2019 NHL Free Agency Predictions

With Free Agency kicking off on Monday, I’ve decided to predict where several UFAs will sign. 

I won’t be predicting an RFA signings, as most likely you won’t see many offer sheets as there hasn’t been an offer sheet that has been accepted/not matched since Dustin Penner signed with the Edmonton Oilers in July 2017. Plus, we haven’t seen a RFA sign an offer sheet since February of 2013, when Ryan O’Reilly signed an offer sheet from the Calgary Flames. So, this post will only be about UFAs.

Forwards

Artemi Panarin (Florida Panthers)- Panarin has been making the rounds to Colorado, New York and Florida among other places but this seems to be the place for “The Breadman” and will sign a long term contract to play with Aleksander Barkov and Joel Quenneville.

Matt Duchene (Nashville Predators)- It has been reported that this move is going to happen even though the Montréal Canadiens are trying to sneak in and steal him. Nashville needs offense and Duchene is coming off a strong season and should improve what was an awful power-play for Nashville.

Joe Pavelski (Colorado Avalanche)- Colorado is ready to make another step after reaching the second round of the playoffs and have loads of cap space. They are going to make some noise and this will be one of several moves.

Mats Zuccarello (Colorado Avalanche)- As I mentioned prior, Colorado has a lot of cap space. The Avalanche have to do something with it and adding two top six forwards to go along with their young core would improve things tremendously.

Anders Lee (New York Islanders)- Reports are that Lee and the Islanders are not close on contract negotiations, but the Islanders can’t let another captain go.

Gustav Nyquist (Columbus Blue Jackets)- Columbus is an interesting spot where they are losing some key players, but they still have some strong pieces to help them stay relevant. They have some money to spend and could use a scoring winger.

Marcus Johansson (Washington Capitals)- The Capitals have some players they would like to resign, but adding back Johansson after a disappointing first round exit will help as they enter the end of their contender window.

Joonas Donskoi (Edmonton Oilers)- The Oilers need someone to be productive next to Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid that isn’t super expensive and Donskoi could be that guy.

Wayne Simmonds (Minnesota Wild)- All of the reports are indicating that the Wild are the favorites for Simmonds. General Manager Paul Fenton seems to be willing to pay him probably more than he deserves at this point in his career. To be fair, Simmonds has been playing on an extraordinary team friendly deal for years, so get get your money Wayne.

Defensemen

Jake Gardiner (Montreal Canadiens)- Montréal is looking to improve what was a mediocre power play and Gardiner can put up offensive numbers when used correctly. This will be an odd sight and it will be amazing when he puts in the OT winner in his first game back in Toronto.

Tyler Myers (Vancouver Canucks)- It is has been rumored for so long. It would shocking if anything else happened.

Anton Strålman (Toronto Maple Leafs)- Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is busy with the Mitch Marner negotiations, but he will make some moves on defense. I predict that we’ll see Dubas bring back Strålman to replace Ron Hainsey.

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers)- Again, this had been rumored for so long. It would be shocking to see Bobrovsky not head down to South Florida.

Robin Lehner (Carolina Hurricanes)- After having an outstanding season Lehner can go anywhere he wants and the Carolina Hurricanes will need a starter after losing their two goalies.

Semyon Varlamov (New York Islanders)- After losing Lehner, the Islanders will need a goalie to go with Thomas Greiss. Varlamov is a prime candidate to be a platoon starter.

Cam Talbot (Calgary Flames)-After Brian Elliott resigned in Philadelphia, Talbot needs to find a new place and like so many teams it seems Calgary will platoon David Rittich with someone. A Talbot/Rittich platoon could be a strong one. But, it might be tough for Edmonton Oilers fans to see Talbot wearing a Calgary sweater.

Petr Mrazek (Edmonton Oilers)- Another team that will platoon goaltenders and needs to as Mikko Koskinen can not be the number one guy again.

player profiles – hockey-reference.com 

Puck77

National Hockey League: Who Will Take Home The Hart Trophy?

The NHL Awards Show is coming up, and the finalists have already been announced. There are favorites and there are snubs, and fans have been vocal about who should win, and who deserves a nomination.

 

The Hart trophy is no different, and there have been varying cases for all three finalists. The Hart Trophy, for those who don’t know, is awarded to the player who is judged to be the most valuable to his team. Here are the finalists, and why they should, or could, win.

 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Why He Should Win: Kucherov finished the season with 128 points, which, for this era, is unbelievable. He showed dominance in the league that had not been seen since the Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux era in Pittsburgh. He has already claimed the Art Ross trophy for most points in the entire league. A guy so dominant deserves this trophy certainly, but are point totals really enough?

Why He Should Not Win: Kucherov has every reason to win, but let’s look at what awards the players this trophy. “The player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” His own team. This is not league MVP, which Kucherov would claim, hands down.

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Was Kucherov really that vital to his teams performance? Well, yes, but if you take him out, the Lightning will still be a playoff team. They have Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s also not a captain, nor an assistant captain, so you can’t turn to leadership qualities for help. Yes, he led his team in points by a wide margin, and yes, he had a historical season in every sense. But no, Tampa would not blow up if he were not there.

 

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He Should Win: Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Phil Kessel was swirling in trade rumors and Evgeni Malkin struggled, Sidney Crosby remained Sidney Crosby. He led the Penguins in points with 100, 18 more than second place Kessel. He led the team in assists with 65, 10 more than second place Kessel. He finished second on the team in goals with 35, behind linemate Jake Guentzel (40) and ahead of third place Kessel (27). He was tied with Kessel for power play goals (12) and had the most time on ice among forwards, averaging 20:59. He is the heart and soul of the Penguins, and their captain.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win: The Penguins had a down year in terms of where they finished as a team, as well as some individually underwhelming production. Crosby did not, as he held strong to his name. However, he’s just like Kucherov in a sense that the Penguins may not be awful if he were to leave them. Crosby is a huge figure in the locker room, but the Penguins still have so much star power with Malkin, Guentzel, Kris Letang, Kessel, Justin Schultz, and Matt Murray. They would still be a far different team, but I still believe they’re good enough to make the playoffs.

 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Why He Should Win: As the captain of the Oilers, he went on to do McDavid things. He finished second in the league in points with 116, just 12 points behind the otherworldly production of Kucherov. He finished with 41 goals, which is tied with Kucherov for sixth in the league. He also notched 75 assists, second to only Kucherov (87) around the entire league. Edmonton is not a good team, and if you take McDavid off the roster, they’d be worse than the Ottawa Senators. What McDavid does for this team, no one can top it.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win It: While Kucherov was able to lead the Lightning towards a President’s Trophy, and Crosby was able to snag a playoff spot with the Penguins, McDavid was left golfing. He wasn’t good enough to get his team to the playoffs, despite being one of the best players in the league.

 

Deeper Dive

One way to decide whether or not a player was more lucky than successful is by looking at a stat that ultimately quantifies a players luck.

Higher than a 100 PDO means that person was lucky, and likely won’t repeat their season at that clip. Under 100 PDO is unlucky, and likely means that player could have done better. 100 PDO is average, not lucky or unlucky.

Kucherov finished the season with a 102.7, Crosby finished with a 101.9, and McDavid finished with a 100.7. That being said, Kucherov’s historic season was spectacular, but required a lot of luck, and he likely will never reach that total again in his career.

Crosby did not have as spectacular of a year, posting the lowest goal, assist, and point totals among the finalists, but still required some luck to reach triple digits, and if the Penguins struggles continue into next season, Crosby may not reach the 100-point plateau.

Meanwhile, McDavid was just a little over average, not requiring much luck to reach an incredible 116 points, and has a good chance of consistently hitting those marks despite being on a relatively weak roster.

 

In Conclusion

McDavid deserves this trophy through and through, because he produced at a very high rate, and didn’t need a lot of bounces to go his way to reach his mark, showing that he can consistently reach that same production season by season. He’s also the only guy you can look at and say “Without him, his team would really struggle.” He’s also the captain, and the captain of any team is extremely important as is. So while he didn’t produce like Kucherov did, he has the “C” on his sweater, and not as much luck on the ice.

 

Stats via NHL.com

PDO via Hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Puck77

NHL Mock Draft Part Two: Selections 6-10

Part one is done, which looked at my prediction of the top-five National Hockey League entry draft selections, which means we are going through picks 6-10 for part two!

 

In this part I predict a trade, but other than that it is a straightforward prediction. For a quick refresher, Kappo Kakko went first, Jack Hughes went second, Cole Caufield at third, Alex Turcotte went fourth and Bowen Byram went fifth. 

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings trade back!

A trade kicks off part two, and it is a small one, but with a big impact. The Red Wings, I believe, are eyeing a prospect that should be available at 10th overall, owned by the Vancouver Canucks, and so they swap places, with Vancouver also eating Danny DeKeyser’s contract. Canucks fans have always complained about getting screwed over by the draft lottery, and so the team decides it’s time to move up, at the cost of DeKeyser’s hefty contract. Trade is Detroit’s 2019 sixth overall pick to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th overall pick, and Danny DeKeyser. So, here’s the pick:

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Vancouver Canucks select Trevor Zegras, Center/Both Wings, USNTDP

Zegras is like Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram (who were selected in part one) in which he could arguably be the third overall pick. But with the Caufield selection at three, and Turcotte and Byram ultimately falling, Zegras is left available for the taking. (Why Detroit wouldn’t take him here will be explained when pick 10 rolls around).

For Vancouver, they have been dying to select a versatile, sure-fire future elite forward on draft day for a while. I know what you’re thinking, what about Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat? Pettersson was selected back in 2016, and needed a season before making the jump and, ultimately, becoming their best player. Boeser was everything but a sure-fire deal, being taken at 23rd overall in 2015. Horvat was drafted in 2013, at the tail end of the top 10 (ninth overall) and also wasn’t exactly a sure thing.

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So, it’s been a few years and the Canucks want more, and Zegras is probably the best forward (aside from Pettersson) that they have selected in the draft, and whether he ends up more vital to the team than Horvat and Boeser will be found out within a few years.

Zegras piled up 14 goals and 26 assists (40 points) in 27 games with the USNTDP juniors. The fact that he didn’t play up with Turcotte and Jack Hughes tells me he has about 1-2 years before making the jump to the NHL, but his playmaking ability is outstanding. He proved that when he played for the US National U-18 team for 60 games, where he put up 26 goals and 61 assists (87 points).

Next season, like with Caufield and Turcotte, he is committed to joining an NCAA club, and for him it’s Boston University. BU is well known in the hockey community thanks to Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle, just to name a few, so I feel that this is a big step in the right direction for Zegras.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, likely won’t join the NHL club at any point next season, unless he dominates with BU.

 

Seventh Overall Pick: Buffalo Sabres select Dylan Cozens, Center/Right Wing, Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL

This is an excellent selection for the Sabres. But then again, if any of the aforementioned players were available here, and the Sabres picked them, it would be excellent. That’s just how strong the top-10 prospects are in this class.

Playing in the WHL last season with Lethbridge, Cozens put up 34 goals and 50 assists (84 points) in 68 games, along with four goals and four assists (eight points) in seven playoff games. Cozens is leading the next wave of power forwards, that is currently led by Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Cozens is well balanced, with a good shot and good vision. But his defensive abilities, paired with his well-balanced scoring touch, prompted LastWordOnHockey’s Ben Kerr to believe he could be a first line center with a chance at winning the Selke Trophy. That’s big praise from a guy who does several scouting reports on all different players every year. Cozens could make the jump to the NHL off of a strong camp, but the chances are he needs another year or so to advance to the next level. 

Next Year’s Role: WHL time with Lethbridge, likely won’t join the club late in the season, but it is possible.

 

Eighth Overall Pick: Edmonton Oilers select Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, USNTDP


Why Matthew Boldy here? I know it’s a little off the board, and he is not the best player available. But that by no means says that he is not a good player. Boldy has good size (6’2”, 192 pounds), and he had a very good season with the USNTDP Juniors club. He racked up 17 goals and 26 assists (43 points) in 28 games, adding another 33 goals and 48 assists (81 points) in 64 games with the US National U-18 team. He might not be the best skater in the draft by any means, but as fellow Puck77 contributor Tony Ferrari points out, with some adjustment in his stride as well as a better first step and in general acceleration, he could wind up being one of the best players in the draft.

Now, when we head on over to Edmonton’s roster, we see they have a strong center core, both young and experienced (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira in the NHL, Ryan McLeod, Cooper Marody in their pool) as well as a solid bunch of right wingers with promise (Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi in NHL, Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Mafin in pool), as well as defenseman (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse in NHL, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Ethan Bear in pool).

As for left wings, they have Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder on the NHL club, and Tyler Benson in their pool. That is a very weak core, relative to their other positions (outside of goaltending), and while some players may go and new players will come in within the time that Boldy will be in the juniors/minors developing, they should still get a headstart in building up that very weak left wing.

Boldy is a safer pick than some guys who may have higher upside, but regardless, he fills a pretty large need the Oilers have. This is not that much of a reach either, it’s just that he was in the shadows of the earlier USNTDP picks and is, in my opinion, overlooked by the general fan. I believe this would be a great selection for Edmonton. He has committed to Boston College (NCAA) next season, where he will not be in anyone’s shadow.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, no chance he joins the Oilers late in season barring major injuries and/or he dominates in Boston College.

 

9th Overall Pick: Anaheim selects Kirby Dach, Center, Saskatoon Blades, WHL

Dach going to the Ducks is a match made in heaven. We all know the frustrating in-your-face, kind of dirty style of play that the Ducks utilize. While Dach isn’t necessarily dirty, he is a big guy, standing at 6’4, 198 pounds, and can very easily use that frame to fit the bill of a Duck.

The Ducks core is aging, and their prospect pool is very weak. They go best player available at this selection, and it really couldn’t be better for Anaheim. His size isn’t the only thing that is enticing.

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Dach had 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played with Saskatoon, as well as five goals and three assists (eight points) in 10 postseason games played. He did not play any international games this past season with Canada, which is why he “dropped” to ninth (he ranges anywhere from third to 13th in this class) but he is still an intriguing prospect.

The knock on Dach is three things: 1) His acceleration is not good enough to translate to the NHL at this moment and he needs to really improve in that area to be a successful player at the next level. 2) He tends to keep his head down when skating with the puck, and despite his size, has gotten destroyed by hits on several occasions. 3) Finally, a lot of experts and fellow contributors on the site say that he does not have a very high ceiling (potential), but does have a very good skill set, or in other words, a high floor.

Next Year’s Role: Sticks with Saskatoon in the WHL all season, does not join NHL club at the end of Juniors.

 

10th Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings (via Vancouver) selects Victor Soderstrom, Right-Handed Defenseman, Brynas IF, SHL

First off, right handed defenseman are a rare breed, and whenever you have a chance to grab one through the draft in the first round (especially at tenth overall), you take that guy.

In Detroit’s case, they had the sixth overall pick, but I would consider it a reach if they took Soderstrom there, because of all the talented forwards. You’re probably thinking, why would Detroit, a rebuilding team, trade back when they had talented forwards to choose from? Because they have young NHL centers in Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen, as well as young NHL wingers in Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Not to mention, forward prospects in Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, and Joseph Veleno.

How about young NHL defenseman, that are right handed? Madison Bowey in the NHL, and Filip Hronek as a prospect. Most of their defensive prospects are left handed, including their top D prospects in Jared McIsaac and Dennis Cholowski. So Detroit does not necessarily need forwards, and they do need a right handed defenseman, who happens to be (arguably) the second best D-man in the draft class, while also off-loading a bad contract.

Soderstrom started the season with Brynas IF’s junior team in the U-20 division, where he played 14 games, with one goal and seven assists (eight points). When he made the jump to the SHL, which is Sweden’s version of the NHL, he produced just four goals and three assists (seven points) in 44 games, with a not-so-good -11 +/-. But, the fact that he was constantly relied on and kept at the highest level as an 18-year-old against men says something.

Playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, he recorded one assist in four games, which was also underwhelming production. But what makes him arguably the best defenseman available after Byram is taken, is his well-rounded skill set. He is a very good skater, and has an ability to get shots on net through traffic consistently. He is good transitionally, with the IQ to know when to join the rush and attack, and when to stick back.

Despite being 5’11, 182 pounds, he does a good job using his body to win battles in front of the net or in the corners. His floor, offensively, is really low at the moment, but he is playing against men and not kids in his age group, so that sets him back a step. But he has the skating and shooting ability to give him a base in which NHL coaches can build upon once he makes the jump.

As he bulks up, and gets stronger, the more battles he will win along the boards and in front of the net defensively, and playing against men actually boosts his ceiling for his defensive game. If he’s finding success this early with his size in the SHL (and he bulks up), he could be a very reliable defenseman in his own end.

Next Year’s Role: Likely stays in Sweden. I don’t see him coming to North America to play AHL hockey, or CHL hockey. It’s best he stays in Europe one more year against tough competition to build up on his defensive game.

 

All stats via Elite Prospects

Rankings inspired by other contributors on Puck77

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Nashville Predators: Subban’s Inconsistency & Trade Destinations

It’s been rumoured that the Nashville Predators will explore a trade involving all-star defenseman P.K. Subban

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Subban has been an all-star multiple times throughout his ten seasons in the NHL and won the Norris Trophy in 2013. While he’s had an outstanding ten seasons, he been mentioned in trade rumours off and on. After the 2015-2016 season, the Montreal Canadiens felt that a change was needed. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin decided to trade Subban to the Predators. In return, the Canadiens received defenseman Shea Weber. This was a controversial trade at the time. Subban loved playing in Montreal and was loved by the fans. Bergevin faced criticism for trading Subban for an older defenseman who has had injury concerns. 

Since coming to Nashville, Subban’s play has been a tad inconsistent. During his 2016-2017 season, he played in 66 games, had 10 goals, 30 assists, 16 power-play points, 24:24 average time on ice (ATOI), 58 take-aways and a 54.4 corsi-for percentage (CF%). In Subban’s 2017-2018 season, he bounced back and he was stellar in the offensive zone. In 82 games, Subban recorded 16 goals, 43 assists, 25 power-play points, 24:07 ATOI, 97 take-aways and a 51.2 CF%. Last season, his offensive production stalled out once again. In 63 games played, Subban recorded 9 goals, 22 assists, 10 power-play points, 22:40 ATOI, 57 take-aways and a 53.4 CF%. 

What’s Causing The Inconsistency?

With his inconsistency in the offensive zone, we should take the time to point out what is causing the drop in offensive production prior to taking about potential destinations. 

The biggest issue is that Subban is no longer a “carry-in specialist”. Earlier on in his career he loved to control the puck and create zone entries, but that’s no longer the case. Predators fans did catch a glimpse of Subban going back to his old carry-in tendencies in his 2017-2018 campaign, but that he failed to carry that over into his 2018-2019 campaign.

In addition, he’s not generating that many shots. Subban’s PSC/60 was fairly lower than you’d expect.

In the visual below (visual from Sean Tierney), you’ll see that Subban wasn’t a puck carrying defenseman neither was he generating scoring chances/generating shots last season.

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from EvolvingWild and Corey Sznajder

Potential Destinations

Perhaps Subban would benefit from being in a different defensive unit. He played extremely well in his days with the Montreal Canadiens and maybe a different coaching philosophy would be beneficial to Subban’s production. 

With that in mind, there are several clubs across the NHL that could use his services.

The Florida Panthers are trying to load up on talent. Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has been rumoured to be chasing after Evgeni Malkin, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. If a couple of those engagements go sour, Tallon could see Subban as a Plan B.

The Edmonton Oilers desperately need an offensive defenseman talent. The Edmonton Oilers lack a defenseman who they can utilize to quarterback their power-play. While Darnell Nurse hasn’t been awful at running the power-play, Subban would be a huge upgrade. Plenty of the Oilers including Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi would all benefit from having Subban running their power-play. In addition, the Oilers would likely need Subban to be a puck-mover, which would enable Subban to record similar campaigns to his 2017-2018 season.

The New York Islanders would also be a solid fit. They have a ton of cap space. Also, similar to the Oilers as they don’t have a true defenseman who can control their power-play efficiently. Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy have been holding up the fort, but Subban would be more efficient.

Stay Tuned

The Puck77 crew will keep you up to date and will let you know if a trade will go down involving Subban. Stay tuned.

stats from Corey Sznajder, Hockey-Reference.com, Evolving Wild

visual from Sean Tierney

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

 

 

Can NHL Front Offices Learn From Their Soccer Counterparts?

Can NHL front office management learn from their football (soccer) counterparts? 

The Beautiful Game

Hockey is a forever evolving game with almost 150 years of history. In its evolution, we’ve seen the development of the NHL, European leagues, international competitions and the junior game. Through all the rule changes and the inter-sport development however there are always lagging facets.

As an Australian, my first look at hockey was a Toronto Marlies game at what was formerly known as the Ricoh Coliseum (now known as the Coca-Cola Coliseum). I have extremely fond memories watching in awe as the players warmed up, the fluidity and skill was amazing. Bear in mind, this was not a good Marlies team back then.

After watching my first hockey game, I then discovered junior hockey. I understand that the hockey developmental leagues may not rival sports like Basketball and American football. However, I can tell you as someone from Australia, it absolutely smashes any sport we have here out of the park. How then, can a sport with such strong foundations still be so far behind in a number of other respects?

An Outsider’s View

I was never a hockey player; I grew up a huge football (soccer) fan and never even truly discovered the sport until arriving in Canada.

As a Clinical Exercise Physiology student, I have met with athletic trainers’ and physical therapists of junior teams. The level of junior development of athletes in North America is unlike the rest of the western world. Athlete development is unparalleled and the professional nature of the game is ingrained into the young players very early on. Along with the developmental leagues and personnel being of the highest quality, the professional nature of the sport is also a beacon for other sports.

In Australia, we have a league called the NRL (National Rugby League), which is honestly an embarrassment to watch in comparison to the NHL or the OHL/WHL/QMJHL. The broadcast networks and team facilities are of extremely high quality in comparison to anything here in Australia. Regardless of all these qualities, there are simple aspects of other sports that the NHL really need to take note of.

Drawing Comparisons

Coming from a soccer background, I have always had a slightly different view on Hockey than most fans. All sports change and develop through time. Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen players become less physical. Instead, they’ve focused on building up their speed. In the NHL, we’ve seen Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche take over with their speed. In soccer, we see the same wave with players like Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint-Germain and Mohamed Salah of Liverpool. Likewise, in Hockey there has been a change in the way the game is played to a more possession-based game. This is quite similar the “Barcelona” style that fans at Camp Nou have come accustomed to. 

I understand many of you probably aren’t soccer fans, but bear with me here as there is a key point to all of this. In soccer, there has been a true changing of the old guard over the past few years. Jose Mourinho (former manager of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid) was one of the best managers in the world a few years ago. He coached a defensively sound game, building his game through suffocating the oppositions’ attacks and killing them on the counter (remind you of the Martin Brodeur?). This was extremely successful for a number of years and he was even considered by many as potentially being the greatest manager of all time. However, like all that can’t adapt, he would have his fall from grace.

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Hockey’s Mourinho?

There is an abundance of “old school” coaches in the NHL and all around North American hockey leagues. The inability to adapt to a game that is no longer about size and a defence first mentality will inevitably leave you jobless. It is well known that Jim Hiller and Mike Babcock have old school tendencies. With Hiller gone, it will be interesting to see how much of the old school game remains in Toronto. Whilst I do believe Babcock has to evolve, there is another strong point I feel is overlooked by almost everyone in hockey.

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It is constantly said that general managers make personnel decisions and that the coach has little say. This to me seems absolutely ridiculous. A coach’s value in non-professional sport is built around their ability to best play the hand they’re dealt. In non-professional sports (i.e. beer leagues) you can’t trade players or sign free agents that suit your system. Therefore, a coach is judged primarily on how they adapt to the team they inherit. Why then, in the NHL where you can trade players and sign free agents, is the coach not given an extremely important role in identifying his wants and needs?

My counter argument to this point is that in countless press conferences Mike Babcock has shown he has very little knowledge of who and what is available on the Marlies. How can a coach who feels he isn’t given the players he desires (i.e. Jake Muzzin trade comments) not be aware of what is already available to him?

More Input may be needed

Sports are extremely different in many ways, however extremely similar in many others. Managers and Coaches must adapt and grow.  Likewise, they should be given every opportunity to prove their worth.

In soccer, the best coaches with the richest teams bring a style and develop the team around that style. Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Brendan Rodgers are perfect examples of this. When arriving at a club they identify the current players they believe will suit their system. They then notify the higher ups of expendables and of their wants. The managers don’t make the signings, however, for them to be successful, it’s understood they need to be given the players they need. This then seems ridiculous that in a league where trades are possible, free agents are aplenty and clubs have massive scouting departments that a coach has minimal input in transactions.

I am a firm believer that hockey like all sports gets faster and younger every year. Also like all other sports, if coaches can’t keep up with this, then there simply isn’t room for them in the professional game. However, if a team places trust in a coach, why wouldn’t they foster an environment that encourages input from the head coach.

Final Word

Regardless of what sport we grew up watching, we all know coaches in all sports have calling cards, be it a defensive structure or a possession-based style. If coaches aren’t given the tools to implement their personal style on the game, can they be fully held accountable for a lack of success?

If GM’s are making all the decisions themselves and their plan doesn’t align with the coaches’ style, then whose responsibility is this?

We constantly hear about the importance of differing views in head offices and reducing the number of ‘yes men.’ However, the final product on the ice comes down to one person, the head coach. This could be why we saw Babcock shirk all responsibility in his post season press conference.

The final question I ask is: Is it time the NHL took a lesson from another sport and allow their head coaches to have as much say as a soccer manager does in player acquisition?

Sources: Hockey-Reference.com