Watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s easy to see why some teams are perennial cup chasers and why the rest chase the draft lottery. If you look at the team’s that didn’t make the playoffs this year, you end up with a lot of the same teams from years past. Organizations like the Oilers, Sabres, Hurricanes, Coyotes, Leafs and others barely sniffed the playoffs. Fans in these cities never expect to win… Really when’s the last time Toronto fans felt good about their team?
Now, you can always learn from failing teams, the mistakes are easy to spot. Poor hiring, horrible scouting, and bad leadership. What about non-playoff teams that should be still playing? The Bruins, Canadiens, Avalanche, and Senators all held playoff spots this season. We know what happened up in Montreal, tough to win without Vezina winner Carey Price. The Habs front office is taking the lets move on and forget about it approach. The Owner and GM have already announced Michelle Therrien will be back, and they expect Price to be 100% healthy. Even though you could argue Montreal should’ve fired their coach, you can understand their patient attitude. If a coach doesn’t have his star goalie, than its tough for fun to win. I accept that.
So how about that Pacific Division? Talk about coming down to the wire. Tomorrow the Kings will host the Ducks for the division. Both tied at 99 points, the NHL couldn’t have scripted it any better. Both teams are desperate to win the Pacific, because each would rather play Nashville over San Jose. Playing a divisional foe in the first round is always a challenge. Remember two years ago, the Kings on the brink of elimination, won four straight against the Sharks. Then beat the Ducks in seven on their way to their second Cup. It doesn’t matter what division, playing a rival isn’t ideal. The Ducks, Kings and Sharks are all capable of succeeding in the playoffs. All three organizations know that their first round matchup might be the toughest.
Obviously, we know how good the top Pacific teams are but what about the lower tier. How good can the Flames, Canucks, Oilers and Coyotes be? Sure we see young skilled talent in Calgary, Edmonton and Arizona but will they compete? That’s a question The Creator should ask as well. Can the bottom four rosters ever win in a top heavy division? I don’t think so. John Gaudreau is an amazing talent, but who protects him? And I’m not talking about Marty McSorley, goon protection crap. I’m talking about giving Johnny space on the ice to use his speed, and skill. There’s a rumor Milan Lucic may be interested in Calgary. He’d be the perfect line mate for Gaudreau. Lucic can score, and he scare the bleep out of opposing players. The power forward would automatically make Calgary more physical. Something they’re not known for. Same goes for Edmonton. Connor McDavid may take over the league, but he’s gonna need help. Issues The Creator might have when he drafts a top three pick. You need to protect your assets Bill.
When Las Vegas drops the puck in 2017 (assuming an announcement comes “some time in June”), the rest of the Pacific Division will be licking their chops. Established teams will be looking to pad points against the new team. That’s a normal process that any expansion team goes through. Call it growing pains. How can Creator and Co. prevent this? Well, let’s be honest it’s gonna be tough. Top NHL teams have a hard time figuring out Jonathan Quick, a roster of unprotected players probably won’t do any better. It’ll also be tough keeping Scorey Perry, and Jumbo Joe off the score board.
Maybe there is a way Las Vegas could be competitive. The Creator’s staff should design a roster strictly built for the Pacific Division. That means defense, size and physicality. Chances are the starting goaltender won’t be a top ten goaltender, so he’ll need help. Building a blue line with experience and size can help Las Vegas stay competitive. Top Centers Ryan Getzlaf, and Anze Kopitar take over games offensively, a strong backend can keep the score close. I know he’s not popular, but a guy like Dennis Wideman could be unprotected and fit well in Las Vegas. A Defenseman that could be unprotected and would be a dream come true for Las Vegas is the Duck’s Simon Despres. The 6’4, 24 year-old blueliner might be a victim of Anaheims crowded backend. The Ducks will be upset letting Despres go and could be part of the Las Vegas’ first pairing. Who knows maybe Shea Weber could be available. Size and defense.
I could do this all day, Dustin Brown, Jakob Silfverberg, maybe even Rick Nash could be left unprotected. All three forwards would fit perfectly. Silfverberg is part of the most effective checking line in hockey. Nash could provide offense, and size. Brown, well, you know how I feel about him. It’s not about the score sheet for Dusty. At average NHL size, the Kings Captain plays with more physicality than anyone in the league. He leads the box score in hits annually, and is a two-time Cup winning Captain. He’s a pretty good leader. The Creator, fans, and the league want Las Vegas to compete right away. Building around the division is one way to achieve that goal.
We have a date for the “secret” meeting that will take place with NHL owners to discuss expansion and hopefully (doubtfully) lead to an announcement on January 30th or 31st. But that’s just the beginning of what was talked about on this episode. Hosted by Ken Boehlke.
The first step to our mock draft is to establish the list of players that will be available for the Las Vegas franchise to draft. To do this, we decided to have a blogger from each team represent their own franchise and select the players that will be protected from the Mock Expansion Draft available player pool. To see the rules which were followed to protect players, hit this link.
Next up, we have the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are being represented by Allan Mitchell from LoweTide.ca.
I kept all of the obvious players (basically the No. 1 overalls and the top end youngsters). I kept only a few veterans, like Talbot who could solve the goalie issue for the rest of the decade. Sekera is expensive but the Oilers have so little on defense and he’s miles better than Mark Fayne and the other expensive defensemen. Forwards are all young but Pouliot, and he’s rugged with an edge and can play with skill. There are some inexpensive forwards here (Lander, Slepyshev) and that’s going to be important for the Oilers when McDavid’s second contract kicks in.