Fight night on ice, a 32nd team, and records galore, the 2021 NHL regular season hasn’t been boring. None the less, the blog’s creator Justin Minckley has received questions on different topics from his Ottawa Senators to the ire of Tom Wilson. This is for Justin to answer questions and bring objectivity to hockey topics people are looking for.
First, let’s start with what happened Wednesday with fight night in Madison Square Garden. Six fights in less than five minutes. Your thoughts on these past two games between the Rangers and Capitals, and where we go from here.
We won’t remember the final scores years from now. We’ll remember the fights and how the league has dealt ineptly with Tom Wilson. Wilson should be banned from the NHL for what he’s pulled off. When sports broadcaster Kenny Albert says, “Wilson should’ve been suspended multiple games”, that magnifies how NHL executives failed to de-escalate malicious contact.
So where do we go from here? Don’t get me wrong, Pavel Buchnevich deserves a suspension too for cross-checking Anthony Mantha’s face, but natural fights and physicality are a part of the game even if it’s not as common as it was ten years ago. Sometimes you need that spark to get back in a game. There’s a difference between Barclay Goodrow knocking someone out because his team is down by three versus calculated targeting.
That brings me to another question: is what the Rangers president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton said about the NHL not doing enough to Wilson a reason why owner James Dolan fired them?
This is a very good question because it’s not being covered as much by media outlets and it should be. I think it is a reason. Dolan doesn’t want to fight Gary Bettman right now especially with playoffs coming. That would be a bad business move. The Tom Wilson issue has to be addressed by the league itself, then by teams if the response isn’t good enough.
I do think there are more issues than just this, and it has a certain amount of roster moves attached. Fans are still mad Henrik Lundqvist got the shaft, while Alexandar Georgiev had his no-trade clause revoked last year. It seemed they had no idea who would be starting in net besides Igor Shesterkin. Those moves have made the progress of getting Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin cancel out.
Speaking of legendary goaltenders, unfortunately with what happened Wednesday, it hasn’t been talked much how Marc-Andre Fleury is officially third all-time in wins by an NHL goaltender, passing Roberto Luongo. How great is Fleury when we’re talking about all-time best goalies?
Decades from now we’re going to look back and ask (if we aren’t now) how Sergei Bobrovsky won multiple Vezina awards but Marc-Andre Fleury hadn’t in two decades. Fleury will be remembered as Mr. Golden Knight himself who drew people to T-Mobile Arena. He’s made hockey popular in the state of Nevada, an accomplishment seldom talked about.
He’s top-five all time, and can cement himself as top three if he can surpass Roy’s win total before retiring. Treasure every game this man plays.
As we know, the Vegas Golden Knights have been a top team in the NHL since their league debut. They have a great shot of making the Stanley Cup Finals. Who can go a best of seven series against and top them?
A lot of people will throw the Colorado Avalanche here because of division rivalry and how they’ve gone punch-for-punch with Vegas when they’ve played. I think the Avs could face injury problems if they play a best of seven late May/early June. If I had to pick one or two teams, they’re both in the Central division. The Tampa Bay Lightning will get my vote of confidence because they’re the reigning Cup champions. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos coming back will have Vegas’ first two lines on their heels. Tampa’s got the best third line in the NHL with Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and the aforementioned Goodrow. They do everything to perfection they don’t need coach Jon Cooper to motivate them. You don’t hear of that of a third line in this league.
I do think Carolina could do the same because this is the best chance they have. With Andrei Svechnikov’s future in doubt after this season, no playoffs against the Boston Bruins and Petr Mrazek back at full health, the Hurricanes will be the hardest team to play against.
You brought up Svechnikov and since he’s a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of they year, he’ll be eligible to be targeted by the Seattle Kraken, as could Coach Rod Brind’Amour since his contract expires after the season. Could the Kraken get both?
Andrei Svechnikov is the prize RFA, so I expect this to be Seattle’s first contest. They’re getting former Hurricanes play-by-play broadcaster John Forslund to call their games when they start play. While I see them prying Svech away from Carolina, it’s a new level of nasty if they take Rod away too. I don’t think the Tar Heel State will like the Kraken at all those first few years.
Let’s pivot to the Kraken targeting some Senators players. Ottawa has a load of restricted free agents entering the offseason. Who would the Kraken eye?
The difference between franchises like the Capitals and Kings decades ago was the lack of power they had coming into the league. Seattle and Vegas have the juice and rules in place to take better players, that’s what separates taking a player like Colin White v. Brady Tkachuk.
Tkachuk, Ryan Dzingel, Artem Zub, Filip Gustavsson and Drake Batherson are RFAs. Four of the five are young and are great for further development. I see Ottawa retaining most of these players, but they won’t be able to keep everyone. It’s possible the Kraken get a great player for years to come from Ottawa, which let’s be honest, who hasn’t since the Senators are a league pipeline.
Since you mentioned Gustavsson, this brings up the goalie question of who stays with Matt Murray and who gets released/unsigned after the season. Who could be let go, or more importantly, how do you view this situation?
I mean, this goes back to why Davidson and Gorton were fired in New York. They mis-managed the Lundqvist-Georgiev-Shesterkin trio and the Rangers have paid for it on ice. I have no problem with the five goalies the Senators have put out this season. In fact, I think it’s the best problem and best depth a team could have. Both teams in Alberta would kill for more than one good goalie, and the Leafs and Canadiens have been trying to catch up depth-wise since Anton Forsberg became the fifth goalie to start.
The Senators have more goalie prospects such as the 6’7(!) Mads Sogaard, so I believe general manager Pierre Dorian has a great idea of when to move on from some of the goalies already on the roster. If there’s an odd man out, it’s Marcus Hogberg for multiple reasons: he tends to start slow and makes a few gaffes each game, even if he plays lights out. Outside of him, I don’t think the Senators should let anyone else go. They believe in Murray and extended Forsberg, but I think Gustavsson and Joey Daccord are too valuable to let go, especially if the former is taken by the Kraken.
Finally, the Senators have the third best record in the North division since February 12th. When do you think this team will be a true threat in the league?
They’ve proven they can hang with all but one of the Canadian teams, but we need to see how this roster plays against the American teams, especially those who are in the middle like Philadelphia, Dallas and Arizona. I think this team needs one more year before they make the playoffs. There’s a lot of guys to re-sign, but there’s more to tweak with the roster especially skilled veteran presence.