Every Friday, three of BTI’s writers get together and share their thoughts on three topics from around the NHL
The 2018 NHL entry draft will be hosted in Dallas, at the American Airlines Center, June 22nd.
Even though the show will be in the heart of Texas, the night belongs to Buffalo. With the 1st overall pick the Sabres will undoubtedly select Swedish defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, but what about the rest of the picks in the top 15?
Buffalo Sabres, Round 1-1st overall
With their first pick, in the first round, the Buffalo Sabres select: Rasmus Dahlin.
TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has called Dahlin ‘the Connor McDavid of defensemen.’ The highly coveted Swedish D-man is considered a generational talent is drawing comparisons to the likes of Nick Lidstrom and Scott Niedermeyer. He is the total package.
Mix in his hockey sense with his shot, vision, recovery and passing, and you have the number 1 pick this year. The only knock on the 6’2” 180LBS 18 years old is just that. He will need to put on 10-15 pounds of muscle to reach his full potential in the NHL. With his work ethic and dedication to the game, I don’t see that being a problem. Rasmus Dahlin will be a force on defence in the NHL for years to come.
Following the belle of the ball is the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadians. The Canes were big-time lottery winners moving up from 11th to 2nd. The Montreal Canadians moved from 4th to 3rd. Carolina is rumoured to be interested in moving down but if they do, they’re missing out on a chance to grab an excellent player.
Carolina Hurricanes, Round 1-2nd overall
Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov is the most talented forward in this draft. If Dahlin is the consensus #1, then Svechnikov is a lock a two. The 1st overall pick in 2017’s import draft was an immediate mover and shaker for the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Playing in only 44 games this year he managed 40 goals and 32 assists good for 1.63PPG. He is a pure scorer with his shot strength and accuracy and will likely be the leading goal scorer to come out of the draft. Carolina with new ownership should look to build around Svechnikov the same way they did Jeff Skinner but hopefully with more overall success.
Montreal Canadiens, Round 1-3rd overall
The Montreal Canadiens are in a bit of a predicament. After a trade to Arizona that sent Alex Galchenyuk to the Coyotes for Max Domi, the Habs are somehow thinner than they already were at the centre. As of today, the depth chart at centre is Jonathan Drouin, who has yet to prove that he’s not a winger and Phillip Danault, who at his full potential is a 40 point player.
This is also a draft considered low on centres, and at #3 the Habs should roll the dice on what could be the most dynamic forward in this draft, Jesperi Kotkaniemi. No player has had made bigger leaps through the pre-draft rankings this season. TSN’s Bob McKenzie had Kotkaniemi ranked 19th at the mid season point. Since then he has skyrocketed all the way into the top 5 and consistently draws comparisons to players like Anze Kopitar, Alexander Barkov and Mark Scheiffle.
At 6’2″ he adds size to and skill to an otherwise smaller lineup in Montreal and while there is risk associated with selecting Kotkaniemi, whoever takes the chance won’t regret it.
The Ottawa Senators owned the 2nd highest chance of drafting 1st overall but slid down to 4th after the lottery. They have the option to send their 1st round pick this year or next to the Avalanche as part of the Duchene deal.
Ottawa Senators, Round 1-4th overall
They won’t flip this years pick to Colorado but will instead draft the 6’3” defensemen from Acadia Bathurst, Noah Dobson. Dobson is arguably the 2nd best defensemen in this draft behind the all-mighty Rasmus Dahlin. Drafting Dobson will give Sen’s fans hope for the future as they watch Erik Karlsson’s time in Ottawa draw to a close. Dobson showed his offensive side this year collecting 69 points in 67 games, including 17 goals. He also racked up 13 more points in 20 games leading his team to the Memorial Cup.
Arizona Coyotes, Round 1-5th overall
Filip Zadina is the most highly touted prospect to come from the Halifax Mooseheads since 2013 when Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin were drafted 1st and 3rd overall respectively (sorry Nico Hischier). The Czech born winger scored 44 goals and 38 assists for the Mooseheads last year.
To make it in the NHL, Zadina needs to work on his skating. While he has the speed, he does not have today’s NHL speed. The promising winger could be NHL ready by the start of training camp, but the Coyotes who are in a stacked Pacific will be looking for all the help they can get.
Zadina joins an impressive prospect pool in Arizona that includes; Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun.
With hardly any separation of skill between the rest of the pack, things get harder to predict. Outside of the top 5 (maybe even top 2), nothing is guaranteed, with that in mind lets go through picks 6-15.
Detroit Red Wings, Round 1-6th overall
With the man they most likely wanted off the board, Noah Dobson, the Red Wings will look to stay with a D-man and select Quinn Hughes from the University of Michigan. He plays a very up-tempo offensive game and would be knocked for his D if not for always having the puck on his stick. Hometown addition doesn’t hurt fill some seats in the new arena.
Vancouver Canucks, Round 1-7th overall
Sliding down the draft board to #7 is Brady Tkachuk, known for the same style of play like his dad and brother, Brady could be an immediate impact player. Outside of the hopeful Elias Pettersson, the Canucks lack depth on the left side and Tkachuk finds himself a divisional rival to his brother.
Chicago Blackhawks, Round 1-8th overall
From youtube sensation to NHL-draft-pick Oliver Wahlstrom has impressed in his three years with the USHL. This most recent year he blew his old stats out of the water racking up 45 points in just 25 games. The Blackhawks have built dynasties from drafting before, and it’s time to get back at it if they have any hope of winning again.
New York Rangers, Round 1-9th overall
The Rangers are no longer in a win now mode and need to take the best player available. While they would love a winger or centre to draft 9th, the best talent available is defensemen at this spot in the draft. So without further ado, the Rangers draft Swedish stud, Adam Boqvist. Boqvist will be a bit of a project, listed anywhere from 150-165 pounds he will need to put on significant weight before making the NHL.
Edmonton Oilers, Round 1-10th overall
If the Oilers decide to hold onto their pick at ten, they’ll have plenty of options. This is most likely the last top 10 pick the Oilers will own for the next 15+ years, so they need to make it count. Defensive depth is a need for the Oilers, the cupboards are nearly empty in the farm, apart from Ethan Bear who likely won’t make the full-time NHL jump until 2019-20.
Evan Bouchard fills that hole for the Oilers. The highest scoring defensemen in this year’s draft Bouchard put up 87 points in the OHL last season the most since Anthony DeAngelo in 2014-15. The only question with Bouchard is if his offence in junior will translate to the NHL, he put up 25 goals for the London Knights last season.
New York Islanders, Round 1-11th overall-VIA Calgary
The Islanders hold the 11th, and 12th picks in this years draft, the former acquired in a trade with Calgary for Travis Hamonic.
The Islanders have plenty of Talent at forward, John Tavares (pending UFA), Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, the list goes on, now its time for a defenseman.
With three pending UFA’s on defence, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Dennis Seidenberg it’s hard to see the Islanders re-signing all three. They likely let Seidenberg walk and will have to choose between one of de Haan or Hickey.
With the 11th pick, the Islanders draft Ty Smith from the Spokane Chiefs as a long-term solution on D. His 14 goals in the WHL most likely won’t hold up in the NHL, but the potential is there.
Washington Capitals, Round 1-12th overall-VIA NYI
You heard it here first folks, aside from defence the Islanders also require goaltending, and that’s why they’ll flip their 12th overall selection in this year’s draft to acquire goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
With their 12th overall selection the Capitals choose more depth at centre and draft Joe Veleno, formerly with St. Johns, he was traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs where he put up 48 points in 33 games.
Dallas Stars, Round 1-13th overall
Dallas has the defence; they hope they have goaltending, now all they needed is scoring depth. The Stars have been burned when it comes to drafting Russians before IE Valeri Nichuskin, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking Vitali Kravtsov. Coming off a steller KHL playoffs where he scored 11 points in 16 games, Kravtsov tied the record for most KHL playoff goals by a rookie with six, (Previously held alone by Nichuskin) doing so in nine fewer games.
Philadelphia Flyers, Round 1-14th overall-VIA St.Louis Blues
Acquired in the deal that sent Brayden Schenn to St.Louis this is the last unknown piece of the trade left. GM Ron Hextall has said in the past that Philly would likely take a right-shot D in this year’s draft and with a plethora of good D in the draft he has his options. For my money, the Flyers take the player that best suites their needs at 14, Bode Wilde. Another product from the USHL, he owns a hard shot, works well in all three zones and can make a great first stretch pass. Philly jumps ahead of more skilled players to take their man.
Florida Panthers, Round 1-15th overall
Fresh off a trade for the controversial Mike Hoffman, it seems as if scoring won’t be a problem for the Panthers this season. Any piece added during the draft likely won’t see NHL playing time without a tremendous camp. So, at 15 there are still plenty of options left, but the most upside has to be Rasmus Kupuri. Centres are always valued more than wingers and with already established Finnish centre Sasha Barkov to learn from, Kupari could find his way into the Panthers top 6 for years to come.
That’s a wrap on my projected top 15 draftees this year, Dahlin and Svechnikov are the real guarantees, and there are a plethora of players taken in this draft that will go on to have NHL success. The Islanders may finally get the goaltending they’ve been hoping for, Philly adds to their prospect pool and Dallas doesn’t regret drafting a Russian this time round.
Barret Hayton C
Ryan Merkley RD
Joel Farabee LW
Rasmus Sandin LD
Jonathon Berggren C/LW
After a very successful 2016-2017 campaign that saw the Senators end up one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals (Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals to Pittsburgh) the Senators threw up a dud in 2017-2018 finishing 7th place in the Atlantic with 67 points and earning the 4th pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Ottawa did a lot of moving around of personnel in 2017-2018 with acquiring Matt Duchene from the Avalanche in exchange for Andrew Hammond, Shane Bowers and a 2019 1st & 3rd round pick. They also off-loaded Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson to the Kings for Nick Shore and Marian Gaborik. Other transactions of note were trading away Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn and a 2018 3rd round pick to Pittsburgh for Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson and a 2018 1st round pick and 2019 3rd round pick. The Senators would eventually trade Ian Cole away to the Blue Jackets.
2017-2018 was ugly for the Senators, to say the least, both on and off the ice. On the ice, the Senators would finish 25th in Goals Per Game, 30th in Goals Against. Ottawa’s special teams weren’t much better finishing 27th in Powerplay percentage and 26th in Penalty Kill per cent, all of that adding up to a terrible season on the ice.
Off the ice, it wasn’t much better for the Senators. Spencer Callaghan, a die-hard Senators fan, started the #MelnykOut campaign on GoFundMe which lead to hundreds of Senators fans supporting the purchase of a billboard asking for Eugene Melnyk to sell the franchise.
It’s safe to say that all is not going well in Ottawa and change needs to happen, but it’s the NHL, and only so much change can happen when you take in account contracts, the CBA and salary caps.
Three things that need to change
Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion’s end of the season address to the media stated that the entire coaching staff is under a full evaluation and they aren’t going to make any decisions until later in the off-season.
Head coach Guy Boucher needs to go.
For the same reason, I think Todd McLellan needs to go in Edmonton; you simply cannot have what happened this year to the Senators after the success they had last year. It just goes to show how out of touch the coach is with his team and how he’s lost control of the room.
Guy Boucher has one more year left on his contract, and maybe Ottawa honours the contract and keeps him for that year, it looks more likely as we edge closer and closer to the draft. It’s safe to say that Boucher will have to turn this ship around entirely if he wants to remain coach of the Senators moving past 2018-2019.
This one slightly ties in with the first point as the Ottawa Senators assistant coaches didn’t get the job done this year with the Sens finishing in 27th place with an abysmal 16.6% Powerplay and 26th place with a 76.2% Penalty Kill. That’s not good enough, surprisingly last year it wasn’t much better for the Senators as they finished 24th and 22nd respectively but somehow made it within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
A powerplay quarterbacked by Erik Karlsson shouldn’t be struggling as much as they have been, especially when they have quality shooters in Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan and a good playmaker in Matt Duchene, it just doesn’t make sense that they can’t figure out a way to be one of the better units in the league. Ottawa must find an assistant coach that can utilize the stars that the Senators have and get their powerplay clicking.
It’s shocking that they made it so deep into the playoffs last year with such terrible special teams and their team this year certainly wasn’t good enough to overcome those faults this year.
Needs more scoring
Ottawa finished near the basement when it came to scoring in the NHL. Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson tied for the team lead with 62 points, while Mike Hoffman finished with 56. The Senators would finish the season 25th in goals per game.
To put how poor that is in perspective the Pittsburgh Penguins had three players with more than 89 points, the Penguins were the team that eventually knocked off the Senators in the Eastern Conference Final last year.
Heading into the offseason with around $15.5M in cap space doesn’t seem too terrible from the surface but with pending RFA’s Mark Stone and Cody Ceci needing to be signed that cap space will go away quickly. Magnus Paajarvi is another forward that had a decent end of the season with the Senators and will more than likely be resigned.
It leaves some cap room for the Senators to go out and sign a much-needed goal scorer that can hopefully help the Senators going forward and maybe bolster their terrible powerplay.
Three things not to change
Erik Karlsson isn’t going to be cheap, it’s been a long time since a defenseman this good has had the chance to hit the open market, and a lot of teams will be sending blank cheques to Karlsson hoping they’ll sign with them if he hits free agency in 2018-2018.
The reality for the Senators is that it doesn’t matter the amount that Karlsson wants, they are a better team with him than they are without him. He practically carried them in 2017-2018 within one game from the Stanley Cup, and he wasn’t even healthy.
The number one priority going into the 2017-2018 offseason is to get their captain signed to a long-term deal and provided fans with the peace of mind that they won’t want to lose their star player for nothing at the end of the year. It’ll also give the locker room peace of mind knowing that an impending trade of their captain won’t be happening anytime soon.
Developing young defensemen.
The Senators may very well go into next season with three defensemen who are under their entry-level contract, or just having it expire.
Thomas Chabot who is currently 21 years old will more than likely crack the opening night roster as he played 63 games this year for the big club.
Christian Wolanin just wrapped up a three-year career at the University of North Dakota and will compete for a starting job in training camp but will more than likely start the season with Belleville as it’ll be his first full season as a professional.
Ben Harpur finished his third year as a professional, and his ELC is expiring. Harpur played 41 games with the big club this year and will hope to crack the opening night roster out of training camp, at the very worst he will be their first call-up coming out of the AHL.
The Ottawa Senators have a good crop of young defensemen that will lead the team going forward for sure; they may have to wait a couple more years for all of them to be full-time NHL players.
It’s safe to assume that this seasons 3.32GAA and 0.898SV% are the outliers of Craig Anderson’s career as his career averages are 2.76GAA and 0.914SV%. Those stats lead me to believe that Anderson simply had a bad year and if he can recover from this year and get towards his career average, the Senators should be in a safe spot.
Anderson in 2016-2017 had the best full year of his career despite going through serious family matters; he posted a stellar 2.28GAA and 0.926SV% which lead him to be one of the main reasons the Senators went so far. The Senators don’t need Anderson to be that good every season for them to be successful, but he does need to be better. Especially since the Senators don’t have a reliable second option when it comes to starting goaltender. So even if the Senators wanted to change their goaltending, they more than likely can’t.
The Ottawa Senators had a rough 2017-2018 campaign between players in the locker room going through losses of children and other family struggles and the complete lack of trust by the fans in management it led to a lot of distractions. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Senators bounce back in 2018-2019 and put up a half decent season, I don’t think they’ll go to the Eastern Conference Final again, but I also don’t think they’ll be in the basement.
All in all, the Senators have a lot of young talent, which is good for a team that has said they want to get younger and faster. It’ll be on the current coaching staff or perhaps a new coaching staff to develop the young talent they already have and build a contender for the future.
At the end of the day Senator fans. The only way this team can go is up.
It’s weird how things have gone for the Ottawa Senators. Less than ten months ago this organization almost made the Stanley Cup Finals, a little over three months ago they made a deal for Matt Duchene to try improve the team and then… well… %#!& hit the fan.
It’s gotten to the point where they’re set on dealing arguably the best player their organization has ever seen, and one of the best players in the league. Pure insanity.
Personally, I don’t remember a trade deadline for the Columbus Blue Jackets that’s had this much talk around it.
(image via Ottawa Sun)
Given their rumored interest in Matt Duchene, are you disappointed Columbus didn’t end up landing him?
Honestly, I’m not. I believe they put together their best offer, which likely included Ryan Murray and some draft picks, and I’m happy they didn’t end up overpaying. Also, based off of their play so far this year and what I’ve seen, they really don’t need him.
Scoring goals isn’t a problem thanks to the emergence of young talent like Sonny Milano, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and even Josh Anderson. They currently sit 8th in the NHL in goals for.
Forward depth, especially down the middle, isn’t as big of a concern as some thought it may be over the offseason. In fact, their forward depth is growing into a legitimate strength of this club. Down the middle they have Brandon Dubinsky, Alex Wennberg and Nick Foligno filling out their top-9 and with young talent like Pierre-Luc Dubois continuing to develop, there really isn’t much space or a real need for someone like Duchene.
Who won the three-way trade from yesterday?
It’s a cheap answer, but honestly, everyone came out a winner in this move. Colorado waited and waited and were rewarded with a very impressive haul of picks and prospects. Sam Girard is ready to play in the NHL and so is Russian forward Vladislav Kamenev who has 8 points in 10 games down in the AHL.
Nashville gave up a few nice pieces, but they want to win a Stanley Cup and adding Kyle Turris not only takes some pressure off Ryan Johansen but also allows Nick Bonino to take on a role he’s more comfortable with. It smooths out the Predators forward depth and they didn’t sacrifice anything from their big-league roster. The 6×6 extension for Turris makes it look even better.
As for Ottawa, they paid a hefty price but they finally have who they believe is a #1 center. The Senators already have solid goaltending, a good d-core and a really strong group of wingers. Now they finally have a game-breaking forward. For Duchene, hopefully, a fresh start and some strong linemates can help him return to the near point per game pace we saw early in his career.
Also, for Pierre Dorion, he no longer has to worry about a new extension for his top center. He sends out the pending FA Turris and gets Duchene, who has one more season at $6 million.
Is there a big move for the Oilers to make? Do they need a big move?
That would depend on your definition of a big move. Do they need a top-six winger? They definitely do. Someone who can bring some speed into their forward group, shoot the puck and contribute on the powerplay would make a real impact on this team.
There are players like that out there, but as I wrote about last week, I don’t think there’s a move out there for Peter Chiarelli to make. The only teams who are probably willing to start selling in November are Arizona and Colorado. I don’t think it’s a smart move to use assets on players like Blake Comeau or Tobias Rieder.
The only option would be if they can make a hockey trade. In that case, it would likely involve a player like Matt Benning or Ryan Strome going out the door. If Chiarelli chooses to go that way, maybe he can go to a team like the Rangers and offer a package for Chris Kreider or maybe he goes to Vegas to open up a conversation on Jonathan Marchessault.
Image courtesy of NHL.com
The Ottawa Senators are the darlings of the 2017 NHL playoffs. They are the last Canadian playoff team standing and have pushed the defending Stanley Cup Champs to a deciding 7th game. Awaiting them are the Nashville Predators, a team most of the hockey world is also sweet on.
The Senators are a strange organization. They reside in a small Canadian market in between the dogmatic, religious fandom of Toronto and Montreal, their current arena-ticket-sellout woes are well-documented (I mean, really well reported) and their roster doesn’t spark any fear into you on paper. They were projected to be a mediocre-to-average hockey club at the beginning of the year. The reality is, they just played good hockey and finished second in their division.
As someone who’s always observed the Senators from the outside for my hockey watching career, my central feeling is they’ve always been up to stuff. Something has always been happening with the Senators. Whether it’s regular appearances in the postseason, the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, or these newer more resilient teams who’ve gritted and battled their way to spring success (such as the Paul Maclean Jack Adams trophy year and the Hamburglar Andrew Hammond run of 2015) the Senators play good hockey.
The thing that’s continued to baffle me is how many stars have played for this franchise from the 2000s to today that have left in suspicious or dramatic fashion, yet the Senators go along tickety-boo, fire and hire a new coach, and win another playoff round next season. Alexei Yashin, Marian Hossa, Dany Heatley, Zdeno Chara, Ray Emery, Jason Spezza, and even the beloved Daniel Alfredsson all had bittersweet exits, many requested, many sending shivers down the spine of the Sens faithful. But some of those most recent moves haven’t hurt the Senators like anyone thought they would.
The lightning rod Dany Heatley trade ended up working out for Ottawa, many even believing they won the deal with Heatley’s fall-off-a-cliff second act, despite getting little market value at the time. The Jason Spezza departure (which player-wise still looks horrible) hasn’t crushed their scoring ability despite his dynamic presence gone from the top-six.
In fact, the Ottawa Senators have always struck me as a wheeling-and-dealing franchise that has lost and won deals, but continues to make them all the time. They make things happen for better or for worse.
The Bobby Ryan trade has looked ugly for a while as Jakob Silverberg’s development as a nice two-way forward with sick sniping ability (when he wants) has grown steadily. And I personally didn’t like trading Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard who I think is of similar ability.
But the Dion Phaneuf nine player trade has been fine despite his lucrative cap hit, the Mike Condon trade kept the season afloat with his 40 appearances and Burrows/Stalberg added depth for the team at the deadline. Not to mention the sneaky good deal of acquiring Kyle Turris for David Rundblad in 2011. (Rundblad has not turned into one of the great defensemen of the modern era despite the high billing all those years ago. He’s a just a guy).
The Sens gambled on Nikita Filatov, traded for Ben Bishop even though their crease was packed, traded him for the one-hit wonder Cory Conacher, danced with Ales Hemsky for a couple months, and after winning the David Legwand free agency sweepstakes, shipped him and Robin Lehner to the Sabres for the Colin White first-rounder. White appears to be a good young player.
Like it or not the Senators dabble and without stacking how many transactions they’ve made compared to other teams, to me they’ve always been this way. Bryan Murray was always staying competitive and turning over players in a market that isn’t spectacular.
So the question is, how have the Senators really done it. How have they climbed to the near zenith of NHL hockey despite a relatively ho-hum roster with a few huge upsides?
No one really has an answer.
They haven’t looked spectacular but that 5-1 win in Game 3 against Pittsburgh was filthy, and their overtime heroics from Pageau (who I’m certain scored another playoff OT goal against the Habs with a piece of stick in his face back a few years ago) and company have kept the train-a-rolling towards…a Stanley Cup berth?!
In a league where the Washington Capitals can’t get past the second round, the Sens despite an out of town arena, an owner who loves to put his foot in his mouth, a new GM who looks and acts smug, a lack of corporate support in the city and everything else that isn’t hockey related, Ottawa is 60 minutes away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final and having home ice advantage.
Obviously, the biggest reason for successis their best player is otherworldly. Erik Karlsson is doing yeoman’s work again and is the current favourite for the Conn Smythe. The soon-to-be 27-year-old could walk away with his third Norris Trophy if the voters snub Brent Burns but could win a few more and finish his career with 1000 points plus if health reamins.
Karlsson skates like Kyrie Irving handles a basketball, jumps into the rush seamlessly, and through slicing pain in his foot, still plays at a near point-a-game pace this playoffs; a season which started many months ago for Sweden at the World Cup. He also somehow was second in blocked shots behind Kris Russell which is just one of those things that boggles the mind. When I think Ottawa Senators and blocking shots immediately the mind jumps to Anton Volchenkov, not Erik ”fantastic hair” Karlsson.
Karlsson is the crown jewel of a core which the Senators have been forced to develop because of those major names wanting out. Their response to that adversity has worked. Mike Hoffman rips a puck quicker than Radek Bonk ever could, Mark Stone is a consistent 50-60 point producer, and J.G. Pageau is a smart, young third line centre.
Deep down though, these players know this might be their only chance at the drink. Considering, how volatile success is becoming, who knows what could happen – good or bad. But a trip to the final for a player like Erik Karlsson could raise him to a new pantheon of greatness. And a title would also mean “Canada’s” drought is over.
The chance is right here for Ottawa. A loss is crushing, but through my limited outsider’s perspective, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if two years from now we’re talking about another surprising Senators first round victory with a similar, yet different cast of characters.
Round one was really good. Round two got pretty close to living up to that hype. A couple of game sevens and the two best storylines in the playoffs (Nashville, Ottawa) continued onto the next round.
Here are 10 things I took from the four conference semi-final series:
1)NASHVILLE, err… SMASHVILLE IS A HOCKEY MARKET
Remember when Pittsburgh was almost relocated (I remember you Jim Balsillie) or when Chicago played games in front of a mainly empty arena. Bring some success into the picture and now you have two stable hockey markets.
Well, the same thing has happened to Nashville. They have a young, exciting team and are in a city that loves to party and rowdy. Watching the crowd erupt during their country music themed national anthems or seeing videos of fans partying in the streets has been one of my favourite parts of these playoffs.
The only thing more exciting than their fans has been their play on the ice, which brings me to my next point:
2) THE PREDS HAVE THE BEST DEFENSE. PERIOD.
They have one of the most well-rounded d-men in the league, Roman Josi. Add the electrifying PK Subban who can move the puck up the ice like few others. Throw in Ryan Ellis, who has been contributing 5v5, on the powerplay and on the PK, and doing an incredible job with it. Mattias Ekholm doesn’t make many mistakes, just gives Peter Laviolette good, honest minutes. Matt Irwin was in the minors at one point this season, now he’s anchoring the 3rd pairing in the conference finals. It’s an incredible combination of raw ability mixed with everyone clicking into their best form at the same time.
A defense like that wins you games and can cover when Pekka Rinne has an off night (even though he hasn’t had one yet) but there’s another group of defenders that I can’t say the same about…
3) THE RANGERS ARENT GOOD
Teams can overcome not having a superstar forward (Ottawa, Nashville), and teams can be brought along by a hot goalie as well. But when you have a blueline that is as poor as the New York Rangers, it’s tough to have any success.
This is not a knack on Ryan McDonaugh, who was absolutely incredible in my eyes. But this is on the old and slow Dan Girardi and Marc Staal who is a shadow of his former self. This is on a management group and coaching staff who brought in Brendan Smith to try to fix a poor defensive group. They also refused to give more minutes to two of their more competent players, Brady Skjei played less than Staal and Girardi, while Nick Holden averaged 3 minutes less per game than Girardi.
4) GOOD GUYS CAN COME IN FIRST
Man, if you want an inspiring story, look no further than the Ottawa Senators. From Bryan Murray’s health to Craig Anderson and his wife Nicholle going through an un-imaginable time right now.
Then there’s Clarke MacArthur, who was really never supposed to play hockey again, never mind be scoring series-clinching goals in round one and making an impact late in the playoffs.
It’s an incredible reminder as to why someone like myself loves to watch sports. Sometimes the stars align and everything works out, and it’s amazing to see that happen to this Senator’s family.
5) ERIK KARLSSON IS TOO GOOD
The stories on the Senators have been great, but Erik Karlsson has been THE story on the ice. Averaging over 28 minutes a game, with more than a point a game, he had his coming out party in round two, which is weird to say about a player with multiple Norris trophies.
He’s a top 3 player in the World right now, and I have no doubt about that. We throw the term “generational” around a lot, but that sums up Karlsson. His commitment to defense, while still pushing the offensive pace the way he has this year is incredible.
6) THE OILERS WILL BE VERY VERY GOOD… VERY VERY SOON
A young core with two top ten scorers almost made the Conference Finals. In fact, they were two botched goalie interference calls away from being in the NHL’s final four.
Emerging defensemen like Klefbom, Nurse, and Benning only add to the white-hot future Edmonton has. They didn’t make it this year, but you’d be a fool to bet against them being in the big dance soon, and often.
7) THE DUCKS ARE IN EXPANSION TROUBLE
Shea Theodore has been solid on the incredibly mobile Ducks defense, while up front, Rickard Rakell put up 30 goals this season and Jakob Silfverberg gave the Oilers fits during this past round. Which raises the expansion problem that the success of these three individuals will bring.
Silfverberg brings the classic power forward game, with a habit to fire the puck often. Rakell is just all around solid but has a knack for finishing plays. Theodore is a future top 4 defensemen, and one of them has to be traded, or be lost in the expansion draft. A good problem to have, but a problem none the less.
8) YOU CANT BEAT SID
Take away their best d-man, give Crosby a rookie winger, take out their starting goalie… it doesn’t matter. The Penguins and Sidney Crosby are damn near impossible to win.
As much as it might be boring to watch a repeat champion and not have a young fresh team like Nashville win, witnessing the greatness that is Crosby (and Malkin and Fleury) is quite incredible.
9) THE OFFICIALS…
Hardly needs any explaining. They call PK Subban for diving, which puzzled me. They miss calls late when Nick Bonino is given the phantom high stick from TJ Oshie. They blow goalie interference calls on the Oilers, which may have cost them the series.
The NHL Referees have a habit of giving respect to players who have been in the league a while, and this past round has taught me that is not the right way to do things.
Why have a rule book when it only applies to certain players, at certain points in the game, at certain times of the year. The game should be called the same way during game one in October, as it is in Game 7 of a playoff series. It’s sad that the officials became such a dominant story line, and it makes the NHL less pleasant to watch.
Washington Capitals (1st Metro) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (2nd Wild Card)
LAST 10: Washington (8-2-0) Toronto (6-4-0)
Tyler Yaremchuk: I don’t see a scenario the Maple Leafs outscore the Capitals, simply based on depth. I don’t see a scenario where Braden Holtby is outplayed by Frederik Andersen. I don’t see a scenario where a blue line that features Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak can outplay a team with Shattenkirk, Niskanen, Carlson (if healthy) and Orlov. This should be a sweep, so I’m not even going to complicate things.
Capitals in five.
Liam Horrobin: It’s fair to say that this is the most one-sided series out of all of them this post-season. The Maples Leafs have plenty of scoring on their side but the Caps can pretty much double that. We still don’t know what’s happening with Andersen too which will be a big fact. Overall, the Caps will just simply overpower the young leafs.
Capitals in four
Taylor Paniccia: While it’s exciting times in the 6ix for the Maple Leafs and the hype around the kid phenom Auston
Matthews, this is the worst matchup for the Leafs to get involved in. While I believe the Leafs will be an offensive powerhouse in the near future I don’t see them keeping up to the big guns of the Capitals. From goaltending in Brayden Holtby to their sound defense core, to the deep forward roster, topped off with offensive horses such as Ovechkin and Backstrom, I believe that the Caps are the most well-rounded team in the NHL. The Capitals ceiling for cup potential is higher than ever in recent years and look for the President Trophy winners to blow away the Leafs quickly.
Capitals in five.
Brayden Engel: This is absolutely the best case scenario for the Leafs. They came into the regular season with no expectations and now enter the postseason with similar optimism. Getting to watch the best team in the league skate circles around them will really help keep their egos in check and show them just how far away they are from where they need to be. I think they’re incredibly outmatched but have the ability to outscore even the best team and give the Caps a bit of a scare before they wake up and pull away.
Caps in 6.
Josh Goodings: Poor Leafs fans. So close to having an easy ride to the second round against Ottawa, but fall one point short and have to cross over to the big bad Metro division and face the best team in the NHL. The Leafs are probably going to lose to Washington, who very well could win the Stanley Cup this year, but they should have no shame in that. What the Leafs did this year was amazing, going from 30th in the NHL in 15/16 to a playoff berth in 16/17, lead by three-star rookies in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. The future is very bright for the Leafs, but I think they’re gonna have to wait another year to win their first playoff series since 2004.
Capitals in five
Devin Horne: This Caps team is insanely good, like really, really good. Third overall for goals scored and first in goals against, by quite a gap too. The next closest team, Columbus let in 193 pucks this year while Washington only 177. That’s 2.15 goals against the Caps a game. Add to that Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin, and a deadline pickup in Kevin Shattenkirk, dude has 14 points in 19 games with Washington. I think this may be the year we see Ovie hoist, Lord Stanley. Leafs are pretty exciting, but they’re too young and too inexperienced. They’ll be a pretty exciting team this decade. Again, because of this awful playoff format, we’ll see the Caps and Pens in the second round, instead of the Eastern Conference Final. NHL fix this!
Capitals in five
THE VERDICT: Our resident Leafs expert even knows the Leafs are in tough this round. The Caps are too deep, expect this one to be over quick according to most of our writers.
Pittsburgh Penguins (2nd Metro) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd Metro)
LAST 10: Pittsburgh (4-4-2) Columbus (3-5-2)
Tyler Yaremchuk: I’ve toss and turned on this series for a long time. The Blue Jackets are an incredibly difficult team to beat. They never stop checking and will out work all game if nothing else. If their offense can wake up, I have no problem taking them in six or seven. On the other hands, could I really bet against a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Even with a depleted defense, they’re so solid. This could really go either way, and these two teams hate each other, which will only add to the excitement of this first round matchup. One of the hardest predict, but I’m going with my heart on this one.
Blue Jackets in 7
Liam Horrobin: It’s disappointing to see these two heavyweights going at it in the first-round but it is what it is. The Penguins have just lost Kris Letang which will be a huge loss for them and I believe could be a series decider. The Blue Jackets, with Bobrovsky between the pipes, have got all they need to take down the Pens. Rookie star Zach Werenski will also have to lead by example at the back end for the Jackets.
Blue Jackets in 6
Taylor Paniccia: A season series won by the Blue Jackets this matchup is possibly the most tightly matched round one series. The Blue Jackets key to winning this series is their Vezina favoured goalie in Bobrovsky shutting the door and the all important shut-down matchup between Dubinsky and Crosby. Home-ice to me will be big in this one as well as special teams as both teams are good at home and on the special teams. Based purely on gut feeling and Stanley Cup defenders look for the Penguins to take down Lumbo in a long back and forth series.
By a coin toss, Penguins in seven.
Brayden Engel: After a white-hot streak in December, Torts’ Jackets have cooled off of late which is not something you want to hear about the team who’s about to take on Sidney Crosby and the defending Cup champs. While it’s hard to repeat these days, I don’t see the Pens having much difficulty with Columbus. Too much skill up and down the lineup, even with Letang out.
Pens in 5.
Josh Goodings: This is a very tight matchup between the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in the East. Pittsburgh vs Columbus has become a heated rivalry ever since the two teams met in the playoffs in 2014. Columbus is now a very well rounded team with a great young defense core in front Sergei Bobrovsky, a soon to be two-time Vezina trophy winner, who I believe could be the key to Columbus winning this series. Pittsburgh also has a very good goaltender in Matt Murray, who was a big reason the Penguins won the cup last year, and I think he’ll hold his own in this goalie battle. The biggest difference in this series is that CBJ doesn’t have a Sidney Crosby, or an Evgeni Malkin. With those two healthy Pittsburgh is capable of beating anyone. The one red flag in Pittsburgh’s title defense is the injury of Kris Letang, that’s a massive blow to the Pens and could be their downfall if they meet Washington in the second round. Despite that, I still think they can get past Columbus without Letang.
Pittsburgh in seven
Devin Horne: You can’t bet against Sidney Crosby and the Pens, last year’s Cup champs. Crosby and Malkin are just deadly, and who hasn’t loved this renaissance of Phil Kessel? Losing Kris Letang is a huge loss, but those three forwards alone have 70 plus points this year. Columbus will give them some trouble, especially with Bobrovsky between the pipes. Again, playoff experience is huge especially in the first round when teams haven’t had that first round victory to boost them. Cam Atkinson, Brandon Saad, and Alexander Wennberg just can’t match the Pens firepower.
Pittsburgh in six
THE VERDICT: Our first real disagreement. Four of us had the Pens, while one picked an upset with the Jackets. Most agree it will be entertaining and go deep, but in the end, BTI says it’s the Penguins series to lose!
Montreal Canadiens (1st Atlantic) vs New York Rangers (1st Wild Card)
LAST 10: Montreal (6-3-1) New York (3-4-3)
Tyler Yaremchuk: Price vs Lundqvist? I take Price every day of the week. The only way this series goes to the Rangers is if Lundqvist steals it himself. The Rangers defense is awful, their offense lacks a scoring superstar, they simply aren’t built for a long run in my mind. The Habs have been up and down all season, but they at least have all the ingredients for a team ready to take a plunge into round two in my mind.
Habs in 5.
Liam Horrobin: Carey Price will be challenged in this series against a Rangers team who finished fourth in the NHL in goals. Despite that, the Rangers finished the season freezing cold losing seven of their last 10 games. With the Rangers recent form and Carey Price being the best goaltender in the world, I can see the Canadiens taking this one.
Habs in 5
Taylor Paniccia: A matchup that can easily go both ways. As far as I’m concerned this can be a sweep by the Canadiens as Price purely dominates the declining New York Rangers or the Habs can pull out their inconsistent ways and get beaten in a long and fast series. The Habs swept the Rangers in the season series three straight. All eyes will be on the goaltending matchup that should most likely be won by Carey Price. Price has shutout the Rangers seven times in his career the most against any team and poses a 15-5-1 record against them lifetime. Both these teams have a very loud home-ice advantage but look for the Bell Centre to be a little bit louder with a Canadiens series win.
Habs in six.
Brayden Engel: I see most of us feel the same way about this series and it’s tough to disagree. Price is the best in the world and has an insane record in elimination games which means he can turn it on when it counts. He’s carried this team before and this won’t be any different.
Habs in 5.
Josh Goodings: This is a pretty close matchup between two similar teams. Both the Rangers and Habs are pretty average teams that are held up by world-class goaltenders, and it will likely come down to the goalie matchup. That matchup isn’t nearly as close as it was the last time these teams met in the playoffs in 2014. Despite having a few rough months this season, Carey Price is still one of, if not the best goalie(s) in the world, and is capable of winning this series largely by himself. Lundqvist, on the other hand, seems to be falling off at the age of 35, posting a .910 SV% this season, the lowest of his career. This might be because the Rangers defense is not nearly as good as it was when they won the President’s trophy in 14/15. Although they’re pretty close, I’d say the Habs are the better team and have the better goalie. They also swept the season series 3-0. So as long as Chris Kreider doesn’t take out Price again, the Habs should be fine.
Montreal in six
Devin Horne: The Rangers looked pretty great earlier this season, but the holes in their defensive core are pretty glaring now. I don’t think Hank alone can bring them a victory here, his GAA and save percentage both slipped a bit this season. Habs have been pretty good this year, Carey Price is back to his usual self and the addition of Alexander Radulov has been a great pick up.
Montreal in six
THE VERDICT: Another clean decision. Rangers simply won’t be able to hold onto the Habs for more than 5 or 6 games.
Ottawa Senators (2nd Atlantic) vs Boston Bruins (3rd Atlantic)
LAST 10: Ottawa (4-4-2) Boston (6-3-1)
Tyler Yaremchuk: Two teams being thrown around by injuries to end the season. Two teams who have struggled with inconsistency all season. This is as much of a toss up as any other series. In the end, I like the Senators to take it. It’s incredibly close and will likely come down to one goal in game six or seven. Boston drives possession and creates chances better than Ottawa, and if they can keep things at 5v5 they should have the edge.
Bruins in 7.
Liam Horrobin: I can’t wait to watch this series, said nobody ever. Both sides are rigged with injuries to important players and don’t have too many superstars. This series will not be one to remember in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, however, we’ve still got to give a prediction. In my eyes, Brad Marchand will help the Bruins come out on top over the Ottawa Senators.
Bruins in 6
Taylor Paniccia: The Ottawa Senators are the only team in the post-season with a negative goal differential. Weird. But this is a good first round matchup for them as they swept the season series four games straight as this could be a big mental boost for them. Just based on season series I have the Senators taking down the Bruins but making a quick second round exit.
Senators in six.
Brayden Engel: This is must miss TV. These are the two worst teams in the playoffs as far as I’m concerned with the Sens being riddled with injuries and the Bruins being old and dirty. That said, it will likely be a tightly contested series with a lot of variables. Karlsson has to play every game for the Sens to have a chance but that will be for naught if Anderson can’t find his game. In the end, I’m going to err on the side of experience in Rask, Bergeron, and Marchand.
Bruins in seven.
Josh Goodings: The Senators are the worst team in the playoffs this year. They’re the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential, and if they didn’t have Erik Karlsson they’d have a pretty good shot at drafting Nolan Patrick this summer. Despite being swept in the season series by Ottawa, Boston is the better team and should be moving on to the second round.
Boston in six
Devin Horne: Both teams suffered from injuries and inconsistency this year, and both nearly limped into the postseason. Ottawa does not generate enough offence, they’re the worst offensive team to make the postseason. The Bruins power play was seventh best this year, and they finished the season with the league’s best penalty kill. Also, I love Brad Marchand, a pest who also finished sixth in league scoring. That most recent incidents was pretty disgusting though.
Boston in six
THE VERDICT: More of a split vote on this one. Everyone agrees it’ll go six, but the Bruins firepower and goaltending might push them through. In the end, it might come down to healthy in a seven game series. BTI says Boston, but it will be close.
Part 2 of my reviews of General Managers, or as I like to call it, PART FUN!
There’s nothing better than well put together negativity, am I right?!
Anyways, if you missed the positive Part One, you can find that HERE.
(C+) – Marc Bergevin
We can start with what I’ve liked from the Canadiens GM. He’s addressed the team’s defensive depth rather well with the additions of Jordie Benn, Nikita Nesterov, and Brandon Davidson. I loved all 3 of those moves as he snuck away a very solid third pairing guy and 2 players who I could honestly see becoming top 4 d-men down the road (Davidson/Nesterov).
All 3 were very good trades, but my problem with Bergevin is that he did a lot to fix what wasn’t this team’s biggest problem. They need offense, and they failed to obtain that.
On deadline day, it seemed like he was making moves just for the sake of it acquiring Steve Ott, Dwight King and Andreas Martinsen in exchange for Sven Andrighetto, a 4th round pick, and a 6th round pick. All 3 were overpayments in my mind and didn’t address the need for more scoring.
To put it into perspective, that 6th rounder for Ott (3 goals/44.94 CF%) could have landed you P.A. Parenteau (13 goals/50.4 CF%) and that 4th rounder for Dwight King (8 goals/51.07 CF%) could have gotten you Jarome Iginla (8 goals/48.61 CF%). Both the alternatives have a much higher offensive ceiling.
I get adding size was also a priority, but we just witnessed the Pittsburgh Penguins win a Stanley Cup using speed and offense, so getting bigger and slower wasn’t a smart move by Bergevin.
He over-filled one hole in the line-up and ignored a bigger one.
(C) – Pierre Dorion
So let’s start with his one really solid move. Acquiring Mike Condon from the Penguins for a 5th round pick may have actually saved their season. Condon and his 2.55 GAA is a huge reason why the Sens are fighting for top spot in the Atlantic.
Things got worse after that. Word got out that owner Eugene Melnyk had given Dorion the green light to do whatever it takes to make this team compete. So what does Dorion do? He gives up an elite prospect in Johnathan Dahlen for an aging Alex Burrows. Then he overpays to bring in Viktor Stalberg. I don’t know about you, but that’s hardly my idea of doing whatever it takes.
Back to the Dahlen deal, all you need to do is read any scouting report and you’ll see that he’s going to be a top six forward in the not so distant future. That’s a mind-boggling overpayment. Then you factor in that he paid a 3rd rounder for Stalberg, who only had 9 goals in 57 games with Carolina. That pick should have gotten him more in this year’s market.
Two bottom six forwards are hardly my idea of “going for it” and it seems like Dorion made those moves just to say he did something.
(F) – Joe Sakic
The only GM I honestly feel deserves a failing grade.
Although I liked that he didn’t rush to move Duchene or Landeskog, this is a cellar team, and he had to do a better job getting assets for aging vets/UFA’s. John Mitchell, Rene Bourque, and Fedor Tyutin should have been able to fetch Joe Sakic something, and instead, he has three aging vets who will walk after the season.
Outside of his UFA’s, players like Beauchemin and Comeau should have been dealt as well. If Colorado wants to this rebuild right, they need to accumulate assets and frankly, Joe Sakic didn’t do that. It was his one job heading into this deadline and he didn’t accomplish it, so I’m giving him a failing grade. Something has to give in Colorado, and now I’m thinking it might need to be the GM.
Disagree with my grades of these GM’s? Let me know in the forums or on Twitter @ty89yar