Category: Opinion

Henrik & Daniel Sedin have been a staple in Vancouver for the last 17 years. After a combined 631 goals, 1475 assists, and 2106 points, the Sedin twins have announced the 2017-18 season will be their last in the NHL. Henrik & Daniel leave the Vancouver Canucks as their first and second highest scorers respectively in franchise history. The second and third overall picks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft won back-to-back Art Ross Trophy’s and Henrik won the Hart for league MVP in 2009-10 (which it’s fair to say could have had both their names on it that year).

Whether or not one cheers for the Canucks, it’s impossible not to appreciate what these two brothers did for the sport and the city of Vancouver. We may never again see two players more in-sync than the Sedin’s. It’s unfortunate that they were never able to win the Stanley Cup, but that won’t change the fact that these two are Hall of Famer’s. We’ll look forward to Sedin night next season. Until then, it’s time to pontificate on what is next for these Canucks.

Vancouver has been the worst team in the NHL the last three years. No, that’s not an opinion.

2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 Total
Vancouver 31-38-13 75 points 30-43-9 69 points 30-40-9 69 points 91-121-31 213 points
Arizona 35-39-8 78 points 30-42-10 70 points 28-40-11 67 points 93-121-29 215 points
Buffalo 35-36-11 81 points 33-37-12 78 points 25-42-12 62 points 93-115-35 221 points

That’s pretty unbelievable for a team that has been trying to remain competitive while “re-tooling” rather than completely tearing everything down and starting from scratch. The possibility remains that GM Trevor Linden has intended for this all along, and the idea of being competitive during a rebuild was just lip service to a fan base not ready to watch their team tank. Plus, the Sedin’s were never going to willingly let this team fall off a cliff.

Perhaps in his evil genius plan, Linden allowed the Sedin’s to operate and sell the team, while behind the scenes management knew this team couldn’t make the playoffs or come anywhere close to it. We’ll just give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they knew what they were doing in order to tank properly.

Now that the Canucks have properly tanked, that leaves us with the off-season and moving on without the Sedin’s.

All of a sudden Vancouver has 21 million dollars in cap space, 14 of which is freed up with Daniel & Henrik’s contracts coming off the books. Several teams have 20+ million in cap space, but most of those teams have key pieces to re-sign. Good or bad, the Canucks could do just about anything in free agency. The question is what should they do?

First off, John Tavares isn’t coming to Vancouver so let’s just stop with that chatter now. Why would Tavares sign with the Canucks when they’re probably two to three years behind the New York Islanders in terms of development? It won’t happen. It’s silly to entertain the idea. Don’t go down that road.

Instead, it’s time the Canucks truly commit to a youth movement. Alex Edler will be a UFA at the end of the 2018-19 season. The draft is the perfect time to flip him for legitimate assets. Edler is a more valuable commodity than Travis Hamonic when he was dealt from the Islanders to the Flames at last year’s draft. It’s important that Canucks GM Jim Benning make the most of his most valuable veteran asset.

Teams coming off a disappointing playoff run, or missing entirely, would all consider Edler an upgrade to their top four. Jim Benning is supposed to be a scouting genius, so why not give him extra first round picks to show off his expertise?

The second player that should be moved is Sam Gagner. He’s one season removed from a 50 point season. It’s clear he just needs to be in the right role in order to succeed. Gagner has two years left on his contract with a $3.15 million dollar cap hit. Again, acquire more draft picks to let Benning go to work at this year’s draft.

The next step should be convincing Elias Pettersson to come play in North America for 2018-19. He’s already set the record for most points by a U20 player in the Swedish Elite League. His development will only be delayed by remaining in Europe. The hope would be that he can impress head coach Travis Green enough to keep him up with the Canucks. At worst, he’s sent down for some seasoning with the Utica Comets and he makes his way onto the pro roster later in the year.

The same goes for 2016 first round pick defenseman Olli Juolevi. Playing in North America, on the smaller ice surface, should be a priority. Worrying about burning one year of a player’s entry level deal is incredibly short-sighted in terms of development.

2018-19 cannot be another year where the Canucks go out and sign more Del Zotto’s, Vanek’s and Gagner’s. The patchwork is failing, the playoffs will not be in reach next year, so give the kids in the organization a chance to shine. Hope and excitement come from seeing the future develop before one’s very eyes. The Canucks finally have the chance to do that if they’ll just admit and commit to being in a rebuild.

On the verge of losing their team captain, face of the franchise, and first overall pick in 2009, not to mention likely missing the playoffs for the eighth time in 11 seasons, the New York Islanders appear to be a team in disarray. Their General Manager, Garth Snow, has been around for all eight disappointments. Only once have the Isles made it out of the first round since 1993. An organization that consistently takes one step forward, only to fall flat the following season. While the outcome of the 2017-18 season is all but decided, it would be easy for Islanders fans to go into the off-season dreading what may come. Despite a few unknowns, the Islanders organization could go from being a middling failure to a powerhouse.

NHL Entry Draft Lottery

Most would assume that signing John Tavares is the first step to creating a team to be reckoned with. This may be true, but certain chips falling the Islanders way could ultimately lead to Tavares re-signing with ease. During the 2017 Entry Draft, the Islanders sent defenseman Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames for a first round pick in 2018, a second round pick in 2018 and a conditional second round pick in 2019 (which if Calgary misses the playoffs this season will remain in 2019). This trade seemed a good one for both organizations at the time, but Calgary has free-fallen out of a playoff spot and Travis Hamonic hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the Flames. All this will lead to the New York Islanders having a shot at two lottery picks

Only four times since 1979, has a team had two picks in the top five.

  • 1988 – The Quebec Nordiques take Curtis Leschyshyn third overall and Daniel Dore with fifth overall pick.
  • 1997 – The New York Islanders select Roberto Luongo with the fourth pick and Eric Brewer with the fifth.
  • 1999 – The Vancouver Canucks grab Daniel & Henrik Sedin with the second and third overall picks.
  • 2000 – The New York Islanders opt for first overall pick Rick DiPietro and fifth overall pick Raffi Torres.

Ironically, the Islanders also had three picks in the first ten selections in 1999 where they selected Tim Connolly fifth, Taylor Pyatt eighth and Branislav Mezei tenth. Count it up, that’s seven top ten picks in three drafts. That’s incredible. The only player of real value was Luongo, whom they ultimately traded to the Panthers for the opportunity to take Rick DiPietro. Perhaps Tim Connolly could be included on that list as he had a decent career but almost exclusively for the Buffalo Sabres.

In any case, one may look at the list above and say that if the Islanders were to get two high draft choices in the upcoming draft, there’s no guarantees and knowing the Islanders, they’ll probably miss on both. To look at it this way would be short sighted. The draft was not seen as important back in the late 1990’s as it is now, and teams have gotten much better at hitting on first round picks, especially top five selections. Garth Snow has at least shown competency in drafting after selecting Matthew Barzal with the 16th overall pick in 2015.

Odds the Islanders Win Draft Lottery

Admittedly, the odds are slim. Right now, due to where the Flames sit in the standings, there’s only a 2.7% chance of striking gold, and with enough points between them and the next crop of teams to assume they won’t fall lower. The Islanders pick, however, have a 5.4% chance of grabbing a lottery pick and could easily fall a couple spots to increase their odds. Essentially, the Islanders have about a 10% chance that they’ll have one pick in the top ten in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. At worst, these picks will likely be in the eighth to 12th range. Which still gives them a great opportunity to draft a couple impact players. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one or both could make camp right away (although it’s likely they’d give them one to two years to ripen).

Even if the most likely scenario occurs, and not the dream situation, the Islanders will add some potential core pieces to their team. Adding to an already strong core of Matthew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee and assuming he remains an Islander, John Tavares.

Re-signing John Tavares

Given what is on the table for the Islanders at the Entry Draft, and based on his many comments about wanting to stay with the Isles, John Tavares will re-sign with the Isles. To hold out this long, to be a trooper during all these years, and to watch the perfect storm that has culminated in having Barzal center the second forward line, it would be unwise for Tavares to bail now. Even with a 10+ million dollar cap hit for Tavares, and assuming the cap goes up to around 78 million, the Isles will have over 20 million in cap space to improve their team in the off-season.

Garth Snow may not have been the ideal candidate for GM back in 2006 when he took over. He has made mistakes, but the experience of failure may be paying off. The New York Islanders organization is poised to become one of the next powerhouses in the NHL if they can keep their house in order. It appears that John Tavares will remain with the organization for the long haul, and that his patience paid off.

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History Lesson

There once was a time when a toe could make or break a game in the National Hockey League. One sliver of a skate in the crease could result in a no-goal call. One inconsequential fragment of a skater’s body part in the blue paint could eliminate a goal. The no-goal due to a skate in the crease was first enacted in the NHL for the 1991-92 season along with an increase in the size and shape of the crease. In conjunction with these changes, the NHL introduced video replay for the first time. These three changes would create controversy throughout the 1990’s, and everything culminated in 1999 during game six of the Stanley Cup Finals where the Dallas Stars took a 3-2 series lead into Buffalo against the Sabres.

Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek, winner of the two previous NHL MVP awards in 1997 and 1998, had been unbelievable for the seventh seeded Sabres in the 1999 playoffs thus far, and needed another spectacular start to force a game seven back in Dallas. The game was tied at one through 60 minutes of play. The game pushed on into overtime, double overtime and finally triple OT. Nearing the end of the third overtime period, with just over five minutes of play remaining, Mike Modano finds Jere Lehtinen who takes a shot from the left circle, Hasek makes the save but the puck is loose, Mike Modano comes in to wack at it but the puck magically finds it’s way onto Brett Hull’s stick and he puts it home for the Stanley Cup winning goal! But wait, it appears that Hull’s foot was in the crease. The rule stated that one could be in the create only after the puck had already been there first. Despite that initially happening, the puck left the crease but Hull’s foot did not, and then he scores. Commissioner Gary Bettman said that because he kept possession the goal was allowed to count, but many disagreed, including Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. According to the rule book, and how it had been called since 1991, the goal should not have counted. But who wants to call back a Stanley Cup winning goal in triple overtime? After much controversy, the NHL redacted the “toe-in-the-crease” rule and the system we have today was created.

At the time, an overwhelming majority agreed with the elimination of such a strict rule on goaltender interference. A toe in the crease that has nothing to do with the play shouldn’t be overturned. It was incredibly frustrating to always have to wonder if a scramble in front of the net will result in a no-goal call because of an errant skate blade. Since 1999, the game has changed dramatically. Along with the elimination of the foot-in-the-crease rule, the crease itself shrunk from it’s previous half moon shape that extended  to what we know today. After 2005, the two-line pass became legal, and the game became faster than ever.

Solutions

With so many changes to the game’s speed and players’ skill , along with the ever shrinking size of goaltender’s equipment and the addition of carbon fiber sticks (as opposed to wooden ones), and the frustration that has grown due to very inconsistent calling on goaltender interference, it’s time for the NHL to revisit a more strict crease rule. There are certainly pros and cons, but here are several reasons why reenacting a more strict rule is viable.

  1. The crease is smaller than it was in the 1990’s, making it less likely for a player to find themselves in the crease but so far out of the play it makes no difference.
  2. The type of hacking and shoving that used to be synonymous with standing in front of the net have all but faded. Therefore, it’s much easier to get positioning in front of the net, so players can stand where they need to without having to worry about a cross-check to the back. This fact means its less likely for the back of a player’s skates to end up in the crease.
  3. The current rule allows for too much subjectivity. Even with the league shifting to allow replay officials to make the call on goaltender interference, there will still be subjective calls with different rulings. Even the same person, from game-to-game could potentially make different calls on similar plays. You can find the current ruling here on page 162-166. The foot-in-the-crease rule would eliminate almost all subjectivity on the matter.
  4. The size of the crease could be adjusted to be shortened to only 4 feet from the net, eliminating the circular portion and have it stop at the posts whereas currently it goes one foot beyond. Goalies would still be able to roam outside the crease, and if they’re physically impeded it can still result in a no-goal call, but it would eliminate some of the fringe “toe-in-the-crease” fiascoes.
  5. The NHL could adopt IIHF Rule 184i, which says: “If an attacking skater establishes position in the goal crease, play will be stopped and the ensuing faceoff will take place at the nearest faceoff spot in the neutral zone.” However, the solution given in this article seems like a more balanced approach. Stopping the play during an offensive attack just because of positioning seems extreme. It doesn’t give the skater an opportunity to reset and establish legal positioning.

These five concepts create as objective of a goalie interference rule as one can create. Frustrations would still arise from such a rule, but the rule would be clear. Players and coaches could complain, but would ultimately understand since the rules are very apparent and obvious. The late Pat Burns, coach of the Boston Bruins at the time, was clearly upset after his Bruins had lost in double overtime of game three in the 1998 playoffs to the Washington Capitals because in the first overtime, his team had a goal called back due to a foot-in-the-crease that ultimately didn’t effect the play. “The rule is that, and that’s it. It’s no goal and I could sit here and moan about it for 15 or 20 minutes and it’s not going to change nothing,” said Burns.

Players, coaches and even fans would be more forgiving of a constant, consistent and objective rule with regards to goalie interference. Obviously, this is just a starting point. Language can be used to give referees and goal judges the ability to allow a goal if the the “toe-in-the-crease” had zero effect on the play. This does allow for some subjectivity but not nearly as much as is currently tolerated. The goaltender interference crisis will never be perfected but it will not be consistent until the NHL recognizes objectivity is king.

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Through their first 10 games, only 18 goals. They’ve since scored 13 goals in two games, but that is probably more of an anomaly than a new trend. In reality, it’s no secret, this team can’t score. What’s worse, they only have 4 wins through 12 games. To put it mildly, this season is lost.

If you look at the team’s stats, Jonathan Drouin leads the way with 9 points through 12 games. Brendan Gallagher leads in the goal department with four. Is it time to hit the panic button yet? I believe, it should have been pushed a couple years ago.

Looking back at the 2015-16 season, the Habs finished with a mediocre 38-38-6 record. Carey Price played 12 games, and no one on the team played with better than a +4 in the +/- category. Read into that what you will, but the Habs missed the playoffs and only finished better in the Atlantic division than the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. Not something to be proud of for a team that was on everyone’s list as a playoff team. That season should have been the point they hit panic button.

Looking at the last 10 cup winners, only 2 of them had a goalie win the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP. Contrary to popular belief that all one needs is a hot goalie to win the Cup, t’s hard to be a Cup champion when your best player is your goalie. It takes a great system, solid D, and timely goals. Looking at where the league has been trending the last few years, your team’s best player needs to be the center. When one looks at their team on paper, they should be able to say that the number one center is the best player or close to it. The Hab’s number one center, Drouin, would be hard to argue as the number second or third best player on that team. He may not even be a true center. He played the beginning part of his career in Tampa Bay as a winger.

For a team that has so much trouble scoring, their highest paid player should not be their goaltender. You cannot rely on Price to carry the team every year. If he plays average (this year for example) or even above average, this team will struggle to get into the playoffs. Not to mention, the defense in front of him is poor outside of Shea Weber. One of the worst groups of 6/7 D-men in the league. Now, did Carey Price deserve the money he got on his contract extension? Yes. If there was ever a guy that could easily be a team’s MVP, it’s Price. They have relied too much on him to carry the team, and when he was injured or while he’s playing average this year, it shows in the win column. What the Habs should have done, was deal Price before his extension was signed and finish a rebuild.

Price’s current deal at $6.5 mil, does have a modified NTC. This would have restricted the ability to trade him to 15 teams of Price’s choosing, which likely would not have been bottom-of-the-league teams. Looking at the remaining teams, who could and would have traded for Price? Perhaps Dallas, Winnipeg, the Islanders, Flyers, or Calgary? This is assuming the Habs move Price at the draft this past year after the Habs won the division and Price’s value was very high. So what could they have gotten in return? Start with Travis Hamonic for example.

The Islanders received a first and 2 seconds for a top-4 defenseman. For the teams listed above, their need for a quality goalie would definitely have gotten the Habs a greater return. We’re talking multiple first rounders, a prospect, and a quality NHL roster defenseman/center. Take for example the Flyers. Now while I like Brian Elliott, Carey Price is clearly a big upgrade. The Flyers could have moved the 2017 first rounder (#27 pick acquired in the Blues trade), one of their 2018 first rounders, another mid rounder and/or a prospect, and perhaps Sean Couturier? Looking at this current year, Couturier has been good in their number 1 center role, but Philly has an abundance of centers and moving Couturier may not have hurt as much with the return coming their way. Not to mention, the arrival of Patrick Nolan would have eased that trade for the fans.

Now, this is all hypothetical, but looking at what Couturier is doing with Vorachek, being able to put Drouin on the wing would have been a better fit for the Habs, as he continues to grow. Not to mention, Couturier is capable of handling the defensive aspect of a number one role. So with Price out of Montreal, where do they turn in goal? Montoya is a great backup, but not a number one. Looking at available free agents; Jonathan Bernier, Brian Elliot, or Steve Mason would have been solid options. Obviously a downgrade in goal, but a definite upgrade at the center position. Would this have been worth it? Yes.

At this point, you’re looking to rebuild on the fly. You acquire a capable number one center, you now have Drouin (a potential 30 to 40 goal scoring winger), and now some future pieces in prospects or draft picks. You could also use those extra draft picks along with Galchenyuk, to flip for a top-4 defensman, something Montreal desperately needs. Again, these are all hypotheticals, but it gives you options to rebuild quickly. Either way, now you don’t have to spend $10.5 million a year on a goalie, which is going to hinder their ability to lock down a number one center or other big goal scorers in the future. Plain and simple, your goalie cannot be the highest paid player on the team.

For me the answer is simple, Price should have been traded.

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