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The Good, the Bad and the Chia! Part 2 - The Bad

Buffalo Sabres v Florida Panthers
46 points and in the NHL. I loved 2016/2017!
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last time I talked about the good I saw for the upcoming season. Lots of rainbows and sunshine. Today...

The Bad

In hockey, there are massive changes year to year and there are 30 other teams desperately trying to improve (except Ottawa). I remember that glorious 2016/2017 season as well as anyone. Games starting at 10pm EST, staying up till 1:20 to watch OT and cheer. Coming to work with bags under my eyes. Drai carried a line and was so dominant. Klefbom was a Norris worthy player. Talbot was one of the best goalies in the world. We came really close to getting to the finals. It was an amazing 3 weeks. I still hate the Ducks!

Here is the thing. That was now 2 seasons ago. Basing any success this season on what happened 2 seasons ago for a span of 3 weeks is madness. Here are a few other things that happened in 2016/2017:

  • Jaromir Jagr was the 4th leading scorer of the Florida Panther with 46 points (RNH got 48 last year for comparison).
  • The Vegas Golden Knights were not in the NHL.
  • The Devils, Avs, Kings and Flyers all missed the playoffs.
  • Claude Giroux and Taylor Hall had very average seasons. In fact, most were saying Giroux was on the decline (He was 28 years old and got 58 points). Hall got 53 points that season and we made the playoffs and a LOT of people were writing how we clearly won the trade and Chia was a genius (I’m not making this up, this happened everywhere including on the Copper and Blue). Giroux got 102 points last season, Hall got 93 and a Hart Trophy for good measure and the Oil finished with 78 points.
  • Ottawa was in the Eastern finals with this amazing franchise Defenceman named Karlson leading the way.
  • Sekera was our best Dman.
  • Lucic had 50 points.
  • Peter Chiarellie was nominated for GM of the year.

A lot can change in 2 years, no?

While it is true that our 3 good D men (and 3 good forwards) should improve simply by being healthy and 1 year older, it could also be pointed out that Russel, Lucic, Talbot, Koskinen and Sekera are also a year older and North of whatever line you want to say is athletic peak. Also, it’s called a ‘Top 4’ and a ‘Top 6’ for a reason... we only have 6 players that qualify for those 10 roles. Throw in an injury and our very delicate house of cards comes crumbling down.

It could be argued that Nurse effectively replaced Sekera last season. So who replaced Nurse?

Speaking of age. Koskinen (30), Montoya (33) and Talbot (31) are all North of that line as well. Koskinen has no success at NHL level (yet managed an overpay and a NMC). Montoya is clearly on decline and Talbot is a big question mark. For instance, he is 31 and has not played 300 games in the NHL yet. Also, we have no goalie lined up for next year (all 3 guys contracts expire this season) and no emerging goalie that seems ready for the show to start next season. From the presser, my understanding is that one of Talbot or Koskinen are our goalie of the future. Is there a 4th guy I’m missing somewhere? Early 20’s, near ready for the NHL? Calvin Pickard was available for free this morning, but we didn’t want him.

We play in the Pacific Division with the Ducks, Coyotes, Flames, Kings, Sharks, Canucks and Golden Knights. Only 3 of those teams go to the playoffs so we have to be better than 5 of those teams. There is also the Wildcard option. The Ducks have a D I dream of and a potential Vezina goalie. The Flames signed Neal to improve an already strong Top 6. The Kings got Kovalchuk. The Sharks got Karlson to play D with Brent Burns and Vlasic. The Golden Knights picked up Stastny and Pacioretty. Our offseason acquisitions were Reider and Brodziak. We’re also very close to signing Chiason and Garrison. Most of our rivals have improved over the offseason. Even if you disagree with my assessment of who got better - who do you see us better than?

I see:

Sharks, Knights, Ducks, Kings, Flames, Oilers, Canucks and Coyotes. It would not surprise me at all if Phoenix or Vancouver had very good seasons as they have a lot of good pieces in place.

If you haven’t had a chance. Go look at our schedule for October. It is the most brutal opening schedule I have ever seen (those first 2 games are in Europe).

Once the season was over last year (January). Some things did improve. Rattie had a nice run. So did Aberg (who is now gone). Our PK improved. The problem is that it was ‘garbage season’. I don’t recommend using stats from games that meant nothing as indicators. When it mattered a lot of teams were beating us with their backups, we routinely let in the first goal and our special teams were horrific.

The new assistants. Have you ever heard of a player winning the cup and immediately thanking the assistants? There is a reason they are the last guys to be given the cup to carry. The head of the snake (Chia and McClellan) is still very much there. An assistant only has as much pull as his coach allows him.

Preseason means nothing. Do you know who won the East and West in preseason last year?

The Islanders won the East with 14 points and the Oil won the West with 12 points. Neither made the playoffs. Do you know who finished near the bottom of the preseason rankings with 4 points? The Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. Here is the link to last years preseason.

Coming into a new season with the hope of new assistants, a KHL backup, Tobias Reider, Kyle Brodziak, ‘everyone will rebound’ and ‘some of our players are a year older’ making sweeping change (eg. close to 25 more points) is definitely a highly optimistic view that I don’t seem capable of sharing.