Ramblings: ‘Canes-Islanders and Blues-Stars; Hart Trophy; Kravtsov and Korshkov – May 2

by Michael Clifford on May 2, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: ‘Canes-Islanders and Blues-Stars; Hart Trophy; Kravtsov and Korshkov – May 2

 

There was a big boost to the Hurricane lineup as both Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook returned in Game 3, with Svech on the third line and Martinook on the fourth. They’re still without Trevor van Riemsdyk and Micheal Ferland, but getting the two forwards back is a big boost for them.

More on Game 3 below.

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Brad Marchand will not face league discipline for his sucker (rabbit?) punch of Scott Harrington on Tuesday night.

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The Sharks say Joe Pavelski skated on his own back in San Jose while the team is still in Colorado. It’s a baby step, but it’s good to see he’s on the ice, however limited it might be.

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The Leafs signed 2016 second-round pick Egor Korshkov (can we get a definitive ruling on Egor or Yegor?) to a two-year entry-level contract. The 22-year old has played five years in the KHL, his latest season cut short because of a shoulder injury. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.

He has 24 goals in over 170 career KHL games, including 11 goals in his most recent 71 contests.

I won’t delve into Korshkov’s ability because our Dobber Prospects profile does a good job at doing just that. What I will speak to is the opportunity here. Korshkov typically plays on the right but he is a left shot and with Zach Hyman’s injury and the uncertainty around Toronto’s cap situation, there may be a clear path to the NHL if Korshkov is willing to play the left side. I would assume that he at least starts the season in the AHL but if he can impress, he may not be there long.

I am definitely not saying that he’s so good that he’ll be fast-tracked to the NHL. All I’m saying is he has that opportunity if he performs very well in training camp and exhibition. There are a lot of bridges to cross between now and October.

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Staying with the KHL, it looks like the Rangers will be welcome Vitali Kravtsov to the fold for certain in 2019-20. The 19-year old (just turned in December) had 21 points in 50 games with Chelyabinsk this past season. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.

This news comes a day after the Rangers acquired defenceman Adam Fox in a trade with Carolina while we’re only a few weeks removed from the team moving up in the draft to the Kakko draft slot. It has been a really good month for the Rangers’ rebuild.

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While staying on the topic of prospects, our very own Jokke Nevalainen had a two-part review of the under-18 world championship that just finished over the weekend. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. It’s a good team-by-team breakdown for a refresher (or even introduction) to some of the players you’ll need to know for this year’s draft as well as entry drafts down the road. Our Dobber Prospects team is putting in a lot of hours these days, be sure to take advantage of this to get the advantage you need in both rookie drafts and start-up dynasty drafts.

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One final prospects note: Jack Hughes looks poised to join Team USA at the upcoming Men’s World Championships, joining brother Quinn (and Fox, coincidentally). Kaapo Kakko is already committed to Team Finland.

I know this is sort of an all-star tournament played on international ice, but this will be a good look at what the younger Hughes, especially, can do against not only NHL players, but high-level NHLers. I don’t think anyone’s expecting failure from him, but it’ll help give fantasy owners a feel as to whether Hughes can step in next year and be a 70-point rookie or a 50-point rookie. I know I’ll be watching intently.

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When talking about cap crunches, the teams brought up most often are Toronto (by a wide margin) and Tampa Bay to some degree. There are discussions around Winnipeg and Las Vegas as well.

I want to discuss a team currently in the playoffs that will be freeing up a lot of cap space: Dallas.

Following the conclusion of Dallas’s season, whenever that is, they will have over $11-million coming off the books between Jason Spezza, Roman Polak, and Ben Lovejoy (full-season value). As much as I’ve enjoyed watching Spezza over the last 15 years, all three players are easily replaced internally. Even when including pending RFA contracts like Mattias Janmark, Jason Dickinson, or Esa Lindell, and possibly extending Mats Zuccarello, the Stars could have over $10-million in cap space with only a handful of roster spots to fill, most of which can be filled with young, cheap players. That means they have enough room for an impact free agent signing.

This is the right year to have the room for an impact free agent signing. There are several elite wingers but if they re-sign Mats Zuccarello, they won’t really need another impact winger. What they need is a centre do play the 2C role behind Seguin as they hoped Spezza could do. The guy they should target is Matt Duchene.

Whether they do it or not is a different question but if the Stars can go into next year with a top line of Benn-Seguin-Radulov and a second line of something like Hintz-Duchene-Zuccarello, with the top-end young blue liners they have, this is a team that could keep their Cup window open for years to come. I hope they do it.

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In a game that was not nearly as lopsided as the score indicated, Carolina skated out of their home barn with a 5-2 win over the Islanders in Game 3, pushing their series lead to 3-0. Sebastian Aho picked off a clearing attempt from Robin Lehner and found Justin Williams in the slot for the third Hurricanes goal, and the game winner. Teuvo Teravainen scored into an empty net for his second goal of the game while Sebastian Aho piled on with an empty netter of his own.

Jaccob Slavin had a pair of assists while playing over 26 minutes on Wednesday night. There has been a lot of chatter (and rightfully so) about Miro Heiskanen’s playoff run so far, but Slavin now has 12 assists in the postseason while logging over 26 minutes a night. He’s routinely tasked with the opposition’s top line and, on the whole, has been excellent these playoffs. It’s been a breakout for him in his own right, if only because he’s getting national attention now.

Svechnikov, by the way, looked just fine to me. He had a handful of Svech-esque offensive rushes and seemed to be very responsible defensively. He didn’t get much ice time – third-lowest 5v5 total among all ‘Canes players – but that he looked good, looked like himself, and Carolina won all in the same night is a huge boon for this team.

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The late game wasn’t nearly as nail-biting as it was in Dallas’s control pretty much from start to finish as the Stars took Game 4 over St. Louis by a 4-2 margin. Vladimir Tarasenko scored early in the contest on the power play but a couple first period goals from the Brothers Jason (Spezza and Dickinson) gave Dallas a 2-1 lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The series is now tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Friday.

Dickinson finished the game with five shots on goal, a high for him this postseason. He has been moved up the lineup these playoffs and while better line mates help, his speed and tenacity on both sides of the puck has served the team well. I’m not sure he turns into a meaningful fantasy asset other than hits leagues, but that he’s turning into a good middle-six guy for the Stars is big for the franchise.

Roope Hintz scored his fifth goal of the playoffs, tying him for the lead on the Stars. He’s also been another revelation for this team.

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There was a lot of hubbub following the release of the Hart Trophy nominations, and like the Calder Trophy, there appeared to be one player who was a sure-fire lock, and two debatable selections. Nikita Kucherov is the player no one has an issue with, while I’ve seen dismay at the selections of Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. The former because of how bad the team was and the latter because… well I’m not sure what the issue with Crosby was. He played Selke-level defence while putting up 100 points. That feels like people just complaining for the sake of complaining.

As for McDavid, I get the reasoning. Edmonton finished 11 points out of a playoff spot and there’s an argument to be made that he actually hurt the team because if he doesn’t have an otherworldly season, they probably end up with one of Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko. I don’t like that logic because while it does make technical sense, I don’t think we should be lamenting players trying to help their team win hockey games.

I was looking into McDavid’s season a bit and came across this:

 

 

For reference, the league average save percentage at five-on-five this year was .919. A mark of .927 would have ranked sixth in the NHL as a team this year while .903 would have been 30th. And yet, the Oilers were +12 with McDavid/Draisaitl on the ice and -22 with them off the ice. That’s how good McDavid was.

All of this comes down to semantics and pedantry, which is about the worst way to decide anything but here we are. It’s the difference between most valuable player to his team and most outstanding player. The latter is just a great season, the former implies some sort of team success resulting from the player’s performance. The Hart Trophy is supposed to be most valuable to his team, which is where all the arguments come from almost every season.

I don’t know that there’s a good answer here. If we limit solely to teams who reach the playoffs, we’re removing nearly half the league from Hart Trophy consideration out of hand. But the wording of the criteria would indicate to us that this is how people should vote.

Maybe there should be two trophies, one for the traditional sense of Hart Trophy voting and one for an outstanding performance. Or maybe with the advent of wins above replacement models we can keep the current idea in place.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s pretty obvious that McDavid was the difference between the Oilers at least having a glimpse at the playoffs this year and being Ottawa-level bad. That’ll be the case every year until management turns the franchise around. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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Finally, a somber note to pass along. Jason Botchford, the long-time journalist covering the Vancouver Canucks with The Province, where he created the uber-populer ‘The Provies’, and now writing for The Athletic, has died at the age of 48 from heart failure.

He is survived by his wife and three children.

This is such a sad day for the hockey world. Jason was a sports journalist whose writing was not only coveted by more traditional media and fans, but the analytical subset as well. He was a person whose prose could reach and impact every type of hockey fan, and that is something exceedingly rare. He was able to tell a story in a unique voice that was both entertaining and engaging. It’s such a special talent in a writer, and he’s a person whose style any aspiring sports journalist would do very well to emulate. He was that good.

When seeing the condolences pour in, it was obvious that he was more than just a talented writer. He cared about the success of others and took the time to help those trying to make their own name. To find someone as good as they are at what they do take the time to help others coming up behind them is an infrequent occurrence. 

Condolences to his wife, his children, and the rest of his family and friends.

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I wanted to pass along the condolences from our own Cam Robinson. Being a voice in the Vancouver hockey media, Cam worked alongside with, and often received advice from, Jason Botchford. Here’s what Cam had to say:

Jason Botchford was a tremendous writer, reporter and friend. His unending energy to find creative and enjoyable storylines was matched only by his ability to forge relationships. Botch provided me with immeasurable assistance in my writing career. He was always there to lend advice, to bounce ideas off of, or just chat. He meant a great deal to me. My heart breaks for his wife and three children. He will be greatly missed.