The year is 2001. A young 6-year old Arik Krause is just like any curious kid and grabs a VHS tape and puts it into the VCR. The tape is titled “1990 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs”. Now if you don’t know, the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of their dynasty and in these playoffs would face the Boston Bruins. A series which they would win for their fifth and final Stanley Cup this far. That series was famous for the Petr Klima goal in Game 1. Klima didn’t play at all during the third period or first two overtime periods, but he would slide the puck past Andy Moog in the third overtime and give the Oilers a win in Game 1.
WHO DO YOU THINK HAD THE BEST DEADLINE?
IAN SHEPPARD: The Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights, and Nashville Predators all made moves at the deadline to get better. Kevin Hayes will be a solid addition to the Jets as their second line centre while the addition of Wayne Simmonds to Nashville and Mark Stone to Vegas will help push them in the playoffs.
But my dark horse winner of the deadline is the Ottawa Senators. They were able to move Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone all of who which are set to become UFA’s. They also received a decent haul with a total of five draft picks, three prospects, and Anthony Duclair and Oscar Lindberg.
WYATT ZIEGER: The winner as far as assets acquired on the deadline day is Vegas. They got the biggest piece in Stone and they needed to in order to keep up with San Jose.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I have two winners. The Nashville Predators are my first and honestly, David Poile is not getting enough credit for how much he upgraded that team. They needed size and scoring so they went and got Wayne Simmonds on a bargain of a deal. A third liner and a 3rd round pick for a player who can play on your top powerplay unit and give you a mean presence in your top six is a steal. He also got Mikael Granlund from Minnesota and I can’t believe the Wild sold him. This guy will be a legit top line centre in the coming years. He’s that good.
I also love that Jarmo Kekalainen went all in. Safe is death and mediocrity means nothing. Why would the Blue Jackets want to stay idle and just accept another first round loss? They went all in and I think it’s great. This offseason could be problematic, but what if they win a round? What if Bobrovsky gets hot? There are plenty of ‘what ifs’ that go along with this gamble but I don’t care.
WHO HAD THE WORST DEADLINE?
IAN SHEPPARD: There were a few teams that had a disappointing deadline day. I expected the Calgary Flames to be players for a piece or two to make a deep playoff run. After missing out on Mark Stone due to Ottawa’s high asking price the only move the Flames made was acquiring Oscar Fantenberg.
The biggest losers at the deadline for me were the Columbus Blue Jackets. I’m crazy, right? They acquired some big names like Matt Duchene at the deadline while also picking up Keith Kinkaid. What puts them on the bottom half for me is all of Duchene, Dzingel, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky are all UFA’s at the end of the year and I don’t see them retaining enough of them to make a phantom run at the Cup.
WYATT ZIEGER: The loser has to be the Columbus Blue Jackets they now have 13 potential RFA/UFA’s and no goaltenders signed into next season. They’ll most likely lose Panarin and Duchene to FA and even if Dzingel re-signs they paid way to steep of a price to do so.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Minnesota Wild getting rid of Mikael Granlund was a massive mistake. They will regret that for years. They took a big L in my books.
The Calgary Flames standing still while the Golden Knights and Sharks each added top six wingers is also a massive mistake. They held onto their future assets and I’m not a fan of it. They should have pushed harder for Jason Zucker or any of the top six forwards that were on the market. The prices were low and they missed a great opportunity.
OPEN MIC: WHAT’S YOUR HOTTEST NHL TAKE?
IAN SHEPPARD: Time to let it all fly loose! Here’s my hot take! The Oilers keep Keith Gretzky as the full-time GM while Bob Nicholson and company remain in the front office and the team continues to go down the same path they have been for the last decade. After realizing the cap situation isn’t getting any better the move to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is put in motion.
While I would like to think the Oilers will finally figure things out and bring in the proper GM who can fix the issues in Oil Country but I could also see whatever is in the water staying in the water.
WYATT ZIEGER: Hot take szn. Nikita Kucherov is going to score over 130 points and finish with the most in a season since 1998-99 when Jagr had 127. BOOK IT
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Minnesota Wild will miss the playoffs and the Edmonton Oilers will finish within three points of a playoff spot. There ya go.
Paul Fenton has eroded skill from that team by dealing Niederreiter and Granlund and I think they’ll fall apart down the stretch.
For Edmonton, McDavid always plays his best hockey down the stretch and I think he will help them deliver a five or six game win streak. It won’t be enough, but there will be a brief moment of belief in Edmonton.
Well, that was a straight up snoozefest up until around 2:00 pm eastern time. I was handling the behind the scenes duties for TSN 1260 and I spent most of my day just staring blankly at my main Tweetdeck column. There weren’t even any exciting rumours to keep track of either. It was just a slow day.
Then the NHL hit us hard and quick with a wave of moves. Plenty of teams got active, some surprisingly stayed quiet, and at the end of the day, this was actually a pretty good deadline day. Here are some of my thoughts:
Which Western Conference teams do you see as “sellers” heading into the deadline?
IAN SHEPPARD: The bottom three. Kings, Oilers and Ducks. The Kings and Ducks are aging teams and are past contending for a cup and have a few pieces that could sold to start building towards the future. The only issue becomes bad contracts and whether or not some of the players they want to move can be moved.
In terms of the Oilers, they fall into the exact same boat with bad contracts that are unmovable. But they can start offloading pieces on 1-year deals they know won’t resign in the offseason. Guys like Cam Talbot, Alex Petrovic, Brandon Manning, Ty Rattie, Jujhar Khaira, and Alex Chiasson are all options.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks are the only two teams I view as 100% sellers at this point. The Oilers are in an interesting spot too. They’ll dangle names like Chiasson, Kassian, and some of their lower-end defenseman. They’ll deal Cam Talbot as well. Apart from that, they might look for some additions that benefit them next season. Chicago might sell, but they don’t have very many assets that are easy to move. The Coyotes would probably like to swap their pending UFA’s for picks as well. The Minnesota Wild are reportedly going to put an eye towards the future, so watch for them to sell off some pieces before February 25th.
WYATT ZIEGER: In the West, it’s hard for you who will sell but I think that there should be 4 definite sellers in the Western Conference. LA has already started the process with Jake Muzzin being shipped out but Anaheim, Edmonton, and Minnesota should also put themselves on the short list of teams who more than likely won’t make the playoffs.
Anaheim has Manson, Silfervberg, Kesler, and Miller as good trade chips right now. Edmonton would like to move Chiasson, Talbot, Manning, and Petrovic although the latter two will be difficult. And poor Minnesota who is actually in a playoff spot right now but is still without Dumba and has lost captain Mikko Koivu for the rest of the season.
And what about the East?
IAN SHEPPARD: I’m going to go with the same formula as last time and say the bottom three teams in the East as well. The Senators have been having a yard sale since the season started and despite talks of Matt Duchene re-signing I still think he gets moved at the deadline along with potential names like Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone.
The Devils have already moved Brian Boyle and could look to trade Marcus Johansson who is set to be a FA and a veteran like Ben Lovejoy could also be moved. Detroit continues to be the dark horse for me with guys like Gustav Nyquist, Thomas Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou all possible piece to move.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s much easier to predict what teams in the East are going to do. Ottawa will be this year’s big sellers given the quality of players they’re considering moving. Add the Red Wings, Devils, Panthers, Rangers and probably Flyers into that group as well. Other teams will be active, like Columbus and Carolina, but they won’t be what we traditionally call sellers.
WYATT ZIEGER: Again in the East, there are another 5 teams that are definite sellers; Ottawa, New Jersey, Columbus Detroit, and the Rangers. Teams like Florida and Philadelphia could join the list if they fall beyond 12 points out of the playoffs but both seem intent on being buyers at the deadline.
Ottawa has the two biggest trade chips in Duchene and Stone but also a plethora of other trade pieces most notably Dzingel and Ceci. It’ll be an interesting fire sale in the nation’s capital. New Jersey is a bit more intriguing because I question what pieces they want to move obviously Schnieder could be in play, but are they willing to part with Zajac, Palmieri or Johannson? Columbus is obvious in trying to move either Panarin, Bobrovsky or both. The market will decide there fate.
Detroit, of course, has a lot of rentals for playoff teams; Nyqvist, Vanek, Howard or Kronwall although they seem reluctant to deal Kronwall. The Rangers are an interesting team in the trade market because they have the most mid to upper range value players to deal. Kreider is having a career season, Hayes, Zuccarello, and Mcquaid are all rental for a contender and who knows if there are options on Henrik Lundqvist.
Which team do you think will make the biggest improvements at the deadline?
IAN SHEPPARD: Either the Islanders or Predators. The Avalanche also remain a possibility too with around $11 million in cap space and could look to add a forward for their second line. But the Islanders are hot right now and also have cap space with around $9 million and could look for that extra piece.
The Predators are in a tougher spot with cap space at around $6 million but this could be one of those years where to look to make that final leap and a few smart deals at the deadline could be exactly what they need to improve.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Winnipeg Jets. This is their last year before having to go through what will likely be salary cap hell with all of their RFA’s so I think we’ll see them push all of their chips in. They have a handful of ‘A-Level’ prospects that they could use as trade chips and they have their first and second rounders for the next three seasons. They can move two, or even three, quality assets and still be in good shape as far as their long-term future goes. I expect they’ll land one of Duchene or Stone and might be players on a good defenseman as well.
WYATT ZIEGER: I think Winnipeg is going to try to make the biggest splash and if they can land Mark Stone who’s been rumoured in trade talks with the Jets. The Jets are already one of the most complete teams, aside from Tampa but if they can get one more 30 goal scorer in their top 6 they would be a lethal force in the central division.
Winnipeg likely would make a couple depth moves as well and need to do so to solidify a win against most likely Nashville.
Tyler Yaremchuk joined TSN 1150 in Hamilton to discuss the Oilers recent struggles, what they’ll do at the deadline, and also talked a little #CFL
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT GM OF THE OILERS?
WYATT ZIEGER: Not going to lie it feels really nice to answer this question after 3.5 years of putting up with terrible deals.
IAN SHEPPARD: STEVE YZERMAN! A fan can dream, can’t they? Ok so I know there’s no chance whatsoever this will happen, so you probably want a more realistic answer? Keith Gretzky is currently serving as the interim GM while having help on decisions when it comes to trades etc. I could see them leaving him in the permanent role come the summer, which doesn’t entirely bother me. If they’re going to promote from within then this is the guy to do it with.
Gretzky’s known to have a good scouting prowess and that added to Bob Nicholson stating in his press conference that the team needs to do better at leaving players in the AHL to develop longer gives me some hope. Two realistic options outside of the team right now for me are Ron Francis and Sean Burke. Both have done great work for Hockey Canada and I believe Francis especially had something good in Carolina before being let go for reasons that weren’t actually hockey related.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I have a general idea of who some good candidates are, but remember, they need a new GM and a POHO. In my opinion, they need to go find a good, experienced hockey mind to be their President of Hockey Operations and then pair him with an up-and-coming GM.
Let’s say Ken Holland as the POHO and then pair him with someone like Lawrence Gillman, Sean Burke, or Kelly McCrimmon,
A MONTH FROM THE TRADE DEADLINE… WHO WILL BE THE BIGGEST BUYERS?
WYATT ZIEGER: I’m not sure there is going to be any of the huge buyers in the past who make 2-3 big deals to round out the roster but there are a couple teams I could see making 1 big deal ahead of the deadline.
IAN SHEPPARD: Here’s one you might not expect! The New York Islanders! The Isle are currently in first place in the Metro and second in the East, a spot no one really thought they’d be in. They have a decent amount of cap space, probably the most out of the majority of competing teams and adding that extra piece or two is what could take them from being a playoff team to a playoff contender.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I think both the Islanders and Canadiens will be sneaky buyers at the deadline. The Isles have put themselves in a really nice spot and they have the cap space to make a big splash. The Habs could use a defenseman and could reach into their pool of prospects to pull out someone like Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez from LA. They have Carey Price, who can almost single-handedly win them a playoff series, so why wouldn’t they try to load up?
WHO WILL BE THE BIGGEST SELLERS?
WYATT ZIEGER: Biggest seller is also a bit of crapshoot right now.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Ottawa Senators. A month ago I would have said the Blues and while I still think they could fall into this spot they’re suddenly only three points out of a playoff spot. Ottawa has dropped below Detroit for worst in the league and when you look at the amount of trade bait on the roster it’s apparent they’ll be moving some pieces.
Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel are all UFA’s at the end of the season and all have been rumoured to be shopped despite Duchene’s apparent contract negotiations. I also think that at 37 years of age and one year left on his deal Craig Anderson’s name could also be floated. In an offseason after moving Erik Karlsson, this team needs to rebuild and do it right. Adding more picks and prospects is in their best plans.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Senators have some really nice assets, but I’m not sure how many end up getting moved. Instead, I’ll say the New York Rangers. They’ll likely move Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello. Keep an eye on Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, and Vlad Namestnikov as well. They’re in a full on rebuild and aren’t going to hide it at the deadline.
Tyler Yaremchuk joined Louis Butko on TSN 1150 in Hamilton to discuss the Oilers and their recent struggles.
WHO IS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE PIECE OF ‘TRADE BAIT’ ON THE MARKET?’
IAN SHEPPARD: For me, it comes down to three. Matt Duchene, Micheal Ferland, and the Oilers first round pick. Duchene is the most talented and with 45 points (20G-25A) in 38 games this year is the obvious number one desire for a lot of teams.
Ferland is just behind Duchene with 25 points(13G-12A) in 39 games. And both players will be UFA’s at the end of the year. The one difference is the almost $3 million in cap differential between the two which might make Ferland easier to acquire.
And for the Oilers first round pick, I think it’s a toss up where it could end up and what comes back for it, so it’ll interesting and frightening to see where a trade involving it leads.
WYATT ZIEGER: Term is important and Parayko still has two years remaining on his deal after this season and his 5.5 million cap hit is manageable, especially for a defenseman of his caliber.
Point production is down this year for Parayko, he’s on pace for less than 30 for the first time in his career which may lessen trade value by a bit, making him an even more attractive piece for trade partners.
Despite the down point production, Parayko is still scoring goals. Currently, he sits at 8, one off his career high.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I think it’s got to be Mark Stone. He’s a pending UFA, but as far as rentals go, he’s the best player that could be realistically had. He’s played four full NHL seasons and he’s scored 20 goals every single time. He’s a big body as well and I think he’d be a monster on a team that’s looking for an impact playoff performer. If he goes to a team with an elite centre, he could hit the 40-goal mark this season. A player like Stone is rare and there should be a long list of suitors should the Sens decide to move on.
BESIDES TAMPA BAY, WHICH NHL TEAM HAS THE MOST COMPLETE ROSTER?
IAN SHEPPARD: The Winnipeg Jets. I love every line this team puts out. Whether its the first line with a combined 155 points between Connor, Scheifele, and Wheeler or the second line led by Bryan Little and Patrik Laine to the bottom six which is gritty and touch and a D-core featuring Dustin Byfuglien, Josh Morrissey and Tyler Myers this team is deep. They’ve had some injury issues with Byfuglien and Ehlers recently and a struggling Laine but I think things will balance out.
The bigger and possibly most surprising attribute to this team has been it’s goaltending. Between Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit the team has won 31 games. It seems like whoever is between the pipes for the Jets will give a standout performance.
WYATT ZIEGER: It has to be the Nashville Predators right? They have the best defense in the NHL, (sorry San Jose), they can roll all 4 lines and have last years Vezina winner in net.
The only thing you could knock Nashville for is their lack of a bonafide superstar on offense. Arvidsson, Johansen, and Forsberg lead the way for forwards on the Preds but only Arvidsson is at the point-per-game marker with 25 points (18G, 7A) in 25 games. Even that isn’t enough though as 42 players in the NHL have over a PPG this season.
I wouldn’t count Nashville out as a team looking to improve their top 6 at the deadline
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Don’t want to copy Ian, but I will. The Jets are just too deep to ignore. They have four lines that can contribute offensively and a d-core that doesn’t really have a weak spot, although they could add another left-handed d-man to really shore things up. They have a good young goalie as well. It’s a near perfect roster.
Honourable mention to the Maple Leafs and the Sharks. Those two teams made me pause and think.
WHAT PIECES SHOULD THE OILERS DANGLE FOR A TOP SIX FORWARD?
IAN SHEPPARD: I think there are five players on this roster that shouldn’t be moved regardless of the return. Connor McDavid (Do I really have to say that?) Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, and Oscar Klefbom. Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Ethan Bear, and the first round pick remain on the table for me, but the return must be worth it.
If a legit top-6 forward with term is available then it’s more than worth it. But if it were that simple it would probably have happened already so time will tell what move is made, at this point, I think one is inevitable.
WYATT ZIEGER: I hate to be a cynic … who am I kidding I love it.
With Peter Chiarelli at the helm, the Oilers should be dangling nothing to try and get a top 6 forward. What I consider fair value in a deal I can almost certainly say Peter Chiarelli would not.
But if I’m going to play ball, I’m sorry Edmonton Jesse Puljujarvi is the piece I move.
I think by now the experiment is over in Edmonton and they are hindering his development more than they are helping it. Send him to a team willing to roll the dice on him or one that will invest time into turning him into an NHL player.
The only problem for the Oilers, his trade value, which has fallen off a cliff since the beginning of the season. Puljujarvi is still young enough to be playing in Juniors this year so there is still hope he finds his game, it just may not be in Edmonton.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: If it’s a young (under 27) top six option who has a good shot and has proven he can score 20 goals a season, then Chiarelli should absolutely move the first rounder for it, even if that player isn’t under contract for the 2019-20 season. If that player IS under contract, then throw Ethan Bear in the package or look at throwing one of Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto along with maybe a 2nd round pick. Those are the two scenarios I would consider ‘wins’ for the Oilers heading into the deadline.
WHO WERE YOUR BIG ALL-STAR GAME SNUBS?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I can find two easy snubs in each division in the West. In the Pacific, I’m looking at Mark Giordano and Leon Draisaitl. In the Central, I think Gabriel Landeskog and Patrick Laine could be all starts.
In the East, I think Niklas Backstrom deserves more love. He’s always flying under the radar. One of the best players of this generation. In the Atlantic, there are four players. Jeff Skinner, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, and Brayden Point are having incredible seasons. It’s criminal that they aren’t there.
IAN SHEPPARD: Mitch Marner. Marner is sixth in the league in points right now with 55 (15G-40A) and is also leading the Leafs in points while playing on the top line with John Tavares and Connor Brown. Marner is currently nine points ahead of Tavares and 19 ahead of Auston Matthews who both made the Atlantic Division team.
One other name to mention is Jeff Skinner. Skinner is second to only Alex Ovechkin in goals with 28 on the year and his contribution is a massive influence on the Sabres turnaround season.
WYATT ZIEGER: I’ll admit off the bat I’m not a fan of the NHL’s current ASG format, teams should be voted by coaches and players and every team should not be represented if the talent isn’t there. That would cut down on the snubs and there were a lot Giordano, Point, Marner, Rielly, Laine, Malkin etc.
All that being said the biggest snub for me is Leon Draisatl. Since the ASG is in San Jose, naturally they want to have most of their own talent on display but Pavelski over Drai this year is laughable. Pavelski has two more goals but 14 less points than Draisatl, who is 10th in NHL scoring. Pavelski? tied for 46th. Fingers crossed the additional fan vote per division this year, goes to Leon and not Logan Couture.
Sidenote: Since EVERY team must be represented, if you’re Montreal, Anaheim, Detroit, Nashville, Vegas or NYR you only have your goalie representing you. If you’re goalie gets injured does the league pick a goalie in the division or do you send your back up? Better yet can I send a positional player to play in goal? If Gibson goes down give me Getzlaf in net.
GIVE ME ONE PLAYER WHO WILL REBOUND IN 2019
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Oh this is a tough one. I’m going to say Milan Lucic. Two weeks in a row I’m talking about Looch! He was so bad over the past calendar year, I just can’t see how he could be any worse. It won’t be a huge bounceback, but I’ll say Milan scores five goals before the end of this season. He’s due. It’s got to happen eventually.
IAN SHEPPARD: Erik Karlsson. Karlsson hasn’t necessarily struggled so far with 33 points (3G-30A) on the year so far. In fact he’s started to find his stride recently. But I think he’s really going to find his game in 2019. I believe we’re going to start to see the Karlsson that made his name what it was in Ottawa when he was the best defensemen in the league.
As 2019 rolls on and Karlsson becomes more comfortable with his new team I think he’ll start to be a major factor in San Jose’s playoff run.
WYATT ZIEGER: He’s already got his first goal of the year in 2019 so here’s hoping William Nylander. After a long contract dispute that saw him miss the Maple Leafs first 28 games, Nylander has come back and looked less than spectacular.
With 1 goal and 2 assists through his first 12 appearances back it’s time for Nylander hit his stride once again. He has recently been reunited with Auston Matthews who has vowed to get Willy back into his scoring ways and if there is any man who can get his motor running it’ll be Matthews.
HOW MANY TEAMS IN EACH CONFERENCE ARE STILL “IN THE HUNT’?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: In the East, I think Washington, Tampa, and Toronto are locks. That leaves Columbus, Pittsburgh, Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, and the Islanders in the hunt. One of those teams will miss and I believe it will be the Islanders. I just don’t trust their goaltending.
In the West, Winnipeg, Nashville, Vegas, San Jose, and Calgary are locks already (the latter three because their division is awful). That leaves me with Dallas, Anaheim, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Minnesota fighting for the last three spots. Vancouver will fall out. I don’t know how I feel about Edmonton, Anaheim, and Minnesota though.
IAN SHEPPARD: In the East I only see two teams really in the hunt. Currently the Islanders, Rangers, Panthers and Hurricanes are all within 10 points of a playoff spot. Buffalo and Montreal hold both Wild Card spots and I believe they will continue to fight for those spots. Other than that I only see the Islanders and Panthers being legit contenders for those spots. I don’t think the Rangers have enough depth and it will be too difficult for Carolina to stay close with the 10 point gap.
For the West I think there’s three teams who will stay in the mix. Colorado and Anaheim hold both wild card spots for now with 46 and 45 points respectively. On the outside looking in sit the Canucks, Wild and Oilers with only a max four point difference. The Canucks are one point out and their deep young talent will keep them in it. Minnesota and Edmonton are a little cloudier. Minnesota is battling injuries but could stay in the hunt while Edmonton lacks the depth behind it’s superstars to stay consistent down the road.
WYATT ZIEGER: I’ll start in the West with the teams who have no chance to make the playoffs and that’s LA, Arizona and Chicago.
Next is those who have a shot to make the playoffs and that’s every other team in the conference. Even St. Louis who is 13th with 36 points still has a chance, they have the least games played in conference and would need a good streak but even that’s not impossible.
The East is a little more clean cut, there is a clear disparity between who is a playoff team and who is not. The cut off comes at 9th which is currently occupied by the New York Islanders, with the exclusion of the Panthers who I could see make a playoff push.
Everyone else currently outside of the playoff picture; Rangers, Hurricanes, Devils, Red Wings, Flyers and Senators can’t hold a candle to the rest of their divisions and conference which is going to cost them post season concession sales.
What player is most excited for 2018 to come to an end?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Because I’m in Edmonton, I have to say Milan Lucic. He actually started off pretty strong last season but as soon as the calendar flipped, his game fell off a cliff. He has two goals in an entire calendar year. Are you kidding me? He’s gotten looks with McDavid and on the Oilers top powerplay unit and he can’t score.
He’s looked a little better to start the season but he’s still wildly inconsistent and still doesn’t really help the team win. Lucic needs this year to come to an end and the Oilers need him to find his old self in 2019.
IAN SHEPPARD: Cory Schneider. Who? Right? The former standout goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks hasn’t seen a tonne of success since becoming a New Jersey Devil. But his 2018 has been as bad as it could possibly be. Maybe worse.
Schneider has a 0-14-2 record with a .857 SV% and a GAA of 4.30 through the year of 2018. His last win came in December of 2017 and the only game the Devils have won where Schneider saw any ice time came earlier in December when the team scored five goals after Schneider let in three and was pulled. He’s only played in 9 games this year and was recently placed on IR so sage to say Schneider cannot wait until 2019!
WYATT ZIEGER: I’m going to go off the board and say Chris Kunitz. Kunitz made the decision to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks in hopes of chasing one last Stanley Cup, instead, Chicago is closer to Jack Hughes than they are the playoffs. Kunitz’s game has also slipped while in Chicago, it may be the old age now but Kunitz has just 2 assists in 23 games while being healthy scratched multiple times on the season.
Kunitz was very blunt about his choice to play for Chicago instead of a team in western Canada (most likely Edmonton) because “their defence was never going to win a championship.” Now I know the Oilers aren’t exactly world beaters but you have to think Kunitz is regretting his signing decision and is hoping to play out that contract on leave that poor decision in 2018.
Which struggling team will surge in the second half of the season?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The St. Louis Blues. It sounds crazy to imagine a team that started so bad, got their coach fired, and began fighting in practice could turn it around, but they might. They have a wildly talented roster, they’re only getting healthier, and if they win their games in hand on Dallas, who currently holds the final playoff spot, they would sit one point back of them.
They need a solid eight or ten game heater, but the year isn’t lost yet for St. Louis.
IAN SHEPPARD: Minnesota Wild. They currently sit in 5th place in the Central Division with 37 points but I could see this team turn a corner down the stretch. They’re relatively healthy outside of losing Dumba long term. They have solid depth and goaltending and were a playoff team a year ago.
They have three teams in the division that will be difficult to catch but the Wild Card spots are wide open and if they’re able to sneak out some wins within the division could turn their season around.
WYATT ZIEGER: In the name of Disneyland it better be Anaheim.
Even though they are 1st in the wild card there is still plenty of room to grow. Injuries to significant players have plagued the Ducks throughout the year; Perry and Eaves who have been out all season, Cam Fowler who has missed crucial time with a facial fracture and now Ducks fans have to keep an ear to the ground for John Gibson who left last nights game against the Sharks after the 1st.
If they can get all their pieces back … AND healthy this is a team that has won the division 5 of 6 years and can make another strong push towards doing that again. Expect Anaheim to be buyers on the trade market, looking for offensive help down the stretch.
Who’s your pick to win the Hart Trophy?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I want to start by saying that if this award truly went to the player who is most valuable to his team’s success, it would go to a goaltender every single year. Without a good goalie, teams don’t make the playoffs. That’s cut and dry. So part of me wants to say John Gibson has a really strong case to be the leagues MVP. But usually, goalies have to have a historic year to be considered for the Hart. So with that being said…
The Edmonton Oilers are in the playoff hunt because of Connor McDavid. He is the single skater who is most valuable to his team’s success. if he isn’t going, they don’t score goals and therefore, they do not win hockey games. Simple as that.
IAN SHEPPARD: Well the obvious answer is Connor McDavid because without him the Oilers would have less than 39 points and that’s just sad. But my actual pick is Nathan MacKinnon. Over the last two seasons, MacKinnon has proved his name belongs to be thrown into the hat for the top-five in the league.
He Is currently third in the league in scoring with his linemate Mikko Rantanen in second and MacKinnon’s playmaking ability is a huge contribution to the Avalanche holding a top three spot in the Central with 44 points.
WYATT ZIEGER: Spoiler alert: I’ve already picked this player in a piece coming to you later this week but Nathan MacKinnon.
He sits third in NHL scoring only behind his teammate Mikko Rantanen and the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov. Let’s get one thing straight, MacKinnon is the driving force behind Colorado’s offence. After a close loss to Taylor Hall in the MVP race last season, Mackinnon had something to strive for. He is one of the NHL’s most explosive skaters and has the hands to keep up with his feet. I fully expect MacKinnon to take over the leagues scoring race and along with that the MVP.
Shoutout to Gibson, McDavid, Kucherov and Wheeler who I also expect to garner votes.