*

 

Canucks defenceman Alex Edler had an IIHF hearing in Zurich this weekend to determine the full extent of his suspension for kneeing Eric Staal. According to the director of the Swedish National Team, the IIHF disciplinary committee will submit their decision in writing in a couple of weeks.

 

*

 

Sometimes nuggets of hockey news linger unreported and it drives me insane. The latest example: it was reported this week that three clubs remain interested in signing Mikhail Grabovski this offseason, but all we know about the identity of those three teams is that they're not the Winnipeg Jets.

 

*

 

So which clubs are in the Grabovski sweeps? Edmonton? Anaheim? Washington? New Jersey? 

 

Grabovski would make the Oilers a pretty scary club, in my view, especially if you played him on a line with Taylor Hall. Hall and Grabovski are similar in that they play a pretty fearless, fast brand of hockey and it would be massively enjoyable to watch them skate together.

 

*

 

Speaking of Anaheim, I go back and forth on whether or not the Ducks are going to be good or not this upcoming season. Generally I suspect that Anaheim will be "not that good," mostly because their back-end is pretty feeble and their forward depth is suspect. Definitely one of the more difficult clubs to peg going into next season, in my view.

 

*

 

Former Leafs, Habs and Penguins winger Colby Armstrong has signed with the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL. Armstrong's NHL career was slowed by concussions, but I'm still a bit miffed that he couldn't find an NHL job. Armstrong played well in a fourth line role for the Montreal Canadiens last season, and he still has NHL size. Glancing around the league, I think he would have been a modest fourth line upgrade for a handful of teams.

 

*

 

Lots of hockey fans are scoffing at Blake Wheeler's contract this weekend, and it is a massive pact, and Blake Wheeler is likely past his offensive prime. But he's really good and a 5.6 million dollar price point certainly isn't far off his actual value.

 

Wheeler has size, is in the top-30 in NHL scoring over the past two seasons, and posts stellar underlying numbers. Taken together the conclusion that Wheeler is a legitimate top-line winger becomes rather obvious. 

 

*

 

Here's something odd: of the fourteen NHL players whom Blake Wheeler has spent more than 500 even-strength minutes playing with over the past six years, thirteen have posted a better even-strength shot attempt differential skating with Wheeler than without. The exception? Andrew Ference.

 

*

 

Tim Thomas is going to at least get a professional tryout, right? I mean, we're talking about a guy who put together three elite seasons and two well above average seasons of goaltending over the past six years. So long as Thomas didn't overdose on Chick-Fil-A over the past 18 months, I'd think he's a pretty good bet to at least provide a team with average goaltending.

 

*

 

Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw 'twerked' at the team's annual summer convention last week. I hope for Shaw's sake that he's also playing Miley's new "Can't Stop" track on a loop. That song is heat.

 

*

 

When you coach a team that has won two of the four most recent Stanley Cups, you probably deserve a reward. Coach Q got his from the Blackhawks this past week in the form of a three year extension. 

 

Quenneville is obviously one hell of a coach, and his moustache has become borderline iconic in Chicago...

 

*

 

One thing Q hasn't figured out how to do, however, is properly utilize his clubs absurd amount of talent with the man-advantage. How a team that employs Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook, ices a sub-average power-play year-after-year is completely baffling.

 

*

 

Listing those Chicago Blackhawks players reminded me that Dave Bolland lost his job during the postseason to Michal Handzus. The Leafs meanwhile are counting on Bolland to be an upgrade on Mikhail Grabovski... Good luck with that!

 

*

 

I truly and honestly suspect that the Maple Leafs will be a disaster this upcoming season.

 

For a couple of reasons, however, my level of certainty on this front isn't all that high. After all, Phil Kessel is still in his prime and is one of the league's most dominant offensive talents at the moment. Also, James Reimer is a pretty excellent goaltender, and could make Randy Carlyle look good again...

 

So there's a couple of reasons why the Leafs could outperform expectations once again, but I still have to think that this Maple Leafs club is poised to take a major step back next year...

 

*

 

The timing of Dave Nonis' contract extension was as baffling as some of Toronto's offseason moves. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter (it doesn't impact Toronto's cap-space, and it's not as if MLSE is short on cash). But it's just another in a long line of weird decisions from the Maple Leafs organization this summer. That should trouble fans of the club, in my opinion.

 

*

 

After firing his agent in favour of JP Barry and Pat Brisson, Roberto Luongo appears set to return to the Canucks this fall for training camp. He'll probably play pretty well and make some excellent jokes on Twitter, but make no mistake: he'd rather get a fresh start elsewhere.

 

I was trying to figure this out the other day, but is there any comparable situation in the history of North American professional sports to the one Luongo has faced over the past two years in Vancouver? I mean, Luongo was very publicly shopped for like eighteen months before the team decided to retain him. Has that ever happened before in any other sport?

 

All of which is to say that no one should be surprised that Luongo's reticent to remain with the Canucks.

 

Thomas Drance is a news editor at theScore Inc.. You can follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDrance.


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Comments (11)add comment

jjmckenn said:

jjmckenn
Wheeler Yeah those Wheeler comments regarding him being past his offensive prime are very suspect. He is more than likely just entering his prime now. Honest mistake by him though I guess. The same might be said for his opinion of the Leafs. They have improved overall over the summer once they get Franson and Kadri signed. Will most likely finish a close 2nd to Boston in the Atlantic
July 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Spec7ral said:

Spec7ral
... To say that 25.5 applies to all players would be ludicrous. But one year does make a difference is all I was pointing out. The funny thing is Drance is a Sedin fanboy, and they are late bloomers, so he of all people might give more leeway in the realm of age vs "offensive prime". One way or the other I wouldn't draft Wheeler ahead of Kessel, and I'll always take the younger player over the older one if they are of the same pedigree. And both the Leafs and Jets suck anyways, so who really cares smilies/cheesy.gif
July 28, 2013
Votes: +0

woodrow said:

woodrow
... Spec7ral, by your definition then this would mean that Kessel is now past his prime as well, which kind of flies in the face of what Thomas said here today. I would postulate that a peak for a player's career probably lasts for 2-3 years before the inevitable decline begins. Of course, we only know that in hindsight. My whole point here is that Wheeler's numbers have been on the rise for the past 3 years as have Kessel's. They are 1 year apart in age. Is Wheeler past his prime? Maybe; but my guess is no, which is what I would also say for Kessel. We won't really know for another few years. I was just curious why Wheeler is past his prime and Kessel isn't, considering their respective production over the past 3 years.
July 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Spec7ral said:

Spec7ral
... Drance is correct. 25.5 is average age an NHL forward hits their offensive prime. Run the numbers and get your panties unbunched.
July 28, 2013
Votes: +0

jacques ouef said:

hammer2003
... Stopped reading after "Blake Wheeler is likely past his offensive prime". Wheeler is 26 years old and his numbers have improved steadily the past 3 seasons in a row (last season prorated).
July 28, 2013
Votes: +1

leaftodd said:

leaftodd
... Agree with Woodrow. Also rataylor22, pretty sure Drance is a Canucklehead or at least writes for them and his comment that he wants the leafs to fail this year shows he's anything but a homer. I think though that he's probably just made a slip here. It's not in line with the accuracy of his writing i've read to date.
July 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
... Luongo will be fine. There are only 30 starting jobs available and probably half of those dont have a sizeable shot at a Cup. Vancouver does, he is now once again the undisputed #1, while his suppoesed successor is back to sharing the load in New Jersey (with a legend!) for atleast another season.
New Jersey is going to be interesting, assuming Brodeur stays healthy how is he going to react to splitting starts? will it help him at this age or will the lack of playing time erode his confidence/timing. This will be a first for Marty, and if they make it to the playoffs with 2 healthy goaltenders splitting 50/50 or close to it..how do you sit Brodeur? If Marty sits most of the games, and the Devils arent in the playoff picture- would they deal him to a contender for picks? Having 2 quality goalies (and a top prospect in Wedgewood) is a luxury they cant really afford. Their roster isnt exactly stacked, nor are they loaded with top prospects. I wouldnt ever count out Lou Lamourello, but hes got his work cut out for him over the next few seasons.
July 28, 2013
Votes: +0

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... I agree with Woodrow. It seems silly and foolish to compare 2 players who are basically the same age and say one is likely past their prime and the other is definitely still in their prime. Kinda points to Leaf homerism more than anything.
July 28, 2013
Votes: -1

agentzero said:

agentzero
Wheeler Woodrow nailed it. Wheeler is heading into his offensive prime, not past it. He's heading into his late 20s, the athletic prime age for NHL players. I expect his numbers to climb until 30, then regressing after 31....
July 28, 2013
Votes: +1

woodrow said:

woodrow
... So, Wheeler is likely past his prime and he is about to turn 27 at the end of Aug. Meanwhile Kessel is still in his prime and is about to turn 26 a little bit more than 1 month later. I'm not sure what the criteria is to be categorized as past your prime, but I really don't believe Wheeler is past his prime yet.
July 28, 2013
Votes: +3

leaftodd said:

leaftodd
... I dont mean to get caught up in all this Grabovski stuff. I get that he was out of his natural role of offensive playmaker. And i get that he had good advanced stats.

But, Carlyle had determined that he was a third line checking centre. And take it from a guy who watched every single leaf game last year. He's not a very good third line checking centre. Bolland is 2 mil cheaper and had a 3 year shorter contract. If (and yes i'm aware its a big if) he can stay healthy he'll provide the defensive and physical work grabovski did and probably + a little.

It just seems people are caught up in what he could have been.

Would he have done better than Bozak as line 1? Not sure. I have no real opinion. Stats say probably. But he was never getting that role.

I did the same thing as you are doing last year with the Nucks. I was hoping that their goalie cluster F*%k would hand them a horrible showing. But in reality they really didnt learn a thing from it and just made another this off season. Honestly it looks like no matter the lesson some teams never learn.
July 28, 2013
Votes: +1
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