May 182014
 

Round 2 of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs was a barn burner all-round. Every series felt like a legitimate rivalry even though some of these teams, like the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings, had never met in the playoffs before. Here’s the best and worst of it.

Brendan Gallagher, Zdeno Chara

Best Series: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Original Six. Longstanding rivals. Good versus evil. These games had everything – the good (Carey Price and PK Subban’s performances), the bad (Thornton spraying Subban with water mid-play), and the ugly (the racist rantings of some Bruins fans). In the end, the intensity elevated the Habs play and seemed to throw the Bruins off their game with their big lines doing much of nothing.

Worst Series: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

This was bad because for some reason, after being up 3-1 in the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins checked out. For me, the best series are battle right to the end, and this is the only series that wasn’t that. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and all that undeniable talent were deniable after Game 3. This can’t be laid on their goalie this time. It was disappointing to watch therefore, worst series.

Milan Book

Biggest Loser: Milan Lucic

Lucic wins this award not because his team lost, but because of the way HE lost. His childish, unsportsmanlike antics – spearing guys, being a sore winner taunting the Habs when Bruins won, death threats in the handshake line – make him not just the biggest loser of Round 2 but a life loser in general. Lucic, I’m embarrassed that you’re from Vancouver and even from Canada. You have a lot of growing up to do, punk.

Biggest Hero: PK Subban

I didn’t like this guy until this series. Sure, I never disputed his talent, but I thought he was an overemotional, hot-headed punk. Not anymore. I don’t know exactly when PK Subban became a poised, confident player but the change was noticeable this series again Boston. PK didn’t let the racist taunts, the bully antics of Thornton or the death threats of Lucic throw him off his game. He didn’t escalate it in the media when he honestly had every right to. Instead, he seemed to channel it into improving his already stellar play. His offensive defence was a major factor in the Habs nabbing the series.

beardsR2

Best Beard: Jeff Carter

Blondes aren’t known for thick beards, but Carter grows a Grizzly Adams one in the blink of an eye. And it’s got ginger in it, which is hot. The man is already talented and gorgeous, the thick, full beard just adds to it. Now if only he had more teeth… thanks Duncan Keith.

 Worst Beard – Patrick Kane

Speaking of ginger – Kane’s seems super orange this year. Like he used Sun-In or something. And, yay, it’s fuller than previous years but it’s an unkempt mess. And then there’s the mullet… shudder.

Feb 022012
 

With the NHL Trade deadline a little less than a month from now, speculation is heating up.

Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. Speculation isn’t just heating up, it’s already reached a good rolling boil. We’ve entered the silly season of trade rumours people, where Ryan Getzlaf could be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, you know, just ‘cuz.

It’s not just fans or the media that can get swept up in the euphoria that is the trade talk. General Managers can too. With that in mind, here are the four worst trade decisions that could be made by a General Manager in the NHL today.

 4. Trade Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets

Granted, Carter has had a difficult first season in Columbus. He’s looked lethargic when he’s been healthy (which hasn’t been nearly as much as the team had hoped).  

Carter remains a one-shot scorer though and a first-line centre talent. He’s the type of player you rarely find on the trade market (the last first line centre to be traded was Joe Thornton back in 2005-06).  

In Carter, Rick Nash and Ryan Johansen, there is a good offensive core in place in Columbus. God knows there are other teams trying to build around less up front (cough Phoenix, Florida, Winnipeg to name three cough cough).

Now it could be that the Blue Jackets just want to save themselves some money and get Carter’s $5.27 million off the books. This is incredibly short-sighted thinking. The Blue Jackets need wins to generate revenues. They need talent on the roster to produce wins. Eventually, that talent gets paid, and scoring talent of Carter’s ilk can get a lot more expensive than $5.27 million a season.

Moving Carter doesn’t get the Blue Jackets anywhere closer to wins in the short-term, and is not guaranteed to save them much money in the long-term.

In short – it would be a trade that doesn’t make much sense.  

3. Trade Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres

At one point, it could be argued he was the best goalie in the game, but these days Ryan Miller is pretty, pretty, pretty average . His performance and outspokenness has made him a lightning rod in Buffalo where pre-season optimism has turned into a season-long nightmare.

A great goaltender gives an NHL team a chance to win every night, and turns poor or mediocre teams in all other areas into playoff participants. Miller was once great – there’s no question he could be great again. The smart move in Buffalo would be to consider goaltending “secure” (Jhonas Enroth is a talented youngster who’s earned more time in the crease) and address other needs.

You know, like the Swiss Cheese defense of Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr that would have trouble defending against a minor bantam team some nights.  

2. Trade PK Subban from the Montreal Canadiens

PK Subban isn’t your typical NHL player – he’s colourful, opinionated and openly confident – and this has frequently contradicted with the conservative, conformist culture established by the Canadiens in the era of Bob Gainey, Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier.

There are few NHL defencemen that offer the same combination of physical gifts, offensive instincts and passion for the big moment as Subban does. He will be an NHL star, and will one day find himself in Norris consideration.

You can count the number of Stanley Cups won by teams without a strong offensive defenseman on one hand. Trading Subban would be akin to the Canadiens admitting they don’t have any plans to truly compete for a Stanley Cup in the near future.  

1. Trade Brendan Morrow from the Dallas Stars

For all the hulabaloo about trading Jarome Iginla from Calgary, the potential trade of Brendan Morrow from Dallas would be the bigger mistake.

Uncertain Stars ownership has wrecked havoc on the franchise’s off-ice fortunes. Now, with new owner Tom Gaglardi in the mix, the team needs to re-establish its relationship with the Dallas community.

Morrow is an obvious, important player around which to build this new relationship. He’s one of the few remaining links to the championship-calibre teams Dallas iced in the late 90s and early 2000s. Moreover, he is the type of character leader that can shape and inspire not only a locker room, but a fan base.

With one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Stars don’t need to jettison salary. They should move other pieces before moving their captain.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • According to John Shannon on Prime Time Sports last week, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are best of friends. Does anyone else smell another Teemu Selanne-Paul Kariya-esque situation developing for these two future UFAs?
  • The Sidney Crosby “fracture-no fracture-concussions-no concussion” story sounds more and more like the Eric Lindros situation in Philadelphia every day. There’s no reason to think relationships are poisoned between Crosby and the Penguins, but this certainly makes one wonder how the next contract negotiations between the team and its star player will go in 2013.
  • Let’s all give Alex Radulov the benefit of the doubt here – we all see the bug on his coach’s neck, right? (Editor’s note: Note that the coach behind Radulov was not his head coach, but the goalie coach.)
  • Given that the Winter Classic is also a huge event for league sponsors, the NHL All-Star Game should move to the start of the season. This would give the Winter Classic even more prominence mid-season, and would create a special “kick-off” event for the NHL to start its year. I’d even be in favour of returning to a Stanley Cup champions versus NHL All-Stars format in a neutral site (say Europe).
  • Does Mikhail Grabovski look like a $5 million player? Because that’s what the UFA market is likely to pay him. This is also why it would be of no surprise to see the Leafs either trade their second-line centre at the deadline, or walk away from him on July 1st. He is too inconsistent to be paid like a top-four player.
  • Speaking of the Maple Leafs, the more you watch Nazem Kadri play, the more it seems his best work at the NHL level will come playing for a team other than Toronto. Kadri needs consistent top-six ice time to grow his game, and he won’t get that playing for a team competing for a playoff spot right now.
  • The New York Rangers pass around a fedora to the team’s best player post-game. The St. Louis Blues? A weiner hat. Classic.
  • Sorry Blackhawks fans, but Brendan Morrison isn’t the answer to your second-line centre dilemma. He adds some nice depth as a complimentary, offensive player, but a regular contribution in a top-six role is asking far too much.
  • Finally, I cannot recommend Behind the Moves enough for anyone who loves the business of hockey. Here’s a nice review from over at dobberhockey.
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