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Ten Thursday Thoughts…

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
Let’s discuss 10 random thoughts on the NHL, the World Cup, and more.
1. The World Cup has been great, but it is a painful reminder that we haven’t seen best on best in hockey since 2014. Recently the NHL announced it was postponing the 2024 World Cup of Hockey until February of 2025. We are still 27 months away. Brutal. Hopefully, the NHL can figure it out. I’d love to see them back in the Olympics, but if not, set up a regular World Cup of Hockey so we can see best on best.
2. Speaking of best: Connor McDavid is off to the best start of his career and reached the 50-point mark in the fewest games of his career. He has 52 points in 27 games (1.93 points/game) and is on pace to score 158 points. It will be difficult to maintain that pace, but his start had made 130 and 140 points realistic.
McDavid is only the 6th player in the past 30 years to score 50 points in the first 27 games.
Mario Lemieux did it in 18 games in 1993 and finished with 160 points in 60 games.
Jaromir Jagr needed 24 games in 1996 and finished with 149 points in 82 games.
Wayne Gretzky had 51 points in 25 games in 1994 and finished with 130 points in 81 games.
Lemieux did it again in 26 games in 1996. He finished with 161 points in 70 games.
Kevin Stevens scored 52 points in 27 games and finished with 111 points in 72 games in 1993.
Pat Lafontaine reached 50 points in 27 games in 1993. He finished with 148.
Maintaining that high of a pts/game is very hard, but he has a great chance to become the first player since 1996 to score 130 points. He needs 78 points in the final 55 games (1.41 pts/game). His career average is 1.45, but his last four seasons his pts/GP has been 1.49, 1.51, 1.88 and 1.54. To reach 140 points he’d need to average 1.6 points/game and 1.78 to reach 150. You don’t witness seasons like this very often. Enjoy it.
3. Tage Thompson is an incredible story. His first pro season was 2017-18 split between St. Louis and San Antonio of the AHL. He had nine points in 30 NHL games and 18 points in 30 AHL games. He was traded to Buffalo as part of the Ryan O’Reilly deal in the summer of 2018. The following season he tallied 7-5-12 in 65 NHL games and 6-3-9 in eight AHL games. He was injured in 2019-20, playing only one NHL game and 16 AHL games.
In the COVID-shortened 2021 season he scored 8-6-14 in 38 games. Then he exploded with 38 goals and 68 points in 78 games last season. The Sabres signed him to a seven-year, $50m contract this past August. Many questioned it, but if you watched Thompson’s second half last season you saw how he dominated games. I don’t think anyone expected him to take another huge step this year, but he has. He scored five goals last night, including the second quickest four goals to start a game in NHL history. He had four goals in 18 minutes. He now has 21 goals and 40 points in 26 games.
He’s huge at 6’6″ and 220 pounds and he fired a 100 mph one-timer last night. His release his amazing. He is a marvel to watch. I recommend watching Sabres games when you can. This is not just a heater. Thompson is emerging as a great player. He turned 25 in October and Sabres fans should be thrilled at what he will do when his contract kicks in next season. He could score 50 goals this season with a $1.4m AAV. He is the best bargain in the NHL this season.
4. After watching Jacob Chychrun last night I’m still convinced he isn’t the answer for the Oilers. He is talented, no question, but he’s more offensive than defensive. I think Edmonton needs a more defensive-minded defender. They score enough. They have enough offence from the backend. I hope, for his sake, his injury history is behind him, but acquiring him for two first round picks and a prospect is a major risk. I’d look elsewhere.
5. I don’t sense Ken Holland will make a move before Christmas. December trades are rare, and with the Oilers’ schedule this month I don’t see any urgency to make a deal.
6. It is a small sample size, but Philip Broberg is starting to look much more comfortable. He’s moving better on the ice than he did in the preseason. He suffered an undisclosed injury that limited his mobility and that was why he didn’t play right away in Bakersfield. I think he is going to be a solid NHL defender. It might not be this year, but I’ve liked the improvement we’ve seen the past few games.
7. Oilers placed Tyler Benson on waivers today. Ideally (for him) he is claimed and gets an opportunity in another organization. He has added a pest-like quality to his game, and I respect him for realizing he needed to alter how he plays to remain in the NHL. I’ve seen many players get ice time on teams lower in the standings and establish themselves as NHLers. I hope that happens for him.
8. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been much better 5×5 this season than the previous two. He had 7-4-11 this season after producing 6-14-20 in 63 games last year and 7-7-14 in 52 games in 2021. I asked Jay Woodcroft about RNH’s improved 5×5 play. “I’m proud that he’s had those results.,” said Woodcroft. “We had some conversations in training camp, with the coaching staff and Ryan in terms of expectations, and he had a really good. He has that look about him, the eye of the tiger whatever you want to call it. He has put an onus on that time of production. He is a very important person in our dressing room,” said Woodcroft.
RNH has four points at 5×5 in the seven games since Woodcroft placed McDavid with Draisaitl. He’s actually produced better away from them. When the team is fully healthy, I wonder if they consider running RNH as the second or third line centre with Yamamoto and Evander Kane or Zach Hyman. Yamamoto and RNH have produced well together in the past.
9. It is interesting to listen to people’s reactions to Jesse Puljujarvi’s interview with Finnish journalist Tommi Seppälä, of YLE news agency. Puljujarvi admitted his confidence is low. Not surprising with only one goal this season. He isn’t the first player to go through a slump. Each year hundreds of players go through peaks and valleys. That is life in the NHL for the majority of players. What I found interesting was that many said the Oilers need to do more to help him. Yet, the same people were ripping on Warren Foegele last year when he couldn’t buy a goal. He was overpaid and a terrible acquisition. Why the different approach?
I strongly disagreed with how the Oilers handled Puljujarvi his first three seasons. He wasn’t NHL ready, which was fine, as almost no 18 year olds are. He should have played the entire season in the AHL, and maybe even part of the next one. Puljujarvi went back to Finland and found his confidence. He returned to Edmonton for the 2021 season and was a solid contributor. He got to play the majority of his 5×5 time with either McDavid or Draisaitl, and even both at times.
He played 1,673 minutes at 5×5. He spent 336 with both of them, 820 with McDavid and 210 with Draisaitl. This means 81% of his time with was the league’s top-two scorers on the ice. He can’t complain about lack of opportunity. It is difficult to play with the league’s two best players. You don’t want to miss a pass; you try to get them the puck and sometimes you force it. It isn’t easy, and I’ve noticed Puljujarvi hanging on to the puck a bit more the past few games when he’s been away from them. Not scoring sucks for any player. It eats away at you. Puljujarvi is no different, but he is at the stage of his career where he will need to decide if he is okay being a third line player. There is nothing wrong with that — go look at how many first-round picks became solid third line players — but Puljujarvi is the one who needs to be okay with it. Andrew Cogliano admitted it took him a while before he was comfortable accepting that he wouldn’t be the scorer he envisioned he would be. That isn’t an easy process but make no mistake it has happened to hundreds of players. Teams can’t really help the player through it. Of course, they talk to him, but ultimately it is up to the player to wrap his head around it. If Puljujarvi accepts the transition he could be an effective third line player who might moonlight in the top six, but it will be up to him.
10. The Oilers host Minnesota on Friday and then play them in Minnesota on Monday. The Wild play in Vancouver on Saturday, so it isn’t an official home and away. I still can’t believe the NHL isn’t playing more back-to-back games v. the same opponent as they did in 2021. There are a few across the league, but not enough. Less travel helps the players, it also could improve the quality of play as there is less fatigue. And I think it would increase the animosity and intensity. I’ve yet to get a good answer as to why we don’t see it at least four or five times for each team. Edmonton could go to LA and ANA and play each of them twice on a road trip. Then the next time they could do that with San Jose and Vegas, for instance. Teams could do the same coming to Calgary and Edmonton. You can’t do it with teams outside your conference, but it should occur within you division and even within your conference.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Thanks to Alan for his awesome bid on the Astoria Lightning package yesterday. We’ve had a great first five days raising $4
DAY 6:  An Associate Membership at the Glendale Golf and Country Club
  • An Associate Membership for the 2023 golf season at the GLENDALE.
  • This membership allows full access to the tee as a regular Shareholder would have.
  • Club Storage and Range are included in the Dues.
  • Immediate family become Social Members at no additional charge (access to all dining facilities and pool). The outdoor pool is awesome.
  • Value of this membership is $6,000
The Glendale Golf & CC is a family orientated private facility located in northwest Edmonton. Long known for its layout and incredible course conditions, the Club is meant to be enjoyable for all and to create memories that last a lifetime.
You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today as we support Santas Anonymous.

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