Diamond In The Rough: Mark Stone’s Emergence As A Leader     

Diamond In The Rough: Mark Stone’s Emergence As A Leader


On July 8, 2009, the Ottawa Senators traded Alex Auld to the Dallas Stars for their 6th round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The trade would become a memorable one for Sens fans. With the pick, the team selected Mark Stone from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. Once projected to be a Top-50 pick, the forward’s injuries and below-average skating ability hampered his draft stock.


After being drafted, Stone would score 229 points in 137 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and, in 2012, would give Senator fans a glimpse into their future. The Senators chose to recall Stone for a pivotal 1st round Game 5 match-up vs the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Stone played a meager 8:43, but showed his offensive capability by recording 3:35 in power-play time and recording the primary assist on Jason Spezza’s game-winning goal.


It was not until the 2014-15 season, though, that Stone secured an opening night roster spot. Since then, Stone has become a treat to watch due to his offensive abilities. In his first 226 games, Stone tallied 179 points and 339 takeaways, over 100 more than any other player in the NHL. Stone is a masterful two-way forward, able to pick opponents’ pockets and turn takeaways into offensive opportunities.


Outside of Ottawa, many fans have overlooked Mark Stone. He was left off of TSN’s list of the top 50 players for the 2017-18 season, and his projected goal total was just over 20. Stone has exploded this season: in 43 games, he has 18 goals and 42 points. In a year where the Senators have struggled, Stone has been an offensive mainstay. Stone has used his quick hands in tight to fill the net this season.


Stone has not lost sight of the main goal; to win hockey games. In December, frustrated with his team’s play after another blowout loss, Stone called out the locker room, This has not been the only time Stone has been the loudest voice among his peers. A no non-sense approach, accompanied by blunt and critical statements, has made Stone a leader on and off the ice. This approach has grabbed the attention of the Senators organization and management.


Shortly after these comments, the Senators asked their players for their no-trade lists, signalling that change could be on the way. For a period of time, the entire Senators organization was being openly scrutinized. Then, Pierre Dorion and the Senators made their best decision of the season. While Dorion did indicate the Senators were ready to make roster moves, they also made it clear that Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone were untouchable. The once-6th round pick was not only having a spectacular season, but his value was deemed so important that the Senators found him unmovable. Once a diamond in the rough, Mark Stone is now one of the few positives found on an underachieving hockey team as they have hit the mid-point of their season.


The Senators are in rough shape, and no bye week could hide that. But, this team and organization has a knack for stringing together wins in the second half of their season. It would be surprising to see them tank, and there is no way Stone will stop playing hard. As many may remember, the “Hamburglar” run of 2015 was the Andrew Hammond story. Yet, this was the beginning of Stone’s coming out party. In his last 27 games of 2014-15, Stone recorded 31 points, and finished the season on a 9-game point streak. If the Senators are going to have any hope of making the playoffs, they will need this sort of production from Stone. A tall task, but it would be a shock if he did not provide it.


Unjustified Disrespect: Eugene Melnyk’s Last Stand

Unjustified Disrespect: Eugene Melnyk’s Last Stand


In 2003, the Ottawa Senators had filed for bankruptcy, but were saved by Eugene Melnyk, a Toronto-born businessman who was eager to win a Stanley Cup. For nearly a decade he helped foster and create a culture of winning and consistency in Ottawa.


On July 5th, 2013, he made his most infamous decision. Melnyk decided to not pay Daniel Alfredsson’s his requested salary, and the Ottawa Senators lost their greatest player in franchise history. Once heralded as the saviour of the franchise, Melnyk cast away the greatest Senator of all-time for a mere 1 million dollars. This show of disrespect for Alfredsson’s contributions not only wronged the Swede, but it wronged a fan-base who embraced Alfredsson as family.


Melnyk’s downfall has accelerated over the past few weeks. There had been speculation regarding his desire to sell the team and his ability In the midst of this the NHL 100 Classic, a celebration of the Senators and Ottawa was looming. A win over the New York Rangers this past Wednesday had perked up the fan-base, who grew excited for the outdoor game and its festivities. Then, on the biggest weekend in team history, Melnyk decided to challenge and disrespect the city.

During the Senators’ alumni game on Parliament Hill, Melnyk used the media attention to make a statement.

“I think the market here has to prove itself, or you have to make changes. We’ve cut everything to the bone in the organization. We are probably one of the thinnest management groups in the league. The next thing you have to look at is players.” – Eugene Melnyk

Per Frank Seravalli: (https://twitter.com/frank_seravalli/status/941837557842690048)


Before 30,000+ paying customers braved frigid temperatures at TD Place, Melnyk felt the need to question the market of the National Capital Region. Recall that Melnyk was fighting for his life in 2015, and used his celebrity status to skip the line and recruit potential volunteer donors. Over 500 people volunteered to donate their liver so Melnyk could receive his transplant. An experience which would have humbled most seems to be forgotten by Eugene. Not only this, but Melnyk used last year’s playoff struggles at the box office as ammunition against his fan-base.


Melnyk, a long-time horse owner and inductee into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame claimed that the Rideau Carleton Horse Racetrack “is a little, tiny C track that wouldn’t even make it in the Idaho State Fair.” Melnyk made this comment because the City of Ottawa had declined his proposal and intent to build a casino close to the Canadian Tire Centre. These statements were not only damaging to the horse-racing community, but it was not received well by many regular attendees to the Rideau Carleton Raceway. Melnyk has built quite the reputation in Ottawa. Eugene Melnyk has disrespected the Senator fans on numerous occasions, and fans are bellowing their frustrations.


#MelnykOut took Canada by storm this past weekend. The hashtag can largely be accredited to Abdi Omer, who first tweeted the phrase on December 14th, but peaked in usage on the 16th. The fan-base is clearly not pleased with their controversial owner who attempted to steal the spotlight on the Senators’ most important weekend in franchise history. Melnyk’s actions and comments have even expanded beyond Canada’s borders and reached the U.S. On Friday evening, Keith Olbermann aired his opinion on Melnyk and the Senators’ unique situation. Olbermann said, “This is not a bright man, even for an owner”. Olbermann highlighted an absolutely ridiculous situation, and brought worldwide attention to it.


Melnyk’s comments were not mentioned to the Senators’ players until today, when Erik Karlsson was questioned as to his thoughts on Mr. Melnyk’s comments. Karlsson was quoted as saying “It’s none of our business.” Karlsson went onto make it clear that the team’s focus was on playing hockey. Gary Bettman and the NHL took a different line at the situation. “We believe in all of the places that we have franchises now.” Bettman would go on to say the NHL is not looking to threaten markets, and he believes that LeBreton Flats is “vital” to the Senators’ future success, and believes it will also benefit Ottawa as a city. Bettman firmly backed Melnyk’s ability to get a deal done, but I would be incredibly surprised, if he was the sole owner of the Senators as they move to LeBreton Flats.


Recently, talks of selling the team have heated up, and the Desmarais family has emerged as a possible buyer for the Senators. The Desmarais family was with the Devcore, Canderel and DLS group, who were the competing bid against that of Melnyk’s for the LeBreton Flats development. This same group has previously tried to buy the Senators from Melnyk. The events from this weekend will remain in infamy for some time, and you can be sure that things will not got better for Melnyk if he continues to be the owner of the Senators. Therefore, I am willing to make a bet. By this time next year, Melnyk will not be the sole owner of the Ottawa Senators. I do see a possibility of him remaining a minority owner, but there is no way he could recover from this and remain the sole owner. He has betrayed Ottawa and the National Capital Region once again, and for many this was the last straw. This past spring, Melnyk blamed “previous management” for the Senators attendance woes, and Don Brennan, a post-media journalist, responded by saying “It must be Eugene Melnyk”. Many months later the narrative stays true. What is the problem Mr. Melnyk? Simply put, it is you.


Your continuous penny-pinching roster moves have plagued the Senators and stained management’s reputation. The Alfredsson decision still has ramifications today, as Alfie recently stepped away from his hockey operations position with the Senators. Melnyk is even entertaining the thought of repeating negotiation history with Karlsson’s contract coming due. According to reports, Melnyk was quite “unhappy” after Karlsson made it clear he would not be taking a hometown discount. The Sens fan-base would likely launch into anarchy if Melnyk let Karlsson walk, as he did with Alfredsson. Furthermore, the constant belittling of Ottawa and its citizens is insulting. It is nearly impossible to sell a product to people, whom he continuously disrespects. Melnyk has expressed his frustrations and the fans have responded vigorously. It is time for new ownership in Ottawa.



My wonderful readers, thank you so much for your support. Apologies for the lay-off school and work gave me a busy November and December, but I am back and hoping to better than ever. I hope you enjoyed this piece and those which are to come. Thank you to Geoff Marlowe for the editing as always, and I hope that your eyes will grace Josh Saslove’ Sports Talk again in the near future. Happy holidays everyone!

Duchene To The Sens: What Does It Mean?

Duchene To The Sens: What Does It Mean?


Matt Duchene’s name was in trade rumours for nearly 2 years, and for the majority of that time his name was connected to Ottawa. After multiple failed attempts, Pierre Dorion’s persistence paid off, and on Sunday evening, the Senators finally got Matt Duchene. With the trade finally made, it comes time to break it down and analyze what all of this means.

The official deal:

Sens Receive: Matt Duchene from COL

Predators Receive: Kyle Turris from OTT, sign him to a 6-year $36M deal

Avs Receive: Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, 2018 1st round pick & 2019 3rd round pick from OTT, and receive Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev and 2018 2nd round pick

In Duchene, the Sens gain an Olympic gold medallist who has hit 70 points in a season and is only 26 years old. Furthermore, he has a year remaining on his contract after this season, which buys the Senators time to sort out their salary cap situation. Duchene also brings more speed, and will arguably produce even more with the talent provided in Ottawa, like Mike Hoffman. Guy Boucher has talked a lot about “playing fast” and how Ottawa is best when doing so. Playing fast in Boucher’s mind is breaking out quickly, transitioning quickly and doing everything with speed. Duchene exemplifies this with his quick feet and stick. Here, Duchene goes the length of the ice in 7 seconds or less. He starts off with a quick breakout, transitions into an offensive opportunity, and finishes with a goal. This explosive speed is exactly what the Senators needed to add to their Top 6.


To acquire Duchene, the Senators had to part with a Top 6 forward, losing Kyle Turris.  Contract talks between Turris and the Senators had broken down recently, though. The Sens were put in a position where they had to sign Turris in a short timeframe, or he would walk away during free agency. Yes, they gave up Turris, but his replacement is arguably the better player. As well, Turris immediately signed a 6-year $36M deal in Nashville, which means he will make $6M per year until he is 35. With this, the Sens likely dodged a bullet there. While $6M seems reasonable for Nashville, it would not have been on the table for Ottawa. If Turris accepted that contract with Ottawa, he would make approximately $2.8M after taxes; in Nashville, $3.6M. That is a huge, underlying factor, which likely made Nashville much more attractive at $6M a year. Dealing Andrew Hammond gives some cap relief, as his time was clearly up with Condon firmly secured as the back-up. Shane Bowers may have been a first-round pick, but the Senators prospect pool is incredibly deep at the moment, and they did not have to give up Logan Brown, Colin White or Thomas Chabot. The picks are fine to go, because the Sens are pushing right now and do not need to stock up on young talent. They want to win; this trade solidifies that notion.

With the Senators indicating that they want to win, let us look at what their current lineup, when healthy, looks like:


Bobby Ryan – Derrick Brassard – Mark Stone

Mike Hoffman – Matt Duchene – Ryan Dzingel

Tom Pyatt – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Chris DiDomenico

Zack Smith – Nate Thompson – Alexandre Burrows

Additional Talent: Colin White & Filip Chlapik


Johnny Oduya – Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci

Freddy Claesson – Chris Wideman

Additional Talent: Thomas Chabot, Ben Harpur and Christian Jaros


Craig Anderson

Mike Condon


If Thomas Chabot can make his way onto the Senators roster and replace Johnny Oduya, the Senators’ Top-6 defensemen would be battle-tested and ready to go. As for the forwards, moving Zack Smith could make the team better now and secure your future. Colin White will be coming off of IR soon, and is good enough to play in the NHL right now. His development could take a huge step forward this year. Smith has been somewhat underwhelming, and has a hefty cap hit of $3.25M, with 3 years left after the 17-18 season. If the Senators were to move him, they would not only free up a spot in the lineup for White, but would free-up cap space for July 1st, 2018. This is when Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Erik Karlsson all become available to sign extensions.


The Senators’ salaries currently total $71.291M, with the cap at $75M. If Smith is moved, and White takes his spot $2.325M of cap space is freed up. Assuming Clarke MacArthur is eventually either placed on long-termed injured reserve or has his contract traded, this would free up an additional $4.65M, leaving the Senators with a $64.316M cap hit. If Karlsson is signed for $10.5M, Stone for $6.5M, and Duchene for $6.5M, this would put the Senators at a cap hit of $64.044M going into the 2019-20 season, where the cap would likely be over $75M. Even if Karlsson, Stone and Duchene, each wanted an extra million, there arguably could be space for that. Going into 19-20 they would have the following twelve players signed:

FWDs: Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone, JG Pageau, Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, Logan Brown

D: Dion Phaneuf, Mark Borowiecki, Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot

G: Craig Anderson, Mike Condon

10 current prospects who could be ready by 2019-20: Christian Jaros (D) (Age: 21), Filip Chlapik (F) (Age: 20), Drake Batherson (F) (Age: 19), Alex Formenton (F) (Age: 18), Max Lajoie (D) (Age: 20), Ben Harpur (D) (Age: 22), Christian Wolanin (D) (Age: 22), Marcus Hogberg (G) (Age: 22), Francis Perron (F) (Age: 21), Nick Paul (F) (Age: 22).


And these moves would leave money for their young talent exiting their entry-level contracts (Colin White, Freddy Claesson and Cody Ceci). Furthermore, some of the young talent like Christian Jaros, Filip Chlapik, and Drake Batherson could very well be on the Sens roster by then, and could still be one Entry-Level Contracts, keeping costs down. If that is the case, they would have no problem being competitive and under the cap. The numbers don’t lie, and the math spells that these moves can secure the Senators’ future and keep them at an extremely competitive level.


Matt Duchene’s move to the Senators is a calculated risk, but a worthwhile one, especially considering his apparent want to play in Ottawa. This move is a step forward for the Senators, but it should not be the only one. They should consider empowering their young talent by moving older parts. Guy Boucher talked about “playing fast”, and these young players are incredibly quick and will only learn how to play Boucher’s style with more time on the ice. The Ottawa Senators are extremely close to replicating their Eastern-Conference Final run, and putting together a roster that can compete for years to come. It is a good time to be an Ottawa Senators fan.


Buckle Up: One Bold Prediction for each NHL Team

Buckle Up: One Bold Prediction for each NHL Team

PSA: Every spice rating in here is done by my wonderful editor Geoff. It is done to add some flavour to the article, and give another’s opinion!


Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks Top Line Gets Eavened Up


Patrick Eaves was red hot last year. The short-tenured Duck recorded 32 goals in 79 games last year between Dallas and Anaheim and should continue this production on the Ducks’ top line. Eaves managed 11 goals in just 20 games with the Ducks last season, and will continue to benefit from Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry’s presence and skills. Eaves’ ability to clean up play around the net will help him sustain this production. Moreover, Eaves’ accomplishments in Anaheim came with Perry having a down year as well. Should Perry return to form this year, Anaheim’s top line could reach unseen heights. Eaves’ 32 goals were no fluke, and he will hit at least 30 this season.

Prediction: Eaves stays red-hot and scores 30+ goals



Arizona Coyotes: Max Domi Finds a New Gear

Through 2 NHL seasons Max Domi has averaged 0.64 points per game. This year he will shatter that mark and hit 65 points. Arizona has improved their forward group this year, adding Derek Stepan, Clayton Keller, and Dylan Strome to their opening night roster. This gives Domi more talent to work with and takes away attention from opposing top lines. Furthermore, he will find more free space, and will excel under the Coyotes’ new head coach, Rick Tocchet. When in space, Domi is lethal, as he is almost always in motion even when off the puck, making himself available for a goal scoring opportunity. Tocchet will encourage Domi to move freely and with more speed this season than his predecessor, Dave Tippett.

Prediction: Domi hits 65 points with skill surrounding him



Boston Bruins: Big Bear Goes Home Wounded

The Boston Bruins are incredibly top heavy. They only had 7 players register 30 or more points last season, and were carried by a lethal top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. After that, and outside of David Krejci and Ryan Spooner, their forward group is lacking. If any of their top line goes down or struggles, it could prove fatal. Furthermore, Zedno Chara’s ability to be a top pairing defenseman is no longer a certainty. Having been exposed in the playoffs, Chara’s minutes will likely be reduced this year, meaning one of Boston’s young defensemen will need to step up. With Torey Krug already dealing with injury issues, the wheels could fall off sooner rather than later if another big gun goes down for Boston.

Prediction: Setback year for Boston, who will miss the playoffs

Spice: the spiciest of Antarctic peppers



Buffalo Sabres: Eichel Earns Elite Status

Jack Eichel’s talent has never been in question. However, the American stud has flown under the radar in Buffalo, and was held back by injury issues last season. During his 2016-17 campaign, Eichel recorded 57 points in 61 games despite his injuries. This season, he will be a point per game producer. He will eclipse 80 points and become the leader of the Sabres. Eichel’s quick acceleration and elite accuracy will create chances not only for himself, but his teammates. Further proof of Eichel’s skill and ability to control the play is shown through Buffalo’s league-leading powerplay, which excelled at 24.5% last season. The 20 year old will be a menace for opposing teams and coaches, and will become recognized as one of the most dynamic players in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: Eichel puts up 80+ points, gains much more credibility

Spice: colder than a February Thursday in Flin Flon


Calgary Flames: Magic Mike Arrives in Cowtown

Mike Smith is now a Calgary Flame, and finally has a well-designed team in front of him. Having been the victim of constant redeveloping teams in Arizona, Smith now joins a young Flames team that has experienced success. Despite having a revolving door in goal last season Calgary was 14th in GA, and will improve on this mark with Smith in net. Furthermore, the additions of Michael Stone and Travis Hamonic will help solidify their blue line and provide added protection for Smith. With a capable team up front, do not be surprised to see Smith and the Flames make a run in the playoffs. It was not too long ago that Smith and the Coyotes landed themselves in the Western Conference Finals. Smith may be older now, but his lateral movement and quick glove hand are still more than capable.

Prediction: Mike Smith takes the Flames on a playoff run



Carolina Hurricanes: Skinner’s Theory Comes to Fruition

Jeff Skinner is shockingly only 25 years old and coming off of his best NHL season. The former Calder winner recorded 37 goals and 63 points last season to lead the Canes in scoring. This year, he will improve even more. Last year, Skinner spent 50% of his time on the ice with Lee Stempniak. This year, Skinner should get time with skilled players like Justin Williams, Teuvo Teravainen, and Victor Rask. Regardless of who he plays with, though, Skinner will create opportunities for his teammates by drawing defenders to him. Skinner could easily crack 70 points this season, and he will continue to lead the Hurricanes offensively. He might also bring the Hurricanes their first playoff appearance since 2008-09.

Prediction: Skinner notches 70+ points



Chicago Blackhawks: The Hidden Rink in Slovakia Exists

Following their early playoff exit last season, many analysts pegged the Blackhawks to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. However, reports of the Blackhawks’ death have been greatly exaggerated. The Blackhawks still have Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and have brought in young talent this year to solidify their forward lines. The defense will not be as solid as usual, but Joel Quenneville mix and match accordingly to ensure the Blackhawks’ success. Marian Hossa should continue to thrive as well. The Blackhawks are still waiting on the NHL’s decision on Hossa’s LTIR status, after it was reported this off-season that Hossa was allergic to material in his equipment. When the Blackhawks surprise even themselves this year and find a resolution to their cap woes, Hossa will return to the lineup and bring his wealth of experience and skill in time for the playoffs.

Prediction: Hossa will return mid-season and Blackhawks will find their way into the playoffs

Spice: Marian Hossa’s career is over. This is not a rating, it is a PSA


Colorado Avalanche: A Diamond In The Rough

The Colorado Avalanche will be tanking for picks, but they will have one bright spot this year. Sven Andrighetto could not find much ice-time in Montreal, however, when he arrived in the Mile High City last year he instantly impressed. Andrighetto put up 16 points in 19 games. While the sample size is small, with less pressure on him and a fresh start look for Andrighetto to produce this year at a Top-six pace for the Avs. Andrighetto has a quick release and can finish a good amount of chances, in his aforementioned 19 games Andrighetto shot at a 13.5% clip, which is quite above average. Look for the Swiss youngster to be a surprise for the Avalanche and put up 50 points this year.

Prediction: 20+ goals and 50 points for the young lad from Switzerland

Spice: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burn_centres_in_Canada


Columbus Blue Jackets: Panarin Gets His Own Spinoff

After two seasons alongside Patrick Kane in Chicago, Artemi Panarin now joins the Columbus Blue Jackets, aiming to establish himself as one of the league’s elite. Panarin, now in the prime of his career, has recorded 151 points in 162 games, and now joins an up-and-coming Columbus team searching for a superstar forward. Panarin will be the fix. The Russian is one of the smoothest stickhandlers in the NHL, has an incredibly quick release, and has elite level vision to create opportunities for his teammates. It will be interesting to see Panarin getting more touches and puck possession, as he will truly dictate the pace for the Jackets’ offense. He is currently lined up with Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson, and their line could be one of the scariest in the NHL by season’s end.

Prediction: Panarin will be over a point per game this season

Spice: I bet you still think Roman Reigns is an underdog


Dallas Stars: Free Agency Winners or Regular Season Disappointment


The Dallas Stars once again went out and made a bevy of off-season moves. However, this does not mean they are a contender, and it does not mean this team is making the playoffs. While Marc Methot was a huge upgrade on the blueline, they still lost Jordie Benn, and, outside of their centres, they still lack depth at forward. Benn-Seguin-Radulov will be fabulous to watch, and there is a reason to be excited, but the Stars are not going anywhere if those three do not carry this team. Not to mention, the Stars will be relying heavily on Ben Bishop, a player that has been dealing with injury issues for the past four seasons. Bishop had his worst year as a starter last year, yet the Stars rewarded him with a large contract. Pessimism could be getting the best of me, but I do not see how the Stars make significant progress with their current roster.

Prediction: This roster will score, but they will not make the playoffs

Spice: The Stars may look cold, but this prediction is HOTTTTTT


Detroit Red Wings: Short-Term Loss for Long Legged Gain

The Detroit Red Wings will be a bad team this year. Still, Anthony Mantha is going to begin reaching his potential. Mantha had a respectable rookie season in 2016-17, scoring 17 goals and 36 points. With a year of experience under his belt, and a more youthful line combination with Dylan Larkin and Martin Frk, Mantha’s skill and size will shine. The 220 pounder has extremely tidy mitts and a release that will fool goalies. There will be no sophomore slump for the big man, as he will likely lead the way for the Wings in goal scoring.

Prediction: Mantha scores at least 30 goals, and gives Wings fans hope for the future

Spice: MY GOD….

Edmonton Oilers: McDavid Officially Becomes “The Best”

Many people will say until Connor McDavid wins a Stanley Cup he is inferior to Sidney Crosby. These same people will have an incredibly tough time arguing McDavid is not more talented, the 20-year old is fresh off of recording 100 points and now gets Ryan Strome to work with. Many people forget Strome scored 50 points, three seasons ago, and I will argue that he will shatter that mark this year. Strome will be the beneficiary of McDavid’s career year, as the young captain will put up the biggest point total since Evgeni Malkin recorded 113 points during the 2008-09 season. McDavid is arguably the best skater in the league, and he continuously uses

Prediction: McDavid hits 115 points, and will be considered the greatest player on the planet

Spice: I bet you thought Hillary would sweep the Electoral College


Florida Panthers: Russian Fever Makes The Panthers Playoff Bound

The Florida Panthers are going to make the playoffs. The antidote to their scoring woes will come with the off-season addition of Evgeny Dadonov. This underrated roster move gives Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexsander Barkov a skilled teammate on the right wing. The 28-year old recorded 66 points in 53 games for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL last year, and, much like Artemi Panarin a few years ago, Dadonov will adjust to the NHL-style quickly. Dadonov sees the game with a high degree of creativity. He uses his speed to create separation between defenders, and makes his money breaking down the wings or setting up shop at the hash marks/faceoff circle. Dadonov’s speed and creativity will revamp Florida’s offense and help fix the Panthers’ mediocre powerplay.

Prediction: Dadonov scores 70 points and helps guide Florida back to post-season hockey



Los Angeles Kings: Lombardi’s Mess Remains Janitor-Less

The Los Angeles Kings will miss the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009. Dean Lombardi may have assembled two Stanley Cup winning rosters, but he now leaves the Kings with a mediocre roster. Firing Darryl Sutter will set the Kings back more than it will move them forward, and the once systematic Kings will break down much more this year. The Kings have lost their strengths. Their depth forwards and defensemen look bad, and the playoffs will be a huge ask from this group. If they want any success, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick will need to have their best seasons ever. With Kopitar trending downwards, and Drew Doughty sounding unsure about his future in L.A., the Kings could be competing for draft picks instead of Cups.

Prediction: The Kings miss the playoffs



Minnesota Wild: El Nino Is Unleashed On the NHL

Coming off his best professional season, Nino Niederreiter is about to turn into an elite power forward. The 25-year old tallied 25 goals, 100+ hits, and 57 points last year, and he is poised to score 30 or more this season. From in tight, Niederreiter is one of the best finishers in the league. He continuously scores from below the hash marks by using his long stick, large body frame, and quick release. The Swiss superstar is due for an uptick in ice time as he will be lined up alongside Charlie Coyle and Eric Staal. With more talent around Niederreiter and Minnesota’s new found depth, line matching will be difficult for opponents and Niederreiter will capitalize.

Prediction: Neiderreiter notches 30+ and plateaus at 70 points



Montreal Canadiens: The Price is Too High


Jonathan Drouin does not solve the problems the Canadiens have. Drouin will have a great season, and his line mates will do well. However, there is no way the Habs can score at a playoff rate with their roster. They offloaded three of their top five defensemen, and have a weaker defensive unit now. They also lost Radulov, which will hurt their goal scoring. Their off-season moves were fine, and the Drouin trade was excellent. He will bring speed, creativity, and explosiveness to their top line, and will help Max Pacioretty produce. However, the rest were questionable. Karl Alzner had one of the worst Corsi ratings on the Washington Capitals last year at 47.3%. Their bottom six is underwhelming, and will not get much better unless Charles Hudon has a fabulous rookie season. The reality here is that Carey Price will have to carry this team, even more so than in past seasons. The Habs may be able to squeak into the playoffs, but this team took a step or two backwards this off-season.

Prediction: Habs miss the playoffs and fall flat

Spice: Riot-worthy

Nashville Predators: Smashville Bashes in the Central Division

The Predators have an incredibly deep defensive core, and Pekka Rinne showed he can still be an elite goaltender in the NHL. The losses of James Neal and Mike Fisher hurt, but Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg have room for improvement. The additions of Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino add more grit to this forward group, and will make Nashville an even tougher and more physical team to play against. Believe it or not, their defense may even be better this year if PK Subban returns to his Montreal form. Subban was great defensively last year, but lacked the same offensive bite he had previously displayed. This season, Subban will become the quarterback of the Predators’ powerplay. Subban at the top of the faceoff circle is an extremely deadly asset who will consistently put the puck on net.

Prediction: Preds Win the Central Division & Subban hits 25+ powerplay points

Spice: YAWN


New Jersey Devils: #13 is #1 In His Class

Nico Hischier played four pre-season games, scoring in all four and tallying seven points. Hischier also went 19 for 40 in the faceoff circle, which, for a rookie, is exceptional. It typically takes young centres a few years to get near 50%. It may only have been pre-season, but Hishcier’s abilities are shown through those four games. He has incredible acceleration and can be a puck hound in the neutral zone, in turn creating offensive chances for himself and teammates. Look for the #1 overall draft pick to be the top rookie of the 2017-18 season, and for him to eventually gain much more ice-time with Taylor Hall. Hischier will help break the trap narrative of the old Devils by providing a new youthful energy, which comes with much more freedom.

Prediction: Hischier wins the Calder with 60+ points



New York Islanders: Johnny T’s New Dance Partner

John Tavares has been searching for a dynamic linemate to play alongside him. Anders Lee’s numbers are a great representation of how good Tavares is, as he has helped Lee’s game drastically. This year sees Tavares get probably his most attractive line mate in quite some time. Jordan Eberle joining the Islanders is huge for Tavares, who is reunited with his former World Junior pal and now has a skillful winger with him on the ice. It could help him regain the point per game form he showed in 2014-15. Tavares leans heavily on his strength to create offense for himself and teammates as he draws multiple defenders at a time. An incredibly strong puck handler with terrific vision, Tavares is a human highlight reel most nights.

Prediction: Tavares eclipses 85 points and keeps the Isles in the Wild Card race

Spice: THIS IS BORING *clap clap clap-clap-clap*


New York Rangers: The King Falls

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings

Henrik Lundqvist’s decline began to show last season, as he struggled at times to provide consistent goaltending to a Rangers team that had finally started scoring. Lundqvist had his worst season ever statistically, and his workload may be even heavier this year without Antti Raanta to back him up. The Rangers lost Raanta in the off-season and now have Ondrej Pavelec, who last season could not even secure a back-up job in Winnipeg. The Rangers offense was Top 5 in the league last year in scoring, but will likely see a drop off with the loss of Derek Stepan. Their former #1 centre was also one of their few players with a Corsi of 50% or higher. Stepan’s role will now be shared by Mika Zibanejad and 18 year-old rookie Filip Chytil. Zibanejad is best in transition, where he, unlike most centres, hangs higher and uses his speed to be sprung on breakaways. Should defenses match lines against him, Zibanejad could have a tougher time achieving this. All in all, if this team wants to go anywhere Lundqvist will need to be much better than last year.

Prediction: Lundqvist struggles, Rangers squeak into post-season get bounced 1st round



Ottawa Senators: The Overachievers Continue to Surprise

The Ottawa Senators were Eastern Conference Finalists last year; yet, entering this year they are being picked to miss the playoffs. Furthermore, instead of talking about the team’s on-ice success, the discussion surrounds their arena, ticket sales, and ownership. This is all happening whilst Ottawa continues to ice one of their best teams in the past 10 years. Erik Karlsson is the best defenseman in the world. The team’s regular season could actually be even smoother this year if they get more offense out of playoff performer Bobby Ryan. After the worst regular season of his career, Ryan was the Senators’ best forward in the playoffs last season. Ryan’s playoff success came from his effort levels, which were showed in 1 on 1 puck battles that he consistently won in the playoffs. Winning these battles led to opportunities for himself and teammates. Look for an uptick in offense from Ryan to stabilize the Sens top-6, as they will find themselves once again in the playoffs.

Prediction: Sens make the playoffs and Ryan puts up 55+ points



Philadelphia Flyers: The Team Follows Their Captain

The Philadelphia Flyers should find themselves in a battle for a wild card spot this season. This young team has an exciting offense led by Claude Giroux. Giroux had his worst season since 2009-10 in 2016-17, but should recover this year. Expect to see a much different Giroux this year. Over 50% of Giroux’s minutes last year were with Michael Raffl as a winger. This year, he is much more likely to spend time with Jakub Voracek. His other winger will be the key, though, and if he gets more ice-time with Wayne Simmonds his numbers will skyrocket. Of Giroux’s 58 points last year, over 70% included either Voracek or Simmonds. His success hinges on playing with the best players around him, and he will likely benefit from increased ice time with them this year. If Philly can get Giroux going, their powerplay will roll as well, as the team’s powerplay possesses control and poise, which creates many net-front chances that could make their powerplay Top 5 in the league.

Prediction: Giroux hits 70+ points, Flyers PP is Top 5, stay competitive in wild card race



Pittsburgh Penguins: Three peat?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have an incredibly rare opportunity this season: they could become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders in the early 1980s. The core of this group remains the same, and they did not lose much else this off-season. Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen leaving their bottom-six hurt, though, and  Jim Rutherford and company will likely address this issue near the trade deadline by adding a centre to solidify their bottom-six. Expect Jake Guentzel to reintroduce himself, and have a terrific regular-season playing alongside Sidney Crosby. Guentzel netted 13 goals in 25 games last year during the Pens’ Stanley Cup run, many coming from Crosby’s vision and quick stick. Furthermore, Matt Murray continues to prove he is one of the best young goaltenders in the NHL, and will finally be the #1 goalie. This Pens team is stacked from top to bottom, and if they are healthy they are certainly the team to beat.

Prediction: Guentzel goes to town netting 35+ goals and the Penguins win the Cup once more

Spice: “Are you saying ‘boo’, or ‘Boo-urns’?”  “BOOOOOOO”


San Jose Sharks: In Need of a Reboot

The San Jose Sharks got bounced in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers last year in a disappointing finish. The Sharks were fresh off of a Stanley Cup Final trip in 2016, yet came nowhere near the final last season. This was largely due to a lack of scoring: in 2015-16, the Sharks averaged 2.89 GPG (Goals Per Game); last season, 2.67 GPG. While they had an excellent defensive unit and structure, their lack of goal scoring hurt them. Much of this scoring needs to come from the Joes. Pavelski and Thornton are the offensive leaders of the team. This year, Kevin Lebanc is their line mate. While he may not be the most prolific name, Labanc enters his second NHL season in a great spot with the opportunity to benefit from two of the best in the game. Thornton has turned ordinary players into extraordinary ones before, most notably Jonathan Cheechoo. Pavelski’s goal scoring ability will ease the toll on Labanc, who will be able to find his captain at the top faceoff circle or in front of the net to clean up goals.

Prediction: Both Joes hit 70 points, Labanc gets to 50, Sharks are much more competitive



St. Louis Blues: The Blues at a Dive Bar

The St. Louis Blues have been bit by the injury bug and the NHL season has barely started. Jay Bouwmeester, Patrik Berglund, and Alex Steen are all expected to miss time at the start of the season, some even for months. On top of that, Robby Fabbri is done for the year after reinjuring his left knee. That is 290 manned games lost, along with 51 goals. Furthermore, the Blues lost Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, and Jori Lehtera, which will significantly hurt them throughout the lineup. Brayden Schenn was a great addition, and St. Louis will give the 26 year-old a true opportunity to take another step forward. Schenn’s physical play helps him create turnovers and generate energy for his team, which translates to scoring chances and momentum swings. The Blues could make the playoffs, but they will need a lot of things to go right and to be lucky. In an extremely hectic and competitive Central division, they will struggle to keep their heads above water. The Blues seem to be a little too blackened for a long and prosperous season.

Prediction: Blues miss out on the playoffs in crowded Central division



Tampa Bay Lightning: An Unlikely Hero


Peter Budaj has been on a journey. After seemingly hitting rock-bottom in St. John’s, Budaj was given the opportunity to join the LA Kings’ AHL affiliate the Ontario Reign. Budaj dominated in 2015-16 and was promoted to the Kings’ roster for the 2016-17 season when Jonathan Quick got injured. Despite the Kings struggles last year, Budaj played very well, posting a 2.12 GAA (Goals Against Average) and .917 save percentage. Budaj moves well and when he is on, he can carry a team through a game. After being dealt to the Lightning at the trade deadline, Budaj was rewarded with the back-up job and a contract in Tampa Bay. This year, he will go one step further and steal the starting job away from Andrei Vasilevskiy.  A far-fetched theory, yes, but Budaj has earned a serious look with his track record, and Vasilevskiy could be on a shorter leash than expected with a Tampa team that is in “win now mode”. Look for Peter Budaj to give Vasy a serious run for the #1 goalie job, and maybe even have its full control by December.

Prediction: Vasilevskiy struggles, Budaj takes starting job and runs with it.



Toronto Maple Leafs: Leafs Are #ActuallyGood

As a Senators fan, it absolutely pains me to say this, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have a bright future, and the hockey world will get a good look at that future this year. Aided by one of the most exciting offenses in the NHL, the Leafs will be a contender in the Atlantic division. So much so that they are actually my pick to win the division. Despite their average defensive corps, the Leafs will be able to simply beat their opponents in a track meet on the majority of nights. Led by Auston Matthews, the Leafs’ offense plays fast and has countless weapons with an incredibly deep lineup. The addition of Patrick Marleau brings more scoring touch and veteran presence. However, I do not see this drastically impacting the Leafs playoff hopes. While the Leafs will score at will during the regular season, come playoffs when the games are grinded out further their young lineup will struggle to remain as strong and physical as their opponents. The regular season will give a great glimpse to the future, but this Leafs team are a couple years away from being true contenders.

Prediction: The Maple Leafs win the division, but come up short in the playoffs



Vancouver Canucks: Delusional & Distraught

Being a Vancouver Canucks fan must be difficult. This team has not been good enough to compete in years, yet refuses to commit to a rebuild. Keeping Henrik and Daniel Sedin around as mentors for younger players is great, and providing them with Loui Eriksson is fine. But, going out in the off-season and bringing in Tomas Vanek, Sam Gagner, and Alex Burmistrov is pretty baffling. The Canucks will not make the playoffs this year, but they also blew their chances of likely getting a top 5 draft choice with these moves. Vanek and Gagner aren’t prospects, or even young anymore, so bringing them in when you are not competing is counter-intuitive. Gagner has killer hands and really re-developed his scoring touch last year. Yet, while he brings excitement, this is a rebuild, not a time to bring in veterans. Vancouver’s average age is 27.254 years old, far too old for a rebuilding team, and their ineptitude in managerial decisions will cost them as this rebuild will go on for far too long.

Prediction: Canucks try to compete fail, but do not secure a top 5 draft pick



Vegas Golden Knights: Flower Power Takes Vegas by Storm

Marc-Andre Fleury’s goodbye to Pittsburgh included a Stanley Cup, though hedid not play a single minute in the Final. However, they likely would not have gotten there without the former first overall pick, who steadied the ship when Matt Murray went down. A lovable and recognizable name, The Flower will become the face of this franchise. Attaching a player to a brand is how you build your fan-base, and many people around the league will tune into Vegas Golden Knights games to support Fleury. Will this team be good this year? Absolutely not. But, Marc-Andre Fleury will steal games for them time and time again. Fleury has gotten his swagger and confidence back, which has seen his skill rise through the roof again. After some tumultuous times in Pittsburgh, where he lost his starting job to a younger goalie, Fleury will find stability in Vegas, and will be their face of the franchise so long as he is a Golden Knight.

Prediction: Fleury finds his game and becomes the face of Vegas hockey



Washington Capitals: The GR8 One


Alex Ovechkin’s had his worst season as a pro last year. He did not look like the same player that has scored 60+ goals: he was out of shape, bruised, and battered. This year, he returned to Washington earlier than ever before, eager to begin training camp, and showed off his new physique. Ovi is ready to explode. One of the greatest goal scorers of all-time, Ovechkin is 32, but not ready to slow down. Full of pride and furious over the NHL’s decision not to go to the Olympics, expect a focused Ovechkin to take his anger out on opponent’s goaltenders and defenses. With a world-class release, a booming shot, and unmatched goal scoring prowess, Ovechkin will have no trouble filling the net. Alex will hit 50 goals this year and will have his best season as a leader. It has never happened, and every year the hockey world believes the dream is dead, but if anyone is going to beat Pittsburgh, look for it to be Washington. Washington’s case may be repetitive, but even a broken clock is right once a day.

Prediction: Ovechkin reaches 50 goals once again, Capitals give Pittsburgh a run for their money



Winnipeg Jets: Used Good Do Not Pay Dividends

Steve Mason was chased out of Philadelphia this past off-season. Once a Calder winner, Mason’s abilities as a starter have been in question for the past few years. Oddly enough, he was given the starting job in Winnipeg, and the longer he spends as the #1 in Winnipeg, the further the Jets will bury themselves in the standings. Connor Hellebuyck was given a fair chance last year, and had a decent showing. Hellebuyck is accredited with having NHL skill and reflexes, but his inconsistencies have been his shortcoming thus far. This past summer, he began working with Adam Francilia. Francilia, a sports performance coach, has helped the likes of Andrew Ladd, Devan Dubnyk, James Reimer, and many more. They focused on posture and setup this off-season, as well as creating a better diet for Hellebuyck. In spite of all this, along with being younger than Mason and having nearly equal numbers, Hellebuyck was pushed to the back-up role in a peculiar move. Winnipeg is trying to win too quickly by pushing Mason into the starting role. It did not work in Philly the past two years, and he will continue to be a hazard in Winnipeg.

Prediction: Mason flounders, Jets continue to spin tires until they let Hellebuyck develop into their starter. No playoffs this year.

Spice: Winnipeg has an NHL team?



Thank you all so much for reading! It truly means the world to me, and now having much more time at my disposal I can promise this will once again become a weekly activity! So please every week feel free to read and give me feedback, this is how I can always continue to improve! I enjoy so much writing and I enjoy it even more when I get feedback and know people are reading my works. So thank you again for reading, it is my absolute pleasure to share my work with you.

Thanks also to my editor Geoff, who commits time to making sure my work is at its best quality. If you have any recommendations or would like to continue the conversation hit me up on Facebook or on Twitter or Instagram @sassysaslove!


Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (May. 4-10)

Something Smells: The NBA Playoffs Are Not Special


It would be an understatement to say that I like sports: if I’m not watching a game on TV, I’m likely checking scores in other games or following breaking stories on the Internet. This spring, though, I have found myself watching little of the NBA playoffs. While I stay up to date on Twitter watching highlights and clips, I cannot bear to sit through an entire game. The game has become dominated by two super-teams, and the first three rounds serve only as formalities in reaching their inevitable faceoff. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are both 8-0 through the first two rounds and their average margin of victory is 13.06 points. It is rare that their opponent is competitive. While Cleveland and Golden State’s runs are impressive, they represent the worst of sports.


A third-straight Cavaliers/Warriors Finals is the product of the larger issue in the NBA playoffs: a lack of parity. The problem lies with the lack of competitiveness in the playoffs now. Only one lower seed has been able to beat a higher seed in the NBA playoffs thus far, when the Utah Jazz took down the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games. The series was unquestionably the best of the NBA playoffs in the first round. The largest margin of victory in any game was eight points, and every game was tight. Though, the victor of that series had little to celebrate: Utah would go on to play the Warriors in the second round, and be bumped to the curb in four games and forgotten.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns

Where is the parity? The NBA has a flawed model allowing teams to spend into the luxury tax. The luxury tax is in place to attempt to increase parity by taxing teams who spend over the salary cap. This cap is a “soft cap”, allowing teams to go over it by paying a penalty. The absence of a “hard cap”, however, has resulted in unprecedented disparity. Teams are able to assemble rosters of superstars that can only be beaten by one team – coincidentally, another super-team. The Golden State Warriors have benefited from Stephen Curry’s inexpensive contract, but have spent well past the salary cap in acquiring the likes of Kevin Durant. The Cavaliers, with Lebron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, have also employed this strategy.


The era of Cleveland/Golden State finals match-ups has shown the need for a hard salary cap to ensure parity in the league. A hard cap would keep super-teams from assembling and make the early rounds of the playoffs competitive. Consider the National Hockey League for proof of a successful hard cap. While the NHL had endured decades of super-teams, the 2005-06 season brought a hard cap, and with it, newfound parity.


The hard constant dogfight to stay at the top. NHL teams are constantly forced to re-organize, bring in short-term players, and be loose with their players in order to create their best product. Consider the Chicago Blackhawks. Their general manager, Stan Bowman, has been remodeling the team since their Stanley Cup in 2010. The Hawks have had to trade the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Andrew Ladd, and Nick Leddy to stay within the salary cap. These trades have seen elite players improving their new teams, furthering parity throughout the league. But, these moves have also kept the Blackhawks competitive for nearly a decade.


Conversely, consider the Golden State Warriors. They have traded away worse players for upgrades. This summer the Warriors managed to acquire Zaza Pachulia for Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes, and then traded Festus Ezeli. It does not seem to make sense to trade away all these role players, but of course they used this freed up money to acquire Kevin Durant. Instead of having to downgrade, the Warriors in their third year at the top of the NBA got a serious upgrade easily. The Hawks finally won a title after 49 years and instantly had to trim the fat. If the NBA wants to have competitive playoffs with consistent parity, there needs to be a shift in how money is spent on players, by spreading the talent of the league.


The NBA is a wealthier enterprise than the NHL, and with their latest TV deal of $24 billion it is very difficult to argue that owners are not making money. With this mind, there is lots of money in place that could make the league much more competitive. With a proper salary cap in place, it is reasonable to believe that the NBA playoffs could truly be unpredictable. When was the last time the NBA had a Cinderella win the NBA Championship? 1995 is the answer. The Houston Rockets came in as a sixth-seed, having only won 47 games in the regular season. Led by Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rockets were able to upset three 60-win teams, and then take down the Orlando Magic and Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA Finals. This was an incredible run, and can be best defined as unpredictable, something like this would never happen in the NBA today.


The consistent results, and predictable outcomes are getting old. Charles Barkley from the NBA on TNT, provided a quality soundbite this past Monday, when he said he would rather watch the NHL playoffs than the NBA playoffs. Barkley went onto talk of how the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets match-up hardly mattered, as whoever would win that would simply be served to the Golden State Warriors on a platter. The Spurs and Rockets could play seven games against one another, and could have the best series of the playoffs. Yet, like the Utah Jazz in the second round, it will all be squandered by a super-team from Golden State.


It is difficult to argue that super-teams are good for basketball, even from a financial standpoint. Super teams could bring a massive drop in the NBA’s viewership. This past season national viewership dipped by a modest 6%. However, the NBA took a big hit in local ratings. As of the first week of February, NBA regional sport networks reported they were down 15% in viewership. The ratings were not just dropping in small markets either, with Cleveland seeing a 28% drop-off in viewership compared to 2015-16 and seeing a 35% drop-off in viewership. Chicago and Cleveland are considered two of the NBA’s hottest markets, yet even they are seeing a large drop.


It is time for change in the NBA. The Canadian markets are on fire right now, as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ local viewership rose by 27%, and Edmonton Oiler broadcasts were up an astounding 40%. CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada block at 7pm EST saw a 9% increase in viewership, while the 10pm EST block saw a 6% increase. The NBA lacks this growth, because they are bound to have the same narrative of Cavaliers and Warriors for three years in a row. While their ratings will not likely take a hit in the Finals, they will experience pain on the way there. No one will want to see the 28 other teams. All they will want to see is the two super teams play each other. Make every game matter again NBA.


Note to my readers: Sorry I could not provide you with the tidbits this week! I believe that with my schedule this summer I will subtract the tidbits for the summer, as I simply do not have the time to complete them and be satisfied with them. I will continue to attempt to punch out an article each week, however, and hope you stay along for the ride! Thank you for your support as always!

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.


Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Apr. 12-26)

The Road to Redemption

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Three

Every spring Canadians become captivated by hockey and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Players will sacrifice it all to help their teams inch closer to a Cup win. Consider Gregory Campbell who played through a broken leg in 2013 with the Boston Bruins. However, some players have their playoff dreams ripped away from them be it due to injury or even off-ice issues. Zack Kassian became an overnight sensation, after scoring two crucial game-winning goals for the Edmonton Oilers in the first round. On the other side of Canada, Clarke MacArthur launched Ottawa into a frenzy when he scored the overtime-winner in Game 6 of the Senators’ first round series to send the Sens to round two. Both players endured a lot of pain, stress, and doubt; but, they are finally breaking through.


On October 4, 2015, Zack Kassian found himself in troubled waters. The Windsor native had not played a single game for the Montreal Canadiens, when he was involved in a car accident that day, suffering a broken nose and fractured left foot. Kassian was found to be under the influence of alcohol, at the time of the accident, though he was not the driver. However, this revelation saw him placed into the NHL’s substance abuse program. The once highly-touted prospect had hit rock-bottom. Traded three times and considered a bust, Kassian needed help and was forced to get it. After finishing his stint in the NHL’s substance abuse program Kassian was told not to report to the St. John Ice Caps (the Canadiens’ affiliate) and was traded to the Edmonton Oilers.


As if it was not hard enough for Kassian to join the fourth team of his NHL career at the age of 24, Kassian was joining a team that hated his guts. During a pre-season game in 2013 Kassian blatantly high-sticked then-Oiler Sam Gagner in the face, resulting in Gagner losing four teeth and needing a plate and six screws to repair his mouth. To make his own matters worse, when Gagner returned in a game against Vancouver later that season, Kassian decided to taunt him for having to wear a face-shield as result of the injury. Kassian became public enemy number one in Edmonton. Yet, Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli saw untapped potential and a low-risk opportunity in Kassian, and gave him a final chance to prove himself. It was not an easy road for Kassian; but, this was the best offer he was going to receive, and he wanted to make the best of the opportunity.


After a short stint with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, Kassian got the call from Edmonton to return to the NHL, and made his debut with the Oilers on January 14, 2016. Just under a week later, he scored his first NHL goal in over 10 months. Since then, Kassian has found a consistent role in the Oilers’ lineup. The 26-year old played a career-high 79 games this season and recorded 24 points, while providing valuable minutes on the team’s penalty kill. Though, nothing can be as sweet as Kassian’s playoff production, which has truly been a coming out party for him on a national stage. The gritty Kassian cashed in on a breakaway opportunity in Game 2 shorthanded and sent Edmonton into pandemonium. The Oilers would go onto win the game, and even up the series, however, Kassian’s heroics were not done there. In Game 3, a David Schlemko was gifted to Kassian who deposited the game’s only goal into the Sharks net, winning the game for Edmonton in doing so. This lea TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and Darren Dreger to question whether Kassian is on his way to becoming a playoff-star, when commenting on his breakout performance. Whether he is on his way to becoming a playoff star or not, one thing is for sure, Kassian is in a much better place than he was a year and a half ago, and is a better man for it.


On the other side of Canada, a different story has been unfolding over the past two years. On February 16, 2015, in a game between the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes, Clarke MacArthur found his team falling victim to an odd-man rush. Seeing this, MacArthur sped up to pick up his man going to the net. In doing so, though, MacArthur fell and goaltender Robin Lehner gave him an inadvertent blocker to the head. This was MacArthur’s first concussion, and, not thinking much of it, he made a goal to return to the Senators lineup later that season. MacArthur was a part of the Senators’ “Hamburglar” run, even stringing together a seven-game point streak to end the regular season. However, MacArthur’s return may have cost him. The Senators had high aspirations for MacArthur coming into the 2015-16 season, but only four games in, he suffered another concussion. General Manager Bryan Murray announced a week later that MacArthur would not be returning in the near future.


In late March of 2016, MacArthur finally passed baseline tests to return. But, with the team far from playoff contention, the Senators shut him down for the season. With that in mind, fans were excited to see MacArthur skating with the Senators in September, and were ambitious and anxious to see the top-six forward back on the ice. On September 25, disaster struck. In a team scrimmage newly-acquired Senator Patrick Sieloff gave MacArthur a hard body check along the boards, and MacArthur instantly collapsed. Furious with the situation teammates Bobby Ryan and Chris Neil began to fight Sieloff. MacArthur was aided off the ice by teammates, and a happy day turned somber in the blink of an eye.


With another setback MacArthur was told to take his time, and to consult concussion doctors about his future. Amazingly enough, by late October, MacArthur was back around the rink. Senators’ Head Coach Guy Boucher informed the media that MacArthur would be travelling with the team, as he thought it would be good for him to be around his teammates. In early December, fans received promising news when MacArthur indicated he intended to join the Senators sometime in January. This news came as a surprise to many, as MacArthur had now suffered three concussions in less than two years. Training every day, and practising with his teammates in a non-contact jersey, MacArthur would stay on the ice after his teammates left, working as hard as he could to get back. On January 20, 2017, the final nail in the coffin appeared to have been put in. Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion announced that doctors had advised the team to shut MacArthur down for the year, and that they intended to do so. Dorion also refused to comment on MacArthur’s future. It seemed to be the end to an incredible comeback, and MacArthur was crushed. Yet, he refused to give up.


In late-March, the unexpected happened. MacArthur announced that he was not shut down and still intended to play. Boucher and Dorion, not in complete agreement with the comments, gave rather cautious responses to this. Then, on April 4th, Dorion shocked the hockey world by announcing that MacArthur would be in the lineup that evening for the Senators game against the Detroit Red Wings. The hockey community instantly became embroiled in a heated discussion, on whether MacArthur should be playing or not. However, when he hit the ice for his first professional game in nearly two years the building roared in excitement for #16. At the end of the night, the Senators and MacArthur had won, proving he could still play. He was noticeably emotional during his post-game interview, but set his eyes towards the playoffs, focused and determined to be ready if he got the call. And, he got the call. As described by Boucher, “all of Ottawa raised its arms when MacArthur scored in Game 2”. Then all of Ottawa celebrated again when MacArthur scored the series-winning goal in Game 6 to defeat the Boston Bruins.


Two very different journeys by two men in different points of their careers. One unproven and undesired, and one injured and distraught. However, they both persevered and overcame their battles. Canada tunes into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and cheer for these men, commending them for their acts of courage and strength. Both Kassian and MacArthur serve as reminders to never ever give up on your dreams. No matter who is against you, you can always achieve those dreams if you work hard enough to get there. Congratulations Zack and Clarke, your dreams have come true, and it is wonderful to have you guys back on the ice.


Note to my readers: Sorry I could not provide you with the tidbits this week! As I was in exam period and have been quite busy! I hope you enjoyed this week’s piece, though, and hope you stick along for the ride in the summer! Enjoy the playoffs! And all should return to normal this coming week, my Facebook and Twitter will give updates if that changes! Thank you for your support as always!

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.


Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Apr. 6-11)

Rediscovering Love for the Ottawa Senators: A Fan’s Journey from 2013-2017


Coming into this season the Ottawa Senators had made the playoffs one time in their past three seasons. Dating back to the 2007-08 season the Senators had won one playoff series. They were a team who never seemed amongst the league’s best: even their unprecedented Hamburglar run in 2014-15 ended after six playoff games. Inconsistency, poor structure, and a lack of talent contributed to the Senators’ mediocrity. Through and through I followed the team, but there has been something missing in these past years. My life-long fandom of the Sens changed when this organization betrayed my trust and made me have mixed feelings about it on July 5th of 2013.


I had heard speculation that Daniel Alfredsson was looking at all offers, but I never believed he would leave the Senators. Then, around noon, news broke that Alfredsson would be leaving Senators to sign with the Detroit Red Wings. Originally I thought Alfredsson just wanted a Stanley Cup, but quickly I found out there was more to that.


Reports had originally surfaced that Alfredsson was handed a blank check. Then, this tweet appeared.  Alfredsson had his previous contract front-loaded, and had a salary of $1M in the 2012-13 season. This was done with the intention of Alfredsson not playing in 2012-13, as both the Senators and Alfie believed he would retire. However, that was not the case, and this side deal to keep the Senators’ cap down came under scrutiny. Having done the Senators a favour Alfredsson expected to be rewarded with his desired salary of $5.5M. Instead, he was asked to take another hometown discount. The Senators never believed he would leave, but the contract debacle forced Alfredsson out of Ottawa. I did not feel betrayed by Alfredsson, but by management, and more importantly ownership. Eugene Melnyk failed to reward Alfie for seventeen years of elite play and commitment to the city. That day marked the end of a chapter in Ottawa.


The Senators attempted to fill Alfredsson’s void by acquiring a new franchise winger. Bobby Ryan, was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first round-pick (Nick Ritchie). Originally, the move was met with excitement, and was hoped to keep the fan-base happy despite losing Alfie. However, it has not worked out as hoped. Ryan was originally thought to be a perfect pairing with Jason Spezza, but the two did not gel together. Since then, Ryan has been under scrutiny for his lack of production. Up until this season, Ryan had performed respectably, recording multiple 50 point seasons and a couple of 20 goal years for Ottawa. However, he did not turn into the player they hoped for. The Ryan trade was rushed by Ottawa, as the Sens gave up a lot for what was seen to be a franchise winger. Now Sens fans remain bitter about the trade and wish it never happened.


Shortly after Ryan arrived, Jason Spezza was selected as captain of the Ottawa Senators when Alfredsson left town and became the scapegoat for everything. Spezza tried his best to help guide a team with a lack of talent, but without talent to compliment him other than Erik Karlsson it was futile. Despite putting up 66 points in 75 games, Spezza struggled in the defensive zone, and blame was directed his way. Being the successor to Alfredsson was no easy task and it wore on Spezza, and after his first season as Senators’ captain he requested a trade. Spezza’s era as captain was short, sad and forgettable; though, it did mark a signal of change.


Spezza departure left the captaincy open, and the Ottawa Senators quickly announced that Erik Karlsson would take over. With this, the youth movement of the Sens took charge. Karlsson, aided by Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, and Mike Hoffman, brought exciting play to a team desperate for energy. But, management managed to kill some of that joy. After rallying from a three-goal deficit to win in overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks, the Senators fired Head Coach Paul MacLean. The firing seemed odd to many, given that MacLean had been a Jack Adams Trophy winner and that the Sens core was still young and developing. Reports began to surface that the move was not done by General Manager Bryan Murray, but by owner Eugene Melnyk. Once again, Melnyk had his hand in hockey decisions. Because, MacLean’s views did not align with Melnyk’s a great coach was fired.


MacLean was succeed by a less than dazzling one. Dave Cameron got Ottawa to the playoffs on the back of Andrew Hammond, but his systems were not solid and he was doomed to fail. His eye for talent was lacking, as Hoffman spent the end of 2015-16 in the bottom six despite being the team’s leading goal scorer, while players like Alex Chiasson and Jared Cowen wandered the ice. The Sens had little direction with Cameron. It seemed as though the Senators were just riding the roller-coaster of mediocrity. Then, a miracle happened.


Dion Phaneuf trade rumours were circulating. It was thought by many he would be on his way to Detroit, but then something crazy happened. The Phaneuf to Ottawa trade news broke. A smile and sense of excitement overcame me, I was elated. The Senators had rid themselves of underperforming players and received a leader, who other than a large contract was a perfect fit in the Senators top 4. This day I finally had some faith in management and ownership, as they made an excellent move. Which preceded more moves in the off-season.

NHL: Ottawa Senators Press Conference

After missing the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Dave Cameron was fired, Pierre Dorion took over as GM of the Sens, and Eugene Melnyk challenged his players. It was time for change in the Senators organization, and change has followed. A new head coach brought structure and a new eye for talent to a team in dire need of it; a new general manager was brought in who was not afraid to make bold moves. Change has brought the Senators back to the playoffs, and sees them with home-ice advantage for the first time since 2007. This is also the first time since 2007 that I can confidently say this is a good hockey team. But most importantly, for the first time since Alfie left, I truly love this team. A season that has seen me cry, cheer, and sit on the edge of my seat is going to be capped off with a Senators playoff run, one that I believe will go more than one round. This season, I spent nights up writing, studying, and contemplating the Senators and their tactics, and I love it all. I am enthralled by this team, and am beyond excited for Wednesday’s clash with the Boston Bruins. With all that said, if you, like me felt betrayed when Alfie was cast away from the organization, please give this team a chance; I promise, they will not disappoint you. The Ottawa Senators are back, and they have some good times ahead.


Note to my readers: Sorry I could not provide you with the tidbits this week! Same will be the case of next week, as I am in exam period and am quite busy! I hope you enjoyed this week’s piece, though, and hope you stick along for the ride in the summer! Enjoy the playoffs!

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.


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