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Friday Thoughts: Tears, laughs and more

There are 20 games remaining in the 2017/2018 NHL season. Fourteen playoff spots are confirmed, with Philadelphia and Florida battling for the final spot in the east, while St. Louis and Colorado will face each other tomorrow to determine who gets the final spot in the west, and the opportunity to be bludgeoned by the first-place Nashville Predators. The Avalanche and Blues are both banged up, and whoever gets in, likely won’t last very long against the Predators.

There is only one first round matchup confirmed thus far: Winnipeg will host Minnesota in game one of their Central Division semi-final. The Jets have skated to their best season in franchise history, including Jets 1.0 and 2.0. Winnipeg fans have never witnessed their team reach 100 points. Their previous high was 99 points in 2015. The Jets were swept in four games that spring.

Winnipeg fans last cheered a playoff victory on April 26th, 1996. The last series win in Winnipeg occurred 30 years ago in 1987 when they defeated the Calgary Flames in six games.

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Jets fans are overdue for a playoff victory.

AROUND THE LEAGUE…

1. Daniel and Henrik Sedin had a fairytale send off in Vancouver last night. They combined on two goals. Fittingly, Daniel scored and Henrik assisted on both. Daniel’s 22nd goal of the season came 33 seconds into the second period, and then in OT he scored at 2:33. Sometimes you sit back and wonder if things were just meant to be, and for the twins their #22 and #33 was all over the scoresheet. They were great players for the Canucks, and even better people in the Vancouver community. Tomorrow they play their final game in Edmonton, and it should add a bit more excitement in what would be an otherwise somber atmosphere.

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2. Connor McDavid has 106 points and an seven-point lead in the Art Ross race. If he picks up a point tomorrow, he will have scored the most points in an NHL season since Evgeni Malkin tallied 109 in 2012. McDavid has 59 points in 38 games since January 8th. If he maintained that 1.55 points/game pace over an entire season, he’d finish with 127 points. McDavid has been on a tear since he regained his strength after losing 15 pounds in November and battling numerous illnesses. I don’t think many will be surprised if he scores 120 points next year.

3. Outside of McDavid, the other players to score 50 points since January 8th are Evgeni Malkin (55 points in 37 games) and Taylor Hall (51 points in 37 games). McDavid leads the NHL in goals in that span with 27, Patrik Laine has 26, Malkin 25 and Hall 24.

4. William Karlsson has 43 goals for Vegas. He was drafted 53rd overall by Anaheim in 2011. He was traded to Columbus at the 2015 trade deadline along with Rene Bourque for James Wisniewski and a 2015 third round pick (Brent Gates). Karlsson played 15 AHL games in Springfield and didn’t register a point, but he did scored 1-1-2 in three games with the Blue Jackets. In 2015/2016, he played 81 games for Columbus and scored 9-11-20. He tallied 6-19-25 in 81 games last season before being exposed in the expansion draft. Vegas claimed him and he’s exploded.

He has 43 goals and 78 points with Vegas and is in the running for the Lady Byng and the Selke. He plays 18:33/game for Vegas, faces good competition and he leads the NHL at+49. I know it isn’t the best stat, but that is a very impressive number. Teammates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith are +37 and +32 respectively, while Brad Marchand is third in the NHL at +33.

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It will be interesting to see what type of contract Karlsson receives in Vegas. I could see him getting similar money to Marchessault, $5 million/year.

5. I haven’t “cheered” for an NHL hockey team in a long time, but with my nephew, Noah Gregor, signing his ELC contract with the San Jose Sharks last night, in a few years I could become a fan again. I’m a fan of hockey, but haven’t openly cared about a team. I’ve watched Noah, and many other Edmonton area 1998 kids, chase their dream since peewee. I’ve watched him play against Tyler Benson, Sam Steel, Josh Mahura and others for years. I loved watching Bantam and Midget AAA games and now the WHL. The dedication any player makes to even get signed to an NHL contract is impressive. Going to bed early when you are teenagers, missing many parties, school events and other fun times with no guarantee they will make it, is true dedication. I’ve always respected how good NHL players are, even AHL players and CIS. Outside of the superstar NHL players, the gap between third line NHLers and players in lower leagues isn’t that big. Congrats Noah and all the other young players who have signed ELC deals the past few months. Good luck in coming years. The competition becomes harder, but I’m sure the journey will be exciting.

6. Benson and Oilers 2017 third round pick Dmitri Samorukov have signed a PTO with Bakersfield, and they will make their AHL debuts tonight in Winnipeg. Kailer Yamamoto was sat out the final three games of the WHL season with an injury, and then played hurt in Spokane’s first round loss to Portland. He wasn’t assigned to Bakersfield, because the Oilers wisely want him to get healthy.

7. The Jets will represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals. They will face Washington. Yes, two long suffering fan bases will be in the Final. One will be elated, while the other will be disappointed again. Sadly, the Canadian curse in the Finals won’t end. Capitals win their first Stanley Cup.

8. If you are looking for a fun night out, I have one. We will be Roasting Jason Strudwick on Thursday, April 26th. We have already sold 220 tickets.

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If you want a Table, half table or just individual tickets, call Dayna at KidSport at 780.492.0095. This is an adult only show. Struds has asked his mother not to come, as a guideline of what to expect from those who will be roasting him.

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  • Odanada

    Congrats H&D Sedin.
    17 years of being good hockey players and good people to boot. Considering Vancouver’s Cup drought, it’s a wonder they weren’t run out of town – fair question: do you think they would have survived that long in Edmonton?

  • tkfisher

    Congrats to Noah, it must have been all that knowledge he picked up from my floor hockey coaching day at Coloniale Estates (hahhaah). He was always a quick, hard working, good kid, with great hands. Best of luck buddy. (Wish the Oilers had snagged him)

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    On the other end of the scale, you have Anders Lee and his impressive 39 goals!and 61 points, best of his career, but is a God awful -24 ! So ya what William K. Has done in Vegas is truly impressive!

    And does anyone know why the Oilers passed on Josh Mahura and let Anaheim take him with the next pick? Was it just a fluke or did they not like him or something? Seems like the offense d-man we could have used in our system.

    • Hemmercules

      They probably liked the Dman they took right before Mahura better for whatever reason. The Oilers scouting is suspect as it is, cant expect them to hit too many gems past the second round.

    • crabman

      His draft year he played 2 games and got 1 assist with Red Deer. The year before of played 51 games with 8 points. It wasn’t until hi draft+1 that he turned a corner in junior.
      This is like asking why teams let Bear fall to the 5th round and by the time he left junior he was the WHL Dman of the year.

      • GinYYC

        It’s not bad management. It’s the pressure of the Canadian markets. Kid plays in Edmonton or Montreal and makes a mistake, fans are all over them, kid then struggles with confidence and development suffers. Kid plays in Nashville or California and makes a mistake, fans don’t even realize a mistake was made, kid doesn’t suffer but learns and develops. See it all the time.

        Throw in the sunbelt bias in officiating come playoff time (good business for NHL, Canadian teams make cash win or lose, sunbelt teams only make cash if winning) and it’s not a surprise a Canadain team hasn’t won the cup in 25 years.

        Random odds of a 30 team league with 7-8 Canadian teams not having a Canadian team win the cup in 25 years. It’s less than 0.1%.

    • Big Nuggets

      less fan pressure in American cities means the GM can impliment a long term strategy and stick to it until it bears fruit. ie Nashville. Canadian teams all have rabid fans calling for heads to roll after every underachieving season.

      • McDavid's Comet

        Nicholson has stated they are going forward with a plan and if the fans understand it they will be happy with it. Weather it bears fruit in the long or short term; we will have to wait and see.

    • RJ

      When the Oilers traded Letestu to Nashville for Pontus Aberg, I went to a number of Nashville blogs to see what their fans had to say about Letestu for Aberg, or Letestu for the 4th rounder (from columbus).

      On one hand they were happy about Aberg getting an opportunity to play for a team that could use him. He was buried under all the depth in Nashville.

      On the other side, they were happy about getting a 4th as it would mean a future 2nd or 3rd liner down the road. They draft well enough that their fans actually expect all of their picks to turn out. Contrast that with the Oilers who have one of the worst, if not the worst, prospect pools. A good team will have ten or more prospects with a decent shot of playing pro. Right now, there’s really only 3-4 who fit that bill.

      • fasteddy

        Have you actually looked at Nashville’s draft and development success? Take a look before spouting this common narrative….or shall I say common false narrative.

  • Dan 1919

    “the gap between third line NHLers and players in lower leagues isn’t that big.” This is 100% true, even check out this interesting first hand article about that: http://ingoalmag.com/general/how-do-the-nhl-ahl-and-echl-differ-a-goalies-perspective/

    The more teams the NHL adds, the more of these AHL type players that come in and fill the NHL, which is why we see the parity we do today. There’s still stacked teams but it’s not like the pre-expansion&cap era where if you didn’t have Sakic, Forsberg, Ozilinch, Foot, Hejduk on a team you weren’t competing.

    • fasteddy

      I think the logic makes sense, but another factor is absolutely that the athletes are far superior in today’s game. 4th liners in junior are physical specimens training year round specifically to succeed on the ice…..there’s no easy shift in any high level leagues anymore.