 teams.
(If you’re hurting for some 2013 Stanley Cup Final action, don’t worry; there is some discussion of the series in the quick hits section.)
JONESING FOR A SURPRISE
Usually, “Team A shops around high-end draft pick” stories are meant just to kick the tires or throw other teams off their paths. The same goes for “Team A doesn’t actually want to draft Consensus high-end draft pick in his expected spot” stories.
Still, the Denver Post ran a rather suggestive story about newly minted Colorado Avalanche exec Joe Sakic leaning more toward one of the appealing forward prospects rather than potential defensive bedrock Seth Jones with the No. 1 pick.
After initially dismissing the idea, the time came to consider the possibility of the Avs opting for Nathan MacKinnon instead.
BEST LOGIC AVAILABLE
The obvious criticism is that Colorado already has some promising forwards; some would say that’s just about the Avalanche’s only strength. (I think Semyon Varlamov could still turn out to be a respectable No. 1 goalie, but admit that notion took a few more dents this season.)
Still, when you have the first overall pick, isn’t it best to pick the guy you truly believe is the best player available? I mean, there are six more rounds to address your “biggest needs.”
Let’s not forget that a lot can happen this summer, let alone in the time it takes for an 18-year-old player to blossom into a star or something close to that.
Ryan O’Reilly could be traded once the CBA allows it. The team might decide that it cannot stomach Paul Stastny's iffy bang-for-the-buck. Gabriel Landeskog could suffer another worrisome concussion.
The worst thing you can do is panic about having too many centers. The Boston Bruins roster is positively brimming with pivots … and they’re two wins from a second Stanley Cup victory in three seasons. The San Jose Sharks are basically a center factory and they’re one of the league’s most consistent winners. Plenty of would-be centers have done quite alright as wingers, which really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.
If the Avalanche’s brain trust** sees a significant talent gulf between Jones and MacKinnon (or another of the top forwards), then why shouldn’t they go with the best choice instead of the most conventional one?
For a Mock Draft with much deeper analysis of the 2013 NHL Draft’s hot prospects, click here.
FLYING LIKE ICARUS
Of course, bold moves aren’t always smart ones.
If you need a perfect example, look to Philadelphia, where Flyers GM Paul Holmgren seems like he’s trying to make a seven-layer dip of mistakes. There’s almost a charm to his disregard for the past (otherwise known as a history of severe blunders during the offseason).
To catch you up to speed, it appears that the Flyers are going to buy out Daniel Briere and possibly Ilya Bryzgalov. In a vacuum, that seems wise; the team is using two CBA-fueled mulligans to sweep trashy moves under the rug.
That’s just to open up room in the fridge for ready-to-spill milk, though, as Holmgren is set to hand a hefty contract to 35-year-old defenseman Mark Streit.
While I think Streit has something to offer, his deal will be a 35+ contract with a no-trade clause. In other words, they basically handed out Chris Pronger’s pact to another (lesser) blueliner.
Unless you’re an Avalanche or Flyers fan, you should appreciate the Sakics and Holmgrens of the GM world. How dull would the NHL be if people made measured and wise decisions all the time? Sometimes it’s fun to watch other peoples’ money burn, after all.
Fantasy-wise, the biggest things to note are a) Streit could see a nice boost as a go-to guy on an offense that should still be dangerous and b) that offense will probably need to be really strong because Steve Mason might be the No. 1 goalie in Philly.
Admit it: you’re going to miss the Holmgren Era, too.
Jump for contract extensions and quick hits.
* OK, OK … I’ll admit it: I ran errands on Tuesday. Hey, hockey playoffs are demanding … W-what? (lowers head and hands in sports fan certificate)
** - I know what you’re going to say, and you’re right: “Not that the Colorado’s brain trust should be trusted …”
Hey, not every move/rumored possible decision was baffling and/or hilarious. Some of the big news involves some of the league’s brighter teams locking up some of the NHL’s best players. (Keep in mind that, for CBA reasons, some of these deals might not technically be official.)
Evgeni Malkin - eight years, $76 million - Sure, the numbers made me flinch a bit, but that’s the price of doing business in big-time sports. Malkin turns 27 on July 31, so he’ll be 28 when that next deal kicks in. The Penguins might stomach a few past-peak years, but if Malkin can avoid injuries, you can list almost any Malkin concern under “good problems to have.”
Pavel Datsyuk - three years, $22.5 million - When I heard that Pavel Datsyuk was on the verge of signing a “multi-year contract,” I was a little concerned. Even a player as near-perfect as Datsyuk is a worrisome risk when you throw a 35+ contract in the mix.
Three years is about as close to a perfect compromise as you can get between risk and reward, though. This deal means that Datsyuk will be with the Detroit Red Wings for four more years, which is news that’s almost as good news for hockey fans/fantasy owners as it is for Red Wings devotees.
Logan Couture - five years, $30 million - This might be my favorite of this triumphant trio of re-ups. At 24 years old now, the contract covers his peak years at an appealing $6 million annual clip. The salary structure of this team is set up so that they can “reload” after 2013-14 is over if they feel it’s right; Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle have one-year left on their respective deals.
(Really, that might be a reason to wager on the team in Vegas if the odds are right and you’re into that sort of thing …)
All signs point to Marian Hossa playing in Game 4 on Wednesday, but if his scratch provides any lesson, it’s stay tuned to last-minute updates. Though, at this point, you’re unlikely to have many guys on your bench anyway … Word is that the Flyers are talking to the Ducks about Bobby Ryan, again. He has four 30+ goal seasons to his name at 26 and a reasonable $5.1 million. What’s not to like? Does he have to be better than Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to end the murmurs? … Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Toews have combined for one goal in 39 playoff games. That’s ridiculous and unfair, no matter how you slice it … Considering all the attention Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and even Patrice Bergeron are getting, it’s quite possible David Krejci might top playoff scoring twice, win two Stanley Cups and remain without a Conn Smythe Trophy. Not saying voters would be wrong, but it’s a weird possibility anyway … Defense-smothered playoff games (and really a stop-and-go regular season) make me daydream about what a guy like Patrick Kane could have done when obstruction wasn’t ignored. I’m stunned that more people don’t marvel at his many moments of magic.