Saturday, 24 June 2017

McKenzie's Tweet

The NHL Entry Draft is a bit of a gamble for teams looking to change their fortunes. For the most part, the players picked in the opening round will play a part in helping the franchises who picked them, but there have been general managers who have decided to "go off the board" in the opening round to try and grab a player they believe will help their clubs thanks to some advanced scouting. When the Winnipeg Jets selected the defenceman above with the 17th-overall pick in 1992, it grabbed everyone by surprise including all of the media. That's something rare, even in those days, so I had to point this pick out.

TSN's Bob McKenzie dropped this incredible tweet on the world yesterday, and it brought back all sorts of memories of watching the bumbling #3 patrol the Jets' blue line. Sergei Bautin should never have been a first-overall draft pick, and the names that Winnipeg left on the board to select the Russian rearguard is a little baffling. While the era of Mike Smith as GM in Winnipeg brought in numerous Russian players to the Manitoba capital, Sergei Bautin might be the cherry on the top of what was a rather forgettable era in Jets history.

Sergei Bautin was selected 17th-overall in 1992 in a draft that produced first-overall pick Roman Hamrlik, fifth-overall pick Darius Kasparaitis, and 14th-overall pick Sergei Gonchar. Clearly, the international flavor was nothing new for the NHL that season as 11 of the 24 first-round picks were from non-North American countries. That being said, only two players played less NHL games than Sergei Bautin did, and it's still puzzling how Bautin got that many games attached to his hockey career after seeing him play.

Bautin played two seasons with Moscow Dynamo in the Russian SuperLeague where he put up three goals, two assists, and 116 penalty minutes in 65 games of action as a 21 and 22 year-old defenceman. It wasn't like this kid was some 16 year-old phenom who got a shot to play against the men in Russia; rather, he was simply a low depth defenceman who had an affinity for spending time in the penalty box on a regular basis. Again, he scored a whopping five points when the Jets were scouting him, so I have a hard time seeing why they would draft a 22 year-old Russian who would be classified as a "project player" with their first-overall pick in 1992. He recorded no points at the 1992 Olympics and just a goal and an assist in eight games at the 1992 World Championships, so what did Winnipeg see in him?

After choosing Bautin at the draft and shocking everyone, things didn't go too poorly for the Jets and Bautin in his rookie season. Bautin scored a respectable five goals and 18 assists to go along with 96 penalty minutes in 71 games, helping the Jets make the playoffs where they would bow out to the Vancouver Canucks in six games. There were still questions about his skating and vision, though, as he often seemed out of position and a step behind most other players at his age. However, with the success the Jets had that season, these holes in his game were often forgiven because he was an NHL rookie trying to adjust to the faster North American game.

The 1993-94 season was not so forgiving to Sergei Bautin. With the NHL having undergone massive changes, the Jets found themselves in the Central Division as the NHL changed formats to introduce the Eastern and Western Conferences and playoffs featuring the top-eight teams from both conferences. The club decided to trade defenceman Phil Housley to the St. Louis Blues for Nelson Emerson and Stephane Qunital, and the revamped blue line never found its leader all season. The Jets got off to a 6-3-1 start that season, but a 2-20-2 run that lasted from January 2 until February 25 sunk the struggling club to dead last in the Western Conference from which they wouldn't recover.

After a 5-3 loss to the Penguins on February 18, 1994, the Jets pulled off a minor miracle by finding a taker for Bautin who hadn't won over any fans with his poor play during the losing streak. Somehow, GM John Paddock convinced Detroit GM Bryan Murray to take Bautin and goaltender Bob Essensa off their hands in exchange for Tim Cheveldae and Dallas Drake. While the trade wouldn't save the season for the Jets, it was a move that improved the Jets dramatically both on the ice and on paper.

Bautin, though, would find himself in a very unwelcoming situation. As per the Chicago Tribune in 1994,
But Murray was being ripped royally for the second, less publicized part of the trade, the one that sent young Dallas Drake to Winnipeg for Sergei Bautin. While Drake was playing for the Jets, Bautin had to be sent down to Adirondack because he was so out of shape.

A two-pack-a-day smoker, Bautin, a defenseman, could not bench-press his own weight - 185.

"Condition-wise, he was at the bottom of our organization," said Winnipeg GM John Paddock - after the deal was made. "He's got no quickness and no strength."
Bautin's one-game audition for Scotty Bowman went poorly, and he was dispatched to Adirondack where he wouldn't be recalled. Out of work with the Red Wings, he found a taker in the San Jose Sharks for the 1995-96 season, but he was quickly sent down to the IHL's Kansas City Blades when San Jose's coaches and management realized the defender still couldn't skate in the NHL.

With this NHL options exhausted, Sergei Bautin jumped to Sweden with Lulea IF, but continued to be plagued by penalty minutes. He averaged more than five penalty minutes per game in his first season, leading the league with 153 PIMs, playing alongside players such as Mattias Ohlund, Jarmo Myllys, and Mika Alatalo. Lulea would finish in third-place in the SEL that year and finish as the finalist where they earned a silver medal, and Bautin was invited back for a second season.

At 30 years-old, Bautin cleaned up his act by reducing his penalty minutes total by over 130 minutes, finishing with just 21 PIMs in 1997-98. Lulea would take steps back in the SEL, however, and Bautin's contract was not renewed for a third season. He would play for Ak Bars Kazan the following season, Nuremburg in the DEL in 1999-00, and Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2000-01. In those three season, he would total four goals, 15 assists, and 221 PIMs as whatever he learned with Lulea was forgotten quickly. After his season with Magnitogorsk, Bautin's career in professional hockey was over.

Ironically, his LinkedIn profile has some inconsistencies once we hit the new millenium. According to Bautin's LinkedIn, he played with Magnitogorsk from 2002-03, some three years after his stint with Ak Bars Kazan, and his 50-or-so games with the Nuremburg Ice Tigers appear before his time with Ak Bars Kazan. He does list two years with Japan's Oji Seishi Tomakomai of the Asian Ice Hockey League as a player and assistant coach from 2000-02 which doesn't appear on some sites, but it does on others. His one year with the Russian Second Division team Krylya Sovetov Moscow is shown on some sites as well, but he used this year to transition into a coaching role with Krylya Sovetov's junior team and to enroll at the Moscow Athlete University where he obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Professional Coaching. I'm not sure about you, but that degree sounds a little questionable. Nevertheless, he has a degree.

It seems, though, that coaching has brought Sergei Bautin back to North America. His LinkedIn shows that he spent four years in Kansas City, Missouri coaching a youth team followed by a 13-months stint in Dallas, Texas coaching another youth team. For the last six years, Bautin has lived in Denver, Colorado where he's the Hockey Director at Big Bear Ice Arena's Evolution Elite Hockey Academy. Again, I'm not sure you want to be taking lessons from a guy whose off-season training was chain-smoking and vodka shots, but he is a "professional coach" as per his degree.

So who did the Jets pass over when it came to that 17th-overall pick? The list is only a few players long before Winnipeg chose again at #27, but there are three names that stand out:
  • Defenceman Jason Smith went at #18 to New Jersey.
  • Centerman Martin Straka went at #19 to Pittsburgh.
  • Winger Grant Marshall went at #23 to Toronto.
The Jets did miss out on others after taking Boris Mironov at #27. Valeri Bure went to Montreal at #33, Mike Peca went to Vancouver at #40, and Darren McCarty went to Detroit at #40. I'm not sure how Mike Smith got his GM job or how he kept his GM job for as long as he did, but his scouting staff was probably the worst staff the NHL has ever produced with the misses they absorbed in trying to draft Russians. Granted, they got a few picks right - Keith Tkachuk, Stu Barnes, Alexei Zhamnov, and Nikolai Khabibulin - but the vast majority of his picks were, at best, questionable.

And that's the story, ladies and gentlemen, of how an obscure Russian defenceman had an NHL career where his only bicep curl was to lift a cigarette or shot glass to his mouth.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Drafted And Ready

Tonight, it was all about the new kids. 31 players were selected in the televised first round of the NHL Entry Draft, and there was some anticipation on whether Switzerland's Nico Hischier or Winnipeg's Nolan Patrick would go first-overall. Would the Devils keep that pick? Was Dallas going to trade the third-overall pick as many had anticipated? Would we see any surprises in terms of where players were chosen? There were a ton of questions that needed to be answered, and the 31 general managers didn't disappoint when it came to finding guys who will be "the next one" in their franchises.

Here is how the opening round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft from Chicago played out.

2017 NHL ENTRY DRAFT
# Name Country NHL Team Team
1 Nico Hischier
Switzerland
New Jersey Devils Halifax Mooseheads
2 Nolan Patrick
Canada
Philadelphia Flyers Brandon Wheat Kings
3 Miro Heiskanen
Finland
Dallas Stars HIFK
4 Cale Makar
Canada
Colorado Avalanche Brooks Bandits
5 Elias Pettersson
Sweden
Vancouver Canucks Timra IK
6 Cody Glass
Canada
Vegas Golden Knights Portland Winterhawks
7 Lias Andersson
Sweden
New York Rangers HV71
8 Casey Mittelstadt
United States
Buffalo Sabres Green Bay Gamblers
9 Michael Rasmussen
Canada
Detroit Red Wings Tri-City Americans
10 Owen Tippett
Canada
Florida Panthers Mississauga Steelheads
11 Gabriel Vilardi
Canada
Los Angeles Kings Windsor Spitfires
12 Martin Necas
Czech Republic
Carolina Hurricanes HC Kometa Brno
13 Nick Suzuki
Canada
Vegas Golden Knights Owen Sound Attack
14 Callan Foote
Canada
Tampa Bay Lightning Kelowna Rockets
15 Erik Brannstrom
Sweden
Vegas Golden Knights HV71
16 Juuso Valimaki
Finland
Calgary Flames Tri-City Americans
17 Timothy Liljegren
Sweden
Toronto Maple Leafs Rogle BK
18 Urho Vaakanainen
Finland
Boston Bruins JYP
19 Josh Norris
United States
San Jose Sharks US Nat'l Team Dev. Prog.
20 Robert Thomas
Canada
St. Louis Blues London Knights
21 Filip Chytil
Czech Republic
New York Rangers PSG Zlin
22 Kailer Yamamoto
United States
Edmonton Oilers Spokane Chiefs
23 Pierre-Olivier Joseph
Canada
Arizona Coyotes Charlottetown Islanders
24 Kristian Vesalainen
Finland
Winnipeg Jets Frolunda HC
25 Ryan Poehling
United States
Montreal Canadiens St. Cloud State
26 Jake Oettinger
United States
Dallas Stars Boston University
27 Morgan Frost
Canada
Philadelphia Flyers Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
28 Shane Bowers
Canada
Ottawa Senators Waterloo Black Hawks
29 Henri Jokiharju
Finland
Chicago Blackhawks Portland Winterhawks
30 Eeli Tolvanen
Finland
Nashville Predators Sioux City Musketeers
31 Klim Kostin
Russia
St. Louis Blues Dynamo Moscow
There are all the picks. As you can see, there were a few teams who didn't have an opening round pick, so they'll continue to wait their turn during Saturday's drafting as Rounds Two through Seven go tomorrow. There were some trades made that should be noted.
  • The seventh-overall pick was traded by the Arizona Coyotes to the New York Rangers as part of the deal that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers to the Coyotes for Anthony DeAngelo.
  • The 13th-overall pick was traded by the Winnipeg Jets to the Vegas Golden Knights as part of the deal for the Golden Knights selecting Chris Thorburn in the expansion draft.
  • The 15th-overall pick was traded by the New York Islanders to the Vegas Golden Knights as part of the deal that saw the Golden Knights choose J-F Berube in the expansion draft.
  • The 23rd-overall pick was traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Arizona Coyotes as part of the deal that sent Martin Hanzal and Ryan White to the Wild in exchange for Grayson Downing at the NHL trade deadline this past season.
  • The 24th-overall pick was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure they selected William Karlsson in the expansion draft. Vegas then flipped the pick to Winnipeg as part of the deal to select Chris Thorburn in the expansion draft.
  • The 26th-overall pick was traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Dallas Stars for the 29th-overall pick plus an additional third-round pick.
  • The 27th-overall pick was dealt by the Washington Capitals to the St. Louis Blus as part of the trade that sent Zach Sanford and Brad Malone to the Blues for Kevin Shattenkirk and Pheonix Copley at the trade deadline this past season. St. Louis then dealt this pick with Jori Lehtera to Philadelphia for Brayden Schenn.
  • The 29th-overall pick was acquired by the Blackhawks from Dallas for the 26th-overall pick as stated above. Dallas originally acquired the pick from Anaheim in exchange for Patrick Eaves at the trade deadline this past season.
  • The 31st-overall pick was traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins to the St. Louis Blues as part of the deal to acquire Ryan Reaves for Oskar Sundqvist.
With that, you now know how the 31 players selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft were acquired by their respective teams. For the first time in NHL history, 31 players were selected in the first round thanks to the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights, and their three picks were pretty solid for the expansion franchise in terms of getting them off on the right foot.

Welcome to the NHL, lads. Now the real work begins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 248

The Hockey Show hits the airwaves at 5:30pm CT tonight with a ton of stuff to talk about from the last few days. There are new uniforms in the NHL that we'll dissect as we go over the NHL's deal with Adidas. There were some awards handed out to some pretty good players. There's a whole draft class of kids looking to join the ranks of the NHL on Friday. And there was some other draft thing happening last night that seemed to catch the attention of the hockey world. Who, what, when, where, and why will be answered as The Hockey Show dives into all sorts of topics tonight!

Teebz and Beans will go over all the happenings in Las Vegas yesterday with the NHL Awards being handed out and the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights assembling a team from the unprotected players of the other thirty teams. We'll tackle the NHL jersey situation with our thoughts on teams that may have designed something worse than before, and we'll talk about the draft class with Winnipegger Nolan Patrick trying to become the first Winnipeg-born player to go first-overall. Dallas added to their coaching staff and has a tie to Winnipeg, the Manitoba Bisons posted the hockey schedules for the men's and women's teams, and we have an announcement about the show! There's lots to talk about, so feel free to get your thoughts in by calling us at (204) 269-8636 (UMFM)!

Speaking of, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans discuss the expansion draft, draft picks, picking good uniforms designs, designing a coaching squad, where the Bisons squads will play, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: June 22, 2017: Episode 248

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

We're All Vegas

Las Vegas was a flurry of activity tonight as the NHL Awards were handed out and there was a new team selected from the unprotected player lists from each of the thirty remaining NHL teams. Having seen a few NHL Awards nights in the past, those who won trophies wasn't my main focus tonight. Matthews, McDavid, Burns, Bobrovsky, and Tortorella won the important ones as it is, but I was entirely occupied with the Vegas Expansion Draft as they prepare for their first NHL season.

The NHL decided to announce the list in order from worst to first based on the NHL's standings last season. With Colorado having the first player taken from them, it's hard to determine where these selections were made based on importance to Vegas' overall strategy, but this is the NHL and rarely do administrative tasks make a lot of sense. In saying that, let's break down the roster assembled by George McPhee, Bill Foley, and the Vegas Golden Knights.

COLORADO: Chet Pickard - goaltender. I actually really like this pick. Pickard had himself an outstanding World Championship with Canada, and looked like he may be the goalie of the future for the Avalanche. Instead, the 25 year-old will tend nets for the Golden Knights for the foreseeable future after posting 15 wins, two shutouts, a 2.98 GAA, and .904 save percentage in 50 games with the Avalanche in 2016-17. After getting engaged earlier this summer, it appears that Pickard won't have to go far for his bachelor party.

VANCOUVER: Luca Sbisa - defenceman. This pick puzzles me in that Sbisa's usage in Vancouver seemed to be out of necessity as opposed to choice. He scored a mere 13 points in 82 games for the Canucks, and will play for his fourth NHL team at the age of 27. If McPhee plans on having Sbisa around, it seems he'll be a third-pairing defenceman.

ARIZONA: Teemu Pulkkinen - forward. Pulkkinen was an outstanding player in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but has yet to find any footing in the NHL. He's recorded just 13 goals and 22 points in 83 NHL games with Detroit, Minnesota, and Arizona, so he'll have to make an impact with Vegas if he hopes to see his career extend past his 30th birthday. Skating still seems to be an issue with Pulkkinen.

NEW JERSEY: Jon Merrill - defenceman. He a big body whose offensive ability might have hit a ceiling, but I could see Merrill being a useful third-pairing or seventh defenceman for the Golden Knights. He has played 216 NHL games, so having him step into a defensive role shouldn't be a big leap for the defender.

BUFFALO: - William Carrier - forward. Huh? The rookie scored a mere eight points in 41 games this season, so this might be one of those picks that starts the building of Vegas' AHL affiliate in Chicago.

DETROIT: Tomas Nosek - forward. Nosek's one goal in 17 games doesn't scream "production", but he was the centerpiece for the Grand Rapids Griffins' run to the Calder Cup this season. I even chatted him up a week ago after they won. Nosek is 24, so he'll need to do something big in training camp or he could find himself in Chicago with Carrier.

DALLAS: Cody Eakin - forward. I love this pick. Eakin is the kind of two-way forward that will get you a handful of goals while playing responsible in his own zone. McPhee drafted Eakin in 2009 while with the Capitals, so he knows what Eakin can bring to the ice. Eakin will fill a nice second- or third-line center role for Golden Knights for the foreseeable future.

FLORIDA: Jonathan Marchessault - forward. Any time you can snag a 30-goal scorer in an expansion draft, you're doing well. Marchessault hit that mark for the first time last season, but it appeared the speedy forward may have found his stride on the panhandle. Vegas will need him to bring that scoring touch to the Nevada desert, but I like this pick for the potential it holds.

LOS ANGELES: Brayden McNabb - defenceman. More size on the back end for the Knights without much scoring. McNabb's foot speed should also worry fans of the Knights as he hasn't shown to be an effective shutdown defender yet either. McNabb might have been one of these "gotta pick sonmeone" picks without assuming the contracts of Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik.

CAROLINA: Connor Brickley - forward. He played all last season with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL, and I expect Brickley to get his start in Chicago with the Wolves as member of the Vegas AHL affiliate. He was a decent scorer for the Checkers last season, amassing 26 points, but he's not going to light the world on fire just yet. He's also a UFA, so Brickley may not be in Vegas long.

WINNIPEG: Chris Thorburn - forward. Another unrestricted free agent that the Knights took, the selection of Thorburn was both shocking and surprising in that no one had him heading to the desert. He holds the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise record for games played, but his three goals last season make this pick rather strange for a team needing something other than a four-minute player.

PHILADELPHIA: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - forward. The French forward was a trusted member of Dave Hakstol's checking unit, and he was recently named as an assistant captain due to his leadership in the room. If intangibles were what McPhee and Foley were looking for, they found it with Bellemare who could be a captain with the Golden Knights this season.

TAMPA BAY: Jason Garrison - defenceman. I was a little surprised by this pick, but if Vegas needs scoring from the blue line they could find it with Garrison's booming shot. He won't be a top-line defender, but he'd fit nicely as a middling blueliner. He had a rather poor season last year, but a change of scenery could get Garrison back to old self with the cannon of a shot.

NY ISLANDERS: J-F Berube - goaltender. The 25 year-old has 13 wins in the 25 NHL games he has played, but his stat line isn't all that impressive with a 3.11 GAA and a .900 save percentage. He will get a shot to compete for the backup role, but I expect Berube to anchor the goaltending position for the Chicago Wolves.

NASHVILLE: James Neal - forward. Outstanding pick for the Golden Knights, but it seems most of the media believes he'll be traded once he has recovered from his impending surgery. If Vegas decides to hold onto Neal, though, they are getting a guy who loves to fill the net. The sniper has seven-straight 20-goal seasons, and he would be the bonafide scoring threat in Vegas.

CALGARY: Deryk Engelland - defenceman. Look, I get that he lives in Vegas and has played in Vegas, but if the Golden Knights needed someone for the marketing department they didn't need to waste this pick. Engelland may not even crack the Knights' roster with the defencemen they have assembled, but he is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 so this could be a pick for pick's sake.

TORONTO: Brendan Leipsic - forward. I've always been a Leipsic fan, and I loved watching him with the Toronto Marlies. He scores in bundles in the AHL, but he's only been in six NHL games. I expect him to start in Chicago next season, but possibly end the season as a member of the Golden Knights.

BOSTON: Colin Miller - defenceman. I get the youth idea that Vegas is fostering, but Colin Miller's 13 points in 61 games last season won't scare anyone at this point. He'll enter his third year of pro hockey looking for a spot on the blue line, but he may end up in Chicago simply due to numbers.

OTTAWA: Marc Methot - defenceman. Again, another pick that I love. Methot is the kind of gritty, defensive defenceman that all teams can use, and the Golden Knights picked him up for nothing. While there have been inquiries from what the media have said on his availability, I'd really like to see Vegas hold on to him, give him a letter, and let him anchor this blue line.

SAN JOSE: David Schlemko - defenceman. Vegas grabs another serviceable defenceman who will make them better. His 18 points in 62 games with the Sharks last season isn't overwhelming, but Schlemko is another solid, physical player who can stand up to the rigors of the Western Conference. There's a chance he could be moved being 30 years-old, but if he stays the Golden Knights are better for it.

ST. LOUIS: David Perron - forward. A fantastic addition for the club, Perron is going to fit nicely alongside a player like Cody Eakin. Perron can score, he hits, he checks, and he isn't afraid to go to the net. He could be a big piece of the offence for the Golden Knights at even-strength and on the power-play.

NY RANGERS: Oscar Lindberg - forward. He started the season on fire, but slowed as Alain Vignault moved him into the fourth-line centerman role. He has great hands, good speed, and he should have a shot at the third-line centerman role on this Vegas team. Lindberg won't wow you with flashy moves, but he's a solid piece down the middle.

EDMONTON: Griffin Reinhart - defenceman. The fourth-overall pick in 2012 has yet to find room on a roster, seeing action in just 37 games since being drafted. Reinhart's progress will need to really take a step forward if he expects to make the opening night roster, but I expect the defender to start the season with the Chicago Wolves.

MONTREAL: Alexei Emelin - defenceman. Emelin is known more for his physical game than anything else, so the Knights will still be searching for some offence from their blue line. The physical presence that Emelin brings will be needed, but his foot speed has shown to leave him vulnerable against speedy forwards. He may be traded before the season starts.

ANAHEIM: Clayton Stoner - defenceman. Stoner has never scored more than two goals in a season, and has never played more than 69 games in a season, so it was a little odd to see Vegas select him after appearing in just 14 games last season for the Ducks. Stoner will most likely end up on a bottom pairing or watching from the press box this season.

MINNESOTA: Erik Haula - forward. I really like this pick. Haula has gotten better every season since joining the Wild in 2013. He's most likely going to play a third- or fourth-line role, but the Golden Knights get a very responsible forward who can add goals when called upon in an offensive role. Gallant will love this kid moving forward.

COLUMBUS: William Karlsson - forward. The Golden Knights grabbed the one kid who could make the biggest leap next year in a new role. Karlsson was a tireless penalty killer for the Blue Jackets, and he's shown good speed, good hands, and smart defensive play in his short time in the NHL. Having Karlsson on the roster will make the Knights better next season.

CHICAGO: Trevor Van Riemsdyk - defenceman. The Golden Knights grab another middling defenceman, and they appear they may have a glut of these types of defencemen if they start the season with this roster intact. TVR has a shot at sticking around if he continues to improve as he did this season, but there's a good shot he's playing second or third pairing to start the season.

PITTSBURGH: Marc-Andre Fleury - goaltender. In a pre-arranged deal with the Golden Knights, it was nice to see Fleury get the standing ovation from the Vegas crowd. Fleury is, of course, fresh off a Stanley Cup victory with the Penguins where he was a key piece in their advancing through the first two rounds, and his experience in the NHL should make him the favorite to the opening starter for the Golden Knights.

WASHINGTON: Nate Schmidt - defenceman. I wouldn't be surprised if Nate Schmidt is paired with Jason Garrison on the second pairing this season for the Golden Knights. He's a smart defenceman who never quits, and he has great foot speed and footwork. Schmidt might have the highest ceiling of any of the defencemen selected on the night, and the 25 year-old should be a fixture for the Golden Knights for years to come.

Thanks to the NHL allowing pre-arranged deals to be made, the Golden Knights were also involved in a number of trades where they selected lesser players off unprotected lists to help teams keep their assets. In doing so, the Golden Knights received a few extra players who will help them immensely next season along with picks that will make them stronger in the future. In these deals, they acquired:
  • Shea Theodore, defenceman, from Anaheim.
  • Reilly Smith, forward, from Florida.
  • Alex Tuch, forward, from Minnesota.
  • Mikhail Grabovski, forward, and Jake Bischoff, defenceman, from the New York Islanders.
  • Nikita Gusev, forward, from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • David Clarkson, forward, from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Clarkson, as you're probably aware, is already retired from a chronic injury, so this was a case of Vegas eating a contract to acquire Columbus' first-round pick this year and a 2019 second-round pick.

The Chris Thorburn pick saw the Jets swap their 13th-overall pick and a third-round pick in 2019 for Columbus' first-round pick at 24th-overall plus the selection of Chris Thorburn while protecting Tobias Enstrom and Marko Dano.

There were a number of other picks exchanged in the deals, but Vegas ended up only giving up a fourth-round pick in 2018 in the Reilly Smith deal and a third-round pick in either 2017 or 2018 in the Alex Tuch deal.

The playoffs may still be a pipe dream for the Vegas nights, but I really like the initial team assembled by McPhee and Foley. Admittedly, there will be some weak spots on the team, but they have a bonafide starting goaltender in Fleury, a solid backup in Pickard, a good top pairing of Theodore and Methot, a solid second pairing of Schmidt and Garrison, and they have some decent scoring options with Marchessault, Neal, Smith, and Perron occupying the top four winger positions.

Don't bet on Vegas just yet, but it may not be far off where Vegas odds-makers are putting the Golden Knights in the top-half of the NHL odds to win a Stanley Cup.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Adidas Is Here

The NHL and Adidas unveiled their new looks for tonight as 31 teams are getting the three-stripes treatment. Having been through this once with the Reebok experience, I wasn't holding my breath for anything that blew my mind, but I was expecting some letdowns. That happens when ever new designs are submitted, and twelve NHL teams made some adjustments to their looks. How dramatic were the adjustments? Let's go through these new jerseys. Some will be great, some will be not-so-great. All will be seen on the ice next season in the NHL.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

No real surprises in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa makes a few small tweaks, the Panthers have football numbers atop the shoulders, and the rest seem pretty similar. With four Original Six teams, one team that looks like one in Tampa Bay, one that originally modeled their uniform after the Maple Leafs, one that used the US Army as its template, and a Senators squad which has done well in red, the Atlantic Division should look pretty good next season.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

The Metropolitan Division decided to throw a couple of curve balls at fans. Pittsburgh, the NY Rangers, and the NY Islanders all remain respectable in their clothing choices. Three of eight isn't bad, right?

Columbus decided to go back to their minimalist roots as they did when they switched to Reebok, employing the same piping as the only way of breaking up their monochromatic look. Carolina ditches the shoulder yoke, but brings back a faint hurricane warning flag on the hem stripe. Washington decides to toss a little white into their red while following the Columbus piping idea. New Jersey squared up the shoulder yoke, discarded the hem stripe, and refused to bring back the green. Philly adds white down the arm and under the wrist for a unique variation on the arm-length stripe.

I'm not a fan of what Columbus did, especially after they moved away from the monochromatic look in recent years. Carolina looks off as well, introducing black stripes where the silver stripes used to reside. Washington really should have stuck with their classic look, and New Jersey shouldn't have ditched their traditional elements either. I can live with Philly's look, but the Metropolitan Division really took a step back with the change to Adidas.

CENTRAL DIVISION

For a division that features an Original Six team, an original expansion team, three relocated teams, and two more expansion teams, I am shocked that the best team in the division looks like it's starting over. Chicago, Dallas, and Winnipeg remain unchanged, while St. Louis makes a few striping changes.

Minnesota decided to move the hem stripes to the chest which leaves the jersey feeling somewhat incomplete. Colorado brings back the peak in the hem stripe, and goes pretty vanilla with the yoke-into-arm-length stripe. And that leaves Nashville who really decided to kill their amazing contrasts between yellow and navy blue. Lemme blow this up for you.
Look, there's minimalist, and then there's a complete do-over. Nashville seems to have chosen the latter after seeing the most success their franchise has ever had in the jersey on the right. This looks like some sort of base model on which teams can add additional features. I don;t know why Nashville would agree to this design, but this is awful. Officially, Nashville now is the worst-dressed team in the NHL. And we still haven't seen the Pacific Division. Yes, that's how confident I am of this proclamation. This is not how a Stanley Cup finalist should look in the following season.

PACIFIC DIVISION

This division has a brand-new team, so we'll talk about them in a second. The old Pacific Division sees the Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks, the Arizona Coyotes, the Anaheim Ducks, the San Jose Sharks, and the Calgary Flames remain the same. Calgary actually cleaned up their act by eliminating some black piping around their jerseys, so kudos to them on that despite the fact they should be wearing their classic throwback jerseys full-time. Edmonton, as reported long ago, is indeed going orange with the darker blue which puts them slightly ahead of Nashville in terms of my rankings. I just am not a fan of the orange jerseys.

The one jersey that everyone was interested in, however, was that of the Vegas Golden Knights. I have to admit that the Golden Knights didn't do poorly at all. The colour scheme is unique for hockey, so that's a nice touch. Gray jerseys are rarely seen in hockey as opposed to other pro sports, and these colours seem to work together nicely. I could see myself wearing a potential "Fleury" jersey if he does get picked by Vegas. I'd say Vegas made a few safe bets with this jersey, and it paid off nicely.

Aside from a few misses, Adidas didn't do a terrible job. There's always room for improvement as we know, so let's see what happens in the coming years as well. We should hear news about alternate jerseys in the near future as well, so teams that occasionally wore a different look could have those alternate uniforms return as soon as the 2018-19 season.

The NHL still looks like a professional league, and that's a good thing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!