Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 28-28-8   Panthers 33-25-6

PUCK DROP: 5pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

60% OF THE TIME IT WORKS EVERY TIME: Litter Box Cats

The Hawks wrap up this funeral dirge/death rattle of a road trip in South Florida this evening, before returning home to either an indifferent but possibly more cantankerous home crowd next week. They’ll find a Panthers team right in the middle of the East playoff grinder, trying to chase down both a wildcard spot or an automatic spot in the Atlantic if it’s there. The former sees them having to leap three teams, the latter only the Leafs who seem intent on making that a possibility. Oh, and the Hawks former coach is still on the other bench.

The story with the Panthers has changed a little since just about a month ago when they were at the UC. They’re still one of the higher scoring teams in the league. And they still get mediocre-or-worse goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky (OH BOB! YOU CAME AND YOU TOOK OUR MONEY! AND NOW YOU CAN’T SWAT PUCKS AWAY! OH BOB!). This is not a metrically sound team either, as you would have expected out of a Quenneville-led outfit with this much talent on display. They outshoot their problems for their record, which they can do with Huberdeau having a career-year and Barkov his usual brilliant self, along with My Kaufmann a line lower.

So as he is wont to do, Dale Tallon made some changes at the deadline, and some changes that take some figuring out. Vincent Trocheck certainly had issues staying healthy, but he was a genuine #2 center. But Tallon moved him out at the deadline for useful, bottom six pieces in Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula. Some Panthers observers had said Trocheck’s defensive game wasn’t what it was, and Wallmark and Haula especially should bring more of that. The Cats probably need that if Bob isn’t going to bail them out regularly. And Eetu Luostarinen is considered something of a prospect, so maybe the numbers make it a better deal than it looks at first. Given Tallon’s recent history in Sunrise though…

You sort of wonder if Tallon shouldn’t have been looking for blue line help now instead of down the road. Ekblad and Weegar (I almost forgot my fellow babies…) have been effective on the top pairing, but pretty much everyone else has been going backwards. We know what Keith Yandle can’t do, and Anton Stralman is turning odd colors in the sun at this age. Mike Matheson is certainly rich, but anything beyond that is a mystery.

The race between the Panthers and Leafs for the third spot is certainly entertaining, as both teams attempt to stake their spot without really any goaltender they can count on between them. The wildcard chase is no less dense, though you’d have to figure the Rangers will eventually sink away and the pixie dust for the Jackets has to run out sometime. That leaves the Panthers tussling with the Canes, who also don’t have a goalie at the moment (almost literally). It would be a big disappointment for the Cats to miss the playoffs, given the investments in Bobrovsky and Quenneville and their recent history. Hoffman, Dadanov, and Haula are all free agents after the season, and the first two are in line for sizable raises. So will Weegar as an RFA. This might be as good as it gets for the Cats, which isn’t good enough.

As for the Hawks, not much to report. One would think that Crawford will finish out the road trip to build off his win in Tampa, and that Subban could possibly make his debut against the softer landing of the Ducks or with the back-to-back against EdMo and Detroit next week. Shouldn’t be too many, or any, other lineup changes with Strome back at center and Koekkoek back on the third pairing. Possibly Nick Seeler back in for Carlsson or Boqvist to waster all of our time.

Note: This seems to have fallen at a place on the calendar when all of us have schedule conflicts. So there might not be Twitter or a recap for this one, though we are currently efforting that. Sorry, just one of those things. 

Everything Else

This one is a bit of a stretch, but we like stretching. Feels good, good for you, keeps you young. Seriously, go to a yoga class if you haven’t. Though preferably one with an instructor with good music taste. You don’t need more Enya-adjace stuff in your life. But you’d be surprised how many do. Anyway, I’m getting off track.

The Cats don’t need to trade Hoffman. They have $23M in space with the news today that Roberto Luongo is retiring. Not even LTIRing into oblivion, retiring. Which fucks over the Canucks a bit, which is highly entertaining if not gratifying, even if it’s because of perhaps the NHL’s dumbest rule–cap recapture penalties. So that means the Panthers have the space to sign both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, and perhaps have a touch of space leftover. It’s probably more likely they’d try and find a home for James Reimer and find a cheaper backup, but again, they don’t really have to do anything. They don’t have anyone they have to re-sign in the next two years, unless they’re higher on MacKenize Weegar than anyone else is and he’ll be stupid cheap anyway. Dadonov gets a raise next summer, but not a huge one at 31.

Still, last season the Panthers asked Hoffman for his 10-team no trade list, so they have thought about it. And with Panarin on the way probably knocking him down to the third line, and with only one year left on his deal, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to see Florida try and get something back for him.

And Hoffman is a perfect fit into the Hawks top-six, and is coming off a 36-goal season. He’s got that flexibility we love, as he can get you out of a stretch of games playing center if you need. He can play both sides, but has mainly been on the left. Now, that’s where the Hawks have a jam thanks to Saad and DeBrincat, but as we’ve seen Saad actually did his best work hiding on the third line in the weeds. Which could lead to a pretty effective Doomsday line of Hoffman-Toews-Kane if you so chose.

And Hoffman scores. Given an actual center in Barkov saw his numbers soar. In Ottawa he was either with overmatched players like J.G. Pageau or Derick Brassard or shoot-first guys like Matt Duchene. Meaning he had to create all of his own openings. Clearly he took to getting to finish off some others’ creations at times.

While Hoffman is only 6-0 he plays a bigger game than that which would satisfy the Hawks. What satisfies us is he can move too, and would seem to be the perfect blend of the two ideologies.

Financially, Hoffman is only signed for one more year, which means you can reset and see what you have when all is said and done. It also probably keeps his trade cost down a bit. Again, the Panthers have no need to trade him and might be all-in on this season to get back into the playoffs and trading Hoffman isn’t in line with that. Then again, it’s impossible to predict what our namesake Uncle Dale might do. He’s out-thought himself before.

Hoffman’s off-ice issues from last summer seem to have died down, and even if they haven’t that’s entertaining for us, which is all we’re after here.

What do the Panthers need? They probably don’t think much, but I’m no fan of their defense. They already have right-handed Gustafsson in Keith Yandle, except he can actually skate, so that’s probably a no-go. It would be truly cruel to send Connor Murphy back to Joel Quenneville, but perhaps without a point to prove to his GM this time around he might actually give our lovable Irishman a fair shake. If they’re into cost-cutting, one of your magic foursome on the blue line could do the job included with other things.

It’s worth a phone call, and it’s not like Tallon hasn’t dealt with the Hawks before. Even if he tells them to go fuck themselves first, which I’m sure he does.

Everything Else

  vs.

RECORDS: Panthers 8-9-3   Hawks 8-10-5

PUCK DROP: 6:00 p.m. Central

TV: NBCSCH

Lift and Sift: Panther Parkway, Litter Box Cats

If all you ever read were press releases and interviews with front offices in denial, tonight’s tilt between the Panthers and Hawks would be as must-see as a hockey game at six o’clock on the Saturday after Thanksgiving could possibly be. We’ve gone over the tipped-over porta-potty that is John McDonough’s “remodel, not rebuild” philosophy for the Hawks, and the Panthers seem to find themselves in a similar mind-set for different reasons.

Since that 103-point campaign and first-round playoff loss in 2015–16, the Cats have missed the playoffs twice, though last year was by the skin of their ass. Yet, you can’t help but wonder what this Panthers team would look like if they hadn’t gone Biff Tannen and replaced their analytically minded front office with HOCKEY MEN. This year has been even worse than expected for the Panthers, and after a 2-4 road trip, they return home to host the Hawks much worse for wear.

In the crease, the Panthers made the superb decision to entrust 39-year-old Roberto Luongo with the bulk of the starting responsibilities. Bobby Lu has been hurt a lot more than not, but even when he’s been healthy, he’s been wildly inconsistent. In his first four games back from his opening-night knee injury, Luongo posted a sparkling .951 SV%. He then followed that up with a .826 over the next four, good for a .902 overall. Not great, Bob.

And he hurt himself again last night, leaving James Reimer in charge of the crease. James Reimer is not someone you want in charge of the crease if you have playoff aspirations. While his .920 at evens is good, Reimer has gotten hosed on the PK to the tune of .791. The Panthers have given up the sixth-most goals on the PK despite playing the least amount of PK time in the league this year.

On the forward lines, there’s some on-paper potential for the Panthers that can never seem to get over the hump. After brain genius Dale Tallon cut Jonathan Marchessault loose for literally nothing last year, he had to go out and find himself a new scorer in Mike Hoffman. Despite the high school drama that brought him to Florida, Hoffman has been the Panthers’s most consistent offensive weapon, with 20 points on the year (10 G, 10 A) through 20 games and a recently ended 17-game point streak. He, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov round out a formidable top line despite their lack of possession as a unit (48+ CF% together).

After that top line, things start to get dicey. The Panthers lost the well-rounded Vincent Trocheck earlier in the week after his ankle took the road less traveled. Trocheck did a bit of everything for the Cats and played consistently on both the PP and PK in his 18 games. That leaves you with a second line of Nick Bjugstad, the talented Jonathan Huberdeau, and, fuck, Denis Malgin? Frank Vatrano? Any of these names doing anything for you?

After that is a veritable who’s-who of what ifs, maybes, and retreads. Jared McCann has a ton of two-way potential, but tends to defer. He might end up tossed onto the second line to fill in for Trocheck at some point. Troy Brouwer plays on this team. The fourth line includes the name-generated Dryden Hunt and Colton Sceviour, who are both fine and perfectly suited where they are, but don’t really provide the much-needed scoring Florida lacks beyond the top line.

The Cats’s blue line hinges on Aaron Ekblad, who turns the ice at a 53+ CF% despite a 47+% oZ start rate. He’s done it primarily next to Mike Matheson, who after a slow and plodding start to the first year of his eight-year, $39 million contract has turned up his offensive contributions, with five points in his last five games (all assists). Still, Keith Yandle takes the mantle as the Cats’s most offensive D-man, with 19 points over 20 games. After that, you’ve got Alex Petrovic—who is definitely “a guy,”—fucking Bogdan Kiselevich, something called Mark Pysyk, and young MacKenzie Weegar, who looks exactly how you’d imagine a guy named “MacKenzie Weegar” would. That’s a whole lot of #6 D-men spread across that blue line.

For the Men of Four Feathers, Colliton ought to consider kicking his Marlboro 72 habit before New Year’s, because Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have looked like dogshit together. Though there’s not much to work with on the blue line—remember when Brandon Manning was StanBo’s BIG DEFENSIVE SIGNING?—the one thing that seemed to work best was Keith–Jokiharju. Keith might not want to play mentor, but too fucking bad. Henri Jokiharju the best thing they have, so Colliton needs to put the kibosh on his “We’re sitting him for his development” bit and let him breathe. Erik Gustafsson’s spurs have been jingling and jangling far too often, Gustav Forsling still looks lost in this own zone, and Jan Rutta blows. So fuck, I don’t know, 2–28, 56–7, 42–44? Somehow, it looks even worse when you write it down.

You probably won’t see too many changes up front, though we probably should. Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane sounds nice, but the chorus we’ve been singing is “If they aren’t dominating, split them up,” and after last night, it would be hard to describe them as dominant. We’re still waiting to see 12–8–88 at some point, and what better time than tonight? The FortinKampfKahun line is at least fast, but you’re tempted to see Anisimov centering it and just having Fortin and Kahun aim for him instead of the net. Suckbag Johnson, Chris Kunitz, Andreas Martinsen, or John Hayden will round it out on the fourth line because someone has to.

You figure Cam Ward gets the nod tonight after Corey Crawford chose to finish out last night’s game rather than sit after the first.

With the Blackhawks in the denial stage and the Panthers teetering toward anger, this game will be a case study in grief. With Reimer in net and Trocheck out, the Panthers look eminently beatable if the Hawks can shut down their top line.

Let’s go Hawks.

Game #24 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Imagine dating a good hockey player in 2018. Imagine that the good hockey player you’re dating is teammates with a generational talent and face of the franchise for which they both play. Imagine that you, in your own words, “fall out of favour” with that generational player’s wife, based on “noticing fewer likes on Instagram and Facebook.” Imagine going online and anonymously harassing that woman for months, saying that her recently stillborn baby “didn’t have a chance” because she was “popping pain killer medication everyday [sic],” saying you wish this woman were dead, and wishing someone would end her husband’s career. Then imagine that the good hockey player that you’re dating has to be traded not once but twice because of what a gigantic piece of shit you are.

Thus is the story of how Mike Hoffman, a good if not great hockey player, ended up in Florida, a state befitting some of the biggest piles of human garbage America has to offer. We touched on what a sharps-disposal container Ottawa is as a franchise, but the Melinda Karlsson–Monika Caryk debacle probably outpaces everything else.

While 99% of the douchebaggery here comes from Monika Caryk—who, in case you haven’t pieced it together is Mike Hoffman’s now-fiancée—there’s enough shittiness to go around to qualify Hoffman as a douchebag here. To clarify and nutshell this story, here’s what happened:

  • Erik Karlsson’s wife, Melinda, alleged that Monika Caryk, Hoffman’s girlfriend at the time, harassed her and her husband in “over 1,000 negative and derogatory statements” beginning in November 2017, right around the time the Karlssons announced that they were having a baby.
  • The baby was stillborn in March 2018, and someone went online and accused Melinda of abusing painkillers, implying that that’s what caused the stillbirth. Melinda believed that it was Caryk who did it, and applied for a peace bond (basically, a restraining order) against Caryk in May.
  • Caryk and Hoffman denied that they had anything to do with any of it. Hoffman tried showing Erik Karlsson documents (obtained from an “IT contact” Caryk “reached out to”) that supposedly showed Caryk wasn’t making anonymous posts six days after the stillbirth (Karlsson refused to look at them).
  • Caryk was never served the peace bond.

So after all that, Hoffman gets traded to the Sharks, and then the Panthers. All the while, Hoffman goes to bat for his girlfriend, which in a case that seems like “she said she said” would make sense.

But consider the fact that five other wives and one girlfriend of Senators players—Kodette LaBarbera (Jason), Taylor Winnik (Daniel), Hayley Thompson (Mark Stone), Marlee Hammond (Andrew), Camille Pageau (J.G.), and Julie Turris (Kyle)—all shared some iteration of Caryk treating the Karlssons, especially Melinda, like shit. That’s an awful lot of independent accounts sharing a similar story, too many in my book to call this a “she said she said.” Consider too that Caryk has readily admitted to have made “unflattering observations about the Karlssons,” blaming it on her own drunkenness and “others twisting her own words.” My douchebag BINGO card just needs an “It was just a joke.”

But this is the NHL, where talent makes up for any number of character flaws a player might have. And wouldn’t you know it, appropriately named Panthers coach Bob Boughner took the lead in proving once again that the NHL doesn’t give a shit about women if you can score 20 goals, saying:

“All that stuff that happened in Ottawa, I don’t believe half of it.”

Of fucking course you don’t, Bob. Why believe the accounts of up to seven women when you can just sit down with people who have a vested interest in denying what happened because the guy you want on your team might get your wildly disappointing team over the hump?

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

“And the other half, I knew it wasn’t going to be an issue. I went down with my wife to Waterloo and took him and his fiancée out for dinner. It was a good meeting. I said to my wife afterwards: ‘They’re good people. They’re really good people.’ You could tell instantly.”

Never mind explaining what made them good people, because we all know that scoring 20 goals and putting up 60 points is what makes a man good in this urinal league.

And you better fucking believe Uncle Dale backed that up, calling Hoffman “a perfect fit” for the team because the Panthers have “a strong culture” and that “We feel that that’s in the past and the distractions.” THAT’S IN THE PAST AND THE DISTRACTIONS! In the most tongue-twisting corporate-speak this side of Bill Lumbergh, Tallon tried to justify trading for a guy who was locker room poison in motherfucking Ottawa, because the absurdity train of the NHL is never, ever fucking late.

Hoffman is a douchebag for haranguing Karlsson about his girlfriend’s innocence six days after his son was stillborn (because that’s foremost on Karlsson’s mind, you see) and supporting his now-fiancée who, by at least five independent accounts from other Senators’s players’ wives, went to extreme lengths to harass a woman who, in Caryk’s own words, stopped liking shit on her Instagram and Facebook.

I have a hard time believing that they would all tell similar stories about Caryk’s shittiness just because. Coupled with the fact that no one has provided an ounce of support for Caryk besides the guy who’s marrying her, it’s hard to disbelieve the douchiness Hoffman and Caryk share.

While the courts have sort of washed their hands of all this, there’s enough evidence here for the court of douchebaggery to warrant consideration for Caryk (for being a piece of shit) and Hoffman (for supporting this piece of shit). But how about that 17-game point streak Mike had for himself?

They’re good people. You could tell instantly.

Game #24 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We don’t know where exactly we found @Brian5or6. That’s the case with most of our friends. We just ended up this way. Anyway, you can read his stuff at Brian5or6.com. 

 

Game #42 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

If you asked me what I thought the best move I thought the Ottawa Senators made this offseason was, I wouldn’t be able to answer the question. This team is so damn pointless that I just found out they signed Johnny Oduya this offseason when I was doing my research for this post. Seriously, looking through their roster on their team site and CapFriendly I discovered some players that #1 – I had never heard of and #2 – I am still not convinced are actual NHL players. If it wasn’t for Erik Karlsson I think we’d all forget this team exists. And we’d be much better off for it.

OTTAWA SENATORS

’16-’17 Record: 44-28-10  98 points  2nd in the Flortheast

Team Stats: 48.57 CF% (22nd)  50.1 SF% (17th)  48.15 SCF% (24th)  7.01 EVSH% (23rd)  .926 EVSV% (1oth)  17.0 PP% (23rd)  79.7 PK% (22nd)

Goalies: Craig Anderson had one of the inspirational stories in hockey last year, and deservedly won the Masterton Trophy. He stepped away from the game for good reason, being with his wife while she underwent treatment for cancer. He returned to the team near the end of January and went on to finish the season strong, with a .926 save percentage and an impressive .942 mark at evens. Mike “Trojan” Condon played in most of the games that Anderson missed and was rather mundane .914 save percentage overall and a slightly better but still flaccid .915 at evens. Anderson likely won’t miss time this year barring an injury, and even at 36 years old should be solid for them in net.

Defense:  The Senators are blessed to have been gifted the best defenseman since Lidstrom when they got Erik Karlsson 15th overall in the 2008 draft. He has risen head and shoulders above the rest of the NHL blue-liners the past two years, and is no doubt one of the five best players in the league today overall. Karlsson has proven to be able to carry this team of nobodies for years, and he’ll probably do it again this year, because the group they’ve assembled around him on this blue line is pitiful.

Dion Phaneuf is somehow still a thing, and still making half a million more than EK65. Cody Ceci was supposed to be something at some point, I think, but he sucks too. They signed Oduya apparently, but as we saw last year his best days are long behind him. After that I am not sure the rest of these dudes are real. I think I have heard of Mark Borowecki, but I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. There is no way Frederick Claesson isn’t a rejected Game of Thrones character name. Seriously, without Karlsson this is a group of beer league dudes getting caught way out of their depth. But because they have Karlsson they’ll be a middling defensive unit yet again.

Forwards: Welcome to Part Three of today’s episode, “Who In The World Plays For The Ottawa Senators?” I can’t believe how many of these players I have never heard of. They’re paying a dude named Zack Smith $3.25mildo; his career high in points is 36, in 2015-16. They’re paying Clarke MacAruther, he of a combined 8 games played and zero points over the past two seasons, a hefty $4.65mildo. Dumb motherfucker Alexandre Burrows is still around, and then there is something called Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Other alleged hockey players on their roster include Tom Pyatt and Ryan Dzingel.

In reality, though, the Senators aren’t that bad up front. Kyle Turris is a fine center, and entering a contract year at age 28 it wouldn’t be surprising if he had a career year. Bobby Ryan should be able to bounce back from his underwhelming 2016-17 season, although if he gets his comeuppance for being a major shithead and MAGA trash heap, he will blow out a knee or something. Mike Hoffman is legitimately good, and Mark Stone might be. Derrick Brassard is an okay but not overly impressive 2C. So they have some fine top-end forwards, but their depth is a bunch of dudes. Karlsson is still the best offensive player on the team.

Outlook: They still have the best player in their division in Karlsson, and the combination of him and solid goaltending might be enough to keep them in the playoff hunt. That said, they’re well behind Toronto and Tampa Bay (a common theme in this division), and Carey Price is probably going to drag the Habs into the third spot in the division. So the Senators will probably have to either catch lightning in a bottle again, or hope they can do just enough to capture a wild card spot. But starting the year without Karlsson will put them well behind the 8-ball, and if his injury lingers or becomes an issue throughout the season, they’ll have a better shot at the draft lottery than they will the playoffs.

Previous Team Previews

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Everything Else

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Game Time: 6:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Justin Trudeau Is A Fucking Con Man: Silver Seven

Given that the Hawks have been hockey monarchy for going on a decade now, with President/Cardinal John McDonough fancying himself its emperor, it’s probably best that they missed being on the Senate Floor in Kanata on the Ides of March by a day. Either way, the Hawks make their way further due southwest along the St. Lawrence seaway to the “capital” of the “nation” of Canada to take on a Sens squad that shockingly still has plenty to play for.