Everything Else

I don’t really know how to start this player preview, so I would like to take a moment to commend Captain Woke on his rather thoughtful comments about the anthem protest controversies of late. As a white hockey player, it would’ve been pretty easy for him to him and haw his way through any questions about, spewing a bunch of cliche’s but not really saying anything. Instead he did a good job of putting the whole thing in perspective and putting the focus of his comments on emphasizing the need to bring the conversation back to where it should’ve been the whole damn time. So good job, Jonny. Let’s talk about your hockeying now.

2016-17 Stats

72 GP – 21 G – 37 A

52.4 CF% – 55.4 oZS% – 44.6 dZS%

20:09 Avg. TOI

A Look Back: Much of last year’s noise about our fearless leader revolved around his apparently controversial selections to a few teams/lists that some of Hockey Twitter’s favorite fun haters didn’t think he deserved. He was named to Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey, and some dude who doesn’t understand anatomy said he didn’t deserve it. Then he was named to the NHL Top 100 list, which was entirely meaningless but of course that means Hockey Twitter took it entirely too seriously. They were mad that he made it over the likes of Evegeni Malkin, which isn’t necessarily a bad argument, but that still didn’t make it any less meaningless. Everyone was mad about these selections because they wanted to act like Toews sucks, meanwhile the man himself was quietly putting up yet another strong season while playing with a man who’s skin was literally melting off of him and a few guys that had never played top-six minutes in his life. Ho-Hum.

Toews was with Richard Panik nearly the whole season, Marian Hossa for most of it, and Nick Schmaltz for a good bit of the last half of the year. He spent a decent amount of time with John Hayden when he got signed late in the season, as well. Overall, his quality of linemates was pretty low, which really only makes his 58 points and rather strong possession stats all the more impressive. Because he missed 10 games, he was really on a 66 point pace, which is hardly elite but is no doubt top-line caliber. His 58 points also tied for 46th overall in the NHL, which is nothing to scoff at either.

And if you’ll put up with a bit of soap-boxing, the Toews hate from last year hardly made much sense to me. Toews became considered one of the league’s best players because he was the captain of and top center for three Cup winning teams. He might have reached a bit of an overrated status, but he basically earned the status. He’s only had one year where he didn’t pace out to at least 60 points, and is a damn near point per game player for his career, with a .86 PPG career rate. He’s also one of the best two-way players in the game, with a very strong defensive game. He’s basically been the same player for most of his career, and really had hardly declined recently as much as many would like you to believe. In reality, the league has seen such an influx of good young players that Toews just became another one of the league’s great-but-not-elite centers. He is good and not bad. Thanks.

A Look Ahead: Toews is going to get reunited with his old running mate Brandon Saad, which is perfect because Saad was, is, and forever will be just about the perfect linemate for Captain Environmentalist. Getting these two back together is basically the ideal scenario for the Blackhawks, and would be even if Marian Hossa hadn’t been eaten alive by his own skin. Even though Toews hasn’t quite fallen off the beaten path yet, he’s approaching 30 and is probably going to start the actual declining process within the next 3-4 years. Luckily, 4 years is exactly how long Saad is signed for, and having him around will help mitigate whatever decline Toews experiences. These two are probably going to be close to inseparable this season.

The other wing could be filled by any number of players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Richard Panik spend a good amount of time with the two of them, especially given Panik’s success with Toews last year. Patrick Sharp is another option, but that is definitely not ideal. DeBrincat would fit in well with them, though I’d still prefer he ends up with opposite Kane most of the time. Schmaltz could get another look there, but that should only happen if he can’t hang in the middle. It’s basically going to be yet another carousel, which is something we’ve become used to around these part. In terms of production, I think Toews could be a solid bet for another 60+point season if he ends up playing 75+ games.

Please don’t tell Hockey Twitter that I said nice things about Jonathan Toews. I would hate for them to have more things to be mad about.

Stats via Hockey Reference, HockeyViz, and NHL.com.

Previous Player Previews

Corey Crawford

Anton Forsberg

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Michal Kempný

Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling

The 6th D-Man

Artem Anisimov 

Lance Bouma

Laurent Dauphin

Alex DeBrincat

Ryan Hartman

John Hayden

Vinnie Hinostroza

Tanner Kero

Patrick Kane

Richard Panik

Brandon Saad

Nick Schmaltz

Patrick Sharp

Everything Else

It’s hard to get a gauge one how this tournament is going over. We know Twitter can be something of an echo chamber (ha, “can”). So if you thought this thing was stupid  you definitely can find enough people who agree with you to get the impression that everyone thinks it’s stupid. If you like it, because hey, it’s hockey in September and these are still the best players in the world out there you can find enough voices too.

I’ve enjoyed having hockey back this early, enjoyed laughing at Team USA, and while The Young Ones have been endlessly entertaining I can’t escape the feeling of it being misplaced and manufactured. I feel the same way about the Young Ones that I do about 3-on-3 OT. It’s a gimmick, an entertaining gimmick, and the gimmick-nature of it kind of robs it of its meaning and misses the point of the competition.

So of course the two would merge yesterday afternoon, and anyone watching it couldn’t take their eyes off of it, no matter the internal struggle.

Everything Else

There isn’t much I can add to what everyone else said last night about Team USA. We basically knew this team was doomed the minute the preliminary roster was released and Justin Abdelkader was on it. We knew they were further doomed when the U-23 players wouldn’t be available, though we were suspicious that they would have been picked anyway given USA Hockey’s, and really hockey in general’s, adherence to veterans and #GRITHEARTSANDPAPERFAAAAARRRT.

Last night I spent a fair amount of time baffled at how Dean Lombardi had put together two Cup winners (though I guess it’s really one team that won twice when they’re that close together) if this is what he prioritized for Team USA. But the thing is, there was a time when Lombardi totally got it. While the Kings first Cup team was big and nasty and relied on Quick to bash their way to a parade, the 2014 team beat the Hawks at their own game. Lombardi saw what needed to be done and added Gaborik, called up Pearson and Toffoli and let them run. All of that was added to Doughty, Martinez, Voynov, and Muzzin who could really push the play. Remember the pace at which that Conference Final was played. That wasn’t neanderthal hockey. That was hockey as it should be. Where did that Dean Lombardi go?

Apparently he was lost long ago as he tried to back it up after that with the likes of Milan Lucic, Brayden McNabb, and Vinny Lecavalier. Maybe he was on drugs in 2014?

Everything Else

See now this is what I’m talking about.

We have our most exciting game of the tournament, Russia-North America from last night. And while we wax poetic about the Olympics and about the two Canada-US games from 2010, how many other great games do you remember from the Olympics? Maybe one or two others? This was as good as anything that tournament has offered up.

Ok, sure, it’s one made-up team that essentially got to pick current or about-to-be All-Stars while everyone else had harder restrictions. But it was still faster than just about anything you’re going to find in an NHL game. And that’s the point. These international tournaments are supposed to be of a higher level than what we get in the league. This is why soccer fans love the World Cup and European Championships (even though the last version of each of those has been rather dogshit). It’s the best the sport can produce. That’s what we got last night.

Everything Else

So as training camp approaches, it’s time for us to announce a couple changes going on here at our humble home.

First and foremost, the gameday program I have done for the past eight seasons is not coming back this season. I have a couple other projects I’m working on that really wouldn’t allow for the time to do it, and more importantly I just don’t feel it anymore. Those of you who read it every game are owed a level of dedication and focus that I just don’t think I’m capable of right now.

However, I won’t leave you totally bereft. If you feel the need to “complete the set,” I’m making every back issue available here.  It’s $10 bucks for each season, and all three commemorative issues are included with the three seasons they won the Cup. If you feel you need it, it’s there.

Everything Else

We come to the end of our World Cup preview with the team that’s probably going to be the most heavily watched and the most confusing. There’s no question that Team North America is going to be the most entertaining team, at both ends. Just like a good curry. But a lot of us won’t be able to shake the feeling that this team quite simply shouldn’t exist. And seeing as how, as Feather pointed out, the US’s second and third line in on this team, it’s kind of infuriating.

The reasoning behind this team, if you squint really hard, is to market the game’s younger stars. But if you hold that theory up to any kind of light it falls apart in a hurry. One, Gaudreau, Saad, Matthews, Eichel, Larkin, Jones and Trouba would just as easily be marketed on Team USA, the team with the audience that the NHL is really trying to get to pay attention to this fucking thing and this fucking sport. Is that audience more likely to do that when they can wave the flag a bit and root for their home nation or when they look up to the bar TV and see a bunch of guys dressed as if they’re straight out of Tron? I’ll give you a minute to decide.

Everything Else

Every time we have a big international tournament, a lot of us get sucked into the belief that Russia’s premier talent will finally shine through. Maybe it’s still the echoes and ghosts from the Red Army teams. We grew up with Russia being an international monster. It’s still somewhat ingrained.

But now they simply biff it every time. They looked a real force in the opening round in Vancouver ’10. They then gave up 19 goals to Rick Nash in the first period. They had the next Olympics at home. They were basically awful for the whole tournament and were easily swatted aside by Finland. It just never adds up to what you think it should.

If you look at two facets of this team, you’d think they have every chance of winning this thing. The forwards are loaded with scoring and speed. They have two goalies who have won Vezinas and can go supernova for two weeks at any point.

The problem is the in between is a giant sucking sound. Like, the hole that Gwar throws shit into onstage.

Everything Else

If there’s any hope for anything other than a procession for Team Canada to win this thing at home, it’s going to be wearing yellow. That didn’t work out so well in Sochi though, and now the Swedes would have to topple the hosers two out of three on their own turf. But hey, that’s only three games, and they just might be capable.

This is a sneaky solid squad, with probably the best blue line in the tournament (and it’s not even as good as it could be), bolstered by one of the two best goalies in the world, and a forward corps that might lack true star power but is littered with solid contributors up and down the lineup. It’s like the anti-USA.

Everything Else

Pavel Nedved is certainly more worth talking about than any of the players on this squad. Come at me.

We finish out Group A with the team almost certainly destined to be the wooden spooners of the group, the Czech Republic. It’s hard to believe now that when the Olympics first allowed the professionals to be involved, and just two years after the US had won the first World Cup, the Czechs were the ones taking home the gold medal. That’s what happens when you have the two best players at the time, one in goal in Dominik Hasek and one at forward in Jaromir Jagr (was this the last goal Jagr scored that actually mattered for anything? Discuss amongst yourselves). Sad to say, that was probably the last time the Czechs mattered on the international stage.

I’m not sure this preview has to go much further than to point out that Roman Polak is on this squad. That’s how you know it sucks deep pond scum. One day, people will figure out that Roman Polak simply can’t play. I await that day excitedly, a bottle of champagne constantly chilling in my fridge.