The Countdown is a quick look at some of the big stories in hockey in the last week. This time, we look at the Canadiens’ REAL problem (no hustle, Skip!), maybe making a mistake in Boston, drinkin’, and that bizarre Blake Wheeler deal.
7. Ottawa drama
Just when you thought the Sens might be able to get to training camp without a big flareup of public acrimony over behind-the-scenes nonsense, well, more acrimony over behind-the-scenes nonsense came to light.
This time the sworn testimony of Mike Hoffman’s long-time partner — which may or may not prove anything and certainly isn’t all that different from everything the Ottawa Citizen has been dutifully reprinting for months — came to light thanks to whatever the Canadian version of a FOIA request (FOI-eh? Is that something?) is called.
You can go read it for yourself if you want, but like I said, not much new there. Except to say that hey, just in case you’d forgotten this team is a shambling catastrophe and players are just days away from officially reporting for camp.
Have a good season!
6. Bad attitude
I was reminded this week that earlier in the summer, Marc Bergevin said part of the big problem with the Canadiens last season was that the team had the wrong attitude all year. Serge Savard went on the radio recently and said that’s as much on management as anyone else.
But I’ll go him one better: Maybe the attitude sucked — if it was a problem at all, which I doubt — because Bergevin has managed the team into the damn ground.
Now that the Max Pacioretty thing seems well and truly unsolvable, revisiting those statements makes you say, “Ah, well then.” Because if this is the kind of drama that goes on over the summer with this club, imagine what happens when they start like 6-11-3.
Like I don’t know how you watch your GM trade away three of the team’s four or five best players over the course of a few years (assuming Pacioretty gets swapped out sooner than later) and go into work every day with any kind of good attitude.
Esprit de corps is hard to maintain when your general is having you rush a machine gun nest with a couple of slingshots and only one medium-sized rock.
5. Breaking up what works
Captain’s practices are underway in Boston and that’s giving the local media plenty to feed on after a long summer away. Two things of note here: A bunch of name-brand Bruins are skipping the team’s trip to China, which by the way is an underrated aspect of why they could struggle this season, and also totally understandable because you don’t want Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron (among others) taking 20-hour travel days.
But the other and more interesting thing was David Pastrnak saying yesterday that he didn’t mind if he was on a line with David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron. Which is insane. First of all, Pastrnak should prefer to be on the line with the guy who’s better and who helped turn him into an offensive juggernaut. That’s for starters.
More to the point, though, the Bruins shouldn’t be in the business of breaking up a top line that scored like 70 percent of the goals when they were on the ice together last season in the name of juicing offense for a guy who can’t go. Put Krejci and Pastrnak together with anyone in recent Bruins history and they don’t score at nearly the same rate as the Boston top line did last year.
I wrote it earlier this summer when talking about the 3M line in Calgary: You don’t break up what works because you know something deeper down the lineup doesn’t work unless you have a damn compelling reason. The reason of, “Maybe [good player] can get [worse player] going,” is never going to be compelling, especially if “[Good player] is elite when playing with [great player],” which Pastrnak is with Bergeron.
You have something that irrefutably works better than any line in hockey has worked in recent memory. Don’t outthink yourself on this one, Bruce.
4. That Blake Wheeler contract
Yeah look I mean obviously Blake Wheeler in his current form is worth every penny of that $8.5 million AAV. Now to look up how old he is and take a big sip of Jets Kool-Aid.
Blake Wheeler just turned 32 years old. He’ll be 33 when this next contract kicks in. He will have a modified no-trade and a full no-move, and even if he didn’t, the contract isn’t all that front-loaded to make him easier to swap out when he’s in his late 30s. In the last year of the contract, when Wheeler will be THIRTY-EIGHT, he makes exactly what the AAV is. Which is wild to me.
You can’t not-sign the guy, right? But having almost $52.5 million committed to just 11 players for 2019-20, with the need to re-sign Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Jacob Trouba? I guess that’ll about do it for Trouba’s long-term commitment to Winnipeg, huh?
3. The rumor mill
One good thing for Vegas that might come out of that Nate Schmidt suspension is that they might finally get the gumption up to trade for Erik Karlsson after all. Hey, if you need a defenseman to fill the gap for a quarter of the season, the best one in the world wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Again, we’re talking about talks blowing up over including Cody Glass, and if Vegas felt like it had a winning formula without Karlsson and Bobby Ryan — and by the way, they probably win the Cup if they get those two for the stretch run — it might not now.
Of course, it’s difficult to say who would have been going back to Ottawa in that first initial trade but at this point? You might as well roll the dice even if you have to give up Shea Theodore as well. Simply put, you don’t get the chance (and in this case also the excuse) to get a player of this quality more than once in a generation.
2. Cup stands
If they let a baby crap in the Cup, grownups should be able to do Cup stands. Get someone to hammer the bowl back into place if it gets all messed up. God, who cares.
1. Hockey is back
The KHL regular season started the other day and I gotta tell ya, folks: I’m into it.
Not that I’m ever going to watch a KHL game unless they make them very easy to see on TV here in the good ol’ U.S. of A (or the mediocre ol’ Canada), but if the KHL is back that means the NHL is less than a month away, and that to me is very good.
(Not ranked this week: Watching the clock.
Still waiting for Karlsson and Pacioretty to be traded is getting annoying. Let’s go already!)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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