I think Canadian teams are giving their fans some serious agita.
There’s usually a theme that emerges every week in the kinds of questions I get for the mailbag and this week was no exception. A pretty healthy chunk of them were about why one Canadian team or another is bad and what can possibly be done about it.
And like, I get it. Apart from the Maple Leafs and Jets, Canadian teams haven’t exactly done a lot to inspire confidence from their fans this summer. Not totally sure why it’s a big thing now, all of a sudden, but its August so I’ll take what I can get.
Sorry in advance to all Canadian-team fans for this one:
Sam asks: “Are Benning, Bergevin, and Chiarelli actually the worst, or do we just scrutinize their management more because they’re in high-profile Canadian hockey markets?”
There are plenty of GMs in the U.S. that are broadly acknowledged as not being particularly good at their jobs, but it is curious that three of the absolute worst — and I would also throw in Dorion if we could separate out what’s him and what’s Melnyk in the decision-making in Ottawa — in the league.
I honestly don’t think it’s necessarily that they are in Canada, though. Chiarelli was catching a lot of flak for his dumb moves in Boston and really only stayed out of more fire because he had already devoted so much of his cap space to actual good players. But there are plenty of “uhhh what?” contracts from those early-2010s Bruins teams that almost derailed them before things got put right again, almost totally by accident.
Benning, meanwhile, is a Chiarelli disciple coming into an organization where, once again, ownership wants to have a big say in hockey decisions. I said it on Tuesday, but Benning is good at drafting and very little else, so putting him in charge of NHL-level personnel decisions isn’t working out. They just extended him, though, so…
As for Bergevin, I don’t think that’s a “Montreal is a hard city to be the GM in” thing, because if this guy was GM of the Arizona Coyotes and traded PK Subban for Shea Weber straight up, he would have gotten nuked by the global hockey media regardless.
I think, then, that we’re just looking at a situation where Canadian clubs just really lost the luck of the draw on this one. Bad ownership doesn’t help, but that’s not a uniquely Canadian thing either.
Anderson asks: “How can NBC capitalize on their retooled Wednesday Night Hockey, and which personalities would you like to see on this ‘new’ hockey night?”
I’m loath to be like, “You have to highlight the star talent,” because I’ve always hated the “Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals versus Sidney Crosby and the Penguins!!!!” marketing. But you have to do more to actually make the games entertaining. To that end, maybe you just don’t show teams that are likely to be crap next season. Showing 14 Rangers games is absurd because they’re both unlikely to be good team and more to the point they’re not gonna be fun to watch. Even if you’re a Ranger fan are you gonna be psyched for a mid-February game against the Panthers or whatever?
As for the personalities I’d use, well, prepare for wholesale changes. If I never see the Doc/Eddie/Pierre combo again, that would be for the best. Mix in some of the less-used talent to call the games, mix in some people from around the league who haven’t been on national TV much before. Every time I turn on NBCSN and see the three Classic Guys yammering about whatever I feel like I’m being assigned homework, and that homework is “don’t do something to make yourself purposely go deaf.” There are so many good people in the sport. Use literally any of them who aren’t Doc/Eddie/Pierre. I’m literally begging you.
And for in-studio stuff. Kathryn and Liam? Love ’em both, they can stay. But how about this: Instead of some dumbass old jock who doesn’t understand the sport talking to these folks, you get interesting people from the hockey media instead? The TSN and Sportsnet between-periods stuff is usually pretty good when they let people who didn’t Play The Game talk about it. But American TV has a disease.
Keith Jones? Gone. Mike Milbury? Gone. Anson Carter? Gone. Jeremy Roenick? Exiled to the moon. There are so many better people to use who, with a little media training, can actually be informative and entertaining on TV.
Steve asks: “Now that Sekera’s leg has fallen off, would you replace him with an aging left handed UFA (Enstrom, Emelin) or trade for Petrovic, Faulk or some other rumored to be available right hander?”
I mean it’s nice to want to get more right-shot guys. The Oilers only have two of them (if I’m not mistaken): Larsson and Benning. But you’d have to give up something to get a right-shot guy, which complicates matters significantly because I’m not totally sure the Oilers have a lot to give up.
More to the point, Chiarelli kind of set the market for himself, and not in a good way. You can argue that if it takes a Taylor Hall to deliver a youngish middle-pairing right-shot D to the Oilers, that’s a price they can’t pay. And now teams are gonna know Chiarelli is desperate.
I think it’s an important thing to have basically a four-and-four mix of left- and right-shot guys but you gotta work with what you can get and I’m not sure the Oilers can get much there.
There aren’t any really good right-shot UFA D out there (with all due respect to Cody Franson and Jamie McBain I guess). So if you’re gonna get a left-shot guy off the scrap heap, I think you can do a hell of a lot worse than Enstrom specifically.
Brodie asks: “Who finishes with the better record, (relative term…) Sens or Habs?”
Gimme the Canadiens here.
Not that I think they’re all that great, obviously, but the Senators are a Karlsson trade and a disgruntled Duchene away from being near-historically bad.
Montreal has a little more talent, even with Shea Weber expected to miss months to start the year, but the most important place they have talent is in net. Carey Price being any kind of good is a lot more likely than Craig Anderson, and don’t forget there are rumors Anderson is unhappy in Ottawa as well.
Let me put it another way: I think there’s a legitimate chance (like, 20 percent, let’s say) the Sens are almost tanking-Sabres-level bad, as currently constituted and assuming that Karlsson trade happens. It would take a confluence of disasters for the same to be true of Montreal.
Segs asks: “If we’ve seen the last of Henrik Zetterberg in the NHL does he have a shot at the Hall of Fame or just the Hall of Merely Very Good?”
Hall of Very Good for me. I said it a couple weeks ago but he doesn’t even have 1,000 career points. If he played this year he would probably hit four digits, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to.
But the “for me” part is important there because of how many freaks vote for these things. He won Cups and was an integral part of perhaps the best teams of the cap era; it’s easy to forget how dominant those late-2000s Red Wings were. His only major individual award was a Conn Smythe (which ain’t bad, obviously) and he only had three actual point-a-game full seasons, plus two more close ones.
He’s basically a little more productive than Jason Spezza in his career, and I don’t think there would be too many people who, when it comes down to it, would include Spezza in the Hall of Fame.
So it’s a “no” on my end but I wouldn’t be surprised — or mad — at all if he made it.
Jake asks: “Who are your Calder Candidates for this upcoming season?”
Real quick and in order of likelihood right now: Elias Petterson in Vancouver, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt in Buffalo, Andrei Svechnikov in Carolina, Eeli Tolvanen in Nashville.
Their teams are all going to put them in positions to succeed, and more importantly score a bunch, right away. And that honestly is the single most important factor in all this.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.