I love this time of year. The rumour mill will be overflowing leading up to the draft, trades will happen, free agents will be courted and the Nation will be filled with various opinions and debates.
Here are some of the story lines I will be following….
- Are the Panthers that high on William Nylander or is it just talk? The Panthers have traded out of the #1 pick twice before, 2002 and 2003, and each time they earned the #1 pick by winning the draft lottery. In 2002, they finished 28th (14.2% of winning) and in 2003 they finished 27th, (10.7%) and won.
The Panthers won the lottery this year, so will they continue their trend of winning the lottery, but deciding to trade down? In 2002 they traded down from #1 to #3 and got the right to swap draft picks with Columbus in 2003, but since they won the lottery in 2003 they got nothing for moving down in 2002. In fact, they traded a 3rd round pick in 2002 and a 4th in 2003 to Atlanta just so they wouldn’t take Jay Bouwmeester. The Panthers ended up trading two picks to move down. AWFUL.
In 2003, they traded the #1 (Marc-Andre Fleury) and #73 (Dan Carcillo) pick to Pittsburgh for the #3 (Nathan Horton), #55 (Stefan Meyer) and Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson played 37 games in 2003/2004, then became a free agent and signed with Detroit after the 2005 lockout.
If Panthers GM Dale Tallon trades the #1 pick, you’d hope he’d get more than Rick Dudley did when he was in charge. The latest rumbling has the Panthers swapping picks with Vancouver and receiving the #6 pick and Hunter Shinkaruk (24th overall pick last year). That would be a blockbuster trade. Would you do it if you were Tallon or Canucks GM Jim Benning?
- If the Canucks trade up to #1 I think they take Sam Reinhart, which would guarantee the Oilers could get Aaron Ekblad or Leon Draisaitl.
- I don’t see the Oilers trading down. They desperately need a centre or a D-man. Aaron Ekblad is the only D-man in the top-ten, and the top three centres, Bennett, Reinhart and Draisaitl are in a class of their own down the middle. The other reason I don’t see it happening, is because teams never offer enough to make it worthwhile.
- The Blue Jackets acquired Scott Hartnell for RJ Umberger. Hartnell is a much better player today. He does have five years left on his contract, $4.75 million cap hit, and he’ll be 36 when his final year kicks in, but I like the trade for the Blue Jackets. They need to win a playoff series soon to keep their fans happy.
- Hartnell had to waive his NMC to go to Columbus. I suspect many will ask why the Oilers didn’t get in on Hartnell. Which forward would they offer who is better than Umberger? They wouldn’t move Perron or Yakupov. The Oilers need centres, not wingers.
- Oilers draft picks Darnell Nurse and Greg Chase are amongst the 41 players invited to the National Junior Team summer camp. Chase continues to look like a very good find in the 7th round.
- Asinine decision by the Edmonton Eskimos to let their new head coach, Chris Jones, decide that the media is not allowed in the dressing room for interviews. The Eskimos have finished last in the west six of the past eight seasons. Every NHL team allows media in the room. Often that is where you get the best stories, just sitting around and shooting the breeze, but the Eskimos, who have 25,000 empty seats most games and are a community owned
team want to limit the access of the media, who are the pipeline
If the Eskimos want fewer people talking about their product, they will have it. Mission accomplished. They used to be able to lay claim to being the #2 two in town, but now they aren’t top three. The Oilers are #1 and #2 and the NHL is #3. How Len Rhodes allowed this to happen boggles my mind.
- I listened to an interview with Tim Murray where he spoke glowingly about Leon Draisaitl. I’ve spoke to a few media guys in Buffalo and they all think the Sabres will take a centre, but are split on which one. It sounds like Murray is doing a good job of muddying the waters.
- Mike Russo reported that Kyle Brodziak is available in Minnesota. I still remember being at the 2009 draft in Montreal when the Oilers traded Brodziak for a 4th and 5th round pick. I couldn’t believe they felt Marc Pouliot was a better fit. The Oilers need a two-six centre, so I don’t see them going after Brodziak. I think he could help a few teams in the East.
- Matt Greene is close to resigning in LA. That doesn’t surprise me. The Kings love him and he loves LA. They love what he does on and off the ice. He’s a glue guy in their room, and while the analytics aren’t always glowing, the Kings like things the stats don’t always show. Good depth guy on a strong team.
- Willie Desjardins is the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. Is he the oldest rookie head coach in NHL history? I know Lou Lamoriello was 63 when he went behind the bench in 2005/2006 on an interim basis, but that was temporary. I think it is great that he kept doing what he loved and finally got to the NHL as a head coach. I really admire his perseverance.
- The NHL awards ceremony is tomorrow night. Here is who I’d pick.
Hart trophy (MVP): Sidney Crosby
Norris (best D-man): Duncan Keith
Lady Byng (sportmanlike): Ryan O’Reilly
Selke (best defensive forward): Anze Kopitar
Vezina (best goalie): Semyon Varlamov
Calder (top rookie): Nathan MacKinnon
Jack Adams (best coach): Patrick Roy
GM of the year: Bob Murray
Crosby will become only the 18th player to win the Hart trophy twice. Gretzky (9), Gordie Howe (6), Eddie Shore (4), Bobby Clarke, Mario Lemieux, Howie Morenz, Bobby Orr and Alex Ovechkin won it three times while Jean Beliveau, Bill Cowley, Phil Esposito, Dominic Hasek, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, Mark Messier, Stan Mikita and Nels Stewart won it twice.
- Congrats to Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Dominic Hasek, Mike Modano, Pat Burns and Bill McCreary for being elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. A huge honour. Good for them. I’m still perplexed why Eric Lindros isn’t in. He was the best player in the game for a few years. His career was shortened due to injuries, but many have played fewer games and produced fewer points than him, yet they are in. He’s due.
- I’ve often heard that the Ted Lindsay (formerly the Lester B. Pearson award) is worth more than the Hart Trophy because it is voted on by the NHLPA. Many feel the players know who is the best. If you believe that is always true, then explain how in 1986 when Wayne Gretzky scored 215 points, he didn’t win the award? He had won it the previous four years, and I guarantee you players wanted someone else to win. They gave it to Mario Lemieux. Lemieux had 141 points, but that was still 74 fewer points than Gretzky.
Gretzky produced the most points in a single season the NHL had seen, or ever will, and the players didn’t vote him the most outstanding. Ridiculous.
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