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IIHF Worlds: How Will The John Tavares Injury Affect Canada?

With the injury to star player John Tavares, is Canada’s World Championship dreams over before the tournament has even begun?

 

Less than 24 hours before he was to take part in Canada’s first game against Finland, the World Championships are over for John Tavares. An oblique injury has forced him back to Toronto, leaving Canada scrambling for a replacement. The question is, can he can be replaced, and how does it effect Canada’s quest for gold in the long and short term? 

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The short-term consequence:

First off, Canada will have to make due with what they have against Finland. No replacement will be ready in time and it will probably be a few games before any replacement is ready to play. Tavares had played with the team and gotten some time to familiarize himself with the European ice and get over the jetlag. Obviously the replacement will have to be available quickly to minimize the loss. And even in that case they will probably play a few games before that happens.

For Canada’s initial few games the solution will have to come internally. The obvious solution would be to simply add Tyler Bertuzzi into Tavares spot with Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone on the first line. Not a bad line at all, but the center depth doesn’t look as imposing with Tavares absent.  This isn’t a knock on Bertuzzi. He is a solid National Hockey League player, but he just isn’t a superstar like Tavares. The more complex solution is to shuffle the lines. Playing a veteran like Kyle Turris on the first line and then having Bertuzzi play with Anthony Mantha and Dylan Strome on the third line would seem more realistic. 

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The long-term consequence:

Luckily for Canada the first real test is their last game of the preliminaries against the United States on the May 21. You could argue that the game against Finland tomorrow could be a challenge, but given the lackluster Finnish roster I doubt Canada will drop points. The softer start will allow the Tavares replacement time to settle in to the tournament and potentially the first line center spot before any major damage has happened.

However, taking away the first line center on any team will hurt them. Canada is no different, especially with a lacking of depth down the middle. Another point to remember is that the team was built around Tavares.
Players like Stone, Marchessault, Sam Reinhart and Sean Couturier are going to have to lift the offense. Can they do it? Absolutely!
But if the replacement isn’t a first line center, then we might see a major weakness for Canada. Especially when up against a team like Sweden or Russia, considering how unsteady they have looked defensively in the leadup to the Worlds.

 

Who can replace him?

So far, we have heard very little from Canada’s camp about a potential replacement for Tavares. Team Canada general manager Jason Botterill has his work cut out for him and I’m willing to bet he is working the phones to the best of his abilities, to persuade a superstar to join up as fast as possible. But as of the time of writing this, we have been left in silence. Therefore, the next part will be purely  speculations, so take it with a pinch of salt.

Who can replace Tavares? Very few is the short answer, but Canada must find one and they’ve got a few options.

One of them being Matt Duchene, who has been a part of many Championships and tournaments for Canada. A loyal servant to the cause and having recently been knocked out of the NHL playoffs, he would be a great fit for Canada. Red hot from the playoffs, Duchene notched 10 points in 10 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and enjoyed a resurgence of sorts this season. He is also the most likely if I’m to guess on the replacement.

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Another replacement could be Tyler Seguin from the Dallas Stars. He won a Stanley cup with Boston in 2011 and a potential “second part” to the triple-gold club could be very tempting for Seguin, who has never represented Canada at a major international event. And yes, I know he played in the World Cup of Hockey but that was a preseason event. This could be the time for Seguin to join, and if he does Canada’s offense is back to looking fantastic. Especially if it’s with Duchene.

Some other names to throw in could be Derick Brassard, Tyson Jost, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Jason Spezza.

Statistics Provided By Elite Prospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Has Stan Bowman Redeemed Himself?

Many Chicago Blackhawks fans wanted General Manager Stan Bowman gone after the Joel Quenneville firing. Has he redeemed himself?

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Many fans questioned if Bowman should remain as the Blackhawks general manager after the dreadful 2017-2018 NHL season where the Blackhawks finished 25th overall in the NHL standings.

The Problem

Many fans blamed Bowman for his offseason moves. He traded superstar winger Artemi Panarin for the former Blackhawk Brandon Saad. Saad ended up only putting up 18 goals and 17 assists while Artemi Panarin put up 25 goals and 57 assists.

He also traded defensive stalwart Niklas Hjalmarsson for the unproven defenseman Connor Murphy. Murphy was not Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks gravely missed his defensive play.

Many players had down seasons. This included Jonathan Toews (20 goals and 32 assists), Patrick Kane (27 goals and 49 assists), Brandon Saad (18 goals and 17 assists) and Duncan Keith (2 goals and 30 assists).

This team looked like a good team with Corey Crawford who was great in goal, until he suffered a concussion and was out for season.

During the season, Bowman, made many moves. He traded Michal Kempny for a third round pick in 2018. Kempny ended up winning the cup with the Washington Capitals, so this trade was a loss.

He dealt Richard Panik for Anthony Duclair which was a decent deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

On the trade deadline, Bowman, traded young power forward, Ryan Hartman, and a 2018 fifth round pick for Victor Ejdsell, a 2018 first round pick and a 2018 fourth round pick. This was considered a win for the Blackhawks and a loss for the Nashville Predators.

2018 NHL Draft

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Boqvist & Beaudin

“And with our choice, eighth overall, the Blackhawks are proud to select from, Brynäs, in Sweden, Adam Boqvist.”

The Blackhawks selected skilled offensive defenseman, Boqvist. Boqvist, is amazing offensively. His skating is superb, his shot is great and he can make great passes. The problem comes with his defense. He is a bit of a project, but I liked the pick.

“Blackhawks are proud to select from Drummondville, Nicolas Beaudin.”

I was surprised to hear, Nicolas Beaudin’s name at 27th overall. This pick was acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade. I thought for sure it was going to be center man Joe Veleno, but I am happy with Beaudin. Beaudin has excellent passing, a quick stick and great speed.

Wise & Nordgren

With their next two picks, both in the third round, the Blackhawks selected two skilled forwards in Jake Wise (69th overall) and Niklas Nordgren (74th overall).

Wise is a skilled two way forward. He has great skating, superb passer, decent shot and has an amazing defensive game. His main concern is his lack of staying healthy.

Nordgren is an efficient sniper. He has an excellent shot, is a great playmaker and is defensively dependable. His real drawback is his skating and his size.

Late Round Picks

In rounds four through seven the Blackhawks took Philipp Kurashev (120th overall), Mikael Hakkarainen (139th overall), Alexis Gravel (162nd overall) and Josiah Slavin (193rd overall).

Kurashev is an excellent two way forward. He can play center and wing. He played amazing in the U20 World Juniors, recording six goals and an assist in seven games. This pick was acquired in the Hartman deal.

Hakkarainen is a playmaking center. He is an over ager, but he is still considered a project. He has great passing and a decent shot.

Gravel is a goaltender. He has great size at 6’3″ and 218 pounds. He is able to make great saves because of that size. He needs to work on his poise and his five hole.

Slavin is a goal scoring winger. This pick was probably made more on, Josiah, being related to defenseman Jaccob Slavin. Josiah was an over ager and is committed to Colorado College next year. He is also considered a project.

2018 Free Agency

While I knew the Blackhawks were not gonna get a player like John Tavares, I was expecting them to do a little more in free agency.

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They signed veteran goaltender, Cam Ward, physical defenseman, Brandon Manning, and veteran Chris Kunitz.

Ward was given a one year deal for $3,000,000. Manning was given a two year deal for $2,250,000. Kunitz was given a one year deal for $1,000,000.

I was really disappointed with these signings because we finally had a little bit of cap space. I felt like we could have gotten better players, but alas there is nothing I could do about it.

The Blackhawks were able to free up cap space by trading Marian Hossa‘s contract along with NHL winger, Vinnie Hinostroza, NHL defenseman, Jordan Oesterle, and a 2019 third round pick for former Blackhawks center, Marcus Kruger, AHL players, Andrew Campbell and Jordan Maletta, talented prospect MacKenzie Entwistle and a 2019 fifth round pick.

2018-2019 Season

The Blackhawks started off with six wins, six losses and three overtime/shootout losses. Joel Quenneville was fired on November 6th 2018. Many including myself believed that none of this was Quenneville’s fault. Bowman gave him this team and it just was not a good team. A lot of fans wanted Bowman gone.

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The guy who the Chicago Blackhawks brought in as the new head coach is former IceHogs coach, Jeremy Colliton. Colliton has been great for the Blackhawks, but he had a rough start. He had three wins, 14 losses and three overtime/shootout losses in his first 20 games. After that slump, the Blackhawks, got 27 wins, 14 losses and six overtime/shootout losses in the next 47 games.

Colliton has turned the power play around. He has helped the offense score, and he is still implementing his defensive system. I believe if Colliton was hired during the summer the Blackhawks would’ve made the playoffs this year.

Fixing The Problem

After a horrible free agency and the Joel Quenneville firing, Bowman knew he had to correct his mistakes.

Manning was an absolute disaster on defense. He recorded a goal and two assists in 27 games while having a 44.7 Fenwick For % (-7.4% to team average).

Bowman traded Manning to the Edmonton Oilers for power forward, Drake Caggiula. After 12 games with the Oilers, Manning was sent to the AHL. Caggiula has found a spot on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He has recorded five goals and seven assists in 26 games.

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Bowman also moved, talented forward, Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz has always been a pass first center. Schmaltz was never the best at face-offs and he struggled with the Blackhawks after his breakout 52 point season. The Blackhawks dealt Schmaltz for former third overall pick, Dylan Strome, and former 12th overall pick, Brendan Perlini.

Schmaltz recorded five goals and nine assists in 17 games before suffering a season ending injury. Strome has flourished with the Blackhawks. Strome, was considered by many as a bust. He showed that he wasn’t by totaling 17 goals and 34 assists in 58 games with the Blackhawks. He has also played important power play minutes for the ‘Hawks. Perlini has been a steady scoring presence in the bottom six recording 12 goals and three assists in 46 games.

Finally, Bowman, traded defenseman Jan Rutta and a 2019 seventh round pick for defenseman Slater Koekkoek and a 2019 fifth round pick. Rutta, was a talented defenseman for the Blackhawks, but seriously regressed this season, recording only two goals and four assists while having a 46.7 Fenwick For % in 23 games. Koekkoek, has recorded a goal and four assists while having a 51.9 Fenwick For % in 22 games. He has looked a lot better on the defensive zone and is a fast defenseman, something the ‘Hawks are lacking.

Looking Forward

With these moves by Bowman, he has shown that he is planning for the future, while also staying competitive now. With the Blackhawks securing the third overall pick on this year’s entry draft (more on that here) and having salary cap, we are in for a big offseason.

The team is heading in a positive direction. Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Strome all had career years. Players like Saad, Keith and Murphy all had bounce back years. Add in defensive prospects, Henri Jokiharju, Boqvist, Beaudin and Mitchell and you have a top four for the future.

This team will be exciting to watch next year. Hopefully Bowman continues this run of great trades, drafting and brings us to the playoffs.

Stats from: Elite Prospects and Hockey-Reference

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes: Tocchet Isn’t Coach of the Year Material

With the Arizona Coyotes finally scratching and clawing themselves out of the league’s basement, it’s only natural that there was going to be an overreaction from the Coyotes fan base.

It’s completely understandable if we’re being fair. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2012 (seven years ago to emphasize the point). Plus, all of the drama surrounding the franchise such as the arena, ownership stability and possibility of relocation that’s almost cheered for by certain hockey loving markets. (Side note, this is NOT to bash on those fans, but it should be noted for proper context moving forward.) Being a Coyotes fan is hard, because of this there was going to be excitement among the fans for the chance to get playoffs back. We’d (Coyotes fans) would love to stop worrying about everything surrounding the team, and just enjoy success on the ice. What I never imagined however, was the rest of the league to take part in said overreaction. Case in point, the conversation about Rick Tocchet being a coach of the year candidate.

First and foremost, he’s not coach of the year because of a little unknown prospect who’s turned a struggling eastern conference team into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. This coming after losing their franchise face to free agency.

Secondly, I’d like to break down the main points for why I don’t think Tocchet is a particularly good coach, let alone coach of the year material.

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His Offense

The biggest problem for the Coyotes all season long had been the offensive production, or lack there of. There have been streaks and moments of scoring dominance by the Coyotes, but they’re always met with long slumps of struggling. There are many games where the Yotes fail to score two goals in a game. Look at their most recent slump (which I totally called would happen after the Edmonton Oilers game for the record). Prior to the slump, they held the final wildcard slot. But, they went 1-3-3 to give up the playoff spot, and didn’t score more than two goals in any of those games.

That’s bad enough, but it goes even deeper if you look at the month of March as a whole.

3/2 DET W 3-1

3/5 ANA L 3-1

3/7 CGY W 2-0

3/9 LA W 4-2

3/11 @CHI L 7-1

3/12 @STL W 3-1

3/14 ANA W 6-1

3/16 EDM OTL 3-2

3/18 @TBL L 4-1

3/21 @FLA L 4-2

3/23 @NJD SOL 2-1

3/24 @NYI L 2-0

3/26 CHI W 1-0

3/29 @COL SOL 3-2

3/31 MIN W 4-0

(All finals taken from NHL.com)

Looking at the numbers, out of fifteen games in the month of March, the Arizona Coyotes only scored more than two goals in five games. Needless to say, scoring two or less goals in 66% of your games greatly reduces your chances of winning hockey games. This all coming during the month that the Coyotes had no one injured except for Nick Schmaltz. So the “we’re so injured ” excuse has no merit here. 

While watching Tocchet’s offense work, one thing immediately sticks out. They pass way too much. Obviously passing is a necessary part of the game, but when the team is constantly giving up wide open chances just to pass the puck that one more time, it becomes easy to tell why the team struggles to score. They would rather be the finesse team and make the pretty highlight plays than play fundamental hockey and just shoot. Their power play exemplifies this, being 25th in the league at 16.6% at time of writing. In addition, they are 28th in the league in goals for with 202 goals on the year. After looking at those numbers, it’s hard to suggest that Tocchet has been effective in the offensive zone as head coach.

On top of that, he has a problem with constantly changing the lines, even when certain players are playing well. For example, he chose to separate Brad Richardson and Michael Grabner recently and demoting Conor Garland and Alex Galchenyuk to the fourth line multiple times. Also, he sent Dylan Strome to the fourth line earlier this season. The writing is on the wall. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and his line changes aren’t helping his players maintain chemistry. 

Defense

Tocchet is a really good defensive coach. Not only did Arizona have the best penalty kill in the league for most of the year, but just recently they’ve regained first in the league with a penalty kill rate of 85.1%.

The fact that Arizona has been able to win games scoring less than three goals a game is also a testament to how well of a defensive operation Tocchet is running. However, that’s what a defensive coach is there for. Unfortunately, defense is the only area where Tocchet has been excelling as head coach this season. 

Being good defensively and poor to mediocre offensively shouldn’t in theory discredit him as a candidate. Even I could excuse the terrible offense because of how good the defense is, but he has one glaring flaw that I won’t excuse.

Goaltending

Being good defensively and poor to mediocre offensively shouldn’t in theory discredit him as a candidate. Even I could excuse the terrible offense because of how good the defense is, but he has one glaring flaw that I won’t excuse. Goaltending.

He has consistently rode one goalie alone unless they get injured or sick, barring a couple of exceptions throughout the year that came off of back to backs. After the injury to Antti Raanta in the beginning of the season, Tocchet played Darcy Kuemper until Kuemper got injured. Then when Adin Hill was called up, Tocchet played Hill into the ground until Kuemper came back and Hill’s flaws were exploited by the Calgary Flames in a road game. Even though Arizona now has Calvin Pickard, Tocchet has only played him twice since the waiver claim.

Kuemper has played in 20 consecutive games in the most important part of the season. Yes he’s played well, but that doesn’t excuse the completely idiotic mindset of “let’s play our new starter in every single game so that way he’s burned out come playoff time.” It’s not like the Coyotes didn’t shoot themselves in the foot back when Nikolai Khabibulin was their goaltender.

It’s just baffling that this is the mindset of a “coach of the year” candidate. It’s doesn’t make sense to assume that your goaltenders don’t need rest. 

Conclusion

Rick Tocchet is massively overrated, because when you look at his decision-making and the numbers that go along side them, he’s nothing special. He’s a mediocre coach that’s been handed an incredibly talented roster.

The Arizona Coyotes have been rebuilding for years now. They have a lot of core talent including Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse. Plus, they have Garland and Nicholas Merkley, who both have spent time with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners to develop into strong secondary forwards.

The Coyotes were ready to come out of the basement regardless of coach. In my personal opinion, Tocchet has hindered the potential of the team and the players have been succeeding despite Tocchet’s flaws.

I do not wish to hate Tocchet. I’m a huge Coyotes fan and only wish for them to succeed. However, much like Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, I see so many flaws with his coaching that I feel the need to criticize his decision-making. Tocchet has only coached two seasons with the Coyotes and there has still been tangible progress in his tenure regardless if he is responsible or not. He will likely be back next year and I hope he learns from his mistakes and becomes a genuinely good coach. 

stats from NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Brendan Perlini Finding His Stride

Since The Trade On November 25th 2018 Brendan Perlini, Unlike Dylan Strome, Has Struggled To Find His Stride … Until Now.

Brendan Perlini was born in the United Kingdom on April 27th 1996. At an early age his family moved to Canada where he started to pick up hockey, and he was good at it.

He was so good in fact he was drafted 12th overall by the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. He’s a big bodied winger who plays a strong two-way game and has an excellent shot.

He struggled to find his place with the Arizona Coyotes, and was traded on November 25th 2018 along with Dylan Strome to the Blackhawks in exchange for Nick Schmaltz.

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Time With Blackhawks

Dylan Strome stepped in right away and has been a crucial part of the Blackhawks 2nd line and their power play. Brendan Perlini on the other hand, like in Arizona, struggled to find his spot in the lineup. They tried him on every line, but was not able to make the most of his opportunities.

In my eyes it always seemed like he was trying to do everything at once and was not very effective. Jeremy Colliton even stated in an article with Mark Lazerus, “It’s the play away from the puck, it’s the pressure on the puck, it’s the work ethic, it’s the 50/50s around the lines. That’s what allows you to have positive shifts. So if he does that, he’ll get his chances.”

On February 7th 2019 in Chicago, in a game against Vancouver, Perlini took a horrible penalty. Elias Pettersson was able to score on the power play which brought the game to over time. Luckily, the Blackhawks were able to score in over time and win.

After that game Brendan Perlini was scratched multiple times and rightfully so. This is usually hard on young players, but Perlini was able to stay strong and fight through it.

Brendan Perlini’s Resurgence

Before a game in Los Angeles, Perlini, decided he wanted to have more fun, thanks to a documentary called “Free Solo.” In an interview with Mark Lazerus from The Athletic, Perlini states, “This guy … climbing this massive mountain, no rope. It’s unbelievable. Literally, one mistake and he’s dead … Maybe I was looking at hockey (that way). And it’s … a game … So it’s having a little bit of an outlook like that — have fun, enjoy it.”

That outlook has started to really work for Perlini. He has had fun while also looking fast, strong and just being the most noticeable guy on the ice in a good way.

Since that game in Los Angeles, where he totaled two goals, Perlini has recorded eight goals and two assists for a total of ten points in the past six games. On the season he has 12 goals and seven assists for 19 points in 57 games.

He now is skating with Alex DeBrincat and his teammate in Arizona, Dylan Strome. He is now getting around 15 minutes of ice time instead of the ten minutes he averaged with the Blackhawks early on. That line has been on fire as of late with Perlini tallying four goals and two assists for a total of six points with the pair.

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Brendan Perlini’s Future

Last year, the Blackhawks brought in Anthony Duclair from the Coyotes and wanted to give him a change of scenery. It did not work out the way both sides had hoped it would and they ended up parting ways.

I do not foresee this happening with Perlini. I would expect Brendan Perlini to get a new contract. He has looked like an excellent player as of late, and I expect him to be a great player for the Blackhawks for years to come.

stats from: Hockey-Reference, Elite Prospects and NHL.com

quote from: The Athletic (Mark Lazerus)

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Colliton’s Math Leads To Power-Play Success

Over the last few games, the Chicago Blackhawks power-play has blossomed.

If I were to tell you two months ago that the Blackhawks power play would heat up, you would call me crazy and have me committed right? But now, I think I would be the one laughing. It’s no secret, the past few seasons, the power-play for the Chicago Blackhawks has been hot garbage. And this season has been no different, until now.

What’s Changed?

What’s changed though? Could it be the fact the team traded away a guy in Nick Schmaltz? Which not to bag on the guy, but he made low percentage passes instead of shooting. Or could it be that the team has had the tools, and they have been there all along? 

I think it’s a combination of both. I feel as if at times, there is absolutely too much time spent on the perimeter, meaning the puck is on the blue line. However, seeing the cross ice one time pass from Patrick Kane to Alex DeBrincat will never get old. You probably wonder how a 31st ranked power-play could move up to 16th in the league in 20 games.

It’s simple when you think about it, Eddie Olczyk I feel says it best. “When you win the face-off, you dictate the terms. Pucks and people to the front of the net.”

I think you’re seeing the man advantage get rewarded now. Also, another change is that, there is better puck movement. Not a lot of guys are standing still, and if they are, they are sitting on the bench.

Now, does it help having a guy like Kane on your #1 unit?  Of course, but it cannot be one guy doing all the work. I think you’re seeing a more consistent effort from the top power-play line. Currently, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton has Kane playing alongside Jonathan Toews, DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson. Colliton’s brilliance has paid off, but as long as you know how to add power-play points, you can figure out exactly why Colliton chose who he did for his first line. Colliton chose the players that had the most power-play points to sit on his first line. Together, the five players have totaled 69 power-play points.

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Now, when a penalty gets called, I’m ecstatic. The Blackhawks are playing great 5v4/5v3 hockey and there is no reason to worry. 

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals