Ramblings: Vegas Gets Their Name, Pacioretty Slumping (Nov 23)

by steve laidlaw on November 23, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Vegas Gets Their Name, Pacioretty Slumping (Nov 23)

Vegas gets their name, Pacioretty slumping, Burns' new deal, and more.

 

The Las Vegas expansion team has officially been named the Vegas Golden Knights. Meh. Could be worse. The damned London Knights had to be the fly in the ointment and block them from just being the “Knights” but I think we can all agree to just call them the Knights anyway. We failed at this with the Blue Jackets but succeeded with the Red Wings. Commit to this, folks, the “Knights!” I am pumped. Check out their sweet new logo:

I can’t wait to see that on a hat or a sweater. The first version I saw looked even better, as it was without the touch of green. This looks like a hybrid between the London Knights and Los Angeles Kings. That’s not a complaint, it’s just what jumps out at me when I look at it.

In any case, remember, it’s the “Knights.” Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

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TSN released their first mock expansion draft of the season. Some interesting names were selected like Jakob Silfverberg, Dmitry Orlov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Joonas Korpisalo, Ryan Pulock, Ryan Dzingel, Mathieu Perreault and Nikita Nesterov.

We’ve already heard that one way or another the Ducks are going to find a way to protect Silfverberg. I would be more interested in getting one of their young defensemen anyhow. Even if they can convince Kevin Bieksa to waive his no-movement clause and go into the draft they will still have to expose one of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, or Josh Manson, and likely two if Bieksa doesn’t waive. Of course, they could protect all four of them and then have only room for protecting four forwards, which is how you wind up with Silfverberg available. I think the readiness of Shea Theodore makes exposing a defenseman more likely.

The implications here are huge because it means Theodore will likely have more opportunity next season. Jacob Larsson and Brandon Montour will also have better opportunities to make the Ducks. Finally, whoever heads over to Vegas will probably be operating in a #1 capacity.

Because he’s a lefty and because he has been so heavily rumoured in trades, I’d expect Fowler to be the odd man out. He also has only one year remaining before hitting unrestricted free agency, which doesn’t make him that attractive to a new club. He’ll only be 26 when he does hit free agency, which puts him in the sweet spot where he can ask for top dollar and top term. Is that what an expansion team wants to get into?

The only reason I don’t think Fowler would come available is that he is a Randy Carlyle favourite. It’s no secret that a big part of Fowler’s emergence this season is because Carlyle is giving him huge minutes. Credit Fowler for taking advantage, but the point is that the coach likes him and would likely want him around.

Would that mean Manson is available? Manson doesn’t have much fantasy value, unless you’re in a league with blocks and hits but he is a stout defender.

I could go on all day about the possibilities in the expansion draft. Perhaps I’ll dedicate a section in each of the next few ramblings to focusing on all the options available off each team. Of course, there will be trading and side deals and injuries and all sorts of other shenanigans that will derail our best laid plans but I suppose if it was cut and dried it wouldn’t be any fun.

I messed around with CapFriendly’s expansion draft tool yesterday. It was endless fun. If you’re bored at work and want to kill the rest of your day, click that link and follow the worm hole. Once they get their publisher operational I will post my entire selections. For now, I will indicate that the Ducks are definitely losing one Silfverberg, Fowler, Vatanen or Manson. I had them losing Manson, which is the least sexy choice of all but what I think is the most likely.

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I think Steve Mason has his groove back. He has posted a quality start in four of his last five outings. This is a positive trend. He was always going to bounce back. I have been adamant about that. His numbers on the year are still miserable but the tides are turning. I suspect it will be a lot like Tuukka Rask last season, where his first two months crippled any chance he had at good looking full-season numbers but he was basically league-average after those first two months. With the club the Flyers have, average is all that he needs to be.

The Flyers go again tonight against the Lightning. I wonder if we finally get to see Anthony Stolarz. I’m betting against it, just because Mason is getting back in the groove. If he was still crapping the bed, we’d likely have already seen Stolarz. I’m not even convinced the youngster is ready anyhow. I just pointed him out as a potential option considering how things had been trending for Mason.

Because we can’t have nice things, Sean Couturier went down with a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game and his status will be updated later. It’s worth mentioning that Couturier really wasn’t breaking out the way we had hoped after scoring 39 points in 63 games last season. There were early signs that the Travis Konecny – Couturier – Jakub Voracek line would be golden but they got broken up with the constant line tinkering that happens these days.

Ultimately, there is probably too much talent in Philly for Couturier to be a dominant fantasy performer. With the right bounces 50-55 points could happen but we’d have to see something drastic like a Claude Giroux injury for anything more to happen. Excuse me while I go bang on the kitchen table for an hour…

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And we’re back! So is Nick Bjugstad. Check out the Panthers’ lines with Bjugstad in the lineup:

#1 24.9% MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN – SMITH,REILLY – TROCHECK,VINCENT 

#2 23.1% BARKOV,ALEKSANDER – JAGR,JAROMIR – JOKINEN,JUSSI 

#3 20.7% BJUGSTAD,NICK – MALGIN,DENIS – SCEVIOUR,COLTON 

#4 13.6% MACKENZIE,DEREK – MCKEGG,GREG – RAU,KYLE 

Bjugstad was limited to just 11:18 with almost no power play time. For now, he has seen his spot on the second PP unit filled by Colton Sceviour. We’ll see how long that lasts. I am still waiting for the Panthers to put together a unit with Barkov, Trocheck, Marchessault, Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle or perhaps go four forwards and replace Ekblad with Jagr or Jokinen.

Their power play stinks. The whole balancing of two units idea is a joke. If you’ve got two #1 units you don’t have any #1 units. The best teams stack one unit and they ride it heavily. I know the Panthers are diving heavy into the analytics and are looking to have four scoring lines to roll over and keep pressure on the opposition. You can achieve that even better with one lethal power play unit that makes teams pay when they cheat.

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Yesterday was a day of the week with at least four letters in it so of course the Canadiens had new lines:

#1 24.3% GALLAGHER,BRENDAN – PACIORETTY,MAX – PLEKANEC,TOMAS 

#2 21.7% BYRON,PAUL – GALCHENYUK,ALEX – RADULOV,ALEXANDER 

#3 14.9% DANAULT,PHILLIP – MITCHELL,TORREY – SHAW,ANDREW 

#4 14.5% CARR,DANIEL – DESHARNAIS,DAVID – TERRY,CHRIS

This strikes me as an attempt to try and get Pacioretty going. It didn’t work, though he did fire five SOG. It should be noted that Pacioretty’s shot volume is way down. After back-to-back 300-SOG seasons he is on pace for 221.

I’ve seen some discussion on the Twitter about the team trying to reduce his long-distance shooting, in an effort to get him taking higher percentage shots. That’s all good in theory but Pacioretty has been an 11.0% shooter for his career. That’s damned good for someone with his ability to shoot for volume. I wouldn’t be asking him to knock off the distance shots the same way I would Evander Kane who is only an 8.6% career shooter.

Over 250-300 SOG, which is the volume these guys are capable of, Pacioretty’s shooting gives you an extra six to eight goals over Kane or other average shooters. Aren’t teams trying to get that extra 2-3% edge? I wouldn’t be curbing Pacioretty’s shooting. He has that rare ability to beat goalies from distance, which is something to marvel at. Ken Hitchcock had a great quote about Vladimir Tarasenko’s shooting that has always stuck with me:

"[Mark] Recchi used to shoot like that. Wouldn’t give it away, kept the blade square,” Hitchcock said. “Glenn Anderson did it. He had that ability too. But when you’re face-to-face … how many players in the League can score from distance? Not very many. Seguin, he can. Not many people have players that can score from outside of 15 feet … [Steven] Stamkos (can). Glenn Anderson could get a little bit of 1-on-1 space and all of the sudden, boom! Here comes the shot. You don't know if it's heavy or if it's quick or what it is."

Scoring from outside the “home plate” area is a game changer. It just is. We shouldn’t be stomping on that skill.

I will mention that it is concerning to see Pacioretty with only one power-play goal through 20 games. He has averaged 8.3 PPGs over the past three seasons. Now that the focal point of the Canadiens’ power play has become Shea Weber’s clapper from the point, there is less need for Pacioretty’s sniping skills. What the Canadiens need more is puck retrievers and distributors. Pacioretty is capable but it’s not his forte. Guys like Galchenyuk, Radulov and Markov bring more passing skills to the table, which sets them up to be rewarded with a focal point like Weber.

Of course, Pacioretty is one hot streak away from pacing for 65 points. Indeed, while his goals are down his assists have picked up. I have some concerns. This feels like a potential 25-goal/50-point hiccup season. Pacioretty, at his current shooting pace, will finish with 24 goals, if he also shoots his career average. Monitor his shot rate going forward.

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Nathan Beaulieu was taken to hospital last night but is apparently fine.

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Last night was Derick Brassard’s first multi-point game since opening night. It’s been a long month and a half waiting for that. The Senators have put together some hot stretch runs the past couple of seasons so you can’t rule anything out but normally a slow start like this would pretty much rule Brassard out of another 60-point season.

Another slow-starter: Mike Hoffman. He got on the board with a three-point night that was sorely needed. This ends a five-game scoreless drought. It also marks his return to the lineup after a couple of games off due to injury. Hoffman is a serious buy-low candidate. Unlike Pacioretty, Hoffman’s shot rate is up as he is on pace for 268 SOG. If he can shoot his career average at that shot rate, he’ll take a run at his first 30-goal season.

This is, of course, is where you ask if I would take Hoffman over Pacioretty. The answer is no but we are heading in a direction where that no longer becomes a ridiculous question. Talk to me after another 20 games and we’ll see if these two are still heading in opposite directions in terms of shot volume.

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Cam Ward now has nine quality starts in his past 11 games. It’s a thing guys. I don’t know how but this is a thing. Here’s a spin: can’t we all enjoy the Cam Ward renaissance tour? This guy was once one of the top goalies in the league. He ripped my heart out back in ’06 with his Conn Smythe performance. Amazingly, he’s only 32 years old. Isn’t he too young to be completely washed up?

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Sounds like it is all good for Mitch Marner:

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Josh Bailey continues to show flashes skating alongside John Tavares. If he was more consistent, I would give Bailey a crack on my fantasy roster. As it stands, he is just too inconsistent and has been for years. He is already 27 years old. We have seen guys put together leaps later in their careers but usually it takes some moving around and landing on a team willing to give you a top-line shot. Think Chris Kunitz in Pittsburgh. Bailey has gotten plenty of shots with John Tavares. It seems to be sticking this time but the end result is probably going to be 50 points. Perhaps that’s valuable in your league. I’ll find a sexier option.

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Fat new contract for Brent Burns:

This puppy won’t kick in until he’s 32 years old. Heavy risk to take for San Jose, but there’s no evidence that Wookies age like we do so perhaps this is a good bet.

I do wonder when the Sharks collapse like a house of cards. Joe Thornton can’t remain an elite playmaker forever can he? Or is he going to age like Jaromir Jagr? If that’s the case, he’s going to be able to elevate everyone on this club and that means perhaps extending the prime of Burns even once his physical skills start to tail off.

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As always, some gems in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

19. One netminder who switched equipment last summer? Cam Ward. Ward went to Bauer pads and found them to be lighter than his previous ones. For an aggressive, active goalie, it’s a subtle but important change. He’s got a new glove, too, and, apparently an adjusted off-ice routine.

Is this the reason for his renaissance?

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.