Category Archives: Hockey

eastplayoffs

NHL Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference Matchups

I love NHL playoff hockey. Best teams versus the best teams. Teams going all out because all the chips are down. Players leaving it all on the ice. Shooting, hitting, saves, scoring, blood, sweat, tears, emotion. And the Eastern Conference is wide open this year.

Even better this year is that I do not think you can positively say that any team that loses in the first round would be the victim of an “upset”. Every team in every division is so close it almost is not fair to you gambling folk out there.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

So to prepare for the best two months of NHL hockey, why not make predictions? I mean, no one gets these right. Ever. TSN used to have a monkey spin a wheel and it nailed more correct outcomes than the “experts.” And I’m not an expert, nor am I a monkey which leaves me in between somewhere so obviously I know more than people who get paid.

New York Rangers (1st in Metropolitan)
vs
Pittsburgh Penguins (Wildcard 2)

Any playoff series with Sidney Crosby in it will be the highest profile one in the NHL. Are the Rangers smoke and mirrors propped up by elite goaltending? Sorta. Are the Penguins any good? Sorta.

Why New York can win: They have speed to kill. They’re like the epitome of an Eastern Conference team; they don’t play heavy hockey to beat you up, they just play fast hockey to tire you out. Rick Nash is having his best season in years. Their top two centers in Derek’s Stepan and Brassard have fully emerged as top level players. The defence has it’s warts, but Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein and Marc Staal are solid. They’re also playing in front of one of the best goaltenders of a generation in Henrik Lundqvist.

Why Pittsburgh can win: When you have the two best centers in the series, and two of the very best on the planet, you’re never really out of it. They’ll get Christian Ehrhoff back to start the series. David Perron, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Hornqvist and Blake Comeau have all shown they can be effective scorers. Despite the slide at the end, the playoffs are a chance at a clean slate and on paper the Penguins are still as good as anyone in the conference.

Pick: Rangers in 5 games
Pittsburgh isn’t bad. Not at all. They’re just leveled by injuries on defence and basically anyone who isn’t their top pairing or on their top line gets absolutely buried by the other team when on the ice. That isn’t the case for the Rangers. They can actually roll more than 2 lines.

To see the full picks, including the Canadiens and Senators series, click here to head on over to Talking Baws

westplayoffs

NHL Playoff Preview: Western Conference Matchups

I love NHL playoff hockey. Best teams versus the best teams. Teams going all out because all the chips are down. Players leaving it all on the ice. Shooting, hitting, saves, scoring, blood, sweat, tears, emotion. And the Western Conference is going to be absolutely brutal this year.

Even better is that I do not think you can positively say that any team that loses in the first round would be the victim of an “upset”. Every team in every division is so close it almost is not fair to you gambling folk out there.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

So to prepare for the best two months of NHL hockey, why not make predictions? I mean, no one gets these right. Ever. TSN used to have a monkey spin a wheel and it nailed more correct outcomes than the “experts.” And I’m not an expert, nor am I a monkey which leaves me in between somewhere so obviously I know more than people who get paid.

Anaheim Ducks (1st in Pacific)
vs
Winnipeg Jets (Wildcard 2)

Poor Anaheim. You bust your butt all season to win the division to clinch home ice for at least 2 rounds, assuming you make it, and you have to fly all the way to Winnipeg for your first round match up. #travelwoes

Why Anaheim can win: They were the best team in the Pacific this year and it wasn’t necessarily close. They also made a number of smart improvements to their team at the trade deadline with James Wisniewski, Simon Despres, Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann. Those additions allowed for a whole lot of increased depth to a team that was relying maybe a little too heavily on youth. They play some of the best “big boy” hockey in the NHL and have some of the best center depth among western playoff teams. Winnipeg cannot match their top two centers, Ryans of Getzlaf and Kesler, in terms of ability.

Why Winnipeg can win: There are very few teams in the NHL that can match up and play big boy hockey with the Ducks, but the Jets are one of them. Dustin Byfuglien has the ability to take over a game and a series, and the rest of the Jets’ defence is also filled with behemoths like Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. Offensively they are quite deep with 6 different forwards scoring more than 41 points this season. Hot goaltending goes a long way and Ondrej Pavelec closed the year with three straight shutouts. Also, Anaheim’s goal differential was only +7 this year and they were 33-1-7 in one goal games. That makes the Ducks look vulnerable.

Pick: Jets in 7 games
This is the only real “upset” I can see this year. The Jets match up well in terms of size and depth. The only thing holding the Jets back may be goaltending. A lot has been made about the Jets’ disciplinary issues, but since when do they call penalties in the playoffs? It’s going to be that series what has four games go into overtime. The ‘Peg will go absolutely nuts. That’s fun.

To see the full picks, including the Canucks and Flames series, click here to head on over to Talking Baws

leafssweater

Maple Leaf Fan Kills Chivalry: Throws His Wife’s Jersey On The Ice

During Monday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, where the Toronto Maple Leafs got embarrassed on home ice, one fan decided he has had enough of the putrid display of hockey and took to throwing a sweater on the ice, during play, to make a statement.

If you were unaware, the latest and hottest way to protest your favourite team being bad is to throw a sweater of theirs on the ice, unless you’re an Oilers fan in which you do that and then go take out dueling newspaper ads praising or poo-pooing the team.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

Originally posted on Talking Baws

The funny part of this ordeal is that the Leaf fan in question threw his wife’s sweater onto the ice instead of his own, because his Wendel Clark sweater is nicer. Did I mention that it was his wife’s first NHL game? You can read more on the story here on CBS Sports.

You go, man. Way to make a statement.

I have two thoughts on the idea personally:

1. For the fan, I understand it. You could have easily spent $600 on this evening to get a terrible product that everyone on earth can see is incompetent but those with the power to directly affect change. I get it, but I feel like you probably have already replaced said sweater with a brand new one with lettering and numbering and everything to total it up at $270-$300. Kinda defeats the purpose of your protest.

2. For the team and players that defend the sanctity of such an action, shut up.

That basically sums it up. “The logo is sacred. That is why we change it all the time so we can sell new merchandise every time and rake in all the dollars. That pair of branded Oilers boxers covered in the sacred logo you stuffed your sweaty junk and butt into? Sacred and never disrespect it.”

pacific1

Checking Up With Predictions: Pacific Division

We’re getting closer and closer to the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That means it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter every time I’m wrong.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Pacific shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Calgary Flames
flames
Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 5 (47 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

You can’t punch pucks into the net no matter how well Bob Hartley coaches and deploys this group of players.

What I say now:

Well they’ve been less scrappy and punchy than I had anticipated and all the better for it. Goes to show just how much a hot start can do for you. They banked enough points to be in the playoff conversation for a decent chunk of the year, though I doubt they have the guns to make it into a wildcard spot.

Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau has been dynamite. He’s been the best Flames player at making something out of nothing. Glad to see he isn’t having the creativity stifled out of him. When a player is that talented you have to accept the mistakes and turnovers or you won’t get the gamebreaking plays. When healthy, Mikael Backlund has been great and Sean Monahan is taking steps. Jiri Hudler continues to be one of the best scoring wingers that people don’t know exist.

TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano are a dynamite duo on defence and even Dennis Wideman has been able to contribute offensively, although he cannot do much else reliably. Kris Russell has continued to play well but the third pairing of, generally, Deryck Engelland and Ladislav Smid is a gong show. There is “tough to play against”, but you must have the ability to play for that to matter. Those two are just bad. The Flames are being outscored by about three-to-one when they’re on the ice. That is AHL level.

Goaltending has been solid for the Flames. Kari Ramo isn’t anything to write home about, but Jonas Hiller has been admirable. Although they aren’t really winning any games on the backs of their netminders.

The possession numbers aren’t kind to the Flames at all, but it isn’t so much from a shots-against stand point (8th in the NHL) as much as the teams inability to generate offence outside of a few players (27th in shots-for per game). That can make it hard to win those one goal games and even harder to continue those miraculous third period comebacks that have disappeared as of late.

Arizona Coyotes
coyotes
Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 6 (36 points)

What I said then:

They weren’t good enough last year, and they aren’t really any better this year. They really need everything to go right to have a shot.

What I say now:

For a team that made its identity on defensive hockey, they’re not so great at it this year. You can just see when you’re watching the games that the positioning and systems have fallen off a bit amongst the forwards and defenceman. Its uncertain why this is happening exactly. The personnel is largely the same.

Usually a strong veteran forward core lends itself to strong systems but it isn’t working, much the same as it isn’t working in New Jersey this year.

The root of the problem lies in goaltending, but is it a bit of a chicken and the egg argument? Are the systems falling apart because the players are forced to overcompensate for goaltending, or is the goaltending exposed because the systems are falling apart. I don’t think a lot of people like to credit how deeply connected the two facets of hockey are interconnected.

My vote goes to the goaltending letting the team down though. Mike Smith has proven to be the goaltender he was for much of his career and not the guy with a great season and two okay ones. When, the now traded, Devan Dubnyk was in net he put up starting goaltender numbers and the team was able to go 9-5-2.

Looks as if this team is going to be entering wholeheartedly into the McEichel sweepstakes as they just traded Dubnyk and are exploring trade options with two-way center Antione Vermette and offensive defenceman Keith Yandle, among others.

Edmonton Oilers
oilers
Pre-season ranking: 5 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 7 (29 points)

What I said then:

Getting better but that center ice is paper-thin now, let alone once Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello blow out a shoulder to become a true Oiler.

What I say now:

Good news: Neither Arcobello or Draisaitl blew out a shoulder.

Bad news: I have managed to run a blog post fittingly titled “This Guy Scored” where I track all the times the Oilers forgot what they were doing. Lets take a looksy at some stuff I posted after a loss to the Flames…

tgsflamestgsflames2tgsflames3

Yeah that basically sums up the season. It happens every gameBelieve me. If you want to read something more in-depth you have this article.

Vancouver Canucks
canucks
Pre-season ranking: 4 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 4 (49 points, wildcard)

What I said then:

They might be able to do it, and there is some uncertainty in Anaheim as well as some of the teams that may compete for a wild card. They may have a young kid or two surprise. Ultimately, the offence isn’t enough.

What I say now:

They are what everyone thought they were. A team that is pretty average that doesn’t have the depth to really be more than average. The offence comes and goes and goes and goes and goes with 1.6 goals per game from December 1 to January 14.

Up front, the forwards are kind of messy. The talent is there to be good but streaky good. The first line is always going to produce because the Sedins and whoever is with them are wizards. The third line has been a bright spot for most of the season with Shawn Matthias, Brad Richardson and Linden Vey/Zack Kassian at least breaking even. The fourth line is a bit of a disaster at times but can usually hold its own.

The second line is just a black hole though. Alex Burrows is still a good hockey player. When he’s on the ice, the puck typically is going towards the opposing net and he’s good at winning board battles and creating havoc in front of the net. But Chris Higgins and Nick Bonino are not second line players. Currently, they’re fighting it out for the David Booth “Where Offence Goes To Die” Memorial Trophy. If the Canucks can ever get that line figured out, they might actually be able to win a round.

The defence has been pretty average as a group. Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are dynamite as a pairing, but Kevin Bieksa without Dan Hamhuis (groin injury) is a disaster and the third pairing of Luca Sbisa and Yannick Weber is equivalent to two random fans getting to play defence in an NHL game. The biggest issue though is the lack of any player possessing rushing ability to help diversify the breakout and create offence from the back-end.

The biggest issue for the Canucks may actually be goaltending. Ryan Miller has not been good and for $6 million a year you would hope he would be. He hasn’t been awful either, but he has been coming off at times as selfish and a bit moody. By all accounts, he gets to pick his starts and seems to avoid the top teams in the NHL and feast on the poor teams. Not sure how well that bodes for playoff success.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

central1

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Central Division

We’re just over a week away from the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That makes it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. I’m actually better than a lot of people who get paid. Funny how far a little research can go a long way.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Central shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Winnipeg Jets
WinnipegJets
Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 4 (52 points, wildcard)

What I said then:

They’re in a deep division and an equally deep conference. They’d need a godsend of a goaltending performance to make the playoffs. Almost by default they’ll find themselves in the McEichel sweepstakes.

What I say now:

I’ll admit it. I whiffed here. The Jets are playing pretty good hockey right now. The biggest thing I missed on here is that Hutchinson would take over the goaltending job from the terrible Ondrej Pavalec. There is a saying that goes something like “Show me a good coach and I’ll show you an even better goaltender” and that’s the case here. If Hutchinson can keep it up, Maurice will probably be up for coach of the year.

Maurice hasn’t been totally undeserving though. The Jets played a stretch of about 2 weeks where they were missing their entire starting top-four on defence and still won games and controlled play. That is no easy task and that’s where strong coaching can come into play when you’re forced to adapt.

The forwards are doing their thing. Andrew Ladd continues to be one of the best wingers in the NHL that no one seems to talk about. Dustin Byfuglien is having another strong year. After a slow start, Mathieu Perrault has come alive with 25 points in his last 24 games. Mark Scheifele is also coming along nicely. I do wonder a bit about the 4th line of the forward group being good enough but that should be an easy problem to solve with a smart waiver pickup or two.

I’m really looking forward to playoff hockey in Winnipeg.

Colorado Avalanche
avalanche
Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 6 (45 points)

What I said then:

I don’t predict doom, but I just don’t see them getting a career performance again in net. They wildly overperformed last year and won’t come close to repeating.

What I say now:

I need to stop being right so often or it is going to go to my head. Who could tell that a team that got grossly out-possessed, had the best record in one goal games in the NHL, and rode career years in goaltending would be unable to replicate that success again.

The goaltending has been okay this year. Reto Berra has been awful but anyone with two eyes and a heartbeat could have told you that after his time in Calgary. Semyon Varlamov has been better since returning from injury and Calvin Pickard has been great since being called up from the AHL. If they can ride those two they should be able to compete for a wildcard spot.

I guess Brad Stuart has been okay for him… but he’s still Brad Stuart. Luckily they’re getting a career year out of Erik Johnson who has really been terrific. Now whether this is a sign of things to come or an aberration, I’m not sure, but its good for the Avs nonetheless.

The forwards have been littered with disappointments, as far as scoring goes, and that might be the biggest issue for this team finding themselves on the outside looking in once again. Alex Tanguay has been great since returning from injury last year to the tune of 29 points in 42 games. Unfortunately, that leads the team. He’s tied with Jarome Iginla who also has 29 points. The players you’d expect to be leading the offence just aren’t. Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly all have shooting percentages in the mid single digits which is absurd for their talent level.

I have a bit of a soft spot for the Avs because I can’t hate them anymore like I used to and Iggy 4 eva. I just wish they were better.

Minnesota Wild
nhl-stanley-cup-playoffs-minnesota-wild-colorado-avalanche
Pre-season ranking: 5
Current ranking: 7 (41 points)

What I said then:

They’re a good club, even if they have a game of musical chairs for a goaltending situation. Playing in the toughest division isn’t helping matters though. They’ll have an easier time scoring with Vanek and they were one of last season’s best second half teams.

What I say now:

If there is one franchise I was glad to be wrong about, it was the Wild. From the segment of obnoxious fans that “deserve” an outdoor game to display the teams putrid play-style to their crook owner to Matt Cooke and those gross contracts they handed out to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise then Thomas Vanek.

The forwards are doing fine. Parise and Jason Pominville are playing well enough, but Vanek has only 7 goals on the season. Jason Zucker leads the team in scoring with 15 goals and Nino Neiderretier is right behind him with 14. You’d hope to get some more production out of Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund but they’re not exactly under-producing.

Suter is not having a great season on defence but he’s kind of the story of the entire defence. He’s playing almost 30 minutes a night. Now is he playing 30 minutes a night because he’s that good? Close but not quite. Is he playing 30 minutes a night because the rest of the defence sucks that bad? Not quite. The defence as a whole just isn’t good enough and Suter’s play is a part of that. Would he be better off playing less? Probably, but there isn’t really anyone else to shoulder the load. Or at least no one coach Mike Yeo trusts.

The goaltending just blows though. Darcy Kuemper has not had a good season. Nicklas Backstrom can’t use that bloated contract to buy a save. Josh Harding got suspended by the team to start the year and has only played in 2 AHL games due to health complications with his MS. Hopefully Devan Dubnyk can come in and at least be stable.

This team could be in a lot of trouble this season and the jobs of coach Yeo and GM Cliff Fletcher are/should be on the hot seat.

Nashville Predators
predators-web
Pre-season ranking: 4 (wildcard)
Current ranking: 1 (62 points)

What I said then:

They’ve got the deepest set of offensive players since the days of Paul Kariya. The only issue is how quickly it takes the team to adapt to a new coach and system.

What I say now:

I really underestimated this team. Raise you hand if you had the Preds as the top team in the NHL? You’re a liar. I had people calling me out to lunch just saying I think they’d take a wild card spot.

We all knew the goaltending was going to be drastically improved with Pekka Rinne returning to health for most of the season. Unfortunately, he’s just gone down with a knee injury for the next 3-5 weeks. If he isn’t out too long, he can probably take home the Vezina trophy in a landslide as he’s proven not to just be a product of a strong defensive system under former coach Barry Trotz.

We all knew the defence was going to be good and tough with Shea Weber running the show back there. Roman Josi has had a great season. But the real breakout player for the Preds has been Ryan Ellis on defence. If there was such a thing as the Most Improved Player award, he’d be in the running to take it home this season.

The offence has been the real shocker though. I can’t remember any time in recent memory when the Predators boasted such a potent batch of scorers. Filip Forsberg is doing everything he can to be the best rookie in the NHL and has 39 points in 42 games. Mike Ribeiro has always been a talented scorer and is having a bounce back campaign. Colin Wilson is starting to score like a player deserving of his high draft position. Mike Fisher and Craig Smith are both having strong seasons. If James Neal can recover his goal scoring touch that he showed early in the season ( 6 goals in his first 7 games, 7 goals since in 29 games) then this team could challenge the Blackhawks in the playoffs.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

Atlantic

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Atlantic Division

We’re getting closer and closer to the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus. That means it is as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter every time I’m wrong.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Atlantic shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Buffalo Sabres
sabres

Pre-season ranking: 8
Current ranking: 8 (31 points)

What I said then:

This team sucks. They have some marginal improvements, but they’re really counting on a whole bunch of recent draft picks to complete the roster. That isn’t a recipe for success – at least not this season.

What I say now:

This team is somehow worse than I anticipated, yet still not the last place team in the NHL. Go figure.

Cody Hodgson has been an unmitigated disaster this season. He never had #1 center potential, but he looked like he could become a solid, if unspectacular, second liner. You know, like a 60-ish point center who can anchor the secondary attack. This should have been his season to prove he belongs as an offensive producer in the NHL. Instead, he’s been awful. I understand the team is bad, but they have enough pieces to masquerade as a top line.

This team really can give the Oilers a run for their money on hopelessness.

Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Sens

Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 6 (42 points)

What I said then:

They have little high-end talent, and a lot of complimentary talent. That can keep them in the conversation, but I see them ultimately falling short. The team is lacking quality depth players.

What I say now:

I was pretty on point. The top talent has been top. Erik Karlsson is still one of the best defenceman in the NHL and continues to impress as a one-man breakout machine. Bobby Ryan has played well and Kyle Turris has taken over as the top center well enough.

The secondary players like Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad have played well. They’re getting strong rookie seasons out of Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. Alex Chaisson is doing his thing as a middle roster winger. The goaltender has been steady and Craig Anderson is having another strong year.

But that is about it for this team. Robin Lehner’s had his ups and downs when Anderson isn’t playing. The defence outside of Karlsson is disaster movie quality. Milan Michalek and David Legwand have both been pretty big wastes of space, but its not like many other forwards are exactly out playing them.

When I look at this team I see a roster like Edmonton or Calgary. The perfect kind of roster to combine with another half-good team to get one really good team. Unforunately, that is total fantasy.

Florida Panthers
panthers

Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 5 (49 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

They have actual NHL level goaltending. Thats important. If their younger players can continue development and Gallant doesn’t play big minutes to all the bad players he was given, maybe they aren’t completely hopeless. But they look pretty hopeless.

What I say now:

I feel a strong sense of vindication with Roberto Luongo. For years in Vancouver you would hear east coast media “experts” talk about how he’s barely a good goaltender anymore and that he is a terrible human being basically.

Then he’s no longer and Canuck and is single-handedly dragging a terrible Florida hockey team to playoff contention. None of the other big additions this team has made are doing anything but being bad, except Jussi Jokinen who is being solid. But Luongo is playing great and should get a Vezina nomination this season.

Aaron Ekblad has been unbelievable for an 18 year old rookie as he’s second in team scoring. But beyond that, he’s legitimately playing good hockey. He is buoyed by strong veteran defence partners a bit, like Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell, but he’s still holding his own.

If Alexander Barkov can start getting bounces and the rest of the offence holds pace this team could squeak into a wildcard spot. I sure hope they do, but it’ll be tough.

Toronto Maple Leafs
TorontoMapleleafs

Pre-season ranking: 5 (no wildcard)
Current ranking: 6 (47 points)

What I said then:

If they can bring in a coach that is good to replace their bad one then they stand a solid chance at the playoffs. The pieces are there, but they need someone who knows how to use them.

What I say now:

What do you know. They fired their bad coach who was bad. I never saw so much “it wasn’t the coaches fault” spiel for a coach that was this bad. His entire defensive strategy was “hope the goalie makes 40 saves a game.” That isn’t conducive to winning.

The Leafs still stand a chance at making the playoffs but it isn’t going to be easy. It’s hard to evaluate just how good this team is going to play under a new coach, Peter Horachek, but the early results are promising. They haven’t quite gotten the wins yet, but they aren’t getting disgustingly outshot anymore and have been able to hang in against some of the better teams in the NHL lately and not look out-of-place.

If Horachek can play around with the lines and ease some of the burden on players like Kessel and Phaneuf, they should be more effective down the stretch. The less he plays Tyler Bozak the better.

With the Metropolitan division only looking to send 4 teams to the playoffs this year and the Bruins unable to really play anything resembling dominant hockey for a long stretch, and the feeling that Detroit is only a bad week away from injury trouble, the door is still open for the Leafs.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

metrodivision

Checking Up On Predictions: NHL Metropolitan Division

As we reach the unofficial midway point of the NHL season with the All Star Weekend in Columbus, its as good a time as any to go back in time and check back in on my pre-season predictions.

I said I was going to be 100% right at the time and as time has told, I sure wasn’t. However, I wasn’t totally out to lunch either. Goes to show that I’m just about as good at this kind of thing as all the fancy people making big money in the mainstream media.

Actually, I’m a bit better because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong instead of throwing a temper tantrum and blocking 100 people on Twitter.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So first lets take a look at how I had the Metropolitan shaking out, where the team actually is, what I thought about them in the pre-season, and what I think of that team now.

Carolina Hurricanes
hurricanes
Pre-season ranking: 8
Current ranking: 8 (31 points)

What I said then:

There is some cautious optimism for the ‘Canes. Progress of youth and new coach/GM points will help. More Khudobin and less Ward will also help. But a largely unchanged roster, key injuries already and a lot of teams to jump past will make things difficult.

What I say now:

They’re bad. Worse than last year. Cam Ward has been better than expected but with all the injuries that hasn’t made much of a difference. They’ll probably climb themselves out of Oiler level bad and up to Flyer level bad.

They have players coming back from injury like Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner should be back soon. But the defence is still basically 3 players and you just can’t get anywhere without at least 5 steady defenders.

This team still has the pieces around the edges, but is missing the big ones. Kind of like Minnesota pre-Suter/Parise, but I don’t see a Ryan Suter on their horizon. Maybe Eichel or McDavid can be that elite level player.

Philadelphia Flyers
flyers

Pre-season ranking: 7
Current ranking: 6 (41 points)

What I said then:

They only squeaked into the playoffs last year, and that defensive group doesn’t inspire hope. With the improvement around them in their division I feel they’ll lose just enough ground to be on the outside looking in.

What I say now:

I love being right. That defence is miserable. Depending who is healthy on which night, the Flyers have $25 million  locked up on defence. That’s not bad. Then you see the personnel that make that up.

Mark Streit Braydon Coburn
Andrew MacDonald Nicklas Grossmann
Shayne Gostisbehere Luke Schenn
Michael Del Zotto Nick Schultz

Move some parts around, but that’s their top 8. You should be able to pay like 15-16 million to get that. And Andrew MacDonald plays his defence like this…

[Video at Talking Baws]

Could you imagine how bad this team would be if they were without Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds?

Columbus Blue Jackets
columbus_blue_jackets_stanley_cup_playoffs_040914

Pre-season ranking: 6
Current ranking: 5 (39 points, no wildcard)

What I said then:

This is more reliant on Johansen. While he did have a career year and is likely to regress once he plays again, he’s still likely a capable top-six center at worst. That’s not easy to replace and really leaves Columbus a step behind without him. If he comes back soonish they’ll be fine. If this drags, this season could be in trouble.

What I say now:

Well Johansen hasn’t taken a step back and the team is getting a career year out of Nick Foligno, but injuries have just decimated this team. At one point they were missing 9 players that would be regulars for them.

Nathan Horton may never come back. Ryan Murray can’t stay healthy enough to validate being the #2 selection in the draft a few years ago. Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov and Jack Skille are missing. Sergei Bobrovsky, Scott Hartnell, Matt Calvert, Fedor Tyutin, Brandon Dubinsky and Mark Letestu are other key players that have missed at least 5 games due to injury. Many of them missed 10+ games.

Only three players have played all 40 games this season!

It’s really hard to evaluate if the team is really any good or bad. They’re a little too far back in the standings to make the playoffs no matter how healthy they get. Another “maybe next season” in Columbus, but at least they get the All Star Game this year.

New York Rangers
new-york-rangers1

Pre-season ranking: 5 (wildcard)
Current ranking: 4 (52 points)

What I said then:

They won’t make a repeat run to the Finals, but they’re still a pretty good team. Stepan’s injury complicates things but you can’t count out a team with Lundqvist in net. The powerplay can be improved and they still boast depth on paper.

What I say now:

They’ve stayed healthy and I’m suprised at how well their forward corps has done this season. Much better than I had anticipated and Rick Nash looks like the kind of guy worth his contract with 26 goals and 41 points on the season.

Henrik Lundqvist is doing his thing in net. Which means he’s being absurdly good.

The biggest cause for concern on the roster is on defence. They haven’t really got anyone driving things on the powerplay on the back-end. Ryan McDonagh isn’t quite living up to the “greatest defenceman in the NHL” hype he picked up last year and Dan Boyle has been a disappointment with only 9 points on the season.

I don’t think they’ll find themselves on the playoff bubble but I still don’t like their chances for a deep playoff run.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

gary-bettman-5

NHL Week 5 Panic Rankings

It’s week 5 of the NHL season. You know what that means, 10 more reasons to panic. But which is the most panicking panic? Is the the Oilers (making their fifth appearance)? Is it butt goals? What about Sean Avery temper tantrums or the NHL making huge mistakes and ruining good things? Find out below!

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

10. Ben Scrivens’ Helmet

Its a pretty passive-aggressive way to lash out at your team for not being very good.

(But in all honesty its actually a totally great, awesome thing he’s doing to help raise awareness/funding for mental health issues. You can read about it here. I’m gonna continue giving the ten-spot to something actually non-panicky and totally awesome)

9. The Canucks

The California road trip was supposed to prove if this team could play with the big boys or not. And well, the answer is “I don’t think so.”

They beat the #Shorks, but didn’t look very good in doing so. They got stomped by a shorthanded Kings team in pretty embarrassing fashion. Managed to beat the Ducks, without Corey Perry, in a shootout.

Conclusion: Well, if they get all-world goaltending they have a chance, otherwise they look good enough to not be horrible but not really good. But hey, banking points is always a good thing unless you’re gonna Buffalo.

8. Department OPlayer Safety

We’re up to 8, excluding Slava Voynov, out of nowhere, and a handful of “probably should have been suspended but whatever I guess”.

It is encouraging to see that there are no more 1 game suspensions for flagrantly dirty hits. The going rate seems to be 2-3 games now, which is a good thing. A lot of these dumbass plays should start at 3 and probably be up to 6 or 7 games.

Guys might actually think twice before putting their elbow through someones skull, or letting up before they paralyze someone into the boards.

Click here to see where Sean Avery, butts, and the NHL being a greedy money whore rank!

sweatersnhlbad

How To Fix The NHL’s Absolute Worst Jerseys

The NHL, like any sports league, has its share of absolutely dreadful uniforms. Strange colour choices, weird designs, random stripes, etc. Visual mess that players wear and fans buy out of loyalty. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’m fixing the NHL, again.

I’ll only be picking on teams that are due for a change. As in, they have yet to make a recent fundamental adjustment.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

You’re about to learn just how big a fan I am of classic looks.

(Dis)Honourable Mention

Winnipeg Jets

Yawn. Look like every other generic dark blue sweater used in the NHL. Bland colouring leads to absolutely no visual pop and a brutal logo design. Unfortunately, they’re too new for the team to change anything into anything half appealing.

San Jose Sharks

Absolutely nothing going on. Almost as bad as the old Oilers’ sweaters, but at least the teal is bright. Unfortunately, these things are barely a year old so they’re here to stay and continue to be horrible uninteresting.

Buffalo Sabres
sabes
It’s close (main sweaters on the left and right), but would it really hurt just to actually give the fans the classic 70′s sweater? That is what they want. That is what everyone wants. These ones are a little boring and dark, with unnecessary piping and thin striping. I want piping to die. I don’t want to talk about the Turd Burger third jerseys.

Carolina Hurricanes

These are just boring. There is a disconnect from the logo to the sweater. The storm flag design around the base was great, but the rest of the shenanigans were unnecessary. The red knocks of 2010 Olympics Team Canada and the white, well, it isn’t actually that bad. Its missing a little storm flag inspiration, but its pretty good.

7. Vancouver Canucks
canucks

The Canucks, with a poor uniform?! A shocking statement.

The colours and striping is really good. Blue and green, and its variations, really just fits into the pacific northwest.

But the “VANCOUVER” needs to go. It has to go. We know where the team is from. I get that it was done to shill the sweaters during the Olympics as souvenirs, but it’s been four years since then, and these sweaters are almost 8 years old. The logo also doesn’t match the colour anywhere else on the sweater. Why?! Please fix it.

Solution:
newcanucks
Its simple, and right there in the team’s recent history. The third sweater should replace the home, and wear the 40th Anniversary sweater on the road. They’re both leaps and bounds ahead of the current get ups, and they’re not “new” either which is a lifesaver for the Canucks.

Read the full list over at Talking Baws

John scott goal

NHL Week 2 Panic Rankings

I still think it is too early for power rankings, so I won’t do them. But in sports, it is never too early to panic! There are some real things worth panicking over in the NHL right now.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

10. The Boston Bruins

Things are getting better but there is still some cause for concern, as in they are not being good at hockey. They may be only a 10th of the way into the season, but it is important to get points early and 6 through 7 games is not good enough. The forwards are out of sync. The defence misses Seidenberg’s knee and Johnny Boychuk. At least they beat up on Buffalo.

9. Calm people 

Everyone has let up on making their sweeping generalizations after 2 games. Where is the fun in that? Don’t let reality set in people. Reality and being sensible is way too boring.

8. Touchy Feely Referees Embedded image permalink

They’re being right up front with it now, which is an improvement over last week.

Read the full Panic Rankings at Talking Baws