Top 5 Conn Smythe Worthy Performances

Before I start this, we have to go through a few ground rules.  For starters, these are all guys from teams who never won the Cup.  Second, I was born in 83.  And while I can go toe to toe with anyone in the media on the history of hockey, I can’t really judge anyone’s playoff run pre 1984 or so.  Not that I’m able to remember much before 1989, but I do know all about the 84-88 playoffs thanks to my Oilers fandom.


Third, goaltenders aren’t on this list, because the fact is that if I can do a whole list on goaltenders.   It happens so often, that it really isn’t that special of a feat.  Still, let’s give honourable mention to those goaltenders: 2016 Martin Jones, 2014 Henrik Lundqvist, 2013 Tuukka Rask, 2006 Dwayne Roloson, 2004 Mikka Kiprusoff, 2001 Martin Brodeur, 2000 Ed Belfour, 1999 Dominik Hasek, 1998 Olaf Kolzig, 1996 Jon Vanbiesbrouck, 1994 Kirk McLean, 1985 Pelle Lindberg, etc.


It’s really ironic here because it’s a lot of guys who were on Canadian teams.  Not really my fault, there’s been a lot of Canadian teams in the last 23 years who went on dramatic playoff runs only to lose in the seventh game of the Cup final.


T-5. 1997 Eric Lindros

I guess this is a top six really because I kick things off with a tie.  I still remember how much he got CRUSHED for the sweep against the Red Wings.  What was Lindros supposed to do?  They pretty literally didn’t have a goaltender who could stop a puck.  Lindros was incredible through that entire run.  Only until he had to go against Centres like Yzerman and Federov (easily two of the top two way centres in hockey at the time), an OK D-man in Nicklas Lidstrom, and the best coach of all time was he slowed down.  In the moment nobody realized just how great that Red Wings team was, and Lidstrom in particular was just then emerging as one of the games elite defencemen.  But Lindros dominated the playoffs to that point, and still put up three points in four games in the final, he just simply didn’t get any other help.  26 points in just 19 games, and much like a Milan Lucic today there was so much more to Lindros than what the numbers say.  If you were shutting him down on the scoreboard, then he was going to completely dominate you physically.  Unfortunately, Lindros was never better than during this run.  But was it ever a great run!


T-5. 2002 Peter Forsberg

Yep, didn’t even play a game in the final and he’s on this list…he was THAT good!  Although we should be really honest here, in 2002 even the Eastern media wasn’t shy to say that the Eastern Conference was disgusting and would pose zero threat to whoever came out of the West, so game seven between the Red Wings and Avs in the West final was pretty widely regarded as the Cup final.  27 points in just 20 playoff games in an era where you didn’t score.  The guy missed the entire regular season, and his first game back which was game 1 for the Avs vs LA in the playoffs the guy didn’t have an ounce of rust.  Four game winners in that run, two of those were OT winners.  I was and always will be a massive Joe Sakic guy, and always got annoyed when people suggested Forsberg was the better player of the two.  But in the spring of 2002, Forsberg was the best player in the world without a doubt.


4. 1994 Pavel Bure

Another honourable mention at this point goes to Trevor Linden.  It was so tough to leave Linden off of here because it felt like he had more dramatic moments during that run for the Canucks, in particular game seven against the Rangers where he sniped twice.  That shorthanded goal he scored in the second period with the Canucks trailing 2-0 was all heart.  He was such a deadly player early in his career.  But the fact is that they don’t get to game seven, or the final, or the conference final, or get past Calgary without the Russian Rocket.  Started off slow with just three assists in the first four games.  Didn’t score (might not have had a point) in the first four games against the Flames, had only one goal going into game seven.  He did a total 180 after that.  Two goals in that game seven including that OT goal.  He had 15 goals in 18 games from game seven on.  He was simply unstoppable, and incredible to watch.  Not as good as what McDavid is today, but for those people who didn’t get to see Bure in his prime he had that similar game breaking speed with the puck that McDavid has today, which is so rare to see.


3. 1993 Wayne Gretzky

This was a run that’s well remembered simply because pre 2012 being the only season the Kings made the Cup final.  What seems to be somewhat forgotten is not only how tremendous Gretzky was during that run, but how surprising it was.  Gretzky was always good with the Kings, but he never seemed to be QUITE what he was with the Oilers.  Understandable, those Oilers teams had a lot more talent and he started to run into a lot of injury trouble.  He was out the first half of the 93 season due to back surgery and there was talk of him possibly retiring, which made his 93 playoffs all the more amazing.  40 points in just 24 games, three game winners including the controversial OT goal in game six against the Leafs in the conference final which sent that series to a seventh game, and we all know what Gretz then did in game seven.  Gretz had a couple of pretty good runs with the Blues and Rangers in the 96 and 97 playoffs, but this was the last one of his prime.


2. 2004 Jarome Iginla

Hate the Flames or love them, this team was pretty difficult to dislike, and a large reason for that was the way Jarome Iginla played during this run.  Iginla didn’t have the amazing numbers some of the other guys had (different era), but Iginla would get it done in vital moments seemingly every time.  Game seven vs Vancouver he got both Flames goals in regulation, then really was responsible for the Gelinas OT winner with his work in front of the net.  The series against the Sharks was slipping away.  Sharks had won games 3 and 4 and were coming home.  Early in game 5 they went to the pp, and it was Iginla who stepped up with a tremendous solo effort for a short handed goal which completely turned that series around.  In game 5 against Tampa in OT, it’s known as “the shift” in Calgary where Iginla, helmetless and all, completely took over the game which led to an Oleg Saprykin’s goal and the Flames were a win away from the Cup.  And of course here I’m only talking about his goals.  He was physical, his fights with Matthias Ohlund, Derrian Hatcher and Vincent Lecavalier were tremendous and always gave the Flames a big spark, Iginla was a freaking beast in 2004.  He played the way we all would play if we had that kind of talent.


1. 2006 Chris Pronger

Flames fans won’t like me for this, but take it as a compliment to your 2004 team Flames fans.  The 2006 Oilers would not have been anywhere near a Stanley Cup in 06 had it not been for Pronger.  He should have been the Conn Smythe winner in 06 over Cam Ward.  I recall Pierre Lebrun having that same sentiment after game seven.  21 points in 24 games (as a defenceman), was playing 30 minutes a night matched up against guys like Datsyuk, Thornton (in his MVP season), Selanne, and Eric Staal and was completely shutting these guys down.  Three guaranteed hall of famers, and Staal sure looked as though he could become one in 2006 (still will have a shot).  Keep in mind that I never saw Bobby Orr play, but I can say I never have seen another defenceman at the level Pronger was in 06.  He was just simply incredible, seemingly never making a mistake.  Most Oilers fans will never forgive him for what happened in the days following this run, but when you think of 2006, you think of Pronger and how tremendous he was.  He elevated an average team that spring to a team that had it not been for the Dwayne Roloson injury probably would have won the Cup, and there for Mr. Pronger wouldn’t be on this list.  But it happened, and he is, and this Oilers fan will just have to accept it one of these days…


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2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview

April is the best month, isn’t it?!  If you love sports, it is.  Combine the Final Four with MLB opening day, the Masters, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the NBA playoffs, and the NFL draft with the fact that the snow is melting (or in the case here…has melted) and you can rock your flippy floppies around town again, it’s good times!


But obviously this year, especially in Alberta, it’s a lot different.  Five Canadian teams.  It’s only the second time since 1991 that both the Flames and the Oilers have made the playoffs in the same season.  It’s the first time since 1990 that the Flames, the Oilers, and the Leafs have all made it in the same season!  Here is another one for you…it’s the first time since 1993 that three Canadian teams have had home ice advantage.  So all these years of being near the bottom of the standings look as though they’re about to really pay off for the Canadian teams.  The Oilers and Leafs look as though they could be on a collision course in the next few years to meet in the final, and in my opinion the Jets and Flames won’t be far behind.


But that’s in the years to come.  This is 2017, and it’s getting depressing to look three and four years down the road so let’s just focus on what’ll happen in the next two months.


Anaheim vs Calgary

This is going to sound bad.  This is going to sound like a bitter Oilers fan.  I don’t care, because I know that isn’t at all what it’s about and it’s purely from a hockey POV.  The Flames are the weakest team in the West and to me don’t look like a threat to anyone in the conference.  This team hasn’t beat a playoff team with their starting goaltender on regular rest (not on the 2nd half of a back to back) in regulation time since NOVEMBER 23rd!  The media (Eastern media specifically) can rave about how they’ve looked the last few months all they want, the truth is that they’ve simply won the games they should win.  Now, in fairness, that’s not easy to do.  But the fact that they aren’t beating good teams at their best unless it’s in a gimmick format, that’s a terrible sign.  I also don’t think the Flames do anything that would intimidate another team.  Their skill is good not great, they’re not a big team, they have real good speed but not elite speed, the blueline is real solid but not overwhelming, and the goaltending is solid but nothing special.  Then you have the Ducks, who look terrific top to bottom.  I know, they’ve choked in game seven a lot, but don’t you have to take them seven before that becomes a factor?  The Ducks either match everything the Flames have, or better them.  I might have said the Flames are better in net about a month ago, but not the way I’ve seen Gibson play lately.  I just really don’t like them as a playoff team, and out of all the teams they could have played the Ducks are likely the worst matchup of all.

Ducks in 5


Edmonton vs San Jose

A lot of this depends on how healthy both Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.  I believe both are going to play, but I can’t see either of them being near their normal level of play.  If they are, the Oilers are in big trouble here.  The Sharks have a boat load more experience, and match the Oilers speed, size, goaltending, basically it’s the same matchup as Anaheim/Calgary.  But if those two players are what I expect them to be which is shells of there former selves, then the Sharks are at a major disadvantage in this series.  Home ice is pretty vital for the Oilers here just because they’ll be able to keep Vlasic away from McDavid a lot more often.  I know McDavid had success against him and Braun in the regular season, but Vlasic is the type of guy who can raise his game.  But while that’ll be the matchup everyone watches, I believe the X factor here is Brent Burns.  Possibly the best PP weapon in the league this season, and the Oilers PK was horrendous at times in the final two months.  Mind you, the Sharks had the worst PP of all 16 playoff teams, and Burns cooled off dramatically in the final month.  But as an Oilers fan I really fear the PP vs PK matchup here.  Another thing Oilers fans have to know going in, the officiating is going to be disgusting.  Not because it’s the Oilers, but it’s a veteran team vs a youthful team.  It’s humiliating that Elliotte Friedman can go on the air and talk about how a teams strategy will be to take as many penalties as they can against a player and in hockey circles this is accepted, and then they wonder why scoring is down and they have trouble growing the game.  ANYWAY…Tough time picking this one, because I THINK it’ll be the Oilers, but I just hope I’m doing this with the head and not the heart.

Oilers in 7


Chicago vs Nashville

I doubt many will have this one the same, but I’ve been hot and bothered by the Preds since about midseason (maybe I’m going a LITTLE far by saying I’m hot and bothered by them).  When everyone is going for the Preds, they’re damn good!  For me, something just doesn’t feel right about this particular Hawks group.  Full disclosure, outside of the Oilers, I’m pulling for Chicago in the West.  I’d kill for a Hawks/Pens Cup final.  But, I can’t put my finger on it, but I just don’t trust this Hawks team.  Zero adversity all season long, and they really drew the short end of the stick getting Nashville instead of St. Louis in my opinion.  I feel like the Preds can matchup with the Hawks everywhere, and the big X factor in this series is Pekka Rinne.  He’s not near as consistent as he used to be, but still has the ability to raise his game to an elite level.  If he does, and I’m saying he does, it’ll be the big reason the Preds pull off the upset.  As a bit of a Hawks fan, hope I’m wrong.

Preds in 6


Minnesota vs St. Louis

Not at all a sexy matchup here, but a very interesting matchup.  The Wild for 2/3 of the season were the top team in the West and looked like they would cruise to top spot in the Central.  In the last third of the season, Devan Dubnyk resorted back to Oilers Devan Dubnyk and the Wild crashed hard down the stretch.  Meanwhile, until the Ken Hitchcock firing the Blues looked as though they wouldn’t make the playoffs.  Since Mike Yeo has taken over, the Blues, Jake Allen in particular, have been great.  So which way do you go here?  I’m sure most will take the Blues.  I’m taking the Wild.  The Wild analytically, and I go back and forth on how much stock I put into analytics, but analytically the Wild are still a great team, they just aren’t getting saves.  The Blues are now getting saves, but are you going to trust Jake Allen in a pressure spot?  You’re going to be that person?  Ok, good luck with that.  Go watch these two teams in the playoffs two years ago and tell me how Allen looked.  How about the 2010 World Juniors, how’d he look there?  This kid is going to have to prove himself under pressure, and until he does I won’t trust him.

Wild in 6


Montreal vs NY Rangers

What an awful prize for the Habs to win for finishing first in the Atlantic.  I just don’t see how the Habs pull this series out.  Goaltending is pretty much a wash, the Rangers are quicker, the Rangers have as good of a blueline, are stronger down the middle, I think Claude Julien is an elite coach but so is former Habs bench boss Alain Vigneault.  I’m sorry to any Habs fans out there reading this, but I’m just not seeing it.

Rangers in 6


Ottawa vs Boston

I know the Sens managed to sweep the Bruins in the season series.  I know the Sens are the much quicker team of the two.  But the Bruins have so much experience, and so much high end talent that I really think in the end that is what’ll win out.  Plus, we don’t know just how healthy Erik Karlsson will be, and if he’s not 100% (I doubt he is) I’m not seeing how the Senators can win it.

Bruins in 6


Washington vs Toronto

This one might be the biggest shocker pick of all.  Ok, no.  That’ll be the Preds pick.  But the amount of games I go with here might surprise you all.  I just think you have a classic case of one team having all the pressure in the world, not to mention a brutal history, vs a team that nobody expected to be here and simply couldn’t have less to lose.  The Caps could easily sweep this series, so it’s a risky bet putting it out there that I believe it’ll go seven, but I just really believe that with how well coached this Leafs team is and that refuse to die attitude they seem to have, I really believe they’re going to be a very tough out for the Caps.  Washington is still going to take the series, and it might be good for them to get a bit of a scare early on.  You think of a team like the 89 Flames who could never get over the hump, looked like they had an easy first round matchup against the Canucks that season, and it went to OT in game 7 before they advanced.  Point is, these kind of things happen and I’m playing a hunch that the Leafs will push them to the brink.

Caps in 7


Pittsburgh vs Columbus

The biggest problem here is that I don’t think the Blue Jackets have another gear.  I believe we’ve been seeing their best all season long, and that’s great, but A) they likely have now emptied the tank and B) the Pens have a whole other gear to go to, yet still finished ahead of Columbus.  Having said that, I do think the Jackets are going to be a miserable out for the Pens.  Torts can coach in the playoffs, and knows Mike Sullivan well.  The Jackets have an edge in goal no matter who the goaltender is for the Pens.  They’ll start with Matt Murray, but he’s been inconsistent of late so don’t be surprised if Marc-Andre Fleury re-emerges.  Another thing you can’t forget is how miserable Brandon Dubinsky makes life for Sidney Crosby.  Still, despite all of this, and no Kris Letang, I don’t see the Jackets pulling this one out.  The Pens are just simply too talented and too experienced for the Jackets to handle.

Pens in 6


Conference Finals

Anaheim vs Nashville

Not at all a sexy matchup, but has the makings for a great series.  A rematch of the first round a year ago that saw the Preds pull a massive upset to everyone….but me (although maybe I shouldn’t brag, I think I got like three of eight right in the first round last year, and this season I think I took the Kings and Lightning in the final…)  Two teams that have a lot of size, a lot of speed, and a lot of skill.  At midseason I loved the Preds, and still do.  But as we’ve moved towards the playoffs, I’ve been seeing a Ducks team that pretty literally has it all and will be a nightmare for teams to matchup with.  Randy Carlyle has won in the playoffs too, and while I’m not sure he’s a better coach than Bruce Boudreau, I do believe that mentally it’ll help the Ducks simply not having Boudreau’s postseason shortcomings hanging over their heads.

Ducks in 6


Pittsburgh vs NY Rangers

We saw this one in the first round last year as well, and it wasn’t nearly the series Anaheim/Nashville was.  I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the Rangers to show up, and wow did that ever not.  At that point, the Pens had been a massive underachiever since 2009, and the Rangers…NEW YORK…was seemingly always forgotten despite a lot of recent success.  Yet here we are a year later and even without Kris Letang I still like the Pens to come out of the Metro, and I only like the Rangers to get this far because the Atlantic is a bit of a joke.  The Rangers on paper matchup with the Pens pretty good.  But having seen that demolition by the Pens last spring I have a hard time believing it wouldn’t happen again

Pens in 5


Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh vs Anaheim

Not the matchup I’m hoping for, but I think this has the makings of a tremendous Stanley Cup final.  The Ducks can match the Pens speed, have a better blueline should Cam Fowler make it back (and now that the Pens won’t have Letang), and the biggest thing of all is that the Ducks are one of the few teams in the NHL who can matchup with the Pens down the middle.  Kesler vs Crosby, Getzlaf vs Malkin.  You might then say “yeah, but the Pens kill you with the Kessel line”, but the Ducks have recently been running a 3rd line of Antoine Vermette with Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry!  It would be a total pick’em series in my opinion.

Ducks in 7


Conn Smythe – Hampus Lindholm


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They Got Lucky, Just Like All Other Good Teams

It was a nice scene last night at Rogers Place.  It was long overdue for Oilers fans to see their team finally back in the playoffs.  I know I went over it all just yesterday, but from June 19th, 2006 on, this organization, city, and region has taken way more shit than anyone ever deserved.  A little anti-climatic as most of the players and fans focus is on the race inside the Pacific division and much bigger games upcoming both tomorrow night and Saturday, but it was still a great moment and nice to see the monkey finally off the organizations back.


But of course in today’s day and age where bitterness and fake toughness is king, there was a complete hack media member who took to Twitter last night in a desperate attempt to troll Oilers fans.


I’m not going to put up the tweet, I’m not going to mention his name even though I’m sure you know who it is, but also this is not near as much about the tweet as it is with a perception in general.  Had it not been for Darcy McLeod and another buddy of mine responding to it, I wouldn’t have seen it.  I don’t follow hacks on twitter, and trust me this has been my opinion of this particular guy LONG before last night.  I don’t waste my time with people who I know have pretty much zero respect from their peers and are looked at as being purely schtick.  I can promise you that you’ll get far better hockey insight reading anything I’ve wrote than the garbage he comes up with, and I’m far from an egotistical guy.  But a lot of Oilers fans were pretty pissed off about the tweet, so I’m going to poke an extremely large hole in not only that tweet, but the opinion which has reigned around the NHL since April 18th, 2015.


I will never be the guy who will say the Oilers weren’t lucky to win the Connor McDavid lottery.  But a ton of people outside of Edmonton can’t wait to tell Oilers fans that.  Anytime this squad is going to win anything, we’re going to see and hear people who are bitter/butt hurt/hate their lives/hate themselves/whatever have you, who will go to this.  So allow me to list off other teams who “got lucky”.


I’ll start with the one I put on Twitter last night to the hack Devils fan who inspired this piece.  The Devils won three Stanley Cups in large part due to having Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.  I think it’s safe to say that without both those guys, the Devils wouldn’t have won a Cup.  The Devils were literally given Scott Stevens as compensation for the Blues signing Brendan Shanahan away in 1991.  The Devils “lucked” into getting Scott Niedermayer thanks to the Leafs trading them their 1991 1st round pick in 1989 for Tom Kurvers.  Did Lou Lamoriello know in 1989 where the Leafs would pick in 1991 when doing that trade?  Or was he lucky that in 1991 the Leafs were awful?


We all know how the Pens got lucky a few times, didn’t they?  Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, you can even throw Evgeni Malkin in there.  The Pens got pretty lucky didn’t they?  Craig Patrick apparently did nothing to win those back to back Cups in 91 and 92, it was all luck.  Ray Shero did nothing to win his Cup in 09.  Sheer luck.  Take those banners down Pens fans!


The Chicago Blackhawks.  Three Cups in six seasons.  They won the Patrick Kane lottery, and to that point had been terrible for eight of the previous nine seasons.  Went from 5th to 1st in the lottery, and the only reason they were 5th and not 6th, was because the Calgary Flames discovered they had clinched the 8th seed in the West during the 2nd intermission of their 81st game against the Oilers.  The Oilers came back to win the game 3-2 to bump the Hawks down a spot in the standings.  Not only that, they got Jonathan Toews the year before.  Was it not lucky the Pens chose to take Jordan Staal instead of Toews?  Toews was ranked ahead of Staal for most of that season and easily could have been the 2nd overall pick.  Wow, that whole Hawks mini dynasty thing really was just all luck I guess.


No fan base loves to play “the Oilers just got lucky” card more than Calgary Flames fans, a lot of whom have this belief that they’ve simply worked real hard and have earned everything they’ve got in recent years unlike those insanely lucky Oilers…


In 2011 nobody in Calgary knew who the hell the Flames took with their 4th round pick.  Johnny Gaudreau being a college kid could have very little to do with the Flames organization during his time at Boston College.  He played exactly zero games in the AHL.  The Flames didn’t get “lucky” that he turned into the player he has?  That was just all amazing drafting and developing by the Flames hey?  John Weisbrod and Jay Feaster knew that Gaudreau would become a 1st line player in the NHL and also knew that they could wait until exactly the 104th pick in the 2011 draft to take this 1st line player did they?  No luck involved?  What about the Hurricanes passing on Sean Monahan for Elias Linholm?  Not lucky?  All a genius plan devised behind the scenes?  They let Mark Giordano go to Russia, yet there was no luck involved in getting him back and then developing into a top pairing defenceman?  It’s weird, teams usually don’t lose guys who they know are going to be top pairing defencemen to the KHL.


Speaking of late round gems, how about the New England Patriots?  They got a QB in the 6th round once upon a time, 199th overall in the 2000 NFL draft.  It wasn’t lucky that they picked him?  They knew he was going to be the greatest QB of all time did they?  No luck involved?


The Chicago Bulls in 1984 had the 3rd pick in the NBA draft.  Did Rod Thorne and Bulls management at the time know something the rest of the NBA didn’t and that they were about to draft the greatest basketball player of all time?  They didn’t?  So we can just ignore six titles in eight years because the Bulls got lucky to get Michael Jordan so they actually didn’t win anything.  I got that right don’t I?  Seems to fit that same logic.


It might be the worst argument going in sports right now that the Oilers are where they are now because of “luck”.  Two of the four 1st overall picks have been moved out.  One of the others, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, has yet to live up to his potential.  This team isn’t in the playoffs this year without Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, Patrick Maroon, Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, go down the list of all the moves Peter Chiarelli has made.  No doubt, McDavid is the biggest reason they’re in this position and will soon be a contender, but not a chance this team is anywhere near this position without a lot of the tremendous moves that Chiarelli has made.


And Bob Nicholson brought in Chiarelli.  And Kevin Lowe is the reason Daryl Katz knew Nicholson and then hired Nicholson.  So by the same logic as the “the Oilers just got lucky” people, I’m going to say that Lowe is to thank for all this.  Because he made them awful for all those seasons, he was the reason Katz brought in Nicholson, who brought in Chiarelli, who brought in McLellan, etc, etc.  So Lowe made it all happen, isn’t that right “the Oilers just got lucky” people?!


The truth in all this is you have a lot of bitter people about this because they don’t like change and they don’t like being wrong.  The Oilers were the whipping boy for most of these people, and now they had their whipping boy taken away.  This is a psychological habit for a lot of people.  When they see someone looking to better themselves or go further than others believe they could or should, they’ll look to hold those people back.  They’ll mock and trash those people because consciously or subconsciously they don’t like the change and they don’t like seeing people improving themselves.  They could point at the Oilers and laugh, and proudly say “see, told you there rebuild wouldn’t work”.  They took pleasure in it not working, and in large part that was thanks to the Oilers who marketed their rebuild like no other in league history to that point and had a lot of arrogance about how it wouldn’t fail.


But the actual truth is…as much as “the Oilers just got lucky” people don’t like to hear it…is that it has worked.  It took a lot longer than it should have, but in 2010 the cry not just around Edmonton but around the league was that bottoming out was the way to go because you couldn’t get players like Crosby, Toews, Stamkos or Tavares unless you went that route.  Well the Oilers were down there in 2015, just as everyone in 2010 said they needed to be to get that kind of player.  And let’s not forget, they were the one team in 2015 that wasn’t openly tanking to move up in that draft.  The Sabres, Coyotes and Leafs weren’t the least bit shy about getting as many ping pong balls as they could.  While they were doing that, the Oilers were, much to my dismay, helping the Flames put a nail in the coffin of the LA Kings.


Could you not argue that the Oilers were “unlucky” in 2010, 2011 and 2012 that the clear cut 1st overall picks were two wingers and an undersized centre?  By no means am I saying management wasn’t a complete joke, the amateur scouting wasn’t a complete joke, but had those three 1st overall picks been Ekblad, McDavid and Matthews they sure as hell wouldn’t have taken so long to get their rebuild off the ground.


Give me ANY TEAM IN PRO SPORTS who have had success, and I can point to a very fortunate bounce that they got to get them to that point.  Get the fuck over it ladies and gentlemen.  The Oilers are good.  They got extremely lucky to win the pick that netted them Connor McDavid, just like any team with any kind of success got extremely lucky somewhere along the line.


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Time for Reflection

I don’t know if there is a more nostalgic person than me.  I’m just a complete sucker for pretty much anything in the past.  And since my mom joined Facebook it has been easy for me to figure out where I get this from.  It’s a trait that can be annoying to some I’m sure.  I’m constantly looking back on what’s been done and how I miss seemingly everything that’s happened.  It’s made worse by how good my memory is.  But for pieces like this, it’s pretty useful, and with the Oilers on the brink of officially qualifying for the 2017 postseason I believe it’s the perfect time to reflect on some things.


June 19th, 2006.  We all know what that date represents for the Oilers.  That ended up being one SHITTY night.  Since that night, the Oilers fan base has been laying on their backs, spread eagle, and having fans from the other 29 teams in the NHL take turns punting them in the balls with steel toed boots on.


How many false starts did we see in the last 11 seasons?  In April of 2008 if you told an Oilers fan that Tom Gilbert would be basically shit the rest of his career we would have laughed you out of the room.  Not even hesitated.  I met up with a friend at a Jays game in early April 2008 and at the time this friend was VERY close to the team.  And I recall us talking about what Gilbert’s contract would be (as he was an RFA that summer) and he said “I don’t know, but they better get that kid locked up…he’s DAMN GOOD”.  He was the guy they were going to build around on the blueline.  6’3, terrific skater, RH shot, already proving he could log big minutes, 13 goals and 33 points while playing in a shutdown role for the second half of that season, and only 25 years old.  How could he miss?


Another D-man I always freak over is Ryan Whitney.  And for all the disgusting decisions Oilers management made over the years, you don’t get to be quite as bad as they were without some horrendous luck too.  Whitney (and I apologize if you read my stuff, I bring this one up a ton) had 27 points in the first 35 games of the 2011 season.  The guy was a rock on D as well.  He had three years left at a four million a year cap hit.  He was just hitting his prime at 27 years old.  He was becoming the top pairing defenceman he was always projected to be.  And then in game 36 against Buffalo he injures his foot and never again gets close to being that player again.


Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson.  This is it!  These are the kids who are going to lead us on deep playoff runs.  We just missed the playoffs in 2008, but those days are done because this trio is going to lead the Oilers to the top.  Wrong.


Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (was soon to be just Paajarvi).  In the spring of 2010, sure the organization had sunk to the bottom.  But that’s what needed to happen.  Now, with these three kids leading the way, the Oilers are going straight to the top.  Hell, they even have another slick kid coming over from Sweden named Linus Omark!  Only straight up from here, right?!  Nope.


2013, and those three (unfortunately for Mr. Omark not four) have now been joined by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Justin Schultz.  Imagine that, all things were equal in bidding for Schultz and he picked EDMONTON!  Finally, the Oilers were back!  If this wasn’t confirmation, I don’t know what will be….Wrong again.


It really did take some VERY SPECIAL awfulness to completely fuck up things to the degree the Oilers did over all these years.  I knew it was bad in the moment, but as time goes by it just looks worse and worse and worse.


What can you say about the 2014 and 2015 seasons?  This fan base had already gone through what were supposed to be the worst times, and then the team got so much worse.  It was pretty literally depressing.  It had become clear that a losing culture, something the organization fearful of from the start of the “rebuild” in 2010, had become embedded in the team.


I don’t know how so many of you stood by the team the way you did.  I never stopped being an Oilers fan at any point.  It’s what I was born into, and I don’t quit on things, and even though I’m not much of a jersey wearer these days and do my best to look at everything objectively….I’m still an Oilers diehard, it’ll never leave me.  But having said that, I definitely got to a point where I was pretty apathetic to them.  I remember when I wrote my most read piece in November of 2014 which absolutely tore this organization to shreds for their incompetence, fans were still in their corner and coming to their defence.  The building was still packed, sure tickets were easy to come by and we were seeing empty seats on a regular basis, but for an organization which had not only been awful, but always found a way to make things even more embarrassing than they had to be like when Katz wrote an apology letter in the newspaper or Lowe told Mark Spector how he had six rings (as a player) so he knows a thing or two about winning, a lot of you STILL kept at it.


The nightmare really ended April 18th, 2015.  Sure, another tough season was still to come, but the reality was that it was a fresh start.  I might get more pissed now than I did that night and/or the days after when I go back and read or listen to what was being said from outside the market.  “They don’t deserve him”.  Remember that?   Edmonton and Northern Alberta in general were just supposed to be a laughing stock for fans and media, they weren’t supposed to have anything good go their way.


I know none of you have forgot any of this, but I feel like it’s good to reiterate it.  The Oilers got INSANELY lucky to get Connor McDavid, and any success this team now has that’ll always be the go to for any detractors.  Who cares.  Fact is that this fan base deserved something good to break their way for a change.  As big of a break as landing McDavid?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But they deserved a big break and he was it.  If you’re a fan of another team reading this right now, and you disagree with that, let me ask…did your teams superstar force a trade and piss all over your city in the process?  Did your team trade the face of their franchise the same day they were honouring and retiring the number of one of the greatest players to ever play?  Did your team have an owner who was more worried about having his buddies work for him than winning hockey games?  Did your team have a 1st overall pick in one of the worst years to have it?  Did your team have a near flawless attendance record for 10 seasons while not making the playoffs once?  Hell, they only even came close in two of those 10 seasons!


Oilers fans have gone through so much shit to get to this point.  The point being that they clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight.  And while I know it’s anti-climatic seeing that we all know they’re in and the real focus is on the seeding.  But take a moment to remember all of what’s gone on.  The first time they’ve had a game to clinch a playoff spot since April 13th, 2006.  Most of us didn’t know what Facebook was and thought Myspace was the next big thing.  Let all that sink in.  Enjoy it and embrace it because if you’re an Oilers fan there are very few sports fans on this planet who deserve a little success more than you.


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

BETTER?! Why Make it BETTER?! That’s Insane…

HAHAHA he was behind a plant!!!  Do these guys EVER stop with the laughs?!?!  So the GM meetings came and went last week with very little news to come from it.  Oh, there was what Darren Dreger reported on Twitter which was that the GM’s were rattled that the weather was poor in Boca Raton.  I hope everyone was feeling for them in such trying times.


There was lots of talk about possible changes to a few things.  Of course, nothing really came out of it.  Right.  The way these guys see things, it ain’t broke so why fix it.  Fact is, it’s very broke.  But because they focus on how much money they’re making and not on how much money they’re missing out on, they won’t change much.  There are no pressure points to do so.  The only time this league has ever gotten serious about not just increasing scoring but making the game as exciting as they can was coming off the 2005 lockout when they were legitimately worried about how many fans they turned off during that year off.  With no pressure point, this league likely won’t ever get off it’s ass and make the changes they needed to make their game as exciting and entertaining as it can be.


People can say what they want about the NFL, but the NFL is far and away the most progressive of the four major North American sports leagues.  And what pressure point do they ever have to change things?!  The league brought in over 9 BILLION dollars last year, and yet they’re always looking to make changes to better their league.  The NHL?  Nope.  Status quo.  We’re good.  The dinosaurs are happy so everyone should be good.

I would really kick ass in those meetings.  And I’m far more of a traditionalist than most, but it’s clear to me that some major changes need to be made to the pro game to get it to the level which it should be at.  The problem I see with these meetings is that the NHL, when it comes to the on ice product, just has far too many dinosaurs (as I alluded to earlier) and/or guys with only their own interests in mind, trying to figure out how to make the league as a whole better.


Case in point, Lou Lamoriello wants to move to the points system back to 2 points for any kind of win, no loser point.  I know what you’re going to say, the Leafs are horrific in shootouts.  Yep, but I would consider that a fluke and/or an easy fix moving forward.  What isn’t an easy fix is how good a team is at 3 on 3, and the Leafs are really well built to play 3 on 3.  So he wants to reward teams for winning gimmicks, and punish teams who aren’t good at gimmicks.


The whole “loser point” is necessary because teams should be rewarded for getting the tie after 60 minutes of actual hockey.  They shouldn’t be punished for losing at a gimmick which is designed to eliminate ties and allow teams to make their flights that night.  That would be absolute horse shit if the league went that route.


The 3 point system makes MUCH more sense.  Rewards teams who go for the win in regulation (don’t kid yourself, most of this league look to just simply get games to OT), you still get something for getting it to OT, but you don’t fully reward teams who live off winning in 3 on 3 or a shootout.  Yes, the standings won’t look near as sexy as they have the last 10 seasons, but they’ll be a lot more honest so to speak.


But that likely wouldn’t have much of an impact on the game, so I’m going to look at what would.  Some of these are things that I fully believe they should do, and some are just idea’s that they could at least take a look at.  Don’t get livid with me, I’m just tossing suggestions in some cases.


Do away with ROW, just RW

This isn’t a big change, but it’s something I noticed yesterday and should have been fixed last year, if not in the 2015 offseason.  If the Flames lose to the Stars tonight, and then the Oilers happened to lose to Vancouver in regulation tomorrow night, the Oilers and Flames would be tied in the standings.  The Oilers would have one more win in regulation time than the Flames, and they swept the Flames in the season series.  Yet the Flames own the tiebreaker, because the NHL apparently hasn’t figured out that their three on three gimmick is worth much more than it should be.  You cannot seriously put the same value on a three on three win as a regulation win, yet the NHL…as only the NHL would do…does.  Fix it, because it’ll be well beyond ridiculous if that scenario plays out.


Ear pieces and microphones for each official

Another simple change that I could see being added if the officials prefer in the next few seasons.  I just think if you had all the officials on one frequency with the ability to talk to each other throughout the game that it could really help with what is being seen on the ice and help them be even more of a team out there.  Too many times over the years you’ll see situations like both referees with their hands up, and they’ll be calling different penalties on the same team, yet only one call is made.  No, this is horse shit for lack of a better term.  Call what you see, and I’ll hit on that a lot as this goes on.  But as is the case with so many of these I’ll start with, does the league or their officials even want to be better at their job?  Because I sincerely mean this, it sure doesn’t seem like it.


Eye in the sky official

You could go so many ways with this.  I think everyone would agree that having an official off ice, up top to help out the ones on the ice (again, ear pieces and microphones to communicate) would only be beneficial.  But what’s wrong with calling a penalty after the fact for example?  Let’s say a referee misses something, what’s wrong with having an eye in the sky tell the referee that he reviewed a situation and a penalty was missed?  You don’t have to interrupt the play, just simply have an official upstairs at all games, with video of the game (no play by play audio so you don’t have a play by play team influencing the call), and if he sees something he thinks was missed he can go back and look.


He would have until the drop of the puck after the next whistle to call a penalty.  No game delay to give him time to review something, but if something is missed in the moment you can give the eye in the sky the ability to call it after the fact (once the play is dead).  The eye in the sky could also have a quick look in slow motion at any puck over glass or high sticking penalties.  Added bonuses, if the eye in the sky were to see a player embellish a phantom high stick call the refs on the ice perhaps could change their call and get that player for delay of game or unsportsmanlike conduct which would then REALLY cut down on the diving.  Another is that it would at least in theory get rid of those horse shit make up calls that have been one of the most garbage yet accepted parts of hockey for as long as I or I’m sure anyone else can remember.


If the refs on the ice get the call wrong, it’s simply the same as the refs picking up a flag in a football game and you don’t call it.  And again, this isn’t for every single little thing, which is why no review time would be allowed, but it could really help.  Again though I’ll state, I’m not sure how much the league or the officials would want something like this because I’m not sure they want or care to be better at their gigs.


Recognize the stick as part of the player

The one thing that goes on in today’s game above all else that exposes how absolutely embarrassing and moronic the game is officiated today is when a players stick gets slashed.  It’s perfectly fine apparently, unless the players stick breaks, then it’s two minutes.  WHAT!!!!!?  How in the FUCK does this make any sense?!?!?!?  When I get really pissed off it is rare that a non curse word comes out of my mouth, and I’m having a lot of trouble not typing a bunch of them right now or any time I think about that.  I really want to punch somebody when I think about it.  Just fix this already.  Those hacks are out of desperation and really don’t do anything anyway, so call them.  I don’t care if it’s two for a slash or two for stupidity, just call the damn penalty.  A quick lift of the stick, no problem.  To me that’s a good defensive play that you can’t do without good positioning and effort.  However, lifting it and continuing to keep the player tied up, you could call that a hold.  Again, this is an easy fix, and more power plays means more chances.


Of course this could also fall under one umbrella which Gord Miller hit on last week:

PREACH GORDY!  Just simply call the damn game.  Tampa Bay leads the league in power plays per game with just under 3.5.  4 pp’s a game is low, and no team is even averaging that.  WHAT?!


Quit trying to keep things even, and officiate to the score like they so freaking blatantly did in Edmonton last night, like how they won’t call 5 on 3’s anymore.  The only time they’ll do it is if a team is trailing, or if they have to call one because of a puck over glass penalty or something along those lines.  Again, we seen it in Edmonton last night.  Chara with a trip on Draisaitl, couldn’t have been more obvious, but the Bruins were short handed already and the game was scoreless.  At 7-3 Edmonton though they had zero issue calling Russell for a trip to make it a 5 on 3.


There was another blatant example of this in the Pens and Jets game last week.  Jets were on the pp, Carl Hagelin clearly hooked someone (can’t recall who), and no call.  I couldn’t help but notice the Jets were up 3-2 at the time against the defending champs….Then, the Pens got a pp, and while the Pens were on their pp, someone got hooked, arm goes up, and the Pens get a 5 on 3, because they’re the defending champs and they’re trailing in the game.  Not coincidentally, that is where that game turned.  “We don’t want to decide the game”, yet you had no problem deciding the game there.  “We don’t want to decide the game” is code for “we have zero balls to do our job when the pressure is on”.


The officiating has gotten WAY out of hand.  Zdeno Chara stood out to me last night as he should have had three minors called against him by my count in the first period alone, but had none.  It’s not just “veteran calls”, it’s a strategy.  Teams will challenge the refs to call everything, because they know the refs won’t, which is really beneficial to a team like the Bruins who have such a strong penalty kill.  Again I go back to Tampa leading the league with only 3.5 PP’s a game.  They no longer officiate the game, they try to manage the game.  That’s not your job.  As Bill Belichick would say “just do your job”.


You FIX the review process, don’t get rid of it

Something isn’t working right in hockey “get rid of it!!!”.  Do you not remember that we put this in for a good reason?  I believe two things need to be done.


1) it’s a delay of game penalty if you lose a challenge.  In the days since the meetings, others have suggested this, but I have the text messages to prove I have been preaching this for a long time now just in case anyone believes I’m stealing ideas here!  This couldn’t be more obvious.  No coach has a fear of losing his time out.  It’s helpful to have, but it’s not a penalty of any kind to lose it and a review…even a short review…is longer than a time out.  So now you have coaches asking for reviews on just about anything just because worse case scenario they can settle things down if need be.  But if there is a risk of putting your team down a man, NOW it’s risky and you better be damn sure you can win the review.  You still keep the rule that you need to have your time out in order to ask for a review, and you lose it as well if you lose the review, but there has to be more of a penalty for this.


2) put a limit on the review.  This one they actually have proposed, and I’ve again been saying this forever so it’s nice to know they may at least do this.  One of two things here: either the refs get 60-90 seconds to look at the play, or else they get a max of three looks at it.  If it’s not an obvious call, then it’s inconclusive.  Some fans I’ve seen bitch about “so they aren’t supposed to get it right?!”  Look…moron…you put a limit on it so you aren’t going through it with a fine tooth comb literally digging for anything you can find to overturn the call.  Limit the looks because the spirit of the rule was to have the ability to get the obvious calls overturned, not the ticky tack ones.


3) no extra time for coaches to take a look.  This is garbage as well.  Refs will delay, and delay, and delay some more for coaches looking to see if they believe they should challenge a goal.  No.  If it’s obvious, they’ll see that it’s obvious.


This shit is real simple to fix, but if you ask me you have the wrong people in the room looking to change this, because they’re likely looking at it from their teams POV and worried about hurting themselves in certain situations.  Again, the spirit of this rule was so we could eliminate the blatant misses that happen from time to time, like the Matt Duchene goal in 2013.  It’s not to nail the guy who had his foot 3 mm off the ice as the team entered the zone which had absolutely zero impact on how the goal was scored.  So if they implement these three rules, it would likely clean up most of the problems with the process.


Making offensive zone pick plays legal

Now I’m going to get into the ones which are a little more controversial and in no way am I saying these should or shouldn’t happen, just tossing it out there.  If a teammate of a puck carrier in the offensive zone simply skated into the path of a defender chasing the puck carrier, otherwise known as a pick play, it would be two minutes for interference.  Why?  In the NBA this is perfectly legal, and I know this isn’t basketball, but if we are looking to create more offence then why not allow this?  In so many other area’s of the game we would call this “a good veteran move” which is code for “a player who plays dumb but knows exactly what he’s doing and the refs look the other way”.  I’m not saying that in the offensive zone we should allow the offensive players to maul the defensive players, but I believe pick plays, barring laying guys out while setting the pick, could be something they look at.  It would change the look of the game, but perhaps for the better.


Power Plays

This is the area I’ve given the most amount of thought to over the years.  Why are teams allowed to ice it killing off a penalty?  And the team killing the penalty can ice it legally, yet the team with the power play can’t?  What about offsides?  What if the team with the power play didn’t have to worry about offsides, or only an offside pass would be called but not if the puck is carried in with a teammate already in the zone?   Or perhaps make the redline the entry point to the zone instead of the blueline?  And why does the power play end after a goal?  There really are a lot of different things they could look at to make a man advantage a lot more of an advantage.  I’m not saying I would do any of these things, but I do believe they’re worth looking at.  You don’t want to go too far the other way though.  Top power plays being up near 25-28%, that would be great.  Power plays being up over 50%, that goes too far the other way and you don’t want to get it to a point where you discourage physicality and intensity on the ice.


Bigger nets

YEP!  Most of you won’t like this, but I’m 100% with Mike Babcock on this one.  And it’s simple for me.  The size of today’s nets are for goaltenders who were 5’9, 170 pounds.  Today’s tendy’s are AT LEAST 6’3, 220.  I know the concern from people is this would basically eliminate any chance of a goaltender 6’0 or under playing in the NHL again, but it’s heading that way regardless.  No goaltender while on his knees should be taking up the whole net, yet most of these guys do.  And even if they finally get the goaltending equipment under control, these guys are still taking up most of the net.


When most hear bigger nets, at least with the people I’ve talked to about this, they think noticeably bigger.  I’m not saying that.  What I would do is take the size of the average goaltender at a certain time (for example, the 1980’s), and the average size of the goaltenders today and adjust the nets accordingly.  All of a sudden, players can score from the outside, which then forces teams out of any kind of trap.  Because that’s the root of this scoring problem is that teams started forcing players to score from the outside and goaltenders got bigger and bigger, as did the equipment, and players no longer could score stepping over the blueline and ripping it.  And ask Wayne Gretzky, records are great for the game, offensive records in particular.  So many people are worried about what will happen to the records if you increase the size of the nets, yet nobody had a problem with goaltending records getting smashed as the Michelin men started ruling the crease.


You’ll hear dip shits who’ll tell you that “I’ve seen a lot of good 1-0 games”.  You do realize that you’re arguing for the exception rather than the rule don’t you?  Think about the future of the game too.  Popularity with kids is going to be much greater with a higher scoring game, because higher scoring games keep their attention more.  Hell, they keep my attention more!


I don’t want it to go too far where NHL games are ending in 18-14 scores, which is what would happen if every suggestion I just put down happened.  But the NHL should want to get to a 5-4 league rather than the 3-2 league it currently is.  Smaller goal equipment would help that if they ever get serious even about that, but we need more whether it be things that I proposed or other ideas.  They’ve talked about increasing scoring for 20 years now, and outside of one season it’s never happened.


It’s baffling that the league and the PA can’t figure out how much money they’re leaving on the table here.  More goals is more excitement, which is massive for getting kids into your game specifically.  Offensive records being set would also draw more casual fans in and give the league more media attention.  More goals also makes the game more bettor friendly, and don’t underestimate that.  One thing that hurts the NHL a lot is that it’s a difficult league to bet.  Every game is an over/under of either 5, 5.5, or 6 and the spread is always -1.5.  If you could have games where the spread is -2.5 or even 3.5 with an over/under of 7-10 the betting then becomes a lot more interesting.


But at the end of the day, all of this is likely a pipe dream.  Until the dinosaurs start to get out of the way and the league starts to look at a bigger picture, it’ll be all talk, little action.


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

I Thought We Established That D-men Should Cost a Ton?

I may as well just be honest.  I’m bitter about this, so let’s just get right to it.


Last night the Habs got Steve Ott for a 6th round pick.  Ott is essentially done in his career, but he does have a ton of experience, gritty as hell, from every account a terrific guy in the room, he’s a 4th liner but he’s a total glue guy.  Analytics guys probably hate him, but analytics guys will argue up is down if they can find any numbers to back that argument.  Had the Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger on something like Ott for a 6th round pick, I would have been ok with it.  I would probably prefer a guy like that heading into the playoffs then a guy like…say….David Desharnais.


Add to this, you have the NY Rangers who added Brendan Smith from the Red Wings.  They paid a pretty good price for a guy who has been ok, but disappointing in his NHL career.  I’d say Smith is a solid number five guy.  Brandon Davidson I would also consider a number five guy.  I don’t like Davidson AS much, but just last season in my opinion Davidson was better than Smith.  I would say a 2nd round pick for a guy who has a nice contract for next season (1.425 cap hit) and can anchor a bottom pairing is fair in what is expected to be a shitty draft.  Smith got a 2nd and a 2019 3rd.


So a 2nd round pick for a 6th round pick is essentially the value going out and coming in here for Peter Chiarelli.


I do not get this at all, and I’ve had a pretty good grasp on players trade values for the most part over the years.  I have a very good memory, I’m a hockey geek, so it’s not difficult for me to think back to past trades and past situations where certain players were dealt and what the return was.  I’ve been thinking about this one for hours, and I just can’t for the life of me figure out what Chiarelli was thinking.  How do you not get a better offer than THAT?!  And if you don’t, how do you not just say “fine, I’d rather have him for the stretch run and either try to address it in June or lose him”.


Sure, the Oilers have a lot of depth on the blueline (especially on the left side) throughout the organization and they were likely going to lose him in the expansion draft.  I get all of that.  But having depth on defence is vital to an organization heading into the playoffs.  And what the hell does Desharnais add to this club?  No size, he’s not all that fast for only being 5’7, he’s a lefty shot, he’s subpar in the dot, he’s nothing great in his own zone, and his offensive numbers have done nothing but decline since getting 60 points in his first full season in the league all the way down to just 10 points this season in 31 games.  I.  DO.  NOT.  GET.  THIS.  F******.  TRADE.  Anton Lander fills needs for the Oilers better than Desharnais does, and the Oilers got him in Bakersfield.


This is now the 3rd deal Chiarelli has done where I’m just completely dumbfounded.  I 100% back the Larsson/Hall deal, and pretty much have since day one.  But it isn’t as if I didn’t believe they were ridiculous to not get more.  The Devils seriously wouldn’t have gave them Boston’s 2nd round pick in the 2017 draft for a 2017 4th?  They seriously wouldn’t have added THAT?  Come on.  And the Reinhart trade…I’ve lost my skull about that one from the moment it went down and I’m still hot about it.  I really believe that you can blame that deal for Taylor Hall being dealt.  And I love Adam Larsson, please don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather still have Taylor Hall and have used a Joel Eriksson Ek package to land the D-man they needed.


Three deals where the man seemingly got completely fleeced.  It’s bizarre, because I do trust Chiarelli.  The man turned the Bruins into contenders with one top five pick (5th), and he’s done some great moves in his time with the Oilers (the Talbot trade, the Maroon trade, the Benning signing), and a lot of really solid moves.  I’ve never seen a GM seemingly THIS bipolar for lack of a better word.  It’s as though once he zero’s in on a guy he likes (I wouldn’t put Reinhart in that group, I believe that was massively influenced by the clowns who remained from the old regime) he’s willing to simply cave to a price that’s asked.


I can’t speak for all Oilers fans, but the ones I’ve talked with since the deal all shared the same opinion…we’d rather lose Brandon Davidson just like a UFA after the season then get Desharnais…and still lose possibly Reinhart (who as much as I’ve dogged him in this piece, is playing great in the AHL right now) in the expansion draft.


But let’s talk about how the man can salvage this deadline before I end this blog this morning, put a bit more of a happy face on all this.


I really believe Jarome Iginla is a possibility.  There are so many connections to the organization, and he is a right handed shot who can still rip it on the PP.  He also wouldn’t have to play in a top six role with this club, they could shelter him a little bit.  I’m not saying I love the idea, and now I’m getting gun shy to the idea of Chiarelli trading for any player he may like because the return here could be Puljujarvi at the rate he’s going….but I don’t think bringing in Iginla would hurt anything.


Sticking with the Avs, not that I have any inside knowledge of this stuff but a guy I maybe would keep an eye on is Carl Soderberg.  He’s a big cap hit at 4.75 million for another three seasons.  But he doesn’t HAVE to be that big of a cap hit.  Could Chiarelli do Soderberg with the Avs eating 750,000 for Pouliot, maybe a guy like Lander and a prospect?  Pouliot only has two years left on his deal…but I’m just thinking out loud, don’t read anything into this, it’s just a thought.


I do think Pouliot could play a role in a move today.  He maybe has slightly negative value at the moment, but I think he’s very moveable, especially to an analytics heavy team like Arizona or Florida.  The Panthers have a guy like Nick Bjugstad who word is they’ve soured on quite a bit, and he’s virtually the same cap hit as Pouliot.  No idea if those rumours of the Panthers souring on Bjugstad are legitimate, but if they were I’d definitely have time for the kid.  And again, I believe Pouliot could be part of the deal simply because he’s big, can skate, and has always had very good analytic numbers…not to mention good numbers period.  He was well worth the 5 year/20 million dollar contract the Oilers gave him up until this season.  A guy like Bjugstad who is still young, huge, can really skate for a guy so big, and a right handed shot on top of all that will still bring in a lot in a trade even if he isn’t living up to his contract this season.


Another guy that you don’t hear a word about is Bryan Little.  And hey, probably because Kevin Cheveldayoff has zero interest in moving the guy.  But he’s a UFA after next season, and this team is loaded up front.  Are they wanting to pay him 5 mil per to be on their 3rd line moving forward?  Right handed shot, great in the dot, and can produce five on five (23 ES points in 41 games this season).  He obviously wouldn’t be cheap, but I wonder if he could be had?  And if so do the Oilers have the right pieces to make it happen?  Again, just spit thinking out loud, though I’m sure someone is going to look to fight me for even bringing it up in the comments section….there’s always one knob who takes these things far too seriously.


Then you have the backups.  I won’t go in depth on any of them, but it sure would be nice to land someone Todd McLellan has some confidence in so he can give Cam Talbot a little more rest down the stretch.  Halak even with the Islanders eating 50% of his deal is still 2.25 million next season.  Do you really want to pay your backup goaltender that much?  Even though he’s having a tough season I’ve always like Neuvirth, but I wouldn’t give up much for him.  Maybe a 5th round pick.  Depending on his health I would be interested in Ondrej Pavelec if the Jets retained 50% of what’s left on his deal (UFA after the season).  Reto Berra is another guy who has been mentioned as a possibility.  Not sure he’s an upgrade on Brossoit, but it’s not as much about that as it is Todd McLellan having confidence in the guy.  I don’t understand why Brossoit hasn’t been given a couple more games to prove his worth, I think he’s looked solid when given the chance this season, but if they can upgrade I still think they should pull the trigger.


But I’m not getting over this Desharnais/Davidson swap by the end of the day.  Clearly Chiarelli, who seen Desharnais a ton while in Boston, loves the kid.  He better be right on him, because if he’s not this fan base could turn on him in a hurry and we don’t need that kind of drama back in town.


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Trade Deadline: Matt Duchene

I’ve spent the last three weeks or so mainly working on my top prospects list and then my mock draft.  So I did the Mike Smith blog about where he could be dealt and what for, and I stated in that the names were going to get bigger.  Well…Duchene is bigger for sure, but he’s not too surprising.  Still, the trade speculation surrounding him and Landeskog is really heating up so I better get this piece in before they’re dealt!


Let’s be honest though, this is the NHL.  And in today’s NHL, GM’s claim they can’t do deals in season anymore and look for a billion excuses as to why that is.  Mainly it’s because of that damn cap, it ruins everything!!  Of course, every team has a capologist who has that gig in large part of making the cap work at all times for your team…soooooo….you’re all REALLY full of shit.  The truth here is that these guys want to do anything they can to keep their jobs, and the less bad deals you make the better you’ll look.  So why make trades?  Anyway, that’s a rant I make a lot, probably will make again.  Onto Duchene.


Like the Smith piece before I begin, not saying these deals will happen (which is why I add in “potential for deal” at the end), but rather I’m just looking at who I think should be in on him or what teams are rumoured to be in on him, and what the best offer for both sides could be.  I could likely make an argument for 15 teams going after Duchene, but I’ll stick to the eight…yes eight teams that I believe either should be or will be the most desperate to land the centre.  Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Montreal, NY Islanders, Ottawa and Washington.  That’s a long list, but then again he’s close to a 1st line centre in his prime with a year left on his deal.  The value of Duchene won’t match his point totals for this season.  But make no mistake, this guy is a stud centre who is a game changer for whichever team may add him.


Why Calgary: It’s not something that gets touched on much with the Flames, mostly because the major need is a top end goaltender, but it would be tough to deny they aren’t strong enough down the middle long term.  I love Sean Monahan, but I see him as an elite 2nd line centre on a Cup contender.  Sam Bennett is scuffling and more so looks like he’s going to be a VERY streaky player.  If I’m Brad Treliving or Brian Burke, I’m not waiting to see if Bennett can become the guy they need him to be when a guy like Duchene could be had.

Potential offer: Sam Bennett, Brett Kulak, Rasmus Andersson, and a 2017 1st (unprotected).

I’m sure the Flames wouldn’t want to give up Bennett in a deal, but you have to give something valuable and if you give up Bennett he’s not creating a hole in the lineup.  Brodie or Hamilton going would really weaken the strength of this team, and they know how valuable D-men are.  With that being said, Kulak has been in and out of the Flames lineup all year and does show signs of being a number four guy someday.  Andersson isn’t the flashiest prospect, but he isn’t far away from playing in the show.  From the Avs point of view here they aren’t getting a D-man who can play now so the rest of the package better be pretty sweet.

Potential for deal: 3/10.  As much as I think the Flames need Duchene, much like with Mike Smith, I just don’t know if the pieces will fit.  Bennett is obviously still going to have real good trade value, but the Avs currently don’t need a replacement for Duchene as bad as they need immediate help on the blueline.  That could change in a possible Gabriel Landeskog deal, but for now that’s the landscape.


Why Carolina: This team is right on the cusp of being a playoff regular.  That blueline is going to be rock solid, and in fact I believe they have the best defence organization wide in the NHL.  Not the best current group, but throughout the organization this club is second to none on the blueline.  Now they need to add a stud up front who can do a lot of the heavy lifting.

Potential offer: Jake Bean, Teuvo Teravainen, 2017 1st round pick (unprotected).

This is pretty much spot on what the Avs are reportedly looking for, and it’s a price the Canes can afford to pay.  The only problem for Carolina is if they can re-sign Duchene.  They’d need some sort of word that he is interested in signing there long term, which I can’t see why he wouldn’t be.  With Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jacob Slavin in the mix as LH shooting D, the Canes really don’t have a lot of need for Bean moving forward.  Teravainen is solid, but I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to take another step.  He seems content just being a solid top nine forward.  Of course that 2017 1st is unprotected and at this point it looks to be in the lottery.  In this draft, the Avs are likely only getting good value with a 1st if it’s a top 15 pick.  I’m also well aware that Adrian Dater has said on twitter that Justin Faulk is in play for the Canes, but he gets that from his Avs sources, not the Canes.  I can’t see it as the Canes would then lack a RH shooting D, they need to make sure they have some experience back there, and he’s just entering his prime.

Potential for deal: 6/10.  This would be higher if the Canes knew they could lock down Duchene long term.  I also believe the Canes would like to land Landeskog if they couldn’t get Duchene, and will end up getting one of them mainly because the fit between the two teams is too good.  This is what happens when you stock pile D in the draft these days kids.  You pretty much have your pick of the best offensive talent available.


Why Columbus: Curse you Elliotte Friedman!  I had this written a week before he brought it up on Oilers Now a few weeks back.  But if you’re doing more than admiring the Blue Jackets win streak then you aren’t looking close enough.  I said it the day (pretty much exactly a year ago) they did the Johansen/Jones swap that they had a big hole to fill.  Johansen wasn’t a 1st line centre, but he definitely had the ability to become that guy, and they no longer have that guy on the roster.  So the chance to get a kid like Duchene is massive.

Potential offer: David Clarkson (limited NTC), Ryan Murray, Sonny Milano, 2017 1st round pick, 2018 1st round pick.  Avs also send Columbus a conditional 2018 2nd round pick.

Stay with me on this one.  This is the Blue Jackets attempting to kill two birds with one stone here.  Shed the Clarkson contract, and land a 1st line centre.  They have to know that with a 1st line centre this club is locked and loaded moving forward, and to get that without upsetting the main roster too badly who have been incredible to this point of the season they’ll need to pay out their ass, so they do.  I more so added the Avs 2nd round pick to this so the Jackets would have a bit of ammo to go after a LH shot D-man who could replace Murray short term, like a Dimitry Kulikov.  But essentially it’s four 1st round picks for Duchene.  The Avs seem hell bent on landing a defenceman in both a Duchene deal and Landeskog deal, so Murray even though he’s playing great is the most expendable piece on that blueline.  Milano I find to be expendable because the Blue Jackets are already so deep up front, especially with left handed shooting guys.  Plus, two 1st rounders.  But the kicker is the Avs have to eat that contract, which has one more season left at 7 million of real dollars.  After that it goes down to 4.75 for 2019, 3.25 for 2020.  I don’t know if Avs ownership would be willing to eat that 7 million for next season with the building likely half empty every night, but that’s why you toss the biggest offer at them.  You might even consider taking out one of the 1st’s or Milano and adding Dubois to sweeten the pot for the Avs even more if need be.

Potential for deal: 6/10.  Would the Blue Jackets have the balls to take this big of a swing?  It feels like they could today, but you never know what’ll happen moving forward and how many of those assets they’d need down the line.  Plus, it’s a hell of a deal for the Avs, as long as they are willing to swallow the Clarkson contract.


Why Florida: This is purely a hunch, but remember that the Panthers are all in on analytics.  Matt Duchene is a darling in the analytics world as his possession numbers are elite.  Add to that, while the Panthers are pretty good already up front, they could stand to be upgraded down the middle.

Potential offer: Nick Bjugstad, Alex Petrovic, Denis Malgin, and a 2017 1st round pick (unprotected).

Bjugstad has fallen out of favour with the Panthers after a brutal season, so he could be had.  Petrovic is damn good, but I’m looking at the Panthers blueline and he appears to be expendable as they have five RH shot D-men on the big club.  I’m a big fan of Malgin, but I don’t think the Panthers would balk at adding him to the deal.  His speed is tremendous, but he’s really small and likely won’t have the type of skill that will make him a big time offensive star.  Isn’t a big need to protect their 2017 1st as they already have dealt their 2018 2nd, and they have two extra 3rd rounders this season so they would still have three picks in the top 90 of this draft.  And again, it’s not a good draft.

Potential for deal: 6/10.  This is actually a little more of a need than you may think for the Panthers.  Obviously the injuries to Barkov and Huberdeau had really hurt their season more than the off ice drama.  But it still doesn’t go above a 6/10 for me simply because you’re not hearing that the Panthers are looking for a centre.  Keep an eye on them though because as I pointed out off the top Duchene is an analytics darling and they’re perhaps the most analytics heavy team in the league.


Why Montreal: The window for this team is now open.  You can debate all day whether or not this team is a true contender even if they were to land Matt Duchene, but they way they’re constructed Marc Bergevin has to make a big move now.  Shea Weber may only have a few years left as an elite defenceman.  Carey Price only has a year left on his contract and even though it’s unlikely he would leave Montreal at this point, you never know what might happen in the next 16 months.  And this club is desperate for a horse down the middle which Duchene would be.

Potential offer: Tomas Plekanec (limited NTC), Mikhail Sergachev, Daniel Carr, 2017 1st round pick.

The trick here for the Habs is of course getting Plekanec to waive that NTC.  Not an easy task.  But if they could, it really opens things up for Marc Bergevin to get things done.  Sergachev would be a GREAT get for the Avs, fits perfectly for them and I’m sure they were hoping he was getting to them last season (though I can’t see them being upset with Jost).  Carr has struggled getting his game going this season with the Habs and was recently demoted, but he does show some promise, especially did last season prior to his injury.  I don’t think much of this really needs too much explaining honestly.  Three good pieces for Duchene, and Plekanec would be salary but I don’t see him as having a lot of negative value.  Plus, you always need some solid vets around for a rebuild and Plekanec is a solid vet.

Potential for deal: 7/10.  I believe both teams would do this.  The problem is that NTC attached to Plekanec.  If Plekanec won’t go then it would have to be Desharnais in the deal, and that would only free up 3.5 million.  They have 2.3 million in cap space right now, and Duchene is a 6 million cap hit.  Those numbers don’t add up.


Why NY Islanders: A lot of people will scratch their heads at this one, which is very fair.  But the Islanders haven’t done a good job at surrounding John Tavares with much.  They’re ok up front, they’re ok on the blueline, they’re ok in net.  They really remind me (ironically) of the 1997 Oilers who were led by now Isles bench boss Doug Weight.  A ton of fight on this team, but just not enough talent to get anywhere.  Anyway, with Tavares a little over a year away from being a UFA himself, now might be the time for Garth Snow to step up to the plate and make the Islanders a more desirable organization to stay with, and Duchene would help that out.  Tavares wouldn’t have to do near as much heavy lifting, and should the Islanders end up playing the Atlantic division in the playoffs they would likely be the best team down the middle should the three teams be Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Potential offer: Mikhael Grabovski, Ryan Pulock, Matthew Barzal, and Michael Dal Colle.

No 1st rounder here, instead going with the inconsistent Dal Colle as the fourth piece.  Grabovski is likely done, so his cap hit would likely be of interest to an Avs team which could be looking to be around the floor next season.  Pulock is knocking at the door to get in the league and has a bomb from the point something the Avs have lacked since maybe Rob Blake’s days with the club.  Barzal is the biggest piece in this deal and while he’s a great prospect he isn’t helping the Islanders today.  And finally Dal Colle will still have some value, but it is really puzzling how this kid fell off.  Seemed like a can’t miss prospect when the Isles took him at 5 in 2014.

Potential for deal: 5/10.  I really believe Garth Snow has the balls to do something like this.  He is one GM who hasn’t been afraid to step up to the plate.  Thomas Vanek, all the picks he’s dealt to get UFA’s in there before July 1st in an attempt to sign them, he offered all his 2012 draft to Scott Howson just to move up two spots to take Ryan Murray, the guy has balls.  But I see better offers on the table for the Avs here which is why above anything else this likely doesn’t happen.


Why Ottawa: Don’t think I need to explain why, as even Pierre Dorian hasn’t really denied his interest level in Duchene.  The Sens are solid down the middle, but no doubt Duchene would be an upgrade for them.  The problem is what the Sens have, or rather don’t have to give up in a deal.

Potential offer: Cody Ceci, Curtis Lazar, and a 2017 1st round pick.

I debated putting Clarke McArthur in this deal as it looks like his career could be over (not cool to type that seeing how I’ve known and been real good with Clarke since we were kids) for cap purposes but it doesn’t look like the Sens would have to do that.  Option is there though.  I don’t like the idea of the Sens giving up Ceci in this deal at all, but they kind of have to if they want to meet the Avs price.  Lazar is a favourite of mine, but the kids career has stalled.  Can’t imagine he won’t get it back on track, but for now that’s where he’s at.  And then of course, again, the 1st, which isn’t near as attractive as some of the other teams chasing Duchene would be.

Potential for deal: 3/10.  Without Chabot in this deal, I just don’t see a way the Sens can this done.  And while I have him in this, I don’t think they can afford to give up Ceci.  You give up Ceci and you go into the playoffs with a pretty big hole in your defence.  So are you really gaining much strengthening your team at centre by depleting your team on the blueline?  From all reports the Sens really want Duchene, but they just aren’t a good fit for the Avs unless everyone else refuses to give them the D-men they crave.


Why Washington:  I’ve maintained since the end of last season that the Caps need a massive upgrade down the middle and Duchene would give them that.  Put him in Washington and he could thrive, and give the Caps a tremendous trio down the middle if they prefer, or put a guy like Kuznetsov on the wing.  But this team has to go for it this season in my opinion.  You can sit back and not do a move like this yet again, but you’re likely not getting past the Penguins with what you got.  Ovechkin is going to be out of his prime soon, if he isn’t already.  Don’t you think that now is the time to push for a Cup?

Potential offer: Marcus Johansson, 2017 1st round pick, Madison Bowey, and Lucas Johansen.

This hurts the Caps long term, especially if they’re about to lose Karl Alzner.  But again, I really believe they must take a home run swing this season.  It’s not as if this would be the last season of this deal benefitting the Caps with Duchene locked down for another year.  But

Potential of deal: 6/10.  I believe they SHOULD do this, but it’s been the history of the Caps franchise to play it safe and not take a home run swing like this would be.


It’s questionable whether or not Duchene will get moved prior to the trade deadline, but I believe the Avs should do it now.  I can’t imagine many more teams would be in on him in the summer with only a year left on his deal.  You got a sellers market, and teams looking at him as an option for two years as opposed to one.  Now is the time.


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2017 NHL Mock Draft 1.0

My good friend Shane Tomayer is going to hate me, but it’s back again, my NHL mock draft.  Lets be real here as Shane would appreciate, these are basically a waste of time to do.  Most do these are an exercise in guessing who is going to go where.  The angle I try to take is that I like to look at what teams need going into the drat.  Sure, I put a player down for a team and explain why he would fit or why that team would like him, but in no way am I expecting things to play out like this on June 23rd.  Also, doing it prior to the trade deadline like this, it gives you an idea of who the 1st round pick could be.  A lot of 1st round picks are going to be dealt this year with it being such a weak draft year, so by seeing who could be your 1st round pick it’ll give you a better idea of what the value of the pick is going to be.  It’s easy to deal a pick, it’s a little more difficult when the pick has a name…


As always, a little insight to how I look at things.  I’m looking at what teams have 25-27 and under in their organization.  I look at need and not just the BPA (best player available) these days as do most teams because it is getting more and more difficult to make trades in the NHL.  Also I try and look for patterns with teams and their past four or five drafts.  Do they go CHL heavy?  Do they love the NCAA/USHL kids?  Maybe they’re big on Europeans?


Standings as of 2/9/17 based off points percentage.  Division leaders own the final four picks.  Player rankings from my top 32 prospect list are given on the right side of the players names.  Also, just to liven things up a little I went with some teams retro symbols.



1. Nolan Patrick (1) Brandon  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Scheifele

Currently they don’t have a need for another centre, I know.  But they’re likely moving both Duchene and Landeskog and allegedly are asking for young D-men in return.  Plus, Patrick is the top pick.  He’s a guy you kind of have to take.  So while I’m not a fan of BPA drafting these days, I feel like should they bring in the right GM he can make this work.



2. Nico Hischier (2)  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Saku Koivu

Prior to the 2015 draft I suggested that Dylan Strome had serious bust potential.  Two years later that possibility is alive and well because you don’t send a 3rd overall pick back to junior for his final year of junior.  So while this team had drafted nothing but forwards in the top 60 from 2012-2015, they still aren’t very set up front.  They actually are decently situated on the blueline moving forward.  Plus, like with Patrick, Hischier is just simply the pick.  Liljegren isn’t close to him right now, so if things fall this way then the Yotes have to take the centre.



3. Timothy Liljegren (3)  Rogle  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 191  Shot: R

Comparison: Kris Letang

It’ll be very interesting to see where George McPhee goes here.  If it’s me, this is the perfect scenario.  You get a potential top pairing right handed shooting D-man who’ll be able to QB your PP…a pretty valuable building block.  Having seen the struggles for the Oilers all these years it has made me an even bigger believer in how valuable D-men are.  So George McPhee better make sure his blueline is as good as it can possibly be.



4. Gabe Vilardi (4)  Windsor  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Ryan Johansen

They’re looking pretty damn good down the middle.  Spezza just turned 34, so his best days are behind him, but they still have Seguin, Eakin, Shore, and Faksa so even though they don’t have much coming in the system at centre, they have a lot of young kids on the big club.  Still, they would take Vilardi.  You get a kid who is that size, RH shot, you simply move a centre to the wing whether it’s Vilardi or one of the other kids.  This team is really loaded on D, and this high in the draft you aren’t taking a goaltender, and they have too many forwards who play on the perimeter, so Vilardi would be a great pick.  Plus he’s the BPA.



5. Cale Makar (7)  Brooks  AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 175  Shot: R

Comparison: Dan Boyle

It’s not a current need on the big club.  In fact, they’re overloaded with RH shooting D.  But Myers injury problems are troubling, and I still believe Jacob Trouba is going to be moved out sooner or later because I believe his issue is being in Canada, not that he’s lower on the depth chart.  Makar would be a reach here, at least today he would be, but a highly skilled RH shooting D-man is one of the most valuable pieces to have in the league right now so watch for a kid like Makar to go much earlier than where the scouts have him ranked.



6. Casey Mittelstadt (5) Eden Prairie  USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Bryan Little

This would be a great fit.  The Canucks only real need moving forward would be depth at centre.  You could say they don’t have enough quality on defence, but with so many good young D-men they have the trade chips to upgrade that.  Plus there isn’t a D-man close to this spot with Makar going already.  So take the centre who would be a great with Horvat down the middle some day.



7. Michael Rasmussen (6) Tri-City  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 215  Shot: L

Comparison: Jeff Carter

This is a bad spot for the Lightning should things shake down this way, and there for a trade could happen.  They like so many other teams in this draft really need D-men.  For as good of a job they’ve done developing forwards, they haven’t really developed anyone on the blueline.  I guess you could say Hedman, but when you’re talking about developing kids, at least for me, I more so mean guys who have come up through the system.  Not kids drafted 2nd overall who had superstar potential.  Anyway, without the right guy around, I’ll suggest they take Rasmussen who could add some size up front while having the skill and wheels to play the style the Bolts are built to play.


8. Eeli Tolvanen (11) Sioux City  USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

If this is a bad position for the Lightning, this is a VERY SHITTY position for the Sabres!  I’m looking around, and I’m seeing NOTHING!  Centre, they’re good.  RW, they’re good.  D, that’s the need and you’d be reaching horribly here.  Have to trade back.  The good news for Sabres fans is this is just a fun routine to look at the draft and what needs the team has.  But if this somehow shook down this way they would be getting nothing of either a need or a valuable asset.  Tolvanen is a safe pick, plays hard, and can snipe.



9. Martin Necas (10)  Brno  Czech

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 167  Shot: R

Comparison: Ales Hemsky

This team still needs D.  From my count, I’d say there are five of the top nine teams here that “need” defencemen, and I’m not including Vegas who need everything but should likely start with a D-man.  I already had a team reach on Makar.  They are looking better now than they were though after they took four D with four of their top five picks (two RH shot, two LH shot).  They also have a nice prospect in 2015 3rd rounder Vili Saarijarvi.  But I think centre is the bigger need here.  Necas isn’t a reach as a D-man would be, he would compliment Dylan Larkin well being a RH shot, and he has that type of player who the Wings have done best with over the years.  Elite skill, they can develop his overall game, and someday he perhaps becomes that number one centre they need.  Sounds crazy now, but I see this as a tremendous fit.



10. Owen Tippett (8) Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 202  Shot: R

Comparison: Joffrey Lupul

Tell me if you’ve heard this one already…this team needs D.  And this team needs D pretty desperately.  The Larsson/Hall swap was flat out stupid by the Devils.  They got so hot and bothered by the value in the deal, they completely forgot that they were in no position to do it.  If you’ve only got 100 bucks to feed your family, you aren’t going to go buy a new 4K TV just because it’s on sale.  So the rebuild of the Devils blueline needs to start now, but there isn’t a D-man in sight.  MAYBE they reach a bit on someone like Heiskanen, MAYBE Makar will somehow still be around should they pick around this spot, but chances are it’s a bad spot.  Not the end of the world, they can stock pile in the rest of the draft, just not ideal.  Tippett would be a great fit on the right side with perhaps Hall and/or Henrique in a year or two.



11. Cody Glass (9) Portland  WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Charlie Coyle

This would be a great fit.  Maybe you would prefer Tippett if you’re a Flames fan, maybe you would prefer Necas if you’re a Flames fan.  But with Glass they can put him on the wing or at centre where they have needs for RH shooting forwards.  He has nice size, a nice all around game, and as I said in my prospects write up I’m not understanding why Glass is ranked so much lower by most.  To me, he should be in the discussion for the top ten for sure, perhaps as high as six.  But most have him going around here which I’m sure suits the Flames just fine.



12. Elias Pettersson (15)  Timra  SWE-Als

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 156  Shot: L

Comparison: Ondrej Palat

As big of a shit show as the Bruins are, I have a tough time placing someone here.  As a draft junkie, I could cry with how badly they messed up the 2015 1st round.  Zbroil hasn’t gone right to this point but I don’t fault them for that one, he was the right pick.  Debrusk and Senyshyn though over Barzal and either White or Connor was so horrendous though.  Last year they took Trent Frederic over Sam Steel (and many other better options).  Yet their system is loaded because they’ve had so many picks the last two drafts.  Pettersson would be a solid pick here, nothing really of a need though.  If they did go need, I would suggest centre and perhaps Lias Andersson, Ryan Poehling or Shane Bowers.



13. Ryan Poehling (18)  St.Cloud State  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 202  Shot: L

Comparison: Paul Stastny

They need some size up front.  Ron Francis started to address it at last years draft after he selected Jake Bean at 13.  The next four picks were all used on forwards, all 6’1 or bigger.  So he understands it’s the issue in the organization right now, which is where Poehling comes in.  Centre, has good size, is learning a 200 foot game in his freshman season, his numbers aren’t flashy but he’s a 1999 born kid playing in the NCAA with limited talent surrounding him.  A bit of a reach according to my rankings, but most have him in the 12-20 range.



14. Miro Heiskanen (12)  HIFK  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Leddy

In the last three drafts, the Kings have used 10 of their 20 picks on D-men.  So it’s not as though they’ve been ignoring their blueline.  And they’ve done an incredible job developing defencemen.  Muzzin, Martinez, Voynov before he literally got deported, all top four defencemen and none of them taken in the 1st round of the draft.  So you understand if they don’t go this route in the 1st round, but I like the idea of Heiskanen here because he feels like a kid who would give them the biggest value at this point.  Biggest need in the organization is centre, but if you have depth on D in the organization you can pretty much trade for whatever you want in today’s NHL.



15. Juuso Valimaki (17)  Tri-City  WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 204  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Murray

I could see the analytics guys running the Panthers loving Valimaki.  He really drives the play in Tri-City, and he’s over a PPG player in the WHL right now.  So I could see them getting wowed by that more so than how they seeing him projecting, though that isn’t an issue.  Not a major need, but I see them viewing Valimaki as great value here.



16. Lias Andersson (16)  HV71  SHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

Andersson feels like a Blues type kid to me.  Doug Armstrong understands the value of having versatile guys and guys who are coachable and willing to play a 200 foot game.  This is Andersson.  Not flashy, but he is so well rounded for an 18 year old kid.  Maybe this philosophy was more about the coach Armstrong had then the way he wanted to build, but I’ll believe that when or if I see it.



17. Kristian Vesalainen (22) Frolunda  SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: L

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

Ron Hextall has done such a great job to this point, with the draft in particular.  It’s such a breathe of fresh air from the way Paul Holmgren was running things which was with zero plan and changing the look of the team every season.  Hextall is patient and realized the Flyers needed to really start investing in defencemen (the Flyers, even when they won back to back Cups have never had a great blueline).  Even though that plan isn’t going as well at the moment as it looked this time a year ago, I still think they’re pretty solid.  Vesalainen potentially gives them size up front in their top six which they lack.  Hextall helped build the LA Kings, and the Kings were built with a ton of size, plus the Flyers have always had a lot of size as you know, so I can’t imagine Hextall would be satisfied with the lack of size currently in the organization.



18. Callan Foote (13) Kelowna  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 200  Shot: R

Comparison: Adam Foote

Ryan Pulock is right on the cusp of breaking into the league.  He’s put up good numbers in the AHL, but has yet to get recalled to the show after his injury in late October.  But it’s now to the point for the Isles where he’s done as a prospect.  They have a few other young guys on the blueline in Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech, but they’re in the same boat.  So it’s really a good time for this team to address their blueline and Cal Foote would be a terrific fit.



19. Shane Bowers (19) Waterloo  USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 178  Shot: L

Comparison: Brandon Dubinsky

Love the idea this pick for the Preds.  Bowers is an in your face player which is the type of guy David Poile has built this Preds team with.  And they have a bit of a need moving forward down the middle.  Blueline, they’re extremely set (not just the top four on the big club, top two picks last year were home runs and five of their eight picks were used on D).  In goal they’re set (and this is around the point where you’ll see goaltenders possibly going in this particular draft).  And they’re looking solid on the wings.  Bowers might only ever be a 3rd line centre, but don’t underestimate the value of that type of player.



20. Nicolas Hague (14)  Mississuaga  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 208  Shot: L

Comparison: Colten Parayko

Preference for myself and I would guess the Leafs here would be that Cal Foote falls to them.  He doesn’t, so they take Hague who likely has the bigger upside of the two, but is a lefty shot as opposed to a righty, and is a few years away.  Should the Leafs end up drafting Hague I would hope the media would be patient there because he is a bit of a project.  No doubt though that the need for the Leafs is on the blueline moving forward.  Got their franchise centre, got some highly skilled wingers, just have to stockpile on the blueline now.



21. Jake Oettinger (24) Boston U  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 203  Glove: L

Comparison: Braden Holtby

This organization is in pretty damn good shape moving forward.  So looking at things, the only area of true need in the system I could find was between the pipes, and there for we have our first tendy off the board in Oettinger.  I agree with the theory of not taking a goaltender in the first round, but in the 20’s, it fills a need, and Oettinger is the total package as a goaltender.  Size, quickness, agility, technically sound, of course the risk with goaltenders is you never know what their mental makeup is.  But again, with a pick in the 20’s, I think he’s worth the risk.



22. Kailer Yamamoto (23)  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 153  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

Some Oilers fans probably think I’m nuts to suggest Chiarelli would take a kid this small.  But to me this makes sense for a lot of different reasons for the Oilers.  Jordan Eberle is highly unlikely to be with this team past next season.  McDavid’s extension will kick in, Draisaitl is about to get a big extension this summer, Puljujarvi will be ready for big minutes, and there for Eberle is going to be a luxury the Oilers just can’t keep.  It could be as early as this summer, but definitely after next season.  They’ll need someone in the organization who possibly could step into that spot, and Yamamoto could be that player.  And this team that used to try to build with undersized skill is now in a position where they can afford to add a kid of Yamamoto’s stature to the lineup and it won’t hurt them.  Also, no way that the organization doesn’t recognize how fast the league is getting and the troubles this team has with speedy teams.  Some will argue the bigger need will be at centre with Draisaitl currently playing the wing, I personally don’t believe Draisaitl is going to stay on the wing long term, though you can never have too many centres.  Just for the record, if I was making this pick…I’m a big fan of Nick Suzuki in this spot.  Bigger, more physical, can play the middle if need be.



23. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (NR)

HPK U-20  SM Jr. Liiga

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 198   Glove: L

Comparison: Cam Talbot

This team is pretty much out of needs in the organization!  Sam Steel has been living up to his last name this season, averaging over 2 ppg.  It’s unbelievable the job that Bob Murray and that scouting staff has done keeping the system rich with talent.  It’s a good draft for goaltenders, or it’s a weak draft and because of that it’s elevating goaltenders, probably a little of both.  So this could be the best time to add a stud young goaltender who will take four years or possibly more to develop.  Not to mention, they don’t have a sure thing in John Gibson.  He’s ok to this point, but he has yet to establish himself as a top goaltender in the league as many expected him to be.  Definitely not betting against that happening, but you can’t assume he will become that guy either.



24. Conor Timmins (28)  S.S. Marie  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Shot: R

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I fully admit, I don’t feel great about this prediction.  Timmins would fill a need for the Hawks, no doubt.  But at this point it feels as if Stan Bowman has a theory of just continually stockpiling offensive talent in the draft.  So Klim Kostin could make a lot of sense for them, Nick Suzuki could make sense, Nikita Popugaev could make sense.  But then again, at SOME point, they have to start taking defencemen high in the draft.  Timmins is a late 98 birthdate and plays a very mature two way game, so he might not be too far away.  The question on him is whether or not the ceiling is very high.



25. Klim Kostin (29)  Moscow  KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Thomas Vanek

I’m having a tough time slotting Kostin.  I know he’s going to drop in everyone’s rankings between now and June, and I’m certain he’s already lower on most teams boards than he is ranked by independent services because of the alarming rate that Russian’s bust at, and then of course you have the KHL factor.  The more I give it thought, the more I wonder if he won’t completely fall out of the 1st round.  But if he is going to be a 1st round pick it’ll have to be a team needing to take a home run swing and that could be the Rangers.  New York’s system is bare as bare can be, so adding a talent like Kostin would be huge…if he pans out.



26. Nick Suzuki (21)  Owen Sound  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Suzuki is far from a need for the Pens, but if they still own their first rounder then I think they’ll just simply continue to do what they do best which is add wingers with speed.  I wouldn’t say Suzuki has great speed, but he’s a good enough skater to fit in with what the Pens are doing.  He’s always moving his feet and is really active on the forecheck.  I would definitely say that D is the need for the Pens (as it seems to be with most teams), but Jim Rutherford isn’t a big believer in drafting D-men.



27. Urho Vaakanainen (25)  Jyvaskala  SM Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Nick Schultz

No, I’m not picking a Finnish player for them because they have a Finnish GM.  That’s the mistake most made prior to last year’s draft.  I believe a D-man will be the pick though based on the success this team has had this season built from having such a great blueline.  They also don’t have much depth on D in the system, so it might be smart to address it now before it becomes a problem.



28. Nikita Popugaev (NR)  Prince George  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 204  Shot: R

Comparison: Nik Antropov

I don’t have Popugaev in my rankings for two reasons.  1) would be the Russian factor.  2) he’s not a very good skater.  So while I love that size, and he is skilled, he has some pretty big red flags.  The Habs however have been on a mission under Marc Bergevin to get bigger and they haven’t been afraid of the Russian factor at all.  In fact, two of their last three 1st round picks have been Russians playing in the CHL.



29. Robert Thomas (20)  London  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 185  Shot: R

Comparison: Derick Brassard

Doug Wilson likes his centres.  This club has constantly had depth down the middle spill over to the wings.  Tomas Hertl is a natural centre, Joe Pavelski is a natural centre, Patrick Marleau is a natural centre, yet all of them have primarily played the wing for the Sharks the last few seasons (Marleau since 09).  Joe Thornton could be in his final season with the club too.  So I like Thomas with this pick.  Speedy, skilled, he is the type of kid the Sharks have had great success in developing.



30. Erik Brannstrom (NR)  HV71  SHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sami Vatanen

I was originally going to give them a goaltender.  But this organization, while they’ve had a great season with prospect development and obviously the big club has played great under regular season coaching god Bruce Boudreau…but the fact of the matter is that they still have some big needs in the organization beyond finding a future goaltender.  So perhaps the time to address that is later in the draft, though it depends on what picks they’ll have left, it’s definitely something they need to address in this draft.  I’ll say Brannstrom is the pick here, a great skating, high risk kid who only recently got called up to the SHL.  Also, Brannstrom is one of the youngest players in the draft which is the latest trend you’ll see scouts go overboard on.  The Wild aren’t deep anywhere, but they’re especially thin on D.  With how weak the draft is and how many teams need defence this year I would guess that a lot of D-men go much earlier than they should in this draft.



31. Henri Jokiharju (27) Portland  WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Tobias Enstrom

What to get the team that has it all?  Much like the Ducks, the Caps have done a great job of maintaining a great system while being near the top of the standings just about every season since 2009.  They have D-men coming in Madison Bowey and Lucas Johansen, but I would guess Bowey is on the team next season, and Johansen hasn’t had a great season.  So perhaps investing in another D-man would be the way to go here, although while I have Jokiharju still on the board I wouldn’t be shocked if any D-man worth taking is gone by about the 25th pick with the need so many teams have on the blueline.



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Last Night We Saw the Greatest…Everything

Ummmmm…WOW!!  For three quarters I was thinking “not like this”.  I don’t have a rooting interest, and especially in the Super Bowl all I’m pulling for is a great game, and whatever I bet.  So I had the Falcons +3 as some of you may know, and I had the over of 57.5.  Oh, and then I also wrote this yesterday:

“this is likely going to be a classic.  I’m going to be disappointed if this game is anything less than high scoring and down to the wire.  Two great QB’s, historic ramifications, it would be just a little short of shocking if these two didn’t produce a great game.”

So needless to say, I was extremely disappointed with how the game was going.  But by the time it was done I was giddy, and couldn’t believe how amazing the game was that I just seen.  It exceeded my expectations, which as you just read, were extremely high!


Just a heads up here, you’re going to read the word greatest and great A LOT in this piece!


I’m saying it right now, and I’m sure all the “hot take” have said it since about last Monday, but this was the greatest Super Bowl of all time.  A lot of the time it’s the 4th quarter that’s great and people want to make the game out to be better than it was.  That was Super Bowl XLIII.  The 4th quarter in that game was amazing, but the game as a whole really wasn’t too good.  The year before with Super Bowl XLII, you had the amazing upset by the Giants, the Tyree catch, 19-0 on the line, but the reality was that the first three quarters were really boring.


You could say that here, but it was different.  Because for three quarters last night, it wasn’t BORING, it was massively shocking!  As I said off the top, you just couldn’t believe that the Pats would go out like THAT.  So the shocker of how the game was going, how much of a struggle it was to get back in the game, the flurry in the last 6 minutes or so of the game, needing two 2 point conversions, the Julio Jones catch, but then the Julien Edelman catch, the OT, high scoring, and of course the drama of Tom Brady going for his record tying 5th Super Bowl title.  Hell, even the half time show is being talked about as the greatest ever!  It was one of those games where you just know it when you see it, and that was the greatest Super Bowl of all time.


And it was such a great example of how to approach life.  Sometimes life just starts booting you in the balls for seemingly no reason.  Frankly, that’s been going on with me lately, been a rough go the last week or so.  Happens to everyone, but in the moment you can’t help but wonder “why me?”  Brady wasn’t getting any blocking, which was really hurting his accuracy as he had pressure most of the night, and when he would make a throw he wasn’t getting a lot of help from the Pats receiving core.  Even Julien Edelman dropped one or two.  They were getting their asses handed to them.  And yet he just kept coming.


What essentially happened in this football game is that Tom Brady broke the Falcons will.  Even when the Pats were coming back, the Falcons pass rush was still giving the Pats O-line headaches, still getting a ton of pressure and making life miserable for Brady.  The strip-sack was obviously the turning point of the game, but the Falcons were still playing hard, still getting pressure.  But Brady kept coming and you could see the Falcons D start to tire late in the 4th and simply had their will break.  The moment that coin toss came up heads, the game was over.  There was zero need to play the OT.


Brady is the greatest ever.  And I know everyone is saying that now, it’s not breaking news.  He was already for me, and for most, but it’s now cemented and I’m still in awe of the accomplishment.  He’s the Michael Jordan of the NFL right now really in that there is no debate.  Seven Super Bowl appearances, five Super Bowl wins, four Super Bowl MVP’s, he is responsible for the two biggest comebacks in Super Bowl history, one of those against one of the greatest defenses of all time, he’ll likely surpass a lot of Peyton Manning’s regular season records in the next few seasons if he stays true to his word that he isn’t retiring anytime soon.  He won when he was young and he’s winning in what should be the twilight of his career.


And a lot of this is Bill Belichick without a doubt.  Nobody should forget that factor either, and in a coaches league that is vital.  He is probably the greatest coach now in league history.  Peyton Manning never had Bill Belichick.  John Elway never had Bill Walsh.  Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, none of those guys had the type of coaching Brady and Montana had.  But it’s as much a quarterbacks league as it is a coaches league, and we’ll never know how those guys would have done with elite level coaching.  But it’s pointless, because Brady got Belichick, and it’s been maybe the best run of success in the history of sports.


Think about this, and I may have said it two years ago but I’m saying it again, this franchise is two of the most clutch and greatest catches of all time away from having won seven Super Bowls.  Seven in the last 16 seasons.  They’ve gone to 10 AFC title games in 16 seasons.  This is incredible.  I know so many average fans just despise them because they hear that Brady is a cheater, Belichick is a cheater, they win all the time, Belichick never smiles, Brady seemingly is the perfect human with the perfect life, so they want to see them lose so badly.  But man, this is legendary stuff we are seeing.  I just don’t get how people can’t appreciate that more than they do.


Julio Jones out of all people must really hate this, and he must REALLY hate Julien Edelman in particular!  That catch was awesome considering the situation.  It’s not a rare catch in the league any longer, we see it every week.  But considering the time remaining in what was the biggest game of his life, it was incredible.  The only mistake the Falcons made was the play calling following that catch.  I fully understand and commend Kyle Shanahan and Dan Quinn for going for the kill there, but a field goal was essentially a kill shot there.  Run the ball twice, and perhaps a slant route or screen on third down.  Worst case scenario there is you kick the field goal and the Pats are back down 11.


I can’t leave this without looking at next season and the fact of the matter is that now the Pats have a chance to go three in four years for the second time.  This whole thing is a dynasty.  It’s a cap era/new-age dynasty, whatever you wish to call it, but it’s a dynasty.  But they’ll call it another dynasty all itself if the Pats win again next season.  They have seven picks in the draft (not all their’s, but two in the 4th round, no 6th rounder but honestly who cares about a 6th), they currently have the 5th most available cap space this offseason, there is really zero reason they shouldn’t, and if I’m Bill Belichick I’m now in the business of going hard after it.  He’s 65 next season, so he doesn’t have a lot of years left, and Brady may only have one season left, because once that arm goes it goes in a hurry!  So load up now, get that third ring in four years for the second time.  Make some of these benchmarks even more difficult to get to for others.  Hell, chase another perfect season!  It’s literally the only thing left for them to do is go 19-0.


I sound like a Patriots fan boy here I know.  Trust me, I’m not.  I’m just a sucker for greatness.  We saw maybe the greatest game of all time.  We saw maybe the greatest coach in league history win his record 5th Super Bowl.  And we saw the greatest QB and likely greatest player period in NFL history have his crowning moment last night with what some may call his masterpiece.


Greatest game, greatest coach, greatest player, great night!


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Super Bowl LI Picks ATS & Over/Under

A whole blog on just one freaking pick?!?  Well, two picks, but only one ATS.  Ok, so first things first, this is likely going to be a classic.  I’m going to be disappointed if this game is anything less than high scoring and down to the wire.  Two great QB’s, historic ramifications, it would be just a little short of shocking if these two didn’t produce a great game.


So with that being said, here is what I’m thinking for today.


The Falcons are likely the better team here.  But it’s tough to get past the fact that they’re going against Belichick and Brady.  All that experience, all those rings, two weeks for Belichick to prepare, it’s tough to ignore those things as not only the advantages, but the types of advantages that historically, at least in sports, that turn an underdog into a decided favorite (reading me for the first time?  I try to spell “American” when talking NFL).


But I believe that is getting very overrated.  The fact is that the Falcons blew out a good Seahawks team, and a Packers team which was the hottest in the league.  The questions about the Falcons being able to handle the pressure have been answered.  Under Mike Smith, this team had a tough time with the pressure.  But this is Dan Quinn’s team, and they have shown no signs all season of not being able to handle the pressure.  Also, they’re playing the Pats.  Maybe against a team playing in their first Super Bowl as a group like themselves the Falcons would have a tendency to buy their press clippings and not know how to deal with everything.  But against the Pats, they know they’ll need everyone going at their best to win so I believe at least from an effort standpoint that the Falcons will be peaking.


As for the Pats…


Did you know that Bill Belichick against the spread isn’t that great coming off of bye weeks?  I found this interesting, R.J. Bell of pulled out this stat on Colin Cowherd’s Blazing 5 podcast yesterday that Belichick in week one, coming off bye weeks in the regular season and coming off bye weeks in the postseason all combined has a .500 record.  That’s it.  .500.  So for all this mystique about how the amazing Bill Belichick is a monster to deal with coming off bye weeks, that’s all his record is ATS.  So the betting public is drastically overrating that edge.


This isn’t to say the Pats can’t win.  Absolutely they can win!  But three points is too many.  I really wish it was 3.5 or 2.5, hence why Vegas is so good at this.  But it’s 3, and I think in the NFL these days with the extra point so difficult we are seeing many more one and two point games.  So betting a game with a spread of three is a lot less risky right now than it was two seasons ago when the EP was a gimme.


Then you have the over, and I frankly hate this.  I never win betting the under.  I had the under as my pick and as of writing this part I literally JUST changed my pick, because I literally NEVER win betting the under!  But it worries me.  On one hand, Vegas keeps trying to scare bettors off with these Falcons over/under’s by putting the number sky high.  So that’s my reasoning for the over pick.  But this game hurts offense a lot of the time.  Not every time, but a lot of the time because of the long stoppages, long half time, offense is all about rhythm and it gets hurt badly in this game.  I assume the Falcons know this, and I know the Pats know this, but it’s still scary for me.  But again, I can’t win betting the under!  And let’s be honest, it’s the Super Bowl.  Do you SERIOUSLY want to sit there and pull for points not to be scored?!  Let’s get real.  Sometimes it’s just fun to bet the side you’re pulling for.


So I’m guessing if you have read this whole thing already, you know where I’m going with these picks, but I’ll make it official:

Falcons +3

Over 58.5

At the end of the day, these two picks are betting on a classic.  Falcons keep it really tight, I believe this game is a total toss up, I’ll pick the Pats to win 31-29 in what’ll be a top five Super Bowl of all time.


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