The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

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Reflections on the NHL Draft…

It’s Saturday, June 24th around 7:00 o’clock at night. Today may be just another day on the calendar for the huddled masses either enjoying time with family or completing chores around the house, but for the avid hockey fan it is so much more. You see, today is the completion of yet another year that the now 31 NHL teams add to their crop of young talent. Today is the culmination of another season of NHL hockey. That’s right, the NHL Entry Draft is now complete, and 217 young men have been selected to continue their childhood dreams of following in the footsteps of Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier and the newer crop of superstars. Here are some reflections on the NHL draft…

Let’s first look at the newest NHL team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. While they just completed the expansion draft, where they were allowed to select one player from each current NHL team, this was their chance to build on their future as well and add to what should be an interesting farm team.  After choosing what should be their cornerstone goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury as well as 29 other players, they started this weekend with 12 picks in the 7 rounds that encompassed Friday night and Saturday.  The Knights started with a young center, Cody Glass, who in the next two years or so should be their top line center.  He has talent to spare, excellent hands, but more so a top notch hockey IQ.  He doesn’t make many mistakes and when he does, he learns from them in an attempt to not repeat them.  It is reported that he is dangerous on the attack and he should be an electric player that puts people in the seats.  Las Vegas had 3 picks in the first round alone, and all 3 are expected to be impact players at some point in the very near future.

Other teams that had an extensive amount of picks are the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings.  The Red Wings had a total of 11 picks throughout the 7 rounds of excitement, stocking up on big, beefy defensemen such as Gustav Lindstrom, Kasper Kotkansalo and Malte Setkov.  In all they took five d-men, all are 6 feet 2 inches or taller.  They also took a projcect goaltender in Keith Petruzzelli, a 6’5″ body who could someday be a serviceable NHL goalie.  In all, only one of the 11 picks is listed under six feet tall, Brady Gilmour (I don’t believe his nickname is Happy).  He is 5’10” and 170 pounds. He is certainly a project, but if he can put on a little weight and work on his fundamentals there may just be something there.  He is considered a “high character” kid and he was one of the best players on a bad team.

There were 23 Finnish players taken in this year’s draft.  This has led some of the talking heads to question whether the country is just getting better or if the rest of the European countries are getting worse.  To me, this is all cyclical, just as it is here in North America.  I would love to make the blanket statement that American born players are better than Canadian born ones, but I would be ignorant of the fact that it took 20 plus years for an American to win the Conn Smythe trophy (as playoff MVP).  the Fins have been slowly improving their talent pool over the last many years, Players such as Patrik Laine and Sebastian Aho show us just how good they have become.  So it is no surprise that the Fins increased their number of draftees from 7.1% in 2016 to 10.6% in this past draft.  As a trend, I would say this will increase again next year as well.

One of those previously mentioned Finnish players was selected 18th overall by the Boston Bruins.  Urho Vaakanainen, a left shooting defenseman will be calling Boston his home in the NHL at some point in his future.  The biggest buzz however was over their second round pick, Jack Studnicka.  A six foot, 172 pound forward, Jack has played the last two seasons as a center with the Oshawa Generals.  His numbers are not good, not bad, just middle of the road is the best way to put it.  He did double his point production from years one to two, and he had 15 points in 11 playoff games this past season, which could be the start of the excitement.  Overall, it wasn’t a very enthralling draft from a fan’s perspective with three defensemen, two forwards and a goaltender, its almost as though they were following some formula for a team that needs a goal scorer but most likely won’t find one in free agency.  They drafted for the future, or depth, or both.  I’ll have a better feel for the youngsters drafted after this year’s development camp.

Until then, keep listening to the Two Man Forecheck…the sage and I wax poetic from week to week about everything hockey!

L.W.L.

 

The NHL’s Embarrassing Moment

While watching overtime of game 5 between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, it became abundantly clear that the NHL doesn’t want Boston to progress further…or they want the Senators to advance. Maybe it’s a bias against a city that has had post-season success with all of their sports franchises since the beginning of the century. Maybe its the fact that none of the Canadian teams were good enough to make it this far last season and the NHL feels they are owed as much. Or maybe the officials are just plain idiots that don’t know what the hell they are doing. Whatever your interpretation here..this is the NHL’s most embarrassing moment.

First off, the official standing right behind the net doesn’t have the stones to actually make a call when the Bruins appeared (it was a goal, but i am trying to be fair) to have scored. Then, after meeting with other officials for a minute, announce that there is no goal due to goaltender interference.  After three plus minutes of review, which I understand is done in Toronto, the announcement is no goal.  I don’t understand why the on ice officials are looking at replays if they have nothing to do with the decision, but that is for another time.  This leads to more questions than answers.  Where is Sean Kuraly supposed to go?  How is it interference if he is allowed to follow the puck into the area when it is a rebound opportunity.  Craig Anderson makes no attempt to reset when laying on the ice while his teammate and Noel Acciari are putting the puck behind him.

Not more than what seemed to be two or three minutes later, Jean Gabriel Pageau wraps his hand around the puck while in the crease area before pushing it to Anderson, clearly a penalty shot opportunity for the Bruins.  Kerry Fraser, a former NHL referee tweets out that he didn’t have to wrap his hand around the puck, just falling on it in the crease is a penalty shot.  Not only was none of this awarded, but the officials felt the need to announce that there was no goal as the puck had not crossed the goal line, but did not address why the puck had not crossed said line.

If the NHL cannot effectively control their officials and enforce some form of consistency from the men wearing black and white stripes, then why bother playing the games.  It would save everyone involved the physical, mental and emotional stress of having to win or lose based on what these four extra skaters say and do.  Coaches could manage their rosters better, already knowing whether they would be playing in the second round or not.  Please give us some kind of advanced notice if the game we are preparing to watch has already been assigned a predetermined ending.  Not only will the coaches benefit, but those of us watching can plan to watch something that is supposed to be scripted…something like World Wrestling Entertainment, at least I can expect the officials to be useless and the team that the League wants to win will do so.

Welcome to Another Year of Boston Bruins Hockey

Hello all, and welcome to another year of Boston Bruins Hockey. There are those of you that may feel that Mr. Sweeney and company have not done much to improve our beloved hockey team here in Boston, and you may be correct. Just look at some of the moves the leadership made in last year’s off season. The Bruins drafted three youngsters in a row at 13, 14 and 15. All three managed to fail their conditioning stints prior to the beginning of the season and the best of the bunch appears to be the young man selected at 15 (Zachary Senyshyn). They sent away Dougie Hamilton (so everyone in Calgary can now share in the knowledge of how to Dougie), as well as fan favorite Milan Lucic in an effort to change the dynamic of the team. However they brought in Zac Rinaldo because they wanted to still be tough, but at a lower cost (and talent level apparently).  The one player that seemed to be worth keeping was traded away for a first round pick in this year’s draft and a prospect we’ll be seeing at this year’s development camp…Sean Kuraly.

Now at the end of the GM’s rookie campaign Don Sweeney has done a little house cleaning.  Seidenberg has been culled from the herd, Brett Connolly was not sent a qualifying offer (how can that be possible?), and neither was Landon Ferraro.  There are other moves that were and were not made, but this is about the future.  All of these moves and signings can take up a whole piece by themselves, but the future was on display today at Ristuccia arena as the Bruins settled in for another development camp.

So Development Camp 2016 edition started yesterday about half an hour later than the posted time of 11:00am.  The arena was only a third to half full and 25 young men are present to put themselves through four days of drills and scrimmages (the on-ice experience) as well as enjoying community time.  Here are just a few quick comments about what this writer saw at the rink.

Two of last year’s first round picks, Jakub Zboril and Jake DeBrusk didn’t really do anything to stand out on the first day.  Some would say this isn’t a bad thing, but I believe that if you aren’t doing anything to get yourself noticed in a positive way then you could be spending the bulk of your time in Providence.

Sean Kuraly, with his time in Ohio behind him, has shown up to earn himself a spot.  I like his size, and he does have a heavy shot, but he comes across as a big loping winger who will take up space in front of the net, and could be a help with going into the corners to fight for pucks.  Looking forward to seeing what he brings to camp going forward.

Brandon Carlo didn’t appear strong on his edges during drills, but he does look solid during the defensive spots and doesn’t shy away from the contact…even if it was with a player a foot shorter than himself.

Danton Heinen looks polished with soft hands and a ninja-like release on his shots.

Charlie McAvoy looked as a first round pick should, solid without overwhelming everyone, but I want to see more.

My favorite on day one has to be Oskar Steen.  He reminds me of Anton Blidh.  Another youngster that appears to face every drill with the mentality that if he doesn’t get it just right then the Bruins are going to send him home.  He is small in stature but not in effort.  And he can shoot.

I make this next statement with the caveat that development camp is only one day old…Most improved player from last year has to be Daniel Vladar.  The sith lord just came out and looked like he belonged.  He showed the confidence of a player that had been working on his fundamentals and it came through.  Post to post tracking and his ability to track the puck when it was in close to him were so much better.  He stopped all but a few of the pucks that he saw during multiple drills.  I look forward to seeing more of him.

P.K. Subban Should Be A Bruin

While watching the second round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs, specifically the Bruins/Montreal series, it reminded me of something that I have been pondering for well over year now. The Boston franchise, while having a top tier defense, and one of the best defensemen in the game, is getting old in that department. Then the 2013 playoffs came around and Boston called up some of its young guns for the push, and youth was served. The issue here is that while the defense is young, none of the gents are yet a candidate for number one defenseman. Sure, Dougie could fill out that role at some point, but needing a leader on the back end is something that the B’s brass should be considering. In other words, P.K. Subban should be a Bruin.

Sure, the Bruins have Big Z (Zdeno Chara for the uninitiated), but at 37 years old he won’t be playing forever.  The Bruins have defensemen in Providence, and a couple youngsters playing for the big club, but none of them appear ready to adopt the mantle of “number one defenseman”.  P.K. has shown that he is the leader of the d-corps for the blue-blanc et rouge.  Especially in these playoffs.  Subban is averaging 2 points per game against the  Bruins.  He has 11 points in 7 games.  Sure he is only a plus 1, but while averaging over 27 minutes a night, he is third among defensemen still active in the playoffs.  At 24 years of age, Pernell Karl would be a nice addition to the blueliners on Causeway Street.

P.K. has stated that he is looking for top dolllar on his next contract, between 8 and 9 million dollars per year.  Whether he is worth that at this stage of his career is up for debate, but the way he is playing in these playoffs, especially against his arch-rivals, definitely begins to tip the scales in his favor.  Another tic in his favor, his age.  At just 24, giving him a long term contract wouldn’t hurt so much.  Structure it so that he gets his money in years 3-6 or something along those lines.

Chara still has four more years on his contract after this season finishes, but can we, Bruins fans or not, really expect him to play 27 plus minutes a night as he approaches the big 4-0?  I would say the answer to that question is probably one that the voracious fans in Boston don’t want to have to answer.

Answer…Bring in Subban.  You still get to have the Big Man roaming around the the blueline.  Pair him up with P.K.  Then it doesn’t matter who hangs back and who pinches in.  Yes the d-corps gets expensive with Seidenberg and his 4 year 16 million dollar deal, but by trading a couple players away, it can work.  It has to work.

By acquiring his services, the Boston Bruins can shore up the number one defenseman slot for the next ten years rather than hoping that Chara can maintain his torrid pace for the next four.  P.K. Subban should be a Bruin…and hey, number 76 isn’t taken!

Two U’s, Two K’s, One Major Blunder

At the end of game one, somewhere after 1:00am eastern time, the Bruins players were conducting their post-game interviews with the media regarding the triple overtime loss they just experienced.  There were the obligatory questions and answers regarding how the game went, how the players were feeling, what they needed to do in the next game etc., but one player in particular, the irascible (at times in the past) goaltender for the hometown six answered one question that, well, maybe he should have thought out before speaking.

Although i am unsure as to who asked the question, I can tell you with 100% certainty who answered it, and how.  Tuukka was summing up the game in front of his locker when he clearly stated that “We had the game.”  This was fine, no issues, but then Rask keeps spewing off at the mouth…”We were up 3-1 in the third, then a terrible turnover leads to a second goal and then a tough bounce leads to the tying goal. We just gave it away.”

WHAT?  Did I just hear him correctly?  Did the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins, after a game one loss, a game which went to 3 overtimes, with players exhausted and giving every ounce of themselves, throw a teammate under the proverbial bus?  Now, to his defense,  the net-minder did not mention any names, but the mere mention of the exact incident is enough to cause consternation among those of us listening to him.

Tuukka is a very good goaltender, and I’m sure he has been playing hockey since he was a young child.  So, somewhere along the line I’m almost certain he must have heard from a coach that ice hockey is a team sport.  All of the time honored speeches must still linger somewhere in his brain, that you play as a team, you win and lose as a team, and if you have an issue with one of your team mates, you speak to that person in private, that you don’t throw it out in the open for the whole world to hear or read.  Having played and coached various team sports (granted none above the high school level). I would never have let my players start blaming each other after a loss.  Everyone carried the responsibility, everyone could have done something different that could have affected the outcome of the game or match.  And sometimes, even if you played your best, you still lost.

Surely Torey Krug feels terrible about what happened, but their are decisions players make, typically spur of the moment, that are going to have consequences good or bad.  Had Torey had a split second longer, he could have looked for a teammate to pass to, or he could have sent the puck along the boards, but time is a valuable thing while skating around and he had to make a quick decision.  Torey doesn’t need his ‘tender making him out to be public enemy number one in front of the press.

And while on the subject of laying blame, I have not heard nor read that Tuukka took responsibility for allowing the first goal of the game, a goal that, had he read the “book” on himself, he might have been able to stop with a quicker glove hand.  Not once did it come up, and his team mates on the ice and on the bench never once said, “you know, that terrible first goal that went in right over his glove hand really set the tone for the rest of the period.”

It would seem that Tuukka needs to re-learn what is important to him on the ice…primarily that the friends he has on the blue line in front of him, the ones that, on those rare occasions commit a “terrible” turnover, are also the ones that save his bacon, such as his captain did in the closing seconds of game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  A moment where Rask was “terribly” out of position, but no one said a word, just came over to him at the end and congratulated him on the win.

L.W.L.

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