Toronto gets its championship! It might not be the long-awaited one from the team that is now in sole possession of the NHL’s longest active Stanley Cup drought, but it’s worth celebrating anyway. Even though I feel some Toronto angst from living out west, I have to admit it feels pretty cool to witness a Canadian team win a major sports championship. It was a similar feeling to 1992 and 1993, when the Blue Jays won the World Series. The Raptors went all in with the Kawhi trade, and they hit the jackpot. Soak it in, Raptors’ fans across Canada.
Lesson learned from the Raptors, from a fantasy perspective: Don’t worry about next season if you think you can build a team that can win it all this season. I don’t know what next season holds for the Raptors, but championship flags fly forever.
Okay, hockey purists, this is the last time that I’ll mention basketball in the Hockey Ramblings for a while…
Of course I am going to get to the Stanley Cup playoffs… Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues on their first Stanley Cup! Obvious lesson learned: Don’t bail on your fantasy team too quickly, particularly if all you need to do is make your league’s playoffs. This is a team that could have easily thrown in the towel and traded building blocks like Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo for hopes for a better future. They kept the band together and experienced an amazing turnaround.
Hands up if you had Jordan Binnington on your radar… back in December. None of us would have had any idea he would be the Stanley Cup-winning goalie when the Blues sat dead last in the NHL standings at midseason. However, take a closer look at Binnington’s AHL numbers: 2.08 GAA and .927 SV% with San Antonio in 2018-19; 2.05 GAA and .926 SV% with the Providence Bruins in 2017-18. Yes, the Providence Bruins. The Blues shared an AHL affiliate that season with Vegas (long story which is explained well here), so they loaned Binnington to Boston’s farm team. That’s how highly they thought of him at the time.
Another lesson learned: If you’re looking for the next big thing in net that no one else knows about, a good place to look might be at AHL goaltending leaders that are property of teams with struggling starters. And as we’ve seen, successful goalies are less likely to have pedigree than successful players. If you find a goalie that catches your eye, don’t expect that goalie to go on the kind of amazing run that Binnington did. However, you still might unearth a hidden gem.
While most hockey fans were living in the moment in Game 7, someone was already thinking ahead to next season. I have to admit, this is a solid attempt at a sizzling take.
— Mike Halbany (@mhalbany) June 13, 2019
For the record, I don’t think Jake Allen starts the Blues’ first game of the 2019-20 season. A Stanley Cup should make for great job security, particularly for the first home game when they’re hanging the banner. However, the forgotten man during the Blues’ Stanley Cup run could still significantly factor into the Blues’ plans going forward. If you read Dobber regularly, you’ll know that Allen is still technically the “golden boy”, as he still has two years left on a contract that pays $4.35 million per season.
In the latest Capped article, Alex breaks down the factors affecting a Binnington contract and what it could look like. Binnington isn’t necessarily guaranteed a big payday as a result of his accomplishments. A short-term deal might seem less likely than a long-term deal, given his relatively short track record. He will play regardless; however, the Blues also realize that a goalie taking up over $4 million in cap space will also be sitting on the bench. Watch for the contract, as it might be telling as to how Binnington fits into the Blues’ plans next season.
A 50-50 split isn’t outside of the realm of possibilities, although it seems at the moment that Binnington is the unquestioned starter going forward. Once Binnington hits a rough patch (which will happen at some point), will the Blues turn quickly back to Allen? This is something to think about if you own Binnington or are strongly considering drafting him. Allen has been unreliable these past two seasons, but until he’s traded or bought out, he’s going to start some games.
Binnington’s preseason value will probably be all over the map. My Top 100 Roto Rankings will go live Saturday, so find out then where I have him ranked… or if he even made the top 100.
I’m with Mike from yesterday’s Ramblings in that the season is too long. I was watching Game 7 on an evening where I would have trouble sleeping later because it was too hot outside. A buddy and I were discussing how we’d like to see the NHL season cut by 10 regular-season games. This would improve the quality of play, lead to fewer injuries, and make the playoffs less of a war of attrition and more geared toward matchups of league’s most talented teams. That’s not to take anything away from St. Louis and Boston, but it’s clear that some teams are built for the regular season, and others are built for the playoffs. But this simply won't happen because the owners won't let it. The reason is, of course, the almighty dollar.
With the Blues’ worst-to-first story now written, more teams than usual could believe that they are only one or two offseason moves away from contending for a Stanley Cup. After all, a team only needs to get into the playoffs to have a shot at the cup. You could be seeing teams fast-tracking their rebuilds, which could have serious negative consequences. NHL GMs afflicted with cases of FOMO (fear of missing out) will trip over each other to sign contracts they will regret later.
Teams could also look at the Blues’ model of winning with size and believe that’s the way to go. That style of play seems to work in the playoffs, where wearing the other team down in a best-of-seven is the way to go. Keep in mind, however, that a team needs to get to the playoffs first. That’s where the speed game comes in, and why we saw so many successful regular-season teams fall early in the playoffs. After watching the playoffs this season, it has never seemed more apparent to me that winning in the regular season and the playoffs requires two different strategies.
It’s going to be a very interesting offseason. Maybe the most interesting one we’ve had in a while. You won't have to wait long for things to happen, either.
Time for a little mock draft. This is meant as a fun exercise, which means that it is not meant to disparage your team, your favorite player, or any other mock drafts out there. If you’d like a more serious one, I’ll direct you to the Fantasy Prospects Report, where you’ll see a three-rounds-deep mock draft soon, if not already. If you need to find one sooner, you can check out this first-round draft at Dobber Prospects from Jokke Nevalainen. Plus there are various other ones scattered throughout the internet.
Top 10 Mock Draft
- NJ – Jack Hughes, C – Has been projected to go first overall all this time. Despite the emergence of Kakko, I don’t think that’s going to change now.
- NYR – Kappo Kakko, RW – The Rangers’ pick is easy. They’ll take Hughes if the Devils decide to pick Kakko. Nice consolation prize to have.
- CHI – Bowen Byram, LD – Defense isn’t necessarily an organizational need for the Blackhawks, but teams are learning that you can’t have enough of them on your roster.
- COL – Alex Turcotte, C – The USNDTP will fill the top 10 of the draft, starting with Turcotte. He’s a center with two-way skill, so he won’t last long.
- LA – Dylan Cozens, C – The Kings like size, and the 6’3” Cozens fits the bill.
- DET – Trevor Zegras, C – Dynamic center who seems to be going to the Wings in a few mock drafts that I’ve seen.
- BUF – Cole Caufield, RW – In spite of Caufield’s size (5-7, 160), I have a hard time thinking that he falls outside of the top 10.
- EDM – Vasili Podkolzin, RW – If the rumors are true, Jesse Puljujarvi may not be in the organization much longer, so they may target another big winger.
- ANA – Kirby Dach, C – Ducks will draft him in the hopes he will be the heir apparent to another big Prairie center, Ryan Getzlaf.
- VAN – Matthew Boldy, LW – The Canucks are reportedly trying to improve in the size department, which might explain their rumored interest in Milan Lucic. Boldy has size and is described in numerous scouting reports as silky smooth.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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