Quickly Thrown Together 2019-20 NHL Preview

You’ve seen the best– now it’s time for the rest. Let’s go:

THIRD TIME FOR FIRST TIME??: There’s 11 teams who haven’t won a Stanley Cup yet: Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, Florida, Ottawa, Minnesota, Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver, Vegas, Winnipeg. Of those 11, you’d have to say that maybe four have a chance in Nashville, San Jose, Vegas, and Winnipeg; but the window is closing if it’s not already shut. Of course, they said that about the Caps two years back and they lifted the Stanley Cup.

HUNT FOR 50: Will Alex Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark for the ninth time?? Odds are pretty good given he has four of the last five 50-goal season, including last year. And let’s be completely honest– Wayne Gretzky’s goal-record is out of reach for Ovechkin. Even as a Caps fan, it’s not something I think is attainable. However, tying the mark for most 50-goal campaigns in a career with Gretzky and Mike Bossy?? Much more than attainable.

YOUNG GUNS ON THE HUDSON: You could argue that with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko; the Devils and Rangers could be the best rivalry coming back– akin to Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby pumping new life in to a Caps-Pens rivalry that was fading into obscurity. Two young talents, ready to take over the New York Market in a big way, which the media there will undoubtedly eat up, overanalyze, and do their best to be like Toronto sports media figures.

McPLAYOFFS: Depending on what you believe, there’s frustration with Connor McDavid and the Oilers not making it to the playoffs but once in his tenure there. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have one of the best players in the league not being on the biggest stage for the biggest trophy every year. Will that help with Mike Smith and James Neal coming from Calgary while Milan Lucic went south on the QE2?? The Neal part may help a little, but I’m not a believer in the defense and goaltending for Edmonton one bit.

RETOOLING EARLIER DYNASTIES: Both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks had less than desirable finishes, with both teams looking to retool heading into this season. With both playing in divisions that may be tougher than they look, it might be an uphill battle. I wouldn’t put too much money down on either of them making it too far if they do make the playoffs.

WORTH THE WAIT??: A lot of restricted free agents waiting until the 11th hour to sign, but is it something that their teams will be happy about or upset about should they not perform to the contract they were dealt?? Let’s be honest, I’m shocked Patrik Laine didn’t burn the bridges in the locker room already with what he said and it’s probably awkward as hell right now. The Mitch Marner deal looks like an overpayment when you look at other RFAs signing for a bit less than retail, but in the market space. That said, regardless of the price– Marner and Laine will be on the hot seat regardless of what their contracts were since they’re on teams that are supposed to be contenders.

SUNBELT RISING??: We all know what the Tampa Bay Lightning are– but do we really know what the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers are outside of their team financials?? I would venture to guess that both teams are on the upswing, with Arizona getting Phil Kessel, Nick Schmaltz being healthy, and the possibility for solid defense. All the while, the Panthers have their goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, young guns primed to really break out and put teams on notice, all while maybe trying to snatch a wild card spot away from others in the strong Atlantic Division.

NHL Going Retro with Green Day Pick-up

In a summer of bridge deals, the NHL signed one of their own– as they signed Green Day to a two-year deal with an AAV of three-chords. I used that joke on Twitter and it moderately killed.

I’m glad the NHL is bringing in the Broadway performers and producers into the fold and will be using a song of theirs for NBC Wednesday Night Hockey. And honestly– since Green Day missed out on the Wednesday Night Wrestling Wars that are starting up, the NHL is probably a nice medal for their collection. They can collect a paycheck for royalties and promote their apparently upcoming album.

Two great quotes from the press release were:

“Green Day is the perfect band for the NHL. Their music fits so perfectly with the energy, speed and power that we witness on the ice and each and every night. We are so excited to start this partnership with the NBC Sports open. It was so much fun to shoot and we think our fans will love it.” -NHL Chief Content Officer and Executive Vice President Steve Mayer.

“This NHL season is hereby known as LOUD season…where the toughest athletes to ever lace up a pair of skates meet the baddest rock band on the planet. So turn up the volume on your TV sets, fire, ready, aim and enjoy the ride.” -Green Day’s try-hard-to-connect PR staff

You know…forget about all the other bands who have closer ties to hockey– Green Day is the hottest act when the NHL was super popular: 1994. What better way to capitalize than right now?? Forget bands like PUP or Motionless in White or even the X Ambassadors for christ sakes– bands that were actually on the NHL20 by EA Sports soundtrack. The NHL needs Green Day….not bands that are on the scene now and actually have some popularity.

When all is said and done…it’s much better than the NASCAR on NBC’s annoying cover of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by ZZ Ward that has been used for the past two seasons. It’ll bring some kind of energy to start and then soon wain in popularity. There’s some people who like Green Day still or remember how they liked them in high school and will be amped for this. That said, I don’t think there needs to be a band that is the opener for the event. It seems outdated and a little bit hokey to try and force synergy like this. Of course, that’s why I’m not the one making the decisions and just taking about them.

AHL Lands in Palm Springs

Photo via TheAHL.com

It was shortly rumored, but Palm Springs, California will be the 32nd franchise in the AHL starting in 2021-22. They will be the affiliate of the Seattle Your-Name-Heres and will play in a brand new arena.

The biggest question I have is not if the Palm Springs area can support a team, it’s more a matter of if the AHL will actually make the Pacific Division play a full 76-game schedule rather than the 68-gamer they play now. It makes sense when you have eight teams in your division now, you should be like the rest of the league and not try to hold said league hostage to get what you want like a petulant child. I mean, the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage still have to play a full 76-game slate despite their division counterparts having eight games less.

When they news came out that the AHL was basically bullied by those Western teams to have a 68-game season or they’ll start their own league— the smart play would have been to let them go with their own league and let them flounder a bit before absorbing them. But I guess you gotta play nicey-nice when it comes to those teams because they have some money and some influence. At the same time, you really could’ve been an ass to them and actually forced them to play by your rules and not their own.

Though it’s not all great when it comes to the smaller schedule. Since they’ve come into the league in 2015, none of the Pacific teams playing a smaller schedule have made it to the Calder Cup Final. The rest doesn’t help for the conditioning, I suppose.

We’ll have to see what becomes of the Palm Spring team, it’s a good add to a California market that desperately wants hockey…though Palm Springs isn’t the bustling metropolis I would think for a hockey team. They haven’t had one in the history of hockey that’s been recorded– but I guess it’s a market ripe for the picking.

A Talk With Sam Anas on Maryland Hockey, New Coaches, and Regaining a Balance

As Sam Anas stepped onto the ice of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, something seemed to burn him. At one of the ends of the rink hangs a National Championship banner from 2016 with the University of North Dakota logo on it. Anas was a senior during that year, as his Quinnipiac Bobcats were on the short-end of the National Championship game. It’s something his teammates on the Iowa Wild– who were on that UND team– don’t let him forget about.

“That’s something that will live with me forever,” Anas mentioned post-game of the exhibitions at The Ralph between Iowa and the Manitoba Moose. “We’ve got Luke Johnson and Keaton Thompson now and we’ve had some conversations about it, but it still burns.”

That burning desire lead him to signing a deal with the Minnesota Wild after his time with the Bobcats was finished, but it’s been a bit of an up-and-down time in the three seasons. While only netting 12 goals and 28 points in his rookie season, Anas’ sophomore year saw him as a key contributor to the team with 26 goals and 61 points. However, a streaky season last year saw him with only 38 points on the 2018-19 campaign. In order to find some more balance, Anas went back to the place that saw him contribute 69 goals and 132 points in 121 games.

“I actually went back to Quinnipiac for about two months and spent a lot of time with the strength coach there, Brijesh Patel,” Anas said. “We had a good group of alums there pushing each other. That was the biggest thing, getting in the weight room more and getting stronger, mainly quicker– not necessarily refine my game, but re-balance. The facility and everything is awesome, but Brijesh is top-of-the-line. He cares so much about us, not just as hockey players, but wants us to be better athletes and better people. There’s guys out there playing in the NHL, guys trying to play in the AHL, and you get pretty competitive. It’s a great dynamic and I think it’s going to pay dividends for this year.”

Photo by Jennifer Conway/@NHLHistoryGirl

It will be the second year for Anas and the Wild to have Tim Army as their head coach. Coming on in 2018-19, Army was the former right-hand-man to Ron Wilson and someone who got ahead of the video watching era in hockey. Army helped Iowa get to their first playoff berth in franchise history last season, getting them to the second round. Anas had a lot of praise for his bench boss.

“He brings such a passion to the rink every day. He’s very intense, in a good way,” Anas mentions about his coach. “It’s ‘win-or-die’ for him and that’s the way it should be, especially at this level. It’s fun because you don’t want to lose. Playing for a coach who will do anything to win is contagious and he gets the best out of us, which showed last year.”

Also brought on for this season was Alex Tanguay, former NHLer and Stanley Cup winner. From playing career to TV gig, the Wild seemed excited to play for him this season, at least from Anas’ point of view.

“It’s definitely a different voice for us,” said Anas. “Someone who played the game as such a high level for so long. He’s so well respected in the league and even on NHL Network, you can see why he was successful in the way he explains the plays. I’m looking forward to a year with him.”

Of course, I’ve touted Anas– a native of Potomac, Maryland– on the Chesapeake Hockey Week podcast, as he’s a guy who went through the Maryland system through high school at the Landon School, through Team Maryland, through the Washington Little Caps and went on to have solid success through college and into the pros. It doesn’t go unnoticed from Anas, who adds to the “Ovechkin Effect” that many people have said has contributed to the rise of hockey in the Maryland area.

“A lot of it stems from the success from the Caps,” Anas hypothesized. “Ever since (Alex) Ovechkin came in the picture, hockey was really taken over. It used to be all about the Redskins, but they’ve gone downhill and the Caps have gone uphill. I’ve got friends telling me they wished they played hockey growing up.”

Anas continued, “It’s just great to see more guys playing college or playing junior. A guy I went to school with, Joe Snively, signed to the Caps and he’s a Virginia guy, but it’s all in the DMV area. It’s awesome to see and you go back home and skate and each year, there’s more and more guys committing to play Division 1 or getting drafted in the USHL; it’s just going to lead to more progress.”

This is the last year of Anas’ second contract with Minnesota and he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. However, Anas isn’t looking too far ahead to that. He’s much more focused on how he can contribute this season.

“It’s about playing a complete game, you always want to be a reliable player, offensively or defensively,” Anas explained. “You don’t want to be someone who can’t be counted on at a certain part of the game. On the other end, I want to produce as much as possible. Whether it’s scoring goals, creating plays, or getting assists. A big part of that for me is the power play and we didn’t score any tonight, but we had some good chemistry out there and it’s going to be a fun year.”

Clutch N’ Crab Weekend Preview 003

MARYLAND BLACK BEARS (2-4-0) at WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON KNIGHTS

Last Week: The NAHL Showcase came and went with the Black Bears coming out of Blaine with a 2-2-0 record to show for it. The defensive game came around with the Black Bears giving up one less goal in the four game Showcase (7) than they did in the second periods of the previous two games against New Jersey (8). Cooper Black came in and played amazing well with two wins and 1.00 GAA over those two wins.

What To Look For: Can the teamwork of this team carry over into the divisional match-ups?? I believe it can, as this team looks more together than last year’s bunch. There’s still some work to be done and some guys still need to get going this season; but overall– the small steps the team has made looks to be the start of something more solid for the Black Bears.

Bold Prediction: Two of the older Bears in Jonathan Young and Luke Mountain will finally hit their full stride. Mountain showed some signed of getting it going before Blaine and Young showed some leaving Blaine. It might take a little bit of nudging, but those two are too good to keep slumping for too long.

TEAM MARYLAND (3-2-1) at Jr. Railers HC (Sunday); Vermont Lumberjacks (Monday)

Last Week: A big sweep of the Philadelphia Junior Flyers helped Team Maryland get a jump on their divisional foes and, like their affiliates, has really showed a culmination of being at this level for the second season. Peter Siolas came back from injury to post two solid winning efforts. Jeff Rebmann potted a goal and four assists on the weekend, while Tristan Mock scored two goals on Monday’s affair.

What To Look For: It’s the first time on the road for Team Maryland and they’ll play against the best and worst team in the New England conference. Rebmann has the hot hand going into it, but how much can Jay de Ruiter be held back, especially after his promising first weekend.

Bold Prediction: Team Maryland goes to Walpole and takes both games of this event and comes back looking better than ever. Also, we’ll see both Siolas and Armand Charland come away with wins, as de Ruiter has a breakout game against Vermont.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY (0-2-0) at UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND RAMS

Last Week: It was a rough opening weekend for the Tigers, as they were outscored 8-2 on the weekend, with both Jake Snyder and Kevin Mackey facing a lot of pucks in those games, while the offense left more to be desired, though Costa Pizanis and Ryan Dieter showed up for the offense– as they have most of their time with the Tigers.

What To Look For: Team defense will be one thing to see if it shows up this week. It’s one thing to have a weekend that’s a hiccup on the radar, but when they gave up almost an average of 50 shots a game last season– it’s more than a blip, it’s a trend. Regardless of how much Pizanis, Dieter, and the offense provides, the fact they are giving up almost 50 shots a game isn’t going to help anyone’s cause.

Bold Prediction: The Tigers will get one win on the season, but the biggest thing is that they will have at least one game where they will give up less than 40 shots in a game. Even if it’s just 39 shots– that’s less than 40 and a start to some improvement for the defense and a little less shell-shocked goaltending.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY (2-0-0) vs. WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY MOUNTAINEERS

Last Week: A road game didn’t deter the Mustangs, nor did an early Saturday start– as they swept the weekend with wins against George Mason and West Chester. Mark Bowen was on fire with four goals on the weekend, Gary Matyok had a pair of his own, while the defense held firm– especially against West Chester late.

What To Look For: A full weekend back at the Reisterstown Sportplex should do a world of good for a team who is already at one-third of their win total from all of last season. Coach Mike Urgo has gotten this team into great shape, with the returning players gelling well with the new players. The only thing they need is support from the local hockey fans and this team can do anything.

Bold Prediction: Any West Virginia team hasn’t been great to Maryland teams, but Stevenson bucks this trend in D2 with another big weekend ahead of them. We still haven’t see guys like Thomas Foschini or Brandon Scholze kick it into high gear, which may be coming if Bowen continues to build great offensive energy that can infect the rest of the team.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN D2 (1-0-0) at UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND SPIDERS

Last Week: Only one game as the D2 Middies beat Millersville University 3-2 in OT with a hat trick from Kevin Harris. Not much else was put out there in terms of stats, so we have to go with that for now.

What To Look For: With only two games in two weeks, how much chemistry can be brought from practice into the game situation. Obviously, a disciplined team like Navy could be okay with the time between games; but overall– what will this mean for them when weekend start to pick-up?? At least they’ll get their travel out of the way early.

Bold Prediction: Harris may not be the offensive start, but the Middies will go to Richmond and take a win out of their hands and come back to Annapolis 2-0-0.

NAVAL ACADEMY WOMEN’S (2-0-0) at WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY RAMS

Last Week: Upstate New York was no match for the Navy Women’s team, as they swept SUNY-Oswego and outscored them 11-3 in their first outing. Six different goal scorers on Saturday’s win, though no record of the Sunday scoring.

What To Look For: Another road weekend for Navy, as they’ll try to keep their legs about them with all the travel. West Chester has been on a decline in recent seasons, but Navy shouldn’t take them lightly as it could be a change of pace and cycle of classes for WCU.

Bold Prediction: Navy keeps the winning ways alive and they’ll keep distributing the wealth of goals, while not shying away from playing defensive hockey, as well.

On the Topic Of Hockey Burnout

You have to wonder if the all-year hockey is starting to take out players earlier and earlier. Whether it be over-conditioning leading to injury or playing for a team that has very high expectations all year or a team with low expectations and it makes them fall out of love for the game because those low expectations are met.

Hockey may be life, but sometimes life can really suck and you fall out of love of it and into a deep depression and despise every aspect of that life.

Alex Goligoski is the latest to step forward and share him falling out of love with hockey, following in the footsteps of Cam Atkinson and Ryan O’Reilly of saying burnout in hockey is real. Some one surmise that this is exactly what’s going on with Dustin Byfuglien now and his leave of absence from the Winnipeg Jets.

While it’s something to be a hockey fanatic year-round, it’s another to actually be the athlete dealing with this and having to be at a high-caliber to keep their spot in professional hockey; even if there are guaranteed contracts in the mix. You hear a lot of articles in the past few years talking about how younger players should actually venture out into other sports to develop their motor skills that can used in hockey and prevent burn-out at a young age.

Goligoski did say that the bye-week in the NHL did help his spirits a bit because he was away from the game; you have to think if there’s going to be something more on the horizon because of these players dealing with such emotions. The NBA has teams that sit out their star players, albeit to discipline by the league in doing so and the opinion of former stars that think it’s a detriment to the game.

Yet, could this be something that the NHL does?? Sure, the elite teams are harder to come by in the league and there would be outrage from the league and the fans for their top players not being around for people to watch given the cost of a ticket…but even with the bye-week, wouldn’t it give a team a better chance in the playoffs if they are rested by any means necessary?? Isn’t the Stanley Cup the biggest goal and not game 58 of an 82 game season when you’re in a comfortable spot in the standings??

Some teams did it later on in the season, like the Stars; while the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t. One team went to the second round and the Lightning were swept by the Blue Jackets. You also see players skipping out on the All-Star Game to rest and getting suspended for it because the NHL wants their top players at the top events.

You have to think that the league will need to do something about this since burnout has become more prevalent in the game. It’s not just older players, as it is guys who are supposed to be in their prime. You look at someone like Andrew Luck who retired from the NFL at 29 because he fell out of love with the game he used to; the NHL needs to find a way to curve the epidemic before they lose a lot more talented players before they reach their full career potential.

Whether it’s a shorter schedule– which is doubtful because profit margins– or more bye-weeks to extend the calendar year for teams; they really have to worry about the mental health of players as much as they do the physical health.

Clutch N’ Crab Weekend Preview 002

TEAM MARYLAND (1-2-1) VS. PHILADELPHIA JR. FLYERS

Last Weekend-ish: A four-game in seven-day set for Team Maryland yielded only one win, but a much better improvement from last season, staying in many of the games– unlike last year when things were not so great. Against the Philadelphia Revolution, they dropped two closely contested games, with Sam Sheppard showing off his playing making skills and Bobby Geier finding the net once during the set. Jay de Ruiter was held off the scoresheet after he ravaged Connecticut’s defense mid-week.

What To Look For: The Jr. Flyers haven’t allowed a goal in either of their games this season, so it’ll be a test for the Team Maryland offense to see if they’ll be able to get a tally on the board. With nine different goal scorers on the season in four games, the wealth has been spread just a bit. They obviously can’t expect de Ruiter to pot four every game, so it’ll be up to the lights of Sheppard, Geier, and Rory Gresham to take the heat off of de Ruiter.

Bold Prediction: Team Maryland has out shot their coverage so far and I think it’ll continue. Whether it will yield two wins remains to be seen, however; I do expect at least one goal to be scored in each game, as that trend can’t go forever. Goalie Armand Charland will be tested and will hopefully keep TM in the games for the weekend.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN (1-0-1) at RIT (Friday); at MERCYHURST (Saturday)

Last Weekend: Though the updates were kind of there, the scoresheets aren’t– but Navy was quick to clarify why. In any case, they did split in Morgantown against the Mountaineers; losing in overtime Friday night 3-2, while winning Saturday’s game 3-2.

What To Look For: With output from their younger players, like Nathan Hyden and Daniel Schoenemen, as well as their returnees in Joe Kelly and Conner Hyden; the Middies will be looking forward to start spreading the offensive joy around. The blue line was quite active last year thanks to John Scaccia and Brendan Reynolds, which they will hope will carry them going forward. A travel day between these games, it’s all hands on deck for the Midshipmen this weekend.

Bold Prediction: For some reason, with the travel in there, I sense a split happening. Maybe with RIT being the loss and Mercyhurst being the win. Though, I can definitely see a trend in who will be the top offensive guys on the team– like we saw last year with Derek Golembrosky, Luke Turk, and Alex Vandenberg.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS (0-0-0) at WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY MOUNTAINEERS

Last Season: It was a bit of year to forget for the Towson Tigers going 7-21-3 on the season, a far cry from their 17-17-3 record from 2017-18. Luckily, the three top scorers from last year in Ryan Dieter, Costa Pizanis, and Collin Mercier are all back. Dieter has 18 goals and 30 points on the year, bringing his total for his career to 85 points in 83 career games. Jake Snyder played a big role in net for Towson with 1297 saves and had a .905 save percentage despite a 5.16 GAA.

What To Look For: We’ll see what kind of team Towson is this year and how much support– both in goals and within the zone– they can give to Snyder and how much offensive output they’ll be able to have. West Virginia is a solid task for the Tigers, especially since they can use Navy as a measuring stick to what they can expect.

Bold Prediction: Towson went 2-1-0 against West Virginia last year, with their only loss coming in the consolation game of the Crab Pot Tournament at the end of the year. Towson split their opener last season, but I think good fortune could shine on them and they start the season hot with two wins on the road.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS (0-0-0) at GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY PATRIOTS (Friday); VS. WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY GOLDEN RAMS

Last Season: In their second season in club hockey, the Mustangs got better from their 1-win season in their first year. However, a 6-17-0 record was great for Coach Urgo and the “Green Horses” for their second season. With only 14 skaters, they took a toll on themselves, but spread the wealth for scoring with Gary Matyok, Thomas Foschini, Joshua Watterson, and Brandon Scholze were all in double-digits in goals and at a point-per-game or better on the year. Pat Schena was solid in net with a .910 save percentage, but a 4.61 GAA for his troubles.

What To Look For: With a bigger roster and key returning players, Coach Urgo could very well get a solid performance out of his team this season. The bigger roster will definitely help the team as they get deeper in the season, as well as not tire out some of the scoring lines– and maybe even distribute the scoring a little more. With Schena leaving, David Shahady might be the defacto starter, but time will tell if there’s someone behind him to take over those reigns.

Bold Prediction: Personally, I believe they’ll be able to win their opener at George Mason, but they did lose to a deep West Chester team last year and with a quick turnaround from a later evening game to an afternoon game– it could prove a little tough on the legs at the start of the season. However, I fully expect the Green Horses to get one win on the weekend.

Clutch N’ Crab Preview: NAHL Showcase Edition

Photo by Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

It’s the time of year where Blaine, Minnesota becomes the mecca for hockey, even if only for a weekend. All 26 NAHL teams will be in action across four days in a clash of divisions that’ll stay that way until the Robertson Cup Final Four.

Last year, the Maryland Black Bears got their first win in franchise history against the Springfield Jr. Blues and went 2-1-1 in their four games. They’ll be heading back to the Schwan Super Rink to get their first win of the season

Last Weekend: It was one of firewagon hockey against the New Jersey Titans, as they got outscored 15-10 over the two games, with Wilmer Skoog proving to be a great off-season pick-up for the Black Bears, as well as putting himself 2nd in league scoring after the first weekend. While the Titans had their top guns on full display, the Black Bears held their ground as much as they could and if not for the second period in each game– it could have been a different outcome for the team. The defense was able to pick-up some offense, as well, with two goals and nine assists coming from the blue line, Aidan McDowell and Bryden Sinclair leading the way with a goal and three assists a piece.

This Weekend: The Black Bears will face a three teams from the Midwest Division and one from the Central Division. They’ll start off with the Minnesota Magicians being first, a team that finished second in the Midwest and lost in the division finals. On Thursday, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs will be the opponent, the league runners-up from last season and one of five teams to score over 200 goals on the season. Friday has the Janesville Jets, who got the last spot in the Midwest playoff run, as they lost to Fairbanks in the first round. Finally on Saturday morning, the Minot Minotauros– Skoog’s last team and 2nd in the regular season in the Central Division in 2018-19 before losing in the division finals.

What To Look For: Obviously, the biggest thing is to see how the Black Bears play in the second period. Giving up eight goals in the second frame, including five in Saturday’s game, is not a good look and something that the team needs to buckle down on. Also, how sustainable is the offense for Maryland and what other players can breakout to compliment Skoog’s offensive touch; which we’ve seen some glimpses from Brayden Stannard, Jackson Sterrett, and Ethan Heidepriem; not to mention Luke Mountain– who had two assists this past weekend and is trying to build off his great second half last season.

Bold Prediction: I expect the Black Bears to get at least two wins, like last season; but I fully expect them to be a bit more stingy on defense. Defensive zone coverage plagued the team last year and a little bit of that showed last weekend. Both Andrew Takacs and Gavin Abric will be tested and hopefully they can get some more support with the first weekend jitters out of the way.

How to Solve Lapped Cars in Your Lane?? Shrink the Field

There’s one way to fix the issue Kyle Busch had Sunday at Las Vegas– shrink the field for races. Even 40 is too much for races, what’s the issue with shrinking it to even 32??

If you hadn’t seen– Kyle Busch wrecked his car when he ran into Garrett Smithley’s bumper during Stage 3 of Sunday’s Cup race. Honestly, you can debate if Kyle should have gone high or low, but the point is that they knew he was running the middle line and Smithley’s spotter assured the 18 team they would move to let him go…and it didn’t happen. I’ll say that I don’t care if Kyle had space high or low– lead-lap cars have preference of line over lapped cars, especially ones like Smithley– WHO BASICALLY STOPPED TO A HALT IN ONE AND TWO— in which Kyle ran into him, ruining his run from two-laps down and possibly salvaging a good finish despite early blunders. After the race, Kyle said some things and here we are.

Now, don’t get it twisted– I dislike Kyle Busch. He has talent, but he’s not my cup of tea thinking that he’s owed anything from everyone. That said, Smithley shouldn’t have been in a spot where he’s in the prime racing line for a lead-lap car. While I enjoyed the Honest Abe Roofing scheme, the fact he was out there just cruising around is indicative of the state of NASCAR in that they don’t care your talent level, you have the money to race– we’ll let you race– shoutout Gray Gaulding and BK Racing.

So what’s the big issues with shrinking the field maximum from 40 to 32?? This way, you actually have some kind of competition for qualifying, you can weed out the teams who are running the Cup series just for the extra money it brings into their pockets because the monetary system in the Xfinity Series is broken (as is the Cup drivers running in those races, but that’s another post for another time), and you can also not have also-rans out there getting in the way of playoff contenders and ruining their day because they didn’t understand what was being said on the radio or just ignoring their spotters altogether.

Plus, this will also make teams more competitive and actually try to make the race rather than falling back on the fact there hasn’t been many maximum entry races and the charter system– which in and of itself is a farce. All these smaller teams that are serious about improving– like Rick Ware Racing– will actually have to improve if they want to make the field rather than just getting because of no one else being around.

Smithley said he was running his line and what-have-you, which is true; but when you’re that far down that late in the race, some kind of decorum is needed for guys who are actually racing for something more than seat time in a Cup car and a bigger paycheck.

Who’s Identity is it Anyway??

Infograph by 16Wins.com

Okay, so the Winnipeg Jets are paying homage to the WHA’s Jets for their blue Heritage Classic. Kind of a cop-out to just change the color of the jerseys from 2016 and not really pay heritage to say the Falcons that won an Olympic gold, but whatever sells merch, right??

But it brings up an interesting point about the lineage of hockey. Twitter pal Mitch brings up a good point in that– doesn’t all the original Jets’ identity– including the WHA– belong to the Coyotes?? I mean, the Jets as we know them now started off as the Atlanta Thrashers and as far as I know ( I found out in research of this– the Thrashers name and logo are still owned by the people in Atlanta for some ungodly reason); it’s not like the Cleveland Browns in that when they left for Baltimore they got a settlement to keep the original Cleveland Browns stats and history, leaving the Ravens with a clean sheet.

Yet, it also goes to show how little teams care about their actual lineage. The Coyotes used to do a lot of things with Winnipeg Jets’ legends and legacy, but they rarely do that anymore with a new Winnipeg Jets in the league. The Avalanche left all of the Nordiques’ records and such in Quebec City, while the Devils sometimes give a nod to the Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies through Easter Eggs in their jersey– but it’s nothing outward. The Hurricanes are finally starting to rekindle their heritage with their Whalers’ nights– which is a nice thing to see.

So, who owns the rights to teams identities when they leave for another market?? The Coyotes have Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, and Thomas Steen’s jerseys retired; so they must own the records, right?? Rick Ley and John McKenzie’s numbers have been used by the Hurricanes (which Jack Edwards will let you know about), though the #2 of Ley is retired under Glen Wesley’s name.

To the victors go the spoils and they can do with it what they want. The sad fact is that most teams don’t utilize this enough. People clamor for nostalgia, people want the merch that comes with those old gaudy logos and jerseys (read: St. Louis Blues’ new throwback/alternative), and if you’re going to know where you’re going as a hockey fans– you’ve got to know where you’ve been. Not enough teams realize that with their old guards moving forward into the next realm of being, their stories and history goes with them if it’s not properly preserved or used. It’ll be a faded memory of another time.

While the Surviving….errr….”Original” Six teams do a decent job at honoring them– it needs to be more widespread through the league. While it’s great to make new memories and great that we’re seeing probably the best caliber of players in the history of the game…it’s best not to forget those that were before it– whether it was great or not. More over, teams need to remember where they came from– not in a get-famous-and-forget-your-roots movie tropes; but literally need to hash out where their heritage lies. If they moved and they’re not going to recognize where they moved from– give those records back to the NHL or the city they came from and move on. If they’re going to use that history of where they moved from– then use it and don’t let it rot.

Though, I will say I haven’t seen an area be this hungry for their former glory that Winnipeg and the Jets. I don’t remember this kind of uproar about the Minnesota Wild coming back and the fans wanting the North Stars records and logos and such. That either makes them really hardcore or just overly fanatical.