(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
8 – Jeremy Roenick
Nice to occasionally be reminded that nothing will ever be less surprising than Jeremy Roenick, who has as many Cups as I do, being a MAGA CHUD.
You can always count on this guy for the worst opinions on everything. Why should a BLM protest be any different?
7 – Remember that time Gretzky got traded?
Yes. Can we please not talk about it literally every Aug. 9? I know this year’s anniversary was a big one: ….. 29?
Good lord, get over it.
6 – The passage of time
The idea that Sidney Crosby is somehow already 30 years old is, to me, repugnant.
I understand this is how time and aging works, but it really does seem like just yesterday he came into the league, right? Part of the issue is that he had a few lost seasons in his mid-20s — these were his primest-of-prime years, and based on the blistering pace at which he was scoring, the lost games probably shaved between 170 and 190 points off his career total. Imagine if he’d hit 1,000 career points two-plus years before he did?
But man, the idea that we’re now much closer to the end of Sidney Crosby’s career than the start of it is a bummer. It’s great he’s getting all the recognition that comes with winning two straight Cups, but it’s weird to think about: When we talk about “players on the wrong side of 30” that now includes the player who has been the best in the league almost since he came into it 12 years ago.
Hell, I’ve been writing on a regular basis about guys being too old to play in the league any more since forever, and they’re starting to be younger than me.
Davos Seaworth was right about time, I gotta tell ya. I hope Crosby plays until he’s 40 just so I don’t have to really, truly face my own mortality for another decade.
5 – Stanley Cup odds
Earlier this week we got more Stanley Cup odds, via Westgate. No surprise here, but the Penguins led the way at 6:1 favorites. Right behind them? The Oilers at 9:1. Not sure I get that one.
Then things got weird in a hurry: Tampa, Washington, Chicago, and Minnesota were 12:1. Do any of those make a lot of sense to you? Tampa maybe, but Washington and Chicago are bound for a good-sized step back, and Minnesota, well, let’s see them win one playoff round before we say they’re tied for third (even if I like their summer).
Toronto and Nashville are next at 14:1, which I buy on both counts. I think this might actually be a little pessimistic, in fact. But tied with them are Anaheim and Dallas, which I’m gonna pass on.
The Habs and Rangers are next, at 16:1, which I guess feels right. Then San Jose and Los Angeles come in at 20:1.
While I won’t go through the whole list, I will say this: If those are the 14 teams with the highest point totals in the league next year — not necessarily in that order, obviously — that feels just about right.
After that, the odds get a little wonky. The Blues and Flames have the same odds? The Panthers’ odds are better than all the Metro teams not listed above? Yeah, okay.
4 – Ranking the wings
Speaking of rankings, and since we’re in August, why not: Let’s make fun of the NHL Network’s latest list of player rankings.
This time they did all wingers, 1-20, and the list was, well… it was better than last week’s goalie list.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 14, 2017
Tough to argue with Patrick Kane at No. 1. Vladimir Tarasenko seems a bit low at No. 4. Joe Pavelski got the kind of “he’s a center who plays wing” love that Leon Draisaitl inexplicably did not, and anyway he’s not the seventh-best winger in the sport. Not sure how you keep Filip Forsberg at just 14. Taylor Hall’s entirely too low as well.
The thing that got people really upset, for some reason, was the idea that Brad Marchand, coming off his second straight season of more than 37 goals and being an elite possession player for half a decade at this point, is somehow better than Jamie Benn. I not only see the argument, but I 100 percent agree with it.
Once Marchand started getting power play time in Boston two years ago — something Benn has always enjoyed in Dallas — his production took off. Weird how that works out. Obviously, the argument in Benn’s favor is that he has 324 points in his last 324 regular-season games, including winning a scoring title in 2014-15. Tough to argue with that kind of production over a four-year period, during which time Marchand is well below a point a game.
But I think if you look carefully at the list, you can see they probably looked at the last three seasons total but weighted the most recent one more heavily, which is fair enough. And in that season, ah look, Marchand had 13 more goals and 16 more points than did Benn. Add in the huge CF% impact Marchand had for his club, and has had for years and years, and it’s no surprise why they put him ahead of Benn.
(And before you start saying, “Well anyone can look good playing with Patrice Bergeron!” you’ll have to guess who Benn’s most common teammate was this season. I’ll give you a hint: It was perennial NHL All-Star Tyler Seguin.)
Anyway, Marchand is absolutely a top-three or four winger in the world at this point. Anyone arguing otherwise is still mad about low-bridges from five years ago.
And while we’re on the subject of Bruins first-liners…
3 – Not-trading David Pastrnak
Here’s the thing about that “The Bruins’ negotiations with David Pastrnak are going sideways and they might trade him” rumor: That always seemed very unlikely. Former agents who post that kind of thing, well, it always strikes me as being a rumor started on the player’s side. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s all leveraging and politics and so on.
Now, with that having been said, here’s the other thing about that “The Bruins’ negotiations with David Pastrnak are going sideways and they might trade him” rumor: For no other franchise in the league would such a rumor be remotely believable. But this is the Bruins we’re talking about.
In chronological order:
In 2005, they traded Joe Thornton, when he was 26.
In 2007, they traded Kris Versteeg, when he was 21.
In 2009, they traded Phil Kessel when he was 22.
In 2011, they traded Blake Wheeler, when he was 23.
In 2013, they traded Tyler Seguin, when he was 21.
In 2015, they traded Dougie Hamilton, when he was 21.
Man, that’s a lot of star players (plus Versteeg, who’s been a useful depth piece forever), almost all traded for negative value during or before their primes, all in consecutive odd-numbered years — fun coincidence — for a decade-plus. And of those trades, only Thornton’s and Wheeler’s were mid-season.
So it’s an odd-numbered year again, and they have a 21-year-old star-in-the-making (he had 70 points last season, people forget that). Then a rumor crops up that he might get traded? You might still take that with a grain of salt, but it’d have to be an awful large grain. Just because, man, look at that track record.
Turns out, it wasn’t in the Bruins’ plans. Or at least, that’s what Don Sweeney said when asked about it. Of course, they might have said the same thing about Hamilton. Or Seguin. Or Wheeler. Or Kessel.
2 – The KHL
Big week for the KHL in signing a bunch of, ahem, NHLers. Okay, the fact that they’re gonna hold on to wild uber-prospect Kirill Kaprizov for another three years is good for them because it seems like Kaprizov is a player.
But these other guys: Marek Mazanec! Dwight King! Maybe Brandon Prust!
This is what we’re gonna see in the Olympics. These are top-six forwards and starting goalies without the NHL. Ah jeez.
1 – PHIL!
No one in this sport has ever deserved happiness as much as Phil Kessel, a cancer survivor who spent years being constantly derided by a bunch of know-nothing dumbasses because he was the best player on a bad team, but who has since won two straight Stanley Cups being the fourth-best player on a very good team.
Let us hope the hot dog thing, which was maybe the lowest, most cowardly — and factually inaccurate! — attack on his character and work ethic of his tenure in Toronto, never goes away in his mind. I hope he has pictures of hot dogs taped up in his locker and around his home, to remind him always that the bastards want to grind you down.
Laugh and be happy, Phil!
Meanwhile, Steve Simmons was able to soldier through a crybaby radio appearance about it despite his current status as a huge corn cob.
(Not ranked this week: Not signing Jagr.
Here’s an idea I can cotton to: Jagr doesn’t sign with an NHL team right away. Slums it in Europe for a few months. Plays in the Olympics. Signs a pro-rated deal after the Olympics and helps some contender as what is effectively a deadline pickup. Wins a Cup. Refuses to retire.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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