Ramblings: Review of the Weekend, Rick Nash, and More – June 26

Michael Clifford


It was quite the wild weekend at the Draft. We didn’t have nearly the action on Friday in terms of trades that we thought we would, but we did have a lot of movement on draft boards I don’t think (m)any saw coming.

Saturday was a different story, though. In case you missed anything, I’m going to briefly recap what we’ve posted here at Dobber the last few days:

  • Ian’s Ramblings on Sunday gave his take on the Draft, Kovalchuk, and the Calgary/Carolina trade.
  • Dobber covered the Ilya Kovalchuk signing in Los Angeles as well as the Calgary/Carolina trade.
  • Cam’s Ramblings on Saturday covered the first day of the Draft.
  • I wrote about the Philipp Grubauer trade on Friday.
  • Cam and Peter Harling from Dobber Prospects posted their reactions on the first round of the Draft in a podcast over on Dobber Prospects.
  • Hayden had a Ramblings on Dobber Prospects discussing the best fits from the draft.

There was a lot going on so in case you missed something, or want to go over it again, there is a lot to review.

Given that most of the excitement happened on Saturday, at least from the perspective of impacts on current NHLers, I wanted to get my thoughts out there on both Kovalchuk and the big trade.


Ilya Kovalchuk

Where I agree with Dobber in his assessment of the Kovalchuk signing is how this helps Anze Kopitar. The word ‘helps’ is relative. As Dobber mentioned, it’s going to be very hard for the Slovenian centre to improve on 92 points, Kovalchuk or not. It will help him maintain somewhere close to that level, though, so it’ll help him not fall off steeply in production, but not necessarily help him improve. Again, help is relative.

Where I kind of part with Dobber is on how the top-6 will look. When Jeff Carter returned at the end of February, Tyler Toffoli spent a not-insignificant amount of time on the third line. In fact, he spent about one-third of his five-on-five ice time with Adrian Kempe compared to about two-thirds with Jeff Carter. Part of this was because Toffoli slumped hard in the second half (seven goals in calendar 2018), part of this was because, I assume, there was a desire to have more than two scoring lines. Maybe next year, we see pairs of forwards like many teams have e.g. Kopitar/Kovalchuk together, Carter/Pearson together, Toffoli/Kempe together, and then wingers are mixed and matched as needed? Or maybe Pearson and Toffoli are switched. It would give the Kings a third scoring line they really haven’t had in recent memory. From a real-hockey perspective, it probably makes more sense to operate like that rather than stacking the top two lines and hoping Adrian Kempe can carry a third line with Trevor Lewis or whomever.

A final point on the impact of the signing is the power play. Los Angeles is one of the teams that has stuck by a three-forward top PP unit even as more teams move to a four-forward unit. Los Angeles had nearly 382 power play minutes available last year. Out of those 382 minutes, nearly half of them (about 48.3 percent) featured Drew Doughty with one of Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez. Now, was this just a function of not having Jeff Carter most of the year, or is it the PP setup they truly want to use? Because if they stick with two defencemen, one would assume that means a forward unit of Kopitar-Kovalchuk-Carter. If they go to one defenceman, do they add Dustin Brown or Tyler Toffoli? A big part of Brown’s resurgence last year was power-play production; he had 15 PPPs in 2017-18 but had just 15 total PPPs from 2014-2017.

Note that when Carter returned, they still used two defencemen, so even with the option of running Kopitar-Carter-Brown-Toffoli-Doughty, they kept Toffoli largely off the top PP unit. If they decide to go to a four-forward top PP unit, Brown seems in line to get the first crack. That could all change, though, if Toffoli returns to sniper form.

In that sense, I don’t think this signing helps Toffoli unless he leapfrogs Brown in the power play pecking order, but it won’t necessarily hurt him, either; he’s set for a rebound at five-on-five and PP production has never been a cornerstone of his fantasy value. It sure does limit his upside though.  

As far as Kovalchuk’s production goes, expecting anything more than 30 goals or 60 points is foolish. Guys his age just don’t produce at elite rates in today’s NHL, even fellow future Hall of Famers like Marian Hossa and Jarome Iginla. Start with those marks and work backwards when establishing your rankings.


Calgary-Carolina Trade

That the Hurricanes traded Noah Hanifin isn’t a huge surprise. His name had been in rumours for a while now and new ownership was clear on wanting to shake things up. Once it was made public that Elias Lindholm’s camp and the Hurricanes were far apart on a new contract (he’s an RFA due for a raise), it made sense he’d be on the move as well.

I don’t think anyone expected the trade that occurred.

Before getting into fantasy analysis, I’m going to say this: why does Dougie Hamilton keep getting traded? We saw the reports come out post-trade that Hamilton wasn’t a guy to spend a lot of time going out with the team (he likes museums and apparently that’s a negative character flaw). There were quotes from Flames GM Brad Treliving about “changing the mix” in the room. We remember the knives coming out after he was traded from Boston, and on Twitter, Bruins beat writer Joe Haggerty mused Hamilton not going to Las Vegas for a postseason team drinking binge was the last straw.

It’s also been discussed by the media and by Bill Peters that there was a desire to reunite TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano. That would have pushed Hamilton to the second pairing. That’s coming from the Flames. As is his nature, there has been no comment from Hamilton on the matter.

Keep in mind: Hamilton is well-known for work in the community including being the organizer for Flames players visiting the local children’s hospital on Halloween and dropping in to youth hockey practices. He won an award for his endeavours in the Calgary community.

Apparently, if you’re an elite defenceman playing for an NHL team in Canada, donating time and money to children’s hospitals is a one-way ticket out of town.  

This is how Calgary performed in 2017-18:

  • they gave up the seventh-most power plays to the opponent this year
  • the goaltenders were 22nd in five-on-five save percentage
  • they were 29th in five-on-five shooting percentage
  • they were 29th in power-play shooting percentage

Did Hamilton cause the goalies to be poor, Mike Smith to get hurt, and the team to be abysmal at scoring at five-on-five? Did he cause them to shoot a full one percent less at five-on-five compared to 2016-17?

Or maybe all this is just nonsense and, under the pressure of a failed season largely driven by percentages, Brad Treliving had to make a seismic move and the guy who visits museums is the easy target.

Anyway, when you have a star – and Hamilton is one of the best defencemen in the NHL – you figure out a way to make it work. Especially one in the middle of his prime making way less than market value.

Now, to the actual fantasy analysis of the trade.

For years, Carolina had two problems: they couldn’t score and their goalies couldn’t make saves. In the game of hockey, being unable to tally or prevent goals is a, let’s say, problem.

That started to change over the last couple years. Post-2013 lockout, 2016-17 and 2017-18 are the two seasons Carolina ranked highest in the league in goals/60 minutes at five-on-five. The power play wasn’t great, but it was better than Calgary’s, and there is a lot of room for improvement. Remember, we are going into Sebastian Aho’s third season, Teuvo Teravainen’s fourth full year, they have Martin Necas on his way, and just drafted Andrei Svechnikov. Veterans like Justin Williams and Jordan Staal, both capable scorers, are still around. There is still talk of Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner being traded, and while the latter being moved won’t help scoring, hopefully on aggregate the return will.

Regardless, at least in terms of skaters, this franchise is moving in the right direction, and Hamilton will be there to log big minutes at five-on-five and on the power play. A repeat of his 2017-18 season seems more likely than his 2016-17 season.

I think we saw the high-water mark from Micheal Ferland in 2017-18. It’s doubtful he’s on the first line in Carolina as he was in Calgary, and if he’s in the bottom-6 and on the second PP unit, he’s waiver fodder in fantasy leagues that don’t count hits. In those that do count hits, bank more on 2016-17 production than 2017-18.

As far as Elias Lindholm is concerned, I’m not convinced he moves right to the top line. Yes, they have been looking for a right winger for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan basically since Jiri Hudler’s magical 2014-15 season. They also badly need to lengthen the lineup. The trio of Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, and Garnet Hathaway was actually pretty good for them last year as a third line (54.5 percent shot share, 50.8 percent goal share, 54.6 percent expected goal share) but I don’t think they see it that way. I assume they, like the Los Angeles Kings mentioned above, see a scoring third line as a necessity, and don’t want to leave it up to Bennett-Jankowski-Hathaway to do it. Coach Bill Peters doesn’t seem convinced Lindholm to the top line is a lock, either:

Process of elimination says there’s either a plan in place to A) move Tkachuk to the top line right wing, B) just move Tkachuk to the right side of this own second line for some reason, C) move Tkachuk to the third line. Given the second two options are improbable, Tkachuk moving the top line is what Peters is inferring.

That would be incredible for Matthew Tkachuk, who is so proficient in multi-cat leagues that he doesn’t really need the production boost, but he’d be an elite asset if that were the case. It would also kill any hope for a Lindholm improvement. My assumption is it’ll be a fluid situation all year.  

This does clear the way for lock-top minutes for Mark Giordano on the PP, but again like Los Angeles, it’s a matter of whether they use a 3F2D power play or 4F1D. They had a lot of minutes with Gio-Hamilton together, do they just slide Noah Hanifin in Hamilton’s spot? It would make two lefties, so unless one is used in the diamond, I doubt it.

Remember, this also gives them three good left-shot defencemen in Giordano, Brodie, and Hanifin. Bill Peters said they wanted to get away from the Brodie-Hamonic pairing and get back to the top pair of Giordano-Brodie. That leaves Hanifin with Hamonic and then whatever they decide to do with the third pair. Here’s the kicker: going with Giordano-Brodie and Hanifin-Hamonic leaves Michael Stone as the third right defenceman, meaning there’s no room for Rasmus Andersson in the regular rotation unless they play one of he and Stone on their off-side. This configuration would be bad news for Andersson dynasty owners hoping he could get into the lineup this year.



One free agent going a bit under the radar is Rick Nash, but it’s not a certainty he even plays next year:


As the Boston Globe points out, Nash has a lengthy injury history (read: concussions) and has already made more than enough money for his family and several generations after to live well. The Stanley Cup has remained elusive, but I’m sure he’s weighing his future quality of life against the desire for that Cup. Maybe he decides it’s not worth it?



Your daily update on John Tavares Watch


For an update on trade/free agent rumours, I recommend Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column. One of the interesting nuggets was that the Blues seem to be in on trying to acquire Ryan O’Reilly. They have the pieces necessary and a definite need up the middle.


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