Tuukka Rask is awful this year. There’s no denying it. He has zero shutouts. He’s got no really good stretches of hockey to show for himself. He’s allowed three or more goals in 9 of his 12 starts. That’s not a winning formula. There are a couple questions that have to be asked, in context.

Since Rask arrived in a Boston uniform he has routinely thrown young players and particularly defensemen under the bus. He’s called out Torey Krug, and Adam McQuaid, and others as well. These are only the cases we’ve noted. Given the 2/3rds of a goal disparity between his and Khudobin’s GAA, question number one has to be; Has he alienated enough other players in the lockerroom both by direct action and his reputation that they just don’t want to play in front of him? If the team were older and more mature, this wouldn’t be a question. But let’s look at the players in question, Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Heinen, Cehlárik, McAvoy, and Carlo are all 22 and under. Postma, O’Gara, Vatrano, Kuraly, Swarz, Vatrano, and Agastino have all seen very limited action in the NHL either with Boston or previous teams. That is a very high percentage of the locker room. That is a huge number of minutes a night. Hockey players talk to each other. Many of these guys have played in college against each other, or in Providence together and it’s not possible that any two have had or heard of similar negative experiences with Rask would not have talked about it. I’d bet good money that they talked about it in front of at least one other player who has yet to earn Tuukka Rask’s ire.

The other half of the question is how likely is Rask to recover from this utterly ignoble start? October is normally a mixed bag for him. That’s fine, he’s seen a lot of turnover in front of him in his career and communication is important. For his career he has a .914% in October, this year he was at .896%. For those who came out of time machine and looked at that save percentage no it isn’t 1986, hop back in your hot tub and accept the fact that the .896% that would have been reasonable to good in 1991 is shameful today. November is the month Rask has racked up the most wins in his career. In 68 games he’s a 41-20-7 with a .926%. Putting up those numbers over the course of whole season year in and year out would make someone a first ballot hall of famer. December is also a strong month. January and February, well, not so much. With all the historical data that says he start the year off well, and then dips noticeably what does the season hold for Rask and the Boston Bruins?

Also to be asked about Tuukka Rask is how much of his difficulty playing at a professional level this season is physical, and how much is mental? His win percentage and save percentage are both better after the All Star break each season, a time when the bulk of the games and long distance travel is done. Is he just unable to play eight of ten games in a three week period because he’s not durable? Is he failing to stay hydrated and rested when in the air? Does he over think plays when he’s got time off? If it’s mental did he perhaps come into the season knowing he had no challenger for the number one slot and under prepare? With the season Subban, McIntyre, and Khudobin had int he NHL that wouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

If you’ve ruled out his contract going from full no-movement to an 8 team can be traded list, you may want to rethink that. We all saw the chaos of the final years of Schneider and Luongo in Vancouver, Rask even got to watch the whole playoff run (and several weeks before) from the bench. He has to know as bad as he’s played, as steadily as his numbers have declined year after year that any general manager would be a fool not part with him and his enormous salary at the earliest opportunity. Of the 53 goaltenders to play at least 5 games this season, Rask’s save percentage is 43rd playing on the same team, with the same players and the same coach Khudobin is 2nd in the NHL. With all the young players who will need a new contract and raise over the next two off season on the Bruins roster, and it being unlikely the cap will rise more than 2-3 million in that time, Sweeney has to be looking for cap space anywhere he can find it. The biggest reservoir of room to sign players wheres number 40.

 


In the last dozen years the hockey world has seen the advent of dozens of statistics used to measure everything in half a dozen ways. We have a dozen different forms of Corsi, there’s PDO, and goals against per 60, and points for by strength, by period, and per game. We have a proliferation of ways to count how much each player interacts with other players on the ice and make pointed observations as to how two or so players together enhance or detract from each other.

I love information more than most people. If I could drink it, I’d put down a couple gallons a day and still be looking for more. But some statistics are just plain worthless. Some are of very limited use. Corsi for example is a reasonable way to judge teams in the regular season, but recent history has shown it to be a counter indicator in the playoffs. Should it be discarded? Should it be evaluated further? No, it shouldn’t be eliminated, but weighing it as heavily as it has been the last few years is clearly not a winning strategy. PDO, is one of those statistics that is somewhere between vaporware and a clock with a short circuit and hasn’t stopped, but isn’t keeping time properly.

But neither of those is reason for today’s writing session. (It’s not even that my schedule has been eaten in the past week and I didn’t get to the other three posts I wanted to write.) Today is about two other purportedly linked stats: Giveaways and takeaways. Even more than hits, far more than blocked shots, and laughably more inconsistent than plus/minus this pair of stats is both inconsistently kept within a given arena, and across the league.

If you squint just right, you can see a loose connection between giveaways and ice time. Even players who normally have a firm leash on the puck like Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber will pile up giveaways as a result of having the puck a lot.  But takeaways? What are they using to count those? I’ve watched players like Weber, Vlasic, and Seidenberg snuff a rush, take the puck and pass it off for a counter attack twice in a shift and end the night without a single takeaway. This is a long term, endemic problem the NHL has in the way statistics are kept.

If we’re to believe the official NHL statistics then Jeff Skinner, Mitch Marner, and Filip Forsberg all had as many takeaways or more as the four time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron last year.

And that’s a statistic that just doesn’t pass the sniff test.


The two paramount features of any coach who lasts in the NHL has two readily identifiable features. It doesn’t matter if they are a players coach or a disciplinarian. They can give horrid, boring press conferences or be great communicators. They can be first year coaches who paid their dues in the OHL, or be a retread who is in their third or fourth head coaching stint.

The two points every successful coach has short term or long, eastern conference or western are first an appreciation for the talent assembled on their roster and knowing where to deploy those men. The second is an identifiable system for the players to adhere to. Getting ‘the most’ out of given players isn’t even needed to have multi year runs with a single team.

Look at coaches who have won the Stanley Cup recently. The Pittsburgh Penguins under Mike Sullivan play a very specific form of defense you don’t see anyone else employ successfully. The Los Angeles Kings consistently took the ice with a system that made use of a rugged style, great defense, and you could have changed the uniforms and you still would have known who they were. The Chicago Blackhawks in good games or bad you know who it is, not by the names on the back or the logo or the front but by the style. Claude Julien has deployed a consistent, successful system of play as well.

In forty or so games under Bruce Cassidy, a head coach who was gone from the NHL for over a decade after a very short first stint in the NHL, what have we seen? Erratic play, disinterested or possibly just dismayed players, and nothing like consistency. We’ve seen marginal third line wingers like Riley Nash be deployed as top six centers. We’ve seen turnovers galore,  and a smorgasbord of confusion. Are we seeing anything extra out of any player on the roster? I don’t think so.

We’ve established the two fundamentals of good coaches who stick around, and coaches who win. So what do we call a coach who can’t do either of those things? Short lived. We call them short lived.


If you missed the rest of the list it is right here. The most engaging players in the world are ready to storm the ice. Make sure you know who they are.

5: Jonathan Drouin

A new city, a new team, a new coach and even a new position. Drouin was traded from an offensively focused team, under a coach who kept the pace uptempo in Tampa Bay, in Montreal he’ll be playing under a very strict defensive coach. He also enters the season one of the two or three best offensive forces on the Canadien’s roster. Last year it would have been hard to argue he was even fifth among the offensively blessed Tampa Bay Lightning, this year he’ll be playing center something he hasn’t done at the pro level. Will he thrive and finally give the Habs a lead center? Will he be only marginal in the position? Will he be back to wing before Thanksgiving?

4: Sean Monahan

Last spring Monahan was the only light, bright or otherwise, for the Calgary Flames in the playoffs. He scored four goals, and did it with a rather listless team around him. Will he ride that wave of individual dominance this year and become the team’s new heartbeat? Is he the true offensive successor to Jarome Ignila? How about being the emotional catalyst #12 was? How has his relationship with the rest of the roster changed after an almost universally shameful playoff disaster? Whatever a certain Twitter account might say, I don’t expect a boring year and neither should you.

3: Derek Stepan

Last year Stepan was anything but engaging, over the offseason he was central to the makeover of two teams. His former team is the perhaps the most rearranged team in the east, and the Arizona Coyotes absolutely made the most impactful changes in the west. Stepan is facing more than just a new town, and team. He is one of the oldest players on the roster in the desert and one of the few players to have NHL playoff experience. It is not a stretch to say he is the most battle test player in town still in his prime. Is a bigger role under fewer bright lights what pushes this guy to a new level? Or does he wilt in a small city much as Jeff Carter did during his brief stay in Columbus?

2: Matt Duchene

Despite being at the center of what is currently the longest running, most talked about trade speculation, he has not been moved. After nearly two years of running speculation he is still in the mile high city. The number of times observers have heard from “credible sources” that talks were in progress is high and likely to grow. He’s tried to put on a good face, but no reasonable person expected him to make it past the NHL entry draft in a Colorado Avalanche jersey. The fact that he has yet to land in another uniform is mind boggling. Every delay is value lost. How will he handle another season of speculation and questions? Will he decide to sit until a trade is executed? Where will he be playing the day after the trade deadline? On a team headed for the playoffs or in yet another meaningless game where most of a flaccid roster is counting the shifts until they get to go on vacation for the summer.

1: Jack Eichel

Eichel almost needs two spots on this list. One spot for things directly about him, and one spot for how those around him will react, behave, and where they end up. He just signed a long contract that left money on the table for signing other high end players. But he also has yet to turn in a full and healthy season. Sure last season he beat the previous years 81 game point total in twenty less games, but that’s still 22 games missed in two seasons without the wear and tear of the playoffs. Just making it 82 games will be a challenge. Crossing over into the next strata of offensive weapons is another.

The other half of the equation is; coach, players, and general manager. His linemate Evander Kane has been the center of much trade speculation. Last year’s coach, a Stanley Cup winner, was shown the door after a brief stay not so long after Eichel spoke about the season. More than one older, possibly wiser player’s have to be a bit miffed that they were called on the carpet by someone who won’t even be able to drink legally in the US for a while. If, and its a big if, Eichel instigated the ousting of Dan Bylsma than how secure are new general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Phil Housley, both of whom lack the cache of a cup winner?


Every season brings us a new saga, hundreds upon hundreds of games, thousands of plays, innumerable shifts. First, last, and always there are the players. Thanks to league coverage we experience every moment and non-event of certain superstar’s season as if we were on the receiving end of Mike Milbury’s most notable near ice exploit. But there are nearly a thousand players to watch each season, and it can be hard to winnow out interesting players. A few of the stories worth knowing this year will begin in earnest when the puck drops in game one.

12: Josh Anderson

The subject of one of the very few long term contract disputes. He’s on a team that was up, down, sideways, and vastly entertaining last season. One of the better reasons to end contract talks early is to keep players on the ice and in the groove with rest of the team. Consistency was the most notable lack for the team last year. When teams can’t figure out how to get their talent back on the ice they are handicapping both the player and, if they don’t replace him adequately, the team. As it stands Anderson will be starting his race to midseason form a standstill while the rest of the team, and NHL has a quarter lap running start.

11: Corey Perry

Once a fifty goal scorer. Once a forty goal scorer. Once automatically considered the among the top players in the entire NHL. Once. Last year “Scorey Perry” barely did. With just nineteen goals despite playing all 82 he was 103rd in goals. A player making more than eight and a half million tripping and falling into less than twenty goals is appalling. His four goals in 17 playoff games wasn’t anything to write home about. Was the crash from 34 goals to 19 just a blip, or is he the first of the great players of the staggering 2003 draft to fall into ignominy?

10:  John Taveres

For better or worse we won’t hear the end of the John Tavares to everywhere rumors until he is either moved and signed longterm or signed by the New York Islanders (or is it Seattle Islanders?). The teams management hasn’t done much to make him stick around. The best player on defense is probably Johnny Boychuk, their goaltending alternates between trash-fire and merely bad, and aside from himself they might have two bonafide top six forwards. Ownership seems to think a viable arena is optional. What happens here will likely tell us where the franchise will be three and five years from now.

9: Jonathan Marchessault

Last year lightning stuck 30 times for an entirely unheralded, undersized, unassuming Cap-Rouge native. The former Tampa Bay Lightning player moved cross state and changed his fortune going from an unremarkable 18 points in 45 games to a breathtaking 30 in a Florida Panthers uniform. One of the players the Golden Knights acquired by trade, he will be playing for his third NHL team in as many seasons and his fourth overall.This year he in addition to a new coach, a new city, a new conference, and a brand new team he’ll be playing for a shiny new contract. He’ll be a UFA on July 1. Where he ends the season is anyones guess both on the map and the stats sheet.

8: Jaromir Jagr

All the reasons to sign him, and it took until October to do it. He’s good for butts in seats, merchandise, and concessions even against teams as wretched as the Avalanche. Leaving aside all the records he’s likely to hit this year, there is the question of how well he’ll adjust (if that’s the right word given his style of play) to another new team, another new city, and what he’ll do for you know, offense.

7: Malcolm Subban

The surname alone makes him noticeable. Close observers will note he’s one of the most athletic players around. Utterly mismanaged in his time in Boston, it will be interesting to see him thrive in a new situation. With him now in the western conference there is a small chance he will play against both his younger and older brothers in the same week. And while no one counts it likely, the chance exits two or more of them could be featured All Star weekend. While I won’t claim he’s the fantasy value of his better known brother, there are more than a few worse goalies in the NHL.

6: Evander Kane

The questions around this guy are nearly as endless as the talent. Is the off ice smoke racially charged nonsense or is he really a dick? Is he able to stay healthy enough for two or three seasons to have another year like last year or when he scored 30? Will he continue to mesh with Eichel to be one of the best duos in the NHL at full strength? Will he be retained on the team. His usually linemate has been signed to what is the new reasonable contract for high end talent. If he isn’t retained will they get the right return for him?

5-1 coming soon, in the meantime listen to the latest Two Man ForeCheck.


I’ve run a league about since when this blog started, and this year is no different. We have our four core players, a couple others who have been around a bit, and a couple new players.

The league has three each at right, left, center, two goalies and five defensemen and a bench. Just about all offensive categories are counted, as well as hits, most goalie stats and faceoffs. Its not an easy league to play in and every year we have people who never even make it past the draft.

One of the things I believe most strongly in is that Yahoo does overvalue certain players. Some of them are ten or twelve spots high, and that’s more than a round in an eight team league. Some of them are twenty to thirty spots over ranked and if you get distracted, end up having to autodraft, or simply have a technical failure they can ruin your team and destroy your chances of having a good year if anyone in your league knows what they are doing. For the most part I pay very close attention to the don’t draft list, and grab players who fill a stat column after the fourth or fifth round.

This year my list is pretty short, with one reluctant pick in Corey Perry, and two or three head scratchers in Alex Steen, Tyler Toffoli, and Henrik Zetterburg who are all between slightly to high, and far, far to high and ranked towards the space our draft will end.

Also on the list are the Monreal Canadiens Alex Galchenyuk who I love the potential of, but haven’t loved the results of, Mikeal Backlund, Derrick Brassard, and Boston Bruin Frank Vatrano who might not make the roster at all

Who is on your “Don’t draft list”?


Two of the most interesting and impressive forwards of the day were Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik. Both are likely fighting for roster spots. The two were notable for largely the same reason; being willing and able to grab pucks around the crease and either put them in the net, or start them out of the zone. Czarnik in particular put a couple shots in the twine the goalies didn’t even have time to react to.

Rob O’Gara was paired with Kevan Miller during drills, and displayed a consistent ability to take pucks from forwards. Including some jobber named Patrice Bergeron.

Matt Grzlecyk was paired with Adam McQuaid during their session. In that time he showed off something I don’t remember noting in the past; a slick and crafty ability to disrupt shots in and a round the crease and get them moving in the right direction. On a couple of rushes he disrupted he showed off soccer feet effortlessly moving the puck from skate to skate to stick. If you’re looking for a defenseman who is solid in his two way game, and stood out today, look no further.

Paul Postma played beside Torey Krug. Postma is coming off a career high in points and games. He looked respectable. He skates well, passed well, and never looked out of place. Despite his 84 points in 74 games in his final season in the WHL, he’s yet to display much offense in either the NHL or AHL.

Some of the forward groupings (not always by position):

  • Bergeron with Marchand & Bjork
  • Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Ted Purcell
  • Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson -David Backes – Frank Vatrano
  • Sean Kuraly – Zach Senyshyn – Tim Schaller
  • Pastrnak – Krejci – Jake Debrusk
  • Nash – Acciari – Cederic Pare
  • Kenny Agostino – Austin Czarnik – Ryan Fitzgerald

David Backes was in the first session and lead stretches at the post practice stretch. During the first half of the session before ice maintenance he quite frankly did not look good. As practice wore on he stopped tripping, and looked better.

Matt Beleskey looks mechanically more sound than he did at any point after his first injury last year.

Ryan Fitzgerald looked committed to being there, focused and driven, something I couldn’t saw the last time I saw him in a camp.

The four goalies on the ice were Rask, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban, and Anton Khudobin. You could split them into the pairs by the first and last two and argue quality all day. For my money McIntyre was the best goalie today, and Khudobin did not make the top three. Or even cast a shadow on them.

While it’s an outside chance of him making the team, don’t be surprised if Jesse Gabrielle makes the first or second cut.

From what I saw, and talking to other people at camp, I’d say Frank Vatrano is most in danger of losing a roster spot among the forward to play in Boston last year.

Of the three first round picks from 2015, I was unimpressed by Jakob Zboril in just about every way. Jake DeBrusk never looked out of place, and managed to both steal the puck from, and evade Connor Clifton.

More on Two Man ForeCheck which will be recorded in the evening 9/18.


With a summer full of discussion of various RFA’s remaining unsigned far, far to long, and of course the saga of the unsigned Jaromir Jagr, people have left out the other future hall of fame inductee. This particular winger is younger, still faster, and despite the years still more pugnacious. Obviously I’m talking about Jarome Iginla.

The last few years of Iginla’s career have been spent entombed in the Colorado Avalanche roster. His numbers tailed off. That’s undeniable. What’s also undeniable is that Colorado Avalanche have been the worst team in the NHL for most of the last half decade and beyond. Amazingly, they are getting worse. They don’t have a defense worth naming, their goaltending, which would be uninspired behind a good six pack, can’t pick up the slack, and the forwards… the less said about the defense of the forwards as a collection the better.

Iginla had just eight goals in 61 games for Colorado before being traded. The eyeball test will tell you that’s ungood. No need for fancy stats. What happened when he got to a team that was also struggling enough to fire the coach who brought them two cups? Well, he stretched the twine six times in 19 games. Taken over a an 82 game season that’s on pace for 25 goals (no rounding).  And that’s on a team who’s offense was carried all season by Jeff Carter and the equipment guy who made sure #77 had his skates and sticks.

So right now, 31 NHL clubs are sitting about staring off into space while a guy who has no character issues, is physical, a sniper, a leader, and hungry for a Stanley cup is still unsigned. Based on last years goal totals, if the Arizona Coyotes had gotten 25 goals from Iginla they’d have likely picked up another seven or eight wins on the year, meaning they slide even with or even pull ahead of last years Kings. The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each finished within a win of the playoffs. One win over the course of 82 games. A motivated, experienced veteran goal scorer could be exactly that difference maker.

The Carolina Hurricanes finished just seven points behind the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs last season. they had 15 overtime losses. With a little more leadership, and a little more attitude, not to mention the scoring touch, even they could have seen the playoffs last year. For reasons that can’t be explained, the Calgary Flames when in search of a right wing earlier this summer signed Kris Versteeg. Versteeg may be younger, but he’s not nearly as healthy, has never had a better offensive season than Iginla and seems determined to play for every team in the NHL before he retires.

For all that they had a record winning streak, and finished with their best point total in franchise history last year the Columbus Blue Jackets finished fourth in goals for in the Metropolitan Division. Number 12 would add an incredible element of consistency to a team that had great highs and equal lows last year. Someone, anyone tell me why in a summer where loads of guys were overpaid on long term deals there hasn’t been even a short term deal for Jarome Ignila? Someone let me in on the secret please.


After being months late to the dance, and casting a pall over the Boston Bruins summer, and training camp, the Boston Bruins have in their own sweet time signed one of the most dynamic talents in the NHL under the age of 25. Perhaps, the age qualifier is unfair, but it’s worth noting. Had they failed to sign him they were giving up as much as fifteen years of very productive hockey.

The deal he did sign according to multiple sources is most charitably described as team friendly. This deal is almost two million below what Leon Draisaitl received, and we know how close the two were in points last year. Of the two, I I can’t help but believe the one who has the higher ceiling is being paid the least. Two other comparable players are Filip Forsberg who signed at six million a year last season and was at the time the highest paid forward on the team. And Nikita Kucherov, a player on a team where there is no state income tax.

Looking at the three, Forsberg is hands down the least consistent, he regularly sleep walks through the first half of the season and then has a spectacular second half, usually built around something flashy like ten goals in five games. It is to the point where there are multiple Reddit threads about his inconsistency. He’s remarkably talented, and if he played better in the first half would probably regularly put up about 50 goals. But he doesn’t.

Kucherov is a very solid player, surrounded by quite a few other very solid players of similar age. The Tampa Bay Lightning are awash in young, talented, NHL battle tested players. The Boston Bruins are not. Neither Forsberg nor Kucherov means as much to their team. The Predators are built around the best defense in the NHL. Tampa is silly deep at forward and has one of the two or three best defensemen in the NHL right now in Victor Hedman. Boston? Before the next Stanley Cup is won, all three of the top forwards on the Boston Bruins will be over 30.

Who else do the Boston Bruins have for young talent? Vatrano has shown flashes, but no consistency. Ryan Spooner is a confirmed middle six guy. Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato, Jesse Gabriel, Zach Senyshyn combine for zero point zero goals, assists, points, and NHL minutes played and they are likely the four best forwards in the system after Pastrnak. Not many people are projecting any of them to meet or exceed Pastrnak’s mature, three zone, consistent effort and production. If this deal is just a precursor to trading the young Czech sensation, this year or next, something none of us know for sure, who replaces him?

The Boston Bruins have once again stated loudly, clearly, and monotonously they don’t spend money. This is why the last two high end free agents to arrive in town did so more than a decade ago when Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard landed. None of the free agents who have ever been high end and played in Boston have done anything like their peak numbers here. The reason is simple; Why should they waste time negotiating with a team that isn’t going to get them to reasonable market value, and because of that won’t get them complimentary teammates that can help them win a cup?