Finally, the Stanley Cup Final begins tonight. The Boston Bruins are in their third final in nine years (won in 2011, lost in 2013), while the St. Louis Blues and their fans have waited 49 years to get back. The Blues made the final in their inaugural season in 1968, and again in 1969 and 1970. It is important to note the NHL, for some odd reason, decided to put the Original Six teams in one division in 1968 and the six expansion teams in the other division.
The NHL clearly wanted the expansion teams to have more than a modicum of success. They made it look like they were competitive in the playoffs.
It worked. In 1967/1968 the Blues, who finished third in their “expansion” division, defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games, and then needed seven games to beat Minnesota in the second round. Then they were swept 4-0 by Montreal in the final. All four games were decided by a goal, with two of them coming in overtime.
In 1969 the Blues finished first in the West. They were the class of their division and swept Philly in the first round, Los Angeles in the second, but once again got swept by Montreal in the final. The series wasn’t as close as the previous year. The Blues were outscored 12-3 in the four games.
In 1970 the Blues won the West again, and for the second consecutive year had the fourth most wins in the NHL with 37. They defeated Minnesota in the first round and Pittsburgh in the second round, both in six games, but once again were swept in the final, this time by the Boston Bruins. The Bruins were loaded, led by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Somehow the Blues had home ice advantage, but the Bruins spanked them 6-1 and 6-2 in St. Louis, then won game three at home 4-1, and Orr scored the series winner in OT on May 10th, 1970.
That was the last game the Blues played in the Stanley Cup Final until tonight. Forty nine years between appearances. That’s a long road, but I’m happy for Blues fans and the organization they are back in the Dance tonight. I’m very confident they will not get swept again. I see this series going six, maybe seven games. I’m picking the Blues in six, and admittedly 100% of that prediction is based on their 49-year drought.
I wouldn’t trade him, and right now the Edmonton Oilers have no interest in doing so. The notion of trading Nurse to acquire a scoring forward seems to be the reasoning, but I wouldn’t do it for a variety or reasons.
Nurse is still improving. He had ten points as a rookie, then he had 11 in 44 games (prorates to 21), followed that up with 26 points and last year jumped up to 41. He was tied for 17th in EV scoring among NHL defencemen with 31 points. Every year he has improved and he’s only played 279 NHL games. He will be better next season.
Yes, he will get a raise after next season. I don’t have a problem paying your top players, and he will be 25 when his next contract begins. If he signs a seven year deal he will be 31 in the final year of the deal. You get him for his prime years. I’d much rather pay a player top dollar for those seasons.
The other factor is Nurse plays a lot, and he plays against top players. Replacing him won’t be easy, even with some quality prospects in the system. None of Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, William Lagesson, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov or Joel Persson are ready to take on big minutes against top lines next season.
Here is a look at Oilers blueliners at 5×5 last season.
Player TOI GF-GA PTS MIN with McDavid
Nurse 1,556 63-73 8-19-27 563
Larsson 1,548 45-77 3-14-17 613
Russell 1,278 50-49 3-11-14 417
Klefbom 1,132 30-45 1-11-12 441
Benning 902 43-34 3-10-13 243
Gravel 466 16-17 0-3-3 121
Sekera 340 15-15 0-2-2 87
Nurse played 1,054 minutes with Russell, and his next most common partner was Larsson at 269. Larsson and Klefbom played 995 minutes together.
Those two pairs played together the majority of the time. Do you want Sekera and Russell as the second pair next season? I wouldn’t.
The other aspect of Nurse is his leadership and personality. He is one of the leaders in the room and I won’t be surprised if he wears an “A” in the future. I know some believe winning cures everything, and no doubt it calms things down, but teams who win consistently, year after year, have strong leaders. Nurse is becoming one of those players for the Oilers.
Even if Ken Holland landed a quality forward for Nurse, his absence would create a massive hole.
The Oilers have to improve their goals against if they hope to become more competitive. Yes, they need some more depth scoring, but it is easier to find players who can chip in 15 goals than it is to find a D-man who can play 24 minutes/game and chip in 41 points.
Trading Nurse is a bad idea in my eyes.
1. I’m not sure if anyone reported it or not, but Joakim Nygard‘s one-year ELC does not include any performances bonuses. It is a one-year, two-way deal worth $925,000 in the NHL and $70,000 in the minors. If we see Nygard replacing Tobias Rieder on the roster, that frees up just over $1 million in cap space. The Oilers don’t have a lot of cap space, so saving a million dollars and getting a new player who will produce more is good GMing in my books. Nygard isn’t a flashy signing, and out-producing Reider’s zero goals, isn’t a high standard, but I won’t be surprised if Nygard is much more noticeable on a night-by-night basis than Rieder.
2. Nygard is very fast and a good penalty killer. The Oilers PK has been awful for three seasons, and it needs a lot of help. If Nygard can score 10-11-21 and be good on the PK he’ll be a very good signing. Any more production will be a bonus.
3. Last year the Washington Capitals acquired Michal Kempny at the trade deadline. It wasn’t considered a big move, but Kempny ended up playing in their top-four and was a contributor. Many trade deadline deals don’t work, but this year Charlie Coyle (6-6-12) and Marcus Johansson (3-6-9) have been great acquisitions. Coyle is second on the Bruins in EV scoring with 11 points and Johansson is tied for fourth with eight.
4. This quote from NBA champion Joe Dumars is something that needs to evolve within the Oilers in the coming years. “On good teams, coaches hold players accountable, on great teams players hold players accountable.” It can start on the PK. The players have to be better. You can’t just blame the system, when they’ve had two different head coaches and two different defence coaches. The players are also responsible for a dismal 77.3% PK combined over the past three seasons. It was 80.7% in 2017, then 76.7% in 2018 and 74.8% last year. They need to reverse this downward trend.
5. The Oilers will officially announce Dave Tippett as head coach tomorrow. The NHL does not like teams (who aren’t playing) making announcements on game days during the final, so that’s why the announcement will be tomorrow and not today.
6. Head coach Rocky Thompson has his Chicago Wolves one game from the AHL Final. Thompson is an excellent communicator and he is extremely bright. He will be an NHL coach in the near future. I would have been curious to see what he would have done with the Oilers had they hired him. I’m not saying he’d be better than Tippett, I just think Thompson will be a good NHL coach when given the chance.
Non Hockey thoughts…
The Raptors/Warriors final should be very entertaining. The Warriors are in their fifth consecutive NBA Finals. They are only the second team in NBA history to make five straight appearances, joining the Boston Celtics, who made it an amazing ten straight times between 1957-1966. They won nine titles, including eight in a row from 1959-1966. The Warriors are really good, even without Kevin Durant. The Raptors were dominant in the final four games over Milwaukee. Kawhi Leonard was all-world, but they got great efforts from many players.
How about Fred VanVleet in games 4-6? He shot 14 of 17 (82.4%) from three-point range. That is the highest such percentage over a three-game span in NBA postseason history by a player with at least 15 attempts according to Justin Kubotka from @statmuse.
Toronto is a Raptors city right now, no question about it. I think many basketball fans, and even many non-fans, are caught up in this run. It would be an awesome experience to be at the game, or even outside at Jurassic Park or in a sports bar in Toronto when the series begins on Thursday.
I’ll take Warriors in six. They are a dynasty.
Who do you have winning the NHL and NBA titles?
ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN
My 9th annual Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity is here again. On June 22nd and 23rd, I am riding in the 190KM MS Bike from Leduc to Camrose, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.
Here’s how it works: You make a $125 donation and you get one entry. If you make a $250 donation you get two entries, and so on.
We only take 100 entries and we will raise $12,500 for MS. The draw will be the week of June 14th.
This year’s winner will win the following prizes and more.: The final package is valued at over $6,000.00
- The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
- A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
- Twenty tickets, and a hot dog and beverage (non-alcoholic), to an Oil Kings home game. Also, you will get an Oil King player of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. (Between November 1st and December 15th.)
- Four seats in the Edmonton Stingers VIP Hospitality Zone, which includes buffet meal, for one of the Stingers home games of your choice. Also a signed Edmonton Stingers jersey. And your group will receive a pre-game Fan Experience.
- A signed Barclay Donaldson jersey. He was the captain for the Broom County Blades in the greatest hockey movie, Slap Shot. Sweet jersey.
- $500 GC at Atlas Steak and Fish (either location).
- We will add a few more items as well.
We are 50% sold in only two days. Awesome. Get in while you can. You can make your donation here. (click Donate Now to the right of my picture).
Thank you for supporting MS and good luck.