Random Thoughts: Evander Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, NHL skills competition, and more

2 years ago
We’ve landed at the all-star break, the NHL’s annual marketing event has wrapped, and I thought now would be the perfect time for another dose of Random Thoughts to offer up some fresh takes on what’s been happening.


I’ll be the first to admit that I was concerned about the Oilers signing Evander Kane based on his off-ice allegations, but now that he’s here and there’s not much point complaining about it, I want to give the guy some credit for providing the exact kind of play the Oilers need from him. With two goals and an assist on the books through three games, Kane is already providing the offensive touch the team was hoping he would, and he’s also showing that he’s willing to play with some bite that is sorely lacking in this lineup. If he can keep producing down the stretch while also staying away from drama off the ice, this bet could pay off better than many of us would have expected and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to see this move as a positive story over the back half of the season.


I know I’m the President and CEO of the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fan club and you’d expect me to pump his tires, but I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that he’s playing some of his best hockey of the season since coming back from a lower-body injury. With five points (3G, 2A) in his last three games, RNH is showing the kind of touch we need from him and I’m hoping that this mini-heater is the start of a strong finish to his year. That’s not to say that Nuge has been bad or anything — anyone that suggests otherwise isn’t paying attention — but I would absolutely agree that the Oilers need him to be more consistent than he has been. Now that he’s back and healthy again, I want to see RNH build upon what was a strong week for him production-wise and turn it into a second half that helps his team get back to where they need to be.


Speaking with the media ahead of Friday’s skills competition, Gary Bettman expressed his frustration with the restrictions the Canadian teams are dealing with and how the financial impacts are piling up. Bettman estimated that the average revenue lost by all franchises was around $50 million each over the past two seasons as a result of COVID, and that’s causing a major pressure point for the league.
“That’s how troublesome and devastating it is for the clubs. It’s not something anybody wants to do and it’s not something we’re actively encouraging, but it’s something that if this continues much longer we may have to look at and consider.”
Bettman didn’t come out and say that he’d consider temporarily moving the Canadian teams to U.S.-based cities as a workaround to this issues, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that money talks here and having some of the league’s top-earning teams saddled with restrictions isn’t going to work. While moving the Canadian teams wasn’t specifically mentioned, Bettman did say that if the restrictions in Quebec, which currently prevent fans from going to the Bell Centre to watch the Habs, continue into the summer, the NHL Draft set for July 7th and 8th could move to a new location.


As much as it was a bit of a downer that McDavid and Draisaitl weren’t able to win their respective events, I still had a pretty good time with this year’s skills competition. While the classic events will always be my favourite — hardest shot and fastest skater are always legit — I actually thought the fountain faceoff was pretty fun for a new event, and I thought it had the potential to turn into something pretty cool if the league keeps putting thought into it. My other takeaway from the skills competition is that @Trevor Zegras is absolutely ridiculous, and the move he pulled off while blindfolded was the exact kind of skill that the league wants to showcase on a weekend like this. The other thing I wanted to point out is that I’m proud of our boy Tyler Yaremchuk for his work down in Vegas, not only because I thought it was genuinely sweet that he was so pumped to cover the skills competition but also for the way he stepped up and asked Gary Bettman a real solid question about the Calgary arena situation during their kickoff presser.


I honestly have no idea what kind of brain worms Rocky Wirtz is suffering from allegedly in my opinion, but his response to a question about Kyle Beach at last week’s town hall meeting was as horrific as it gets. Not only was he combative and refused to answer what I felt was a very simple question, he very much made it seem like the Blackhawks have no interest in making any real change within their organization. I know Wirtz issued an apology later on that evening, but it was too little too late after the damage of his words was already done. Not only should Wirtz be embarrassed for what he said on stage and the message it sends to the hockey community, but I also think the Blackhawks need to take action regarding his status within the organization.


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