Last June, despite having the best defense in the NHL, and the best goaltender, the Nashville Predators lost the Stanley Cup. Subban, Josi, and Ellis and Ekholm lost the Stanley Cup to a group of defensemen that would not crack the top four on any of the top six or seven defenses in the NHL.

Mostly, it wasn’t their fault.  They lacked the forwards to win. They also lacked the experience to win. With one trade, they can fix the first, and use what the learned last year to make up for the latter.

Early in the summer they signed Nick Bonino. He’s a perfect third center. In Ryan Johansen they have their number one center. As currently constituted they do not have the right number two. They do have the pieces to get him.

Right now, the Predators have all their picks in the first two rounds for each of the next three years. They also have solid, NHL worthy prospects who won’t make the roster in the next two years. If they put together a package with two or even three of Dante Fabbro, Vladislav Kamenev, Tyler Moy, Frederic Allard, and Pontus Aberg and some picks, they can land the center they need.

The Matt Duchene drama is in desperate need of an ending. The Predator’s may not be the ideal trade partner, but the Avalanche have spent over a year rejecting good and fair trades from all over the NHL. This is lending speed to the sinking of Joe Sakic’s creditability as an NHL general manager.

If they line up Johansen, Duchene, and Bonino as their top three centers they become the best team at center in the west. With the addition of Duchene’s speed and passing ability, they are quite likely to cover all of the loss of James Neal’s offense. Maybe, just maybe a little more.

If Alexei Emelin can stop their third pairing from being a sieve, and they add Matt Duchene, they Nashville Predators become not just deeper, better, more balanced team from first line to third. They become the best team in the National Hockey League, and he has this and another season under contract.

Check out this week’s Two Man ForeCheck.


One of the biggest faults with all sports that have a review system system is how long it takes. Its bad enough in games as slow as baseball where there really isn’t a game clock and momentum is entirely mythical. In football it’s a great time, along with the sixty or seventy commercials per game to get another drink, or possibly wake up, or check your fantasy team.

In the NHL it’s gotten to the point where reviews can take as long as a major penalty. That’s huge. That’s unsupportable. That’s soul sucking to experience. That’s actually an easy fix.

As a certain Detroit native once put it “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.” The issue isn’t that the evidence isn’t there. The issue isn’t that the evidence is hard to decipher. It isn’t even that the technology is getting in the way. The problem is the standard of review is more exacting than real game action.

The review process suffers from what some call analysis paralysis, others would term getting stuck in the hall of mirrors. Ultimately what you call it is irrelevant once you realize it is unneeded and fixable.

So what is the ultimate solution to the biggest fixable problem? As Eight Mile Road’s most famous denizen put it, you only get one shot. Give officials one view of each camera angle. And most of all no slow motion. None. Not Even Once.  With modern videography 15, 30, and 60 to one compression replay make review an exponentially longer, and entirely unreal interpretations of reality.

Worse, its boring, boring, boring. The NHL bills itself as the fastest game on ice. Given the speed at which they review I can only assume they mean the intermission events.

Implementation should be pretty easy, and it should cut the length of time needed for each review by about 80%.


The summer is half over. We’re closer to the start of the new season, they we are to the end of the last regular season. In most ways that is fantastic. Unless your team is one of those fiddling around with their talent. Here are the restricted free agents who are pivotal to their team.

Calvin De Haan

With the departure of Travis Hamonic, someone needs to take up the slack. It’s a given that De Haan will pick up more of the vacated ice time than the elderly Seidenberg or the aging Boychuk. What remains to be seen is how soon, if at all the Islanders decide to pay him.

Nate Schmidt

While it is unlikely the former Washington Capital will see 24 minutes a night, if the Knights plan to move him rather than sign him, they may well have already have passed their use by date on movement of the freshly 26 year old alum of the Fargo Force and University of Minnesota.

Bo Hovart

Hovart is likely in for some of the longest years of his life as the Vancouver Canucks go into the post Sedin rebuild. Being unsigned this long makes me wonder if he wishes to be in British Columbia when the team comes out of that long dark tunnel. The more likely explanation is that the team is trying to explain to him that just because he was their biggest points producer last year he shouldn’t expect to be paid like one.

Leon Draisaitl

He and team mate Connor McDavid may be the catalysts for the next lockout and salary rollback. For the 2018-19 season the Edmonton Oilers have twelve players currently under contract with just $22 million to sign the rest of the roster. If Draisaitl signs for the $8-10m some expect the cap crunch begins immediately. Even at $6-7m their will be a roster purge and without the cap jumping fifteen to eighteen million, there is no way the Oilers can be competitive.  This is a very talented player, but is the General Manager able to keep things together?

Sam Bennett

Bennett had a visible sophomore slump last year, which is not unexpected. He partially redeemed himself with two goals in the four playoff games the Calgary Flames played last year. It’s reasonably save to predict him as a 50-60 point guy, but don’t be surprised by a bridge contract that pays a little closer to what he’s produced so far.

David Pastrnak

One of the more dynamic wingers in the NHL last year his rise from good to league leader can’t be understated. In the early part of the season when none of the Boston Bruins centers were performing at an even average level he was near the top of the leaderboard. Not signing Pastrnak to similar deal to Marchand’s or a little less would be the worst, and possibly final mistake of Don Sweeney’s tenure as Boston General Manager.

Mikael Granlund

On a team whose best known players are all 32 or older, they need to retain not just the youngest, but the middle years players like Mikael Granlund who made and earned his $3m last year in what counts as a career year for the 25 year old native of Finland. No one is under the illusion Granlund is The Guy in Minnesota, but he’s a guy they can’t replace from the current free agent market.


The internet is almost certainly the most fascinating tool mankind has ever invented. On it I’ve learned more about genetics, hockey, medicine, politics, history and other topics than I could ever have imagined knowing. Today I learned something new. Seth Jones is depth defenseman. I’m pretty sure it’s been a long time since Seth Jones was dismissed as being the fourth or fifth most interesting player on a blueline. It wasn’t last year, it likely wasn’t the year before, and even when he played in that scary, scary Nashville Predator’s defensive unit he still got lots of talk.

Sure it’s possible to undervalue Jones, I mean the Avalanche, Panthers, and Lightning all passed him over in 2013. The Avalanche are searching for defense still, the Panthers over spent two years ago on free agents, and the Lightning had hold out issues with, and finally traded Jonathan Drouin who they took over Jones, for a defenseman.

Among his draft year only Sean Monahan has played more games to date, and that’s just by four.

But Jones is a depth defenseman if one writers it to be believed, I mean I heard it on the internet so it must be true. You’re not allowed to lie online.

So let’s look at the proof Seth Jones is a depth defensemen.

In the most recent season 200 defensemen skated in thirty five or more games.

Jones ranked:

  • 36th for total minutes (75 games played) that’s top 18%
  • 26th for time on ice per game, that’s top 13%
  • 77th for shorthanded time on ice, that’s 38th percentile with 2:07 per game
  • 65th for powerplay TOI for top 32%

Fancy Stats:

  • of the 68 defensemen to skate in 35 games and cross 1301 minutes he was .01 behind Victor Hedman and .04 behind Erik Karlsson in goals against per 60
  • in goals for per 60 he was about a third of a goal better than Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, or Keith Yandle in that same high minute 68 defensemen
  • Jones was 5th among defensemen to play 35 games or more in even strength points, with every player above him having played more games
  • in points per game among those same defensemen, he was 19th, good for top 10%

So with the help of NHL.com and Puckalytics.com I now completely understand how someone could believe Seth Jones is a depth defenseman. 

And as much as I like the Blue Jackets defense, I’m not sure they’re even in the top 5 in the NHL right now. The Ducks, Predators, and Minnesota would easily be above them, and one can make strong cases for other teams including the Carolina Hurricanes.


This is a series I’ve run in the past and decided to bring back/ The premise is simple: increasing NHL scoring without making drastic changes to the game, or crippling defense and goaltending at the expense of goals.

This week post is built around an idea that is already in place in some non-manpower penalties. When a team is accessed an unmatched penalty, they do not get a chance to change personnel until the next whistle or they manage to do so during the course of play.

With this rule in place officials would already know who has on the ice and not need to engage in time wasting, ineffective replay, nor would it be a “judgment call”. Time, and the flow of the game would be saved. The team moving to the man advantage would be allowed a brief period to change, and could get their desired staff on the ice. The penalized team might be stuck without a center or a defenseman, and that’s okay. If the goal of penalties is to discourage players from plays that risk injury to other players and goals being given up, this is yet another way to underscore discipline. I suspect this would move powerplay scoring up two to three percent on average across the NHL.

 


The Warrior Ice Arena is a totally different place to watch the youngsters than the Ice Box in Wilmington.

My first impulse today was to wonder at the fitness level of the first group on the ice. Yes they were hamming it up for the cameras on the ice, but they were also clearly laboring. When guys like Bjork, Gabrielle, and Sherman look a bit slower than normal it i a pretty safe bet Whitesides and crew have been up to their tricks testing and building the fitness of the prospects.

Wiley Sherman continued to eat opposing players alive, in one on one drills they usually didn’t make it over the blueline. He looks to have an even higher percentage of lean mass this year, and he wasn’t exactly fluffy last time I saw him.

Ryan Donato is just polished. He is clearly one of the most talented players, not just one of the oldest.

Oskar Steen is clearly more physically mature than last year, and make four or five passes that drew notice.

Anders Bjork should be your favorite to take a roster spot in Boston this fall of all the players yet to play a professional game. Like Donato he’s fast, he’s agile, and he may have the best shot accuracy of all the forwards outside the NHL/AHL.

Daniel Bukac was their seventh round pick this year, I didn’t need to look up his stats to see him as a defensive minded defenseman. He didn’t seem out of his element playing against the older forwards.

Perhaps the most surprising guy was late invitee James Corcoran, the Walpole High goaltender. Smaller guy, but really, who cares? I liked his ability to hold the post while down, and still extend well forward and uses his stick. Snappy glove too.

Jack Becker might have been feeling the least wear from whatever was going on before practice. Only Senyshyn appeared faster in drills and rushes. Becker skated well, passed solidly.

During the scrimmage Jack Studnicka had a completely filthy, behind the back, through the defenders legs pass to Bjork pass that should rightly have sent everyone in the building to decontamination showers. (Bjork roofed it.)

A late add was Ori Abramson, a big defensive minded defenseman born in Ontario and attending University of Vermont. He’s a little older than most of the prospects but didn’t look out of place. Leans towards a close space and use stick type of defense.


Carey Price is one of the best known players in the world. He’s one of the best goalies ever to play for one of the original NHL franchises. He’s also one of the best paid, and when his next contract kicks in he’ll be one of the very best paid players in the whole NHL.

Top Paid Goalie Via CapFriendly.com

What do I see when I look at this list? I see guys who have one Stanley Cups. I see guys who have played in the Stanley Cup finals. I also see guys who are overpaid. Payment in the NHL is supposed to be for performance, and results, not because they a guy plays the most scrutinized position in one of the most intense media markets.

Roberto Luongo (with help from Schnieder a couple years) backstopped his team to several division titles. and dragged a team that flatlined after game four to a seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Tukka Rask went toe to toe in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Chicago BlackHawks. Henrik Lundqvist has one stupidly successful season after another winning 30 or more games every full season of his career. He’s also played in a Stanley Cup final despite Alain Vigneault being behind the bench.

Pekka Rinne? He’s had obscenely low goal support most of his career. He just played a Conn-Smyth worthy playoff campaign that took his team to game six. Marc-Andre Fleury has played his whole career to date in an offense first, second, and third rule “system”, and ya’know won a Cup or two. Jonathan Quick, like Rinne has played one one of the most goal parched rosters in the NHL his whole career, but he’s won cups. Corey Crawford? He outdueled Vezina winner Tukka Rask among others on his way to a Stanley Cup.

The rest of these guys? They range from slightly overpaid to wildly overpaid. Being a top five or top ten player at any given position is for guys who win. And winning means the regular season is utterly irrelevant. You have to give your team at least a chance in the Big Dance.

When has Carey Price done that last part? Like Sergei Bobrovsky and Brayden Holtby, he’s proven he’s a great regular season goalie. He hasn’t proven he’s a winner when it counts. His name isn’t on the Cup, and unless the Cap goes up to about $115million during the first two or three years of his new contract the odds of him proving he’s able to take a team to the top in his prime are about equal to that of Jarome Iginla or Joe Thornton. At this point, he’s overpayed.Unlike three of the other top five he’s not ever given his team a chance to win the Cup.


Okay, playoffs are arguably better. But during the playoffs only half the teams in the NHL are involved at all, and only a few have any hope.

This is free agency. Everyone has hope of landing the big fish. Everyone has hope of being pushed over the top. And everyone desperately fears the big flop.

This year there are some mighty interesting names to go around. Joe Thornton still has an amazing set of hands and can pass a puck through three defenders, two officials and an airport scanner with his eyes closed. He’s also hockey-old, and on his way to hockey-elderly. But damn, those hands.

Unless one or more general managers blows a gasket over the next two or three weeks Jarome Iginla is likely going to do something he hasn’t done in more than a decade; try out. The Calgary Flames icon is on the backend of his playing journey, and looking for Lord Stanley. Maybe he’s a fit for Hossa’s spot in Chicago? Could he help provide some blue collar attitude to the New York Rangers? Maybe, like Jason Pominville he can go home again. Number 12 taking power plays with Monahan and Gaudreau might be just what the team needs. Adding his feisty nature to Matthew Tkachuk might be the secret ingredient in a very silver cup of soup.

Going a little bit younger Nail Yakopov is not yet 25, and already a UFA. It looks like a first round draft pick was wasted on him. But there has to be something salvageable about him, right? Maybe a tight-knit, disciplined, and demonstrably  hungry and successful team like the Nashville Predators or the Pittsburgh Penguins (who found room for Ryan Reaves) can rehab this once shiny, and still low mileage sport coupe.

Speaking of projects, Jared Cowen is the big, strong defensemen teams swear they’re looking for. The run on then at the draft is proof the desire is real. At just over the 200 games it takes to get defensemen acclimated to the NHL, he’s already played under several coaches. Maybe, just maybe the next coach and team catapult his development to a top four stalwart.

Jonathan Bernier is seemingly the best traveled goalie in the NHL of late. At this point it is hard to tell if everyone wants him, or if no one wants him for long. The veteran backstop carried just about half the load for a Ducks team that went to the Western conference finals. He is at present without a contract.

Karl Alzner is probably the most underrated player entering free agency. He’s a steady middle pairing defenseman who can come into a team, and allow other players to be slotted right where they need to be. He skates well, he’s got reasonable hands and he doesn’t take stupid penalties.  He’ll be almost completely ignored while his soon to be former team mate Kevin Shattenkirk signs a contract that is likely to become an anchor to some franchise for six or seven years. But hey, its free agency. Imagine if we add…  is the order of the day.


The Boston Bruins need to do something with their RFAs and the need to do it quickly. They failed to move a disgruntled and ill fitting Ryan Spooner either at the expansion draft, or the entry draft. They were however lucky enough that someone mistook Colin Miller for a viable option on defense.

In order:

  1. David Pastrnak
  2. Zane McIntyre
  3. Noel Accari
  4. Malcolm Subban
  5. Colton Hargrove

And after that it’s entirely irrelevant who or what order they sign in. Even there, Pasternak far outweighs all the rest. Even saying that, I think both goaltenders are still viable. Noel Accari is in any reasonable evaluator’s mind a solid bottom six forward. Colton Hargrove can do everything Tim Schaller did, and play both wings. He’s also likely to be a bit healthier

With just a couple days left until free agency starts they have 36 of 50 total contracts, and as many as five roster spots available for forwards, plus a seventh defenseman. Morrow might languish in the pressbox for another year after a very strong showing in the playoffs. He too is unsigned.

The Bruins need to clear some dead weight from the roster. Push Hayes and Spooner overboard. Get the younger, hungrier players who will drive harder to be better players every shift into the lineup. Maybe you have to sacrifice Kevan Miller in a trade for O’Gara and Grzelcyk to make a run at the NHL without looking over their shoulders. What they can’t continue to do is let good players stagnate while sewing guys who cut corners and have slapdash effort to the roster.