TEPID TAKE: The Seattle 32nds

The worst kept secret was made official Tuesday, as Seattle was named the 32nd team in the NHL by a unanimous decision. The team will start playing in 2021…labor strife permitting. It was a happening of necessity of getting more of a footprint in the Pacific Northwest, while creating a nice little “rivalry” already with Vancouver, as well as making sure that all the divisions are equal. 

Plus, the price tag of $650M doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure.

However, good on the city of Seattle. They’ve been one of the most vocal group of supporters for wanting a hockey team, it was almost Canadian of them. Of course, with the success of the Vegas Golden Knights, there’s plenty to be excited about because the talent pool could be even better and it could give them an even better start than Vegas…but let’s not put the cart before the horse. 

Of course, with all of this– it shifts the landscape a bit. As mentioned, Seattle will go into the Pacific Division, which will shift the Arizona Coyotes to the Central Division. Obviously, this has sparked the kind of tongue-in-cheek idea of the Coyotes now moving to Houston and not having to switch divisions– but if they’ve survived this long in the desert, they can survive a divisional move and another round of rumors. 

More over, it may make people question the future of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. They play in Kent, which is about 20 miles from Seattle, but will they be able to keep the fan base they have with this new hockey team in town or could this move signal a possible swan song for the team. Sure, other markets in the WHL have NHL teams with them– Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and soon Winnipeg– but Canadian markets when it comes to hockey vastly differ when it comes to US markets. I would love to see it work as a natural pipeline, but I have my doubts. 

That all said, it’s good for the NHL to have a presence like this in the location they do. They go to a city that doesn’t have another winter sport presence on a daily basis (NFL aside, of course), they go to a play that is hungry for it, and they go to a place where there is history– like when the PCHA’s Seattle Metropolitans were the first US-based team to win the Stanley Cup. With the right management in place, they could get back there sooner than later once this team gets off the ground. 

The Best NHL is the First Two Weeks of Chaos

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We’re two weeks into the season, which next to the playoff run– could be the best part of the season. The wacky bullshit that goes on in the first month or so of the season is the best. Crazy stats, firewagon scores, improbable heroes– it’s the best time of the year to get overly emotional– rightly or wrongly– about what your team really is. There’s no lack of craziness this year, either.

First, let’s start with Keith Kinkaid, who is the really champions of goaltending right now. He’s 4-0-0 with two shutouts and has the New Jersey Devils at a still undefeated record….through four games. He’s making the most of his chances with the Devils, as he is building off his 26-win season from last year and really showing that Cory Schneider may have heavy competition and could even be expendable when he gets healthy again. While he may not lead the goalie stats for much longer, the story he’s creating for himself is one that the Devils faithful need to build off of last year’s turnaround with Taylor Hall at the front and center.

Staying in the East, the Ottawa Senators are above .500 after their purge this off-season and it’s confusing the hell out of me. Granted, I’m sure that’ll take a plunge with Brady Tkachuk’s injury; but still…this is a team who wasn’t expected to win three games in this month (maybe, I didn’t read previews) much less be at seven points after six games. Craig Anderson has already seen the most shots in the league (tied with Devan Dubnyk) through six games at 199, which probably won’t let up any time soon as the time goes on and teams wear down the already inexperienced defense. However, the return from Erik Karlsson was great, as Chris Tierney leads the team in points and Dylan DeMelo is leading the all-important plus/minus stat. Young guns like Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, and Maxime LaJoie have grabbed the brass ring for the greater roles on the team, while Craig Anderson is playing great in October, as Craig Anderson is wont to do, as he has 42 wins in October over his career (currently second-best, but that’ll change once he gets through the months). Maybe the Sens can fool us all…..but maybe not.

Out West, Connor McDavid is good. In fact, if he can keep up the pace he has in factoring in every goal the Oilers have this season; he’ll have anywhere from 198 to 247 points this year based on the Oilers’ goal output over the last five years. This could happen, McDavid is that good and is able to make the best plays out there for his team– but it shows that maybe the Oilers need some support for their superstar. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl are pulling their weight, but it could be a very uphill climb for the Oilers if they keep packing things on McDavid’s shoulders. Granted, they have McDavid for seven more years after this one…but do you want to wear him out in year four of his career like this??

The one constant is the Arizona Coyotes. As the sun will set in the West, the Coyotes will have one of the most promising outlooks, but stumble out of the gates. They’ve scored four goals in five games and have been shutout three times this season. That’s not great, boss. Sure, they’re only giving up 2.2 goals a game, but that doesn’t help when you’re putting up 0.6 a game. It doesn’t help that Alex Galchenyuk is sidelined, but they have their goalie for the first month of the season, as Antti Raanta was solid when he came back from injury last year, but he couldn’t dig the Coyotes out of the doldrums at that point. It is a young team, sure– Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome will need time to work things out…but man, it’s hard to watch for a team that’s already been beaten down for as long as they have. You’d hope for some good for once.

This is just the scratching of the surface– you got the hot takes of Auston Matthews’ torrid pace, I think Sebastian Aho (and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes) are getting slept on in the league, and even as a Caps fan– I’m tired of watching them play on NBCSN all the time.

This is just two weeks in. Let’s hope for more chaos as the season round out the first month of action.

2018-19 Season Preview….Kind Of: Western Conference Edition

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Half-assed part 2, let’s go.

The Central Division is an interesting one. For the longest time, it was the Chicago Blackhawks’ playground, but now– it’s almost kind of wide open. The Winnipeg Jets have seemingly found their formula with Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and friends. Their march to the Western Conference finals could have been the coming out party they need. So long as Connor Hellebuyck can keep the good time rolling– maybe this is now a division that belongs to North of the Border for a couple of season.

For the Blackhawks– we’re in the downturn of the dynasty. Despite of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane being there and being in their prime ages– the fact their goaltending in Corey Crawford isn’t always healthy and the depth is suspect at best; the former Dynasty could be in the start of their stagnation moving ahead.

Hard to forget about the Nashville Predators, who are in all-in mode this year as much as they have been. This is pivotal year for the team, especially when they look at what to do with impending UFA Pekka Rinne and how they’ll juggle his time with Juuse Saros’ time in net. Aside from that, they have a defensive corp that one of, if not the tops in the league; their offense is full of top tier talent, and overall– this is a team that’s ready to go and make another big push for the Conference final again this year.

The rest of the division is suspect at best, starting the with Minnesota Wild– who seem to be more of the same. Bruce Boudreau could be on a short leash with new GM Paul Fenton, and with the team in place– I don’t know if that leash could get shorter. Sure, Devan Dubnyk is back, but he can only do so much. The offense is really hit and miss, the star players being in the line-up is hit and miss, and there’s plenty of question marks in the State of Hockey.

Add the St. Louis Blues to that mix, only because of Jake Allen. There’s no Carter Hutton to bail him out anymore and he’ll have to actually show he’s a top goalie in this league. He’ll have a lot of tools in front of him with Vlad Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz with Alex Pieterangelo and Colton Parayko on his defense…there’s no reason why Allen shouldn’t be successful in spite of himself and his own short-comings.

I don’t know what to think of the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars. The Stars could be a little easier to explain and deal with, as Ben Bishop– if he’s healthy all season– could help them steal a few games here and there. The offense is steady with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn up there, the defense however, is the question. Stephen Johns is out to start the season, which means Marc Methot and John Klingberg are going to have to shoulder a lot of the load– which could lead to easy burn out. The Avalanche now have Philipp Grubauer as the potential replacement for Semyon Varlamov when he should get injured or have his stats drop off, the team was able to rally around Matt Duchene getting traded, and might have an underrated defense against the rest of the league. The offense is one line, which means they’ll need to find some kind of secondary scoring to actually be across the board successful and get back to the playoffs once again.


Will anyone discount the Vegas Golden Knights this year?? Most likely, yes. The whole “Bet you can’t do it again” crowd will be out, but with the additions of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny; the depth of offense is much better. While there will be doubters of M-A Fleury’s heroics and William Karlsson’s scoring prowess, the Knights are making sure they aren’t just a one-hit wonder.

Their toughest challenge will probably come from the San Jose Sharks, who have their best shot at getting into the Stanley Cup Finals with the addition of Erik Karlsson. The former Ottawa defenseman bolsters a blue line with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while Joe Thornton is back on the ice and probably much quicker without his beard anymore. Martin Jones has seen his win number decline over the past three seasons, but with an upgrade in front of him, you can bet he’ll have another 30+ win season.

With a healthy Jonathan Quick, the LA Kings were a solid team despite getting bounced in the first round again. Anze Kopitar was far and away the best player and may need to be so again to get the Kings back to the playoffs and maybe advance past the first match-up. That 70s Line will have to be a little be more prominent, though to be honest– losing Jeff Carter most of the season didn’t help things as much.

The Anaheim Ducks are going to have to get all they can out of their depth if they want to make the playoffs again. While John Gibson hasn’t been the best at keeping pucks out, the offense didn’t give him much to work with, as they had to lowest goals-for total of any playoff team last season. With Corey Perry out to start the season, as well; old man Getzlaf will have to rally the troops and hope they don’t get run over.

Of the Canadian teams in this division, the one with the most hope could be from Alberta. Whether it’s the Flames or the Oilers is yet to be seen. The Oilers need to figure out which team was the mirage– was it the team who made the playoffs in 2017 or the team that really stunk up the joint last season. Aside from Connor McDavid, there wasn’t much to write home about. However, the hard-on people have for Ty Rattie with McDavid is almost insane levels of silly– it’s almost a Sedins or Crosby situation with how people are infatuated with his play.

The Flames are an odd duck. They have the talent up front to get into the playoffs with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and to a lesser extend Sam Bennett. However, with Bill Peters now at the helm, who knows what can happen. If they’re going to sink to a Carolina level, then it’ll happen quick, but the additions of James Neal and Elias Lindholm up front could bring more attention, while Noah Hanifin could help Mark Giordano on the blue line. If only Mike Smith can get back to some kind of non-sieve form, then they could surprise people.

Not a surprise is the Vancouver Canucks, who really….I don’t know. They have some top-end young talent in Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and others, but the real key is waiting for offensive defenseman Quinn Hughes to come from Michigan to Vancouver. If the rebuild is going to happen– it will be around Boeser and Hughes, maybe even Thatcher Demko when he gets the go-ahead to be the Canucks starter. It’s a waiting game for this team.

That leaves us with Arizona. The trade for Alex Galchenyuk is going to help them a whole lot, it’s a matter of managing injuries. Antti Raanta going down early last year hurt and it seems like there’s not much for goalie depth just yet for the Coyotes who could come in and stop the bleeding. Michael Grabner will add speed and a forechecking threat, Clayton Keller continues to grow, and Mario Kempe could surprise people if given the chance. The Coyotes may even push for a wild card…if they can stay healthy.

Summer Reading: Heritage Jerseys, History, and the Forcing of Both

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I think I’m tired of the “Heritage Jersey” scheme that Adidas is going on about. The NHL has gone into the NBA territory by having fancy names for their alternate jerseys. While the idea of nostalgia is a great one and one that is a proven moneymaker; the fact we’ve seen some of these jerseys in the recent past proves that the NHL is all about the retread– as if you haven’t figured that out by who participates in the outdoor games. Already, we’ve seen the St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and the Anaheim Ducks (…kind of) that have put out their “heritage” jerseys. I’m sure we can expect the Capitals, Maple Leafs, and possibly Flames to join this trend.

While it’s nice to have this retro flare– it’s really all fake. If the NHL really cared about the “heritage” aspect of these jerseys; why wouldn’t they want to show off the Colorado Rockies or Kansas City Scouts jerseys that are the actual heritage of the New Jersey Devils instead of their white “Christmas color’ jersey motif.

Therein lies the problem with the NHL and the way they present their history. Sure, it’s the whole “to the victor goes the spoils,” but at the same time– you can’t bury the history of team’s past. Hell, those are the jerseys and logos that it seems that people crave. However, the NHL doesn’t want you to remember the past as it was. They want you to remember the history as they present– which is a raw deal for everyone involved.

Rarely do you hear about the Cleveland Barons, Kansas City Scouts, Hamilton Tigers, or St. Louis Eagles due to those teams not making any kind of positive impact in their few years in the NHL proper. People get force fed the “original” six forever and day, but that’s not really the history. Hell, they’re more like the surviving six over anything else. But that’s not what the NHL wants to portray, which I can understand. With the exception of the NBA, you don’t see many leagues touting the teams that have fallen off their radar. You might get fans talking about those teams, but rare to see the leagues promote the dead teams that relocated.

You rarely hear about players from the old days either. The lack of publicity that Joe Malone gets from the NHL is sickening, especially when you have baseball still hold up things that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did. Malone was one of the greatest players and the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, but the NHL really doesn’t do much to profile their players before 1950. Newsy Lalonde is really talked about for his name, but his goal-scoring prowess was up there with Malone, but you only get his nickname of Newsy as something to remember him by rather than the 124 NHL goals in 99 games over his career and 288 goals in 207 games if you combine the NHA and NHL totals. But the NHL doesn’t even give them a passing glance unless they have to– which is rarely.

The idea of having a team historian is a thing that seems to be a hot topic amongst fans with some teams putting it to use. Granted, some of them have put in the work and then were unceremoniously shown the door after the fact, but the team got what they wanted. In all honesty, it seems that the need for a historian could be a “flavor of the month” for some teams and the league itself. With the NHL Centennial over, you have to wonder how much they’ll promote Dave Stubbs’ work since the history isn’t something they need at the forefront anymore.

Jen Conway (AKA NHL History Girl) and I discussed this on the FOHS Overtime on Patreon, so if you want to shell out of few duckets to hear it– then by all means. All the money goes back into the Media Faction for shows and stuff like that.

You can bet we’ll see more “heritage” jerseys– many of which we have seen in the past, many of which won’t be the real heritage of the team. It’s this idea of history that’s great in theory– but when you put it into practice and you dig up things that aren’t all rosy; that’s stuff people don’t want to hear or pay attention to– so they turn it and it becomes a waste for many. Here’s hoping that many hockey fans can take the good with the bad, but with how things work in this social media era– it’s unlikely to happen.

Does Domingue Desertion Signal Some Worse Happening in Arizona Personnel Wise??

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Louis Domingue/Photo via Syracuse.com

The on-ice product for the Arizona Coyotes isn’t the best. We all know that and the numbers can attest to that. However, with the story the Louis Domingue shared with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Power Play Podcast shows that maybe they’re failing more off-the-ice than people want to admit– not just in community relations and all of that, but with the handling of players overall.

Raw Charge on SBNation did a great job of recapping the episode hosted by Matt Sammon with clips from Brian Engeblom interviewing Domingue. It was a great tale of his time in the QMJHL with Patrick Roy, to him in constant Coyotes’ limbo, to him almost quitting hockey at 25. Yet, one thing stood out amongst the horrors of the Arizona experience for the young netminder:

For a good week and a half, I was left without ice or a gym or any support from the team. I was just home waiting for a call. They told me to rent my own ice [chuckles]. I was there – I gave call to my old friend Shane Doan. He came out with me on the ice in the afternoon with his son.

I rented the ice at midnight just to shoot pucks and skate around because I was tired of being at home.

Listen– it’s one thing to hang a guy in limbo by not sending him down to the minors right off the waiver wire, but to not even give him access to the team facilities when he’s STILL UNDER CONTRACT TO THE TEAM seems a little bit insane to me. Sure, I get it if you don’t want to send him to Tucson and throw a wrench in the solid season they’ve been having thus far with Hunter Miska in net and Adin Hill coming back around again. But why not loan him out somewhere. Obviously, he wasn’t in the plans, so do something like what Buffalo did with Matt Moulson and send him somewhere that needs/wants him.

Goaltending is a fickle thing made up of “What have you done for me lately??” around every turn, especially when it comes to teams that don’t have a proven starter who deserves the tenured leeway in order to succeed as a whole. Domingue had a rough go and with rough goes in Arizona overall– the goaltending will be the focus. Looking at his stats since getting into the Tampa Bay organization (11-4-0, 2.07GAA, .921Sv% in Syracuse), it just takes actual guidance and solid coaching in order to make a goalie who’s on the edge of oblivion to become an above-average goalie.

On the flip side– what the hell Coyotes’ organization?? There are problems all over the place with this team as a whole, then you hear this stuff and wonder if they do this with everyone. You look at how this situation and how the situation with Anthony Duclair went down and you wonder how there’s not more of an exodus or even worse stories coming from this team….and I’m sure there’s going to be more horror coming out as people start to set sail from there.

Now, I don’t know what the NHL can do with team business, but it seems insane to me that a CONTRACTED PLAYER is locked out of his team’s rink or gym because he was put on waivers and they didn’t want to send him to the NHL. Yes, they didn’t want him to get hurt because he’d be untradeable, but at the same time– how do you expect him to be desireable to other teams when he’s not playing ANYWHERE– AHL, ECHL, SPHL– to be displayed for anyone.

There seems to be something just not right with the Coyotes’ front office when it comes to dealing with their players. The way they set it up has been dragged every which way, especially with the analytics vs. non-analytics debate and the youth/inexperience of John Chayka when it comes to building said team. Whether it was Domingue and Duclair being ruined by a system that didn’t care to help make them better or if they just didn’t fit into the team’s plans– these stories and the hearsay coming from it makes you wonder what’s left to come out of the desert when it comes to player personnel.

Deserted Win Column

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The Arizona Coyotes are bad. Like….very bad. After 10 games, they still remain winless and only have one point to their name this year, an OT loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. With one more loss, they will match the 1943-44 New York Rangers with 11 losses to start a season.

On paper, this team isn’t bad. Hell, rookie Clayton Keller is almost better than advertised with seven goals and 11 points in the first 10 games, Max Domi has been a solid set-up man with seven helpers, but everyone else seems a little disjointed. You never know what to expect out of Anthony Duclair– though he seems to have found his scoring touch briefly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has contributed offensively, but defensively is a bit of a wreck, while the goaltending is right back in a sorry state thanks to Antti Raanta’s injury and the likes of Louis Domingue and Adin Hill not being able to pick up the slack.

It is a young season and I did say panic shouldn’t happen until 20 games in, but in dire situations like this where they haven’t had a win yet in the first month of the season– something needs to change and quickly in order to right the ship. But what will do that?? Is it as simple as Raanta coming back to right the ship?? Are the players not buying or getting Rick Tocchet’s philosophy?? Is the John Chayka vibe wearing thin already??

Whatever it is…it’s not the look that Coyotes wanted. A team that was already something of a punchline for fans that don’t live in Arizona is just making things worse with this start. If it’s just Raanta being out and he comes back to a big win-streak, then it’s a simple fix. If they play .500 or sub-.500 hockey when he comes back, then you look at Chayka and if he goes into some kind of sell mode…which will be hard when the things teams want to buy are your building blocks for a better future.

That all said– hang tight Coyotes fans…there’s something better on the horizon. I mean…there has to be right?? I mean, after all the crap you’ve been through– that light at the end of the tunnel is just fireflies and not a train, right?? Right??

How Not to Panic When Panicking

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The one thing that got me starting loathing that Eric Francis has a writing job with the Calgary Sun, even though he was a morning zoo DJ, was at the end of October of 2005, he had already declared the Flames’ playoff hopes dead. Remember, this is the season removed (since 2004-05 didn’t happen) from their amazing Stanley Cup run. However, since they started the first month of the new season 4-7-2, it was already over months before the playoffs actually began.

The Flames finished 46-25-10 and won the Northwest Division.

Eric Francis is a dumbass. Don’t be like Eric Francis.

Yet, in the “what have you done for me lately”/”hot take” world of sports journalism we live in, everyone is ready to kill their team off after the first month of the season. Sure, some of the people are panicking in jest, but there are far too many who are serious in their assessment.

There’s a highly unlikely chance that a team like the Edmonton Oilers are going to be sitting in the cellar all season, especially with the firepower they have in their line-up and Connor McDavid still healthy. Teams like the Capitals, Ducks, and Sharks are not going to be the middling teams they have been to start this season. The Coyotes…..well, on paper, they seem like a better team than they should be– but the game isn’t played on paper and maybe Antti Raanta isn’t the savior people thought he was going to be.

My point is that only one team has hit the ten game mark (the Rangers) and even then, you shouldn’t start to really worry until about 25 games into the season. With the lack of pre-season play like the World Cup of Hockey last year, players didn’t come into the season with “high-level” competitive play under their belt. It might take some guys more time to heat up and really show their true worth.

Conversely, the teams that are hot to start the season aren’t necessarily going to be that way through the entire season. The Golden Knights may start to look like an expansion team come December, injuries could rack up for the Devils (or any team for that matter) come next month, and other teams could regress to the mean sooner rather than later.

So take a deep breath people. New players in new places need time to gel. New contracts need time to have their ink dry. Older players need time to get warmed up and rolling. It’s a matter of time where the true teams will come out firing and actually succeed, lest the management who made these teams who were supposed to be good this season be fired.