Back in the Saddle

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It’s been a while.

As a summer filled with weddings, fishing, camping and a great deal of SFA is coming to an end, thoughts are once gain turning to hockey.

While I’ve been closely following the minutia of the summer transaction in the NHL, I’ve reached the general conclusion that not much will have changed when the 2016/17 season officially kicks off.

I think this is especially true when it comes to the Western Conference where it appears the powerhouse teams will remain just that while the pretenders have fiddled around the margins a bit but none, with a couple of exceptions, have taken the kind of steps to significantly enhance their chances of post season success.

That’s not to say that there are no curious situations that bear watching and, of course, there may still be a few moves between now and opening night but I think we are close enough to completion to get a read on how the WC teams stack up.

Anaheim

The Ducks’ biggest offseason acquisition was Randy Carlyle. My goodness. Carlyle was brought back to, reportedly, light a fire under the Ducks vets but whether or not that old school approach will work is certainly questionable.

As of this writing, the Ducks still haven’t sorted out their defense with Hampus Lindholm still unsigned and they don’t have room on the roster for blue-chippers Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour so something has to give there and, like most pundits, I expect Cam Fowler may find a new home before the season starts.

The Ducks also, curiously added Antoine Vermette to a centre group that includes Getzlaf, Kesler, Thompson and Rakell (when signed) when their most pressing need seems to be a scoring winger.

Arizona

This team is all about the future as fuzzy-cheeked GM John Chayka keeps adding to an already deep prospect pool.

That pool features a veritable CHL All Star team:

  • Max Domi
  • Dylan Strome
  • Anthony Duclair
  • Christian Dvorak
  • Jacob Chychrun
  • Lawson Crouse
  • Anthony DeAngelo
  • Brendan Perlini

Obviously, it’ll take a bit of time but that group is ridiculously strong but I can see the Coyotes taking a big step ahead this season especially since they added Alex Goligoski to help out Ekmann-Larsson on D.

 

Calgary

The Flames were my pick as the most successful team in the offseason.

They had some very well-defined needs and filled all of them.

Replacing Bob Hartley with a coach who emphasizes high-speed attack hockey will result in a much more dangerous Flames team.

But even more important is the acquisitions they made in goal with Brian Elliot who had the best save percentage in the league last season (minimum 40 games) and capable backup Chad Johnson.

The Flames were the 4th highest scoring team in the WC last season and, if they can cut GA from worst to even average, they will be a playoff team.

They added 20 goal scorer Troy Brower at no real cost and if draft pick Matthew Tkachuk makes the team out of camp (I think he will) they should be a higher scoring team.

Critics like to point out that the Flames D is weak after you past Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton and,on the surface, that is true but those critics tend to forget that the Flames have some pretty impressive prospects in Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson and Kenney Morrison bubbling under.

Obviously the Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid and Derek England contracts all represent obstacles but they will all be gone next offseason clearing up almost $12 million in cap space allowing the Flames to fill out their D with more useful players.

With their talent up front (once they sign Gaudreau) this is a team primed for a major move up the standings.

Chicago

Not much needs to be said about the Hawks and they weren’t busy in the offseason other than trying to stay under the cap but they should be better this season for one reason….Brian Campbell.

Campbell at $1.5 million is a huge steal for the Hawks and addresses their most glaring need for a team that has played with 3 NHL defensemen in the recent past.

Even at 37, Campbell remains an elite puck moving defenseman.

Colorado

If you’re looking for a team that could surprise this season, look no further. The deletion of Patrick Roy may have a huge impact on this team and, while their D is very questionable, they have enough talent up front to be competitive and lets remember they only missed the playoffs by 5 points last season. Replacing Roy should easily make up that gap.

Dallas

Old friend Woodguy bet me last week that the Dallas Stars, who won the WC title last season, would miss the playoffs.

I howled at that notion and even gave him 2-1 odds.

His reasoning I guess revolves around the changes Jim Nill has made to his D by letting Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski head elsewhere.

But let’s take a closer look.

Nill also added veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis who came back from injury last season to play very well for the Canucks.

With John Klingberg anchoring the top pairing and Stephen Johns emerging as a bona-fide second pairing ace, the Stars have the foundation for an exceptional young D on the RH side.

At the moment, Hamhuis joins Johnny Oduya, and Jordie Benn as a veteran presence but it’s the next wave that is remarkable.

  • Julius Honka
  • Esa Lindell
  • Jamie Oleksiak
  • Patrick Nemeth
  • Mattia Backman
  • Ludwig Bystrom

Every one of those players is very likely to have NHL careers which, when they join Klingberg and Johns in the next couple of seasons, will give the Stars the best young D in the league.

Honka is pretty much a Klingberg clone having scored 11G and 44P in the AHL last season and is likely ready for the NHL.

A right hand side of Klingberg, Honka and Johns is just ridiculous especially since Dallas has the LH vets to give them cover.

Esa Lindell is a huge LH defenseman who is also NHL ready after posting 14G and 42P in the AHL last season.

At 22 years of age and after playing against men in the AHL and the Finnish league for the past two seasons, he should have no problems easing his way into the NHL given that he’ll be sheltered by Hamhuis, Oduya and Benn.

No need say much about the best offence in the NHL except to say that the Stars, after getting break-out years from Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark in 15/16, added Jiri Hudler to an already ridiculously deep group of forwards.

Not to mention that Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore are reported ready for NHL duty.

Edmonton

We’ll conclude our look at half the WC teams with an assessment of the offseason work of the Oilers’ Peter Chiarelli.

Anyone who has been following this blog will know that I promoted, predicted and expected a Taylor Hall trade to finally get some help on defense.

Problem is, Adam Larsson is a woefully inadequate return for Hall.

Larson may be a top pairing D some day but he isn’t now and you don’t trade a player like Hall for hope. You just don’t.

I expect Hall contributed to his demise with the Oilers with his entitled attitude but the trade leaves the Oilers going into another season with a putative top pairing of Larsson and the perennially injured Oscar Klefbom who has only 107 NHL games on his resume.

Once again we are reminded that the Oilers organization approached their 10 year infinibuild ass backwards are only now addressing their D in a meaningful way.

They have a very nice group of young forwards but the loss of Hall mitigates that fact and the addition of Milan Lucic, while a good move, won’t replace Hall’s value to the team.

Obviously you can’t talk about the Oilers without mentioning Connor McDavid and, if he can remain healthy all year, the Oilers should be able to recover somewhat from the Hall trade.

But a McDavid, RNH, Klefbom or Cam Talbot injury will expose the Oilers’ lack of depth and have them out of the playoffs race by Halloween.

On his blog, Lowetide has released his “reasonable expectations” stating that the Oilers will end the season with a net neutral goal differential, finish 10th in the WC and 21 overall. (he predicted a positive goal differential 3 seasons ago)

In our next post, we’ll take a look at the other teams who will prevent those things from happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. Have to agree about Calgary. A better coach and any goalie who can survive through multiple years of Hitchcock’s mind game craziness has mental toughness. This guy has consistently put up very good numbers, but is always underrated. Depth is an issue, they don’t have any leeway in case of injury, but in a cap world, not many teams have it.

    I actually think that the Ducks could swan dive (duck dive?) this year. Bringing back a dictatorial, old school coach for a second go round doesn’t strike me as a positive move, but one of desperation. Add cap problems and you could see big issues.

    Arizona might have a bright future, but as for actual NHL ready players, yikes!

    I am not a Demers fan, I like defencemen that can actually defend, but losing both him and Goligoski
    is going to hurt. Enough to miss the playoffs? Not unless Klingberg gets injured for a long time, or some other catastrophic event. There are going to be some exciting nights, however, especially playing a team like Colorado, who are going to have a lot of last goal wins type games. I don’t think Colorado will win enough of them to be playing in late April.

    Chicago keeps dodging cap hell because players will sign for a significant discount. The depth is getting thinner every year and they look to be running thin on plug and play options. Their days as elite are getting shorter. The wheels could fall off of Campbell and Hossa at any time, but they probably have one more good shot.

    Edmonton’s situation is incredible. This many years into infibuild, and their only hope for a first pairing defenceman was a skating bandaid who can’t hold together for half a year. McTavish, Tambellini and Lowe made sure that Chiarelli would be forced to make a defenceman deal from a position of weakness. The trade tells me that I was correct, Taylor Hall is not a player who teams were yearning to add at any cost. A combination of position, a tactically immature game and dressing room issues meant that his value was not what it could have been. From my information, Chiarelli at least asked about every first pairing or emerging defenceman in the league (including Shea Weber) and Larsson was the best he could get. Even then, as Shero said, he didn’t have to trade Larrson. Hall was the only one that could have gotten him. Although Lucic doesn’t score like Hall, they got a vastly superior player, so in my opinion they came out ahead when you put the whole thing together. They will be better, but with the holes they still have, they are still just about as far from a good team as you can get.

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    1. The Hall’s comments are ridiculous, allow me to retort…..

      1st comment..
      – So Because a player plays LW they don’t have as perceived high a value? ok….

      2nd comment…

      – Dressing room issues!?! So who do you know inside the Oilers dressing room? ( myself, I know two people who are in that room) Let me get this right…………The Oilers thought so little of Hall that they let McDavid live and be mentored by a cancer in the room eh?

      3rd comment ( I haven’t even got to the best one yet)

      Couldn’t trade Hall eh?

      – Chiarelli had a deal done for P.K Subban and flip-flopped once he knew he could get J.P at the draft!

      Fact! Chiarelli nixed the deal that would have sent nothing but dead weight to the Habs in exchange for Subban, but chose to draft a player that has never played a game in the NHL and trade for a player that MAY have potential…

      How’s my aim so far? I’d say I’m dead on thus far…..There’s more!

      THE most insane comment of the night goes to…….

      Milan Lucic is a vastly superior player!!!!!!!!! This is so….. whats wrong with the Oilers…

      Hall was an elite driver 5×5, ( a top 5, 5×5 scorer in the NHL) Lucic is not….Full stop!!

      Hall, is the one player that didn’t have to play with McDavid to be successful, FACT… Hall could bring along a player like Draisaitl and carrying him around for a whole year…( Draisaitl is the one player I expect to fall like an anvil this season) without Hall, Draisaitl played like a chump.

      So, instead of having two lines that can drive the play, the Oilers are back to half of one line, why a half? because Milan Lucic will only be good for HALF his contract.

      Hall was/is a very good cap hit, Lucic is not…Full stop!!

      In two years you’ll be on here regurgitating how awful the cap and term are for a player who’s body has completely broke down. ( It will, and anything over 4 years for Lucic is/was insane.)

      It’s debatable how much better the Oilers will be, of course they have McDavid, but, should he get hurt then you have RNH and Draisaitl, while I have the time and day for RNH, i sure as hell don’t think Drasaitl can run a line by himself.

      With Hall the Oilers couldn’t score, take away Hall’s number and Draisaitl having an awful year, well….

      I don’t mind that Hall got traded, I fully expected two of the three in RNH-Eberle and Hall

      It’s the deals that pisses me off, Hall who is a superior player to Larsson, who, right out of Chiarelli cake hole, is not as good as Hall, but had the POTENTIAL to be a number one….

      Bottom line, this isn’t Hall’s fault, haters will hate, I get that, but haters laying the good ship Oilers at this guys feet is a waste of fucking breath……This kid came in and delivered on a shit team, with shit players, with bullshit management, shit coaches, shit scouts and shit drafting, most importantly, shit for brains leadership, and Hall had to watch it all while the Oilers fumble fucked there way around it all…….Frankly, I’m stunned he never asked for a trade.

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      1. Scoring wingers are a dime a dozen, especially when they aren’t outscoring their defensive lapses. Hall is a one way player and even then, his offensive creativity and 1 on1, 2 on 1 tactics are lousy. I don’t hate the player, but on a good day he might be the equivalent of Phil Kessel. In the words of a former pro who is now working as a skill development coach, “Hall is one dimensional.”
        The Subban narrative is revisionist history. The deal was contingent on Dubois being available and, in case you haven’t noticed, he wasn’t. A deal reportedly costing Klefbom and the first plus would not have been dead weight, so I would say that your aim is substantially less than perfect.
        As for dressing room issues, why don’t you check out what was said by the coaching staff about how he fit into the World Championship team locker room? You don’t label a guy based on a couple of stories, but when multiple people say the same thing without anyone refuting it (and yes, I have directly heard from a former Oiler who is still in the NHL) the reputation is not completely unfounded.
        As for the return, please tell me, what right shooting first pairing defencemen were available? You might notice that the Subban/ Weber deal was for each other. Which G.M. was willing to give one up for Hall? I have it on good authority that Chiarelli tried very hard to get Weber last year, but unless the return was named McDavid, there was no player or package that Poile would even consider.

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        1. Really? A dime a dozen for elite wingers? So Benn should be easy to get ya? How about Gaudreau or Couture…..

          Wingers get traded more than centres but elite players are in a class by themselves.

          No, Hall does out score his errors, this shit isn’t hard to look up bru!

          Kessle is a great player? What are you talking about man, that didn’t help your argument at all.

          Subban is not revision, it happened, the Oilers were trading Draisaitl, which you failed to mention, the pick, which was thought to be Dubois, Nurse and another pick for Subban and the Habs pick.
          Once the Oilers knew the Fin was available that’s when the deal went dead, truth be told the Oilers really wanted Sergachyov.
          The Oilers could have filled all the needs with Subban, PK, PP, 5×5 offence, instead TraderPete once he took J.P was left without his Dman.

          You mean the same coaching staff that said Hall was a great person in the room in Edmonton but a change had to happen based on need, that same coaching staff?
          Not one RHD was avalible, yet rumours abound of Eberle going to to Col or RNH going to the wild…

          Whatever, you’re a Hall hater, I get that, but you’re first statement was still just gibberish.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. 136 HALL, TAYLOR Edmonton F(LW ) 82 1,247.45 57 53 2.74 2.55 51.82 66 615 8.58 91.38 99.97 1,225 1,146 58.92 55.12 51.67 4.6 95.38 100.03
            from http://puckalytics.com/#/skaters

            Despite getting soft minutes for close to half the year because McDavid was getting the tough ones, (and why weren’t they together? Like I said and was crucified for on Lowetide last summer, there is only one puck.) Hall was on the ice for 4 more goals for than against. Yeah, sure, he pushes the river.

            Hall no.200, Lucic no. 3, (ranked by Corsi) +23. By the way Kessel was no. 98 and was +14.

            Where is the elite? The numbers are here. Or maybe you want to look at WOWY and explain why Eberle is better with Pouliot than Hall?

            Please show me how Hall is better than Kessel. I did not say that Kessel is a great player.

            Hall is a good player, but the market has spoken, and nobody was willing to give up an established legitimate 1st pairing defenceman for him. Unless of course you consider Dumba to be first pairing. Please remember, Nugent-Hopkins could not get Seth Jones, who is far from first pairing at this time.

            Hall admitted that the Devil’s management told him that they will work with him to develop his game. I hope it happens and if it does, my opinion of his value will go up.

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  2. Great comments.

    I’m not sure about the Ducks either but they have the talent to make the playoffs in any event.

    Agree completely on your assessment of where the Oilers are at.

    A key injury or two and there done before Christmas.

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  3. Well those first 2 BoA games were illustrative.
    Oilers better and Flames worse than predicted and a 4 point gap that could be dear in March.
    It’s a long season but the Lucic, Russel and Larsson acquisitions look effective.
    Calgary might be having their Eakins moment – strange and uninspired coaching so far.

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    1. That would appear to be a bit premature. I don’t think two games with a new coach and new systems give you a very good measure of a team.

      The Flames played much better in Vancouver last night although they lost the game in OT.

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