The last time Stan Bowman came out to open his mouth and find out with the rest of us what would come out of it, and a continuing theme the Hawks have hid behind, is that the price for “going for it” every season there for a bit cost them their future. Which is what we’re living with now. And it seems reasonable, but I thought I’d go a little more into it than just taking it by word.

I’m going to start with 2015, even though that season ended with a Cup and no one’s complaining at least about Antoine Vermette. Before that was six years ago, and even picks the Hawks gave up then would be veterans now that the Hawks likely wouldn’t be able to afford anyway. This is also going to assume that the Hawks would have nailed even any of these picks, much less all of them. But we will see who might have ended up as a Hawk if they still were making those pick. So let’s review:


Antoine Vermette – Acquired for Klas Dahlbeck and 1st round pick (30th)

Coyotes drafted: Nick Merkley

Players that followed immediately: Christian Fischer, Travis Dermott, Sebastien Aho, Brandon Carlo

Clearly, Merkley never became anything. And again, the Hawks won the Cup that year, so this is what you sacrifice. But clearly, any of the four taken directly after Merkley would have been a huge help to the Hawks going forward. Even Dermott would have been the best defensive prospect they’ve produced other than Boqvist. Aho…d’oh.

Kimmo Timonen – Acquired for 2015 2nd round pick (61st) and 2016 2nd round pick (52nd)

Maple Leafs drafted (2015): Jeremy Bracco 

Players that followed immediately: Kyle Copabianco

Flyers Drafted (2016): Wade Allison

Players that followed immediately: Filip Hronek, Dillon Dube

Not as damaging as what came before. In 2016, Hronke would have definitely made this Hawks roster and showed some promise, while Dube probably could have been a useful bottom-sixer. Or he would have gotten the Dylan Sikura treatment for no reason other than the Hawks didn’t see him fight the one night they were scouting Rockford. Who knows?


Andrew Ladd – Acquired for Marko Dano, 1st rounder in 2016 and conditional pick in 2018

Pick later traded to Flyers, drafted: German Rubstov

Players that followed immediately: Henrik Borgstrom, Max Jones, Tage Thompson, Brett Howden

Didn’t miss out on much here, but Howden would have been nice.

Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann – Acquired for Phillip Danault and 2018 2nd round pick

Canadiens Drafted: Alex Romanov

Player that immediately followed: No one

So Bowman can bemoan going all in all the time cost them the future, but this trade is more than that. It’s just bad. Fleischmann and Weise weren’t as valuable as Danault was that season, let alone what would come after. And deep down, we knew that at the time. This was splurging for the sake of splurging. And from the draft that they gave up a pick from, they didn’t really miss anything, although Howden’s future looks promising, except he hasn’t done much in the NHL yet. So he wouldn’t really be pulling the Hawks out of their current spot, just promising a better future than they have now.


Johnny Oduya – Acquired for Mark McNeill and 2018 4th round pick

Dallas Drafted: Adam Mascherin

Players that immediately followed: No one

The Hawks didn’t really go all in at this deadline, as they were in first and felt pretty good about themselves, even if it felt like it was all on stilts at the time. McNeill never went on to be anything, and there’s no one from the fourth round of the 2018 draft who has mattered yet.

So looking back on all this, on the surface it seems like the Hawks sacrificed a lot to win in ’15 and try again the next two years. But the only cost really was that 1st round pick for Vermette. Now, maybe the Hawks would have taken Sebastien Aho, and things would look awfully different right now. Even Brandon Carlo would have changed the trajectory a bit. But how much?

At this point, this is deflection from the front office. The Danault trade was just bad. That wasn’t a sacrifice, that was idiocy. Extending Anisimov immediately to try and justify giving up a fan favorite in Brandon Saad for him wasn’t a sacrifice, it was idiocy (coming from on high). That cost you Teuvo Teravainen.

And the players Stan did draft, as the Hawks haven’t been bereft of picks, have been hit and miss. They’re not exceptionally good at it, but they’re not bad at it either. Still, on this current team, only Boqvist, Dach, and Debrincat look like Hawks draft picks that will make a difference for the Hawks. That’s just not good enough. That’s not about sacrifice, at least not entirely.

Again, this is Stan hiding while trying to justify his continued employment. And it looks thinner and thinner every day.




RECORDS: Canes 12-7-1   Hawks 9-7-4


TV: NBCSN Chicago


In the ashes of the Bears demise, some hope has risen about the Hawks. They’re playing well, or at least they’re getting results. They’ve taken some scalps off teams that either used to give them a ton of headaches (Knights, Preds) or have name recognition (Leafs). They’re scoring goals. However, this week is when we’ll see just how much the Hawks can handle opening up the throttle. The Canes start it off and are still one of the best possession teams in the league. The Lightning are scuffling but also have the biggest collection of scoring around and throat-fucked the Hawks twice last year. The Stars are the hottest team in the league. The past two weeks has seen the schedule cut the Hawks some favors, as all of the Knights, Leafs, Preds, and Sabres have been fighting it of late. Not so much here.

The Canes kick it off, rolling into town on the back of three straight wins, though two were in OT over the just-vanquished Sabres and the simply unfortunate Wild. Before that, the Canes had some ugly losses to the Senators, Rangers, Flyers, and Devils, which are not teams the Canes should be losing to. It’s a bad look. This will also be the end of a mini road trip for the Canes, so the Hawks might catch them already thinking about the flight home.

As always with the Canes, they are a dominant even-strength team. They rank first in team Corsi-percentage, third in expected-goals percentage. And this time around, they’re only having problems at one end of the ice turning all that into actual results. The Canes are 8th in the league at 3.45 goals per game, and have spread it around nicely with seven guys having four goals or more. Erik Haula on their third line has eight, to give you some idea. Their power play has actually been a threat too, ranking eighth in the league at the moment.

But as is the Canes’ way, they keep buying into illusions of a goaltender. They got a remarkable run from Petr Mrazek last season, doubled down, and now stand gobsmacked that he suddenly turned back into Petr Mrazek. He has an .886 in November. He’s not this bad, but he’s also probably not last year’s .914 either. He’s been all over the map in his career, so it’s hard to guess. James Reimer was brought in to at least stabilize the backup spot and provide something of a safety net if Mrazek went to the dogs again. That hasn’t really worked out yet and suddenly the fear that last year’s flop in  Florida portends to a career-downturn are real. The Canes aren’t really getting saves, but filling the net at the other end to make up for it while limiting attempts and chances against so their goalies can’t torpedo them completely.

Again, this feels like a real test for the Hawks’ rediscovered UP AND AT THEM ways. They’ve passed the other ones to be fair to them, with the help of some shoddy goaltending at the other end. They may get that tonight as well. But the Canes defense is probably the best in the league and among the most mobile. They won’t be fearing getting caught with forwards behind them, and can pinch more aggressively in the Hawks zone because they can recover. The speed the Canes have at forward as well should be an utter nightmare for the Hawks’ defense, who will have less escape routes.

But again, the Hawks don’t have to break even on attempts and chances. They have the better goalie who is playing better (Lehner), and they have higher quality finishers. Stay in the neighborhood, as the Hawks have been doing, and they can rack up some more points. On the flip side, the Canes have utterly destroyed the Hawks the last three times they’ve played, because they just play at a higher pace than the Hawks can manage.

We’ll see how far this new “style” goes tonight against a team that’s been doing it better and for years longer. Get the feeling this one will have some goals in it.




RECORDS: Hawks 2-4-2   6-3-1


TV: NBCSN Chicago


Well now that the coach has laid down the gauntlet, how will his players respond? That’s the question facing the Hawks this weekend, as they face their first back-to-back of the year. They could have picked better opponents than the Carolina Hurricanes. You’ll recall that Jeremy Colliton‘s first game was against the Canes. It was 4-0 after one period. Colliton appears to be trying to reset his team’s focus. Here come the Canes again…falling on our head like a memory…

We’ll start with the Hawks, who were called out by their coach after their totally limp-dick performance against the Flyers. That saw them get one shot in the second period (but man what a shot it was!). The Hawks never created much outside Saad’s goal, and though they didn’t give up an avalanche of shots or chances, they gave away something like 143 odd-man rushes with shoddy puck management and some wayward positioning. It was ugly, and not the kind of thing the Hawks wanted to cap off their homestand with.

And the problem here is they only got one regulation win in seven games at home. That’s simply not good enough. They can argue hey were unlucky against the Caps and especially the Knights, but at the end of the day it’s about the points you got and the ones you didn’t. And the Hawks didn’t get enough of them, and now they’ll face eight of the next 12 on the road.

The most likely scenario here is the Hawks will look to have a little more verve this weekend, but that could just as easily be professional pride as much as responding to their coach whom they have debatable respect for. The real fear is that after going to the “Air Them Out In The Press” lever, what if the Hawks don’t respond at all? Well, there wouldn’t be anywhere left to go for coach Kelvin Gemstone, would there?

Because Colliton made it clear he didn’t think there was a problem with the lines, we can expect the same look to start, along with Corey Crawford in net. That doesn’t mean the lines will finish that way, because quite simply the top two lines haven’t produced enough. In the third period on Thursday we saw Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik shifted up to try and give both the top six lines a forecheck and puck-winner. It had some effect but not total.

One change you might see is Erik Gustafsson‘s ass seated in the pressbox for Dennis Gilbert. Gustafsson not only has been awful all season, but he’s a low-hanging target for the coach who can make an example of him without angering anyone on the team who really matters. But he might give Gus a chance to come good after a public peepee slapping.

To the Canes, who have hit something of a skid. They started the year with five straight wins, though only two were in regulation. But they’ve lost four of their last five, including to the Jackets twice and the Ducks once. Some of that is goaltending, as Petr Mrazek hasn’t given them too many saves and James Reimer has been ok.

System-wise, this is still the possession and metric monster it’s been for years, ranking second in the first category and on top in the second. You would have thought losing Justin Faulk would have harmed their possession ways, but Dougie Hamilton has been on one and Brett Pesce has used the free safety of Joel Edmundson to really accent his transition game. The Canes have been using seven D of late, with Jake Gardiner rotating in with Haydn Fleury and his missing letter along with TVR. Whoever they toss out there in the back has some serious get up and go, as they always have.

Sebastien Aho might be their only true top-liner, but as you know by now there’s a fleet of nifty, fast forwards here who don’t need a map in either end. Erik Haula has really taken to Carolina’s ways and has seven goals already. Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Staal have been doing the same things as Kampf and Saad here, barely getting any offensive zone starts hut having metrics in the 60% range. They play fast and smart… all the things the Hawks can’t do.

The kind of effort the Hawks put forth against the Knights is going to be needed here. Which means short shifts, and your ass hair on fire when you’re on the ice. The Hawks have to be smart with the puck, which means getting it up and out of the zone as quickly as possible. Any dawdling or considering options is going to see the puck-carrier swallowed up by the quick and irritating forwards. Move it forward and move it quick.

Jeremy Colliton has played the biggest card he’s got. Let’s see if it wins him the hand.



’18-’19: 46-29-7 (99 points) – Lost in Conference Final

2.98 GF/G (16th)  2.71 GA/G (6th)

17.6 PP% (2oth)   81.6 PK% (8th)

54.6 CF% (2nd)   56.4 xGF% (1st)

Something of the feel good story of last season, the Carolina Hurricanes are essentially going to try and run it back again, counting on maturing from youngsters and what is still the best blue line around. There have been a couple smaller additions, a loss of captain, and what feels like a real missed opportunity for the big splash that would have put this team over the top. But hey, their owner sunk an entire football league just to benefit himself, so is anyone really surprised?

Let’s see what’s under the hood here.

Goalies: The Canes have moved on from their partnership of last year, where they alternated between riding the hot streaks of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, and have given the job to Mrazek full-time. That might be a little strange considering that Mrazek’s performance in the playoffs was something you dug out of your ear, but it’s something of Carolina tradition to have a whatsit in goal. Mrazek was very good in the regular season, certainly the best goaltending the Canes have gotten in eons. Mrazek also put up a great season in Detroit once, but there are four seasons of mediocrity in three different places between that and last year, so who is he really?

Mrazek came in over his expected-save-percentage last year (.914 to .916 at evens), and what might be most important is he does that while cheap. Mrazek has only a $3.1M hit, and that matters to Carolina. It’s a shame they didn’t spend it elsewhere that much, though. Still, the Canes make it about as easy as a team can for goalies, as they have the puck all the time. They’ll be counting on that again.

There is a more than decent insurance policy here though in James Reimer. Optimus Reim has an off-year in Florida last season, but had racked up league-average SV%s or better the previous three seasons. He has been a plus-backup for the back half of his career, and the kind that can usurp the top job for a stretch when he gets hot/the starter goes to the zoo for a bit. He has made over 39 starts each of the past three seasons, either due to Luongo’s injury problems or just taking the job, so there is a safety net in net for the Canes. Pretty shrewd here, really.

Defense: Still the team’s strength, even with the subtraction of Calvin de Haan and the addition of Gustav Forsling (assuming he ever gets out of Charlotte, which he shouldn’t). The Canes still roll a top four of Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, and Jaccob Slavin (and his superfluous c). You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that can match that top four anywhere, and if the bottom pairing becomes a septic tank accident through some combo of Forsling, Haydn Fleury (and his missing e), Trevor van Riemsdyk and his missing talent, or kid Jake Bean, they can just run the top four out there between 40-45 minutes a night and not get too worried about it.

There will be some drama around Faulk this year, as he enters the last year of his deal and the whole will-he-or-won’t-he be traded or re-signed thing. Considering what the Canes could accomplish this year it would be near farce for them to trade Faulk, but one wonders what the actual budget is here for this team and we know how teams are loathe to lose players for nothing, even if they have everything to gain here. Still, it’s not that hard to make a case for the Canes to be division favorites now, and you don’t maintain that status by losing Faulk in the middle of the season.

That behind us, this unit can do just about everything, whether it’s pushing the play and supporting the offense or locking things down. You wish the Hawks took notes.

Forwards: In a dream world, the Canes would have already offer-sheeted Mitch Marner for $12M a year, and gotten ready to be the East favorite. They thought smaller however, signing Ryan Dzingel and trading for Erik Haula, who is just about the perfect Hurricane. They’ll also get a full season out of Nino Neiderreiter this time, another perfect Cane, and maybe the production they get from those three is enough to offset the retirement of Justin Williams as well as boost an offense that needs to be a touch better.

They’ll also expect a leap forward from Andrei Svechnikov and possibly Martin Necas, who was excellent in the AHL last year. They still seem intent on using Jordan Staal as a #2 center, and that’s simply not what he is anymore and likely never was. He’s a checking center and should be used as such. When the Canes go deadline-shopping, another center probably should be top of the list.

Sebastien Aho is now locked down and flourished moving to the middle last season. Our Dear Sweet Finnish Boy is still here to break our hearts. I’ve never been totally sold on Dzingel, who didn’t do much in Columbus last year after a trade there and his goal-scoring in Ottawa screams “production because someone had to score.” They look a little short on the wing as well, with only Turbo Targaryn, Nino, and Svechnikov feeling like genuine top-six wingers and none really being genuine top-line wingers for a Cup-contender. Marner would have been perfect here, just as Tavares would have been the year before.

Outlook: This is still a great team coached very well by Rod The Bod. It’s hard to see where the goaltending will completely sink them as it has in years past, and there’s no reason to think their possession numbers are going to go anywhere given the defense they sport. The only thing that’s going to nab them is a lack of frontline scoring, and Svechnikov has a chance to remedy that (but not by himself). With the Penguins and Capitals having to be in decline, the Islanders being run by Nosferatu, and the Rangers, Flyers, and Devils still in a rebuild, and the Jackets a complete mess, there’s little reason the Canes can’t take the Metro crown away from the Caps for the first time in eleventy-billion years or whatever it is. They were only five points short of that last year, and that gap is going to shrink if not disappear. There should be no boundaries for this team.


Everything Else

Once again, fun loses out to evil.

There’s something about poetic about the way the Carolina Hurricanes bowed out this spring. For years, their supporters and analysts have said that if they only had a top line and a goalie, they would be a Cup contender. All their metrics pointed to a really good team of a hive mind, but they couldn’t rise above. And they were also the cudgel that the anti-analytics crowd could use to prove their covered-in-dust tenets. “Well if these mean so much,” they would belch,”why does a team like Carolina never make the playoffs?”

And for a brief moment in the sunshine there, it looked like the Hurricanes might prove them all wrong. Oh, they got there because they got goaltending for once, and Sebastien Aho played like a top-line player. While it took seven games, they were clearly better than the Capitals. They ridded the world of Trotz Plauge, and we can all be thankful for that. Could a system and style win out over what we know to be true? For all the bloated cries that hockey is the ultimate team sport, would the Canes finally be the collective to overcome the brightest lights?

And then they were thwacked by a genuine top line and a goalie. There are some truths that you can’t ever get around, and any attempt will leave you seeing stars from the back of their pimp hand.

It probably didn’t help that Mr. Game 7, Mr. Leader, Mr. Playoffs, Mr. Man Justin Williams, who invented the Storm Surge and seemed to embrace actual fun and created perhaps the most unique team atmosphere in the league, only needed to be in the same zip code as Brad Marchand to become skinny David Backes. We don’t understand Torey Krug either, but we also don’t understand an urge to crack him open on the ice to see if he’s made of bugs. Not quite the tone of a leader. Tell you what Canes, why don’t you take on Brent Seabrook to talk Williams down next time? On us.

Still, you have to admire the balls on the Canes to attempt to get out of the East with Jordan Staal as a second-line center. It’s a bar bet, and they came closer to pulling it off than you would have guessed. You can’t crash harder out of that though than him wandering into Jaccod Slavin and dislodging the puck from him like an abandoned drunk at 3AM on Clark St for the Bruins killer second goal. That was just about his biggest contribution to the series. Staal has made many millions convincing people he was more than just a checking center. He’s a magic trick. He is Kaiser Soze.

The Canes were the thumb in the eye to hockey jackasses like Don Cherry, but then fell at the worst possible hurdle, which is Cherry’s favorite Bruins who go about things “the right way.” (which means Cherry likes to lick people, so there’s an image to keep you from sleeping for a month). Now we’re doomed for another year of gloating from grunt-farters (or fart-grunters). Thanks a lot, assholes. You couldn’t have lost to a worse place, where you dismissed for having a southern accent or by beat writers somehow shocked that the local establishments, 0n Tobaccos Road mind you, would have basketball on the TVs on a non-game night. You had a chance to finally put these provincial fuckwards in their place and you whiffed. Now you’ve just added to the pile they draw from. And we’ll all pay.

The problem with being what stands for all that is righteous, fun, and good in hockey is that not only are you doomed to fail (except for Ovechkin once), but your shelf-life is akin to a butterfly’s. Next year, as the Canes struggle to come up with more celebrations for wins among the group 7th-grade education hockey players have, they’ll be increasingly met with eye-rolls instead of chuckles. They’re “Bunch Of Jerks” shirts will go from ironic to a statement of fact to an increasing amount of people. Nothing lasts in the NHL, especially fun, because that means you either have a brain or don’t eat bricks in the summer getting ready for another season.

It’s all there for the Canes, of course. They’re a fun, young team that just made a run and should be an attractive destination for anyone. You may think Raleigh, N.C. isn’t a place players want to go, but lucky for the Canes it’s less of a shit-kicker town than where most of these dumbasses grow up. If you don’t think it compares favorably with Swift Current or Kitchener, then you must be a Canadian hockey writer. A goalie, a top-line player or two and the world would be theirs. They could be what the Predators have told us they are for years but actually aren’t.

Sadly, the Canes have as big of a shithead owner as you can, who folded up an entire football league and then when anyone asked pulled the, “What league?” defense. There’s also Don Waddell, whose previous GM stint went so well the team up and moved away from the city in order to lose him. Between Thomas Dundon (how amazing is it that his name is the exact same sound as the organ beat when evil descends?) and Waddell bashing their heads into a wall I think we all see a Brian Boyle signing coming.

So fare thee well to our dearest, sweetest boy and his companion. As always, you were too good for this world. At least your current team won’t trade you for not spending the offseason in Carolina.

Everything Else



Game 1 in Boston – Tonight, 7pm

Game 2 in Boston – Sunday, 2pm

Game 3 in Raleigh – Tuesday, 7pm

Game 4 in Raleigh – Thursday, 7pm

If you were privy to the private conversations we have here at the lab…well, you’d never read this blog again but I digress. What I meant to get to was over the past two or three seasons, there’s been a general feeling of mystification about the Boston Bruins. They look like one line and David Krejci, and a pretty good goalie and nothing else. And yet their metric numbers are always among the best, they always seem to rack up 100 points, so a first conference final appearance since that wonderful spring of 2013 seems like it’s overdue in some ways. They’ll be favored by everyone simply due to pedigree, but this is stiffest test they’ve seen yet.

Goalies: This would be easier if we could pin down who exactly is playing for Carolina. Petr Mrazek has returned to practice, so it stands to reason he’ll take his normal post…between the posts (that could be better). Curtis McElhinney did close out the Islanders from the third period of Game 2 on, but that was the Isles and their Trotz-inspired offense-allergy. The Bs come with far more firepower, and McElhinney also suffers from a serious case of being Curtis McElhinney. Mrazek has been killing it since February, and if he’s healthy there’s no reason to think he won’t at least be representative.

Sadly for Carolina, representative is probably not going to cut it, as Tuuke Nuke’Em has been excellent all playoffs long. He’s got a .938 over 13 games, and let just 11 goals in against the Jackets over six games. This is probably the best he’s played since that ’13 run to 17 seconds (he was .940 that spring), and in this kind of form he can win a series by himself. And it’s not like the Canes are loaded with deadly snipers here. This is Boston’s biggest edge no matter who dons the gear for the Canes.

Defense: And here’s Carolina’s biggest edge. The Isles trap was dealt with much more effectively by the Canes than the Penguins because they have a puck-mover on the ice all the time. In addition, Jaccob Slavin is setting himself up for Norris candidacies in the future and if the Canes make it to the Final he’d have a serious case for the Conn Smythe. While Dougie Hamilton took a fair share of grief for his dealings with Ovechkin, he’s been tearing opponents apart where it mattes, i.e. getting the puck up the ice. Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk aren’t far behind, and though they’ll mostly only play five with Calvin de Haan joining in as TVR is on the shelf for good, they’ve had basically a full week off and they’ll get an extra day between Games 1 and 2. If the series goes long that five-man rotation could bite them, but we’ll run that kitten over when we get to it.

This is where I just don’t get the Bruins. Zdeno Chara looked AWFUL against the Jackets, and there were some rushes outside of him that made me think of Vladimir Guerrero (Sr.) at the end of his career trying to go first-to-third on a single and really scared every bone in his body would just come spilling out through his heels. The entire corps is below water when it comes to possession and expected goals, and given that McAvoy looks like a busted pool toy in his own zone (when he’s not suspended) and they’re facing a dominant possession team here, it could be a real issue. I expect the Boston defense to try and be really physical with the small Carolina forwards, but they’re going to have to catch them first. And that didn’t really work out for the Capitals either.

Forwards: Normally, you’d say this is a star power vs. depth kind of thing. The Canes don’t have any front-line scorers, but they have a raft of really good forwards who keep the puck. The Teravainen-Staal-Neiderreiter (tear) line has been utterly destroying all in its path, and then you still have Sebastien Aho’s line to deal with. The Canes have gotten contributions from down the lineup as well, and they’ll probably need to keep doing that to get out of this. The Canes are kind of like the Itchy and Scratchy version of Fantasia, when Scratchy chopped up Itchy into vapor but then the vapor just became thousands of tiny Itchys and destroyed him from the inside.

The Bruins will stake a claim to being more than one line, and they’ve gotten help from Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Jake DeBrusk at times. But when they win, it’s because Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak-Krejci score. When they don’t, they likely lose. The Canes don’t have anything that can match those four, but they don’t depend on anyone like that either. While Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are good, they aren’t what Slavin is right now along with Hamilton. Sure, Marchand is going to try and annoy the piss out of Dougie, but I don’t know that there’s getting to Dougie, especially if he’s pushing the play. This is probably where your series is decided. If Slavin and Hamilton, or Pesce and Faulk in Boston, can keep Boston’s top line at least somewhat controlled, then Carolina’s raft of foot soldiers probably take this. If the Bs glitterati go off, the Canes probably can’t match.

Prediction: Probably more with my heart than my head here, but the way Slavin is playing makes me think the Canes can be the first team this spring to keep Boston’s top line under wraps. Rask is a big challenge, but then so was Lehner before the Canes got to him. Same goes for Holtby. Something about this Canes team. Also, fuck Boston. Canes in 6. 

Everything Else

This spring will prove to most who need it to be true that anything can happen in the NHL playoffs. All you have to do is get in. The Hawks are already pumping this narrative, preparing the ground for a less than stellar summer and the distinct possibility of a 90-95 point team next year. The Kings of ’12 are always held up as this, and unless the Sharks or Bruins carry it all the way to the end, most likely this year’s Cup winner will be touted to prove the unpredictability of the NHL’s spring ninja course.

But this isn’t really the case. If you were around in 2012, you’ll remember that the Kings were preseason favorites, and spent a good portion of that season fucking around and thumbing their own ass. They fired a coach, got their ass in gear in March or so, and romped through the playoffs, which a lot of people saw coming. Some favorable matchups didn’t hurt their cause either (hi there, St. Louis, Arizona, and New Jersey).

Carolina looks poised to be this team. They’re a game away from the East Final, and having already kneecapped the Capitals, they won’t have much fear of either the Bruins or Jackets, especially if those two are hurling themselves at each other violently for seven games. And it’s true that the Canes don’t really have any stars. Sebastien Aho is bordering on one, our love for Teuvo will be the main reason cited when we are hauled off to somewhere inaccessible forever by top men one day, and Dougie Hamilton and Justin Faulk are really good too. But there’s not really anyone here that NBC is grabbing to do those weird promos in the lights on ice in September, basically.

But yet, if you were paying attention, it was clear that the Canes are one of the best even-strength teams around. And they have been for a few years now. Whatever category you want–attempts, shots, chances, or expected-goals–the Canes rank no lower than #3. As always, it was finishing and goaltending that kept the Canes down, as has always been the case, and when evaluating who is the best team in the league you can’t ignore those factors.

But then the Canes got goaltending, they finished a little better, and since the middle of the season they’ve collected just about as many points as anyone, including the Lightning. As someone who wants to see the best teams in the later rounds and then win it, the Canes count. If they’re talent matched their process, they’d probably have a points total in the same zip code as the Lightning did. That talent would also boost a power play that was barely meh.

While the Penguins didn’t have the energy or desire to really work through a Trotz team, the Canes are perfectly built to do it, even if they rode their luck a bit in Game 2. They have a mobile defense and pretty much every point, and can get up the ice and through the Isles’ trap. Trotz teams only work when they have an abundance of finish to not be undone by the small margins he plays on, like last year’s Caps. It’s fine if you don’t control possession or attempts and keep things tight when you have Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Oshie, and others to maximize what chances you do get. When Josh Bailey is your #1 sniper, you are up against it.

Because they didn’t get Fleury ’18 goaltending, and they don’t play in Vegas where everyone wants a free trip to, the Canes don’t come with the ballyhoo of last year’s Knights. Except it’s kind of the same deal, just more sustainable. There’s no William Karlsson banking a quarter of the shots he takes or James Neal putting in one last year before dying. This is who the Canes are, and if they were to add another forward or two, or a goalie, in the summer (assuming Aho’s raise doesn’t completely wash away cap space) with the $30M in space they have or so, the Canes are going to be here for a while.

Of course, this being the NHL people will try and glean what the message is and copy. Not too many other teams are going to be able to assemble the talent on the blue line the Canes have, but an increasingly fast defensive corps would seem to be paramount in a league that keeps getting faster and faster. But the thing is, anything can work for a season. We’ll need a few years more on the Canes before we know if this is a real thing. My hunch is that it is.


Everything Else



Game 1 in DC tonight, 6:3o

Game 2 in DC Saturday, 2pm

Game 3 in Carolina Monday, 6pm

Game 4 in Carolina Thursday, 6pm

There’s a chance that being everyone’s bandwagon team, the Carolina Hurricanes could get kind of annoying pretty soon. I’ll never find them that way, because of Our Dear Sweet Boy, but you can see where plenty will. And rarely, outside of Vegas last year, does the hot new thing that everyone likes with all the fun stuff ever go very far. And the Caps are just the the kind of tried and trusted yet boring-ass team that snuffs this kind of thing out with no mirth whatsoever. The Authority always wins Let’s see if we can find a way to an upset.

Goalies: The only longer shot to leading a revival than Jordan Binnington had to be Curtis McElhinney, who is 35 and already proven to be an NHL journeyman. Then he and Petr Mrazek put up a ridiculous February, the Canes got hot, and here we are. But McElhinney has only been so-so since, and was actually pretty bad in March as the Canes made the playoff chase harder than it needed to be. So another unlikely revival came to save the day, as Mrazek has been on fire for the whole of the spring, and he has taken the job and will start tonight. But it’s still Petr Mrazek, who was basically woeful for three years before this. The Canes certainly limit what their goalies have to do, which is good, because other than recency you’d be awfully afraid of Mrazek having to do that much.

Meanwhile, Braden Holtby basically did what he did last year, which is kind of just be ok. His numbers are pretty much on-line with what he did last season, and then of course he turned it on in the playoffs, took his job back after a game and a half, and ended covered in beer. That’s probably been his plan all along. So while he might not looked all that good in the season, his playoff record is what it is. He’ll take some beating, because history says he’s going to turn back to Vezina-level now.

Defense: You won’t find a better defense than Carolina’s, and it’s getting Calvin de Haan back. It includes the best d-man who’s never considered among the top tier but the metrics say he is in Dougie Hamilton. It’s got another premier puck-mover in Justin Faulk. It’s got two guys who dominated the dungeon shifts before Dougie’s arrival in Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin.

And then there’s Maude (TVR).

It can do anything, it does everything, and is the main reason why the Canes remain one of the more dominant even-strength possession teams around. When it comes to possession and expected-goals, the Canes are the best.

The Caps will be hamstrung by Michal Kempny being injured, which is a sentence that also hurts to write. Still. He provided a platform for John Carlson to pull something of a cowboy act, and now that appears to fall to Nick Jensen, who was a Red Wing d-man so you know he sucks. Orlov and Niskanen still do the mine-sweeping here, and if they don’t get the pop they got from Carlson this spring as they did last (and all season) then they lack a little punch from the back. Or if they’re getting buried because Kempny isn’t around to spring Carlson. And there’s still a belief that Brooks Orpik will cause damage at some point. Against a team loaded with fast, nippy forwards would seem the prime time for that.

Forwards: Once again, you’ve got a classic tale of Star Power vs. The Collective. Which is what last year’s Final was supposedly. How’d that go?

It’s something of a disservice to Sebastien Aho, who is a genuine star or will be one day very soon. But he is not Nicklas Backstrom, at least not yet even though he outscored him this year. And there’s our Darling Finnish Prince, but of course he is not Alex Ovechkin. Justin Williams is a fine leader and gritty gutty guy, but the Caps answer with TJ Oshie.

The Canes do have some depth, as Nino Neiderreiter showed up, was nearly a point-per-game, and was the perfect Cane which everyone except for Minnesota predicted. McGinn, Foegle, Martinook have chipped in with big goals as the Canes locked down a playoff spot. Still, Jordan Staal is a #3 center miscast as a #2 here, and you can see where this could be a problem.

Because not only do the Caps have stars, not only do they have pedigree, but they also have depth. And where the Canes are trying to convince you Staal can score, the Caps have Kuznetsov who does. The Caps boast seven 20-goal scorers. The Canes have four. Eller and Burakovsky are always lurking down at the bottom of the lineup, along with Brett Connolly. Carl Hagelin has been a playoff hero before. and he’s down there too.

Prediction: This is something of a classic matchup, where one team’s strength goes right up against another’s. The Canes have the deepest defense in the East, possibly in the entire playoffs. The Caps have forwards for days. So it would be easy to think this is where the series is decided.

Except the Caps aren’t weak defensively. Or more to the point, they have good players on defense. But this year, they’ve given up more chances than before, and have one of the worst expected-goals against in the league. They were seriously only a little better than the Hawks in that category. But the Caps do what they always do, which is outshoot their problems, with a league-leading 10.0 SH% at evens. Do the Canes have enough scoring to make that weaker defensive play hurt against Washington while surviving the firing squad at the other end? With Petr Mrazek? You can almost make the case. Just not quite.

Caps in seven. 

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

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Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs