Ramblings: Perry Rumors, fickle sports fans, GM advice, Game 7 on the way – and more (June 10)
Some interesting numbers I got from the NHL:
The last time a team won a Stanley Cup after being down in the series 3-2 was in 2011 – the Boston Bruins. By no means a predictor, but definitely interesting.
David Krejci now has 21 points in 21 games when Boston is facing elimination. I may have been a little hard on Krejci over the years because of his unreliable health. But he is a Boston legend because he’s been clutch. And he’s been a lifer. He’s a Boston legend and that will last forever.
Boston has been to Game 7 on 27 different occasions (15-12), but this 28th time will be the first time they host a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final. Talk about a hot ticket.
When Zdeno Chara dresses on Wednesday, it will be for his 14th Game 7. That’s an NHL record. Patrick Roy (6-7) and Scott Stevens (7-6) have played in 13.
For those who didn’t catch the game, the 5-1 final score is a little misleading. This could have went either way in the first two periods. In fact, the Blues won more faceoffs 59-41 (a wide margin) and they outhit the Bruins 29-27. A fluky knuckle-baller early in the third by Brandon Carlo gave the Bruins the 2-0 cushion. By the mid-third, the Blues had to really start pressing and take more risks, and things spun away from them at that point.
The Perfection Line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak really came to play. Each of them saw over 24 minutes of ice time…or, rather…that’s how it seemed. They were noticeable every shift, but none of them saw even 16:30 of ice time! Talk about rolling your lines evenly…
Marchand leads the postseason in scoring with 23 points, Ryan O’Reilly is next at 21.
Late in the game, things started to get out of hand when it no longer mattered. The refs were quick to put a stop to it. Robert Bortuzzo was shown the gate here:
Here we go again with the ‘another team will fix our mistake for us’ rumors. Last week I went off on a rant about the Leafs and their magical stroke of luck in having the two players they needed to shed, actually ‘wanting’ (yeah right) to leave. This week it’s Anaheim and Corey Perry. This 34-year-old, clearly on the decline and whose 30-goal seasons are a distant memory, will be traded or bought out. With $8.625 million AAV remaining for the next two seasons, I can’t see them finding a trade partner. His 30-goal seasons are a memory, and frankly I think his 20-goal seasons are, too. That’s a lot of dough to give up for 18 goals and 35 points per season that I’d expect. The Ducks would need to eat a significant chunk of the salary and I am guessing they would need to also add a small asset to entice – something along the lines of a third-round draft pick for a fifth. Perry can still help a team, and for half his salary if he can stay healthy he would even be an asset to that team. But it’s a risk, and the team would be doing the Ducks a favor by taking him off their hands.
Teams, media and (of course) fans believe that there are plenty of teams out there who would be happy to bail them out of their financial mess by taking their liabilities. The fact of the matter is that there are only a small handful, and with two dozen teams looking to shed a couple of anchors, there is only so much to go around. If I’m the Ducks, or the Leafs, I would take whatever deal is out there as soon as I can. Don’t wait. Because once July 1 hits I guarantee you that all teams with a bit of cap room to help out today, will no longer have that cap room to help out.
Disclosure: I promise I won’t get all basketbally here on you. This just relates to all sports, including hockey, and I have something to ramble about it.
I’m in Pickering, which is a suburb of Toronto. I am a bandwagon Raptors jumper. I watched my first Raptors game of the season (probably more like two or three years) in the semi-finals against the Bucks, and seen most of the games since. Usually while doing work on my Fantasy Prospects Report. Anyway, there is a report out of Washington that they are interested in poaching Toronto GM Masai Ujiri, ready to offer him full control and part ownership of the team. This is, of course, in response to his genius move of trading Toronto’s star player DeMar DeRozan for an elite player in Kawhi Leonard. And it was genius – a huge risk, all or nothing during a window which was closing fast. I love that. Leonard was a huge injury risk and only had one year left on his contract, and Ujiri rolled the dice on it. My problem is not with the trade at all. It never was – I respect a GM in fantasy sports who takes big risks, I certainly won’t change ideals when it comes to real life trading.
My problem is the fickleness of sports fans. And the term “sports fans” encompasses all – the paying customer, the management, and the media.
That’s the difference between possibly getting fired, and getting job offers that include an ownership stake in a professional sports team. Four. Bounces. For you hockey fans who know less about basketball than I do (and that’s setting the bar pretty low here), it was Game 7 at the buzzer in the Eastern Conference semi-finals against Philadelphia. Leonard took a shot and it bounced off the rim four times before dropping in. Raptors win. What if that ball bounced out? The game goes to overtime and say the Sixers win – Raps get eliminated. Well now suddenly Ujiri is an idiot for doing that trade. Leonard walks as a free agent, Toronto has nothing left to show for losing DeRozan except for memories of a second-round exit. Speculation abound about Ujiri’s job makes the rounds in the media. And to me, that’s wrong. Nobody would see the big picture – he made the move because his team was running out of time to win, and he should be applauded no matter the result.
You’re seeing with the Maple Leafs what happens when the four bounces go the other way: What if in Game 7 of the first round Jake Gardiner didn’t drop pass to Marcus Johansson for the second goal? But that’s what he did, and a lot of fans are calling for Mike Babcock’s head. What if the Washington Capitals didn’t run into Jaroslav Halak during the hottest streak of his life back in 2010? The Caps were the best team in the league, the only team to reach 54 wins in a season. Eliminated. Fans begin labeling Alex Ovechkin as a non-leader, calling him anti-clutch and saying he will never lead the team to glory.
The playoffs are short. Luck plays a bigger role. You need some good luck, not just to win a seven-game series, but to do it four times. We’re hard on teams who should win, but don’t. You can minimize the luck factor by loading as much skill as possible on your team, getting a strong coach, and covering yourself if injuries happen. But luck still plays a large percentage role. So what I’m saying is – let’s dial back the knee-jerk reactions on playoff results, both good and bad. Masai Ujiri is a great GM whether his gamble paid off or not – the gamble itself was great. And Mike Babcock is a great coach whether Gardiner was dropping pucks to nobody or playing the game properly. Alex Ovechkin (and Joe Thornton and, believe it or not this was actually a thing, Steve Yzerman) is a clutch playoff guy and a leader.
Four bounces. It’s amazing that a man’s life can go in such an extreme direction based on where that fourth bounce lands. Sports, eh?
Some minor transactions, in case you missed them or don’t check out the transactions pages:
Andrej Sustr (ANA) and Anaheim prospect Trevor Murphy each signed with Kunlun of the KHL. Josh Jooris signed to play in the Swiss League (I say this every year, but that’s where I would go if I couldn’t crack the NHL – lovely place, and great tax situation). Jori Lehtera has signed to play in the KHL (SKA St. Petersburg).
And in case you were waiting on a possible comeback – last week Pavel Datsyuk signed a contract to remain in the KHL this season.
The Bruins signed an interesting undrafted free agent Friday in Samuel Asselin. As an over-ager in the QMJHL he picked up 86 points in 68 games and led Halifax into the Memorial Cup Tournament. I take over-age performances with a grain of salt, but obviously he wasn’t signed for his checking ability. So at the very least he’s on the radar for whatever may come in the years ahead.
The Sabres would have been wise to just let Jeff Skinner walk. Never overpay a guy coming off a career season that is in a contract year. Let someone else overpay. Especially with such an improving farm system. The best thing a GM can do with unrestricted free agents other than the elite ones or the depth ones – don’t sign any. This year I would try for Erik Karlsson, Artemi Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky. The end. And later in July I would look at fourth liners and AHL depth for my minor-league team. Leave the mid-range or semi-star guys for other teams to overspend on. If Skinner wanted to stay and he wanted eight years, he wouldn’t get more than $5.5 million AAV from me. Take it or leave it and I’m fine if he leaves it. Nine million is insane. By Year 4 Sabres’ fans will be begging for a trade or buyout or any solution at all. Mark my words.
In the forum, in this thread, I announced the players I decided to add into the Fantasy Prospects Report . On Saturday I already put in three new profiles. The other nine will be in this week. I also collected all 31 players we ranked as a “blue-chip prospect” to draft, and put them into a convenient chart just before the 2019 Draft section. So that update is in as well. To get any update, simply re-download the document and it will be the updated one.
See you next Monday.
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