The Countdown is a quick look at some of the big stories in hockey in the last week. This time, we look at that insane-o Melnyk video, Steve Goodbyzerman (working on the copyright now), a Bruins trade, future labor strife, and so on!
8. Ottawa still, somehow
You know you have put together a good video when your social media team blasts it out at like 10:30 on a Monday night.
I could use a lot of words to describe the Eugene Melnyk/Mark Borowiecki joint that ran on the Senators’ Twitter page this week but the one I’ve seen most often is “bizarre,” and that really works for me. Yeah, Melnyk is wearing a jersey that could be more than a decade old, and not one of the Adidas ones that are now entering their second season. Yeah, he tells Borowiecki that the team is in the dumpster within 45 seconds of the video starting. This is all very funny, to me.
What’s being talked about less, and which is significantly more incredible to me, is that Melnyk told Borowiecki that the team plans to use 10 rookies this year — TTTTTEEEEEEENNNNNNNNN — just days before the team starts training camp. This is incredible because the Senators likely don’t have 10 guys in their farm system who can be legitimate NHLers. Like, it doesn’t seem physically possible to roster that many young guys, even if you can find a way to get your veteran roster down to just a baker’s dozen.
Okay, Erik Karlsson is getting traded before the season starts, we can all agree on that. Maybe the team also finds a way to offload Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, Matt Duchene, and perhaps even Craig Anderson at some point as well. Even if you don’t get a single NHL-level player back for it, which seems impossible, that still leaves you with like three or four vets you have to get rid of. This is a ludicrous claim on its face.
And then like two seconds later, Melnyk doubles down on that: The team will roster 15 or even 16 kids next year. To be fair, they only have 11 guys signed for next season, and at least two of them (Ryan and Anderson) are trade bait right now, so that’s conceivable. But can you even imagine what an NHL team of 15 or 16 first- and second-year players, plus veterans like Marian Gaborik and Mark Borowiecki actually looks like? They’d be lucky to win 20 games. I’m not kidding.
This is the worst franchise in professional sports. Maybe ever. I don’t know how they keep topping themselves but apparently they also gave Shawn Simpson from TSN radio a five-hour interview for the assistant GM job, so perhaps all things are possible.
7. Unsigned RFAs
This is something I’ve checked in on periodically over the summer, but here we are on Sept. 12 — camps officially open today baby!!!! — and there are still eight unsigned RFAs who need contracts.
Some quick updates I’ve seen in the past few days: Darnell Nurse is apparently far apart with the Oilers on what’s a good contract for him (could be trouble). Willy Nylander might show up to camp without a contract and continue playing in good faith (yikes!). The Sabres want something “fair” from Sam Reinhart (bad news for the player). Vegas is acting like Shea Theodore is being unreasonable (also not good for the player).
You all have cap space. Let’s get these fellas signed! No big deal!
6. Hockey culture
I touched on it a little bit in WWL this week but the Josh Ho-Sang thing still annoys me, as does the “Believe me dude, no NFL player could EVER play in the NHL” nonsense that came out last week from a bunch of humorless, dumb scolds.
People in this sport always cry about “no one pays attention to us” and then the second someone does, it’s “[expletive] you! You have no right to talk about us!” If the NHL was even 10 percent more fun, maybe they’d show one highlight on SportsCenter. But this is an impossibility under the current system because only rich white people who embody the “eff-you, got mine” attitude are allowed to have opinions about it without being vehemently shushed.
Simply put: We gotta stop old white guys who “played the game” from running this sport. Not sure how we do it but email me and we’ll work on a plan.
5. Counting on the Caps
I’ve seen so much stuff in the past couple of weeks about “The Caps could have a big year again! They might repeat.” Are we forgetting that like, as of the end of the regular season, we all thought they kinda sucked? Then they went out and made literally zero improvements to their roster this summer, and in fact canceled out the one they made (addition-by-subtraction with Brooks Orpik) and re-signed the guy!
The Caps needed absolutely everything to go right in the playoffs after getting a HUGE shooting-percentage season that papered over Braden Holtby playing in a toilet for six months. Think that happens again? I mean, it could because there’s a lot of talent there, but I’m not holding my breath either.
4. The Lightning?
So Steve Yzerman stepped down as GM yesterday, kind of unexpectedly. People tweeted after the fact that they’d heard it might happen but that’s one of those things that’s easy to say in hindsight if you want to seem really plugged in.
“I’d heard rumblings Montreal was gonna trade Max Pacioretty for a middle-six forward and a good prospect who’s by no means a sure thing, I just couldn’t report it.”
Anyway, Julien BriseBois is the new GM and I don’t expect Tampa to miss a beat because everyone has been saying for years that he’s miles beyond competent. Why he didn’t get a job before this is for someone else to figure out, but he’s got one now and with a Cup contender. Not bad, because one of his first moves will probably be trading Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, and a brand new Adidas Senators jersey from NHL.com for Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan, both of whom have 80 percent salary retained somehow.
The Bolts will be fine. Yzerman has left them in a pretty good position to win for the next six or seven years at least. Must be nice, eh Julien?
As for Yzerman, well, he’s gonna stay on as a “senior advisor” to the club while living in Michigan (and spending more time with his family). Once his contract ends next summer, he’ll assuredly put on his waders and stand waist-deep in whatever mess Ken Holland leaves for him. Not the best career or life decision to leave Tampa, where he managed the Lightning, to move to Detroit and manage the Red Wings, but you gotta do you.
3. The Bruins
To go from having Adam McQuaid at $2.75 million being your eighth-best defenseman (and someone you probably can’t demote) to having Steve Kampfer at $650,000 in that same position (and being able to send him to Providence so fast McQuaid’s head will still spin) is a pretty good day-before-camp move.
Now if only they could find a buyer for Kevan Miller…
2. The owners, baby!!!!
We’re about a year out from someone being able to end the current CBA and media people are already starting to make noise like, “Well if there’s a work stoppage, it’s probably gonna be the players’ fault because the owners are pretty happy right now.” Pretty gross, but people always have to carry water to keep the sources happy.
Yeah, no kidding they’re happy. They’ve won huge concessions the last THREE lockouts. Players are gonna be looking to get back like a quarter of the money they give up in escrow (which, like, if you’re a guy who makes $3.5 million, that’s not how much you actually make) and maybe more flexibility around going to the Olympics.
There’s basically no chance the players strike but just like when people say to small business owners, “Do you think you could pay us something even remotely resembling a living wage?” and those brave Entrepreneurs prostrate themselves screaming “I’M A JOB CREATOR AND YOU WANT TO KILL OPPORUNTITY” through the rolled-up tinted windows of their $95,000 SUVs, owners will throw a huge temper tantrum and have another lockout.
But this time it’ll be the players’ fault because, just like every big corporation in America was happy with last year’s tax reform, hey look, the owners are happy with the system in place now. Because it heavily heavily heavily favors their interests.
Something I didn’t get a chance to talk about in Monday’s Habs/Knights take, because it wasn’t germane to what I actually wanted to talk about, is how good this Pacioretty deal was for Vegas.
They offloaded an overpaid guy (for whom they overpaid in trade, to be fair) and got an elite left wing for the cost of a prospect and a pick. As I said above, Nick Suzuki seems like he’s going to be good, but he’s probably not going to be Pacioretty-level prolific and there are plenty of question marks.
This is the sign of a team making moves because it knows it can be competitive, especially in that division. Let’s put it this way: The Golden Knights now have a second line of Pacioretty – Stastny – Tuch for the next four years at a relatively low price point (less than $11.5 million next season, then $13.5 million plus whatever Tuch re-signs for after that). And that’s behind an elite top line that somehow costs only $15.25 million next season.
That Pacioretty extension, by the way, was a just-right amount of money and a shockingly reasonable number of years. To avoid going five-plus with a guy who’s gonna be just a few months from being 30 when that deal kicks in was just fantastic for the club.
I still have plenty of questions about that forward depth and defense overall, but this is an unequivocal win for George McPhee. He not only replaced James Neal and David Perron, he improved on both of them without breaking the bank.
(Not ranked this week: Nothing.
Camps open, people are en route to China already, hockey’s back. I love it and you!!!!)
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(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)