Thursday, September 22, 2022

Puck Soup: Retirement home

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- Every veteran defenseman retires
- We remember how cool P.K. Subban and Zdeno Chara were
- Nathan MacKinnon gets a new contract
- Blake Wheeler is out as Jets captain
- The Oilers have a type
- Ryan quizzes me on all the new coaches
- Survivor talk and lots more...

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Rating the East's weirdest offseason headlines with the Bizarro-meter

Yesterday, we dusted off the offseason bizarro-meter and gave it a good workout going through the Wester Conference. We looked at some big swings in Calgary, an international drama involving Minnesota, a deposed captain in Winnipeg, and lots more. It got weird, which is kind of the entire point.

Today, it’s the East. As always, we’re ranking each team by how bizarre their offseason was, with the important caveat that “bizarre” does not necessarily mean “bad”. We want the teams that surprised us, whether that was with something positive, negative or somewhere in between.

We’ll go by divisions, starting in the Metro and working our way from the least to most bizarre.

Metro Division

New York Rangers

The offseason so far: It was mostly a status quo offseason after last year’s far more newsworthy summer. They did trade Alexandar Georgiev to Colorado and Nils Lundkvist to Dallas, re-signed Kaapo Kakko on a tidy bridge deal, lost Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp to free agency, and named Jacob Trouba captain.

But their strangest story was: They bet big on Vincent Trocheck, no doubt hoping he can duplicate the production he had for whatever team it was he played for last year.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.8/10. They made some moves, but in terms of weirdness there’s not all that much to see here.

Washington Capitals

The offseason so far: They added forward depth in Dylan Strome and Connor Brown, but will start the season without Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom.

But their strangest story was: Finally addressing the goaltending by trading Vitek Vanecek and signing Darcy Kuemper to a big-money deal.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.5/10. It’s not often you can find the most recent Cup-winning goalie on the UFA market, and the Capitals snapped him up.

Carolina Hurricanes

The offseason so far: They signed Paul Stastny and extended Martin Necas, along with a handful of smaller moves. Also, they gave Don Waddell a new contract before he started interviewing with other teams, which was a nice change.

But their strangest story was: Acquiring Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty in exchange for (checks notes) essentially nothing. Huh, apparently managing the salary cap has benefits.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 5.9/10. It’s not that getting multiple free all-stars wasn’t impressive, but after recent offseasons the Hurricanes are like the gifted kid who gets an A- on the exam. I’m not disappointed, but I know they’re capable of so much more.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Rating the West’s weirdest offseason headlines with the Bizarro-meter

Training camp week has arrived, meaning the offseason is officially over. Let’s get weird.

Or not all that weird, depending on the team. It’s time to dust off the Bizarro-meter, the annual feature in which we rate every NHL team based on just how strange their offseason was.

Let’s be clear: Bizarre does not mean bad, and this isn’t a ranking of who did or didn’t improve over the summer. For bizarro-meter purposes, it’s very possible for a team to think outside the box and surprise us with a brilliant but unexpected move. It’s also far more common to see teams make the same cliched and uninspired mistakes that don’t seem odd at all.

If you want to know how well your team did in the offseason, look elsewhere, because I’m dumb and have no idea focused on my area of expertise. As always, we’ll do this by division, going from the least to the most bizarre in each. Today is the Western Conference, while tomorrow will see us head east.

Central Division

Arizona Coyotes

The offseason so far: They continued to offer cap space reprieves via trade, and traded up to get Conor Geekie at the trade. There was the usual arena drama too, but as strange as that is, we knew it was happening before the offseason started.

But their strangest story was: Passing on Shane Wright, although they were hardly the only ones.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.0/10. Pretty standard stuff for the Coyotes. Honestly, I’m giving most of these points for their new home being called Mullet Arena and that one day where they made everyone wear matching suits.

St. Louis Blues

The offseason so far: They sent Ville Husso to Detroit, then watched David Perron join him as a free agent. The re-upped with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou on similar deals. Maybe the biggest news was what didn’t happen, as they couldn’t land hometown hero Matthew Tkachuk.

But their strangest story was: A Vladimir Tarasenko trade has seemed inevitable for going on two years now. It still does, because once again it didn’t happen.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.1/10. The Blues are a good team, so a quiet offseason isn’t all that weird. But at least a few of their fans are scratching their heads.

Nashville Predators

The offseason so far: They landed Ryan McDonagh from Tampa in what was basically a salary dump. And they landed the 2023 NHL draft and awards show, which I’m guessing will be just a little bit fun.

But their strangest story was: Letting all sorts of Filip Forsberg drama build up, then giving him the exact same eight-year deal everyone had predicted for him since last year.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.2/10. Also, I didn’t know they signed Kevin Lankinen until right now. It’s fun to learn new things.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: Hold on for one more day

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- Could an NBA-style midseason tournament work in the NHL?
- Why we'll apparently never get a play-in round
- Which Blackhawks will get their numbers retired
- Previewing next week's bizarro-meter
- A lot of Wilson Phillips talk for some reason?
- Listener mail, trivia, and more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Let’s build some all-time rosters in the two-digit jersey number game

It’s September, and you can feel the hockey world slowly springing back to life. The rumor mill is heating up, fans are starting to refocus, and the insiders are getting back from the cottage. Within a few weeks, players will be reporting to training camp in the best shape of their lives, and we’ll be churning out previews, making predictions and dusting off the bizarro-meter. We’re almost there.

That means we’ve got one last chance for a goofy offseason timewaster.

Let’s do that today, with a simple question: Which NHL team can build the best all-time starting lineup of players whose jersey numbers only use two different digits?

Look, I said it was goofy. Get on board or don’t, but we’re doing this.

To be clear: We need six players using only two digits, which means if our numbers are X and Y, we need a roster of X, Y, XX, YY, XY and YX. This looks like algebra and I’m already worried, but I believe in us.

But first, a few ground rules™:

– As always, a starting lineup means six players: One goalie, two defensemen and three forwards. Beyond that, we don’t care about position or handedness or that sort of thing.

– We can’t repeat a number on the same team. You need to use all six of the distinct digit combinations.

– You get credit for whatever a player did while he played for your team. In the case of players who wore more than one number, you only get credit for what he did while wearing the number you choose, meaning you can’t sneak a superstar onto a lineup with a weird number he wore for one game as a rookie callup.

One observation right away is that zero is out of the running, because players can’t wear that as a standalone number anymore. The single numbers should be pretty easy for most teams, while the double-numbers will be key. I don’t think we’re going to be able to make any rosters of six studs, but we should be able to build some good ones.

Let’s start with the first team that came to mind for me, and maybe for you too.

Pittsburgh Penguins

We said that double-numbers would be key, so obviously we start with Mario Lemieux’s 66. In theory, that also gives us access to Jaromir Jagr’s 68, so we’re off to a flying start.

Or are we? We can find some decent 6s and 8s in Penguins’ history, like John Marino or Mark Recchi. But the Penguins have never had an 88, so we’re stuck. That means Jagr is out, and so is Sidney Crosby’s 87.

So we head back to Mario, and try to build something else around him. But that’s tricky too, because we need someone else with a number in the sixties, and other than Jagr the Pittsburgh options are guys like Carl Hagelin and Ron Hainsey. And that’s before we try to find a goalie; I’m not sure there would be one.

In other words, this is going to be yet another one of those puzzles that seems simple but ends up being harder than you’d expect, i.e. the best kind. I don’t think we can build around Mario at all, so in the end I made a hard turn and switched to something using Evgeni Malkin and Paul Coffey.

Forwards: Evgeni Malkin (71), Rich Kehoe (17), Joey Mullen (7)

Defense: Paul Coffey (77), Darius Kasparaitis (11)

Goalie: Dennis Herron (1),

All things considered, that’s a pretty solid lineup. We’ve got three Hall-of-Famers, and Herron’s the only guy that most of you have probably never heard of. It’s disappointing given all the generational talent the Penguins have to work with, but under the circumstances, we’ll take it.

Since we whiffed on Mario, let’s try history’s other most famous double-digit…

Edmonton Oilers

OK, now we’re onto something. We start with Wayne Gretzky’s 99, then jump to Connor McDavid’s 97. With two of the greatest players to ever grace the ice, we just need Paul Coffey’s 7 and Oscar Klefbom’s 77 on the blueline and then two scrubs to fill out the rest of the lineup and we’ve got a contender.

But we can’t. If we use McDavid then we need a 79, and the Oilers do offer Nathan Walker up front. But that would leave us looking for a goaltender who wore the number 9, and we know that’s not happening. As tempting as it would be to strap a pair of pads on Ralph Intranuovo and push him out there, we have to play by the rules.

So McDavid won’t work. Neither will Ryan Smyth or Jesse Puljujarvi. We could use one year of Evander Kane at 91, since we know that 1 is a common goalie number. But I think our best bet is to go to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and hope we can find a goalie who wore 33 or 39. Luckily, we can.

Forwards: Wayne Gretzky (99), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93), Glenn Anderson (9)

Defense: Marty McSorley (33), Al Hamilton (3)

Goalie: Anders Nilsson (39)

The lack of a 39 option on the blueline means we have to snub solid 33s like Cam Talbot and Pokey Reddick and use a half-season of Nilsson in net instead, which isn’t ideal. And of course, we’re stuck with one year of Hamilton on the blueline because the Oilers had to be weird about retired numbers. Still, this roster has the best player ever and some legitimate supporting talent, so we should be OK.

Let’s try a team I really want to do…

Philadelphia Flyers

Real ones know. Before John LeClair arrived and teamed up with Eric Lindros to give us the immortal Legion of Doom, the Flyers had a line called The Crazy 8s based on their jersey numbers. Surely we can make something happen with that.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Puck Soup: Best of seven

On a rare summer edition of the Puck Soup podcast:
- The Sabres make a big bet on Tage Thompson
- The Stars' owner has some thoughts on player salaries
- Phil Kessel is back
- Some tough negotiations are dragging on around the NHL
- A new game show debuts
- And more...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

Debating all those bizarre new 3ICE rules in a special session of Rules Court

Someday, maybe, we’ll look back at the 3ICE three-on-three hockey league’s inaugural season as the start of something. A reliably fun summer distraction? Perhaps. A way for players on the fringe of pro hockey to make solid money? We’re already there, in fact.

No matter what happens down the line, though, the league has already accomplished something huge. It’s a rules test kitchen. What’s more honorable than that? What could be more important?

So, for our third edition of Rules Court, we didn’t ask for your submissions. The 3ICE rulebook took care of that. All that’s left is for us — Sean McIndoe, Ian Mendes and Sean Gentille — is to cherrypick some of the league’s gutsier innovations and figure out whether they could (or should) be applied to NHL games. We weren’t necessarily limiting them to overtime, either.

What works? What doesn’t? And what maybe-kinda-sorta-someday could make sense? We debated seven separate 3ICE-specific rules, as outlined in Greg Wyshynski’s deep dive on the league’s first season at ESPN.

As always, we sent a copy of our work to the NHL’s Manhattan office (via fax) and expect to hear back from them forthwith.

No power plays

That’s right. The folks at 3ICE have decided to do away with special teams entirely. There are still penalties, but they no longer result in a man advantage. Instead, every call leads to a penalty shot. (More on those in a second.)

McIndoe: Nope!

Look, I can already sense that I might be the grumpy old man of the group here, and I’m good with that. The waistband on my pants is chafing my armpits, I want you to get off my lawn, and I don’t think we need radical changes to the very soul of the sport to improve things in the NHL. I’m not against change — I’m the guy who thinks we could solve all sorts of problems by just making the nets bigger and is willing to fight you about it — but this sort of thing is a bridge too far.

Power plays are cool. Penalty killing is cool. Penalty shots are also cool, when they’re rare, which they were back before the shootout came along and made them feel pedestrian. Replacing power plays with penalty shots would be overkill, would turn even-strength play into a diving contest, and would just make everyone even madder at the referees for not calling obvious fouls in the name of game management.

We’re one proposal in and I’m already cranky. NO.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Let’s play “spot the interference” with old NHL clips, the world’s easiest game

Interference is a bit of a dirty word in today’s NHL. Most fans hear it and immediately think about goals being reviewed for goaltender interference, a rule that plenty of us still don’t understand (even though we should). But even outside the crease, it’s a very dicey concept, one filled with grey areas and interpretations. Sometimes it gets called. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it decides a Game Seven, but who’s counting. The point is that nobody can really agree on what exactly it means or how it should be enforced.

Back in the olden days, we had a solution to this problem: We just completely ignored the whole concept.

Look, I didn’t say it was a good solution. In fact, it quite clearly wasn’t. But we apparently didn’t know any better.

Don’t believe me? Let me introduce to one of my favorite time-killing rabbit holes. It’s a little game I like to call “Dig up pretty much any old hockey clip from the 80s or 90s and spot the uncalled interference”. The name might need work, but it’s fun. And it’s what we’re going to play today.

Let’s find some memorable moments from the era, and then go looking for the insanely obvious interference that doesn’t get called. Was the game better that way? Is there a lesson to be learned here? Am I making some larger point? Not really, but it’s an excuse to watch old YouTube clips in late-August, so let’s grab some popcorn and put away the whistles.

Mario’s Canada Cup winner

OK, it’s not technically an NHL moment, but we may as well start with what has to be the most famous example of the genre.

The goal: It’s the third and deciding game of the 1987 Canada Cup final, and Canada and the Soviets are tied at 5-5 late in regulation. Canada sends out its super-line of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Dale Hawerchuk for a defensive zone faceoff, and within seconds they’re heading down the ice on a 3-on-1 that leads to the most famous goal of Lemieux’s career.

But wait: How did that innocuous breakout turn into a 3-on-1? And where did Hawerchuk go, since it’s actually Larry Murphy who jumps up to become the third man in the rush?

As it turns out, those two questions are related, as we see in the replay. Hawerchuk is right with Lemieux when the rush starts, but then decides to peel off and pitchfork the only backchecking Russian who has a chance at catching Mario. He’s not even subtle about it, he’s just like “No, I don’t think you’ll be participating in this play, down you go, comrade”. And on behalf of Canadian hockey fans, we were all completely fine with it and agreed to never mention this whenever this play gets brought up.

David Volek ends the threepeat

With the 1993 Penguins looking for a third straight Cup, they’re facing the Islanders in a surprisingly tough series. It’s Game 7, and after a furious late comeback to force overtime, it’s next goal wins. And that goal is about to happen.

The goal: After an offensive zone turnover, the Penguins surrender a 3-on-2. Ray Ferraro gets the puck across to David Volek on the 2-on-1, and he buries it past Tom Barrasso to end the series.

But wait: Gee, that 3-on-2 suddenly turned into a 2-on-1, how did that happen?

The answer involves the third Islander, who I’m pretty sure is Derek King. He’s the guy who starts the play with a step on the second Penguins’ defenseman, only to get blatantly hooked out of the play. (Hooking was also completely legal back then.) Like a savvy veteran, King realizes that the Penguin is going to try the old “waterski slingshot” move, so he does the smart thing: He just stops skating. Seriously, watch him – he just stops moving, forcing his opponent to run into him so he can’t get back into the play. He’s basically looking over his shoulder at the guy the whole time.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: On Nazem Kadri and the Islanders and oh crap nevermind

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- A bunch of Nazem Kadri stuff you can skip because he signed eight seconds after he finished recording
- Front office confidence rankings
- Rerun rosters
- A lot about Bernie Nicholls for some reason?
- Figuring out which players had hat tricks with an EVG, a PPG and a SHG
- Various other rants and tangents from two hockey fans with nothing important to talk about

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Which team can build the best lineup of players who left and came back?

It’s rerun season in the TV world. Or at least it would be, if people still watched network broadcasts instead of streaming everything. Ask your parents about it, kids. Man, I need to work on my timely references.

It’s supposed to be rerun season in the hockey world too, because there’s very little that NHL teams love more than bringing back former players from days gone by. If a guy was a star for you earlier in his career, or at least a solid player, or at least had a pulse, then you bring him back for another stint later on. The familiarity probably helps, and it’s easier to sell a new acquisition to fans if they already love and/or vaguely remember him.

Or at least, that’s usually been how it works. This year, not so much, as we haven’t seen many reruns among the headlines transactions. I kind of miss them. So today, we’re going to celebrate what might be a dying trend, as we see which team can build the best lineup of guys who had two or more stints for them.

But first, a few ground rules™:

– We’re building six-man rosters, meaning three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie. Beyond that, position doesn’t matter.

– You get credit for everything a player did while he was on your team. Note that that doesn’t mean he has to have been good in both stints; a guy who was a superstar his first time around and a broken-down shell in the second is a great pick, because you’re getting him at his best. But a guy who did all his best work elsewhere isn’t a great option.

– This is the important one. To be counted as a returning player, a guy has to have played at least a game for the team in each separate stint, and played for some other NHL team in between. That means we’re not counting cases where a player may have been traded away and then quickly reacquired (like these weird deals), or guys who returned after being traded away as prospects, or stints in Europe/the WHA/the minors/war/retirement. Coming back as a coach or a scout or whatever obviously doesn’t count. And we’re certainly not counting cases where a player signed a one-day contract to “retire as a member of (whoever)”, because nobody above the age of five thinks those announcements matter.

We’ll start where we normally do for these things, with a few swings at the rich history of the Original Six teams.

New York Rangers

Man, I really thought this sort of thing would be made for the Rangers. After all, they spend decades chasing after other teams’ aging stars, so why not bring back a few of their own? And they did with arguably their biggest name ever, as Mark Messier leads our team. He’s got decent depth to help him up front, with Alexei Kovalev and Petr Nedved on his wings and Ron Duguay and Orland Kurtenbach available for depth. That’s a very solid start.

But the backend kind of falls apart. The best defencemen I can find are two guys you’ve never heard of. And in goal, I’m not sure there are any options at all apart from Doug Soetaert, who was decent but hardly a star. I might be missing a name or two somewhere, but unless it’s more than a few, the Rangers can’t ice a solid top-to-bottom roster.

Forwards: Mark Messier, Alexei Kovalev, Petr Nedved

Defensemen: Joe Cooper, Mike McMahon

Goalies: Doug Soetaert

Consider the Rangers a warning – this will be tougher than it sounds. But that’s fine, because it’s August and we’ve got nothing better to do. Let’s try another Original Six entry…

Toronto Maple Leafs

I didn’t come up with this whole concept just so I could put together a Leafs team with Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, but I won’t pretend that I’m not thrilled it happened. Wendel had three separate stints in Toronto, which is weird because he never played for any other teams. Meanwhile, Gilmour just sneaks onto the roster thanks to playing the last few shifts of his career as a Maple Leafs before blowing out his knee in 2003.

From there, we can build a blueline out of a couple of well-known named from the Stanley Cup years (with some help from Carl Brewer’s 20-game comeback at the age of 41). I’m going with Curtis Joseph over Mike Palmateer in goal, although both are worthy options. And for my last forward spot, I’ll go with an old-time Hall-of-Famer in sniper Babe Dye, who led the early NHL in goals four times. He’s a great pick, but comes at the expense of three of the most entertaining Maple Leafs ever in Stumpy Thomas, Tie Domi and Eddie Shack.

Forwards: Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Babe Dye

Defensemen: Bob Baun, Carl Brewer

Goalies: Curtis Joseph

We’ll move to the expansion era teams, but stay in the Norris Division…

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Is the NHL rigged in favor of your team or against it? A 32-team investigation.

Admit it: You think the NHL is rigged against your team.

The referees. The head office. The department of player safety. The schedule-maker and the TV guys and the union and the arbitrators and even the marketing department. You know for a fact that at least a few of them, and maybe each and every one of them, are working to hold your team back. I mean, the evidence is clear.

Or is it? What would an independent, impartial observer think? That’s where I come in. Today, I’m going to go through all 32 teams and try to figure out which ones have a case about everyone being out to get them.

There’so one important ground rule here: The league is either rigged in favor of your team or against it. There’s no middle ground. What, you think we’re going to decide that your team’s success or failure is completely attributed to their own decisions and actions, with nobody to blame but themselves? Nonsense. That’s not how sports works, and every fan knows it. Every team is the subject of a grand conspiracy, it’s just a question of whether that’s helping them or hurting them. That’s what we’ll be deciding today.

The league is rigged! But is it rigged for you, or against you? Let’s find out.

Nashville Predators
Other teams whine about how the referees are out to get them. The Predators have video evidence, and remain the only team in modern history to have a referee fired for picking on them.

Verdict: League rigged against you

Columbus Blue Jackets
Hey quick question, how long is regulation time in an NHL game? If you said 60 minutes, you’re a fan of one of the other teams. If you said “however long it takes to make sure the Blue Jackets lose”, then you know what coulombs are.

Verdict: League rigged against you

Los Angeles Kings
Who criticizes the NHL’s officiating? Literally everyone. Who gets fined for it, not to mention forced into a groveling public apology? Pretty much only the Kings. I guess they should have done something more sportsmanlike, like sneak into the opponent’s equipment room to measure their sticks.

Verdict: League rigged against you

Montreal Canadiens
Lots of teams have had questionable calls against them. Only one has had the league president suspend its best and most iconic player for an entire postseason and then insist on showing up to thumb his nose at the fans in person.

Verdict: League rigged against you

Vancouver Canucks
Two words: Cap recapture. Eighteen more words: The NHL made up a dumb rule and then didn’t bother enforcing it on anyone except the Canucks. Gosh, I wonder why. Maybe the league will explain it to us, but do it three hours early just in case anyone from Toronto wants to watch.

Verdict: League rigged against you

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: Answering the hockey questions you may have been afraid to ask

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- We answer a bunch of your rules-related questions you've never known where to ask
- How do offsetting penalties work?
- How can there be a penalty and a diving call on the same play?
- When are they supposed to call the instigator?
- If a goal is waved off for interference, why don't they ever call a goalie interference penalty?
- And more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

A brief history of the Shiny New Toy contract, the NHL’s most dangerous deal

It’s been a fascinating offseason so far. The Flames and Panthers pulled off one of the biggest blockbusters of the last decade, a truly shocking late-night swap that saw Matthew Tkachuk head to Florida for a package that included Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. The Blackhawks are openly tanking while the Senators are loading up, with both situations highlighted by the deal that sent Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa. The Knights dumped Max Pacioretty on Carolina for next-to-nothing, while the Wild had to move Kevin Fiala to the Kings. And we may not even be done, as trade rumors swirl around guys like Patrick Kane, J.T. Miller and David Pastrnak.

All of those moves were stunning in their own way, or would be. But that’s not the most important thing they have in common.

We need to talk about the Shiny New Toy scenario.

It’s dangerous. It’s potentially bad news for fans in Ottawa, Calgary or Carolina, as well as whichever team might be tempted on guys like Miller or Kane. And it makes it feel significantly likely that we’re about to see at least a few teams make cap-crushing mistakes that they’ll regret for years to come.

Let’s explain what’s going on, how it’s played out in the past, and what we can learn from that.

What is a Shiny New Toy?

Negotiating a contract in the NHL is all about leverage. Sometimes the team has it, like when a young player’s ELC expires and his rights are still under team control for years to come. Sometimes the player has it, like when an established star hits free agency, or a beloved franchise stalwart is on an expiring deal and needs an extension before he walks away for nothing. In those cases, teams often overpay, because they may feel like they have little choice.

As a big fan of debating bad contracts, I don’t say this lightly: There may not be a more dangerous set of circumstances for a team, or a more advantageous one for a player and his agent, then the dreaded Shiny New Toy. It’s a category of bad contract that I first proposed in a piece I wrote six years ago. I don’t know if you read that one or not, but I’m pretty sure that NHL GMs didn’t, because if anything the list of mistakes has been getting worse.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Looking for your "always wondered but didn't know where to ask" hockey questions

Lately, we've been having fun on the podcasts with people sending in the simple questions they were always afraid to ask. Stuff like:

  • What's the neutral zone trap?
  • What's the dead puck era?
  • How do offsetting penalties work?
  • What does last line change mean?
  • Why do we say the red line was removed in 2005 when it's clearly still there?

I think these are great, because there are lots of new fans out there and we tend to just assume they know all this stuff. They don't, and as your teacher used to say, there are no dumb questions. So this is your chance to send in yours, and get an answer to that hockey thing that's been bugging you all this time.

Please send your questions via email at

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Mailbag: What if the Flames had used a sign-and-trade to trick Matthew Tkachuk? Plus scrapping offside, history's best backup, and more...

It’s late July and everyone is on vacation, but at least we’ve had a blockbuster trade and some other news to chew on. Let’s see what’s on your mind in an offseason mailbag.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

Hypothetically, what would have happened if Brad Treliving had just yelled “psych!” as soon as Matthew Tkachuk had signed the eight-year deal with Calgary and refused to trade him? Is there something addressing this scenario in the CBA? Obviously there are moral repercussions here, but contract-wise, is there a grievance case? – Jessica R.

The short answer: It would have been the greatest moment in NHL offseason history.

The longer answer: It wouldn’t have worked. Tkachuk obviously would refuse to play for Calgary, and the NHLPA would jump in with a grievance. The Panthers would too. They’d have precedent on their side, based on the Eric Lindros double-trade fiasco where an arbitrator essentially ruled that a handshake deal trumped one on paper. The league has no doubt tightened up its loopholes since then, but it would be a hard case for the Flames to win.

My guess is that it would come down to Gary Bettman having to rule, maybe after a few levels of arbitrators and appeals. Do you think the commissioner is going to side with the Canadian team trying to hold an American star hostage, or the struggling southern market trying to acquire the superstar to put them over the hump as a Cup contender? Yeah, me too.

Still, it would be fascinating to watch it all play out. And maybe it ends with Bettman ruling that the Panthers’ deal wasn’t official and Tkachuk has to go back on the market (since he’s still refusing to play for the Flames). Can Calgary get a better deal from someone else? I can’t see it. Probably best for everyone involved that they didn’t try to pull the rug out. Well, everyone except fans of Team Chaos.

My brother-in-law is a Jets fan, and he was lamenting the upcoming start of free agency. I thought that to help him out, the NHL should allow teams to offer a physical version of their team name to free agents without cap implications. I’m pretty sure Artemi Panarin would have thought very hard if he was offered a Gulfstream to play in Winnipeg. I thought it would be fun to rank the teams based on how big of an advantage that would be. – Kurt R.

This is some great offseason content. Let’s do a top and bottom five, with the caveat that we have to be dealing with tangible things that could actually be given to someone. That means no kraken, hurricanes, lightning or stars, because we wouldn’t want a world where Winnipeg is allowed to give players a jet to be unrealistic.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: A real expansion draft

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- The ongoing Matthew Tkachuk saga
- Has any team ever had a worse offseason than this year's Flames?
- Jesse Granger joins us to talk about today's expansion draft post
- Lots of listener mail
- I get a little too fired up about arena nachos
- This week in history and lots more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Imagining the Kraken vs. the Golden Knights in a real expansion draft

One year ago today, the NHL welcomed the Seattle Kraken with an expansion draft. It was the second draft in five years, with the previous one having been held in 2017 when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league.

I just lied to you. Did you spot it?

If not, don’t feel bad. It’s a lie that the NHL itself tells, and most of the media repeats. It’s the part about their being an expansion draft in 2021, or in 2017.

There wasn’t. There were no drafts either year, because a draft by definition involves more than one team. It’s two or more teams taking turns selecting eligible players. If there’s only one team involved, they’re not drafting – they’re just submitting a list.

That’s what we had in 2017 and 2021. The NHL hasn’t had a real expansion draft since 2000, when the Wild and Blue Jackets took turns picking (terrible) players. In the cap era? It’s never happened.

Until today. We’re going to redo 2017 and 2021, but we’re going to do it right. Vegas vs. Seattle, in an actual head-to-head draft.

To make this happen, we’re calling in a team meeting of the Thursday edition of The Athletic Hockey Show podcast. Representing the Golden Knights is Jesse Granger, while Ian Mendes handles the Kraken. Sean McIndoe will moderate, and also write the intro. He’s the handsome one.

Here’s how it will work:

  • We’ll be using the eligibility lists from both 2017 and 2021. Ian and Jesse are drafting those players at that moment in time, with full benefit of hindsight. So if they use a pick on 2017 Josh Anderson from Columbus, they’ll be getting a 23-year-old RFA who’ll sign a three-year bridge deal and is about to blossom into a consistent 20-goal scorer.
  • Vegas and Seattle will each draft 23 players, which must consist of three goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards (which should include a reasonable mix of centers and wingers, but we’ll leave that to the two GMs to sort out). Unlike the 2000 draft, we aren’t going in order of position, because it’s just way more fun this way.
  • No NHL team can lose more than two players. Once a team loses two, all their other players from both years are no longer eligible.
  • No side deals are allowed, and no side deals that were made in real life will be honored. If a guy is on the eligible list, he can be drafted. If he’s not, he’s not available to us.
  • The same player can’t be drafted from both 2017 and 2021, because gosh, that would be unrealistic.
  • Both rosters must fit under this coming season’s cap of $82.5 million, again based on cap hits that those players had at the time of the draft. In the case of free agents, their cap hit will be whatever they signed for that summer. Both RFAs and UFAs are allowed. (We did make one exception by agreeing not to take Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who was technically left unprotected in 2021 but who had a roughly 0% of ever signing with an expansion team.)
  • At the end of the draft, we’ll lay out both teams and readers will vote on who’d win a seven-game series. The losing GM will be fired from the podcast. Or maybe just shamed, we’re still figuring that part out.

And with that, it’s time for something modern fans haven’t seen in decades: A real expansion draft, the way the hockey gods intended it. Jess won the coin toss, so Vegas is on the clock.

The draft

1.1. Vegas takes Marc-Andre Fleury (2017) from the Penguins

Granger: You’re telling me I can pick a future first-ballot Hall of Famer with the hindsight of knowing he will have two of the best seasons of his career over the next five seasons? Sign me up. Not only is Fleury the best pick on the ice, he’s the perfect cornerstone to build a team around off the ice.

1.2. Seattle takes Matt Duchene (2021) from the Predators

Mendes: Now, I am going to do something a little shocking here. I’m taking Duchene with my first pick. Is he overpriced? Probably. But he’s coming off a 43-goal season. And there aren’t too many good centers available, so I’m starting with him.

2.1. Vegas takes Vladimir Tarasenko (2021) from the Blues

Granger: There were worries his shoulder could be a longer-term problem, but 82 points in 75 games this season says otherwise. Tarasenko gives me a perennial 30-goal scorer to build my top line around.

2.2. Seattle takes Jonathan Marchessault (2017) from the Panthers

Mendes: I’m going to continue with my pattern of drafting centers here with Jonathan Marchessault from the 2017 Panthers. And I get him at his 2017-18 salary of $750,000.

3.1. Vegas takes David Perron (2017) from the Blues

Granger: I’ll take Blues snipers with back-to-back picks to fill out the wings on the top line. Taking Perron from back in 2017, knowing he racked up 110 goals and 287 points over the next five seasons, is an easy pick.

McIndoe: And with that, just five picks in, the Blues are the first team off the board. You can turn off the draft, Vince Dunn. So can a young Jordan Binnington, who was available in 2017.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Puck Soup: Columbus Day

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- Johnny Gaudreau did what now?
- What, if anything, he owes Flames fans
- A team-by-team breakdown of all the FA deals
- What's still left to get done
- The latest on the Hockey Canada scandal
- And more...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

The prediction contest results are in, and wow you all did terrible

OK, that was more like it.

Last year’s debut of the super-easy prediction contest was a lot of fun. I’d give you a handful of “simple” questions, you gave me the obvious answers, and every right answer would score you points – but only if you didn’t get any wrong. That was the twist that made it challenging, and it was, as only a single entry out of 800 was perfect (and that one didn’t win). The other 799 of you had at least one of your oh-so-obvious predictions turn out to be wrong. Most of you had lots. And of course, that was the whole point.

But I’ll be honest – last year’s contest was tough, but it didn’t turn out to be quite as tough as I’d hoped. When I came up with the idea, I figured that a typical NHL season has so many unexpected twists and turns that we’d see zeroes everywhere. I wanted to prove a point about how all the obvious stuff is only obvious in hindsight, and when you force people to spell it out in advance they don’t look as smart as they think they are.

In other words, I didn’t want you guys to struggle – I wanted to see you get wiped out. And it didn’t really happen, because the 2020-21 playoff and non-playoff teams went pretty much according to plan, there weren’t any stunning coach or GM changes, and the biggest MVP favorites all lived up to expectations. Alexis Lafreniere took down most of you on the Calder question, and the goalies were tough, but it was possible to navigate last year’s entry reasonably well. It was bad. Just not that bad.

Which brings us to this year.

With an expanded field of almost 1,600 entires, this was more like the contest that I’d had in mind, because the preseason wisdom of the crowds turned out to be filled with bad assumptions. The Golden Knights were playoff locks. So were the Islanders. The Kings were still a few years away. Cole Caufield would run away with the Calder. Nathan MacKinnon was a lock to contend for the Hart. And surely, if we could count on anything at all, it was that coaches like Joel Quenneville, Bruce Cassidy and Barry Trotz couldn’t possibly be fired.

Yeah, none of that turned out to be true. And then the best GM in the league, one with universal respect and completely untouchable job security, got promoted upstairs with days left in the contest.

You guys are so screwed.

Mix in the new bonus question, which was designed to implode your entry no matter what you did anywhere else, and this year’s winner was really going to need to earn it. So who pulled it off? Let’s find out.

(A monster thank you to readers Joe and Mike, both of whom created automated tools I could use to track the results rather than doing it all by hand like last year.)

To recap the rules of this year’s contest, there were nine standard questions and one bonus that we’ll get to at the end. For the standard questions, entrants had the option of giving anywhere from one to five answers to each and would receive one point for the first correct answer, two for the second (for a total of three), all the way up to five points for the fifth answer (for a maximum of 15 points for a 5-for-5 answer). But even one wrong answer hit you with a zero for that question, so you had to decide how far you wanted to push. Play it safe and bank a few easy points, or go for more but add to your risk with each new answer? It was up to you.

For the first two questions, you simply had to know which teams would and wouldn’t make the playoffs.

1. Name up to five teams that will make the playoffs this year.

And right off the bat, it’s carnage. Of the 1,583 entries, almost 1,500 listed the Golden Knights as a sure thing to make the playoffs. They weren’t dumb, as just about every preseason prediction agreed that the Knights were an absolute lock in the Pacific. With no other truly good teams in the division, a stacked lineup on paper, and rumors of a Jack Eichel trade on the way, the Knights were an absolute sure-thing, right up until they weren’t.

To make matters worse, about 900 of you also had the Islanders listed, including most of the 100 entries or so that managed to dodge the Golden Knights. In all, only 17 entries got points on question one, with 13 getting the max 15 points and four more going conservative and settling for less.

We’re one question in, and we’re already looking at a 99% failure rate. Oh, and this might not even have been the hardest question.

2. Name up to five teams that will not make the playoffs this year.
After a brutal start, the group did significantly better here. The Kings were a surprise, and they took out about 50 entries, as did the Predators. But for the most part, this was a safe question, with over 1,400 of you banking some points and about 1,300 getting the max 15.

For a while, it looked like it wouldn’t turn out that way. The Ducks spent the first half of the season in the playoff mix, even holding down top spot in the Pacific for a while, and they were aming a lot of you nervous when we did our midseason check-in before fading down the stretch. They showed up on almost 1,200 entries, so if they’d made it then they’d have done some serious damage. But they didn’t, so most of you were fine.

By the way, because they represented the extremes of the contest, the first two questions turned out not to matter all that much. At this point, there’s an overwhelming chance that your entry was sitting at 15 points on the nose, having whiffed on the first question and aced the second. It would be how you could navigate the rest of the way that would determine your chances.

3. Name up to five coaches who will not be fired or otherwise leave their job before the first day of 2022 free agency, NOT including any coach who was hired to their current job after Oct. 1, 2020.

Oh no.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: Aaron Portzline on Johnny Gaudreau choosing Columbus

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- Johnny Hockey makes his choice, and it's a big surprise
- Blue Jackets' beat writer Aaron Portzline joins is to break it down
- Ian tries to sell me on Matt Murray
- What I texted Ian about Kyle Dubas on the moment, and whether I stand by it
- The return of the Battle of Ontario, the Blackhawks tank, and what's next for the Flames
- Plus listener questions, this week in hockey history and more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Monday, July 11, 2022

Rating the biggest NHL draft moments from draft weekend on the Surprise Scale

For the first time in three years, the NHL held its annual entry draft in person. While the league did what it had to do in Zoom era, it’s probably fair to say that those drafts won’t stand out as being especially memorable. This one will, and as always with a good draft week, it’s at least partly because of how it surprised us.

That seems like a good excuse to break out the Surprise Scale for the first time since those distant days of 2019. This is the gimmick where we look at the draft through the lens of how much it was able to deliver on the unexpected. Whether it’s a surprising pick, a big trade, or just something weird, it’s always great when an event that gets previewed and mocked and hyper-analyzed as much as the draft can still surprise us.

As always, surprises are rated on a scale of 0 to 100 based on a scientific model of me just making it up as I go along. We’ll start in the hours leading up to the draft, when the Blackhawks decided to throw a wrench into everyone’s afternoon off…

The Alex DeBrincat Trade

We knew the deal was coming, because the Hawks kept telling us it was even though it didn’t make all that much sense. Chicago is rebuilding, but that feels like all the more reason to hold onto a 24-year-old who scores 40 goals. The one argument in favor of a deal was that DeBrincat was easily the team’s top trade chip, so maybe somebody would step up with an offer that was just too good to say no to.

Then the deal went down with the Senators and… well, it’s fair to say the return wasn’t overwhelming. Two draft picks, including the seventh overall and an early second-rounder, and that was it. No prospects, no picks in future drafts to file away, just two picks in a decent draft in exchange for your best player.

As far as surprises go, this deal shouldn’t have ranked all that high, if only because we knew it was coming. But given how uninspiring the return was for Chicago and what a potential steal this looks like for Ottawa, we can bump it up a few points.

Surprise scale: 60/100. Seriously, the Hawks know that Ottawa has like a dozen solid prospects, right?

With no other major moves breaking in the leadup to the big night, let’s move on to the draft itself…

The Crowd in Montreal

They were amazing. An absolute A+. Being in the building on Thursday night was one of the highlights of my life as a hockey writer. I can’t pump their tires enough.

For the first few decades of the amateur and entry draft, the event was always held in Montreal. Honestly, at this point I think I’m willing to support going back to that. You rock, Montreal fans.

Surprise scale: 90/100. Look, I know Montreal fans are great, and my expectations were high. You blew them away.

And of course, we can’t talk about the crowd without a mention of…

Gary Bettman gets booed

It was brutal. We’re talking a 1995 Devils fans level of heat. And as always, Bettman seemed completely thrown off. He came with the same condescending jokes he always tries, and even worked in a new angle by speaking some truly awful French (although we’ll give him credit at least memorizing it this time, instead of reading it off a gum wrapper). But within a few seconds it was clear that this was going to be ugly.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Sunday, July 10, 2022

Let's do an offseason mailbag

Hey folks...

At some point I'll be doing an offseason mailbag. Feel free to send questions about the moves we've seen so far, draft week in Montreal, what might happen in free agency, or any weird ideas you have stuck in your head that I can help with. Send questions via email at


Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: Draft day

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- The latest on a confusing and scary situation with Kirill Kaprizov
- Kris Letang's extension breaks as we're recording
- Lots of draft and trade speculation, most of it already out of date
- The story of the worst draft year any team has ever had
- This week in history, three hockey writers get lost on the way to a party, and more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Ranking the ten best first overall picks who weren't the best player in their own draft

One of the fun things about tonight’s draft is that there’s still some genuine intrigue over who’ll go first overall. We’ve spent most of the last year assuming it was the Shane Wright draft, but with Juraj Slafkovsky making a late push and at least a little longshot love for Logan Cooley, we’re really not sure what Montreal will do in front of the home crowd. That’s rare, and kind of cool.

First overall picks are tricky. Often, they turn out to be exactly what you’d expect them to be – the best player in the draft, one that a team can build around for a generation. Other times, they end up being a bust, the sort of mistake that can set a franchise back years. But there’s another category, and it’s one I’m always kind of intrigued by. I call them an Olajuwon.

Hakeem Olajuwon was the first overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft, and is considered one of the greatest players in league history. He was a dominating center who won an MVP and two championships, was a 12-time all-star, and was an easy Hall of Fame call in his first year of eligibility. But despite all that, he’s not the best player from his own draft year, because the third pick that year was a kid named Michael Jordan. Olajuwon did everything you could ever ask a number one pick to do… except be the best player in his draft.

I appreciate a good Olajuwon story, where a first overall pick lives up to the hype but still gets passed by a later pick. Hockey has a few of its own, and today we’re going to rank them. To be clear, we’re not looking for busts here, so Patrik Stefan, Nail Yakupov and friends are safe. We want guys who were great, but just not quite as great as someone picked after them. And we’re looking for cases like Olajuwon and Jordan, where virtually everyone would agree, so you can save your Taylor vs. Tyler debates for another day.

Will Wright or Slafkovsky join this list someday? Time will tell, but for now here are the ten best players in NHL history who went first overall and delivered on their potential, but still weren’t the best player in their draft year.

10. Chris Phillips (1996)

Why he was great: The 1996 draft was notoriously weak, with the leading scorer of the class being Matt Cullen with just 731 points. But with several busts in the first round, Phillips turned out to be a perfectly solid pick. He played 17 seasons, all with Ottawa, and almost all of them as a trustworthy top-four option. He had Norris votes in multiple seasons, scored a huge playoff overtime goal, and had his number retired by his team. You could do far worse with the first pick, especially in a year like this.

But not quite as great as: Zdeno Chara, who went to the Islanders in the third round. Of course, Chara ended up in Ottawa, and even played with Phillips for much of his stint there, so it all worked out for the Sens. But yeah, Phillips was a very good player and Chara is a first-ballot HHOF lock, and nobody’s debating which one was better.

See how this works? Let’s make our way down the list…

9. Rick Nash (2002)

Why he was great: Nash was the Blue Jackets’ first real star, and to this day is probably the greatest player in franchise history. He won a Rocket Richard in just his second season, and went on to score 437 goals in a 15-year career. He probably would have hit 500 if injuries hadn’t cut his career short.

But not quite as great as: Duncan Keith, who went in the second round, and is still active 20 years later. Keith has two Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe to go with three Cup rings. Nash was great, but nobody’s taking him over Keith with full benefit of hindsight.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Which draft year makes the best starting lineup of players taken from different rounds?

A year ago we tried to figure out which team could build the best six-man roster out of players they’d drafted, without using anyone they’d picked in the same round. It was a fun little exercise, even if the winning team was the one everyone probably figured it would be.

Reader Jacob B. had a similar question, but with a twist: Instead of finding the best team, let’s find the best draft year. It’s still a limit of one player per round, but we’re basing this on the full league’s work in a given year instead of a specific team’s entire history. Nice and simple, let’s do this.

But first, a few ground rules:

  • We’re sticking to positions for this one, meaning our forwards need to be a center, a left winger and a right winger. In cases where somebody moved around, we’ll emphasize the position a guy played most of his career at. We don’t get care about handedness on defensemen, though.
  • We’re going back to the start of the entry draft era in 1979. Sorry, amateur draft completionists.
  • I’m not actually sure we need any other ground rules, but this section always has at least three bullet points so here we are. How are you doing? Good? That’s good. Me too, thanks for asking.

OK, let’s get started. And as is often the case, it probably makes sense to begin at the beginning. In our case, that means 1979.

Team 1979

The 1979 draft is often mentioned as the best ever, and rightly so. With a double cohort (due to lowering the draft age from 19 to 18), this class includes stars like one of the greatest defensemen of all time in Ray Bourque, a 700-goal guy in Mike Gartner, plus two more Hall-of-Famers in Michel Goulet and Kevin Lowe.

But here’s where we run into a problem that will plague us throughout this challenge – all four of those guys were first-round picks, so we can only take one. It’s a reasonably easy call to go with Bourque, but right off the bat we’re leaving about 1,250 goals on the table. Look, we never said this would be easy.

The Oilers give us some strong options up front with Mark Messier in the third and Glenn Anderson in the fourth. While I’m tempted to sneak in Messier as a left winger, where he played his first few years in the league, his best years came as a center so we’ll play him there, costing us guys like Dale Hunter, Guy Carbonneau and Thomas Steen.

We still need a goalie, a defenseman and a left winger, and here’s where we realize the big problem with 1979: That year’s draft was only six rounds long, so we have zero wiggle room. Another problem that we’ll probably run into a few times is that we’re low on options for left wing, especially if we don’t count Mike Krushelnyski, who played more center. This leads to a dilemma where we either go with a decent goalie in round two and take a no-name left winger, or we use our second round slot on Brent Ashton and have to settle for Marco Baron in net.

I don’t like either option, and eventually settle on an answer I wasn’t expecting – we have to cut Glenn Anderson. That lets us use our fourth-round pick on 400-goal man John Ogrodnick on the other side, then fill out our roster with Dirk Graham, Pelle Lindbergh and Doug Crossman.

Forwards: C Mark Messier (3), LW John Ogrodnick (4), RW Dirk Graham (5)

Defense: Ray Bourque (1), Doug Crossman (6)

Goalie: Pelle Lindberg (2)

That’s a good team, but not a great one, and if it’s the best we can do with one of the best draft classes ever then we may be in trouble. The good news is the draft expands by several rounds starting in 1980, so we have more to work with from now on.

The next few years offer up some solid drafts that are too top heavy for our purposes. But soon we get to one that has a late-round pick we can build around…

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Puck Soup: Fourth of July edition

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- What are the Sharks doing?
- The rest of the coaching news
- The Kevin Fiala and Ryan McDonagh trades
- The most likely players to be traded this week
- Brock Boeser, Jesse Puljujarvi and more...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: King's ransom

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- The first big trade of the season sees Kevin Fiala head to the Kings
- We react to the HHOF class, and Ian makes his case for Dainel Alfredsson
- Thoughts on the induction of Herb Carnegie and the lack of women
- The chances of us seeing an offer sheet this summer
- Reader mail, this day in history and more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Puck Soup: Avs win, what comes next, Hall of Fame and more

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- Wrapping up the Cup final and Tampa and Colorado go now
- Cale Makar wins the Conn Smythe but is he the best in the world?
- Our thoughts on the HHOF class of 2022
- There's some intrigue at the top of the draft rankings
- Coaching roundup, Hockey Canada scandal and more...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

So you made a dumb trade with the Cup champ. Introducing the Conned Smythe award

The playoffs are over, a new champion has been crowned, the champagne is flowing, and it’s time to focus on the question on every fan’s mind as we watch the winners celebrate: Which dummy went and handed it to them?

No? Just me? It’s possible. But every time there’s a new champ, part of me wants to scan their roster and figure out which key players they stole from some other team. I don’t care about the guys they drafted and developed, or even the savvy free agent signings. I want the guys that they got in a trade, especially if they ripped off the other team to make it happen.

Today, I’m creating an award for that dumb team, in recognition of their impact on the championship: The Conned Smythe.

Here’s how it will work. We’re going to go through every Cup winner of the cap era, check their roster for any key players that they stole in a trade with a dumber team, and award the Conned Smythe to that helpful donor. For repeat champs, the same player can’t win twice, so it will get tricky on a few teams but we’re up to it. The key factors in determining each year’s winner will be the importance of the player and the lopsidedness of the trade. The deal can be from that season or years before, but we’re not counting trades for draft picks that became players. And I hope it goes without saying that we can use the full powers of hindsight to point and laugh at deals that didn’t work out. Sorry NHL GMs, it turns out I’m way smarter than you as long as I’m sitting on my couch and it’s 15 years later.

Nobody ever wins a championship alone, but some teams have more help than others. Let’s hand out some fake spite-based hardware.

The year: 2006

The champs: Carolina Hurricanes

The candidates: We start off with a tough call right out of the gate, because the Hurricanes featured several important players who came over in trades, including midseason pickups Mark Recchi and Doug Weight. But I think our two best options are captain Rod Brind’Amour, who arrived in a 2000 trade for holdout Keith Primeau, and clutch specialist Justin Williams, who arrived in 2004 and only cost them half a season of Danny Markov.

Brind’Amour was arguably the team’s most important star, but Primeau was at least a decent player while the Williams deal was a much bigger heist. This one is a really tough call. Except it’s not, because William and Brind’Amour were both provided by the same team. Thanks for the championship, Bobby Clarke!

And the Conned Smythe winner is… : Philadelphia Flyers

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Herb Carnegie is a worthy Hall of Famer, and every fan should know his story

Whenever the Hockey Hall of Fame announces a new class of honorees, it’s only natural that most of the focus goes to the players’ side. It’s a thrill to see somebody you grew up watching get the sport’s ultimate honor, and maybe you skip over the builder’s category, thinking it’s for the long-forgotten old-timers and suit-and-tie cronies.

This year, please don’t make that mistake with Herb Carnegie.

If you know Carnegie’s story, you understand how overdue this honor was. If you don’t, well, you really should, and that’s why it’s so important that the Hall has finally honored him.

Carnegie is often cited as hockey’s first Black star, and that’s a big part of his story, but his case for induction doesn’t start there. Quite simply, he was among the most successful professional players of the 1940s and 1950s, a three-time MVP in the Quebec Provincial League who later starred on a line with Jean Beliveau for the Quebec Aces of the vaunted Quebec Senior Hockey League. This was back in the days when the NHL was still relatively new and wasn’t the only high-level pro league in North America, so Carnegie’s dominance of elite competition makes him a worthy HHOF candidate just on the merits of his play.

But of course, his legacy goes well beyond his on-ice achievements. A Canadian of Jamaican descent, Carnegie faced racism throughout his career, including ugly taunts and insults from opponents and fans. As Carnegie was beginning to earn the attention of NHL scouts, there were comments attributed to legendary Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe suggesting that Toronto would have gladly signed the up-and-coming star if not for his race; in one version of the story, Smythe makes a tongue-in-cheek offer of $10,000 to anyone who can come up with a way to turn Carnegie white. Some historians have disputed whether Smythe actually said those things, but at the very least, such comments wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows in the era. When it came to the hockey world, Carnegie was, to borrow the title of his autobiography, a fly in a pail of milk. He knew it, and with little other choice, he embraced the challenge that came with it.

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Celebrating 20 guys who won't make the Hall of Fame, but belong in the Hall of Very Good

The Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its class of 2022 today, the first in two years thanks to the pandemic. It’s a big day for fans like me, who love to argue over this stuff – who made it, who didn’t, who shouldn’t have, and why.

But while I’m sure I’ll ending up debating the merits of the Sedins and Roberto Luongo and Henrik Zetterberg today, I wanted to go in a different direction for this post. Instead of the Hall of Fame, I want to write about some guys in the Hall of Very Good.

That’s a phrase we break out often around this time year, and we usually mean it as an insult, or at least a way to diminish a player. Someone will make the Hall-of-Fame case for a Rod Brind’Amour or Guy Carbonneau or Daniel Alfredsson or Kevin Lowe, and someone else will immediately dismiss them with a wave and a “Nah, it’s supposed to be the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good”.

That’s not what today is about. Instead, I want to make a roster of 20 guys who we could probably all agree aren’t Hall of Fame material. I’m not doing guys like Alexander Mogilny or Jeremy Roenick, or even the Chris Osgoods or Pierre Turgeons. All of those guys still have a chance to get in some day. I mean that guys who almost certainly won’t, but who still had great careers that are worth recognizing. (In other words, if your favorite player isn’t on here, just assume it’s because I think he’s going to the real HHOF someday instead of yelling about it in the comments.)

Fair warning, this is pretty much going to be a list of guys from the 80s and 90s. Pretty much everyone from the Original Six era who was any good is already in the Hall of Fame and most of the more recent stars could still be getting consideration, so we’ll focus on a window that just happens to line up nicely with my childhood. And for extra fun, even though the real HHOF doesn’t work this way I’m going to induct each one of these guys with one specific team, just to make sure we still have something to argue about at the end of this.

It’s the Hall of Very Good, only as a celebration. Let’s remember some guys, even if the HHOF committee never will.

First line

C Saku Koivu, Canadiens

In pretty much the ultimate Hall of Very Good achievement, Koivu played 18 years in the league without ever getting a single all-star vote. Instead, he consistently put up 15 to 20 goals and 50+ points every year, while playing a two-way game and serving as Habs captain for longer than anyone since Jean Beliveau. And of course, there was inspirational return from battling cancer in 2002, one that included one of the loudest ovations in hockey history.

Retire his number, Montreal. Yeah, I know, you want to be one of those special teams that reserves its rafters for Hall of Famers. This guy beat cancer, and every one of your fans love him. Do it.

RW Tim Kerr, Flyers

In the mid-80s, if you absolutely needed a winger to go out there and score you a goal, you turned to Mike Bossy. But if he wasn’t available, Tim Kerr was usually your next best option.

After going undrafted, Kerr burst onto the scene with the Flyers with a 54-goal season in 1983-84. It was the first of four straight years with 50+, making Kerr one of only ten guys to ever have that many in a row. (Among the players who never accomplished it: Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Bure and Mario Lemieux.) Injuries ended the streak when he barely played in 1987-88, but he came back with a 48-goal season the next year and won the Masterton for it.

Taking out the injury year, Kerr had a peak of 272 goals over five straight seasons. We can wonder what Bossy would have done over a full career if he’d stayed healthy, but when we’re having that conversation we may want to wonder it about Kerr as well.

LW Kevin Stevens, Penguins

I get paid to write about hockey, but I’m not sure I can find the words to make you understand how dominant Kevin Stevens was back in the early 90s. He was an absolute wrecking ball, not quite the traditional power forward (because he didn’t fight much) but just an unstoppable force on a Penguins team that was built on finesse. He scored 190 goals in four seasons, including 109 during a two-year run in 1991-92 and 1992-93 that also saw him post 234 points. The devastating injury he suffered in Game 7 against the Islanders derailed his career and his life, and probably cost the Penguins a third straight Cup. But in his prime, few guys had a beast mode like Stevens did.

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Athletic Hockey Show: No, they shouldn't have called too many men

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:
- The Avalanche win in overtime on a completely normal line change
- Explaining the rule, how it's usually called, and why Jon Cooper is wrong
- Why the first Lightning goal was (correctly) allowed to stand
- Thoughts on the Panthers' coaching change
- Who won the Wings/Avs rivalry?
- A look back at the birth of the loser point
- And lots more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Puck Soup: The Panthers hired who?

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- We look back at the first three games of the Stanley Cup final
- Jon Cooper wants to change the offside review rule
- The NHL awards show was decent, but more importantly, which voters are we mad at?
- Catching up on the coaching news, including some stunning news that breaks as we're recording
- The Hockey Canada scandal, and what comes next
- Nicklas Backstrom could be done for a while, and I have a suggestion for who the Caps should get to replace him
- Plus ketchup popsicles and other important topics...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

All 14 series that got us to this Stanley Cup final, ranked

We’re three games into the Stanley Cup final, one that seemed on paper to be in the running for the best matchup of the cap era and maybe beyond. On one side, the two-time defending champs going for the NHL’s first threepeat in almost four decades. On the other, the league’s most talented team looking to finally slay the dragon and bring their best game when it matters most.

And through the first three games it’s been… fine.

Maybe better than that. Game 1 was a borderline classic. But Game 2 was a blowout of historic proportions, and Game 3 wasn’t much better. The series is 2-1 and feels like it still has plenty of runway left, but neutral fans have to be getting at least a little worried that this epic final could end up being a dud.

You know what, I don’t really want to think about it. So instead of looking ahead, let’s look back at the 14 series it took to get us here with a worst-to-best ranking. This will tougher than most years, because I’m on record as saying this year’s playoffs have been unusually good. There are going to be some decent series that don’t even make the top 10, which is kind of cool.

Let’s count them down from 14 to 1, then root for the Avalanche and Lightning to deliver four more classics so that this final can take a run at top spot.

14. Lightning over Panthers in four (round 2)

This was supposed to be the exciting sequel to last year’s well-received debut, only with bigger stakes and (maybe) a new ending. Instead, it was a bust. The second Battle of Florida featured a Panthers team that had just won the Presidents’ Trophy and seemed ready to finally beat the Lightning, or at least put up more of a fight than they had in 2021. Nope. Tampa rolled in four straight, and the high-powered Panthers offense managed just three goals.

You could argue that this series at least had its moment, including Ross Colton’s buzzer beater in Game 2. But given the expectations, no series was as disappointing. It wasn’t even all that close.

13. Avalanche over Predators in four(round 1)

I’m guessing this would be a lot of fans picks for last place, since the outcome was never in doubt once Juuse Saros went down and we all would have forgiven the Predators if they’d just tapped out after three games. But given the rock-bottom expectations, the Preds at least put up a bit of a fight, taking one game to overtime and holding a third-period lead in Game 4.

More importantly, it was at least kind of cool to see the Avs flex their muscles early on. It was like the opening scene of a big-budget TV show, where the main character gets to just destroy a few low-level opponents to make sure we understand what they can do. Sure, you figure there’s tougher challenges to come, but in the meantime it’s still fun to watch the hero straight-up wreck some dudes.

12. Blues over the Wild in six (round 1)

The great irony of the first round was that five of the eight series went seven games, but not the one that everyone assumed would go the distance. That would be the Wild and Blues, two equally matched teams that had spent most of the second half of the season battling for second in the Central and home ice in their inevitable first-round showdown. The matchup had just about everything you could want – lots of talent, some bad blood, and two legitimate Cup contenders with a sense of urgency to win now.

And then we got… well, not quite a dud, but nothing all that memorable. No overtime, no seventh game showdown, and all six games were decided by three goals or more. What was signature game or moment from the series? Maybe Vladimir Tarasenko’s hat trick in Game 5, or Kirill Kaprizov’s in Game 2? Sure, those were good games from star players, although both needed an empty-netter for the third goal. This series was fine. We just wanted more than that.

11. Panthers over Capitals in six (round 1)

Probably the last interesting series on paper heading into round one, this one certainly got our attention early on, with the Capitals winning two of the first three. The Panthers levelled up after that, winning three straight to slam the door on any upset talk, but they had to battle to get there.

I’ll be honest, looking back on this series reminded me that it was at least a little bit better than I remembered, with Games 4 and 6 both going to overtime after tying goals late in regulation. Maybe this should have felt like a better David vs. Goliath story than it was. But a relatively recent Cup winner like Washington doesn’t really resonate as an underdog, and in hindsight we know that the outcome here didn’t matter all that much since the Panthers wouldn’t win another game.

Sorry, Florida, no top ten appearance for you. I pumped your tires before the playoffs started, maybe too much, but no team was a bigger letdown once the action started.

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