The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
If you wait long enough into the summer things start to look more concrete– until you really look at the nitty gritty.
The 2017-18 Boston Bruins were ahead of schedule. They exceeded expectations. They weren’t even supposed to have the kind of season they had until at least this season or next season (if that makes sense), depending on how you broke down General Manager Don Sweeney‘s master three-year plan.
Like everything, however, this offseason has had some ups and downs.
Without getting too much into the nonsensically named (okay, it was named after some videogame, read Bob McKenzie’s book Hockey Confidential— shameless plug) advanced stat “PDO”, let’s just say that whenever a team does really well for a season, they usually come back to reality the following season.
Hockey logic has indicated this in the past, what with the Chicago Blackhawks almost evenly spaced out Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 (notice, 2011, 2012 and 2014 did not result in Cups– kind of makes you think)– let alone all of hockey history.
A long season, while rewarding with a championship run (sometimes), is a grind.
Not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but let’s just try to look at things with a slice of realism for this season especially.
Last season they were “too young, too, too young”, but they amassed 50 wins and made it to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season they’re more experienced, but with an unknown and untapped source of depth in both their free agent signings and expected rookie debuts and sophomores.
Gone are Tim Schaller and Riley Nash— two quality bottom-six forwards who left for Vancouver and Columbus respectively in July. In their place we find Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom. Lateral– but necessary– moves.
The expectations coming into Schaller and Nash’s two-year deals in the 2016 offseason were that they’d contribute in some way, but nobody could predict Schaller becoming a legitimate fourth liner and Nash amassing 41 points (a career best) in a contract year.
While Wagner and Nordstrom aren’t your bottom-six fan favorites yet, they share similar parallels of the unknown and are expected to rise to the occasion– whatever that may be as Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will see fit.
Wagner’s your tough guy and Nordstrom’s a solid penalty killer. The latter will likely see some time with Sean Kuraly on a PK-unit a la Nash and Kuraly from this past season.
Moore’s five-year deal may seem like a bit much, but at $2.750 million per season, he’s making as much as Adam McQuaid for likely a bottom-pair role that’ll transform into McQuaid’s replacement, should Sweeney look to move the career-long Boston defender or not re-sign him in July 2019.
Despite being one-year older than Khudobin, Halak is an upgrade as a stable backup goaltender who’s numbers should improve in a more limited role with a better group of skaters in front of him than his now former New York Islanders teammates were the last few seasons.
Pointless arguments can be made all day (Halak is better than Khudobin), but let’s move on with the actual lineup projection, shall we?
Actually, let’s digress for another moment. Rick Nash remains undecided about whether or not he’d like to return to the game, so that could always mess everything up.
Anyway, here’s a look at how the Boston Bruins 2018-19 lineup should shape up:
Forward Line 1
Isn’t it obvious? The best line in the NHL from 2017-18 rolls right into 2018-19 intact with the same level of chemistry as before. Sure, you could spread out the points a bit by putting Pastrnak on the second line with David Krejci, but you really don’t have to unless you’re looking to shake things up a bit from time to time.
Boston’s first line is set for at least the remainder of Patrice Bergeron’s existence– ignoring contracts altogether. Brad Marchand is inseparable from Bergeron and Pastrnak has joined that royalty in his own right, as he continues to emerge as a star.
Forward Line 2
Jake DeBrusk and Krejci go together like Milan Lucic once did on the Czech center’s left side. Except there’s a bit of a difference in DeBrusk’s game– it’s more offensive. The bigger question on Boston’s second line shouldn’t be “what top-six forward will they try to acquire to fill a ‘hole'”, but rather “who will win the job between Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato?”
For the sake of testing things out in the wake of Bjork’s return from a season-ending injury in 2017-18, Cassidy could insert No. 10 on the second line. Then again, if the Bruins are set on giving Donato a big-time role for a full season, well, then it’ll be Bjork sliding down to line three or line four.
Donato could be like Pastrnak once was early in his development and be sent to Providence for some seasoning in his game and offensive capabilities at the professional level. However, one difference between Donato’s development and Pastrnak’s development is that Donato stood out on an Olympic level, not just in an international World Junior Championship competition.
But if you’re looking to give props to Pastrnak, it’s worth mentioning (albeit due to international/minor league transfer rules) that No. 88 in black and gold went pro before Donato while No. 17 in the spoked-B finished his bona fide duties at Harvard University.
Or just to mess everything else up, perhaps Bjork starts 2018-19 with a stint in Providence.
Forward Line 3
Whoever doesn’t win the second line right wing job (Bjork or Donato) should likely end up on the third line in Boston alongside Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly. Kuraly, you say?
Yes, Kuraly will be tested out as a third line center as had been planned since he was part of the Martin Jones trade with the San Jose Sharks. Just how far will his bottom-six forward potential go? Time well tell and the time is now.
Otherwise Joakim Nordstrom slides right into Riley Nash’s old job much like how he’s already slid into the No. 20 sweater in the Hub.
Forward Line 4
14 Chris Wagner — 20 Joakim Nordstrom — 55 Noel Acciari
Then again, if Bjork or Donato slide just enough, they might end up taking a job from Noel Acciari on the fourth line. Or just maybe Sweeney can console armchair GMs enough with some level justification for having Backes on the fourth line at $6.000 million per season through the 2020-21 season.
For fans and armchair GMs alike that like a lot of hitting, Chris Wagner is your man. He’s basically the new Matt Beleskey, but without the expectations that ran rampant after Beleskey’s incredible 2015 Stanley Cup Playoff run with the Anaheim Ducks.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much status quo on the fourth line, despite some new faces in Wagner and Nordstrom– provide a spark. Whatever that is.
Defensive Pair 1
Zdeno Chara wants to play forever (basically) and Charlie McAvoy is the closest thing Bruins fans have seen to a modern-day Ray Bourque in his development and potential.
On a serious note, Chara intends to play for at least another four years (by then he’ll be 45) and signed a one-year extension (at a $5.000 million cap hit) this spring for the 2018-19 season. McAvoy, on the other hand, seeks to continue his rise to stardom on the blue line moving on to his sophomore season.
Defensive Pair 2
There’s an impetus among armchair GMs to trade Torey Krug for a second line wing and/or other assets, but the fact of the matter is Sweeney and Co. have no legitimate rush to move on from Krug. He might be their biggest piece of trade bait for speculative purposes this season, yet he’s also still part of the top-four defensive core in Boston.
Meanwhile, Brandon Carlo looks to rebound from a bit of a sophomore slump in which he failed to score a goal. Carlo and Krug had a chemistry that– at best of times– worked well in 2017-18. Like any defender, though, mistakes are usually noticeable, because there’s a puck in the net behind them.
Defensive Pair 3
27 John Moore — 86 Kevan Miller
You’re not going to pay John Moore $2.750 million for the next five seasons to not play him, whereas a guy like Matt Grzelcyk or Brandon Carlo could be at risk of becoming a healthy scratch– and that’s assuming Adam McQuaid who also has a $2.750 million cap hit this season already will be a healthy scratch most nights.
In the meantime, Kevan Miller has solidified himself as the 5th or 6th defenseman in Boston– for his physicality and impressive play alone– and could further take on McQuaid’s fighter role this season as a deterrence from the waning role of the enforcer around the rest of the league.
48 Matt Grzelcyk, 54 Adam McQuaid
Following suit with last season, Grzelcyk will have to win his full-time role out of the gate once again, while McQuaid’s future status with the organization remains cloudy past 2019. So cloudy, in fact, that he’ll be a pending-UFA as of July 2019.
In the system
Zach Senyshyn (potential second line RW/bottom six contender), Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (bottom six contender), Jesse Gabrielle (fourth line option at camp), Trent Frederic (bottom six contender), Jack Studnicka (bottom six contender at camp), Jakub Zboril (bottom pair defensive contender), Jeremy Lauzon (bottom pair defensive contender), Zane McIntyre (backup goalie contender at camp), Dan Vladar (backup goalie contender at camp)
40 Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask is your starting goaltender as he has been since Tim Thomas decided to take a gap year (and was subsequently traded to the Islanders). There is no goaltending controversy, though Jaroslav Halak should provide more consistency in net on the night’s Rask gets to rest.
In addition to finding the right mix of rest and play, fewer shots against for the third consecutive year since facing a career high 2,011 shots in 70 games in 2014-15 has helped Rask’s focus throughout the season as the Bruins look to go further as a team.
You win and lose as a team– not solely as a goaltender.
41 Jaroslav Halak
Yes, Anton Khudobin bounced back from a disappointing 2016-17 season to an exuberant 2017-18 season, but let’s get this clear– he’s a backup. Khudobin bounced around a bit from the NHL to the AHL and back again in 2016-17, posting a 2.64 goals against average and .904 save percentage in 16 games played.
He then had a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV% in 31 games as Boston’s backup in 2017-18, which was good enough for his third best season in GAA and SV%, dating back to his first real taste of being a backup NHL goaltender in 2012-13 with Boston (Khudobin appeared in seven NHL games from 2009-12 with Minnesota and the Bruins in dire situations).
The thing here is a 2.56 GAA is not starting netminder material, no matter how you break down Khudobin’s overall improvement from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
In the meantime, Jaroslav Halak is poised for career-reset. He’s got a change of scenery from Brooklyn to Boston and with that he won’t be playing in nearly as many games.
Halak had a 3.19 GAA and .908 SV% in 54 games as New York’s starting goalie, keeping in mind the Islanders suffered a lot of injuries on the blue line last season. He also nearly doubled his workload from a dismal 2016-17 (28 games played) to 2017-18 (54 GP).
In 2015-16, Halak had a 2.30 GAA and .919 SV% as the Islanders backup netminder in 36 games played. Khudobin, on the other hand, appeared in nine games for the Anaheim Ducks that season, amassing a 2.69 GAA and .909 SV% before being sent down to San Diego (AHL).
The moral of the story here is that the Bruins have been about giving backups second chances in recent history, whether that’s Chad Johnson, Jonas Gustavsson, Khudobin and now Halak– they’re willing to take that gamble.
Okay, end Halak vs. Khudobin rant.
The USWNT won gold in PyeongChang– defeating Canada 3-2 in a shootout– and Nick and Connor are thrilled. Jarome Iginla might be coming back just in time for trades, playoff talk and more on this week’s episode of the DTFR Podcast.
Nick and Connor are mad that Jaromir Jagr still doesn’t have a contract and discuss many offseason storylines that have happened in the last couple of weeks. Leon Draisaitl‘s contract is broken down and the NCAA vs. CHL debate reignites, plus a 2017-2018 season preview of the Pacific Division. Also, we’d totally make Team USA.
By: Nick Lanciani
Bad forced play-on-word attempts are my middle name, so in “Vesey’s Pieces” I take a look at what teams have the right pieces in place to lock up Jimmy Vesey on August 15th (if he doesn’t re-sign with the Buffalo Sabres before then).
Here’s a list of teams that could sign Vesey:
Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens,
Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets
Yes, that list includes Las Vegas, because wouldn’t it be funny if Jimmy Vesey decided to wait another year just to mess with everyone and give him 31 options instead of 30?
Also, I know the salary cap exists, but teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10% without facing penalty in the offseason. By training camp each organization must be cap compliant, meaning that any team could sign Vesey to the maximum amount of $925,000 on August 15th and spend the rest of the offseason figuring out who they’ll trade or send down to the AHL to fit under the salary cap.
Realistically, let’s take a look at who’s in play, shall we?
The fact of the matter is that Jimmy Vesey’s agent seems to confirm just about anything that’s been asked. Are the Bruins interested? Are the Blackhawks interested? Are the Sabres interested? Is Toronto interested? Does Jimmy think a hot dog is a sandwich?
All of these questions seem to be met with a “yes” or “there’s a mutual interest something something they’re expected to be on the short list something something get out of here with your hot dog takes.”
Enough foolishness aside, Colby Kephart and I agreed on Tuesday in a private conversation that we’re both tired of the media circus that’s become the Vesey Decision 2016. It’s nothing against Vesey as a player, or his right to explore all of his options per the collective bargaining agreement in the manner that he is, but rather it’s the hype that we’re annoyed about.
Nobody is questioning his ability, having amassed 24-22-46 totals in 33 games this season with the Harvard Crimson and 32-26-58 totals the year before that in 37 games played. That’s 104 points in 70 games over his final two seasons with the Crimson, if you can’t do the math. Vesey’s numbers have grown and his playing style has developed as he’s gone through four years at Harvard, in the midst of one of the greatest college hockey cities in the United States- all while not being put against Hockey East universities on the regular, mind you.
That’s not to discredit the ECAC either. Vesey is a college standout. He’s the real deal, but like any prospect, there’s a chance he won’t make as much of an impact as one would expect.
And that is what hinges me from being able to say without a doubt he’s apt to be going to one team or another, because it all depends on how much of a risk teams are willing to take.
Could he sign with his hometown team in Boston? Absolutely, but it’s not like the Bruins won’t be fine offensively if they don’t sign Vesey. Their top-six forwards are Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Matt Beleskey, David Backes and/or Frank Vatrano (which technically breaks the rules of limiting the discussion to just six players if one includes Vatrano).
Would a solidified top-nine make the Bruins a better team? I guess you could say so, but that does nothing to improve their defense.
Buffalo has been trying their hardest to keep Vesey around longer than just for this summer with their Jack Eichel diplomacy, but even there, it’s not like they’ll be that much better of a team or that much worse if they lose out on Vesey for only the cost of a third round pick. Keep in mind Boston traded a third round pick for Zac Rinaldo after all.
The Sabres have a quality roster with the addition of Kyle Okposo this offseason and rising sophomore Eichel and friends. Tim Murray’s been making the right moves as their general manager and this could be the season that they get back into the playoffs if they play their cards right, their guys stay healthy and the right additions without subtracting reveal themselves throughout the season.
They won’t lead the Atlantic Division, because hello, the entire state of Florida is good at hockey right now. Yet Buffalo will definitely be more competitive against a weakened, P.K. Subban-less Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators (who’ll end up overpaying Cody Ceci, just watch), Detroit Red Wings (who’ll probably miss the playoffs for the first time in forever) and Bruins (what’s a defense).
As for Chicago, what are the odds that Vesey will win the Cup in his first season if he signs with them? Pretty great probably, but what are the odds that he’d get traded that offseason or in his first few years in the league from the Blackhawks? Also pretty good, since his last name isn’t Kane, Toews, Panarin, or Hossa (or any of their other core guys).
It’s hard to crack the core in Chicago, even if they are to move Marian Hossa in the coming season(s). But it also looks like poor salary cap management may finally be catching up to them, ignoring the fact that this is what is said every other year about the Blackhawks.
The Maple Leafs seem to be largely at play, what with Auston Matthews being a main attraction and Vesey’s family ties to the organization. While we’re on the subject of Toronto, why not take a look at the Arizona Coyotes who have done everything the Maple Leafs have dreamed of in one offseason at this point?
There’s a great chance he’ll end up with an Original Six team, because that’s where it seems his interest resides. In the end it’s all about the best fit, which could sway Vesey to a team like the Coyotes where he has the chance to standout on the roster and against other teams, if that’s what he’s after. Or he could stay with the Sabres.
Then again, he’ll probably sign with a team none of us expected him to sign with and disappoint every fanbase that was on edge, awaiting a signature on a piece of paper with their team’s logo on it.
But hey, for the record, I’ve never had Reese’s Pieces which might shock you even more than Jimmy Vesey getting your hopes up and signing with a different team. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 1 Recap
By: Nick Lanciani
A full house at Amalie Arena for Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final went from being louder than thunder to silent in a span of 1 minute, 58 seconds in the 3rd period as the Chicago Blackhawks triumphed the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Teuvo Tervainen and Antoine Vermette had the game tying and game winning goals, respectively, for Blackhawks and Chicago goalie, Corey Crawford, made 22 saves on 23 shots faced in the win. Tampa’s Ben Bishop made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the loss for the Lightning. Chicago leads the series 1-0.
Despite a goal from Alex Killorn at 4:31 of the 1st period, the Lightning fell to 9-1 overall in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs when scoring first. Killorn’s goal was his 8th of the playoffs. His goal came on a crafty no look, lacrosse move inspired, turn around deflection. The shot originated from an Anton Stralman slapper from the point after Stralman had received a pass from Valtteri Filppula.
Of interest, Killorn became the first Harvard University alumnus to score a goal in Stanley Cup Final history.
Less than two minutes later Chicago forward, Andrew Shaw, took a minor penalty for tripping Tampa forward, Ondrej Palat. The Lightning’s power play was ineffective and the Blackhawks survived the short-handed play. At 16:48, Chicago received a power play of their own as Tampa defenseman, Jason Garrison, was called for cross checking Blackhawks forward, Marcus Kruger.
In spite of a few chances on the power play, the Blackhawks were unable to get on the board and even the score before the end of the first period. The Lightning were held shot less in the final eight minutes of the period.
Twenty-eight seconds into the 2nd period, Brandon Saad took a high stick from Killorn. Tampa killed the ensuing Chicago power play, but found themselves shorthanded yet again at 9:48 of the 2nd period for having too many men on the ice. The bench minor was served by Lightning captain and superstar forward, Steven Stamkos, and the penalty was once again killed by Tampa’s penalty killing unit.
At 13:28 of the period, Chicago’s Kris Versteeg was tripped into Tampa goaltender, Ben Bishop, but was instead questionably called for goaltender interference himself. With Versteeg in the box, the Lightning went on another unsuccessful power play, as neither team scored on special team opportunities.
No penalties were called in the 3rd period, thereby ending Chicago’s night on the power play at 0 for 3 and Tampa’s at 0 for 2.
Tampa Bay was outshooting Chicago 18-15 before the midway mark of the 3rd period, but began to allow more and more chances for the Blackhawks. With 9:27 to go in the game, shots on goal were tied 18-18. The young roster of the Lightning, which includes 12 players under the age of 25 (not necessarily all in the lineup), began to show signs of deteriorating with a 1-0 lead- held since the 1st period.
1:58 later, the acquisition made just prior to the trade deadline in March for the Blackhawks, proved his worth once again with a huge goal for Chicago. Antoine Vermette gave the Blackhawks the 2-1 lead with his 3rd goal of the playoffs with help from Teravainen.
With about a minute remaining in the game, Tampa pulled Bishop for an extra attacker, but was unable to tie the game and force overtime. Chicago improved to 5-5 on the road in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Tampa fell to 5-6 at home in the playoffs.
The Lightning outshot the Blackhawks 23-21 in Game 1 and led in hits (29-21), faceoff wins (30-27), and blocked shots (15-11).
For the first time since 1983, the team with the most goals scored in the regular season and the team with the fewest goals allowed in the regular season are meeting in the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa, having been the team with the most goals scored, is trying to become the first team to lead the league in goals scored and win the Cup in the same season since the 1991-1992 Pittsburgh Penguins did so.
Meanwhile, the league’s best defense, the Chicago Blackhawks, are trying to become the first team to win three Stanley Cup titles in a six-season span since the Detroit Red Wings did so from 1996-1997 through 2001-2002.
In the previous four instances of the best offense meeting the best defense in the Final, the best defensive team has won every time.
Chicago is eyeing their 6th Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, while Tampa is trying to earn their 2nd Cup in franchise history in as many appearances in the Finals.
The Blackhawks lead the series 1-0 heading into Game 2 on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 PM EST on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.