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I would go on at length about my disgust with the defensive effort Saturday against the WORST TEAM IN THE NHL, but I am actively trying to curb my penchant for vulgarity. It was unacceptable. And we've had far too many of these games this season, folks. It's games like this that are causing me to question this team's ability to advance in the postseason, to be honest. Let's see if they respond tonight against Nashville.
Ryan Kesler did a great job of summing up the team's effort Saturday afternoon in Denver:
"We played like shit for 40 minutes. We gave them everything they got with turnovers and miscommunication and not getting the puck out. It was shit."
Good. I like that this team's still, at least when it comes to the players, straight up and accountable in situations where they lose games they have no business losing. Tonight's challenge is a little bit tougher as they take on the Nashville Predators in the first of a back to back, with tomorrow night's game in St Louis against the Blues. And what a curious case those Predators are. Many expected them, even with the loss of Ryan Suter on the back end to still be in the mix in the West, yet they're in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009. I spoke to our pal Dirk Hoag over at On The Forecheck about the Preds and their struggles this season:
1- What the heck happened to the Predators this year?
Some will tell you that injuries and bad puck luck conspired to fell the Preds, but the Ryan Suter departure hurt more than most would care to admit. Roman Josi has been tremendous as a 2nd-year defenseman playing alongside Weber, but back-filling Josi's spot on the 2nd pair has been a major challenge. That led to some pretty awful puck-possession results, and unlike last season, Nashville's isn't enjoying sky-high shooting percentages to make up for that, exposing an underwhelming group of forwards.
2- Do you think that potentially missing the playoffs could cause management to make a coaching change?
I don't see any chance of that - given the talent he's had to work with, Barry Trotz has done his best to keep the team competitive. Early on, for example, he effectively worked with 7 D to make the most out of guys who could kill penalties or man the power play, but not enough of whom could do both.
3- What do you think the team needs to do to get back to being the team many thought could contend for the Cup just a couple years ago?
They'll need to make some tough decisions on players who are well-liked by the organization, but simply don't move the needle, like Brandon Yip, Matt Halischuk & Nick Spaling. It's nice to have a couple blue-collar guys on your roster to provide some energy and kill penalties, but 5 or 6 is too many. There is some young talent which has the potential to lead the way (Taylor Beck has been impressive since being called up a few weeks ago), but the maturation process could take a little while.
4- With the ability of teams to buyout contracts this summer, anyone on your current roster you'd like to send to the airport?
I'd say Paul Gaustad, but the cost of a buyout is almost as bad as his contract - he's fine at what he does, but that deal is going to be a real boat anchor going forward. He's due $4 million for each of the next two seasons, and $3 million in 2015-16. That's way too much to pay for a PK/faceoff specialist, especially for a team that needs to live within a budget.
Cheers to Dirk for taking the time out of his day for that, and here's to them getting things turned around down in Smashville. The games can be a bit tedious, but I do like the rivalry between the teams, and I like how passionate and well-versed their fan base and media corps are. It's hard not to like those guys and gals.
A different looking set of lines again for the Canucks. They'll continue to play Jannik Hansen beside Henrik and Daniel Sedin on Line 1, while the second line will see Derek Roy between Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows. Roberto Luongo gets the start in goal against the banged-up Predators, who are coming off a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings last night. In other Canucks news, the team has sent junior prospect Frank Corrado to the Chicago Wolves now that his playoffs in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves are over.
Beans and toast...
You may have heard hoots and hollers this morning, and that likely came from an Oilers fan down the street from you waking up to discover that the team finally fired GM Steve Tambellini. That joy was tempered for many when they announced that they'll be replacing him with Craig MacTavish, and promoting former Columbus GM Scott Howson to MacTavish's former role as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. You can look at this and say that while it may be coming late, at least the Oilers are addressing concerns after a 7th straight year of missing the playoffs. You can also look at it and say that by replacing Tambellini with components that were part of the massive dysfunction in Edmonton (Tambellini fired then Head Coach MacTavish on this date 4 years ago, and this is Howson's second tour of duty in the Oilers organization), is at best a sideways move. Many believe that the problem is, and has been all along at the very top with President and former GM Kevin Lowe. Many believed that the Oilers would become the next Pittsburgh Penguins: taking consecutive #1 picks and turning their misfortunes into a Stanley Cup a few years later. What they got instead is a team with a handful of awesome forwards, average at best goaltending, and a collection of stiffs and pylons that would struggle to stay in the lineup of most NHL squads. Better days may be coming for the Edmonton Oilers and their long suffering fanbase, but they're not exactly around the corner. And while MacTavish looked good talking about the need to make 'bold moves', Kevin Lowe's comment may be this year's 'We're Going For It':
Lowe: "It's fair to say that half the general managers in the National Hockey League will trade their rosters for our roster right now."
Thought we'd throw a little love to this amazing BC band (and their drummer John Kurucz, who is a big Oilers fan). Originally based in Nanaimo and now in Vancouver, they craft some truly inspiring melodic death metal. Here's a track off their last album 'The Disconnect' as well as the band playing a medley of Slayer classics at a recent gig at Vancouver's The Media Club.
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