Forget October, Bring on July

By: Nick Lanciani

Granted, I’m always excited to watch a game and for new seasons to begin, but am I not the only one who is excited for this offseason? The high quality playing talent might not be on the market, but just about everything else will be and this is great for people like me that like to talk about all aspects of hockey. Plus it gives me something to write about and things to consider discussing in future podcasts, but that’s beside the point.

Second Round Bore

Yes last second goals are exciting; no 2-0 and 3-0 series leads for everyone are not. (Okay fine, I know that Calgary finally decided to make things interesting, for now and technically the Rangers and Capitals series is now going to a Game 6, but for the lack of a better part, things have been one sided across the Second Round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs).

Anaheim has been a dominant force in the Ducks versus Flames series. The Capitals and Rangers have had low scoring games that have shown puck possession domination and lots of zone time for Washington. Tampa Bay nearly blew Montreal out of the water and for God’s sake, Chicago went all Chicago on the Minnesota Wild and swept them.

Calgary’s quick methods of scoring in Game 4 proved to be something that they might be able to maintain in the series against the Ducks considering how they came back to win Game 3 as well, it’s not crazy to think that if they can respond to Anaheim’s strong roster and presence in the playoffs so far in Game 5- there will at least be a Game 6.

635664722267497367-USP-NHL-Stanley-Cup-Playoffs-Anaheim-Ducks-at-Cal
Courtesy: Candice Ward, USA TODAY Sports

Then again, in keeping with the dominance trend of this round, the Ducks can’t be stopped on home ice. Thanks for trying Calgary, you were great to watch and will probably be making a long run in the playoffs within the next few seasons if you keep it up.

For a team that added so much talent around the trade deadline and went on a rampage to the top of the league standings, laying claim to this year’s President’s Trophy title, the New York Rangers have been pathetic in offensive production in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They should know from last year, you can’t win the Cup if you can’t score goals. Or defend 2-0 leads, but at least Los Angeles isn’t in the playoffs this year to ruin New York’s hopes and dreams.

Instead, Braden Holtby, and the Washington Capitals look to do that. In somewhat anticlimactic fashion, given the oddities of every game in that series so far, might I add.

The Lightning have manhandled the Canadiens, with the exception of Game 4. But for all intents and purposes, the Bolts look like they will wrap this up before a Game 7 becomes necessary.

Front Office Changes, Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero, and the Boston Bruins possibilities

CDe-UaYWYAEj-V9
Courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Peter Chiarelli instantly makes the Edmonton Oilers better. Drafting Connor McDavid makes them even better and actually provides a speck of hope for the future of that organization. Chiarelli’s familiarity with some of the guys on the Oilers roster, such as current Edmonton captain and former Bruin, Andrew Ference, as well as former Boston forwards, Matt Fraser and Benoit Pouliot, will at least provide Chiarelli an opportunity to ease into the organization with comfort.

Edmonton’s outlook is finally hopeful. While they might not make the playoffs again next season, there’s a good chance they’ll make it in 2017. McDavid will have had a little time in the league and the attractiveness of Chiarelli as a GM (and the front office he puts together) will bring talented players to the Oilers organization in free agency. Assuming Chiarelli keeps up his recent trend of drafting well, Edmonton will finally have a foundation to build on in their minor league affiliates.

As long as Chiarelli can operate his strategies and tactics that worked well in Boston with Edmonton in the Western Conference, where the style of hockey tends to be radically different from the Eastern Conference currently, then he will have great opportunities for freedom to do as he pleases with the Oilers reigns.

In New Jersey, Ray Shero brings quality expertise as a general manager for the New Jersey Devils. The architect of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Championship is poised to make a quicker than expected turnaround out of the rebuilding Devils organization.

Shero understands that a team needs a mix of youth and veterans on a roster and will clearly have enough cap space to work with to attract the best that he can from free agency. Shero also has assets to trade, unlike Chiarelli in Edmonton, where other teams might be weary of what they’re getting in return.

184184902_slide-1
Courtesy: devils.nhl.com

A team looking for a veteran to complete their third line in an effort to make a deep playoff run, and successful regular season, would easily poke around at New Jersey’s roster for options. While he might be a shell of his former self, Michael Ryder comes to mind as someone that could use a fresh start in an organization that doesn’t expect that much from him, but just enough, and is looking for a long run.

Last but not least, the Boston Bruins are narrowing down their selection for their next general manager. It is rumored that Jeff Gorton and Don Sweeney are leading candidates for the position, especially after New Jersey hired Shero.

Gorton was a former assistant GM for the Bruins and had a stint as the interim GM in between the firing of Mike O’Connell and the hiring of Peter Chiarelli, in 2006. And yes, technically it was Gorton’s genius in the execution of the Andrew Raycroft for the rights to Tuukka Rask trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry Toronto).

While a return for Gorton to Boston would be pleasing for everyone involved with the organization, the New York Rangers have not let him speak to the Bruins for the open general manager position. Gorton is for now and likely will continue to be, the assistant GM for the Rangers.

600x400_Sweeney_Development_Camp
Courtesy: bruins.nhl.com

So what’s realistically going to happen, unless an unnamed individual appears out of nowhere, is the promotion of current Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney to the position. Sweeney already has an inside track of knowledge within the organization and is more than capable of taking control of the upper management decisions, having served as the assistant GM since July 2010.

It’s not a matter of who the Bruins hire to be their next general manager, but rather what do they do with their current roster that has clearly lost some of its touch. While the core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and David Pastrnak won’t be disturbed, questions remain around forwards Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Chris Kelly, and defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller.

The Bruins look to resign Carl Soderberg and should definitely pass on resigning Matt Bartkowski, but as to whether they need to move Lucic, Smith, Kelly, Seidenberg, or Miller for some asset remains to be unsolved.

Coaching Roulette

Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock, Craig Berube, Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, and possibly Claude Julien all could be actively in the market for a new head-coaching gig. And hey, Paul MacLean and his glorious mustache is still out there too.

McLellan has been interviewing with the Edmonton Oilers, who have in fact, have even spoken with the coach they just fired. While Edmonton is a prime fit for McLellan if he is looking to remain in the Western Conference, he might be better suited for an Eastern Conference team in need of something to anchor the development of their players for even a few seasons, say the Buffalo Sabres or the Philadelphia Flyers for example.

Courtesy: thehockeywriters.com
Courtesy: thehockeywriters.com

Babcock is free to speak with anyone, given he’s at the end of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings. There is high speculation that he will end up in Toronto, and quite frankly, that might be the best fit for him. If the Maple Leafs can’t move Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel and continue to have disgruntled players on their roster, maybe Babcock can calm things down.

He can’t turn them into Cup winners in one season, but he can make a methodical procedure work for even the annual laughingstock of the NHL. If not, expect Edmonton, Buffalo, and other bottom feeders to be all over him. Realistically, he could deny them all and go to Philadelphia where things are just enough in shape to get better a lot sooner, if he doesn’t have the patience for Toronto.

The now ex-Flyers head coach, Craig Berube, is destined to end up with a team. San Jose, Buffalo, or Edmonton seem like he might make a good fit behind the bench and in the locker room. The Sharks could be Berube’s best fit, given their similarity to Philadelphia in that both teams have an array of youth and veterans that are capable of making the playoffs, but missed out this year.

Two coaches that might be making returns (and thereby playing spoiler this offseason) are Dan Bylsma and Guy Boucher. Bylsma has previously worked with Ray Shero in Pittsburgh and could end up back under his authority in New Jersey, however the Devils look to be set on keeping Adam Oates or Scott Stevens on board. Boucher on the other hand, is looking for a fresh start after having last been fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013. He most recently served as the head coach of SC Bern of the Swiss National League A and is signed on through their 2015-2016 season- pending the terms of that deal, he could attempt to jump ship.

Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports

Finally, as the Bruins near a decision on their next GM, it looks as though Claude Julien’s job is safe. Although there are a few names floating around for Boston’s next general manager, all signs are pointing towards Don Sweeney landing a promotion and Julien remaining in charge on the bench. But to think, the Bruins could have participated in the roulette of talented coaches if they wanted to- not that Julien isn’t already highly talented at what he does.

When others were on the witch-hunt for Chiarelli and Julien after the Bruins missed the playoffs this year, I sat back with a realistic view on things. You can get rid of one and that’ll be okay. It’ll hurt, but it’s manageable. Again, what really needs a second look is Boston’s roster and I’m sure they know that.

And oh yeah, this year’s draft is still one of the most hyped up Entry Drafts in a long time, so there’s always that to look forward to.

IMAGE: “Stanley Cup Playoffs logo” via NHL.com