Ten Days in Hockey Heaven

At least once a week, I doze off into a daydream about my day at the NHL Draft. My lifelong dream has come true. Fifteen years of early morning/late night practices, roadies with the boys, wasted summers and missed school days are about to pay off any minute. I think about my name being called by Ron Hextall, Stan Bowman, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, pretty much any GM except Jim Rutherford because the Pens are trash. I think about putting on the draft hat, the sweater and knowing that my dream has finally come true.

Pretty soon, reality comes back to me. I realize that I’m a terrible hockey player and the closest I’ll ever get to an NHL game is sitting up in section 305. I’ve officially aged out of my NHL Draft eligibility, so the dream is over. It was a good run.

After a quick cry, I realize everything is OK, because I’m still a fan of the best sport in the world with arguably the best offseason in sports.

I realize that the NBA is definitely giving the NHL a run for it’s money this year (Sixers are a 5 seed in the East next year, The Process™ is complete), but the NHL offseason has been NUTS this year, and most of it was all in a 10-day period, starting with the NHL Awards. My fellow hockey contributor E already commented on 20-year-old stud Connor McDavid winning the Hart, which makes me realize I’ve accomplished nothing with my life. McDavid, E and I are the same age; he just became the MVP of the National Hockey League, probably his first of many, meanwhile E is mowing lawns at an airport and I’m making $9 an hour selling oxygen on the Ocean City Boardwalk (yes, you read that correctly, I sell oxygen). This guy is living the dream, and he’s just getting warmed up.

During the awards show, the Vegas Golden Knights selected one player from each team, giving the hockey world the first glimpse at the squad they’re putting out in T-Mobile Arena to start next season. In a previous post, I predicted that the Vegas Golden Knights would be a playoff team. After this draft, I regret that decision, but I’m sticking with it. No takebacks here at Smokehouse, ya gotta stick with your hot takes.

That being said, I think George McPhee did a subpar job with the draft. Yeah, he snagged a 30-goal scorer in Jonathan Marchessault (guy’s a stud, watch out), a very solid goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury, and other solid pieces including James Neal, David Perron and Brayden McNabb, so they’re not totally screwed. McPhee totally missed out on snagging Sami Vatanen from Anaheim, and then proceeded to trade away Marc Methot and Trevor van Riemsdyk, the top 2 defensemen he drafted. The forwards may be looking pretty good, but defense wins championships, and the Vegas Golden Knights are looking brutal on the back end. Fleury’s gonna have his hands full next season, and it’s all because George McPhee is a big dummy. Vegas is still a playoff team, though!

Two days after the Awards/Expansion Draft was the NHL Draft, where the dreams of a bunch of 18 & 19-year-olds came true. The New Jersey Devils selected Nico Hischier with the 1st overall pick, leaving Nolan Patrick to go to my Flyers. To all my fellow fans of the Flyguys, we came out HUGE with this draft. First of all, Nolan Patrick is  a way better all-around player than Hischier. Everyone looks at Hischier’s highlight tapes and sees his toe-drags and how he goes backhand five hole for every breakaway goal and thinks he’s dope. Let me tell ya, this guy is gonna get his shit rocked if he tries that against some of the big hitters next year. Nolan Patrick was definitely the safer bet, but I am beyond happy that he’s a Philadelphia Flyer.

On top of that, the Flyguys sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for Jori Lehtera and two first round picks (one in 2018). They used the first rounder this year to take Morgan Frost, who is the king of burying rebound goals and I absolutely love it. All this guy does is get wide open and bury everyone’s trash, it’s fantastic. He may not be a highlight reel player, but every goal looks pretty on the stat sheet. I can’t wait for this guy to get on the squad and bury some rebound goals. Go Flyers, baby.

There was a little bit of a break after the draft, but once July 1st hit, that all changed. NHL Free Agency opened, and everyone knows the NHL Free Agent Frenzy is absolutely wild. One of the biggest headlines: We’re Getting the Band Back Together! Patrick Sharp is headed back to Chicago, Justin “Game 7” Williams is going back to the place he earned that nickname, Carolina. Mike Cammalleri is back in LA. Scottie Hartnell is reuniting with Peter Laviolette in Nashville. Jason Pominville is back in Pominville, aka Buffalo. Teuvo Teräväinen and TVR are back together in Carolina. Just a whole bunch of reunions happening, and that’s not even the beginning.

Nick Bonino signed with Nashville less than a month after helping Pittsburgh take them down in the Stanley Cup Finals. Kevin Shattenkirk is a New York Ranger after performing below expectations in Washington (Don’t get Ethan started on this one). Washington also lost Karl Alzner, making that three defenseman out of Washington after Vegas drafted Nate Schmidt. The Caps resigned Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and TJ Oshie and added Devante Smith-Pelly, though, so I’ll consider that a W. Patrick Marleau, San Jose’s all-time leader in goals and points after playing there for 20 seasons, signed with Toronto to be the mentor to a bunch of young studs. Alex Radulov is sending it down to Dallas. Nail Yakupov, one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory, is headed out to Colorado. I’m so lost in all that information, I can’t handle it. The NHL Free Agency is freaking awesome.

However, Jaromir Jagr is still a free agent. I’m going to be so pissed if no one signs this guy. He’s 45 years old and still producing. The guy works his ass off to keep up with these young kids nowadays, he deserves a payday. Plus he’s the biggest savage in the NHL. When asked his favorite player, he said his own name. After piping some chick 20 years younger than him, she threatened to post pictures of him in bed on social media if he didn’t pay her, and what was his response? “I don’t care.” -Jaromir Jagr. The girl posted them, Jagr became an even bigger legend, and the girl’s fiancé called off the wedding. That’s worthy of a two year deal by itself. Aside from that, he’s two years away from being the only guy with 2,000 career points whose name isn’t Wayne Gretzky. Let this guy have his shot, it doesn’t matter where.

There are still more players to be signed, so the Frenzy ain’t over. Keep your eyes peeled for some big contracts and blockbuster trades.

This is why I love hockey and the NHL. Although I never got to live the dream myself, I get to spend every day loving the greatest sport on earth, especially my ten days in hockey heaven. The upcoming season is about to be unbelievable, and now we wait. No Olympics, no World Cup or anything. The Phillies are trash so I can’t bear to watch them. I’m just counting down the days until the season opener. Go Flyers, Go Knights, and Go Flames.

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