Anthony Mantha was back skating after Detroit's skate on Thursday. Not that it means his return is imminent, but they did say he’s getting closer to returning from his knee injury. Hopefully he can make it back for a game or two before the holiday break.
This is where I go into a mini-tirade about just how poorly managed the Sabres assets have been. They have eight (!) NHL-calibre defencemen that are in the rotation, and nine if you count Lawrence Pilut (mileage may vary here). All the while, this team sucks offensively outside the top line and whatever Jeff Skinner can manage to create on his own on the second line. If only there was a way for teams to exchange players from positions of strength to address a roster weakness. Ah well. Maybe someday.
Buffalo’s top line, and Jack Eichel specifically, keep doing their thing as the Sabres took a 4-3 win from the Predators. Eichel had a pair of goals, giving him 15 tallies in his last 17 games. The thing is, his shooting percentage is under 25 percent in those games. That’s high, but it’s not unbelievably absurd like some hot streaks. That’s just a lot of shot volume.
Thatcher Demko is out indefinitely with a concussion and Vancouver called up Mikey DiPietro in response. I’m not sure how many starts he’ll get as Jacob Markstrom has solidified himself as the number-1 goalie, but it’s nice for the kid to get back to the NHL regardless.
Watching the game, it seems like Erik Cernak is going to really rebound here soon. He was involved in the offence and he’s been brutally unlucky with the distribution of assists when he’s on the ice. This is a guy I would somehow look to roster in multi-cat leagues as soon as possible.
It’s only a couple weeks until Christmas, and Alex MacLean’s ‘Capped’ column yesterday gave me inspiration to do something kind of similar. It’s not a Christmas shopping list though, but rather a Christmas wish list.
These are things I’d like to see in the NHL, whether it be short-term or long-term. I’ll limit it to a half-dozen wishes, or what is usually double the limit (‘tis the season to make up rules). It could be line changes, trades, rule changes, or whatever else my mind can think up (which, these days, is less and less). You have anything on your Christmas wish list? Hit up the comments.
- All the children of the world to join hands and sing together in a spirit of harmony and peace.
I mean, who would want that, right? It would be just adorable.
- Head back to the Olympics
Alright, enough of this garbage. Outside of seeing their favourite team win a Stanley Cup, I would wager that there’s nothing hockey fans would want to see more than a true best-on-best among nations. Thinking back to the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, the only thing I remember is the young guns team. I barely remember the final; I think it was made up of cast-off European players? And a best-of-three? What’s that all about?
Anyway, just get back to the Olympics. I get it, NHL owners are greedy as hell and absolutely refuse to let their players play for their country. But something has to be done here. If the NHL was truly committed to Growing The Game, they’d be at the Olympics every four years, getting TV audiences the world over a look at the best competition possible. Instead, they send two teams to, like, Sweden for a couple games every October. Does Sweden know about hockey? They know about hockey, right?
- Call the cross-checks
I went on a rant a few weeks ago about cross-checks not being called in the wake of Robert Bortuzzo trying to split Viktor Arvidsson in two. Everything I have to say is contained there. Call the cross-checks.
- More four-forward setups
The more I think about it, and the more I read about it, the more a transition to a four-forward setup makes sense. At least in some instances. Bottom-of-the-roster defencemen tend to bring little of value and some just flat-out hurt your team’s win probability whenever they skate. One theory I’ve seen presented, and one that I’m coming around on, is that teams should basically employ maybe three defencemen and have one of them on the ice at all times. It would require a complete change in mentality and tactics, meaning it won’t happen in hockey for a long, long time. But other sports have radically changed over the last decade, NFL and NBA in particular, while the NHL has largely remained stagnant aside from getting (again, largely) rid of face-punchers.
At the least, more teams should do it at the ends of periods or sporadically throughout the game when they can get a good matchup.
- Colorado needs to trade for Taylor Hall
I’m not a Colorado fan by any stretch (in fact, as a Habs fan, I quite irrationally dislike them). That being said, holy liftin’ is this team fun to watch. When they’re all healthy, their top-6 is unrivalled in the West and that doesn’t even begin to explain Cale Makar’s impact. Now imagine a top line with Hall-MacKinnon-Rantanen, allowing the roster to be lengthened even more as everyone gets bumped down a spot. That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Do the Avs need Hall to win the Cup? Absolutely not. Do they even need him to be Cup contenders? Nope. Do they need him on the roster more than another impact defenceman? Nah. Do I want this trade to happen? Probably more than any other trade this year.
- Give Kyrou all the time he needs
Jordan Kyrou was recently called up by the Blues. For a bit of context, this is a guy I’ve been enamoured with for years. Now, everyone has their ‘favourites’ but he’s truly among the half-dozen non-elite prospects (guys that aren’t picked near the top of the first round of their draft) I’ve been drooling over since I’ve started writing about fantasy hockey. Some others include Valeri Nichushkin (TBD) and Jakub Vrana (it’s cheating a bit but he was 13th overall and that isn’t the same as 3rd).
Kyrou has all the skills necessary to be an elite offensive player, and we’ve seen flashes of that skill at the NHL level. St. Louis lost Vladimir Tarasenko likely until (at least) playoffs and the team really doesn’t look anywhere near the team they were in the second-half of last season in the run up to their Cup. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt of not playing to full potential, kind of cruising until the playoffs like the Blackhawks used to do when they used to make the playoffs. If that’s the case, give Kyrou all the ice time he can handle. Let him develop with the future of that team.
- Detroit gets first overall pick
A few years ago – I don’t remember which site – I wrote about how the NHL is generally better when the Leafs are good. This would have been the Auston Matthews draft year when the team was garbage and had been for, well, a while. They generate a lot of revenue for the rest of the league and no one enjoys beating on the same punching bag all the time. And a lot of my friends were suffering from what I would call “general malaise.”
This is basically the same reasoning with Detroit. This is their Suffer Year. All the recent teams have done it, and some for more than one year (looking at you, Buffalo). But rebuilding teams, even when they already have a few good players, have to go through a suffer year. For Toronto, it was 2014-15, and it was 2016-17 for Colorado. Now, this is Detroit’s Suffer Year. They’re awful and they won’t be getting (marginally) better until Anthony Mantha returns. I want that to translate into the first overall pick. Add Alexis Lafrenière to this roster, with the top line already there, Zadina ready for full-time NHL minutes, and loads of cap space to rebuild the blue line, and there’s something brewing. It’s going to be a miserable 2019-20 season for the Wings and their fans. They deserve the first overall pick out of this.
Oh, wait, that’s seven wishes. Well, it looks like we’re going to have to cut… *scans the list* … we’re going to have to cut the crap about the kids.