Ending the Crosby-Toews Debate

crosby+toewsI’ve heard many people suggest that that Jonathan Toews is a better hockey player than Sidney Crosby. Not more talented, perhaps, but they usually start with the premise of “if you could pick one player to build a team around”, “yatta-yatta-yatta…”, it has to be Toews. Continue reading

2014 Jets Training Camp

L-R: Kevin Cheveldayoff, Craig Heisinger, Mark Hillier, Nikolaj Ehlers, Marcel Comeau, Larry Simmons, Paul Maurice, Mark Chipman
L-R: Kevin Cheveldayoff, Craig Heisinger, Mark Hillier, Nikolaj Ehlers, Marcel Comeau, Larry Simmons, Paul Maurice, Mark Chipman

The Winnipeg Jets kick off training camp tomorrow – Thursday, September 18. While it will be exciting to see how the potential young stars stack up against the vets – namely, Nik Ehlers and Josh Morrissey – the battle for roster spots may be less compelling. Continue reading

I Disagree, Mr. Lawless

1st overall pick in 1993, Alexandre Daigle
1st overall pick in 1993, Alexandre Daigle

 

Gary Lawless recently wrote an article in the Free Press named “Youth Must be Served”. As you might infer from the title, the idea is that the Jets should put some young players in their lineup this fall, because the young guns offer more than some of the veterans who currently fill the bottom of the roster. (Ok, let’s see, young guys, lots of talent, fun to watch – sounds plausible so far). He further justifies the point by saying that the team isn’t very good anyway, so “why not bring in some youth and let them learn on the job”. (Yeah, I guess so…you gotta learn somewhere, right?) Let me tell you why I think it’s a bad idea. Actually, let me show you why I think it’s the worst idea.

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Wings' rookie sensation, Gustav Nyquist
Wings’ rookie sensation, Gustav Nyquist

 

There are two types of organizations – those who rush their players, and those who don’t. Ken Holland and his group in Detroit are ‘the good guys’. Gustav Nyquist just finished his rookie season with Detroit, where he scored 28 goals in only 57 games. In fact, he was on pace for 40 goals in – let me say it again – his rookie season, had he played in all 82. Interestingly, he was already 24 years old when the season started, and was playing with the poise and maturity that one might expect from a player who had been clawing to get to the NHL for a number of years.

I’m a fervent believer in the Detroit Red Wings model of development – the one in which you actually give players time to develop, until they clearly demonstrate that they’re too good for their previous level, whether it be junior, college, Europe, or the AHL. For the Wings, that usual entails leaving them in junior till age 20 (21 if coming from College or Europe), and then a one or two year stint in the AHL. Most Red Wings don’t make the squad full-time before they’re at least 21, and the last time a teenager played a full season in Detroit was in 1991, when Keith Primeau made the team as a 19-year-old. Nick Lidstrom – almost universally recognized as one of the top-5 defencemen of all-time – didn’t play for Detroit until he was 21. Henrik Zetterberg came over from Sweden at 22, while Pavel Datsyuk didn’t leave Russia till 23. The Red Wings’ current stud defenceman – Nik Kronwall – didn’t make the roster as a full-time NHL’er till he was 24. In the past 20 years, Detroit has absolutely set the standard for player development in the NHL. No other team lets their prospects “ferment” in the minor leagues for as long as Detroit, and perhaps there’s a method to the madness. Continue reading

2014 NHL Free Agency Wrap-Up

Tampa GM Steve Yzerman and his club were one of the big wingers in Free Agency

Tampa GM Steve Yzerman and his club were one of the big winners in Free Agency

The NHL’s Free Agency period is a time where mistakes happen. Teams get overzealous, hoping that a big catch will turn their team’s fortunes. Over the years, the poster child for bad free agent signings has been the New York Rangers, who have shelled out big-money, long-term deals to players like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, and Brad Richards. In the end, Gomez was traded, Drury retired before the contract finished, and the other two were bought out.  Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets’ 2014 NHL Draft

Nikolaj Ehlers - Jets'  1st round pick in 2014

Nikolaj Ehlers – The Jets’
1st round pick in 2014

Nikolaj Ehlers (F) – 1st round, 9th overall

After Jacob Trouba, this could be the best draft pick the Jets have ever made. He’s instantly the most skilled player in the entire organization, and draws comparisons to Patrick Kane based on his build, skating, and offensive arsenal. Like Kane, he’s normal in height – nearly 6′ – but very slim at just over 160 lbs; his skating is quick and elusive, and like Kane, he’s just as good a finisher as he is a play-maker. Given more height and weight, he might have been in the running for the first overall pick. But instead the Jets were able to nab him at 9, and add a potential 1st line winger who will beautifully complement Mark Scheifele down the road. No one should expect Ehlers to play in the NHL this year or next – he needs a few years to fill out – but here’s hoping that he gets a taste of the AHL playoffs at the end of his junior season, just like Josh Morrissey did this past year.

Check out his sweet stats here

Continue reading

Free Agency Special: 2014 UFA’s

PaulStastny1

Paul Stastny will have this reaction after he cashes in on July 1

Every July 1, NHL General Managers fall over each other to shell out big-ticket deals to mid-ticket players. This has led to countless cap disasters, with recent buy-out victims like Brad Richards, Ed Jovonovski, and Ville Leino being perfect examples. (Though nothing beats the David Clarkson contract in terms of bad value). In general, the biggest overpays tend to be for defencemen and centres, because they’re generally in shortest supply.

What’s worse is that many of these mid-level players are also past their prime. In general, most players peak in their mid-to-late 20’s. But what you’ll find is that most of the free agents are well into their 30’s. In fact, if you like at the UFA list, you’ll see that among the top-20 previous salary earners, only 1 of them (Paul Stastny) is under 30. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any bargains further down the list, but it’s safe  to say that there will be more bad contracts given out on Tuesday than good ones. Continue reading

2014 NHL Draft: Top-10 Prospects & Mock Draft

Sam Bennett of the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs

Sam Bennett of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs

The draft is upon us. Here are my top-10 prospects and a mock draft. Check out my other draft posts from this week here and here. Continue reading

The Winnipeg Jets and the NHL Draft

A Good Draft Pick

A Good Draft Pick

Check out another recent draft post here

The Winnipeg Jets are killing the draft. Killing it.

Everyone knows about Trouba, Scheifele, and Morrissey – all of whom look like great picks so far – but the Jets aren’t get enough credit for the picks they’re making outside of the first round. Whether it’s Adam Lowry – a potential power forward who’s easily the most hyped non-first rounder in the system – Scott Kosmachuk – a big-time scorer in the OHL – Nic Petan – one of the most skilled players in the entire 2013 draft (at pick #43!), or Andrew Copp – a 4th round pick they plucked from Michigan State who has the makings of a reliable NHLer – the young talent they’re assembling is impressive. I haven’t even mentioned Connor Hellebuyck, who was named NCAA goaltender of the year after posting absurd numbers that wouldn’t even make sense to you if I posted them. (Hockey db it, seriously, it’s stupid how good he was). Continue reading