I’m going to start off this article by asking for your forgiveness. There won’t be any central theme today and a lot of this will be general housekeeping or random observations I’ve made over the last few months.
The next week will be much more streamlined and concise. If anything, just think of this as some pre-season version of this article. Now, without a further instance of groveling, let’s start off on a sobering note.
1. Rookie Tournaments and Pre-Season
Rookie tournaments are fun, they offer fans a way to see the next superstars in an affordable way. It can be great to catch a glimpse of the talent your general manager saw so many months ago. Plus, you don’t have to watch some terrible illegal stream online for an OHL game, you can just see it in person.
That said, the pre-season and rookie tournaments are fool’s gold. NHL vets are barely trying at times, young guys are skating their butts off every shift, and coaches will often try new things that don’t always work.
I’m not telling you to not enjoy what you saw, but please just accept it at face value. Some players will have a great pre-season and then get buried in the AHL, while other established NHLers will be completely invisible until the puck drops on the regular season.
Just temper your expectations.
2. The Mitch Marner Saga
This topic has been explored to death so I’ll be incredibly brief with my thoughts. This is absolutely hilarious. I’m all for players trying to seek what they’re worth, but this is getting ridiculous. He, frankly, wants to get paid like a first-line center despite the fact that he did not consistently face off against first-line talent and is not a center.
10.893 million dollars per year is too much in my opinion. For a team that’s looking to contend for the cup, I understand why the Leafs gave him that money. But from a long term perspective, I would’ve waited to see what trades could’ve appeared. Or who knows, whatever happened to those offer sheets we heard so much about in the 13 million dollar range? The Leafs will be an absolute force to be reckoned with this season but there’s a chance this could be a nightmare as early as next year.
I guess I shouldn’t talk too much smack though. Better to pay young exciting talent than not have that talent in the first place.
3. Captain Contracts
Captain Roman Josi is coming to the final year of his *extremely* team-friendly deal worth four million dollars per season.I’d have to imagine the Predators would do just about anything to keep their offensive dynamo, especially after trading P.K. Subban.
So, as a new deal likely approaches, what will the first number of this seven-digit deal look like? Jared Spurgeon, a like-minded offensive defenseman, was just awarded a seven-year deal worth 7.575 million per season.
For a tiny comparison, Spurgeon scored 14 goals and 43 points in 82 games with the Wild while Josi scored 15 goals and 56 points in 82 games. As far as five on five play, Josi and Spurgeon had almost identical Corsi’s, but every other on-ice stat including shot share, goal share, high danger chance share, and expected goal share goes to Spurgeon.
Josi did see about 3% more defensive zone starts than Spurgeon but did see weaker competition. It should also be mentioned that Spurgeon shot at 9% last season (extremely high for a defenseman) and also almost doubled his expected individual goals.
What I’m trying to say is that these two have a similar playing style and while Spurgeon might’ve had some better numbers in the last season, Josi is the superior player. So if Spurgeon is good enough for a 7.5 million dollar deal, what do we think Josi is worth?
I think eight million per year is a starting point but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ended between nine and ten.
4. Waiver (in)Decisions
It feels like this year’s before season waiver cuts have been much better than it has in years past. There were some young(ish) players who could make a good impact in the right scenario. The ones I like are Nic Petan from Toronto, Nikolay Goldobin from Vancouver, and Josh Ho-Sang from New York.
Petan is a good defensive player who would fit well on the fourth line and in penalty killing scenarios. He’s not overly physical but he has a better scoring touch than other fourth line talent on the squad.
Goldobin is an interesting player as he scored seven goals and 27 points in 63 games last season with the Vancouver Canucks. He hasn’t quite blossomed into the player they wanted him to, but he hasn’t had much help until this prior season. Putting him on the third line alongside someone like Kyle Turris would maximize his shooting potential.
And then there’s Josh Ho-Sang. This is an easy pick up in my opinion. This player isolates are incredible and his raw offensive numbers look good as well. The issue is that he hasn’t been surrounded by the correct talent for long enough. In the 2018-19 season, Ho-Sang played 49 minutes with Brock Nelson and Anders Lee over seven games, less than 10 minutes per night. The rest of the time was spent with Leo Komarov, Val Filppula, Matt Martin, and Casey Cizikas. Consistent minutes could help Ho-Sang achieve his potential.
Granted, this will never happen. Ho-Sang has been a locker room cancer by the Islanders and it looks like no one wants a piece of him. Still, there’s a lot of talent here and the Predators should feel confident that their leadership could “reverse” whatever negative habits Ho-Sang has.
All players could have been picked up by the Predators, but it didn’t happen. David Poile likes the group he’s already assembled, for better or worse.
5. Friendly Reminder
Thank everything held sacred that hockey is back. The offseason has all of us huddling around our computers looking for illegal free streams of rookie tournaments. It’s like a drug, but it’s our drug.
Hockey, like football, is a business, but it’s not like a bank or store. There are no eight hour days. This is something that people commit 8,760 hours to per year. Simply put, if you’re involved in this game, there’s no escape.
This business will ruin people. This business will tear muscle from bone and parent from child. We celebrate warrior culture and cheer when the lights come on, but what happens when the arenas empty and the lights flicker? Players spend hours between talking to the media, working out, stretching, or worse, rehabbing. You might get home at 11 PM, but the rink won’t clear out for a few hours.
These players give everything to the game, and in turn, the fans. When they fall, we expect them to get up, and when there’s something clearly bothering them, we expect them to play through. I think Dan Le Batard’s monologue from his show, Highly Questionable, explains it best.
Even if he’s discussing football, I’d argue everything he discusses could be applied to the NHL. Well, everything except the stuff about social justice and Jay-Z, but that’s only because the NHL could never land a celebrity as popular as Jay-Z and all of their players come from upper-middle-class households. Trust me, you won’t find many players in the NHL that understand the plight of what average NFLers had to go through.
So, in the face of this sport and carnage, I’m not asking you to stop watching. All I’m asking is that you be kind. Show kindness, whether it’s face to face or through a Twitter handle, towards the players. We have no idea what they’re playing through. Guys play through injury, marital problems, and bad days. So before the next time you comment about how some player is garbage or useless, remember the human.
The “blood lust”, as Le Batard says, can be consuming. Please don’t let it consume you over the next however many months.