Tyler Yaremchuk caught up with Merritt Oszytko immediately following the team’s loss. They talked about life his hot start to the year, his future in hockey and more!
CRUSADERS 3 – KODIAKS 6
It was Hockey Hooky day at the Sherwood Park Arena as the Crusaders hosted a few sections of local students to take in their afternoon affair against the Kodiaks.
Last year, the NHL had an epidemic. Players were getting slashed, breaking hands, and losing fingers. Something needed to be done differently, but I don’t think anyone expected the change to be done to this extreme.
As the preseason went into full swing last night we saw a complete shift by NHL officials from one side of the spectrum to the other, specifically in regards to slashing minors. Here’s the game by game breakdown of penalties from last night.
Calgary vs Edmonton – 17 minors (7 slashing)
Edmonton vs Calgary – 15 minors (6 slashing)
Carolina vs Buffalo – 10 minors (4 slashing)
Montreal vs Boston – 12 minors (7 slashing)
Islanders vs Rangers – 15 minors (8 slashing)
Washington vs New Jersey – 14 minors (6 slashing)
Toronto vs Ottawa – 11 minors (5 slashing)
Minnesota vs Winnipeg – 17 powerplays (5 slashing)
Those are utterly insane numbers. This wasn’t a one-day coincidence either, the previous 3 exhibition games that have taken place over the past 2 days featured a combined 15 slashing minors.
The NHL didn’t create a new rule either. This was more or less a decision by the league to just actually call a rule that already exists. I dug up the rulebook definition just for reference:
Last night we saw average 13.875 penalties with an average of 6 of those being slashing minors. Compare that to last year where there was only an average of 0.6 slashing calls per game. So has the league officially shifted too far one way? Or is this the new standard that players will have to adjust to?
If the NHL does keep up this officiating how long would it take the players to adjust? Or could we be looking at 20-30 PIM’s a night for the first half of the season?
Of course, there are plenty of positives that will come from this. The talk for a while has been that the league needs more scoring, so maybe this is how you can accomplish that. Not only would more power plays create offense, but removing a defenders ability to hack their opponents hands will allow skilled players to create more chances (ya know, since they don’t
need to be worried about losing a finger).
Also, the risk of injury especially to star players will drop significantly once players learn they can’t hack their opponents like they’re taking down a tree.
My only concern with this is that the league and its officials won’t be able to stay this consistent, especially once the games matter more. We just went through a postseason that saw the officials light the rulebook on fire, so when April rolls around this year, are slashing infractions going to go mainly uncalled like they did last year?
My point of view, and I’m sure most who watch the game share this perspective, is that officials should use the same set of eyes for the entire game and no matter what time of the year that game is played. If it’s a penalty in the first period of game 36, then it should be a penalty in the 3rd period of the Conference Finals. That simple.
Let’s hope the league finally gets this one right.
You could go read a magazine or go to major websites for season previews… but then it’s the same thing that tens of thousands of people read. So here is the start of my unique division by division season previews, which get you set for upcoming NHL season.
FIRST PLACE – DALLAS STARS
Added: A. Radulov – B. Bishop – M. Hanzal – M. Methot – B. Flynn – T. Pitlick
Lost: P. Sharp (fa) – C. Eakin (e) – J. Hudler (fa) – A. Niemi (bo) – A. Hemsky (fa)
I get the sense that Jim Nill isn’t a very patient man. After the team saw their point total slip by 40 last season, their GM went out and solved their goaltending problem, solidified their d-core and just for fun, added a few more solid offensive pieces. They added a laundry list of impressive names to a team that already featured Benn, Seguin, Klingberg, and Spezza.
This team has a plethora of high-end skill, especially down the middle, where I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can match them. Seguin-Hanzal-Spezza-Shore is a terrific group and should be able to carry this team to a fantastic regular season.
Are there worries? Yeah. I don’t love their depth on the wings or on the back end, even though they are improved. Maybe that’s something they can look to add at the deadline, although they don’t have cap space as of now.
Regardless, I’m feeling bounce-back performance from the team in Texas and their off-season moves back up that feeling.
SECOND PLACE – NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Add: S. Hartnell – N. Bonino – A. Emelin
Lost: J. Neal (e) – C. Wilson (t)
I did not like their offseason. The Scott Hartnell reunion is a nice story, but he is not the player he used to be. They also paid a lot for Nick Bonino, a player who I question can be a competent second line center. He’s never cracked 50 points and his GF% drops 11% when he goes from mid-level competition to elite competition (via puckiq.com). I don’t think he’s a good second line center.
So then why do I have them so high? Well, they still have Pekka Rinne and one of the best group of defensemen in the league. We also just witnessed some breakthrough performances during the playoffs and I believe guys like Freddy Gauthier, Colton Scissions, and Pontus Aberg are ready for full-time NHL duty.
The injury to Ryan Ellis stings, but again, their depth is incredible and I have full confidence they can survive the few months without Ellis.
If there’s an x-factor, I’d say it’s Ryan Johansen. Fresh off a big extension that pays him like an elite #1 center, he’ll need to produce more than the 14 goals & 47 points he got in 82 games last year.
Despite seeing declines in their point totals the last 3 years, I expect the Preds to have a strong season in a tough central division.
THIRD PLACE – WINNIPEG JETS
Add: D. Kulikov – S. Mason – M. Sgarbossa
Lost: P. Postma (fa) – C. Thorburn (fa) – O. Pavelec (fa)
They couldn’t keep pucks out of their net. That was the only reason this team didn’t find any success during the regular season. They finished 7th in goals for and the difference between their goals for per game and goals against per game was just (0.11).
To put that into perspective, only one other non-playoff team in the west had a better differential, that was the LA Kings at (0.02). Simply put: the Jets had a really solid regular season last year, their goaltending was just horrendous.
They went out and improved their goaltending situation by grabbing Steve Mason, who should be a little more stable than Pavelec/Hutchison were as backups. The addition of Mason, combined with a more experienced Connor Hellebuyck should help drop that goals against per game number.
They also went and added Dmitry Kulikov, who does have holes in his game but is an upgrade on Paul Postma.
Combine that with a group of forwards that’s deep, highly skilled and only getting better, I think the Jets have a winning team and have no problem slotting them into a playoff spot.
FOURTH PLACE – MINNESOTA WILD
Add: M. Foligno – R. Murphy – T. Ennis
Lost: M Hanzal (fa) – J. Pominville (t) – M. Scandella (t) – E. Haula (e) – D. Kuemper (fa)
The Wild went all in last year, paying a king’s ransom for Martin Hanzal at the deadline. It didn’t work out, but they still have a pretty solid core intact. Their solid wing depth is still there, and while I worry about their depth down the middle, maybe someone like Joel Eriksson Ek can thrive playing on a line with someone like Zach Parise or one of their other skill guys.
Their solid wing depth is still there, and while I worry about their depth down the middle, maybe someone like Joel Eriksson Ek can thrive playing on a line with someone like Zach Parise or one of their other skill guys.
Their solid d-core and Devan Dubnyk should leave them looking good in their own end. If there is one concern I have it’s a lack of that superstar presence, someone who can be a game-changing presence on offense. Is Mikael Granlund that guy? His point total increased by 25 last year, so will we see another big step forward?
If they get some big performances, which I expect they will, I have no doubt about the Wild being a playoff team.
FIFTH PLACE – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Add: B. Saad – P. Sharp – C. Murphy – A. Forsberg – J. Berube – J. Rutta
Lost: A. Panarin (t) – N. Hjalmarson (t) – M. Hossa (i) – M. Kruger (t) – T. Van Riemsdyk (e) – J.Oduya (fa) – S. Darling (t) – B. Campbell ®
That’s a long list of departures from the Windy City, and the new names are honestly quite underwhelming.
Just looking at their offense, they essentially swapped out Hossa and Panarin for Saad and Sharp. I understand the cap relief element of things, and they got a great deal with Sharp, but the bottom line is they got two players who produce less than the players they now have. The combined GF/60 of Hossa and Panarin is 4.9, while that number for Sharp and Saad is 4.3.
On defense, they lost their second best dman in Nik Hjalmarsson and two good supporting players in Van Riemsdyk and O’Duya. To replace them is 27-year-old rookie Jan Rutta and Connor Murphy. Another sizeable step back.
They also lost Scott Darling, who was an outstanding backup. Berube should be fine in that role, but it’s another step back, even if it is small.
Now despite getting worse in all three areas of their roster, they still have a good chunk of their core so they should stick to the playoff picture. Their depth isn’t god either so one big injury could really put them in a hole. The flip side of that, they have some good young players. If Debrincat, Schmaltz, and Murphy can prove their solid NHL players early on, there is some potential for the Hawks to challenge for the division.
Their depth isn’t good either so one big injury could really put them in a hole. The flip side is that they have some good young players. If Debrincat, Schmaltz, and Murphy can prove their solid NHL players early on, there is some potential for the Hawks to challenge for the division
Just going off their roster right now, gotta slide them lower than others may have them.
SIXTH PLACE – ST. LOUIS BLUES
Add: B. Schenn – B. Bennett – C. Thorburn
Lost: D. Perron (e) – J. Lehtera (t) – R. Reaves (t) – N. Yakupov (fa)
In a division as close and deep as the Central, you need to always be improving. The Blues didn’t do that.
It may be a storyline for a few years, but they still don’t have an elite centerman to play with Tarasenko. Schenn is good, but he isn’t a top line center.
They’ve seen a decline in points over each of the last 4 seasons (111-109-107-99) and with a slew of their direct competition making serious strides forward, the Blues may be the odd team out. They didn’t get any help from the schedule makers either, playing 6 of their first 9 on the road. A bad start can really set a team back, and again, in a division as loaded as the Central, a bad start could ruin your season.
If there’s a bright side, they should still have strong special teams (PP = 8th & PK = 3rd). A solid 60-65 starts from Jake Allen would also help. They have some cap space heading into next offseason with Paul Stastny coming off the books, so maybe a high pick and a little reset heading into 19/19 wouldn’t be the worst thing for the franchise.
SEVENTH PLACE – COLORADO AVALANCHE
Adds: N. Yakupov – C. Wilson – J. Bernier
Lost: F. Beauchemin (fa) – M. Grigorenko (fa) – C. Pickard (e) – P. Wiercioch (fa) – R. Bourque (fa)
It’s hardly a hot take to predict the Avs to finish in the basement, but it’s difficult to expect an organization that’s as lost as them to bounce back from a historically bad 16/17 season.
I liked the 3 additions they made over the offseason, all are essentially no risk and could pay off, but they didn’t get any better. Losing Beauchemin and Pickard won’t exactly help them gain points in the standings.
Joe Sakic also, to this point, failed to deal Matt Duchene despite everyone in the hockey world knows it’s coming. I don’t think this is exactly a very inspired group of guys heading into the new season so expect the same old, same old from the Avs.
1 – Dallas – Loaded up this offseason, filled almost all their holes.
2 – Nashville – Not a good offseason, but are still built like a Cup contender.
3 – Winnipeg – So much potential, goaltending looks better.
4 – Minnesota – Lost some decent players, no one too crucial. Another playoff appearance.
5 – Chicago – Every aspect of their team got worse. In the playoffs, but barely.
6 – St. Louis – Don’t think they’re good enough to take out Chicago for final WC spot.
7 – Colorado – Dumpster fire. Going to pick high in next years draft. Dahlin?
Crusaders coach Jeff Woywitka joined Tyler Yaremchuk to chat about why he enjoys coaching, the modern defenseman, and expectations heading into this season.
Oh, you want to increase scoring? Here’s an idea; 60 minutes of icing. No matter what the scenario the icing rule stays in effect. If you take a penalty, no longer does going to the sin bin come with the benefit of icing the puck freely.
It’s an idea that sounds weird at first, but it’s been thrown around a few times over the past few years. Most recently it sparked my interest when I read it quickly in the latest issue of The Hockey News, so I thought I would expand on why I think switching the rule up could be a good thing for the game.
First off, it’s just logical, if a team is being punished for an infraction why are they also given the advantage of being able to ice the puck? If a team commits and infraction, they should have to actually play shorthanded.
Also, is the NHL not the league that’s been trying to increase scoring? Well, one really simple way to do that is to increase power play scoring. Last year, the average power play percentage was 19.1%. Just for argument’s sake, let’s just say that would increase a flat 10% across all teams even though that number may be low for some teams and may be high for others. It’s impossible to tell when you’re dealing with a hypothetical.
If every team’s PP% were to increase by 10%, these would be their new power-play goal totals:
Again, it’s an extremely rough guess on how this would affect things, but you can see that there would likely a rather significant increase in scoring whether that would be 5%, 10% or more. You don’t want to upset traditionalists, but you want to make the game more exciting. I feel like making this one minor change, could have a real positive effect on the sport.
Simply put, there’s no simpler way to increase scoring than to just make easier for teams to score on the powerplay.
Not only would this rule change make it more difficult for teams to get the puck out of their zone, but it would create more odd-man rushes for both the team with the man advantage and the team killing the penalty.
If teams are forced to try and actually play the game while killing a penalty, they might start to get greedy and before you know it, the play could be flipping back into their own end. The flip side of that is, one would think that the team on the powerplay would be more aggressive in trying to keep the puck in their own end. One bad move could create a shorthanded breakaway or 2 on 1 for the killing team.
The other reason I’m for this change: powerplays are exciting! Fans get to watch the most skilled players on their team get 2 minutes of offensive zone time. Whether your team in on the powerplay or killing one in a crucial time, you’re always on the edge of your seat! So why not raise the pressure a little more? Who wouldn’t want to make it easier for Connor McDavid to make magic in the offensive zone? Or for the Winnipeg Jets to set up Patrik Laine at the top of the circle? It just improves the game from a fan perspective.
The flip side of the coin is it gives teams with actual skilled penalty killers an advantage. No more watching fourth line plug just lay down and get in the way of everything. We’d get to see more of the league’s best players in different scenarios.
This also plays to my previous point of generating more odd-man rushes. If players like McDavid, Crosby, Eichel, and Matthews were freed from the shackles of having to ice the puck on penalty kills, you’d have to think they could generate some shorthanded offense.
Think of the different strategies as well. Would coaches instruct their PK units to try softy lift the puck out of the zone in an attempt to avoid icings while still getting the puck out? Or, could we see the creation of the “reverse icing”, where maybe once you gain the opposing team’s zone you simply fire the puck all the way back to your own goalie to kill time. Risky, but could work
The possibilities are endless, it would make the game more exciting and it just makes sense… which is why I’m 100% confident we will never see it in the NHL.
Heading into training camp, the general sense around the Sherwood Park Crusaders was that this was going to be a transitional year. The type of year that wouldn’t see the team rocketing up the AJHL standings or tearing the league apart by any means, but fans would get a chance to see some good young talent and witness the birth of the team’s next core.
Another one of the new additions to Sherwood Park’s blueline joined Tyler Yaremchuk to chat about his decision to play hockey again, his style of play and his thoughts on the team.
CRUSADERS 2 SAINTS 5
The Spruce Grove Saints were in town as the Crusaders hosted their first preseason game of the year. The Saints took last years regular season series, winning 4 of the 6 meetings between the North Division rivals.
Despite it still being early in the pre-season, the Cru dressed a healthy amount of veteran players. The likely top line of Merrit Oszytko, Ty Readman and Garret Clegg were all dressed along with returning forwards Eric Blanchette, Brandon Wallis, Graham Blanchette and Ashton Casault.
Fans also got looks at some of the newly acquired pieces in Brendan Kallis, Tyler Pang, Kole Bryks and Dylan Stewart.
One of the newest Crusaders joins Tyler Yaremchuk live in studio to chat about joining the team!