Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.
44-25-13, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Swept in the First Round by San Jose, 4-0
Subtractions: D Francois Beauchemin (retired), G Reto Berra (signed, Switzerland), F Jared Boll (retired), F J.T. Brown (signed with MIN), F Derek Grant (signed with PIT), F Chris Kelly (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (traded to WPG), F Mike Liambas (signed with MIN), F Andre Petersson (signed, KHL), F Corey Tropp (signed with San Diego Gulls, AHL)
Offseason Analysis: Despite finishing one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the final standings at the end of the regular season, the Sharks took a bite out of the Anaheim Ducks in the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. So much of a bite, in fact, it swept the Ducks off their feet.
Get it? Because they got swept in the postseason.
Despite winning the Cup with Randy Carlyle behind the bench in 2007, Anaheim needs to recognize just how much has changed in the last 11 years. The Ducks got back with their ex and fell into their old habits in a new-age game.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler aren’t the players they used to be. It’s not that Perry can’t score, it’s just that he’s not as effective. As for the Ryans (Getzlaf and Kesler), one’s still existent (Getzlaf) though he’d be much better on the second or third line– or at least flanked by youth on his wings– and the other (Kesler) has become irrelevant.
Brian Gibbons and Carter Rowney are fourth liners, so depth down the bottom-six is covered, at least. Meanwhile Luke Schenn and Andrej Sustr provide excellent coverage as sixth defensemen fighting for the last spot on Anaheim’s blue line, which is one of two bright spots for the Ducks heading into 2018-19.
Anaheim’s defensive core is strong with Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour as their top-four defenders. As one of the most under-the-radar defensive core, they’ve kept John Gibson‘s workload to a manageable– wait, actually, Gibson faced 435 shots more in eight additional games last season than he did in 2016-17.
For the record, Gibson faced 1,437 shots against in 52 games (25-16-9 record) in 2016-17, while he faced 1,872 shots against in 60 games (31-18-7) last season. Though the workload increased, Gibson’s save percentage improved from a .924 to a .926. He also won over half the games he played in last season.
So Anaheim’s main strong point is the best American goaltender in the game, while having one of the better than average defenses in the game. Meanwhile, Nick Ritchie remains an unsigned RFA that Murray has to manage carefully.
Quintessential to the transition from the 2000s/2010s style Ducks to the 2020s era Ducks, the 22-year-old left winger is Anaheim’s biggest blue chip roster player outside of the crease. Ritchie is just waiting to emerge with a breakout year as Troy Terry joins the fold on offense.
The fact of the matter remains– play the kids more.
It can only help manage the workload of the physically worn out Ducks that have been around for the last decade. Perry might still produce, but it’s time to break him free from Getzlaf on the first line.
Ondrej Kase could move up a line, but Jakob Silfverberg isn’t actually the problem on the second line.
Anaheim’s in the middle of something– middle of the road, middle of a transition or middle of mediocrity. Whatever it is, they didn’t do much this offseason to fix it this season, but there’s still time to turn things around in the next few years– wait, Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler all have NMCs in their contracts that have three, three and four-years remaining respectively?
Offseason Grade: D+
No you can’t get an “A” by default after having Francois Beauchemin, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly retire in one offseason from your roster.
John Gibson might be the closest thing to Dominik Hasek that we’ve seen since Dominik Hasek led the nonchalant 1999 Buffalo Sabres (seriously, look up the scoring leaders for that team, it trails off after Miroslav Satan— shouts Puck Soup) in the dead puck/trap era to the Stanley Cup Final– that’s if Gibson single handedly leads the Ducks to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, mind you, and the mountain looks too steep.
The theme of aquatic birds continues in DtFR’s offseason preview series, as it’s time to tackle the Anaheim Ducks’ priorities regarding their pending free agents.
Featuring a playoff roster with an average age of 28.5-years-old, logic would indicate the Ducks are in their prime. However, even though they’ve qualified for the postseason for six-straight seasons, they’ve failed to advance beyond the first round in half of those appearances – including a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks this April.
One of the biggest concerns about this Anaheim club is it plays an old-fashioned, grind-it-out style that simply doesn’t mesh well against the increasingly quicker and technically-sound opponents.
In simpler terms, the Ducks need to get younger and faster.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
One of the easiest ways to get younger is with a solid draft class, and Anaheim will have that opportunity with the 23rd-overall selection.
If one of the mock drafts I’ve compiled (all of which are available at Elite Prospects) are correct, I’d bet on General Manager Bob Murray selecting D Alexander Alexeyev (Red Deer Rebels), C Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), D Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) or D Bode Wilde (USNTDP) with his first round selection.
If there’s one thing the Ducks’ scouts know, it’s definitely defense. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all solid blueliners 26-years-old or younger that will service this organization for years to come, and I’d only expect Alexeyev, Sandin or Wilde to join the group if they’re deemed truly worthy.
That’s what makes McLeod such an attractive option. Even though the 18-year-old is all but ensured at least one more season with the Steelheads, Anaheim’s deep defense gives it the opportunity to invest in restocking its attack.
McLeod had a breakout season in 2017-18, registering 26-44-70 totals in 68 games played (1.03 points per game), followed by 2-3-5 marks in his six postseason appearances. If he can take command of the club following the potential departure of brother F Michael McLeod (12th-overall pick by New Jersey in 2016) and lead Mississauga on a deep playoff run, Anaheim could happen into a stellar young forward.
Pending free agents
Let’s tackle Anaheim’s easiest position first: goaltending. G John Gibson and G Ryan Miller are both under contract for one more season, so the Ducks will likely make no moves in this department. The most important note here is making sure Murray reserves money on the back burner for Gibson next summer (he’ll be an RFA, for those that care about those sorts of things). He currently has a touch over $9 million in cap space this season and a whopping $23 million to play with in 2019-20.
Montour’s 20:28 time on ice per game was fourth on the team, and the same can be said for his .4 points per game. At 24-years-old, he’ll be worth every penny of any contract he receives to play an imposing presence as a top-four defenseman.
Having just turned 37-years-old Saturday following a 0-8-8, -13 season in 59 games played, it’s hard to see a way Bieksa returns to Anaheim for a fourth season. That makes signing Welinski – the Ducks’ third-round pick in 2011 – to a low-cost, two-way contract all the easier to swallow.
Instead, the toughest decisions for Anaheim will be made in the forwards room. RW J.T. Brown, W Jason Chimera, C Derek Grant, W Ondrej Kase, F Chris Kelly, LW Nick Ritchie and F Antoine Vermette are all looking for contracts this summer, with all but Kase and Ritchie being of the UFA variety.
Regardless of type, Kase is by far the most important free agent on Anaheim’s plate this summer. He reached the 20-goal plateau in his second season in the NHL, and he needed only 66 games to do it. He may not compare to RW Teemu Selanne (I mean, the Finnish Flash did score 76 goals in his rookie season compared to Kase’s five), but I believe he’s fully ready to climb into a top-six position with F Rickard Rakell to lead this Ducks team when F Ryan Kesler and C Ryan Getzlaf depart.
In a similar fashion, fellow 22-year-old Ritchie should also receive a fresh deal to keep him in Orange County. While not quite the scorer Kase is (he managed only 10-17-27 totals in 76 games played this season), Ritchie is an excellent third-liner that still has more than enough time to develop into a real weapon from his position. Get him a bridge deal for a cap hit under $1.25 million and move on.
Anaheim’s most important UFA is Grant, a player that provided 12-12-24 totals in 66 appearances this season from his position on the fourth line. Coming off a one-year, $650 thousand deal, he’ll likely sign for cheap to give the Ducks four solid centers.
The rest of the UFAs (Brown – 27, Chimera – 39, Kelly – 37, Vermette – 35) either don’t fit with the “get younger” plan or simply aren’t worth the money (looking at you, Brown). Anaheim can either promote a forward from its organization (I like pending RFA F Kalle Kossila) or acquire another from outside to fill its 13th forward position.
Game 3 was a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks after losing two games at home to the San Jose Sharks. The embarrassing 8-1 lost showed a tale of two California teams–one finally moving beyond the team helmed by Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton for the past decade and the other desperate to relive their past glory from 2007. The team that has moved on from its past appears to be the team that will move on to Round 2, while the team trying to relive its past is learning a hard lesson–the NHL is not the same as it was in 2007.
When the Ducks brought back Randy Carlyle, the thought was that his discipline was what was needed to get the team to the next level. If this is what discipline looks like, I’d hate to see what anarchy would look like for this team. 10 penalties, including four from Captain Ryan Getzlaf (including a misconduct), who should know better.
The Sharks breakaway speed has been a problem for the Ducks the entire series, and it was again in Game 3. The Sharks started to break it open in the second period when two quick goals gave them a 3-1 lead. The first of those two goals was scored by Joonas Donskoi on a nice feed from, who else, Evander Kane and the second saw Donskoi setting up Marcus Sorensen on another breakaway. It went downhill from there as John Gibson couldn’t bail out the Ducks and the score was 5-1 by the time the third period began, leading to the Ducks going to Ryan Miller in desperation. It didn’t matter, despite a solid season, Miller would give up 3 goals in the third period.
I don’t know if the Sharks are good enough for Buffalo to get that first round pick from the Kane deal, but it is clear that Kane fits right in on the team. The Sharks don’t appear to be missing either Marleau or Thornton. Without Jumbo out there, they are able to take advantage of their speed against a team like the Ducks. This is the way hockey is played in 2018.
The Ducks, on the other hand, are playing with a team built literally and figuratively for 2007. Francois Beauchemin. Jason Chimera. Ryan Kesler. Miller. This doesn’t even include some of the guys not currently playing for the Ducks such as Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly. Beauchemin played nearly 20 minutes, so its not as if he was a rarely-used third pairing defenseman.
Some of that was certainly the result of injuries. But the Ducks, in general, need to do what San Jose has done this year and start moving on from the past. This isn’t Getzlaf and Corey Perry‘s team any more than the 2007 Ducks were Teemu Selanne‘s team–its Rickard Rakell‘s team. Its Jakob Silfverberg‘s team. Its Ondrej Kase‘s team. Yes, Perry and Getzlaf will continue to be important, but their role should be a supporting role the way Selanne’s role was when he returned to Anaheim. This is a young man’s league and you can’t build a team in this league around a core of 30-somethings.
You also can’t build the team the Ducks need to build with Carlyle at the helm. Bob Murray needs to learn from the mistakes of his mentor, Brian Burke. When Burke got nostalgic and brought in Todd Bertuzzi, he messed with the chemistry he had created in Anaheim. Murray needs to abandon nostalgia and build around youth and speed with Perry and Getzlaf there to provide just enough grit and physicality to balance things.
The Ducks will have at least one more game in 2017-18. Hopefully it is the end of an era and the beginning of a bright future. They have the young players and prospects to do it, but they need to have faith to hand the team over to them.
As for the Sharks, it is going to be fun to see what this team can do in the rest of the post-season, particularly as the next round is shaping up to be against the team with the Midas Touch, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Nick and Connor recap the 2018 trade deadline, 2018 Winter Games and 2018 overall even though it’s only March. Marco Sturm is worthy of an NHL coaching job, but will anyone take the risk? Hint: They should. Also, more thoughts on the Erik Karlsson saga.
We’ve talked a lot in DtFR Podcasts about who is – and maybe even more about who isn’t – going to the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. However, we haven’t had too many discussions yet about the tournament itself.
What nations are going to be there? What is the format of the tournaments? What time will those games be? Will the United States get those games broadcast live? And, most importantly, who’s taking gold?
Let’s tackle those questions one at a time.
What nations are going to be at the Olympics this year?
In total, there will be 14 nations represented between the two tournaments – though that number does come with a catch.
Starting with the women’s tournament (which drops the first puck February 10 at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time), there will be two groups of four sides apiece competing to qualify for six spots in the knockout tournament.
Group A consists of:
- Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)
- United States of America
One of these things is not like the others, so now sounds like as good a time as any to discuss one of our “wildcard” nations.
With a press release on December 5, 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Russian Olympic Committee for the 2018 Games for “the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system” during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
While that is a hefty charge, the IOC did offer an avenue for clean Russian athletes to compete. Every Russian who passes the IOC’s drug tests is eligible to compete for the Olympic Rings instead of for the Russian Federation, meaning any medals won by Russian athletes will not count towards Russia’s all-time medal counts. No Russian flags will be raised, nor will the State Anthem of the Russian Federation be heard, but at least those athletes will still have an opportunity to compete.
Group B consists of:
Ooh, our other “wildcard!” It’s hidden a bit better than the Russian situation, but there’s a hint in one team’s name.
You probably noticed there was no specification associated with Korea. That’s because North Korea and South Korea are fielding a unified team of 35 players (the standard 23 from South Korea with an additional dozen from North Korea) in the women’s hockey tournament.
This is a weird and highly politicized (Politics at the Olympics? *insert sarcastic ‘No!’ here*) decision that was finalized only 24 days before Korea’s first game, and that crunched timeline may yield unfortunate results on the ice. Steve Mollman of Quartz provides some excellent information about the politics of the situation, but the only rule Head Coach Sarah Murray, a dual-citizen of Canada and the USA, must follow is three North Korean players must be active for each game.
Meanwhile, the men’s tournament is a bit larger and features three groups of four teams for a total of 12 nations.
Group A consists of:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- Olympic Athletes from Russia
- United States
…and Group C (the group I’m affectionately calling “The Euro Cup.” Original, I know):
All 12 squads will qualify for the knockout stage, but there is a major reward for each nation that wins its group: an automatic entry into the quarterfinals. The best second-place team will also earn a bye in the playoff round that will feature the remaining eight teams.
What is the format of each tournament?
Like many international sporting events, both the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey tournaments will begin with a group stage.
Each team in a given group will play one game against the other three teams in its section. For example, the unified Korean team in the women’s tournament will play Switzerland (February 10 at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time), Sweden (February 12 at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time) and Japan (February 14 at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time).
Standings will be tabulated in a way similar to the NHL, however there are a few differences: wins count for three points, while overtime and shootout wins only count for two. Overtime and shootout losses will still count for one point, and a regulation loss is… well, a major bummer.
Okay, we’ve completed the group stage. How does this turn into a knockout tournament?
This is the phase where things start to look a bit different between the men’s and women’s tournaments. Let’s start with the women’s competition, which will begin its knockout stage on February 16 at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time.
Did you notice how stacked Group A is? The IOC and IIHF did that intentionally, but they also paved the way for those teams into the tournament as all four will qualify for at least the quarterfinals. The top two teams from the group (A1 and A2) will receive automatic bids into the semifinals, while the remaining sides will square off against the winner and runner-up of Group B (A3 versus B2 and A4 versus B1) in the quarters. B3 and B4 will continue play, but the best they’ll be able to finish in the consolation tournament is fifth place.
The winner of A3vB2 will take on A1 in the semis, and A2 will square off against the victor of A4vB1. Once those tilts are done, it will boil down to the Gold Medal game, which is scheduled for February 21 at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time. The Bronze Medal match is slated for February 21 at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time.
As stated before, the group stage in the men’s tournament has no bearing on which nations advance into the knockout – all 12 teams will do just that. However, playoff matchups are dependent on success in the group stage.
Once group play is complete, all 12 teams will be pooled into one table with the three group winners listed 1-3, the runners-up 4-6 and so on, so forth. Within those four trios, they’ll be ordered by the number of points they earned in the group stage. Should there be a tie in points, it will be decided by goal-differential, then goals for, then – hopefully it doesn’t come to this one – the superior 2017 IIHF ranking.
I won’t bore you with the seeding process, but the first round of the men’s knockout tournament will begin February 19 at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time. The top four teams from the group stage enter during the quarterfinals, which are scheduled for February 20 at 10:10 p.m. Eastern time, followed by the semifinals three days later. Bronze medals will be awarded after the game at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time on February 24, followed by the Gold Medal tilt at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time that night.
What time are these games happening, and are they being televised?
To our readers not from the United States, the broadcasting part of this section doesn’t apply to you. Then again, most of you probably don’t want puck drops listed in Eastern time anyway, so thanks for reading this far if you’re still here!
Since the women’s tournament begins first, let’s start with their schedule. Remember, OAR means Olympic Athletes from Russia.
|2018 Women’s Tournament|
|Date/Time in PyeongChang||Date/Time (EST)||Group/
|Matchup||USA Live Broadcast|
|February 10 at 4:40 p.m.||February 10 at 2:40 a.m.||B||Japan v Sweden|
|February 10 at 9:10 p.m.||February 10 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Switzerland v Korea||USA|
|February 11 at 4:40 p.m.||February 11 at 2:40 a.m.||A||Finland v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 11 at 9:10 p.m.||February 11 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Canada v OAR|
|February 12 at 4:40 p.m.||February 12 at 2:40 a.m.||B||Switzerland v Japan||NBC Sports Network|
|February 12 at 9:10 p.m.||February 12 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Sweden v Korea||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 4:40 p.m.||February 13 at 2:40 a.m.||A||Canada v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 9:10 p.m.||February 13 at 7:10 a.m.||A||USA v OAR||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 12:10 p.m.||February 13 at 10:10 pm||B||Sweden v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 4:40 p.m.||February 14 at 2:40 a.m.||B||Korea v Japan||USA|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||A||USA v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||A||OAR v Finland||USA|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 pm||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 19 at 1:10 p.m.||February 18 at 11:10 pm||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 19 at 9:10 p.m.||February 19 at 7:10 a.m.||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||CONS||Classification (7-8 place)|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||CONS||Classification (5-6 place)|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||USA|
|February 22 at 1:10 p.m.||February 21 at 11:10 pm||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
And now, the men’s tournament:
|2018 men’s Tournament|
|Date/Time in PyeongChang||Date/Time (EST)||Group/
|Matchup||USA Live Broadcast|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Slovakia v OAR||USA|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||B||USA v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||C||Finland v Germany||CNBC|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||C||Norway v Sweden||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Czech Republic v South Korea||USA|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Switzerland v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 12:10 p.m.||February 15 at 10:10 pm||B||USA v Slovakia||CNBC|
|February 16 at 4:40 p.m.||February 16 at 2:40 a.m.||B||OAR v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||C||Finland v Norway||USA|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||C||Sweden v Germany||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 p.m.||A||Canada v Czech Republic||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||A||South Korea v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||B||OAR v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||B||Slovenia v Slovakia||USA|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||C||Germany v Norway||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||A||Czech Republic v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||A||Canada v South Korea||USA|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||C||Sweden v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||Q||Qualifications||USA|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 12:10 p.m.||February 20 at 10:10 pm||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 23 at 4:40 p.m.||February 23 at 2:40 a.m.||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 23 at 9:10 p.m.||February 23 at 7:10 a.m.||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 24 at 9:10 p.m.||February 24 at 7:10 a.m.||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
|February 25 at 1:10 p.m.||February 24 at 11:10 pm||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
A master schedule is available at the bottom of this article, but there’s one question left to answer first.
So, who’s going for the gold?
Ah, perhaps the most important question of them all.
As we’ve been doing this whole time, we’ll stick with tradition and predict the women’s tournament first.
Just examining the format of the tournament, the IIHF and the IOC are simply begging for another Gold Medal Game between Canada and the United States, the world’s top-two ranked women’s teams.
There’s obviously potential for either team to stumble in a group that features the four best squads in the world and be forced to play in the quarterfinals, but I just don’t see it happening. Should my prediction prove correct, the world’s best teams would square off in a third-straight Olympic Final, with Canada playing for its fifth-consecutive gold.
As for the men’s tournament, it’s been well reported that the NHL keeping its players at home will play a major role in determining which nations are taking home hardware.
In my opinion, that leaves the door wide open for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, especially since they’re playing in what I believe to be the weakest group of the bunch. The OAR boasts players such as F Pavel Datsyuk, C Mikhail Grigorenko, W Ilya Kovalchuk, D Alexey Marchenko, D Nikita Nesterov and F Vadim Shipachyov – all of whom have NHL experience. Tack on the fact that they all play in the second-best league in the world, and they’re more than prepared for every challenge that can come their way in Pyeongchang.
Of course, we all saw what happened the last time the Russians were favorites to win the Olympics. Should this team crumble like 2014’s squad (even though F T.J. Oshie will be preoccupied playing with the best Russian player in the world, W Alex Ovechkin), I’m leaning towards the winner of the mini Euro Cup taking full advantage. All four of those teams are in the top-10 of the current IIHF World Rankings, with Sweden and Finland respectively leading the way as numbers 3 and 4.
But don’t leave the predicting work to me. Here’s what all of us here at Down the Frozen River – and even our old pal Frank Fanelli, now of Student Union Sports – think is going to happen:
|Down the Frozen River’s Olympic Picks|
It seems I’m not alone in my prediction of a Canada-USA Gold Medal match in the women’s tournament! All seven of us have the two squaring off in the final, with a slim majority believing Captain Meghan Duggan and co. can lead Team USA to its first gold since 1998.
As for the women’s Bronze Medal game, we’re leaning towards a Scandinavian country taking home some hardware – with most of us favoring Sweden over Finland. However, Colby and I think underdogs are going to make it to the semifinals before falling, as I’m pegging the fourth-ranked Olympic Athletes from Russia to end up in fourth and Colby’s picking ninth-ranked Japan.
In the men’s tournament, it seems Sweden is the nearly consensus favorite to come away with the medals that match its tri-crowned sweaters. However, who Captain Joel Lundqvist‘s – yes, the twin brother of the Rangers’ G Henrik Lundqvist – team beats in that Gold Medal game is anyone’s guess, as we’ve picked four different teams to take home silver.
We seem to be in a bit more agreement about the winner of the bronze medal, as four of us have pegged Captain Chris Kelly‘s Team Canada to come home with its third-consecutive medal.
While we may all have our own rooting interests, I think we can all agree that this should be a fun and exciting two weeks of hockey.
|2018 Olympic Hockey Tournament|
|Date/Time in PyeongChang||Date/Time (EST)||Sex||Group/
|Matchup||USA Live Broadcast|
|February 10 at 4:40 p.m.||February 10 at 2:40 a.m.||W||B||Japan v Sweden|
|February 10 at 9:10 p.m.||February 10 at 7:10 a.m.||W||B||Switzerland v Korea||USA|
|February 11 at 4:40 p.m.||February 11 at 2:40 a.m.||W||A||Finland v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 11 at 9:10 p.m.||February 11 at 7:10 a.m.||W||A||Canada v OAR|
|February 12 at 4:40 p.m.||February 12 at 2:40 a.m.||W||B||Switzerland v Japan||NBC Sports Network|
|February 12 at 9:10 p.m.||February 12 at 7:10 a.m.||W||B||Sweden v Korea||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 4:40 p.m.||February 13 at 2:40 a.m.||W||A||Canada v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 13 at 9:10 p.m.||February 13 at 7:10 a.m.||W||A||USA v OAR||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 12:10 p.m.||February 13 at 10:10 pm||W||B||Sweden v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 14 at 4:40 p.m.||February 14 at 2:40 a.m.||W||B||Korea v Japan||USA|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||Slovakia v OAR||USA|
|February 14 at 9:10 p.m.||February 14 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||USA v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||W||A||USA v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 12:10 p.m.||February 14 at 10:10 pm||M||C||Finland v Germany||CNBC|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||W||A||OAR v Finland||USA|
|February 15 at 4:40 p.m.||February 15 at 2:40 a.m.||M||C||Norway v Sweden||NBC Sports Network|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||M||A||Czech Republic v South Korea||USA|
|February 15 at 9:10 p.m.||February 15 at 7:10 a.m.||M||A||Switzerland v Canada||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 12:10 p.m.||February 15 at 10:10 pm||M||B||USA v Slovakia||CNBC|
|February 16 at 4:40 p.m.||February 16 at 2:40 a.m.||M||B||OAR v Slovenia||NBC Sports Network|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||M||C||Finland v Norway||USA|
|February 16 at 9:10 p.m.||February 16 at 7:10 a.m.||M||C||Sweden v Germany||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 pm||W||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 17 at 12:10 p.m.||February 16 at 10:10 p.m.||M||A||Canada v Czech Republic||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||W||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 17 at 4:40 p.m.||February 17 at 2:40 a.m.||M||A||South Korea v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||OAR v USA||NBC Sports Network|
|February 17 at 9:10 p.m.||February 17 at 7:10 a.m.||M||B||Slovenia v Slovakia||USA|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||M||C||Germany v Norway||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 12:10 p.m.||February 17 at 10:10 pm||W||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||M||A||Czech Republic v Switzerland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 18 at 4:40 p.m.||February 18 at 2:40 a.m.||W||CONS||Classification (5-8 place)|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||M||A||Canada v South Korea||USA|
|February 18 at 9:10 p.m.||February 18 at 7:10 a.m.||M||C||Sweden v Finland||NBC Sports Network|
|February 19 at 1:10 p.m.||February 18 at 11:10 pm||W||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 19 at 9:10 p.m.||February 19 at 7:10 a.m.||W||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||M||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 12:10 p.m.||February 19 at 10:10 pm||W||CONS||Classification (7-8 place)|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||M||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 20 at 4:40 p.m.||February 20 at 2:40 a.m.||W||CONS||Classification (5-6 place)|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||M||Q||Qualifications||USA|
|February 20 at 9:10 p.m.||February 20 at 7:10 a.m.||M||Q||Qualifications||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 12:10 p.m.||February 20 at 10:10 pm||M||QF||Quarterfinals||CNBC|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||W||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||USA|
|February 21 at 4:40 p.m.||February 21 at 2:40 a.m.||M||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||M||QF||Quarterfinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 21 at 9:10 p.m.||February 21 at 7:10 a.m.||M||QF||Quarterfinals||USA|
|February 22 at 1:10 p.m.||February 21 at 11:10 pm||W||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
|February 23 at 4:40 p.m.||February 23 at 2:40 a.m.||M||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 23 at 9:10 p.m.||February 23 at 7:10 a.m.||M||SF||Semifinals||NBC Sports Network|
|February 24 at 9:10 p.m.||February 24 at 7:10 a.m.||M||BMG||Bronze Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
|February 25 at 1:10 p.m.||February 24 at 11:10 pm||M||GMG||Gold Medal Game||NBC Sports Network|
The Original Trio reunite for a very fun-filled podcast. The Carolina Hurricanes were sold, Jaromir Jagr is soon to be unsigned, All-Star Rosters were scrutinized, US and Canada men’s national teams were analyzed and more in this action packed episode. #HealthBeforeHockey
On the most recent episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast, @connorzkeith expressed the sentiment that the Boston Bruins have been wasting the prime of their core group of players– not including David Pastrnak, or really anyone since the 2014 NHL Entry Draft currently on the roster.
Rather, Connor suggested that the Bruins were once a dominant team of the early 2010s with a core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask that’s still very much left intact from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship, but that they’ve been wasting the arc of the aforementioned players’s prime.
Luckily, Down the Frozen River has an in-house Boston historian and I am here to set the record straight. This is DTFR Overtime and what I’ve thought about after recording the last podcast.
Hockey is a game of inches and odd puck bounces. It’s a collective game of skill with an over-reliance on luck. Whatever you believe, you better believe in the Hockey Gods. It’s only fate, destiny and just a game at the end of the day, right?
The business of hockey has played a huge part in impacting the game of hockey as we know it– impacting teams and how rosters are constructed, directly through the introduction of a salary cap as of the last full-season lockout in 2004-2005 and indirectly, through many other external factors (family, injuries, et cetera).
It was because of league expansion in the 1970s and because of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) that Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and the Bruins didn’t nail down a dynasty. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens also played a part in it in 1971, 1977 and 1978, but the B’s lost star goaltender, Gerry Cheevers, to the Cleveland Crusaders of WHA from 1972 through 1976– right after winning the Cup in 1972 and during Boston’s appearance and subsequent loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final.
Cheevers alone wasn’t the only difference maker in a Bruins uniform that left the black and gold for the higher paying WHA.
Sanderson jettisoned Boston for the Philadelphia Blazers in the summer of ’72 for a $2.600 million contract that made him the highest paid athlete in the world at the time, though he went on to only play in eight games with the Blazers due to injury and returned to Boston after the WHA’s 1972-1973 season on a $1 million deal. From 1972 through 1974 with the Bruins, Sanderson only played 54 out of 156 games and was sent down to the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League before being traded to the New York Rangers in June 1974.
John “Pie” McKenzie, a gifted point scorer known by his unconventional nickname left the Bruins for the WHA’s Blazers as a player-coach after the 1972 Stanley Cup Final and never returned to the NHL. McKenzie finished his playing days with the New England Whalers in 1979.
In the 1980s and early 90s, injuries and the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers as a top team in the National Hockey League plagued the primes of Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Cam Neely and the Big Bad Bruins.
Boston lost the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals to the Oilers. Boston lost the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston Garden itself was closed in 1995– and then Boston missed the playoffs in 1997 for the first time in 30 years.
Good teams aren’t meant to remain on top forever.
There’s a reason why the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports.
Claude Julien, the winningest coach (419 wins) in Bruins franchise history– having surpassed Art Ross‘s 387 wins mark with the team during his tenure in Boston– led the black and gold to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and one President’s Trophy (just the second in franchise history during the 2013-2014 campaign).
In 2011, the Bruins rode the backs of Nathan Horton, Marchand and Tim Thomas‘s insanity in goal. In 2013, a more experienced Boston team rallied from a 4-1 deficit in a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and charged all the way to a six game series battle with the Chicago Blackhawks that ultimately ended in defeat.
Thomas was no longer part of the story after 2012. Rask took over the reigns and never looked back. Jaromir Jagr came and went in a largely forgettable time in the spoked-B.
But the Bruins could skate with the best. Until they missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.
In the Salary Cap Era, teams are built up and ripped to shreds by massive longterm contracts and dollars being improperly allocated throughout the roster.
Peter Chiarelli got the Bruins in a salary cap hell, what with their fourth line center, Chris Kelly, making $3.000 million in his final years as a Bruin. In the broad scope of things, that was the least of Chiarelli’s mismanagement that ultimately ended his time in Boston. Neither the Tyler Seguin trade nor the Johnny Boychuk trade alone could be what led to the Bruins going from a top team deep in every roster spot to a team outside the playoff picture looking in with some mediocre placeholders.
Brett Connolly and Max Talbot didn’t yield the same results in Chiarelli’s last season with the Bruins– tangible or intangible– than any of the bottom-six forwards (Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Kelly and Michael Ryder) provided for the 2011.
Just one year removed from a President’s Trophy season that ended with an early First Round exit to Montreal, the Bruins found themselves on the verge of an uncomfortable position that they hadn’t been in since missing the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. They went on to miss the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.
So the Bruins did the only thing they’ve ever known. They reset themselves while still carrying a core group of players.
In the 70s, Boston rebuilt themselves around Orr, Esposito and friends when Sanderson left (then returned and left again via trade), Cheevers departed and McKenzie stormed off to the WHA. They drafted Terry O’Reilly in 1971, Stan Johnathan in 1975 and acquired Peter McNab from the Buffalo Sabres after the 1975 Stanley Cup Final.
The new identity Bruins flipped Esposito along with Carol Vadnais during the 1975-76 season to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi and still had Orr until his departure via free agency in 1976.
They could have dismantled a team that won two Stanley Cups (and should have won more, if it weren’t for the WHA) after the franchise’s slow start in 1975. They didn’t.
Hockey has never been kind to good teams with the right players at what seems like it’s the right time (just ask last year’s Washington Capitals). But that’s the nature of the sport. No matter how much of a powerhouse you build– with or without a salary cap, with or without expansion or injuries– you can’t control the way the puck bounces.
Some players stick around in the league for long enough to become seasoned veterans of the NHL and never sniff a Stanley Cup Final appearance, let alone the postseason. It took Ron Hainsey until just last year with the Penguins to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and it took Bourque and Dave Andreychuk at least a couple of decades each to win it all.
Just because Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask only have a 2011 Stanley Cup championship together doesn’t mean they’ve been wasting their time, killing the prime of their careers.
For Boston, they ended a 39-year Stanley Cup-less drought.
They’ve already won once more than thousands of others who were lucky enough to make it to the NHL.
And they’ve forever cemented themselves in the history of the franchise, as well as the City of Boston as adopted sons and representatives of the Hub everywhere they go and in everything they do related to the sport or not.
Fans want rings and that’s one thing, but to say they’ve wasted their primes is another. They’ve contributed so much on and off the ice for the youth movement once again creeping up on the Bruins. Pastrnak is destined for stardom. Charlie McAvoy is an apprentice to Chara as Bourque was to Park in 1979.
The torch gets passed on. We’re all in for the ride.
And you pray to the Hockey Gods that they’ll let you win at least once.
44-28-10, 98 points (’16-’17), 2nd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the Eastern Finals by Pittsburgh
Offseason Analysis: The Ottawa Senators made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the eventual Stanley Cup winners, in seven games. Heading into their offseason, this is an organization that feels like they are on the brink of something major. The Senators want to balance the line of becoming better without losing too much talent.
Obviously, with the expansion draft they needed to identify someone they could easily replace via free agency or by promoting a prospect. They ended up losing Marc Methot, a big defensive piece that could be hard to replace, but they tried to find a solution by signing veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya to a one-year deal.
Soon to be 36-years-old, Oduya is past his prime but could still be useful on limited minutes. Interestingly, his contract includes performance bonuses for achieving certain TOI ratings, games played and a Senators playoff appearance, so Oduya will be doing all he can to earn more playing time from head coach Guy Boucher.
My favorite move by the Senators was resigning Alex Burrows, a wing they acquired at the trade deadline last year that provided five assists in Ottawa’s deep postseason run. Burrows can provide some added depth scoring and could be a nice fit with this “defense first”-minded team. Ottawa also signed Nate Thompson to replace Chris Kelly as the 4th line center. Thompson is used to this role from his time in Anaheim and could add a nice, rough-and-tough body to this team.
Ottawa will face a challenge to start the season as they could be without their best player in Erik Karlsson. He played the playoffs with an injured foot tendon that eventually forced him to require offseason surgery. Should he be unable to play by the season opener against Washington on October 5, Ottawa will look for someone to fill that void until he returns. A prime candidate for that position could be rookie defenseman Thomas Chabot. Chabot’s smooth skating with some offensive flair can help provide the Senators with some needed offense. I think he will be the most important player until Karlsson can return.
If the Senators want continued success, they need to have a good start to their season because of a competitive Atlantic Division. Fortunately for them, they have exactly the schedule to do that. After opening against the Capitals at home, the Senators play Detroit, Vancouver twice, Calgary, Edmonton and New Jersey. Though three of those games are on the road, Ottawa could be poised to do just that.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Senators will be another playoff team this year, and I think they could win the division after the Montreal Canadians took a step backwards. If Chabot can fill Karlsson’s shoes until he gets back, the two of them together could become a dynamic duo. The 1-3-1 system is a hard system to figure out, so it may cause a few division teams problems and give Ottawa a step up on the competition – and ultimately more success in the playoffs.