Trader Jim

 

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What an astounding performance last night from the Dallas Stars.

The Minnesota Wild lulled the Stars to sleep and took a 3-0 lead early in the 2nd period before the Stars collectively said “that’s enough of this shit”.

After being outshot 9-7 in the 1st period, the Stars amped it up and out shot Minnesota 35-15 in the final 2 periods and wound up winning the game 4-3 in OT.

Only a stout performance from Wild goalie Darcy Kemper kept this one close.


 

In response to a reader’s comment last night, I thought I would expand on the amazing work of Dallas GM Nill.

We’ll let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting but as impressive as what follows has been…there’s much more to the story that we’ll get to afterward.

 

In April 2013, he was hired as GM of the Dallas Stars. Nill immediately made several major transactions starting with trading a 6th round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to the Ottawa Senators for DefensemenSergei Gonchar and signed him a 2-year, $10-million dollar contract.[1] On July 4, 2013 in a blockbuster trade, Nill sent 2011 NHL All-StarLoui Eriksson and prospects Joe MorrowReilly Smith, and Matt Fraser to the Boston Bruins in exchange for the former 2nd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry DraftTyler Seguin as well as Rich Peverley and Ryan Button.[2] On the same day he traded prospect Philip Larsen and a 7th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for their captain Shawn Horcoff.[3]

On July 1, 2014, Nill traded for Ottawa Senators center and captain, Jason Spezza and right winger Ludwig Karlsson for Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill, and a 2nd round pick in the 2015 NHL draft. On the same day, he also signed unrestricted free agent forward, Ales Hemsky to a 3 year, $12 million contract.[4]

On July 10, 2015, Nill traded for forward Patrick Sharp and defensive prospect Stephen Johns from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt.[5] On July 15, 2015, Nill signed unrestricted free agent defenseman, Johnny Oduya to a 2 year $7.5 million contract.[6]

Nill’s unique ability to pull off the blockbuster trade has been attributed to a Jedi-like wiggle of his trademark mustache, nicknamed “Monty.”

Yes, a few blockbusters in there and I think the only mis-step was Hemsky’s 3 year deal but there is also a back story that is often missed.

You may have noticed the name Stephen Johns in the trade for Sharp and that’s only one example of Nill dealing with the present and future at the same time.

John’s was a 2nd round pick of the Blackhawks and is currently playing in the AHL.

He’s joined in Texas by Mattias Backman, a promising defenseman that Nill drafted in the 5th round while with Detroit and whom he got for virtually nothing when he traded UFA Erik Cole for Backman and Mattias Janmark who is currently playing more than 13 minutes a night on the Stars’ 3rd line.

More on that trade and the players involved from Defending Big D.

As you can see, Nill managed to move a player who is now out of hockey for a blue chip defensive prospect and yet another centre.

So, not only has Nill given lie to the notion that you can’t acquire elite centres except through the draft but he’s also built Dallas’ defensive depth from awful to among the best in the league in what amounts to only two seasons of work.

Take a peek.

John Klingberg (5th round 2010)

Alex Goligoski (very good#2 D inherited by Nill)

Jason Demers (Nill acquired in a trade with San Jose)

Johnny Oduya (signed as a free agent by Nill)

Jordie Benn (inherited by Nill)

Jyrki Jokipakka (7th round 2011)

Patrick Nemeth (2nd round 2010)

Jamie Oleksiak (1st round 2011)

Those are  the 8 defensemen Dallas has carried this season not wanting to lose any of them to waivers although, at some point, I expect Nill will deal from a position of extreme strength and make a another trade.

But, as alluded to earlier, it doesn’t stop there.

These D are warming up in the bullpen in the AHL and appear to have a solid NHL future:

Stephen Johns (trade)

Esa Lindell (trade)

Mattias Backman (trade)

Julius Honka (1st round 2014)

Ludwig Bystrom (2nd round 2012)

That depth is just ridiculous and, while Nill certainly can’t claim credit for all of them, he now has so many bullets in his chamber he’s set himself up for many years.

When we examine Nill’s draft history, we have to remember that he was “The Man” in Detroit as well as the GM of the Wings’ AHL team before moving to Dallas….or, in other words, the man mainly responsible for “the Detroit Model”.

Since his first draft in 2013 with Texas Nill has picked the following players in the first 2 rounds.

2013 

Valeri Nichsuhkin 109GP

Jason Dickinson 15P in 20GP AHL rookie

Remi Elle 6P in 11GP AHL rookie

2014

Julius Honka 40P in 87GP in AHL

Brett Pollock 31P in 28GP Edmonton WHL

2015

Denis Guryanov playing in the Russian junior League (an odd pick)

Roope Hintz playing in the Finnish SM Liga.

I admit I have to wonder about those 2015 picks but Nill has a long track record of discovering NHL players in Europe so at this point I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

To summarize, Nill had some pretty nice pieces to work with when he took over the Stars (Jamie and Jordy Benn, Klingberg on the way, Goligoski etc.) but he immediately got to work and acquired the pieces needed to win all while stock piling his prospect depth.

To be able to acquire Seguin, Spezza, Sharp and Oduya, Demers and all that D depth without losing anything of consequence is just remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

Ranking the Rebuilds #3…The New York Islanders.

New York Islanders' John Tavares reacts after scoring the winning goal during the overtime period of Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Washington Capitals Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders defeated the Capitals 2-1. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Islanders’ John Tavares reacts after scoring the winning goal during the overtime period of Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Washington Capitals Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders defeated the Capitals 2-1. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

For more than a few seasons, Garth Snow was mocked as one of the worst General Managers in hockey.

I have to say that much of that mockery came from fans of the Edmonton Oilers who have become very familiar with incompetent management through the tenures of Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig McTavish but we’ll get to that later in this series.

The Snow era began in an odd way back in 2006 when oddball owner Charles Wang promoted Snow immediately upon his retirement as the Isles goaltender.

From Wikipedia:

On July 18, 2006, Snow officially confirmed his retirement and was named general manager of the New York Islanders following Neil Smith‘s dismissal after 41 days on the job.[2] There was much criticism directed the Islanders way for firing a Stanley Cup-winning GM after such a short tenure in favor of Snow, who at the time of his hiring held no experience in management.

Defenders of the organization pointed to Snow’s Master’s Degree in Administration and Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Maine.[3]

In Snow’s first season as GM, he earned praise for making moves to open up space under the salary cap and using the space to trade for Marc-André BergeronRichard Zedník and Ryan Smyth. Snow was named NHL Executive of the Year for 2006–07 by Sports Illustrated.[4] Snow also received a great deal of praise from commenters on XM Radio[5] and other reports for his organization’s picks in the 2008 and 2009 entry drafts. In 2012, Snow reportedly offered all seven of the Islanders’ draft picks – one in each round, including the fourth overall – to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for the second overall pick. Columbus GM Scott Howson turned down the trade offer, and the Islanders ended up picking defenceman Griffin Reinhart at number four.[6]

Snow took over a team that had missed the playoffs the previous season with a 36-40-6 record and, while the Islanders would squeak into the playoffs the following season (when Snow acquired Ryan Smyth from the Oilers), they would go to miss the post season in the subsequent 5 seasons.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when (or if) the Islanders embarked on a full on rebuild but they hit rock bottom in the 2008-09 season when they finished dead least in the NHL with 62 points so, for our purposes we’ll use that as a starting point as to when Snow started returning his team to respectability.

Following that dismal season, the Islanders were “rewarded” at the NHL draft when they picked cornerstone player John Tavares at #1 overall.

But Tavares was not the only player Snow identified in that draft which has set the Islanders up for much more of their relative recent success:

#1 John Tavares

#12 Calvin de Haan

#62 Anders Nilsson

#92 Casey Cizikas

#152 Anders Lee

That the Islanders were able to pluck 5 actual NHL players from one draft is remarkable and they were able to obtain a couple more in the 2010 draft.

#5 Nino Niederreiter (since traded)

#30 Brock Nelson

In the 2011 draft, the Islanders continued to build up the middle by selecting Ryan Strome #5 overall and then, in the 2012 draft, Snow and his team, went all in selecting a defenseman with all 7 of their picks.

First among those, of course, was Griffin Reinhart who Snow would have preferred not to draft but, as noted above, Columbus refused to trade their #2 overall pick (Ryan Murray) for all 7 of the Isles picks.

But, if nothing else, that draft indicates Snow knows the value of strong D prospect depth and he followed that draft by selecting Ryan Pulock #15 overall in 2013.

While Griffin Reinhart has been discarded after being passed on the depth chart, it’s worth noting that the Isles have a tremendous number of those picks ripening in the AHL with Scott Mayfield, Ville Pokka, Adam Pelech and Pulock all playing significant roles in Bridgeport.

After loading up on D, Snow has spent the past 2 drafts stockpiling forwards with high end potential:

#5 2014 Michael Dal Colle

#28 2014 Josh Ho Sang

#16 2015 Mat Barzal

#28 Anthony Beauvillier

As we’ve seen, Snow has never been timid about swinging draft day deals like the one in which he traded a spare part like Reinhart to acquire extra picks, and from this point of view, he’s been tremendously successful although it’s early to make a call on some of those picks.

Hockey’s Future has the Islanders team prospect ranking at #2 and it’s very difficult to disagree:

Strengths: Now that the New York Islanders have turned the corner, they are in a prime position to contend for the Stanley Cup for the years ahead thanks to their strong farm system. While Ryan Strome and Anders Lee graduated, there is still top-six talent developing on the wings in Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang. Defense has become the strongest unit in the system as Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield are the next wave of youth that look to shore up the Islanders on the backend. Behind them are a deep, diverse group of players that may slot into depth roles. Toughness is another attribute amongst the skaters. There is quality and promising potential in the goaltending pool with Ilya Sorokin, Linus Soderstrom, and Stephon Williams.

Interesting that HF had Reinhart listing as the Isles’ top prospect but that Snow didn’t agree and dealt from a position of tremendous strength to acquire a couple more blue chip prospects.

With 2008 draft Travis Hamonic, de Haan and the aforementioned picks all jockeying for a spot on the big club you would think Snow would have been somewhat reticent to add veteran D to his stable but a year ago he patiently waited for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk to become available and plucked them from their cap strapped teams after astutely picking up former #4 overall pick in 2007 Thomas Hickey when the LA Kings put him on waivers.

It can’t be stated often enough that centre depth is a key to building a winning team and Snow has not been recalcitrant on that front either.

John Tavares

Ryan Strome

Mikael Grabovski

Anders Lee

Frans Neilsen

Brock Nelson

Casey Cizikas

Josh Ho Sang

That’s 7 actual NHL centres folks with Ho Sang bubbling under. That may be the best centre depth in the entire league and it has allowed Snow to focus on adding highly skilled players in the draft and through trades and free agent signings.

I would imagine that both Ho Sang and Barzal will debut as wingers and will be vying for a roster spot with highly touted power forward Michael Dal Colle.

An eventual 1st line that might include Tavares, Dal Colle and Barzal could be a thing of beauty.

For more than a few years, the Islanders glaring weakness was in goal but Snow has also addressed that issue with the signing of Jaroslav Halak and backup Thomas Griess who should provide at least league average goaltending. Considering the Islanders were the 4th best team in the league in GF/GP last season at 2.99, it’s not hard to imagine the Islanders will improve on the 101 points they garnered last season with the maturation of their young D and the addition of significant firepower from their young draft picks.

I don’t think anyone with credibility is calling out Garth Snow any longer and it’s with noting that he has built a contender all while having more than $8 million in free cap space pending the signing of RFA Brock Nelson.

Rebuild over!

Chiarelli Snowed Under

TeenRookieDmen_2013-14

Click to enlarge

The 2012 NHL draft was absolutely loaded with blue chip defensive prospects.

For much of that year leading up to the draft, there was a lot of chatter that Ryan Murray might be taken 1st overall but as often happens, Murray fell while the Oilers blew a foot off and selected yet another scoring winger who can’t play a 2 way game.

See the photo above and you’ll instantly recognize that 4 of those teenage defensemen were from the 2012 draft and, if not injured I imagine they would have been joined by Murray.

Not pictured is 4th overall pick Griffin Reinhart who has managed only 8 NHL appearances and those came a season later.

The next 6 picks in that draft were all D and all of them have played significant games in the NHL others selected later in the 1st round and even the 2nd and 3rd rounds have become NHL regulars.

Here they are sorted by GP.

Hampus Lindholm 156

Morgan Rielly 154

Jacob Trouba 130

Cody Ceci 130

Olli Maata 98

Mat Dumba 71

Damon Severson 51

Derrick Pouliot 34

Connor Carrick 34

Petteri Lindbolm 23

Jake McCabe 9

Griffin Reinhart 8

Slater Koekkek 3

Shayne Gostisbehere 2

Brett Kulak 1

Obviously, Reinhart has fallen way behind the pack and I’m sure the NYI would have loved a mulligan on their pick and, of course, shipped Reinhart to the Oilers at the draft when the Oilers dangled the 16th and 33rd picks which the Islanders used to take Mat Barzal and, after a small trade. Anthony Beauvillier.

The latter may have been a bit of reach but Bob McKenzie had Barzal ranked 9th and I believe he would have been rated even higher if not for a freak off ice accident that broke his kneecap.

Despite the injury, Barzal scored more than 1PPG in the WHL and projects to be a dynamic potential winger for John Tavares.

While doing my Sunday morning whip around the web I ran into this somewhat contradictory comment from Lowetide:

LOWETIDE says:

One thing I wonder about Reinhart is his current trade value. If Edmonton decided to deal him today (which they won’t, this is just blue sky) what could they get in return? I suspect it’s fairly close to what they gave up but in a year the value will differ. By that I mean he’ll either have established himself a great deal more than he has so far, or he’ll be trying to break in to the NHL and his value will have gone down. It’s an important year for him.

While I can certainly agree with LT’s final point, I can’t get on board with the rest of it.

Given Reinhart’s slow progress post draft, I doubt you would find many GM’s who would trade a high 1st round pick in a very deep draft never mind throw in the 33rd pick.

Garth Snow absolutely picked Peter Chiarelli’s pocket on this one unless Reinhart arrives next season in a very big way.

And, even if he does, Mat Barzal may make the Oilers look very, very stupid on this one.

That will be an interesting race to watch but even more interesting is the development of Thomas Chabot  who the Oilers could have taken at 16 if they wanted a defenseman.

Craig Button:

His year-to-year development has been terrific. Plays a very assured game with and without the puck. He possesses excellent mobility and it allows him to be very effective defensively and to transition to offence quickly. A very good passer who gets the puck into the right spots at the right times. He showed glimpses of being in the group of top three defencemen of this draft, along with Hanifin, Provorov and Werenski.

In looking at drafts, I’ve always believed you can find tremendous value by keeping any eye on players who rise rapidly through the rankings in their draft year….and that fits Chabot to a tee.

From Defending Big D:

Thomas Chabot has had a pretty impressive rise up the draft rankings since the beginning of the year. On the NHL Central Scouting watching list before the season began he was listed as a ‘B’ prospect. One that could go between the second and fourth rounds. He now ranks 16th overall in North American Skaters in their final listing.

His rise up the rankings is reminiscent of Philadelphia Flyers first round pick last year, Travis Sanheim.

So who is Thomas Chabot? He’s a two way defenseman from the QMJHL who has stepped up into an important role for the Sea Dogs. Last season he was a rookie and relied upon a veteran to show him the ropes, this year he has become the veteran.

He’s doubled his points totals from his rookie season and it’s clear that he considers the special part of his game to be the offensive side. His skating is very good and helps him when he joins the rush up the ice. He’s also developed a reputation for his quick and clever plays over the past year, something that won’t have hurt his draft ranking at all.

Like many defenseman who like playing in the offensive zone they also have some defensive issues. His rookie season was seen as being quite one dimensional, with much of the focus on the offensive zone. It was this season that he’s started to use his body more and to focus more on the defensive aspect of his game.

It’s paid off, he’s scoring more but he’s also much better in his own zone than he was before.

That sounds to me like a player who is a great fit for the quick transition game that is becoming de rigeur in the NHL and, if he continues to improve defensively, he may make Reinhart look like an average #4 D that now seems like his upside.

Of, course lots of things can happen on the way to Grandma’s House but I think we have the basis of a very good story to unfold over the next few seasons and I would wager it’s not going to be a happy ending for the Edmonton Oilers.

Deep Ducks II

ducks-perry-getzlaf

A couple of days ago, we looked at the deep, deep, Ducks D corp…so lets take a look at how they became on of the elite teams in the league.

It’s pretty easy to see that the foundation of the current team is built on the results of the 1st round of the phenomenal 2003 draft with Ryan Getzlaf (13th), Corey Perry(28th) and Ryan Kesler (23rd).

But the Ducks forward roster also includes several other 1st round picks taken in subsequent years:

Kyle Palmieri – 26th overall 2009

Emerson Etem – 29th overall 2010

Rickard Rakell – 30th overall – 2011

Andrew Cogliano – 25th overall 2005 (by Edmonton who later disposed of him  for a 2nd round pick)

That’s pretty much a drafting home run but we should also recall that, though very astute trades the Ducks had multiple 1st round picks in some of those drafts and not once since 2007 when they drafted Logan MacMIllan 19th overall, have the Ducks missed on ANY of their 1st round picks despite normally being at the bottom end of the round and have produced a raft of NHL players.

2008:

Jake Gardiner – 17th overall – 246 GP

Justin Schultz – 42rd overall – 203 GP

Brandon McMIllan – 85th overall – 171 GP

2009:

Peter Holland – 15th overall – 130GP

Kyle Palmieri – 26th overall – 198 GP

Sami Vatanen – 126th overall – 123 GP

2010:

Cam Fowler – 12th overall – 345 GP

Emerson Etem – 29th overall – 112 GP

Devante Smith-Pelley – 42nd overall – 149 GP

2011: 

Rickard Rakell – 30th overall – 93 GP

John Gibson – 39th overall – 36 GP

2012:

Hampus Lindholm – 6th overall – 156 GP

Fredrick Anderson – 87th overall – 82GP

That is just outstanding draft work and shows how important getting it right can set up a team for many years.

It’s also worth noting that the Ducks have another couple of players who I would think, despite it being early on, are almost slam dunk star NHL players.

2013: 

D – Shea Theodore – 26th overall. (34P in 48GP WHL) (11P in 9GP AHL)

2014:

Nick Ritchie – 10th overall – 6’3″ 230 LW ( 62P in 48GP OHL regular season) (13G 26P in 11 OHL playoff games.)

The scary thing about the Ducks’ forward group is that the oldest, Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are all only 30 years of age and the group coming up behind them is  skilled and very deep.

With their ongoing success in finding gems in the late 1st round and beyond, they should remain an elite team for years.

Re Drafts

2012_NHL_Draft

A couple of comments on Lowetide last night regarding the painful progress of Nail Yakupov got me thinking about what a little hindsight would do to the draft rankings in 2012.

I was always in favour of taking Alex Galchenyuk first in the draft…mainly because he was a centre but also because his draft year injury left him undervalued. Obviously time has proved those to be correct assumptions but it also gives us a chance to re-assess that draft in the cold light on a March day in 2015…and the results are not kind to Yakupov at all.

I mentioned last night that I didn’t think Yakupov would go in the top 10 in a re-draft and after examining the evidence more closely this morning, I think that’s a reasonably safe assumption.

Galchenyuk, while being brought along slowly in his first couple of seasons, is on pace for a 25 goal 50 point season while Yakupov has only 11 goals and 25 points despite getting extreme Ozone starts and playing very soft competition. It’s also worth noting that, despite and that tender loving care from Oilers coaches, Yakupov also has the worst plus/minus in the league at -35.

Now, I’m not one to put too much stock in the plus/minus stat but when your are among the worst in the league for consecutive seasons, it does say something about your game.

But the misery for Yakupov and his supporters don’t end there.

These are the the PPG stats for some of the top players in that draft in my opinion. Let’s keep in mind it was a very D heavy draft but, even so, some of these results show you how poorly Yakupov has performed. (D in bold)

Forsberg – .678

Galchenyuk – .547

Hertl – .509

Yakupov – .446

Trouba – .419

Lindholm – .414

Girgensons – .397

Maata – .387

Rielly – .368

Some things become pretty obvious…Yakupov, despite his extreme sheltering is barely out producing defensemen taken lower in the draft and despite it still being early days on this draft class, I think an update at this juncture would seem to indicate the Oilers would like a mulligan.

It also should be noted that other teams have a different (read:more patient) development schedule for their rookies so a few others may soon leave Yakupov in the dust too.

I’m thinking of players like Teuvo Teravainen, Tanner Pearson, Derrick Pouliot, Jacob Trouba and Matt Dumba who is having a fantastic season in Minnesota.

Another provision is that Ryan Murray has been hampered by injuries so we don’t have a real read on him yet.

My Redraft:

1) Alex Galchenyuk

2) Filip Forsberg

3) Morgan Rielly

4) Jacob Trouba

5) Tomas Hertl

6) Ollie Maata

7) Hampus Lindhom

8) Zemgus Girgensons

9) Matt Dumba

10) Nail Yakupov

I expect Tanner Pearson would also be in the top 10 if not injured as he had 12 goals in 42 games and that Cody Ceci also merits consideration but he’s being brought along slowly in Ottawa so we may not know his top end for a while.

 

 

 

Epic Tank Battle II

tank-battle-tank-war-2-0-s-307x512

 

The Toronto Maple have finally achieved a weeks long descent into the depths of the National Hockey League standings.

The latest standings in the Epic Tank Battle:

Buffalo – 43

Edmonton – 46

Arizona – 47

Toronto – 55

Carolina – 55

I’d wager Carolina will slowly pull away from this group since they are playing pretty well in their last 10GP (6-4-0)

I would also wager Arizona (1-9-0) will drop below the Oilers (4-5-1) by the end of the regular season.

I guess it’s possible the Oilers will also pass the Leafs but 9 points is a huge gap with only 19 games left in the season.

The question then becomes, who wins the lottery and why?

If ever there was a draft that the league will keep a close eye on where 2 generational players end up, I think it’s this one.

The Coyotes desperately need a marketable player and I would think nothing would make Gary Bettman happier than to reward Andrew Barroway for riding in and rescuing the Coyotes in the latest bailout in the desert.

On the other hand, Bettman might be cognizant of the fact that Rogers Communications (part owner of the Leafs) stepped up big time when it spent billions of the new Canadian TV contract.

I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Toronto “won” the lottery and drafted Connor McDavid while Arizona, if they continue to lose every game, selects American wundkind Jack Eichel while Buffalo has to make do with the #3 overall pick.

As noted before, McDavid is a GTA boy and has stated he would be thrilled to play for the Leafs.

American Jack Eichel would be a great fit in Arizona and Buffalo would still be rewarded by a very skilled pick in any of Hanifan, Strome or Marner.

It’ll be fascinating to watch.

Don’t Look Now…

Don't_Look_Now_Titlecard

 

As of this writing…the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing the Montreal Canadiens.

If they lose, as expected, they’ll be a scant 3 points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes (pending the Coyotes home game against the Rangers).

Carolina is 5 points back of the Leafs but have 3 games in hand so it’s entirely reasonable to assume the Leafs will be in 3rd spot in the draft lottery a week from now.

The Sabres and Oilers are so bad it’s highly unlikely the Leafs can out suck them but I would imagine a team like the the Leafs that is about to blow things up could start a “down to the wood” rebuild with the 3rd overall pick with a decent shot of getting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Worth mentioning that McDavid, a Toronto boy, has expressed a great deal of interest in being drafted by the Leafs.

The most highly touted hockey prospect since Sidney Crosby delivered music to the ears of Leafs Nation this weekend.

“That would be an absolute dream come true,” Connor McDovaid told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun when asked about the possibility of becoming a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “It’s pretty crazy to even think about.”

“I’m from Toronto. You have to be a Leafs fan,” McDavid said in the article. “So, of course, I was. Of course. My dad was a Leafs fan. Every Saturday night watching Hockey Night in Canada would be my favourite time.”

Toronto is the most important franchise in the National Hockey League. It leads the league in revenue generated, in appreciating franchise values and I would wager that Gary Bettman is tuned into what’s transpiring in Toronto in a major way.
Don’t be surprised if the Leafs officially start their rebuild by drafting the best player since Sidney Crosby.

Speaking of the Oilers, there’s lots of blather on Lowetide and other Oiler fanboy sites about how the team has “turned north” under Todd Nelson.
Nonsense, of course.
The Oilers are 9-10-2 under Nelson with their 6 remaining games in February against Winnipeg, Boston, Minnesota (twice), Anaheim and St. Louis.
I would be surprised if the Oilers win 2 of those games.
Also worth noting is that, if the Oilers played at a season long pace of 9-10-2 over 82 games, they would still finish in 13th place in the WC.
You can’t see north from here.

Tough break for Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars after the Star’s centre will be out for 3-6 weeks with a knee injury after being low bridged by Dmitri Kulikov.

That ends any thoughts of Seguin winning a scoring title and likely is also the end of the Stars’ playoff hopes since Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves were also injured in the same game

The Best of Benny Hill

Slide099

 

The esteemed Lowetide has an hilarious post up today that essentially lays the blame for the current Oiler woes on the 2007 draft.

The real culprit in the 2014-15 Oilers season is the 2007 draft. Bob Nicholson going on Toronto radio and throwing the current staff under the bus ignores what happened before Stu MacGregor became scouting director.

 

 

Now, let’s be clear here…the Oilers absolutely whiffed on virtually every pick in that draft but suggesting it is the major reason the team remains in the sewer is just ridiculous.

In my Sunday morning tour of the the internets, I came across a post from The Last Big Bear over at Oilers Nation which provides some perspective on why the Flames are better now and likely will be for the foreseeable future:

Every skater selected by the Flames in the 2011 draft has already played in the NHL. They have 87 points in 168 games between them so far.

I just want you to think about that for a second, as Oilers fans, really soak it in. The next time you talk about moving up or down by 2 slots in the draft, as if that has any bearing on your franchise’ success, just remember what you’re competing with.

The Flames also have FIVE additional recent 1st rounders that they still have yet to add to the lineup.

The current crop of young NHLers, like Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma, Jooris, Ortio, etc, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The next 10 years of the Battle of Alberta will be no kinder to the Oilers than the last 10 have been.

In the wake of yet another Oiler loss to the Flames, I think it’s worthwhile to examine why the Flames are competitive despite having the lowest payroll in the league and the Oilers continue to stagger from pillar to post.

Starting with the 2007 draft which Lowetide identifies as a low point, let’s see how the two teams have drafted and developed since.

These are the Flames picks from 2007-2014 that have had more than a cup of coffee in the NHL…(round taken in brackets)

2007 – Mikael Backlund (1) Keith Aulie (4)

2008 – Lance Bouma (3) TJ Brodie (4)

2009 – Tim Erixon (1) Joni Ortio (6)

2010 – Max Reinhart (3)

2011- Sven Baerstchi (1) Markus Granlund (2) Johnny Gaudreau (4)

2012 – 1st round pick Mark Jankowski is playing in the NCAA so too early to call.

2013 – Sean Monahan (1). The Flames may have killed this draft if their other two 1st rounders, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, develop as expected.

2014 – Sam Bennett – obviously his injury makes this pick an unknown.

Of that group, Brodie, Backlund, Gaudreau, Bouma, Monahan and Ortio were all in the Flames lineup last night. (so was Keith Aulie but for the Oilers)

By way of contrast, these were the Oiler draft picks since 2007 in last night’s game…Eberle, Nugent – Hopkins, Klefbom, Lander and Yakupov.

Of course, Taylor Hall should be added to that list since he is out with injury but I think you can also make the argument that Yakupov should be excluded based on his dreadful play.

Worth noting that only 1st round picks and 2nd round pick Lander played for the Oilers last night while Calgary had a 3rd rounder, two 4th rounders and a 6th rounder dressed.

Considering the Flames have never picked above 13th overall since 2007 and that the Oilers have never picked lower than 10th overall, it’s pretty obvious the Flames are doing a much better job in drafting and developing which is paying dividends in their payroll situation.

Which brings us to the future.

Hockey’s Future has the Flames prospect pool as the 2nd best in the league…

The Calgary Flames have undergone an incredible amount of organizational turnover the past couple of seasons, but a promising vision for the future appears to be finally taking shape. They currently have a young, talented NHL roster, headlined by prospects such as Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Jooris, Sven Baertschi, and Markus Granlund – not to mention Sam Bennett, who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. Their AHL system is well stocked, too, with Emile Poirier, Bill Arnold, Michael Ferland, and others pushing for NHL jobs. There are even more talented forwards at the NCAA and CHL levels, with Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, and Hunter Smith all showing various degrees of promise. The Flames also have a few promising defensemen, such as Tyler Wotherspoon, who are close to NHL-ready. The goaltending pool is not particularly deep, but the prospects that are there – Mason McDonald, Jon Gillies, and Joni Ortio – have good potential.

 

Meanwhile, the same website list the Oilers prospect depth at 25th.

Strengths: Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, and Martin Marincin lead a deep group of defensive prospects for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have solid depth at forward, led by Leon Draisaitl, who should develop into a very good two-way center in the NHL. The system also has several big players with power forward potential including Bogdan Yakimov and Mitchell Moroz.

 

Once again, when you consider the respective positions the Oilers and Flames have occupied in the draft, I think it’s pretty obvious that the Flames are much better positioned in the future and while the Oilers woes may have started in 2007, as Lowetide says, they certainly didn’t end there.

Timing is Everything

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At the All Star break, it appears the Buffalo Sabres are destined to finish dead last in the NHL.

I remain convinced the Arizona Coyotes will win a “managed” draft lottery as a return for Andrew Barroway bailing out the Coyotes again and will feature Connor McDavid as their marketing missile going forward.

So, it’s very likely, in my opinion, that Jack Eichel will be counted on to lead the Sabres out of the basement. But he won’t be alone.

The Sabres also have 2 more 1st round picks that they received in trade from the New York Islanders and the St. Louis Blue and they already have 2 2nd round picks with likely more to come.

ESPN/TSN analyst Pierre LeBrun has an exceptional column today on the Sabres rebuild and I encourage you to read the whole article but this excerpt gives you an idea of how the Sabres might be able to turn things around pretty quickly IF they make the right decisions at the draft and then develop their picks properly.

The Sabres also have the St. Louis Blues‘ first-round pick (via the Ryan Miller trade last season) and the New York Islanders‘ first-round pick (from the Thomas Vanek trade last season). Neither will be high picks, but they’re first-round picks nonetheless.

Already there’s a base of youngsters on the Sabres, such as All-Star forward Zemgus Girgensons, 21, as well as blueliners Rasmus Ristolainen, 20, and Nikita Zadorov, 19.

Throw in defenseman Mark Pysyk, 23, who seems ready for the NHL but remains in the AHL, as well as 19-year-old center Sam Reinhart, who starred in the recent world junior championships for gold-medalist Canada, and it’s a start. It’s not enough yet, but it’s something.

“They have some really good pieces, no question,” said a Western Conference GM. “But you have to be careful not to bring them in too soon. The big thing is not just drafting, but are they developing the players properly? That’s bigger than anything else. Are they spending enough money to have the right people to develop the players the right way? That’s very important.”

 

The last two times a team had three 1st round picks in the draft was in 2007 when the Edmonton Oilers selected Sam Gagner, Alex Plante and Riley Nash, none of whom are playing for the team and then the Florida Panthers had three in 2010 and selected Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden. Gudbranson and Bjugstad are now staples of the Panthers lineup and Howden remains a long shot.

Considering how deep the 2015 draft seems to be, it’s a good bet the Sabres are going to walk away with at least two, and maybe more, NHL players.

The Sabres already are showing they have a pretty good idea that good teams are built from the backend out and down the middle.

Goal:

Enroth (26)

Neuvirth (26)

Two goaltenders just entering their prime.

Defense: 

Ristolainen (20)

Zadorov (19)

Pysyk (23)

Myers (24)

That’s a pretty daunting future top 4.

Centre:

Eichel (18)

Reinhart (19)

Grigorenko (20)

Girgensons (21)

Hodgson (24)

Ennis (25)

Considering the Sabres will be adding to their prospect pool with all those additional picks as well as what they may receive from selling at the deadline, they are in an exceptional position to start moving  up the standings in the very near future.

I would imagine Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson, Chris Stewart and others may fetch additional picks at the deadline and the 2015 draft will forever be known as the “Sabres Draft”.

Timing is everything.

 

 

On The Wings

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I’ve seen more than a few “experts” try to convince anyone who would listen that the Detroit Red Wings don’t really draft all that well and were”lucky” when they selected Datsyuk and Zetterburg later in the draft.

There is some argument to be made that there was some luck involved in those two picks but using that logic to suggest the Wings are an average team at the draft is nonsense.

Here’s a wakeup call folks.

Detroit has 15 of their draft picks playing right now and none were chosen higher than No. 19 overall (Kindl). Riley Sheahan (21), Brendan Smith (27), Kronwall (29), Tomas Jurco (35), Justin Abdelkader (42), Tomas Tatar (60), Jimmy Howard (64), Joakim Andersson (88), Johan Franzen (97), Gustav Nyquist (121), Darren Helm (132), Pavel Datsyuk (171) and Henrik Zetterberg (210) are the others. “The leading scorer in the American League is also one of theirs, Teemu Pulkkinen (121),” said a pro scout.

Detroit also has a couple of tremendous young prospects who could make a big impact once they are exposed to the Wings “ripening” process.

Anthony Mantha (2013) and Andreas Athansiou (2012) were draft steals in my opinion and the Wings have developed two defensemen from the 2011 draft who seems to be just about NHL ready…Ryan Sproul and Xavier Oullette.

While a team like the Edmonton Oilers picked David Musil #31 overall, the Wings, who didn’t have a 1st round pick in that draft have 3 players picked later in the second round who have already played in the NHL…Sproul, Ouellette and Tomas Jurco.

That’s not “luck”.

And Mike Babcock…

“This is the best team we’ve had here since ’09,” Babcock said, referencing the last Detroit team to reach the Stanley Cup final. “Not necessarily point-wise, but direction-wise.

“We have more players that are hungry and going in the right direction than we’ve had in a long time.”

 

Considering the Wings are about to make it 24 consecutive playoff appearances and are on the rise as opposed to declining, it’s no wonder there is a great deal of interest in plucking Babcock from the team.

I would imagine Babcock will want complete control over roster decisions if he is enticed to move on from Detroit so that narrows the teams that might be interested in his services but , given he has been heavily involved in the success of the Wings both in the standings and in development of their draft selections, I think any team that is prepared to clear the decks for him would be making a very smart bet.