Not all sweeps are created the same.
There’s getting swept like the Winnipeg Jets were by the Anaheim Ducks.
And, to reference another sport, there’s getting swept like the Toronto Raptors were by the Washington Wizards. Big, big difference.
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For the Jets, while they may have been the first NHL team eliminated last Wednesday from the Stanley Cup playoffs, they still ended on a relative high as a team considered to be a much more formidable squad in April than they were in September.
If not for major injuries to Andrew Ladd (hernia), Jacob Trouba (broken hand) and others, the Jets might have given the Ducks a tougher go, although those of us who underrated Anaheim will do so no longer after that strong effort.
Winnipeg has many of the key pieces in place. Strong, reliable ownership. A committed fan base. A patient general manager focussed on drafting and development. An experienced coach currently in favour with the public, although we know how that changes. They have good, if not great depth at all positions, and youth at all positions, with some good prospects on the way.
Free agents Drew Stafford and Michael Frolik might get away this summer, which would begin to eat away at that depth, and we’ll see if the Jets have any success in the unrestricted free agent market if they choose to go there.
Are they a team destined for greater things? Maybe. But at the very least they are a team that should be able to avoid the short-term decline that often follows a short-term jump up the standings. Since they were eliminated, the Jets have been joined by the Penguins, the Senators, the Predators, the Blues and the Canucks. At least one more team will join them tonight.
Out of the group that is out, only the Senators, probably, can feel as good about how it all ended as Winnipeg.
More weekend takeaways:
Gateway to Oh-No-Not-Again: Hard to believe the Blues failed in the post-season again, albeit at the hands of a Minnesota squad that has been among the very best in the league in 2015. Iffy goaltending hurt St. Louis again, a familiar theme, as once again a 100-point regular season team crashed early in the post-season.
Without a contract, head coach Ken Hitchcock is obviously vulnerable. Organizationally, the Blues tried to add a key piece for last year’s playoffs in Ryan Miller and that didn’t work, then this year they signed Paul Stastny to help buttress the roster up the middle, and that didn’t work.
Developing a big-time sniper in Vladimir Tarasenko (a remarkable 10 goals in 13 career playoff games) also didn’t make the difference. Something’s missing here – the Blues are 4-18 on the road in the playoffs since 2003 – and it won’t be easy to figure out what that something is.
His Latest Trick: The Erie Otters were supposed to not have enough weapons to deal with the powerhouse Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL playoffs. But they do seem to have this fellow Connor McDavid, the future Edmonton Oiler, and have managed to jump ahead 2-1 in their series against the Soo.
Game 4 is at Erie tomorrow, and while this wouldn’t be a massive playoff upset, it does give you an indication of what a team with McDavid can do.
Mushy Middle in Lower Mainland: The Canucks are another team with major thinking to do concerning their future. GM Jim Benning tried to go in two directions last summer, adding youth while at the same time trying to make the club more competitive by adding the likes of Miller and Radim Vrbata, and to some extent he was successful in both efforts.
But with the 23rd pick in June’s draft, no second or third rounder, and only Jake Virtanen possibly a blue chipper on the depth chart, the Canucks need to move more aggressively into a rebuild mode. But will ownership allow that? And can you do that with the Sedin twins still on the roster?
Disappointment in Music City: At least the Predators can argue the loss of Shea Weber really hurt their playoff chances against Chicago, and the play of youngsters Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson, Roman Josi and Seth Jones in that series suggests this is a team well set up for the future despite the fact the Preds decision to deal away this year’s first rounder and prospect Brendan Leipsic to Toronto for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli didn’t help much.
The biggest concern, oddly enough, might be Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne, who wasn’t nearly as good in the second half of the season and the playoffs as he was before Christmas. Against the Hawks, he wasn’t able to hold leads of 3-0 and 3-1, and he allowed 19 goals in the series while Chicago was going back and forth between Scott Darling and Corey Crawford.
Decisions, decisions: Anaheim had a tough choice to make at the deadline between adding a defenceman and acquiring another centre. GM Bob Murray ideally wanted both, but the Ducks are a budget team, not a cap team, and he couldn’t free up the money. So, finally, the Ducks added rearguard James Wisniewski from Columbus, but were unable to add Dallas centre Shawn Horcoff, a player who would have come in handy in the first round when both Nate Thompson and Chris Wagner went down. Bruce Boudreau had to put Tomas Fleischmann into the middle for the deciding game against Winnipeg.
Minor league openings: The Ducks, by the way, have parted ways with their minor-league coach, Jarrod Skalde, just as the team prepares to make the move from Norfolk to San Diego to be part of the new California division in the AHL next season.
Committed to Uncertainty: Pittsburgh Penguins CEO/president David Morehouse undoubtedly wanted to put an immediate stop to all the speculation surrounding the Penguins when he stated on Saturday that GM Jim Rutherford, head coach Mike Johnston and star centres Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin will all return next season.
This begs the question; how do the Penguins intend to get better after a disastrous second half and playoff effort? Malkin had a terrible final part of the season, including going pointless against the Rangers as the Pens lost in five. Splitting up he and Crosby might make sense from a cap perspective, but Morehouse et al obviously see it differently. Having traded away the club’s first rounder for David Perron, the Penguins won’t get much relief from the draft, and free agency beckons for Christian Ehrhoff and Paul Martin.
Compensation Question: Neither the Bruins nor the Oilers have yet said for sure whether a second round pick will be going from Edmonton to Boston as compensation for Peter Chiarelli signing on as the new hockey boss in Alberta’s capital. That’s the new compensation schedule set down by the NHL to govern hirings of executives and coaches around the league who are already under contract.
The two sides say they’re “talking,” but what we know is it’s either a second rounder or the Bruins can choose to waive it, but they can’t negotiate a different price. Given how badly the Oilers obviously wanted Chiarelli, why wouldn’t Boston take the pick? We’ll see what happens.
Destinations for Dion: Given that Boston was one of the teams most interested in Maple Leaf defenceman Dion Phaneuf at the trade deadline, and restated that interest after he wasn’t traded, it makes sense that with Chiarelli now in Edmonton, the defence-hungry Oilers could be suitors for the veteran blueliner this summer.
Draft Musings: Canada’s Matthew Barzal was one player who may have used the world under-18s in Switzerland over the past week to improve his draft stock. The Seattle centre missed time with a cracked kneecap after starting the season as a top 10 pick, but to many scouts he reaffirmed his talent as Canada won bronze.
Another player who helped his draft position might have been defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler of Switzerland, who also impressed at the world juniors in Canada during the winter. Another possible top 20 pick, Colin White of the U.S., scored the winning goal in overtime as the Americans knocked off Finland, 2-1.
Meanwhile, U.S. centre Auston Matthews was dominant, winning MVP honours. He’s not eligible until the 2016 draft, but is expected to announce soon whether he’ll go to the NCAA or to the Everett Silvertips of the WHL next season now that the world under-18s are over.
Matthews played his minor hockey in Scottsdale, Arizona and played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan this season.