Tag Archives: hockey

The Jersday Blog January 10, 2019

The Round-Up

German National Hockey Jersey

In the 2020 World Junior’s Germany is back in and Denmark’s gonna be watching from home. I can’t imagine the German’s tournament will last long considering this year’s backwards results has left Germany in the group of death:

Yeah definitely not ideal.

In honour of a sweet jersey and an 2020 elimination in advance, here’s the best of what the German hockey machine has churned out.

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Sure you can have your Draisaitls and Kolzigs. The Uwe Krupps and Korbinian Holzers are what German hockey is all about.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau Alternate Reebok Ottawa Senators Jersey

These are by far the best jerseys that have been in Ottawa’s rotation. The striped look is one of my favourite looks. It makes any team, even a 90’s Senators expansion team, look like a classic. Also I’ve never been sold on the roman centurion logo. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a member of the Canadian senate but they certainly aren’t leading hundreds of legionnaires into battle.

As for JG Pageau, I always appreciate an off-the-board jersey selection. On most good teams Pageau would be an effective middle six forward. On a bad team Pageau is the lead penalty killer, the go-to faceoff man and scores in bunches.

Rick Nash 2003-07 Era Columbus Blue Jackets Jersey

The classic Koho jersey with the neon green still mixed into the Blue Jackets colour scheme. Kind of ugly yet sublime.

For over a decade Rick Nash was the only reason to scoop up a hockey ticket in the state of Ohio. The 6 time all-star and 2004 Rocket Richard winner did nothing but put the puck in the net for the hapless Blue Jackets. Here’s a taste of his supporting cast for his time (2002-2012) in the Buckeye state.

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Too many people remember recent Nash years as a washed-up goal scorer on the Rangers (save for his 42 goal 2014-15 season). But with the Blue Jackets he was one of the best scorers on the planet despite being flanked by elite teammates like David Vyborny, Christian Huselius and Geoff Sanderson. While he hasn’t officially announced it yet, it looks like 34 year-old Nash is likely done in the NHL. Pour one out for Columbus’s first real star in franchise history.

Jersey of the Week:

Baker Mayfield Oklahoma Sooners Jersey

This is a huge jersey. Mayfield is one of the best young talents in the game and also one of the most popular players. I’m a huge fan of any pro athletes’ college/junior/minor league jersey. Cleveland Baker will probably win offensive rookie of the year. But Oklahoma Baker rode bunches of touchdowns, passing yards, wins and big time cellies to a Heisman.

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The Weekly Jersey Dump

Meh. Not the best. Not the worst.

We get it. People like PK Subban. Josi and Rinne have both made all star teams before so I don’t really understand the ceremony or point of this video. This isn’t Subban giving a jersey to some Make-A-Wish kids. Nice Adidas infomercial.

I’d make these the permanent 3rd jerseys.

Happy Halloween.

These jerseys are unreal. The throwback look conjures up images of Kurt Warner fresh out of the Arena Football League as the front man for The Greatest Show on Turf.

I though Dallas had a chance before I saw this tweet. Rams by 21.

NHL Week In Review – Joel Quenneville, The Resilient Red Wings, And The Senators Wild Ride

Hello, beautiful Bench-Lifers. I am back again for another look at the biggest NHL storylines from the past week. There was a ton to talk about during the past seven days so let’s jump right in.

Blackhawk Down

A new day has dawned for the Chicago Blackhawks. On Tuesday morning, in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the team fired long-time head coach Joel Quenneville. The mustachioed bench boss was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL at the time of his firing and had won three Stanley Cup championships over his 10 seasons with the team. Jeremy Colliton, who was coaching the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL, was named his successor and became the youngest coach in the league at 38-years-old.

Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history (890 wins), trailing only the legendary Scotty Bowman (1,244 wins). Ironically enough, the Bowman regime has a massive part to play in this whole scenario. Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks general manager (and Scotty’s son), butted-heads with Quenneville over organizational matters throughout the entirety of their working relationship. Mark Lazerus has a fantastic piece about the whole situation on The Athletic, but basically, there were three main points of contention that the article covered.

  1. In the 2011-12 season, Bowman forced Barry Smith upon Quenneville as an assistant coach. Scotty Bowman was a senior advisor in the organization at the time and Smith was an old friend who had coached with him for over 15 seasons. The decision infuriated Quenneville and started a theme of resentment between him and the Bowman clan. Interestingly enough, Smith was immediately brought back this past week as an assistant coach once Quenneville was canned.
  2. At the end of the 2016-17 season, Quenneville’s best friend/assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired by Bowman. The two started coaching together in 1998 with the St. Louis Blues and had spent over 12 seasons alongside one another behind the bench.
  3. Bowman had made some trades that Quenneville vehemently disagreed with over the past few years, most notably, the Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin deals.

The way I see it is that Bowman saved his own ass by firing Quenneville. Apparently, that is how former Blackhawks’ tough guy Daniel Carcillo sees it too.

Now, the head coach was not perfect by any means. He was not some infallible deity that could do no wrong with the hockey gods. Quenneville routinely frustrated fans by showing blind loyalty to veteran players while youthful talent waited for their chance. The Blackhawks had first-round exits in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons before completely bottoming-out last year. Due to this, changes definitely had to be made. With that being said, Bowman is more responsible for an under-performing roster than Quenneville was.

The head coach did not trade Hjalmarsson to the Coyotes nor did he make the Panarin for Brandon Saad swap. He did not trade Teuvo Teravainen, Philip Danault, or Vinnie Hinistroza in the past two years. The general manager is responsible for those moves. Furthermore, Bowman inherited his Cup-winning core from Dale Tallon when he was hired in 2009. He did not draft Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, or Corey Crawford. Likewise, Bowman responded to the Blackhawks’ worst season in a decade by signing Chris Kunitz, Brandon Manning, and Cam Ward this past offseason. Talk about some real game changers.

Negativity aside, I fully believe Bowman deserves credit for the moves he made during the 2012-13 and 2014-15 Cup wins. Players like Johnny Oduya, Michal Handzus, and Antoine Vermette were integral playoff pieces and shrewd acquisitions.

All of this adds up to the Blackhawks losing the first two games of Colliton’s NHL coaching career. Their losing streak now sits at seven games. After a 6-2-2 start, their record sits at 6-8-3. Quenneville was caught up in a power struggle, and he ultimately deserved a better fate. Regardless, he will be able to coach again any time he wants to as certain teams are likely drooling at the thought of bringing him in. Quenneville will be fine. I am not sure the same can be said about the Blackhawks.

Comebacks And Curly Fries In The Motor City

Before saying anything else, the Detroit Red Wings are not a good team. I am a diehard fan myself, and while they have been incredibly fun lately, I am not mistaking them for a team with realistic playoff aspirations.

With that being said, OH MY GOD THE RED WINGS REBUILD IS IN FULL SWING! WE’LL BE BACK IN NO TIME! IN LARKIN WE TRUST!

*ahem*

Yes, the Red Wings have won six of their last seven games after a dismal 1-7-2 start to the year. They have won three straight games despite trailing by multiple goals in each contest. It is the first time in franchise history that the team has accomplished such a feat. Up front, there have been fantastic performances from some of their young leaders. In particular, Dylan Larkin is playing like an absolute stud. He has seven goals and 10 assists through 17 games this season including the overtime winner against the New York Rangers on Friday.

Similarly, Andreas Athanasiou has been dangerous on a nightly basis. He has four points in his past two games and 10 points through 13 games this season. On Saturday, Anthony Mantha single-handedly spearheaded the comeback against the Carolina Hurricanes with two goals in the third period. Tyler Bertuzzi has shown he belongs at the NHL level and 2017 first-round pick Michael Rasmussen has delivered tantalizing flashes of his power-forward potential.

With that in mind, perhaps the best part about the whole start to the season has been 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski on the back end. On draft night, many fans (including myself) were skeptical when the team traded down, jettisoning Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes, but passing on Jakob Chychrun in the process. Cholowski was a moderately unknown commodity at the time as he played in the BCHL during his draft year. On the other hand, Chychrun had been considered a top-10 pick early on in 2016 while playing for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. Cholowski surprised many people out of training camp this season and ultimately wound up on the team for opening night. Since then, all he has done is impress with two goals, six assists, and a poise that far exceeded expectations.

Again, the Red Wings are not good. This is a team that was so bad early on in the season, that Arby’s changed a decade-old curly fries promotion. In years past, fans would get a free order of curly fries whenever a Red Wings player scored a hat trick. All they had to do was bring in a box score of the game. Now, Arby’s is giving away a free order of curly fries whenever the Red Wings score three goals in a game. There is lowering the bar, and then there is that. But hey, since the changeover the Red Wings have scored at least three goals in seven of eight games. All praise the power of the curly fry.

The Uber Ride Heard ‘Round The World

At this point, I hope we all know what happened. If not, here is the video. During a road trip to Arizona in late October, several Ottawa Senators players were unknowingly recorded by their Uber driver as they mocked their coaching staff in a five-minute rant. Matt Duchene was the most vocal of the bunch and continuously mentioned how clueless assistant coach Martin Raymond was while Chris Wideman and Thomas Chabot laughed at the team’s inefficient penalty killing.

Now, this is not a great situation, especially for a franchise that has had such a tumultuous year. It is embarrassing for the players and provided an unnecessary headache in an already challenging season. With that being said, I thought this whole ordeal was blown way out of proportion. I mean, who hasn’t badmouthed a co-worker, customer or boss before? The difference is, if you knew you were being recorded, you probably would have kept your opinions to yourself. Gerard Gallant, head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, had a great take on the situation when asked by a Toronto Sun reporter.

“All the players talk about coaches all the time, believe me, and vice versa.” He paused to laugh. “We talk about them too.”

Obviously! It is cliche, but you cannot please everyone. A hockey team consists of a ton of individuals having to try and work together to achieve a common goal. Not everybody is going agree with the methods, and in return, they will vent about it in privacy. This video never should have surfaced because all it is are athletes voicing their frustrations.

Thankfully, the Senators won two of their four games this week, including a wild comeback against the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning. Things would have been brutal if they went on a massive losing streak after this media firestorm.

I will say, one positive from the whole situation is that this tweet was made (sorry Sens fans).

Fabulous Firsts

These players scored the first NHL goal of their careers this week: Denis Gurianov (DAL), Brett Seney (NJD), Jeremy Lauzon (BOS).

Quick Hits

The Boston Bruins top line of Brad Marchand (2G,3A), Patrice Bergeron (2G,4A), and David Pastrnak (5G,2A) absolutely dominated during four games this week. The trio has accounted for 58% of the Bruins goals this season (31/53). They are simply terrific.

Continuing on with the Bruins, shoutout to Jaroslav Halak who has been downright magnificent with Beantown this season. Halak has posted a 6-1-2 record with a 1.77 goals-against average, .945 save percentage, and two shutouts to start 2018-19. Aside from a five-goal clunker against the Canucks on Thursday, he has been practically unbeatable. Tuukka Rask remains on personal leave which means Halak is manning the crease for the near future.

The Minnesota Wild have been quietly formidable through their first portion of the season. They are riding an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games and sit at 11-4-2 on the year. Zach Parise’s resurgence has been a big part of their success. He has delivered seven goals and nine assists through his first 17 games after posting back-to-back seasons with less than 50 points. Here’s hoping he stays healthy!

William Nylander continues to play the waiting game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The slick Swedish forward has until 5PM on December 1st to sign a contract or else he will be ineligible to play this season. Both parties are apparently still quite far apart with the financials. I understand the hesitation from Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. 1). This is his first big contract dispute as an NHL general manager. If he caves and gives Nylander a big contract, agents will prey on him for years to come. 2). He has to try his best to get Nylander signed to a reasonable contract that will not handcuff the team’s financial abilities in the future. Apparently, the Leafs have reached out to possible trade partners in recent days. Dubas has continuously stated that he will not trade Nylander, but with the clock ticking, desperation may set in during the coming weeks. Not having Nylander playing and/or not having assets in return would severely hurt the Leafs chances of getting past Tampa Bay and Boston in the playoffs this season.

A couple of streaks were extended for Florida Panthers players on Sunday evening. Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov both picked up an assist during a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. This extended their point streaks to 12 and 11 games, respectively. The two have formed a daunting unit with Aleksander Barkov on the top line.

The Nashville Predators have become the third team in NHL history to win their first eight road games of the season. Last year’s President Trophy winners are well on their way to another magnificent campaign. They sit atop the NHL standings with a 13-3-0 record and are currently rolling on a five-game win streak.

About three weeks ago, New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle announced that his leukemia was in remission. Boyle was diagnosed with the disease back in 2017. On Tuesday, which was coincidentally Hockey Fights Cancer night in Pittsburgh, Boyle scored the first hat trick of his 705-game NHL career. Sometimes sports can be pure poetry. What a touching moment for Boyle and his family. Good luck to him the rest of the season.

Milestone Makers

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton played in his 1500th career game on Thursday night during a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise scored the 700th point of his career on Thursday night during a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Patrick Marleau picked up the 600th assist of his career on Friday night during a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

NHL Week In Review – Elias Pettersson, The Spunky Coyotes, And The NHL Global Series

Hello, beautiful Bench-Lifers. It has been a while. Yes, I Raymond Harrison have been a bit of a degenerate lately when it comes to producing content for this blog… BUT THAT CHANGES TODAY. I am motivated, I am keen, I am three coffees deep, and I am excited to bring you my new weekly feature where I go over the big storylines from the past week in the NHL.

This week has been a doozy with a ton of topics to address so without further ado, let’s do that hockey *insert Chance The Rapper gif here*.

Elias Pettersson And The Cardiac Canucks

I mean, sure, Elias Pettersson was one of the Calder Trophy favourites coming into the season, but my goodness, this guy is going straight for the MVP. Pettersson was downright dominant during Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The 19-year-old set several Canucks franchise records during the wild win. He is the youngest Canucks player to ever tally five points in a game, the first Canucks rookie to ever have five points in a game, and the first Canucks player to ever make people forget that this team signed Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to multi-year deals this summer.

Pettersson has been a massive success story as he leads all NHL rookies in scoring despite missing six games due to injury. He has nine goals and six assists through nine games this season, and most of his points have come via a highlight-reel play. A further point that should be made is that he has formed a formidable duo with Brock Boeser on the top line. Boeser had a four-point game during the back-and-forth affair versus the Avalanche and the two connected on a goal that would have made the Sedin twins proud.

All of this has led to a surprising surge from the Canucks that has them sitting at second place in the Pacific Division with a 9-6-0 record. They have won three games in a row heading into a six-game road trip. The team was expected to finish at the bottom of the standings, and while it is still early in the season, there is a definite reason to be optimistic about the future of this team. Jim Benning’s faults aside, the Canucks have drafted quite well over the past half decade and are amassing an impressive collection of young talent. In the wise words of Dimitri Filipovic, you cannot spell elite without Elias Pete.

Desert Dogs Dashing Up The Standings

The Arizona Coyotes are actually good folks!!! No, pigs are not flying, hell has not frozen over, and Joe Thornton has not won a Stanley Cup (yet). The Coyotes are rolling on a five-game winning streak right now where they have outscored opponents 24-7. They have held a 3-0 first-period lead in each of the past three games. The team had one of the most offensively inept starts in NHL history to begin the season, but they have completely turned things around and sit with a 7-5-0 record.

While the offense has been producing, the defense has been even better. They are the stingiest team in the NHL as their 2.00 goals-against per game is the lowest mark in the league. They have the second-best penalty kill percentage in the NHL at 92.1% and they have scored a remarkable SEVEN shorthanded goals through their first 12 games of the season.

Perhaps the biggest reason for their success has been the play of goaltender Antti Raanta.  The Finnish netminder has won four of his last five starts, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in the process. Raanta was fantastic during the second half of last season once returning from an injury. Clearly, he has continued that success into 2018-19.

The 6-5-0 record the Coyotes posted in October was their best October record since the 2013-14 season. The win streak has allowed them to quickly gain ground in a shaky Pacific Division. The Ducks have lost seven of their last eight after a 5-1-1 start, the Kings just fired their head coach, and the Golden Knights are missing key contributors. Skeptics have wondered for years when the Coyotes would start to perform at a higher level. They have an offensive attack spearheaded by Clayton Keller and Alex Galchenyuk, a defensive core headlined by All-Star Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and a reliable goaltender with a career .922 save percentage. This is not a claim saying the Coyotes will steamroll opponents en route to a Stanley Cup, but they are actually going to be playing meaningful hockey in the second half of the season for the first time in a long time. Must be the power of the Kachina.

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The NHL Goes Global and Patrik Laine Goes Off

The Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers played a two-game set in Helsinki, Finland this week as part of the NHL Global Series. It was the seventh time in league history that the NHL has played regular-season games in Europe. Both games were sold out and international fans were treated to some exciting hockey.

In the first game, the Jets arose victorious on the back of Patrik Laine. The Finnish sniper had a hat trick in front of droves of roaring fans, pacing the Jets to a 4-2 win. Laine’s wicked release was on full display throughout the contest.

The Panthers responded in the second game with a 4-2 win of their own. Roberto Luongo returned from an MCL sprain and made 32 saves in his first game action since October 6. The Panthers had stumbled out of the gate without their starting netminder so his return will be a massive boost for their playoffs aspirations. The power-play also continued to dominate as the Panthers were three-for-five with the man advantage in the game. Evgenii Dadonov and Keith Yandle both had a goal and an assist in the victory while Patrik Laine scored again for the Jets. Mike Hoffman also extended his nine-game point streak with this filthy wrister.

Anytime the NHL goes overseas it is always an enjoyable experience. Seeing other countries celebrate hockey as much as us Canadians is a heartwarming spectacle. They plan to visit several new countries in future years which has me wondering when the Norwegian series pits Mats Zuccarello against Andreas Martinsen in a BATTLE OF THE AGES.

Fabulous Firsts

These players scored the first NHL goal of their careers this week: Rourke Chartier (SJS), Michael Rasmussen (DET), Alex Formenton (OTT), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (MTL), Vladislav Kamenev (COL), Sheldon Dries (COL), Nick Seeler (MIN), Mathieu Joseph (TBL).

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Quick Hits

The Buffalo Sabres (9-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers) outscored the Buffalo Bills (41-9 loss to the Chicago Bears) this weekend.

The Sabres also have the new best line in the NHL. The top combination of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Jason Pominville have more points than any other trio in the league since October 20.

Slava Voynov is thinking about an NHL comeback as he applied for reinstatement by the league this week. In case you forgot, Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL after he pleaded no contest to a domestic violence incident in 2015. He reportedly choked and beat his wife with regularity, including a situation that required her to get eight stitches above her eye. I’ll keep things blunt. Fuck Slava Voynov and I pray the NHL’s moral compass is intact because he should never be able to play in the league again.

New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider made his first start of the 2018-19 season and subsequently lost 4-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. Schneider is currently riding a ridiculous 13-game winless streak when making a start in the regular season. He is 0-11-2 in that span and has allowed three or more goals in every single game. The futility is honestly kind of impressive.

The New York Islanders have produced a five-game winning streak out of nowhere. The team lost John Tavares in the offseason, but they look no worse for wear as they sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division. All five of the games were against fellow Metropolitan teams which make the streak even more important. Thomas Greiss has been remarkable with a 4-2-0 record, 1.85 goals-against average, and .944 save percentage this season. Josh Bailey has also quietly put together an eight-game point streak. The Islanders were expected to be basement-dwellers in the East, but the addition of Barry Trotz behind the bench has done wonders for the team.

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen has been magnificent in his return to the NHL. After a six-season hiatus, Koskinen has won his first three starts of 2018-19. He has produced a 2.02 goals-against average, .935 save percentage, and one shutout. Cam Talbot has been mediocre to start the campaign which should lead to more appearances for the Finnish netminder.

Milestone Makers

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the 50th shutout of his career on Saturday night during a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal scored the 400th goal of his career on Saturday night during a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Jason Pominville (BUF), Ron Hainsey (TOR), and Jason Spezza (DAL) all played in their 1000th career regular season game this week.

The Montreal Canadiens set an NHL record by scoring two goals in two seconds (!!) during a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals. The second goal was an empty-netter, but impressive nonetheless.

See ya next week and god bless Dennis Cholowski!

Top 10 Biggest Blunders in Sports History

Professional athletes are the embodiment of power, grace, and skill. They are the peak of physical fitness and perform at the highest level for the world’s enjoyment. Likewise, they are also human and are prone to the same mistakes and lapses of judgment that us mere mortals face on a daily basis. The thing is: when I fall down the stairs at the Wizmer House, spilling three drinks I had just purchased all over myself, only the select few individuals who happened to be looking will remember my dignified tumble. For professional athletes, their mistakes are broadcasted on live television and will live in infamy for the rest of their lives. This article is going to look at some of the biggest blunders that sport has ever seen. The way these are ranked is based on how egregious the mistake was, and the severity of the situation. If there are any that you think I missed, do not hesitate to let me know. Without further ado, let us dive right in.

10. Patrik Stefan and the empty net whiff.

It is impossible to have a list of the biggest sports blunders without including this dandy from former first-overall pick Patrik Stefan. I mean, you know your career was bad when the biggest highlight is you not scoring. Stefan is one of the worst busts in draft history and this clip is a perfect illustration of his tumultuous career. The fact that he woefully misses the empty net only to see Ales Hemsky tie the game with seconds remaining is just perfect poetic penance for Stefan as he retired 13 games later. Thankfully, the Stars still won the game 6-5 in a shootout but this remains one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history.

9. Jose Canseco and the header home run.

Jose Canseco will always get the last laugh about this video. After all, he is a two-time World Series champion, former American League MVP, six-time All-Star, and four-time Silver Slugger winner. REGARDLESS, the sheer improbability and hilarity of this clip make it one of the all-time best baseball bloopers. The saving grace is that this was during a meaningless regular season game in May. It was the 25th anniversary of this clip just last week.

8. Patrick Roy and the Statue of Liberty.

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings had one of the best rivals in NHL history during the 1990s and early 2000s. With a blood feud and multiple hall-of-famers on both sides, it was always must-see TV when these two squads were playing. Entering the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two teams were tied at two cups a piece in the past decade before matching up in the Conference Finals. The Avalanche jumped out to a 3-2 series lead and had a chance to finish the series off at home in Game 6. Instead, Patrick Roy tried to showboat after robbing Steve Yzerman in close and Shanahan buried what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Red Wings went on to win Game 7 by a score of 7-0 and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win their third cup in six years.

7. Leon Lett’s Super Bowl fumble.

See, if the Cowboys went on to lose this game then this could perhaps be the biggest blunder ever; but, they were playing the Buffalo Bills so obviously they were up by 35 points at this time in the game. Lett could realistically make another appearance on this list for his Thanksgiving Day debacle against the Miami Dolphins, but since it was in the regular season I decided to leave it out. Instead, we are blessed with this tasty gem that looks like it is straight out of Madden 18. Lett, being the showman that he is, decided to start celebrating his forthcoming touchdown at the ten-yard-line. Unfortunately, Don Beebe definitely had the Bills covering +40 as he hustled his butt and stripped Lett right before the goal line. The Cowboys still won the Super Bowl, handing the Bills their third consecutive loss in the big game, but Lett delivered another web gem to go into the archives.

6. JR Smith is off the henny again.

This is what inspired me to do this list in the first place. JR Smith has always been a bit of a wildcard on the court. The man will hit a half-court heave with a hand in his face but brick the most open jumper the world has ever seen. Furthermore, he has many fantastic off court hits such as his shirtless appearance during the World Series, and everyone’s favourite DM – “you trying to get the pipe?”. All these things aside, Smith has proven to be a serviceable player over the course of his NBA career and he played a big role during the Cavaliers 3-1 comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals.

WELL.. last night he had one of the biggest blunders in NBA history and it could not come at a more costly time for his team. The Warriors opened the game as 13 point favourites over the Cavs and many people thought that the Dubs would steamroll their way to another championship. Instead, LeBron James did what LeBron James does and put up 49 points during regulation which gave the Cavs a chance to win Game 1. George Hill went to the foul line with 4.7 seconds left and hit his first free throw to tie the game at 107. He bricked the second, but thankfully JR Smith was there to collect the rebound and kick it to LeBron for a game-winning shot opportunity. Oh, sorry. Wait a second. JR, a man who has played 13 seasons in the NBA and makes an annual salary of $12.8 million USD actually thought that the Cavs were in the lead and tried to dribble the clock out. I have coached Grade 6 kids in minor league basketball who had better late game awareness than JR did in this situation. Alas, the Warriors went on to decimate the Cavs in OT winning the game 124-114 and wasting LeBron’s historic 51 point effort. Thanks, Henny god.

5. Fred Brown forgets who he plays for.

Poor Fred Brown. After some guy named Michael Jordon knocked down a 17-footer to give UNC a late 63-62 lead in the 1982 National Championship, Brown brought the ball up the court for a last gasp attempt at stealing a victory. After faking a pass to teammate Eric ‘Sleepy’ Floyd, Brown thought he had Eric Smith open at the top of the key. Instead, Brown made a worse visual decision than I did the last time I took a girl home from the bar and passed the ball straight to UNC’s James Worthy which effectively ended the game. Brown and Georgetown would avenge their demons in 1984 as they knocked off Houston to win their first National Championship but this blunder still lives large in the minds of the Hoyas faithful.

4. Steve Bartman becomes the most hated man in Illinois.

We all know the Bartman story. The Chicago Cubs, a team seemingly cursed from ever winning the World Series again, were up 3-2 in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. They were searching for their first title since 1908 and were up 3-0 in the 8th inning of Game 6. Pan in, Luis Castillo hits a fly ball towards foul ground as outfielder Moisés Alou starts to track it. Instead of Alou catching it for the second out of the inning, this odd looking fellow wearing headphones reaches over the wall and interferes with the catch. As (bad) luck would have it, the Cubs went on to surrender eight runs in the inning before losing Game 7 by a score of 9-6. Bartman instantly became the most hated person in the stadium, and eventually in the city, as he was sent a multitude of death threats during the whole situation. Thankfully, the Cubs ended the curse in 2016 after defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games and they attempted to rectify the Bartman incident by sending him a World Series ring of his own.

3. Chris Webber tries to be the Prince of Persia.

First off, for those uncultured swine who do not know what the Prince of Persia is – it is an older video game series where the protagonist has the ability to rewind time and correct his mistakes. Chris Webber certainly wishes he had that capability after this colossal choke job. It was the 1993 National Championship game. Michigan had made it all the way back to the finals after being manhandled by Duke in the championship the year before. Webber hauls in the rebound with 20 seconds left in a 73-71 game. He clearly walks with the ball but the officials do not call the travel. He proceeds past half-court, gets cornered with the ball, and looks at the official to reset and call timeout so they can draw up a play to tie the game. Except, Michigan had no timeouts remaining which meant UNC automatically got to shoot two technical foul shots effectively ending the game. It was a painful loss for Wolverine fans and haunted Webber for the entirety of his playing career.

2. Bill’s Buck Up.

We’ve talked about the Cubs curse already, but the Red Sox endured a lengthy World Series drought of their own. The Red Sox were up 3-2 in the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. Game 6 was tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Mets left fielder Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller towards Buckner on the first base line which should have been the third out of the frame. Unbelievably, Bucker fails to get his glove under the ball and it rolls past him, bringing in the winning run and sending the series to a deciding Game 7. The Red Sox ended up blowing a 3-0 lead in that game and ultimately lost 8-5 as the Mets won their second World Series in franchise history. The curse continued for 18 more years before the Red Sox finally won in 2004 to end the 86-year drought.

1. Pete Carroll and the worst play call ever.

Yes, the worst blunder on my list is actually a coaches decision. With just 26 seconds remaining, the Seahawks are two yards away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. For some inexplicable reason, Pete Carroll decided to throw the ball even with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch lined up on Russell Wilson’s left. Lynch was arguably the best goal-line back in the entire league, and the Seahawks were in their 94 Buck formation which was a running formation. Still, Carroll changed the play to a pass and the rest is history. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped Jermaine Kearse and picked the ball off at the goal line to give the Patriots the unlikeliest of wins. It is one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever made at such a high level and prevented the Seahawks from becoming a possible dynasty.

San Jose Sharks v. Vegas Golden Knights Round Two Preview

For half of the playoff teams, the Cup dream is already over. For the other half, they’ve earned the right to continue battling for Lord Stanley’s Mug. Every squad left in the playoffs accumulated over 100 points during the regular season which suggests we are in for a doozy of a second round. My preview of the Winnipeg/Nashville series will be out tomorrow.

I also have to make note that I am a man capable of eating my words and can admit when I was wrong. I expected to watch two long, bitter, Pacific Division matchups in the first round which ultimately led to a Kings-Ducks semi-final. I was off on all counts as both the Knights and Sharks brought out the brooms and steamrolled their opponents with speed and great goaltending. Let’s dive into the series analysis.

(P1) Las Vegas Golden Knights v. (P3) San Jose Sharks

Season series: VGK 3-0-1; SJS 1-2-1.

Golden Knights Round 1 Recap:  Vegas made the Kings look slower than a Hal Gill breakaway. Their relentless forecheck and ability to stretch the neutral zone was simply too much for L.A to handle. The Golden Knights won every game by only a single goal but it was quite apparent that they were the better team. They received contributions from up and down the lineup as 13 of 19 players recorded at least a point during the sweep. Marc-Andre Fleury (proud owner of the best smile in the world) was also an absolute wall in net. He followed up the best regular season of his career with a heckuva performance posting a scintillating 0.65 GAA and .977 SV% with two shutouts. In reference to the Kings, I have not seen such an inability to score since last weekend when I tried to talk to a girl at the bar – apparently, magic tricks are a bad way to pick up chicks, who knew?  Vegas has been on a storybook ride this season and many pundits (including myself) figured that the playoffs would be a rude awakening for them. The Golden Knights just continued to prove everyone wrong as they executed their gameplan to perfection.

Sharks Round 1 Recap: SoCal prevailed in the battle of California as the Sharks chowed down on the Ducks. Similar to what Vegas did to L.A, San Jose skated circles around Anaheim and exposed their lumbering style of play. Offensive leaders Couture and Pavelski had dominant performances as they both tallied 5 points in the sweep. Even with great showings from those two, it was Martin Jones who was the Sharks MVP of the first round. He was a stalwart between the pipes with a 1.00 GAA and a .970 SV%. The Sharks offense (which outscored the Ducks 16-4 in the series) has really started clicking since the addition of Evander Kane at the trade deadline and they’ve done it without the services of Joe Thornton who has been out of the lineup since January 23rd. The Sharks had arguably the most impressive first-round performance of any team.

Series breakdown: This series should be a great showcase of speed and skill as both teams have a ton of it. The two goalies were the stars of their respective shows in round one but I am expecting an offensive explosion here in the conference semi-finals. Both teams have potent top lines with a wealth of scoring depth at their disposal. While this looks like a fairly even match-up the biggest advantage seems to be San Jose’s power play. They were electric with the extra man against the Ducks as they converted at a 30% clip (6/20). The Golden Knights have the worst PP of any team left in the playoffs as they only scored on 8.3% of their chances (1/12) against the Kings. I do think that T-Mobile Arena is one of the more intimidating buildings to play in as the atmosphere is absolutely insane. I have been a Golden Knights “hater” so to speak throughout the season but I am jumping on the hype train and starting to believe. As good as Martin Jones has been I think Fleury will be able to outduel him in the cage and make those momentum-swinging saves that have become habitual for the ex-Penguin. I believe this will be a back and forth series with standout performances and tons of drama but I am pushing my chips into the middle of the table and yelling “Viva Las Vegas” all the way to the conference finals.

Prediction: Golden Knights in 7.

Picture credit to NHL.com (https://www.nhl.com/news/golden-knights-marc-andre-fleury-vs-sharks-martin-jones-goalie-breakdown/c-298207468).

Bench Talk Episode 5: RJ Umberger Helper

The title of this weeks eppy comes from some out-of-the-blue RJ Umberger discussion during our new Sporcle quiz segment. Clearly the guys do not think as highly about the obvious and innate talents of the Umberger Helper as I do.

(1:40) NFL Offseason Talk
(23:08) Movie Talk from non-Academy accredited reviewers
(35:30) Sporcle Quiz: Top 50 NHL scorers from 99 to 09
(51:30)THIS or THAT
(52:05) October v March v April in the sports calendar
(58:18) 1 Oscar v 5 NBA Rings (Bonus Intramural Volleyball Talk at the 1:01:56 mark)
(1:03:05) Bowling v Mini Golf
(1:08:48) Bonus This or That: Pool v Ping Pong

Bench Life NHL Trade Tracker

The trade deadline is one of the most entertaining facets of an NHL season. Keeping up with the deadline almost feels like a full-time job when dealing with rampant speculation and a dizzying amount of deals. For this reason, I will do my best to keep you all informed throughout the week ahead and continue to update this article with insight and analysis on every trade made between now and the deadline at 3 P.M. on February 26th.

February 26th – Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay for Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, a 2018 1st round pick, and a conditional 2019 2nd round pick.

Oh boy. The biggest trade of the day was also the last to break and Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls should be shaking in their skates (particularly Boston and Toronto). Steve Yzerman has shown in years past that he is more willing to make a deal than Wayne Brady and he has now made Tampa the heavy favourite to win their second Cup in franchise history. McDonagh has been one of the best defensemen in the league since he broke in during the 2010-11 season. He is a model of consistency on the blueline and gives Tampa a top-four defense core that is perhaps only rivaled by Nashville. Likewise, J.T. Miller is probably salivating at the thought of playing with the elite offensive talent Tampa possesses. Miller is an RFA at the end of the season, has 40 points through 63 games this season, and will be able to replace Namestnikov’s production. Tampa was already considered to be the best team in the league by many analysts and this only further enhances that thought. Considering the fact that McDonagh has another year left on his contract at $4.7 million the Lightning have more pressure than anybody to lift Lord Stanley’s Chalice in the next two seasons.

It is always hard to be deemed a ‘winner’ when you trade away a player of McDonagh’s caliber but I think the Rangers would have been hard pressed to get a better return. Namestnikov is the known commodity and he is currently in the midst of a career season (20 goals and 24 assists in 62 games). While some of the production can be attributed to playing a majority of the year with Stamkos and Kucherov there is no denying the offensive capabilities of the smooth-skating Russian. The only issue with Vladdy is that he will be a RFA at the culmination of the season and is looking forward to a hefty payday. The Rangers are going to be the Lightning’s biggest fan over the next two years because the conditional 2nd rounder becomes a 1st if Tampa lifts hockey’s holy grail before the 2019 draft. The biggest pieces of this deal, and the ones that will go on to prove whether or not this was an astute move when we reflect on it, are Howden and Hajek. Howden is a former 27th overall pick who won gold with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship this year. He has put up 139 points in 96 games over the past two seasons with Moose Jaw in the WHL. He checks in at an imposing 6’2, 194 lbs and instantly joins Lias Andersson at the top of the Rangers forward prospects. Hajek is also in the WHL posting 35 points in 52 games on the back end. He projects to be a shutdown defenseman at the next level with decent mobility and high IQ. Hajek was arguably the biggest piece for the Rangers and adding Lindgren and Hajek to their stable of defense prospects over the past week is a massive coup for the retooling Rags. Again, to reiterate what I said previously, I think the Rangers got the absolute best deal that they could. Jeff Gorton came into the deadline with a clear goal in mind and he did what was best for the franchise. Two teams with two very different mindsets should both be happy with what they accomplished today.

Winner: Obviously, Tampa Bay will reap the benefits in the present but deals like this are impossible to decipher until the exchanged picks and prospects reach the show; however, Tampa will be a big loser if they do not pull through with a Stanley Cup victory.

February 26th – Tomas Tatar to Las Vegas for a 2018 1st round pick, a 2019 2nd round pick, and a 2021 3rd round pick.

One of the biggest trades of the day involved the Red Wings but it was not Mike Green who was on the move. As a Red Wings fan I will speak to how much I love Tomas Tatar. This was his 7th year with the franchise and he was a pleasure to watch the entire time. He is entertaining and dangerous night in, night out, and I think he will fit in fantastic with that Vegas top-six. Tatar is a perennial 20-25 goal scorer and with 16 tallies so far this season it seems likely he’ll reach that mark again. There were whispers about a Tatar trade the past week but it never seemed like it was a guarantee to happen. Vegas has been the best story in the league the entire season and it is admirable that they are cashing in their chips to chase a Stanley Cup. If he plays on that top unit with Karlsson and Marchessault I would pick-up Tatar in fantasy league’s faster than a Tyler Seguin shotgun.

Ken Holland is in a position he has not been accustomed to for the past decade but I think he hit a home-run with this deal. Not only did the Red Wings continue to stock the cupboard with three more upper round draft picks, but they also made the trade without retaining any of Tatar’s $5.3 million salary (which doesn’t expire until 2021-22). As productive as Tats has been with the Wings, a realist would be able to see that those years would be wasted on a bad Detroit team so getting this kind of value is a definite win. I tip my hat to Ken Holland because normally I’m berating every single transaction he makes; however, the only unfortunate thing is that this deal may be enough for Ol’ Kenny to get a contract extension this summer. Regardless, the Red Wings now have seven (assuming Mrazek wins three more games) of the first ninety-three picks in the upcoming draft.

Winner: My sanity for sure.. but I honestly may lean Detroit even though I think Tatar will be awesome in Nevada.

February 26th – Pat Maroon to New Jersey from Edmonton for a 2019 3rd round pick and J.D. Dudek.

After adding Grabner earlier in the week the Devils are doubling down on their surprising playoff position. With possible Hart candidate Taylor Hall leading the charge the Devils are bolstering their forward core around him. Maroon brings a valued net-front presence and physical element to the team and has enjoyed another productive year with the Oilers tallying 14 goals and 16 assists in 57 games. He projects to slot in somewhere in the top-nine. Dudek is an afterthought in this deal. He is a former 6th round pick that has recorded 17 points in 33 games at Boston College. The Oilers did what they could to recoup some value for the pending free agent and a summertime reunion is not out of the question; however, I think Shero has made two fantastic deals to help the Devils late season push.

Winner: New Jersey.

February 26th – Mike Reilly to Montreal from Minnesota for a 2019 5th round pick.

Strange that the Habs moved Morrow only to bring in Reilly when the two seem fairly interchangeable. Reilly has 18 points in 38 games with the Wild this season and is a year younger than the aforementioned Morrow. Reilly also has an extra year on his deal while Morrow’s expires at the end of this season. Low risk move for the Habs with the ability to flip Reilly next year if so inclined.

Winner: Montreal.

February 26th – Nick Shore to Calgary from Ottawa for a 2019 7th round pick.

Depth is the word of the day. Ottawa flips part of the Phaneuf trade for a late round pick while Calgary gets another body to assist in the playoff push.

Winner: Alex Burrows because this means he’ll probably get called back up.

February 26th – Joe Morrow to Winnipeg from Montreal for a 2018 4th round pick.

Winnipeg continues their successful deadline by adding a depth piece on the blueline. The former 23rd overall pick has played 38 games for the Habs this season with mixed returns. Morrow gives the Jets some versatility come playoff time and Montreal did well to get an asset in return.

Winner: The Winnipeg press box, who will become very familiar with Morrow for the rest of the season.

February 26th – Josh Jooris to Pittsburgh from Carolina for Greg McKegg.

I would rather spend an entire week attached at the hip to Pierre McGuire than report on this trade.

Winner: Absolutely no one.

February 26th – Thomas Vanek to Columbus from Vancouver for Tyler Motte and Jussi Jokinen.

Another trade deadline, another Vanek deal. This season the 34-year-old Austrian winger has done what he always does: sign a one-year contract and produce at a decent level. The equivalent to an NHL escort has 41 points in 61 games this season and the Blue Jackets bit on bringing him in. Last year he was traded from Detroit to Florida at the deadline and was absolutely miserable with the Panthers. Columbus is hoping that trend will be bucked this year. Vancouver really received nothing exciting in return as Motte has never been able to produce at an NHL level. I have to think a 3rd round pick would have been just as good from the Canucks perspective.

Winner: Columbus.

February 26th – Evander Kane to San Jose from Buffalo for a conditional 2019 1st round pick, Dan O’Regan, and a conditional 2020 4th round pick.

The Sharks have struggled to score all season long mainly due to injuries to Thornton and Hertl. They currently sit second in the Pacific Division but with Anaheim and Calgary breathing down their neck they felt obligated to make a splash. Kane has 20 goals this season and plays a physical brand of hockey that should bode well in the Western Conference. I think the Sharks felt that younger players like Meier and Labanc could makeup for the loss of Patrick Marleau but that clearly has not been the case. Kane is an upcoming free agent and could be in for a massive payday if he thrives with the Sharks. For the Sabres, Dan O’Regan actually played with Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues at Boston University. The unfortunate thing is that O’Regan is 24 and has failed to establish himself as a full-time NHLer. Personally, I would be a little disappointed as a Sabres fan for not receiving a younger prospect in return for one of the better rental wingers on the market. He was the rookie of the year in the AHL during the 2016-17 season so one must hope his career does not plateau. It is expected that the 1st round pick is lottery protected and the 4th round pick hinges on whether or not Kane re-signs in San Jose but all in all I am surprised Buffalo did not get more.

Winner: San Jose, and Mike Commodore for predicting this last night.

February 26th – Chris Wagner to New York Islanders from Anaheim Ducks for Jason Chimera. 

A swap of fourth line players on expiring contracts. Isles save around $1.5 million in cap space for the rest of the season perhaps suggesting another move. Wagner is 12 years younger than the veteran Chimera but neither of them have much in the way of offensive ability. A slight financial upgrade for the Islanders.

Winner: New York Islanders.

February 26th – Jordan Maletta to Arizona from Columbus for Ryan Kujawinski.

If you told me you know either of these players before this trade than you are a pathological liar. They are both 22-year-old centers and they have combined for a total of 8 points in 52 AHL games this season. The excitement is palpable.

Winner: EA Sports NHL 18 for creating these players.

February 26th – Brendan Leipsic to Vancouver from Vegas for Philip Holm.

The darling of the AHL is making his way to British Columbia. After scorching the minors with the Marlies the past two seasons (105 points in 111 games) a lot of hockey pundits felt that Leipsic would be an offensive threat in Vegas. While that hasn’t panned out (only 13 points in 44 games) his tantalizing skill has not been used in a scoring role with the Golden Knights. If the Canucks put him on a line with Boeser and Horvat I would be very excited to see what the 23-year-old can accomplish. He has a pest mentality that the Canucks have not seen since the likes of Maxim Lapierre. As for Philip Holm, he is a physical defenseman with a good first pass that is three years older than Leipsic. He had his first taste of the NHL last week against the Golden Knights and is having a solid season in Utica (29 points in 42 games). Both teams felt like they were dealing from a position of strength but I like the Canucks gamble of Leipsic breaking out in Vancouver.

Winner: Vancouver.

 

 

February 26th – Paul Stastny (STL retains 50% of salary) to Winnipeg from St. Louis for a 2018 1st round pick, a conditional 2020 4th round pick, and Erik Foley.

After swinging and missing on Brassard and Letestu the Jets grabbed Stastny, a player who nobody really thought was going to be moved today. Stastny solidifies the Jets down the middle and it is hard to argue against them having the best top-nine in the West. He has 40 points in 63 games and has been a consistent two-way presence over the course of his career. Stastny is used to playing with skilled players and the Jets have an abundance of talent up front. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is normally quite reserved on the trade front but this shows the league that the Jets are all in for a cup run. In return St. Louis, who has completely bottomed out over the past month, grabs Foley, a talented young winger playing for Providence in the NCAA. Foley has recorded 34 points in 32 games this season and has continued to get better with each passing year. At the start of the season the Blues looked like one of the best teams in the West and now they are trading off pending free agents. I like the return for the Blues but I think Stastny is a fantastic fit in Winipeg.

Winner: Winnipeg.

 

February 26th – Ryan Hartman and a 5th round pick to Nashville from Chicago for a 2018 1st round pick, a 4th round pick in 2018, and Victor Ejdsell.

Things are now starting to heat up as Nashville acquires the middle-six winger they were looking for. The pugnacious Hartman has 25 points in 57 games this season and offers a perfect combination of grit and skill that is well suited for playoff hockey. Hartman is only 23 and is a restricted free agent at season’s end. While I expected Chicago to shake things up I must say I am surprised they moved on from Hartman. Ejdsell was an undrafted free agent signing from Sweden and is putting together a good season in the SHL with 30 points in 44 games. The center stands at 6’4 and is a decent add to the organization’s prospect pipeline. Likewise, a first round pick (even though it will probably be 25th+ overall) is a solid get for the ‘Hawks. In what has been a disappointing year for Chicago this looks like great value for a rental.

Winner: Chicago.

February 26th – Ian Cole to Columbus from Ottawa for a 2020 3rd round pick and Nick Moutrey.

The first trade of the day follows the cookie cutter formula for depth defensemen. Ottawa flips Cole after acquiring him three days ago and get a future 3rd rounder and a middling forward prospect in the process. Moutrey, a former 4th round pick, only has 6 points in 22 games for Cleveland in the AHL this season. The Blue Jackets add Cole to an already stingy defense core and one has to wonder whether or not this trade was Jack Johnson insurance. Cole was an integral part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back cup wins and has 13 points in 47 games this season.

Winner: Columbus.

February 25th – Brandon Bollig and Tony Grosenick to Nashville from San Jose for 2018 6th round pick.

This trade is about as exciting as the waiting room in a dental office. Nashville gets a gritty fringe forward and an AHL goalie. San Jose gets to say they did something.

Winner: Brandon Bollig because he might get his second Stanley Cup ring.

February 25th – Pontus Aberg to Edmonton. A 2018 4th round pick to Nashville. Mark Letestu to Columbus.

Another three team trade occurred on Sunday with the Oilers trading Letestu to the Predators before they promptly flipped him to Columbus. The Oilers must be excited to bring Aberg into the fold. He has had a disappointing year offensively with only 8 points in 37 games this season but he was electric in Nashville’s Stanley Cup run last spring. Aberg is lightning quick and definitely has some upside for a team that is weak on the wing. Columbus gains a familiar face in Letestu who has played 233 games for the franchise and will likely become their 4th line center. Letestu is a strong penalty killer and seems to command a great deal of respect in the locker room.

From Nashville’s perspective, Aberg just couldn’t crack the lineup on a regular basis. They figured they may as well get some sort of value for the speedy forward. I also saw Nick Cotsonika speculate on whether Nashville grabbed and flipped Letestu to keep him away from division rival Winnipeg.

Winner: Peter Chiarelli for making a trade that doesn’t burn Twitter to the ground.

February 25th – Tomas Plekanec (MTL retains 50% of salary) and Kyle Baun to Toronto from Montreal for Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev, and a 2018 2nd round pick.

I’m honestly a bit surprised Montreal received this much for a guy who plays in a turtleneck. Rychel and Valiev are both fringe NHLers at this point but the latter has been having a fantastic season on defense for the Marlies in the AHL. They are both young but it became apparent their futures were not in Toronto. As for the Leafs, this trade is reminiscent of the Brian Boyle deal they made at last year’s deadline. They get deeper down the middle with a veteran 4th line center who has playoff experience and can help out on the penalty kill. A low risk move for the Leafs that shores up what was perhaps the only hole in their forward core. With Matthews/Kadri/Bozak/Plekanec at center ice perhaps only the mighty Penguins have better depth.

Winner: Toronto.

February 25th – Rick Nash (NYR retains 50% of salary) to Boston from New York Rangers for Matt Beleskey (BOS retains 50% of salary), Ryan Spooner, Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 1st round pick, and a 2019 7th round pick.

One of the biggest names on the free agent market is shipping up to Boston for a Stanley Cup run. The Bruins received the top-six winger they desired and are hoping Nash can rediscover the scoring touch that made him one of the game’s most feared snipers. The 33-year-old Nash has definitely lost a step with only 28 points in 61 games this year but perhaps he can find some chemistry with David Krejci on the second line. It is a steep price to pay for an aging rental but the Bruins could afford to do it with their deep prospect pool; however, this trade could look really ugly if Nash underperforms during the playoffs (which he tends to do).

On the other side New York received a solid haul in return for the big winger as they continue to clean house and stockpile assets. Beleskey was involved to clear cap space for the Bruins and he will probably be flipped to another team at tomorrow’s deadline. Lindgren is a left-handed defenseman currently playing at Minnesota in the NCAA. He was the Bruins 2nd round pick in 2016 and plays a smart, physical game. The most interesting player in the deal is Ryan Spooner, who has actually out produced Nash on a point per game basis the past three seasons. Spooner only has a year left on his deal and at 26 he has the potential to elevate his game even further. He was consistently inconsistent in Boston, which is why they included him in the deal, but the talent is evident. GM Jeff Norton has done a fantastic job acquiring useful assets over the past few days.

Winner: Rangers.

 

February 24th – Brandon Davidson to New York Islanders from Edmonton for 2019 3rd round pick.

The price for depth defensemen this year has clearly been set at a 3rd round pick. The Islanders are hoping Davidson can help shore up the worst defensive unit in the league as the Isles have allowed an astronomic 223 goals this season. The 6’2 rearguard has 5 points in 36 games this season. The Oilers recouped decent value for Davidson as they grabbed him off waivers earlier this year from Montreal.

Winner: Edmonton.

February 23rd – Derick Brassard (VGK retains 40% of salary), Vince Dunn, Tobias Lindberg, and a 2018 3rd round pick to Pittsburgh. Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 1st round pick, and a 2019 3rd round pick to Ottawa. Ryan Reaves and a 2018 4th round pick to Vegas.

Twitter was in a state of confusion after the original deal was rejected by the NHL yesterday afternoon. Due to salary cap implications a third team had to get involved in the trade and Vegas fit the bill perfectly. The Knights retained 40% of Brassard’s $5 million salary and received Reaves and a pick in return. The abrasive Reaves gives the Knights a physical presence who can slot in on the fourth line during a nasty playoff series. We will always remember the Brassard era in Las Vegas.

Furthermore, The Penguins are poised to make the three-peat a reality as this trade gives them incredible depth down the middle. Eastern Conference defensemen are more terrified than Dustin Byfuglien in the vegan section as the Pens now have Crosby, Malkin/Hornqvist, and Brassard/Kessel playing on three separate lines. Jim Rutherford has been a deadline magician the past two seasons and he seemed to work his magic again here. The Pens also grabbed some extra forward depth with Lindberg and Dunn acting as injury insurance for the rest of the season. Perhaps the best part of it all is that the HBK line can also be revitalized.

Continuing on, I was surprised that the Sens didn’t get Daniel Sprong as part of the trade. If I was a Senators fan I would be trying my very best to cancel Pierre Dorion’s cell plan. Ian Cole is a bottom-pairing defenseman with an expiring contract and the 1st round pick will most likely be 24th overall or lower. The saving grace for this transaction is Gustavsson, who instantly becomes Ottawa’s best goaltending prospect. The lanky Swede has had a great year in the SHL and was named the goaltender of the tournament at the World Juniors. Still, this trade seems to be lacking a bit of substance from an Ottawa standpoint. At least Ian Cole will be able to fill the Karlsson sized hole on the Sens blueline come February 26th.

Winner: Pittsburgh (and NHL’s salary cap accountants).

February 22nd – Michael Grabner to New Jersey from New York for a 2018 2nd round pick and Yegor Rykov.

The first trade EVER between the Rangers and Devils came late Thursday night and surely caught a lot of people off guard. The Devils were never really considered one of the frontrunners for Grabner but he is a fantastic addition for the team that is firmly entrenched in the first wildcard in the Eastern Conference. The Austrian speedster has a knack for scoring goals, as evidenced by his 25 snipes in 59 games this season, and will fit in smoothly with the Devils top-six. As for the Broadway Blueshirts, they got a fantastic return considering Grabner is a UFA at the end of the season. Rykov, a former 5th round pick, has been playing solid hockey for St. Petersburg in the KHL and is considered one of New Jersey’s best defensive prospects. I honestly cannot decipher a winner or loser for this trade due to the fact that each team received exactly what they wanted.

Winner: Participation ribbons for everyone!

February 22nd – Frank Vatrano to Florida from Boston for a 2018 3rd round pick.

Something tells me that this trade is acting as a precursor for a big move from the Bruins. Vatrano was caught in the middle of a sticky situation – he struggled to crack the regular NHL lineup, but he was also ineligible for waivers. Boston feared if they sent him down to the AHL he would be snagged by an opposing team due to the fantastic numbers he put up in Providence in 2015-16. The deft winger recorded 36 goals and 19 assists for the Baby Bruins that season and looked to be a promising forward prospect for Beantown. With only 2 goals in 25 games this season Florida clearly feels that a change of scenery might be just the thing to spark his offensive instincts. A 3rd round pick is a low-risk gamble on a player that might be able to start scoring again in Sunrise.

Winner: Florida.

February 21st – Tobias Rieder and Scott Wedgewood to Los Angeles from Arizona for Darcy Kuemper.

The Kings were looking for a bottom-six scoring winger and they struck a low-risk deal to bring in Rieder. The German forward only has 19 points in 58 games this season but he had averaged almost 36 points for the past two years. Rieder adds a good deal of speed to the team and could play anywhere in the lineup. As for the goalies on the move, Kuemper has been putting up career numbers in Los Angeles this season. He has a 10-1-3 record with a .932 save percentage and a 2.10 goals against average while Wedgewood has posted a 5-9-4 record with a .893 save percentage and a 3.54 goals against average. Kuemper, who signed a two year contract extension with the Coyotes, has clearly been the better goalie this season and will fight with Antti Raanta for the starting job. The Kings have since put Wedgewood on waivers which suggests Jack Campbell will be Quick’s backup down the stretch. I like the return for both teams.

Winner: Los Angeles

February 21st – Jakub Jerabek traded to Washington by Montreal for a 2019 5th round pick.

Hold onto your hats, the Capitals are going CRAZY at the deadline this year. This move is almost identical to the Kempny trade for the Caps (except Marc Bergevin obviously received a lesser return). With rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey on the blueline it is understandable why GM Brian MacLellan would want to have some insurance. The 26-year-old Jerabek can move the puck fairly efficiently and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. The Caps have bolstered their defensive depth with two shrewd acquisitions and now have some decisions to make about which six guys will be on the ice in the playoffs. For Montreal, this trade really doesn’t make much sense (but we have become used to that with this team). They only put Jerabek in the lineup for 25 games this year even though the argument can be made he has played just as good as David Schlemko, Joe Morrow, and Jordie Benn.

Winner: Any GM that trades with Marc Bergevin.

February 20th – Eric Fehr traded to San Jose by Toronto for a 2020 7th round pick.

Toronto gets to shed another contract and now have 48 of the maximum 50 organizational spots filled. This gives them all the flexibility they need to make whatever acquisitions they desire. Fehr has tallied 28 points in 34 games with the San Diego Gulls in the AHL and it looks like he will replace Daniel O’Regan as San Jose’s 4th line center for the playoff push.

Winner: Pierre LeBrun for breaking the trade first.

February 20th – Nick Holden traded to Boston by New York for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 3rd round pick.

This serves as the first deal in what should be a busy week for Rangers GM Jeff Gorton. The Bruins were in the market for a depth defenseman and after kicking tires on Mike Green and Ryan McDonagh it seems that Holden is their guy. Holden is prone to having some lapses in the defensive end but he has averaged almost 20 minutes of ice time for the past four seasons and is a capable penalty killer. The pending UFA has 12 points in 55 games this season. O’Gara is a 24-year-old Yale product that has played a majority of the season with Providence in the AHL. To me, Nick Holden really doesn’t move the needle that much and the 3rd round pick alone would have been enough. Judging from the reaction of Rangers fans on Twitter they will not miss Holden in the slightest.

Winner: New York.

February 19th – Petr Mrazek traded to Philadelphia by Detroit for a conditional 2018 4th round pick and a conditional 2019 3rd round pick.

Petr Mrazek is on his way to the City of Brotherly Love after looking like the goalie of the future in Detroit just two seasons ago. With Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both sidelined for the next few weeks the Flyers needed to bring in an experienced goalie to keep ahold of their playoff spot. Mrazek has been a model of inconsistency over his NHL career which culminated in Detroit’s decision to leave him unprotected at the expansion draft this past summer. While his talent is unquestionable, you are never sure what Mrazek you are going to get. Will you get the goalie that stops 34/35 shots en route to a spectacular performance or will you get the over-aggressive netminder who lets in a weak wrister from the blueline in the final minutes of a game? Detroit is certainly happy to recoup some assets for the pending RFA who was almost a guarantee to leave this summer but perhaps a change of scenery is all the charismatic Mrazek needs to regain his form. He has been playing better hockey since the start of 2018 and his 8-7-3 record is more indicative of the poor Detroit team in front of him. The Flyers have been one of the league’s better teams since the start of December and they took a chance on a 26-year-old goalie who has shown stretches of dominance in the past. If Mrazek rediscovers the ability he had in 2015-16, the Flyers could be a scary matchup come playoff time.

Winner: Philadelphia.

February 19th – Michal Kempny traded to Washington by Chicago for a 2018 3rd round pick.

After being burned by Kevin Shattenkirk at last year’s deadline the Caps have opted to go for a smaller move this season. The Czech defenseman has appeared in 31 games for the Blackhawks this campaign recording 7 points and a +13 rating. He has decent possession numbers and adds depth to a Caps blueline that lost Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner, and the aforementioned Shattenkirk over the summer. The Caps have their own 2018 3rd round as well as Toronto’s 2018 3rd round pick and the Hawks will receive the higher pick of the two.

Winner: Kempny, for not having to play on that sad Blackhawks defense anymore.

February 15th – Ville Pokka traded to Ottawa by Chicago for Chris DiDomenico.

What a blockbuster. Pokka, a former second round pick, has never played in an NHL game but has been a solid defenseman over the course of four seasons with Rockford in the AHL. The general consensus around the league is that he never received a fair shot in Chicago and he will get that opportunity in Ottawa. DiDomenico has played in six different professional leagues throughout his career and has recorded 10 points in 24 games as a Sen this season. Pokka (23) is six years younger than DiDomenico (29) so I’ll give the Sens the edge solely for that reason.

Winner: Ottawa.

February 15th – Nikita Soshnikov traded to St. Louis by Toronto for a 2019 4th round pick.

When your forward core is as deep as the Pacific Ocean you can afford to make trades like this but I really like the low-risk acquisition by the Blues. Soshnikov has had the misfortune of being hexed by the injury bug throughout his young career and the Leafs were simply too deep on the wing for him to be a regular contributor. Obviously, expectations should be tempered for a player who only has 7 goals in 70 career games but there is no doubt in my mind that Soshnikov should be a bottom-six winger in this league. He has a heavy shot and a snarl to his game that should aid St. Louis in their playoff aspirations. The Leafs were at the organizational 50 contract limit so this trade sets them up to make another deal at the deadline. With young guns Kapanen, Grundstrom, and Johnsson the Leafs could afford to let ‘Sosh’ go but I’m excited to see what he can do with the Blues.

Winner: St. Louis (although the Leafs aren’t a loser).

February 13th – Dion Phaneuf (Ottawa retains 25% of salary) and Nate Thompson traded to Los Angeles by Ottawa for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore.

A trade that would have rocked the hockey world in 2009 is merely a cash transaction in 2018. The stingy Senators were looking to save a buck perhaps thinking about an Erik Karlsson contract negotiation in the near future. A majority of the hockey world seem to believe that the Sens will end up buying out Gaborik at the end of this season which would result in around $7 million in savings compared to the Phaneuf contract. In terms of the actual hockey implications of this trade, Los Angeles gets a solid middle pairing defenseman for their playoff push as well as a dependable utility player in Nate Thompson while the Sens get a quickly depreciating Gaborik and a bottom-six checking forward in Nick Shore. Realistically, this trade offers almost zero benefit to Ottawa on the ice but it looks better in their books. To me, the Kings got a defenseman who can play 18+ minutes a night and has already made an impact with 2 goals in the 3 games he’s played in California.

Winner: Los Angeles.

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