Nick and Sean preview the Western Conference matchups in the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2020-21 record 35-19-2, 72 points
2nd in the Scotia NHL North Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Winnipeg
Additions: F Warren Foegele (acquired from CAR), F Zach Hyman, F Brendan Perlini, F Derek Ryan, F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO), F Tim Soderlund (acquired from CHI), D Cody Ceci, D Duncan Keith (acquired from CHI)
Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (signed with Bakersfield Condors, AHL), F Tyler Ennis (signed to a PTO with OTT), F Joseph Gambardella (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Gaëtan Haas (NL), F Dominik Kahun (NL), F Jujhar Khaira (signed with CHI), F James Neal (buyout), F Joakim Nygård (SHL), F Alan Quine (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Patrick Russell (SHL), F Anton Slepyshev (KHL), D Ethan Bear (traded to CAR), D Caleb Jones (traded to CHI), D Dmitry Kulikov (signed with MIN), D Adam Larsson (expansion, SEA), D Theodor Lennström (KHL), G Dylan Wells (traded to CAR)
Still Unsigned: F Alex Chiasson
Re-signed: F Tyler Benson, F Cooper Marody, F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F Devin Shore, F Kailer Yamamoto, D Tyson Barrie, D Slater Koekkoek, G Stuart Skinner, G Mike Smith
Offseason Analysis: The second-best team in the Scotia NHL North Division would’ve been the fourth-best team in the other three divisions last season.
No matter what, the Oilers would’ve been a playoff team in 2020-21, but it’s the embarrassment that came with being swept in the 2021 First Round by the Winnipeg Jets and subsequent offseason moves that have left many scratching their heads.
Instead of overreacting and making big, sweeping, changes, Edmonton went for a big piece and a few smaller moves that still ate up their valuable cap space in the midst of a flat salary cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
So really it’s just more of the same from the Oilers.
Let’s start with the good news…
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Barrie are back and solidify some semblance of depth for Edmonton with Nugent-Hopkins on an affordable eight-year extension worth $5.125 million per season– the Oilers will have a surefire center on the second or third line for years to come.
The 28-year-old was Edmonton’s 1st overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games last season after reaching the 60-point plateau in back-to-back seasons from 2018-19 through 2019-20.
Had there been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, Nugent-Hopkins likely would’ve at least eclipsed the 50-point mark.
At 5-foot-8, 135-pounds, Yamamoto has a lot in common with guys like Martin St. Louis in his stature and– like St. Louis– is better off developing on his own as he had 8-13–21 totals in 52 games in his first full season run with the Oilers last season.
Though he made his league debut in 2017-18, Yamamoto has only been utilized by Edmonton sparingly in parts of three seasons leading up to his full-time status in 2020-21.
His game should be fine in due time, though offering him a supporting cast (a theme for the Oilers in general) would be fine.
After he had 59 points in 78 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2018-19, Barrie was shipped as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade that, well, didn’t exactly live up to the high expectations in Toronto.
Barrie’s production from the point plummeted to 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20.
He joined the Oilers on a one-year deal last October and bounced back with an admirable 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 56 games.
He had 25 points on the power play in his last season in Colorado, then just 12 points as a quarterback on Toronto’s power play unit before rebounding with 23 points from the blue line while on the skater advantage last season for Edmonton.
For his efforts, Barrie was rewarded with a sweet three-year deal worth $4.500 million per season and at 29-years-old that’s about right for a defender on the cusp of beginning the eventual decline from a defensive prime.
Zach Hyman joins the Oilers on a seven-year contract worth $5.500 million per season, which isn’t completely terrible for a 29-year-old forward in his prime that had 15-18–33 totals in 43 games with the Maple Leafs last season and has reached the 40-point plateau twice before.
As a top-six forward, Hyman is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s Art Ross Trophy-winning powerhouse offense (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl).
An additional positive from this offseason?
Edmonton’s rid themselves of James Neal via a buyout. Granted, he’ll still be on the books through the 2024-25 season at about a $1.917 million cap penalty, but after parts of two seasons with the Oilers since being acquired for Milan Lucic, at least that branch of franchise history has come to a close.
Neal had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games last season after bouncing back from 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 63 games with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 to 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 55 games for Edmonton in 2019-20.
He’s a shell of his former self, but on a low-risk contract, he could fit in fine just about anywhere else that needs a touch of veteran experience.
Now for the bad stuff that… …isn’t necessarily that bad, it’s just disappointing from the Oilers (who seemingly have chosen to make the Buffalo Sabres look good for at least being salary cap smart this offseason and that’s about it).
At 39-years-old, Mike Smith could’ve called it a career, but when Jimmy Howard turned down Oilers General Manager, Ken Holland, Smith was rewarded with two-year (not just one-year!) extension worth $2.200 million per season.
The cap hit is fine, considering he recored a goals-against average under 2.50 for the first time since the 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Back then, in 67 games with Phoenix, Smith had a 38-18-10 record, a 2.21 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and eight shutouts en route to backstopping the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, where the Los Angeles Kings eliminated Phoenix in five games.
Last season with the Oilers, Smith went 21-6-2 in 32 games, had three shutouts and amassed a 2.31 goals-against average as well as a .923 save percentage.
In 2019-20, he had a 19-12-6 record in 39 games, one shutout, a .902 save percentage and a whopping 2.95 goals-against average.
Whether it’s the introduction of Barrie to Edmonton’s defense that helped singlehandedly reduce the workload Smith faced or not– Smith had a fantastic season in 2020-21.
However, time stops for nobody and with an average age of 35.3 between Smith, Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock as reliable options in the crease under contract at the NHL level, well, it’s easy to feel uneasy about Edmonton’s chances at stopping the puck from night-to-night as their bodies collectively wear down through an 82-game schedule.
Then again, they are athletes and you and I are not.
Yet, it’s worth noting since unlike Smith, Koskinen went from an 18-13-3 record in 38 games with a 2.75 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20 with the Oilers to a dismal 13-13-0 record in 26 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 2020-21.
For all the good that Barrie and Co. on Edmonton’s blue line have done, there’s two new additions that, uh, might undo some of the forward progress.
Connor McDavid (ever heard of him?) vouched for Holland to acquire Duncan Keith from Chicago and then Holland went along and signed Cody Ceci in free agency.
Though Keith recorded 6-34–40 totals in 82 games in 2018-19 with Chicago, he’s been in decline, notching 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 61 games in 2019-20 and just 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 54 games last season.
The 38-year-old defender would’ve accepted any trade to a team close to the pacific northwest as he expressed a desire to be closer to family, having been isolated playing hockey for a living for most of the time during the ongoing pandemic and spending roughly five months combined with his son prior to being traded to Edmonton.
In 1,192 career NHL games, he’s won three Stanley Cup rings, was named playoff MVP in 2015, and has 105-520–625 totals in the regular season.
With two years left on his contract, Keith’s $5.538 million cap hit is a bit steep for what could be a defensive liability as the aging process continues and– turns out– Holland could’ve done better by waiting another day and signing Keith Yandle for much less after the Florida Panthers bought him out. Who knew?!
Though the Internet likes to make fun of Ceci, the 27-year-old defender really hasn’t been all that bad.
Sure 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 53 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season isn’t great, but he’s not expected to be a top-four defender– or at least he shouldn’t be.
Mistakes and weird things will happen. Sometimes you’re just unlucky like that.
Wait, Holland gave him four-years at $3.250 million per season? Yikes.
And to put the icing on the cake, Holland traded Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele. Not that Foegele’s bad, but for a team that could use a better defense, Bear fit in pretty well.
Has this McDavid guy ever tried watching the Oilers?
Offseason Grade: C+
For the Nugent-Hopkins extension, sensible new deal for Barrie and Yamamoto bridge contract, Holland deserves some praise for keeping the right pieces happy and on the roster heading into 2021-22.
That said, he also made some errors in judgment acquiring Keith at the price he paid, as well as handing out Ceci a contract with a steep cap hit and term for a guy that’s probably not that good.
In other words, it was just another normal offseason for the Oilers.
Edmonton made some smart moves, but then overreacted in other areas, while still searching for the second coming of Andy Moog in net or whatever.
Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?
Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.
But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?
The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.
Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.
Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.
If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.
By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.
Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.
So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Qualifiers, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars sort themselves out.
All Western Conference games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, including the Western Conference Final and all of the Stanley Cup Final.
(5) Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)
Edmonton: 71 games played, .585 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.
Chicago: 70 games played, .514 points percentage, 23 regulation wins.
The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 83 points– three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead. That’s how good the Oilers were at times and/or how far behind the Pacific Division was at times leading up to the premature end of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One thing is for sure about the always home-ice even without fans in the bubble Oilers team, their top players were much better than they were last season.
2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner and Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Leon Draisaitl had 110 points this season in 71 games played. He was on pace for 126 points had the regular season reached its original conclusion.
That would’ve been 21 points better than his previous high of 105 points in 82 games last season. Luckily for Draisaitl, he still set a new career-high in a pandemic– two new career-highs, actually.
Though 43 goals this season did not top the 50 goals he scored in 2018-19, Draisaitl set career-highs in assists (67) and points (110)– and yet, somehow he still was a minus-seven on the season.
Is it worth exploring moving Draisaitl out of Edmonton? MY COLUMN:
(If you’re wondering, that’s four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points and back-to-back 100-plus point seasons for Draisaitl, so no, he’s not going anywhere.)
Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, had 34 goals and 63 assists (97 points) in 64 games this season, which was 19 points shy of his career-high 116-points last season in 78 games in 2018-19. McDavid was on pace for 124 points this season at the time of the stoppage.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third in scoring for Edmonton with 22-39–61 totals in 65 games this season, then the next highest skater had 34 points in 59 games (Zack Kassian). This season marked back-to-back 60-point seasons for Nugent-Hopkins for the first time in his career.
In goal, Mike Smith (19-12-6 in 39 games played, 37 starts, 2.95 goals against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout) split time with Mikko Koskinen (18-13-3 in 38 GP, 34 starts, 2.75 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout in that span) this season.
The 38-year-old veteran goaltender, Smith, has a 2.17 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts over 24 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Meanwhile, 32-year-old Koskinen has yet to appear in a postseason NHL game.
Smith’s .938 SV% in the playoffs, however, is league-leading among active NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games played.
Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, might be smart to start Smith over Koskinen in Game 1, considering Smith’s career playoff numbers, but he did post a 3.20 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games with the Calgary Flames in the 2019 First Round en route to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
Smith did record one shutout in last year’s playoffs, however, and faced 205 shots against in those five games against the Avs.
That was about 34% of the number of shots he faced (602) in 16 games with the then known as Phoenix Coyotes en route to their 2012 Western Conference Final appearance against the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
At the other end of the rink, Patrick Kane led the way for the Chicago Blackhawks this season with 33-51–84 totals in 70 games, which was 24 points more than Jonathan Toews’ 60-point effort in 70 games for Chicago this season.
2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, was third in Blackhawks scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists (46 points) in 68 games played.
For Kane, the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season marked five consecutive seasons with at least 70 points, while he was on pace for about 98 points had the regular season witnessed a full 82-game conclusion.
For Toews, he has never had a season with 82 games schedule below 50 points (though he had 48 points in 47 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but he did see a decrease in production from 81 points in 82 games last season to 60 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 70 points over an 82-game schedule in 2019-20.
In goal, Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks with a 16-20-3 record in 40 games played (39 starts), a 2.77 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout this season.
Prior to being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline via the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade– in which Chicago acquired, in part, Malcolm Subban– Robin Lehner served as Crawford’s tandem goaltender with a 16-10-5 record in 33 games played (31 starts), a 3.01 GAA, .918 SV% and no shutouts in that span with the Blackhawks.
Subban, on the other hand, made one appearance with Chicago after the trade and played in one minute as a Blackhawk. He had a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% in 20 games (19 starts) with the Golden Knights this season, however.
Should Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, be given any reason not to opt for Crawford as his Qualifier starter, then there’s cause for concern as to whether or not Chicago can upset the Oilers if Subban can’t right the ship from his worst season as an NHL backup goaltender.
Four months off with plenty of rest to get in the right mindset might have been a good thing for his rhythm, however, as Crawford and Subban made a combined shutout effort in Chicago’s, 4-0, win over the St. Louis Blues in their exhibition matchup.
What’s more, the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 in three games against the Oilers this season, but before you start thinking there’s a chance Chicago upsets Edmonton with a sweep or anything, take caution as the Hawks had ten goals for and nine goals against in their season series.
This will be Colliton’s first appearance behind the bench as head coach in a postseason (but also not technically postseason) appearance for the Blackhawks– and Chicago’s first postseason action without Joel Quenneville at the reigns since before Quenneville was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.
It truly is a new era for Chicago, despite much of the core remaining from their three Cup championships in a five-year span.
Look for the Oilers to get the job done in four games with Tippett looking to punch his ticket back to the postseason since leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, while The Hockey Gods favor Edmonton since the tragic loss of their teammate, Colby Cave, in April after the 25-year-old forward suffered a brain bleed and died days later after being placed in a medically induced coma.
Regular season outcomes:
3-1 CHI at United Center on Oct. 14th, 5-3 EDM at Rogers Place on Feb. 11th, 4-3 CHI at United Center on March 5th
8/1- Game 1 CHI @ EDM 3 PM ET on NBC, SN
8/3- Game 2 CHI @ EDM 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN
8/5- Game 3 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN
8/7- Game 4 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton*
8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*
(6) Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs (11) Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)
Nashville: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 28 regulation wins.
Arizona: 70 games played, .529 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.
There’s something in the water in Nashville– and it’s not just catfish. Predators defender– and 2019-20 James Norris Trophy finalist– Roman Josi led the Preds in scoring this season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games.
He was on pace for 77 points at the time of the stoppage and trailed Washington Capitals defender– and fellow Norris finalist– John Carlson by ten points for the most points by a defender this season.
It was a career-season for Josi in goals, assists and points, by the way.
Nashville’s top-three in scoring, in fact, nearly contained two defenders as Josi led the way and Ryan Ellis notched 38 points in an injury-riddled 49-game season (a 64-point pace had the full 82-game schedule been completed if the pandemic never happened).
Ellis trailed Filip Forsberg (21-27–48 totals in 63 games) and Matt Duchene (13-29–42 totals in 66 games) in scoring on the Predators roster.
Juuse Saros finally emerged as a de facto starting goaltender for Nashville after amassing a 17-12-4 record in 40 games played (34 starts), as well as a 2.70 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts on the season.
Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, had an 18-14-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), which wasn’t bad, but his numbers past his overall record were actually a career-worst with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 SV% in 2019-20.
Rinne previously had a 3.80 GAA in a season, but that was only when he played in two games in 2005-06.
This was a season to forget for Rinne, but perhaps a larger indicator of more worries to come for Nashville in the net– especially more so after Saros didn’t exactly light it up as a starter with a goals against average that would even make a backup goaltender look, well, average.
The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with a new owner, as well as a new Interim General Manager in Steve Sullivan, as well as Nick Schmaltz leading the way in scoring with 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points in 70 games played.
Not ideal, ideally speaking.
Clayton Keller had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games and was on pace for 52 points had the pandemic not cut the regular season short.
Meanwhile, Conor Garland was third on the team in scoring with 39 points in 68 games, while establishing career-highs in goals (22), assists (17) and points (39) in the process.
Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel each had 38 points in 70 games. Over an 82-game schedule, that’s about a 45-point pace, which would’ve still been a career-season for Dvorak and a disappointment for Kessel in his first season in the desert.
Granted, Kessel’s not playing with guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in his new home in Arizona.
He failed to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, in which Kessel scored 19 goals in 82 games for the Boston Bruins in his sophomore season.
Kessel also failed to reach 30-assists for the first time since his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2009-10, in which he had 25 helpers in 70 games.
Finally, No. 81 on Arizona’s roster failed to amass at least 40 points in a season for just the third time in his career (29 points in 70 games while missing time battling testicular cancer with the Bruins in his rookie season in 2006-07, and 37 points in 82 games the following season in 2007-08 with Boston).
Granted, Kessel likely could have passed the 40-point plateau had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted plans for him and his Coyotes teammates.
In goal, Antti Raanta appeared in 33 games (32 starts) and had a 15-14-3 record, as well as a 2.63 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in that span.
Darcy Kuemper went 16-11-2 in 29 games played (all starts) and amassed a 2.22 GAA, while putting up a .928 SV% and two shutouts this season for the Coyotes.
If there’s any doubt Rick Tocchet has over deciding which goaltender to start in Game 1 against Nashville, there shouldn’t be any question– it has to be Kuemper.
Simply put, it’s Kuemper’s net to lose right now in Arizona and a little healthy competition isn’t a bad idea to try to spur Raanta in the right direction if he wants to be a starter in this league.
Boy, home ice advantage really would be something in this series by default, right? After all, each team won their only home game in their regular season matchups prior to the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.
Since home ice is without fans in Edmonton for all Western Conference teams in the 2020 postseason, there’s not much to go off of in terms of these two clubs’ head-to-head meetings.
But the Predators have more than a few things going in their favor among their forwards and defenders who could also play forward, arguably.
The one thing Arizona has that Nashville hasn’t seen much of this season is a consistent starter in the crease.
If the Coyotes win the series, it’ll likely have something with Kuemper stealing a few games.
If the Preds sweep Arizona, it might have something to do with the sheer fire power in a last-ditch effort at what’s otherwise a closing window for a potential Cup contending roster.
At the very least John Hynes probably doesn’t have to worry about getting the same treatment as Peter Laviolette– who Hynes replaced in January– if the Predators dropped the ball in this series.
Let’s say Nashville in three, but give props to Kuemper for honing in his talents to tend the crease this well in his career. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s arrived and here to stay, unlike former Coyotes GM John Chayka.
Regular season outcomes:
5-2 ARI at Gila River Arena on Oct. 17th, 3-2 NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 23rd
8/2- Game 1 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN360
8/4- Game 2 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, SN360
8/5- Game 3 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360
8/7- Game 4 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton*
8/9- Game 5 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton*
(7) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs (10) Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points)
Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.
Minnesota: 69 games played, .558 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.
Entering the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, added J.T. Miller to the fold in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Benning then went out and got Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings leading up to the 2020 trade deadline.
As a result, the Canucks are much improved from last season to this season.
Miller led the team in scoring with 27-45–72 totals in 69 games played and was on pace for about 86 points at the time of the stoppage due to the pandemic.
Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games), Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) and Quinn Hughes (53 points in 69 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring for Vancouver.
Horvat and Hughes were tied for the third most points on the team as Hughes left his mark on the 2019-20 season by earning Calder Memorial Trophy finalist honors.
Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom led the Canucks in the crease with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games played (all starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in that span.
Thatcher Demko made 27 appearances (25 starts) as the backup goaltender and went 13-10-2 on the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .905 SV% in that span.
Louis Domingue also appeared in one game (one start) in the regular season for the Canucks and had a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV%.
Markstrom will be the starter for Vancouver’s postseason run, but he’ll have to be a tad better in cutting down his goals against average for a deep run.
For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it’s more of the same game plan to try to spur the Canucks back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2015 First Round appearance and elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames in six games.
The Minnesota Wild removed the “interim” tag from their head coach, Dean Evason’s title since the pause in play and are looking to upset the Canucks and get back into the playoffs since missing the postseason last season.
Kevin Fiala led the way for the Wild in scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 games played. He was on pace for 69 points had the season gone all 82 games, but still established career-highs in goals, assists and points in the shortened season regardless.
Ryan Suter led defenders and was second in scoring on the roster with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 69 games, while Eric Staal was ahead of Zach Parise by one point for third in scoring with 47 points in 66 games.
In goal, Alex Stalock (20-11-4 in 38 games played, 36 starts, 2.67 goals against average, .985 save percentage, four shutouts) outplayed Minnesota’s usual starter Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2 in 30 GP, 28 starts, 3.35 GAA, .890 SV%, one shutout) and will likely backstop the team in Game 1 against Vancouver.
Kaapo Kahkonen also made his NHL debut this season in the crease for the Wild in five games– amassing a 3-1-1 record, as well as a 2.96 GAA and a .913 SV%.
Both teams had nine goals for and nine goals against one another in their season series. They also each had 89 total shots on goal against one another in the 2019-20 regular season.
Though the Wild made strides this season at potentially avoiding a rebuild, it’s still an uphill climb for Minnesota against the Canucks on paper– regardless of their head-to-head matchups from the season.
Vancouver has the right combination of speed, skill and youth to limit Minnesota’s chances and, at times, lackluster offense.
The Canucks core is more defined than Minnesota’s fluid situation as Wild GM Bill Guerin evolves the roster over the next season or two.
It’s a transition period, nonetheless.
Benning and the Canucks are emerging from their transition and look to be ready to get back into the playoff hunt with what should be a four-game series win against the Wild.
Regular season outcomes:
4-1 VAN at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 12th, 4-2 MIN at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6th, 4-3 F/SO MIN at Rogers Arena on Feb. 19th
8/2- Game 1 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN
8/4- Game 2 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:45 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN
8/6- Game 3 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton TBD
8/7- Game 4 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton*
8/9- Game 5 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton*
(8) Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs (9) Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)
Calgary: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.
Winnipeg: 71 games played, .563 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.
The Calgary Flames were led in scoring this season by their hottest controversial player, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ruffled some feathers en route to re-igniting the “Battle of Alberta” and managed to amass 23-38–61 totals in 69 games played in 2019-20.
He was on pace for 72 points this season at the time of the stoppage, but still had back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points nonetheless.
Johnny Gaudreau was second on the roster in points with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games played, which was down from his 99 points in 82 games last season. That said, Gaudreau was still on pace for about 68 points when the regular season was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.
Instead, his streak of consecutive 60-plus point seasons was over at five seasons thanks to the pandemic.
Finally, Elias Lindholm managed to set a new career-high in goals (29), while scoring 54 points in 70 games this season– ranking third on the team in scoring.
In the crease, Calgary was saved by David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, who went 24-17-6 in 48 games played (all starts), had a 2.97 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts this season.
Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not very good numbers to have for a *checks notes* starting goaltender.
Alright, let’s check the backup…
Cam Talbot went 12-10-1 in 26 games played (22 starts), had a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SV% and two shutouts this season. Hmm, not much better.
Oh and did you remember that interim head coach, Geoff Ward, replaced Bill Peters after everyone found out Peters is racist?
The Winnipeg Jets landed in fifth place in the Central Division with 80 points this season– two points behind the Dallas Stars, who were the fourth best team in the Western Conference by points percentage and have earned themselves home ice in at least the First Round, which only matters so much in a bubble, but still, this was meant to show how close the Jets came to being a Round Robin team instead of playing in a Qualifier series.
Anyway, Kyle Connor soared as a Jet this season– establishing new career-highs in goals (38), assists (35) and points (73) in the process while playing in 71 games until the pandemic cut the regular season short.
Connor was on pace for 84 points this season if the full 82-game schedule could’ve occurred uninterrupted.
Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele actually tied Connor for the most points on the roster with 73, as Scheifele tallied 29 goals and had 44 helpers in 71 games. Not quite a career-season, but still respectable after setting career-high totals (38-46–84) last season in all 82 games.
Winnipeg’s captain, Blake Wheeler, contributed more than just actions and words in defense of the Constitution and human rights this season, scoring 22 goals and amassing 43 assists for third place on the roster in points (65) in 71 games played.
Patrik Laine, for those wondering, was fourth on the team with 63 points, which was back to his usual self, albeit with more assists (35) than goals (28) in 68 games.
Laine hasn’t been a bust for the Jets– he’s never had a season with fewer than 50 points (last season, 82 games) and was on pace for about 76 points had the season been played in full.
This was, however, the first season he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau, but he only missed it by two goals and, hello, the pandemic? Remember it? Yeah, that’s why he missed the mark, otherwise he would’ve (probably) scored a pair of goals in the remaining 11 games for Winnipeg on the 2019-20 regular season schedule at the time of the pause.
In goal, Paul Maurice relied on old reliable to bail him out even more so in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to sit out the 2019-20 season and eventual mutual termination of his contract with the club.
2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalist, Connor Hellebuyck, held the fort down with a 31-21-5 record in 58 games played (56 starts), amassed a 2.57 goals against average and had a .922 save percenrage– as well as a league-leading six shutouts this season.
Yeah, it was kind of a big season for Hellebucyk and if he’s not the favorite among the NHL GMs that vote for the Vezina, well, who knows what games they were watching (presumably their own).
Laurent Brossoit went 6-7-1 in 19 games (15 starts) this season and had a dismal 3.28 GAA and an .895 SV% in that span. Yikes.
The defense looks different without Byfuglien, but Hellebuyck remained stable as their primary alternative to keeping the puck away from their own net.
That might not pay off against some of the powerhouses in the league, but luckily the Jets have enough time to let Maurice come up with a plan and enact it to cut down on Hellebuyck’s workload in the Qualifier if they want a chance to advance.
Oh, speaking of the Winnipeg and Calgary series– nobody knows what to expect!
The Jets and Flames met once this season– back in the 2019 Heritage Classic outdoors at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Winnipeg won in overtime in comeback fashion that night, 2-1.
They peppered Rittich with 45 shots (43 saves) and kept Hellebuyck to an ideal workload of 30 shots faced (29 saves).
If the Jets don’t win this series, it’ll be a huge disappointment– perhaps even bigger than making the First Round and getting stomped out by their next opponent after the phenomenal performance by Hellebucyk in the crease all season.
Then again, momentum no longer exists since everyone had about five months off.
Let’s say this one goes all five games for one reason or another and that Winnipeg can pull it off and advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Regular season outcomes:
2-1 F/OT WPG at Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26th
8/1- Game 1 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN
8/3- Game 2 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN
8/4- Game 3 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton 4:45 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN
8/6- Game 4 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton*
8/8- Game 5 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton*
2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action
Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Western Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.
Again, all games in the Western Conference are in Edmonton this year and all times Eastern.
St. Louis Blues
42-19-10, 94 points, 71 GP, .662 PTS%, 33 RW
Aug. 2nd @ COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360
Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD
Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD
42-20-8, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 37 RW
Aug. 2nd vs. STL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360
Aug. 5th @ DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV
Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD
Vegas Golden Knights
39-24-8, 86 points, 71 GP, .606 PTS%, 30 RW
Aug. 3rd vs. DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1
Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD
Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD
37-24-8, 82 points, 69 GP, .594 PTS%, 26 RW
Aug. 3rd @ VGK in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1
Aug. 5th vs. COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV
Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD
David Pastrnak lifted the Boston Bruins over the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, in overtime with his game-winning breakaway goal about a minute into the extra frame at Rogers Place on Wednesday night.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (23-5-6 record, 2.04 goals against average, .932 save percentage in 35 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for a .966 SV% in the win.
Oilers goaltender, Mike Smith (16-10-5 record, 2.89 GAA, .905 SV% in 33 games played), stopped 32 shots out of 34 shots faced for a .941 SV% in the overtime loss.
Boston improved to 38-11-12 (88 points) on the season and maintained their dominance atop the Atlantic Division, while Edmonton fell to 32-21-7 (71 points), but remained in command of the Pacific Division.
With the win, the Bruins have now won 11 out of their last 13 games (including ten out of their last 11 games) and improved to 17-9-3 on the road this season.
Boston was without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body/AHL conditioning loan) on Wednesday, while Par Lindholm, John Moore and Anton Blidh served as healthy scratches for the B’s.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from Sunday afternoon’s, 3-1, victory in New York against the Rangers.
Almost midway through the opening frame, Pastrnak worked the puck to Brad Marchand as the veteran winger brought the rubber biscuit into the attacking zone along the boards.
Marchand flipped a quick pass to Patrice Bergeron (27) in the slot, whereby Bergeron deked and got a forehand shot around Smith to give Boston the game’s first lead, 1-0, at 8:28 of the first period.
Bergeron’s goal was assisted by Marchand (52) and Pastrnak (41) as No. 37 in black and gold amassed his fifth goal in his last six games.
About 90 seconds later, Ethan Bear slashed Marchand and was assessed a minor infraction, yielding the game’s first power play to the Bruins at 10:56.
Boston did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity.
A few minutes after the Oilers killed off Bear’s minor, Joakim Nordstrom tripped up Gaetan Haas and presented Edmonton with their first power play of the night at 15:12, but the Oilers’ skater advantage was short lived.
Kailer Yamamoto caught Charlie Coyle with a high stick at 16:07 of the first period and drew some blood– resulting in a four-minute double minor infraction assessed to Yamamoto and 4-on-4 action for a span of 1:05 before Boston had an abbreviated extended power play.
After 20 minutes of action in Edmonton, the Bruins were leading the Oilers, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 10-2, in shots on goal.
Edmonton held the advantage in blocked shots (10-4), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (67-33), while Boston led in takeaways (5-4) and hits (9-7).
The Oilers were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/3 on the power play entering the first intermission.
Early in the middle frame, Adam Larsson slashed Marchand and was sent to the sin bin at 3:37 of the second period.
Boston did not score on the ensuing power play– a trend which lasted the entire night for the Bruins.
Moments later, Torey Krug tripped up Haas and cut a rut to the penalty box at 6:49, but Edmonton didn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.
Just past the midpoint of Wednesday night’s action, Bergeron was called for hooking Bear at 10:56 as Boston was forced to kill off back-to-back penalties.
While on the power play, Oilers forward, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was penalized for holding the stick while tying up Coyle from entering the neutral zone and assessed a minor penalty at 12:15– resulting in 41 seconds of 4-on-4 action before the Bruins had an abbreviated power play.
Through two periods of play at Rogers Place, Boston still held a, 1-0, lead over Edmonton, despite trailing the Oilers, 20-19, in shots on goal heading into the second intermission.
Edmonton actually held an, 18-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone, while also leading in blocked shots (16-9), takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (64-36) after 40 minutes of action.
Boston held the advantage in giveaways (10-9) and hits (18-15) as neither team had mustered a power play goal– with the Oilers operating at 0/3 and the B’s at 0/5 on the skater advantage.
Karson Kuhlman tripped Caleb Jones at 1:59 of the third period and presented Edmonton with a power play early in the final frame.
This time the Oilers took advantage of their skater advantage as Bear wired a shot from the point that Sam Gagner (5) deflected over Rask’s glove from in front of the net.
Bear (14) and Nugent-Hopkins (30) were credited with the primary and secondary assists as the Oilers tied the game, 1-1, with Gagner’s power play goal at 3:42 of the third period.
Less than a couple minutes later, Edmonton had too many skaters on the ice at what was supposed to be regular 5-on-5 action. As a result, the Oilers were charged with a bench minor for too many men at 5:25 and Yamamoto was elected to serve the infraction.
Moments later, after failing to capitalize on their legal skater advantage, the Bruins found themselves shorthanded once again as Nordstrom was dealt a roughing minor at 9:34 after a fracas developed behind the Boston net.
Edmonton didn’t score on the resulting power play and, in fact, cut short their own skater advantage when Darnell Nurse slashed Coyle to breakup a shorthanded breakaway for the Bruins center.
Nurse was sent to the box at 11:10 and the two teams skated 4-on-4 once more for 24 seconds before Boston went on an abbreviated power play.
Late in the period, Pastrnak tripped up William Lagesson and was sent to the box at 17:30, but the Oilers weren’t able to score on their last power play of the night.
At the end of regulation, the game was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins holding the advantage in shots on goal, 33-29.
Edmonton led in blocked shots (17-12), takeaways (8-7) and faceoff win% (62-28), while both teams had 15 giveaways and 22 hits aside.
As there were no penalties called in the overtime period, the Oilers finished 1/6 and the Bruins finished 0/7 on the power play.
Cassidy started Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy in overtime, while Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, opted for Leon Draisaitl, Yamamoto and Bear.
A little over a minute into the extra action, David Krejci sent Pastrnak on a breakaway into the attacking zone with a lead pass through the neutral zone.
Pastrnak (43) deked and sent a backhand shot through Smith’s five-hole– clinching the game-winning overtime goal in the process– and lifting the Bruins over the Oilers, 2-1, in overtime.
Krejci (27) and Krug (32) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 1:14 of the overtime period.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (34-29), while Edmonton wrapped up Wednesday night with the advantage in blocked shots (19-12), giveaways (16-15) and faceoff win% (62-38).
Both teams finished the night with 22 hits each, while the Oilers fell to 3-5 in overtime this season.
Boston, in the meantime, improved to 5-5 in overtime this season, while Pastrnak recorded his 25th multi-point game this season with a goal and an assist in Wednesday night’s effort.
The Bruins improved to 23-7-8 when scoring the game’s first goal, 22-5-3 when leading after the first period and 23-1-6 when leading after two periods this season.
The B’s also improved to 5-5 in overtime this season and 5-12 past regulation overall.
Boston continues their four-game road trip (2-0-0) with stops against the Calgary Flames on Friday and Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
The Bruins return home for a two-game homestand on Feb. 25th and Feb. 27th for meetings with the Flames and Dallas Stars, respectively, before wrapping up the month of February with a road game against the New York Islanders on Feb. 29th.
A pair of soft goals in the second period kicked off the Edmonton Oilers’ four unanswered goals in a, 4-1, win against the Boston Bruins on Saturday at TD Garden.
Mike Smith (8-9-3 record, 3.01 goals against average, .897 save percentage in 22 games played) stopped 35 out of 36 shots faced for a .972 SV% in the win for the Oilers.
Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-4-5, 2.25 GAA, .928 SV% in 18 games played) made 22 saves on 25 shots against for an .880 SV% in the loss.
Boston fell to 24-8-11 (59 points) on the season, but remained in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Edmonton improved to 22-17-5 (49 points) and moved into 3rd place in the Pacific Division.
The B’s lost just their 2nd game in regulation on home ice this season and are now 14-2-9 overall at TD Garden in 2019-20.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) against the Oilers, while Matt Grzelcyk (illness) was also out of the action on Saturday.
As a result, despite being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday, Steven Kampfer was recalled from Providence on Saturday to go in the lineup for Grzelcyk on the third defensive pairing with John Moore.
Bruce Cassidy made one minor change among the forward lines from Thursday night’s, 3-2, overtime loss to Columbus– swapping Sean Kuraly with Par Lindholm at center on the third line and moving Kuraly back to the fourth line.
Brett Ritchie and David Backes were the only healthy scratches for the B’s against Edmonton.
A few minutes into the game, after David Pastrnak rocked Oscar Klefbom with a huge hit behind the Oilers net after Klefbom rid himself of the puck to a teammate, Leon Draisaitl tried to avenge the clean, but half-a-second late hit from Pastrnak on Klefbom by elbowing Torey Krug at 3:05 of the first period.
Boston’s power play didn’t take long to convert on their first opportunity of the afternoon as Pastrnak (31) rocketed a shot that deflected off of Edmonton defender, Kris Russell, and floated over Smith’s glove.
Krug (23) and Brad Marchand (40) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 1-0, at 3:10.
Per Conor Ryan of Boston Sports Journal, the Bruins have scored a power play goal in 10 straight games for the first time since March 7-27, 1996.
Pastrnak and Marchand are the seventh pair of Bruins teammates to each reach 60 points in a season prior to the team’s 45th game of the season. They’re the first teammates to do so since Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr did so in the 1974-75 season (32 GP).
Late in the opening frame, Gaetan Haas slashed Marchand and was sent to the penalty box at 15:26.
Boston did not score on the ensuing power play.
Heading into the first intermission, the B’s led the Oilers, 1-0, on the scoreboard, but trailed Edmonton in shots on goal, 9-6.
The Oilers also held the advantage in giveaways (4-1) and hits (14-11), while Boston led in faceoff win percentage (53-47).
Both teams had three blocked shots and two takeaways each after one period.
Edmonton had yet to see any time on the skater advantage and Boston was 1/2 on the power play entering the middle frame.
Cassidy juggled his lines throughout the second period as the Bruins looked flat.
Kuraly tripped up Haas at 2:25 of the second period and presented the Oilers with their first power play of the afternoon.
Boston killed off the penalty and avoided injury after Charlie McAvoy took a shot up high and went down to the ice before getting up and skating off on his own. He showed no signs of anything major and played the rest of the game without obvious discomfort.
Almost midway through the middle frame, Jake DeBrusk mishandled the puck in his own zone and coughed up a slow-moving glider right into the slot where Haas swooped in, faked a shot and got Halak to open up his five-hole before slipping the rubber biscuit through the opening to tie the game, 1-1, at 7:41.
Haas’ goal was unassisted.
Moments later, Zdeno Chara was guilty of a phantom holding call against Joakim Nygard (it could’ve been interference or a trip, but the eye test didn’t show much of a hold) at 12:03.
Edmonton didn’t capitalize on the skater advantage, but they did capitalize on another soft goal in the dying seconds of the second period.
Darnell Nurse (3) flung a shot from a bad angle just before the goal line and the puck snuck between Halak and the post on the short side– giving the Oilers their first lead of the night, 2-1, in the process.
Draisaitl (41) had the only assist on Nurse’s goal at 19:53.
The two teams went back to their dressing rooms with Edmonton ahead of Boston, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-15, in shots on goal after 40 minutes of action.
The Oilers also dominated in giveaways (9-5), hits (22-20) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (12-7) and takeaways (7-2).
Edmonton was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, emerged from the second intermission fresh with energy as Zack Kassian setup the Edmonton phenom on a breakaway less than two minutes into the third period.
McDavid (23) scored on Halak while Kampfer chased after Kassian and Chara trailed behind the play– giving Edmonton a two-goal lead.
Kassian (15) and Ethan Bear (10) had the assists on McDavid’s goal and the Oilers led, 3-1, at 1:48.
Bear followed up his secondary assist with a high sticking infraction at 4:02, but the Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on their third power play opportunity of the afternoon.
Then a large swath of the third period was filled with Boston firing pucks at the net only to be stopped by Smith and no other events on the scoresheet until 2:51 remaining in regulation when Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker.
Edmonton nearly scored seconds later, but hit the outside part of the twine and thus play rolled on uninterrupted.
With 1:35 left in the game, Boston used their timeout in effort to rally a comeback, but it was too late for the Bruins as Draisaitl (24) pocketed the empty net goal at 19:51 to seal the deal on a, 4-1, win for the Oilers.
Edmonton won, 4-1, despite being outshot by Boston, 36-26– including a season-high 21 shots on goal for the Bruins in the third period alone.
The Oilers left TD Garden with the final result and the advantage in giveaways (11-8), hits (31-29) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the B’s suffered the loss despite being even in blocked shots, 14-14.
Boston finished the matinee matchup 1/3 on the power play, while Edmonton went 0/2 on the advantage.
The Bruins fell to 15-4-2 when leading after the first period, 4-6-4 when trailing after two periods and 17-6-7 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Boston finished their two-game homestand (0-1-1) and travels to Nashville to face the Predators next Tuesday. The Bruins return home for a Thursday night (Jan. 9th) matchup with the Winnipeg Jets before venturing on the road to visit the New York Islanders on Jan. 11th, the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 13th and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 14th.
Admit it, you’ve been wondering when this was going to come out and you’re dying to reflect on whether any of your old hot takes still hold up compared to how some of these beauties actually look on the ice.
Once again it’s time for one DTFR writer’s thoughts and ranking of all the newest threads introduced in the National Hockey League for the 2019-20 season and beyond.
NHL teams often try to create a buzz and stick to the brand, but occasionally there’s a few outliers that do the opposite of what the introduction of Gritty as the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers has done that organization, for example.
In other words, remember that Dallas Stars third jersey from 2003-06? Yeah, that one. Beloved by some, but hated by many– nevertheless, everyone wonders the same thing “who gave the final approval for that?”
Please enjoy this year’s light-hearted ranking of the newest threads and fashion sense.
13. Anaheim Ducks (unveiled, Sept. 30, 2019)
In their 26th NHL season, the Anaheim Ducks brought back their Orange County Orange(™) alternate sweaters that were previously worn from 2015-17.
After the mandatory one-year hiatus from the NHL’s third jersey program while the league made the switch from the Reebok Edge to adidas ADIZERO design in 2017-18– as well as Anaheim’s one-year specialty jersey to commemorate their 25th anniversary last season– the current alternate threads have made their official comeback.
While most like the homage of the crest to the original name of the franchise as the “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim”, this sweater just doesn’t really do it for me. Yes, more orange isn’t a bad thing in the NHL, but overall the design is pretty formulaic when it comes to featuring secondary logos, tertiary colors, etc.
It’s nice to see it make its return, but dare I say it, the 25th anniversary alternate sweater was actually… kind of great. Perhaps it should come back.
12. Los Angeles Kings (unveiled, Aug. 31, 2019)
The Los Angeles Kings are living in the past these days– what with Rob Blake as their General Manager and all, plus the reintroduction of their iconic 1988-96 look.
Los Angeles brought out these Heritage sweaters from the closet to appease jersey collectors looking for a little something from the past, but in the modern ADIZERO fit and with names like “Brown”, “Doughty”, “Kopitar” and “Quick” on the back instead of those other guys who never won a Cup in a Kings sweater like “Gretzky” and “Robitaille”.
We live in strange times, indeed.
That said, Los Angeles’ 2020 Stadium Series sweater (leaked in Nov.) leaves something to be desired.
It’s as if someone took one of those pieces from an Othello board, added some streaks from Vancouver’s “Flying Skate” spaghetti stripes and worked in the coolest feature (the checkerboard pattern behind the neck) in the smallest place they could’ve possibly done so just to smite us.
The “Burger King” is dead. May he continue to rest in peace.
But if the Kings ever wanted to go all out on a zany Stadium Series design, think black and white checkerboard with the “Burger King” crest. Now that’s how you get a European feel in an outdoor NHL game.
Anze Kopitar would be proud. Do it for your captain, Kings.
11. St. Louis Blues (unveiled, Sept. 14, 2019)
The St. Louis Blues decided that Los Angeles couldn’t be the only team digging up what they wore when Wayne Gretzky was on their roster, so they dusted off their own 1990s look and put it back on the shelves at Enterprise Center.
There’s nothing original about it, since it’s just their 1995-98 dark sweater, but ADIZERO-fied. Does this mean Gretzky’s going to come back for another 16 regular season games?
10. Colorado Avalanche (leaked, Nov. 12, 2019)
The Colorado Avalanche had a rather conservative 2016 Stadium Series sweater at Coors Field and the Avs paid for it dearly by losing, 5-3, to the Detroit Red Wings.
This time around, Colorado’s looking to take flight at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with what’s already a winning design.
Embrace the chaos.
Traditionally, the Stadium Series is always about taking hockey where it’s never been– whether it’s an outdoor game in Los Angeles or simply in the sweater design. This year’s Stadium Series matchup is certainly living up to the outlandish theme– dare we say futuristic? If only that future involves minimalism combined with the absurd.
9. Vancouver Canucks (unveiled, Sept. 12, 2019)
The Vancouver Canucks refreshed their look for the 2019-20 season and beyond by dropping the “Vancouver” wordmark from above the orca and making their crest logo larger than ever before.
Not to be outdone, the Canucks modernized the stick in the rink logo on the shoulders, cast it in white instead of blue and only committed one jersey foul by not keeping the shoulder patches clad in blue on the white road sweaters for contrast.
A little subtle change in detail from home to road sweaters isn’t a bad thing like how the Boston Bruins home shoulder patch reads as “Bruins” above the bear and “Boston” above the bear on the road sweaters. Again, it’s the little things that really make something feel complete and the Canucks could very well rectify this “existential crisis” in time for the 2020-21 season, but it’s nothing major.
The Canucks really did a great job of reducing their colors to blue and green on their alternate “Heritage” sweaters. Is it perfect? No, but it is something different from what they’ve had and different from their usual look, so that’s better than nothing.
The stick in the rink logo really pops on the alternates and it’s a shame they’re likely only going to be worn for this season unless I can convince them otherwise (do the right thing, Vancouver).
Maybe take a little inspiration from the Vancouver Millionaires sleeve striping pattern and figure out a way to correlate that with the alternate logo and you just might make a certified gold mashup of Vancouver hockey sweaters from over the years.
⚫️🔴🟡 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/yupnGWeLye— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) November 15, 2019
In addition to celebrating their 50th anniversary in style, Vancouver brought back their “Flying Skate” jerseys as throwbacks this year and, well, they’re decent in the ADIZERO design, but unless the Canucks are going to forfeit pacific green and blue to Seattle in 2021, Vancouver shouldn’t switch their colors back to red, yellow and black.
Pavel Bure could pull off the look, but don’t make Elias Pettersson wear those things more than he has to.
8. Calgary Flames (unveiled, Sept. 13, 2019)
Simply put, these 2019 Heritage Classic sweaters should be the Calgary Flames’ road sweaters.
Calgary dug out their 1989 look last season for their current alternate sweater and unless the Flames are planning on bringing back the flaming horse head sweater from 1998-06, it’s probably time to go back to the past for a little while and wallow in the nostalgia of when the franchise didn’t let Jarome Iginla down every year and actually won a Stanley Cup.
7. Winnipeg Jets (unveiled, Sept. 13, 2019)
Not many things from the 1970s have as much staying power as these Winnipeg Jets 2019 Heritage Classic sweaters. Everything about this jersey is sharp and it’s a shame the Jets can’t use them more often.
Winnipeg is cursed with superior design in both their past life as well as in their current iteration. It’s hard to tell the Jets to use these more when their current complete jersey set is as dynamic as it is and underrated.
6. Edmonton Oilers (unveiled, Sept. 12, 2019)
The #Oilers, @NHL & @adidashockey present our #adizero Alternate Jersey for the 2019-20 season!— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 12, 2019
Fusing sport & culture, this special-edition jersey features modern & futuristic design elements that create a clean, sleek & bold new look.
🔶 https://t.co/sSaRJZHuXb 🔷 pic.twitter.com/yXgu38QpM3
When the Edmonton Oilers changed over to their modern orange and navy blue color scheme, I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan at first.
Now, after remembering the days of my youth enjoying the hell out of watching Edmonton’s last great team– the 2005-06 Oilers roster– I want everything to be steeped in the navy blue of Ryan Smyth’s prime.
At first glance, these sweaters look like something you’d find in an intramural floor hockey league, but hey, even if you don’t win the championship, you’d still look better than all the other teams.
They’re bold and daring, but don’t scream “out of this world” in concept. They’re just fun and after all, isn’t that the point of the game? To just “have fun”?
Years from now we’re going to remember Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s prime as such a conflicting era of Oilers hockey.
The Second Coming of Sidney Crosby (McDavid) was forced to abandon the Wayne Gretzky colors for his own identity– this team’s current identity– led by two-time All-Star goaltender, Mike Smith (who’s corresponding pads with the new alternates are phenomenal, by the way), of course.
Ok, really, I got nothing else about this design. It’s plain, but electric. It has just the right amount of marketability to kids who will have their hearts broken by this team.
5. Nashville Predators (unveiled, Nov. 2, 2019)
The Nashville Predators’ 2020 Winter Classic sweater is a timeless look– most notably because it is actually a thing from the past based on the Dixie Flyers’ sweaters from 1962-71, but also because anytime there’s a script involved on the front of an NHL jersey instead of a logo, there’s a 99% chance Hockey Twitter is going to compare it to the old Minnesota Wild alternate sweater from 2009-17 and wish for more teams to try their hand at cursive writing.
In other words, the Preds actually made something good and that’ll sell well, even if fans are going to have to acknowledge that Nashville’s Stanley Cup contender status window may be closing– and fast.
This strikes me as a very good pond hockey jersey to wear for some reason and that shoulder patch should see added mileage on a future alternate sweater, in case the Predators are looking for a starting point (and to avoid whatever mustard yellow sweater Peter Forsberg had to wear in his short Nashville tenure).
4. Boston Bruins (unveiled, Nov. 24, 2019)
The Boston Bruins played it conservatively for the second alternate jersey in a row, simply pulling an old sweater out of the closet, bringing it to a tailor and tweaking a few minor things.
That said, Bruins President, Cam Neely, has a knack for marketing his organization.
Boston’s new alternate is just a throwback from their first full-time road sweater in 1948-49, but with a modernized “B” font from the 2019 Winter Classic sweater and small changes to the stripes.
It’s elegant, but just how daring is it?
“Original Six” franchises are proud to display their history and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s not a one-off sort of thing that pits the organization’s current stars in a weird alternate timeline where things just don’t look right (looking at you, Montreal Canadiens 100th anniversary trio).
Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs occasionally bring out something from their Arenas days or St. Pats days for a game or two each year, but they’re not as hideous as whatever the Habs went through before settling on their tricolor motif a few years prior to the NHL’s creation.
Anyway, you have to give credit to the Bruins for actually taking some things from the past and updating them to modern building codes such that players like Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara can get a feel for what franchise legends like Eddie Shore, Lionel Hitchman, “Dit” Clapper and Milt Schmidt wore back in the day without cheapening the spectacle in a one-time only scenario.
Neely has a history in his tenure for overseeing every aspect in the design of a legacy product– the 2010 Winter Classic sweater featured an updated 25th anniversary spoked-B crest from the 1948-49 season white jersey clad on a 1958-59 gold jersey with brown instead of black accents.
The 2016 Winter Classic sweater was an updated version of their original 1924-25 sweater– exchanging brown for black. And of course, Boston’s 2019 Winter Classic sweater was based on their look from the early 1930s with a modernized “B” and more stripes on the sleeves.
Timeless doesn’t have to mean drab if the players are flying up and down the ice adding their own creativity to the sweater.
3. Dallas Stars (unveiled, Nov. 6, 2019)
Hockey sweaters can never have too many stripes, nor can they ever have too much green– and I’m not just saying that as someone who’s favorite color is green.
The Dallas Stars are paying homage to the 1940s professional hockey team before them– the Dallas Texans– with a “fauxback” of sorts.
Though they’re claiming the identity of a long-gone team in the basic design elements, the Stars brought forth something fresh and clean to the drawing board instead of all the possibilities the former Minnesota North Stars could have ran with for one game.
Dallas wearing a North Stars emblem in an outdoor game in Dallas wouldn’t be very Dallas.
But this sweater is. Plus the old-school colored pants and white gloves really complete the aesthetic. Who could be mad at that?
Bonus points for the State of Texas patch on the sleeve with an ode to “The Big D” inside it.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (unveiled, Aug. 20, 2019)
You may call them “Candy Canes”, but the Carolina Hurricanes are the owners of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and we’re all just trying to be one of the lucky five people with golden tickets.
Perhaps that’s the strangest way of saying this year’s new road sweater is everything that most jerseys aren’t– actually creative. There’s no “copy, paste and invert the colors” involved.
The hurricane warning motif was brought back as a bottom stripe (major style points) and they introduced red gloves to match the red pants, as well as a red-based 3-D Hurricanes logo on the sides of the helmet.
Carolina got rid of the added weight on the shoulders by removing the red yoke and righted a wrong on the previous version of their road white sweaters– the names and numbers are back in red.
Though three distinct jerseys for each sweater style (home, away and alternate) is usually not my thing from a brand consistency standpoint, the Hurricanes made significant improvements to playing within their stormy elements and not trying to blend in with anyone else.
They are their own thing– diagonal “CANES” moniker across the front of the road sweater be damned.
If you don’t like it, then you’re clearly not a Caniac.
(And if– for some reason– you are a Caniac and you don’t like these sweaters, well they’re still doing Whalers Night this year, so please enjoy your “traditional” fix on Jan. 11th.)
1. Buffalo Sabres (unveiled, Aug. 16, 2019)
You can never have too many stripes in soccer, rugby or hockey. Take notes kids.
Also, the Buffalo Sabres really hit it out of the park with the same shiny gold thread that’s prominent in the Vegas Golden Knights’ overall identity.
Much like how the Ducks– in retrospect– nailed their 25th anniversary aesthetic with an element from every jersey in one, the Sabres nailed their 50th anniversary– their golden anniversary– with almost literal gold.
It’s gold in color, but not in carats.
Buffalo’s switching back to royal blue in their home and road sweaters for the 2020-21 season and beyond, so it’s really only fitting that white is the basis for this ode to the team’s inception, growth and existence over half a century.
The Sabres made sure to include all four renditions of their primary logo over the years inside the collar, which is a unique thing about NHL sweaters compared to other leagues– the incredible level of personalization to an organization– no detail is overlooked.
It’s a shame these will only be worn for this season, but it’s a sacrifice many are willing to make for the return to royal blue, I’m sure.
One of these days the Ottawa Senators are due for a rebrand (and with it, new third jerseys), but until then, the Vegas Golden Knights, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Nashville Predators may all introduce third jerseys at some point.
Probably not this year at this rate, but maybe next year.
50-25-7, 107 points, 1st in the Pacific Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado
Additions: F Byron Froese, F Justin Kirkland, F Milan Lucic (acquired from EDM), D Brandon Davidson, G Cam Talbot
Subtractions: F Tyler Graovac (signed with VAN), F Garnet Hathaway (signed with WSH), F Curtis Lazar (signed with BUF), F James Neal (traded to EDM), F Anthony Peluso (signed with Bakersfield, AHL), F Brett Pollock (signed with Iowa, AHL), F Kerby Rychel (KHL), F Linden Vey (KHL), D Oscar Fantenberg (signed with VAN), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee, AHL), D Marcus Hogstrom (SHL), D Dalton Prout (signed with SJS), G Mason McDonald (signed with Colorado, AHL), G Mike Smith (signed with EDM)
Still Unsigned: F Spencer Foo (KHL, CGY reserve list), D Matt Taormina
Re-signed: F Sam Bennett, F Ryan Lomberg, F Andrew Mangiapane, F Matthew Tkachuk, D Rinat Valiev, G David Rittich
Offseason Analysis: After taking home the first overall seed in the Western Conference in the regular season, the Calgary Flames proceeded to burnout in five games against the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What are they doing to prevent another embarrassment?
They traded James Neal.
Flames GM, Brad Treliving, traded Neal to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Milan Lucic and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick. Calgary receives the 3rd round pick if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic scores 10 or fewer goals than Neal this season. Very specific!
Aside from losing other depth pieces (Garnet Hathaway) in free agency, Treliving is fully prepared to send out his core on the ice for head coach, Bill Peters, to play as he sees fit.
The Flames weren’t bad all season until March last year, then they started losing games they shouldn’t have and went on to back themselves into the postseason without any moxie.
As such, the Avs rolled right over them.
For now, Treliving has put off the inevitable pay raise for Matthew Tkachuk.
Tkachuk signed a three-year extension worth $7.000 million per season earlier this week, which may seem like a steal for Calgary, until one considers Tkachuk’s third year salary ($9.000 million).
His next qualifying offer will at least be $9.000 million and he’s bound for a significant raise by that point if his production continues to grow, so even though he said he’s signing for less right now so his teammates don’t have to worry about not being re-signed by the Flames due to cap constraints, things may still get hairy by 2022.
For now, the Flames are the closest to returning to the Stanley Cup Final than they have ever been since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in 2004.
They just have to get out of the First Round to make critics start to believe that their regular season success was not a fluke.
Offseason Grade: C-
Trading Neal for Lucic isn’t a spectacular deal, but the Flames somehow convinced the Oilers to retain some of Lucic’s salary, meaning Edmonton didn’t do themselves any favors as they had hoped to in getting rid of the veteran winger.
Fans in Calgary have come to expect uneventful offseasons, but at least the city and the franchise agreed to a new arena to get everyone even more excited about the future.