- By Alex ThomasIt’s May 18th, we’re about seven weeks from the start of the draft, free agency, and the 2013 summer transaction period. With a lowered salary cap
- By Kyle PalazziIn the late morning of July 24, 2013, upon the announcement of the acquisition of star winger Rick Nash, Rangers fans salivated at the possibilities.
- By Alex ThomasI know yesterday in my article I told you I would be back here talking about trade targets for the Oilers. We still have almost seven
- By Alex ThomasToday concludes our look at possible free agent targets for the Oilers this off-season. We’ve taken a look at top six forwards, bottom six forwards, top
- By BruinsbeerLast night history was made at the TD Banknorth Garden. Actually, that’s an understatement. The on-again/off-again schizophrenic Boston Bruins came back from a 4-1 deficit
Finally. A pure goal scorer.
Finally. Some relief for the power play.
Finally. A player to put them over the top.
Ten months later, and after a successful lockout-shortened season in which Nash scored a team-leading 21 goals and coming in just behind center Derek Stepan for the team lead in points, Rangers fans are still waiting for that player to show up in the postseason.
Here’s something to ponder: the Blueshirts were able to advance past the Washington Capitals with Rick Nash scoring only two points (both of which assists).
Here’s something else to put it a little more into perspective: Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Brian Boyle, Arron Asham (!!), Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards, Taylor Pyatt, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto all have more goals than Rick Nash.
For most of the series against Washington, Nash was virtually invisible. He frequently turned over pucks, made costly mental mistakes, and namely in Game 5, couldn’t seem to stay on his skates. He looked gassed, and frankly, overwhelmed in his first postseason appearance with the Rangers.
Games 6 and 7 were the best Nash looked all series long. He was strong on the backcheck, created offensive opportunities, and did a lot of the “little things” right.
But Nash is not paid $7.8 million to do the little things. He makes that kind of money to score goals, and if the Rangers want to win the best-of-seven series against the Boston Bruins, they need him now more than ever.
When the Bruins and Rangers face off for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Thursday, fans would be smart to buckle up for a long series between two very similar teams.
The Bruins, like the Rangers, are a flawed team who have struggled to score goals all season long, but benefit from having a deep defensive corps, led by All-Star Zdeno Chara, and strong goaltending from young netminder, Tuukka Rask. Boston was a mere 15 minutes away from blowing a 3-1 series lead and being ousted from the playoffs by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but late game heroics by Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron to tie the game, and Bergeron’s eventual game-winner 6:05 into overtime kept the Bruins’ season alive, and reinvigorated a franchise trying to win their second Stanley Cup in three years.
The Blueshirts won the season series against Boston, going 2-1-0 against the Black and Gold, but these are different times, and each team looks different than they did back in February. Boston added veterans Jaromir Jagr and Wade Redden, while the Rangers notably traded away sniper Marian Gaborik, but added Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett, and also forward Ryane Clowe.
One thing’s for sure, these two teams will play a physical, grinding style of hockey, and it will certainly make for an exciting series.
Prediction: Bruins in 7. Only because I’m naturally a pessimist, but regardless of the winner, this series will have a Game 7.
* I think now is the time to officially be worried for Marc Staal’s long-term health.
* Player on the Bruins to watch: Milan Lucic. Personal feelings for him aside, he was an absolute wrecking ball for the Bruins against the Maple Leafs, and was instrumental in the team’s comeback. The Rangers have no one who can match him physically, so they’ll have to play him smart and allow Derek Dorsett to try to get him off his game.
* When John Tortorella switched Brad Richards to the fourth line before Game 6, in my mind, that is what turned the tide of the series against Washington. It was a brazen move, but one that had to be made for the benefit of the team as a whole.
* Boy, do I hope the officiating is better for this series. Although, I guarantee Boston and its fans won’t do a fraction of the whining the Caps did.
I know yesterday in my article I told you I would be back here talking about trade targets for the Oilers. We still have almost seven weeks to talk trade targets, so I’ll interrupt the schedule for some actual news surrounding the Oilers, and yes, its good news!
After a seven year debate, it’s finally over. No, not the Oilers current playoff drought, but the downtown arena debate appears to have finally hit a happy ending on Wednesday when the Katz group and Edmonton City Council reached an agreement on the funding for the arena.
The break down agreed to is listed below. Thanks to edmontonoilers.com for the information.
Council approved the following capital profile for the arena project and associated infrastructure:
- $279 million from Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) and other incremental revenues (increased parking revenue, reallocation of existing subsidy paid to Northlands and new taxes from business in the arena)
- $125 million from ticket surcharge on all events in the new arena
- $137.81 million from lease revenue for the Arena
- $23.68 million in cash from EAC
- $25 million from other government sources
The Katz Group will also be chipping in some money, as we saw today. The two sides came into the special meeting about $30 M off on the total. Katz’s group promised to pitch in an additional $15 M, essentially splitting the remainder of the cash with the city of Edmonton. As seen above, this was all approved.
The funding model is now complete for the project, which will cover the arena itself and the surrounding infrastructure, like the LTR connection and such. This deal should allow for the ground breaking to take place in the spring of 2014 according to Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. However, Mandel also mentioned that groundbreaking could come sooner than that.
The arena is expected to be completed in time to open in September of 2016, meaning the Oilers would play there during the 2016-17 NHL season. For those scoring at home, that would leave three more seasons at Rexall Place.
My thoughts here are plain and simple. This is a great day for the Oilers, their fans, and the city of Edmonton. The Oilers are in Edmonton to stay now. Every sports team needs that new, state of the art arena, and the Oilers are going to finally get theirs. The long-term sustainability of the Oilers in Edmonton is no longer questionable.
On top of that, the city will get a state of the art new rink in it’s downtown, which should help give the city the face-lift that many residents believe it badly needs. Hopefully it can revitalize the city and be the first piece towards making Edmonton’s downtown one of the best.
The fans deserve this too. A beautiful, new arena is something special. Being in Boston, where a new NFL stadium and NHL/NBA arena is, I can say that it’s a different experience watching games in a new building, it truly is.
With the funding model figured out, and a timeline for groundbreaking and opening looking to be in place, it finally appears we can put the arena debate to bed. Full props to Edmonton city council, led by Stephen Mandel, and Oilers owner Daryl Katz and his group. Now the focus of the Oilers can shift back to the ice!
Barons Quick Hits!
* The Oklahoma City Barons played game four of their second round series on Wednesday night, and routed the Texas Stars by a 7-3 final score. The Barons were trailing 3-2 going into the final frame, but erupted for five goals in the final 20 minutes. Yann Danis got the win, making 26 saves.
* As for scoring, Marc Arcobello continued to dominate the playoffs, scoring two goals. He now has eight in the playoffs. Antti Tyrvainen also scored two goals, one to tie the game, and one into the empty net to seal it. CJ Stretch opened the scoring, while Garret Stafford scored a garbage time goal on the PP to make it 7-3. Taylor Fedun scored the game winning goal, his first of the playoffs and first career post season goal.
* The Barons currently lead the best of seven series by a count of three games to one. They’ll have a chance to put it away on Thursday night at home for game five. If they can, the Barons will advance to the western conference finals for the second season in a row.
Today has no doubt been a huge day for the Oilers and the city of Edmonton, and hopefully sets the stage for big things to come for this team in the future. I’ll be back tomorrow, looking into the future, with a look at some trade targets this off-season for the Oilers. Until then, be sure to follow me on twitter @Alex_Thomas14!
Today concludes our look at possible free agent targets for the Oilers this off-season. We’ve taken a look at top six forwards, bottom six forwards, top four defenders, and depth defenders. Now, we end things looking at arguably the most interesting position, goaltending.
The Oilers have young Devan Dubnyk as their starter. There are a lot of questions here in regards to DD. Can he be the goalie that leads them to the playoffs, can he be the starter moving forward? He was great at times this year, and awful at other times. He wasn’t the Oilers problem this season, but is he the solution?
After Dubnyk, the Oilers have Nikolai Khabibulin, who has been inconsistent since he signed with the team, but he is a free agent. At his age, it’s hard to see the Oilers signing him to a deal. Yann Danis is a solid AHL goalie, but can he handle NHL backup duty? Not sure he can. Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz are both stuck in the ECHL as prospects, and are no where near ready to handle an NHL role. So it’s quite clear the Oilers need to add a goalie.
Here are a few options in the free agent market that make a ton of sense for Edmonton, a team that has been looking for a steady goalie since Dwayne Roloson left as a free agent in 2009.
Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes): If you aren’t comfortable with Dubnyk, this is your guy. Smith has totally turned his career around since going to the Coyotes, and has become one of the NHL’s better goalies. Smith won 38 games in 2011-12, sporting a sparkling 2.21 GAA. He was also unbeatable in the Yotes run to the west finals, posting terrific totals in the playoffs.
This year, Smith looked good behind a very weak team. He had a 2.58 GAA and won 15 games, keeping the Coyotes in the playoff race till the final few weeks of the season.
Smith is also very strong when playing puck, as he learned from Marty Turco while playing in Dallas. Smith is a starter, top 15 in the league if you ask me, and would no doubt be the number one if the Oilers can sign him.
Smith is the only surefire starting goalie on the market, and I expect a few teams will look at him and try to acquire his services. I expect Edmonton to be one of those teams interested. Will they sign him? It’s anyone’s guess, but I think they’ll take a look.
Anton Khudobin (Boston Bruins): Here’s a really interesting target. Khudobin is a solid goalie, and has proven that this season with the Bruins. He can be a 1B kind of goalie on any team, I truly believe that. Thing is, he won’t pass Tuukka Rask for the starters job in Boston, and with Malcolm Subban and Niklas Svedberg in the system, the Bruins might not have room for Anton.
Khudobin is a free agent this off-season, and could provide the Oilers with that low cost, solid backup goalie every team needs. I also wouldn’t rule out Khudobin fighting Dubnyk for the number one spot on the depth chart either. I think that highly of him right now. He’s only 27, and goalies usually take longer to develop than any other position. He hasn’t hit his prime hit.
He’s only making $875K right now, and won’t command too much money on the market. This could be a perfect add for the Oilers, as this is a young goalie who has potential and can provide depth at a position lacking it.
Ray Emery (Chicago Blackhawks): This is another interesting name on the free agent market. The Blackhawks starting goalie is clearly Corey Crawford, and Emery could be looking for a raise on his current $1.150 M cap hit. With the cap going down and the Hawks being close to it, that might not be possible.
Emery is a veteran netminder and has been around for a while now. He’s led a team to the Cup finals (Ottawa in 2007) and has had a lot of ups and downs. This season however, was all ups for the veteran. Emery did play on a stacked team, but he was very good when he had to be, and gave Chicago a solid backup option to the streaky Crawford.
Emery won’t be coming into Edmonton to be a starter, but he would no doubt provide the Oilers with a solid backup option, and someone to push young Dubnyk, maybe even teach him a thing or two. It wouldn’t be the home-run signing, but it would be a solid one that could provide Edmonton with that solid backup goalie.
All three of the above goalies make sense for the Oilers depending on what they are looking for. With Khabibulin on the way out, the Oilers will need to sign at least one goalie, but I expect they’ll end up getting two. Craig MacTavish talked about it, its an area of need for this team, they need depth.
Barons Quick Hits:
* The Oklahoma City Barons regained the series lead in their second round match-up with the Texas Stars on Monday night. The Barons blanked the Stars 4-0, and were backed by a 30 save shut-out by Yann Danis. Toni Rajala, Anton Lander, Marc Arcobello and CJ Stretch all scored for the Barons, who now lead the best-of-seven set two games to one.
* The Barons also got some reinforcements on Monday. Three Edmonton Oil Kings players, and Oilers prospects, were assigned to the Barons on amateur tryout contracts. They are defenders David Musil and Martin Gernat, and forward Travis Ewanyk.
* The Barons host game four on Wednesday night, and look to get a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game five is also in OKC, and that’ll be played on Thursday night. I’ll have all the updates on OKC’s playoff run!
Moving on from free agent targets, I’ll be back tomorrow looking at a few forwards that could be trade targets this off-season for the Oilers. Be sure to follow me on twitter @Alex_Thomas14!
Last night history was made at the TD Banknorth Garden. Actually, that’s an understatement. The on-again/off-again schizophrenic Boston Bruins came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period, in the series deciding game against the gritty Toronto Maple Leafs, and won 5-4 in overtime. It’s the first time any team won a Game 7 while trailing by 3 goals in the third. It’s the best comeback ever! Defending Selke winner Patrice Bergeron ended the game with his second tally of the night. The game was epic and had all the drama you come to expect from this group of B’s. In fact, you know it’s a big game when ESPN decides to kick off Sports Center with it instead of showing a bunch of guys dunking basketballs.
This is hands down one of the biggest comebacks in Boston sports history. For those of you who went for the exits after Kadri made it 4-1, I can’t say I blame you. I flipped over to the Rangers game and started bouncing a tennis ball with my two dogs. The words “Thank you, Seguin” which were chanted from every square inch of the Air Canada Center crept into my head as I was once again seeing former Phil Kessel vastly outplay Tyler Seguin.
We were this close to blowing it all up. Despair was in the air. We were on the brink. The Stanley Cup win in 2011 is the outlier on Coach Julien’s resume. The 2013-2014 Bruins were going to be different. It had to be. Back to back playoff one and done just doesn’t sit well with Bruins Nation. The core, which upper management obviously is smitten with, would have to change.
Then, we got a spark. A goal by Horton to make it 4-2. Regular season whipping boy Nathan Horton would not be stopped. He wouldn’t accept anything but a win. Horton looked to be on his way out of town after a lackluster regular season. Much like Michael Ryder during the cup run, he might still be wearing another uniform next year, but for a different reason than you might think. Instead of being allowed to walk because of lack of performance, his playoff run most likely priced him out of Boston, especially with the salary cap going down.
With the goalie pulled, the other regular season underachieving first liner Milan Lucic put one in. Down by just one, Julien smartly called a time out.
Then, it was time for Patrice Bergeron to shine. The elder statesman of the Bruins scored the game-tying goal with Tuukka Rask pulled for the second time, and then the game-winning goal at 6:05 of the overtime period. It’s the second playoff OT winner of his career, and the biggest goal since his cup clincher in Game 7 against Roberto Luongo in the Vancouver series.
The Bruins won. Toronto choked, and history was made. This win was an all timer. Bring on the next round. The Bruins will be playing the New York Rangers in their second consecutive Original Six match-up of the 2013 playoffs. Hopefully the reset button has been pressed and the flip was switched for good.