Into the Boards: All-Star Frenzy, Barclays Bust, and Hitch is Out
What’s up, ITB readers? We’re officially through the All-Star break and the halfway point of the season. Hopefully most of you got to experience the lighter side of the game with hockey’s biggest stars meeting in LA this weekend. Even with the break, there is still plenty to go over this week. Let’s get you guys caught up!.
Big Money Metro
Even with the limited amount of games this week, there’s still plenty of things for us to hit out East. First off, a big congratulations to Captain “Sid the Kid” Crosby and the Metropolitan Division for running the table and taking home a victory (and a boatload of cash, one million dollars!) in this year’s All-Star Game. My homeboy Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers was named the tournament’s MVP, scoring three goals that included the final game’s winner off a beautiful feed from the New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall, and will now be doing 90 in a 65 in his brand new Honda pickup truck. If you missed out on the All-Star weekend experience, I highly recommend you take a trip over to NHL.com and check out that highlight package to see some beautiful goals scored from the sport’s greatest athletes.
Bye Bye, Barclays!
A lot has been going on in the back offices for the New York Islanders this year. New owners, new players being brought in to help lead the franchise, and the firing of longtime coach Jack Capuano. This week, it was reported by Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News that the Barclays Center will likely opt out of their agreement with the Islanders after the 2018-19 season as they feel they can make better revenue with various other events instead of 41 Islanders home games per year. The Isles have only called Barclays home since the start of the 2015-16 season when some assholes in local politics forced them out of Nassau Coliseum after playing there for 43 years.
The Islanders currently have the third worst attendance in the NHL and the corporate offices at Barclays have likely decided to drop them as a tenant in an effort to bring in more money to the venue. Quite honestly, as a fan of the team and someone who’s been to the Barclays for games…. this is both good news and bad news. We’re talking about a venue where certain seats can’t see the entire ice, and where the ice is consistently so rough that players all over the league have complained about it. Fans have never had a great relationship with Barclays, either, and there have been complaints on both sides. The obvious issue with this separation is: where do the Isles go? A site in Queens next to Citi Field? Back to NVMC? Obviously this story is fresh and we will continue to keep a close eye on the coveragem so stay tuned for more information as the season continues.
Despite a God awful start to the season, the Isles are doing well as of late. Since Doug Weight has taken over as head coach, the boys in blue and orange are on a three-game win streak and have gone 6-0-1 in their last seven games with notable victories over the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, and Capitals. My boys are on fire lately, and thank God for that. Let’s hope they stay hot for the second half of the season and catch some much needed post-season experience for the younger talent on the team. It’s super unlikely that this is our year, but it’s a great opportunity to see where we can improve as a team and what holes we have to fill for more success in coming years. LGI! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Hitchin’ a Ride
This week, old man Hitch was finally canned in St. Louis 50 games into his sixth season with the Blues. The Blues have fallen to fourth place in the Central Division and currently sit in the final wild card spot after winning two playoff series and making it to last year’s Western Conference final. So what exactly is going wrong in St. Louis?
The 65-year old Hitch had former Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo added to his staff this year by the Blues’ front office with the intention of having him take over as head coach next year. This was done as some sort of weird “ease-in” for Yeo, which is a rather unprecedented move in the NHL. It was especially strange given the fact that Mike Yeo already had five years of coaching experience in Minnesota and certainly didn’t need to be groomed like he didn’t understand the game at the NHL level. I’d wager a guess that it had something to do with St. Louis’ reluctance to boot an excellent coach with 19 seasons of coaching experience entering this season while also knowing that it was time for an identity change. Hitch is fourth all-time in regular season wins with 781, just one shy of tying the great Al Arbour.
But what exactly is the identity of St. Louis? They sure don’t know right now, and questions are being raised about whether or not this Blues team is seeing its Stanley Cup window close. I don’t think the Blues are far off despite the media chaos currently surrounding this team. As the always excellent Jeff Marek said recently, the Blues simply cannot get a save right now. Their goaltending duo has been absolutely dismal as starting netminder Jake Allen is sporting a rough .895 save percentage and a 2.86 GAA. Backup Carter Hutton hasn’t been any better with an .896 save percentage and a 2.81 GAA. All of this comes while giving up only 27.6 shots per game (tied for fourth fewest in the league), so defense is doing its job. St. Louis is a goaltender away from me not writing this piece.
Falling Down the Mountain
The Colorado Avalanche are such a tire fire of a team that I don’t even know where to start, but I’m going to make Jarome Iginla my focus here. Iginla, who could/should have made the NHL Top 100 Players list (don’t even get me started on that dog shit list), is an interesting story out of Denver. After watching the Avs have a 112 point season, Iggy signed in Colorado in hopes of helping a promising young team reach the next level to become a contender, and boy did that ever blow up in his face.
Iginla’s first season in Colorado was certainly not the 112 point season he had hoped for, and then the following year saw the departure of Ryan O’Reilly, which proved to be a huge blow down the middle to an Avs roster that was already full of struggling young players. Enter Patrick Roy’s furious temperament, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a true shitstorm. Roy’s abrupt resignation this past offseason put the Avs in serious trouble before the puck even dropped on the ‘16-’17 campaign, and the team has yet to regain its footing, leaving Jarome Iginla in the basement of the league during what may be one of his last seasons at 39 years old.
Iginla has made it clear that he’d like to be dealt somewhere at the trade deadline so he can make another run at finally capturing the Stanley Cup. His deal with the Avalanche expires after this season, and despite struggling offensively this year, I think he could be a nice support piece for a team looking to make a run. Take his rough six goals and six assists through 48 games with a grain of salt as he is playing on a team that is struggling on a nearly unbelievable level, scoring the fewest amount of goals of any team this season. I’d imagine his skill set would be much more useful to a better team. I sure do like Iginla, so I’d love to see him get dealt and get another shot at a Cup, especially because the Avalanche would be insane not to get something for him before his deal expires.
Player of the Week
Vin: Peter Budaj of the Los Angeles Kings. Big Pete has been stellar in net for the Kings as of late. In the last week Budaj has three wins, including two shutouts against the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche.
Scott: Patrick Marleau for scoring his 500th goal. Huge milestone for an excellent player who has played every one of his NHL games in teal for the Sharks. Also, it was longer than a week ago, but shout out to Patty for putting up four goals by himself against the Avs a few games ago.
Play of the Week
Vin: My top play takes us to the all-star game. The young superstar Connor McDavid receives a pass at center ice from Ryan Kesler and he’s off. McDavid turns on the rockets and speeds towards the net on a breakaway opportunity. Connor draws goaltender and Vezina contender Sergei Bobrovsky out of the net, goes forehand and then backhands the puck into the net while tumbling to the ice. He is so talented and it’s hard not to get hyped whenever he takes the ice.
Scott: Tic Tac Toe. The teenager Anthony Beauvillier forechecks hard to pick off a Jay Beagle pass, and moves it out to the circle for Brock Nelson. Nelson holds it on his backhand just long enough to draw in Brooks Orpik before pulling it to his forehand and making a perfect cross-ice feed to Ryan Strome, who finishes it beautifully without hesitation. What a play.