Unjustified Disrespect: Eugene Melnyk’s Last Stand

Unjustified Disrespect: Eugene Melnyk’s Last Stand

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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#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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Duchene To The Sens: What Does It Mean?

Duchene To The Sens: What Does It Mean?

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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.

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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:

Forwards:

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

Defensemen:

Johnny Oduya – Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci

Freddy Claesson – Chris Wideman

Additional Talent: Thomas Chabot, Ben Harpur and Christian Jaros

Goalies:

Craig Anderson

Mike Condon

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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.

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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).

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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

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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

Spice: AYY PAPI

 

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

Spice: DIOS MIO

 

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

Spice: PEPE, IS THAT YOU???

 

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

Spice: TOO SKINNY

 

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

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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

Spice: BY GOD, THAT MAN HAS A FAMILY

 

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

SPICE: NO MAS, SENOR. NO MAS

 

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

Spice: GO GOPHERS

 

Montreal Canadiens: The Price is Too High

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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

Spice: SOMEONE’S BEEN EATING THEIR VITAMINS, BROTHER

 

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

Spice: MCMAHON-SIZED GRAPEFRUITS

 

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

Spice: LOLTARPS

 

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

Spice: I EXPECTED A PHILLY LINE BRAWL, NOT A TALLAHASSEE TEA PARTY

 

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

Spice: I THOUGHT I COULD LABANC ON THESE PREDICTIONS BEING SPICY, DAMMIT

 

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

Spice: IF THIS WERE A PITBULL SONG, IT’D BE “FIREBALL”

 

Tampa Bay Lightning: An Unlikely Hero

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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.

Spice: BAH GAWD, THAT’S….THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!!!

 

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

Spice: WHAT IS THIS, WRESTLEMANIA 33? WHAT AN ULTIMATE THRILLRIDE

 

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

Spice: THIS IS HOGAN TNA LEVELS OF BORING, GIVE ME SOME SPICE

 

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

Spice: THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE, AND THEY SPELL DISASTER FOR THIS PREDICTION

 

Washington Capitals: The GR8 One

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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

Spice: THAT’S A LIE. THAT’S A GOD DAMNED LIE

 

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 (Apr. 12-26)

The Road to Redemption

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Mar. 15-21)

The Man Who Can Stickhandle Between Raindrops: The Underrated Marian Hossa

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As a young hockey fan, I did not understand trades. When Marian Hossa was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers, I presumed that meant I could not like Hossa anymore. He was not on the Ottawa Senators, which meant he was the enemy! Around the age of 14, I realized how amazing Hossa was, and how stupid I was for pretending he did not exist. Watching him tear through the playoff with the Chicago Blackhawks was truly a gift. I watched those Blackhawk games with my father, who is not much of a hockey buff, but he always enjoys watching the Senators and the playoffs. After Hossa made a fabulous play, stickhandling around just about everyone on the ice, my dad said one of my favourite lines ever. “Josh, ya know what they used to say about Hossa on the Sens broadcast? They said he could stickhandle between raindrops.” My dad is not one to remember sports history, but there is a reason that stuck with him. It was an apt description for a magnificent hockey player.

Marian Hossa has played 1300 games in the NHL and recorded 1128 points. But, these solid statistics still do not do him justice. Hossa deserves an immense amount of praise for his ability to be effective without the puck. The Slovakian superstar has received votes for the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) in 12 of his 18 seasons, and in 6 of those was in the Top 15 in voting. Selke Trophy winners are typically rough and tough competitors, and you would not think of a smooth-skating European being good defensively. But, Hossa uses his lower-body strength and his terrific stick to create turnovers and transition into an offensive breakout. It is a unique talent to do the things Hossa can do with his stick in such tight spaces, and in one motion. Hossa is one of the smoothest operators there is, and is able to be smooth even when in the dirty areas. Hossa’s ability to be continuously active without the puck in the defensive zone, neutral zone and even offensive zone while fore-checking makes him invaluable.

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Hossa’s contributions without the puck are exceptional, but it is important to understand that he was not just an average two-way forward; he was, and is, among the league’s best. Hossa may not be the top guy anymore, or an all-star, but he is undoubtedly one of the best 35+ year old players in this league. When Hossa joined the Blackhawks in 2009, he was 30. Since joining the team, his numbers have been startling. Since the 2009-10 season, Hossa has 409 points in 525 games and is a +133. There are only five players with a higher plus/minus than that (Crosby, Toews, Marchand, Bergeron and Chara). Hossa’s penalty killing ability is otherworldly as well, as he has the third most shorthanded points in the league (24) since 2009-10. His crafty stick work translates to offensive opportunities, and he plays a true 200 foot game. Hossa’s stick has led him to becoming an astoundingly good playmaker, as he can find his teammates without hesitation.

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Hossa is also an underrated goal scorer, and earlier this season reached the 500 goal plateau. Hossa has been a consistent threat throughout his career, having scored 20 goals in 15 of his 18 seasons; for context, there are only 25 other men in league history who have recorded 15 or more seasons of 20+ goals. Hossa’s gift as a goal scorer comes from his wonderful hands, quick release, and most importantly, his patience. Hossa, when given space, will make a goaltender look like a confused gymnast, and stretch them all over the net. He will conclude by using his quick release to deposit the puck in the gaping net.

As a fan, it is important to have fun watching these players. Ryan Getzlaf may be an elite centre, but his style of play can be boring to watch. Hossa is fun to watch, and he does it all. He can hit, use his acceleration to create a scoring opportunity, or stickhandle through a platoon of players. Hossa covers all bases.

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But, this begs the question: how great is Hossa? He has 1000 points, 500 goals, and three Stanley Cup rings. After losing in 2009 Stanley Cup Final, Hossa signed a 12-year $62.3 million contract with the Blackhawks. Hossa took heat for the contract, which led to an apparent investigation, as the contract was front-loaded and the NHL doubted Hossa’s likeliness to play until 42. Amid controversy, Hossa produced 51 points in 57 games during the 2009-10 season, then chipped in with 15 points in 22 games during the playoffs to, bring Chicago its first Cup in 49 years.

Had Hossa not signed with Chicago, he might have been one of the greatest ever to not win the Cup. But, he saw potential in the Blackhawks, and by joining a dynasty he solidified himself as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Hossa has never been “the guy,” but he is one of the greatest sidekicks of all-time. Hossa has lined up alongside the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Toews. Hossa is more than just a secondary contributor, though. He is one of the league’s best winners. Since the 2000-01 season, no one has played in more playoff games than Marian Hossa, and the margin is significant. Hossa has played in 191 playoff games since 2000-01; the closest to him is Pavel Datsyuk at 157. More importantly, Hossa has the most points since 2000-01 with 147. In his career, Hossa has played 201 playoff games, good for 19th all-time. At this pace, and given Hossa’s longevity, he has a good chance to pass Chris Chelios (266 games) for the most all-time.

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As an Ottawa Senators fan it still hurts me that management decided to trade Hossa for Dany Heatley in 2005. Hossa’s proven playoff performance begs the question: did losing Hossa cost the Senators the Stanley Cup? Ottawa should never have given up Hossa. The Atlanta Thrashers were in a tight spot when Heatley asked for a trade after the car accident that killed, Dan Snyder. Other trades could have been pursued to keep Hossa in Ottawa. The Blackhawks ended up with one of the best players of his era, and he has rewarded fans with magnificent play on a nightly basis. No fan, in Ottawa, Chicago, or any other city in the NHL, will ever forget watching the man who could stickhandle through raindrops.

 

NHL News

The Penalty Box

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  • The Boston Bruins have hit a rut. After going 12-3-0 under interim Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, the B’s have now lost three in a row and have the Toronto Maple Leafs hot on their tails. If the Leafs overtake the Bruins, Boston will fall to the second wild-card spot and have a date with the Metropolitan Division’s winner in the playoffs. That is, assuming the Bruins can hold off the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, who have games in hand on the Bruins. Brad Marchand has led the way all year for the Bruins, and he will need to be play his absolute best if he wants to assure the Bruins post-season hockey.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning have allowed 15 goals in their last three games, and the heavy workload has taken its toll on young goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy is a talented individual, but he has never logged more than 32 games in an NHL season (post-season included). He has already appeared in 42 games this year for the Lightning, and fatigue has caught up to him. His teammates have not given him their best effort in the last three games, as they came out flat against Toronto, were beaten by a better team against Washington, and lost a must-win against Arizona. The Toronto game was winnable, but the Arizona loss is inexcusable. Tampa Bay is now four points back of the playoffs, and their playoff hopes looks grim.

Stars of the Week

NHL: NOV 03 Blues at Stars

  • In an odd turn of events, the St. Louis Blues have made a serious playoff push despite trading Kevin Shattenkirk. The Blues now find themselves third in the Central Division, and have won eight of their last nine games. Much of this turnaround can be credited to tighter defensive play, and serious improvements from Jake Allen. Allen has had seven starts over this nine game stretch, winning six of the seven and sporting, a 1.29 goals against average and a .956 save percentage. He has been lights out. Vladimir Tarasenko has done his part offensively, as he has six goals and eight points over the nine game stretch. It appears as though St. Louis will see post-season hockey, but their success from there on out will dependent on how well Jake Allen plays.
  • Huge praise goes to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Last season the Blue Jackets had 34 wins and 76 points. This year, with 11 games remaining, they have 100 points, have clinched a playoff position and may win the Metropolitan Division. Head Coach John Tortorella should win the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) for their incredible turnaround. Sergei Bobrovsky has been phenomenal after dropping weight this summer. Bobrovsky has a league-best 39 wins, and has a .931 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average. Expect Bobrovsky to be the front-runner for the Vezina.

NBA News

The Weekly Rap

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  • The Toronto Raptors had a rallying cry on Tuesday. The Raps were getting pummeled by the Chicago Bulls, and the Bulls looked to be on route to their twelfth consecutive victory over the Raptors. Then, chaos erupted. Raptors’ power forward Serge Ibaka gave Bulls’ centre Robin Lopez a shot in the back, and a scuffle ensued, with Lopez and Ibaka throwing punches. Players, officials and coaches came to break up the fight, which saw ejections for both Ibaka and Lopez. Trailing 88-72, the Raptors went on a tear led by DeMar DeRozan and erased the 16 point deficit to force overtime, where they would win 122-120. The Raptors had been cursed against the Bulls since 2014, but on Tuesday evening they broke the curse. The team should rally around this victory, and use it as an example of perseverance for the remainder of the season.
  • The Raptors now trail the Washington Wizards by half a game, and still have the Boston Celtics in their sights trailing by three games. Over the next two weeks the Raptors will have an easier schedule, playing some of the NBA’s lesser talented clubs. If they want to catch-up and pass both of the aforementioned teams, they will need to go on a run. With a three-game winning streak right now, the Raptors have a good chance to go a run, and the post-season approaches it is vital they play their best basketball.

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking

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  1. Spurs (54-16)
  • San Antonio may be second in the Western Conference, but they have both wins over the Golden State Warriors, and they will likely stay in first until the Warriors beat them. This could come sooner rather than later, as the two teams are slated for a showdown on March 29th. Hopefully, for the sake of the fans, the superstars will play. Controversy aside, the Spurs had two close losses this week, but as usual they bounced right back with two wins and will look to build momentum towards next week’s rematch against the Warriors.
  1. Warriors (57-14)
  • The Warriors’ bad form has been pushed aside, as they overtook the Spurs for first place in the Western Conference and are on a five-game win streak. The turnaround can largely be attributed to their fourth quarter comeback against the Philadelphia 76ers, which kicked off this win streak. Since that game, Steph Curry has not had to play a single fourth quarter minute, as the game was out of reach after the third. The Warriors will need to uphold this high standard of play if they want to beat the Spurs in a week, and you can bet they have that date circled on their calendars.
  1. Cavaliers (46-23)
  • Another big game on national television, and another trio of stars were given the night off. A common theme in the NBA, accompanied by another common theme: that the Cleveland Cavaliers cannot win a game without LeBron James. Without the big three, the Cavs were thrashed on Saturday by the Los Angeles Clippers. They, still managed to win their games against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, though, so it was a standard week for Cleveland.
  1. Celtics (45-26)
  • The Boston Celtics continue to chip away at Cleveland’s lead in the East, and now trail by only two games. They had an impressive win against the Wizards on Monday, which saw the Celtics’ depth shine, with five players reaching double digit point totals. This depth will be vital down the stretch, as Isaiah Thomas cannot carry this Celtics team every night without suffering fatigue. The Celtics will look to close the gap on the Cavaliers before their April 5th showdown, which could play a huge factor in deciding the top seed for the Eastern Conference.
  1. Raptors (42-29)
  • There is some East bias here, but the Raptors have won four of their last five, all without Kyle Lowry, and look ready to hit that next level. This is not just a Raptors team that is winning without Lowry, but it is one that looks strong. That makes Lowry’s return that much more exciting. Could this Raptors team really top last year’s run? Time will tell. But, continuing to win without Lowry would give them the swagger and confidence to believe they could.

 

What to watch this week?

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  • Wednesday: Maple Leafs vs Blue Jackets 7:00pm ET, Islanders vs Rangers 8:00pm ET, Oilers vs Ducks 10:00pm ET
  • Thursday: March Madness 7:09pm ET, Lightning vs Bruins 7:00pm ET, Blue Jackets vs Capitals 7:00pm ET, Penguins vs Senators 7:30pm ET, Raptors vs Heat 7:30pm ET, Grizzlies vs Spurs 8:30pm ET
  • Friday: Islanders vs Penguins 7:00pm ET, March Madness 7:09pm ET
  • Saturday: March Madness TBD, Jazz vs Clippers 3:30pm ET, Senators vs Canadiens 7:00pm ET, Flames vs Blues 7:00pm ET, Islanders vs Bruins 7:00pm ET, Wizards vs Cavaliers 7:30pm ET, Sharks vs Predators 8:00pm ET, Rangers vs Kings 10:30pm ET
  • Sunday: March Madness TBD, Thunder vs Rockets 3:30pm ET, Grizzlies vs Warriors 8:00pm ET, Rangers vs Ducks 9:00pm ET
  • Monday: Blackhawks vs Lightning 7:30pm ET, Cavaliers vs Spurs 8:00pm ET
  • Tuesday: Panthers vs Maple Leafs 7:30pm ET, Capitals vs Wild 8:00pm ET, Warriors vs Rockets 8:00pm ET, Kings vs Oilers 9:00pm ET, Rangers vs Sharks 10:30pm ET

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 (Feb. 8-15)

The Time is now: Can the Ottawa Senators Make Magic?

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The Ottawa Senators are sitting in second place in the Atlantic division and are in a prime position to do something they have not done since 2005-06: win a division title. 2005-06 was a much different time for the Senators: they arguably had the best first line in the league: with Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. Backed by star blue-liners Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara, along with goaltender Dominik Hasek, the Sens were amongst the best in the league. Now, all six of those players are gone. As a matter of fact, only two players remain from that 05-06 roster: Chris Neil and Chris Kelly. Neil is a healthy scratch the majority of nights now, and Kelly is a fourth-line center and penalty killer. A new core has emerged in Ottawa one that is primed and ready to burst onto the scene.

At the heart of the Sens is team captain Erik Karlsson, arguably the best defenseman in the game. Already the team’s offensive star, Karlsson has undergone a drastic transformation defensively this season. In contrast to last season under Dave Cameron, Karlsson has focused more on his defensive abilities for Head Coach Guy Boucher, resulting in Karlsson’s promotion to the penalty kill unit. The statistics speak for themselves: Karlsson is top three in blocked shots (144), points, and assists amongst defenseman. If it was not for the phenomenal season of Brent Burns, Karlsson would likely be poised to win his third Norris Trophy.

Speaking of defenseman, Karlsson has the stable Marc Methot to back him up and provide structure. An underrated veteran Methot adds stability to the back-end and allows Karlsson to experiment offensively, by remaining committed to defense. The Ottawa native plays against superstars every night, but still boasts a team best +12 on a team that has a negative goal differential. Methot is loved by his coach and his teammates, and provides leadership for a young Senators’ team each and every night.

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Up front the Sens’ core is different than most teams. While many teams will put their three best forwards on the same line, Guy Boucher has spreads the talent. Mark Stone, Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman are all separated, allowing the Senators to have three dangerous lines every night. These three account for 56 of the Senators 145 goals this season, or 38.6% of total team scoring. All three bring unique strength that make them even more special.

Stone carries himself with a high degree of thievery, as the Winnipeg native leads the league in takeaways and it is not even close. Stone has 73 takeaways, 17 ahead of second-place Filip Forsberg. Last season Stone had 128 takeaways; the year before that 98. In every full season he has played Stone has won the takeaway title. His ability to steal the puck, and lead the transition helps create offensive chances for the Senators.

Turris is having a career-year in the faceoff circle at 52.4% (28h in the league), and boasts 54.3% in the defensive zone (15th in the league) and 54.2% in the neutral zone (26th in the league) (Minimum 500 faceoffs taken). Turris’ ability to win faceoffs has helped him drastically improve in his own end, and earned him penalty-kill time under Guy Boucher’s system. Turris has enjoyed a bounce-back season, after an injury plagued 2015-16 season and has earned the title of a number one center. A low-end number one center, but a number one center nonetheless.

Hoffman was ridiculed by his past two head coaches for lacking a defensive identity and was punished. Guy Boucher formerly coached Hoffman in Drummondville in the Quebec Minor Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and Boucher’s connection with Hoffman has made him into much more of a two-way player. Hoffman has played on the third line for a while now, but has continued to score goals. Hoffman has eleven powerplay goals, which is tied for second in the league and six of his eighteen goals have been game-winners. The young sniper has provided offense on a below-average powerplay and has scored in the clutch, while learning that goals can come with great defensive structure.

The last piece may contain one of the most underrated goaltending tandems in the league. To begin the MVP of the Senators since November has been Mike Condon. The 26 year-old made 28 straight appearances for the Ottawa Senators a feat that will likely not be matched in the current NHL’s format ever again. Through some luck, perseverance and a great amount of skill Condon not only kept the Senators afloat, he managed to put them in a playoff position.

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Finally it is time to talk about an unheralded hero, Craig Anderson is one of the most underrated goalies in the league. I will dispute that with anyone, anytime, anywhere, be my guest. Anderson has gone through hell off the ice this season, supporting his wife Nicholle, while she undergoes treatment for her cancer. Because of this, Anderson has been away from the team. Despite this, Craig has managed 13 wins in 21 starts, and posted four shutouts in his first 20 starts. In the long run, having two goalies who can provide above-average goaltending each night is a huge bonus for the Senators.

The Sens currently find themselves in second place in the Atlantic division. Bu, how far can they go? In a press conference this past Wednesday Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk offered his take on the Senators position, saying he is open to taking a financial “bet” if it will make the team better and draw more fans. That begs the question: what do the Senators need? The finger right away points to Matt Duchene, who the Colorado Avalanche are actively shopping. But, his demand is high, and the price is steep: an established player, a first round pick and an elite level prospect. In Ottawa’s case that would likely mean Cody Ceci, 2017 first round pick and Thomas Chabot or Colin White going to Coloardo. Between White and Chabot, White would seem to be the expendable one, as Chabot will undoubtedly be in the NHL next year and will have a serious impact. However, Duchene should not be Ottawa’s target.

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The Sens top six forwards are fine. The team could, improve on defense. The St. Louis Blues have been rumoured to be listening to offers for Kevin Shattenkirk, who is a pending unrestricted free agent this summer. Shattenkirk is having a career-year offensively, with 39 points in 57 games. He could stabilize the Sens top four defensemen while also providing a much needed boost to the powerplay. This team excels when they have a puck-moving defenseman like Karlsson helping run the offense. Shattenkirk would be a natural fit for the Senators. Furthermore, Shattenkirk is reported to be flexible on signing his next contract, as long as the money and situation seems right. Bringing Shattenkirk in for somewhere around six and a half to seven million dollars a year makes sense.

A trade for Shattenkirk would likely involve Ceci, which would be fine, as the Ottawa native has not proven himself enough to the Senators’ organization. If, his departure meant Shattenkirk’s arrival, it would be a worthwhile trade. On top of Ceci, there would be at least one first round pick, if not two, and if not two first round picks, then potentially Colin White or Logan Brown. At the start of the year, the Senators likely would not have been as flexible with their prospects. But, the emergence of Filip Chlapik in the QMJHL has allowed for this. The Czech national has 78 points in 43 games for the Charlottetown Islanders this year, and the Senators have certainly noticed the 19 year-old’s progression.

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If the Senators want to win the division I believe they should make a trade. With Montreal somewhat off-track, and Boston struggling they have a great opportunity to win the division.  If they are going to trade for a forward at all, let it be to round out the bottom six. Acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk should be their focus. Shattenkirk’s addition would take this team to a new level. With how well the Senators have played against elite talent this season, they could possibly go on a playoff run. If Ottawa wants to prove to Erik Karlsson that the organization is committed to winning it is time to spend some money and make a deal. Karlsson and much of the core are in their prime. The time is now for the Ottawa Senators, and they would be foolish to squander it.

 

NHL News

The Penalty Box

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  • The Dallas Stars have won one game in their last seven, and are watching the playoffs slip away. A large contributing factor to the Stars lack of success is their abysmal record on the road. Away from the American Airlines Center the Stars are 7-17-4 on the season, which is one of the worst records in the league. On top of that, the Stars have had injuries to Ales Hemsky, Johnny Oduya and Jason Spezza. Ultimately it may end up being a fire-sale in Dallas, as the plan for a deep playoff run is not materializing.
  • In the same year that Mike Ilitch, former Detroit Red Wings owner departed this earth, his beloved Red Wings will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. The illustrious streak’s reckoning brings about the question: is it time for a full rebuild? The answer to that should be yes. Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek all should be shopped while they still have value, as the Red Wings now sit dead-last in the Eastern Conference. Without a miracle, Hockeytown will not be bringing the octopi to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

Stars of the Week

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers

  • Jaromir Jagr has recorded a point in each of his last three games and has become only the second player in NHL history to reach 1,900 career points. Jagr is still nowhere near Wayne Gretzky’s career total, but his feat is very impressive. Not to mention, the man has 32 points at 45 years of age. The Florida Panthers will need Jagr to continue to produce, if they want to continue their push for the playoffs. The Panthers find themselves three points outside of the final wild card spot. They have fared well out West against tough opponents, including the San Jose Sharks, whom they beat in a 6-5 overtime win on Wednesday.
  • The New York Rangers are back to their winning ways. Broadway’s finest have won their last six game, and find themselves only two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the hotly contested Metropolitan division. The Rangers carry the best road record in the league, at an impressive 19-7-0. This record could be a huge indicator of their playoff success, as winning games on the road in the playoffs is vital to a deep playoff run.

 

 

NBA News

The Weekly Rap

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  • The Toronto Raptors shook up their roster this week by trading for the Orlando Magic’s Serge Ibaka. The Raptors sent a first-round pick and Terrence Ross back to the Magic for the services of the power forward, and while Ibaka has not played, the Raptors know what he will bring to the table. Ibaka defends the rim, can score offensively, can stretch the floor with a nice mid-range, and even has decent three point shooting. The Raptors will finally have an established starting power forward, and having Patrick Patterson and Jared Sullinger coming off the bench adds to their frontcourt depth.
  • The team turned a corner on Wednesday. After an atrocious loss at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, the Raptors looked to be on their way to another poor loss, this time to the Charlotte Hornets. At the start of the fourth quarter, Toronto trailed by 17. Then, they went on an improbable 32-10 run that had everyone out of their seats. Using an unorthodox five that was not reliant on star power the Raptors were able to come back and win the game, capped off by a dagger three pointer from DeMarre Carroll. The group now heads into the All-Star break on a high note, and I am sure we will see a much better Raptors team when they return.

 

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking

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  1. Warriors (47-9)
  • The Warriors continue to win. But, there is one negative trend. When the Warriors lose, it is either by blowout, or a blown lead late in the game. This was the case against the Denver Nuggets, where Nikola Jokic put together a stat-line of 17 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists, and led the Nuggets to a dominant 132-110 win. It seemed as if the Warriors were going to see a similar fate on Wednesday when Draymond Green received two technical fouls and was ejected. The Warriors, however, rallied and handled the Sacramento Kings. Head Coach Steve Kerr will look to eliminate the off nights for the Warriors after the All-Star break, as the team prepares for the last haul of the regular season.
  1. Spurs (43-13)
  • Other than a hiccup in New York, the Spurs took four of five games in an eight day span. Star player Kawhi Leonard contributed 30 points or more in four of the five games. Off-season acquisition DeWayne Dedmon has upped his game as of late. With the injury to Pau Gasol, Dedmon has seen an increase in playing time from 17 minutes per game this year to 25 a night in February, and seen his point production and rebound production increase dramatically. A master technician Gregg Popovich is grinning ear to ear, and will likely take note of Dedmon’s contribution, who could come up huge playing against other big men in the playoffs.
  1. Celtics (37-19)
  • The race for first in the Eastern conference is on. The Boston Celtics have left the Raptors in their dust and now have their sights set on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics have lost one game in their last twelve and have really made a huge statement. They get the Bulls on Thursday before the All-Star break, and they better enjoy that rest as they will go into a hostile environment on February 24th when they take on the Toronto Raptors in Toronto for a crucial divisional matchup.
  1. Cavaliers (39-16)
  • The wheels are back on the bus in Cleveland. After playing way below standards to start his tenure as a Cavalier Kyle Korver has turned it around. The Creighton product has shot the three-ball above 60% in February and averaged 15.4 points per game, which is a pace that makes the Cavaliers extremely dangerous once again. Korver has even spoke of wanting to play two to three more years, and hopefully that being in Cleveland, which I am sure has made LeBron and company more than happy.
  1. Wizards (33-21)
  • The Wizards have not lost by double digits since January 2nd. They have undergone a complete transformation, which has led to their impressive run to third place in the Eastern conference. The one thing the Wizards do have to fear is an intense road schedule after the All-Star break. With only ten home games remaining, the Wizards will finish the season playing eighteen road games, which will be an important test for this young team before the playoffs.

 

What to watch this week?

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  • Thursday: Celtics vs Bulls 8:00pm ET, Flyers vs Oilers 9:00pm ET,
  • Friday: Penguins vs Blue Jackets 7:00pm ET, NBA: Team World vs Team USA 9:00pm ET, Panthers vs Ducks 10:00pm ET
  • Saturday: Oilers vs Blackhawks 7:00pm ET, Senators vs Maple Leafs 7:00pm ET, NBA All-Star Saturday 8:00pm ET, Panthers vs Kings 10:00pm ET, Flames vs Canucks 10:00pm ET
  • Sunday: Capitals vs Rangers 12:30pm ET, NBA All-Star Game 8:00pm ET, Bruins vs Sharks 8:30pm ET, Kings vs Ducks 9:00pm ET
  • Monday: Panthers vs Blues 8:00pm ET
  • Tuesday: Canadiens vs Rangers 7:00pm ET, Blackhawks vs Wild 8:00pm ET

 

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe and Brayden Cavanagh 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.