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James Neal will no longer be a Calgary Flame. Flames general manager Brad Treliving and his Oilers counterpart Ken Holland agreed to a rather confusing trade on Friday, swapping Neal for Milan Lucic and a third-round conditional pick.
More confusing to Flames fans is the fact that Edmonton is only retaining 12.5% of Lucic’s $6 million contract and early reports claim that his no-movement clause means the Flames need to protect him in the upcoming Seattle expansion draft. The trade defines bittersweet – getting rid of one low-value contract for another. The new roster structure picture for the Flames looks like this.
So why did the two Alberta GMs make the deal? The narratives surrounding the two are shockingly similar, making the case for a simple “change of scenery” motif.
Former Calgary Flames left wing James Neal (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Spot the Difference: By the Numbers
GP: Neal – 63 / Lucic – 79
Points: Neal – 19 / Lucic – 20
Goals: Neal – 7 / Lucic – 6
Plus/Minus: Neal – minus-5 / Lucic – minus-9
PPP: Neal – 6 / Lucic – 4
Average TOI: Neal – 14:57 / Lucic – 13:14
Hits: Neal – 46 / Lucic – 259
Giveaways: Neal – 35 / Lucic – 34
Takeaways: Neal – 11 / Lucic – 27
Cups: Neal – 0 / Lucic – 1
GP: Neal – 766 / Lucic – 890
Points: Neal – 514 / Lucic – 501
Playoff Games: Neal – 104 / Lucic – 114
Playoff points: Neal – 55 / Lucic – 70
Plus/Minus: Neal – plus-30 / Lucic – plus-96
Former Oiler Milan Lucic (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
Beyond the Stats
Neal came to Calgary after going on back to back Cup runs, playing 42 playoff games in the two preceding seasons. The wear of two deep spring seasons on a 31-year-old Neal didn’t exactly help his foot speed playing alongside Johnny Gaudreau. But even after his demotion to the second and third lines, Neal had a hard time finding success with any Flames players. A rather one-dimensional game attributes to his slow season. Known primarily as a goal scorer, Neal had little to fall back on when the scoring touch dried up, leaving a disappointing void most nights in the Flames lineup.
Three hours north, the Lucic/McDavid experiment has fallen supremely short. To be sure, it’s a big ask for anyone to step in and play with the fastest player in the world, let alone a 30-year-old known best for providing a physical presence and a touch of scoring. Unlike Calgary, the Oilers had little in way of supporting cast and pressure on Lucic to perform was substantially higher than it was on Neal in Calgary.
Looking to Next Season
The Flames depth sets up a good situation for Lucic in Calgary. Low expectations for Lucic’s Calgary debut offers a good niche fit for the winger coming off disappointing seasons. As Eric Francis states, the ask of him is going to be significantly less than it was in Edmonton. Go out on a nightly basis and provide hard-working fourth-line minutes with skilled centres Derek Ryan or Mark Jankowski. A 30 to 40-point season would be a successful season and not entirely unattainable.
Derek Ryan, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Mark Jankowski , Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
A few kind words from Mr. Calgary Flame Jarome Iginla never hurts either. Iginla was a player who managed to stay relevant late into his career by accepting new roles and working hard. If Lucic can adopt a simpler role in Calgary, things could certainly work out—at least for a few seasons.
“Then you add Looch? That’s a big man coming at you. It helps everybody, being able to play their game, to feel comfortable, and not have to worry about certain guys.”
Oilers fans claim trade victory because of unrealistic expectations. Lucic has the chance to come to Calgary and make a difference on a much deeper team in a role better suited to his game this late in his career. Good players adapt as the league changes around them. It was quite clear that James Neal had yet to figure that out in Calgary and Flames fans saw little to look forward to in the future.
Imagine this, an opposing player makes the lonely skate towards the penalty box after being whistled for a minor. Public address announcer Paul McCann announces the infraction followed by, “your Nashville Predators are on the,” setting the crowd up to yell, “power play!” but with that the crowd cringes.
Well, if you watched enough Predators’ games last season it’s actually not that difficult to imagine. It’s no secret, Nashville was far from stellar on the man-advantage last season, leading to references such as “man-disadvantage” or “the powerless-play.”
Don’t worry, this is not another piece that looks to drag up those miserable times all over again. In fact quite the opposite, the Nashville Predators power-play will look completely different in the 2019-20 season for the better. The acquisition of Matt Duchene and his six power-play goals last year will help, but the biggest addition may not be on the ice.
Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
The Predators hired Dan Lambert as an assistant coach and the now-former Spokane Chiefs head coach has been a perennial winner everywhere he has landed. He led the Chiefs to the WHL Western Conference Final, success that the team hadn’t seen since 2011. In his first season as the Kelowna Rockets’ head coach back in 2015, Lambert won the WHL championship and was an overtime goal away from winning the Memorial Cup, losing 2-1 to the Oshawa Generals.
To go along with all that winning, Lambert knows how to produce offense. Both times during his two seasons in Spokane the Chiefs finished in the top-10 in goals-for, ending with the third-most in 2018-19 and the sixth-most in 2017-18.
A Historically Good Power Play
The wins on Lambert’s resume would attract most professional teams, but over the past few seasons, other than the playoff hump, the Predators haven’t had much trouble winning. Head coach Peter Laviolette has done a relatively good job leading Nashville through the labyrinthine that is the Western Conference during the regular season. Although adding another coach who has winning pedigree doesn’t hurt, it is the power-play where Lambert will have the biggest impact.
Last year Lambert’s Chiefs led the WHL with the best power-play, clicking at 29.1 percent. This stat wasn’t just good enough to pace the WHL, but it was the second-highest across the CHL (WHL, OHL and QMJHL). It also landed them in the top-10 for best power-plays seen in the last 10 years in the WHL. But, the precision with the man-advantage didn’t end when the regular season concluded. Spokane led the WHL with the best power-play in the postseason, operating at 36.1 percent, converting 13 times on 36 opportunities.
From WHL to NHL, Lambert’s Power Play Success Translates
If you’re cynical and are screaming “that’s junior hockey,
not the NHL!” this one’s for you. Yes, all the success mentioned came when
Lambert was coaching at a lower level, it can’t be denied, but Lambert got to
put his skills to the test in the big-leagues and the results were similar.
Nashville Predators new assistant coach, Dan Lambert (THW Archives)
In the 2015-16 NHL season, Lambert served as the assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres. This may sound painfully familiar for Predators fans, but the season before the Sabres finished dead last in the NHL on the power-play, ending the season with just a 13.4 percent efficiency, a full 1.6 percentage points behind the next lowest total. In 2013-14 they finished with the second-worst power-play – to put it simply, the Sabres had set up home in the basement of that statistical category.
However, after Lambert’s lone season, Buffalo finished with the 12th best power-play, jumping from 13.4 percent with the man-advantage to 18.9 percent. It didn’t end there either, although Lambert was hired to become the head coach of the Rochester Americans the nest season, the Sabres continued to make strides finishing the 2016-17 season with the league’s best power-play, clicking at 24.5 percent.
What Should Be Predators’ Expectations?
Now, Nashville hasn’t had that bad of a stretch, but they did find themselves looking up at the rest of the NHL when it came to the power-play last year, finishing dead last and converting just 12.9 percent of the time.
Lambert mentioned on the Predators official podcast that he feels teams who look for the perfect play often struggle, something that Nashville could be accused of last season. The Predators would often make one too many passes and failed to get shots on net when on the man-advantage. Lambert also stated that he wanted the players to buy in to the mentality of “just attacking” and becoming “predictable to each other and not the opposition.” Overall, Lambert was optimistic that Nashville has the pieces already in place to turn their power-play around.
Nashville Predators celebrate. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Buffalo didn’t have anyone on their roster in 2015-16 that the Predators can’t match player-for-player with right now. So, there will be no excuses for Nashville not to give Lambert the tools needed to get the job done. During that 2015-16 season where Lambert was running Buffalo’s power-play the Sabres had three players tied for the team lead in power-play goals with eight, Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. The stat lines for those Sabres’ power-play leaders during the regular season were mediocre at best. Reinhart recorded 23 goals – 19 assists – 42 points, Eichel had a 24-32-56 stat line, while O’Reilly had the best year out of the trio with 21-39-60.
The Predators have players of equal ability if not better, and by better we’re counting Eichel as a rookie, not the player that he is today. Ryan Johansen is capable of recording 70-plus points, his career-high is 71, Filip Forsberg’s is 64 points and Viktor Arvidsson’s is 61. The point is, if Nashville didn’t possess the players capable of producing similar numbers that Buffalo saw from their players then it would be unrealistic to expect a dramatic improvement with the power-play. However, it has been proven season after season that the Predators have elite scorers and it’s those players who will likely spear-head the Predators’ top power-play unit.
Nashville Predators Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Now we’ll never know how Buffalo’s revamped power-play would have fared in the postseason as they failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2016. The Sabres also missed the mark again in 2017 when they had the league’s best man-advantage unit. But, the numbers show Lambert’s influence on the power-play translates at both levels. Therefore, his postseason success at the junior level is fair and valid when trying to establish a reasonable expectation next year for the Predators. More importantly, if Nashville can find their way back to the playoffs next season, an improvement on 0-for-15 can’t be that hard – after all it can’t get much worse.
It was promised the painful memories wouldn’t be brought up, sorry!
While St. Louis Blues players are busy spending their days with the Stanley Cup, the team’s front office, led by general manager Doug Armstrong, is busy reuniting the championship squad for next season. With the signing of Oskar Sundqvist over the weekend, only two major restricted free agents remain unsigned: Ivan Barbashev and Joel Edmundson.
The former, a Russian forward who has proved useful in a bottom-six role, should come at a reasonable price tag. But Edmundson, a bulky defender, won’t come so cheaply. With a number of other lefty defenders already locked up for next season, and cap space dwindling, can the Blues afford to retain their blueliner’s services?
Edmundson’s Slumping Season
It’s tough to know exactly what kind of defender Edmundson is. He certainly is not an offensive threat, having posted only 52 points in 269 career games. But it’s difficult to identify what his value in his own end is. At times, he looks like a top-four defender who can log heavy minutes. At other times, he’s looked more like a bottom pairing or seventh defenseman who shouldn’t be trusted in high-pressure situations.
Joel Edmundson has been inconsistent for the Blues, particularly last season (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
This was especially apparent this season. He posted just 11 points, his lowest total in three seasons. He played in only 64 games, thanks in part to injury, something else he has struggled with in his career. In fact, Edmundson has never played in 70-plus games in a single season.
When Edmundson was on the ice, he was an up-and-down player. He logged over 19 minutes a game, an important role for a defenseman. His Corsi for percentage (CF%), a measure of a player’s possession of the puck, where 50 percent or higher is a good mark, was 50.4 percent. That’s nothing incredible, but nothing awful, either. He finished seventh on the team in plus-minus, with a plus-eight rating, and he was second on the team in hits (128) and fourth in blocks (106).
But it wasn’t all good news for Edmundson, even when healthy. He collected just nine takeaways to 41 giveaways, the worst ratio on the team by far. He also posted a relative CF%, measuring his CF% against his teammates, of minus-1.5. In fact, he’s had a negative relative CF% each of his last three seasons.
Berube says a healthy defensive core has led to tough decisions, including Joel Edmundson's first scratch of the season: "We got a lot of defensemen who are all healthy right now, so we got to make decisions." #stlbluespic.twitter.com/n0gg2DgT0O
Edmundson’s up-and-down play led to his occasionally being scratched. Later in the season, when Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson became healthy and began to play more consistently, his scratchings became more frequent. In the playoffs, he was in the press box for several key matchups, including Games 5 and 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Nailing Down Edmundson’s Contract
With all of that in mind, it’s difficult to pin down an exact value for Edmundson’s next contract. Lesser defensemen than he, particularly at his best, routinely make more than $4 million per season. Earlier this season, we predicted that Edmundson would make $5 million over four seasons.
That seems generous now, particularly with the Blues’ defensive depth. Armstrong has already locked in three left-handed defenders for next season: Gunnarsson, Bouwmeester, and Vince Dunn. In addition, they have affordable left-handed depth like Niko Mikkola and Jake Walman, prospects who need an opportunity to play soon.
The Blues now have a little over $4.3 million to sign both Barbashev and Edmundson. The team gave their defender a qualifying offer, so Edmundson is due a 10 percent raise on his contract from last season, ensuring him $3.15 million at least in arbitration, should he get there.
If the Blues want to keep him around long term, they’ll have a tight window in which to do it. Might they consider trading Edmundson instead? The return might not be massive, but there would be no shortage of suitors in an offer for a powerful, 26-year-old defenseman coming off of a Stanley Cup season.
Keeping the Blues Together
So far, Armstrong has shown every intention of keeping the Stanley Cup Blues together, with the possible exception of Patrick Maroon. That would mean keeping Edmundson in the fold. But it also might mean trading a lesser player to clear up a little cap space. As it stands, the Blues are pressed against the ceiling, and a depth player like the big blueliner feels like an unnecessary luxury.
The history of trades between the two rivals is brief, for good reason. Furthermore, the few trades that they’ve made have one recurring theme: They’re all relatively insignificant. All due respect to the players Lucic and Neal once were, that trend continues with this deal.
Based on their recent history, both Lucic and Neal are
shells of those guys, hollowed-out husks, if you will. That doesn’t take away
how they can still contribute on their respective new teams, though. The Flames
thought highly enough of Lucic that they felt the deal was worth it. Here are
the three likeliest reasons why:
3. Oilers Retained Salary
Admittedly, the $750,000 of Lucic’s salary that the Oilers
retained isn’t a lot. It does symbolize that the Flames acknowledge they’re
getting the worse player in the deal. Few would disagree with that assessment.
Lucic ,who actually scored a single point more than Neal
last season (20 to 19), may be younger and bigger. He’s also slower and less
cut out for today’s NHL. So, why make the deal? In part because of the lowered
expectations that come from the $750,000 handout care of the Oilers.
There’s no denying the Neal contract was a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t as obvious as one as the Lucic deal, when it was first signed by the Oilers back on the first day of free agency in 2016, but it definitely didn’t turn out even half as well as the Flames had quasi-realistically hoped.
Ex-Calgary Flames forward James Neal – (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
At least this way, the four years left on Neal’s deal at
$5.75 million per turn into a slightly more digestible four years of Lucic at
$5.25 million per instead. It’s a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Thankfully,
it’s not all the Flames got.
2. The Conditional Pick
There’s also the conditional third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft that the Flames picked up in the deal. Granted, it only materializes under a very specific scenario, but it’s a potential pick, nonetheless. Those are valuable regardless, with both Lucic and Neal being second-rounders back in the day.
Like them or, more likely, not, both Lucic and Neal were steals based on where they were picked and how they have performed up to their recent pasts. Hell, on the Flames’ current roster, they have 10 different players once selected in the third or later, including superstar Johnny Gaudreau (No. 104 in 2011) and Norris Trophy-winner Mark Giordano (unsigned).
Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
The pick theoretically gives them a chance to get someone
similar… better than either Neal or Lucic, especially at the stages at which
their careers currently are. If someone had told you a week ago that the Flames
just got a third-round pick for Neal, chances are good you would have taken it
and run. Think of it along those lines.
Of course, the pick would just be a chance to get a decent player, and it’s all hypothetical, because the conditions attached to it are oddly specific. Nevertheless, there’s at least a passable chance of both Neal scoring 21 or more goals and Lucic getting at least 10 fewer.
Two conditions have to be met for Oilers to send 3rd round pick to Calgary – James Neal has to record at least 21 goals and Lucic scores at least 10 fewer goals than Neal.
Consider the following: Since Lucic scored just six times in
79 games last season, it’s not a stretch that he would fall well short of 11 to
begin with in 2019-20, “automatically” satisfying the first condition.
As for the second condition, up until last season, when Neal scored seven goals, 21 was the least he had ever scored in a single campaign. Of course, getting back to that mark will take some doing, but Neal is already thinking about playing with Connor McDavid. Sure, it’s a tad premature, but is it really that impossible of a scenario? The Oilers’ top pure winger last season was Alex Chiasson (22 goals, 38 points). After him, it was Zack Kassian.
The Oilers’ desperately need depth on the wings and Neal is someone who has a long history of delivering, especially when playing with ultra-talented centermen (Sidney Crosby/ Evgeni Malkin). He may have lost a step or two along the way, but there’s no tonic better than a regular shift with arguably the best player in the game.
Neal will at least likely get an upgrade relative to the 14:57 of ice time per game he got with the Flames last year. Due to the depth the Flames have up front, especially the emergence of Elias Lindholm, Neal was never going to get the chance to play with Gaudreau moving forward anyway. And he’s more of a scorer, who wasn’t cut out for the bottom-six role into which he was forced.
James Neal and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
Compare and contrast that with Lucic, who’s tailor-made for less minutes (13:14 last season) and more of a physical role than Neal could provide. The Flames arguably wanted to get tougher and they just did. They can also bury Lucic in the lineup guilt-free, knowing:
He’s likelier to succeed in a diminished role,
The fewer minutes he gets, the less likely he is to score enough to negate the condition for the third-round draft pick,
Expectations for a good statistical season from him would be close to nil whatever they end up doing and
There’s seemingly an inherent understanding on the part of everyone involved, including Flames fans, that signing him to begin with wasn’t even their mistake.
Sure, they’re willingly taking on Lucic’s horrible contract. That could conceivably turn into a mistake instead, but it only looks bad in a vacuum.
Big picture, they gave up a horrible contract of their own that wasn’t working out. The Flames are making the best of a bad situation, giving themselves a half-decent chance at succeeding in the process. As far as trades go, between the rival Oilers or not, there are undeniably worse deals to be made. This one can actually work out for everyone involved. That’s a win-win, even under less-than-ideal circumstances.
With the ninth overall pick in the 2018 Draft, the New York Rangers selected Vitali Kravtsov, a highly-skilled winger who showcased his competitive nature in the 2019 World Junior Championships playing for Team Russia. After the draft, Kravtsov returned to Chelyabinsk Traktor and recorded one of the best U20 seasons in KHL history.
Vitali Kravtsov, Team Russia, 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Kontinental Hockey League
In 2016-17, Kravtsov got a sniff of the KHL when he appeared in three regular-season games for Chelyabinsk. He didn’t register a point, but more importantly, played in six playoff games for the club and recorded a goal. At the time, he was 17 years old playing with men in the second-best hockey league in the world.
Moving to the 2017-18 season, Kravstov’s played limited time in 35 regular-season games and notched four goals and three assists for seven points. The playoffs are where the 18-year-old caught fire. In 16 games, he recorded six goals and five assists for 11 points. He won the Aleksei Cherepanov Award following this season as the KHL’s rookie of the year. This run would be his breakout as in a few short months he would be headed to the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas for the NHL Draft.
On June 22, 2018 the Rangers drafted the native from Vladivostok, Russia. The organization decided to pass on Oliver Wahlstrom, a right-handed American sniper who put up 94 points in 62 games with the US National Under-18 team in the USHL. Fans were furious, but as the summer months passed and more analytics were brought in on Kravtsov, that anger quickly subsided.
Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
With one year left on his contract, Kravtsov returned to Chelyabinsk Traktor for the 2018-19 KHL season. The team lacked offense, unlike prior rosters, only scoring 79 goals all season. Kravtsov, dripping first-round prospect swagger, collected eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 50 games, tying Artemi Panarin for the ninth-highest point total for KHL players under 20-years-old. He was only six points behind the team’s top points leader, Ryan Stoa. Kravtsov represented his team at the all-star game and rightfully so when you see he contributed for 26.58% of his team’s points. His point contribution percentage relative to the number of goals scored by his team surpassed Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vladimir Tarasenko, and fellow Blueshirt teammates, Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich when they were all in their post-draft-year season. Below is a graph to illustrate this statistic.
I realized I forgot to post the final tally of the contribution percentage. Traktor finishes the season with 79 goals in games with Kravtsov in the line up, bringing his contribution percentage to 26.58% #NYRpic.twitter.com/70VqpX72dy
Being in the KHL, Kravtsov was basically invisible to the North American spectrum. The chances of finding a KHL game on an American cable network are slim to none. Some watch highlights and read statistics of European players, but for the average fan, this is never enough. Approval needs to be gathered from first-hand accounts to justify why the organization decided to give the player a look. In this case, why the 6-foot-3 and 181-pound winger deserved to a pick so high in the first round. Kravtsov needed a stage closer to the west to show what he could bring to the Rangers’ organization.
2019 IIHF World Junior Championship
That “stage” would come around quick as Kravtsov would make his way to Vancouver for the U20 World Junior Championships, where he would serve as an assistant captain for Team Russia.
In his first World Junior Tournament, Kravtsov was told he would center the first line and made the switch from the wing around November. In his first true experience as a center, he answered the bell with two goals and four assists for six points in seven games. He finished fourth on the team in scoring, thanks to two multi-point games, against Denmark and Switzerland, and led his team with 21 shots.
Ultimately, this Russian team won bronze. Not bad for his first tournament and taste of the center position. Throughout the tournament, Kravtsov buzzed around the net and seemed to get opportunity after opportunity. He looked dominant and by far one of, if not the best player for Team Russia. Most noticeable was his competitive nature. Frustration would flood his face with a missed opportunity. On the flip side, pure energy radiated from his vocal cords when contributions were made. Kravtsov was a beaming presence on the ice and production followed when the puck was on his stick.
Following the tournament, news surfaced that he had suffered a torn tricep in the playoff round. Kravtsov showed courage through adversity as well as versatility, by playing center. His stock surged after this tournament, especially after seeing his dazzling cross-ice, seam sauces, and thundering one-timers. The Rangers are lucky to have him in their system and fans seem anxious to see a return to the States sooner rather than later.
Rangers Prospect Camp
Fans would not have to wait much longer after the World Juniors to see the Russian stud return to the States. In May of 2019, Kravtsov signed his entry-level-contract, along with goaltender, Igor Shesterkin. Accompanied by his mother and nine-year-old brother, Kravtsov left his father in Russia to come live in New York to train and continue his education with the English language.
Rangers goalie prospect Igor Shesterkin (www.dinamoriga.eu)
In two months’ time, Kravtsov would be at the Chelsea Piers Connecticut training complex getting ready for prospects camp. Alongside his peers, including 2019 second-overall pick, Kappo Kakko, Kravtsov led the charge with his electrifying skill, including a dazzling penalty shot five-hole goal on goaltender Adam Huska.
Kravtsov shocked the many Ranger fans in attendance when during the three-on-three scrimmage he displayed incredible hockey IQ with an assist… on a breakaway. Let me explain… Kravtsov, all alone, checked over his right shoulder and saw Morgan Barron following close behind. With this, he focused back on Huska, faked to his backhand and dragged the Slovakian goaltender with him. He then wrapped a centering pass to Barron in the slot for an easy empty-net tuck. A jaw-dropping demonstration of his raw talent and what we may see in October if Kravtsov is to make the opening night roster.
Kravtsov would later comment on his play at the camp. As reporters swarmed his stall in the locker room, Director of European Scouting, Nick Bobrov, began to make his way over to help with translation. Kravtsov respectfully waved him off willing to take this one on his own. He answered a majority of the questions, but looked to Bobrov towards the end for help. He demonstrated character by tackling the obstacle head-on, a feat most young men would try to avoid.
There used to be a worry that drafting Russian players would ultimately be a mistake, especially with a high draft pick. Translating from a European style on bigger, Olympic sized ice, to the North American style on NHL-sized ice was the obvious reason. With Kravtsov, this will not be a huge problem. He has shown with a short stint at the World Junior that he can adapt to working his speed and skill into a tighter setting. He will have to learn to do this on a consistent basis, but will be fine.
Head coach David Quinn likes to run this speed and skill style-of-play with a lot of moving parts, including offensive weaving and defensemen stepping into the rush. Coach Quinn can use Kravtsov strategically due to his versatility. He will be able to hold is own in the top-six or shine in a lesser role on the third line. He obviously has the offensive talent, but can also play a respectful, defensive game. Adjusting to the NHL speed may take some time, but his time in the KHL will help with the adjustment.
Kravtsov is eager to come to North America, which shows with his decision to come to New York early in preparation for training camp in September. A year ago, the franchise loomed heavy on his shoulders, but in a year’s time, Kakko came around to alleviate some of that pressure. Shortly after, fellow countrymen Artemi Panarin landed in New York to lend a hand. The face of the franchise in 2018 was merely a headshot of Kravtsov, no doubt about that. Now, that image looks more of a family portrait with a bunch of young faces joining the picture, most he became familiar with at prospects camp. New York is going to be fun to watch next season, especially with Kravtsov in the picture. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Introducing The Hockey Writers’ Countdown to Puck Drop series. From now until the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL’s regular season on Oct. 2 when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators, we’ll be producing content that’s connected to the number of days remaining on that particular day. Some posts may be associated with a player’s number, while others will be connected to a year or length of time. We’re really excited about this series as we take you through the remainder of summer in anticipation of the return of NHL hockey.
With 71 days left until puck drop, here’s a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s No. 71 Anthony Cirelli and why he could one day be a Frank J. Selke Trophy nominee.
Cirelli broke onto the scene in March 2018 to help the Lightning with their playoff push. In his first NHL game, he netted his first NHL goal with a short-side snipe on former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay fans expected that kind of speed and explosiveness from forwards like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, but not Cirelli. Fans quickly became familiar with the then-21-year-old as he had 11 points in 18 regular-season games and became one of the team’s top penalty killers at the end of the season.
Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
In 2018-19, Cirelli picked up right where he left off by scoring the Lightning’s first goal of the season shorthanded. He increased his average time-on-ice by more than a minute from 2017-18 and proved to be one of the best two-way players in the organization throughout last season. He also became a strong center in the face-off dot, something the Lightning have struggled with historically. He won just 44.9% of his face-offs in 2017-18, but last season, he increased that number to 52.8%.
Cirelli developed about as quickly as any player could in the NHL and he became an essential part of the NHL lineup almost overnight. Without a strong two-way, penalty-killing forward like Cirelli, the Lightning wouldn’t have led the league in penalty killing.
Becoming a Penalty Killer
Last season was still technically Cirelli’s rookie season, and he was voted to the NHL All-Rookie team having played all 82 games and, more importantly, was second in the NHL in shorthanded goals. Just under 70% of his ice time takes place in the Lightning defensive zone, up by about 13% from 2017-18, which shows how strong he was on the kill.
One statistic that makes Cirelli an elite penalty killer is his giveaways and takeaways. When the Lightning were shorthanded, he had only one giveaway in 219 total minutes, but he had 13 takeaways. What this shows is his ability to get sticks in the passing lanes and to read the opposition and predict what’s going to happen next. He also won 52% of his face-offs while shorthanded which allowed the team to possess the puck and kill off penalties more efficiently.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Sami Vatanen (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
For good measure, Cirelli led all Lightning forwards in shorthanded time-on-ice with 2:55 per game, but he also led all forwards in the league in shorthanded ice time with his 219 total minutes. He had more time shorthanded than Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Mark Giordano, John Carlson and Drew Doughty for starters. Not too shabby for a 21-year-old rookie.
Compared to the Selke Winner
St. Louis Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly won the Selke Trophy this year and comparing his numbers with Cirelli’s creates an interesting conversation. Obviously, O’Reilly has more playing time on the Blues’ top line and scored more often because of that, but they both played 82 games and Cirelli had two more points than O’Reilly while shorthanded. He also had 94 takeaways and 33 giveaways, while Cirelli had 46 takeaways and 15 giveaways while playing nearly 500 total minutes less.
Last season, Cirelli won 52.8% last year which is nearly identical to O’Reilly’s face-off percentage in his age-21 season. Cirelli’s shorthanded face-off percentage last season was just 0.1% below the Selke winner. The Blues center is known for his face-off ability and the Lightning should be very encouraged to see his numbers so close to someone with the face-off prowess like O’Reilly.
Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, Game 6 of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
The difference between O’Reilly and Cirelli have to do with their roles on their respective teams. O’Reilly has always been a first- or second-line center who can score 50 or more points a season. Cirelli, on the other hand, is a third-line center on a Lightning team who has elite players on their first and second lines. But, he could definitely slot into a second or even first-line role if the Lightning were desperate for centers. O’Reilly has the edge in point-scoring, but they are very comparable in many key statistics for Selke Trophy voting, especially as mainstays on the penalty kill.
As a rookie last season, Cirelli finished sixth in Calder Trophy voting for the league’s top rookie and 11th for the Selke Trophy. As a 21-year-old, he has a lot of time to develop both on and off the ice, and it helps that he plays with some of the top forwards in the league as well as a few of the best defensemen. He can learn from all of those players to continue to be a threat on both sides of the puck en route to one day winning the Selke Trophy.
CALGARY — Plans for a new arena in Calgary to replace the Saddledome are accelerating with a tentative agreement in place.
The city, the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampede, which owns the land, have agreed in principle to terms on an event centre that would be the new home of the city’s NHL team.
“All three parties have agreed to agree basically,” said Coun. Jeff Davison, who chairs an event centre committee.
The deal was to be presented to council behind close doors Monday afternoon and then put to a vote on whether to make it public immediately.
Calgarians would then have a week to voice their opinion before a council vote next week to ratify the deal.
The event centre has been estimated to cost between $550 million and $600 million.
The proposed site of the building is on land north of the Saddledome, which is almost 36 years old.
If the deal is approved, the earliest shovels will go in the ground is 2021, Davison said.
Calgary Flames’ Saddledome (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
The vision for the venue is for it to be multi-purpose, with portions that can be sectioned off for art installations and concerts of different types, including Cirque du Soleil, as well as sports.
With a capacity of roughly 20,000 for sports, the new building would be the heart of a larger revitalized commercial and residential district east of downtown.
“Our number one principle is public money must be spent for public benefit,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
“As long as what is presented to us today meets those criteria and principles then I think we’ll be able to have a very good conversation with the public over the next several days about whether this is something the public thinks makes sense.”
Previous Arena Negotiations
Negotiations between the city and the Flames broke off in 2017 when Calgary Sports and Entertainment president Ken King called discussions “spectacularly unproductive.”
The city re-started talks with CSEC, which also owns the WHL’s Hitmen, the CFL’s Stampeders and the NLL’s Roughnecks, late last year.
Before talks broke off, CSEC offered to put $275-million into a $500-million arena, and said the city should raise the remaining $225-million through a community revitalization levy.
Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
A CRL allows the city to divert property taxes from new development that would theoretically spring up around a new arena into paying for it.
The city had proposed a three-way split on the cost of a $555-million arena, with the city and the Flames each paying $185-million and the remaining third raised from a surcharge on tickets.
The arena has re-emerged at a time when city council is trying to find $60 million in budget cuts.
“The optics stink,” Nenshi said. “They really stink, but I’m not one of those people who tries to massage or manage the public discussion so we can get the outcome we’re looking for.
“If the deal is ready, the public deserves to know what’s in that deal.”
The event centre’s proposed location on the east side of the downtown came after an $890-million CalgaryNext project pitched by the Flames in 2015.
That concept included a hockey arena, football stadium and field house west of downtown.
Flames owners offered $200-million of their own money and proposed a $250-million loan be repaid through a ticket surcharge.
CalgaryNext was shelved when council determined remediating creosote-soaked soil on site would push the cost of the project well over a billion dollars.
A field house and an arena are on Calgary’s major capital projects priority list, but a football field to replace 59-year-old McMahon Stadium is not.
An $80-million renovation to McMahon was part of the Calgary 2026 proposal to host the Winter Games, but those plans died when Calgarians shot down bidding for the Olympic and Paralympic games in a plebiscite.
Every team has at least one player or manager who will go down in history as ‘most hated,’ but what happens if a franchise has five? If you dig deep enough, you could fill a book with players that you personally disliked, but there are some who are widely remembered for the wrong reasons.
Whether it be due to poor on-ice performance, bad attitude, nasty hits or being grossly egotistical, there are some current and former Vancouver Canucks that fans would have sent to the gallows given the opportunity.
#5 – John Tortorella
No, he wasn’t a player for the franchise, but he left a sour taste in the mouths of the Canucks faithful with some of his ridiculous expectations and rules.
After coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup victory over the Calgary Flames in 2003-04, Tortorella struggled to keep the team in a winning position after the 2004-05 NHL lockout, with back-to-back first-round exits in the 2006 and 2007 Playoffs. In 2006-07, the Lightning missed the playoffs altogether, and Tortorella was fired.
By now, he had fostered a reputation for being hard-nosed, aggressive and short-tempered with ‘stupid’ questions from reporters. He even ended up with his own ‘TSN Top 10’ moments that highlighted his blunt and expletive-laden post-game interviews.
John Tortorella RIPPED into his team in another classic rant - YouTube
Tortorella, or ‘Torts,’ was the type of guy you either loved or hated. Depending on whether or not he had coached your team to glory or disaster, you might think he’s hilarious. In 2013-14, he became the coach of the Canucks following the exit of Alain Vigneault, the winningest coach in franchise history.
The hope was that Tortorella’s tough love mentality would help make the team more formidable to play against, but his coaching style was disastrous and did not complement the playing styles of star players like Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, or Ryan Kesler.
In fact, his excessively aggressive coaching methodology resulted in injuries and poor production from the team’s top players. With an extremely heavy focus on blocking shots, killing penalties and using players in illogical situations, we saw the Sedins blocking shots and playing on the penalty kill as if they weren’t concurrently the faces of the franchise.
This blatant misuse of the Canucks’ star power had fans livid. In his first and only season with the Canucks, Tortorella had zero players dress for all 82 games. Due to injury, the most games played that season was 81, and that was by defender Jason Garrison.
Burrows was limited to 49 games in 2013-14 after sustaining a foot injury while blocking a shot on the penalty kill. The prolific Sedin twins missed a combined 21 games due to injury as well.
John Tortorella (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
He will also be remembered for screaming at Canucks winger David Booth for being late to a meeting. Torts ripped into the former Florida Panther for being tardy, but Booth had shown up five minutes prior to the meeting and Tortorella had not seen him arrive. Other players were astounded when a shouting match broke out between the two.
Tortorella went on to find success with the Columbus Blue Jackets, winning the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s best coach in 2016-17.
All we can say is that we’re glad his time with the Canucks only lasted one season.
#4 – Loui Eriksson
This one is a little less personal. Its typical for a player to come to a new city and new team and under-perform.
Such was the case with former 30-goal scorer Loui Eriksson.
Vancouver Canucks’ Loui Eriksson and Arizona Coyotes’ Lawson Crouse collide. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
When the Swede joined the Canucks through free agency in the offseason before the 2016-17 season, there were mixed emotions surrounding his six-year, $36 million contract. The term, the cash value, the projected dip in production, the age, all factors that affected how fans felt about the signing.
They weren’t wrong. After three seasons, the former Boston Bruin and Dallas Star has put up third-line numbers at best, notching 76 points in 196 games. He is also the highest paid player in the Canucks organization.
After a disappointing debut, in which the Gothenburg native scored on his own net, the rest of his games followed suit, with Eriksson rarely flexing his scoring muscles and looking rather listless on the ice.
The 6-foot-2 winger has managed to place blame on his coaches while simultaneously avoiding contact with general manager Jim Benning and has only recently made contact with the Canucks’ front office through his agent.
In May 2019, Eriksson spoke to Swedish media while he was playing for Team Sweden in international play, citing head coach Travis Green’s lack of faith in him as a contributor to his lack of success in Vancouver. He insisted he could still be a good NHL player and that his minutes being reduced season by season had affected him negatively.
Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks, Nov. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Most, if not all fans, want Eriksson out of Vancouver. However, if the Canucks can’t find a trading partner before the puck drops in October, we might have to grit our teeth through another season of ‘Little Things’ Loui Eriksson killing penalties and looking rather invisible at even strength on that fourth line.
#3 – Todd Bertuzzi
Read this carefully.
Todd Bertuzzi was an exceptional force for the Canucks during his tenure with the team. He was an important part of the effervescent ‘West Coast Express’ line when he played alongside Canucks’ fan favourites Markus Näslund and Brendan Morrison. The three combined to become arguably the most prolific scoring line in the NHL between 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Todd Bertuzzki with the Detroit Red Wings (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
With Morrison and Näslund capable of effortlessly putting the puck in the net and Big Burt also able to contribute some goals, the line was perfectly balanced with grit, tenacity and scoring prowess.
Bertuzzi was the true embodiment of fear in the NHL. At 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds, he was the last player you wanted to see coming your way at full speed when you lifted your head up to make a play along the boards.
Known as an enforcer for his protection of captain Näslund, he was also a fantastic goal scorer for multiple seasons, scoring 174 goals with the Canucks between 1999-2000 and 2005-06.
The Sudbury Ontario native didn’t fall out of favour with fans until the infamous Steve Moore incident in March of 2004.
In a game between the Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche on Mar. 8 in Vancouver, all hell broke loose as the Canucks enforcer sought revenge on Avalanche player Steve Moore, for a hit in their last matchup that left Näslund concussed.
The assault took place after Moore finished serving a five-minute penalty for dropping the gloves with Canucks winger Matt Cook, who goaded Moore into answering the bell for his previous hit on Näslund. The score seemed to have been settled, but Bertuzzi had other plans, that would cost a player his career.
Bertuzzi stalked Moore around the ice in an eery, predatory way before grabbing him by the jersey and delivering a heavy punch to the side of Moore’s head, collapsing them both to the ice. Players from both teams piled on top of the two, crushing the motionless Moore under a mass of bodies. Moore suffered three broken vertebrae and a concussion.
Moore still bothered by Bertuzzi incident 10 years later - YouTube
Moore never played another NHL game while Bertuzzi went on to play in more than 500 NHL games after serving a suspension from the NHL that, including the 2004-05 lockout, totalled 17 months. The ensuing lawsuit and criminal implications haunted Bertuzzi and Canucks fans for years.
In 2014, Moore and Bertuzzi had reportedly come to an out-of-court agreement. By that time, Moore was seeking $68 million in damages. Keep in mind, Moore was 25 years old at the time of the incident and would never have accumulated career earnings in the ballpark of that figure.
Bertuzzi quoted then Canucks head coach Mark Crawford as saying Moore must “pay the price” in the team’s dressing room, obviously referring to the rookie’s hit on the Canucks’ captain in their last matchup.
Even though he was an important part of the culture in Vancouver in the early 2000s, his actions that day were unforgivable from any standpoint and should serve as a lesson to other players.
#2 – Mike Keenan
An experienced coach who found success with the Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers early in his career, the well-traveled Bowmanville, Ontario native joined the Canucks as head coach prior to the 1997-98 season, just two weeks after Pat Quinn was fired.
Former Vancouver Canucks head coach Mike Keenan. (Roman Makhmutov – Flickr)
Keenan had a strong bond with then Canucks captain, Mark Messier, who he had previously coached to a Stanley Cup in 1994. Many Canucks fans saw Messier as the biggest reason for Keenan’s hiring.
As it turned out, Messier had a lot of pull and somehow convinced management to bring him in because he liked Keenan.
Mike Keenan (Resolute-Wikipedia)
Fans were reasonably apprehensive about the former Adams winner taking the reins of the team, as he had done such a poor job with the St. Louis Blues as general manager and coach that he alienated everyone in Missouri, including Wayne Gretzky, who left the Blues mere months before Keenan was fired.
During his time on the west coast, Keenan oversaw the trading of fan favourites like Kirk McLean, Gino Odjick, Martin Gelinas, Dave Babych and the esteemed Trevor Linden.
Keenan, along with Messier, successfully dismantled the perennial playoff contender in the blink of an eye, all but guaranteeing that Keenan would go down in history as the worst and most hated Canucks coach of all time. This era marked what could arguably be dubbed the darkest period in Canucks history.
#1 – Mark Messier
No surprise here. This is where we touch on ego, poor on-ice performance and gross overpayment in one fell swoop. The Rangers star came over in the summer of 1997. The Edmonton, Alberta native ranks third all-time on the NHL scoring list behind only Jaromir Jagr and Gretzky.
You’d think that would mean Canucks fans were happy to see him arrive in Vancouver, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. From the moment he signed his hilarious, handwritten contract to the moment he left Vancouver, fans were opposed to the former Conn Smythe and Hart Memorial Trophy winner.
First order of business: The captaincy. When Messier arrived, Trevor Linden was still the captain. Linden, the cherished Medicine Hat, Alberta native, was shipped off to the New York Islanders in a trade that brought Bertuzzi to Vancouver.
Fans were obviously livid that their beloved Linden had been treated like a lesser player despite leading the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final just three seasons prior. He was the heart and soul of the squad for years. Messier was given the ‘C’ shortly after.
Mark Messier at the 2009 NHL Awards show in Las Vegas (Source: flickr / Brendan Lee)
Retired Number No More
Messier was also able to wear #11, which had belonged to former Canucks winger Wayne Maki, who was loved by fans in the early 70s before he succumbed to brain cancer in 1974. His number was retired to pay homage to the Ontario native.
This number was, of course, brought out of retirement just for Messier, who demanded to wear it. Maki’s family was outraged by this, as they had not given the Canucks organization permission to do so.
Pat Quinn Gets the Boot
Not only did Messier post lower-than-usual point totals during his tenure with the Canucks, but the club missed the playoffs in each of the three seasons Messier wore a Canucks jersey.
The team’s inability to reach the postseason meant it was time for beloved general manager Pat Quinn to pack his bags. Whether or not Quinn was really to blame is up to the fans.
One of the most bold and respected men ever to work with the organization was let go because Messier failed to elevate the team. It seemed that Quinn had done everything in his power to make Messier’s time with the Canucks as comfortable as possible, but he still lost his job. Many fans concluded that Messier was solely interested in collecting his money and not playing great hockey.
Pat Quinn (THW Archives)
The legendary Quinn passed away in 2014. His passing took a small piece of every hockey fan with him.
Money Hungry Mark
When the Canucks bought out the final two years of Messier’s, five-year, $30 million contract, fans breathed a sigh of relief. The messy Messier days in Vancouver were over.
Well, not exactly. Messier, who didn’t have enough money as it was, filed a grievance against the Canucks, claiming that he was owed money after the team exercised a buyout option in 1999-2000 after the conclusion of the season.
The buyout cost Canucks ownership $2 million. The former Canuck was awarded $6 million in an arbitration case that wasn’t settled until 2012.
The Canucks were forced to buy out Messier’s contract. (Image Credits: JR_in_NYC)
Messier was awarded the money due to a clause in his contract that indicated that he would be compensated if the value of the franchise increased over the life of his contract. The contract was supposed to run through 2002.
Messier will go down in Canucks history as the most hated player ever to don the orca.
A Difficult Lesson to Learn
Despite any minor successes that emanated from the above names, they have all solidified themselves as players and coaches who Canucks fans love to hate. Most, if not all of them, have secured a place in the archives of Vancouver hockey history, but for all the wrong reasons.
It serves to show that no matter who you are or what your accolades may be, success does not always follow you on new endeavours, and it isn’t difficult to wear out your welcome when you step on the toes of an impassioned fanbase like the one the people have fostered in Vancouver.
“I am honored and humbled to be named the GM of the Boston Pride, and thankful to the NWHL for this opportunity,” Pilch said in the press release for this announcement. “With [head coach] Paul Mara and our staff, we will build a perennial Isobel Cup contender which our players can take pride in representing. We will be a team that excites our fans in a city that demands nothing less than championships.”
Pilch follows Mandy Cronin of the Buffalo Beauts, Bray Ketchum of the Connecticut Whale, and Kate Whitman Annis of the Metropolitan Riveters as a quartet of new general managers for the league this season.
Right Person for the Job
Pilch has the ideal résumé and the right background to assume this role. She served as Director of Hockey Operations at BU for the past three seasons, and generated a great deal of success during that time.
In that role Pilch managed player communication, video operations, the team schedule and team travel. In 2017, she worked closely with Hockey East in hosting the conference’s annual tournament. While overseeing BU’s “Giving Day” campaign, Pilch was able to raise $115,000 in one day.
The Boston Pride named Karilyn Pilch as the team’s new general manager on Jul. 22, 2019 (Photo courtesy of NWHL).
Boston University Women’s Hockey goaltender: 2005-07.
Saint Anselm College Women’s Hockey (NCAA III) assistant coach: 2009-2016
USA Hockey evaluator and instructor.
“Karilyn is the perfect person for this important leadership position with the Pride,” said NWHL deputy commissioner Hayley Moore. “She is brilliant, creative, determined and is passionately committed to working for the betterment of women’s hockey at all levels. The NWHL is really happy to have Karilyn managing our team in Boston.”
Plenty of Work to Still Be Done
While there is every reason to believe that Pilch is more than prepared to get the Pride’s roster filled – she probably has a few players already in mind – she does have some hard work to get done. It is not necessarily a matter of hitting the ground running per say, but more so pinpointing the right players that fit well with hers and Mara’s vision for the team. Then, bringing them aboard.
The last signing that the Pride had announced was defender Lauren Kelly, and that almost exactly a month ago. Including the Kelly signing, Boston has five defenders and six forwards under contract for the 2019-20 season so far. Assuming that the team’s roster minimum would be at 21 players, that would mean that Pilch needs to add at least 10 more players, including at least two goalies to her roster. The unwritten NWHL standard has long been three goalies on each team’s active roster.
The most recent player that the Boston Pride have signed for the 2019-20 NWHL season is defender Lauren Kelly. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)
The good news is that the Pride’s Free Agent Camp is being held just five days after the Pilch announcement. The team is hosting the camp on Saturday Jul. 27 and Sunday Jul. 28 at the Warrior Ice Arena in Boston, Massachusetts. A link to the website for potential players to indicate interest in attending the camp can be found here.
The timing for bringing Pilch on board could not be better. She and Mara will be able to work collaboratively to assemble the remainder of their roster. A roster that very much looks like an early favorite to grab the Isobel Cup.
Another day without news from the Toronto Maple Leafs and unsigned restricted free agent (RFA) Mitch Marner. Although the negotiations are on every Maple Leafs fan’s mind, there is other news about the organization. Here is some of what I’ve been reading.
Item One: Toronto Marlies Sign Michael Kapla and Ryan Johnston
It’s always good to have extra defensemen in the organization. This week, the Toronto Marlies added two defensemen through minor league deals: Michael Kapla (left-shot) and Ryan Johnston (right-shot).
Ryan Johnston, when he played with the Montreal Canadiens. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)
Kapla is a 24-year-old who moved from the New Jersey Devils to the Minnesota Wild last season, when he had two goals and 22 assists in 66 games. Although he’s getting a bit old for a prospect, because some defensemen mature later, he’s not a bad pick up. The team seems interested to see if he might develop into a solid defenseman.
The Marlies also signed the 27-year-old Johnston, who scored 22 points in 50 games last season with Mora IK, a Swedish professional ice hockey club from Dalarna in the middle of Sweden. The forward played ten games for the Montreal Canadiens from 2015-2017 but didn’t score. He too has probably been signed to add depth, in case defensemen from the Marlies make the big club.
Item Two: Mitch Marner Won’t Attend Training Camp
if He’s Unsigned
Dave McCarthy of NHL.com reported that Marner stated that he’ll skip training camp if he hasn’t signed to a contract by then. There’s still about two months left before it begins, so we’ll see what happens in that time.
Skipping training camp is standard behavior for unsigned players. It’s risk to play without a contract in case of injury. If that happened, there’s no compunction on the Maple Leafs part to sign an injured player.
Still, the thought of Marner repeating William Nylander’s terrible season is intolerable. As Maple Leafs fans know too well, Nylander’s holdout had dreadful results. His only redemption came during the 2019 World Championships, where he led the tournament in scoring.
Mitch Marner (Photo taken by Katie Whitty.)
I can’t imagine that Marner would pull a Nylander and risk similar struggles. Furthermore, I can’t imagine the fans would be patient with such a risky move by one of their favourite sons. It’s a tricky negotiation for both sides and whenever Marner is interviewed, he repeatedly notes that he’s letting his agent run the process.
Item Three: Nazem Kadri Tried Hard to Stay with Maple Leafs
Nazem Kadri was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster deal that brought star defenseman Tyson Barrie back to Toronto. However, Kadri resisted that trade as long as he could. During a recent interview with Jim Tatti and Carlo Colaiacovo on TSN’s 1050radio, he shared the process he went through as he learned he was leaving the Maple Leafs:
“Probably a week before July 1, things really started to pick up. I figured there might be a chance that I wouldn’t start the season with Toronto but I also figured, you know, there’d be a chance I would. I tried to do everything I could to stay in place and wanted to be part of the Leafs and I felt like I had a lot more to give them. But ultimately they made a decision to move me and I’m just excited to join my new team.”
Listening to Kadri, it’s hard to deny he wanted to stay; however, he now says he’s looking forward to the change of “scenery.” One thing he noted, is that Colorado is the second-sunniest state in the United States. He’s also offering suggestions for his new team. Ever the Canadian, he’s pushed the Avalanche to bring back the Quebec Nordiques jerseys the team wore prior to moving to Denver.
Quebec Nordiques Jersey (THW Archives)
Kadri is looking forward to playing with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen and also suggested that Denver “was one of my favourite road cities to travel to.”
Item Four: Goalie Ian Scott Is Moving Up Maple Leafs’ Depth Chart
Ian Scott, the 20-year-old goalie prospect, is looking forward to playing with the Marlies next season. The 6-foot-3, 170 pound Scott, who was selected in the fourth round (#110 overall) during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, helped lead the Prince Albert Raiders to the Western Hockey League championship last season with a 38-8-2 record and a 1.83 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Team Canada and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect goaltender Ian Scott. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Scott represented Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships and became friends with 21-year-old Joseph Woll, another Maple Leafs goalie prospect he met at the team’s development camp. Woll was chosen during the third round (# 62 overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Woll believes Scott is “a tremendous goalie” and a “spectacular person to be around as well.” He enjoys engaging in “friendly competition.” And, because both want to play for the Maple Leafs, they’ll be “constantly pushing each other.”
Who knows when there’ll be more news about Marner? Until then, general manager Kyle Dubas continues to make small moves that fortify the team and its chances to compete well next season.