The NHL Trade Deadline: February’s Best Holiday

Every year, by the second week of February, anticipation starts to build as one of the winter’s greatest holidays approaches. I’m not referring to the American recognition of past presidents which falls on the third Monday each February, and I’m certainly not talking about the hollow celebration of corporate materialism otherwise known as Valentine’s Day. Among the most exciting occasions at the end of every February for hockey fans is the NHL’s Trade Deadline. The Trade Deadline arose from humble beginnings. Its concept is simple. After this day, you can no longer execute trades. But over the years, it has ballooned into a spectacle which can sprawl over days and into weeks of coverage as hockey fans everywhere eagerly await their team’s next move. Of all the major professional sports, hockey’s trade deadline is unique and perhaps the most exciting. No other sport matches the number, frequency, and overall impact of the trades surrounding the NHL’s trade deadline.

Over the years, there’s been a few duds. Occasionally, a deadline will pass without a major name changing homes; however, most often there’s a few splashy moves and some years there’s a wealth of trades to talk about. Last year, Winnipeg traded Evander Kane to Buffalo in a blockbuster deal following some tension in the locker room in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Perhaps the craziest deadline in recent memory was the 2013 Trade Deadline when 23 trades were executed in the week before the deadline. Days before the deadline in 2013, it was widely reported long-time Calgary Flame Jarome Iginla was being traded to Boston. Then, hours later, these reports were denounced and Iginla was ultimately traded to Pittsburgh — reportedly by Iginla’s own choice to select Pittsburgh over Boston. Boston then executed a trade for another Top 6 winger and acquired Jaromir Jagr before the two teams eventually met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The 2013 deadline also saw the trade of Marian Gaborik to the Rangers, Jason Pominville to the Wild, Steve Mason to the Flyers, and Filip Forsberg from Washington to Nashville in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta (ouch). Overall, it was quite the event for hockey fans all over the place.

We’re almost ready for the 2016 edition of the deadline frenzy, and I can. not. wait. While the season thus far has already yielded a handful of notable trades, (Seth Jones- Ryan Johansen chief among them) the real fun is only beginning as the days go on. We got our first taste of the deadline this past week when Dion Phanuef was sent to Ottawa in a 9-player deal, and if that’s any indication, we should have another crazy deadline ahead of us this year to enjoy. With the February 29th Trade Deadline closing in fast, here’s a look at some of the major names that could be swapping jerseys before we get to March.

Andrew Ladd

Andrew Ladd

Big Buff just signed a fat 5 year, $38M extension. This probably signals the end of Andrew Ladd in Winnipeg. He’s been great for them, he’s their captain, but Winnipeg had to make a decision with five key players up for contracts this year, and with Buff’s extension, Ladd would seem to be on the way out.

There’s no reason for the league’s 26th ranked team to retain Ladd through the end of the season. The question becomes where does he end up. The guy won a Cup with Chicago in 2010 and can certainly help push a team over the edge, and in time we will see who takes the chance on Ladd for the final month + the playoffs, as there is a number of teams in playoff spots that could use some veteran stability in the middle of the lineup.

Likelihood he gets traded: 90%

Predicted Destination: Dallas Stars 

Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson

This is a tough one. The only thing you hear out of Boston is how much they love Loui. How he does the little things. How he’s a consummate professional. How he’s a great two way player. What you don’t hear much out of the Bruins is that he’s a 30 year old winger who’s due to be paid upwards of $6M AAV this coming offseason. It’s made even trickier by the Bruins’ exceptional mediocrity. They’ve managed through 55 games to Jeckyl and Hyde their way through two-thirds of the season. This team took points in 13 of 14 games from November to December (23 of 28 possible points), but they’ve also put up some real stinkers like this week’s 9-2 blowout loss to the LA Kings, a 6-2 trouncing at the hands of the offensively challenged Anaheim Ducks and blowing a 3-1 in the 3rd period to the Toronto Maple Leafs. THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS, of all teams. For most of the season, they’ve played at a between those two points which does not instill much confidence in the team’s postseason aspirations.

With or without Loui Eriksson, the Boston Bruins do not look like a Stanley Cup team. Trading Loui Eriksson would yield some type of return, but consider a situation where the Bruins retain Eriksson through the end of the season only to have him depart for elsewhere come the offseason. In that scenario, the Bruins would be left with only Joe Morrow (36 NHL GP for the Bruins through 2 seasons) from their trade of Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in July of 2013 shutter

Likelihood he gets traded: 40%

Potential Destination: Minnesota Wild

Eric Staal

Eric Staal

This one should be simple.

Can this Carolina Hurricanes team win a Stanley Cup? No, probably not.

Will Eric Staal sign an extension to stay in Raleigh this offseason? For less than $12M AAV, no, probably not.

Is Eric Staal a top tier player in the NHL still? Yes.

Logical conclusion – trade the guy.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the NHL franchise in RALEIGH, NC logic isn’t always at the top of the list in driving decision making. While Staal could net them a nice return, Carolina will likely retain Eric in order to keep his brother Jordan company en route to missing the playoffs for the ninth time in ten years. You know, because they’re the Carolina Hurricanes.

Likelihood he gets traded: 25%

Potential Destination: Nashville Predators

Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle

I feel like for as long as Jordan Eberle has been in the NHL, we’ve been talking about trading him. I think it goes something like this “yeah, Edmonton is clearly a couple years away, Eberle trade makes sense” and yet, despite four #1 overall picks in six years, the Edmonton Oilers are still a couple years away.

Unlike many of the other names on the list, Eberle is not a rental. He has three seasons remaining at an AAV of $6M, which is a sizable commitment. The motive to trade Eberle is more about what’s on the horizon in Edmonton. Through their continued futility, they’ve amassed an embarrassment of riches, especially at forward, and it seems Eberle, or perhaps Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, will be the odd-man out.

If Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli pulls the trigger, it will be a big move. Eberle has never played in an NHL playoff game but has the skill set to help push a contender over the top. I hope, for his case, they can get him out of Alberta.

Likelihood he gets traded: 33%

Potential Destination: New York Islanders (Travis Hamonic going back?)

Jiri Hudler

Jiri Hudler

Jiri Hudler has had a tough season. He had a hell of year last year, along with the rest of the Calgary Flames. His 2015-16 has been filled with injuries, and beyond that, the Calgary Flames look nothing like their 2014-15 counterparts. In all probability, Calgary will not be able to resign Hudler this offseason as a UFA. Calgary committed $35M to Dougie Hamilton in the offseason and have to pay both Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan this offseason (yikes, ~ $6M AAV each?), along with Sam Bennett next offseason.

Hudler, at 32, is a veteran winger. He was a big contributer to Calgary’s run last year. He won a cup in 2008 as a rookie with Detroit. There’s little doubt that Hudler can help a team looking for some help in their Top 6. Calgary, at 25-25-3, should be sellers come crunch time, and Hudler is among their most attractive assets they have to trade. Given Hudler’s ceiling, experience, and cap hit, he and Loui Eriksson be among my top targets at wing if I were an NHL GM.

Likelihood he gets traded: 65%

Potential Destination: Florida Panthers


Steven Stamkos

This has been a discussion topic since August. It’s simple. Stamkos is a pending UFA. Tampa Bay can’t really afford him. I mean, they could, but at the expense of a number of other players – perhaps Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, or others. Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and hockey’s most lucrative franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are patiently waiting to make Stamkos the highest paid player in the league shortly after July 1st. So what’s Stevie Y, and the Tampa Lightning, to do?

Most teams sitting in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference would take the sure thing. They would deal Stamkos for a king’s ransom. If Arizona got Anthony Duclair and a 1st round pick for Keith Yandle, what’s the price for Steven Stamkos?

But there’s more to the story in Tampa Bay. Considering this is a team which narrowly lost in the Stanley Cup Finals last season, it’s a tough sell to trade away one of the planet’s best goal scorers. Especially when the Eastern Conference, apart from the Washington Capitals, is hardly a murderer’s row of opponents. While it’d probably behoove them to deal Stammer, I’m not sure Steve Yzerman has the guts to trade his team’s leading goal scorer, captain, and face of the franchise on the cusp of a playoff berth.

Likelihood he gets traded: 5%

Potential Destination: Ottawa Senators

Of course, these are just some of the headliners. Last year, there was over 20 trades on deadline day alone. There’s many more names that could potentially be moved, and surely a few that aren’t on anyone’s radar. The honorable mention for potential deadline targets includes Jonathan Drouin, Kyle Okposo, Chris Kreider, Sami Vatanen, Jamie McGinn, and every Maple Leaf not named Kadri, Reilly, or Komarov.

The NHL Trade Deadline is February 29th, 2016 at 3PM EST

Who The Sharks Should Look At Near The Trade Deadline?

The San Jose Sharks are pretty good right now. The team is 12-2-3 in their last 17 and just four points behind the Pacific leading LA Kings. Oh, and the Sharks have a game in hand. Not too shabby for a team that was near .500 in late November/Early December. But, it’s not all smiles for the team right now. There are a couple of glaring problems the team has.

A big problem is the backup goal-tending. It’s awful. Alex Stalock has been pretty subpar/bad this season. He’s 3-5-2 this season with a 2.94 GAA and .884 SV%. I wake up in a cold sweat at night whenever I have a nightmare about Martin Jones getting injured and Alex Stalock becoming the starter. It’s not just his stats that are bad either, it’s his entire play style. He tries to be so aggressive with the puck that it completely screws the team over. Case in point:

Oh, we’re not done yet. No way.


So, I would HIGHLY SUGGEST that the Sharks trade for a new backup because if Martin Jones get’s hurt down the stretch here, the Sharks are screwed. Season= over.

Maybe try to get Jimmy Howard? Or a trashcan?

Then there’s the problem with the defensive depth. Until recently, the team only had 5 actual defense-man who could be counted on every night. The 6th spot was a rotation between Tennyson and Mueller mostly. Then they brought in Dylan DeMelo and he’s actually become a solid pairing with Brenden Dillon. Regardless, if Dillon, DeMelo or any of the other starters get injured long term, they don’t have another solid, trustworthy blueliner to replace them with. That could be an issue, just maybe.

Keith Yandle would be a pretty piece to trade for. There’s always the chance that they could get Roman Polak if the Leafs decide to completely clean house these next couple weeks. The Sharks could even do an inner-conference trade and get Justin Schultz  from Edmonton.

Dion Turncloak and Supersnub

Now the title is a Game of Thrones joke, as far as Dion’s case anyways. I woke up to a message from a buddy that Dion was traded and I was like “ok, surprising but ok, to who?” and then message number 2 popped up “OTTAWA!” ,“…what?” .

You can’t ask for more than we got from the man who accepted the captaincy of a flawed team and worked his ass off every day. What a lot of people conveniently forget is that until recently Dion’s regular defense partner was Carl Gunnarson, and we never surrounded him with the proper talent to succeed. Dion also sacrificed his own numbers for the good of the team with Cody Franson being the go to trigger man on the powerplay for years, despite his propensity for being caught in no man’s land as the high guy and making the whole unit look bad as well.

The trade is phenomenal for our team, but Dion was a leader and an example for our young guys who will be sorely missed. The Leafs were clear in their message however, that the young guns on the blueline are trusted to step up as leaders. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner no longer have Dion to lean on, and it’s time especially for Morgan to prove that he can run the powerplay effectively. This is his moment.

With that we will move into part 2 of my day, with it being announced that the Leafs are missing out on yet another Centennial event that the Habs were granted, in the draft. This speaks of nothing but disrespect for a team that has contributed significantly to the leagues success from day 1.

What’s funny is that, while we haven’t won in about 50 years, we STILL have the second most Stanley Cups. Think about that. Everyone else has had 50 years to catch up, and the only team to even come close is the Red Wings, another Original 6 team who played through the same Era we did.

The NHL bent over backwards for the Montreal Canadiens during their Centennial season, and we’ll have to wait for the next Centennial team to see if this is just a Leafs specific snub, of if Montreal is the NHL’ favourite child, but my money is on the former. I know it won’t happen, but it would be sweet justice to see the city of Toronto – as a people – boycott the NHL’s sham-Olympics the “World Cup” in revenge. But that’s probably just me being spiteful.

Why Trade Deadline ’16 Will Flop

Okay, listen – I’m just as much of a hockey fan as the next person is. (Except I’m not familiar with the prospects, so don’t ask me about them.) I’ve gotten up early on most trade deadlines to see all of the magic go down. I was once on a school bus getting Twitter updates through TSN’s experts. That’s how crazy I’ve been when it comes to this.

But for 2016, I might make a vow: I’m probably going to say no to the idea of either watching or following along to the trade coverage. This is usually the part of the story where I say that “it’s not you; it’s me”, but in all honesty… It’s not me that’s the problem. It’s everyone else that’s the problem. Because, let’s face it, why bother showing up to the party when it’s been mostly lackluster over the past few years?

Maybe there’ll be this one huge trade around the last hour before time’s up, with Drouin involved (if Yzerman’s decided to get in contact with teams). And if it’s not Drouin, it’s probably going to be this off-the-wall trade that I don’t think anyone expected. But besides that one stick that blew up in the pack of dynamite, expect there to be plenty of fizzles.

What might happen? Let’s see some possible other scenarios:

Perhaps Montreal sells the farm for hitting that brick wall lately.
Washington as buyers? Highly unlikely, unless it’s for someone minor.

(There’s a lot more, but I’m not going into each team’s needs right now.)

But let’s be honest for a minute. After the Phaneuf to Ottawa trade on Tuesday, I see one or two more huge trades happening before the end of the month. I won’t plop any more Nostradamus predictions on you – my idea of Drouin is probably going to be it here – but I have a sinking feeling that it’s going to be kind of quiet. Now watch me be wrong.

So if you see me on social media on deadline day, point me in another direction. Is work calling me for a scheduled shift at all?

What is a successful season for the Sabres?

Obviously #1 on that list would be the playoffs. Is it reasonable? Probably not, however the Sabres do have a stretch of 12 games where they only play one team currently sitting in a playoff spot, and their only really tough stretch is a trip to California. Of their last 28 games, 11 of those come against teams between them and the wild card spots. Impossible, no. Highly unlikely, but hey, the Senators did it just a year ago.

Is a top 3 pick really a success? It’s a polar opposite to the playoffs, but for a young Sabres team, is another top pick, likely a forward, helpful? I’ll say no. If they do end up finishing with a top 3 pick, I’d call it success if Tim Murray can deal that pick for an established young defenseman. A prime target I would look to is Hampus Lindholm out of Anaheim, or possibly Shea Theodore or Cam Fowler. Picking up a young defenseman who can grow with the rest of the team would be an absolute success.

Aside from the easy success stories, a more in depth look at things would lead to team chemistry. Dan Bylsma has not been shy to jumble the lines – an attitude that has earned him the nickname “Disco Dan”. It will be a great triumph if he can finally find a line that gels. Especially if that line includes Jack Eichel. If he can find some chemistry for Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis, anywhere in the lineup, then that’s just a bonus.

I’ll say it simply because of the chemistry he’s had with Ryan O’Reilly – resigning Jamie McGinn would be huge. He’s a pending UFA, and with the Sabres 12 points out of the playoffs, it may be tempting for Murray to trade him to a contending team. He could garner a solid return, for a player who has 11 goals and 23 points in 53 games. But the upside for the Sabres is too good. The chemistry with O’Reilly and his point totals are a better value than anything they could get in return. If Murray elects to trade him, it’s a big step backwards from success. For a team looking for any chemistry, trading the only chemistry they have is a bad move.

If Eichel wins the Calder, it’s not really a team success, however, it’s a sign that he’s finally found some chemistry, and it’s a big confidence booster if he can finish the season on a high. It gives him a boost coming into next season, hopefully pushing him to start the season quickly. If the team can give Eichel the boost to win the Calder this season, it’s only going to help the team next season – and if Eichel gives a late season Calder performance, maybe they can make the playoffs.

That’s a lot to do for the Sabres. They won’t be able to do it all. However, if they can get two or three of these things done, it can definitely be called a successful building block season. If they can make the playoffs, get a good young defenseman, and Eichel wins the Calder, well, then that’s a huge success. But even if they only manage to find some chemistry and resign McGinn, that’s still a successful build. It’s moving in the right direction, which is really all the Sabres need right now.

Stay Out Of Sports Comment Sections

Ah, comment sections on the internet. A place full of trolls, haters and fakes that flock to Youtube and Facebook to insult and pick fights with random people. Now, usually whenever people think of these guys it’s about how they go to Youtube for their comments. But, that and reddit aren’t the only places they burrow.

A severely overlooked nesting ground are the comment sections on posts for professional sports teams. This is a perfect place where real fans, fair-weather fans and trolls can come together to duke it out. I try not to look at what people say, but it calls to me and I feel like I should. That is always a mistake.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the comments do a complete 180 between a win and a loss. I mean, wow. I’ll look at the comments of a teams post after a loss and the comments will be shit like “Why did we sign (so-and-so), he’s terrible” to “Fire all of management “. SERIOUSLY? One loss and that’s what you say?

Then a couple days later I’ll look after a win and see “(same player they hated)= GOAT” and “Post-season here we come”. Know what the first thing that comes to my mind seeing this? I hate people. If you can change your perspective on a team that drastically in two days, then you’re not a fan. You’re a person who stops watching a team when they hit a rough patch. A fair-weather fan.

My favorite part about the comments sections though? The other teams fans that go to your teams posts just to gloat or complain. I remember looking at a Sharks post after they lost to the Kings. There were the usual hate-filled and glass-half-full comments. Then I start seeing Kings fans talking trash about the Sharks. On the Sharks post.

Guys listen, you’re not considered a better fan is you do that type of stuff, you’re considered pathetic. Chances are the Kings don’t even know you exist, they’re too busy trying to hurt other players. To take the time and energy and look up a teams post and start fighting it’s fans on there is sad and you really need to re-evaluate your life.

I guess the whole point that I’m trying to make from this ramble is don’t look at comment sections. Because all you will find is hate and trolls. So. Many. Trolls.

How does one explain the delusional? One becomes delusional.

How does one explain the delusional? One becomes delusional.

Here is my journey into the craziness and back, and why an impossible scenario, when daydreamed, improved my mood about the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s been noticed by some that Habs fans are a passionate bunch. If you grow up a Canadiens fan, there’s an emotion that you attach to the club that defies logic and reason. When a glimpse of good comes along, the sun is bright, life is good. One deviation from success and panic sets in.

This season has tested the limits of die-hard fanatics though it is only 52 games old. ‘Roller coaster ride’ does not begin to describe the season that has so far made up the 2015-16 one for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s tempting in this crazed frenzy to point the finger and one or two parties that fit any convenient narrative depending on the person to whom that finger belongs. Let’s remind ourselves just how hard it is to pinpoint an exact cause for a team’s success or its meltdowns.

There are many components to running a successful sports team from scouting (amateur and pro level) to drafting, from development to special teams coaching. Nowadays most teams employ analytics people and every team has at least one salary cap specialist. Oh, and the players themselves. Already we can begin to appreciate how complex a machine this really is.

I am going to discuss an idea somewhat like the notion of tanking, but that doesn’t include management asking the players to tank. What if the front office of a team purposely managed and coached a team to the bottom? Players would still be trying, this would be a less toxic solution than coming right out and asking your team to throw games intentionally. Let me make it clear that I do not think the team is purposely tanking. I also hate the idea of it here or in any city for any sport – I also don’t believe the players are lacking in professionalism to actively do this. However this historic collapse (so far) of the Montreal Canadiens is not only the worst in team history, but it’s approaching the NHL history books as well and for the wrong reason. This has caused anguish for the fans. Questions, just so many questions.

In the corner of people who blame the players, they question why someone like Dale Weise went from a 65-goal season pace to… being Dale Weise. They question how a player like Markov was totally fine until he totally wasn’t. Tomas Plekanec will be questioned for his disappearance from the stats sheet shortly after inking a nice contract extension that will see him earn $12M in the next two seasons. So name the player you blame and you see where I’m going with this.

For those who blame the coach, they will question his unwillingness to play Alex Galchenyuk at his natural position. Some of these fans question his “line blender” which comes up with every pairing except the couple of options which seem the most logical based on available talent and previous success. They will question his dump and chase style which causes many neutral zone turnovers and lost pucks deep in opponent territory.

And yet another camp blames the general manager, especially after his January 21st press conference. They question why his team has so many grinders and bottom six players on it (love them as we might). Contract extensions to Michel Therrien and aging players have left some scratching their heads.

Not unlike every other fan, I try to figure out the secrets that lie behind these questions. Probably not unlike most of you, I fail to come up with reasonable answers. Until I jokingly starting thinking of the least likely, completely impossible scenario. Against all odds, this started making everything seem like it made sense. It still doesn’t, because what I am about to propose is preposterous. It was fun, however, to briefly feel like I understood what was happening with the Habs leadership. It made me feel like they were smarter than all of us. We had all just been had.

What if the Canadiens are already actively handcuffing their players’ performance, and we just didn’t know it until now?

Your Canadiens flew out of the gate this year. Fans are constantly reminded of the 9-0 start. I would counter: ‘who watched that first game against the Leafs and thought this was a contending team?’ Sure they corrected a lucky win with some convincing games, and indeed the club seemed to be showing a trend of improvement with their current team and coaching staff. Possession stats improved when compared to the last couple of seasons. Of course the pace they had achieved was not sustainable, but the signs were almost exclusively positive early on.

Losing Brendan Gallagher for 17 games and, in the same week, Carey Price having presumably aggravated an old injury are, when combined, the turning point of this season. And unless you are living under a very large rock, you already know what’s happened in the standings since then. I will spare you going over it again, it’s not pretty.

This impossible scenario would have Canadiens management decide to abandon ship between Christmas and early January. The first potential sign to the outside world came on January 15th, when Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto (at that time, 2nd and 6th in even-strength goals/60 minutes played) were sent down to St. Johns in the AHL in favor of defensive forward Jacob De La Rose. Before anyone had time to unleash any fury, the Canadiens announced the trade of Jarred Tinordi, for players not likely to see any time with the Canadiens, later that same day.

I watched the team collapsing. I watched the coach continue to make bamboozling choices with his lineup and in-game strategy. I listened to the fans go crazy. The players blame themselves. The coach says blame should be shared by everyone including himself. The GM says it’s all on him. Throughout it all, change has not come.

I jokingly considered that Canadiens management has outsmarted us all, and have been trolling us since Christmas. In jest, I played out the scenario of a “management-only-tanking initiative” in my mind and it seemed like I could almost explain the madness we are witnessing. I know I am 100% definitely wrong, but read through this and tell me it doesn’t make more sense than… whatever we see happening in real life.

Carey Price gets hurt early in the year. It doesn’t require surgery, it’s early in the year, and he’s a competitor on a team that is contending. A committee of Carey, coaches, trainers and doctors make the wrong call to bring him back quickly. After a relapse of his mysterious lower body injury and some deeper medical investigation, the Canadiens now have strong reason to believe that Carey Price will not coming back this year; at the very least they knew his absence would be much longer than what they will have to admit to publicly.

By late December, Price’s absence has unexpectedly exposed weaknesses in the team, whether they be attributed to the players available (the GM), the system (coach Therrien), locker room chemistry (the players) or any combination of these and other factors. Marc Bergevin, as a man who is said to be in constant contact with his peers as well as a former player, cannot be so blind as to not identify the gravity of the team’s problems. He now understands some serious changes have to come. It doesn’t mean that he has to clean house, but that as constructed, the team will not win the cup.

Either Bergevin himself, or a small committee of people in upper management, make the decision that this team will intentionally throw the season in hopes of getting a top-tier prospect to pair with their budding star Alex Galchenyuk. Marc Bergevin, despite being a good friend to Michel Therrien, has an honest conversation with his pal and lets him know that he’s not going to be coaching the Canadiens next year. That he will get to play out the rest of the season, which is sliding beyond control but he’s going to have to be the scapegoat for the debacle of a season that will have been.

The team keeps losing, a result of real hockey games with players trying their best, but this helps drive the tank narrative forward for Habs leadership. Bergevin at this point informs the players that Carey Price won’t be back this year, and for the long-term benefit of the team, they will avoid making any big changes to the roster or coaching and the team will have to sink or swim with what it has. He doesn’t tell them the team is tanking. Perhaps this explains Michel Therrien’s lineup decisions. The ice time choices. Centers playing wing. Young prospects not getting a bigger opportunity, It would all make sense.

As media and fan pressure increases on players and coaches, Michel Therrien came to the public defense of his players, particularly Andrei Markov, in an effort to remove the mounting shear on the squad. Almost two months to the day after Price’s injury, Marc Bergevin comes out and takes the blame on his shoulders, knowing that he needs to deflect attention from the team’s struggles. This then lightens the public scrutiny of Michel Therrien, J.J. Daigneault, Dan Lacroix and Clement Jodoin.

Tony Marinaro showed the courage to ask a very direct and honest question to Marc Bergevin, who vehemently defends his coaches. At this point, the General Manager knows they are actively throwing the season, and thus changing the coach would be more detrimental in the long term. He cannot be expected to tell the media that the team is tanking – there would be far worse consequences to those we have seen through the actual inaction of the organization. I love the Montreal Forum host for asking, but Bergevin answered in the only way he can.

The team is not being managed in a way that it can win many games, so the status quo makes sense. Keep a coach, system and roster that is struggling to achieve anything resembling good hockey. There might be some fallout, but you want to wait for the off-season to make a change. Hopefully several changes.

I know that is preposterous to cough up as a theory – but thinking about that makes me feel better about what’s going on. What if Marc Bergevin actually now knows what the team needs to win, and is willing to sink one season for a chance to draft another solid young forward? What if it worked, and he could pair a top prospect to a shiny new coaching staff in the fall, with a clean slate, fresh hopes, and a fan base that won’t have seen hockey since early April; they will be more than willing to hang their hopes high for 2016-17.

Close your eyes and consider the following. Montreal could enter next season with: Max Pacioretty (perennial 30 goal scorer and top tier shooter), Brendan Gallagher (the on-ice leader by example who is having a career year, points-wise), Alex Galchenyuk (still improving, having his career best points/60 minutes season despite questionable usage by the coach), a top 5 prospect forward like Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, P.K. Subban in his prime and a healthy Carey Price. A new coaching staff. Now open your eyes and tell me you wouldn’t be excited to see that team in October.

Even though this “tanking” scenario is completely fake, and not at all possible, I believe it is important we note that the Montreal Canadiens, as with any professional sports team, will not disclose injury information about any of its players, let alone the best player in the world. To expect real information is crazier than a team’s unwillingness to talk to the press about it.

What is a General Manager supposed to say about his coaching staff when pressed about their job security? You have to back up who you have until the day you don’t have them any more. It’s not perfect but Marc Bergevin’s lack of action since this presser is more bewildering than his public statement backing Therrien and crew.

The team’s motto is supposed to be “no excuses”. The players are admirable in their willingness to take responsibility for the team’s slide without leaning on excuses. If they know there’s a problem in the room, with the coach, with the lineup, they do a great job not bringing it up. We shouldn’t expect media-trained athletes to give us anything more than that, except perhaps for the odd hot take from P.K. or Max.

Michel Therrien has his strengths and his weaknesses. Like him, love him or hate him, he’s the coach. Until he isn’t the coach, the players will stand up for him, and the GM will stand up for him. Therrien will go on coaching the way we does. Availability of candidates available mid-season, as well as language, restrict the pool of candidates the Canadiens could consider if they were shopping for a new bench boss. Maybe we have to accept that despite record-setting awfulness, this team will have to wait for the off-season before undergoing the face lift it needs to achieve the next level.

Call me delusional (I know I do!) but I might just stay in this fantasy world, because since I entered it, I haven’t wondered why Therrien still plays Desharnais 3 minutes more than Galchenyuk. Why Chucky is on the wing. Why our top three offensive threats don’t get to play together. I haven’t worried about why Bergevin got us so many pluggers and energy guys at the expense of real top six scoring. I haven’t worried about tension between players or off-ice shenanigans. It helps me laugh off the sheer comic urgency of our decline.

I blog about the Canadiens and the CWHL, follow me on twitter @PucksOnTheNet and don’t forget to keep checking out (also on twitter @HkyBlogger) for all our writers’ stories!

The Flying Marchand and the Comeback Kids

Today’s blog will be a 2-for-1 special. I had to move over the week and wasn’t really able to catch the games in full, so let’s catch the game in 6 for both and… and see that Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak have become Gods, apparently.

Real talk now. WHAT. A. HIT. Good God the Dream laid the smackdown on Marchand. He had his whiny face on for a minute or two after he took that hit, and it was glorious considering what he does to us. Naz wasn’t great on the dot over the past few games before they hit the B’s, which is thankfully starting to become uncharacteristic, but he put up 2 points and was a +3 on the night so you can’ really complain on that front.

Mo’ Riels continues to show up strong game in and game out with an assist off a shot from the point. And, Optimus Reim has thrown together a win streak, which is nice in small bursts this season (Come on Matthews) but whats impressive is his consistently above .920 save %. Reimer has clearly shown that if he hasn’t been hit in the head, he’s a world-beater.

Last but not least on my “list of guys to talk about” is Tyler Bozak. BOOST YOUR VALUE BUDDY! He is an absolute MONSTER on faceoffs. I went through the backlog of game stats and it’s easier to count the number of games where he’s been below 50%. 12. 12 games out of 46. Just above a quarter. so 74% of all games, Bozak will win you at least half of the Draws he takes.

Now lets get to the Team as a whole. Did anyone see this last year? For a team of misfit forwards, they show a hell of a lot of heart game in and game out. Usually it’s been in the form of not laying up 2 stinker games in a row, but these past 2 games it’s been in the form of pushing back and getting the win despite everything saying they wouldn’t. We’ve heard it all year that this team was going to have to score by committee and that’s rung even more true since JVR went down. Parenteau when he has time and space (the shoot out and the powerplay, vs his lame-duckness on 5-v-5) Shawn Matthias, Leo “All Star/Leading Scorer” Komarov. Guys who we’d have never expected to be as effective as they are, are getting it done. This is what happens when you have a proper support network through management. Everyone knew Horacheck wasn’t expected to win, and The Toastmaster should never have been brought back last year at the start, but In the long run it got us Babcock, and that’s what’ll propel the Leafs forward in the long run.

Despite Ticket Drive, Las Vegas Remains A Doubtful City

As the NHL expansion drama develops, it seems like Las Vegas and Quebec City will be inevitably chosen. Significantly the NHL’s excessive terms have changed the minds of possible bidders from Hamilton, Toronto, Hartford, Seattle, Portland and Milwaukee. I chose these cities because they and Quebec City have one significant different characteristic from the front-running city, Las Vegas, a credible fan-base.

In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a pre-expansion tour of the three cities that lost their franchises in the 1990s, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and gave them the three terms for readmission. These were credible ownership, an NHL acceptable arena, and an adequate fan-base. These conditions are mandatory for every bidder in any future NHL expansion.

The arena and ownership issues are in various stages of development for all the above cities, but all these cities have deep roots in hockey and have no problem with the third condition, the fan-base – except the front-running city, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas typifies the kind of American city that has been so characteristic of the relocation/expansion city choices made during Gary Bettman’s time as Commissioner. Except for Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, none of them have much interest in or have much history with hockey. Columbus, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, Anaheim, Raleigh, Phoenix… many of them had to be introduced to and “taught” the game of hockey. Some of them have been successful; many have been money-losers.

They were chosen not because the “fans” in these cities loved hockey but because Bettman and the NHL wanted to be a “big four” sport in the United States, with a lucrative American television contract like the NFL, MLB and the NBA. By spreading the game of hockey all over the United States in unfamiliar markets, it was hoped to make hockey an “American game” – and win that lucrative television contract. As noted above, the results have been very spotty. In some seasons, as many as ten American NHL franchises were losing money.

Meanwhile in Canada and the north-western United States, the areas so conspicuously ignored by the NHL when it came to expansion/relocation, there was fury and bitterness at the NHL’s expansion/relocation choices. Hockey-loving cities like Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Hartford were stripped of their teams in favor of money-losing cities like Phoenix. The NHL was deemed anti-Canadian.

There was a “see I told you so” response from Canada when Winnipeg got its team back from Atlanta. And if Quebec City gets the Nordiques back, as seems likely during this coming expansion, more wounds will be healed. Nor can Canadians complain if cites like Seattle, Portland, Hartford, and Milwaukee got a franchise. They all have extensive experience with hockey in the NHL, at the American university level, or deep roots in Canadian junior hockey.

But a city like Las Vegas, like so many other choices made during the Bettman years is at best a 50-50 proposition. It is an interesting novelty now, the first time a “big four” sport tried to establish itself in the city, but will it remain so? Will fans stick with the team during the initial bad times that all expansion teams have at first or will interest wane as the defeats pile up? Everybody knows that except in extreme circumstances, cities like Quebec, Hamilton, Seattle, Portland, etc. are going to stick with their teams through thick and thin. That has not been the case with many American franchises during the Gary Bettman years.

But there are positive signs. The prospective ticket drive has been a success, indicating that many Las Vegas sports fans are willing to put their money where their mouths are. And if hockey does take off in Las Vegas, there is no reason for anybody to complain. Las Vegas, unlike Seattle was ready with both an arena and ownership. Right now, they deserve all the support and best wishes they can get. If they are a success, they will have deserved the hearty congratulations of everybody. They will have earned it.

Stop Playing Favorites, NHL.

Watching WWE’s Royal Rumble this year (the actual match itself, and not the program in full) has now made me start to think about their product recently. They had a champion that nobody liked – Roman Reigns – who had been booed by fans because of his “never say die” attitude.

Case in point (and spoilers for those of you who haven’t watched, even at the time of this publishing): Reigns was punished by McMahon and the “League of Nations”. He took a major beating and had to be helped to the back. As Sheamus was entering the match, Reigns came from out of nowhere and attacked him. He ultimately gets eliminated, and Vince gets the last laugh as Triple H wins the title at the close of the show. Triple H hasn’t been seen on free television in at least a month, but with the McMahon/Reigns storyline, do you expect someone different to win the title? Not on your life.

So why am I bringing up wrestling in a hockey blog? The Royal Rumble this year is strangely similar to what NBC’s ideas are. They consistently shove players and teams down your throat and expect you to like what you’re seeing.

Not a huge fan of the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin feud after all these years? Too bad, because you would’ve gotten the next chapter of their “rivalry” if DC wasn’t still snowed in. I’m personally sick of something that only the media would over-hype. (Crosby comes back from a concussion, and it’s a bigger story than a Boston/Montreal game. If my memory serves me right, didn’t NBCSN actually air a Crosby game in Boston’s spot once? Yeah, surprise!)

Taylor Hall versus Tyler Seguin was also supposed to be hyped – and that didn’t happen. Boston (now Dallas) and Edmonton never had that nice ring to it. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel aren’t getting attention either, also due to their cities seeing each other no more than twice. So let’s just ignore them, shall we? Besides, they’re not players who NBC’s executives want you to see.

They want you to see as much of Crosby and Ovechkin as possible. And when you think about it, it’s not just the players who get too much attention – it’s also the teams. Wednesday Night Rivalry is so chock full of the same teams these days, that it’s no longer entertaining. Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington… Need I say anything else? You barely have a Western Conference team there, unless the network decided to throw them in as part of a doubleheader. That’s been a bit more frequent, but not good enough for me.

I know those are NBC’s cash cows, but give me a break. There are other rivalries out there that should get attention. Montreal got one or two appearances on American television twice last season, I believe, mainly due to Boston getting the time with them. Toronto being the visitors to the ’14 Winter Classic got them some love as well. But if you pay attention to the commercials for – throwing something out there for evidence – Winter Classics in the past, will you get the picture as well?

2009 – Pittsburgh @ Buffalo – not sure what the ads were.
2010 – Philadelphia @ Boston – players walking towards a pond, bringing back childhood memories.
2011 – Detroit @ Chicago – clips of both teams to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.
2012 – Washington @ Pittsburgh – Crosby versus Ovechkin. Need I say more?

I might be in the minority, but I absolutely hated the concept of ’12’s ad for the game. If they had given some other players some love, it wouldn’t have been such a huge problem on my end. Might not be your opinion.

So NBC, do me a favor – stop getting pushed around. There are other teams in the league that never get attention, regardless of how good they’re doing… And that’s only because the league’s laughing their way to the bank with their media-obsessed rivalries.