Hockey

Milan Lucic – By god he found another home. It’s amazing how many teams are willing to take a chance on a player because they might provide “grit,” the most nebulous and overvalued skill in any sport. Lucic still can’t move, still can’t score, and no one gives a shit about his antics because he’s such a boon on the ice to the opponent. And he’s murdering the Flames’ cap just as he did up the road in EdMo. This guy’s been an albatross for five years. You have to almost be impressed. But hey, maybe after a whistle he can spear a guy in the nuts. That’ll get the Flames up the standings.

Whichever of Keith Tkachuk’s Garbage Sons Is Here – Not that there’s any difference. They all run their mouth and start shit all the time. But when you watch them do it you know this is just an extension of when they would go throw things at homeless people with their other private school friends. They’re just spoiled rich kids who never got told to shut up or got the shit kicked out of them because of who dad was, and got all the best training in hockey because he was rich. You know the Tkachuk’s, they just have a different name.

Not Using The Retros All The Time – The old look at home is great. Then the Flames debuted their retro whites this year, and it’s clearly what they should be wearing all the time. More teams need to learn that having black as a lining or a color, unless it’s a main color of the team–only deadens the look in HD and live. The Hawks only have the stripes on sleeves and waist which is why their jerseys still pop.. Thank god the Flames are going to these full-time next year. Enough with the superfluous piping and stripes and whatnot.

Hockey

It is kind of amazing that in the NHL, that no matter how stupid and bad a contract, it always ends up getting moved somehow. We just saw it last week when the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, adding a level of farce to their longstanding rivalry, decided to swap headaches in Milan Lucic and James Neal. We’ve seen Patrick Marleau moved along this year, though his deal was only for three years and only turned bad for one. The list goes on for a bit, though it generally ends with someone being LTIR’d into death.

Still, it was harder to find worse deals than Milan Lucic’s and James Neal’s. If you’re the Oilers, you must be delighted, because there’s a small chance that at least for a season or two, Neal can just stand still and shoot and get you 15-20 goals. He shot just 5% last year, which is less than half of his career mark, and again, if he does nothing else that should rebound. He might get buried possession-wise, he might cost you more goals that way, but at least they can point to something and say, “Well he’s doing something. Is that oaf we traded for him?”

As for the Flames, they can…well I haven’t any idea what they can do. It’s just an inexplicable decision from them, especially for a team that got exposed as not fast enough when Nathan MacKinnon Sherman March’d their ass to the golf course over five games.

But it leads one to ask, if these two contracts can be moved, could Brent Seabrook’s?

No. No it can’t. And the differences are why.

For one, there’s a difference from having $5.2M and $5.7M on your deal, as Lucic and Neal do, and fucking $6.8M on it (you’d think I’d have developed some sort of mental scar tissue to protect myself when reading or writing that, but no, still wince and get queasy every time). Second, Seabrook was 32 when this public health crisis kicked in, and Lucic and Neal signed their deals either at 30 or even younger, when they were at least somewhere near whatever their “prime” was. Both Neal and Lucic are now 31, which is a hell of a lot different than 34 in hockey, as Seabrook is. Seabrook also has five years left on his, whereas Neal and Lucic only have four. So not only did he sign it older, it takes him to an older age.

But most of all, the Hawks haven’t poisoned the water around Seabrook, even if that is an underhanded tactic when done on purpose. Neal was a healthy scratch for the Flames in the playoffs for a game. He was scratched a few times during the season. He was deployed on the third and fourth lines. The same applies for Lucic. He has been healthy scratched, demoted to the fourth line and back again.

In both cases, the teams made it clear those players no longer had a fit on their teams. While still collecting a big check, these are still proud athletes with little wish to be on a team where it’s clear they weren’t wanted or would not be used. In Neal’s case more so, he still feels like he can contribute. After all, he’s only a season removed from being a 25-goal scorer on a Cup finalist. He didn’t feel the need to clean up whatever scraps Bill Peters deigns to toss off the table to him.

The Hawks have done no such thing to Seabrook. He’s only been healthy scratched once in the last two seasons, and that was by Joel Quenneville who’s no longer here. In fact, they’ve bent over backwards in some cases to make sure he doesn’t turn on their new an very fragile coach (or the coach’s very fragile hold on the team, to be more accurate). Seabrook has rarely lost playing time, still getting time with Duncan Keith and taking the top assignments at various points. It was only this past season that Seabrook’s average ice time dipped below 20 minutes per game, even though his play warranted that for a couple seasons, and even then it was still 19:04. At worst, that’s solidly second-pairing minutes. Among the d-men it ranked fourth behind Keith, Gustafsson, and Murphy.

Hell, the Hawks just moved out a kid who reasonably should have been taking most if not all his minutes to avoid upsetting the applecart…er, nacho-cart. Considering he was punted for nothing (GET THAT TASTE OUT YO MOUF, FEATHER!), if Jokiharju’s value was so low a properly run organization not still trying to cash in on nostalgia would have let him play on the third pairing all season if only to build his trade value.

So Seabrook hasn’t lost any playing time or influence, so why should he agitate for a move? Every mistake in the NHL gets cleared up somehow, but the Hawks haven’t really prepared the ground for that. He still gets to play, and he still gets power play time, and he still gets to feel like he wields the axe in the dressing room and organizationally, because he does. Brent Seabrook can get their coach fired if he wants, and if they fire that coach then you’d have to believe the GM has to go to, which might mean the president does as well, and it could be a total house-cleaning.

Perhaps this is only for another season. Perhaps Ian Mitchell and Adam Boqvist force the Hawks into some tough discussions and decisions, and Seabrook can only handle the pressbox for so long. Maybe they figure out something with retirement, who knows? But seeing those two contracts moved, you wonder if the Hawks couldn’t as well if they really wanted to.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

You would be hard pressed to find a sleepier affair that tonight’s contest. Yes, both teams played yesterday, and that always leaves you prone to a less than tip top affair. If this is where you want to make an argument that the NHL should take a page from the NBA and expand their calendar to lessen the amount of back-to-backs and three-in-fours, you’d have a pretty big piece of evidence right here. Neither the Oilers or the Hawks were on the top of their games, or even in hailing distance of said. It’ll be summed up as a goalie battle, but neither Cam And Magic Talbot And Yet Another Cam Ward were asked to perform any miracles in net. This one just came and went. The Hawks didn’t get the bonus point after this one predictably and haphazardly meandered to overtime. Hopefully it won’t matter in the long run.

Let’s get through it.

The Two Obs

-There isn’t much to conclude from this one. It started off encouragingly, before the puck even dropped, as Joel Quenneville scratched Jan Rutta and Chris Kunitz. Both have been basically terrible all season, and Rutta was particularly offensive last night in St. Louis. This sets the table for Gustav Forsling and eventually Connor Murphy to punt Rutta down to Rockford (no one’s taking him on waivers), and I can only wait for that day with bated breath.

-This one was such a snooze, there isn’t a lot to draw from it. The one thing I think is worth mentioning is that Jonathan Toews was matched with Connor McDavid all night, and he had Run CMD in his pocket (ignore the OT goal because 3-on-3 is a joke). Toews went for a 65% CF% against McDavid, and that simply doesn’t happen. We’re not far removed from Toews being unable to keep up with the newest crop of stars, and tonight he stared down perhaps the best one there is. That bodes well for the future when Toews has to see Mark Scheifele, Ryan Johansen, and Tyler Seguin on the reg.

-But other than that, the Hawks seemed pretty wary of leaving too much room for the Oilers, or at least the Oilers top six all night. We saw what happened with the Lightning, and though the Oilers couldn’t get to where the Bolts are in a $50 Uber, they contain some serious speed and skill in spots. Defensemen were afraid to pinch too much, they were always ready to get back to their own zone, and it affected some of their attacking play.

-It’s kind of amazing when you see it live how much Milan Lucic sucks.

-I’ve had enough with the drop pass on the entry on the power play. I get it at times. But when a penalty killer is lagging behind waiting for said drop pass, and the Hawks are staring at a 4-on-3 entry at the blue line, then just fucking take it. That’s what you want. There’s more space. If you can’t find your way into the zone with three killers back, then there’s nothing to be done.

-I’m not sure how Brandon Saad missed the net on that chance in the second, but it seemed harder to do than hitting the target.

-Andreas Martinsen had a 0.0 CF% tonight. That’s not easy to do, even in eight minutes.

-Nick Schmaltz and that third line continues to get less than 10 minutes of ES time, and I don’t know why that should be when Schmaltz is probably your second most creative player out there.

-Henri Jokiharju led the Hawks in ES ice time, and that’s after a rough night in St. Louis. I think we know where Q’s heart is.

-Not much else to add.

Onwards…

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Oilers 18-21-3    Hawks 19-15-6

PUCK DROP: 2pm

TV: WGN

ED-WOOD-TON: OilersNation.com

I don’t know who sanctioned a 2pm start, but they’re going to pay. Neither of these teams wants to be out during daylight hours right now. Hell, neither probably wants to be in public. Two teams that had designs on being a lot higher in the standings than they are will make it a lunch today on Madison St. Considering how things have gone for each team recently, a loss today is going to feel closer to terminal than it probably should. Though for the Oilers, it very well might be.

We’ll start with the Oilers, who have had maybe the biggest balls-up of a season this side of the Penguins. Since we last saw them last Friday, they’ve lost to the Jets, Kings, and Stars by a combined score of 15-1, while sneaking in a shootout victory over the Ducks in there. They’re below .500, miles out of a playoff spot, and really looking at the guillotine on this season very soon. They may even already be sellers, or should be, if you could find anyone on an expiring contract that anyone would want. The Chiarelli Panic Trade Countdown is getting awfully low.

It’s not hard to identify where things have gone wrong. One, Cam Talbot just plainly hasn’t been very good, and he’s been especially woeful on the penalty kill. That’s fed into their historically bad PK, which the power play isn’t making up for, and you can’t win games if you have to win at even-strength by two or three goals. It’s not all on Talbot for the penalty kill, however. The Oilers have the worst xGA/60 on the kill of anyone in the league and it isn’t even close. It’s over two goals worse per 60 than the team in 30th. That’s the same gap between 30th and 22nd. They just give up way too many good looks on the kill, and Talbot would have to perform miracles (MIRACLES!) to get through. He’s been quite the opposite, and hence you have this kindergarten recess.

On top of that, the Oilers just don’t have the finish to make their still-exemplary metrics count, as strange as that sounds. Yes, with Draisaitl now playing in the middle they might have the best center-depth in the West. Certainly in the Pacific. And yet with no wingers that you’d piss on if they were on fire, other than maybe Puljujarvi, it’s almost rendered useless. Run CMD can spin all the golden yarn he wants but if he’s waiting five seconds for Milan Lucic to catch up, who the fuck cares? This is a team where a suspension of Pat Maroon actually matters. You don’t want to be that team. Peter Kriss doesn’t even want to be that team.

All this has masked the fact that the defense has actually improved, though still isn’t Final-contender worthy which is where the Oilers had their eyes set before the year. Darnell Nurse has ascended to the top pairing, and you could get away with Adam Larsson there too if you had a really solid second pairing. Andrej Sekera and Matt Benning do not that pair make. Kris Russell is still watching the puck all the time on the third with KLEFBOM KLEFBOM YOU’RE MY KLEFBOM.

For the Hawks, Anton Forsberg will put a pause on the Glass Jeff Experience for a day, and the Hawks really need him to resign that to a footnote on this season. Forsberg has had his moments both ways, but he needs to grab the brass ring with Corey Crawford still in the land of wind and ghosts. There was no other word on lineup changes today, but you could see Jan Rutta come back in because he isn’t doing anyone any good in the pressbox. Then again, that’s the story for Michal Kempny and you know how that goes.

The Stars got their ass rubbed in the moonshine yesterday in Dallas, and Cam And Magic Talbot was pulled early in the 2nd. Whether he turns around or Chicago Rat Hockey Ragdoll Al Montoya gets the start, the Hawks are playing a severely wounded and shaken team here. The Oilers are basically looking for an excuse to down tools, and the Hawks have basically run out of time to get their ass in gear. The game against the Rangers would see this outfit off. A start like Friday’s will give them life. So the choice is simple.

 

Game #41 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in the case of the Tkachuk family, I think it’d be better to say that the shit doesn’t flow far from sewer. Keith Tkachuk was often a shithead and an occasional committer of the dirty hit/play. He averaged 1.85 PIM/game in his career, so damn near a minor penalty per game, which is honestly almost impressive. The only redeeming quality of Keith was that he was a good hockey player, with 1065 points in 1201 career games, or a .88 PPG.

His son Matthew is none of those things. No, Matthew is always a shithead, and a frequent committer of the dirty play, as you can see here. Seriously, what kind of special asshole do you need to be to have enough evidence of you being an asshole that a twelve minute video can be made to document you showing your ass just one year into your career?? He doesn’t commit penalties at quite the same rate as his dad, but with 143 PIM in 112 games so far in his career, he’s at 1.28 PIM/game already with potential to climb. He doesn’t even score at a similar rate to his father, with 70 points in his career thus far, or a .625 PPG. That basically makes him Milan Lucic (coincidence? I think not).

The problem with young Tkachuk tho is that he sometimes manages to be fun to watch. He managed to do this just a few weeks ago, which was pretty cool. And he sometimes has good taste in targets for his bullshit. But being fun to watch isn’t a redeeming quality of an asshole. If anything, it makes it more frustrating, because there is no need to engage in that useless bullshit when you can do cool hockey things instead.

But being a hockey fan might be less fun if we didn’t have villains to hate, and while there were no shortage of those before Tkachuk hit the league, it’s nice of him to be such a willing participant in ensuring there won’t be a shortage in the future either.

Game #38 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

If the Leafs are going to be the annoying bandwagon team in the East, whose fanbase will be the constant drone of the season as they try and flagellate themselves as publicly as possible, then the Oilers are going to be that in the West. They won their first playoff round in 10 years last year, and probably should have beaten the Ducks in the second round. It won’t take people long to point out that Toews and Kane won a Cup in their third season, and that Crosby was in a Final in his third. The training wheels are off Run CMD and the boys. It’s basically June or bust for them. Unfortunately for them, their dumbass GM may have put too many roadblocks in their way. Or more to the point, behind them on defense.

Edmonton Oilers

’16-’17 Record: 47-26-9  103 points (2nd in Pacific, out in 2nd round to ANA)

Team Stats 5v5: 49.9 CF% (18th)  51.0 SF% (9th)  49.7 SCF% (19th)  8.2 SH% (9th)  .927 SV% (7th)

Special Teams: 22.8 PP% (5th)  80.7 PK% (17th)

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Oilers 31-18-9   Hawks 37-15-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm Central

TV: WGN in the 606, NHLN below the 49th, Sportsnet above it

YOU WILL KNOW THAT I AM AN OIL MAN: Oilers Nation, Copper And Blue

PROJECTED LINEUPS

TEAM ADJUSTED CORSI %: Oilers – 50.8 (13th)  Hawks – 50.5 (15th)

TEAM ADJUSTED xGF%:  Oilers – 49.8 (17th)  Hawks – 48.1 (20th)

POWER PLAY %: Oilers – 20.4 (11th)  Hawks – 19.6 (16th)

PENALTY KILL %: Oilers – 81.4 (15th)  Hawks – 76.8 (27th)

The somehow-controversial (only the NHL could fuck up the concept of a bye week and have it become A THING like this) bye week comes to an end for the Hawks tonight, and they’ll try and buck the trend of teams with a tan getting tolchocked when they go back to work. But the Hawks have usually avoided such pitfalls under Joel Quenneville.

Everything Else

20232_king-of-hearts vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN+, NBCSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Hollywood Bowl: JFTC, Royal Half

On paper, it’s surprising that what’s become very clear as the vocal majority of Hawks fans aren’t more nakedly jealous of Kings fans. With basically an equal amount of success as the Hawks, Kings fans have been able to enjoy the organization from management to players being unrepentant pieces of since the summer of 2012 (when Drew Doughty was also accused of sexual assault and no one even to this day still seems to give a shit about) without having to mansplain themselves to Social Justice Warriors out to ruin the good times of white men everywhere.

Whether that’s a function of no one giving a fuck about the Kings on a national level even after winning two of the last four cups and leading their division for most of this year, or that Kings fans as a whole merely think it’s funny when it happens to other people without the slightest bit of self-reflection, their loyalty remains largely unquestioned to this point. The option of being able to enjoy their shit SPORTS franchise in uninterrupted complacency without being made to ask larger questions is certainly an option most would take.

Everything Else

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post here mentioning all the things I like about Joel Quenneville. It felt necessary, because I spend a good chunk of my time complaining and pointing out perceived flaws, such as lineup management and sometimes getting caught cold by the opposing coach. Or at least trying to illustrate all the ways the roster he’s been given covers up some mistakes.

Watching the Penguins and Bruins eat it the past two nights, I’m reminded of one of the bigger points of that post: The Hawks’ attitude.

These things are impossible to measure or quantify, but I can state pretty confidently that Boston’s meltdown and “message sending” (defined in other circles as “dick measuring”) didn’t help their cause in Game 7. It looked a lot like a team that had run out of answers against a team it really should have been beating. It looked like a team that was terrified it was going out, which is what they looked like again when they played a very timid Game 7.

Everything Else

AltLogo at bruins country bear jamboroo

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, CBC (Anglo), RDS (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Feed The Tree: Cup of Chowder, Days of Y’Orr

Dating back three years to the 2010 Final against Philadelphia, the Hawks have lost the first game away from the United Center in six straight series. Overall in that time frame, the Hawks have gone 7-10 on the road, and 3-4 this post season. And in order to win this series, the Hawks will now have to win at least one game on the road, with the first of potentially three games in Boston tonight.