A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.
1. Well, Vegas. You might as well go for it now.
This is what happens when you get a taste, when you plop down half a billion dollars, defy all odds, bottle magic, and come within three wins of hockey’s ultimate prize.
It’s easier to preach patience in the NHL than practice it.
Yes, in Max Pacioretty, Golden Knights GM George McPhee got the best player in the overnight blockbuster. He also got out from under most of Tomas Tatar’s $5.3-million cap hit for three years (the Knights retain 9.34% of his contract, per Chris Johnston). Smart move, considering Tatar was scratched for a dozen Knights playoff games and scored just once in the eight he did appear.
But McPhee also surrendered a highly productive centre prospect in Nick Suzuki, who scored 100 points in 64 OHL games last season, plus a second-rounder. And, we feel compelled to remind, McPhee gave up three draft picks, including a first, to acquire Tatar from Detroit in the first place.
Considering the lack of leverage Marc Bergevin had, Montreal did well for an asset destined to walk.
As for Vegas, Pacioretty should, in theory, replace James Neal’s scoring as a top-six winger. That he’s younger than Neal, by about 14 months, and that the Knights gave up a chunk to get him, makes it more likely that Vegas will work toward an extension.
We see free agent pickup Paul Stastny as a major upgrade from free agent departure David Perron.
And the reigning Western Conference champs still have $9.4 million in projected cap space. In other words, millions more than Tampa, San Jose, and Dallas — some other teams believed to have expressed serious interest in an Erik Karlsson trade.
Granted, McPhee still needs to sign RFA defenceman Shea Theodore.
At this point, why not push all-in and trade for Karlsson?
“Absolutely. Oh, gosh, yeah,” O’Reilly said.
“You see him on the ice, what he can do, not just his skill alone – how much he can take over a game – but you watch him train. You watch different things. He’s always pushing himself. He takes care of himself. He’s always finding a way to get better.
“For the young guys coming in, you want to look at that. He’s one of the elite players of the game. He’s a good guy to look up to. And he’s only going to get better and better as time goes on.”
3. Does anyone else imagine Sidney Crosby sitting alone in a dark basement all summer, taping his blade while watching footage of Alex Ovechkin drinking out of his Cup and Connor McDavid accepting his Art Ross trophies?
Here’s betting Sid comes out of the gates like a beast on fire.
4. Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang is one of my favourite interview subjects, so I was a tad disappointed when, through a P.R. rep, he turned down all requests to speak at BioSteel Camp. Ho-Sang avoids cliches like something other than the plague.
I understand why the 2014 first-rounder might want to keep a low profile until he sticks in the NHL for good. Let his play deliver the quotables.
Does a new GM (Lou Lamoriello) and coach (Barry Trotz) in Brooklyn signal a clean slate for Ho-Sang?
“Josh has to be part of our future,” Trotz told Stan Fischler. “He’s a talent who needs to be understood better than he has been. In this case, Lou will be good. My belief is that the kid has been misunderstood because he looks at the game differently.
“But his skills will fit into how we play. You’ve got to be patient with him and understand that he was frustrated in the past. Josh has talent and speed. Now we’ve got to have him make plays at the right time.”
Ho-Sang and Ducks centre Adam Henrique flashed some great chemistry during their BioSteel training.
It did not go unnoticed that Ho-Sang’s helmet was stamped with No. 26. Lou’s Rules forbid the 66.
“I’m happy with the opportunity to get a fresh start,” Ho-Sang later told reporters at prospect camp, “and I think everyone here is, not just me.”
5. I’ve always been fascinated with Brent Burns‘ fascination with super-exotic animals.
Please, watch this awesome mini doc on Burns’ new Texas ranch. “I always wanted to be the GM of a zoo,” he says.
6. Blake Wheeler‘s $41.25-million deal proves the Jets are all-in, and I love it.
Sure, he might look overpaid in the last couple years, but he’s been underpaid for years — and it sends a strong message that will ripple through that room.
During the Jets’ playoff run, coach Paul Maurice delivered this explanation of what makes Wheeler the group’s ideal leader.
“It would have to be repetition,” Maurice said.
“Blake, early on in his career, had a tendency to have slower starts, from a points perspective. And then he found his game, what he’s really good at. What Blake is really good at, he identified and then protected it. It’s all he works on. He drives harder every shift, every practice than the guy next to him. So it’s quite easy for him to be consistent. He comes to the rink single-minded on how he’s going to play, and he’s trained himself to be very, very consistent.
“It’s great for us, in that it’s a perfect mentor for any young player. Kyle Connor: the benefit Kyle gets from seeing that every day, it’s why Kyle is where he is today.
“Leadership is much about consistency, being consistent in how you play and how you treat the people around you. He’s been that way every day, regardless of what’s going on around him.”
Maurice was asked if he ever senses doubt within Wheeler.
“Doubt? No. Frustration and anger would be the same for all of us. You don’t like losing. Nobody does. But, no, I don’t think you can perform the way he does every day and have any.”
7. You gotta respect 34-year-old Scottie Upshall‘s perseverance. The UFA afterthought has earned three consecutive one-year deals, taking less than $1 million each time.
Upshall will go for the four-peat on a tryout with Edmonton, and McDavid is jacked.
“I’m really excited about it. Really, really excited that he’s coming to camp. He’s done PTOs the past three or four years now, and he got a contract every year. I expect nothing less,” McDavid says.
“He works so hard. He’s hard to play against. He’s speedy. He’s a veteran guy in the room. He’s kinda everything we could really use.”
8. When no one was watching, Arizona’s mid-season call-up, Dylan Strome, threw up five points in the Coyotes’ final four games of 2017-18.
Compared to others taken early in the 2015 draft, Strome is well behind in terms of NHL games played (28).
“I wanted to be up there a lot more. I just tried to do my best when I was up there and worked hard,” Strome says.
The message from GM John Chayka and coach Rick Tocchet: “Keep working hard and the results will come.”
Dylan spent the off-season working on his speed with skating coach Dawn Braid. It’s all about those first two steps. Once a week, he’d practice with older brother Ryan of the Oilers. The goal, as with any borderline NHLer, is to be bigger, stronger and faster.
Feels like the year to give him a long look to stick in the bigs.
“I’m happy with where I’m at,” says Strome, encouraged by the addition of centre Alex Galchenyuk.
“Things are trending in the right direction. Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs and ultimately win the Stanley Cup. There’s a realistic shot for us to have a really good year and do something special.”
Hey! No one predicted the Avalanche would’ve made the playoffs at this point last year.
9. Jorge Blanco was once Spain’s kickboxing champion. He also repped his country in Olympic boxing.
Now, amongst other things, he works with several NHLers in the summer.
A quick stop by his Instagram account reveals recent pics of the trainer with Jeff Skinner and Matt Martin. He’s posing with Tom Wilson and the Stanley Cup. Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse leaned on Blanco all summer.
We asked Nurse about this photograph:
Mama said knock you out. pic.twitter.com/7u3WJ1YCHw
“You see the gloves and the pads and think, OK, this guy just wants to knock everyone’s head off. That’s not really the thought process,” Nurse explains.
“It teaches you a lot of discipline in your movement, it’s great for cardio, and on top of that, there’s a boxing element to it.”
The focus was technique and pad punches. No actual sparring for Nurse.
“I feel like if I get hit in the head one time, I’d see red,” Nurse chuckles. Then he mimics his hypothetical opponent: “I don’t wanna spar against that guy. He’d knock me out!”
10. I had a blast going in studio to gab hockey with Steve Dangle, Adam Wylde and Jesse Blake. These gentlemen are excellent at running a podcast, going deep into puck talk while keeping things fun.
An eagerness to debate the fate of the Leafs’ fourth-string goaltender before camp even opens proves just how passionate these guys are. (And, no, the Leafs weren’t the team discussed.) Check it here:
11. Rick Vaive called it.
Prepping a column on the Maple Leafs captaincy, I went digging in the vaults for an interview I conducted with the former Leafs dressing room chief.
My conversation with Vaive took place in June 2016, when Stammergeddon was in full swing. Toronto was all in a tizzy thinking Steven Stamkos might sign as a UFA.
“I don’t believe the Stamkos stories,” Vaive asserted at the time.
“If anything I believe John Tavares would come here in two years versus Stamkos coming here now.”
“Why Tavares and not Stamkos?” I asked.
“The team is going to be so much further ahead,” Vaive replied. “The young kids will have two or three years in pro hockey under their belt. What better time for John Tavares to come in and take them to the next level?”
Because Rick’s son, 29-year-old AHLer Justin Vaive, played four winters with a young Tavares as a Toronto Marlie (GTHL), Rick knows Tavares well.
“I love the kid. He’s an awful, awful, big, tough competitor. He’s very serious. You don’t catch him in many non-serious situations. Maybe the odd time when he’s away from everybody and he’s with my son and a couple other buddies, he’ll let his hair down, laugh a bit and have some fun,” Vaive said.
“But I’ve never seen him not serious: OK, I’m ready to step on the ice. That’s the way he approaches everything. Not a bad way to be, except sometimes you gotta have some fun.”
The MC gave 87 another name drop on “Nothing Can Stop Me“: “Nothing can stop me, I’m way too cocky / Turn you into chopped meat / In hockey, I’m Crosby — Sidney / All of y’all ain’t [messin’] with me when I’m rackin’/ ‘Cause you’re, you’re Alex Ovechkin.”
“I’m half man, half amazin’ / Flyer than a penguin, you drier than a raisin,” the Pittsburgh native spat on “Put It On.”
It seems only right that in the wake of this weekend’s awful news, the Pens shout out a young man who was nice with his. Rest in peace, Mac Miller.