Illustration by Julian Yu
By Scott Rosenhek
Monday Musings is a new weekly series that I want to try out for this site. Similar to Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts,” I will talk about recent news in the hockey world and anything else that piques my interest (“anything else” will be important when the hockey news becomes sparse in the summer). Without further ado, let’s do this!
Last season, every single Canadian team missed the playoffs last year. There has always been at least one team that gave casual fans hope of bringing a Stanley Cup home to Canada for the first time since 1993. It had been 46 years since something like that has happened and it was a strange feeling for all fans north of the border.
It certainly is funny how quickly things change. Exactly one year later, not one, not two, but FIVE Canadian teams will be playing post-season hockey this year. It’s an exciting time, giving multiple lines of hope of bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Canada.
Furthermore, there are no Canadian match-ups, maximizing the chances of Canadian teams advancing out of the first round. Except, this can be where something may be missing for someone like me.
I used to love seeing old footage of the Battle of Alberta when I was younger. The days when the Flames and Oilers played with such intensity were something else. These games were competitive, hard-nosed and just flat-out fun. You did not have to pick sides as an outsider and I could just enjoy the spectacle on display.
In the East, we are missing out on a Toronto vs Montreal series. These teams do not like each other and I think they would push each other to make one heck of a series. The stories that could be written like McDavid vs Gaudreau or Matthews vs Galchenyuk would be a sight to behold, but alas we can only hope Calgary and Edmonton win to face off in the second round. Even if Toronto somehow defeats the Capitals, they would have to face the winner between the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.
At the end of this, I hope this year will be a sign of things to come for Canadian hockey. As a Canucks fans, we will be going through our trials of patience as the team hopefully rebuilds properly. Successful Canadian hockey may make that waiting all the better.
Final Thoughts on the Calder Trophy Race
When I first discussed the Calder Trophy race, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were very close. Laine had the slight edge in goals and I was leaning towards presenting him with the Calder to him if the season had ended then.
However, things have changed very much since that first Monday Musings. Patrik Laine had an untimely injury that affected the end of his season while Auston Matthews played like a man on a mission down the stretch.
Not only did Matthews leap-frog Laine in goals and points, but Auston scored 40 goals. Only three other players have done that in their rookie season at his age: Mario Lemieux, Dale Hawerchuk and Sylvain Turgeon.
If you are looking for Wayne Gretzky on that list, he did score 43 goals in his first full professional season with the Oilers. However, this was when Edmonton was still in the WHA and did not merge with the NHL yet. Sorry, Wayne.
At this point, it is difficult to make an argument against Matthews winning the Calder Trophy. With all due respect to William Nylander and Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews has just stood out the most. This future captain of the Leafs set the tone early in the season with his incredible debut.
Video from Sportsnet Canada’s YouTube Channel
The Toronto media will be certainly milking this for months, but Auston Matthews does deserve the recognition for the season he has had this year.
The Elusive 100 points/50 goals
So, to start things off, I just want to highlight the incredible increase in goals this year. There have been 112 more goals scored this year compared to last year and that has been evident by the multiple games where a team had broken double digits (I’m looking at you Columbus).
The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the charge this year with 276 goals as a team. Before we get excited, the highest scoring regular season total for a team is the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers. They had 446 goals. As we can see the league will never get to that point again if we continue to be beaten over the head with these defensive systems that suck the offense out of the game.
Wayne Gretzky had 87 goals and 205 points that season. The crazy thing: this wasn’t even the Great One’s best season. Depending on if you prefer goals or points (I prefer goals), Gretzky’s best season was arguably 1981-82, where Wayne potted 92 goals that year! There are players that don’t even get 92 goals in a career let alone one season.
The gushing over Gretzky brings to me to the title of this section. Connor McDavid is this year’s scoring leader, finishing the regular season with 100 points. This is short of Patrick Kane’s 106 point season from last year.
In terms of goals, Sidney Crosby has taken the Rocket Richard, leading the league with 44 goals. No offense to Sid, but that’s a little disappointing. There wasn’t one player this year to crest the 50-goal mark. For comparison’s sake, that 1983-84 season had 8 players with at least 50 goals scored.
Heck, Alexander Ovechkin broke the 50-goal mark and was the only player to achieve that last year. Ovechkin is a prolific goal scorer in the modern era, with eight 50+ goal seasons in his 12-year career. I will count 2012-13 because it was a Lockout-shortened season and Ovi was on pace for 54 goals.
The point I am trying to make is goals are fun to see in games. As a die-hard fan, I just want to see more of them. It makes the game more exciting and allows creative players to flourish. The problem is much of the ideas derived from coaching has stifled much of that creativity.
With the Canucks season over, there will not be a lot for me to cover in the vein of post games. Time permitting between university exams, I will try to aim for commentary pieces on news as it comes up, Canucks or hockey-wise. These pieces will be short form and act as little quick hits as we go along.
I do want to focus on a couple new things for this blog, especially since the playoffs are close around the corner. With that being said, I want to prepare playoff primers before the games begin on Wednesday. I will break down each match-up and give my honest opinion on who will win and an estimate on the number of games. I think it would be a new exercise to try since the Canucks will not be holding my attention until June.
Speaking of June, I will also be working on prospect profiles before the draft. I will be honest, from all the rankings I have seen, this draft appears to be very variable, meaning it is very difficult to predict the order.
Where the Canucks will pick is dependent on the draft lottery and the number of picks the Canucks will have in each round will depend on the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Canucks get a 1st round pick if the Sharks win the cup, so you will see where my bandwagon allegiance shall lie. Columbus owes us a compensatory pick for John Tortorella, which will be a 2nd round pick this year or next year.
Despite the variability, I will make these profiles closer to the entry draft. Unfortunately, I do not have access to mathematical algorithms to generate percentages of success. My analysis will be based on the stats available to me. These analyses will be reliant on the eye test where footage is available and a break down of stats and my best estimations of relative league strength.
As the playoffs are about to begin, things are getting exciting. Stay tuned!
Since I have grossly underestimated the amount of time it will take to do the playoff primers, I will shift focus to three series of interest: Pittsburgh vs Columbus, Ottawa vs Boston and Edmonton vs San Jose.