Saturday, June 24, 2017

Adidas Dress Up

The NHL and Adidas released the new uniforms for all 31 teams this past week in Las Vegas.  The ADIZERO jerseys are lighter, cooler, and more durable.  For fans, not much of that matters.  At least for me, it doesn't.  I care more about how they look.  So, how do they look?

Every single team had a new look, sort of.  Whether teams actually changed their design or not, they now featured a common collar, even if teams have laces.  The collar is the same type of collar that was featured on the World Cup of Hockey jerseys, wider, and inexplicably for some teams, only the back half was coloured in.  Hopefully, those teams will come to their senses as soon as next year and fix this problem.  Other than that, for most of the league, the jersey design was the same, except now, hem stripes followed the curve of the hem instead of being straight across.  With the Reebok jerseys, that created a very ugly whale tail effect, while with the new Adidas jerseys, they are more hidden.  Of course, they could have just made it with a STRAIGHT hem in the first place, eliminating the stupidity of that particular design.

Thirteen teams, including the Vegas Golden Knights, were said to be getting a makeover, some minor while others a completely new look.  Unless I missed it, there was one more team that revealed a brand new home jersey, to the complete surprise of everyone, and it was a most pleasant surprise.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes had switched up their jerseys in 2013 and were immediately being compared to Team Canada.  For whatever reason, the home and aways did not match. Black was only found on the logo, collar, and trim of the numbers on the home jersey.  They fixed that problem with their new home jersey that features a sublimated hurricane flag pattern that was featured on their original set.  Unfortunately, they chose to keep their road uniform.

Grade: A+

Colorado Avalanche

Many teams quickly changed their jerseys following the initial Reebok Edge roll out in 2007. The Avalanche should have been one of those teams.  Finally, they righted a wrong, but going back to their mountain design to the delight of their fans.  It's a simpler version, dropping a stripe.  Strangely, the only blue and black found on both jerseys are in the logos, numbers, and collars.  They will still wear a black helmet at home and black pants, which may have been a missed opportunity to adopt a Burgundy or blue helmet and pants.

Grade: A+

Vegas Golden Knights

The new kids on the block, Vegas becomes the first team in NHL history to wear a grey jersey full time as their home uniforms.  It's an okay design, one that seems to have gotten love from a lot of people, although I am more: bleh.  I don't hate it.  It's just okay to me.  The logo features some fancy embroidery (which I like), and is also featured on the gold stripe on the sleeves (which I don't).  Going with grey instead of black on the road whites was a poor decision in my opinion, as it looks washed out.  Hopefully, the white gloves was more for show and won't actually be worn on the ice by the players.

Grade: C

Minnesota Wild

The Wild have a pretty good jersey history.  They may not always be perfect (or match), but they are pretty nice.  Their new home uniform continues that trend, as the team returns to green as their permanent home colour after being in red since 2007.  It is similar to their white road uniform (which they are keeping the same), but moving the hem stripes to the middle like Montreal and Florida.  I would have much prefer had they put the stripes on the hem, which is why the jersey is not quite perfect.

Grade: B+

Edmonton Oilers

The first team to announce that they would be changing their uniforms, going with orange at home, but tweaking the colours slightly.  While the Oilers have fully embraced orange, unlike any other time in their NHL history, it was a curious decision to not be wearing blue at home.
Most fans assumed they would be rocking the third jerseys which they had worn throughout the playoffs.  Instead, they shocked everyone by unveiling a brand new orange uniform that mirrors their regular uniforms.  Opinion has been mixed about the design.  Upon seeing a leak of the design, I was not a fan.  However, I've come around to it a bit after seeing a better picture of them.  They still should be a blue team, though, and it will be interesting what happens next year when teams will be allowed to have alternate jerseys again.

Grade: B-

Nashville Predators

The Western Conference Champions needed to do one thing and one thing only.  Actually, two things.  Switching the socks on their road jerseys to be the way they should be, with the blue on the bottom and yellow on top to match the jersey.  But, the major thing they needed to do was get rid of the vertical stripes that run down the sides and intersects with the hem stripes.  It marred what was a really nice jersey.

On their new jerseys, those stripes have been removed, but I guess the designer decided to keep on going, removing a stripe from the sleeves.  Gone are also the "fangs".  That leaves a jersey that is rather bottom heavy, losing some of the character that came with the now old jersey.  They would have benefited from at least finding a way to keep the "fangs" without the vertical piping or by adding a blue shoulder yoke.  It's still a decent looking jersey, just not as interesting.  The guitar string treatment with the back numbers now finds their way onto the sleeve numbers.

The road whites were not released and it will be interesting to see how they look.  I have a feeling the sleeve stripes will mirror those of the old socks.

Grade: B-

New Jersey Devils

All of the teams that have made significant changes have been good to decent.  Now comes the truly bad in the Devils.  It's not a good thing when fans take to twitter to voice their displeasure with the new look and the response is this:

The Devils had a uniform that did not need to be changed, rivaling those of the Original 6 in looks.  Done right, though, it could have brought in new revenues (isn't what this is all about?)  Done wrong, well you get the backlash, and maybe ownership questioning their decision to change.  Would it be surprising to anyone if they have another new look in a couple of years?

The sleeve stripes are similar to the old stripes, but pumped up with steroids, making them over-sized.  The hem stripes were dropped for a single, thin black stripe at the bottom.  With Lou gone, everything goes now in New Jersey, I guess.

The truly weird part is how the Devils are embracing their past.  The past, being the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Scouts, where the Devils once played, but have never acknowledge before hand.  Considering how bad and inept those teams were, it's curious as to why now.  I guess they needed a story to sell the new jerseys.

Grade: F

The Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the few teams to release their road jerseys.  They had good reason to do so as they have decided to drop Tampa Bay from them, simply going with the logo.  It's a good move that makes for a cleaner look.

It's weird how some of the teams that announced changes were something as simple as changing the number font like Boston, who dropped the double outline on the NOBS and numbers.  Then, there is San Jose with a new shoulder logo, not coming out with an announcement at all, waiting for the teasers to drop to let everyone know about the change. The new shoulder logo is a vast improvement on their the previous one, which was simply the full body shark.  It was too big for a shoulder logo, which may have been the reason for the change, as I have noticed that all shoulder logos seem to be closer to the collars than before.

Other teams like Calgary and Buffalo have finally dropped the piping and pit stains that go to nowhere.  What they didn't do, to the dismay of their fans, was to change their looks altogether.  Buffalo fans would like the team to return to royal blue, while Flames fans would like something, anything, better than what they currently have.  That might have to wait until they get a new arena, which at this pace, might be never.

Just like Boston, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators have new, more traditional block number fonts.

Design wise, the shift to Adidas is a much more pleasant one compared to when Reebok introduced the Edge Uniform System in 2007.  There were too many teams using the same templates and weird piping that do not belong on a hockey uniform.  It would have been nice had Adidas made right which was the most stupid thing about the Reebok jerseys, which was the curved hem.  They did and didn't, reducing it, but not eliminating it all together.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights actually have a team now, after selecting a player from each 30 teams. The expansion rules were set up for Vegas to be competitive right from the get go. However, they forgo any thought of any immediate success, making trades for a bunch of draft picks, including several first round picks, in order to steer away from certain players.

I believe that the Golden Knights need to be good right away in order to build up their fan base, especially with the NFL's Oakland Raiders moving to Sin City in a couple of years. With the team that they selected in the expansion draft, they will won't be winning too many games, not even with Marc-Andre Fleury as their starting goalie.  And some of the players, including top players like Marc Methot, might only be a Golden Knight for a couple of days before they are traded to another team.

A few of the players were in Vegas and introduced to the Vegas crowd at the T-Mobile Arena where the NHL Awards were being handed out and the Golden Knights expansion picks were announced.

Brayden McNabb, Jason Garrison, and Marc-Andre Fleury were there wearing the Golden Knights very first jersey.  For Marc-Andre Fleury, who received the loudest ovation of the new players, June 21 will be memorable.  Fourteen years ago, he was selected 1st overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Entry Draft and now he becomes the face of a brand new franchise.

Here is the team:

Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), Calvin Pickard (COL), Jean-Francois Beruke (NYI)

Defencemen: Luca Sbisa (VAN), Jon Merrill (NJ), Brayden McNabb (LA), Jason Garrison (TB), Deryk Engelland (CGY), Colin Miller (BOS), Marc Methot (OTT),
David Schlemko (SJ), Griffen Reinhart (EDM), Alexi Emelin (MTL), Clayton Stoner (ANA),
Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI), Nate Schmidt (WAS)

Forwards: Teemu Pulkkinen (ARI), William Carrier (BUF), Tomas Nosek (DET), Cody Eakins (DAL), Jonathan Marchessault (FLA), Connor Brickley (CAR), Chris Thorburn (WPG), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (PHI), James Neal (NAS), Brendan Leipsic (TOR), David Perron (STL), Oscar Lindberg (NYR), Erik Huala (MIN), William Karlsson (CBJ)

Monday, June 19, 2017

My Vegas Golden Knights

The NHL has set up the expansion draft so that the Vegas Golden Knights should get some decent players and be somewhat competitive instead of treading water for a few years like past expansion teams.

In the lead up to the expansion draft, some of the other 30 NHL teams have been trying to make deals with the Golden Knights to keep their hands off certain players, with some deals having been leaked.  It has been suggested that the New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Anaheim Ducks will be giving Vegas a 1st round draft pick in order to pick certain players. Looking at some of the surprising names exposed, it would not be a surprise if there are already other deals in place.  Vegas GM, George McPhee, has said he will allow teams to make a trade for a player they plan on picking.

The rules of the draft are that Vegas must select a player from each team that includes at minimum, 14 forwards, 9 defencemen, and 3 goalies.  Twenty players must be under contract for next season and they must equal between 60%-100% of the $75 million salary cap.  They also cannot buy out any players.

So, here is my team, taking in to account the three deals already having been made.  Some of these players will never play for Vegas and may be picked to be flipped to another team.

Goalies (3)

Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) $5,575,000
Petr Mrazek (DET) $5,000,000
Philip Grubauer (WAS) RFA

Defence (11)

Alexi Emelin (MTL) $4,100,000
Andre Sustr (TB) RFA
Calvin De Haan (NYI) RFA
Colin Miller (BOS) $1,000,000
Griffen Reinhart (EDM) RFA
Luca Sbisa (VAN) $3,600,000
Marc Methot (OTT) $4,900,000
Matt Dumba (MIN) $2,550,000
Sami Vatanen (ANA) $4,875,000
Toby Enstrom (WPG) $5,750,000
Trevor van Riemsdyk (CHI) $825,000

Forwards (16)

Adam Cracknell (DAL) $675,000
Alex Chiasson (CGY) RFA
Dale Weise (PHI) $2,350,000
James Neal (NAS) $5,000,0000
Jamie McGinn (ARI) $3,333,333
Jonathan Marchessault (FLO) $750,000
Jordan Nolan (LA) $950,000
Kerby Rychel (TOR) $863,333
Lee Stempniak (CAR) $2,500,000
Matt Calvert (CBJ) $2,200,000
Michael Grabner (NYR) $1,650,000
Mike Cammalleri (NJ) $5,000,000
Mikhail Grigorenko (COL) RFA
Mikkel Boedker (SJ) $4,000,000
Nail Yakupov (STL) RFA
William Carrier (BUF) $689,167

Total Salary $68,310,833

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Repeat Champions

Late to the party...

The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished, something something very rare in the NHL these days, repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.  The 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings were the last team to do so, with the Penguins becoming the first in the Cap Era to do so.

The road to repeating was not an easy one.  Their reward for finishing second in the entire league was to take on the team that finished fourth overall in the league, in the Columbus Blue Jackets, before needing 7 games against the President Trophy winning Washington Capitals in the next round.  Ottawa proved to be a very tough foe in the Eastern Conference Final, needing a dramatic double overtime winner by veteran Chris Kunitz to send Pittsburgh into the Final where they met the exciting Nashville Predators.  It took 6 games, as I predicted, before Pittsburgh was able to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup again in Smashville, once again following in tradition of clinching on the road like their previous four Cup wins.

The question now becomes can they 3-peat?  That's something that hasn't happened since the New York Islanders dynasty of the 80's (1980-84) when they won four straight Cups.  It's somewhat unlikely, though not entirely impossible.

Consider the team still has the best player in the league in Sidney Crosby, who won his second straight Conn Smythe.  Evgeni Malkin is no slouch, either.  Matt Murrary is only 23. The team won with a defence that didn't have a player who had ever received a single Norris trophy vote.  Imagine how much better it will be when Kris Letang returns next season after being injured the last half of the season.

There will be changes; more than there were last season.  Some players like Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz will be moving on.  At 40, Cullen has already said he was retiring, although he said that last year as well.  Kunitz could do the same after winning his fourth Cup.

Nick Bonio and Trevor Daley are both UFA's, but I'd would say short of a low ball offer, both would be foolish to leave.  Daley would be the bigger loss as Bonino didn't quite have the playoff he had a year before as part of the HBK line (Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin).

So who could possibly stop the Penguins attempt at a 3-peat?

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals: They were the President Trophy winners last season, but after failing to advance beyond the second round, again, thanks to the Penguins, Washington faces some changes.  Most of the key guys are signed thru next season, though T.J. Oshie, Karl Azner, and Kevin Shattenkirk are all UFAs.

Tampa Bay Lightning: A healthy Steven Stamkos should get the Lightning back into the playoffs after missing last year.  They came close a couple of years ago, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, then lost to Pittsburgh the next year in the Eastern Conference Final.  Even after today's massive trade with the Montreal Canadiens, saying goodbye to Jonathan Drouin, they still have a deep team.

Montreal Canadiens: Marc Bergevin finally addressed the scoring woes that plagued the Canadiens in the playoffs by acquiring Drouin from the Lightning.  They still need a true number one centre and there is still a question of whether Alex Radulov will be re-signed or not.  The Russian forward proved that he was a changed man last season, but could he price himself out?  They have one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the league in Carey Price.  The window may be closing fast as Price is set to be a UFA soon, which could force Bergevin to make more moves to turn the team into an even bigger contender.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Wait, what?  The Penguins have played a lot of hockey in the past couple of seasons and face another short off-season.  There was already suggestion that the team was running on fumes in the Final, though we all know how that turned out.  It's possible that a 3-peat is out of the question, but another championship the year after might not be as surprising.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks were stunned by the Predators in the first round.  Not because they lost, but because they were swept.  That prompted changes behind the bench to Joel Quennville's assistants.  The team itself, remains intact.  Along with Pittsburgh, they are the only team to have won 3 Stanley Cups since 2009.  They are due for a fourth.

Anaheim Ducks: Always a bridesmaid, never the bride.  The window to win appears to be closing somewhat as the team's leaders get older.  The expansion draft could throw a wrench in their Stanley Cup aspirations, as they could potentially lose a really good player, either up front or on the back end.

Nashville Predators: Despite finishing 8th in the west, the Predators are a better team than their record belies.  They have arguably the best defence in the league and have a young nucleus of forwards.  Beating Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim on their way to the Final prove they are a true contender and a return to the Final is not out of the question.

Monday, June 5, 2017

P.K.'s Stinky Breath


I can't believe how many people have been hooked by what he said.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Rinne Or Bust

The first two games of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final have been a little wacky, to say the least. The team that, most agree, been the better team are down 2-0 in the Final, while also facing a goalie dilemma.

Pekka Rinne's numbers in the Final have not been pretty.  His save percentage is an ugly .778 and his goals against is 4.00, a far cry from the numbers (.941 save percentage & 1.70 G.A.A.) he carried into the Final as the playoffs top goalie.  Perhaps it shouldn't be all that surprising, as Rinne has never beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins as a starter (1-7-2), with his only win coming in relief.

What's more discouraging than Rinne's numbers has been how the Penguins have amassed those eight goals on him.  They've come in a short, soul crushing few minutes, in both games.  Three goals in the final five minutes in the first period gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead that they would eventually blow, only to have their very first shot in 37 minutes beat Rinne for the game winner.  In game two, with the game tied at 1-1, Pittsburgh scored just ten seconds in.  Three and a half minutes later, the game was over as the Penguins added two more goals and chased Rinne.

That has lead to the speculation over the next two days as to who will start in net for the Nashville Predators.  Could head coach, Peter Laviolette, hand the reins over to backup Juuse Saros for his first career playoff start in what may be the most important game in franchise history?

It would take a giant set of you know what and a complete total lack of faith in Rinne
to make the switch to Saros.  I don't believe Laviolette or any of the other players have lost faith in Rinne.  After all, a big reason as to why they are in the Final in the first place is because of the Finnish goaltender.

And, let's be honest.  Saros is not Pittsburgh Penguins goalie, Matt Murray.  He didn't lead the Predators to the Stanley Cup like Murray did a year ago with the Penguins and who would have started from the very first day off the playoffs if he had not injured himself in the warm ups before the first game.

At this point, the only choice is still Rinne.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Not Another P.K. Story

It's unavoidable with P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. You know there will be tons of these stories.

First, a recap.

There's probably never been another trade in NHL history that has been discussed as much, and for so long, as the one that happened nearly a year ago between the Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens.  At least, one that I can remember.

It was a shocking day that also saw another blockbuster trade in Edmonton sending Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson.  The only one still talking about that trade is Hall, who to say the least, is still sounding a little bitter about the new found success of his former team, after suffering through the bad times.

P.K. Subban's name had popped up a few days earlier at the trade.  The Montreal Canadiens quickly denied that they were trying to trade their superstar player.  The media pounced, however, zeroing in on a number of things that make them believe where there is smoke, there's fire.

It was no secret that then head coach, Michel Therrien, was less than enamoured with Subban, singling him out for a loss two years ago in a February game against the Colorado Avalanche, after Subban had turned the puck over.  Never mind that it was still a 3 on 3 going back the other way and ended up being played incorrectly by those three players, leaving Jarome Iglina all alone in front for a tap in.  None of those players were called out.

There were rumours that Subban's over the top personality was rubbing some of the players the wrong way, including the captain, Max Pacioretty.  It is suggested by at least one person that Pacioretty was more of a divider than uniter, while another person said Subban did make some mistakes that pissed off some his former teammates.  I've never been in that dressing room, so I wouldn't know if that is true or not.  It would appear P.K.'s new Nashville Predators don't seem to have a problem with him.

Former Montreal Canadiens and a friend of Subban, George Laraque, believes the players might have been jealous of Subban due to his popularity.  Subban wasn't only the most popular player (maybe second behind Carey Price), but one of the most popular people in the entire city.

Lastly, a no movement clause would be kicking in on Canada Day, July 1st.  That would make any trade that much more difficult to pull off.  So, if Marc Bergevin wanted to move Subban without conditions, time was running out.

For whatever reason, P.K. Subban was swapped for Shea Webber.  In the very first year of the trade, here is Subban and the Nashville Predators four wins away from the team's first Stanley Cup, while his former team has been golfing for a few weeks now.

Let's make it clear: the Predators were already a very good team and could still have made it this far had they not made the trade.  In other words, Subban was not the final piece of the puzzle to a legit contender.  It also might not be a coincidence, either.

He's not the top defenceman on this team, which already was one of the best with Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm.  In Montreal, there was veteran Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry, but its nowhere close to be as good as Nashville's.

The one big knock on Subban, from a purely hockey standpoint, was that he wasn't as strong defensively or that he took too many risks.  It's interesting, then, that Subban was tabbed to be on the shut down pairing with Ekholm and did more than just an admirable job.
No doubt, he will be out against either one of Pittsburgh's top guns, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

One of the things I guess nobody seem to consider while Subban was still in Montreal (especially Thierrien) was that he needed to take those risks because the team is offensively challenged, proven by the team's 1st round exit where they struggled to score goals, something Bergevin failed to address at the trade deadline.

To be truthful, I wasn't a big P.K. Subban fan in the first place.  But, as I came to the realization that not only was Subban a really good defenceman, but a pretty good guy, I began liking him more.  Everyone who seems to be criticizing him for no good reason only made me like him even more.

I believe the Pittsburgh Penguins will repeat as Stanley Cup Champions in six games and while I'm not really rooting for either them, I wouldn't mind seeing the Predators win, if so P.K. could bring the Cup back to Montreal, not to rub it in to his former GM and teammates who may not have appreciated him, but so the kids at the Montreal Children's Hospital could enjoy the Cup up close.

All the other P.K. supporters in the city, and there are plenty of them, can remind Bergevin and Therrien about that, instead.

After just one year, it's hard to believe that a winner of this trade, for those who need there to be a winner, could already be declared.  If the Predators win the Stanley Cup, then regardless of whatever happens in Montreal next season and beyond, they would be the winners because they get the younger player in Subban.

The real winner, though, is Subban himself.  He now is in a place where he can continue to be himself and not worry about having daggers thrown his way by the organization.