It always is. Playoff hockey is simply the best hockey. The refs let the things go and call the game by feel more, calling only the obvious penalties, and the players respond in kind by playing to the utmost of their talents, exhausting their bodies every night.
So, yeah, Lebron James can do some amazing things, and Steph' Curry makes shots no one else ever thought to try, with ease ( the three point line is at 22 feet. He regularly shoots from 6-10 feet further out, and makes it at a higher % than Lebron makes threes. Amazing ). There are gamechangers in every sport, and while the current crop of them take their shot at the Cup in the next week or so, the rest of us start thinking about the ones available just by picking them, or by throwing big piles of money at them.
We'll get to those two areas in a sec, but a word on the trade that got everyone all riled up last week. I am not going to rehash the whole thing, or tell you Eric Gudbranson is one kind of player or another. That is for when they get to the "actually playing the games now" part of how a GM goes about improving his team when he finishes out of the playoffs. Personally, I like how Jim Benning identified a need ( ask any Canuck follower what the team needed, and it was a big, right handed defender that makes the team harder to play against ) and got in there early. It is not like a player of his pedigree would have gotten less on the open market, and he filled a need. That's a good thing, right ? ( Plus. take the time to listen to this guy here. Talk of "future captain" makes me feel better about those upset because this wasn't an "analytics trade". ) I feel better about this player every day, honestly. I mean, he has Willie Mitchell's stamp of approval!
Gamechangers in waiting:
The NHL Draft in Buffalo looks to be following a few story lines. Patrik Laine is closing the gap to Auston Mathews, and that gives the Leafs a sorta kinda decision at the top of the draft. Unless the Jets are all in on Jesse Puljujarvi, they will take the other guy in that top of the ticket, and the Blue Jackets will take Jesse. That leads to the....
The Tkachuk or Dubois Question
The Oilers, the other losers in the Draft Lottery, get to decide the answer to this one, and it is an interesting narrative going into Buffalo, as both players could potentially benefit either team, and as it is possible ( more in the Oilers case than ours, though you never know when Trader Jim is going to come out and play ) that there could be some movement and drama in this draft.
There is the Big Winger, Keith Tkachuck, not so little boy Mathew, whose rollicking game belied soft hands and a nose for the net. Playing on the top line in the CHL with the London Knights ( he scored the game winner in the Memorial Cup ) his game is said to be just like dad's. That is a very good thing if you are looking for a power forward. If Peter Chiarelli decides that is what he wants, this is a player who is perfectly suited to the big burly game in the Western Conference.
For the Canucks, Pierre Luc Dubois might be the better fit. Listed as a LW-er on Bob McKenzie's April 27th rankings,he projects as a #1 centre. Although I personally think their current contracts are not the last ones with the Canuck organization, the Sedins are getting older, and a succession plan for that position would be the way I would go. Although if the Oilers move RNH, it will be because they are taking him. Oh yeah, and there are persistent rumours that the Canadiens would like to trade up for this very player. Add that into the mix, with potentially either one of the teams being pliable ( though I think with the Gudbranson trade, that the "trade down to get a defenseman" narrative becomes a little less urgent ), and it looks like the NHL Draft is going to be must see viewing.
The dark horse is Logan Brown. As a big ( 6'6", 220 lbs ) centre, he fills a need. The thing with him is, he was a second half riser, as he started to score more. According to this story, it had to do with him having more confidence in his shot, as he started to score more. The story says he would be the "consolation prize for the Habs at nine. Can you say, "trade down"?
Big Piles of Money To Dive Into If You Just Pick Us
Of course, the draft is exciting, but a week later ( July 1st ) comes that time when folks actually call in sick to see what big contracts the teams they cheer for will be signing. For the Canucks, there is , depending on whether you buy out Alexandre Burrows, ( and because of the way that contract was done, it is really only about 2 million-ish of a Cap savingsif you do ) enough money for one top flight free agent, or two decent ones. According to CapFriendly, we have about 9.5 million to spend, and a few RFA's ( Etem, Baertschi, Vey, Pedan, and Zalewski, and we'll see how many of those, apart from the first two, will be signed. ) to sign. So, who do we want from the guys looking to cash in ? And do they want us?
In this market, there is also the RFA who might be available by trade ( how Nashville got Johansen ) , but let's just focus on the UFAs for now. There are a couple who are bonafide stars in Steven Stamkos and David Backes, but both of those guys have questions. With Stamkos, it is the question of his health. He did come back, but blood clots and the reverberations from it can be dangerous. Chris Bosh, for instance, is still not playing in the NBA again, and may never play again, because of blood clots. I am not saying one is the other, but a person having those kinds of challenges might not want to tempt fate by signing with one of the teams that continually is near the top in air miles, a potential risk factor in some cases. Again. Stamkos may be just fine. First and foremost, apart from the sport, I wish him the best health. But it is a question.
With Backes ( Stamkos too ) it is the fact that he really does want to remain a Blue. Armstrong is saying the things a GM does when he is trying to "hometown discount". So it depends on how much money each one of those guys value themselves at. Obviously, Stamkos would be the top dollar guy. Backes might come in around 6 millionish. Luke Fox at Sportsnet put a decent list here. Names like Kyle Okposo ( yes please, though I have no idea what dollar he signs for. He made 2.8 last year, and wants 7 million ) Milan Lucic ( 7 million-ish? ) and Andrew Ladd ( initial ask, at 30, was 6 years and 41 million ) abound.
Of course, there is the Swedish National Team linemate of the Sedin Twins, Loui Eriksson, who is coming off a great season in Boston, and is going to be pursued by lots of teams besides the Canucks. There is Mickael Boeddker, ( who, as the Fox story quotes, is not an "analytics darling" ) the youngest at 26 years old on the top flight free agent market. How about Jiri Hudler ? Maybe Eric Staal ? He made 8.25 last year. No way he makes that this year.
On the back end, the Canucks are still talking to Dam Hamhuis, but if they decide to spend some Cap back there, players ( at varying degrees of dollars needed to sign,of course ), there is Keith Yandle, Brian Campbell, and Last year's top shot blocker, Kris Russell. And, I know it is the longest of shots, and probably why Sportsnet did not include him on their list ( TSN did here ), but Brent Seabrook is a free agent too !
All those guys are going to want to pick their landing spot. That determination seems to be made one of two ways. Some just makes sure it is where the wife wants to go ( happy wife, happy life ), and leave it at that. Of course, even the wife can be swayed if the team adds on years or dollars that they probably should not have to land that player.
Others will want to go to get more ice time, or because of how familiar they are with players on that team. ( Loui Eriksson here in Vancouver, for instance ). And, of course, for others, it is purely a mercenary transaction, and how much money are you going to give me? The ones that are about more than the $$$'s are the ones you want. Though, as long as the mercenary plays up to the dollars, who cares, right ? ;-)
There you go. Our Nucks Misconduct crew will be breaking it down on these players and others in the coming weeks. Remember, this is the best time. No one has had a six game losing streak yet, and rosterbation and the discussions derived from it are always fun. The Canucks are ( as soon as the playoffs are over ) in a 30 way tie for first !