8. Hockey’s race problem (again)
Hey here’s something weird!
After I said hockey still has a race problem and a bunch of people emailed or commented or tweeted that, no actually you’re making a big deal of nothing and there’s no problem here, four dumbasses who like the team with the racist logo said racist stuff to one of the very few black players in the league?
Crazy coincidence. Impossible to see such a thing coming.
7. The Gudbranson extension
Y’know, when people first started making noise about “Ah, the Canucks might extend Erik Gudbranson,” it was easy to dismiss as posturing to maybe get a better asset in trade. There was, inexplicably, stated interest for his services around the league, so it would make sense that you’d pretend like you really wanted to keep this defenseman most people agree is pretty awful.
This was, in fact, the perfect play for Jim Benning to get out from under a pretty dumb mistake he made a few years ago. Not only do you not have Gudbranson on your team anymore, but you also get something of some value — maybe not Jared McCann, but perhaps comparable — back for him.
Instead? Three years at $4 million AAV. That’s the DJ Khaled “you played yourself” GIF in real life. Don’t ever play yourself!
Now, I can see the argument that if you’re tanking and you need to hit the cap floor, there are worse ways to allocate big cap hits than a guy who stinks but is well-liked in the room. But all indications are that the Canucks think this guy can actually play.
Then also, there’s this:
Gudbranson: “I don’t know what my ceiling is. I don’t think anyone knows,”
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) February 20, 2018
Man, I gotta tell ya, Erik: I do. And it’s not great.
Can’t imagine being a Vancouver fan. It must be a hell. At least it wasn’t a four-year deal, right? RIGHT?
6. Blaming the goalie
Saw where Sergei Bobrovsky had a bad game on Sunday, against a very good Penguins team that is also playing out of its mind right now. Stopped just 18 of 23 in a loss. You don’t like to see that. Of course, the Penguins got a lot of traffic to the net in that game, as evidenced by the goals they scored; two from right around the faceoff dots, two from within inches of the crease, and one from the point.
So John Tortorella took the opportunity to ………………. call out Bobrovsky? “He’s gotta be our best player,” and all that stuff.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news here, Torts, but if I were one of those writers who believed goalies should win the MVP, Bobrovsky would be pretty close to the top of my list. This is a team whose special teams are so bad as to be ruining a season in which its goalie is giving them the third-best 5-on-5 save percentage in the league, and 10th-best overall.
Columbus has only given up 169 goals this year, tied for 10th in the league. Of those, 36 have been on the penalty kill. That’s middle of the pack in the league, in terms of proportion of goals conceded on the PK, but Columbus also takes the second-fewest penalties in the league!
Tough to fathom the temerity of calling out your goalie after your team has basically done everything in its power to make his life miserable while shorthanded. But hey, that’s Torts, baby!!!!
5. Whatever Ottawa is doing
Apparently Pierre Dorion is now taking calls on Erik Karlsson, which is unfathomable.
The rumor, however, is that if you want Karlsson, you also gotta take the Bobby Ryan contract, which, hey, sure. If you’re just trying to cut as much salary as possible — which, hey, we’re talking about Eugene Melnyk here — then getting Karlsson’s $14.5 million over the next two years (on a $6.5 million AAV) and Ryan’s $14.75 million (on a $7.25 million AAV) is a great way to do it. Especially because $2 million of that per year is due to Ryan as a bonus on July 1, rather than as straight salary.
Not that I think anyone is going to feel capable of taking on $13.75 million in cap obligations without offloading bad deals (which Ottawa would certainly stipulate needs to be done for guys with higher cap hits than dollar values), but hey, go big or go home.
4. A goalie trade!!!!
I like the Petr Mrazek trade for both sides. Detroit gets two conditional picks for a goalie they weren’t going to qualify this summer anyway (I seem to recall something about him being bad in the room) and Philly really needed a goalie. Match made in heaven.
Detroit’s disinterest in the goalie isn’t maybe that smart, though. Of the 33 goalies to play at least 6,500 minutes since the start 2014-15, his 5-on-5 save percentage ranks 18th behind a team that wasn’t really all that good. The difference between his expected save percentage and actual ranked 13th, which says to me, ahh, he’s probably pretty good. But hey, if you don’t like him for Chemistry reasons, getting two things for him instead of letting him walk is, nominally, a win.
Of course, the Flyers have other problems besides Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott being out long-term. So too is Wayne Simmonds. And that’s bad. But they addressed a need immediately after it arose, and got Detroit to retain salary on the deal. Gotta like that.
3. The Jets as capital-B Buyers
This is the ideal time for a team like the Jets to push all the chips in. They have a weird mix of older contributors who probably don’t have a lot of elite years left and really good young guys who are already established NHLers.
They have a nice little farm system, all but one of their picks the next three years, and plenty of cap space to add some serious help if the price is right.
This is exactly the position they want to be in, and now they have the opportunity to really seize on something. Let’s go!!!
2. The Mikael Backlund contract
Ahh yeah baby, that’s good value optimization.
Backlund has long been an underrated player in the league, an elite second-line, possession-driving center that, once he got some talent around him, started putting up 45-50 points like it was no big deal. Funny how that works.
Anyway, this contract is a rare win-for-player-and-team-simultaneously. Good stuff!
1. Happy Taylor Hall
So strange to see Taylor Hall not totally beaten down at this point in the year. And now the quotes reflect it too!
On Tuesday morning, he told local media that he hadn’t enjoyed February hockey since he played for Windsor in the OHL and that, unlike his time in Edmonton, he actually likes talking to his coaches in New Jersey.
Which is one of those things that could be totally innocuous; there are probably lots of players who don’t talk to their coaches that much. But when viewed in the context of Taylor Hall no longer being in Edmonton, that’s twisting the knife on a team that’s definitely rueing the decision to trade him, and I gotta tell ya, folks: I love it.
(Not ranked this week: The Bruins cheaping out!!!!
Granted, there’s still five days before the trade deadline, but if the only trade the Bruins and Rangers make in the next little while here is Rob O’Gara and a third for Nick Holden — who’s basically the definition of a just-alright bottom-pairing D — then I’m gonna be real heated.
What, just because you’re a top-two team in the league you feel like you don’t need to add impact players? Nashville, Tampa, and Winnipeg are all gonna add impact players. So take the plunge! Go get Nash! Go get Grabner! Go get freakin’ McDonagh!)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)