NHL 2017-18 Season First Quarter Report

It’s time to repeat the series I wrote on this blog last year, reports about what happened during each quarter of the season. Each team has now played at least 20 games so what patterns and developments can be discerned in the first part of the new season?

Biggest Surprise

Las Vegas Golden Knights

Actually the biggest surprise is no surprise at all for this award. The runaway winner which nobody has to guess at is the new expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The fact that they have a winning record and have a real chance to make the playoffs shows just how good a job owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee have done. It is true that the NHL has tried this time to make the expansion process as generous as possible but you have to have smart ownership and management to know how to take maximum advantage of the situation. Even if the Knights were to lose every remaining game in the schedule and finish out of the playoffs, what they have done has got the franchise off on the right foot and makes however this season ends up, a success.

Honorable Mentions

New Jersey Devils

The Devils got lucky by getting the number one draft choice but that doesn’t mean anything unless they produce on the ice. Now the Devils have a good chance to come up from the depths and make the playoffs this year. One word of caution; last year the Devils started off playing good hockey too but faded. Certainly they have to be watched closely for remaining three quarters to see if they have staying power this time.

Winnipeg Jets And Toronto Maple Leafs (tie)

Both of these teams are building on the improvements they made last year. The Leafs are even winning without their best player, Auston Matthews in the lineup. The Leafs goal this year is to win a playoff round and the Jets goal is to make the playoffs. Right now, it is reasonable to be optimistic for both teams.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues who lost significant talent last year and have added some this year continue to respond Mike Yeo’s coaching and now have the best record in the Western Conference. But the real test will be the playoffs if they make it. Have they improved enough to go farther than last year? Two years ago they built a team that finally got them over one hump all the way to the Western Conference Final. Last year they tore that team apart, changed coaches, and still did well in the playoffs. Can they finally get over two humps and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, something they haven’t done since their Scotty Bowman coaching days, back in the 1960s?

Colorado Avalanche

Sending the Avalanche to play in Europe this year, seemed a bad idea to me at the time last year because I felt the European NHL fans deserved to see a decent team in person if NHL games in Europe were to be revived. But the Avalanche have improved and at least for now, have a real chance to make the playoffs. Like the New Jersey Devils, the big question is do they have staying power? They will be closely watched during the remaining three quarters of the season.

Biggest Bonehead

Florida Panthers

Surprise! Everybody thought I would be picking the horrible Arizona Coyotes. But the worst boneheads of the season belong to the equally death-wish Florida Panthers who made coach Gerard Gallant, who got the Panthers into the playoffs, something they seldom have done in their miserable history, the first coach to be fired last season, even though he had a winning record at the time. I wrote an article on this blog about it last season in which I predicted that Gallant would automatically become a leading candidate for a new vacant head coaching position this season. And guess who might have been reading that article? Why none other than Las Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee who must have been impressed with the interview that Gallant gave and hired him to be the Knights first coach. Let’s see the result. Florida finished out of the playoffs without Gallant last year, are currently near the bottom of the Eastern Conference this year and are likely to miss the playoffs again while new expansion team Las Vegas has incredibly a real chance to finish with a winning record and make the playoffs with Gallant as coach. Just another example of why Florida is where it is.

An equally stupid move was to let go one of its best players, the legendary Jaromir Jagr simply because he was old. Jagr certainly can’t do what he once could do but he was not unproductive. Calgary is glad to have him.

Dishonorable Mentions

Arizona Coyotes

This year NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stood before the Arizona State Legislature and pleaded for public taxpayer money to build yet another new arena in the downtown Phoenix area. The Legislature supported by the equally vociferous Glendale municipal authorities and taxpayers counter-argued that why should public taxpayer money be given to a “professional” sports franchise that has iced only one competitive team in its entire history and consistently ices bad teams that don’t even come close to making the playoffs. Of course Bettman argued that if a new arena would be built, that would change. Instead he has to witness maybe the worst Coyote team ever iced, just when he needed to have a significantly improved team the most. The Coyotes were out of playoff contention by the time the first ten games of the season were played. Try and get money now, Gary. Equally insulting was the declaration by the ownership of the NBA Phoenix Suns that they would rather repair their existing arena and make it more basketball friendly than build a new arena in partnership with the Coyotes.

And just as stupidly as Florida was in getting rid of Jagr because he was old, so the Coyotes told the most popular player in their history, Shane Doan to retire for the same reason, even though he was still productive and a box office draw. If it wasn’t for Gallant rubbing it in on Florida this season and highlighting their ineptness, the Arizona Deathwishers would be runaway choices for most poorly owned and managed team in the NHL.

Buffalo Sabres

Last year owner Terry Pegula of the Buffalo Sabres took note of how the Edmonton Oilers with their new star player, Connor McDavid; the Toronto Maple Leafs with their new star player, Auston Matthews; the Winnipeg Jets with their new star player Patrik Laine; all drafted around the same time as the Buffalo Sabres new star player Jack Eichel; improved while the Sabres stagnated. Envious and impatient, he abruptly fired his management and coaching staff and now the Sabres are significantly worse. They still have a chance to make the playoffs but they seem to be going backward instead of forward. Another high draft choice appears to be on the horizon and it’s going to be made by a management and coaching staff that may be worse than the ones whom Pegula fired.

Edmonton Oilers

Speaking of the Oilers, currently they hold the title of Mr. Regression. After going ten years without making the playoffs despite getting repeated high draft choices, Edmonton finally ended the drought last year and even won a playoff round. But this year they find themselves ahead of only the Coyotes in their conference. A strong reason may be that they have a mediocre coach, Todd McLellan, who has done nothing noteworthy in his career as an NHL head coach. The next quarter of the season, games 20 to 40, is crucial for Edmonton. If they continue to fade and any 8 Western Conference teams manage to pull away so that the playoffs are out of reach (St. Louis is already close to that), McLellan could be the first coach to be fired this season.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal and the New York Rangers both got off to horrible starts, but whereas the Rangers have righted the ship somewhat and have a chance to make the playoffs, the Canadiens are still struggling with a losing record including a recent defeat to the horrible Arizona Coyotes on home ice. The fans are going to love that. The main reason is horrible guesswork by general manager Marc Bergevin. Two years ago, Montreal seemed to have a playoff position sewn up only to lose it when goaltender Carey Price got injured. Bergevin started hunting for scapegoat players who didn’t respond when the goaltender went down and zeroed in on popular defenseman P.K. Subban who was traded to Nashville. For a while Bergevin was laughing his head off when Montreal was near the top of the Eastern Conference while Nashville was struggling to make the playoffs, but as everyone who followed last year’s playoffs knows, by the end of the season Bergevin was watching Subban in the Stanley Cup Final while Montreal was eliminated in only the first round.

Two other factors have to be mentioned. First Montreal lost two veteran defensemen. And Price himself is a suspect NHL goalie even though he has won Vezina Trophies. He wins international championships when he has defenses like the ones Team Canada can put in front of him, but it is a different story in the NHL when he has the Montreal defense. He was playing poorly this year when he got hurt and in his entire NHL history, he has never been able to take Montreal beyond the second round. Just as bad is Bergevin’s inability to provide decent backup goaltending for the past three years.

Teams Playing Better Than They Should Be

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings glory years are in the past and right now they should have a bad record while they are injecting high draft choices into a rebuilding lineup. But the Red Wings are playing respectable hockey yet again and at least for the first quarter, they have a chance to make the playoffs. Just shows what a quality organization can do.

Vancouver Canucks

The Sedins are in their declining years, and like the Red Wings, the Canucks should have a bad record while experimenting with new players. But at the end of this quarter, they have a respectable record and a chance to make the playoffs.

End Of An Era?

All was going well for the Chicago Blackhawks last year who were the favorites in the Western Conference at the end of the regular season to make the Stanley Cup Final when an unexpected shameful 4-game sweep by the Nashville Predators, whom the Blackhawks had always handled easily in previous playoff match ups occurred in the very first round. For the first time, the fabled veterans who had come through in the clutch so often during the previous ten years failed them. And worse, none of the new players whom they were developing stepped up. Not even three time Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville could salvage anything. This year the Blackhawks have a respectable record and could make the playoffs but they could also not make it. Is the greatest era in Chicago Blackhawks history so far, finally over like their cousins in Detroit? Is all that is left is who is going into the Hall of Fame in a few years? This team certainly bears watching for the remainder of the season.

And Have They Found Themselves Again?

The best team in the Western Conference after the Chicago Blackhawks during the previous decade has been the Los Angeles Kings. But they slipped a bit in recent years and made a coaching change last year, plus added new players and draft choices this year. They are leading their division again at the end of the first quarter. Are they back? Are they a Stanley Cup contender again? They need to be watched closely as the season progresses.

Team Back Where It Should Be?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, not the Washington Capitals have probably been Pittsburgh’s best eastern rival this past decade. But in the last years, the Lightening have been severely hurt by Steve Stamkos’s injuries. For the first quarter, the Lightning have been by far the best team in the entire NHL. The two questions are can they stay healthy, including the entire playoffs, and will the new goaltending which replaced Ben Bishop who always seemed to get injured at the wrong time hold up?

Player With The Most Pressure On Him

Matt Duchene

Normally Alex Ovechkin has been the automatic winner of this individual honor as he has been for the past several seasons, but now the award has been passed to the recently acquired Matt Duchene of the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa came the closest of any team to dethroning Pittsburgh last year and believed they failed only because they lacked a star forward like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Duchene is clearly expected to fill that role for Ottawa and put them over the top. The pressure is on not only for Duchene to produce, but for the coach and management to find players who have chemistry to be his line-mates. And if they can’t find anyone, there may be more changes coming to Ottawa.

Honorable Mentions

Alexander Ovechkin and the Usual Washington Gang

If it wasn’t for Duchene, Ovechkin would be leading the league for this award again. Billed as the equal of Sidney Crosby when he entered the NHL, Ovechkin has lots of pretty individual statistics and awards but has horrible team records both in the NHL and internationally. The score in this mismatched, now irrelevant “rivalry” is Crosby, 3 Stanley Cups, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 1 World Cup to Ovechkin’s 0. No coach, either Russian or NHL has made Ovechkin a winner. He has never even made a Conference Final like his hockey dad, Marcel Dionne (whoops!) who had a similar career and is his mentor and ghost in all but name.

Actually the problem with this overrated star player may be the Washington ownership and management which has tried in vain to build a winning team around him for more then a decade and refuses to recognize his limitations and trade him, perhaps because they need a star player to sell tickets in Washington. But they have changed coaches, added star players and nothing has worked. Why Ovechkin doesn’t produce in the clutch when Washington and Russia need him the most, I don’t know. But his record speaks for itself. If all he can do is sell tickets, trade him to Arizona or Florida where they need a star attraction for next year’s top draft choice.

Grouped around Ovechkin is that equally underachieving gang of longtime Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Orpik, and goaltender Braden Holtby. Holtby, like Carey Price noted above, wins Vezina Trophies but fails in the clutch. (3 goals on 14 shots and 3 goals on 19 shots against Pittsburgh last year.) Sooner or later the Capitals have to get a good shake up. Meanwhile, oh well…

Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk was acquired by Washington last year in a desperate attempt to finally get the Capitals and Ovechkin over the hump. But the usual result occurred and Shattenkirk moved on to the New York Rangers. It also didn’t help that his old team, the St. Louis Blues who had already lost talent in the off season did just as good as Washington did in the playoffs without him. He’s hoping to rebuild his reputation in New York and the Rangers slow start did nothing to help him. Things have gotten better of late but the Rangers fate is going to be closely watched for the remainder of the season, and Shattenkirk with them.

Carey Price

Price’s injury two years ago was the main reason general manager Marc Bergevin made the Subban trade with Nashville. Bergevin obviously believes that Price is a Stanley Cup winning goaltender but is he? As noted above, he wins international championships when he has a team like Team Canada but the best Price has ever done in the Stanley Cup playoffs for Montreal is win one playoff round. Ironically, Jaroslav Halak, his old Montreal teammate, the goaltender for Team Europe whom Price beat in the final for the World Cup took Montreal deeper in the playoffs than Price has ever done. The decision to keep Price and trade Halak still haunts Montreal.

Mr. Naive

Rick Tocchet, anxious to be an NHL head coach at last, accepting the position of the Arizona Coyotes, little knowing what he was getting himself into…

Team With The Most Hope

New York Islanders

Not on the ice. They are hoping that they will be told they will get a new arena within six months.

Executive Harvesting

Last year there were several coaching changes made but it seems to me, after the first quarter of this season, that changes need to be made at the general manager level instead of at coach (with the possible exception of Todd McLellan [see above]). (Actually this issue probably merits a full article. I’ll just list this section briefly)

Marc Bergevin, Montreal

As stated above, Bergevin’s great guesswork at finding scapegoats, his faith in Carey Price, his inability to find competent backup goaltenders, and the enjoyment Montreal fans had at watching one of their favorite players, P. K. Subban in the Stanley Cup Final last year makes him a prime target to being lynched in Montreal.

John Chayka, Arizona

You knew that your Commissioner, Gary Bettman was going to stand before the Arizona State Legislature and plead for a new downtown Phoenix arena, didn’t you John. And you knew that the opponents in the Legislature, amply seconded by those wonderful officials from the suburb of Glendale were going to cite good money being thrown on bad management over the years as a counter-argument. And you also knew that you needed to draw fans and needed popular star players like Shane Doan to do this. So why did you tell Doan to retire and then present Bettman and the Arizona fans with such a sorry mess that the Coyotes have lost all chance at making the playoffs after only ten games and any chance that the Legislature will give you money for a new arena? Alas poor Tocchet…

Dale Tallon, Florida

Tallon, once the number two overall pick of the draft for the Vancouver Canucks back in 1970 when they finally got an expansion team, was part of the decision process that decided to get rid of coach Gerard Gallant, now the coach of Las Vegas who had a winning record at the time. And was Tallon part of the same decision process that got rid of Jaromir Jagr on the basis that he was an old player, even though he was still productive? I don’t know how the Jagr deal will turn out for Calgary, but Tallon at least merits some kind of reward for building an expansion team from nothing… the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Jason Botterill, Buffalo

Perhaps an unfair choice to be put on this list but is he ever on the hot seat. Owner Terry Pegula, envious and impatient of what he was seeing in Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and elsewhere believed the Sabres should have been on par in development with those three teams and fired his coaching staff and management. Whatever Botterill does, Buffalo has to show almost immediate significant improvement to please the owner. So far this season, the Sabres are floundering. How patient will Pegula be?

Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota

Several years ago Minnesota never made the playoffs. Then Fletcher signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and Minnesota was able to make the playoffs and beat weak, non-Stanley Cup contending playoff teams. Since then, Fletcher has never added any more significant talent to make Minnesota a true contender who can beat potential Stanley Cup winners. One of the people who suffered from this stagnation was ex-Wild coach Mike Yeo who had been employed during these wheel-spinning years, who eventually was inevitably fired. But wasn’t that Yeo, last year who took over the St. Louis Blues who actually LOST talent during the off season and during the trade deadline, who got the Blues into the playoffs and then easily beat Fletcher’s Wild in the first round, the most humiliating defeat in Wild playoff history? And isn’t it Yeo this year who is currently leading the Western Conference while Minnesota is struggling to make the playoffs? Minnesota had better make the playoffs this year and do something significant, at least as good as Yeo’s Blues do or a rethink needs to be done about the future including management of this team.

Anniversaries

As everyone knows, it is Canada’s 150th birthday. And as everybody knows it is the NHL’s Centenary year, being founded in 1917. There will be a special outdoor commemorative game in Ottawa in December between the Senators and Canadiens which even American television will broadcast. But does anyone remember that it is the 88th anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre? To commemorate this wonderful event the NHL will produce a re-enactment starring NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as Al Capone. To play the victims, the NHL has recruited the owners and management of the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes, two franchises Bettman has busted his butt off to try to save over the years.

I recently visited the set and was impressed with the realism to be enacted, especially in this year of mass shootings, with Bettman’s Tommy gun. Loved his Fedora hat too. And the bullets felt pretty real as well. Say, Gary, you’re not taking this thing too seriously are you? And why were two trucks, one with a Quebec Nordiques logo on it and the other with a Seattle Metropolitans logo parked outside the garage? You’re not really sore about what has happened with these two deathwishers – I mean franchises – are you Gary? This is just a fun thing isn’t it? Something like the commemorative game in Ottawa? You’re not bitter after all that hard work to find owners for Florida and to keep the Coyotes out of Hamilton, Ontario? This is just another one of the NHL’s fun, commemorative celebration events this year, Gary? Right Gary? Gary…

 

 

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Sad NHL Celebratory Centennial Meeting In Montreal

The climax of the NHL’s centenary celebrations this year has started to occur. This year the NHL scheduled its general managers’ meeting in historical Montreal, almost 100 years to the day when the NHL was founded in the Windsor Hotel. You could not accuse NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman of being an ignorant American on the subject of the founding of an exclusive Canadian hockey league in 1917. It was clear from every article on the NHL news section on their website that he was very articulate and knowledgeable about what happened a century ago. He would say all the important and appropriate right things about the historical event and the importance of Montreal in the founding of the league.

What made the occasion sad was that several important relevant NHL topics were brought up at various press conferences and Bettman could not or dared not tell the truth publicly. Instead he was forced to talk as honestly as he could in the usual political/bureaucratic jargon that officials and politicians use in public – vague, hopeful generalities that get politicians and officials off the hook, that paste things over and settle nothing. Let’s go over them and read between the lines.

The first topic was NHL expansion and realignment. Bettman quite rightly stressed the importance of the NHL consolidating and absorbing its newest franchise, Las Vegas. But his bureaucratic jargon statement was that NHL was not going to merely expand for the sake of achieving symmetry – ie. to reach at least 32 teams so that the league could realign into an NHL structure of 2 conferences, each with 4 divisions of 4 teams, which would make things easier for the fans to understand and allow the league to expand to 40, even 48 teams.

What he didn’t dare say was that the NHL wanted to reach a symmetrical number of teams during the last expansion and failed, probably because the $500 million expansion fee scared away investors and now he’s got a major problem for future expansion. Either he finds a way to persuade rich investors to accept a $500 million expansion fee for an NHL franchise or he finds a face-saving way to refund some of the expansion money back to Las Vegas owner, Bill Foley, and then sets a new lower expansion fee that investors can accept. Of course none of that was mentioned.

The next topic was NHL expansion to Houston. Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA Houston Rockets has publicly stated on his Twitter account that he would like to have an NHL franchise in Houston. Bettman in response uttered the usual generalities that the NHL is delighted in knowing that some investors have an interest in the league and that they are ready to listen to anybody if they can make a new franchise feasible (especially if they have got a spare $500 million around).

What he didn’t say was that the NHL would be overjoyed if Houston joined the league as soon as possible. Houston would be a perfect city to round out the NHL to 32 teams. It is the largest American market without an NHL team. It is the perfect rival for the Dallas Stars. It is located in the right time zone/area to make realignment and balancing the conferences possible. Bettman also did not mention if Fertitta would accept a $500 million expansion fee. But Bettman and the NHL want Houston in the league as fast as possible.

Then came the subject of Quebec City returning to the NHL. Bettman simply repeated the usual previous public statements, that he told before, that he had warned Quebec City officials and politicians that they could keep building their arena but not to expect a team – and not to rule out the possibility of a team coming back to Quebec.

What he didn’t say was that the NHL would love to have Quebec City and its market, now grown to 800,000+ back in the league. That the league loves the new Videotron arena as evidenced by awarding Quebec City a World Cup exhibition game and allowing the Montreal Canadiens to play preseason games there every year. That Bettman had met with officials like the Quebec City mayor and the Quebec provincial premier and urged them to keep building the arena. And most pertinently, that the real reason that the NHL has put the Quebec City bid in “suspension” is because they cannot accept the unsuitable bidder, Pierre Karl Peladeau, owner of Quebecor.

At most press conferences, Bettman was accompanied by Montreal Canadiens owner, Geoff Molson, the NHL Board member whom Peladeau publicly insulted with inappropriate racial remarks after he lost his attempt to buy the Canadiens himself. Peladeau’s name was never mentioned at any press conference. Nor was Peladeau present at any public meetings which Bettman attended, a usual occurrence. Sadly, Bettman dropped no hints about any behind the scenes attempts to find a suitable Quebec City owner instead of Peladeau, or if any progress had been made in that direction.

The final interesting topic raised by both Bettman and Molson was about the failure to host an NHL outdoor game in Montreal. And what they didn’t say was that they were waiting for Major League Baseball to announce expansion and bring back the Montreal Expos in an appropriate new baseball stadium. It is well known that Montreal is the leading city for a new MLB expansion franchise and that there is already a group of local businessmen ready to submit a bid and deal with a new stadium issue when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who has publicly favored a returned Expos himself, officially announces expansion. It would seem that a returned Expos is a foregone conclusion in the near future and that the NHL is only waiting for that happy event to occur so that they can play outdoor games in Montreal.

And so concludes this article about the NHL’s latest official statements about what is going on with their league. The Commissioner said a lot of relevant, appropriate, and important things in public, but what he didn’t say was much more meaningful.

 

NHL Rookies Making An Early Statement So Far In 2017/18

With a quarter of the NHL season over there are several rookies turning some heads around the league. Different players bring something to the table each night. Some players bring a physical presence, others bring blazing speed which separates hockey from the other sports In this post we’ll examine several rookies who are out to make a name for themselves.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In Boston, the struggling Bruins have two bright spots thus far this season. Boston University product Charlie Mc Avoy has come as advertised. At 20 years old he plays like a veteran finishing off his checks, and moves the puck very well. Teammates are amazed at his maturity and self_ confidence. Teammate Anders Bjork has been one of the teams scoring leaders so far with six points. Bjork the former Notre Dame product is also one of the fastest players on the team.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Defenseman Clayton Keller of Arizona has been one of the most exciting players in the league thus far. After fifteen games Keller accounts for 1/3 of the Coyotes offense with six goals. If he stays healthy and keeps the same pace up he could finish the season with 30 plus goals and in line for NHL rookie of the year. Despite a struggling Coyote team,  Keller gives Arizona a ray of hope.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Columbus defenseman Sonny Milano has Blue Jacket fans raving about his moves. His five goals make one him of the most potent scorers for the Blue Jackets. If there is one flaw Milano has it’s his cockiness and immaturity. Head coach John Tortorella cut back on Milanos minutes due to his cocky behavior. Hockey fans know from experience that Tortorella doesn’t tolerate such behavior. Tortorella instead likes a player with character and leadership.   This is one of the growing pains being a rookie.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Goaltender Malcolm Subban of Las Vegas has made a considerable impression after filling in for injured goalie Marc Andre Fleury. Subban the ex _Bruin_ castoff has started the last five games for the Golden Knights and has kept the Knights competitive.Subban has more playing time in two weeks than he did in his four years up and down with the Bruins.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Other notables that deserve recognition are Devils defenseman  Will Butcher and Teammate   Jasper Bratt. Out of all of the NHL’s rookies, Butcher is the top scorer but has gone pointless in his last two games. Bratt, on the other hand, is a 19 _year old Swede who has been very effective on the penalty kill.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Surviving in the NHL takes dedication and character. Whether these rookies turn out to be Sydney Crosby or Brad Marchand only time will tell. If they can all stay fairly healthy and productive then following their career should be a lot of fun.

Bettman Still Ducks The Main Issue Hurting International Hockey

I don’t know whether to shake NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s hand or give him a good shakeup. Perhaps both, especially when it comes to international hockey. There he was doing many of the right things again, everything except competently addressing the main problem with international hockey.

The occasion was his official comments on the NHL’s return to playing regular season games in Europe after a six year absence. The city chosen was the Swedish capital, hockey hotbed Stockholm, and the two games were a home and home series between the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche. Last year it seemed like a mediocre match up because Colorado had a bad team. But the recent improvement of the Avalanche and the unexpected consummation of a major trade for Matt Duchene, involving both the Senators and the Avalanche provided extra spice for both the Swedish media and the fans. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that tickets were selling better to both games now than when the NHL broke off its European regular season games, six years ago.

Bettman is an international hockey teaser. He is definitely sincere about improving international hockey. He brought back the World Cup last year. He brought a decent match to Stockholm this year and hopes to increase the number of games and the number of countries to play regular season games in future years. Earlier this year, the NHL played preseason games and hosted clinics in China and Daly says the NHL wants to play more preseason games there next year. And the two chief NHL officials made the predictable tributes to the contribution of Swedish hockey to the NHL.

But as usual, neither Bettman nor Daly made any comment about solving the main problem that is hurting the expansion of hockey internationally, the quality of play outside the traditional “big 7″ countries, Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. It is not that Bettman doesn’t know about it either. When he brought back the World Cup in 2016, he created two hybrid teams, Team Europe and Team North America. This was because most games between the traditional 7 against teams outside the “big 7″ countries are usually boring mismatches and Bettman was having none of that in his revived World Cup. Even Slovakia did not send a team, though it contributed the most players to Team Europe.

There are about 50 countries who play hockey internationally and a dozen of them have been stuck at the “B Level” quality of play – just below the top level of international play – since before the Canada-USSR match of 1972 when NHL pros played against international competition for the first time. Only Switzerland and Denmark have shown any real improvement and in Bettman’s eyes, were still not good enough to be invited to his revived World Cup. Daly spoke about playing regular and preseason games in cities of these “B Level” countries in the future but interest in international hockey is not going to grow until these countries can ice teams that have a real chance to win medals and championships.

What is needed is a comprehensive plan including investment money and serious talks involving the NHL, the governing international bodies of the traditional “big 7 countries” and the governing bodies of at least some of the countries – particularly those countries stuck at the “B Level” of play, to increase the standard of play internationally. Until that is done, all of the NHL and Bettman’s good intentions are going to be stunted. If Bettman wants his World Cup of hockey to start attaining the status of the World Cup of soccer, the international base has to be significantly expanded. A World Cup of 16 competitive national teams should be a reasonable goal for the future.

The lack of any plan to improve the quality of international play is bad enough for the NHL but there is a potential big embarrassment coming as well which was not addressed by Bettman and Daly. They pulled the NHL out the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea next year just when the South Korean national team managed to join at least the “B Level” countries and will compete in next year’s World Championship against “big 7″ teams for the first time. Thus we have the Commissioner of the NHL hopefully talking about expanding hockey internationally while at the same time pulling the league out of the Olympics of maybe the one country that might be good enough to at last turn the “big 7″ into a “big 8″.

Nobody knows how good this South Korean team is. But they have come from nowhere to be promoted to the top ranks of international hockey. Probably what is expected is that they will get their toes wet, lose every game, get a good learning experience and then be demoted back to the next lower level. But if they do anything significant and manage to stick around at the top level for the future, it will be embarrassing for the NHL which has snubbed the South Korean Olympics and a potential new market of 50 million people. The NHL should be talking about playing preseason games in Seoul, not just China. But at this official conference, there was silence by the NHL about this other potentially significant issue.

Instead there were Bettman and Daly doing and saying a lot of good things about the future of international hockey. There is a lot of good potential in the dreams they are talking about and what they are offering, but until they honestly deal with the real problems that are hurting the growth of international hockey, they will not get the rewards they plan to harvest.

 

Duchene Trade: 3 Different Goals For 3 Different Teams

It took time but the Ottawa Senators finally found a way to make the Colorado Avalanche part with Matt Duchene. Duchene had been promised a trade by Colorado General Manager Joe Sakic long ago and despite Duchene’s good work in the early part of the season and despite Duchene’s fondness for both Denver and the Avalanche organization, both sides never changed their minds and when a suitable trade became available, Sakic consummated it.

Ottawa did not have enough on its own to satisfy Sakic so Nashville got in on the act by sending the Avalanche the missing pieces and receiving Kyle Turris from the Senators, a potential free agent who promptly signed a long term contract with the Predators. It is no use speculating on who won the trade because each team was at a different state of development and each has a different goal in mind. What was each team looking for?

Ottawa

Senators

They want the big man on the forward line, indeed probably the big line of the forwards. Last year, Ottawa took a significant stride forward in the playoffs, becoming Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ toughest opponent. They have a star defenceman in Erik Karlsson and a potential Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Craig Anderson, but their offence doesn’t scare anybody. Turris, despite his steady improvement and solid play doesn’t have the potential that Ottawa sees in Duchene. The Senators think their defeat by the Penguins last season was because they did not have anybody like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin at forward. They expect Duchene to be their Crosby or at least Malkin right now. The immediate task is to find line mates with chemistry for Duchene. There will be a lot of experiments in Ottawa at the beginning until a line is built around Duchene.

Nashville

Predators

Like the Senators, the Predators are looking for chemistry. But unlike the Senators, the Predators believe they already have their big man at forward, Filip Forsberg. They want somebody to play with him and they believe Kyle Turris is that guy. And if Turris turns out to not be that player, at least they have got someone who can make a significant improvement to their second line. They reached the Stanley Cup Final last year and in this trade, they have not traded someone significant from their existing team but added another significant player to it. Is Turris enough to make them the equal of Pittsburgh and put them over the top? He’s probably a step in the right direction, but to win it all now, there may be further moves coming.

Colorado

Avalanche

Joe Sakic has a rising young team who may have a real chance to make the playoffs this year. But he is willing to sacrifice that. In this Duchene trade, he is thinking long term. What he wants from this trade is depth. Almost all the players he received from Ottawa and Nashville are either first or second round draft choices whom the other two teams believe were not quite ready for the NHL yet. Sakic wants to find out for himself. If even only two of his flock of new players can make the Avalanche a better team, he’ll look on this trade as a successful 2 for 1 deal. The Avalanche of course are no strangers to this kind of transaction. Their most famous trade, the one that probably did the most to send them on their way to winning two Stanley Cups was when they traded (alias the Quebec Nordiques) number one pick Eric Lindros who refused to play in Quebec to Philadelphia for half a team in return. They hope the same thing will happen here.

Everybody was so excited by this trade that they could not wait to consummate it, even if it meant Ottawa and Colorado playing each other immediately in a back-to-back series in Sweden. Last year I wondered if the Senator-Avalanche match would be suitable to renew playing regular season games in Europe again and if a better match could not have been arranged. Ottawa was a good team but Colorado was near the bottom of the barrel. But the improvement of the Avalanche this year and now this trade should give the Swedish media and fans plenty to be interested about if they have been following along. Hopefully this match will increase interest in the NHL in Europe and mean more games being played there next year.

 

Hockey Is NOT Fighting Cancer Thanks To A Corrupt Health Care Industry

November is being officially proclaimed by the NHL as “Hockey Fights Cancer” month in which the league joins in an all out battle to find a cure(s) for the second worst killer in North America and maybe around the world. (Number one is coronary heart disease [heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, blocked passageways, etc.], more on that later.) The NHL is certainly going all out on its website in its news section to show it is doing its utmost to fight this terrible disease. There are stories about what individual teams are doing (Washington, Edmonton). There is the story of ex-referee Kerry Fraser who is currently fighting cancer. And the league got its most recent celebrated survivor, Nicholle Anderson, wife of Ottawa Senators goaltender, Craig Anderson to write articles about her cancer experience.

I’d be commending these heart-warming stories of hope except I found out through personal experience, the hard way, what is really happening in the health care industry. Before going on I want to tell my readers that I have written several articles on this blog and others that tell about what happened to me and others including how the corrupt health industry is partially responsible for the unnecessary retirement of one player (Pascal Dupuis), how it significantly affected the 2016 NHL playoffs, and how even hockey legend Gordie Howe might still be alive.

As briefly as possible to recap, ten years ago I developed coronary heart disease and after numerous standard tests, I was diagnosed with a blockage of unknown size in an unknown location near my heart. I was scheduled for an angiogram (a procedure where a tube is inserted in an artery or vein to locate plaque blockages in the circulatory system) and given a box of nitroglycerin in case the worst occurred. Fortunately I lived in the age of the Internet (a major reason why I am still alive) and was able to locate websites that sold products that claimed they could remove heart plaque without an operation. No doctor recommended them but it sounded to me like a cure for coronary heart disease. Briefly, after spending over a month doing research I tried one and it worked. When I had my angiogram, nothing could be found. I had beat coronary heart disease without the usual operations of either a bypass or a stent. All along there had been a cure.

I won’t explain how this remedy worked (you can read about it in an earlier article on this blog) but I will recap about the opposition I faced and its official status. I got no support whatsoever from any medical practitioner. The official status of this remedy is that it is classified as “alternative medicine” which can range from remedies like the one I took that can cure or at least partially successfully treat a disease, to Shiatsu massage, even prayer. And if you want to consider trying an “alternative medicine”, you are on your own. You have to have lots of courage because you will probably be opposed by “official medicine”, including the use of scare tactics by nearly all “official” health care professionals, probably including your own doctor.

“We’re not responsible for what happens,” is a typical line that is given, not only by doctors, but also by pharmacists, the government (Health Canada, FDA, etc.), and even (in my case) charity research organizations like the Ontario Heart Association, American Heart Association, etc. In this day and age, the doctor is almost a god-like, infallible figure and people are not encouraged to trust themselves about their own health, but trust a “professional” trained person. Now I am not advocating all out rebellion against established medical practitioners, but some kind of balance has to take place. When I was doing research about the remedy that would cure me, I was subjected to all kinds of scare tactics/hatred on the Internet. The most prominent advocate of the type of medicine that would cure me was no wild-eye, maverick, Doctor Frankenstein, but respected double-Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. Typical of the hatred I found I was up against were several websites set up just to denounce Linus Pauling for advocating this type of medicine. I had to fly in the face of all these scare tactics and denunciations to find the courage to try it.

So why is the cure of the worst killer in North America not recognized by official medicine? Sadly too many people are making too much money from death and suffering. In my case these groups include anybody in the death industry (funeral homes, cemeteries etc.); anybody who makes low cholesterol products (plaque is partially made up of cholesterol; the remedy removes all the cholesterol and converts it into urine); heart surgeons whose most common surgery is the bypass and the stent (the bulk of their business would disappear overnight); and most prominently, the pharmaceutical companies. When a person has heart surgery, they take on average 12 drugs a day sometimes rising to even 30. In the United States alone, coronary heart disease patients spend $75 billion a year on heart surgery drugs. If the remedy I took was officially recognized, 30 unnecessary drugs and $75 billion in profits would disappear – right on the spot.

There are probably many ways in which legitimate cures can be blocked but the worst one I discovered during my research was the clinical trial system. This was set up to prevent “bad medicine” from reaching the public (the good). What I discovered and few people know about, was that it can also be used to prevent legitimate cures from reaching the public (the bad). And opponents of potential cures, who could lose big potential profits can be extremely ruthless. The remedy I took was actually in a clinical trial (I won’t go into details. I’ve written about this more fully in other articles) which I consider a farce and was rigged to cause the murder of two autistic young boys in order to discredit it. The opponents got what they were looking for. The remedy that saved my life got classified as “alternative medicine”. I still believe in it. Two friends of mine in Europe where I now live tried it. They have no more chest pains. They’re still alive.

Incredibly lightning would strike twice in my life about “incurable” diseases. Earlier this year, for the first time in my life, I had an attack of gallstones. I was in severe pain for ten hours, vomited many times and was taken to a hospital where I had x-rays, was prescribed medicine, etc. While I was lying on a stretcher, my wife went out to buy herself some mint candies and offered me one when she came back. I sucked on it slowly, and within five minutes it was obvious that the pain of the gallstones was going away – thanks to the mint candy. I sucked a few more and I was able to stand up and go home. Sure enough when I immediately did research on the Internet, I found websites advocating mint as a possible treatment for gallstones. Later in the year, I had a second attack of gallstones. This time there would be no panic, no vomiting, no call for an ambulance, no trip to a hospital. I merely reached into my bag of mint candies which I had carefully preserved in case such an attack occurred again and calmly sucked on one. By the time I had sucked six of them, the gallstones were gone – without a prescription, without a doctor, without any contact with any health care professional or system. That’s two “incurable” diseases I beat without any official medical help. Not once. TWICE. But neither the remedy nor the mint candy is recognized as a cure by either the FDA, Health Canada, nor any other official government health body in the world.

I’ve also heard that Shiatsu Massage can cure allergies, including hay fever. I worked in a Shiatsu school for a while in Toronto and the principal claimed he became a Shiatsu massager because he had chronic hay fever for most of his life and after undergoing Shiatsu treatments, he never had another attack again. They have even published a book claiming that Shiatsu can cure allergies. I can’t vouch for that, but given what I’ve discovered about other diseases, it is probable that what he claims is valid. There’s probably a lot more unofficial cures that I don’t know about. For now Shiatsu Massage is also classified by the FDA and Health Canada as an “alternative medicine”.

Which brings this article finally back to the NHL and its attack on cancer. Fortunately I’ve never had the disease but I was up close to it twice. First my mother, who was a smoker got lung cancer in 1987. They removed the spot in her lung, about the size of a quarter but unknown to anyone, some of it had broken off and migrated to another part of her body where it continued to grow. By the time she had her second operation, it was too late to save her. Now there was nothing suspicious about what happened but there were a lot of highly questionable things. First, why no further scans were able to find the new cancer until it was too late. And the conduct of the doctors and nurses could be questioned too. Both of us were prepared to face up to the truth but we were both only informed about it, three weeks before she died. And in my case, no doctor or nurse ever told me what was going on. I was told to phone a social worker. I found out that my mother was going to die by a member of the “bereavement squad” over the telephone. I never did meet the doctors and nurses who were calling the shots. So much for trusting official medicine instead of trusting yourself.

The other case where I got to see the effects of cancer involved my next door neighbor, one of Canada’s most famous television journalists, Wendy Mesley of the CBC. She got diagnosed with breast cancer and fortunately survived. But it was not a happy experience. When I would talk to her husband, I was given to understand that her recovery, if plotted on a graph was not like a smooth bell curve. Instead it was like sharp zigzags – a good hopeful day, followed by relapses. Nobody knew from day to day what would happen. All you could do was hope for the best. The experience left Wendy disillusioned and bitter. She felt she should have had better treatment. There was even a television special in which she expressed her bitterness that the treatment of cancer should be further advanced after all the years and money invested in it.

So are there any other more effective cancer treatments to be found for cancer in “alternative medicine”? I don’t know but given what I have experienced, it would not surprise me if there were. There are probably powerful interest groups who are making money from cancer and want it to keep going, just like there are about coronary heart disease, gallstones and allergies. There may be more effective cancer treatments that were rejected by the clinical trial system which official medicine will warn people not to try.

What is particularly galling is that nobody questions what is going on. When you question anything about official medical research you get the same attitude as you get if you choose to try “alternative medicine”; you don’t question or disobey the clinical trial people, the health charity organizations, the FDA and Health Canada any more than you disobey your own doctor. It is assumed that they all know what they are doing and they are not to be doubted. What is really sickening, is going on the Internet and reading a “good news” story about some little kid donating the entire contents of their piggy bank “to find a cure”. And there will be some smiling official medical professional proudly patting him/her on the head saying that one day there will be, but neglecting to say that this wonderful day will probably be a long time coming, maybe never.

I should know. I go through it every day. I got rid of coronary heart disease ten years ago but it left me with a second serious, incurable problem, heart failure, which is damage to the heart itself. This occurred because the amount of plaque near my heart had strained the heart muscles of my left ventricle and impaired its ability to pump blood. Stem cells improved my condition but did not cure it. But nearly a decade ago, a doctor in Boston conducting animal experiments was able regrow heart tissue, then thought impossible. Since then this procedure has been subjected to the clinical trial system, but after nearly a decade, there is still no word about when such treatments can be used by the general public. The same is true for many other “breakthrough” medical discoveries. You are told about the excitement of the doctors, the dazzling possibilities… and then nothing. No date or place is given when these new treatments will be available so there is no real hope. Despite all the proclaimed “breakthroughs”, there are no new treatments that actually cure diseases. Just coping drugs that cost more and more. And nobody questions it.

More typical was the type of corruption I found recently on the Internet when I was vainly looking for some new promising treatment I could get for heart failure. A website stated that the FDA had just approved two new drugs for heart failure, one of which opened up the passageways around the heart. It sounded a lot like the stuff I took to get rid of the plaque nearly a decade ago except it was not as good because it only got rid of a bit of it around the heart area, whereas the remedy I took got rid of plaque throughout my entire body, protecting me not only from a heart attack, but strokes in the brain and blood clots too. The website also said that these two new drugs would cost $4500 a year. Funny enough I paid $181 including shipping for a remedy that brought me instant relief within 16 hours and can be fully completed in six weeks. And if I feel the plaque coming back, it costs me $50 plus shipping to get a new phial to do the job, and which will only take one or two doses to get rid of any new buildup. Glad to know that the FDA is helping people to get better at such a cheap price.

I have had heart failure for ten years. On the Internet, it says that the average person who has heart failure only lives five years after they get diagnosed. So I must be doing some things right to have doubled my life expectancy. But if I were to go into an official medical establishment like a hospital or clinic and try to get their medical practitioners to try some of the things I’ve done to cope with heart failure, I would be ridiculed and denounced. I would be told I would not know what I was talking about. So much for being open minded about new discoveries.

Meanwhile the NHL pats itself on the back for its attempts to find a cure for cancer. All I can say is good luck. Naively they raise the money and do good deeds, just like the little kid who donates all the coins in his piggy bank. But there won’t be a cure for cancer or any other major disease until the health care industry and the clinical trial system are closely scrutinized and overhauled. When that is done, then maybe there will be reason for hope.

 

2018 NHL Draft November Top 50

It’s November, and I’ve updated, and added to, my draft rankings.  The list is now 50 players long, with a brief description for the top 15.  

There weren’t many huge changes, with the biggest probably being Ryan Merkley dropping to 10th.  Merkley has shown that his defense is just as bad as ever with his -12 start to the OHL season.  If he doesn’t pick it up, he may fall even more.

1. Rasmus Dahlin, D

Dominant offensively, and isn’t bad on defence either.

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW

Got off to a hot start in the OHL before being sidelined with a broken hand.  Two way force, great on offense.

3. Adam Boqvist, D

NHL style defenseman that makes smart plays and decisions.  Great puckmover, PP QB and shooter.

4. Filip Zadina, LW

Elusive force on the wing, has all the skills to put up a ton of points.

5. Joe Veleno, C

Smart two way centre off to a tough start in the QMJHL.

6. Quinn Hughes, D

Fast puck mover, great offensively and pretty good defensively.

7. Akil Thomas, C/RW

Plays a very energetic game, always moving.  Puts himself in good spots to make plays.

8. Ty Smith, D

Dynamic two-way D makes smart plays and moves the puck up ice well.

9. Bode Wilde, D

Big defenseman plays an offensive game.

10. Ryan Merkley

Electric offensively, but poor defensively.  High risk, high reward.

11. Brady Tkachuk, C

Plays physical two-way game, could possibly be better than brother Matthew.

12. Rasmus Kupari, C

Dynamic centre uses speed, hands to make plays.

13. Jett Woo, D

Smart two way defwnseman, uses speed and puck moving skill to generate oppurtunities for his team.

14. Oliver Wahlstrom, C

Skilled player, creates a lot of oppurtunities

15. Jack McBain, C

Two way centre, good defensively.  Some concern about offense from others, but I don’t really see it.  Kind of like 2017 prospect Ryan Poehling.

16. Jared McIsaac

17. Jesper Kotkaniemi 

18. Calen Addison

19. Anderson MacDonald

20. Noah Dobson

21. Ty Dellandrea

22. Gleb Babintsev

23. Evan Bouchard

24. David Levin

25. Nicolas Beaudin

26. Ryan McLeod

27. Alexander Alexeyev

28. Xavier Bouchard

29. Joel Farabee

30. Giovanni Vallati

31. Benoit-Oliver Groulx

32. Jakub Lauko

33. Allan McShane

34. Simon Appelquist 

35. Jacob Olofsson

36. Luka Burzan

37. Isac Lundeström

38. Mattias Samuelsson

39. Jesse Ylönen

40. Barrett Hayton

41. Lukas Wernblom

42. Vitali Kravstov

43. Alexander Khovanov

44. Dennis Busby

45. Samuel Bitten

46. Ty Emberson

47. Grigori Denisenko

48. Axel Andersson

49. Filip Hallander

50. Kevin Bahl