redrafting

Why redrafting the NHL would be very intriguing


Most teams in the NHL would never be onboard for a redraft of the entire NHL. But, it is still something cool for fans to look at hypothetically. Entire league redrafts have usually been associated with the NFL. The idea behind them is to break up dynasties in the league, such as the New England Patriots. Although the NHL hasn’t had any Patriot-esque dynasties recently, there’s franchises that have experienced FAR more success than many others. Teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers have made the post-season the last 11, nine, and seven seasons, respectively. A total of only four teams have won the last eight Stanley Cups.

redrafting

Photo from turningleft.net

An NHL redraft would give several teams a chance to retool their entire roster. For example, the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, and Arizona Coyotes all own growing post-season droughts. Carolina’s drought has reached eight seasons, Buffalo six, and Arizona five. All three team’s droughts are very likely to continue at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

 

 

 

Here are some things to consider if this hypothetical idea were ever to come to fruition:

Determining the draft order


One of the most important parts of this hypothetical is how the NHL would determine the order of which the teams would get to draft. Although the 31st pick in the redraft of the NHL would still result in an extremely talented player, the number one overall pick is significantly better.

The team with the top pick gets the choice of how they get to rebuild their roster. They can choose the best player from whichever position on the ice they like. The 31st pick may not have the choice to draft based on position. With a pick that far down they may just take the best player available.

redrafting

Photo from dailyherald.com

The NHL must determine how to order the redraft. The best way to do that would be to measure the success of each franchise over the last 15 seasons. Then, reward the least successful team with the first overall pick, and the 31st overall pick to the most successful.

The Penguins and Blackhawks have three Cup wins over the last 15 seasons, with the Penguins winning the last two. Pittsburgh would receive the 31st pick, and Chicago the 30th. The Kings have two in the last 15 seasons, giving them the 30th pick.

On the opposite end of the spectrum it would be tougher to decide which team gets the first overall pick because there are several franchises that have never won a Stanley Cup, let alone in the last 15 seasons.

For this we could look at the least amount of playoff appearances, longest post-season droughts, and total regular season losses over the last 15 seasons to work out who gets the first pick.

Which position would be most important?


Redrafting the NHL would essentially be one giant fantasy hockey draft for General Managers and team owners. They would need to decide which positions they would tackle first in the draft.

Would GMs and owners want to target young, talented forwards such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel? Or would they want to target cornerstone defensive players such as Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban or Brent Burns that can quarterback the offense on the backend and also run the power-play?

But, GMs and owners can’t forget about the guys that backstop the team, the goaltenders. It can be argued that Henrik Lundqvist has been the key to the Rangers’ seven consecutive playoff appearances. Furthermore, you can argue that Jonathan Quick was the most important piece of the Los Angeles Kings roster in 2012 and 2014 when they won Stanley Cup.

Teams could permitted to keep one player


Allowing teams to keep one player would be similar to a fantasy hockey keeper league. In keeper fantasy leagues, owners are allowed to keep a set number of players at the end of the season. They then start the next season with the players that they kept at the end of last season. Heading into the draft, the team already has a few players on the roster. This allows them to focus on other positions because they already have a piece or two in place that they don’t need to draft.

redrafting

Connor McDavid with Wayne Gretzky. Photo from NHL.com

If this were instituted into the redrafting theory, franchises should be permitted to keep one player if they choose to. This would allow the team to already have a top player of a specific position on their roster so they could draft different positions earlier on. For example, the Edmonton Oilers would likely keep their star forward, Connor McDavid. He’s only 21 years old and easily resembles all-time greats of the sport such as Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby.

Teams would need to pay to keep this player, so the method of how would need to be solidified by the NHL. A great way to do this would to institute a standard, league-wide contract that the kept player would sign to keep them on the roster, similar to an NFL franchise tag. But, this contract’s length and price should be equal no matter the position of the player that is kept. For example, whether the kept player is a forward, defenseman, or a goaltender, the keeper contract standard should be set somewhere around four years, $10 million per season.

Other teams could choose to keep a franchise cornerstone defenseman or goaltender if they don’t feel that they have star talent at the forward position that is worth the $10 million per season contract. Or, if a team feels that they don’t have any player at any position worth $10 million per season, they could choose to not keep any players heading into the redraft and save the money heading into the season.

Ratings, attendance and jersey sales could skyrocket


The first few seasons following the NHL redraft would be electric to watch. All kinds of superstars playing in new cities, with new jerseys, and new players at their sides.

Fans would flock to arenas and televisions to watch their newly rebuilt franchise fight to be the first to win a Stanley Cup following the redraft. There’d be no telling which teams would come out on top. No matter if a team looks good on paper, it’s all about the chemistry on the ice between the players. Teams like the New York Islanders, Arizona Coyotes, and the Carolina Hurricanes would love to see this. These three are among the teams that struggle to fill their arena on game nights. With all new rosters, each team has the potential to be the best in the league. Every arena in the league would be packed all season long.

Plus, jersey sales would go through the roof. Most players, except for those kept on the roster, would be playing for a different team. Fans wouldn’t hesitate to buy their new superstar’s jersey as soon as the draft concluded.

 

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Eichel

What does the Jack Eichel injury mean for the Buffalo Sabres?

The Sabres will be without superstar Jack Eichel after he sustained a high-ankle sprain Saturday night in Boston. He went for the puck behind the Bruins net and lost an edge. His legs/knees bent awkwardly underneath him as Bruins’ defender Matt Grzelcyk piled on top of him. Watch the video of the injury here.

In Eichel’s third season he was leading the Sabres in goals (22) and assists (31) for a total of 53 points in 55 games. While the team has severely underachieved this season he was on pace for the best season of his career. He was only two goals and two assists short of tying his career-highs. With 27 games left he was surely going to set career-highs in goals, assists, and points.

The timetable for his return is projected to be four to six weeks barring setbacks.

Even Less Scoring

The Sabres sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in not only points, but also in the goals-for category. They’ve scored 132 goals, which is a league worst, three less than the Arizona Coyotes (135). The Coyotes, experiencing a similar underachieving season, sit at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Eichel

Sabres’ leading goalscorer Jack Eichel. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Buffalo averages only 2.4 goals per game and that number is only expected to decline without Eichel on the ice. He’s accounted for 22 of the teams 132 goals scored, four more than teammate Evander Kane (18). Eichel has scored or assisted on 40 percent of the Sabres’ goals this season, which is an astounding stat.

Not only will they miss his scoring, but they’ll also miss his incredible playmaking abilities. He led the team in assists (31) when he went down on Saturday night. Teammate Kyle Okposo is the next most on the team with 24 assists on the season. Eichel has unbelievable stick skills and is known for making crazy plays/passes that give his teammates chances to score. Without him on the ice expect the playmaking ability of the team to take a significant step back.

Embrace the tank

The team has finished at the bottom or very close the bottom of the NHL over the past few seasons but hasn’t been lucky enough win the draft lottery to secure the first overall pick in the draft. Right now they sit second last in the league with 42 points, ahead of the Coyotes by four points. With Eichel not expected to return until somewhere between March 10th and March 24th, he’ll miss around 14-20 games. Missing their best player on the ice for that many games should help the Sabres lose more games and cement their spot as last in the league. Being dead last in the league gives them the highest percentage to win the draft lottery and secure the number one overall pick.

With the first overall pick the Sabres can draft the unquestioned number one player, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin from Sweden. The team needs a lot of work on defense and by adding another Rasmus to the defensive core, alongside Rasmus Ristolainen, they’ll greatly be improving their team on the back end.

Dahlin took home a silver medal in the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo, NY just a few months ago. He impressed throughout the tournament and the Sabres and their fans would be love to see him return to Buffalo for the long-term.

Trade Kane to a contender

Evander Kane has put together a decent season with 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points through 56 games. Kane says he’s focused on the Sabres and not the trade deadline as it’s now less than two weeks away. But he has stated that he desires to get his first taste of playoff hockey in the NHL. He isn’t likely to experience it in Buffalo for at least a few more years.

Eichel

Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

The Sabres should be proactive in regards to embracing the tank, as much as fans hate it, and move Kane to a contender for a decent pick in the upcoming draft. By getting rid of their second best offensive piece behind Eichel, they’re further ensuring they reach the bottom of the NHL standings behind the Coyotes. Plus with getting a pick or two for Kane they can add another young player though the draft that will continue to help the rebuild in Buffalo.

Shut Eichel down for the season

There’s no reason to rush Eichel back this season and risk a set back or even another injury. The team has no chance of making the playoffs, they’ll be mathematically eliminated over the next few games. In the best case scenario he returns with 14 games to play, but in all likelihood he won’t be ready until there’s only 10 or less games to play. With the team missing the playoffs and wanting to be in the best position moving forward in regard to the draft and Eichel’s long-term health, they should shut him down for the season.

The longer off-season will ensure that he returns to full health for next season. Without him on the ice for the remaining 27 games they’ll almost certainly finish last in the league.

The 2017-2018 season is already a lost cause and they need to be looking ahead to the 2018-2019 season.

Give the young guns a chance

With the season having already gotten away from them, the Sabres need to give their future talent a chance to shine on the big stage. C.J. Smith, Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching, Alexander Nylander, and most notably Casey Mittelstadt, are all names that come to mind.

Eichel

Casey Mittelstadt playing for Team USA. Photo from tipofthetower.com

The group is all current Rochester Americans’ players except Mittelstadt. The Americans’ currently sit in the playoff picture as the season nears the 3/4 mark largely due to these players. While Rochester will want them down the stretch for the playoff push, the Sabres should give them a chance in Buffalo to show off their talent with the chance to continue to play up next season. Mittelstadt mightily impressed in Buffalo during the 2018 World Junior Championships, in college with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and in the USHL.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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NHL All-Star weekend

An All-Star weekend to remember

The game’s brightest stars were on display this All-Star weekend. This past Saturday, we had the skills competition followed by the 3-on-3 tourney Sunday. Much of what we already knew was confirmed.

Connor McDavid (only repeat fastest skater champ): The fastest human to ever play hockey.

Johnny Gaudreau (puck control relay champ): His hands are right up there with Patrick Kane’s.

Alex Pietrangelo (passing champ): Proved defensemen are some of the best passers in the NHL.

Marc-Andre Fleury (save streak champ, 14 consecutive saves): Is and always will be elite.

Alex Ovechkin (hardest shot champ, 101.3 MPH): Can still bring it with the best of them at age 32.

Brock Boeser (accuracy champ and All-Star Game MVP): He is a rookie, but already a superstar.

All-Star weekend is a showcase of the league’s best. In the past, the game itself has been classified as a show instead of real competition. The new 3-on-3 structure has tied both elements into the game and has been a success the last three years. The year before this establishment, the score of the game was 17-12. The past three championship games have been 1-0, 4-3 and 5-2.

Game 1: Central vs. Pacific

NHL All-Star weekend

Photo from LA Kings Insider

The two Western Conference Division All-Stars squared off in Game 1 of the 3-on-3 tournament..

Nathan Mackinnon opened up the scoring with a wicked wrister from the top of the slot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury and rang right off the back bar and into the shelf to give Central a 1-0 lead after one.

Drew Doughty then found himself on a breakaway halfway through the second and beat Connor Hellebuyck blocker side to tie the game with 5:47 left.

James Neal later was left all alone at the top of the slot to complete a tic-tac-toe passing play from Brent Burns and Connor McDavid to put Pacific up 2-1 with 3:03 left.

32 seconds later, P.K. Subban went in all alone on Mike Smith, who tried to stack the pads, and Subban went shelf to tie it up 2-2 with 2:31 to play.

45 ticks later, Brock Boeser sent a missile top left from the top of the slot to put Pacific up 3-2 with 1:46 remaining.

Brent Burns and James Neal added two empty netters and the Pacific took Game 1, 5-2.

Connor McDavid may not have scored, but the 21-year-old showed why he is already among the game’s best. The Oiler and Pacific captain registered four assists and generated a scoring chance with his speed seemingly every time he was on the ice. McDavid and the 20-year-old Boeser showed why the first and second-year players are indisputably a part of the NHL’s most talented players.

The Pacific Division All-Stars then awaited the winner of the Metro and Atlantic Division game.

Game 2: Metropolitan vs. Atlantic

NHL All-Star weekend

Photo from Sporting News

The two Eastern Division All-Stars went toe to toe in Game 2 of the 3-on-3 tournament.

Just over a minute in, two career-long rivals connected (Sidney Crosby from Alex Ovechkin) to put Metro up 1-0 with 8:51 left in the first. Four minutes later, a third and second-year player (Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews) tied the game 1-1 with 4:30 left in the first.

Claude Giroux then went in on a two-on-none with Brian Boyle where he waits, looks and fires a pellet past Andrei Vasilevskiy blocker side to give Metro a 2-1 lead with 2:18 left in the first. 34 seconds later, classic Ovechkin went far side from the top of the circle to make it 3-1 Metro with 1:44 left in the first. 11 seconds later, the hometown All-Star, Nikita Kucherov, went in on a breakaway and fired one top right on Henrik Lundqvist to cut Metro’s lead to 3-2 after one period of play.

The two teams traded goals to start the second and the game was tied at four with 5:27 to play. Erik Karlsson then scored what would have been the go-ahead goal, but the play was reviewed and ruled offsides.

Two minutes later, Jack Eichel fired one from the bottom of the circle to officially take the lead where he and Auston Matthews both pointed for a memorable goal celebration. Atlantic led 5-4 with 3:20 to play.

Brad Marchand and Nikita Kucherov capped off the Atlantic’s victory with two more goals for a 7-4 win. It took a five-goal second and a hat trick from No. 86. The three-goal performance was the first in the 3-on-3 tourney’s young history. Kucherov put on on a show for the Lightning faithful and showed why he is an elite scorer and a Hart Trophy candidate.

Championship Game: Atlantic vs. Pacific

NHL All-Star weekend

Photo from SB Nation

The remaining two teams from the East and West then competed for $1 million.

59 seconds into the first frame, Rickard Rakell cleaned up the garbage in front to put Pacific up 1-0 with 9:01 remaining in the first. Just over four minutes later, Brock Boeser extended his team’s lead to 2-0 with 4:55 to play in the first.

63 seconds later, Mike Green was left open at the bottom of the far side circle to get the Atlantic on the board. Pacific led 2-1 with 3:52 remaining in the first. Two and a half minutes later, Drew Doughty took a feed from teammate Anze Kopitar at the top of the slot and ripped a one timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give Pacific a 3-1 lead after the first frame.

Just under two minutes into the second, Johnny Hockey went in all alone to make it 4-1 Pacific with 8:09 to play. The two teams traded goals down the stretch, and Pacific won 5-2, taking home the $1 million prize.

In the end, it was the stars in the somewhat less competitive divisions battling in the championship game. It goes to show that this league is filled with talent at every turn. Brock Boeser may play for the lowly Canucks, Jack Eichel may play for Buffalo, but these two and others are all very much elite players in the NHL. All-Star weekend is a representation of the state of the league, which is in a very good place with the excess amount of talent it possesses.

Let us get back to business

This past weekend was fun as always. However, it’s time for teams to get back to work and play every game like a playoff game. There are races in each conference and division. This is no longer a marathon, but a sprint to the finish.

Can the Golden Knights continue what they’ve started? Is it too late for the Blackhawks to overcome their subpar first half? Will the Penguins become contenders once again? Will the Caps no longer be pretenders?

Are the Bruins and Jets for real? Are the Avs more than just way ahead of schedule? Will the Preds run back to the Final?

These questions will soon be answered. Let us all get back to work.

 

Featured image from NHL.com

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NHL All-Star Game

NHL All-Star Game: The stars, the surprises and the snubbed

On Wednesday the NHL announced the roster for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game (ASG) in Tampa Bay, FL.

Most of the players that made the cut were obvious choices: Connor McDavid, Anze Kopitar, Nikita Kucherov, etc.

However, a good amount of players that made the team don’t quite fit the bill. There were a lot of quality players that didn’t make the cut in favor of less qualified players.

THE STARS

There are two different categories for the stars in the ASG.

You have the obvious, always have and will be all-stars such as Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, McDavid and more.

There are the stand alone stars who’s teams are seeing mediocre seasons but they still stand out such as: Mike Green, Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel.

Granted the Penguins, Oilers and Blackhawks are having less than stellar seasons so Crosby, McDavid and Kane could all be included in this group too, but lets face it; it’ll be a cold day in hell when these guys aren’t on this roster.

THE SURPRISES

Here we have a category of players who either surprised me (in a good way) individually this year or they come from a surprisingly good hockey team (looking at you Vegas).  In this group we see: James Neal, Marc Andre-Fleury and John Klingberg (are you kidding me, 33 assists as a D-man?).

Some additions in this group of surprises are: Josh Bailey, right winger for the New York Islanders, who is sporting impressive numbers this season in goals and assists for the floundering team. Bailey has a career plus/minus of -31 so this season is definitely a turn around for him.

Aleksander Barkov a center for the Florida Panthers is also somewhat of a rising star this season.  With 14 goals, 21 assists and a +4 rating; Barkov has definitely surprised hockey fans (especially with his flashy shootout moves). (Youtube link from Puck Daily)

In addition to these positive surprises I also have a list of “how the hell did you make it on this roster”.

Starting us off. Carey Price. I get that they are picking a player from each team, but even the shockingly bad Canadiens have better to offer this season.  After missing a handful of games due to injury, Price returned and has since been sporting a 2.89 GAA and a .911 S% over 29 games.

Our second victim in this category is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. This is by far the worst selection of the ASG. Sitting at 6 goals and 13 assists with an absolutely HORRENDOUS plus/minus of -34, Ekman-Larsson’s name doesn’t belong anywhere near the word all-star. Honestly, just give Shane Doan an alumni appearance in his place.

The final selection for the (bad) surprises is Rickard Rakell. He isn’t a bad player, he just isn’t the best the Anaheim Ducks or the Pacific has to offer. He has a respectable goal count with 15 but he only has 16 assists and a -6 rating.

THE SNUBBED

Speaking of that surprise selection from the Ducks, where is Ryan Getzlaf on this roster? I get that he only has 4 goals this season, but with 20 assists, a +9 rating and his leadership qualities he seems like a better choice for the ASG.

Mark Giordano somehow slipped under the radar for this year’s ASG. Coming from one of the best defensive cores in the NHL it is amazing that no D-men from the Calgary Flames made this roster. Dougie Hamilton could’ve easily been taken in place of Ekman-Larsson as well.

NHL All-Star Game

These are the top five forwards for the Vegas Golden Knights.   (Screenshot from NHL.com)

Finally we have the omission of Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.

Marchessault leads the Golden Knights in points with 40 (16 goals and 24 assists) and Karlsson is right behind him with 36 (22 goals and 14 assists). James Neal made the roster in favor of these two which is shocking to me, especially if you look at the statistical breakdown of the Golden Knights’ forwards.

 

 

 

The Wrap Up

Overall, I am not impressed by this year’s ASG roster. Just bring back the fan vote (I want to see more John Scotts in the ASG) or the draft because that at least would make things more exciting and dramatic.

The 3-on-3 format is nice because it’ll keep things moving and showcase more speed so at least that will be interesting.

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slashing enforcement

Is this slashing enforcement the right move?

There have been over 200 slashing penalties called this preseason (which isn’t over)! I am all for more time on the power play, which means more hyped up crowds, but the other side of it is brutal.

This sport is a game of battles and stick checking with immense physicality. “You can’t even play hockey anymore,” former pro and current analyst Kelly Chase said last Wednesday.

Special teams is already such an important part of the game. Four of the top ten power plays last year were top 10 teams overall. The third best happened to be the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins. However, I am unsure whether this is a big deal or small deal, I am simply stating the apparent issue.

“Any forceful” or “powerful chop” with the stick on opposing player’s body is slashing. The rule has not changed, but the enforcement of it has in fact. It is an emphasis that is related to player safety. Reducing injury to star players is all good and well, but we still have to play hockey and battle, right?

Exaggerated, but understandable

791 minor penalties for slashing were called last season. Numerous went uncalled. The problem with slashing is that stick checking is such an engrained part of the game. “It’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: you don’t really know how bad a slash is” said Johnny Gaudreau (who suffered a broken finger from a slash last season). Therefore, you either call everything that remotely reflects the rule or just the blatant slashes that obviously reflect the rule, which risks injury.

slashing enforcement

Johnny Gaudreau leaves the ice last year. Surgery was then needed to fix a fractured finger. Photo Courtesy of NHL.com

The league has decided to enforce any and all remote reflections of the rule. Johnny Gaudreau (“Johnny Hockey”) is one of the most marketable players in the NHL and Marc Methot is a force to be reckoned with on the back end for his team (Dallas Stars). The two of them missed considerable time last year because of hand injuries from slashes. Alexander Steen (a top-6 forward for the St. Louis Blues) has been out the entirety of training camp due to a slash to his hand behind the net. As frustrating as it has been to hear the whistle blow at an excessive rate this preseason, it may be warranted.

I do not want to see special teams take over the entire game with it being so important already. However, there are certain elements that could elevate the excitement level of the game from this change.

High Flying End-to-End Action

The youth movement has already been discussed and understood. Naturally, the game is going to keep getting faster for the audience. The lack of stick checks and more body on body board battles can take the speed of the game to new heights as well.

slashing enforcement

Jack Eichel (young leader of the Buffalo Sabres) looks to take more power plays given to his advantage this year and lead his team to the postseason. Photo Courtesy of HockeyFanLand

Buffalo and Toronto were the top two power plays in the NHL last year. The Leafs took their young high powered offense to the postseason as Buffalo continued their rebuild. This new enforcement of the slashing rule has given more teams extensive time on the power play, which can always swing a hockey game. Winning the special teams battle has a similar effect in hockey as it does in football. Teams could become increasingly more competitive this year, which would allow more playoff pushes to ensue if referees continue this trend all season.

More races to the postseason sounds exciting, but no one knows if it will be good for the game or if they will even happen. No one knows how this will play out if slashing penalties are continued to be called this way. We see the plethora of calls being made and we go crazy. That is all we know right now as well as hockey still being an exhilarating spectator sport. It will all work out just fine.

What do we want?

We want hockey. NHL fans will be getting hockey starting October 4th. There are conversations involving numerous topics every single year about what could make the game better. This is just another one of those conversations.

slashing enforcement

I doubt this kid is thinking about how many slashing calls there have been during this preseason. He’s just ready for the puck to be dropped. Photo Courtesy of Weekend Warriors Hockey

There are risks, rewards and sacrifices to be made in order to sustain products in the entertainment business. Decisions are made and discussed relentlessly in the offseason, during the regular season and the playoffs. The idea to enforce the slashing rule more so this year was clearly seen as an issue important enough by members of the NHL Front Office to act on.

Hockey will still be the same physical, intense sport that is brutally exciting to watch. I do not know how I feel about this slashing enforcement issue. I’ll let you know at the end of the season. I’m just ready for some hockey.

 

 

 

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