The all-star game and skills competition is this weekend and is anyone excited? Even with the Nashville Predators sending three representatives to Tampa.
I may sound like a homer when I say that there hasn’t been a fun all-star game since Nashville. Yeah, Pekka Rinne probably didn’t deserve to be there but John Scott made everything better. The joke created by Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski manufactured some drama that resulted in the realization that the NHL hates fun.
Now the NHL chooses our all-stars and keeps everything secret. Plus they choose terrible music acts. Seriously, Kid Rock? This isn’t 1998. The NHL should just choose an artist that’s local to the area, or even the state. He’s kind of a joke but Pitbull would certainly draw more people than Kid Rock and actually costs less money!!!!
This whole all-star situation seems like a no-brainer, in that it seems like it was put together by someone without a brain. Speaking of people with no brains, the trade deadline is a month away and I have a message for NHL general managers.
5. Identify the worst GMs, and become their best friend
David Poile has established himself as one of the best traders in the NHL. His track record over the past few seasons is almost unmatched as he’s acquired an elite first line center, a Norris winning defenseman, and one of the better second line centers in the league. Many have speculated that the Nashville Predators’ aren’t done and that Max Pacioretty could be on his way down. If this trade went through, it’d be Poile’s second move with general manager Marc Bergevin
I personally don’t think any more trades are incoming but let’s take a look at Poile’s strategy. He frequently targets certain general managers or managers in situations with their backs up against the wall. It’s how the Predators got both P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg.
If I was a GM, my strategy would be to identify the bad general managers and then never leave them alone. Would Mike Hoffman or Chris Tanev or Alex Galchenyuk not be a welcomed addition to any team? This strategy is how the Blackhawks remained dominant for so long and it works. Poile has figured it out and it turned a mediocre early 2010’s Predators team into a cup contender.
4. Beware the Avalanche
Oh, the difference a year can make. The Colorado Avalanche already have more points than they did last season, and it’s only January. Nathan Mackinnon has launched himself into Hart conversations and if the Avalanche make the playoffs, he has a strong case. Besides Mackinnon, guys like Erik Johnson, Samuel Girard, and Mikko Rantanen have stepped up over the last few months. Vladislav Kamenev also had a good few minutes before he was injured, but I hope he comes back stronger than ever.
The Central remains the Thunderdome and it’s only going to get worse.
3. Tolvanen in the Olympics
This isn’t really surprising after the KHL announced they would allow their players to go. Tolvanen is going through a bit of a slump at the moment, but his impact is still being felt on the ice and the Olympics will be good for him.
Other notable players to watch will be Troy Terry (USA), Miro Heiskanen (Finland), and of course, future first overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin.
2. The new guard on defense
The NHL is getting younger and more creative and so we’re seeing new innovative ways to play. Guys like Mitch Marner in Toronto are excelling in today’s game whereas they might not have made it past the Juniors 10 or 20 years ago.
The biggest change in the last 10 years is goaltending and how much better goalies have become, but the defenders are catching up. Guys like P.K. Subban and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are innovating the role of a shutdown defense. We no longer see those slow bruising defenders. Instead, Subban has perfected board battles as well as disrupting play at the blueline. The thing is that Subban isn’t an up-and-comer anymore, so he’s part of the “current guard”. Despite his new style of defense, you can see how it’s rubbed off on some young defenders. There’s four I want to highlight.
Edmonton is a dumpster fire, but there’s a defenseman there who keeps me glued to the TV. Darnell Nurse might be the best skater on a team that features Connor McDavid. I talked earlier about how shutdown defenders aren’t big hitters anymore, but Nurse uses his 6’4, 220-pound frame to physically dominate his opposition. He can disrupt plays at the blueline, or he punishes the opposition in front of the net. His offense is also growing as the 22-year-old has 18 points in 48 games. He’s one of the few players in Edmonton that’s part of the solution, not the problem.
The Flyers may be known for offense, but there’s a stud on the defense known as Ivan Provorov. The 21-year-old Russian has gotten better as the season has progressed. He has 24 points in 48 games and eats tough minutes as he plays around 25 per game. Coach Dave Hakstol relies heavily on Provorov as he starts in the offensive zone only 44% of the time. The Flyers could have a top-five defensive corp if guys like Travis Sanheim continue to develop.
We can all agree that the Carolina Hurricanes are the Winnipeg Jets of the East right? If they just had decent goaltending, they would be the best young team in the NHL. Despite some incredible offensive talent in Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner, and Sebastian Aho, the defense is the real crown jewel. Guys like future all-star Noah Hanifin, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, Hadyn Fleury, and most importantly, Jaccob Slavin make up an incredible two-way defensive group. Slavin is a future team USA player who can put up a decent amount of points but prevents so much more. In my opinion, he’ll end up as a combination between Mattias Ekholm and Subban. His shutdown skills are only getting better and he’s still at the ripe young age of 23. Expect him to carry on the mantle of Marc-Edouard Vlasic as the NHL’s best defensive defenseman in a few years.
Finally, the last guy I want to highlight. Jakob Chychrun is another impressive American defenseman who plays tough minutes for the Arizona Coyotes. The 19-year-old is a big kid at 6’2, but he’s just figuring out how to use it. His ability to make the first pass out of the zone is squandered with the Coyotes but will prove essential with a better team in the future. If that’s the Coyotes or somewhere else remains to be seen. After missing more than 20 games, Chychrun has 9 points in 19 games despite playing 22 minutes a night against top line talent. If you’ll remember, he was assigned to cover the Johansen line and did so elegantly in the two teams first meeting. Be very afraid of Chychrun if they ever put together a good team around him.
1. Subban on the Daily Show
Find the interview here on Comedy Central!
We as fans are so lucky to have P.K. Subban on the Nashville Predators and as a part of hockey. The NHL likes to hype up team rivalries, rather than play up the personalities. Not to speak ill of guys like Sidney Crosby or Auston Matthews, but they never show any real personality. Whether or not that it’s a response to hockey culture where the wrong thing can land you in hot water is debatable. But one thing isn’t, the NHL needs more personalities who are willing to bring a friendly face to professional hockey that will grab the attention of non-hockey fans.
Hopefully, Subban can make this a regular thing where he can appear on tv and talk about the good he’s doing in the community. Also, if you haven’t, check out his Don Cherry impression. That alone is enough to make him a hall-of-famer.