“Paddy’s Impressions” are the random musings of what is going on around the National Hockey League according to one misinformed and misguided Irishman who’s still trying to get to grips with the game while living in the biggest hockey market in the free world.
It’s been a while! Howya doin? While the frequency of writing has tailed off a bit, the level of frantic hockey-watching has shown no such downturn. As we approach the holiday period, the season has well and truly began to take shape.
Edmonton: Suck Town, USA
Oh, Edmonton. Woe is thee.
If there’s one thing the Oilers can do better than anyone else, it’s tank. Continuously. Forever. And then some more. Three first overall draft picks in a row, followed by another one and a half inept seasons? That’s impressive tanking. Of course, the problem with tanking that effectively is that eventually you need to come out the other side of it a better team. Instead what we’re witnessing now is season after season of terrible hockey punctuated by an unforgiving Western Conference schedule that is sticking the knife in repeatedly. Six years after tanking, the Oilers are now in pole position for Conor McDavid, the prized of prized possessions.
Last week, they fired beleaguered head coach Dallas Eakins, a competent chap who clearly was the wrong man at the wrong time. Craigy McT, Oilers legend and current GM, has decided to dip his toe behind the bench alongside their minor league head coach on an interim basis to get a closer look at the steaming pile of crap he has inherited and assembled. Conversation has shifted towards trade talks, with one notable rumour being Taylor Hall deemed “un-coachable”, much to delight of the circling Boston Bruins, but the general consensus is that no major changes are coming with their trade assets unless someone blows their socks off with an offer. Inexplicably, Edmonton are now positioning themselves for another top draft pick…and McDavid/Eichal should be very, very afraid.
What’s up with Boston?
A team with the pedigree of Boston probably shouldn’t need to panic, but with a couple of months of sub-par performances under the belt, and one of their key players beginning to show his age, there are some concerns that the Boston Bruins as they currently stand are going to struggle to make an impact in the East like most pre-season prognosticators thought they would. Tyler Seguin’s rebirth in Dallas is beginning to make GM Peter Chiarelli look bad, and the effective salary-dump of Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders has not only dropped their defensive depth, but has elevated a fellow Eastern to boot. Principally, it’s the goal scoring that has taken a hit. Being solid at the back-end stands to teams in the post-season, but ultimately the Bruins are amongst the lower scorers in their conference and need to think about this going forward. Rumours are Taylor Hall is in play and the Bruins are interested, but you get the feeling their one top player away from propelling themselves into cup contention again for another run.
No longer on an Island
The Islanders stayed under the radar this off-season as they prepared for their last season on Long Island before moving to Brooklyn, and they’ve somehow managed to position their franchise remarkably well in so doing. The pundits more astute than I were smitten with the additions of Kulemin and Grabovski (two former Leafs that I am rather familiar with) while Leddy and Boychuk at the back-end significantly upgraded a blue-line that now calls itself one of the strongest in the East. Their excellent home record has them where they are today, which may be troubling considering it wont be their home for much longer, and they’re beginning to look like the surprise package of the 2014-15 season. Still a long way to go, but they’ve got a solid core that would be a difficult out if they make the post season.
TnT: Tyler & Tarasenko
Two hyped young stars of the 2010 NHL Draft Class have risen to the top in the 2014 part of the 14/15 season: Tyler Seguin of the Stars and Vladamir Tarasenko of the Blues. As if the Western Conference didn’t have enough star power, why not add these two players in the list who are likely to cause havoc from the mid-West onwards for the next ten to fifteen years. Seguin’s reputation in Boston lead him to Dallas where concerns for unmatched potential were very legitimate, but it seems the trade was the reality check he needed in order to flourish. He now stands with 25 goals, five ahead of his nearest rival, and is legitimately in the conversation for MVP as we approach the halfway point of the season. Vlady Tarasenko has also landed on his feet with his performances in a St. Louis Blues team that are well able to support his push for top team honours this year, and his 20 goals this season keeps him in touching distance with Seguin as he is preparing to take his team deep in to the play-offs. Top draft pick that year Taylor Hall, please see above.
That’s all for now folks, enjoy the holidays and watch some hockey!