2020-21 NHL Season Recap – Part 3 – Worst of the Year
I was looking forward to seeing the Canucks taking the next step this season. But it was cautious optimism as young Pacific Division teams tend to take a step backward after some initial playoff success. That was certainly the case here because it’s hard to imagine finding a more disappointing team than the Vancouver Canucks. You can make a case for the Dallas Stars, but they dealt with several key injuries and got it together to be within a few points of the final playoff spot. Like the Stars, the Canucks dealt with a COVID outbreak. There’s came at a terrible time, however. After winning a couple of games, they had to stop playing for two weeks. They came back and won three of four before losing six straight, and that was that. The Canucks did lose Elias Pettersson for half the season, and they also lost veteran guys that had a presence in the locker room which affected some of the younger guys. They should bounce back this season.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Edmonton Oilers
It wasn’t a terrible series, it just had the potential to be so much more. The Oilers failed to win a single game and only scored one goal in the first two. But the last three games all went to overtime, including a triple-overtime game four. I wish it went seven and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scored more. We’ll get to the Oilers some more in a bit.
Worst Game 7
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Minnesota Wild
There’s always one lopsided game seven each postseason. This was that one. It started tied 2-2, but you could tell the Golden Knights were pulling away with it after that. They did, scoring two more right after that and then two more in the third. Only the first two games in this series were any good.
We knew this was happening because it almost happened the previous season. But it’s still a head-scratching move for several reasons. First, Fleury apparently didn’t know he was being traded. Conflicting reports say he did but either way, not the best way to handle it. Second, we know it’s basically a salary dump but couldn’t they have tried to find a better offer or a team Fleury wanted to play on? It seems like they simply took the first offer. Third, and most importantly, are you sure Robin Lehner is the guy?
I bring this up for several reasons. First, Lehner hasn’t been the guy much. He’s played eight seasons, not including his first few seasons when he was coming into the NHL. Only three of those was he really the guy. Second, his best season was on the Islanders, a team every goalie looks great on. Third, he has mental health problems. Fourth, this has happened before where a team dumps Fleury for the younger guy. The last time it happened, it worked out better for the team that received Fleury than the team that let him go. Granted, I would have done the same if I were the Penguins, but this is a little different. Matt Murray led them to Stanley Cups while Lehner has done nothing. And a six-year age difference is not as big as nine years. Personally, I would have dumped Lehner and tried to find a goalie prospect, which you need anyway. I feel Fleury’s playoff gaffe and the fact that coach Pete DeBoer didn’t seem to like him were contributing factors. It’s too early to know if this will become a bad trade, but history suggests it will. We’ll see what happens. But Fleury liked Vegas, and Vegas liked him.
Playoff Teams with Problems
Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs
These teams are very similar and have the same issue. Their top players don’t show up in the playoffs.
One of the Maple Leafs’ bigger problems is none of the core players have ever won a playoff series. Besides goalie Frederik Andersen with the Anaheim Ducks. The coach also needs to do better. A majority of them struggled in the closeout games against Montreal. He should have played his veterans, Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds, more. They generated a few chances on the second power play, but he opted to go back to his top lines. With John Tavares injured, the depth and experience just weren’t there. But there’s a much larger problem. And that problem is Auston Matthews.
Matthews is their biggest star and most important player, and he needs to play like one. I keep bringing up game four against the Blue Jackets, but it’s such a great benchmark. He took over the game and did what he needed to do to help them win. He’s capable of playing at that level. He just doesn’t. He doesn’t need to do it every game. But if he does it three out of seven games in a series, there’s no reason they can’t win that series. I didn’t even notice him on the ice the last few games. The Maple Leafs will never go anywhere if he continues playing that way in the playoffs. To be fair, he has scored 24 points in 32 playoff games, so it’s not like he isn’t doing anything. But he can do more.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are always noticeable in the playoffs. They’re scoring a point per game as well, but that isn’t enough when they score 1.5 to 2 a game in the regular season. That’s a tall task even for them. But if that’s how they win in the regular season, they’ll have to duplicate it in the playoffs.
Lack of scoring depth has always been a problem for the Edmonton Oilers. They had quality players like Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, but they had to go due to incompetent general managers and salary cap issues. James Neal played great in his first season with the Oilers, but after an injury-plagued second stint, the Oilers chose to buy him out. I think they should have at least tried him again. Some of the young wingers may pan out, and they hopefully will since the Oilers have no cap space. It doesn’t seem like the Oilers’ problems will get any better anytime soon. At least their defense is better.
Worst idea that shouldn’t have lasted this long
Minnesota Wild signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to big deals
In 2012, the Wild signed both Suter and Parise to identical 13-year $98 million contracts. Those are really long contracts, and at that time, $7.5 million a year was a lot. I wondered why they wanted to go there until I learned they were from there. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have signed them if I were the Wild. I just wouldn’t on those contracts.
Parise was entering his prime after a Stanley Cup finals appearance and two seasons averaging over a point per game. He seemed poised to take it to the next level. Suter was as consistent as they came and was the top defenseman for the Predators.
Initially, the signings worked. They made the playoffs for the first time in five years, and in the following seasons, they made it to the second round. That was the pinnacle of this marriage. The Wild went back to losing in the first round and didn’t even qualify one season. Parise was never a point a game player on the Wild. He regressed and was invisible at certain stretches. Suter was still the same, but I never thought he was at the same level as Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Chris Pronger, or Scott Niedermayer. Something he needed to be if you’re paying him that money.
The funny thing is they came in together and left together. Even funnier, the Wild decided to buy out both their contracts. I guess they thought they had no trade value with four years left on those contracts and didn’t want to deal with it. But kudos to the Wild because this was one of their better and more exciting seasons, coinciding with Parise and Suter’s worst seasons ever. Coincidence? I think not. If only they realized it sooner.https://hockeyrecaps.us/2021/08/14/2020-21-nhl-season-recap-part-3-worst-of-the-year/https://hockeyrecaps.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/marc-andre-fleury-gaffe-1024x576.jpghttps://hockeyrecaps.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/marc-andre-fleury-gaffe-300x300.jpgSeason RecapsAnaheim Ducks,Auston Matthews,Chris Pronger,Connor McDavid,Dallas Stars,drew doughty,Duncan Keith,Edmonton Oilers,Elias Pettersson,Frederik Andersen,James Neal,Joe Thornton,John Tavares,Jordan Eberle,Leon Draisaitl,Marc-Andre Fleury,Matt Murray,Minnesota Wild,Robin Lehner,Ryan Suter,Scott Niedermayer,Stanley Cup,Taylor Hall,Toronto Maple Leafs,Vancouver Canucks,Vegas Golden Knights,Wayne Simmonds,Winnipeg Jets,Zach Parise