Stanley Cup Playoffs

What now?

TLDR: Penguins hurt, play good, team defense buy-in. Bad decisions lose games ; play-ins make sadness. Jarry future, JJ need go away, play Riikola, John Marino is fire.
The penguins once again found themselves cursed by the injury gnome of—perhaps due to PPG Paint’s construction on an Indian burial ground, over an old hospital, or the lack of Beau Bennet’s injury-magnetic skeleton in the organization—Pittsburgh. Nick Bjugstad played a whopping 13 games this season, and the penguins collectively had approximately 300 man-games lost, including notable injuries to Sidney Crosby and Brian Dumolin.[] Yet the penguins seemed to buy-in to Mike Sullivan’s system of team defense, quick transitions, and heavy forechecking from mid-November to January. Between November 16, 2019 (a game versus the struggling Maple Leafs) and February 20,2020 (again a game against the Babcockless Leafs—really I just wanted to say Babcockless) they dominated and ascended to the top of the division posting a record of 26-9-4 (W-L-OTL).[2] February into March saw a sharp decline in play as Jack Johnson played first line minutes with Kris Letang in Dumolin’s absence. That combined with Tristian Jarry’s regression to the mean (average goaltending) meant the penguins found themselves on the doorstep of the playoffs looking in, necessitating a play-in series rather than qualifying outright. From there, the penguins as an organization exhibited all of the same ailments from February and March that led them to the play-ins. Poor defensive zone coverage, a shot-averse (or at least unreliable) power play, and struggling defensive zone exits.[3 apologies for the lack of direct citation, but I can’t justify subscription directly to all of the various statisticians I’d like to, but linking to this JFresh article since it provides a good overview/insight to the postseason in particular; I recommend the JFresh newsletter as they break down play well and provide great sources.]

The Good

The MEH (Or Uncertain)

The Bad

Proposed RosteLineup

Edit: Formatting is annoying
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[OC] [Satire] Ryan Ellis: The “Mario Lemieux of WAR”, and the Biggest Norris Trophy Snub of Our Times

WAR is cumulative, to begin with. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
The Lengthy Intro Section
WAR is of course an “advanced hockey stat”, Wins Above Replacement, that attempts to quantify most of the aspects of a player’s on-ice contributions by smashing them together into one catch-all stat. By “cumulative” (or “absolute” or whatever term you want), I mean that in a given season, WAR itself is not a /60 or /GP rate stat, even though parts of its calculation involve using /60 rate stats, statistical/machine learning techniques, etc. I think this is a common misunderstanding of the model, and it’s very important moving forward.
It’s more like goals rather than goals per game, and tries to measure the total impact of a player. Think about the Richard Trophy: it just got awarded to Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak jointly because they scored the same amount of goals, although Ovi played a couple less games so obviously he scored more per game. And Mika Zibanejad scored more per game than both of them and wasn’t even a finalist! Harsh. The creators of WAR have taken a similarly unfair route with their stat: you only get credit for the things you actually did on the ice, rather than the things you were on pace to do.
I put three basic reasonings at the end of the post (since it’s probably pretty boring to many readers!!!) for WAR being cumulative for people who want to dive deeper, because some people don't seem to want to believe it. Honestly I think one of the explanations is pretty easy to understand but if you hate that stuff, skip it. The main point here is to laugh a bit, and not to think too hard about it.
I’m only talking about one popular WAR model here, by Evolving-Wild (“home for the most advanced NHL statistics on the web!”...a little unclear if they mean “most advanced!” or “we have advanced statistics by the binful!”, but a good resource either way). I do this mostly because I have some of their data handy, but I’d imagine some other common models have some similarities. And if they don’t…well, I’ll just poke a little fun at this one. Disclaimer: I OF COURSE AM NOT REPRESENTING ANYTHING HERE AS EW’S CLAIMS IN ANY WAY besides a few pretty tame direct quotes for clarification, I’m not trying to pick on them specifically but for lots of sites it seems all the good stuff is behind a paywall these days, this is a humorous (hopefully, or this was a lot of work for nothing…) satirical article, etc. etc. The focus is more on general advanced stats and hockey stuff.
Keep in mind of course that WAR and GAR (Goals Above Replacement) are essentially the same thing, just differing by a league-wide conversion factor of how many wins a generic goal is “worth”…a ranking of players by GAR and WAR in a given year will yield the exact same results. That factor appears to be roughly 5.5-to-1 goals-to-wins if you really care. So I’m just going to use GAR for its aesthetic qualities, because it makes differences look larger, which should help with my case due to implicit biases in our brains. I shamelessly used “WAR” in the title to try to get more visibility from more casual readers. I have no regrets. But without further ado…
The Also Lengthy Semi-Intro Section
As we all know, “traditional” hockey stats such as points and +/- don’t paint a great picture of a player’s true skill. To better uncover this, you need advanced stats. If Connor McDavid were to score 150 points next year, that’s not enough to say he was the best player in the league these days. You have to break things down into many smaller factors if you really want to get it right. What’s the ice time distribution and skill level of his teammates? How many total minutes did he play? Did he get power play time? Was it 1st or 2nd PP? What percentage of points were on the PP? What percentage of points were primary vs. secondary? Were there other players down the lineup that were better per minute but just didn’t get the opportunity because the coach gives Connor McDavid a bunch of minutes for some reason? And so forth. And that’s just evaluating offense; defense, a component that is obviously completely separate from offense, is even worse to calculate. And goaltending? Well...he does do an awful lot for the Oilers, but we probably won’t have to worry about that aspect for McDavid. But for goaltenders? Forget about it. So let’s just focus on skaters here.
Unfortunately, your human brain just isn’t capable of breaking all this stuff down for every player and every game, which is why the so-called “eye test” just doesn’t work. After all, you’d have to remember literally every single event that occurred on the ice in order to make a truly informed judgment of a player. And even if it somehow WAS possible to remember all that...the brain just can’t do it objectively, due to a plethora of biases which simply can’t be overcome. Theoretically it could work if you used that little voice in your head to shout, every few seconds or so over and over, “DON’T BE BIASED!”, but the problem is that when you go to sleep, your subconscious is going to decide “this is really dumb” and stop shouting that. That’s when the bias creeps in, and just one speck of bias basically contaminates and invalidates the whole process. All of this is why we need computers a lot more than they need us.
You have probably seen news in recent years about the massive successes of machine learning techniques in a ton of fields, but particularly in learning how to play and win games. And a lot of these games are hard...Chess, Go, etc. I mean...look at who plays Chess vs. who plays hockey. So I think we can expect hockey should be pretty simple to analyze comparatively with the sophisticated methods we have available today. We live in a very fortunate time now where, through the twin majesties of mathematics and computer science, we can easily record and account for all of the various factors involved in quantifying a player’s contributions to winning. So when you see phrases like “controls for” or “adjusted for” or “accounts for” or “isolates”, what these mean is that everything’s all taken care of and you don’t need to worry about it any more. Time on ice? Controlled for. Quality of Teammates (QoT)? Adjusted for. Quality of Competition (QoC)? Accounted for. System effects due to coaching? Isolated. And so on. This is what they do in Chess too: you have to adjust for home/away, temperature in the room, etc…for example, even the best Chess computers tend to play pretty poorly away from power sources. Anyway, if you see someone who is outlandishly good or bad at something in these metrics, you might be hesitant, but you have to just accept it. The model has learned far more than you ever possibly could, and it’s getting even better every day. You’re just wasting your time digging any further into it.
The overarching point here is that we can finally say which players are really, truly “the best” with a lot of confidence. I mean, it’s tough to argue with “math” after all. So let’s summarize the main points here:
  1. GAR is based on what you actually accomplished on ice, and is not a rate stat.
  2. GAR evaluates the impacts of all on-ice contributions of a player toward winning, i.e. offense/defense/special teams/penalties.
  3. GAR is a more detailed, accurate, robust, and therefore trustworthy metric than any typical combination of “traditional” stats. It incorporates more data and uses more sophisticated techniques.
The ”Great, but what exactly does this have to do with Ryan Ellis and Mario Lemieux?” Section...or The “Where exactly is this going” Section.
Let’s all sit and think of a player who has had a season so impressive that, despite missing a significant amount of games, they still pretty clearly had the best year in the league. Who is the first player that came to your mind? It may very well have been Mario Lemieux. And he’s the easiest example, so I’ll stick with him.
Lemieux did this a number of times but arguably the most impressive was the 1992-93 season, where he played in only 60/84 games (71%) but put up 69 goals and 160 points in some of the very best per-game seasons ever for those statistics. So the voters concluded that despite Mario just up and deciding to take a two-month vacation in the middle of the season for some reason, his contributions were impressive enough that he was near-unanimous winner of the Hart (in an absolutely loaded field), and he also won the Ross, Pearson, Masterson, and the coveted Alka-Seltzer Plus Award.
Now of course there’s the fact that shot data were first recorded by the NHL only in 2008, and TOI was first recorded in 1998. These data are absolutely crucial for virtually all advanced stats, including GAR, its constituent "Expected Goals" (xG) models, etc., so unfortunately we can’t just apply our great new methods to older players. Because of this, identifying the best players in the league back then was basically just a combination of superstition, reputation, and homerism. That’s really all that was possible at the time, given the coarseness of traditional stats and the obvious issues with the “eye test”. The biases involved mean that we can’t put very much stock in people who watched Mario play routinely either, or really even gain much out of watching his old games ourselves.
However, I’ve written the name “Mario” too many times now for it to be worthwhile changing it, and since people seem to view Mario highly as a “traditional stats savant”, it fits my argument well so I’ll just keep it. But remember that because of all the reasons I’ve said so far, I’m taking a pretty big risk here by saying Mario conclusively had the best season in the league that year, or even a particularly noteworthy one. It’s the best I could do given the limitations of the data available.
The “Look, I’ve been pretty patient but you better say something about how this involves Ryan Ellis right now or I’m leaving. It’s literally in the title. Do you know how titles work?” Section
Ryan Ellis basically just had the defenseman equivalent of Mario’s 1992-93 season. That’s how impressive it was. He ranked first among defensemen in GAR, and 3rd in the entire league, despite only playing 49/69 games (71%, the exact same as Lemieux, which I TOTALLY planned) due to him also taking a vacation or something right in the middle of the season. That seems like inconvenient timing to me but I assume he cleared it with his teammates and coach first. I guess when you’re putting up that kind of a season, nobody’s going to tell you no? I know though that the biggest competitors on opposing teams, the veteran types who just “know how to win”, would secretly be really miffed if they didn’t get to play even one full game against the best of the best on the biggest stage in the hockey world. They’d find the whole ordeal a little unsportsmanlike and disrespectful to the opponent.
Using the crude stats of yesteryear, Mario won the Ross with a 12-point lead (8%) over LaFontaine, and won the Alka-Seltzer Plus Award with a +10 lead (22%) over Murphy (his teammate). Similarly, using advanced stats, Ellis outpaced the nearest defenseman, Pulock, by 3.8 GAR (20%). This converts to ~0.7 WAR (I did this based on last year’s conversion factor but it’s probably pretty close). This is incredibly impressive given all the missed games.
Now perhaps you’re saying “these GAR stats are great and all, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in the NHL’s play-by-play data such that we don’t need to get wrapped up over little differences in the values”. And this is generally true. Here is what the authors of the stat had to say about their model, in the last of their explanation posts (links are below): “The methods we used for constructing our model did not allow us to determine error estimates, and while additional research is required to lock this down, we feel a .5 Win +/- error range makes sense.” So while there may be a little potential overlap with Pulock given the ~0.7 WAR difference, it’s still a pretty sizable discrepancy that shouldn’t just be conveniently swept away. So Ryan Ellis has very arguably contributed more to his team than any other defensemen in the league this year, and pretty confidently contributed more than his teammate and actual Norris finalist Josi (~1 WAR difference). In only 49 GP!
Plus, let’s be serious for a second, it’s not like the “points and +/-” crowd that seems to run the NHL awards is looking too carefully at the “uncertainty” in the traditional metrics. I think if you’re really serious about promoting advanced stats, and hope to get them wider adoption as soon as possible, it’s your DUTY to downplay any uncertainty in these metrics. Considering many NHL awards trigger monetary bonuses in player contracts, wider usage of advanced stats would make sure funds are allocated to the correct players. Think of how much better our world would be if that were the case, of how many hearts would be warmed seeing the dispensation of true justice in such a prominent setting. So if it feels a little shady to downplay it, just shake it off and move forward. It’s for the greater good.
So how does Ellis’s phenomenal season compare with some of the other recent greats? He just tied for the 2nd-best GAR season amongst defensemen since 2013-14 at least. The best was Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s legendary 2015-16 campaign, when he actually finished at the top of the entire league, and tied with Ellis for second is Brett Pesce’s 2016-17 season, which I’m sure we all remember fondly. Both of those players, and teams, were really something those years.
But what’s maybe even more impressive is that Ryan Ellis just had the highest GAR-per-game season by far of any skater since at least 2014-15 that played even 40+ games. Ellis had an incredible 0.47 GAGP; the next-highest was McDavid in 2016-17 with 0.41, followed by Kevin Shattenkirk in 2014-15 with 0.38, and Mark Stone in 2018-19 with 0.37. Truly a breathtaking season.
You may recall that the Norris Trophy is awarded for demonstrating “the greatest all-round ability in the position”. That sounds a lot like what GAR calculates! The all-round contributions of a player, including pesky things like penalties that a lot of people tend to completely ignore. So obviously GAR should be much better for determining who’s worthy of the Norris than the old stats with their clear deficiencies.
Finally you can see now why Ryan Ellis is the biggest Norris trophy snub of our times...the past half-decade at absolute minimum. He just put up a legitimate Mario Lemieux-esque season...the best GAR season for a defenseman this year by 20%...and at absolute best finished 4th in Norris trophy voting! And for anyone thinking “but what about Josi?”...just look at the chart I posted before. Ellis contributed almost double what Josi did to NSH on a per-game basis, and a significant amount more overall regardless. I think it’s pretty obvious who was propping up who here, and who Hart voters should have recognized as "dragging" NSH to a playoff spot.
The Insightful Conclusions Section
That was a nice deep dive showing why Ryan Ellis is the “Mario Lemieux of WAR”, wasn’t it? You can bet that if Ellis had as much of a lead in a traditional stat like points as he does in GAR, he would be a clear awards contender and arguable front-runner, and this demonstrates how old-fashioned and hypocritical everyone has been about this. It also shows why he, and not his teammate Roman Josi for example, contributed the most to NSH making the playoffs, and that he contributed at a higher rate this year than arguably anyone in recent history. In fact, since advanced stats are more...advanced than e.g. points, we can actually be even more confident that Ellis’s season is actually deserving of unbridled admiration than Lemieux’s.
Every thinking person should be outraged by how little Ellis has been talked about, and by the old guard’s failure to more fully adopt advanced stats. If you’re already an advanced stats believer, you're clearly a thinking person, and I’m sure you had come to these conclusions months ago and have tried to let everyone know insistently that Ellis should be the obvious winner of the Norris despite missing the games. You were probably nodding at how obvious this all was the entire time while reading. I can’t count how many people I’ve seen claiming this on hockey, noted haven of many advanced stats experts. Kudos to you for sticking to your trust in advanced stats, and not wavering just because it may not have sat right with more “traditional” thinking. After all, if a model doesn’t give us some results that go against our preconceived notions, what was the point of even developing it?
However, even after that (I’ll just say it for everyone) brilliant and incisive writeup, I think some of you may STILL be saying to yourself something along the lines of “Ryan Ellis? He’s a really good player for sure but I guess I would’ve expected it would be somebody else having that dominant of a season, better per-game than McDavid and all”...well, there’s a good reason you’re saying that. It’s because you’re biased. We all are. Or if it’s something like “I feel like if I’d seen one of the best seasons in recent memory, I should have been able to tell”...well that’s a combination of bias, once again, and the eye test just not being good at telling you which aspects of performance are truly valuable in hockey. Or if it’s something like “maybe there’s something a little wacky with him having such low GP, etc.?”. I told you: it’s all been taken care of, don’t worry. Lay back and let the GAR just shower over you.
Appendix 1, SKIP FROM HERE DOWN IF YOU DON’T CARE: Easy, non-math stuff suggesting GAR is cumulative
First, let’s suggest that GAR is cumulative by an easy, non-math way through simply visualizing it. This link shows GAR for 5 different seasons of NHL data on the vertical axis...these are individual player-seasons, i.e. not combined over that time interval. These are the 5 years before the current one, specifically the 2014-15 to 2018-19 seasons. I don’t have access to the current one because I’m too cheap to pay...I’m doing this highly entertaining writeup for free after all! People should probably be paying me.
The horizontal axis here is GP (using TOI instead gives pretty similar qualitative results...obviously they are correlated). You’ll see that the GAR trend, as probably expected, is positive with increasing games. On the far left, you’ll see there’s also a pretty small spread around an average of (roughly) zero. So no one with few GP has very high, or very low GAR. So just from that, it’s probably not a rate statistic, otherwise analytics superstars that have missed games would have similar values as in a full season. Obviously, this isn’t the case. You can also see how, as you move right and GP increase, there is a larger spread of data around the trend. So compared to the average, “good” players will get more positive in GAR with more GP, and “bad” players will get more negative in GAR with more GP. This again implies that GAR is cumulative.
Appendix 2: A few small mathy things suggesting GAR is cumulative
If you’re interested, you’re welcome to go through the very detailed breakdowns from the Evolving-Wild folks here and here and here...which in my opinion might have benefited from more equations and less words! But I think this snippet from the Part 2 post, among other things, helps imply that GAR is cumulative:
While the RAPM models are inherently above-average on the career level, the outputs of the respective SPM models need to be adjusted to their own above-average form for each season. To do this we take the per-60 output from these models, expand these to implied impact [(SPM per 60 output / 60) * player TOI], and determine the mean of this number within the league at a per minute rate for each position. We then subtract this league average per minute rate from each player’s SPM per minute value and multiply the resulting value by each player’s time on ice. This is the same for all components.
Everybody got that? Ok good. What I gather from this is...the sub-models give you /60 evaluations of the player’s performance. But the actual impact of the player, according to GAR, involves their /60 performance being multiplied by their TOI, with some later adjustments. This makes a lot of sense of course! If you’re as good as a similar player, but you play half as much time as can’t be expected to have as much impact.
Appendix 3: EW’s site definition
Evolving-Wild’s Dictionary defines Goals Above Replacement (GAR, WAR, and SPAR) as “a metric that attempts to assign a total value to each player, which represents how much that player contributed to their team in a single number.”. I may have tricked you into reading this last, so that you would think a little FIRST and be pedantic about wording SECOND. Because that’s a pretty brief statement. But there it is.
TL;DR: Some posts are not meant to have a TL;DR. Thanks to anyone who read the rest first
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Random Habs journalism from 30 years ago (w/brief analysis)

Last week I was poking around old Montreal Gazette articles researching a Habs topic and I thought I'd share some of what I found because maybe others find this sort of thing interesting.
Specifically, I ended up reading a bunch of articles circa 1990 by Michael Farber and Red Fisher and I was very pleasantly surprised by their quality and the enjoyment I got from reading them. Maybe you'll like their style too. With all due respect to today's Habs journalists / twitter horns... anyway, no need to get nasty, but I sincerely doubt anyone sensible ever confused Farber for an illiterate. As for Red Fisher, he was always opinionated and, to be fair, he can come across like a bit of know-it-all, but he's such a charismatic and convincing writer that he either wins you over to his side or makes you get out the old typewriter to craft a witless letter to the editor.
These guys also had genuine access to the coach and the players and not the filtered pablum they feed us now. Our local journalists might consult their own archive for inspiration on what (and how) to write about the Habs.
Anyway these articles are about Patrick Roy's old backup Jean-Claude Bergeron. I was hunting for evidence of his nickname (Jean-Clone), which only proves that forgettable nicknames have always been a thing in hockey. But it also proves that hockey journalism used to be good!
For those with access to ProQuest, here are links-- 1 2-- to the articles. I'll copy the text below for those who don't. I'd be curious to know your thoughts.
"Goalie looks good in Forum debut; But Jean-Clone needs work if Habs want steady backup"
Author: Farber, Michael ; Publication info: The Gazette ; Montreal, Que. ; 12 Nov 1990: C1.
Full text: Pat Burns knew he would have to do it eventually: rip the wrapping off Jean-Claude Bergeron and let the home crowd see him do something other than pick splinters from his bottom. After all, Patrick Roy makes $1.3 million a year, but with all the games he has been playing, it works out to about $3.75 an hour. The provincial government was going to investigate the Canadiens for possible violation of the minimum-wage laws.
The game against Minnesota last Sunday had been the teaser, the second game in two nights, a stumbling team as the opposition, seemingly the soft spot for a 22-year-old to land. Burns pondered it hard, saw Bob Gainey making his Montreal return, and changed his mind. When asked Monday if he could see a date for Bergeron, Burns shrugged and said, "Well, December is really busy."
So Christmas came early, if you'll pardon the expression, when Bergeron took his place in front of the net last night against the Quebec Nordiques. It was another Sunday tail-ender, the foe figured to be a powder puff and, gracious knows, the kid needed the work. Other than the fact Bergeron grew up in Baie Comeau and was nurtured on this Battle of Quebec stuff, you couldn't have stumbled on a better evening for a coming out party.
So what do we know?
Burns said what the hell. After 10 straight starts and 17 of 18, Roy was going to turn the keys over to his stand-in.
Now that the debut has been enshrined in the standings - a 5-4 Canadiens overtime victory - what do we know about the mystery goalie?
We know he stands up most of the time.
We know he has decent reflexes.
We know he is capable of giving up two goals when he is left to his own devices, like in the first period when the Nordiques buzzed for 16 shots and potted a pair on deflections.
We know he was as sharp on 23 days' rest as anyone could hope to be.
The situation surrounding Bergeron's first home start might have been ideal given the context, but the context is skewed. A 22-year- old neophyte doesn't need simulated game conditions with goalie coach Francois Allaire; he needs shots. He doesn't need exposure to the National Hockey League; he needs games. A Fredericton tune-up would have been perfect during Roy's Steel Nerves Tour. (Andre "Red Light" Racicot could have sat with a towel 'round his neck while the Bergeron played some minor- league games.) Brian Hayward, the recalcitrant professional was a splendid back-up goalie - despite his self-assessment as something better - simply because he could flick the flakes of rust from his shoulder and play well. Bergeron shouldn't have corrosion at this stage of his career.
He needs at least 20 games
If you accept the premise that the National Hockey League season in Montreal is an 80-game laboratory for the playoffs, Bergeron should play at least 20 games - a hedge in case Roy is indisposed. If Bergeron plays any less, there is the risk the Canadiens will never develop confidence in him and Bergeron will lose the confidence he has in himself.
"I've got to accept my situation," said Bergeron, who was touched for five goals in Detroit on Oct. 18 in his first NHL start. "It's something I've got to get used to because Patrick Roy is a great goalie, maybe the best in the league. But I'm sure with the win tonight, I'll be back in in six, seven, eight games. But my job this year is being a back-up. It's what I have to do."
Bergeron is a fine specimen for a goalie, a Roy look-alike. They are both six feet tall. Roy, at 182 pounds, is 10 pounds lighter. Both play a positional game. Both wear cage masks with dangling neck guards. Both are Libras. Bergeron even has taken to swivelling his neck like Roy, noted for his funky chicken routine.
Is it live? Or is it Memorex?
A week ago, Basil McRae of the North Stars watched Bergeron practice and wondered, "Is it live or Memorex?" The only difference is Jean-Clone has a better haircut and Roy has a couple of Vezina Trophies and a Stanley Cup ring.
Maybe Bergeron will have the others some day. (A bad haircut is a lock after the Canadiens hold their rookie initiations.) The reviews were good - "Good moves and follows the game pretty well," said Guy Lafleur; "He wasn't lucky," Burns said - and surely there is room for a rangy goalie with solid fundamentals and a good attitude.
"I think I did as much as I could," Bergeron said, a puck from win No. 1 at his side. "I was aggressive. I didn't lose confidence in the first period. The only thing was I had a little nervousness." Not unlike his coach.
But the end result was two points. Canadiens win, Nordiques lose - just what would have been expected if Roy had played. In the standings this morning, you really can't tell if it was live or Memorex.
"Red Wings wreck debut of Habs goalie Bergeron; Yzerman scores twice on porous defence"
Author: Fisher, Red ; Publication info: The Gazette ; Montreal, Que. ; 19 Oct 1990: F1.
DETROIT - What was it they were saying about Jean-Claude Bergeron?
Big kid. Quick hands. Moves well in his crease. Doesn't panic.
A clone right down to the interesting mannerisms, they were saying, of Patrick Roy, who has won everything there is to win in his special area of expertise. They were saying these things about Jean-Clone because he played so well with the big kids in Sweden and the Soviet Union. He also excelled against the Detroit Red Wings in a pre-season exhibition.
Last night, though, was for real - for the first time. His first National Hockey League game - a once-in-a-lifetime thing. What also happens once in a lifetime is for a new kid on the block to lose in his first regular-season appearance, as Bergeron and the Canadiens did last night, 5-2.
It was a night of many firsts for the pale, blond 22-year-old kid with the wondering, wet eyes. Butterflies?
"You bet," he told reporters. "My first time ... big crowd."
Disappointment over losing?
"Whenever you lose ..." he shrugged.
Thrills, too.
For example, there's the first-time thrill of stopping his first difficult shot, particularly when an old man such as Steve Yzerman, who's 25, is the shooter. There's the first-time jolt of allowing his first NHL goal on Detroit's seventh shot of the game - except that Marc Habscheid's shot wasn't one. What it really was, was a tap-in. Randy McKay, who had played 38 NHL games more than Bergeron going into the game, did most of the work for Habscheid. It was McKay who slipped around and suspiciously through Donald Dufresne midway through the first period. Then he swept in on Bergeron, who did all right going down. What he did all wrong, perhaps, was steering one- half of the puck over the goal-line with his legs, leaving himself in a somewhat awkward position and the puck loose. Unhappily for Bergeron, nobody cleared the puck.
Happily for the Red Wings, Habscheid fully extended his arms to tap the loose puck over the line. There was the first-time, close-up view of a three-way passing play by NHLers which ended with Bergeron giving up one side of the net to Gerard Gallant, whose goal midway through the second period provided the Red Wings with a 2-0 lead. Even Vezina Trophy winner Roy lets those in. There was also the thudding realization that there's a price to be paid after relinquishing any kind of a rebound behind this Canadiens defence, which doesn't clear rebounds. Such as the time he failed to close his fist around Gallant's fairly routine shot late in the second period. A short rebound - and there's Yzerman slipping the puck into the open side.
Where did he come from, eh? And where did the puck go when Sergei Fedorov squeezed it through his pads midway through the third period? Yzerman added his second of the game after yet another Bergeron rebound.
Or how about the ice-level view of Denis Savard scoring a patented Savard-type goal a little more than a minute after Gallant had provided the Rd Wings with their two-goal margin?
There he is, going around a defenceman named Bob Wilkie - and maintaining control of the puck with his left hand and then steering it along the ice between Tim Cheveldae's legs - still with only his left hand on his stick. Mike Keane scored the Canadiens' second goal with fewer than three minutes remaining in the game while the Red Wings were short two men.
The Savard goal appeared to lift the Canadiens, who had struggled through the first period with only four shots, but Yzerman cooled the fervor with his fifth goal of the season, as he so often does in this arena.
This night belonged to Bergeron, if only because it was his first, but it was a night of firsts for several others.
Detroit's Bob Probert, for example.
Once, late in the first period, and again early in the second, he was (a) high-sticked and (b) roughed up by Gerald Diduck. In both cases, Probert displayed an uncommon amount of restraint, allowing Diduck to draw minors.
"Probert doesn't have to prove he's a tough guy," said Detroit coach Bryan Murray. "He can play this game."
Another Red Wing who can play is Rick Green.
A full season away from an NHL rink has provided him with several new wrinkles, but none on the ice. He continues to play consistent, steady defence. A boring chap. He does silly things such cleaning out strangers from the area in front of his goaltender, and annoying stuff like sending Yzerman out of the Red Wings zone on a sprint which ended with the Gallant goal.
This was a night to remember for Bergeron, but not one the Canadiens, as a team, would like to retain among their treasured memories. Basically, it was an off-night for The Good Guys, particularly so soon after a night rooted in excellence in Buffalo 24 hours earlier.
They'll try again tomorrow night at the Forum, when the Philadelplhia Flyers are the visitors. Illustration Color Photo; AP; Detroit captain Steve Yzerman (left) and Habs captain Guy Carbonneau battle for puck on faceoff last night.
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[COMETS HARVEST] Utica Comets (33-21-3-2) vs. Charlotte Checkers (32-22-4-0)


Good afternoon Canucks Nation, it's time for another catch-up with the Farm!
Full disclosure, I am incredibly hungover. Last night I met up with a cousin of mine, whom I had not seen in over four years!
Like the genius I am, I didn't eat anything prior to meeting up, and then I went on to have seven or eight High Life IPA's thanks to my good friends at the Brewhall in Vancouver!
So yeah, expect run-on sentences, grammatical inconsistencies, and spelling errors? you bet!
Last night the Utica Comets eked out a 2-1 regulation victory over the Checkers, even after doing their usual second-period collapse where they got outshot 12-to-5.
Fortunately, stalwart rookie netminder, Michael Di Pietro, put up an impressive 33-save performance, posting a 0.971 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average.
Tonight, it looks like Cull will be giving Mikey a bit of a break, as Jake Kielly looks to get his first AHL start of the season.
One of the more notable things to note from the Comets win last night was Justin Bailey getting crushed along the end-boards by Cavan Fitzgerald. Last night's Game highlights, including the hit on Bailey, and Lind stepping up to "fight" Fitzgerald..
Although this is far from the same team that won the Calder Cup last season, the Checkers are a much tougher team than their record would indicate. Comets coming away with four points off this double-header weekend will do wonders for their playoff push.
The Comets record in the second game of back-to-backs remains at seven wins, nine losses, and one shootout loss.
Slightly under a 0.500 points-earned-percentage
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Bailey (#95) Hamilton (#36) Lind (#13)
LeBlanc (#3) Stevens (#16) Perron (#27)
Stevenson (#26) Graovac (#44) Jasek (#9)
Sautner (#6) Rafferty (#25)
Petgrave (#22) Chatfield (#5)
Teves (#4) Eliot (#52)
Jake Kielly
INJURY REPORT -- -- -- -- --
Dylan Blujus David Pope (concussion) Vinny Arseneau (done for the season) Jonah Gadjovich (ill) Carter Bancks (lower body) Olli Juolevi (hip soreness)
Healthy Scratches -- --
Guillaume Brisebois (technically) Nikolay Goldobin (vet) Seamus Malone
Goldobin gets the veteran-scratch for a third consecutive game. Have to feel for the guy, but hard to ignore how ineffectual he has been at 5-on-5.
With Blujus out with injury, Sautner slides back in with Rafferty as the team's top pair. He took a dirty hit in the first period from last night's action and is feeling the effects today. That opens the door, again, for Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot to come into the lineup to try and impress the bench boss for more ice-time.

1st period

[Comets in White]

The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Checkers

Not sure I like Graovac on the first powerplay unit, the guy simply doesn't have the legs to chase down pucks along the wall.
Overall, it was a bit of a hot-and-cold period of play from the Comets. To start, the team was giving up some high-danger scoring opportunities, but by periods-end, they managed to reel the Checkers back.
Both teams are doing well at holding each other to the outside perimeter for shots.
Have to feel for Kielly, a bit, on that opening-goal as there was literally nothing he could do to stop that one. Penalty-killers have to do better at clearing space around Kielly's net, so he has clear sight-lines on the puck.
The dreaded enemy of the Comets, the second-period, could mean a comeback opportunity, or a full collapse. Fingers crossed its the former. Points are critical these days as two teams behind them in the standings, the Binghamton Devils and Laval Rocket, are both on decent win streaks to put them in contention for playoff spots. The Comets already got two points off this conference-foe, but another point or two could be all the difference between getting in or falling out.

2nd Period


The score at the end of the 2nd period: 2-1 Checkers

So tilting, realizing I didn't have sound captured through the first twenty minutes of play.
Despite how dull the period was, the Comets did well to generate shots on goal, as they held the Checkers to just five total. One of those being a goal, but, HEY! Can't save 'em all!
Concerning that, Baertschi went down the tunnel with the athletic trainer seemingly unprovoked. Fingers crossed that this isn't concussion-related.
Kole Lind and Justin Bailey have had really impressive games so far, but have been unable to capitalize on any of the multiple scoring chances they've created.

3rd period


The score at the end of the 3rd period: 2-2 Tie

Fantastic battle from the Comets to even things up at two apiece
I originally had a point in my second-period musings that said the Comets shouldn't bank on getting another powerplay to try and even things up. But sure enough, that's exactly what it took, and Reid Boucher, once again, proves the COmets hero.
Loved the compete level from Kole Lind that entire third period. It genuinely felt like he was on the ice for 90% of the time — an impressive game from him to turn this game on its head for Utica.



Final Score: 3-2 Utica Comets



Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st CHA Ryan Bourque Joey Keane Gustav Forsling PPG
2nd CHA Mark Cooper Clark Bishop Jacob Pritchard 5v5
2nd UTI Reid Boucher Brogan Rafferty Carter Camper PPG
3rd UTI Reid Boucher Tyler Graovac Carter Camper PPG
OT UTI Kole Lind Brogan Rafferty -- 3v3



Comets Three Stars

HM: Carter Camper
The Comets Trajectory?
The Comets win tonight moves them into second place, as they edge the Rochester Americans on regulation-wins. The Comets will look to maintain that place in the standings when they return home this upcoming Wednesday, as they take on division-rival, the Syracuse Crunch.
As always, if you want to read up on this Comets Harvest or the 2018-19 Farmies editions, you can find them all at my Comets Harvest Blog here
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[COMETS HARVEST] Utica Comets (31-21-3-2) vs. Rochester Americans (31-18-4-5)


The Utica Comets are inside the final 20 games of the season, and holy guacamole, do they have a month in store for them!
Two 3-in-4's to start the month, then a Tuesday game that immediately follows a double-header weekend. Afterwards, it's a triple header, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, mid-month, concluding with two more 3-in-4's at the close of March and start of April.
Did I mention that only nine of those thirteen games are against divisional opponents? Meaning, the Comets can't afford to slip up anywhere this month. A losing streak at any point this month could mean a freefall out of a Calder Playoff spot.
Hot off the heels of a disappointing drubbing by the Laval Rocket, the Comets will start this month against the North Divisions, second-place, Rochester Americans, an all too familiar foe of the farms.
The Comets' last game against the Amerks was an interesting one. Despite getting thoroughly out-attempted at 5-on-5, the Comets managed to earn two big points via the shootout.
There is an asterisk on the game, in that, the Comets arguably should have won in regulation. The referees missed a blatant trip against Sven Baertschi as he drove with the puck towards the empty-net. The non-call denied the Comets an automatic empty-netter goal-for, and on the ensuing 6v5, the Amerks managed to score in the final 28 seconds to force extra-time.
By no means did the Comets play a clean game against the Amerks. Getting out-attempted more than two-to-one across all-strength-situations means the team was basically in survival mode all game.
Out-attempted two-to-one is the common thread between all of the Comets/Amerks matchups this season.
Out of their seven-game head-to-head this season, the Comets have out-attempted the Amerks at 5-on-5, wait for it,
No surprise, the only thing that has been separating wins from losses in this seven-game series, is goaltending.
The Comets are already seeing what can happen if they ride their goalie too hard. Mikey Di Pietro was making his ninth straight start for the Comets against Laval, pairing that with a blatantly lethargic Comets team in front of him, was a breeding ground for disaster.
Perhaps the past few days off has allowed the Comets to refill the stamina bars. Well, at least we hope they have because with two teams nipping at their heels for the third and fourth-place playoff spot, they can't afford any more performances like they had against Laval. Its Crunch time. But not literally Crunch time, because it's actually Amerk time know what, you get the idea! Let's get into tonight's matchup!
Baertschi (#47) Camper (#19) Boucher (#24)
Lind (#13) Hamilton (#36) Bailey (#95)
LeBlanc (#3 Stevens (#16) Perron (#27)
Malone (#17) Graovac (#44) Stevenson (#26)
Petgrave (#22) Rafferty (#25)
Sautner (#6) Blujus (#8)
Teves (#4) Eliot (#52)
Michael Di Pietro
INJURY REPORT -- -- -- -- --
Vinny Arseneau (done for the season) David Pope (concussion) Lukas Jasek (lower-body) Carter Bancks (lower-body) Olli Juolevi (hip soreness) Jonah Gadjovich (illness)
Healthy Scratches
Nikolay Goldobin (veteran)
So Stefan LeBlanc gets to slide back into the lineup, and impressively, moves into the top-9 alongside Stevens and Goldobin. Like the makeup of the line, a strong forechecking presence from LeBlanc could be a great compliment.
Goldobin gets the veteran scratch, which, I'm sure, is delightful for him.
Pretty surprised that Eliot and Teves can barely crack a healthy Comets roster, but when the Comets are down two d-men, they get paired together. It makes me question if its a matter of trust with Trent Cull, or if its a matter of skill. Both Teves and Eliot have looked perfectly adequate in the AHL this season. Obviously, when they are healthy, the Comets' third pair is a tough spot in the lineup to crack. It makes me wonder why Eliot and Teves weren't sent down to Kalamazoo to play out the entire season to get ample ice-time.
Have to feel for Olli Juolevi, man, injuries have just completely fucked up this kids' career path. Hip soreness for the second/third time this season is a bad look.

1st period

Comets in their Away whites

The score at the end of the 1st period: 1-0 Comets

That was a really fast-paced period of hockey, with zero penalties issued and only a few couple timeouts.
Comets still struggle mightily against the speed and size of the Amerks squad. The Comets do try to match the physicality brought by the Amerks, but, as you could see in a couple of those streamables, Amerks play a heavy game that even the veterans and toughest Comets players can't match.
Comets still electing to play that heavy four-deep in the o-zone style that gives opponents a jarring number of odd-man rushes-against.

2nd Period


The score at the end of the 2nd period: 1-1 Tie

Yikes, that was a rough period of hockey displayed by the Comets. After 40-minutes of action, the Comets find themselves getting outshot 30 to 17. Rochester is a volume team, who uses their speed and size to open up space for shots on goal. Utica is an opportunistic team, who uses their speed and vision to capitalize on errors for scoring chances. Unfortunately, Utica's approach to generating offense requires them to actually be in the offensive zone. Rewatch that streamable of the Comets standing still as the Amerks generate shots towards the net. The Comets fade the second they don't regain the puck in their zone.

3rd period


Final Score: 3-1 Utica Comets



Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st UTI Stefan LeBlanc John Stevens -- 5v5
2nd ROC Taylor Leier Jean-Sebastien Dea Jacob Bryson PPG
3rd UTI Sven Baertschi Carter Camper Ashton Sautner 5v5
3rd UTI Tyler Graovac Justin Bailey Brogan Rafferty EN



Comets Three Stars

The Comets Trajectory?
Comets return this weekend for a double-header road trip against David Ayers' Charlotte Checkers, I won't be on recap duty for the Friday game, however, as I'll be meeting up with family whom I haven't seen in over four years! So expect another Comets Harvest, for Saturday's game only!
As always, if you want to read up on this Comets Harvest or the 2018-19 Farmies editions, you can find them all at my Comets Harvest Blog here
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Keeping it in Perspective - Games 58-62

For those of you picking up the Perspective posts for the first time, here is your catch-up reading....
Original Post
Update #1
Update #2
Update #3
Update #4
Update #5
Update #6
TLDR: I'm breaking the Habs' season down into 5-game segments and adding in some statistic-based introspective to help you weed through the hype and hysteria and come out sane on the other end.
This segment was a rough one so let's not waste any time and just rip off the bandaid...
Games 58-62 (ARI-BOS-PIT-DAL-DET)
Target Points: 6
Actual Points: 1
Surplus Points: -5
Total Deficit/Surplus: -12
I'd love to sugar-coat how bad this segment of games went but sugar-coated crap is still crap. This week was all about blown leads and blowouts. Somehow we managed to relinquish leads of 2-0 to ARI, 3-0 to DAL and 2-1 (and 3-1) to DET. Sometimes I wonder if I'd be happier if I'd turned off the TV at the 10:00 mark of the 2nd Period of every game and just called it a night. Throw in a pair of 4-1 losses to PIT and Pastrnak & Co and we manage to limp away from this week with 1 point. (Cue Harry Doyle - "1 Point? That's all we got...1 goddamned point?"). For a team with 2x 8-Game Winless streaks on their record already, dropping another 5 straight was strangely unexpected and painful. With a deficit of -12 points and only 20 remaining games, we now need 9 of every 10 available points to hit the season goal of 98 points. .900 hockey seems like a lot to ask from a team barely cruising along at .500 and with a losing home record.
Still, there were positives on the week highlighted by the returns of Drouin, Byron & Weber, the 2nd (& conditional 4th) we acquired on the Scandella deal, and the ongoing emergence of Nick Suzuki. A few positive notes on our super-rookie:

With those happy thoughts firmly in mind, let's move forward to the next segment of games.
Games 63-67 (WAS-OTT-VAN-NYR-CAR)
If I'm a betting man, I'm laying down even odds that Ovi breaks his slump and notches 699 & 700 on Thursday. With MB finally acknowledging the fact that we're not making the playoffs and starting to convert assets into futures, I expect the positive energy surrounding the team to begin to wain. If we drop both the WAS and OTT games, I also expect we'll be shopping for a new Head Coach once the trade deadline passes. Frankly, even 2 wins may not be enough to save CJ's considering the volume of leads we've proven incapable of protecting. The only x-factor is Geoff Molson's willingness to swallow $5M/season for the remainder of CJ's contract. Moving on, it's difficult to handicap the VAN-NYR-CAR games as we really have no idea which players will still be wearing the CH come Monday afternoon. We could be seeing a steady diet of Weal/Cousins/Weise for the foreseeable future.

For the deep dive this week, I'm actually revisiting the PJ Stock comments from last week where he critiques Trevor Timmins' inability to scout and draft 70-point players. Assuming that a 70-point scorer is the benchmark for a successful draft, I wanted to take a look at how many of these magical unicorns have actually been available to Timmins at the time of the Habs' first draft pick. After all, criticizing Timmins for not being able to draft Jonathan Toews 3rd overall in 2006 seems a bit harsh considering we didn't get a pick until 20th. (Full Disclosure: I originally posted this in the PJ Stock/Trevor Timmins discussion post but there were a few additional points I wanted to add so my apologies for those of you who may be reading this again.)
Let’s talk actual numbers:
Considering that we obviously can’t draft a 70-point player that was drafted before we got our 1st pick in a draft year, let’s take a look at how many 70-point players were drafted AFTER our 1st pick. I’m omitting the ridiculous 2003 greatest draft in history because EVERYBODY missed out on a dozen 70-point scorers. For the record, here are a few of the 2003 later picks that were passed over in the first round (further proving that scouting, drafting and developing is NOT an exact science), Bergeron (45), Weber (49), Backes (62), Pavelski (205) & Byfuglien (245).
When you look at the players who have become 70-point scorers, the vast majority of them were drafted within the top 15 picks of their draft years. Montreal's average 1st round draft position during the Timmins years has been 19th.
Before the list, I also took a look at how prevalent 70-pointers are in the NHL. Since 2004/05, there are on average 29.5x 70-point scorers every season or 1 per team. So why haven't we had any of these players? We actually have. Domi in 18/19 (72), Plekanec in 09/10 (70), Kovalev in 07/08 (84) & Koivu in 06/07 (75). In addition, the Timmins-drafted Pacioretty had seasons of 65-67-64-67 from 11/12-16/17...not quite 70 but not far off.
Here's the list of all of the eventual 70-point scorers who were available to TT after our 1st pick:
2004 - Krejci (63)
2005 - Kopitar (11), Neal (33), Stastny (44). FYI we drafted Price 5th and our next pick was 45th
2006 - Giroux (22), Foligno (28), Marchand (71)
2007 - Benn (129)
2009 - O’Reilly (33)
2010 - Kuznetzov (26)
2011 - Kucherov (58), Trochek (64), Gaudreau (104)
2012 - Hertl (17)
2013 - Guentzel (77)
2014 - Point (79)
2015 - Aho (35)
2016 - DeBrincat (39)
There are a total of 18 players here that we actually could have drafted; an average of just over 1/year.
I would argue that we didn’t actually "miss out" on the 2005 crop of 70-point scorers since we got Price and didn’t pick again until they were off the board so make that number 15 for an average of exactly 1/year.
Consider as well that 3 teams who drafted these eventual 70-point players TRADED THEM before they hit that mark. (Stastny, Foligno, O’Reilly). This suggests that even after they’ve drafted the player, a team doesn’t always know what they have.
Stock makes it sound like teams draft these later picks with full knowledge of what they’ll become and therefore it must be easy to identify, draft & develop these players when in reality, 1 team every year gets lucky enough to pick in the right spot to find a gem.
If Stock thinks he’s figured out the draft cheat code for 70-point players, why haven’t we hired him yet?
I'll check back in after the CAR game and we'll take stock of how the team looks from a personnel & points perspective...until then, Vive Les Glorieux!
Edit: Koivu brain fart
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Prospect Writeup: Joe Velen

Joe Veleno is a 19 year old center most recently from the Drummondville Voltigeurs out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Veleno also played for the Saint John Sea Dogs, also of the QMJHL, before he was traded to Drummondville in the middle of the 2017-18 season. He was selected by the Detroit Red Wings 30th overall in 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Infamously, he is one of the 6 players granted Exceptional Status to play as 15 year olds in Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Veleno is currently listed standing at 6’1’’ and weighing in at 191 pounds.
Also here is a look at how Veleno compared against the Q last season. I wonder why I would link that…
Veleno began his recorded hockey career playing two seasons with the Lac St-Louis Lions, one year with their Bantam AAA team and one year with their Midget team, in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively. Following from that, he became one of the six-ever players awarded by the CHL Exceptional Status, which essentially means that this player is so much better than his peers, he qualifies to not only to play in the CHL, but also as a 15 year old. Not only that, he was the first player to be given that status from Quebec. This puts him in a small list with players like John Tavares and Connor McDavid to also receive this honor. Following this event, Veleno was drafted 1st overall in the 2015 QMJHL Entry Draft by the Saint John Sea Dogs. Before he even laced up his skates to begin his CHL career, the expectations were sky-high for Veleno.
In his first season with Saint John in the 2015-16 season, he put together a stat-line of 13-30-43 (Goals-Assists-Total Points) in 62 games, good for 8th on the team. He also helped the Sea Dogs reach the 3rd round of the President’s Trophy with a line of 6-1-7 in 17 games. While this was not the “Exceptional” start that has been unfairly placed on his shoulders, he certainly demonstrated he belongs in the CHL.
In the next season, 2016-17, Saint John loaded up and where a dominant team all season and in the postseason, enroute to a President’s Cup championship. In his second season, Veleno was still only 16 for much of the season, and he potted 13-27-40 in the regular season while he posted 8-3-11 on that Cup run, through 45 and 18 games respectively. This is where the narrative that Veleno lacks offensive acumen starts to take shape. While for almost any other 16 year old he had a very good season, he was not able to force Saint John to play him in a bigger role. However, that Saint John team was very old, with the 8 players who scored more than him all being at least 19 to start the season, if not 20. By all accounts Veleno continued to play well
Veleno’s 2017-18 season, the one leading up to his draft, would see the beginning of what would become a dramatic shift in his career. He was named the captain of Saint John to start the year and went on to score a respectable but once again less than “Exceptional” line of 6-25-31 in 31 games. That Saint John team was hugely decimated and even though Veleno only played 31 games, in what would be his final season for the Sea Dogs, he still ended up 5th in their end of season scoring. At around the midpoint of the season, Veleno was dealt to the Drummondville Voltigeurs for three first round picks. Following that, his production noticeably took off, finishing the regular season with a line of 16-32-48 in only 33 games. What a difference playing on a team with Maxime Comtois makes, eh? This brought his regular season totals to 22-57-79 in 64 games, finishing one point behind some guy named Alexis Lafrienère. Veleno also helped propel Drummondville into the 2nd round of the playoffs and scoring 5-6-11 in 10 games.
Due to the concerns with his overall offensive production, that he did not tear the Q apart leading up to his draft year, he slipped all the way to Detroit at 30th over all. Now in his D+1 season, Veleno’s offense finally took off and showed the hockey world some of that much-maligned “Exceptional” talent. And it was glorious! To call his season anything short of dominant would be an under-statment. In a mere 59 regular season games, Veleno scored 42-62-104 good for 4th in points (behind 2 older players and 1 point behind Lafrienère, with each of those players playing more games than Veleno). Veleno lead the league in points per game (P/GP) at 1.763 for players who played in half of the games or more (looking at you Comtois!). After doing a bit of digging, that would put Veleno’s 18 year old season as the best scoring output in the Q since Nikolaj Ehlers and Conor Garland both hit 1.9 P/GP in 2014-2015. While I am sure Lafrienère is going to set the world on fire next season, we should feel at least slightly decent about what Veleno did. I will say however that Veleno’s offense cooled down a bit in the playoffs as Drummondville went out in the 3rd round and Veleno scored a decent line of 8-9-17 in 16 games.
Before moving on, one thing I will briefly cover has been the string of quiet performances he has had playing for Canada internationally. He has represented Canada in the World Hockey Championships (WHC) U17 in 2015-16, as well as the World Junior Championships U18 in 2017-18 and U20 tournaments in 2018-19. At the U17 he scored 1-3-4 in 5 games, at the U18 0-3-3 in 4 and finally the U20 with 0-2-2. None of these results were particularly impressive, although it seems as if Veleno is not well liked by the Canadian hockey king-makers and seems to have been poorly used. Even when he is not scoring, Veleno is skilled penalty killer and back checker, and it’s not like Canada has been doing well internationally as of late. Not like it was the best way for me to watch Veleno live or anything. I’m not salty, I swear!
Obligatory 2018-19 Highlight Video Link for the Lazy:
Also, here is 2017-18 because I’m nothing if not generous!
Coming into his draft year, Veleno was seen as a solid bet to make the show, but that he would top out as middle six pass-first center who can be very good on the Penalty Kill (PK) and also helpful on the Power Play (PP). From what I remember reading, as projections came out closer to the draft a lot of hockey fans, media and even NHL scouting staffs thought he was a high-character, high-motor player who could skate like the wind but had a poor shot and lacking the offensive acumen to be a true top six (or at least 1st line) NHL forward. However, just before the start of his draft year, Veleno was solidly inside many people’s top 10 or 15. Go figure.
The superlative “200 foot player” is one that comes up a lot when people in the industry, be it media, coaches, General Managers or players, talk about in regards to how some players play the game. While that term is over used quite a bit, in this case I think it exemplifies the type of player he can round out to being at the NHL level. Veleno is a very hard working player and is a force on the PK and in his own zone. However, he also possesses elite speed and thrives in using it in addition to his creativity to find ways to get shots off. This is exemplified by the fact that he was tied for 2nd in the Q with 7 short handed goals last season, which was 1 more than he scored on the PP! This not say he is a slouch on the PP, as he has consistently been a difference maker for both Saint John and Drummondville on the PP, but more in the role of a facilitator.
Watching shift-by-shift and highlight videos (as well as few games), I was consistently blown away at his vision, and I appreciated the fact that he never took a shift off even if the bounces weren’t going his way. He is someone who is always looking to make a play with the puck and find an open teammate. While I do not want to say that he has put to bed the concerns about his offensive game, I don’t think any player in 2018 exceeded expectations more than he.
Finally, I would say that Wings fans the world over should be immensely excited by Veleno. While I am loathe to use this term, if his offense carries over against men in the American Hockey League (AHL) this upcoming season, the term “star” may start to be applicable. While his leadership, skating, effort and defensive play all seem translatable, and are why at worst he will be a good top nine player, it is his vision and passing ability that makes me excited. If I had to find a few non-Wings to compare him to, I think Jonathan Toews would be the absolute peak he could become, while among players just drafted I see him as similar to Alex Turcotte but with less injury concerns.
TLDR; I spent too much time summarizing a 19 year old’s hockey career, go read it!
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Wayback Wednesday - Howie's Heartbreak

Mitchell, Ontario isn't where a lot of interesting stories start. It's the kind of place where they roll the sidewalks up at dusk, a small, rural town.
The most interesting story from the town starts more than a century ago in the cold of January.
There are about 4,500 people who call Mitchell home. On this cold winter day, there aren't a lot of them out - the church on Main Street is empty and the raccoons and foxes who normally dart around are tucked away.
It's quiet, except for an occasional whoop from at the bottom of the hill. Some of the farmer kids are skating around on the river. It's called the Thames River - not the River Thames, the locals will have your hide if you call it that - but it's more of a creek. It's still wide enough for the youngsters to skate on.
There are three of them down there. One is about eight, a pipsqueak - the others are a few years older, much stronger. The trio are brothers, racing down the river on a day off from school. They play hockey from time to time, but there aren't any sticks or pucks on the Thames today. The boys are racing.
You'd figure the older brothers, Wilfred and Ezra, would be quicker, but the smaller one, the runt of the litter, has taken a lead. As they push around the bends of the Thames, the little brother slowly sneaks out of sight. He has an odd stride - he squats down and takes long sleek pushes - and it works well for him.
Around one bend, Wilfred and Ezra lose sight of their brother. They keep pushing. He's nowhere to be found.
Unsure of whether or not the little one is still going, the boys keep skating downstream, hoping nothing bad has happened.
When they wind around the next bend in the river, they see their youngest brother, sitting on a snowbank, patiently waiting for them. He'd gotten so far ahead that he got bored, plopped down and took a seat.
He does this all the time. Nobody can keep up with him. It's getting a little old, honestly - and if there are two people who are most tired of it, it's Wilfred and Ezra Morenz.
Little Howie is already the fastest skater in town.
He's destined for great things.
Howie was born in Mitchell back in 1902, the youngest of six kids. He grew up on the Thames, on occasion picking up a stick and puck when beating his brothers in races got old.
For some reason, when he first played hockey, a coach put him in goal. Bad idea - he gave up 21 goals. The next game that coach decided to put him out as a rover. That decision paid off. As a teenager, Morenz led the Mitchell team to a regional title.
The Morenzs left town in his teens when his dad got a job at the Canadian National Railways (CNR) factory in Stratford, about 15 kilometres down the road. World War I had just broken out and Howie tried enlisting, but when recruiters found out he was just 15, that dream died fast.
Howie dropped out of school to work with his dad in the CNR factory. He started a machinist's apprenticeship there and filled his spare time with little hobbies, betting on horses and playing the ukulele. During the winter, however, the betting slips went away and the uke went in the corner - it was hockey time.
Howie used that odd stride and an all-consuming passion to become Stratford's best player. He played with the local junior team, leading them to a provincial title and nearly winning a Memorial Cup. Then, the next season, Howie played for both the junior and senior teams at the same time. He led both leagues in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes.
In 1922, Howie jumped on the train to Montreal for a CNR tournament. In the first game, fresh off the rails, he strapped on those skates and blew the roof off - he scored nine times.
Someone watching the game called a friend - Leo Dandurand, the owner of the Montreal Canadiens. The little farmer kid has some skill, he says - come by and see for yourself.
Dandurand sneaks into the next game and is impressed. He wants Howie on the Habs.
It wouldn't be easy, though. Morenz wanted to head back to Stratford and finish his apprenticeship. That would take two more years. The Toronto St. Pats, the Habs' chief rival, had also gotten wind of Howie and wanted to see him in their green and white sweaters.
For the first time, Leo Dandurand began to bully Howie Morenz. He mailed him a contract offer - $3,500 a year and a $1,000 signing bonus.
Dandurand made a public show of trying to woo Howie, claiming that Morenz was French Canadian and therefore belonged on the Habs, not the St. Pats.
Is Howie French? No. That was a lie. The Morenzs were German, but Dandurand would do anything to have this kid on his team.
At that point, 21-year-old Howie was torn. He and his father signed the contract, but before sending it to Dandurand, Howie got cold feet. Some local businessmen ponied up $1,000 to convince him to stay and play for Stratford. He also wanted to finish his apprenticeship.
Instead of sending the contract back, Morenz sent his signing bonus cheque to Dandurand, along with a letter saying he couldn't play with Montreal.
Enraged, Dandurand summoned Howie to Montreal to explain to him personally why he wouldn't sign. Howie hopped on the train. When he met with Dandurand, he explained his logic, bursting into tears halfway through.
Seeing some vulnerability, Dandurand leaned into the "bad cop" role, telling Howie if he couldn't play for the Habs, he'd make sure he couldn't play - period.
Morenz had to fold. He signed.
You see, there was a good reason why Morenz was torn. A farmer boy in the big city, an English speaker on a majority French team, Morenz would stick out.
Perhaps the biggest reason is one that most history books leave out.
When Howie played hockey, he was happy. Off the ice, the troubles of life hit him like one of the trains he worked on. Whenever his teams lost, Morenz would stay up all night, blaming himself and telegraphing plays that went wrong in his head again and again. This wasn't competitiveness - this bordered on mental illness. That ran in his family.
In his teen years, Howie came home from a hockey game to find out a shocking accident had happened. That night, his mother had gone downstairs and fallen in the family's cistern.
She had drowned. Nobody talked about it much, but scuttlebutt around the town was that it wasn't an accident.
His mom's death affected Howie greatly and made him to two things - to play hockey as a distraction and look after his family.
When Howie had any free time to just think, he'd get lost in his head. Sometimes, he had a hard time getting out.
Howie Morenz first suited up for the Canadiens in 1923. The team was coached by Dandurand, who put Morenz on a line with another young star, Aurele Joliat. The two gelled on the ice. It helped that Joliat, who grew up in Ottawa, was one of the few players on the team who spoke fluent English and French.
Riding the skill of Joliat and Morenz, the Habs finished in second in the four-team NHL, earning a spot in the league final against Ottawa. There, Morenz took control, scoring three of the Habs' five goals in the two-game series, which ended with a Montreal win.
From there, the Habs headed to the Stanley Cup playoff - at this point, the NHL champ faced off against champions from other leagues to determine who won the Cup. In order to win, the Canadiens would have to win two series - one against Calgary, one against Vancouver.
The Habs topped Vancouver, setting up a two-game winner-take-all series with the Calgary Tigers. Morenz scored a hat-trick against Calgary in game one, then added another goal in game two before a big hit broke his collarbone.
It was enough. Morenz had scored four goals by himself - Calgary only scored one. Paced by Howie's goals, the Habs won their first-ever Stanley Cup as an NHL team.
Morenz's play started to earn himself a reputation. When writer Hugh MacLennan saw him play, he noticed the little grin that peeped out when Howie played.
"The little smile on his lips showed that he was having a wonderful time."
Howie was playing with courage, and it couldn't come at a better time.
The next year, Morenz scored 28 goals and led the Habs to another NHL title. The team finished just short of the Stanley Cup, but that reputation started to build. Some people took to calling him by nicknames. A few looked at his birthplace to call him the "Mitchell Meteor", while the more popular name came from the Montreal papers themselves, who used his adopted hometown - the "Stratford Streak".
Morenz became hockey's first legitimate superstar. One rival player called him "that near-perfect human hockey machine". Eddie Shore, famous crotchety hardass defenseman from the archrival Bruins, called Morenz the "Babe Ruth of Hockey."
That term drew some objection from a new friend of Howie's - Babe Ruth himself. He thought Morenz was bigger than that. Babe Ruth once said Morenz had the biggest heart of anyone he'd ever known.
Morenz tallied 25 goals in 1926-27, and then became the first NHLer ever to score 50 points in a season the next year. He was doing things people didn't think were possible - all while flashing that grin.
It seemed like hits couldn't affect him. From time to time, when he saw two players converging on him, he used his foot speed to dodge both and make them crash into each other.
In 1929-30, Morenz scored 40 goals and became the NHL's first-ever three-time Hart Trophy winner.
Businessmen saw him play - and the crowds that showed up when the Habs were in town - and wanted to get in the game. One of them, Boston grocery store magnate Charles Adams, was so inspired after watching Morenz that he filed to start an expansion team in Boston. That team became the Bruins.
In 1930, those Bruins would make it to their third Stanley Cup final. Unfortunately, they did it against the Habs, who beat them soundly - with Morenz scoring what turned out to be the Cup-winning goal.
The Habs with Morenz were such a draw that they played the new team in New York, the Americans, in their first game, and drew a capacity crowd. The new team's owners personally requested that they play the Habs. Later in 1930, Morenz scored five goals against them.
Another businessman, Tex Rickard, saw that and had a vision for hockey in Madison Square Garden. Not long after that, the Rangers materialized.
Finally, in 1933, Morenz hit the pinnacle. He scored his 249th goal in the NHL - breaking the all-time record.
All was good for the kid from Stratford.
Then came 1934.
Two days after New Years', Morenz was playing against the Rangers in New York and fell awkwardly. He twisted his ankle, tore a ligament in his leg and bruised a bone. He couldn't play for a month, and when he did, he wasn't nearly as fast.
If there's one thing that's been proven time and time again over the years, it's that Montreal Canadiens fans may be the most bipolar bunch in sports. If you succeed and all is well, you're a demigod. If your play drops, you're scum and should be moved for a bag of pucks.
Fans booed Morenz during games. Newspaper columnists called for him to be traded.
Suddenly, big superstar Howie Morenz was back to being Howie from Stratford. He retreated back into his own world. He began overanalyzing his play and overthinking things. He lost sleep. He made it to the NHL's first-ever All-Star Game - a benefit game for Maple Leaf Ace Bailey, who had sustained a career-ending injury - but that didn't help.
His play got worse. Much worse.
Morenz broke his thumb, right after his ankle and leg had healed. At one point, a burglar broke into the home of Morenz and his family. The invader found Morenz and pistol-whipped him before taking valuables and fleeing into the night.
That definitely didn't help. His play dropped even more.
The fans kept booing and the headlines kept coming. When Morenz finished up with some games, he would head to his spot in the dressing room and break into uncontrollable sobbing.
Then, the character assassination started coming from the Habs front office itself. His new coach, Habs great Newsy Lalonde, told reporters he didn't like Morenz. When Howie was asked, he said he would never leave to play for another team. When he asked Dandurand or Habs co-owner Joe Cattarinich what was happening, neither would talk with him.
Finally, the unimaginable happened. Morenz was traded.
Howie would be going to Chicago, along with goalie Lorne Chabot and a defenseman, Marty Burke. The Habs didn't get a bag of pucks back, but that might have been more valuable than what they actually ended up with. Altogether, the three players the Habs got back played less than a hundred games with the Canadiens.
Heartbreak had come for Howie.
In Chicago, the same self-analysis that had hindered Morenz in Montreal hit him hard. After a good start, Howie ended up on the bench. He was then traded again, to the Rangers - a team he had helped inspire the creation of. He stunk, getting six points in 19 games.
It looked like the good times were over. However, that offseason, hope jumped up again.
The Habs had re-hired Cecil Hart, the coach who had led the Habs during Howie's glory days. Hart agreed to the job, on one condition - the team had to reacquire Howie.
They bought his contract from New York. After an awful season spent in the US, Morenz was back in le bleu, blanc et rouge.
He wouldn't be the big guy anymore, but Howie got the chance to play for his old team once more. He jumped at it, getting to play with his old buddies, especially Aurele Joliat.
After returning to Montreal, the same fans that had run him out on a rail welcomed him back with hugs. With the love easy to find, Morenz got back in his groove. Working mostly as a playmaker and working to get his speed back, Morenz racked up 16 assists and 20 points in 30 games that season, much better than his numbers in Chicago or with the Rangers.
There was so much hope. The slate had been cleaned - carte blanche.
Then the lights went out.
January 28, 1937. The Habs are at home, playing Morenz's former team, the Black Hawks. It's the first period and Morenz is feeling good.
The puck is loose in the Hawks' zone. A pass is misfired and it ends up in the corner. Morenz, behind the net, gets in a footrace with Chicago defender Earl Siebert, who's coming in behind him. Morenz has a good chance of getting this puck.
Howie is back at full speed, just like back on the Thames River as a kid, when his left skate catches a rut in the ice.
His foot kicks up and the blade of his skate catches a piece of the boards, stopping quickly and wrenching Howie sideways. He falls down hard.
Meanwhile, Siebert doesn't have time to stop. He keeps barreling down on the puck. He can't dodge Howie - Howie can't dodge him.
They say you could have heard it in the very back of the Forum. Even if you couldn't, the screaming was clear.
Howie Morenz's left leg was shattered.
His teammates skate over and unhitch his skate from the boards. After a short conversation, they carry him to the bench.
Howie is strapped to a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital. He has four separate breaks in his leg.
Nobody wants to say it, but it seems likely Howie Morenz has had his last hurrah.
Once he was in the hospital, the tone of the public shifted once more, from happiness and occasional anger to concern. The boos stopped altogether. People showered Howie with gifts and visited him at the hospital at all hours. His family were near him throughout the days, along with his teammates. Even opponents came to see him when they faced the Habs.
People brought him drinks to numb the pain. The joke at the time was, "The whisky was on the dresser and the beer was under the bed."
Howie's leg was kept in traction while the hubbub continued. After visiting hours, Morenz was left by himself.
The last thing that should have happened, happened - Howie Morenz, unable to do the thing he loved, with no one else around to distract him and unable to provide for his family and friends, crawled back inside his own head.
Sleep was rare for Howie. He'd spent most of the night reading the papers, religiously following how the Habs were doing. The team was dropping in the standings in his absence. Morenz blamed himself.
More and more, he felt like he would never play again. Hope disappeared. The future was bleak. Howie was in his own head, and he'd tunneled in there deep.
This time, it looked like he might not get out.
After Howie had been in the hospital for a month, something happened. We're not entirely sure what it was, more than eight decades later, but we do know that Morenz was despondent. Some whispered remembrances said he had trashed his hotel room.
The team doctor for the Habs came to visit and made a fast diagnosis. Howie Morenz had suffered a nervous breakdown.
Morenz was, at one point, put in a straitjacket. It was becoming more and more clear to him, each day, that he would never play hockey again.
The doctor banned almost all visitors from seeing Morenz and had security guards stationed outside during visiting hours. Only Howie's family and Canadiens personnel were allowed to see him. Howie's beloved father, who thought his son would be okay at first, got on the first train to Montreal.
Howie's wife and son came almost every day. When Howie's dad made it to Montreal, he almost never left. The new company may have helped Howie's mental state, but his medical condition was beginning to fail.
On March 8, Morenz said he was having chest pains. Doctors had told him he had a mild heart attack. It turned out not to be the full story - Morenz, stuck in bed for almost six weeks now, had developed blood clots in his damaged leg.
A doctor scheduled a heart surgery for later that day, but for some reason, it was delayed.
That night, Morenz took a turn for the worst. Howie's wife, dad and Coach Hart were all called to come and see him.
That night, the story goes, Morenz had tried to climb out of bed to go to the bathroom. In his struggle to get free, one of the clots lodged inside a blood vessel, blocking it.
Morenz fell on the floor.
Minutes later, his loved ones arrived.
There was nothing they could do. It was too late.
At the age of 34, the Stratford Streak had gone out.
Montreal was plunged into mourning after Howie died. Three days after his passing, a funeral mass was held at the Montreal Forum. The old barn could seat around 18,000 people - about three times that showed up. Radio stations broadcast the service live. Four of Howie's teammates and friends formed an honour guard near his casket.
One of them was Aurele Joliat, Morenz's close friend. Heartbroken, Joliat laid down a flower wreath shaped like Morenz's jersey number 7. Joliat won the Hart Trophy that year, but never had a season like that again. Later, this photo of him sitting in the dressing room next to Morenz’s equipment was taken.
When Howie was laid to rest, his son, Howie Jr., was near. He looked down into his father’s grave, shaken.
A few days after Howie's death, the Canadiens were due to play the Montreal Maroons, their cross-town rivals. The game was going to be cancelled until Morenz's wife Mary said they should continue. It's what Howie would want, she said.
Both teams wore black armbands and held two minutes of silence pre-game. In New York, the Rangers and Americans - two teams that may have never started in the first place without Morenz - did the same.
The NHL held a second All-Star game to raise money for the Morenz family, with a Habs/Maroons all-star team taking on the rest of the league. The Habs built a statue of Morenz and pledged to retire his number 7, saying only one player could ever use it again - Howie's son, Howie Morenz Jr.
Then, the dark side of Canadiens fandom came out. With his son now seen as a sort of successor to Howie's mantle, fans began to harass the Morenzs. At one point, people called the family home and threatened to kidnap Howie and his two siblings.
On top of that, without Howie Sr. around to provide for the family, money quickly ran short. The funds from the NHL charity game, instead of being directly to the family, were placed in a trust that couldn’t be accessed until Howie Jr. turned 25 - not very helpful when he was only eight. Mary couldn’t find work, and none of the kids were nearly old enough to have jobs.
The stress became too much to bear for Mary. She sent all three of her children to an orphanage for safekeeping. They stayed there until she remarried years later. One of the boys got sick and died while in the orphanage.
Once he was reunited with his mother, Howie Jr. took to the ice to attempt to live up to his family's name. He played in the minor leagues and had a tryout with the Habs in 1949 at age 22 - the same age his father was when he made his Montreal debut - but an eye condition stopped his NHL career before it started. He owned a string of businesses and passed away in 2015, age 88, having had only slight involvement with the team since.
Today, the Morenz family name lives on with Howie Morenz III. Instead of trying to live up to the pressure, Howie III actively avoided the hockey world.
Both Howie Jr. and Howie III have spent large amounts of their lives dissuading myths about their ancestor’s death. In a New York Times story written about his grandfather, Howie III told a reporter that his family doesn't believe the media story that circulated after Howie's death - that he had died, essentially, of a broken heart.
"The broken heart, we felt, was really a romantic way of implying he may have taken his own life," he said.
"We don't believe that at all."
That makes a lot of sense. After all, the blood clots were definitely enough to take down a man like Howie. But maybe, if there was more hope, if he hadn't been depressed, if there was a chance he could play again, would he have fought harder?
We'll never know.
Howie Morenz was a lot of things. He was an idol, a star.
But deep down, somewhere, Howie Morenz was always that kid on the Thames River, hanging on to that feeling, the thing that produced what Hugh MacLennan called "the little smile on his lips."
Everything seemed so easy on the ice.
If you want to read more about the weird, forgotten or amazing bits of hockey history, visit our subreddit at /wayback_wednesday. You'll find dozens of articles just like this one.
If you'd like to write an article as part of this series, message me or the moderators of /wayback_wednesday. We're always glad to have extra hands on deck.
We'll be back soon with another article. If you have any ideas or information for later Wayback Wednesday posts or if you're interested in writing one, please don't hesitate to message us or comment below.
submitted by react_and_respond to hockey [link] [comments]

Current Content and User Engagement Woes

This is going to be a long read, but I hope people can relate to some of the frustrations and have additional suggestions to keep the conversation going. Trying not to focus on gameplay or tuners...a lot of varying opinions there.
Quick background...NHL is really the only game I play. Last year I also bought Madden on sale around Xmas to see what the hype was about and then again this year. I played some MUT before NHL was released and then switched all efforts over to HUT. I made this post last season about my eyes being opened to the incredible amount of content offered in MUT, which I'll allude to often below when looking for ways to improve the game. I know other ultimate team games (ie. Non-EA:The Show or EA:FIFA) have features I am not privy to and would love to hear about them.

The Attempted Fix NHL 18

I think most people on here are on the same page that NHL 18 did not go well from a market perspective. The most casual of players enjoyed it because they were able to pick up cards for very a couple solo challenges and you could pick up Ice Stamkos and Kucherov. Many people, including myself, were left with very little to do as end-game teams were available very early on due to the number of players and card types hitting 99 early on in the year. What contributed to it?
Attempted Market Fix in 19:
Long story short, IMO, that is a huge list and EA went too far. In an attempt to stabilize the market, which it definitely has, the game has become boring with very little to do or things to cheer for. Let's go into some details below.
First off, credit where credit is due. Bravo on:

Events and Content Release to Date

Evolution Set - No complaints on the set construct besides it being one and done. Choice packs at different levels is a nice way to do it. The solo challenges around it were just brutal. Tedious star requirements to pull two random jersey cards? Boo. The "release of additional Evo cards after receiving feedback" via packs only over 24 hours is not a great solution. Evo Burns is already a ghost on the AH.
Halloween - The best set released yet. Solid Big Buff MSP card. The only odd part was the required specific gold rare or gold common player for the team builder set. Why randomly pick one player like that to allow people to login at 5:01 and price lock? At least make the team builder set "X amount of gold common or silver rare players"...not one specific gold common. That just gets price locked as well.
Digital 6 - This is where I start to question if person creating these sets ever takes a look at the current market. Again randomly requiring a gold rare card...although that was moot point for this set as everyone collecting the Rask, Kadri, etc. cards dumped as soon as the details were released and flooded the supply. Gold collectibles are already rare with people building alumni sets. It seems odd to have 5 required for what is more or less a rookie/intermediate level set with 86 cards. Ditto on the solo challenges...Superstar is absolutely infuriating to play against. No MSP card either? Hard pass.
Weekend Alumni Releases - Underwhelming may be the best summary here. Mostly low rated cards, an abundance of high goalies, and available only in packs.
$100/500k - Controversial, but this has been the only good pack release of the year. There was definitely some sticker shock at the $100 price tag. Look at the price fo these guys now...whether you bought the pack or not, it ended up releasing an almost perfect amount to the market. Selanne, Leetch, etc. are always available and have maintained the value, even increasing slightly. The more recent "available in any pack" Forsberg, Pronger, and Potvin release that everyone asked for? Be careful what you wish for...I bet people ripped hundreds of dollars worth of packs and have nothing to show for it. They are extremely rare to find on the AH and 99.9% of people will never have that elusive Forsberg on their team without a re-release. Bring these packs back.

Game Modes/Features/Sets

Event Objectives - We are about to hit the two month mark of NHL 19 next week. There has been exactly ONE set of event objectives for ONE collectible. ???
Draft Champs - Completely neglected game mode. A single set of trading in 5 loan players for an 82. The only time I have seen people in there was trying to get a sneak preview of new cards and then forfeiting the draft. Brutal. Mimic Madden and make it X amount to enter and actually have good pack/coin rewards.
Comp Seasons vs Hut Champs - Too similar using the same scoring system. Why not mimic the MUT Weekend League Rewards for Hut Champs? Just total win count will get you to different reward tier levels with a max of 25 games. Go down a few goals early? No stress, quit and start the next game.
Playoffs - RIP?
Gold/SilveBronze Collectible Use - It is very odd to me that there are only two sets to currently use gold collectibles in. The first being the alumni upgrades, which one would never do unless you are in the 1% building a 99 MSP (others would just buy the upgraded player). The second is the oddly designed Digital 6 set discussed early. I would venture to guess a majority of the people, including myself, just build the collectibles and auction right away. MUT has a number of year long and often updated sets, including one of the HUT fan favorites, to use your collectibles in: Flashback Sets.
MUT "Series" Releases - Large content drops to keep the game fresh...Example being Series 3 released Nov. 2. What did this include?
  • 100 New Solo Challenges with a 91 OVR reward.
  • Multiple set updates to keep them relevant to current cards levels. ie. 50 trophies for a 89-91 overall player.
  • One month objective list that rewards a Legend pack.
Solo Challenges - Where are they? Browsing the sub, there are a number of people who want to participate in HUT, but not play online. There is very little for them to do. Look at the available solos in MUT right now...that is 934 to be exact. And most are fun too...some full games, but most situational "you are up by 4 with 30 seconds to do and Tom Brady on the 2 yard line...shut down the Pats to win this solo". I know situation challenges are not possible in 19 per flop, but it should be near the top of the list for NHL 20. In the meantime, I think I speak for all when I say these four solo challenge items are terrible:
  • Superstar Level - I am a D1 player with a pretty good record...I HATE playing the AI at this level...I can't imagine what newer players think. The tic-tac-toe passes they make are not possible using normal controller input.
  • Untracked Stats - Looking at you blocked shots and breakaway goals. Doing a challenge while blind is no fun.
  • Faceoff % - Can win 80% of face-offs against humans but under 50% on pro and up. Just not enjoyable.
  • PP Goals - Maybe this one is already gone? Have not played solos in a while. Ragging around trying to get the AI to take a penalty is just tedious.
Team of the Week - Branching off of the solo challenge section above...let's compare how HUT and MUT treat TOTW:
  • Cards are released and you have a small chance of pulling in packs.
  • Cards are release and you have a small chance of pulling packs.
  • Two solos are released where you obtain a random TOTW player and a TOTW collectible.
  • Obtain the other TOTW offensive or defensive players to complete the new TOTW Master set.
  • Hang on to the TOTW collectibles for a free TOTY set trade-in player.

Keeping the Game Linked to the NHL

MovembeEvo - Most of the people playing here are big hockey fans in real life as well. Take a look at the weekly sub posts for NHL 16/17/18 during Movember (and Evo) and then continuing throughout the rest of the NHL season. A ton of people discussing upcoming milestones, investment potential, who is playing with who and who is playing well (Guentzel on Crosby line...must buy guys). People were monitoring games each night and reporting back on potential POTG thresholds or injuries. It was really fun.
Look at the price of the Evo cards...they are so much higher than they should be considering the single synergy and max 2+ upgrade per month. What does that tell you? People want their Movember and Evo cards. Hitting refresh right at 5pm and seeing three of my starters get TOTW? Sweet!
MUT Predictor - Not sure if it has been in MUT yet this year, but last year there were weekly solos where you earned tokens to participate in an NFL pickem game that weekend. Based on how many you get right, you would earn coins/players/packs and the rewards increased throughout the year. How fun would it be to play some solos during the week to get tokens and then pick the following examples before a full Saturday slate of games:
  • Will Patrick Kane record two or more points?
  • Will the Sabres beat the Flames?
  • Will Holtby record 30 or more saves?
  • Will the Stars have over 10 penalty minutes?
  • etc.
"Temperature Cards" - AndrasteX Think MovembeEVO's are too OP? Create a card type that can go up AND down based on how said player is performing.

Final Thoughts

Amend the +2 Overall Per Month - _endlessmike had it written out somewhere but I can't find it. Some really good lower overall players will never be relative for a majority of the year with a +2 upgrade (ie. Pettersson). There are better ways to slow the average overall explosion like Ovi last year.
Bring Team Collections Back - Over the years, the "team collection" morphed from 1) collect all items of a team to receive reward packs 2) collect subset of team + collectibles to receive legend 3) alum card + collectibles for upgraded alum/legend. The "team collection" portion is completely gone and was a fun longer term goal reminiscent of collection physical hockey cards back in the day.
Diversify the Game Changers - Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe a majority of the game changers are YouTube and Twitch streamers. Understand that they are great from a marketing perspective; ie they get free points -> open packs on their videos -> people watch videos -> people buy packs. Win/win for both. However, sometimes I wonder if they are as passionate about the game as a bunch of the Reddit, Discord, etc. guys are. Sometimes have a major smh moment when they open packs on a stream and the don't know what the collectibles are Don't get me wrong, a lot of those guys are great, it just seems to be a very limited perspective.
If you made it to the end, thanks for reading. Long story short, I love this game and love all of you guys. Definitely my favorite hobby and just want to Make HUT Great Again. Cheers.
submitted by poleman14 to NHLHUT [link] [comments]

NHL Quick Picks and Betting Odds - Stanley Cup Futures VegasInsider - How to Read the Lines for NFL or NBA/NHL NHL Qualifying Rounds for 2020 Playoffs, Early Betting Lines from Mike Palm NHL - YouTube How To Get The Best NHL Odds Tonight

Understanding the world of online betting can be a daunting task for the sports betting novice. You’re met with a wall of numbers, dots and dashes before you even get started. The key to enjoyable betting is in knowing how to read the odds. We’ll break it all down into manageable chunks, covering the different bets and odds, and how to read ... is the official web site of the National Hockey League. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup, the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo, the Stanley Cup Final logo, Center ... NHL Vegas Odds, Betting Lines and Point Spreads provided by, along with more pro hockey information for your sports gaming and betting needs. NHL Playoff Betting Odds. For NHL fans out there, perhaps there's no better time of the year than when the NHL postseason arrives. And when it comes to making different wagers, Canada Sports Betting will always have NHL playoff odds ready for you.. The odds of making the NHL playoffs will surely vary from team to team, with the NHL playoff odds calculator working overtime throughout the year. The Calgary #Flames are the first team in NHL history to win a playoff series in Rogers Place — Adam (@Massonite) August 7, 2020. However, Seguin, the leading scorer on a team that was 26th in the NHL in goals, and goalie Ben Bishop, a Vezina finalist last season, are both out of the lineup with the NHL’s mysterious “unfit to play ...

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NHL Quick Picks and Betting Odds - Stanley Cup Futures

You can find real-time NHL betting odds at This video explains the importance of getting the best gambling odds possible, and... How to Read and Understand Line Movements When You Bet on Sports - The Sports Betting Whale Explains - Duration: 16:48. Whale Sports 3,252 views Mike Palm from Circa Sports joins the Follow the Money team on VSiN, The Sports Betting Network. The NHL is ramping up for their shortened 2020 season and playoffs. Mike Palm looks at the ... NHL Free Betting Picks, Odds, & Game Breakdowns. NHL Free Betting Picks, Odds, & Game Breakdowns ... NHL Playoffs Betting Free Play - Wednesday 4/24/19 l Picks & Parlays by Picks And Parlays. 1:53. The 2019 Stanley Cup playoff picture has been painted and now is the time to get your futures picks in. There's plenty of betting value on the board this year, and the NHL has historically been ...