2016-17 NHL Season Recap – Part 2 – Best of the Season
Best of the Season
P.K Subban – Nashville Predators
It was pretty much a given that the Predators won this deal before it even happened. Despite P.K Subban’s occasional errors, he was a more dynamic player and younger than Shea Weber. He also had the personality to be the face of a franchise. He helped take the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance while the Canadiens lost in the first round again. It’s not knock on Weber, as he’s still a great player, and he played well. But you have to wonder just how much the Canadiens brass hated Subban to make this deal and how much they regret it now. At least they somewhat redeemed themselves by picking up Jonathan Drouin. More on that later.
Washington vs Toronto
This was one of the best playoff series in quite a long time. It had everything you could ask for. Great goaltending, quality scoring chances, every game was decided by one goal and every game but one went into overtime. This was a series you just never wanted to end. When the Maple Leafs took the 2-1 series advantage, everyone wondered if this would be the same old Capitals. To their credit, the Capitals bounced back and won the next three games. But you also have to have to hand it to the young Maple Leafs for going toe to toe with the regular season champs. Auston Matthews lead the Leafs with four goals and five points showing he can produce even when it matters. I only wished we would have had the series go to a Game 7.
Best Game 7
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators
This Game 7 featured the defending Stanley Cup champions going up against the surprising Cinderella Senators for a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. You could cut the tension with a knife in this one. To add to the intrigue, each team scored within a few minutes of each other in the second and third period. Making the game almost always tied. Then we had a first overtime and then a second overtime, before Sidney Crosby, of course, was able to find Chris Kunitz for the game winner. Craig Anderson had a hell of a game in the loss making 39 saves.
Team on the Rise
Every year I’ve put a team here they don’t make the playoffs the next season. This has literally been the case for four straight years. But I’d like to think this is the year that dubious mark will come to an end. I only select from teams that didn’t make the playoffs or lost in the first round.
Toronto Maple Leafs
If the Maple Leafs had gotten one more point and faced the Senators in the first round, it’s not hard to imagine them beating the Senators and possibly making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though they came up just short in beating the Capitals, this team is a fry cry from the team that choked against the Bruins a few years ago and then was never heard from again. This team has a better coach and a better core of young talent. Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander will all develop together. If Fredrik Andersson can continue to play well, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they win their division next season.
Best player to not win an award
Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins
If Connor McDavid didn’t have the Hart trophy locked up this season, and the next several, there would be a strong case for Brad Marchand. Marchand finally became a complete player this year. He averaged over a point per game for the first time in his career and finished hot down the stretch with 26 points in his final 20 games to help lead the Bruins into the playoffs. Even though Zdeno Chara is the captain, it felt like Marchand was the captain through his play. Despite his improvements, old habits die hard. As he still showed a penchant for stupid plays. Marchand was suspended for two games for an obvious spearing in one of the last games of the season. Granted Crosby did the same thing a few days earlier and received nothing but Marchand still needs to be better disciplined than that. Marchand and David Pastrnak form a formidable duo for the Bruins.
Best Idea that seemed to work
In season coaching changes
During my weekly column, I went off about how stupid it was to, most of the time, fire coaches in the middle or three quarters of the way through the season. I still stand by that opinion but this season I was definitely proved wrong. There were five in season coaching changes and four of them worked out pretty good. The Bruins fired Claude Julian and replaced him with Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins ended up not folding down the stretch, barely, and made the playoffs. Gerard Gallant was crudely fired by the Panthers and replaced by Tom Rowe. The Panthers were a mess before the change and they still are now. The Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and replaced him, again, with the just recently fired Claude Julien. The Canadiens played better offensively and made the playoffs. The Islanders fired Jack Capuano and replaced him with Doug Weight. The Islanders caught fire at the end and just barely missed the playoffs. The Blues fired Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with Mike Yeo. The Blues ended up getting hot and climbed back into a playoff spot and won their first round series. But this whole situation was bizarre, as it was already agreed that Hitchcock wasn’t going to be the coach next season and Yeo was. They just moved up the timeline. I never know why coaches agree to come back for one lame duck season. They almost always get fired in the middle of it. Bruce Cassidy and Doug Weight were interim coaches when appointed but have since been named head coaches. Bob Boughner is now the Florida Panthers head coach.