Saturday, June 27, 2015


I don't dislike the Edmonton Oilers, but it has been fun poking at them and their fans since the mid-1990s.  No other NHL team (Toronto included) has over valued its prospects and, at the same time, been so inept at getting talent from the junior level into the NHL beyond the very obvious draft selections.

This season, they were smart.  They drafted Connor McDavid and then traded all of their other picks.  I mean, it's not like they knew what to do with anything after the first round anyway.  Plus, General Manager Peter Chiarelli just fired all of the incompetent scouts; so I'm not sure what list he would have used.

To find an Oiler player who has made it to the NHL to play significantly who wasn't a first rounder, you have to scroll back through the years until you get to Anton Lander, who was a second round selection in 2009.  Theo Peckham was a third rounder in 2006.  To find a steal, you would have to go back to 2003 and the 7th round selection of Kyle Brodziak or 1998 and the 4th round choice of Shawn Horcoff.  I mean, this team just drafts badly.

I had some hope for them once word got out in April they had won the draft lottery (again) and would be choosing the next Wayne Gretzky (Connor McDavid).  Ownership got rid of the 'old boys club' hierarchy in management and put Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli in charge.

Chiarelli was just fired by the Boston Bruins and seeing what the Bruins did on the weekend, the picture as to why is becoming real clear.  The man created a roster that was destined for salary cap hell.  But, at least, he had good players and his team won a Stanley Cup.

Let's review the weekend.  The Oilers traded 2 early picks to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart, who hasn't proven a thing in the NHL.  He still has a bit of a shine on him as a prospect; but when you consider arch rival Calgary was able to get Dougie Hamilton for 3 early draft picks, this move has to go down as an epic fail.  The word is that Chiarelli refused to part with Darnell Nurse in order to get Hamilton.  We will see in two or three years whether that was the right thing to do or not, but I'm thinking if Nurse ends up being a Norris contender on a regular basis throughout his career, this is still a move Chiarelli should not have passed on.  Hamilton is 22 and coming off  a 42-point season.  He's already one of the better blueliners in the league and only going to get better.  Nurse and Reinhart may have futures, but how many other young Edmonton prospects have we said that about? Let me help - David Musil, Martin Marincin, Troy Hesketh, Alex Plante, Taylor Chorney, Danny Syvret, Doug Lynch, and Michael Henrich just to name a few.  With that kind of track record, Nurse is expendable to get Hamilton locked up for five or six years.  Hamilton, by the way, plays the game similar to Chris Pronger and the Oilers made the finals the one year they had him in the fold.  So, I'm going to give the Oilers a fail on the Reinhart acquisition combined with their refusal to step up and pay to get Hamilton into the fold.  To make matters worse, Hamilton isn't likely to make things easy for McDavid and company as that will now be a match-up that will get a lot of focus in the Battle of Alberta.  Calgary, by the way, didn't need a defenseman; but they recognize the importance of having a back end that is superior to other clubs.  They've got five defensemen better than Edmonton's number one.  Ouch.

Let's assume you pass on Hamilton because, at 22, he's deemed to be too old at 25 when you are ready to be a contender.  That's silly talk, but astute Oiler fans will justify it.  So, I'll give you that.  Don't bother with Hamilton.  It's too early.  Why then would you give up more draft picks for one year of Cam Talbot to play goal?  And, is Talbot coming to Edmonton with any better a pedigree than what Ben Scrivens had?  Talbot may very well be better than Scrivens, but it's the exact same risk.  I'd much rather see the Oilers fix their defense and then make another judgement on Scrivens.  The days of having a goalie bail out or mask other weaknesses are gone.  There are no more Tommy Salos, Curtis Josephs, or Dwayne Rolosons.  Nowadays, you just hope your goalie doesn't mess his pants bad enough to cost you a playoff position or series.

It's still very early in the offseason, but call me very underwhelmed and disappointed in Edmonton.  To me, if they thought Chiarelli had screwed things up that bad; they should have given him a chance to manage his way out of it.  What they did this weekend ranks up there with their Boston Red Sox baseball cousins.  It's just plain stupid.  You don't trade players of Dougie Hamilton's ilk.  You just don't.  If you have to trade Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic in order to keep do it.  Those players are just so hard to get.  Speaking of Lucic, he was traded too but the Bruins kept half of the money.  Why bother if you are in a salary cap crunch?  And, why get a back-up goalie in this deal when they can be found anywhere?  Or, are the Bruins setting themselves up to trade Tukka Rask too?  Wouldn't surprise me.  I'm having a hard time in believing there is a sensible means to the ends of what new GM Don Sweeney is doing.

A lot of folks were impressed with Buffalo, but if Ryan O'Reilly continues to seek maximum money then he is only going to be a one year player for them.  He's in dreamland.  There is nothing to suggest he's worthy of even 50% max money.  No wonder Colorado punted on that one.  Matt Duchene makes $6-million a year.  O'Reilly is not Duchene.  And, if O'Reilly's dreamland resembles that of Evander Kane then it's going to be a great year of drama in Buffalo.  The Lehner acquisition in goal is risky, but all netminder trades are.  It's the most inconsistent position in the NHL.  If you are a rebuilding team, why make a trade for someone who only has one year left on his deal?

I really like what Calgary has done.  They are building a nice club and not afraid to make the trades to add to their group.  I wish Winnipeg would take this next step and get a game breaking forward (no, not Phil Kessel).

But, speaking of the Leafs, I wonder what TSN and Sportsnet will tell us as far as the offers received by them on Kessel and Phaneuf.  I'm sure they will spin tales of 'almost' and 'just not enough for an elite talent like Kessel', etc.  Let them.  The reality is that it's going to be hard to find a sucker to take on that money and term Kessel is owed, all the while knowing he could go into Operation: Shutdown at any second.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Ondrej Pavelec – I always thought Jet fans were a little too hard on him until I watched him give up that Barrett Jackman floater late in the season at the end of the third period in a game the Jets really needed to win.  Pavelec came in to relieve Michael Hutchinson and was all-worldly until that stinker.  He makes $3.9-million and I think that’s fair price for him.  Are there better goalies?  Sure.  But, at $6.5-million or whatever it would take to get a firm upgrade, I’m good with Pavelec for now.

Michael Hutchinson – Young guy, not heralded however, I felt, a bit overrated as Jet fans were looking for someone to unseat Pavelec.  It’s almost like the Saskatchewan Roughriders always wanting the back-up quarterback to be the starter.  If you accept Hutchinson as a decent back-up, who can play about 30 games so your starter isn’t worn out come playoff time, then you have to like Hutchinson.  I don’t see him ever being an NHL workhorse.  Glove hand has to get better.

Dustin Byfuglien – He’s got one year left on his contract and while he’s worth the price of admission, I’d trade him.  He’s never going to be better than he is now.  The Jets have seen him at his peak.  He will not be worth the dollars that he will expect to be paid next summer.  He is, exactly, the type of player that screw up your salary structure.  The Jets were also a more disciplined team when he was out of the line-up.

Tyler Myers – Analytic disciples ignore the fact Myers was the worst player in the NHL at the time of the Buffalo trade.  This is why analytics can be a useful tool for some things, but it’s not the be-all end-all of evaluating.  Myers passed the eye ball test in his first game with the Jets and has the potential to win a Norris Trophy.  A steal of a deal even if Evander Kane becomes a first line all-star forward.

Jacob Trouba – I thought he took a bit of a step back this year.  There were times I felt he tried to do too much and he’s just not that good yet.  He’s going to be real good for a lot of years, but I think it would serve him well if he stopped reading his own headlines. 

Tobias Enstrom – Everyone says he’s the perfect trade bait, but I will only agree if one of Josh Morrissey or Jan Kostelak show to be ready.  Enstrom ended up real valuable when Byfuglien was out of the line-up and when Trouba struggled.  He can be under-appreciated because he doesn’t do any one thing over the top well.  He’s just a real, solid defenseman who can put up a bit of offense.

Mark Stuart – As long as you don’t have to move him into a top four role, he’s good.  He did seem to take the odd bad penalty at the worst possible time every so often; but who doesn’t.  A good depth player who deserves a regular role.

Ben Chiarot – When the Jets were ravaged with injuries on defense, Chiarot was called up from the AHL and made himself a crucial member of the blueline even after everyone was healthy.  Then, he, himself, got hurt and he didn’t end the year as well as he started it.  Still, I see him being a tough guy to take out of a regular spot next season.

Adam Pardy – Paul Maurice turned him into a player.  Again, he’s no more than depth material but when you can turn to him when several others are in sick bay, you are in decent hands. 

Jay Harrison – Played well when given the chance, but he’s no better than a depth player.

Paul Postma – I think he could help somebody, but it’s not the Jets.  They have too many players ahead of him.

Grant Clitsome – Will be hard to work his way back into the mix after missing most of the year with an injury.  Depth player, at best.

Andrew Ladd – Solid captain, plays the game the right way.  He was, clearly, injured in the playoffs and we didn’t see what he is capable of.  There isn’t any one area of his game where the Jets can say they need more from him.  I think the Jets will make him more of a priority than Byfuglien before next summer.

Bryan Little – He was also injured in the playoffs and wasn’t as effective as he normally is.  When healthy, he can be one of the better forwards in the NHL.  He’s underrated, even amongst players on his own team.  The Jets missed him dearly when he was injured.  He’s crucial to their offense.

Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg’s best player from start to finish last year.  He’s a competitor.  He skates very well.  He’s clutch.  Every team needs a Wheeler.  Too bad the Jets didn’t have 7 or 8 of them!

Mathieu Perreault – Another player who was a shadow of his usual self in the playoffs.  He looked like a big-time sniper when he was healthy.  I’m not convinced he can do it again, but he was amazing at his peak.

Mark Scheifele – He made some strides, but if the Jets are thinking he’s got a future as a first liner they will be disappointed.  I think he’s a decent second liner and an outstanding third liner on a Stanley Cup contender.  He had a bit more grit to him toward the end of the season, which I liked.

Drew Stafford – I hope the Jets can get him signed.  He’s a perfect second line player, who can sub as a first liner in the event of injuries.  You could see how much he liked winning after getting out of Buffalo.

Michael Frolik – I don’t think the Jets need him as badly as many seem to think.  They’ve got players who can fill his role and I was expecting a bit more offense from him.  Still, the Jets are going to make a push to keep him around.  Someone will overpay.  Hopefully not Winnipeg.

Adam Lowry – The kid has got a real future as a second line power forward type.  He plays the game the right way in all facets at all times.  He never takes a shift off.  He’s a fan favorite and for good reason.  If the offense takes the next step, the Jets will be the envy of the league for having him on the roster.

Chris Thorburn – You have to watch him to appreciate him.  All teams need guys who can play fourth line minutes and not hurt you.  Thorburn is one of these and, in an emergency, can play third line.

Matt Halischuk – I think the Jets are okay if they employ him as a fourth liner and nothing else.  Otherwise, it means the Jets aren’t deep enough up front.

Jim Slater – He’s been with the organization for a long time and I think he’s served his purpose.  Time to move on.

Lee Stempniak – Guys like Stempniak make me nervous.  They always seem to show well when the contract is up and they need a new one.  The Jets wanted him before and missed out, so they’ve liked him for awhile.  Still, I wouldn’t go there for 2016.

Jiri Tlusty – Wasn’t a bad pick up when the injuries were insurmountable; but he isn’t the type of player I see the Jets getting in line to sign this summer.

Anthony Peluso – He’s already got a new two year deal.  Not sure why.

As far as potential prospects next year, I’d be surprised if Morrissey or Kostelak make the grade.  The Jets are deep on defense as it is and there is no need to rush a rookie.  While I don’t expect them to, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see them trade Hutchinson to a club that views him as a starter and that would open the door for Connor Hellebuyck, who had several shining moments in the AHL this past season.  Nikolaj Ehlers looks like a shoe-in for a roster spot up front, while Nic Petan is bound for the AHL. 

It would never happen, but a trade that could help both teams would be a Byfuglien to Edmonton deal that could also include Hutchinson and maybe a player like Draisaitl along with Jordan Eberle. 


In the world of professional sports and guaranteed contracts, it’s always amazing to me when I see a team get chastised for not taking advantage of a loophole or some contract language to get out from a bad deal.  The Philadelphia Phillies are in a situation where they will have to pay Chase Utley $15-million next season if he reaches 500 plate appearances.  He’s halfway there with 90 games to go, but manager Ryne Sandberg has stapled his .179 rear end to the dugout bench and critics are saying if Utley’s healthy enough to reach his 500 plate appearances, the Phils shouldn’t hold him out.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Utley, even if he was hitting .279 isn’t worth $15-million next year.  Players use ‘opt out’ clauses all the time to either hold their current team hostage for a larger payday, or allow other teams to make offers in the hope of securing a longer, more lucrative contract.  But, when teams use similar language to get rid of someone; they are branded as treating the player unfairly and, for some reason, it’s unethical to plant someone on the bench so he doesn’t reach the required amount of playing time for the player option to kick in.  The reality is that if Utley was good enough to be playing, the Phillies would have no problem finding a trading partner or else use him themselves.  My bet is that he does not get to 500 plate appearances, he becomes a free agent, and a different team will roll the dice on him with a one year contract for, considerably, less than $15-million and, to me, that’s the way it should be.  Update – Utley hit the DL today.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk is set to become a free agent as he seeks north of $5-million a season on a multi-year contract.  Dubnyk wasn’t even in the NHL at this time last year.  He had bounced around from team to team and was very close to having to find another line of work.  However, he showed to be a competent netminder with the Arizona Coyotes through the first half of the season and then was traded to goalie desperate Minnesota at midseason and he ended up being the best in the league.  The Wild, at the time, were destined to fire their coach and were an outsider contender for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.  But, Dubnyk was a workhorse and posted a 27-9-and-2 record to go along with a 1.78-GAA.  I hold Dubnyk, personally, responsible for Winnipeg having to play their butts off down the stretch just to sneak into the playoffs.  In the playoffs, Dubnyk was a more Dubnyk-like 4-and-6 with a 2.53-GAA.  In a salary cap world, paying him $5-million a season for several years could be suicide. 

If you think about it, why would NHL teams pay any goaltender huge money?  The supposed best in the league have never won a Stanley Cup (Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist).  The other top goalies missed the playoffs this year (Jonathan Quick and Tukka Rask).  Corey Crawford is not, generally, considered to be a top five goalie but he has two Stanley Cups.  Crawford, also, lost his number one job in the first round of the playoffs and, barely, got it back and looked like he was going to mess his pants in the league final too only to regroup and turn in three awesome games at the end against Tampa.  Ben Bishop isn’t bad, I guess, but he can’t stay healthy.  He’s bowed out of the playoffs two years in a row and is also prone to back breaking goals.  To me, the current state of NHL goaltending is that of streaks and it’s not conducive to spending a lot of money on it.  Top defensemen and top forwards, usually, stay the same from year to year.  But, you can’t convince me that Devan Dubnyk, Andrew Hammond, Cam Talbot, Jake Allen, and Marc-Andre Fleury will rank as the top statistical goalies next year.  It, actually, wasn’t that long ago Fleury was considered to be a flop and a liability to his team.  That just goes to show you how volatile the position is.