Tag: canadian hockey

Sports News: MLB Wild Card Race, NHL Signings & Danis Zaripov, Spit balls of the week!

It’s that time of the week, school is starting soon, NFL season is officially here, the MLB wild card race is heating and the NHL is now a month away. It is Spitballs of the week time! Catch up on the latest news surrounding the NHL and MLB. Some of my own takes and some stuff to watch out for in the coming months!

MLB: The AL Wild Card race is probably the more interesting of the two, the Yankees have now dropped six of their last 10, the Twins are one game out and the Indians are on a nine-game winning streak. There’s not much to look into here the Yankees are slowly losing grips of the Wild Card, Baltimore is only a game and half back and the Yankees continue to be inconsistent. Also, the Yankees face off against the Orioles two more times before the year ends and the Twins one more time(Watch OUT!). The Orioles are 8-2 in their last ten and face off against Toronto, Cleveland, Yankees, Toronto for the next upcoming series. The Twins have been able to hold their own and see some success in big moments, the Twins play Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Toronto in the next upcoming series. As for the Twins, they have an “easier” half of the schedule compared to the other wild card teams.

The NL, of course, the Nationals and Dodgers have control over their divisions, the Cubs will more than likely win the NL Central and as far as Wild Card goes the Diamondbacks and Rockies will be the two teams in those last two spots. The Rockies have been on/off lately but the Cardinals and Brewers do not scare me too much for the Rockies sake. The Diamondbacks are 9-1 in their last ten and play San Diego, Dodgers, and the Rockies in the upcoming series. The Brewers are 1.5 games back from the Rockies and after Washington, they face off against the Reds, Cubs, Pirates, and Marlins, scheduling may favor Milwaukee, here do not sleep on them!

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Oh, Clayton Kershaw is back, after returning from the DL after a month, he shut down the Padres for 6 innings allowing no runs, 7 strikeouts and two hits. That’ll be fun come playoff time to face off against the Dodgers pitching rotation and bullpen. Nothing new Kershaw and the Dodgers just continue to dominate MLB teams and the league as a whole right now. The Dodgers have 92 wins with still a month of baseball to be played. 

Justin Verlander was sent to Houston recently, many thought Verlander was going to stay and Houston messed up by not going out to get a pitcher at the deadline. Well, those critics can be silenced now, as Houston now has a former Cy Young winner and a pitcher with 16 starts in the postseason and 380 in the regular season. Can’t hurt as the Astros were deemed for not making a move, acquiring Verlander is a big addition the Astros rotation.

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NHL: The KHL forward who was suspended from the KHL for doping is making his way over to the NHL now and a few teams have expressed interest in him. Danis Zaripov is a 36-year-old forward from the KHL, he’s played nine seasons in the KHL and has produced, 453 points and 199 goals. Two teams that have publicly expressed interest in Zaripov is Pittsburgh and the Rangers. It’s said that Malkin expressed interest in playing on the same line with Zaripov, a guy who just won the Russian most valuable player award will more than likely get another Russian forward to join him unless the Rangers offer Zaripov more money.

The Blue Jackets have locked up forward Alexander Wennberg for 6-years at $4.9 mil a year. The 22-year-old forward has shown major strides of progression in the Blue Jackets organization now, and anytime a player goes from 40 to 59 points in one season, it deserves a little looking into. Wennberg is a big, strong forward who will be a top three player on the Blue Jackets for years to come. The six years is absolutely crucial to Columbus because now he’s locked in and will be a huge drawing asset for other players looking to come to Columbus in the future.

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Thomas Vanek is back on another team for another season! The 33-year-old forward has signed a 1-year deal for $2 million with Vancouver. Vanek has played on six NHL teams and five different ones in the past four seasons. Vancouver will be Vanek’s seventh NHL club and sixth team in five seasons. Vanek scored 48 points and 16 goals with the Red Wings/Panthers last season. Vanek has struggled to stay healthy and remain consistent in line ups but at $2 million for a team like Vancouver will not hurt at all. Vanek can now play along with the Sedin brothers who may help resurge the talented goal scorers ability and get him some confidence back. Vanek is capable of being a 50-60 point player when he’s healthy, barring injuries and Vanek plays a full season, paired with the Sedin brothers would not hurt the once 40 goal scorers year.

Spitballs: Yankees, Twins take last two wild card spots, Dodgers win 115 games and probably the world series(I don’t care, they’re too good), Red Sox’s bunt again to annoy Yankee pitchers, Zaripov goes to Pittsburgh, Vanek scores 30 goals next season, Wennberg tallies 65 points next season.

Be on the look out later today for some introduction to the NFL season article!!

 

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NHL Preview: Winnipeg Jets 2017-18, Laine 40-goal year, Morrisey Role, Mason Boom or Bust

Winnipeg Jets(40-35-7: 5th Central)

Winnipeg has been a fairly active team this offseason, they’ve definitely upgraded in many assets of their game. After acquiring Patrik Laine 2nd overall last season the Jets future seems bright right now. After missing the playoffs back to back seasons and the fifth time in six years, the Winnipeg fans want to white out the Bell MTS Place again. Despite the Jets mishaps in the regular season, they do have a ton of talent on the front and back end of the lineup. With Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little and a ton of young prospects emerging the Jets offense is talented and explosive. Plus a ton of depth on the back end and now Steven Mason in net, the Jets will be looking to make a push for the postseason in the 2017-18 year. In the Central and Western conference, the postseason will not be an easy accomplishment. For some reason, though the Jets seem appealing to many, they have a ton of depth on both sides of the puck and a hopeful starting goalie. Despite the Jets talent, the Central is tough and I would not be surprised to see the Jets miss out on the playoffs or even make it. Let’s say the Jets are a question mark right now, they’re a boom or bust.

Winnipeg is a “sleeper” team in a sense with Dallas, Minnesota, Chicago and St Louis the Jets are overlooked and undervalued. The Jets have the talent to crack the playoffs and easily can squeak into a wild card spot. For that to happen though the Jets will need some major production from….

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Patrik Laine: After coming up short for the Calder trophy and many questioning his ability to score 40 goals next season, Laine will be asked to produce big time for the Jets. Alongside Scheifele and Ehlers, Laine should not have a tough time finding the back of the net, plus power play one minutes, Laine should score 40, easy. If Laine can score 36 in 73 games and produce 64 points, a full year of being healthy and not missing time should give the 19-year-old phenomenon the chance to score 40 and help this Jets offense be a top team in the league. Laine will be asked to step up and play top three minutes and produce 70 points, a lot of pressure lies on the young forward, and with the Jets looking to make the postseason a pure goal scorer like Laine is a must on the score sheet night in and night out. To see the Jets in the post season, the Jets line one and Laine will be relied upon heavily.

Kyle Connor: Connor will be filling the top six for the Jets and with Mathieu Perreault ability to steal that position from him a lot of pressure will be on Connor to produce. Alongside Wheeler and Little the young forward will have a ton of tools around him to produce. Connor was the Jets 1st round pick in 2015 and has finally cracked the Jets top six, with some youth and veteran ship in the line up Connor’s top six spot is not secured, if Connor wants to be a regular in the line up and keep his role on the team, he needs to be a legitimate, consistent top forward for the Jets. For the Jets, Connor will be playing more minutes and a bigger role than he ever has before, for Connor a 40 point season is likely and if Connor can produce 40 along side Wheeler and Little the Jets top six will be secured and strong.

Josh Morrissey: The Jets have upgraded on the back end this offseason, Dmitry Kulikov helps give the Jets a bit more security on all three defenseman lines. What’s projected for the start of the 2017-18 is Josh Morrissey paired with Jacob Trouba on line one or two. Morrissey was a 1st round pick in 2013 and has finally cracked the Jets top four defense. Last season was his first year in the Jet’s full time, he posted respectable numbers as five, six defensemen, 20 points in 82 games is not terrible but nothing amazing. As it seems he will be a top four defenseman next season as they want to continue to grow their youth. Morrissey will not see much power play time maybe later in the season but playing top four minutes will be a big challenge for the 22-year-old defenseman. The Jets want to challenge their youth to perform and next season Morrissey will be challenged greatly with Trouba and top four minutes. Expect a hot start from Morrissey.

Steve Mason: For 2 years at $4.1 mil a year, Mason will be challenged to see if he can perform as a number one goalie again. Mason has faced his blunders in Philadelphia and is the only real question mark on the Jets lineup if Mason can perform like he did in 2013-14 and his first year in the NHL than the Jets have a great chance of cracking a playoff spot. If Mason continues to struggle and be inconsistent in between the pipes than the Jets will struggle. Ultimately if the Jets are successful so will Mason have to be. Mason is being put to a huge test here in Winnipeg if he fails for two years, he may not land a starting job again for the rest of his career, this may be a make or break situation for Mason.

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NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks 2017-18, Horvat Ceiling, Prospect Growth, Del Zotto Role

Vancouver Canucks(30-43-9: 7th Pacific Division):

A basement team for the past two seasons now, with the Sedin brothers aging and a question mark at goaltender, the once hopeful postseason Canucks quickly turned into the re-build Canucks. The bright spot about this team though is they did sign Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto. The Canucks have a ton of youth on their roster and brewing in the AHL/Major Junior leagues. But with Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and Brock Boeser the Canucks have some talent on this line up right now. The Canucks defense does not look too bright but not too gloomy either, with Alexander Adler, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher nothing spectacular but it’ll get the job done. The Canucks goalie situation is again their problem with Andress Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom the two will be battling for the #1 spot and having two goalies split time, never pans out well(ask Dallas).

Obviously the Canucks are no playoff team and won’t be for sometime, they made some moves but not enough to push them into playoff contention. The Sedin brothers will continue to be 50 point producers but to expect anything more in them in Vancouver and at 36-years-old is unrealistic, they can’t do much more than 50 points. They have some offensive tools the Canucks but not enough depth and too many question marks to be a playoff team, let alone a middle of pack team. Some players that will be looked upon for some major production despite the Canucks unlikelihood of cracking 35 wins are…

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Bo Horvat: I’ve spoke about this guy before, and I will continue to toot his horn, he is a legitimate scorer and point producer. Paired along Sam Gagner/Brock Boeser and Baertschi, Horvat does not get a ton of help in Vancouver but managed to break through for 52 points and 20 goals. Horvat shocked some of us last season with his All-Star appearance and career year, but the bar is set now in Vancouver and management will be looking for Horvat to continue to get better. Horvat is one of those players at 22-years-old on a bad team, that can only continue to grow or completely bust. But I think we can expect a 50 plus point season from Horvat. Vancouver has yet to sign Horvat to a contract extension, this late in August and nothing happening is not a good sign but also could mean nothing. Horvat will get around 5-6 years and an AAV of $27.5-33 mil.

Loui Eriksson: Remember when Eriksson got brought into Vancouver and everyone was like “oh my god he’s going to score 25 plus next season with the Sedin brothers, they’re going to be a sick line!!” Yeah Eriksson scored, 11 goals and had 24 points in 65 games. That escalated quickly(feel bad for fantasy owners, yikes). But a year under his belt in Vancouver, getting used to the Sedin brothers and the style of play Eriksson should hopefully produce a bit more. He has the capability and needs some time under his belt with the new club(note: Eriksson came to Boston played poorly first two years then scored 30, and same with Dallas). Eriksson with the Sedin brothers, power play minutes and line one minutes, barring he can get over the hump and get back to his ways will be a solid 40 point player for Vancouver. Which Vancouver needs desperately and they need Eriksson to be the 2015-16 Eriksson they thought they were getting.

Michael Del Zotto: A lot of talk has surfaced about Del Zotto’s readiness to lead the Canucks defense, first off he’s not leading the defense, there is still Edler, relax there people. Del Zotto is still going to be looked upon heavily for Canuck fans and management, they did sign the streaky defenseman to a $3 mil contract. Del Zotto has shown some signs of progression but also has shows signs to be the worst defenseman in the league. Despite all Del Zotto’s failures, moving to Vancouver a less media-rich, press heavy market the defenseman will have a ton of pressure taken off his back. Vancouver will see the 2014-2015 Del Zotto before Philadelphia got his head and the 2011-2012 New York Del Zotto before New York media got to him. Some players cannot thrive in a media rich market and Del Zotto will perform much better with less expectations and press in his face 24/7.

Jacob Markstrom: Markstrom will more than likely get the starting job in Vancouver but honestly for these two goalies there’s not a ton pressure, between a low ceiling for the Canucks and their postseason hopes being slim to none, we can agree we all are not expecting either of these goalies to steal every game. Nonetheless goalies still have that competitive edge just like all athletes do and their will to win, will come down to who starts. Markstrom has some history in Vancouver and showed some bright spots, we can expect him to be the starter next season. Markstrom if he wants to continue to hold his job and become a starting goaltender, next year will be a big test for the 27-year-old goalie.  

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NHL Preview: Calgary Flames 2017-18, Tkachuk Sophomore Year, Hamonic & Smith Impact

Calgary Flames(45-33-4: 4th Pacific):

I’m going to come at you a bit aggressive here, but I seriously am convinced on this Calgary team. With a DEEP defense, Mike Smith in goal and a young, explosive offense, I could easily see this team being a top three team in the Pacific division, jumping San Jose and finding its way in the 100 point mark finish. Told you aggressive, but hear me out. Calgary won 45 games(94 points) with freaking Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson splitting time, they could not find a consistent goaltender which played dividends into their team’s failure at points. With a legitimate starter and only one goalie to worry about Calgary has found the backbone, in which will help this team gain confidence and be a consistent team throughout the year.

After finishing 4th in the Pacific and clinching the first wild card spot, the Flames fell short to the Anaheim Ducks, real short. They got swept 4-0 in the first round. Glen Gulutzan and the ownership in Calgary knew they had some pieces to be a legitimate but needed a few more to complete this roster. After acquiring Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith the Flames are looking to be back in the playoffs but a deeper playoff run is more optimal and likely for this team come now.  

For Calgary, players such as Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan are given point producers who lead this team year in and year out. Plus Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton on the back end there’s no need to go into depth about these guys. The players that will help Calgary make that push next season are:

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Matthew Tkachuk: 2016, 6th overall pick played immediately during his first year in the league, and produced a respectable 48 points in 76 games. After serving some time up and down the lineup last season Tkachuk must be a consistent player night in and night out. Playing alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik the 19-year-old forward should have no worries succeeding. The sophomore slump “curse” is among him but playing alongside Backlund and Frolik two prominent forwards for Calgary, Tkachuk is looking at 50 plus points next season and if he can do that for Calgary it only helps them in their Stanley Cup quest.

Michael Ferland: Ferland has not been a flashy player his whole career and has not produced a ton but from what I’m seeing it looks as if Ferland will be sporting a line one forward role with Gaudreau and Monahan, if so Ferland has a ton of pressure on him and must step up big time to help balance out this Flames lineup. Ferland in a top 6 forward role is not something I can see happening later in the year, if he fails, Troy Brouwer will be a draw up to line one and it’ll be the veteran along the side young guns to help lead this Calgary offense. Essentially whoever sports that line one right wing role for Calgary next season, will be making a major impact on this Calgary roster. 

Travis Hamonic: OBVIOUSLY, they brought this guy on for a reason, right? They brought him in to help the penalty kill, help get T.J. Brodie his game back and to solidify this top four. Hamonic the Canadian native will be going somewhere close to home, closer than Brooklyn at least, which was the prime factor in this deal. Anyways Hamonic will come in and play an immediate top four role, 18-19 minutes per game and looks to be getting some power play two minutes. Hamonic’s -22 plus/minus, 14 point season was a result of discomfort, injuries and I think a new place and fresh faces will do the 27-year-old defenseman some justice.

Mike Smith: AGAIN OBVIOUSLY, they brought this guy to be a lock up at the #1 goalie slot and be the backbone Calgary has been longing for. It also seems as if Smith is excited to be apart of Calgary as he was reported to make a remark about his old team on TSN earlier in the summer. Smith faced 1819 shots against(6th) with the Coyotes last season and has been in the top 5 in the shots against category for the last 6 seasons now(barring 50 plus starts). Smith will now be in front of a solid defense, offense that can score and a team that can consistently win. But Calgary is going to need Smith to be a top goaltender in the league for this team to make a serious playoff push, a lot of pressure will be on the new goaltender for Calgary.

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