2015-16 NHL Season Recap – Part 2
Now we take a look at some of the worst things from this past season, past off season and current off season.
Worst of the Year
Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames
Both of these young teams on the rise made the playoffs last season but didn’t even crack the top 10 in their respective conferences. The Flames problems mostly stemmed from goaltending. But their recent trade for Brian Elliott should really help solve that problem. With Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton leading the way, this young team should be back next year and, probably, playoff bound. But Monahan will need to become a point per game player and they’ll need to get some secondary scoring. I’m looking at you Sam Bennett for that. Personally, I’d love it if Jarome Iginla came back. It might happen, since he will be a free agent at the end of this season. Or he can continue to languish in Colorado.
As for the Senators, their problem was, somewhat, also goaltending. Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond both cooled off from last season. Most goalies have a sophomore slump so it’s not all surprising that Hammond had one. Defensively, the Senators seem to just be the Erik Karlsson show. They’ll need more help from the blueline. Here’s hoping this is the season Cody Ceci finally breaks out. Kyle Turris was also injured for almost half the season which didn’t help. It also doesn’t look like Bobby Ryan will ever be a 30 goal scorer again either. Mark Stone needs to elevate to being a point per game player too. Unless Hammond plays lights out again, it’s doubtful the Senators will make the playoffs next season.
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
This wins because it could have, and should have, been so much more than what it was. You had a team hungry to prove it still belonged after failing to make the playoffs after it won the Stanley Cup again. Against a team who always comes up short. Hoping to humiliate the team that humiliated them the most in the playoffs, when they blew their 3-0 series lead to the Kings. Instead we got a Sharks series win in five games. In reality it wasn’t all that bad, as all the games were decided by a goal except for Game 5. But the Kings didn’t really play that great in the first two games, despite what the final score said. Plus while watching the games, I never really felt like the Kings would win any of them. But I’ll just remember the series by how it ended. The Kings losing a game they needed to win on home ice 6-3 after going down 3-0. But I’ll admit it was exciting when they tied it at the end of the 2nd. But then the 3rd period was back to the way the game started. A huge disappointment.
Worst Game 7
Blues vs Stars and Predators vs Sharks
These games really need nothing written about them if you watched any part of them. Just the least competitive and most lopsided games ever. Both were over after the 1st period and really only got worse after that. I didn’t expect much from the Predators on the road, as they already defied expectations by getting this far. But you still expect them to show up. As for the Stars, it’s hard to imagine the top team in the Western Conference on home ice playing any worse. They should be embarrassed. I just can’t fathom how teams don’t even bother showing up to the most important game of their season. It’s just mind-boggling. The final scores were 6-1 Blues and 5-0 Sharks.
Nick Bonino – Vancouver Canucks
Whatever the Canucks are doing, count me out. First they traded Ryan Kesler for Nick Bonino which isn’t that bad. Bonino is younger, and Kesler wanted out, so it made sense. But then they give up on Bonino, rather quickly, and traded him to the Penguins for basically peanuts. The Canucks acquired a 3rd pick and Brandon Sutter, a center who doesn’t even have 200 points in over 500 games. They gave up Bonino, Adam Clendening and a 2nd round pick. So if you look at straight up as Bonino for Sutter, they lost that. Then they gave up a 2nd round pick for a 3rd pick and lost there. But then they also threw in another player on top of all that. That’s three strikes right there. And they wonder why they didn’t make the playoffs.
Hiring Bruce Boudreau as coach of the Minnesota Wild
This is a real head scratcher for many reasons. You have a team who is just good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to do anything in the playoffs. They’ve made it the last four seasons, half of which they lost in the 1st round. The other two times they lost in the 2nd round but were lucky to win in the 1st round in those seasons. So you pair that team with a coach who is notorious for taking talented teams and exiting the playoffs early with them. What do you think is going to happen here? When you pair a team with not enough talent to win playoff games coached by a coach who can’t win playoff games when he has talent on a team. Unless they somehow think that combining two negatives will somehow yield a positive result. This literally has no chance of succeeding.
Las Vegas NHL team
I can’t believe the NHL is actually going through with a team in Las Vegas. It’s probably the dumbest idea ever. The Arizona Coyotes were 2nd to last in attendance by percentage last season at 78%. The year before that, 3rd to last also at about 78%. The reason I bring this up is because they are similar markets. Based on geographic location and the fact that they are both deserts. There’s also something that many people don’t seem to realize and I copied this from MMQB.
When the upstart United Football League planted its premier franchise in Las Vegas in 2009, team owners organized a series of meetings between casino marketing directors and moguls such as Steve Wynn, and a UFL contingent including commissioner Michael Huyghue and Jim Fassel. The latter, a former NFL coach of the year, would lead the Las Vegas Locomotives at 60 years old, three years removed from his last NFL gig. Fassel led the effort to court casino partnerships. His request for each casino: Buy 100 tickets for each home game and parse them out to your guests. “It was a unanimous no,” Fassel says now, four years after the UFL shuttered its doors. “They said, No, no, no, we’re not doing that. We want to keep people in the casinos.”
Basically we don’t want your sports team, which is why Vegas don’t have one. The casinos run Vegas and they do a great job of keeping people in them. Not to mention Vegas is mostly a tourist town. Either you are visiting a casino or you a live there and are working in a casino. People who don’t know anything about hockey aren’t going to try it out for the first time in Vegas. People who like hockey, like me, probably won’t go to Vegas to see a hockey game if they can just do that at home already. They came to do Vegas stuff, which doesn’t consist of watching hockey. The unnamed team has apparently already sold 15,000 tickets though.
While that sounds great, I still think it’ll be a failure in the end. Everybody likes things when they are fresh and new. But can they sustain it, especially when they aren’t very good?
Why does he still have a job?
Bob Murray – Anaheim Ducks
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Bob Murray is still employed by the Anaheim Ducks. He’s got to be in the running for worst GM, even though he won GM of the year for basically doing nothing a couple of season ago. The recent trade of Frederik Andersen to the Maple Leafs does not factor into this. In all honesty, I think it was good move. He had two young goalies who wanted to be number one so, inevitably, one of them would have to go. Anderson needed a new deal and wasn’t affordable. John Gibson probably has the better upside, because he is younger, but they are even right now. It’s all the things before that make me wonder about his capabilities. His previous moves, and one of his latest, show he is stubborn and clueless when it comes to building a hockey team.
His latest move is the rehiring of Coach Randy Carlyle, a move that truly boggles the mind on many levels. Firing him in the first place was a great move as he had lost the team and wasn’t really a great coach to begin with. Sure he won a Stanley Cup but how many teams have two future hall of famers playing half the game together on defense? The answer is none that I can think of. Currently, the Blackhawks would come closest and they’ve won three Stanley Cups because of it. The Ducks also had Teemu Selanne, a young Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and a red hot Jean-Sebastien Giguere. In other words, pretty much anyone could have coached that team to a Stanley Cup. Carlyle was notorious for his extremely slow starts and his bad line combinations. Although Bruce Boudreau wasn’t any better with lines. The teams started so slow under Carlyle, they literally needed a miracle to make the playoffs. Why would you want to go back to that I have no idea. Plus if it didn’t work once, why would it work the second time? Especially after an unsuccessful stint in Toronto and the fact that nobody else wanted him after that. If he was such a good coach, somebody else would want him.
But let’s go back even further. To the end of last season. Sure they made it to the Western Conference Finals but they lost after being up 3-1 and lost in Game 7 at home. Not the first time that’s happened. Boudreau has shown he can’t win in the playoffs. I thought he should have been shown the door then but they kept him on anyway. This doesn’t even go into the fact that they still needed another experienced defenseman and players to actually show up in a Game 7. But he chose to make no changes anyway. Okay then, whatever. But then they get off to a record abysmal start. It was the perfect time to fire the coach but he insisted he wouldn’t make any changes. Why? Despite them turning it around, the fact that they got off to a really slow start shows that there was something wrong. And I knew for a fact that the season would end with another Game 7 loss at home. This was back in November when I predicted this. You could see it from a mile away. But clearly he couldn’t. And sure enough, guess what happened?
Let’s not forget his other moves or lack thereof. He had and got rid of Bonino and Hagelin, two key players on the Penguins Stanley Cup team. He basically swapped Francois Beauchemin for Kevin Bieksa, which was a downgrade. And truth be told he needed both of them. Cause he needed two veteran defensemen. Then he didn’t add the one thing he really needed, besides a good coach of course. He needed a player that would actually show up in a Game 7. Because Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf don’t. Obviously you can’t trade them because that’s a sticky situation. So if you can’t move them, then add to what you have. Get a guy that’s not too expensive that excels in the playoffs after an average season. Those would be you Joel Ward and Justin Williams. Both were available as free agents too. And of course he got neither. Joel Ward scored many crucial points for the Sharks and helped propel them to their 1st Stanley Cup. Of course he could have done the same for the Ducks but you know. As long as Bob Murrray is the GM of the Ducks this team will never win anything. But it looks like he won’t be gone until Getzlaf and Perry are retired, at the earliest.
Stupid GM Part 2
Peter Chiarelli – Edmonton Oilers
I joked with a friend that Peter Chiarelli would trade both the number 1 and 2 picks from the 2010 draft. Well that ended up coming into fruition. After giving up on Tyler Seguin, Chiarelli has decided that Taylor Hall is also expendable. For the Seguin deal, part of it was his partying, the other was him not fitting into the system. If the partying would have stopped they might have held onto him but he would never flourish there because the Bruins didn’t want to change their style of play to fit Seguin. Which is dumb on many levels. If you don’t want to change the whole team’s style, that’s fine but you can just change one line. Plus, Wade Phillips once said, “We fit the system on what are players can do, not fit players into a system.” Which is the way it should be. Play to their strengths and what you have. Don’t make a system and then try and fit your players into it. That’s making it more about the players you want to have, not the players you do have.
But getting back to Hall. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would not want the two best players, by far, in a draft, especially when you select them that high. I honestly don’t have a problem with the move, though, it’s the way he executed it. His thinking was he needs a defenseman, which is their glaring number one need. He has three players at 6 million a piece. So one of them needs to go eventually. That’s between Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hopkins might have made more sense but he’s a center. Right now the Oilers have three good centers and that’s what you need so he wouldn’t be going anywhere. So that leaves either Eberle or Hall. He probably thought that Hall had more value, which he does. But you have a young team so stick with a young nucleus and get rid of the older player. But he chose Hall, which is still fine. But the return is a major problem. First, as has been well documented, he didn’t get enough back. The Seguin deal was pretty lopsided and this one is even worse. If you want Adam Larsson as your guy, that’s fine. But straight up is ridiculous. Get a pick or another player or something, anything but straight up. Because no other GM would do that trade straight up. The second problem is the most alarming one. Chiarelli moves 6 million in salary to get Larsson’s salary and then pays Milan Lucic 6 million. That’s a huge problem. The Oilers have almost no cap space. In a year they will need to pay Leon Draisaitl and in two years Connor McDavid. Not to mention a new deal for Larsson and money for Darnell Nurse, if he pans out, among others. I don’t see where he’s getting all this money from. Which means, in a few years, he’s going to be trading a young key player that grew up in the system again or, worse, letting him walk. Not the best way to go about building a team. He should have tried to get a winger for under 4 million. But after trading two of the best players in the NHL, this decade, for not nearly enough, should he even still be a GM?
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.