Chicago on the move….

Blackhawks moving, Pulford sounds off

By Bob Verdi 

Just about Labor Day, 2019, Chicago Blackhawks GM Bob Pulford, had the look of the worried man. Just 3 years earlier, he was the toast of Michigan Avenue, as the Blackhawks won the Swain Cup, as league champions. Crowds were flowing into the United Center, and TV ratings were sky high. Last season, Coach Billy Reay had quit as coach of the team the year before, and the crowds dwindled at the United Center, as the Hawks finished last overall in the league standings in 2018-2019.

Season-ticket renewals were virtually non-existent. The fans wore paper bags over their faces. Blackhawk sweaters were thrown on the ice by some angry fans. The franchise had hit rock bottom.

He knew things were bad, but they were going to get worse.In late August, 2019, Pully got the bomb that rocked his world; the beloved Hawks, an institution in Chicago, were moving to Montréal, of all places! He had heard rumours that the team was for sale, and he knew with no Montréal connections, and not being French, that he had little hope of moving with the team to Montréal.

The timing of the announcement for Pulford couldn’t have been worse. The league took over scouting duties for the Blackhawk franchise. That is never good for any franchise, especially one with the pedigree of the Blackhawks.

Pulford was told by the new management group that it was his job to draft for the team for the upcoming 2019-2020 season. Many of the scouts had left him, the few that were remaining had no idea the direction the soon to be moving franchise was going to go.

Pulford took a deep drag on his cigarette, and he said, “I’ll show those Montréal SOB’s why I am a Hall of Famer!  I’m just as good in the boardroom as I was on the ice.”

I was given access into the Blackhawk war room, and I will give you exclusive information regarding GM Bob Pulford’s drafting strategy in the 2019-2020 GHC draft..

There were too many holes to fix the Pulford couldn’t do everything he wanted to in one draft. One commentator said that the Blackhawks overall defensive play reminded him of Swiss cheese.   The squad’s defence was in tatters. The team was a bunch of cream puffs. Not much grit. Much too old.   The goaltenders had lost self-confidence.  They couldn’t stop a beach ball.  Antti Raantta got injured.

Many commentators had speculated that Pulford would draft a defenceman to bring some youth to an old and worn-down unit. But Pully had other ideas.  He had another plan.

Miro Heiskanen and Rasmus Dahlin were suspected to be players that the Blackhawks coveted.  They worked out for Pulford, and he was impressed.   Either player would have been a fine selection for the Blackhawks, and no one would have criticized Pulford for picking either one of these fine players. But they didn’t measure up to what Pulford wanted.  Dahlin was not great defensively.   His offensive game was spectacular, but his defence was a work in progress.  Heiskanen was better defensively, but he did not have the upside offensively of Dahlin.  In Pulford’s mind, neither player was worthy of being the first pick overall.

Pulford saw another problem with this team that needed immediate attention. The Blackhawks already had John Tavares as their number 1 centre. But there was a huge void underneath him. Moreover, there wasn’t a lot of depth at the forward position in the draft pool this year.

There was one forward that worked out for Pulford that he thought was head and shoulders better than anyone else in the draft pool. That player was Elias Pettersson.  Pulford was a centre in his playing days, and he knew that a team without strength down the middle would not be a contender for a long time. He noted that Pettersson had a wicked shot, and uncanny hockey vision. This was the man that Pulford thought could be the coveted number 2 centre that all contending teams require.  After the workout, Pulford said to himself, “this young man will be a star, a real star, maybe, a superstar.”

Pulford said,” I will take a lot of criticism for this pick, but this is the pick that this team needs to get back to contention more quickly.”

Having filled his greatest need, Pulford went to work to patch his leaky defence. The Hawks urgently needed man games and bodies. Cloning Zdeno Chara was not possible. The big man looked old, and replacements needed to be found immediately.

By the time round 2 came along, Heiskanen and Dahlin were distant memories it looked like the Blackhawks would not find anyone suitable to fill the gap. Instead, Pulford took a realistic approach.   He looked for youngsters that were promising, but very raw, players who would be good one day, but not in 2019.

Fortunately, the hockey gods smiled on Pully, and he found a young defenceman that he was impressed by, in Filip Hronek.   Hronek was born nearby to Chara in the Czech Republic, and although he lacked Chara’s behemoth-like size and nastiness, he had some of the characteristics that Pulford liked in a defenceman.  He had a good offensive head for the game, and he could move the puck. He showed a bit of a nasty side.  Pully couldn’t bear to watch as the end of the first round unfolded, as he really believed that Hronek would be drafted by someone late in the first round.  He was ecstatic when Hronek was still around as the first pick in Round 2.  He smiled after he made the pick, lit up a cigarette, and said to himself. Hronek could be very good.”

Devon Toews showed flashes of good play in his limited exposure to Pulford, and Pulford thought he was an underappreciated talent.  He was pleased to pick Toews with the first pick of round 3.

Depth defencemen Scott Walker and Sammy Niku were also acquired.

The defence was not necessarily made better, but it was made younger, and players were acquired with some promise.

In the free agent draft, Pulford, at least in part addressed, the Blackhawks need for a defence-first forward with the acquisition of center Philip Danault.  This was the sort of grinding player that Pulford wanted for the Blackhawks. He wanted more just like him, but with many holes and only 6 draft picks, he could only do so much.

The Blackhawks also announced today that Serge Savard will be the team’s General Manager 2020-2021 when it relocates to Montreal.  The coach will be none other than Pat Burns.

Burns was introduced to the media today, and he said, “I like a hard-workingman’s team.  I want guys that will play hard all the time.  We will find some people that will rattle the opposition’s teeth. When visiting teams come into the Bell Centre, we want it to be a hard night for them.  We will be much harder to play against.”

Savard said that season-ticket sales had exceeded expectations to date.  He said, “I will do everything in my power to make this a first-class franchise.  I want to invite the league brass up here to see our passionate fans. I want to build a contending team that the league will be proud of.”

 

SNEAK PEEK LEAKED BY NIKE… THE UNIFORMS FOR NEXT YEAR

Canucks hold camp in Greece

In a bold (and failed) experiment, the Canucks held training camp in Greece. Problems arose however when they found out that there are only 2 hockey rinks in the whole country. In an exhibition they beat the Greek National Team 23-0. After that they just scrimmaged and played intrasquad games. Interest in hockey is so high in Greece that these games drew dozens (up to 4) of fans.

Coach Smyl was heard to comment one evening during camp, as he watched one of the endless soccer games on TV, “Soccer is like hockey being played in molasses, and with a ridiculous floating blue line. And there’s more diving than there was by the Sharks in Game 4 of the finals.” Subtlety was never one of his strong suits.

Meanwhile, regarding the team: Ben Bishop came to camp and looked great. He was deeply troubled by the fact that the Canucks traded for Tuuka Rask when he had assumed that he would be the #1 goalie after Luongo left. But instead of pouting, he put is energy into becoming a better goalie. Coach Smyl was pleased, but said he didn’t want to overwork Bishop. When asked how many games he would start, Smyl said that for some unknown reason the number 46 keeps popping into his head. Rask wins the #2 spot, because in camp he demonstrated much better rebound control than Georgiev.

On defense Nick Leddy (trade) and Connor Murphy (free agent) solidify the third pairing which, to be blunt, sucked last year. Josi-Gostisbehere and Vlasic-Demelo will be pairs 1 and 2, with Tanev on deck in case of injuries on both sides.

As the team gets better, rookies have a harder time cracking the lineup. Hintz (1st round) and Greenway (2nd round) will get time as injury replacements, but that’s it.   With forwards, Coach Smyl was hoping for an improvement on defense, but got none. But they come back with a stronger desire to bang bodies and with a huge improvement in the faceoff circle (3 +3s and 2 +2s). Sissons (minors last year) and Roussel (free agent) will be the 2 new faces, besides the rookies, playing forward. Johnny Gaudreau looked like the best forward in camp by a mile.

Some players will spend the year in the minors, including Malgin and Jarnkrok, both of whom were important players last year. Also Victor Mete. And 3 players who saw ice time were cut, Hickey, Eriksson, and Fast. But they all had terrible training camps. Too much souvlaki and ouzo in Greece, just like management.

And of course, on opening night this year a ceremony will precede the game to honor the Sedin twins who retired and for years were the face of the team. All fans will receive a double headed bobble-head(s) doll.

Trade deadline extended.. guys on the block

Trade deadline extended to Friday , March 2nd.


Vancouver has Craig Anderson, goaltender on the block.

Canucks looking to take another title

 

 

 

 

 


Well, on that note…. Flyers on the block

Sharp, Hossa, Backes, Moulson, Parise, Soderberg, Gologoski all available.

Moulson is a PP specialist (14 G, 11 on the PP), 3/2/3, k pass

Backes 4/4/4 K pass
Parise 4/3/3 L pass
Hossa 4/3/4 K pass
Goligoski 3/2/3 L pass

Looking for picks in return

 

Colorado preview

COLORADO 2017 PREVIEW
 
Colorado continues with the management mandated youth movement, but the fan base needs to see a drastic improvement from their basement finish last year.  So a few big moves occurred to get the fans to fill the arena.
First, the draft was quite exciting as Colorado won the lottery and chose Auston Matthews first overall.  He is expected to contribute immediately and Matthews provides the true “superstar” this team has lacked and desperately needed.  He is joined by a handful of draft picks that won’t see much ice time this year in second round picks Josh Ho Sang and Michael Matheson. Ho Sang is considered a high risk – high reward type pick while Matheson adds some depth at a weak LD position.   Third round pick Nick Schmaltz is another project expected to develop in the farm.  Jordan Weal was taken in the fourth round and is expected to be a breakout player this year in Philadelphia.  He will get his 23 games in on LW covering for Domi.  Ryan Spooner was then moved for another fourth round pick that brought in defensive prospect Anthony DeAngelo.  Two fifth round defenseman selections created roster additions of both Scott Mayfield and Markus Nutivaara adding depth to the weakest position on the team.
Secondly, speaking of star power, the Avalanche added a super sniper in Steven Stamkos. Colorado traded two first round draft picks in 2018 for him as the team hopes he can rebound from injury shortened seasons.  Although Stamkos can only play in 17 games this year, the team is deep in prospects and needed some immediate help.  Stamkos adds a bona fide one –two punch up the middle with Matthews once he recovers from his injuries.
Third, the Avs waved goodbye to first overall pick Nail Yakupov as they released him from contract prior to the free agent draft.  Management continued to grow impatient with the young Russian’s development and decided that Yakupov was not involved with the team plan going forward.  The additional roster spot was filled by free agent veteran Ron Hainsey to add depth to our defense corps
Trades of forwards Reilly Smith and Alex Killorn will create roster room for the youngster to strut their stuff.  The projected first line has newly drafted first overall pick Auston Matthews centering a line of Nik Ehlers on left wing and Jonothan Drouin on the right.  The second line will have my cousin Vinnie Trocheck between 30 goal man Rickard Rakell on left and Marcus Johansson on the right side.   The third line has Ryan Johansson who loves to dish the puck between 30 plus goal scoring machine Anders Lee and versatile Brock Nelson.   The fourth line has RNH centering Max Domi and Sam Reinhart.   This youthful group should be able to score goals, although defending could be a bit of an issue as the kids continue to develop.
The defense is also taking shape, although it is more through trade than the farm.   Ryan Pulock and Chris Bigras who were drafted last year as well as Derrick Pouliot who was drafted the year previous are taking a little longer to percolate than originally anticipated. Brady Skjei was obtained in a deal for Victor Rask and will pair up on the top d-paining with defensive specialist Adam Larsson.   Nik Hjallmarsson obtained in a deal for Alex Killorn will skate on the second pairing with Jared Spurgeon.  The third pairing still up for grabs between Barrie, Vatanen, Matheson and possibly Hainsey  who figures to get games on both sides of the ice.  Maatta will need a year to regain his touch and will see a lot of practice sessions and views from the press box, while Anthony DeAngelo, Markus Nutivaara and Scott Mayfield will all spend a season in the minors to hone their skills. Without any first round picks in 2018 this group of young d-men will need to fast track their development in order to make the jump to the show next season. The Avalanche desperately need them to be ready for action in short order.  So overall the Avalanche have an average defensive squad to begin this season, but one that should be better than last year and with lots of promise for the future.
The goalie situation remains the same with Rinne and Rask holding down the fort. Hutton is also still on board as a third stringer should the situation arise.
Management is quite content with the way the team is taking shape but a few pieces are needed to be true contenders.  The short term goal is to make a bid for a playoff spot this year and let the kids experience what it takes to play post season hockey.  Is this a lofty dream?  We will have to wait and see but Coach Roy says “playoffs are in the picture.  Anyone who would like to disagree will not be heard, because I have two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears”
Kevin – Colorado Avalanche

Colorado’s Perron on the block

colorado uniform

Avalanche management are putting David Perron on the trading block. His 4-2 card with 4 penetration, K passing and 5 intimidation can play either wing. Colorado is looking for a draft pick in return for his services. He had 17 goals and 24 assists last year. He could really help a team as a depth scorer. Will consider all serious inquiries.

Kevin Anton -Colorado Avalanche

Blues on the block

blues7778Blog updated with more stories, take a peek . You can also follow so when stuff posted , you get an email. (blog easier to update than web page)

Blues looking for an upgrade at LD. Right now the third spot is held by Jake Gardiner who I think might be a JK passer and 2 defense.
Looking for a JK 3/4 defense, or JKL passer on that side who can play the powerplay.

Blues can move the following players to find that piece or draft picks for next year.

Anti Niemi, .914 save percentage, 61 games
Mike Smith, 62 games, .904
Marian Gaborik 27 goals in
Drew Stafford, winger, 43 pts 76 games, 2nd liner in Winnipeg
Jeff Petry, 2nd pairing dman in Montreal, a 4 defense the last few years, slipped to 3 this year. Thanks Edmonton!
Ryan Ellis, 27 points, 58 games, RD, just 24
Ryan Murphy, 22 years old, 13 pts in 37 games.

Looking for later round picks for

Mason Raymond, 23 pts in 57 games

Mikhail Grabovsky, 19 pts in 51 games, 3rd line center Islanders

Sean Bergenheim, 19 pts in 56 games

Rob

St.Louis Blues

Avalanche Spring Training report

colorado uniform

Colorado Roster Update

Coach Patrick Roy addressed a media conference today regarding the outlook oft the Avalanche team for the upcoming season.

“We are extremely pleased with the direction management has taken with our club” quoted Roy. “We had an aging defense corps last year with a crop of young forwards. We have now added youth and depth to the back end. This will not be an overnight fix by any means, but we are looking at building something for the future that will last a few years.”

Prior to the draft, the Avalanche swung two deals to assist with the lack of depth at defense. The additions of defensemen Tyson Barrie and Olli Maatta have provided the Avs with two legitimate top 4 d men. Albeit Maatta will have a limited role this year, big things are expected in the future from this Finnish rearguard. Add in first round pick Derrick Pouliot, who will not see any action this year, and we have the making of a real good crop of defenseman that will join Giordano, Spurgeon, Alzner, Larsson, Vatanen and Hickey. The Av’s last pick in the rookie draft, Adam Clendening, will also spend the season in the minors refinning his game

The goaltending will be just fine with a trio of Finns keeping biscuits out of the basket. Rask, Rinne and Raanta will all get opportunities to display their skillsets and should keep most games close while providing the Avs a chance to win on any given night.

The rebuild continues up front as 8 of 10 draft were forwards. At an early camp skate, it appears that Ryan Johansen will center between Anders Lee and Marcus Johansson. Line 2 has the Nuge between Frans Nielsen and Alex Killorn while the third set has Carl Soderberg skating with David Perron and Reilly Smith. Zemgus Girgensons, Brock Nelson and Nail Yakupov will toil on the 4th line. Ryan Spooner will pick up some games at center while newly drafted Rickard Rakell and Victor Rask will also see a few games. The Av’s have high hopes on draft choices Chris Tierney as welll as Jiri Sekac and Vincent Trochek. They will be expected to be the top line on the farm this year with intentions of promoting them to the big club next year. Other bigger projects involve Lucas Lessio – a power forward with scoring ability, Nick Shore – a player with speed and great vision, and Ronald Kenins – a shifty forward who may turn out to be the surprise pick of the draft, but we are not holding our breath!

“We are coming out of camp with an attitude of playing hard every night. If all works out, we will be in the playoff hunt, but our goal is to work, work, work and let the players continue to develop through games and situations. Our goaltending should gives us a chance every night, but our forwards will have to be big overachievers for us to have an opportunity to play past the regular season. We have a great young core of players that should continue to improve every season. I hate to sound like Babcock, but this rebuild will take time.”

Kevin Anton

Black Hawks off season

chicago uniform

Well the rookie draft is over and the BlackHawks had a busy off season, if you look at the moves and the draft you will see that we pretty saw what the swami had seen with our team and we feel we filled in the holes. We felt we needed a good scoring LW and some depth on the 3rd and 4th lines and also to improve our RD depth.

so we added
LW M.Pacioretty (we get a true 1 LW)
RW J.Williams (good depth player)
RW J.Ward (see aboe)
C/RW Hayes (4th line center but i hope he continues to improve)
C B.Horvat (I see him as a future 4-4 guy)
RD D.Sverson (3-3 RD and he should get top pairing with the Devils)
LD/RD Neserov (was good in the playoffs, i see an improved card with more games)
LD/RD Trottman (not expecting much)
LD/RD M.Mueller (I think he ends up a 2-4 guy in a couple of years)
LD N.Beaulieu (my homer pick, but he will play 2nd pairing with Petry, i can see him as a 3-1, 3-2 k passer next year, Markov getting older means more ice time for him, fingers are crossed)

still with 2 picks in the ufa left the projected lineup is

Pacioretty-Tavares-Voracek
Moulson-Couture-Stamkos
Glencross-(Dubinsky/Hanzel)-Williams
Simmons-Hayes-Ward

D.Brown/B.Horvat should be the fillers

3rd line Center will be shared
Dubinsky 47GP will play all home games +6 road
Hanzal will play 35 road games

Russell-Subban
Emelin-Stralman
Campbell-Severson

Kulikov to be LD fillers
Nesterov/Trotman to play RD fillers

Holtby 73GP
Elliot 9 GP

Power Play unit 1
Pacioretty-Tavares-Stamkos
Voracek-Subban

Power Play unit 2
Dubinsky-Couture-Sommons
Williams-Stralman(Nesterov when he plays)

PK unit 1
Dubinsky-Pacioretty
Emelin-Subban

PK unit 2
Couture-Tavares
Russell-Stralman

wish list would to get a good 3rd line RW checker who can score a little

So all in all pretty happy a big weakness last year was our bottom pair on defense but this year we should be a lot better, can’t wait to see what the Swami thinks in his next write up.

Steph