NFL Divisional Weekend Picks ATS

Divisional round, divisional weekend, I don’t ever know what the f*** to call this weekend.  Wild card weekend, Conference championship weekend, this weekend doesn’t seem to have a proper name.  Anyway, you can figure it out.  It’s my picks against the spread which didn’t do AS bad as they normally do on wild card weekend.  2-2, although 2-3 a loss on the over/under pick.  But normally I get killed on wild card weekend.  There is definitely a trend on wild card weekend in that the games in the last five seasons seem to go either all one way, or all the other.  Anyway, while I normally get crushed on THAT weekend, I normally kick ass on THIS weekend.  Last three seasons I’m 10-2 picking this weekend.  Hopefully that will be a trend that continues.

 

Seattle at Atlanta

Falcons -5.5

This is messed up line, and it keeps moving the opposite way it should be.  I’m looking at this initially and I’m thinking “no WAY the Seahawks being the proven playoff team with the proven playoff QB and still a dominant defense, NO FREAKING WAY should they be 5 point dogs” (now 5.5).  I have to think that Vegas is baiting people into putting their money on the Seahawks.  So even though I had the Seahawks winning this game with my playoff preview, I don’t trust this line at all and am going to bet it the other way here.  I’m expecting a great game here though.

 

Houston at New England

Patriots -16

It’s a monster number, but I just cannot see this going another way.  I think the Texans could come out hard early, make people nervous about this line at the half perhaps being within 3 or 6, but then Belichick will make his adjustments and they’ll run away with it.  Osweiler will get badly exposed in this one, Brady will be able to overcome that good (yet I don’t believe they’re great) Texans defense, and in the end the score won’t be close.

 

Green Bay at Dallas

Packers +4.5

Aaron Rodgers vs a rookie QB.  A damn good rookie QB, but still a rookie QB.  I’m taking Rodgers.  Let’s not forget too that the Packers beat the Cowboys just two seasons ago in Lambeau on this same weekend.  Now you might throw the Dez Bryant disaster at me and say the Cowboys should have won, but you also had Rodgers on essentially one leg playing that game.  There was a lot of worry that Rodgers wouldn’t be able to play in that game going into it.  Yet he still won.  The key here will be the Cowboys defense as it’ll be up to them to at least limit Rodgers early.  If they can, it’ll be tough for the Packers to comeback.  But I don’t think they can.  Even without Jordy Nelson, I just think Rodgers and the Packers are too hot right now for the Cowboys to deal with.

 

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Steelers +1

So basically take the Steelers outright here.  And kind of the same thing here as with the Cowboys v Packers game.  The better TEAM top to bottom are the Chiefs, and I believe they’ll put up a hell of a fight (I think this is going to be a tremendous game).  But in the end, Roethlisberger vs Alex Smith in the playoffs?  I don’t care where the game is, and I know Andy Reid’s record is incredible coming off bye’s, but you have to take Roethlisberger in that scenario.  This is that scenario.  Also, I don’t see who would have an advantage with a storm.  Both teams have great running games, so to me that’s a wash.  But one thing I do like is while I harp on how the Steelers playing up and down to their opponents, I have to believe they’ll be up for this one.

 

Green Bay at Dallas

Over 53.5

If the Packers are going to win, chances are that this line will go over.  It’s that simple.  I’d love to go on and on about it, but that’s what it comes down to.  No weather issues, average defenses, great offenses, it’s a big number but take the over.

 

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April 1st, 2006

You might be wondering what the f*** this date has to do with anything.  You’re likely REALLY wondering what that picture is of.  I simply googled April 1st, 2006 and this is one of the first pictures which came up.  According to google, it is of the Zaney Woodruff Operation reunion.  So hey, thanks to them for there….music?  It looks like they would be a band…doesn’t it?  Anyway, it’s Saturday morning, January 14th, 2017.  Nearly 11 years after the aforementioned April 1st, 2006.  So what’s the significance of this date?  Well, I’ll tell you…first what happened to me on this date.  We’ll get to the significance shortly.

 

It was a sunny April 1st, a brisk spring day as I recall.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I have no clue as to what the weather was like that day.  But I do remember I had our baseball draft that day.  The Sweet Lou Whitaker was holding it’s 3rd annual player auction, and I had a team setup to win in 2006.  With star players such as Wily Tavares for only a dime, amazing Jays closer B.J. Ryan, and the ever flexible Ryan Freel I was sensing a title run.  I actually did make a title run that year, but at the auction that day I started a run on alcohol that was quite impressive.  If someone tosses a name out that has already been tossed or if you mention a name that has yet to be tossed and it’s not your turn to put a player up for auction, you have to do a penalty shot (I’m certain most of you know what penalty shots are, but for those completely useless dip shits out there…)  Didn’t have a list that day, so the penalty shots were a PLENTY.  Probably did 10 or so, in addition to drinking for the entire 7 hours of the auction.  You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with April 1st being significant, but don’t worry it’s coming shortly.

 

I survived though.  Felt pretty tipsy, but was holding my own, and I had to.  The boys were in town for the draft, and it was only 6 o’clock so I had a long ways to go.

 

Next up, a fight with the girlfriend.  So THIS was fun.  She’s in Edmonton, I’m in Lloyd, she’s a huge bitch (note I didn’t use the word “was”), I’m a freaking GEM, yet I’m piled and she wants to pick a fight with me on the phone while I’m drinking at my buddies…and did I mention I was smashed?  So this went on for a good hour, but in retrospect it might have helped me power through, because I had to stop drinking….as much as I was.  What?  If she’s going to go off on me I’m a least going to put my feet up and enjoy a nice cocktail while she does her worst.  Don’t worry, I’ll get to the importance of the date in just one second.

 

Once that was done, back to drinking with my buddies who were just sitting around watching TV.  This took place at the now famous Dale Wells’ household.  You know, the producer of the smash hit movie “Fences” starring Denzel Washington?  No seriously, I was drinking in the house of a Hollywood producer.  In fact, I’ve drank MANY times in that house.  I’ve slept in that house.  I’ve been sick in that house.  I’ve had sexual relations in that house.  The phone number for the house was 780-875-3757.  It probably isn’t anymore as Dale hasn’t lived there for years now, but you should still use that phone number to see if it’s still Dale’s.  Maybe someone will answer who isn’t Dale, but they’ll say “yeah, you’re not the first person to call this number looking for Dale, but I’m sorry you have the wrong number” and just when you tell them you’re sorry for bothering them and thanks, they’ve hung up on you and then you’ll be kind of pissed at that person for a minute or so because they didn’t have to be SUCH a dick and could have at least said bye at the end.  No no no, don’t you bail on this piece now, I’m about to get to the main reason for this piece and what was the big event of April 1st, 2006.

 

But before I do that, we then went out to the bar, where a LOT more drinks were consumed.  Somehow, after this day long bender mixed with all kinds of shots, rye, rum and lots of beer, I’m STILL standing.  And I’m not just still standing, I’m not stumbling and have my wits about me pretty good for a guy who is completely done.  I remember my buddy Geno showed up that night and he was rocking sweat pants in the bar, it was the greatest thing ever!

 

That’s not what was so special about April 1st, 2006 though.  What was so special about April 1st, 2006 was that….oh yeah, I put a dip in!  And I don’t chew, but when you’re MFing obliterated and one of your buddies whips out his Copenhagen and offers me a pinch of it.  Any other time I kindly decline, so much kindness when I decline things because I’m a good guy unlike that prick who’ll hang up on you without saying bye if you got the WRONG NUMBER!!  This time I accepted the dip, ANNNNNNNND anyone who chews will know this is when ALL the liquor hit me at once, and I could not get to that bathroom quickly enough.  To say I was a mess is such a gross understatement…gross being the key word there.  I’ll leave out some gory details, but I got home that night wearing only my boxers because my clothes were…unwearable we will say.

 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the whole reason for this blog and why April 1st, 2006 means anything of any significance whatsoever!  Damn, I basically just wasted a lot of your time!  Completely my fault.

 

It was the last time the battle of Alberta really meant something for both teams (see, I told you I would get to it).  The Flames were leading the Northwest division and if the Oilers wanted to have a shot at winning the division and getting home ice in the 1st round of the playoffs then they really needed to win this one in regulation.  Wasn’t much of a game, Langkow and Huselius  put on a show for the Flames, Horcoff got one back from Hemsky and Smyth to cut the Flames lead to 3-1, and then other than this nothing else happened:

Nice work Georges!

 

So you see now kids?  Enjoy this one tonight, because it’s been too damn long since a somewhat meaningful game to both teams took place after December 1st.  This is a pretty big game!  Not to those fans who have had competent management running their teams the last 11 seasons, but it is to us Alberta folk!

 

I hope you enjoyed my extensive breakdown of the game between the Oilers and Flames on April 1st, 2006.

 

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Barrie Picking

The dismantling of the Colorado Avalanche is about to get underway.  Gabriel Landeskog rumours are popping up everywhere, the scout watch at their games is on, and you have to believe we are going to see upwards of 4 none UFA’s get moved off this roster, in addition to the Jarome Iginla types that’ll be on the move.  One guy who isn’t really getting mentioned as available or unavailable at this time however is Tyson Barrie, and he is the guy the Edmonton Oilers would likely love to get their hands on above anyone else.

It should be added that Dater is likely more plugged into the Avs organization than any other media personality out there.

 

It was no secret last offseason that the Oilers were extremely intrigued as to what was going to happen with Barrie.  From April until the week before the draft, most in the hockey world didn’t think he was about to be dealt, they knew it.  It was just a matter of when and to whom.  Then Joe Sakic came out and declared that Barrie wasn’t going anywhere, which cooled the rumours, but didn’t kill them seeing how he had said the same thing about Ryan O’Reilly right before trading him moments before the 2015 draft.  But things did get settled with the Barrie camp and he re-signed for 4 years/22 million.

 

The big question here for the Avs is why?  Why would you move this guy?  He is just now entering his prime, he’s locked down for the next three seasons, the Avs weakness is on the blueline, and D-men…especially right handed shooting puck movers….are near impossible to find.  So that’s a pretty damn good list of reasons not to do it, but I think there might be a few reasons for the Avs to pull the trigger on moving Barrie out if you dig a little deeper.

 

First of all, the return.  Again I’ll go back to “look at what the Devils got for Adam Larsson”.  I highly doubt anyone would give the Avs  one for one in the middle of the season for Barrie, but he would still net them a massive return.  Saying this immediately makes me think they’ll push any possible Barrie talks to the offseason with the reasoning being “there is no rush, and in the offseason we’ll have 30 teams looking to deal for him”.  I hear that logic all the time, but the truth is that GM’s aren’t anywhere near as desperate in the offseason as they are at the trade deadline.  Plus, for a 26 year old D-man with three years left, anyone who wants him in the offseason will be in on him now.  The offseason won’t make a lick of difference.  So if they did move him by the trade deadline, they would be doing so at his peak value.

 

Second, if this team is going to tear it down, they’ll likely look to be a cap floor team.  The fans in Denver likely aren’t going to be overly excited about another rebuild after they just went through an 8 year process that netted them two playoff appearances, neither of which were actual progression but rather just two lucky seasons.  So that could be a very empty building for the next couple of seasons, and they have some contracts which will be extremely tough to get off the books.  Yes, guys like Duchene and Landeskog are likely to go first, and they have big contracts.  But with any trade involving a big contract now in the NHL, salary pretty much has to be coming back.  So for example, Duchene will likely be dealt.  But they’ll likely only get as much as 3 million off the books for next season.  Then you have guys who are either unmovable or you’ll have to eat the same salary if you move them like Beauchemin, Varlamov, Johnson, Soderberg, Comeau, and Colborne.  And we know MacKinnon isn’t going anywhere.  So from a team budget point of view it could be in the Avs best interest to move Barrie.

 

Third, and this is more so a question, but do we know things are now good with Barrie and the Avs?  I know I always assumed the issue was between him and Patrick Roy, but I don’t know that it was JUST between those two, and I’m not sure others do either.  It could be the case, but it is something I would like an answer to and have never really heard one.  There is also the mindset that you simply just need to shakeup the room.  This core isn’t working, so you have to move on, and Barrie is a big part of this teams core.

 

So this leads to me to the Oilers, and IF the Avs were willing to move Barrie, what might they want?  Like I said earlier, it’ll have to be big.  One nice chip the Oilers have, especially for the Avs, is Caleb Jones.  He played great for the Americans at the World Juniors, he’s nearly a PPG player defenceman in the WHL this season, he’s not far away from playing in the show, and from a marketing standpoint he grew up in Denver.  He’s not a right handed shot like Barrie is, but he is a damn good prospect.

 

They’d also without a doubt need to part with their 2017 1st round pick (this would leave the Oilers without a pick until the 3rd round of the draft).  It happens in just about every deal for a relatively big name, and I believe you’re going to see a lot of 1st round picks on the move between now and February 28th.  It isn’t near as tough of a pill to swallow this year as it’s been in years past.  And besides, who at this point and time would you like the Oiles to get?  Cale Makar?  An undersized, right handed shooting D-man who you’re hoping will become a Tyson Barrie type?

 

I believe Mark Fayne would be in the deal.  The Oilers would need to shed his contract, and for the Avs you’ll have to take on some salary anyway so why not get a RH shot guy who can take the beatings from top lines for a season?  He’d be a cheap buyout after the season, or perhaps Vegas takes him in the expansion draft?

 

We are still lacking a pretty big piece in this deal.  So I believe the Oilers would need to take a very tough look at one of Oscar Klefbom or Brandon Davidson here.  Klefbom on top of all that would likely be too much, so I like Davidson as the guy even though I really love the game both guys bring to the table.  The tricky thing with Davidson could be that his value is a little unknown right now.  He’s proven he can play in the NHL, I see him as a solid number 4 guy as early as next season, but it’s tough to tell how other teams may value him.

 

It’s kind of weird talking about the Oilers packaging D-men (in this case one on the current roster and one who could be the top D prospect), but it’s become a strength in the organization.  You’d still have Klefbom in this scenario, plus Sekera, Nurse, Oesterle, Reinhart, and Simpson (don’t get me wrong, not saying we love the latter three, but they can play on a bottom pair).  You also have kids like William Lagesson and Markus Niemelainen in the system too who aren’t anything flashy, don’t put up numbers offensively, but they both look like solid stay at home types who have mobility, can move the puck and have a chance to play.  Finally, it sure sounds like they want to re-sign Kris Russell.  As I wrote about last week, that’s not ideal in my mind mainly because of what he may cost, but he would make them even deeper on the left side.

 

So for me, I think a pretty solid offer would be Davidson, Jones, Fayne and their 2017 1st round pick for Barrie.  From the Avs point of view you get a kid in Davidson who is actually only 26 days younger than Barrie, but will be a lot cheaper for next season, and the Avs have a need for LH shooting D-men.  You also add two big chips to your prospect pool, and as I said earlier a guy in Fayne who can chew up some tougher minutes next season that’ll shelter some of their kids.  Obviously for the Oilers, you fill a massive hole in your lineup.  He would bring some big time offensive punch from the backend that they lack, specifically on the PP where he would likely slide right onto the top unit.  Darcy McLeod did this great piece digging real deep on Barrie last spring:

http://becauseoilers.blogspot.ca/2016/05/oiler-right-shot-dman-search-2-tyson.html

 

They likely could do Klefbom who is a longer term and smaller cap hit straight up, but I feel like the organization having just committed long term to Klefbom like they did won’t want to move him unless of course it was for a guy they simply couldn’t say no to.

 

Would the Avs do that deal?  I don’t know.  I do believe that’s a real solid offer, but again I’m pretty high on Davidson.  Some might call that being a homer.  And I wouldn’t blame the Avs if they wouldn’t want to move Barrie.  You really need a solid blueline to do a rebuild, something that neither they or the Oilers had all these years.  But you also really need to build up the system.  And the Avs are a bad team with a very shallow prospect pool.

 

The watch is now on though.  Should the Avs be willing to move Barrie, expect the Oilers to be one of the teams most often mentioned as they continue to overhaul their blueline.

 

Before I get going today, I came across this post on facebook Saturday night.  I don’t know Tina or Jason quite frankly, but I know quite a few people that do and figured having a little platform I would try to help out and hopefully a few of you can do the same, so give the link a click and watch the video:

Tina Kenyon

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Wildcard Weekend Picks ATS

I f*****g HATE picking games this weekend!!!  The one year I nailed it, I intentionally picked the opposite of what I thought would happen.  Go back and look, I think it was 2014, I intentionally picked the opposite.  So I was finally right, yet went 0-4 because apparently god hates me.  My short legs and fat stomach weren’t enough for you hey bud?!  Like it’s not bad as in I go 2-2-1 or 2-3 every year.  Oh no, it’s pretty consistently 0-4.  So it doesn’t matter what I write here, I am completely f****d picking these games!  So yeah, don’t use these.  Having said all this, somehow I usually recover and win more than I lose in the playoffs.  So it’s literally just this weekend.

 

I did have an ok season.  Six games over .500 with a record of 43-37-7.  Not what I’d deem a success, but had you gone with my picks ATS all year, you would have won a little coin.  Again though, this particular weekend, use these at your own risk!

 

Oakland at Houston

Texans -4

I want to cry every time I think of the Raiders these days.  They were primed to be a serious threat to the Pats in the AFC, back in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.  That might not be a major gap for some organizations, but the Raiders are NFL royalty.  They’ve had some of the most iconic players and teams in NFL history, and as I always say sports are always better when those teams are winning.  No Derek Carr, no chance.  And the Texans are so boring, with only slightly better quarterbacking than the Raiders without Carr.  The ONE thing that gives me a bit of pause is that Connor Cook is ok.  He’s had all season to learn the playbook, all week to prepare, the Texans won’t have any pro film on him, and he fell in the draft in large part because of his personality, not his talent.  But it’s his first start, against a solid defense, on the road, in the playoffs.  Logically, you just can’t bet this game the other way.

 

Detroit at Seattle

Seahawks -8

Again, just like last week, while I like this Lions team and quite frankly will pull for them in this game, I just do not like the vibe coming from this team.  Matthew Stafford is too dinged up, and he’ll need every bit of zip on his ball he can get against this defense playing in Seattle.  The Seahawks secondary has been noticeably worse (as you’d expect) since Earl Thomas went down.  But Seattle at home in the playoffs, this team just has an invincible kind of feel in that scenario.  I really expect a Seahawks blowout here.

 

Miami at Pittsburgh

Dolphins +11

That’s too many points.  It’s a ridiculous line in my mind.  Sure, any line can be right, but the Dolphins aren’t much different with Matt Moore than they were with Ryan Tannehill.  And even though it’s a playoff game, this Steelers team can be REALLY sleepy, even with it being a must win game.  Look at the Ravens game.  No comparison between those two teams talent wise, and the Steelers were at home, yet they still just barely pulled that one out.  Steelers win, but I believe the Dolphins will surprise and keep this one at least within a TD.

 

NY Giants at Green Bay

Giants +5

Again, this feels like a ridiculous line to me.  Packers should be favored, but only by 2.5 or 3.  Game of the weekend without a doubt.  One of the best offenses vs one of the best defenses, Rodgers vs Manning, two of the most storied teams in NFL history, I said it on Monday that this one has all the ingredients to go down as a classic.  5 points?  Could happen.  But smart money goes on the Giants with that being the number.  I really believe this one will be a field goal either way.

 

NY Giants at Green Bay

Under 44.5

As I just alluded to, I expected this one to be a tight game, and I also expect it to be low scoring.  The Giants D, combined with the Giants offense, combined with brutal temperatures that are expected tomorrow and while I despise taking the under, I just don’t see how you can bet this one any other way.

 

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The Red & White is Blue Today

Well that sucked.  Not the game, the game was incredible.  Quite literally one of the best hockey games we’ll ever see.  And from a growing the game or growing the World Juniors aspect, it was a perfect outcome.  And if we want this tournament to mean something, we can’t win all the time (we also can’t give it to the same area three times in four seasons IIHF…)  We have to go through stretches where we only win gold once in eight years.  But that pesky outcome, as a Canadian, that was a pretty good kick in the balls.

 

And yes, I was wrong.  I puffed my Canadian chest out and declared Canada would win and win decidedly yesterday.  Meh.  I’ve been wrong a TON on here, and I’ll be wrong a TON moving forward.  Canada was just as good as I suspected they would be, but full credit to the Americans for having tremendous resiliency.  I in no way believe they were a better team, but they weren’t a worse team, and there were a few times (4-2 specifically) where they could have easily folded their tent and gone home.  Nobody would have said shit to them.  They didn’t, and now they’ve won three World Juniors in the last eight years…to Canada’s one.

 

Ironically now, we’re on basically the same eight year run as we were from 1997-2004.  One gold in eight years, four silvers (we’ve only got three silvers in this stretch), one horrible finish (8th in 98, this time around it was the 6th last year), and two bronze medals (this might be the most troubling for people this time around, as we’ve only got one bronze in three trips to the bronze medal game).

 

It seems like I’ve been writing this every year now since I’ve started this blog, but it feels like the reminder always needs to be there.  We’re still pumping out much more talent than anyone else, but for whatever reason with the World Juniors our country just goes through these stretches where we get away from doing things right.  And I really do believe a lot of it is mental.  When the pressure is off some of these teams, they’re unbeatable.  You can point to goaltending, and that is the main thing for sure, but it wasn’t last night, and last night you could always tell with the Americans that they weren’t fearful of the situation.  Zero pressure on the States, all the pressure on Canada.  The States have been getting the best of Canada lately too, so even though these are completely different teams then in years past, it still plays a factor just like it does with the Swedes never winning elimination games, yet dominating the round robin.  In 09, the States had a pretty similar team in terms of talent as they did this year, yet when they played Canada on New Years Eve and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, you had zero doubt Canada was going to comeback.

 

So once again, we’re left looking forward to next year.

 

It’s always so difficult to project.  You just never know who’ll end up making their NHL club.  But I would guess that seven of the nine potential returnees will be back.  I’d say Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Taylor Raddysh, Michael McLeod, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are close to locks to being back with this club.  The two who I believe are unlikely yet eligible would be Tyson Jost and Pierre-Luc Dubois.  Dubois wouldn’t disappoint anyone if he wasn’t back, he was very underwhelming in this tournament.  Jost, who as you know by now I’m a massive fan of, started off amazing and really cooled off as the tournament went on.  He is your captain in 2018 should he be back, I guarantee that.

 

The key there though is a 19 year old Carter Hart.  That COULD be the difference, though in 2004 I remember thinking there was no way goaltending would be a problem with Marc-Andre Fleury coming back after nearly carrying Canada to gold by himself in 03.  Anyway, Carter Hart and then I’m guessing at this point Mike DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires looks like he would be the backup, but it’s still way too early to project other players on the team.  If you want some names who appear to be safe bets for next seasons team….Brett Howden, Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Dennis Cholowski, Jordan Kyrou, Owen Tippett, Cale Makar, and Maxime Comtois.  But again, who in the freaking hell knows at this point what’ll happen.  In 2013 I guessed Max Domi, Tom Wilson, and Ryan Pulock would all be on the 2014 team….very wrong, though Domi definitely should have been!

 

I don’t like writing this piece.  I like the one I did two years ago talking about how that may have been the best team Canada ever in a non lockout year.  Man, I’ve done every type of piece on Canada losing the World Juniors now you can imagine.  In 2012 it was how we just had a few bad bounces.  2013 it was how many things needed to change (which they have thankfully).  2014 I talked about how more than anything the losing had become mental both for other teams believing they could beat Canada, and Canada not believing in themselves.  Last year I think I spoke about how things weren’t near as bad as they seemed as they were a bad bounce away from possibly knocking off the Fins who went on to win it all.

 

So forgive me if this piece is a little all over the place, but I’ve wrote about all the other reasons before.  Nothing really left to be said.  Hats off to our boys.  This is one of the few years that we had a damn good team, and just lost to another damn good team.  A shame that it wasn’t decided in a better way, but in fairness:

He’s right…that was pretty sweet.  Let’s close with that video, and hope more fun like this is on the way for Canadian hockey fans.

NOTE: Steve Downie misses the opening shot.  I’m certain this was Don Cherry’s fault for not showing enough shootouts on Rock’em Sock’em videos…

 

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UH OH! It’s the Big, Bad Americans Again…

I’ll never forget the piece I wrote 3 years ago.  It was the 2014 Olympics, and for the entire tournament all you heard from the media was how great the Americans were.  And all their arguments for this had pretty much no basis.  They were digging deep for any flaws Canada possibly had, and looking for any excuse possible to anoint an American team which actually was quite flawed as the top hockey power on the planet.  It wasn’t my most intellectual piece, but I tore the media to shreds in that blog, and going into tonight’s gold medal game it has a very similar feeling.

Oh No!!! It’s the Big Bad Americans!!!

 

 

First things first, it is a major advantage now for Canada to have lost that first game on New Year’s eve.  They’ll have an underdog feel coming into this game.  There is no chance they’ll take the US lightly coming into this game.  These are a couple of the reasons it is insanely tough to beat a team twice in this tournament, or really any other tournament.  The States did just do it against Russia, but they BARELY did it against Russia.  In 2010, Canada won the New Year’s eve game, then the States won the gold medal game.  In 2013, Canada again won the round robin game against the States (I believe that was also NYE, but I honestly can’t recall), and then the States won in the semi finals.  Canada won easily over the Russians in the opener in 2011, and we all know what happened in the gold medal game in 2011.  Think about the 2010 Olympics.  Canada lost to the US in the round robin there.  What happened in the gold medal game though?

 

Another reason it’s a major advantage, because you’re then the team that’ll make the adjustments needed.  When you play a team you just beat, the message from the coach is always “play the same game you just did against these guys, we’re not changing a thing”.  And if he does start making adjustments, what is he basing it on?  So you’re hands are basically tied as a coach.  You tell them to come out hard and get the jump, but you know that initial push will come from the opposition.  It always does, as they’re the team looking for “revenge”.  Eventually the game will settle down and become more of a chess match, but you have to weather the storm.

 

On New Years eve, the initial push came from an American team who had a lot more to win than Canada did.  They wanted to spoil the party for Canada by winning on Canadian soil.  What did Canada get out of it had they won?  Playing the Russians in the semi’s I guess, but it was clear at that point this tournament was a 4 team race assuming the Russians were doing what they always do.  So the US had a big initial push that made the difference in the game.

 

And let’s be honest about something.  In that first game, Canada was tight as could possibly be.  Connor Ingram wasn’t good early.  Canada controlled a large portion of that game.  They blew two 5 on 3’s (if you don’t score on a 5 on 3, it’s more on you than it is about the PK).  So are the people picking the Americans tonight doing it with logic, or are they doing it out of fear?  Or are they doing it because subconsciously it’s a win-win for them?  Canada wins, it’s forgotten or they can say “I’m so glad I was wrong!!!”  Canada loses, “I told you so.”  In their mind it gives them something out of the deal.

 

Fuck that.

 

This comes down to Carter Hart tonight.  If Hart carries over what he did last night, I don’t think this will be that tight of a game.  If he’s on again, the rest of the teams confidence will grow and we seen last night that when this teams confidence is high that they can roll anyone.  That was a freaking BEAT DOWN last night, against what was supposed to be the top team in the tournament.  5-2 was flattering.  It really should have been a 4, 5 or even 6-0 Canada win.

 

I’m not meaning to piss on what the Americans have done in this tournament, but they haven’t been close to that level Canada played at last night, and I don’t see how that momentum doesn’t carry over.  They seemed to stop being sad and started getting mad so to speak.  You can’t sit there and say “here we go again” when things start going shitty.  You have to get pissed about it and find another level.  At 2-1 last night, they did that.  In recent years, other Canadian teams would have crumbled in that moment.  That was a turning point moment, that’ll make Canada tougher mentally, and the US hasn’t had the benefit of going through.

 

Just be honest, and have some damn balls would you?  Can the Americans win this game tonight?  Absolutely.  With everyone going like they should, who has the better team?  Canada.  Should be a great game, but I’m calling Canada to win this game 4-1.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Year End Hot Takes

Man, it just comes and goes so fast doesn’t it?!  The NFL really runs for half the year, August til February.  But it really doesn’t feel like that, because the regular season only goes 4 months.  In September, with kids going back to school, summer ending, it really starts to feel like the end of the year.  And then by the time we get to the actual end of the year, the NFL’s regular season is done.  WHAT?!  Obviously 4 months isn’t a long time, but I really do think that because of the time of year it takes place that it gives it a feel that it goes by even quicker.  Anyway, for my final hot takes piece of the season I figured instead of hitting on what happened in week 17, I’d instead hit on the season itself.  Some of the shit I got right, only a fraction of the millions of things I got wrong, a little bit on all the coaching changes, things I see happening moving forward for some of the non playoff teams, and a playoff preview/prognostication.

 

16 right.  I had 16 correct guesses (and that’s what they are, because nobody has a freaking clue what injuries will occur over the course of a season) as to whom would finish where in the standings.  Some of my best predictions were the AFC West which I had spot on (though had Derek Carr not got hurt they likely win the division), and while I didn’t go as bold as to pick the Dolphins to make the playoffs I did say in the write up about them to keep an eye on them as they could be the surprise team in the AFC.  I had a surprise team in the NFC.  I’d love to tell you it was Detroit, but it wasn’t.  Instead, it was the 3-13 Chicago Bears.  I said in there that I was taking a major swing and it wasn’t likely, but I still went extremely bold and picked them to get a wildcard spot on the NFC, so I own it.  Even trying to pick safely you get a lot wrong, so why bother?  I don’t do it for show, don’t do it for any clicks, but I’m not afraid to say what I think.

 

The coaching firings or in the case of Denver resignings as of right now are as follows: Gus Bradley (Jac), Jeff Fisher (LA), Rex Ryan (Buf), Chip Kelly (SF), Gary Kubiak (Den), and Mike McCoy (SD).  I don’t expect many more from here out, MAYBE the Colts wise up and clean house, but as of writing this late Sunday night it doesn’t sound like they’re going to do that.  Of the firings, I think Chip Kelly is the most ridiculous, but then again if you’re firing Trent Balke then you should fire Chip Kelly too.  Where they screwed up is Balke should have been gone last year at this time.  I really think Mike McCoy had some shitty luck in San Diego.  I know Bill Simmons kills him, but when he came in how good were they?  Did they seriously underachieve at any point?  9-7 (and a playoff win), 9-7, 4-12, and 5-11 this season with an insane amount of injuries and distractions off the field this season, no coach would have done any better.  It is kind of ironic that he had a season like this right before the team is likely to leave town.  A young Bill Belichick had the exact same thing happen to him.  Not saying McCoy is another Belichick, but I do think if he gets a 2nd chance he could thrive.

 

Bold Prediction: I think we’ll at least start hearing about Cam Newton trade rumors (and for those who don’t know, I spell American when I talk NFL).  I don’t mean rumors that’ll be put on a message board (To Panthers: 2018 2nd, 2019 3rd, 2017 6th.  To 49ers: Cam Newton.  Discuss), I mean serious trade rumors that’ll be discussed on ESPN and NFL Network.  The reason for this “bold prediction” is because divas where out their welcome.  You know that guy or girl you follow on twitter and they won’t stop bitching about shit?  Eventually you just get sick of them bitching and you mute their account (I’m likely one of those people).  I have a feeling that the Panthers are ready to mute Cam Newton’s account so to speak.  They’d need a big return, which is why I’m not calling for a trade to actually happen.  But there are teams who could have the right pieces to make it interesting.  Miami?  Arizona?  Washington?  Maybe I’ll be wrong about it all, but how can they not be getting sick of his act after a season like that?

 

It was a devastating way for the Tennessee Titans to end the season.  Not yesterday with the meaningless win against the Texans, but rather the second Marcus Mariota got hurt.  They were going to be a threat in the AFC playoffs had they got in.  But wow, is that team ever set up to be great moving forward.  Thanks to the move back all the way to 15 (then back up to 8) in last year’s draft, the Titans own the 5th and 18th picks in the first round of the draft.  That’s insane for a football team that likely would have been a playoff team this season and is currently one of the youngest in the league.  With a franchise QB, good O-line, solid pass rush, and playing in a weak division, this organization has a great opportunity to be a dominant over the next few seasons.

 

You know I said this a week or so ago and I really believe it: the Browns have a chance to be real good too, though unlike the Titans this is more of a longer term outlook.  It might not seem that way as they’re at rock bottom and have been at rock bottom since what seems like 1995.  But they have the top pick, they have the 13th pick, and what’ll workout to be the 33rd pick, and the 49th pick.  So four picks in the top 50 of the draft.  That’s a great chance to really rebuild things.  The one thing that they may want to explore here though is waiting a season to take a QB.  You could roll the dice on a project in rounds 3-7, but I’m talking about holding off taking one with those 4 top 50 picks.  The method to this madness is they wait until the projected to be QB rich 2018 draft.  The Browns still aren’t going to be good in 2017, and they have RGIII under contract for one more season.  Build up an excellent roster, then go get your franchise QB.  It will be tempting for them to get one of Mitch Trubisky or Dashone Kizer in this draft as both are expected to be top 10 picks and both are Ohio kids.  But neither guy…at least at this point (a TON changes between now and late April so don’t be calling any shots in the draft right now), neither guy is expected to be in the “elite QB realm”.  Oh, and they are sticking with Hue Jackson and should stick with Hue Jackson.  NFL people are really high on the guy and you can’t have it be a revolving door for your head coaching position.

 

One team I just simply have no faith in moving forward is the Buffalo Bills.  Nobody circles the drain quite like the Buffalo Bills unfortunately.  This was one of my favorite teams growing up.  I don’t have a team in the NFL, but for a while I would tell people it was the Bills (I would always feel dumb if I said I didn’t have one).  This gig is pretty undesirable as they don’t have a franchise QB, they don’t have an elite defense, their best player is likely about to hit the downside of his career.  Another thing to consider is that the Pegula’s have been complete zero’s since entering the pro sports world.  Since Terry Pegula bought the Sabres they’ve been near the bottom of the NHL standings, and since buying the Bills they haven’t gone anywhere either.  Right now they have enough talent to stay out of the top 5 in the draft, and not enough to get them to the playoffs.  Combine that with an old stadium, in a city that already has enough things going against it, and it’ll be up to GM Doug Whaley, who has never made a decent hire, to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

 

Unlike the Bills, some teams do make the playoffs.  So with that being said, here is my NFL playoff preview.

 

First game on the docket is Houston v Oakland.  Neither team has a QB, but the Raiders QB situation is somehow worse than the Texans.  Just absolute horse shit luck for the Raiders after finally getting out of the gutter.  Texans will take what’ll be an awful playoff game to watch.

 

Steelers v Dolphins should be the much better matchup in the AFC.  I THINK the Steelers take this game somewhat comfortably, but they’re a sleepy team.  They play up and down to their opponents and when they played down to what they thought was a bad Dolphins squad back in October they got their asses kicked.  Sure, Roethlisberger got hurt in that game, but the Dolphins were in control even prior to that.  It’s an interesting matchup.

 

I don’t see the Lions having a shot to win in Seattle.  Remember, the Seahawks have god on their side…at least it sure seems that way.  It is insane the bounces this team gets when they need them.  Not sure they’ll need them in this game, but if things are going well for the Lions just don’t sleep on that little fact.  It’s sickening, unless you’re a Seahawks fan.

 

Finally the best matchup of the weekend will be the Packers vs the Giants at Lambeau.  I have to think the Packers keep rolling and take this game, but man this is a juicy matchup.  Great offense vs great defense, two great postseason QB’s, it’s got the ingredients to be a classic.  Can’t wait for it.  Again, I think the Packers take it, but I think this is going to be a tight one all the way.

 

So then we go onto the divisional round, where the Pats will take on the Texans which will be an absolute massacre just like the Pats did to them in week 3 with JACOBY BRISSETT as QB, but we’ll also get a great showdown in KC between the Chiefs and the Steelers.  Looking forward to that possibility.  With the game in KC, I really see it as a pretty even matchup.  On the NFC side, Atlanta and Seattle should be pretty good (Dan Quinn facing Pete Carroll), but the sexiest matchup of that weekend will be Dallas and whichever one of the Packers or Giants they play.  I predicted the Packers, so we’ll say the Packers are who they play.  I already said the Pats beat the Texans, I’ll take the Steelers to squeak by the Chiefs, the Seahawks to knock off the Falcons, and the Packers to pull off the upset in Dallas mainly because despite how great Dak Prescott has been all season I can’t take a rookie QB to win a playoff game.

 

AFC title game would be a dandy between the Pats and Steelers who have combined to win the AFC title 9 times in the last 15 seasons, yet have only met twice in the playoffs in those 15 seasons, and not at all since 2004 (Roethlisberger’s rookie season, not near the QB he has become since).  Anyway, Roethlisberger v Brady is a matchup we’ve waited a long time for in the playoffs.  I would expect this game, should we get it, to be a classic.  With home field, and time for Brady and Belichick running out, I’d expect the Pats to take it and head to the Super Bowl.

 

NFC title game would be a rematch of the 2014 game that saw the Packers control for 55 minutes, and then a miracle comeback (or horrific collapse, depends on who you were pulling for) by the Seahawks sent them back to the Super Bowl.  This time around, I believe the Packers would be the better team for the full 60 minutes and get their revenge.

 

Finally, I believe we are going to get a Brady v Rodgers matchup in the Super Bowl.  It seems like since 2010 this matchup has been waiting to happen.  In 2010 the Packers made it, and the Pats looked like they were going to run away with the AFC, only to be upset by the Jets.  Next season both were top seeds, but the Packers were upset by the Giants.  2012?  Nope.  2013?  Not close.  2014 it was happening until Brandon Bostick decided he was Jerry Rice.  So finally (as long as I’m right, and we all know I always am) we’ll get Pats vs Packers, Brady v Rodgers.  And this just feels so much like 2010.  A lot of pundits believe it feels like years the Giants have won it all, but I’ve maintained that this is not a Giants team which is better than their record suggests, they’re worse.  But the Packers looked like they were done.  I wrote them off.  Thought for sure Mike McCarthy was finished as head coach.  Figured Rodgers was having big issues with others in the locker room like some in the media had suggested.  But this team is on fire right now, and just feel like they’re peaking at the perfect time.  So as of right now, I like the Packers to upset the Pats in Super Bowl LI.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Blueline Problems…But Good Blueline Problems

I’m going to start off this piece by asking you all if notice as well that New Year’s is really just a massive crutch for all of us?  “I’m going to change a bunch of things in my life, and I’m going to make them my New Year’s resolution!”  What?  Why can’t they be your Tuesday at 8:06 AM resolution?  What makes a new calendar going up on the wall necessary for that to be possible.  And while I KIND OF get the excuse to party that night (any excuse to party is a good excuse, because I like to party…alright?  Guys like him, they don’t like to party.  But we do.  “Yeah, girls think I’m cool *place man belching audio here*) where in the f*** was I?!  Oh yeah, I KIND OF get the excuse to party, but why are so many people rocking whatever the year is on their faces and celebrating like they’re about to be accepted in past those pearly gates?!  Tools.  Absolute tools.  Want to change something in your life, do it!  That’s it, Nike has been telling you the key for decades now.  January 1 is no different than August 27.

 

ANYWAY….onto the Oilers.

 

It hasn’t been a few months for the Oilers analytics crowd.  Their numbers tell us that the Hall-Larsson deal was a train wreck, yet the Devils are worse than at this time a year ago, and the Oilers are much better.  I agree with them that the Oilers didn’t get the value they should have got in that deal (pretty sure we all agree with that) and there for Peter Chiarelli likely shouldn’t have been so desperate.  Having said that, I could care less what the metrics say, Adam Larsson has improved the Oilers defensively a lot.  I don’t care what Larsson’s minutes are night to night, I’m extremely happy as an Oilers fan to have him on the team.  And what people seem to forget is that Larsson will likely continue to improve, where it’s very likely that Hall is near his peak (even though they’re only a year apart, the prime for a defenceman is of course a lot different from that of a winger).  The analytics crowd also hate Milan Lucic, but a lot of what Lucic brings to the table you simply cannot measure.  You have no clue what kind of intimidation he brings to an opposing lineup, what kind of leadership he brings to a dressing room, what kind of backbone and swagger he brings to the rest of the team.  Add to that 50-60 points who dominates on the wall and is pretty reliable in his own zone (OT goal in San Jose notwithstanding).

 

Analytics are extremely useful and you’re a dinosaur if you think otherwise.  But a lot of the analytics crowd remind me a lot of American liberals in that they can’t figure out that they’re the problem.  A lot of their message is good, but the way a lot of them are presenting that message is awful.  The majority seem to be extremely vocal and all that does is turn people off.  It’s exhausting reading through some of the better analytic guys Twitter feeds.  “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if I can’t measure it in numbers then it doesn’t exist.”  This isn’t a video game or robots playing you know fellas.

 

Anyway, by no means am I meaning to shit on analytics guys (and fully admit I just did), but it does lead me to one of their hot button players, Kris Russell.  The debate that is now on going amongst Oilers fans and media as to whether or not they should sign him to an extension.

 

The window to do this is now open.  And Russell doesn’t look good by the metrics.  I personally hated the signing.  But much like Lucic, what he does bring to the table can’t be measured.  He’s a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game, and you can’t tell me that having those type of players on a team doesn’t have an affect on the rest of the room.  From all accounts he is a great guy in the room, good leader, tough, gets his nose dirty, all great qualities that you want to rub off on others.  Over 82 games, that shit matters, I don’t care if you don’t have a way to measure it.

 

But having said all this, I’m not seeing a reason to re-sign this guy.

 

They got him cheap.  The word was that he wanted over 5 million per from the Leafs at the beginning of free agency.  Everyone seemingly balked at that, and Chiarelli was able to scoop him up at the last minute for a very reasonable 3.1 million for 1 season.

 

Moving forward however, where is the fit?  The Oilers have one big need on the blueline and that is a right handed shot, preferably 2nd pairing defenceman who can QB their PP.  They don’t need lefty D-men.  Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, and Nurse are all locked up for next season.  Should they lose a guy for nothing in the expansion draft like Brandon Davidson, Dillon Simpson is emerging on the farm.  Jordan Oesterle looked good when with the club last season.  And they still at least have Griffin Reinhart.  I’ve given up on his hopes to be a top 4 D-man in the NHL, but I don’t think you can completely write him off at 22 years old.  So they’re set on the left side, and really don’t look like they have an opening for Russell next season.

 

Now, the first thing detractors would likely point out is if I love intangibles and “unmeasurables”, then why wouldn’t I want that back?  Well more than any other reason is the cost.  Russell is likely going to want some security.  So I’m guessing he’s looking for at least 3 and as many as 5 years on a deal, north of 4 million per season.  No thank you.  Those qualities have a limit, especially when others are on the roster who can fill that role.

 

Realistically, the Oilers could let Russell walk, and still dangle one of Klefbom, Nurse or Davidson in a package to land that top 4 RH shot PP QB they’re so desperate for.  I’m not saying they should do that, but just that they have that luxury.

 

I believe the organization is wise enough to realize this.  But while I don’t see a reason to re-sign him, if they do, it’s a virtual guarantee that they’re trading one of their young LH shot D-men.  At this point, I really wonder if they wouldn’t consider dangling Klefbom?  He’s on the first season of a very affordable 7 year deal, and as you’ve likely noticed, he’s not playing great.

 

In his first 20 games I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Coming off his injury problems, there would have to be rust.  But since that point nothing has really changed.  By no means am I saying they should give him away.  But with similar guys to Klefbom in Nurse and Davidson, and then Sekera locked down for another 4 seasons, Klefbom could be a very attractive trade chip.  If you can land a guy who fits what the Oilers need a lot better then I think you really have to look at it.  If you’ve read my stuff, you know how highly I think of Klefbom.  But I prefer the Oilers be as good as they possibly can be rather than having a team simply made up of players I like.

 

But again, I would only even consider that thought if they re-signed Russell.  The first option for me is to let him walk.  Don’t move him at the deadline (unless of course they crash and burn in the 2nd half), but let him walk after the season.  Thanks for coming, we appreciate your contributions, here is a signed picture of you and Katz kid from the day you joined the organization, good luck in Brooklyn.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Week 17 Picks ATS

Didn’t end up doing my hot takes piece last week.  Holidays, then got sick (still sick since I’m writing this on NYE at 11:16 PM, I don’t have a life but I at least have options on NYE so don’t call me a MASSIVE loser).  Don’t feel like writing this, but it’s the last week of the season and I want to see how I finish the season.  40-35-7 on the season, 5-0 sure would be sweet to cap things off as I like the way 10 games over .500 sounds.  This is always a near impossible week to bet though.  I think 5-0 or 0-5 are a lot more likely than 3-2 or 2-3 because of the unpredictability here.

 

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Bengals +1.5

Where is the motivation for the Ravens in this game?  I think the Bengals take this one outright because after a shitty season they’ll likely look to play well for their fans in their season finale.  I guess the Ravens MIGHT put up a fight for Steve Smith, but I just prefer home teams in these meaningless games.  So with the Bengals getting points, I like this bet.

 

Chicago at Minnesota

Bears +6.5

The Bears have fought pretty hard down the stretch.  They suck, but they’ve battled.  The Vikings have simply fallen apart.  I like the team who more so met expectations (the Bears) than the team that failed to live up to expectations (the Vikings).  The Viks were expected to go deep into the playoffs, and everything fell apart.  There for I feel like 6.5 is just too many points to give the Bears.

 

Oakland at Denver

Broncos -1.5

I’m really not understanding why the Broncos aren’t favored by more here.  It’s such a massive blow for the Raiders losing Derek Carr.  And the Broncos motivation will be to help ruin the party for the Raiders possibly winning the AFC West.  They won’t let the Raiders celebrate that on their field.  Plus, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are expected to play, and likely will be auditioning for next season.  The Raiders would LIKE to win, but in the back of their heads they have to know their season is done despite going to the playoffs.

 

Seattle at San Francisco

Seahawks -10

It’s a massive number.  But the reports say the Niners are about to gut the franchise, so that’ll be a massive distraction for this squad.  And then the Seahawks need a win to keep home field possibilities alive.  With the Falcons playing at the same time, the Seahawks won’t know whether or not their shot at 2nd in the NFC is dead while they’re on the field.  So I would GUESS the Seahawks go up big early, pull their starters at the half, and I really believe the Niners will quit.

 

Green Bay at Detroit

Packers -3.5

It just feels like the Packers are red hot and the Lions completely missed the boat.  I’m not a fan of “gut feel” when it comes to betting, but it’s overwhelming going into this game.  Added to this is that the Packers had an extra day off this week and the Lions are on a short week.  Now, I do think the Lions were looking forward to this game on Monday night, but Jim Caldwell should have got his starters out of that game early because this was essentially the must win game.  Just horrible vibes from the Lions, great ones from the Packers, I suspect the Packers win this one going away.

 

Over/Under

 

Dallas at Philadelphia

Over 44

Tony Romo?  Mark Sanchez?  I don’t think it matters, what’ll matter is Philly desperately wanting to run it up on the Cowboys for their fans.  The Cowboys aren’t going to stop anyone in this game, so Carson Wentz will put up big numbers.  Philly might put up 45 on their own since they have zero to lose.

 

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

Over 47

What I’m looking for this week in particular is 2 teams with talented offenses who have nothing to play for.  That way they should be really lose and just looking to put up big numbers.  The Jags with an interim coach who knows he’s not getting the job will do just that.  And the Colts are always a threat to put 30 up at home.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

The Edmonton Oilers Will Be Buyers…Let That Sink In

This is my first piece on the Oilers since the season began.  A) that’ll change!  B) it is really tough to write about a team who is middle of the pack!  I mean, outside of drooling over Connor everyday (something I’m willing to do if you want to read about that), I’m happy to say that this team isn’t giving us much to discuss right now.  What is there, the backup goaltender?  I’ve seen guys not let this go, and while I’m with those guys in that the Gustavsson signing was awful, finding a backup goaltender is about as tough as finding a dude in a strip club.  I could bitch about the Hall trade?  Would that be the trade that made the New Jersey Devils 4 points WORSE than they were through 36 games last season?  I would say people have been nitpicking considering how awful it’s been for the Oilers for such a long time.

 

So, I know this is weird for people, but seeing how we are now only 2 months away from the trade deadline, and the Oilers have a pretty nice cushion on a playoff spot, we have to actually start discussing what this team needs to add!

 

Before I get to that, maybe I’m bias, but I see this team as being pretty damn scary.  Last night might have been the first sign of this team truly busting out.  That was as invisible of a night as you’ll ever see Connor McDavid have, and yet the Oilers really controlled that game.  Have yet to see any of the analytics from it, but from the eyeball test it felt like the Kings were lucky to be within a goal late in the game.  I’m not a Jordan Eberle fan at all, but his shooting percentage won’t continue to be off the charts awful.  Neither will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  This team is good right now, and even without making moves they could make a jump in the next 2 months simply by more guys playing up to their potential.

 

But why depend on that?

 

I think we would all agree that there are 3 area’s where this team needs to upgrade: centre/right wing, right handed shot top 4 D-man, and backup netminder.

 

The first of those 3 I view as the most vital, and to me the better move is to get a centre.  Most might say they need the right winger, and why would you need a centre when you have McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl and then have Letestu playing as good as he is?  Well first of all, depth down the middle is never an issue.  Injuries are a part of the game that a lot of fans love to overlook, but you have to be ready for them.  As you all should know, you can put a centre on the wing, but you can’t put a winger in the middle.  I personally want to see Todd McLellan have the luxury of putting Draisaitl wherever he needs to.  So if you get a guy like say….Tyler Bozak….it would allow McLellan to do that.  Bozak is the guy who really intrigues me.  I don’t know how realistic it is with the Leafs playing well, but I have to think they’d be willing to move him.  He isn’t a cheap cap hit at 4.2 mil for next season.  But he is the ideal 3rd line centre for this hockey team.  Right handed shot, great in the dot (57.2% on the season), has a lot speed, and quietly he’s actually having a nice season offensively with 20 points in 32 games.

 

To me he would be ideal, and there aren’t really any other possibilities right now.  Martin Hanzal is about the only other obvious one, and I’m not a fan of someone possibly making this team slower as they already have shown they have more issues with faster teams.  I’m sure more centres will become available, but as of December 30th, those look like the only 2 quality and realistic options for the Oilers at centre.

 

I didn’t really want to take too hard of a look at what Chiarelli might do on the right side, but one guy I think everyone should at least keep their eye on is….you think I’m going to say Iginla don’t you?!  I did notice that very early on this season that Iginla will start to be discussed for this hockey club.  It’s his hometown, there are a TON of connections in the organization to Jarome Iginla, the Oilers could use a right handed shot like his on the PP.  But no, I wasn’t going to talk Iginla in this piece.  Instead, I have another former Chiarelli pickup in mind.  Brett Connolly.

 

And Brett Connolly has essentially been a bust in this league.  But I look at what he brings to the table, and he can fire the puck, and he is a right handed shot, and he does have size, and he does skate pretty well.  Connolly has only got into 20 games this season with the Caps, only 3 goals and 1 assist, so the chances of him working out are slim.  But seeing how Chiarelli has acquired him before, and the fact that he checks off a lot of the boxes for what the Oilers need on the right side.  For what he would cost, he might be worth the look (should he not end up on waivers…trust me, by no means am I saying he is a likely answer).

 

But we have the blueline, and things have changed a bit in the last few weeks.  The big problem (and good problem) is that Matt Benning keeps taking some big steps.  Last night might have been his best game thus far in the NHL.  His confidence just keeps rising, much like we saw last season with Brandon Davidson.  So while earlier in the season a guy like Michael Stone (impending UFA, likely to be one of the top defencemen available at this deadline) looked to be a great fit for the Oilers, now…would he be that much of an upgrade?

 

But this club does still really need some offensive punch from their blueline.  The need hasn’t changed since the offseason.  A right handed shooting D who can at least play on the top unit PP, if not run it.  The Avs shit show of a season has possibly opened the door on Tyson Barrie yet again.  But there are a lot of problem’s there.  A) the Avs problems are largely on their blueline much like had been the case with the Oilers in the past, and B) he’s locked up for another 3 seasons.  So I can’t see the Avs moving on from him, unless the package coming back is enormous.  I could come up with 3 or 4 trade package ideas, but I try to avoid doing that these days.

 

Some fans will ask the question of should they or shouldn’t they go after Kevin Shattenkirk should the Blues move him before the deadline?  I doubt they will, but if they did…no.  For this season, making the playoffs is this teams Cup.  For what Shattenkirk would cost and knowing he won’t re-sign in Edmonton, it’s just not worth it.  Sucks, because he is the exact player the Oilers need on the blueline, but without re-signing here it would just be a total waste of assets.

 

Finally, the backup tendy.  And again, I really don’t know what the thought process was behind signing Jonas Gustavsson.  He’s a guy who has always had big time talent, but is extremely sloppy technically.  Every once in a while a guy like Dominik Hasek or Tim Thomas comes along and thrives playing like that, in both cases not until they were well into their careers.  But those guys are very much so the exception to the rule.  But as I said off the top, this is not a difficult fix.  Thomas Greiss is ideal.  Keith Kinkaid is an impending UFA and just played out of his skull in Washington last night.  It’s getting to the point in the season where they could fit Ondrej Pavelec under the cap.  Those are 3 guys off the top of my head, all would be upgrades, none of them would cost a lot, those who have been freaking out about this need to chill.  It is not a difficult fix.

 

But I get it.  This organization isn’t giving you much to hate these days.  Are they perfect?  No.  But are they night and day compared to the old regime?  Absolutely.  And they’re solid enough to get this organization to where they need to go.  I’ve seen guys on Twitter start harping on the job Chiarelli did in Boston because Tim Thomas was so great, there for Chiarelli didn’t actually do a good job.  Sure.  If a GM isn’t good thanks to good goaltending, then I guess just about every GM is awful.  Chiarelli took an organization that was in complete SHAMBLES in 2006, and made it a powerhouse.  Top team in the East in 09, Cup in 2011, finals in 2013, President’s trophy in 2014, the guy deserves a little more trust than what a lot of Oilers fans seem to be giving the guy.

 

We should PROBABLY all enjoy this?  The Oilers are 2nd in the Pacific, comfortably in a playoff spot, and it’s not October 30th, it’s December 30th.

 

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