Sep 302013
 

30 Players to Watch

Every year, before the official puck drop, I highlight one player from each team you should keep an eye on. It could be anything from a potential breakout season, a bounce back season or simply a season that is critical to a player’s development. (Click here for last year’s.)

Some names are obvious and some are not, but at the very least I hope there’s a little something for everyone.

But the purpose of this article is to really show off how much I know about everything. 

anaAnaheim Ducks – Hampus Lindholm, D

The Ducks have so many talented young players it was hard to pick just one. Peter Holland and Emerson Etem would’ve been in the mix as well, but both are coming off injuries. Lindholm, the sixth overall pick from 2012, played 44 games with Norfolk in the AHL last year.

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2013 NHL Mock Draft

 Posted by at 7:29 AM  2 Responses »
Jun 262013
 

It’ll be an interesting draft in New Jersey with what is considered to be one of the deepest draft classes in years. Comparisons have been made to the 2003 draft class (arguably the best ever) that produced 16 all-stars in the first round. Like the 2003 class with Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal, there is no clear consensus on whom the first overall pick should be. There are an equal number of good prospects on forward and defence and a lot of draft picks will be made to address a specific need.

Because there is so much talent this year, teams cannot strike out with their first round picks. GM’s who have looked ahead and managed to acquire numerous picks in preparation for this year’s draft class include the Blue Jackets and Flames, each with three first round picks. The Canadiens have six picks in the first three rounds, more than any other team. Other teams, such as the Canucks, may regret trading away their second round pick.

In making these picks, consideration was taken into a team’s draft history, the organization’s needs as well as data and observations made by journalists, experts, scouts and yours truly.

Without further ado, here’s the 2013 Armchair Hockey Mock Draft!

(Click for 2011 and 2012 Mock Drafts!)

*Player ranks, provided in brackets, are based on Central Scouting’s final list, with “NA” denoting North American skaters and “E” denoting European skaters. The number corresponds to the player’s overall ranking within his own category.

1. Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax Mooseheads (Rank: NA2)

The logical pick would be Jones because the Avs lack depth on the blueline but are very deep down the middle with O’Reilly, Duchene and Stastny. Sakic and the Avs are leaning towards a forward though, based on the idea that you can never have enough depth up front. In fact, it’s believed that Drouin and Barkov are the Avs’ other two choices. Roy saw plenty of MacKinnon in the Q and the big center’s 13-point performance at the MemCup convinced Avs brass that he was the best player in the draft. If the Avs do end up walking away with Jones, it wouldn’t be with the first overall pick.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Barkov, C

2. Florida Panthers – Seth Jones, D, Portland Winterhawks (NA1)

The Panthers could add a little of everything but defence is a more pressing need. Gudbranson and Kulikov are the only regulars under the age of 25, while up front they already have reigning Calder winner Huberdeau with Nick Bjugstad and Drew Shore. It’ll be an easy pick for the Panthers, as they’d be more than happy to scoop up whoever’s left, be it MacKinnon (perhaps the better fit) or Drouin.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Barkov, C; Nichushkin, RW

3. Tampa Bay Lightning – Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Chelyabinsk (E2)

The top three picks (in no particular order) are believed to be Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin, but Nichushkin is making scouts think twice. Nichushkin’s best asset is his speed, which he uses to great effectiveness, and there is the belief that he could be the second or third-most talented player in the draft. The smart money may be on Drouin, but the Lightning aren’t averse to taking risks (Brett Connolly) or ignoring the “Russian factor” (Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevski). Other than Jones, there are no other defencemen who are quite worthy of being taken in the top five, which rules out Nurse, though Tampa could use another body on their blueline.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Barkov, C; Nurse, D

4. Nashville Predators – Aleksander (Sasha) Barkov, C, Tappara (E1)

The Preds are in an interesting situation because this is the highest they’ve ever drafted since taking Legwand second overall in their inaugural season. (That’s also a testament to how good of a job Poile and Trotz have done, by the way). Barkov has a higher offensive ceiling than Lindholm and more physically mature than Monahan, which gives him the edge. Down the road, the Preds can ice a future first line with Barkov and Filip Forsberg, giving them two offensive dynamos, something they’ve never ever had. Drouin would be a great pick too, but Barkov plays a position that’s tougher to fill.

Other candidates: Drouin, LW; Lindholm, C; Nurse, D; Monahan, C

5. Carolina Hurricanes – Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax (NA3)

If Drouin falls to fifth, it’ll certainly be quite the surprise. Considered a top three pick, Drouin falls to fifth with Tampa taking a chance on the wildly talented Nichushkin and Nashville opting for a much-needed center. With Drouin, the Canes get a highly talented player who can play with either Eric or Jordan Staal, or perhaps form a terrifying blend of speed and skill with Skinner. This is the best case scenario for Carolina because, traditionally, the team doesn’t draft European players or defencemen in the first round, which rules out Lindholm, Nichushkin and Nurse. If Drouin isn’t available, the smart money is on Monahan or even Shinkaruk.

Other candidates: Lindholm, C; Monahan, C; Shinkaruk, C/LW

6. Calgary Flames – Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (NA4)

Feaster hasn’t been shy about his attempts to move up, recently offering all three of the Flames’ first round picks to the Avs for the first overall pick. The re-building Flames could use a little of everything. Feaster’s best option is to take the best player available and that’s Nurse. Not only has Nurse’s stock skyrocketed the most for players in the top 10, he fills a need with Calgary short on blue chip defenceman. He also has athletic bloodlines, being the nephew of Donovan McNabb. The temptation is to take a scorer like Monahan, but the Flames already have two red light machines in Baertschi and Johnny Gaudreau.

Other candidates: Monahan, C; Lindholm, C; Ristolainen, D

7. Edmonton Oilers – Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas (E3)

I have a feeling the Oilers desperately want Nurse, a player who can bring some sandpaper to a talented but underwhelming blueline. If Nurse isn’t available, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to trade out of the top ten to get a veteran player or a lower pick to draft Ristolainen or Zadorov. Remember, Horcoff and Hemsky don’t have futures in Edmonton. Lindholm is also known to be a defensively responsible player, a dimension that most of the Oilers’ high-octane forwards lack.

Other candidates: Monahan, C; Shinkaruk, C/LW; Wennberg, C; Ristolainen, D

8. Buffalo Sabres – Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW, Medicine Hat Tigers (NA6)

The Sabres don’t have a glaring hole in their pipeline, which means they’ll be taking the best player available. Shinkaruk doesn’t have the same goal scoring ability as Monahan, but Shinkaruk has excellent hands and explosive speed, something that may need replacing if Vanek is dealt. Shinkaruk’s small size at just 5’10” won’t deter the Sabres from taking him, even if they do need a little size. That certainly can be addressed later in the draft with their other first round pick acquired from Minnesota.

Other candidates: Monahan, C; Wennberg, C

9. New Jersey Devils – Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa 67’s (NA5)

Perhaps the best goal scorer left in the draft, the Devils are also filling a need for a second center behind Zajac. A team with financial troubles and a crippling, cap-unfriendly contract courtesy of Kovalchuk, the Devils will have to hit home runs in the draft and bring up young talent on entry-level contracts to stay competitive. Fucale, the only goaltender worth taking in the first round this year, is a reach with the ninth pick and the Devils never seem to be concerned about life after Brodeur.

Other candidates: Ristolainen, D; Pulock, D; Mueller, D; Wennberg, C; Domi, C

10. Dallas Stars – Alexander Wennberg, C, Djurgarden (E5)

Wennberg’s two biggest assets are his speed and hockey sense. He doesn’t possess any overwhelming offensive skills, though some scouts believe that will come later when he continues to develop. The Stars will be tempted to take a blueliner at this spot but after acquiring Joe Morrow, Kevin Connauton and Cameron Gaunce, the Stars will take an offensive forward. This will be rookie GM Jim Nill’s first draft and coming from the Detroit organization he won’t be afraid to take Europeans.

Other candidates: Domi, C; Zykov, LW

11. Philadelphia Flyers  – Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (NA12)

Pulock’s stock fell after being ranked as the sixth-best skater in Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings. A right-handed (an absolute premium) offensive defenceman who scored 45 points in 61 games, Pulock will help the Flyers’ transition offence, something Holmgren (perhaps too rashly) attempted to fix by signing Streit to a four-year extension. The Flyers may take a forward if they do end up moving either Brayden Schenn or Couturier, but getting more mobile defencemen is the more pressing need. Since the Flyers bought out Bryzgalov this summer, Fucale would be an interesting pick, but 11th overall might be too early.

Other candidates: Ristolainen, D; Zadorov, D; Mueller, D; Bigras, D; Fucale, G

12. Phoenix Coyotes – Max Domi, C, London Knights (NA19)

Ranked as the 19th-best North American skater, the general consensus is that Domi is one of the most talented offensive players in the draft and will be taken in the middle picks of the first round. There are plenty of options at this spot and the Coyotes will take the best forward available, although they may be leaning towards a center. The Coyotes lack top-end forwards and, if taken, Domi automatically becomes their top offensive prospect.

Other candidates: Zykov, LW; Horvat, C; Mantha, RW

13. Winnipeg Jets – Valentin Zykov, LW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (NA7)

Though not particularly tall at 6’, Zykov possesses a big frame that he uses to shield the puck effectively. He’s noted for having a good work ethic and his willingness to play in the Q, especially in Baie-Comeau, has won some scouts over. (Insert “Winnipeg is just as bad” joke here). Zykov may have to switch wings with Kane and Ladd set as the Jets’ left wingers but that shouldn’t be a problem. With Zach Yuen re-entering the draft, Cheveldayoff may wish to replace that lost depth, but defence is one of Winnipeg’s deeper positions anyway with Trouba joining the club next year, potentially with Redmond and Postma becoming regulars as well.

Other candidates: Horvat, C; Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW

14. Columbus Blue Jackets – Rasmus Ristolainen, D, TPS (E4)

There’s a good chance Ristolainen gets taken earlier, but the knock against him is that he doesn’t impress with any of his skills. He has the size and skating ability and plays a steady two-way game. Though he led all TPS defencemen in scoring, Ristolainen’s at his best when he is in position and taking few risks. New GM Jarmo Kekalainen stated publicly he will take the best player available, and if Ristolainen falls this far he’s certainly the runaway candidate. Think a poor man’s Kimmo Timonen - just as steady but without the 40-50 point potential – when it comes to Ristolainen.

Other candidates: Mueller, D; Horvat, C; Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW

15. New York Islanders – Zach Fucale, G, Halifax Moosheads (NA1)

The Islanders used all seven of their picks last year on defencemen, which means it is highly unlikely they’ll use their first pick on another defenceman though Mueller, Theodore and Bigras are solid choices. It’s tough to gauge when goalies will get drafted since they’re drafted more on organizational need rather than talent. The Isles are deep at just about every position except in net. Nilsson and Poulin represent the only depth the Islanders have in net with Koskinen spending the 2012-13 season in Finland.

Other candidates: Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW; Horvat, C; Hartman, RW

16. Buffalo Sabres – Nikita Zadorov, D, London Knights (NA22)

The Sabres are in for more changes down the road, one of which could be trading franchise goalie Miller. It’s no secret that the Sabres lack size and Miller is tired of getting run over by opposing forwards. Zadorov can solve all of those problems. A 6’5” defenceman, Zadorov is at his best taking the body. Scouts believe he’s still very raw, but once he develops more technical puck skills and plays more consistently, there are those who believe he can be a top pairing defenceman. Worst-case scenario, Zadorov becomes a serviceable number four defenceman. Having taken Shinkaruk with an earlier pick, the Sabres can afford to take a risk and reach for Zadorov.

Other candidates: Bigras, D; Mueller, D; Theodore, D; Rychel, LW; Horvat, C

17. Ottawa Senators – Chris Bigras, D, Owen Sound Attack (NA14)

The Sens are brimming with excitement to see what Zibanejad and Silfverberg can do with a healthy Spezza and Karlsson, but the blueline needs shoring up. Scouts are divided over Bigras. Some think he’s an excellent, all-round defenceman who plays in all situations while others think he benefitted from playing on a deep Attack squad. That Bigras plays close to Ottawa means the team can keep a closer eye on him. With Karlsson, Wiercioch and Cody Ceci, the Sens blueline could use more grit.

Other candidates: Mueller, D; Theodore, D; Horvat, C; Rychel, LW

18. Detroit Red Wings – Bo Horvat, C, London Knights (NA15)

Less offensively gifted than Domi but more dynamic at both ends of the ice, Horvat is the more versatile of London’s two prized forwards. Considered a player who can be a 20-30 goal scorer in the NHL with good intangibles, Horvat is also used on the penalty kill and oozes leadership, having captained Team Ontario at the U17 World Challenge. Babcock praised Detroit’s depth and versatile players in the playoffs and having Horvat certainly helps. He has the potential to wear a letter some day.

Other candidates: Rychel, LW; Mantha, RW

19. Columbus Blue Jackets – Anthony Mantha, RW, Val-D’Or Foreurs (NA10)

Two reasons you can get excited about the 6’4” Mantha: he led the Q with 50 goals, nine more than Drouin, and possesses good skating ability. Two reasons you can’t get excited about Mantha: he’s not a particularly good playmaker and many have questioned his intensity level. When a prospect’s work ethic is questioned, it can negatively impact his draft stock. Similar labels were placed on Jamie Benn (not dedicated to fitness), Byfuglien (simply too fat) and Getzlaf (didn’t care), but all three would be top picks in re-drafts. Mantha’s too talented to slip all the way to the lower rounds, but based on talent alone he should be a top 15 pick.

Other candidates: Theodore, D; Mueller, D; Rychel, LW; Burakowsky, LW

20. San Jose Sharks – Shea Theodore, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (NA11)

After Jones and Nurse, clearly the two best defencemen in North America, there’s a glut of comparable mid-tier defencemen. Theodore and Mueller both make bigger impacts on the offensive end of the ice, though Theodore has the higher offensive ceiling with 19 goals to Mueller’s 6. San Jose has found a successor to Thornton in Couture but not Boyle, and if Theodore is still available, Wilson will snatch him up quickly. With Burns becoming a regular winger, the Sharks defence will be even more depleted. The knock against Theodore right now is that he tries to do too much. He needs to be more efficient.

Other candidates: Bowey, D; Morin, D; McCoshen, D, Morrissey, D

21. Toronto Maple Leafs – Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor Spitfires (NA17)

Domi and Rychel will get the hype regardless of their draft stock by virtue of their dads. (A little less so for Burakowsky). The draft will be interesting early on with the Avs openly declaring that they’ll pass on the top-ranked player. Once Barkov and Lindholm get drafted after the big three, it’ll be wide open. This is a talented class and teams will look to fill specific needs if two players are comparable. Rychel, a two-time 40-goal scorer in the OHL already, has the ability to become a rough-and-tumble version of Scott Hartnell but better. He’ll surely be a fan favourite with father Warren being a former Leaf, too.

Other candidates: Nastasiuk, RW; Mantha, RW; Hartman, RW

22. Calgary Flames – Mirco Mueller, D, Everett Silvertips (NA9)

The Swiss native climbed three spots from 12th to ninth in Central Scouting’s final rankings and a large part is due to Mueller’s excellent production in the Dub. A smooth skater who has good size at 6’3”, Mueller needs to fill out a little more. At this point in the draft, though it is a deep class, teams will be looking to stockpile talent regardless of position or maturity. Because Mueller played so well in his first year with Everett (31 points in 63 games), scouts believe he has some upside that may make him a second-pairing defenceman down the road.

Other candidates: Carrier, LW; Nastasiuk, RW; Hartman, RW; Burakowsky, LW

23. Washington Capitals – Ian McCoshen, D, Waterloo Blackhawks (NA24)

The Caps are flush with talent on the wings and have two young goalies already with the big club, which means McPhee will be looking to fill a need. None of the forwards left have any tantalizing offensive abilities, and if they do, they come with major weaknesses in other parts of their game. Committed to Boston College, McCoshen has been compared to Brooks Orpik, and the Caps sorely need a defensive conscience on their blueline to cover pinches from the point by Green or Carlson.

Other candidates: Morin, D; Bowey, D; Hagg, D; Lazar, RW/C; Hartman, RW

24. Vancouver Canucks – William Carrier, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (NA18)

In the past, the Canucks have drafted players who were considered safe: Hodgson was viewed as the most mentally mature (that wasn’t the case) and Jensen was seen as a solid but unspectacular NHLer (he has a limited offensive ceiling). Despite missing half the season due to an ankle injury, Carrier finished the season as the Eagles’ top scorer with 42 points in 34 games, a testament to his abilities and poor supporting cast. Carrier is a risk because high point totals from the Q have to be discounted and his skating needs work, but the Canucks have played it too safe for too long.

Other candidates: Lazar, RW/C; Petan, C; Burakowsky, LW; de la Rose, C

25. Montreal Canadiens – Ryan Hartman, RW, Plymouth Whalers (NA16)

Hartman’s stock climbed over the last part of the season because he was so astonishingly consistent with his effort level. At 5’11”, Hartman is a versatile forward who can play center and plays much bigger than his body would suggest. He’s a pest and the best kinds are the ones who can put the puck in the net, too. Having another Brendan Gallagher-type player in the lineup wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Other candidates: Lazar, RW/C; Morin, D; Burakowsky, LW; de la Rose, C; Gauthier, LW/RW

26. Anaheim Ducks – Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski Oceanic (NA23)

The Ducks have a little bit of everything in their pipeline, from speed from the back end (Lindholm), scoring from the checking line (Rakell) and scoring from the wings (Etem) and centers (Holland). What they lack is size and toughness – Morin is 6’6”. He is mobile but scouts are divided about his talent level. He is ranked as high as 10th and as low as 32nd, depending on the source. He is raw and needs more seasoning but he adds an extra dimension to the Ducks defence. The Ducks have done well with USNTDP kids in the past, which makes J.T. Compher a good pick as well.

Other candidates: Bowey, D; Lazar, RW/C; Klimchuk, LW; de la Rose, C; Compher, LW

27. Columbus Blue Jackets – Andre Burakowsky, LW, Malmo (E6)

GM Kekalainen said he’d like to move up in the draft, which means that there’s a strong likelihood that the Jackets’ 14th and 27th overall picks are the ones being dangled as trade bait. There is nothing the Jackets don’t need and Kekalainen is still filling the cupboard. Born in Austria but playing for Sweden, Burakowsky has NHL bloodlines, with father Robert a former Ottawa Senator. As a young player, Burakowsky’s minutes with Malmo were limited and having been cut from the Swedish national junior team it was difficult to get a good read on him. However, scouts believe he’s a very talented player with speed to burn.

Other candidates: de la Rose, C; Klimchuk, LW; Lazar, RW/C

28. Calgary Flames – Curtis Lazar, RW/C, Edmonton Oil Kings (NA20)

Lazar was ranked in the top 10 to start the season, but he lacks the high-end talents of his elite peers. Still, he projects to be a very good second or third line player with intangibles. Lazar captained Team BC at the Canada Winter Games. That Lazar plays close by in Edmonton is a bonus. Whether or not Lazar can be a center in the NHL remains to be seen, but if he does he’ll add depth down the middle playing behind Mark Jankowski.

Other candidates: Gauthier, LW/RW; de la Rose, C; Klimchuk, LW; Morrissey, D; Bowey, D

29. Dallas Stars – Madison Bowey, D, Kelowna Rockets (NA32)

There are a large number of players who will be borderline first round picks and the difference could come down to a team’s need. Bowey’s draft stock fell a bit in the final rankings, but he’s an excellent skater with good size and shoots right. He didn’t improve in his second season with Kelowna as many had hoped, but he comes from a team that’s known to produce excellent defencemen. After taking Wennberg 10th overall, the Stars will likely opt for a defenceman here.

Other candidates: Morrissey, D; Heatherington, D; Hagg, D; Diaby, D

30. Chicago Blackhawks – Josh Morrissey, D, Prince Albert Raiders (NA27)

Teuvo Teravainen headlines a group of highly talented forwards who have yet to make the NHL, but depth on defence was vital to the Blackhawks’ success in the playoffs. With little confidence in Leddy, Quenneville relied heavily on Keith, who played the most minutes in Game 6 and played huge roles on defence and transition offence. Morrissey is undersized at 5’11” but he’s a superb skater who plays with an edge.

Other candidates: Heatherington, D; Hagg, D; Diaby, D

Seven honourable mentions:

Jacob de la Rose, C, Leksand (E7)

Considered a “safe” player, de la Rose may be passed over in the first round because he doesn’t possess good offensive upside. Teams may be better off taking a risk with a more talented player, especially in the late first round.

Frederik Gauthier, LW/RW, Rimouski Oceanic (NA8)

Ranked eighth by Central Scouting, Gauthier is a key omission from this mock draft. Gauthier’s biggest strength is his size at 6’5” and over 200 pounds, but his technical skills are lacking and he didn’t dominate enough in the Q, the overall weakest of the three CHL leagues. Size can’t be taught, but neither can talent.

Zach Nastasiuk, RW, Owen Sound Attack (NA13)

Nastasiuk’s stock kept going up and up with each passing game and shot from his 33rd ranking to 13th, making him one of the biggest movers. However, he still projects to be a third liner in the NHL. He’s a risky pick because scouts are unsure about his offensive ceiling. A true wild card, Nastasiuk can get drafted anywhere after the 10th pick depending on how enamoured teams are with his rising stock.

Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Regina Pats (NA25)

If there is a player on this list who should be drafted in the first round, it’s Klimchuk. Despite scoring 36 goals and 76 points in 72 games, scouts believe that Klimchuk can put even better numbers with better teammates. He is a quick player and projects to be a depth scorer in the NHL.

Adam Erne, LW, Quebec Remparts (NA26)

A strong skater and even stronger on the puck, Erne fell from 13th in the Midterm Ranks to 26th. Part of the reason for the fall may be Erne’s conditioning. Still, Erne is a good offensive player and could become a second line forward.

Nicolas Petan, C, Portland Winterhawks (NA33)

Undersized at just 5’8”, Petan will most likely move to the wing in the pros. However, he is a gifted offensive playmaker, averaging over an assist per game en route to a 120-point campaign. That he comes from a strong WHL club certainly makes him an attractive pick.

Jun 222013
 

Let’s get one thing straight first. John Tortorella is a good coach.

But if you’ve read anything published by the Vancouver media, by far the toughest and most annoying in the league, you’d think Tortorella was bottom of the barrel trash.

There are two main criticisms of Tortorella. First, he’s a fiery, demanding coach who doesn’t communicate well with his players. Second, he preaches a defensive style that wouldn’t be conducive to a Canucks’ offense which ranked among the league’s best under Alain Vigneault.

I have no idea what any of those references are. Bad communicator!

Not only are those two criticisms invalid, they’re products of a narrative constructed largely by very superficial observations. Tortorella is demanding, but he’s no more demanding than all the other notorious slave drivers who have graced the league, Scotty Bowman included.

(Best story about Bowman? That players hated him for 364 days of the year, except for the one day they get their rings.)

Re-watch HBO’s 24/7 series with the Rangers and Flyers. In the very first episode, Brad Richards was asked what it was like to be re-united with Tortorella.

“[Tortorella's] definitely not the same. I don’t think anybody’s the same after 10 or 11 years of doing something. He’s obviously picked up on other things, other methods.”

(In retrospect, “not the same” was a huge understatement in regards to Tortorella and Richards’ relationship.)

Tortorella’s reply:

“I’m asking more questions of them than telling them right now ’cause it’s a matter of respect. I think they have grown, and I think you need to allow them to have some input here.”

Says Marian Gaborik, who was frustrated in Minnesota when Jacques Lemaire preached a defensive system but posted two 40-plus goal seasons under Tortorella:

“He’s very honest. He tells you whether it’s good or it’s bad… He tells you directly, which is very good. You don’t have to wonder how did he mean that.”

Honest people make good communicators. Even if you don’t like what they say. Clearly, Tortorella didn’t consult a thesaurus when he said Carl Hagelin “stinks” on the powerplay, but no one can deny that Tortorella was accurate in his assessment.

It was also made clear over the four episodes that captain Ryan Callahan and Tortorella shared a good relationship, the two bouncing ideas off one another during intermissions.

That Tortorella goes out of his way to maintain a relationship with Liam Traynor, the young Rangers fan who suffers from cerebral palsy, shows Tortorella is not cold, abrasive and short-tempered all the time.

Tortorella is also outspoken about maintaining discipline and not yapping to the refs, something the Canucks obviously had trouble avoiding under Vigneault.

As for the supposed young players that Gillis wants to bring in (there’s really nobody beyond Schroeder, Jensen and Corrado, and none are blue-chippers), remember that Bobby Clarke declared live on-air that Tortorella was the best coach for young players. (Sorry, no video clip, but it was on a TSN panel. This was strictly from memory, though, I do have supporting evidence Clarke actually said those words.)

As for Tortorella’s penchant for playing defensive hockey? When the Lightning won the Cup in 2004, they had the league’s fourth-best offense. That alone should dispel any notion that Tortorella is guaranteed to instill a defensive system in Vancouver.

The Rangers don’t have anyone whose offensive abilities resemble that of an MVP like Martin St. Louis. 2013 Richards was just a shell of his former 2004 Conn Smythe-winning self. The Rangers were not built to outscore their opponents. Vigneault was a good hire because he brought something completely different to the Rangers, a calm, even relaxed, voice to the dressing room, not because he can suddenly work magic with the Rangers’ offense as Glen Sather believes he will. (There’s a chance, but don’t bank on the Rangers becoming an offensive powerhouse. They simply lack the personnel.)

And remember when Vigneault was hired as the Canucks coach? He wasn’t considered an offensive guru at all. His trump card was that he had been a coach with the Moose and was familiar with players in Vancouver’s system. His reputation for being an offensive coach came from the Sedins developing into star players and his stubborn use of zone starts.

Those who are quick to label coaches as either “offensive” or “defensive” types don’t understand that the best coaches work with what they have. Don’t be surprised if the Rangers don’t improve their overall offensive totals and still rely on Lundqvist on a nightly basis. Don’t be surprised if the Canucks’ offense continues to rank among the league’s best instead of tanking into the league basement.

Look at it this way: if you have Henrik Lundqvist in net and Girardi and Staal on defense, wouldn’t you play from the net out too? Nash doesn’t have enough weapons in his arsenal to carry an offense and Richards was never considered an elite playmaker at any point of his NHL career. There are no Art Ross winners in the Rangers lineup. The Canucks have two.

True, coaches nowadays do more managing of egos and ice-time than drawing up x’s and o’s, but Tortorella isn’t a guy you hire to make a team comfortable. If anything, the Canucks have been too complacent, too often unable to find an extra gear in the playoffs. If a team needs a dire kick in the pants, as the Canucks do having gone 1-8 in their last nine playoff games, Tortorella’s the guy.

Tortorella certainly has his faults just like any other coach. Rangers fans will soon learn about Vigneault’s stubbornness and propensity to play favourites. When Sean Avery tweeted that Tortorella had essentially lost the room and that his fiery tirades had essentially become gimmicks, there was some truth to it.

Head coaches in professional sports have a very short shelf life. That doesn’t mean Tortorella lost his job because he doesn’t communicate well. There wasn’t any other good reason for the Canucks to fire Vigneault beyond the fact that Vigneault had gone stale. With what’s being said and written about Tortorella, you’d think he was behind the Canucks bench for a decade already.

(And apparently the same criticism of poor communication doesn’t befall Dan Bylsma, who can’t seem to figure out any in-game adjustments to get his team going. I actually think the title of “poorest communicator” should go to the team who gets charged with the most too many men penalties.)

But you know the one thing that everyone has overlooked? The one glaring omission from the Canucks’ 40-plus years of existence and the most decorated Canadian team over the past decade? A championship title.

Tortorella has a Stanley Cup ring, Vigneault doesn’t. For a team that came within one game of winning it all in 2011, that’s huge.

In all honesty, Tortorella might not last very long in Vancouver, but he certainly is a coach who can push this team over the hump.

May 162013
 

Steve and I doing it again, just shooting the breeze.

Enjoy!

We catch up on Round 2 in episode 4 of Armchair Hockey’s podcast – talking Sens-Pens, Rangers-Bruins (4:51), the Leafs’ collapse (6:52), Kings-Sharks (10:10), Blackhawks-Wings (12:42), reffing controversies (20:54), Canucks and Caps (23:48) and hockey business (38:55).

May 072013
 

Steve and I had so much fun doing the first one and we’ve gotten some good feedback, so here it is, episode 2!

Guaranteed to be better than Attack of the Clones.

We talk about a potential Sharks sweep and the joyless 2013 Canucks (0:30), the clean Gryba hit and P.K. Subban’s hot temper (17:40) and the delay of game non-call on Alzner that cost the Rangers a powerplay (29:45).

Click to listen to Armchair Hockey Podcast Episode 2! Enjoy.

Apr 302013
 

So, once in a while, Steve and I will shoot the breeze and talk some puck. We decided to record for your listening pleasure. In the podcast, we go through every single series in the playoffs, make our predictions and, of course, make fun of Leafs Nation.

Apologies for the low sound levels and the lack of massaging to the sound. We wanted to get this up before the playoffs start so you have something to keep you busy while you wait.

It’s a long podcast, but click on the link and check out the time stamps listed below to skip to the series you want to listen to.

Cheers!

Armchair Hockey podcast no. 1

Apr 292013
 

The most exciting part of the year is here. The season was abridged, but the playoffs won’t be. Two full months of playoff hockey. Glorious.

So many story lines, so many things to go over. Can the Isles make the Pens sweat a little? How healthy will the Blues or Kings be after their series? Can the Red Wings pull off an upset over the second-ranked Ducks? Is this the Canucks’ last chance? Can a re-vitalized Ovechkin get the Caps over the hump?

Without further ado, here’s the quick and dirty for all eight playoff match-ups in the the 2013 NHL Playoffs.

1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8 Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks were probably hoping for Columbus because no team wants to deal with Zach Parise in the playoffs. Parise had eight goals to lead the Devils last year and it was pretty clear Parise was the Devils’ MVP.

Despite the addition of Parise, who scored 18 goals this year, Minnesota has been starving on offense all season. Dany Heatley’s out for the season after getting shoulder surgery, Jason Pominville is questionable for game one, meaning their best goal scorer right now is Devin Setoguchi. Ohhh, scary.

Continue reading »

Apr 072013
 

1) With Marc-Andre Fluery and Kris Letang already on the shelf, the Pittsburgh Penguins suffered another major blow this week. Sidney Crosby was forced out of action after taking a puck to the face. It was later revealed that he will out indefinitely with a broken jaw. The only positive in this situation is that the Penguins have built up a huge lead atop the Atlantic Division (16 points). However their #1 seed will likely be surrendered to the Montreal Canadiens. After a 1-2 week they hold a tenuous 3 point lead over the surging Habs. Continue reading »

Apr 072013
 

1) Obviously this was a big week for trades in the NHL. But I was still surprised at how little was made of the Jay Bouwmeester move. St. Louis acquired the minute munching defenceman for a conditional 1st round pick (if the Blues miss the playoffs it becomes a 4th round pick this year and a 1st round pick next year) and two middling prospects. Bouwmeester has taken a lot of heat for his play in Calgary, but to be fair most of that is directed at his monstrous cap hit. On any team in the league he has the skill set to be a solid top pairing defenceman and should help secure a playoff birth for the Blues. In my mind, this was the most underrated pick up of the week.  Continue reading »