It’s September 1st.

Some teams are still trying to destroy their futures. The NHL, like any ecosystem is a delicate entity. There are many moving parts, and the ratio of one part to another will impact things two or three steps removed from either. You need players on the rise, players at their peak, and ones who are on the decline. They all contribute just as moths, and blue jays, and red tailed hawks all play their parts.

Marcus Foligno is a great example of a middle six forward who gives much, and is well regarded. The Chuck Fletcher thought it was more important to sign aging Penguins discard Matt Cullen, than to secure the return for trading Scandella. CapFriendly and others currently project Landon Ferraro and Joel Eriksson Ek as making the roster, with either of them back in the AHL the Wild would have right around three million in cap space. If they decide to carry just twelve forwards it would give them an additional cushion for injuries. The issue here is do you pay him better or the same as other left wings who had similar point totals like Justin Abdelkader and Carl Hagelin who both made more than four million last year? Or do you simply try and cram him into a roster that is unlikely to go far in the playoffs?

In the last two season Bo Hovart has increased his point total year over year, jumping from third two seasons ago to first last year, and has a better faceoff win percentage in that time than team captain Henrik Sedin. Somehow with training camp close enough to feel, he is without a contract. He’s scored shorthanded, powerplay, and even strength goals. He’s played over 18 minutes a night. He’s done just about everything a setup man can do on a roster that is 80% ECHL and alumni quality to help the team win. Joe Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Jason Spezza all produced less points last year with far, far more help and hugely better compensation.  Ondrej Palat was on a non-playoff team and produced the same number of points, Logan Coture had the same points total, as did Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov. With all or most of the $14,000,000.00 set on fire at the feet of the Sedin twins coming off the books next year, and no other player in the system in need of a big raise cash should not be the issue. Not when they have close to nine million in cap space to work with.

David Pastrnak has been covered in depth over the summer and all that’s worth adding is that the team president said there haven’t been any talks in months.

With all the glory of last season, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s seem to have gotten a pass on Alexander Wennberg not having been hog tied to their roster yet. Year over year ye’s increased his points total twenty points twice in a row. He played in 80 of the teams games last year. Last season he stepped into the gap created by trading Johansen and ended up the team’s second leading scorer, putting up just two less points than the Nashville Predator’s second most famous Ryan. While the Blue Jackets do have a pretty dynamic cap situation with the number of impact players due contracts in the next two years, they do have to be careful. But in the ultra competitive Metropolitan division who can afford to be without their number one center?

The Detroit Red Wings roster is as run down as the Joe, and while Andreas Athanasiou isn’t the level of impact player the other forwards on the list are. That said, you don’t improve by continuing to leak talent. All players are ultimately replaceable, but alienating players for little good reason when you have a new arena to fill, and pay off is senseless. The optics are also poor when it’s time to get free agents into town, or when the next RFA is due a contract.

Damon Severson is one of three men to crack the top fifty among defensemen in scoring while playing less than twenty minutes of ice time. The other two Brady Skej, and Dmitry Orlov were both on playoff teams. The New Jersey Devils were needless to day, not quite that good. His point total eclipsed Noah Hanafin, Jake Muzzin, and Jonas Brodin. So why is a team with unlimited growth potential wasting time dithering with a solid young defensemen? It’s not like they have 299 other defenders ready to hold the line against the Persians and other NHL teams.

It’s August 24th, 2017 and Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned by any NHL team. In the past two and a half months guys who spent most of their season on the bench, on the injured reserve, or in the pressbox have been signed.

Does anyone honestly think Steven Gionta is going to make a bigger impact on an NHL team this year than Jaromir Jagr? Well, outside of the New York Islander’s front office. Yup, when faced with the choice between a 33 year old with a career total of 16 NHL goals, and a first ballot hall of famer with more goals than that last season, they chose wrong. Even the Nashville Predator’s who have one of the better GM’s in hockey chose wrong in going with Austin Watson over Jagr. Watson has never been productive above the AHL level, and Jagr has never played in the AHL.

So why should you teams sign the man who forever set the bar for mullets?

History

First is history. Jagr is currently fourth on the All Time NHL games played list. With a full season, he climbs to the top of that list, and whoever signs him gets to be a part of history. Even if the remarkably durable 45 year old plays a sliver more than half a season he’ll still jump to the number two spot ahead of Mark Messier, Ron Francis and everyone else. His career history says it’s a safe bet he climbs all the way to the top of the mountain this year, he needs just about 68 games to do it. He’s also twenty assists from passing Ray Bourque for number four on the all time list, a number he should wrap up before the all star break.

What he brings to the game

Last year, for the Florida Panthers Jaromir Jagr was 4th on the team in offensive points share at 3.0, and seventh on the team for defensive points share, eclipsing most of his team mates in both categories by a handy margin. We all know about his work ethic, and teams building up can use that. We all know the Panthers were not a good team last year, but no one who played more than 35 games had a better relative Corsi for than Jagr. This means even a team with ‘unlimited growth potential’, he is going to make the team better all by his lonely. One other interesting number is his even strength goals against per 60 minutes. With 2.5 goals against per 60 at even strength he was seventh on the Panthers, ahead of most of the team, and light years better than team mate and fellow old dude Tomas Vanek.

Attendance

As a sure thing to be in the hockey hall of fame whenever he retires, Jaromir Jagr has a certain ability to draw fans just by being himself. Some are nostalgia buffs from his early days in the NHL, some have joined the legions of thronging mulletites more recently. Few, if any, are more devoted than the Traveling Jagr’s. As the living legend has traversed the hockey map, so to has this legion grown. More importantly, they have traveled, drawn media attention, and bought tickets. For teams who struggled in this regard, he’s a viable investment in improving the gate.

The Ottawa Senator’s had a troublesome 87.4% home attendance last year despite amazing seasons by Karlsson and Anderson. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were also among those Canadian teams that failed to get to 100% attendance.

Who Should Sign Him?

For one or more reasons there are a dozen teams that should sign Jagr, including if this is indeed his swan song, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Who could use him the most? The Vancouver Canucks could use him for a variety of reasons, he’s not going to outpace the Sedin’s too badly, and unlike that pair he can hold onto the puck. The Carolina Hurricanes lack both depth and star power in their forward group, and Jagr combined with Williams, and Staal is a pretty compelling core to build from, and three guys who are different enough you should be able to reach any youngster worth damn who walks into the room. The Arizona Coyotes much like the Hurricanes are in need of a depth infusion, and something to generate ticket (and merchandise) sales, or any other form of revenue.

The New York Islander’s could sign him for no better reason than ticking off Rangers fans, but it would at least be a remedial step in potentially keeping Tavares. If the Colorado Avalanche were to sign him, not only would it give us a respite from the never ending Matt Duchene trade saga, it would put at least one forward on the ice who actually, provably, likes to win and is willing to work at it (and their attendance sucks too). If the Anahiem Ducks were to add him to the roster, it might just get them to play a full season, and it might also shame Perry and Getzlaf into trying hard enough to keep up with a guy who they were watching before they were old enough to shave.

Stick tap to Hockey-Reference.com and ESPN for the numbers.

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.

When the NHL announced they would be changing to the current playoff format, I honestly loved it. You’re going to get the best teams, and you’re going to have more teams fighting for their playoff life right down to the wire, frequently right down to the last shot, the last save, the last goal of the season. There is a lot to be said for eliminating the two softest divisions the old Southeast and worse the old Northwest divisions were terrible. There was bad hockey, and the owners were allowed to coast and knew they had a really solid chance of making the playoffs each year just for hitting the salary cap floor.

The six division format with thirty teams just made hockey worse. It was sloppy, there were teams that went half a decade without even backing into the playoffs. You were really only competing with four teams each year. This allowed the Sedin twins to skitter into the playoffs most of their career in a division that was rarely represented in the post season by more than one team. Because teams weren’t competing against more than a fistful of teams you saw the results everywhere. The Thrashers or other southeast teams could make the playoffs with ten less points than the third place team in other divisions, much less the winners of the other five. You saw it on the ice in teams that were bottom feeders every year having guys start fights not over a dirty play, but so that guys who knew the game was meaningless might wake up and pay attention.

The current playoff format, and divisional alignment changes a lot of that. But it got one thing wrong, this year it is manifesting in the east.

Take a look at the current matchups if the playoffs started today:

NHL.com image of playoff matchups as of 4/1/17

The west is currently aligned to give the highest level of appeal as all the teams are facing a divisional rival. Sure it’d be fun to see a Ducks vs Sharks and Oilers vs Flames matchups to open the playoffs, but there’s the potential for one of those to happen in the second round. In the east on the other hand, things are a mess. Sure, the Canadiens and Rangers are rivals in the sense that they’ve been around a very long time and had a few grimy matchups. Certainly the teams dislike each other more than they do at least half the rest of the league. Likewise, the Bruins and Capitals have had some fun, exciting and occasionally brutal games.

But is there anyone, anywhere who knows even a little about those four cities and hockey who thinks ratings wouldn’t be higher if Boston and New York were playing within their division? Even the pinkest of pinkhats knows the Bruins and Habs have an enormous rivalry. If you want to back to the early years of the rivalry, the Patrick Division playoff battles between the Rangers and Caps were fierce, but even more recently Washington has been bounced from the playoffs in three straight series by the blue shirts.

Here’s the fix:

  • In years in which the two wild card slots are filled by a team from each division there shall be no cross over.

 

 

It’s not a secret that I despise diving. I’ve written the odd piece on the subject, once or twice (ok so its actually an enormous bugaboo that I prattle on about pretty often ) and I’m pretty happy with the NHL finally taking steps to control the dippy soccer like behavior of some players and franchises.

Here’s the rule chance directly from NHL.com

DivingThe fact that coaches will now be fined is now more than ok with me.

So which players are most likely to deserve a fine this season?

  • Jeff Skinner, on the rare occasions the former figure skating star is on the ice he’s clearly auditioning for a post-hockey career in soap operas.
  • Alexandre Burrows, with Tortorella still at the helm Burrows might be kept in check, Willie Desjardins is an unknown, unlike the duly esteemed Alexandre Burrow.
  • Dustin Brown, he does many, many things right and is most regards a model player, on the other hand it certainly appears to the impartial observer that his skates come complete with a great deal of helium.
  • Sidney Crosby, while he tends to be more subtle about it than some players on this list, there’s no doubt “The Next One” has embellished more than his share of slashes, trips, and the rest.
  • Brad Marchand, while he’s pound for pound one of the stronger players in the game, you can tell when the other team gets in his head because he starts falling down a lot.
  • Martin Brodeur, legend he may be but if he were as weak as he appears every time an opposing player makes contact or near contact with him he’d never be able to scramble like he does.
  • Mike Ribiero, (this space left intentionally blank.)
  • Henrik & Daniel Sedin, the Swedish Swan-divers are almost as good at falling down and finding each other on the ice.
  • Carl Hagelin, has the speed to avoid pretty much any player in the NHL, but can’t seem to avoid sticks and other impediments that aren’t even there.
  • P.K. Subban, a guy with all the talent in the world who has been known to take the express elevator to the ice on a pretty regular basis.

I’m sure there’s one or two I missed, who would you add?

Every season, every series we get unexpected things. The NHL wth its grueling schedule, physical play, and hard working players you simply can’t escape the drama.

6: The New York Islanders; Throwing Blows

The Islanders may have gone down int he first round, but they didn’t go out alone. The Islanders in fact put Marc-Andre Fleury on the shelf and possibly set him up for a buyout. Another element of the surprises was which defenseman was tasked with defending Sidney Crosby. It wasn’t Lubomir Vishnovsky who probably owns the best league wide reputation in his own zone among the Islanders. It wasn’t Mark Streit, captain and slick skater. It was the 22 year old veteran of a slim 186 regular season games, Travis Hamonic. The St. Malo native performed admirably, and much to the surprise of many NHL observers, and Pittsburgh Penguins fans the series went six games.

5: Vancouver Canucks: Silence of the Twins, Voiding of Vigneault

The Sedin twins failure to score even one goal between them in the first round was stunning. Just two years removed from back to back MVP season for Henrik and Daniel, they were bound and gagged by the Sharks able only to contribute assists. The team was swept from the playoffs, and the coach, quite surprisingly was the one to bear the brunt of the organizational wrath. Alain Vigneault was fired quickly after the defeat opening the way for a new voice, and new system.The firing of a seemingly bullet proof coach, is always something that while frequently deserved, is almost always a surprise by the time it happens. Vigneault, seemed to lead a charmed life in Vancouver escaping blame for an underdisciplined team

4: Bryan Bickell: Post Season Superstar

To say this playoff run was a surprise would be a charming understatement. In this his fourth playoff run, Bryan  Bickell racked up what is north of 69% of his post season points total. The 41st pick of the 2004 draft racked up 85 hits, went a plus 11, and put up 17 points on his way to helping the Chicago BlackHawks hoist the cup for the second time in four years.

3: Pittsburgh Penguins: Swimming Like A Stone

The first round saw the Pittsburgh Penguins go blow for blow with division rivals the New York Islanders, and win. In the second round they had an opponent in their sights they had won handily against in several consecutive games. Unfortunately three things doomed them. The first was an offense that wilted under a punishing Bruins defense. The second was a lack of composure that saw Malkin get into his third NHL fight, Crosby not merely get in the face of the NHL’s apex predator, but start the confrontation, and the team as a whole fail to accomplish anything, and third was a lack of accountability that saw them make few adjustments, none effective. The team scored two goals in four games. They were shutout not once buy twice, and never managed to get into the series, much less take control of it. Hardly what one would expect from the team that won the eastern conference.

2: Patrick Kane: American Hero

Jokes about Kane’s life off the ice are as easy to make as hailing a cab, but no one can deny his on ice prowess. The speedy sniper put up g0als against every netminder he faced, scored timely goals and looked entirely relaxed doing it. The big stage isn’t something that makes Kane shrink and hide. What was surprising was to see him win the Conn-Smythe. Not just because he’s neither a goalie nor a center, but because he’s an American. You could make legitimate cases for Corey Crawford, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith all of whom had enviable second seasons, and who had the good grace to be born Canadian. Kane is just the fourth American to win the Conn-Smythe and the third in a row, his former USA Olympic teammate Tim Thomas started the streak.

1: Anaheim Ducks: No Migration

The Ducks cruised through the regular season racking up wins with very nearly the easy and regularity of the Chicago squad, fans and NHL observers hoped for a Western Conference Finals for the ages between the Ducks and Blackhawks, but it was not meant to be. Despite scoring from depth players, solid goaltending from Hiller, and Getzlaf and Beauchemin providing leadership the Ducks lacked one thing that would keep them from taking flight into the second round; killer instinct. Game five ended with them up three to two in the series. They had home ice advantage, and went on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

Over the last several weeks we’ve seen all sorts of writing, heard tons of radio and watched countless hours of hockey coverage on where Rick Nash will go, where he’s needed and where he’s not needed. If a team can or can’t afford him is another question that’s been beaten from dead horse to glue, ditto the price of getting him and his contract. The question that hasn’t been asked is: What city or cities would be best for Nash? Leaving aside the cities that don’t have a shot at even the playoffs this year, and teams in the division there are still a few cities that need to be looked at.

Montreal:

The Habs are in chaos and he has two things the team could use: Talent and Size. He’s played most or all of his career against Weber and Suter so playing against Chara and Myers isn’t going to be too much of an adjustment. What Montreal sends back while an important question isn’t really relevant. To the best of my knowledge Nash doesn’t speak French, and has not ever experienced the media storm that would bury him approximately one millisecond after his plane landed. I honestly can’t seem him thriving under it either.

Toronto:

The problem with the Leafs isn’t on the front end. Sure Nash is an upgrade in one way or another over every forward on the team. The media wouldn’t be much less intense than in Montreal, if at all and with his family hailing from Ontario, I can see the constant attention of family members being a distraction. Probably not the best destination.

Vancouver:

The Canucks probably don’t need him at all. And let’s face it, this is a city that’s been tearing apart Luongo for years. Last year he wasn’t even the major issue in the Cup finals. Luongo walked out of the building with a better save percentage than the two goalies who won in previous years. The fans are not quite fair in their evaluations of their players, and while he’s hugely talented, and could form a formidable trio with the Sedins or on a line with Kesler and Booth one wonders where the cap space is going to come from.

New York :

Assuming the Rangers decided to fundamentally alter the fabric of their team, Nash has a decent change of flying under the radar as long as he performs to a reasonable level. Gaborik, Richards, Lundqvist, Staal have been the big names attached to this team for long enough that Nash can slide in behind them. That said, it is New York, even if the media isn’t as virulent as the three Canadian cities, or Boston it’s still a strong force.

Boston:

If his salary were a little lower this might be an excellent fit. Unfortunately with a salary higher than Chara’s he’d have to move mountains and even then my readers at the CBS radio station would never let up. Any time he went three games without a goal the dollar figure would be trotted out. This says nothing of the local papers who would start in with “soft” and trend downhill rapidly. On top of that whoever was given up would be thrown at the public as the solution to what was wrong with the team by certain highly active folks on social media any time the team lost.

Los Angeles:

When all is said and done, assuming the team can retain; Richards, Kopitar, Brown, and Quick, the Kings become a power in the west. Nash gets to a competitive team with a press presence that probably pays more attention to which of Hollywood’s elite is in the stands that game than what’s going on in the standings. Mere hockey players regardless of salary just don’t stand out in So Cal.

Those are some of the names that have been trotted out most frequently, but there are two more cities that might just make  sense if the general managers are willing to part with the right assets, and have the budget to bankroll his salary and a competitive roster around him. One is a team known for anything but offense since it came into the league, the other is merely offensively starved over the last few seasons.

Minnesota:

This is a team that was in first pretty late into the season with a ton of injuries to forwards, defense and goaltenders and probably ran their top ten or fifteen AHL prospects through the system just to keep the wheels on the bus. They have to have a good idea of who and what they can part with and as long as Koivu, and Heatley are still on the Wild when all is said and done the team is stronger.

Winnipeg:

The Jets sit just a point or two out of playoffs, and have a desperate need for offense. They’d end up selling most of the farm, probably including Mark Sheifele to land Nash. With him in the fold for a full season they probably become the instant favorite to with the division next year. The idea of a power play with Kane, Byfugelien, Little and Nash has to appeal to more than a few folks, at least as long as they don’t have to face it. While Winnipeg is as hockey mad as the rest of Canada, it’s still a fairly small city and can’t support the media load that is drawn to New York City, Toronto, or Montreal.

Wherever he ends up, assuming he leaves Columbus at all the team needs to consider if he’ll survive the environment they are putting him into as well as the simpler mathematics of salary and trade compensation. The Carter situation is the perfect example of what happens to an organization that doesn’t consider the impact on the player before acquiring them.

Coming into the series much was made of the fact that Daniel and Henrik Sedin are likely to win the Hart Trophy back to back. A truly worthy accomplishment. This accomplishment is no doubt aided by a division that was almost certainly the weakest in the NHL last season, but still requires hard work. As the conference finals ended there was even talk of one or both of them being near the front of the pack for the Conn-SmythTrophy. The title up above is not in jest, it is a serious question. At a total cap hit of $12,200,000.00 they make up a larger concentration of salary than any two Bruins forwards. And yet of all the forwards who have been in the Bruins lineup for all five games this series they combine for as many points as Kelly, Lucic or Paille.

The surprise isn’t that there are so few names on that list, or even who they are just that there is a list. Not only are they not scoring, the other elements of they game they could bring are sorely lacking. At center Henrik has dismaying 40.78 faceoff win percentage to go with his zero points. Daniel Sedin at wing has two points, and four points. In comparison Patrice Bergeron has three points and a 54.04 win percentage in faceoffs. Michael Ryder who’s had to adjust to ever changing linemates has four points, and seven hits.

Unlike Ryan Kesler who is well known to be nursing a lower body injury, there has been no hint of an injury to either Sedin. True, a physical injury could well be something that happened in a practice or even while traveling or at home. I watched much of the San Jose Sharks series, and all of this one and I haven’t seen any sign of physical ailment despite their going up against several physical players and even one of them flying into the boards after charging Brad Marchand. I still have no idea why, other than facing the Bruins defense, the Sedin twins have so lacked in effectiveness in this series. If you eliminate a physical ailment, that leaves a vanishingly small number of possibilities.