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30 on Broadway Talking Blueshirts: Offseason Series Continues with Jake Hahn

The latest 30 on Broadway Talking Blueshirts in partnership with MANSCAPED™​ episode is now live!

Show Notes

  • The Offseason series continues for the podcast
  • Our partnership with Manscaped 
  • Jake Hahn joins us to talk NHL Awards, the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers postseason run, what comes next
  • We talk more on the Rangers and Igor Shesterkin
  • Get 20% OFF @manscaped + Free Shipping with promo code 30 on Broadway at MANSCAPED.com! #ad #manscapedpod

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What can the Winnipeg Jets learn from the Colorado Avalanche?

With the Stanley Cup finals upon us, 30 NHL fan bases watch with envy as the two remaining gladiators fight for the coveted holy grail. Because most avid hockey fans are selfish, and a tad myopic (present company included), the question becomes, “Why not us?”

The Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning are clearly the class of the league, but how did these teams reach the zenith? What, if any, lessons can be derived from these 2 franchises?

The Tampa Bay Lightning are as close to a Dynasty as the NHL has seen since the mid-80’s Oilers and early-80’s Islanders. Their sustained success is remarkable in this era of professional hockey. The 2022 iteration is less talented than years prior, but championship culture and pedigree cannot be underestimated.

The Colorado Avalanche are a more curious case. We all remember the Joe Sakic lead Avalanche teams culminating in the iconic Ray Bourque “Cup of Destiny”. With their recent success, it is difficult to remember the nadir experienced by the Avalanche from 2009-2016. During this time, the team was not just bad, but historically so. To the Winnipeg Jets’ credit, its lows were never this low, but conversely, its highs have yet to reach that of the Avalanche.


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Colorado can attribute its recent success thusly:

1. They were bad for a long time. That sounds like an oxymoron, but being bad means high lottery picks. The Avalanche core (McKinnon, Makar, and Landeskog) were all selected with top 4 overall picks from 2011-2017. Mikko Rantanen was also a savvy pick in 2015 at 10th overall. While few would give the Avalanche much credit for drafting Nathan MacKinnon first overall in 2013, they deserve credit for shaking off MacKinnon’s relative early struggles, and signing him to a forward-thinking contract that ended up being one of the biggest bargains in recent history.

Lesson: the Winnipeg Jets should be more disappointing? The NHL Draft is no guarantee, but Sam Presti’s “process” can work if it lands you the right talent. With Barry Trotz almost a guarantee to sign with the Jets (according to Rod Pederson), the Jets are too far along their current trajectory to blow things up and tank for an extended period. However, it is food for thought if this version of Jets 2.0 continues to flounder.

2. The Avalanche have added to their core, and around the fringes wisely. They crushed the Matt Duchene trade and have added the likes of Kadri, Burakovsky, and Compher to fill out depth. Some credit the Avalanche’s public focus on analytics, and others point to luck.  One free-agent highlight was the low-risk, high-reward signing of Valeri Nichushkin. Chances are, even a savvy front office like Colorado’s probably didn’t expect the Dallas Stars ‘supposed’ bust to be this much of a find. Devon Toews was similarly a boon.

Lesson: the biggest takeaway here is that the Avalanche have been much better at building around its’ core than the Winnipeg Jets. Having Cole Makar is going to drastically improve any defensive unit, but by the same token, having Tucker Poolman is not. This writer is not entirely certain of the depth and utility of the Jets analytics department. Paul Maurice’s comments would suggest that they do not figure heavily into decision making. Regardless, in building this team, the Avalanche have consistently made smart moves — selling high, and buying low. Whatever role analytics, “the eye test,” and other factors played, the bottom line is that other franchises face a tall task (Logan Stanley tall) in keeping up with the Avalanche.

Each NHL team has its own trajectory and internal hurdles to overcome, so most comparisons are not apples-to-apples. I don’t believe there is a smoking gun strategy employed by the Avalanche that could be astutely “borrowed” by the Jets, other than picking really high in the Draft. That said, the Avalanche are a well-run organization, and right now, I can’t say the same for the Jets. Simple as that.

Call it jealousy, or call it a lack of freudenfreude – watching hockey being played at the highest levels (regardless of Colorado’s drubbing of the Lightning) causes critical self-refection. Hopefully the Winnipeg Jets are doing the same.  

Devils Facing Decision Regarding Pavel Zacha

As general manager Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils enter a monumental offseason, questions surround the future of restricted free agent Pavel Zacha.

Zacha’s six years with New Jersey has been full of ups and downs. After performing well in the shortened 2020-21 season, there were times in 2021-22 where the 2015 sixth-overall pick seemed to have turned the corner and others where his nightly spot in the lineup was called into question. The 25-year-old did, however, reach his career-high in points as he recorded 36 (15 goals, 21 assists) in 70 games last season.

While Zacha could be a serviceable piece in the team’s middle-six going forward, the reality of the situation is that he is owed a qualifying offer of $3 million this offseason. While New Jersey can afford him as they currently have around $25 million in cap space, there may be more consistent options available in free agency for that price which could affect whether or not is qualified.

Fitzgerald could look into trading Zacha’s rights if there is a team that believes the struggling forward needs a change of scenery in order to reach his full potential.

The emergence of Dawson Mercer, offseason acquisitions, and young forwards competing for a lineup spot could make the decision easier for New Jersey as there may be limited roster space available for Zacha next year. While teams usually like to retain restricted free agents, there seems to be too many elements working against his return to the Devils next season.

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Why Nick Schmaltz is the most underrated player in the NHL right now

Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league is Nick Schmaltz. Coming in at 6’0 and 181 pounds, he has been a treat to watch since being traded to the Coyotes. He was drafted 20th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014. Schmaltz was one of the top-tier prospects in the Blackhawks organization. Schmaltz started his young career on October 12th, the season opener for the Blackhawks in 2016. As well as getting his first NHL goal a couple of days later on October 15th, 2016. He was then traded with the Coyotes in exchange for Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome.

Now that we know a little more about Schmaltz why would he be underrated? In a total of 202 games played with the Coyotes, he has 150 points. He only played 17 games in the 2018-2019 season so we could’ve seen that point total a little bit higher. This is 0.7 points per game which is not bad.

Another major highlight in Schmaltz’s career was his 7-point outing against the Ottawa Senators. Here he notched two goals and five assists. This was the most since Sam Gagner in 2012. That is also a Coyotes record for the most points scored in a game. In the video, he gets a great assist on a smart play in that same game.

Ever since Schmaltz got traded to the Coyotes, he has had an unreal connection to Clayton Keller. The chemistry that they both share is unmatched on the ice. They have almost always been linemates throughout this season and past seasons. Which is the main reason they succeed so much. Schmaltz makes a difference everywhere he is on the ice. Looking back on the trade with Chicago, it’s looking pretty good.

As well as having great chemistry with teammates, he had an insane month of March. In March, he had a total of 24 points in only 14 games. Clayton Keller also had a very good March having 17 points in 14 games too. These two will most definitely be teammates for the foreseeable future as they are both signed here long-term.

He also had this nice goal in Ottawa which to no surprise, was assisted by Clayton Keller. With these numbers, Nick Schmaltz is super underrated and has broken out here in Arizona. Sometimes it takes just new scenery to make a huge difference and that’s exactly what happened with Schmaltz. He can score clutch goals and make high IQ plays down the ice or passing. He is no Coner McDavid but, he is what the Coyotes need. A consistent, reliable scorer who will put points on the board.

We should be seeing a lot more action of Schmaltz next year as it appears the Coyotes have no interest in trading him at the moment. This is good because if a team is rebuilding you need a scorer you can rely on when a game is close or just scoring in general. Schmaltz is only 26 years old and has a very bright future with the Arizona Coyotes

Go Yotes.


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A Look into the Near Future for Ottawa

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 23: Tim Stutzle #18 of the Ottawa Senators scores a goal against Elvis Merzlikins #90 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Nationwide Arena on January 23, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The past few seasons have been heartbreakers for the fans of Ottawa, obviously finishing in the lower part of the standings, but a few years of pain could very well lead to years of success. Pierre Dorion and his crew have already constructed a solid young core lead by Captain Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson, but when you look at some of these names, you may begin to wonder why we’ve been struggling.

The Problems

Problem #1: The wrong veterans. Pierre is no stranger to signing older UFAs bringing in most recently defencemen Micheal Del-Zotto who spent most of his year down with the clubs AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators. MDZ had a solid run with them, picking up 27 points in 26 regular season games, but never really got a chance in the NHL, mostly being brought up for injuries but still playing solid, putting up 13 points in 26 games. Hopefully he’ll get a chance in the NHL this year instead of being stuck in the AHL. Another example of this is Josh Brown. Traded to the Bruins on deadline day 2022, Josh Brown spent 62 games in the Nation’s capital, and only had 7 points to show for. He was brought in to be a physical force to protect the young guys, which never amounted to much, because Tkachuk fought most of the battles. Before we rush into more 30 year old guys, we need to take a step back and evaluate which veterans would mesh best with the team.

Problem #2: Injuries. This isn’t a controllable factor in sports, but its a huge one. Players could miss entire seasons with injuries that were accidental. This isn’t always the case and sometimes injuries are purposefully. For example, Aaron Dell of the Buffalo Sabres, hits Drake Batherson for 0 reason and we don’t see a potential 82 point season from him. He was over a point per game average before his injury but after the injury, he wasn’t the same

The Solutions

Now there are many solutions to these issues, and that leads me to the biggest one. Solution #1: The proper fits. A huge thing this team lacks is experience. Not just NHL experience, but playoff experience. A perfect example of that would be Mathieu Joseph. He’s won 2 Stanley Cups in his career with lots more time to win another. Signing free agents with these traits is important to help mentor the young guys and bring the extra fire-power our homegrown guys don’t have yet. If you look down in New York at the Rangers, they are a team that was rebuilding but adding experience as well, like Artemi Panarin. Those types of moves will make or break if a team wins a cup or not.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – FEBRUARY 18: Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers looks for a teammate during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on February 18, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Solution #2: New looks. In my opinion, there is in-fact a difference between a rebuild coach, and a championship coach. And DJ Smith is more of a rebuild coach. If we want to see this team anywhere near the playoffs soon, a new coaching staff is almost a must. An experienced coach with playoff experience and can lead this team to success. Currently our scouting and development departments are doing well so they should stay. A new general manager could also see the team benefit in the case where they aren’t afraid to trade away young talent or picks for immediate help.

Conclusion

In conclusion I think this team is a group that has most pieces in line and could be a solid team if missing pieces are added. Hopefully we make the right moves and see the group make the playoffs in the coming years.

The LeBreton Flats proposal would be another step in the right direction for the Sens.

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Who Will The Buffalo Sabres Draft In The 2022 NHL Entry Draft?

As the Buffalo Sabres hold the 9th pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft I think that Buffalo will draft Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW (right wing). This will be a great addition to the Buffalo Sabres as they are in desperate need of an RW.

Another pick that the Buffalo Sabres hold is the 16th pick that is from (Vegas). In my opinion, I think the Sabres will draft Frank Nazar, C (center). If the Buffalo Sabres do take an RW in their first pick, I think them picking a center is the right move in this situation for the Buffalo Sabres.

As the Buffalo Sabres also hold the 28th pick from (Florida) I think that they will pick another RW Jaggers Firkus. In my opinion, I think the Sabres drafting 3 forwards is highly unlikely. But that is what I would like them to do. My most realistic thing that the Sabres will do is draft 2 forwards and 1 defenseman.

This is my 1st round mock draft for the Buffalo Sabres. Round 2 will be posted in the near future.

30 on Broadway Talking Blueshirts Podcast: A Look Back at the Rangers Season Pt. 1

The latest 30 on Broadway Talking Blueshirts podcast is now available

Show Notes

  • Nick and Chris recap the playoffs and the season that was
  • Kyle Hall of the Broadway Hat Podcast joins us again to share his thoughts on the season and playoffs

Chevy to the leeve, was it dry? An analysis of Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

The Winnipeg Jets signed General Manager Kevin “Chevy” Cheveldayoff to a 3-year extension on May 1, 2022. The signing was understated and shrouded in doublespeak – much like the man himself.

Cheveldayoff is the third-longest-tenured General Manager in the NHL having joined the team back in September of 2011, putting him behind only Doug Armstrong (St. Louis) and David Poile (Nashville) in tenure.  He has been the only GM of the franchise since it relocated from Atlanta. Put frankly, Chevy is enjoying job security envied by most college professors.

In that time, the Jets regular season record has been a pedestrian 421-324-86. The team has made the playoffs 5 of those 11 seasons, the apex culminating in a trip to the Conference Finals in 2018. Decent? Yes. Sponge worthy? Absolutely not.

Since 2011, the Jets have had 3 head coaches (Noel, Maurice and Lowry); 2 captains (Ladd and Wheeler); and only one Byfuglien. In short, Winnipeg Jets 2.0 has operated under a very concentrated leadership group.

This begs the question…how good is Kevin Cheveldayoff at his job? In order to answer this question, we must determine the underlying criteria for evaluating a general manager in the NHL. I have somewhat arbitrarily and capriciously chosen the following:

  1. Draft prowess
  2. Free-agent signings and trades
  3. Coaching staff selection
  4. Team culture
  5. Salary cap management

1. How have the Winnipeg Jets drafted under Kevin Cheveldayoff?

A common refrain is that the Winnipeg Jets draft well. The steady drumbeat from the organization is the proliferation of the ‘draft and develop’ model. The paradigm is simple: draft deftly, and then develop that talent to its maximum potential. But is it true? Has Chevy put this model into practice? Let us look at Winnipeg Jets draft picks by year, with a heavy focus on first round picks.

2011

The first ever Jets 2.0 draft pick was none other than Mark Scheifele with the 7th overall selection. Current struggles aside (more on that later), Mark has been a productive player – behind only Kucherov, Huberdeau and Gaudreau in scoring from the 2011 vintage (Kucherov and Gaudreau were steals much later in the draft). Chevy also drafted Adam Lowry in the 3rd round who has become a foundational piece for the Jets, and even hired his Dad. So far, so good (except the Dad part).

2012

“With the 9th pick in the 2012 NHL draft, the Winnipeg Jets select Jacob Trouba”. Trouba entered the league with great anticipation, and although he had some good seasons with the Jets, an undercurrent of disappointment followed him for failing to reach those lofty expectations. He’s transformed his game in New York as more of a line-crossing Brad Marchand type (without any of the personality). That said, the talent pool in 2012 was sparse, so this was a decent pick.

The real coup d’état of this draft was selecting Connor Hellebuyck in the 5th round. One Vezina trophy and dozens of single-handed wins later, Connor was a tremendous pick.

2013

Josh Morrisey was taken 13th overall. While it looked dire for a few seasons, he has since regained his dominant form. The two defenseman selected after Morrissey (Pulock and Zadrov) have had solid but unspectacular careers, so this pick was a good one. The Airport Lounge are big fans of number 44 – a fact that I’m certain he couldn’t care less about.

Nabbing Andrew Copp in the 4th round was also savvy, even if it took a change in scenery for him to blossom.

2014

You can’t teach speed. Nikolaj Ehlers was taken 9th overall in 2014 and while we haven’t yet deployed him properly, he is arguably our best forward. Biases aside, Dylan Larkin went 15th overall and David Pastrnak fell to the 25th pick – both at tremendous value. Ehlers has failed to perform at their levels, however Chevy gets a bit of a pass here, for no other reason than I love Nik Ehlers.

2015

Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic were taken in the first round. Much like the chicken, KFC has been finger lickin’ good. Fresh off a Lady Byng win, Connor is one of the NHL’s premier scorers, although his attention to defense is heart attack inducing – again, much like the chicken.

Roslovic has blossomed in Columbus (detecting a theme here?), but never really did much in Winnipeg. The Jets could and should have used that pick to select Sebastian Aho – so we’ll consider that a missed opportunity.

2016

Patrick Laine went 2nd overall to the Jets and became an immediate fan favourite. The pick was a no-brainer however, as Laine and Matthews were consensus top 2 ranked prospects at the time.

Logan Stanley was then selected 18th overall and was celebrated by tall people everywhere.

2017-2018

The Jets didn’t have a first round pick in 2018, and squandered their 24th overall pick in 2017 on Kristian Vesalainen who is now no longer in the NHL.

2019-2021

The results here are inconclusive. Evaluating drafts in hindsight can be tricky at the best of times, so let’s give these kids some time to develop. Cole Perfetti has shown promise, and Ville Heinola has flashed (but again, has not been given the opportunity to prove himself).

Verdict: The Jets have drafted well, and Chevy deserves credit for that. The inability to rebuild the defensive core through the draft is concerning, and misses on Roslovic, Stanley and Vesalainen hurt – but drafting is not an exact science in any professional sport.

2. How has Chevy done in free agency and in the trade market?

Quickly, without googling…name the best Winnipeg Jets free agent signing in the last 11 years? If your knee-jerk reaction was Paul Stastny, congratulations, you are incorrect. It was objectively Matthieu Perreault. The Tasmanian Devil was plucked in 2014, and became a mainstay throughout the lineup. He was notably the best Jet forward in Corsi during his time in Winnipeg.

The point however is that there has not been a bevy of talent acquired through free agency. We’ve typically used free agency to fill bottom 6 and 4th line roles. Such luminaries include Matt Hendricks (the redux), Derek Forbort, and most recently, Adam Brooks. These signings are a zero-sum proposition as they fill roles typically used for young players – antithetical to the ‘draft and develop’ model. As such, Chevy takes an “L” with free agency.

How about trades? Any Faustian bargains out there? I’ve ranked the notable trades Chevy has made since 2011 from best to worst transactions:

DateTradeAnalysis
1.June 17, 2019Jacob Trouba FOR Neil Pionk and a 2019 1st round pickWhatever you think about Pionk, this was a solid return for Trouba.
2.February 26, 2017Paul Stastny FOR 2017 1st and 3rd round picksStastny was picked up for a playoff push and bolstered the Jets top 6 forward group.
3.June 30, 2013Michael Frolik FOR 2013 3rd and 5th round picksFrolik was a good 2-way player, and we acquired him on the cheap.
4.February 18, 2020Dylan Demelo FOR 2020 3rd round pickDylan DeMelo is criminally underrated and well worth the price here.
5.January 22, 2021Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic FOR Pierre Luc-Dubois and a 2021 3rd round pickThis is mostly TBD, as both marquee players struggled with their new teams in the first year. Giving up a generation scorer is tough, even for PLD who is now beloved.
6.February 11, 2015Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Jason Kasdorf FOR Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and a 2015 1st round pickIt’s ironic that Kane’s terrible behavior necessitated this trade, and yet he is the only remaining player of any real consequence from this swap meet.
7.February 25, 2016Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison, and Matt Fraser FOR Marko Dano, a 2016 1st, and a 2018 conditional 3rdThe 2016 1st turned into Logan Stanley so let’s just move on.
8.February 25, 2019Kevin Hayes FOR Brendan Lemieux, a 2019 1st, and a conditional 2022 4thDoes anyone remember Kevin Hayes? We gave the Rangers a 1st round pick for him (for the playoff run) and swapped him the next year for a 5th. Ouch.
9.July 26th and 27th, 2021Brendan Dillon and Nate Schmidt FOR Two 2021 2nd round picks and a 3rd.Yes, I know these were separate trades, but I am lumping them together because they are part of the same philosophical push to acquire defensive help that did not work.

Verdict: The Dillon and Schmidt trades veer Chevy’s trading record into the ‘below average’ category. Most of the action was borne out of necessity, or for a playoff push, but overall, a lackluster long-term success rate here.

3. Does Chevy have a loyalty problem with coaching?

It is the job of the GM to hire, cultivate and ultimately fire head coaches. Let’s examine Chevy’s choices:

Claude Noel: No sugarcoating this – Noel was a loyalty hire. Claude was given the inaugural position based almost solely on the fact that he was the head coach of the Manitoba Moose at the time. If there is another reason to hire a first-time head coach to usher in a group of young interlopers – I’d like to hear it. The skepticism on this isn’t retrospective. This decision was highly scrutinized in at the time.

Paul Maurice: The Airport Lounge’s position on Paul Maurice is quite clear: https://thefhn.net/some-people-call-me-maurice

It was obvious to Jets fans, pundits and anyone who was not drinking the Kool-Aid, that Maurice was no longer an effective head coach. Chevy however was busy setting up a Kool-Aid stand.

It took Maurice quitting for a change to occur. Maurice intimated that he had lost the room, and his passion for coaching. This wasn’t readily evident to the General Manager? Did they not talk? It is difficult to extrapolate any rational explanation as to why Maurice was kept (and extended) for as long as he was.

Dave Lowry: Poor Dave Lowry. That is all.

Verdict: Not good, Bob. I didn’t even mention the fact that Charlie Huddy continues to be employed despite woeful special teams and defensive play. Chevy has gone 0-3 in coaching hires.

4. What ‘culture’ has the GM cultivated?

Hockey culture is a nebulous concept rife with subjectivity. What was not subjective however was how Chevy navigated the Kyle Beach scandal.

Deking his way through carefully vetted press releases, Chevy ultimately took zero responsibility for what happened while he was the Assistant General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. To recapitulate, a predator infiltrated the organization; caused irreparable harm, and those in charge at the time (including Cheveldayoff) remained largely silent. At the risk of editorializing, this is unacceptable. Culture and accountability are set from the top down, and I can’t help but prophesize that the moral high ground has been lost here.

Also, in recent weeks, it has become clear that the Jets have some ‘Trouble at the Henhouse’. Seemingly, the team has too many roosters, and as a result – too many cocks. Avian puns aside, the Jets locker room is in disarray.

The end-of-season press conferences were a finger pointing masterpiece, with the Leonardo DiVinci amongst them being Mark Scheifele. Multiple reports have surfaced that he has not been ‘happy’ for years, and in turn, his teammates are not happy with him. Factions, and lack of identity have plagued this team for years. Is that on the GM? It’s more on the coach, but please see above on who controls the coaching aspect of an organization.

The genesis of Scheifele’s angst is not public knowledge, but the smart money is that it originates from his contract. Mark is underpaid, and his former agent (whom he fired shortly after signing) can attest to that fact. Did we not cater enough to 55, or did we cater too much? Regardless, this is a largely unhappy team and the GM bears some of the responsibility for that.

Verdict: Although tone is set primarily through coaching, the GM should have a pulse on the Katra of the dressing room, and definitively should be setting some moral standards. This has largely been a failure.

5. Cap Management

This criterion is somewhat irrelevant, as for most of Winnipeg Jets 2.0 history the team has operated well below the salary cap. Of note, there has been a failure to rebuild our defensive unit, and Wheeler was signed to an expensive extension at the age of 33. Logan Stanley was protected over Dylan DeMelo in the 2021 Expansion Draft which in hindsight (and to some in real time), was 6 foot 7 inches of bad decision making.

In fairness, Scheifele, Ehlers, Morrissey and Connor have all signed long-term team friendly deals. Chevy was also able to finagle Little’s contract off the books.

Verdict: We’ll call this one a win. I do believe team building is not easy in a small market, and Chevy has navigated adequately – buoyed by the long-term signings of his core. That said, if one or both of Mark Scheifele and/or Pierre-Luc Dubois leave the organization, that too will be a failure.

Where does that leave us? Kevin Cheveldayoff has drafted well and has signed a number of these assets to team friendly deals. Everything else is subpar to downright negligent. Some may weight the Draft heavily and are not concerned with the other criteria presented. I am not one of those people. It’s contrite to say that the next 3 years are crucial given the length of rope afforded to Chevy, but to borrow from Mark Scheifele, “I just have to know where this team is going and what the direction is and what the changes are going to be, if any.”


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There is Plenty to be Thankful For With This Rangers Season

Triumph and heartbreak. For all the great things the Rangers accomplished during this run the players and fans are left with nothing but sadness to start the summer. Once we get through the first stages of dealing with the loss there are so many positive things to look back on about the 2021-2022 New York Rangers.

This was a team that overachieved all season and outperformed any and all expectations that fans and media outlets had. Many considered this team, even with their high end talent, to compete for a wild card spot or maybe finish third in the division. Until the final week of the season the Blueshirts were competing for first place in the division and were one of the best teams in the entire league.

Before the year there were questions about whether or not Igor Shesterkin could emerge as a top flight goalie in the NHL especially after signing his extension. Not only did Shesterkin respond but he did it with a near historic season as he finished as a Vezina and Hart trophy finalist and showed himself as one of the best goalies in the world.

Rangers fans also got to see a team that fans could truly be proud to root for and a team that showed that would not be pushed around by any team in the league. We saw that Chris Drury spared no expense at making this team tougher physically but they also got a lot tougher mentally this season. They adopted the personality of certain newcomers like their head coach Gerard Gallant, well known tough guy Ryan Reaves, and gritty vet Barclay Goodrow.

The club showed their mental toughness and resolve all regular season long as they led the NHL in come from behind wins. They doubled down on the “no quit” mentality during the postseason being able to battle back from back to back series deficits in rounds one and two.

This is a mentality that we hadn’t seen on Broadway from the likes of the “Black and Blueshirts” under John Tortorella. In prior years, granted during a rebuild, we saw these Rangers wilt when things would get tough and they just didn’t have ability to bounce back. That is one of the biggest signs of life and progress from the rebuild that this team now not only has the belief in their system but within themselves to be able to bounce back when things get tough.

That’s one thing that you just can’t quantify.

Being able to watch a lot of these young players grow before our eyes has been a real treat. Chris Drury and his staff deserve credit for the steps forward a lot of this young talent took this year under the Gerard Gallant’s tutelage. Gallant didn’t always make the best choices but when the team needed it he always seemed to know exactly what buttons to push to get the best from his players.

In a year that started with little to no expectations from anyone to be just two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance is a massive accomplishment.

I have never been one for moral victories but you’d be naïve to believe that this isn’t a huge step in the right direction for a young club in the first year of their contention window. For any fan to believe that this club would waltz into their first postseason together and manage to win a Cup is just an insane thought to begin with. You never see that happen in the NHL. To win a Cup you need have scars from prior losses and if you don’t believe me just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning. They endured multiple tough postseason losses before finally breaking through two years ago. A loss in the Cup Final, multiple ECF losses, and of course who could forget the embarrassing sweep to Columbus where Tampa was at a crossroads and chose to stay the course instead of blowing the club up out of panic.

When you think about the fact that a gassed and inexperienced Rangers team had the two time defending Cup champs on the ropes before finally giving out, you have to have hope for the future.

The kids, especially Miller, Lafreniere, and Chytil, all took giant steps forward during this playoff run. You know you have a rock in Shesterkin in net and couple that with the likes of Fox, Panarin, Zibanejad, Miller, Chytil, and Lafreniere and the Rangers are building something that will be around for a long time to come.

There is an enormous shift between regular season hockey and playoff hockey and these young Rangers got an on the job lesson in the difference between the two and exactly what it takes to get the job done. While the ECF loss to Tampa will be sure to sting during the summer until the puck drops on the 22-23 season, there are plenty of positives to take away from this season and this postseason.

Fans should be extremely thankful for the steps this club took this year and take great solace in the fact of knowing this is one of the youngest teams in the league. Sure, they’ll be facing some cap issues moving forward but they already have most of the pieces in place for what will be a Cup contender for a very long time.

The New York Rangers will be back more driven, hungry, and ready for battle in 2022-2023 and will be ready to continue to show the rest of the league that there indeed is no quit in New York.

A Look At The Off-season For The Flames

A look back

If you look back at the beginning of the season and see what was expected of the Flames, you would say they blew everyone out of the water. No one thought they would even see the playoffs, let alone snap a 7-year playoff series-winning draught. But then take a look at the end of the season and the expectations they had and you would say they fell flat. Yes they beat the Stars, but it was a 7 game series, and the last one going into overtime. Then they could only grab one win against the Oilers in the next round.

Johnny Gaudreau

Now, the question on everyone’s mind is, where is Gaudreau going? Johnny had a career year with 40 goals and 115 points on his contract season. Gaudreau was under a $6.75 million dollar contract for the past 6 years with the Flames. If I was Gaudreau I would be looking for around a $9 million to even $11 million contract for next season.

Sean Monahan

There are 11 players with expiring contracts at the end of the season with names such as Tkachuk, Mangiapane, Kylington, Zadorov and more, this will be hard for flames management to work with and some guys will need to be let go. Let’s start with the big $6.3 million dollar elephant in the room, Sean Monahan. Whether you buy him out or trade him, I feel Monahan will be gone in the offseason. His play has taken a step back, not by his own fault, but because of his health and injuries. He has had several major surgeries over the years and this season he has not returned to his former self. Even though Monahan is a favourite of mine, it is hard to say but I don’t see Monahan staying with all this money they have to give out during the off-season.

Milan Lucic

Another expensive conversation is Lucic. Milan Lucic is making $6 million dollars and he’s giving you 21 points in 82 games, that is not money well spent. Even though Lucic is a key piece to Darryl Sutter’s style of play, I feel he just costs too much to not do that much on the fourth line.

Defence and Fourth Line

Then there is looking at having to sign 3 out of our 6 defensemen. It’s a no-brainer I think Kylington is staying due to him being a restricted free agent, but we will have to see where that leads. Then we have our third defensive pair in Zadorov and Gudbranson, both having expiring contracts. I hope we can bring back both, but If you can only afford one, I would say push for Zadorov, he is younger, he is bigger and they produce around the same amount of points. It would not be the end of the world if we lost Carpenter, Lewis or Ritchie, because I feel they are easily replaceable by either signing someone or calling a guy up from the minors.

Matthew Tkachuk

The two biggest names besides Gaudreau on this list are Tkachuk and Mangiapane. Now, in my opinion, I feel if we can sign Tkachuk, it will make Calgary look more enticing for Gaudreau since they work so well together. Tkachuk has expressed interest in staying with the Flames long-term, even having the chance to secure the “C” on his sweater. I think the contract would be somewhere in the ballpark of $9 million dollars.

Trade Rumours

As a side note, there have been trade rumours sending Tkachuk to the blues for possibly guys like Tarasenko or Kyrou. Now, these rumours are probably reignited every season due to Tkachuk being from St. Louis, but it is fun to look at possibilities.

“The Flames will lose a little leverage if clubs know they’ve got to move him, but he could still yield players such as Jordan Kyrou, Scott Perunovich, prospects like Jake Neighbours and Zach Bolduc, and/or potentially high draft picks”.

Jeremy Rutherford- The Athletic

Now the name that sticks out to me the most is Jordan Kyrou. He is a favourite of mine, and he is able to produce with 27 goals and 75 points this season while only being 24 years old. But the one thing Kyrou would lack compared to Tkachuk is true leadership, I don’t look too deep into it but I feel Tkachuk would have a way bigger impact on the locker room than a guy like Kyrou would.

Andrew Mangiapane

Mangiapane, being an RFA is gonna be kinda easy to resign, but he will be looking for a pay raise. At 26, he put up 35 goals and 55 points. I feel he might be looking at the same contract Gaudreau is coming off of, around $6 million dollars for 4-6 years. Mangiapane is needed for this roster though because he supplies some of the secondary scoring the flames need to be successful.

Draft

The Flames are not looking like a team that is going to draft many players this entry draft. They have their second, fifth and seventh-round pick this draft after trading the first in a package for Toffoli, the third for Vladar, the fourth for Tyler Pitlick, who was later also traded for Toffoli, and the sixth for Heinneman’s contract rights, who was also later traded for Toffoli. I am nowhere near an NHL draft professional so I have no clue who would be available for the Flames where they are picking.

Conclusion

This is definitely going to be stressful for flames fans and management like but we will just have to trust the process and hope for the best, but if the best doesn’t come, I don’t know what the future would hold.

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