Chicago Blackhawks 2017-18 Season Preview

Here are two memories I have of the Chicago Blackhawks as they relate to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I remember the Chicago Blackhawks were the opponent when the Leafs played their final game at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999. Chicago won the game and the late, Bob Probert, scored the last goal in the building.

I also remember a game in the late 90s – it was in Chicago. The Leafs scored 10 goals. The Blackhawks goalie was Jeff Hackett. A couple of days later, he was traded to Montreal. I would always remember that game as the game we forced them to trade their goalie.

I just did some research. The game was November 12, 1998. Toronto won 10-3. Hackett let in 6 of the 10 goals.

Four days later, Hackett was traded.

Do I have a good memory or what?

As for the current Blackhawks, it’s almost unfair how many future Hall of Famers are on the team. By my count, I see at least 5, possibly 6.

FORWARDS

Chicago traded away budding superstar, Artemi Panarin, in the off-season. He went to Columbus and back came a familiar face – Brandon Saad.

After winning the Western Conference and then getting swept in the first round, this was a drastic move. From my perspective, Panarin was a duplicate talent on that team. His scoring and creativity was great, but they already had that. They needed all-around players like Saad.

Jonathan Toews (C) – I mean, what is there to say? He’s lead them to three Stanley Cups in the last eight years. He’s one of the best captains in the league. He’s the youngest player to ever gain entry into the Triple Gold Club – Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, and World Championship Gold Medal. You could put him in the Hall of Fame tomorrow and no one would question it. Oh yeah, he’s only 29-years-old.

Patrick Kane (RW) – Patrick Kane produces year in and year out, yet is often overlooked as one of the best players in the game. Perhaps it’s because he’s not the captain of his team? I’m not sure. He’s averaged over a point per game in 7 of his 10 NHL seasons. Kane scored the game winning goal to win the Stanley Cup in 2010.

Patrick Sharp (LW) – Sharp had the best years of his career in Chicago and was a member of all 3 Stanley Cup teams. His second season in Dallas last year was nothing to write home about. At the age of 35, he’ll look to reignite his scoring touch back where he’s been most comfortable.

Brandon Saad (LW) – Saad is only 24-years-old and has 6 NHL seasons under his hockey pants. After two years in Columbus, he’s back in Chicago where his career began with 2 Stanley Cups. Throw him on the top line with Toews and let them do their thing. Simple as that.

Notable: Artem Anisimov (C), Marian Hossa (RW)

DEFENSE

There is no point in me breaking up this section by player. Duncan Keith (31) and Brent Seabrook (33) have been attached at the hip since the 2005-2006 season. They’ve won Stanley Cups, they’ve won Gold Medals, and they’ve grown a lot of facial hair.

They are essentially each other’s work wife.

An early exit in the playoffs last season has given them an extended off-season and time to rest. I believe they’re the best defensive duo in the league and will be for a few more years.

Notable: Connor Murphy (24), Michael Kempney (27)

GOALIES

Corey Crawford (32) – Since taking over the starter’s role in 2010-11, he’s started between 55-59 games in every season since, except one. He is one of the best goalies in the NHL and has proven he can win in the playoffs. For the Blackhawks, that is what matters. For them, the regular season is just something that needs to happen before the real challenge begins.

Anton Forsberg (24) – Forsberg came over from Columbus with Saad in the Panarin trade. He has played in 10 NHL games, has 1 win, and a GAA of 4.02. It’s a small sample size, so don’t jump to conclusions. On the bright side, he’s been terrific in the minors.

Look, the Blackhawks have been spoiled with quality backups, whether it was Scott Darling or Antti Raanta. Realistically, Chicago needs Forsberg to make 22-26 starts this season to keep Crawford fresh for the playoffs.

Notable: J.F. Berube (26)

FUN FACTS

1. Their mascot is named, Tommy Hawk. No relation to Tony.

2. Head Coach, Joel Quenneville, is known as Coach Q. This means, whenever he points something out to his players, it’s known as a Coach Q Tip. I made that up.

3. Stan Bowman is the General Manager of the team. His father, Scotty, is the winningest coach in NHL history with 1244 wins.

4. The fans in Chicago are known for cheering loudly during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

5. The Blackhawks’ Penalty Kill was ranked 24th last season, however they were the second least penalized team in the league.

WHAT CHRIS THINKS

Chicago is what I hope the Leafs will be in five years. They will compete for the Cup again as legitimate contenders.

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY

After two consecutive first round exits, the band is back together and the redemption tour is on, so look out everyone else.

Who am I to question a core of Toews, Kane, Saad, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, and Crawford? On top of that, the Blackhawks have a knack for bringing up talent from the AHL and inserting them into impact roles.

Alex DeBrincat could be that player for them this season.

I think Chicago will win the Central Division, while the top spot in the Western Conference is up for grabs.

Bottom line: Chicago is making the playoffs and they’ll be a favourite to go to the Conference Final once again.

ONE WILD PREDICTION

Anton Forsberg loses five games or fewer this season as a backup (minimum 22 games).

POST-GAME

Last Preview: Carolina Hurricanes
Next Preview: Colorado Avalanche
Twitter: @CappyTalks #31inNot31

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50 Thoughts XIV

1. In a perfect world, all french fries would be the same length.

2. Every time I open a new pack of tennis balls, I just stand there sniffing them. This sounded less creepy in my head.

3. Last year I predicted that people would proclaim they are as single as a T. Swift jingle, and it would become a big worldwide cliché. It hasn’t happened.

4. I spelled the word “occasion” wrong in a tweet the other day and didn’t notice it for many hours. Subconsciously, I just wanted the letter “s” to feel as important as the letter c. Occassion.

4.5 I think I just gave the letter s a participation trophy.

5. Nap now, procrastinate later.

6. If the air conditioning is on but you still feel hot, take a hairdryer, set it to “cool” and blow yourself with it. Again, that sounded less creepy in my head.

7. #TeamGenius

8. I’m writing this while listening to the 2CELLOS version of With or Without You. It is splendid.

9. Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear drapes, especially on Halloween.

10. I have so many blog ideas and not enough time to do all of them. Somebody help me.

11. What do you call it when you switch seats at a concert?

11.5 Musical Chairs.

12. With or without youuuuuuu. Sorry. It’s addicting.

13. At least three times a week I find myself Googling the meaning of text abbreviations I see on Twitter. Doing so makes me feel hip with da kidz.

14. Gravy.

15. Every Church should have a newsletter called, “In The Pews”.

16. You know those billboards that list all the names of places within a particular plaza? Well, they should add fake places to the billboard so people actually take time to stare at them.

17. If you don’t sing, “Ba na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” when you throw out a banana peel, you’re doing life wrong.

18. Donner Pass.

19. There are people in this world with so much to offer, but nowhere to offer it.

20. I’m almost done Season 9 of Friends. The hints at a Ross and Monica incest storyline have been there since Season 1. STOP IT.

21. I can’t stress this enough: I’m amazing at mini-putt.

22. We can’t be friends if you rub the top of your pizza slice against a plate in order to get the sauce off.

23. I still remember the day my flip phone died on me. My first reaction was to call home with it to notify my family. But I couldn’t because it was broken. Useless.

23.5 That being said, it still sits in my closet, wondering why it isn’t “smart” enough for this generation.

24. The first time someone told me my humour was dry, I was offended. I wanted to soak them with water.

24.5 I didn’t understand what dry humour was. I just did it.

25. Apparently the world is supposed to end today when we get hit by Planet X. I only learned about this three days ago. That’s not enough time to schedule my last meal. Next time, I want 7-10 business days.

26. “Hey, what three people would you go to dinner with if you could choose anyone, alive or dead?” It’s time to retire this question, guys. I’ve realized I have no care in the world for anyone’s answer.

27. Out of all the words we could’ve used to describe two people that look alike, we chose “Doppleganger”? There really is no hope in this world, is there?

28. I don’t want to see a close-up of your bare feet on social media.

29. Sometimes I’ll see things on Instagram and immediately start brainstorming ways I can take the same photo of myself, but in a mocking manner.

29.5 Then I have to wait six months to post it so people don’t know I’m mocking them.

30. There are different kinds of conversations that we have with people. Some people are on our wavelength and the back and forth is like a swing in the park. Other conversations are a constant struggle, like getting on a teeter totter when someone else is already on the other side.

31. I always thought that by a certain age, I’d be expected to write everything in cursive. It felt like something adults did.

32. Dogs sniff their butts in public and people think it’s adorable. Meanwhile, humans can’t even look at their own armpit, let alone sniff it, without everyone taking a step back.

32.5 Such a double standard.

33. All Ball Call Doll Fall Gall Hall Loll..ipop Lollipop Loll Loll Loll Lollipop Mall Paul Saul Tall Y’all

34. Life is exactly like professional wresting and I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about it, but complaining about scented hand soaps was a more pressing issue.

35. What were they feeding Big Bird? Tires or hula-hoops?

36. Elmo doesn’t have ears. GUYS, ELMO DOESN’T HAVE EARS.

37. I never understood how my dad could hear a song and pinpoint exactly when it came out. Now I do.

38. Shouldn’t the phrase, “Fork it over” actually be “Spoon it over”? Spoons can hold more and they’re easier to unload.

39. Fruit flies will get’cha.

40. A crocodile coming through the toilet used to be one of my fears.

40.5 Then I flushed the toilet and a flock of bugs appeared out of nowhere and washed down the sides of the toilet with the water.

40.75 It’s been a spooky summer.

41. Spring into Spring. Dumber in the Summer. Fall into Fall. Complain about wet socks in your boots and mall shoppers in Winter.

42. Looking back, the 60 pack of Pencil Crayons was such a money grab. Every kid knew that Poppy Red was the best red; the other three red options were what we offered to other kids when they asked us to share.

43. Every time I want orange juice, I have to remind myself the three day sore throat that follows, isn’t worth it.

44. I do Sudoku puzzles on the hardest difficulty on the internet because I’m a riot at parties.

45. There aren’t enough hours in a day and there aren’t enough characters permitted in tweets on Twitter. I always need about 4 more of each.

46. I either stay up late blogging, watching wrestling videos, researching true crime mysteries, or reading conspiracy theories on Wikipedia. There is no in between.

46.5 Be my friend.

47. On a religion test in high school, I had to explain what “Salt of the earth” meant. Pretty sure I said, “It’s people who add flavour to life.” Am I wrong?

47.5 That was one of those questions where everyone knows the answer, but it’s hard to put into words.

48. I don’t know how to do long division anymore.

49. The pickles at the top of the jar never taste as good as the ones in the middle and at the bottom.

50. One more time. Music’s got me feeling so free. We’re gonna celebrate. Celebrate and dance so free, one more time. Music’s got me feeling so free. We’re gonna celebrate. Celebrate and dance so free, one more time. Music’s got me feeling so free. We’re gonna celebrate. Celebrate and dance so free, one more time. Music’s got me feeling so free. We’re gonna celebrate. Celebrate and dance so free, one more time. Music’s got me feeling so free. We’re gonna celebrate. Celebrate and dance so free, one more time. Music’s got me feeling so free. We’re gonna celebrate. Celebrate and dance so free, ONE MORE TIME.

Follow me on Twitter @CappyTalks for daily thoughts just like these.

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Carolina Hurricanes 2017-18 Season Preview

The Carolina Hurricanes broke my heart in 2002. It was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they were ahead in the series 3-2 against my Maple Leafs, and were winning the game 1-0 with under a minute to go.

Mats Sundin tied the game with 21.8 seconds left and the building went crazy.

The Leafs lost in overtime and were eliminated from the playoffs.

I hold grudges when it comes to sports.

The Hurricanes have been going through a slow rebuild. They’ve only had a top ten pick, four times since 2006. Though they’ve been poor on the ice, they haven’t been bad enough to warrant a pick higher than number five. It’s a shame.

FORWARDS

Jordan Staal (C) – He came over from Pittsburgh in 2012 to join his brother Eric. Eric has since left. Jordan is a great defensive forward, who’s ceiling is 50 points in a season. He’s ideal for a second line role.

Jeff Skinner (LW) – After a promising rookie season in 2011-12 where he put up 63 points, his career never took off the way I thought it would. That being said, last season he put up 63 points again, 37 of which were goals. Could he be taking that next step?

Sebastian Aho (LW) – The 20-year-old from Finland put up 49 points in 82 games last season – his first in the NHL. He could find himself on a line with Staal and Elias Lindholm.

Elias Lindholm (C/RW) – The 5th overall pick in the 2013 draft put up a career-high 45 points last season. Sean Monahan went 6th in that draft and has blossomed into a consistent 20 goal scorer and 60-point player. Perhaps Lindholm will find his scoring touch with age, or with new offensive line mates.

Notable: Victor Rask (C), Justin Williams (RW), Teuvo Teravainen (LW)

Too many players on this team put up 40-50 points. The need a couple of players to breakout this season.

DEFENSE

The Hurricanes defense is ahead of the forwards in terms of the rebuild. They boasted an all American blue line at stages last season.

Justin Faulk (25) – He’s an offensive-minded defenseman who will anchor the power-play and likely represent the team at the All-Star Game.

Noah Hanifin (20) – He’s already played two seasons in the NHL and he’s not even 20. Hanifin is the kind of player that scouts will look at and say, “He’s a talented, all-around defenseman” and everyone else will agree with them because it’s true.

Jaccob Slavin (23) – Slavin averaged over 23 minutes/game last season. He’s a shut down defenseman who will be seen on the penalty kill.

Brett Pesce (22) – Other than Faulk, Pesce is the third defenseman I’ve mentioned who is 6’3. This is a big blue line. Proceed with your head up, forwards.

Notable: Trevor van Riemsdyk (26), Jake Bean (2016 1st round pick)

GOALIES

Cam Ward (33) – Ward helped win them the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2006 and was named the Conn Smythe winner (MVP of the playoffs). Remarkably, he had only played 28 games during the regular season. His statistics haven’t been impressive in recent seasons, but neither have the players in front of him. He started 61 games last season, but that number is likely to go way down this year.

Scott Darling (28) – Darling was acquired during the off-season and given a 4-year contract. You don’t do that unless you intend to start him…a lot. He’s never started more than 27 games in a season at the NHL level, but has been a reliable backup for Chicago. Then again, it’s Chicago. It’ll be interesting to see if Darling can shine on a younger, less experienced team.

Jonathan Bernier, a perennial backup, getting traded to the Leafs in 2013, is what comes to mind when I think of Darling being acquired by the Hurricanes. Hopefully, he has more success than Bernier did in Toronto.

FUN FACTS

1. Ron Francis is the General Manager. He played six seasons in Carolina before ending his career in Toronto in 2004. I always have to mention the Leafs in these previews and I’m not sorry.

2. The Hurricanes have missed the playoffs in 14 of their 19 seasons. However, in the 5 seasons they made the playoffs, they made the Stanley Cup Final twice, and won it once. That’s impressive.

3. They were last in the league in attendance last season.

4. You could get season tickets for as low as $688 this year. In Toronto, $688 will get you two tickets to one game.

5. Arturs Irbe had the biggest goalie pads I’ve ever seen and I’m still extremely bitter about it. Yes, he was on that 2002 team that.

WHAT CHRIS THINKS

Sweet Carolina, these guys are living on a prayer.

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY

For as bad as the Hurricanes have been in recent history, they were only eight points out of the playoffs last season. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not terrible.

They are putting together a defense core that could be the best in the NHL in a few years. As for their forwards, they are lacking that big name player that everyone else can feed off of.

Last season, they had the 6th best penalty kill and were the least penalized team in the league. That’s pretty impressive for a young team.

This team isn’t bad enough to get a top pick and they’re not yet good enough to make the playoffs. That’s a tough place to be.

ONE WILD PREDICTION

The Hurricanes will trade one of their defenseman in a package for Matt Duchene.

POST-GAME

Last Preview: Calgary Flames
Next Preview: Colorado Avalanche
Twitter: @CappyTalks – #31inNot31

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Calgary Flames 2017-18 Season Preview

I wasn’t a fan of the Calgary Flames when I was a kid. For starters, I don’t live there. On top of that, by the time their games came on at 10PM ET, I’d be in bed.

And if that’s not enough, there’s this: When Doug Gilmour was traded back to the Leafs in 2003, he lasted only 21 minutes before injuring his leg and ending his career. That game was in Calgary. I’m still mad Gilmour never got to play one last game at home, in Toronto.

Now that I’m an “adult”, meh, the Flames are fine. They’re fun to watch. They have some nice players. But I’ve always preferred Edmonton, though.

FORWARDS

After Jarome Iginla left in 2013, the Flames were committed to replenishing the cupboard with prospects and sending them out to learn on the job like unpaid interns.

They are young and talented.

Johnny Gaudreau (LW) – Johnny Hockey has a cap hit of $6.75M over the next 6 seasons. That’s a lot of weight on his 5’9, 157 lb. frame. That being said, he’s capable of being a point-per-game player, especially with Sean Monahan on his line.

Sean Monahan (C) – The 22-year-old has been hovering around the 60-point mark for the last three seasons. He’s capable of taking his game to a few more levels as he turns into the number one centre of the present and foreseeable future.

Matthew Tkachuk (LW) – He turns 20 in December and already has a full NHL season under his belt, or whatever he uses to keep his pants up. Suspenders? He’s shown a willingness to agitate his opponents with his physicality and his body and he’s only going to get stronger. He’ll be a force in the coming seasons.

Sam Bennett (C) – He was the 4th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and like most players in his class, it’s taking him a few years to show what he can do at the NHL level. He’s still only 21 and has the ability to eventually become the permanent number two centre.

NotableMikael Backlund (C), Micheal Ferland (RW), Michael Frolik (RW). 

Same name, three different spellings.

DEFENSE

Some people say the Flames have the best defense in the NHL. I say those people are probably correct, if you’re evaluating the names on paper.

Mark Giordano (33) – The Captain. He’s been there since 2005 and has found some offensive punch over the least four seasons. Put him down for 40-50 points, if he stays healthy.

Dougie Hamilton (24) – This will be his sixth season in the NHL and third with the Flames. He’s an offensive defenseman and you’ll likely see him in such films as “First Line on the Power-Play”. Oh, and his brother Freddie is on the team! They played for the Niagara Ice Dogs back in the day.

T.J. Brodie (27) – Durable. Defensive. Offensive. Built Ford Tough.

Travis Hamonic (27) – This is almost unfair. Hamonic comes over from the New York Islanders. He will give his opponents many bruises this season.

Michael Stone (27) – He came over from the Coyotes last season and fit in well. He’ll be used on the penalty kill, but can fill in on the power-play if needed.

GOALIES

For the third season in a row, the Flames enter the season with two brand new goalies. Both come from losing teams, but don’t blame them for that.

Mike Smith (35) – He was suffering on bad teams in Arizona for many years. Everyone knows he is better than what the stats say. I really like this acquisition for the Flames. He is one of the best puck-moving goalies in the league, and with this defense, they should be clearing their zone quite effectively.

Eddie Lack (29) – His career didn’t take off in Carolina like I thought it might. In fact, his coach even called him out for not being good enough, at one point. He’s the perfect backup goalie in Calgary. If Smith gets hurt, he can step in and start games and perform better than most backups in the league.

Solid depth.

Notable: Jon Gillies (23)

FUN FACTS

1. Brian Burke is the President of the Flames. In 1999, he orchestrated the greatest draft heist I’ve ever seen, when he traded up and drafted the Sedin twins with the 2nd and 3rd overall picks. I still don’t know why Atlanta took Patrik Stefan 1st overall.

2. The Flames are in a fight with the City of Calgary over a new arena. It’s election season in Calgary, so that’s a cherry to add to the top of this sundae.

3. Matt Stajan is only 33-years-old. This is unbelievable to me. He started his career with the Leafs and in a video game, the announcer pronounced his last name as “Stay-on”. Chris will remember that. He’s probably chuckling about it now.

4. Calgary lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Tampa Bay in 2004. One of my former campers told me his favourite team was Tampa Bay because they won the Cup the year he was born. Oh how his life would be different had Calgary won.

5. I love the roof on their arena. It’s a dome in the shape of a saddle. I wonder what drainage is like in the winter. That’s a pretty wet saddle.

WHAT CHRIS THINKS

Calgary has mastered the art of the retool, it takes great skill to rebuild your team around Matt Stajan.

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY

Calgary is looking down the road at the Edmonton Oilers and see Connor McDavid skating at them for the next 15-20 years. It’s no wonder they bulked up on defense. They’re going to need it in order to compete with the Oilers for the next two decades.

The Flames are in a tough Pacific Division and may be relegated to a Wild Card spot like they were last season. Nonetheless, I think this team makes an appearance in the second round. They have the goaltending this year to do it.

Let their young players grow into themselves before expecting a run to the Stanley Cup. They’ll meet the Oilers in the playoffs, eventually, and the province of Alberta may never be the same again.

ONE WILD PREDICTION

They start slow and only win 4 games (out of 12) in October.

POST GAME

Last Preview: Buffalo Sabres
Next Preview: Carolina Hurricanes
Twitter: @CappyTalks

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Broken Record

One two three will you count with me
I’m already painting what used to be
and now I’m caught
living in an afterthought

Maybe you can fill in the gaps
with pieces that look like they fit
maybe I can fill in the gaps
and realize they’re counterfeit

Put it away
out of sight from me and you
just put it away
because there’s nothing I can do

The small things we hold so dear
slip through our hands and disappear
they leave sentences hanging on the word and
because it’s impossible to pick up each grain of sand

Are we ever allowed to feel what we once felt
black and white images slowly slide by
one by one they melt
a forced goodbye

Maybe I’m singing the songs of a broken record
though she sounds just fine to me, thank you
perhaps that is the point of this
trying to track down the runaway bliss.

Storm – Lifehouse

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Buffalo Sabres 2017-18 Season Preview

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good sports montage. God knows I’ve spent too much time on YouTube watching them. When I was in high school, I discovered Buffalo Sabres tribute videos on YouTube.

They would be highlights mixed with play-by-play from Rick Jeanneret (One of the best voices you’ll ever hear), and music. I watched some of those videos so often, that I memorized the commentary and knew when it was coming up.

I’m starting to think I was a closet Buffalo Sabres fan back then.

Oh no.

FORWARDS

Jack Eichel (C) – He’s the guy who was picked after Connor McDavid in 2015. At 20-years-old, Eichel has had eerily similar numbers across the board in his first two seasons.

2015-16: 81 GP; 24 Goals; 32 Assists; 21 Power Play Points
2016-17 : 61 GP; 24 Goals; 33 Assists; 24 Power Play Points

It’s impressive that Eichel was able to match his scoring output of his rookie season in 20 less games in his sophomore campaign. If he can avoid injuries this season, he could find himself at the top of the NHL scoring list.

Ryan O’Reilly (C) – O’Reilly has established himself as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. He fits the mold of a Patrice Bergeron. He’ll put up 50-60 points, win a high percentage of face-offs, kill penalties, and be matched up against the opposing team’s best player. At only 26 years of age, O’Reilly is one of the leaders of the team.

Sam Reinhart (RW/C) – As the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Reinhart is taking his time to develop. Reinhart ended last season on the right wing of Eichel and the two seemed to find some chemistry. That might be the best place for him – he’s been outmatched in the face-off circle, the team has depth at the centre position, and Eichel needs someone to feed off of.

Kyle Okposo (RW) – If Okposo can stay healthy, he can eclipse the 60-point plateau. He’ll likely slot in next to O’Reilly on the first or second line.

Evander Kane (LW) – It’s my belief that the only person holding Evander Kane back is Evander Kane. His off-ice issues have been well-documented and maybe they have affected his play. His career high in points is 57, set in 2011-12. Last season, he had 28 goals, but they seem hollow when you look at his -17 rating and 43 points overall.

Don’t get me wrong, 28 goals is 28 goals, but if he’s going to play 19 minutes a night on one of the top lines, he needs to do more.

Jason Pominville (RW) – He’s back! Yay, reunion tour.

DEFENSE

Half of the Sabres defense core is comprised of players who were acquired from teams that saw them as expendable. They are: Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal), Zach Bogosian (Winnipeg), and Marco Scandella (Minnesota).

Nothing special. They are NHL-calibre defensemen. Meh.

Rasmus Ristolainen (22) – He is the bright light on the back end. He is a well-rounded player who stands at an imposing 6’4. He tallied 45 points last season – 25 of which came on the power play. He also played over 26 minutes a night, because who else do they really have?

GOALIES

Oh boy, this is ugly.

Robin Lehner (26) – He started 58 games last season. 2.68 GAA/.920 SV%. I can’t tell you how good he could be because the team in front of him wasn’t anything to write home about. Home for him is Sweden, by the way.

Chad Johnson (31) – He didn’t pan out in Calgary last season, so he came back to the team he was with the year before. He has never started more than 40 games in a season, so keep your hopes high and your expectations low.

Linus Ullmark (24) – He is 6’4 and from Sweden, just like Robin Lehner. Seems like he’s destined to play in the AHL this season.

FUN FACTS

1. Phil Housley is the new Head Coach in town. The Hall-of-Famer played his final 4 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1 regular season; 3 playoff). It felt like more than that at the time. Hmm.

2. Their arena is now called KeyBank Center. It used to be the First Niagara Center. I’ll aways think of it as HSBC Arena, though.

3. The Sabres haven’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2007. They haven’t made the playoffs in the last 6 seasons.

4. They were one of the best teams coming out of the 2004-05 lockout. They were ahead of the curve and went with a young, speedy team. Maxim Afinogenov, anyone?

5. Brett Hull’s foot was in the crease in 1999 and the Sabres got screwed – that’s the story everyone tells. But they’re wrong. Hull had possession of the puck and then entered the crease. That was completely legal in 1999.

WHAT CHRIS THINKS (New Segment Alert!)

Buffalo seems to be a mix of talented but unlikable players, similar to the island of misfit toys in the 1964 Christmas classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY

The Buffalo Sabres (33-37-12) finished last in the Atlantic Division and second last in the Eastern Conference last season. They can’t end up there again, right?

Well, we’ll see.

They had the best power play in the NHL last season (Who else is shocked?), but their penalty kill was 26th.

The Sabres were near the bottom of the league in goals scored last season (201) and are relying on young players to put the puck in the net. They desperately need someone to break away from the pack of secondary scorers and join Eichel as a top point producer. Sam Reinhart, here’s your opportunity.

ONE WILD PREDICTION

Evander Kane will be traded before the trade deadline.

POST GAME

Last Preview: Arizona Coyotes
Next Preview: Calgary Flames
Twitter: @CappyTalks

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Arizona Coyotes 2017-18 Season Preview

If you’re wondering what it’s like to have a hockey team in the desert, well, so am I. That being said, Arizona’s first preseason game at home was scheduled for tonight, and it has been cancelled.

Why? Because of poor ice conditions, as a result of a concert held at Gila River Arena on Saturday.

Oh. That’s fun.

Well, at least the arena isn’t still called Jobing.com Arena. Minor victories.

FORWARDS

The Arizona Coyotes are so young (How young are they?) that when the players go to McDonald’s, they order a Happy Meal but can’t finish all of their french fries.

The Arizona Coyotes are so young (How young are they?) they think “dial-up internet” is when you call the internet provider.

The Arizona Coyotes are so young (How young are they?) __________.

You get the idea. Share with me your best “The Arizona Coyotes are so young” joke in the comments.

In the notes I write in preparation for these previews, I normally put “Captain: _____”. For the Coyotes, I wrote, “Captain: Not Shane Doan”.

Their 28-year-old GM, John Chayka, didn’t bring Doan back for a 22nd season. He felt the need to go in a different direction.

Alrighty then, Mr. Chayka, who ya got?

Max Domi (22) – Unlike his father, Max is a real scoring threat born into the body of Martin St. Louis. For the uninitiated, that means he’s small and speedy. After only 9 goals last season, he should have a fire in his belly this year.

Dylan Strome (20) – You want the future number one centre of the team? Here he is. They hope. The 3rd overall pick in the 2015 Draft had a video game-esque junior career. He could be the best out of the Strome brothers at the NHL level.

Anthony Duclair (22) – Last season was a step back for Duclair after breaking out the year prior. He was even sent down to the AHL for 16 games. He’s still only 22, and this will be his 4th NHL season, so leave him alone and let him play.

Clayton Keller (19) – Points. Points. Points. Eventually.

Brendan Perlini (21) – Call me crazy, but I think he’s capable of a 25-goal season this year.

Derek Stepan (27) – The old man of the forwards. Stepan was acquired during the off-season from the New York Rangers and should be a player for the kids to look up to and learn from. His presence makes them a better team.

Notable: Christian Dvorak (21) and Tobias Rieder (24).

See, I wasn’t kidding when I said they were young.

DEFENSE

I like what the Coyotes have done on defense. What they lack in experience up front, they make up for on the back line.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson (26) – It feels like he’s been in the league forever. Well, he has. This will be his 8th season in the NHL. He is their star defensemen. He is a two-time 20-goal scorer, which is a weapon every team would like to have on the power-play.

Niklas Hjalmarsson (30) – Acquired in the off-season, Niklas H. brings with him three Stanley Cups. Not literally. Seems like the kind of guy you want in a young locker room, doesn’t it?

Jakob Chychrun (19) – He is bound to be a breakout star in the NHL very soon. He underwent knee surgery on August 3, so the Coyotes will be wise to remain cautious with him.

Yesterday, the Coyotes acquired Jason Demers (29) from the Florida Panthers. It’s a great depth move and a solid addition to the penalty kill.

Notable: Alex Goligoski (32), Luke Schenn (27), Kevin Connaughton (27).

GOALIES

Let’s keep this simple. The Coyotes don’t have a goalie who has proven they can be a number one net-minder in the NHL. But hey, it’s a new season, anything can happen.

Louis Domingue (25) – He has played 70 games for the Coyotes over the last two seasons and his numbers have been “just okay”. Granted, he’s had a young team playing in front of him. Let’s see if a veteran defense core makes a difference.

Antti Raanta (28) – Ah, Antti Raanta, the lovable backup goalie who always made for a good free agent pickup in fantasy hockey. He’s had the luxury of playing on two very good teams (NYR & CHI) in his four NHL seasons and has turned in some good looking numbers in 92 career games. Will they translate over to Arizona? He could take the starters job if they do.

FUN FACTS

1. The Coyotes have made eight playoff appearances in their twenty-year existence. They’ve made it out of the first round once.

2. Future face of the NHL (I’m biased, deal with it), Auston Matthews, grew up in Arizona and idolized Shane Doan. Leafs fans thank Doan for being a good role model to children.

3. I don’t like their team uniform. The main colour is called “Brick Red”. That explains it.

4. Last season, the Coyotes Power Play was ranked 26th, while their Penalty Kill was ranked 27th. Look for both to improve this season.

5. Arizona averaged 13,094 fans per home game last season. Only Carolina was worse, with 11,776. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY

The Coyotes may very well be a fun team to watch, as a result of their youthful exuberance and Happy Meal induced energy. But at the end of the day, they are still too young and inexperienced to make a leap into the playoffs this season.

That’s okay.

If they focus on growing as a team, as well as getting fans excited about the future, then the season will be seen as a positive.

If, four years down the road, this team still isn’t making the playoffs – something’s wrong.

ONE WILD PREDICTION

Max Domi will score 30 goals this season.

 

Last Preview: Boston Bruins
Next Preview: Buffalo Sabres
Twitter: @CappyTalks

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I Saw It

I did something last Monday that I haven’t done in five years. Quick, think in your head what that might be. Some of you already know, so in your case, act stupid. It shouldn’t be hard. Sorry! That was a joke. But seriously, act stupid.

Time’s up.

You might want to hold onto your overalls for the big reveal. Actually, overalls aren’t really things that fly off easily, are they? Can we perform a case study on that?

Anyways, I went to a movie theatre.

The last movie I saw in theatres was the first Hunger Games film in 2012. I’m still not sure how I got talked into going to that.

If you’ve been paying attention to my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’m not much of a movie person. Sure, I’ll reference Harry Potter sometimes, but notice I never go in depth?

I simply don’t remember what all of the Harry Potter movies are about. I just remember moments.

As for other films, I don’t really care.

I’ve never seen Star Wars.

Lord of the Rings is way too long for me to even think about watching.

I’ve seen one superhero film and it was Spider-Man 2.

I refer to Fast and the Furious as “Fat and Furious”, which would describe me at Pizza Hut buffet when they don’t have apple dessert pizza. Chris knows. Hey Chris!

My wheelhouse of movie knowledge lies within: Space Jam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 1 & 2, Angels in the Outfield, and the Mighty Duck trilogy. I’m sure I’m missing some.

Basically any movie made before the year 2000. I’m an old soul. Eventually, I’ll just be old.

Throw in a bunch of sports movies and horror films I watched in high school and you have the only movies that interest me.

Oh, and the majority of the Family Channel movies between 2000 – 2008.

That’s it.

People lose their french fries over movies like Captain America and remakes of a reboot of a 40-year-old film. I don’t understand. That’s not where my interests lie.

Some people know actors and what movies they’ve been in; I know athletes and what teams they’ve played on.

If someone tells me about a movie and says, “You should watch it!”, they might as well tell me to snuggle up next to 500 mosquitos and bring chocolate strawberries because it ain’t happening.

But on Monday, I went to the movie theatre with my sister to watch It.

Remember how I said I watched horror films in high school? That was because I took a Horror Fiction class. One of the movies we watched was the 1990 version of It.

Over the last few years, I’ve collected gift certificates and coupons for the movie theatre. I don’t know how that happened, but I’m not going to complain about going to the movies for free. I’ve been waiting for a movie to catch my interest.

If it’s free, give it to me. If I have to pay, go away. – Life Motto

The movie on Monday was at 6:30. I felt like a fish out of a toilet bowl – naked and afraid. So I let my sister take the wheel. She knew to do that as soon as I asked her beforehand: “What do you even say to the person at the counter to get your ticket?”

I had my stupid pants on that day.

So we go in, and the place is deserted. No joke, my first thought was: “This is amazing. Now I can blog about how overrated the movies are and how no one goes anymore, and how I was five years ahead of this downturn.”

Then I was reminded that it was a Monday and people were probably waiting for half-price Tuesday, or a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Darn.

But the moment movie theatres start to go obsolete, I’m going to be the first one on that soapbox.

My sister went to get a buffalo chicken wrap; I went for the free popcorn and drink that came with the coupon.

I had to pay $1.10 for butter. That bothered me. In 20 years when I take my kid to the movie theatre, butter will probably cost $3.00 and I’ll go into a “Back in my day” rant.

By this point, we were still the only ones in the entire place.

And then I was introduced to a touch screen machine that dispensed soft drinks. It was the most futuristic thing I’ve seen since the spork.

You had to tap on the brand of drink you wanted and then scroll through all of the different flavours. It was very unsanitary. You know how many grubby butter fingers have probably touched that machine?

I wasn’t amused.

After a hassle and a half, coke finally filled my cup and I put a three foot straw in it. The straw was literally three feet long. Don’t ask questions.

We go to the theatre and sit above the exit. Back middle is overrated because I said so.

Sitting above the exit allows you to put your feet up. Also, I like corners. I can’t explain it. Sitting next to a wall is comfortable for me. That was a weird thing to say, wasn’t it?

No one was in the theatre. We were the first ones there.

I sat in my chair and immediately felt like I had sat on a toilet seat while the lid was up. I was sinking into a hole. These chairs reclined and had the customary fold down seat.

I insisted my chair was broken and tested out another seat in the row.

Without question, I looked like an idiot. Again, stupid pants were present.

As it turned out, I realized that I don’t actually know how to sit, and my chair wasn’t broken.

After about seven minutes, this guy appeared out of nowhere and walked down the aisle and out of the theatre.

WHAT!? THERE WAS ANOTHER PERSON IN HERE!?

We couldn’t stop laughing.

Mainly because I made a fool of myself with the whole “this chair is broken, I’m going to play musical chairs to find a chair that is just right” skit.

Another human being, unrelated to me, saw the whole thing.

Great.

The theatre eventually filled up. There was a grand total of 13 people in there. Are we sure movie theatres are still popular?

There were two girls who yelled at the movie screen on multiple occasions. And no, they weren’t yelling at the screen out of fear. They were using obscenities to question why certain characters would do certain things.

Oh yeah, did I mention there was a kid in there with his mom? The kid was probably 11 or 12.

Halfway through the movie, my sister nudged me and said, “Hey Paul, this girl in the next aisle is drinking her popcorn.”

At first I thought, why didn’t I think of putting my three inch straw in the popcorn to slurp up the butter. That’s genius.

Then I looked over.

She was clearly at the bottom of the bag where all the crumbs reside, and had the bag at about a 120 degree angle – essentially turning it into a ramp – and was pouring it into her mouth.

Again, we couldn’t stop laughing.

She did this for about five minutes. It was great entertainment. I was getting my money’s worth.

Reminder: I got in for free.

I should also mention, this same person was regularly on their cellphone throughout the movie. My heart ached for the buttery phone screen.

Before the movie started, I set the over/under at 3.5 people leaving the theatre during the movie. Every time someone left, I counted it on my fingers to make it official.

Five people left the theatre during the movie. They all came back, eventually.

Back when I was a kid, I got sick while watching a Harry Potter movie because I had consumed two personal pan pizzas, a small popcorn, and a large drink, by the time the previews had ended.

I know a thing or two about leaving a movie theatre mid-movie. It’s not fun. Especially when you’re sitting on the side opposite the exit.

My bag of popcorn on Monday worked up an appetite. I came home and had leftover pizza at 9PM. That’s the kind of person I am.

This is me eating popcorn. Pay close attention to the chewed up popcorn already in my mouth because that’s exactly what I want people to focus on.

Oh, about the movie.

It is about a clown who terrorizes children. It is not about an IT guy who fixes computers, and no one says “I.T. phone home.” Disappointing, I know.

By the way, I’ve never seen E.T.

Also, James Corden did a bit on his show the other night where a person in an office called for the IT guy, but Pennywise the clown showed up instead. I’m furious they beat me to that joke. I had been sitting on it since Monday.

In all seriousness, I thought the movie was really well done, but I didn’t find it scary. I think I laughed more throughout the film than I expected. Part of that was from Ms. Popcorn Drinker, but also, some lines in the film were laugh-worthy.

And movies with children who can act well, normally go over well.

I found it ironic that a clown named Pennywise lived in a house that was located in Canada (in real life), yet Canada took the penny out of circulation about four years ago.

That’s right, we don’t have pennies anymore. So the Canadian version of this clown deserves a raise, if you ask me.

Nickelwise.

You’ll all be proud to know that I didn’t check my phone once during the 2 hours and 15 minutes I was forced to stare at a big screen. Though I must admit, I was getting restless by the end. I needed to stretch my legs.

Movies should have a 7th inning stretch. Just a thought.

I’ll probably return to a theatre later this year to watch Murder on the Orient Express.

Until then, I’ll be over here saying the word “cinematography” until my lips fall off.

Have you seen It? What did you think? 

Do you have any funny stories from going to the movies?

Posted in Humour | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

Like Tonight

I do not know what it is anymore
I am a stop sign staring at a green light
I am the last loaf of bread at the market
I am the owl staring at the moon
And this autumn breeze knows it

When I went fast it felt so slow
There was a purpose at the end
There was a smile to find mine
There was a dream come true
But I do not know what it is anymore

My fingers refuse to move like they used to
My brain tells me it is a waste of time
You cannot break through a wall twice
Once you are in, you are in
Yet here I am on the outside looking

This is where I reside
Just return to me all that I let go
You can place it at the end of a rainbow
But if you find me a night like tonight
I will tell you it does not feel quite right.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Letting My Red Heart Show

It’s hard for me to explain how my brain works sometimes. The best way I can explain it is this: You know how in math class you always had to show your work, instead of just writing the final answer? Well, my brain often fast-forwards through the “show your work” part.

I go from Point A to Point L so quickly, that it’s hard for me to explain how I got there. I just know that I did and it makes sense to me.

Here’s what sparked this post:

I was just writing my third NHL team preview (which I put on hold in order to write this post) and in the introduction, I mentioned watching a sports montage. Don’t ask me why, but that triggered a thought about how I always tried to put my passions into my school assignments.

And when I was finally done going through that nostalgic foxhole, I came out the other side and realized I had circled back to…sports montages. That reminded me of one I saw at the end of the 2010 Winter Olympics, which were held in Canada.

The song that played over the images was called “Red Heart” by Hey Rosetta!. And just a few minutes ago, I finally realized what that song meant. To me, at least. The actual meaning of the song could mean different things to different people.

Are any of you lost? Because this post is making complete sense to me so far. Welcome to my brain; it’s a self-guided tour.

Anyways, one of the recurring lyrics in that song is, “Won’t you let your red heart show?”

To me, that means sharing what you’re passionate about with other people, by any means possible. It means giving the answer that you want to give, not the answer that everyone else is giving. It means playing to your strengths. It means being yourself, even when you don’t think you should.

All throughout my life, especially in school, my default setting was to apply my love of sports to everything.

I remember in Grade 6, we had to draw a picture. I forget what the guidelines were, but I took an 8×11 piece of paper and drew a hockey rink on it. I included all the lines, the bench, the nets, the penalty boxes, everything.

Note: I can’t draw. I draw sausage people. All my animals look the same; the only way to tell them apart is by their tail, or if they have udders. Every time I draw a house, it’s a big square with a rectangular door, two windows, a welcome mat, and a chimney that always has smoke coming out.

But dare I say, I’m an artist worthy of their own gallery when I draw something sports-related.

In my Grade 9 art class, we had to draw a picture using only circles and rectangles. People were freaking out. Not me. Nope. Oh no not I! I will surv…NO, I will NOT randomly sing during this blog post.

I drew a curling rink. The playing surface is a rectangle and there are a bunch of circles on it. Piece of cake. I remember getting cocky and drawing the Olympic rings on it too.

I let my red heart show.

Grade 11 Media Studies class – quite possibly my favourite class of all-time because of all the real life events I learned about. We had to write an in-class essay. I think it was about the JFK assassination.

Well, my teacher loved baseball. So at one point in my essay I had three consecutive sentences that provided harsh evidence for something (I can’t remember). At the end of the first sentence, I wrote “Strike one.” End of the second sentence, “Strike two.” End of the third sentence, “Strike three.”

Bam, a baseball reference for a teacher who loves baseball.

Sure enough, when he was marking my paper, he wrote, “You know your audience” next to that line.

Darn right I know my audience. I’ve always been good at knowing what other people are thinking in certain situations, or how they’re going to react to things. I can’t explain this superpower I have.

Grade 12 English exam – I had the same teacher I had for Grade 11 Media Studies. The exam was an essay. It was held in our classroom. When I walked in the room, I noticed he had the course code to the Grade 11 Media Studies class, written on the chalkboard.

Halfway through my essay, my brain skipped from Point A to Point L again and all of a sudden I’m pulling out stuff I learned in Media Studies the year before and putting it in my essay. Next thing you know, I’m writing the course code in parentheses after my sentence to cite my work.

I’m probably the only student in history to do that.

Again, letting my red heart show.

First year, tourism and the environment class – I had a 40-minute seminar presentation where I had to lead a group of 20 students in a discussion. One very small detail in the content I was supposed to cover was “birding.”

Birding is a hobby where people go and study birds, more or less.

So at one point, I asked the class if they had ever heard of birding or participated in it. I knew the answer would be “no”, but I also had a hunch that the question would elicit some puzzled looks on faces, lighten the room, and force them to listen to my explanation of it.

My somewhat manipulative plan worked to perfection.

In another seminar presentation for a communications class, I had to talk about the early days of radio in Canada. Again, I picked out a small detail in the content and turned it into a question.

The reading package mentioned the song, “Sign” by Five Man Electrical Band. My initial reaction was, “Hey! I know that song! I wonder if my classmates know it. I can’t ask them during my presentation, can I? Ah, sure I can! It’s my presentation! I’m gonna do it!”

The question had no purpose, besides satisfying my own curiosity.

I snuck it in there too, trying to make it seem like I went off-script and was being conversational. Meanwhile, the paper in front of me said, “Has anyone heard the song ‘Sign’ by Five Man Electrical Band?”

It went over well. A few people had heard it before. One guy even said it was “good”. Ha, I wasn’t expecting responses, just nods of heads, or raised hands. Thank you, sir, for indulging my stupidity and helping me kill 8 seconds!

I think if there’s a message from all these anecdotes, it’s that no matter where we go, or what we do, it’s important to bring our personality with us and let the things we’re passionate about shine through.

If everyone always stuck to the same script, we’d be robots.

There are so many people on social media, especially Instagram, who post photos that look like something thousands of other people post, and then they include the same cliché caption that everyone else uses.

You know how many “Take me out to the ballgame” captions I saw this summer? About eleventy two thousand. That burns me inside because, for some reason, I expect other people to be creative.

Instagram is a box. Break it, people. Break it.

I’ve written two out of thirty-one NHL team previews and I already know it’s going to be the toughest thing I’ve ever done on this blog. Because as I’m writing them, I have to fight the voice in my head that says, “The majority of my audience isn’t going to understand this, just stop.”

But if I listen to that voice, I’m not letting my red heart show. I can’t accept that.

See, and now I’ve circled back to the start. Point A to Point L.

If only my name were “Aul”, I could say something like, “In the middle of my thought process, all I see is U.” Get it? Wait, did I just create a pick-up line? I’m going to stop writing now.

Let your red heart show, kids.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments