Everything Else

Well this is a waste of time.

It would appear the New York Islanders didn’t really have a Plan B if John Tavares left. Their hook-and-lateral was to hire Lou Lamiorello to somehow convince JT that they really meant it this time. Now with him off to Toronto, Lou is free to fistfuck this team into oblivion because the game passed him by at least seven years ago and he hates pretty much every player in the league. They’re going to split time with this dreck between Nassau and Brooklyn, as the two communities try and foist this team off on each other in a real, “Hmm, this sauce tastes like shit here try it,” kind of fashion. This is Mathew Bartzal and his misspelled first name and opening band roadies.

There just isn’t much here, so let’s get through it quickly so we don’t get infected.

Goalies: This has been a bugaboo for the Islanders for a while, and it doesn’t appear to have gotten much better. Thomas Greiss has finally wrangled the full-time starting role from the departed Jaro Halak. Well, he didn’t take it so much as Halak got old, was allowed to leave, and Greiss was just about the only person around to clean up the mess. He was at .892 last year, which REEL BAD. Greiss has flashed being NHL starting-quality before, posting years of .913 or .925 the previous two campaigns while splitting time with Halak. But it would seem to be a longshot that he’s going to star in the role.

He could be easily usurped by Robin Lehner. Lehner certainly had his troubles in Buffalo, but if he’s past those he has flashed being a plus-starter before in both Ottawa and Buffalo. You certainly are rooting for him, and there isn’t much here to keep him from the crease unless Greiss goes off in an unpredictable fashion. Neither would seem to provide enough to cause the Islanders to surprise, however.

Defense: Oooh boy. This is still an outfit that’s going to toss Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk out as a top pairing, when both are most certainly second pairing players. The hope will be that Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech (and don’t worry if you transpose Pulock and Pelech, You wouldn’t be the first), make THE LEAP. Pulock might be the real keeper of the group, as he was the most dominant possession player they had last season.

It actually could be a nifty unit if two of the three kids can take the biggest responsibilities off of Leddy and Boychuk, who simply have never been up to it. That seems like a big ask of three neophytes who were restricted to second and third pairing duty last year. Also, Thomas Hickey is here to dutifully man the second pairing puck-moving role, as he’ll be doing for the next 45 years it feels like. Hickey is one of those players who define the word, “fine.”

Forwards: It was only natural that as soon as he took the seat in the office wherever the Isles deign to place it these days, Nosferatu Lamiorello saw fit to bring in Matt Martin in a glorious return to New York to get mistaken for Jacob deGrom. He also brought in Leo Komarov to provide…well, a dude who smells bad on the bottom six. Those are basically the only additions to a team that lost John Tavares and still finished with only 80 points last year.

The top six will actually be ok in Tavares’s absence. Barzal will slide up to the top line, and he’s most certainly capable of shouldering that. Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier are certainly dynamic, shifty wingers who make things happen. Anders Lee will score no matter what, it’s just a matter of whether you should give a shit or not. Brock Nelson will slide back to center, which isn’t his best spot but it’ll do. Josh Bailey has been a sneaky good winger for about five seasons now. You can do worse than that.

But this bottom six…WOOF. The aforementioned Martin and Komarov are going to be a waste of everyone’s time. Cal Clusterfuck is the wrong side of 30 and those who play that kind of style do not age well. Cizikas started to back up last year, and again bottom line centers don’t age well even if he’s only going to be 28. Andrew Ladd died three years ago. Barzal and Nelson are going to have to freak the fuck off this year or the Islanders simply won’t score.

Outlook: Even with Barry Trotz parachuting in here like a neckless Mighty Mouse, they’re up against it. As stated, this was an 80-point team last year that lost one of the best centers in the game and didn’t add much. The goaltending solidifying would be a big help and there’s a chance that could happen, but they look awfully short all over the ice. It’s a rebuilding year, and the goal of the year might be flogging Eberle, Nelson, and Lee at the deadline for whatever can be found. If they can’t be built around, that is. It’s going to be a long year, wherever the Isles call home.

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

Everything Else

We move to the Metropolitan Division, and we start our tour through there with perhaps the biggest example of why hockey needs to die, the “new-look” Carolina Hurricanes. I put “new” in quotes because every utterance and belch out of Raleigh since Thomas “I Punch Myself To Wake Up And Shit” Dundon bought the team last year has been a call-back to some long-gone era that we all decided was best kept in a trunk. It’s like this guy watched that god-awful Bear Bryant movie by ESPN starring Tom Berenger and not only used it for fap material but made it his life ethos and is rich enough to make everyone around him adopt it as well. I mean, look at this happy horseshit:

What the fuck do you do with that? It’s not enough that this guy made his money by ripping off poor people, he’s now got to prove how tough he is by making his team play a style that outlived its usefulness in either 2007 or 1894? Who knows? Team Grit and Team Grind?! Little does this haughty fuckwad know that it makes sound more like a spin class for a gym in Lincoln Park filled with young mothers in $110 yoga pants. You can hear it now, can’t you? “ONE MORE TIME, TEAM GRIND! PUSH IT!” When someone tells him this he might actually Spinal Tap drummer. In about four months, “Carolina Hurricanes” is going to replace “toxic masculinity” as a term in the lexicon.

Anyway, let’s do this shit.

2017-2018: 36-35-11 (83 points) 228 GF  256 GA  18.4 PP%  77.4 PK%  54.4 CF%  53.1 xGF%

Goalies: So supposedly this is where the turnaround is going to begin, and it kind of has to. While Bill Peters’s coaching and system led to the Canes having a majority of possession and chances the entire time he was there, it supposedly left his goalies out to dry. Either that, or his goalie coach was actively using a voodoo doll on them during games to service gambling debts he picked up on a bad night in a country saloon in Saskatchewan. Either way, every goalie under Peters sucked out loud, and that included LOCAL HERO Scott Darling and new Hawks “backup” Cam Ward. I’m not sure I totally buy this, because the past four years the Canes were always on the good side of xGF% and scoring chances, but this was the theory. We’ll find out in Calgary. Actually we won’t because Mike Smith is still shite but whatever, we’ll get to that outfit of the bewildered soon enough.

ANYWAY…Darling is still here, and still slated to be the starter. He was simply woeful last year, with a .888 SV%. About halfway through the season you could see his confidence had been totally shot and he was completely lost. But I’m not going to tell you that’s who I think he is. While Darling’s first year came behind a still competent Hawks defense or better, his last two years were most certainly not. He was behind the declining Keith or ever-expanding Seabrook or the directionless theorizing of Trevor Daley or the corpse of Rob Scuderi or the rim-protecting of Darko Svedberg. And he still put up better than league-average numbers. Yes, it was as a backup and being a starter is a different thing, but I don’t think he’s Darren Pang back there.

The truth is likely in the middle. It’s no secret Darling’s movement is not great, and his starts on the road remain Scott Darling On The Road. But if he’s allowed to play a little more conservatively and use his size instead of his reflexes more, he can be more than serviceable. Which will look like Jesus has arrived to the 17 Canes fans, who haven’t seen serviceable goaltending since The White Stripes were still together.

He’d better be, because there isn’t much of a net (get it?) here. Backing him up is Petr Mrazek, with his missing “e.” Mrazek washed out of Detroit after failing to dislodge (not TEAM LODGE) Jimmy Howard, and then went to Philly when all their goalies got hurt and wasted everyone’s time. It’s been three seasons since Mrazek has even been league-average. Sure, he was behind some awful Wings teams (don’t worry, Stevie Y is coming to the rescue!) and if Rod The Bod behind bench can tighten up the Canes maybe there’s some relief to be found. The better bet for the Canes is that Darling finds it again.

Defense: Still unquestionably the strength of the team, and got even better if they hold onto Justin Faulk. Which they shouldn’t, because they should trade him here for a Manny’s corned beef, but that’s just how I feel. It’s also unclear how Dougie Hamilton is going to fit into the atmosphere created by the owner where grabbing yourself is considered a full sentence.

On paper, it looks great. Dougie is one of the five best d-men in the game and a pretty significant upgrade on Noah Hanafin, who was really good himself. They can really make the pairs anything they want here. They can keep their shutdown pairing of Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin together. They could pair Slavin and Dougie and have Faulk and Calvin de Haan together on the second with Pesce simply playing soccer with opposing skulls on the third-pairing. And Haydn Fleury, despite being another missing an “e,” is no slouch himself. Squint and there are four top-pairing guys here and two more second-pairing guys, if de Haan is fully healthy. And they can do anything they’re asked. So this team really shouldn’t suck as much as it has.

I assume Dondon takes Mrazek’s and Fleury’s missing e’s and grinds them with the rhino horns he puts in his coffee he thinks makes him more virile.

Forwards: And yet here’s the same problem as it always is. There isn’t a genuine top line forward to be found. Sure, Andrei Svechnikov will be one day, and that day may be as soon as December. Sebastien Aho probably could be one if you put him on a line with two other genuine, top-line players. But the Canes don’t have that. He probably never would have shown up, but this team should have been all-in on Tavares by trade and tried to convince him to stay. They definitely should be making calls on the impending UFAs like Tyler Seguin, Matt Duchene, and Artemi Panarin. They need the help. As good as the defense is, even with rebounded goaltending is this team going to score enough to beat out one of the Flyers, Penguins, Caps, Jackets for a playoff spot? Are they as good as the Panthers, who probably grab the other wild card? I’ll hang up and listen.

Our Special Boy is still making the first line go, which is a problem in itself because though we have various shrines set up for him throughout the city and suburbs to service our worshipping needs wherever we may find ourselves, he’s a second-line player. Jordan Staal is the #1 center here and he’s 30 and has never been anything other than a glorified checking center with a big dumb face. They lost 30-35 goals in Jeff Skinner, mostly because they thought he was a weak asshole who wasn’t going to stick around. And either they think Svechnikov will replace all of that or they have no plan. And even with that replaced this team missed the playoffs by a $50 cab ride. Michael Ferland was completely a product of getting to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and is going to be a Milan Lucic tribute band by the turn of the year.

Maybe grunting louder will solve it.

Outlook: Ok, first off, now that an actual hurricane is going to hit the Carolinas, this entire outfit is going to be a collar-tug the whole season. Secondly, whatever changes Brind’Amour (seriously, what the fuck is with this organization’s spelling?) makes from Peters, there’s a desperate lack of scoring punch here. Sure, the Predators get a ton of scoring from their defense, but they also have Filip Forsberg. There isn’t a Forsberg here. They’ve also got Rinne somehow throwing a .925 at people, and the Canes don’t have that either. Whatever help is in the system is a year or two away at best.

I want this team to be good, because of TiVo Targaryen and they’ve been one of the more entertaining teams to watch. Even if Peters’s system was reckless he at least was forward thinking and had his team push the play. I suppose with this defense Brind’Amour could go the other way and try and lock things down with that defense, and that might get them seven to eight more points. But the 15 or so they’re going to need to get into the playoffs? Seems a stretch.

Oh, and move them to Quebec already.

 

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Everything Else

Most of my thoughts on the Montreal Canadiens are contained here. But I won’t miss a chance to shit on them twice. Or hundreds. Whatever it takes. While they might not be poorly coached anymore (though I’m less convinced of Claude Julien’s genius than others), they’re still poorly run, poorly watched, and the kvetching that goes on about them takes up far too much space in our lives. And I don’t think this season is going to be any more pleasant for anyone, although you have to feel sorry for them because this summer they didn’t have an obscenely talented and charismatic player who just happened to be a minority to toss overboard. How could they possibly function?

MONTREAL CANADIENS

’16-’17 Record: 47-26-9  103 points   1st in Flortheast (bounced in 1st round by the Rangers)

Team Stats: 52.4 CF% (3rd)  51.6 SF% (5th)  52.4 SCF% (5th)  7.5 SH% (18th) SV% .932 (4th)  19.7 PP% (13th)  81.1 PK% (14th)

Everything Else

A lot of the ink spilled on the Florida Panthers this summer was in the vein of, “What are they doing?” Three of their top six scorers were simply let go. Reilly Smith was traded to Vegas (don’t every say, “Las”). Jesse Marchessault was taken in the expansion draft. Jaromir Jagr was just allowed to walk. They had yet another front office shuffle, which landed Dale Tallon back into the GM’s chair. They hired Bob Boughner as coach.

Here’s the thing. The Panthers are weird. And they’re weird because they’re owned by a rich guy who is obsessed with the army. And any rich dude obsessed with the army is fucking trouble. He patterned the logo after the army. The uniforms. He wanted the Panthers to be in the game at West Point. I want to pretend he’s like Buster Bluth and calls it, “Army,” but no, this dude served and thinks it should be the foundation of every company he runs, if not the world at large. This is just bad. And as long as he’s there, the Panthers will be weird.

Florida Panthers

’16-’17 Record: 35-36-11  81 points  6th in the Flortheast

Team Stats: 50.5 CF% (11th)  49.2 SF% (21st)  48.8 SCF% (22nd)  6.5 EVSH% (26th)  .921 EVSV% (2oth)  17.0 PP% (24th)  85.3 PK% (2nd)

Everything Else

I’ll let you in on a little secret. There was a massive brawl here at the Lab over who got to do the Detroit Red Wings preview. After all the shit we had to eat for a decade or more from this Packers fanbase-gone-wrong, and even with all the depression daily life brings these days, the fact that the Wings have cast themselves into hockey oblivion/purgatory will keep the blood pumping through my veins for much longer than logic would suggest. It’s not just that they’re bad. They can’t even be bad correctly. This is a team that desperately needs to bottom out, after all they don’t even have a doddering old owner to placate anymore, and yet is chasing one of its few promising young players off to Russia. Sometimes I still wake up giggling that all the players that every pundit like Pierre McGuire promised us were the “next generation” simply because they were Wings basically amounted to two shooting-percentage spike seasons from Gustav Nyquist. Now everyone is seeing that Ken Holland might just have gotten lucky with a couple late round picks and a completely open checkbook from Mike Illitch when there was no cap. And people, it’s replacing oxygen as my life force. Let’s do this:

Detroit Red Wings

2016-2017 Record: 33-36-13  70 points  7th in the Flortheast which meant…

THEIR BULLSHIT PLAYOFF STREAK THEY HAD TO FLEE TO THE EAST TO KEEP GOING IS DEAD AND EVERY ANALYST IN THE NHL HAD TO CUT THEMSELVES LIVE ON AIR! JUST HOOK IT TO MY FUCKING VEINS!

Team Stats 5v5: 48.2 CF%  (24th)  48.3 SF% (24th)  48.9 SCF% (20th)  7.8 SH% (12th)  91.7 SV% (24th)  15.0 PP% (27th)  80.8 PK% (16th)