Dawn of Another New NHL Season

It’s finally fall once again.  The sun is out in the city and elsewhere, the air has a notably crisper feeling.  It’s my favorite season for a reason, and a big non-weather-related part of it is the return of hockey after a long, dreadfully boring and foggy summer.  As the now thirty-one teams of the NHL take the ice for the few remaining games of the preseason, I feel like some regular order has been restored in the universe.  Beyond all of the wild speculation of July and the barren news-less wastes of August, we’ve actually got something to talk about now.  That said, I feel like throwing a few final darts in the dark.  Here’s my own stab at wild speculation — the final standings for the 2017-18 NHL season.  It’s been awhile since I did this, mostly because of how pointless it is.  And sure, the season is still over a week away, but it’s not like this prediction is going to be any more-or-less accurate based on what unfolds over that time, right?

Basically what I did was throw every team into a spreadsheet with last year’s point totals, and gave them multiplier coefficients based on a number of observations, such as:

  • PDO reversion: basically inverting last season’s number so each team starts at 100%.
  • Injuries: an estimate based on man-games lost and a reversion to the mean, using a multiplying factor based on the standard deviation.  Obviously, this cannot account for which teams get rocked by injuries this year.
  • The offseason: a guess based on whether they addressed obvious weaknesses, lost key players, changed staff, and/or other general wtf-ness (looking at you, Florida).  Big name prospects and rookies go here.  Potential breakout performances are entirely unaccounted for.
  • Gut feelings and other generally uninformed nonsense: does the number look like it makes sense?  If no, adjust it.  This was used more to diversify the results and make them fit a more typical point spread and postseason cutoff than to invalidate the above factors.

Very scientific I know.  Following that strict and infallible methodology, I’ve compiled the above results.  I think some explanations might be needed here:

The Lightning were murdered by injuries last year.  With a healthy roster, growth from the kids, and continued defensive strength, they’ll handily win the East, and in my scenario, the Presidents’ Trophy.  Washington takes a step back, but even losing 16 points in the standings is enough to overtake a significantly weakened Pittsburgh team.  Toronto takes another step forward, but their exceptional injury luck last year should catch up with them a bit.  Carolina’s got the right stuff (read: fancy stats) and made improvements, so they make enough of a leap to pass three teams in the division, with the Flyers right behind them in pursuit.  CBJ comes back to earth, and both New York teams regress.  Buffalo takes a giant step forward, but it’s not enough to make the cut.  The Senators move back a smidge, and Boston drops like a rock.  The Devils do somewhat better, while the Red Wings and Panthers fall further into the basement.

In the west, the Pacific shapes up very similarly to last year, with the Ducks and Oilers finishing neck and neck near 110 points.  Dallas comes back with a vengeance to win the Central and the Western Conference (and might just be my preseason Cup pick, were I to make one), while the Hawks and Wild regress somewhat; both still finish with 100 points.  Meanwhile, the Jets kids and goaltending should finally get it together enough to steal a wildcard spot from the Pacific.  The Sharks and Blues slip slightly but only the former can sneak into the playoffs thanks to the relative strength of their respective divisions.  The Flames improve, but can’t break past the Central wildcards.  Nashville maintains.  The Coyotes leap ahead, yet like Buffalo, it’s not quite enough to breach the post-season.  The Kings continue their slide backward, now with much worse possession numbers due to coaching turnover.  The Canucks do slightly better than last year thanks to the kids, as do the Avalanche, who gain over 20 points, but that shouldn’t be hard, right?  Vegas finishes last overall — it just feels right, especially with that roster.

Overall, the median point total increases slightly due to Vegas existing, while the deviation tightens up thanks to Colorado giving away points.  Half of the teams got better, while half got worse.  Playoff turnover sees five teams getting back in, and necessarily, five missing.

This is not particularly what I want as a fan of certain teams, so it must be at least a little bit accurate.  I’ll be sure to check back in on this when the playoffs begin!

But right now, it’s finally hockey season again.  (Almost.)

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Adidas & The NHL: 31 Thoughts

The long-awaited Adidas NHL jerseys are finally here, having been revealed today, and, well, it could have been worse.  Some of my wishes, the ones I wanted most, failed to come true, but a few actually did, in a way!  First, a little history

The Adidas jersey technology (called Adizero) was revealed last year before the World Cup, touting lightweight construction and liberally deploying nonsense buzzwords.  The World Cup of Hockey jerseys weren’t bad, but they also didn’t really look like NHL jerseys, given the general lack of waist striping, thick yet minimal arm striping, and only one traditional shoulder yoke, to say nothing of the added Adidas three-stripe motif.  Lots of stripe issues, apparently.

For all of the Adidas cut jerseys, the most glaring new change is the collar.  No longer does it rise above the shoulders and taper to a point at the base of the neck; instead it lays flat and is rounded, joining to the NHL crest from the sides.  I need to see it modeled on players in full gear and/or during play action to really make a judgment, but my first impression is I’m not sure that like it.  It feels less like a sweater and more like a shirt.  In a way it feels cheaper.  At least, and it was a touch-and-go for a while, they can support laces.

One more common thing to note: the logo crests and rear numbers generally appear quite a bit larger.  I’m going to say that this is for the better.  There are numerous tweaks to the fabric, crest construction, and stitching, but I won’t go into detail as that’s not really my area of expertise or interest.

So, here are my brief (mostly) thoughts on each of the new jerseys’ unique aspects.  For fun, I’m going to assign a letter grade to each, based on my expectations, how they could (potentially) be better, and how they took advantage of or missed a once-in-a-decade opportunity.  Alright, let’s go!

Anaheim Ducks:

In what will surely be the theme of the day, this looks basically like their old one.  I must say, unlike most rose-glassed millennials, I think I prefer their current logo and color scheme to the Disney mask and bizarre eggplant and jade scheme.  That said, this jersey still needs some work.  The lines along the lower arms and torso remain weird, and I’d rather they went with either the original Mighty Ducks’ striping style, or their (former) third jersey’s, but that’s neither here nor there.  These are merely adequate. (C)


Arizona Coyotes:

It wasn’t that long ago that the Coyotes debuted a shiny new jersey, so it’s little shock that they’re sticking with it, more or less.  It’s decent, though I still prefer their original Reebok Edge set without black. (B)


Boston Bruins:

Can’t mess with a classic, though I must say the shoulder yokes look a bit weird in the new cut. (A)


Buffalo Sabres:

Still using navy blue.  Still using front numbers.  Still using silver.  Sigh…  At least they got rid of the piping, finally.  The collar is no longer fully gold, with blue in front instead.  Huh.  I’m simultaneously let down and relieved.  An intermediate step, I’m hoping — progress, however little, is still progress.  Let’s see those Winter Classic uniforms ASAP!  (B)


Calgary Flames:

No retro promotion.  Sigh.  The continued use of black.  Ugh.  Flags on the shoulders?  Why??  They got rid of the piping but kept the side stripes.  That de-italicized their nameplates?  I don’t get it.  They’re better, but not much. (C)


Carolina Hurricanes:

Whoa!  Really did not expect this!  The Hurricanes have reintroduced black into their jerseys, thank the hockey gods, but more importantly, the storm flag stripe is back!  These are solid.  A cleaner, but not emptied retooling of their original jersey, it’s got history, distinction, and modern simplicity all in one.  Drastic rebrands aside, this is what the Hurricanes should have done in 2013, but it’s better late than never. (A)


Chicago Blackhawks:

As expected, nothing to see here.  Hard to improve upon what they’ve got, even if I think it’s massively overrated. (A)


Colorado Avalanche:

Ohhhhhh baby, I see mountains!  The Avs are back, and it’s only been ten years in the making.  Can you believe that the Colorado Avalanche have gone half of their team’s lifetime without this classic look?  It just feels so right that it’s been restored.  From absolute worst to near-best, Colorado is the winner of the Adidas redesign.  Perhaps their team will chart a similar course on the ice? (A)


Columbus Blue Jackets:

Disappointing insofar as it’s not the cannon jersey, but I’m glad it still looks pretty sharp.  The major changes appear to be that there’s no more white in the collar, and there’s a new (worse) nameplate typeface.  Otherwise, yeah, again I didn’t get my wish. (B)


Dallas Stars:

Not much to report, which is great because the Dallas Stars reinvention in 2013 was one of the best rebrands in NHL history, at least from a jersey perspective.  Stick with what works. (A)


Detroit Red Wings:

Again, nothing to really see here.  The simplest uniform set in the league stays that way, and we’re better off for it. (A)


Edmonton Oilers:

In April, I watched the Edmonton Oilers defeat the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.  During warmups, I shot photos of the teams, and I have to say, the Oilers looked damn good in their road whites with royal blue shoulders.  After suffering the worst of Reebok’s 2007 transition, management made the wise (easy) decision to go with the original 80s jerseys full-time in 2011.  With the team finally resurgent this past year, it seemed to all be clicking into place. …And then they scrapped the blue homes for orange.  Not the worst decision, given the WHA history there, but still a little weird.  Alberta should be blue vs. red, but that’s not the main issue anymore.

For some reason, they’ve decided to replace the royal blue with navy in their color scheme.  Huh?  Navy simply does not go with orange.  The Islanders tried it in 2002 and, surprise surprise, decided to re-adopt their classic colors as soon as they were allowed.  But then there’s the new Oilers jersey itself.  What they’ve done here is kind of a shame; thankfully the recently leaked jersey wasn’t quite accurate and the collar isn’t completely hideous, but it’s still not great.  Those stripes, while faithful to the previous home/away set, don’t work with these colors — the blue looks black in contrast, and I’m worried about how the away jersey will look.  This is a definite step backwards.  Way to take a top-10 jersey and throw it right in the trash, Edmonton.  (D)


Florida Panthers:

Having just completely rebranded last year, the fact that there’s nothing new on these is warranted.  This is, in my opinion, the best the Florida Panthers have ever looked and it’s a relief they didn’t even go so far as to tweak anything. (A)


Los Angeles Kings:

No changes here.  I wish they’d bring back purple in some way, however these have become another modern classic jersey — two Cups in three years will do that to a look, even if it’s not the best. (B)


Minnesota Wild:

Finally, we’re back to green homes in Minnesota, and as a nice compromise, they’ve taken the script M from the old (beautiful) thirds and put it on the shoulders.  They’ve notably added a wheat-colored chest stripe, which is becoming somewhat of a trend thanks to the Panthers stealing from Montréal last year.  In addition, red remains an accent around the NHL crest, as well as in a stripe nestled inside the wheat arm stripes.  If the road jersey can finally match the home, the Wild will be one of the best dressed in the league.  I am very pleased with these. (A)


Montréal Canadiens:

Don’t. mess. with. perfection. (A)


Nashville Predators:

Huh.  While I’ll admit the old template (once shared with and worn more poorly by the St. Louis Blues) had its flaws, it added some necessary contrast.  This one seems rather dull and empty.  Thankfully, the piano keys and number strings remain, as well as the original typeface, but I am slightly underwhelmed.  It’s a bit curious that the blue at the waist and arms was pushed even further down.  I don’t know — that might be too much yellow.  On the other hand, it’s minimal and clean, which is a highly desired quality in a timeless jersey.  In retrospect, I might view these better.  For now, they get a (C)


New Jersey Devils:

Here’s a look at the new New Jersey jerseys.  New Jersey had their old jerseys for nearly thirty years; for the first time since 1992, New Jersey has new jerseys.  I wonder if they didn’t want new New Jersey jerseys because of obnoxious people like me talking about their new New Jersey jerseys like I’m doing here?  Or, maybe because the old New Jersey jerseys were such a timeless, modern classic, three-time Cup-winning uniform that it would be idiotic to change them?  Well, it’s not a radical departure, but it’s different enough to feel wrong.  The waist stripe is gone and the white on the arms is widened significantly, apparently to evoke the Colorado Rockies.  One curious addition: a green inner collar featuring the three Cup-winning seasons listed.  Was this necessary?  No.  I prefer New Jersey’s old jerseys to New Jersey’s new jerseys. (C)


New York Islanders:

Same classics as they were, except I’m going to rate them as if there were improvements because there’s no more black alternate. (A)


New York Rangers:

Like their cross-town rivals, the Rangers didn’t need to change anything.  The only difference is the red from the NHL crest is much wider due to the Adidas cut.  Looks weird, but there’s not much to do about it. (A)


Ottawa Senators:

Oy, Ottawa, what are you doing?  It wouldn’t have taken much to make this uniform infinitely better, yet you do so little anyway.  Somehow you’ve successfully converted one of the worst Reebok-era uniforms faithfully into Adidas form, albeit with a new number font.  Wow.  I don’t get it; a stunning new set would bring in so much money, and for a frugal owner, that would seem like a no-brainer, no?  Disappointed.  (D)


Philadelphia Flyers:

It doesn’t appear that the Flyers really did anything here, except perhaps thicken the white at the end of the sleeve.  Can’t complain, I think their look is fine. (B)


Pittsburgh Penguins:

One of only two teams not to put out reveal teasers, probably because they’re busy doing other things at the moment.  Also, there’s nothing new anyway.   (A)


San Jose Sharks:

Look at that new Shark shoulder patch!  I’m very happy to see this, and it looks great.  Still rocking the minimal teal, I see.  That’s fine, I love the color and it doesn’t make my Pavelski jersey too obsolete.  I would have liked waist stripes, but what’re ya gonna do?  Can’t win ’em all.  (B)


St. Louis Blues:

The only major change here is a switch from yellow to white on the back numbers, which I think I like more.  In addition, there’s a new hanger effect inspired by the St. Louis city flag that is quite welcome.  Already one of the best jerseys in the league, it’s even a slight bit better now.  (A)


Tampa Bay Lightning:

The Toronto-south look lives on, unchanged.  It’s alright, I guess, though I think I’d prefer it if they went back to black.  (B)


Toronto Maple Leafs:

The other team not to put out teasers, it too makes sense as not a lot has changed from last year’s fresh redesign.  And why should they?  This is the look of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future. (A)


Vancouver Canucks:

Come on Vancouver!  What are you (not) doing?  Your jersey is perfection except for the one thing I asked you to change.  We get it.  You play in Vancouver.  You don’t need to tell us with a wordmark.  (B, but it coulda been an A)


Washington Capitals:

I’m not sure about this one.  The Capitals have been rocking their look for a decade, and while it’s been symbolic of the franchise’s best (regular) seasons, as well as their consistently heartbreaking playoff runs, I’m not sure it really translates on this new template.  It feels…off.  Also, it should have been Weagle.  (C)


Winnipeg Jets:

Yep, looks the same.  I was never really a fan of the Jets look, yet it’s been six years now and that’s, well, how they look.  (B)


And last but not least, the newest member of the National Hockey League, from T-Mobile Arena on The Strip in Paradise, Nevada, playing in its first professional season, please… welcome… yoooouuuurrrrrr……

Vegas Golden Knights:

Not bad, eh?  As expected, there is red featured on the arms as an accent stripe, while gold plays a major role in the elbows and above a thick black hem line.  I would have liked more red, but alas.  Black also fills the arms up to the shoulders, similar to the Coyotes’ latest.  The shoulders feature the secondary logo, which looks damn good here.  Shame the aways don’t have a grey yoke, but those details in the gold are an interesting touch!  Really, not a bad start, Vegas. (B)


And that’s it.  Except the remaining 31 away jerseys will appear over the next few days sometime between now and the start of the season — many are already appearing out in the wild.

As for my overall impression of these, they’re decidedly above average.  My final grades are as follows:

  • A: BOS, CAR, CHI, COL, DAL, DET, FLA, MIN, MTL, NYI, NYR, PIT, STL, TOR
  • B: ARI, BUF, CBJ, LAK, PHI, SJS, TBL, VAN, VGK, WPG
  • C: ANA, CGY, NSH, NJD, WSH
  • D: EDM, OTT

The Oilers’ leak had me spooked, but they’re by-and-large decent.  I’ll get used to the collar change eventually, while most of the jerseys look so similar to their previous iterations there won’t be any adjustment needed at all.  However, the missed opportunities will surely continue to haunt.  Buffalo, Calgary, Ottawa, Washington, and Vancouver… try harder next time.  Minnesota, Carolina, and Colorado?  I appreciate what you’ve done.  Thank you.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2017 Stanley Cup Champions

I II III IV V

They did it again.  I can’t say I don’t believe it since this was the expected result, yet I kinda don’t want to believe.  Two years in a row, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the Stanley Cup champions.  They are the first team to repeat since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings and the first to do so in the salary cap era.  Two years in a row they’ve faced an opponent in its first Cup Final appearance after years and years of playoff struggles, and both times they won the Cup in six games in said opponents’ buildings.

Nashville put up a fight though.  After two games, both of which were won by Pittsburgh after a brief flurry of goals surrounded by an extended period of Predator domination, this series could have been over.  Instead the Preds stormed back to take the next two by a combined score of 9-2.  But, unfortunately, the offensive injuries came back to haunt Nashville and they went scoreless during their last two games.  And how about that, Matt Murray?  Two shutouts to win the Cup, the second Cup of his as a rookie.  How weird.

Playoff Series
2017-05-29; NSH 3, PIT 5
2017-05-31; NSH 1, PIT 4
2017-06-03; PIT 1, NSH 5
2017-06-05; PIT 1, NSH 4
2017-06-08; NSH 0, PIT 6
2017-06-11; PIT 2, NSH 0
PIT defeats NSH: 4-2
Prediction: Penguins in 6 ✓✓

You know, I haven’t seen much talk about these Penguins as a dynasty.  Since bringing the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury together, they’d been contenders every year and since their first Cup appearance in 2008, it seemed like they could win the Cup each time.  Well, it took until 2015-16 to get a second, but it almost looks like this team will never lose again.

Speaking of pseudo-dynasties, a curious thing has happened, one which I even had an inkling of last year.  Let’s look at the Stanley Cup champion teams between 1994 and 2004 and also those of the last nine seasons:

1995 New Jersey Devils 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
1996 Colorado Avalanche 2010 Chicago Blackhawks
1997 Detroit Red Wings 2011 Boston Bruins
1998 Detroit Red Wings 2012 Los Angeles Kings
1999 Dallas Stars 2013 Chicago Blackhawks
2000 New Jersey Devils 2014 Los Angeles Kings
2001 Colorado Avalanche 2015 Chicago Blackhawks
2002 Detroit Red Wings 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins
2003 New Jersey Devils 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins

During each eight year span, four teams won the Cup.  Two of them won thrice, one won twice, and one oddball won once.  One team won back to back.  Of the teams that won thrice, one pair was from the east, one pair was from the west.  The teams that won twice were both from the west and both won their first two Cups.

If you want to get weirder, the Cup champions before these years were both Original six.  Even weirder, the Cup Finals before that was Canada versus California.  But yeah, this is pretty strange.  After the parity of the first few years of the salary cap era, we’re seemingly back to where we started.  Hopefully history continues to repeat and somebody wins their first Cup next year, and hopefully they do it without controversy.

Speaking of controversy, I can’t help but think that this series might have ended differently if Colton Sissons’ opening goal wasn’t waved off.  There’s not a lot to be done now, of course, but who knows what might have been.  With the home team winning every game until then, this series was shaping up to be a lot like Vancouver/Boston.  It was a bitterly contested matchup with blowouts, on-ice antics, simultaneously stellar and porous goaltending, a team with a rabid fanbase chasing its first Cup, and a team winning it all on the road while wearing black and yellow.

And like that 2011 series, the ending was anticlimactic as hell.  This is the Cup winning goal.  The dagger with 95 seconds left was hardly even a shot.

It wasn’t just that though.  I feel like, since most of these guys just won last year, this wasn’t special.  The celebrations seemed less enthusiastic.  Maybe it was the lack of a home crowd that did it, I’m not sure.  Maybe I projected my own personal feelings of being let down on the Penguins.  I don’t know.  I was really into this year’s playoffs, shockingly so without a true rooting interest, but this ending just doesn’t do anything for me.

I must salute you, Nashville.  There were many who didn’t realize how great of a fanbase you were, and during the home game broadcasts were we told this fact over and over.  It’s true that it’d always been like this, and luckily for the league as a whole, it will continue.  Your contention window is wide open, so I have no doubt that the Predators are now firmly one of the most marketable teams in the NHL; likely we’ll see much more of them in the spotlight next year.  How about an outdoor game in Tennessee?

I say this every year it seems, but I am excited for this offseason.  The Vegas Golden Knights are finally here — their expansion draft roster will be revealed just 9 days from today.  Also, every NHL team is getting new jerseys, some of which involve rumored overhauls and/or jersey promotions, and each of them will also be revealed on the 21st 20th.  Oh yeah, this Penguins team?  They were built in large part by the man who now runs the Buffalo Sabres.  As if I needed another reason to be hyped about my hometown team’s never-ending rebuild.  I can only hope that what he helped to accomplish in Pittsburgh can be done up north as well.

It’s going to be a fun rest of June.  Time to relax and enjoy the show.