WWYDW Are you worried about Elias Pettersson

Welcome back to WWYDW, the only hockey colunm on the internet without any spelling mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, did Elias Pettersson make a terrible one when he missed the 2021 Vancouver Canucks training camp?


There’s no denying that Pettersson’s 2021/22 start has been a slow one by his own lofty standards. As of this writing, he’s managed four points in seven games, well below his usual pace. (And if he scored a bunch in the interim, you’re welcome for the reverse-jinx).

Even worse, the eye-testers will attest that he’s looked “a step behind” and “unengaged” on the ice, and that he’s just not the same Pettersson that we’ve all come to know and admire.

The real debate lies in whether or not Pettersson’s slow start is something to worry about.

Some see it as a natural consequence to a tumultuous offseason, and one that will be rectified in the immediate future, as soon as Pettersson shakes the rust off.

Others aren’t so sure. They’ll contend that a slow start could quickly turn into Pettersson’s second questionable season in a row, and maybe even a continuation of an overall downward trend from his rookie season onward.

Still others will inevitably fall somewhere in between.

So, where do you fall? This week, we’re asking:

Are you worried about Elias Pettersson’s slow start to the 2021/22 season?

Last week, we asked:

What is your ideal top-six configuration for the 2021/22 Canucks?

Your ideal configurations are below!

Ragnarok Ouroboros:

For me this is easy. Canucks already had two proven first lines and Green should go back to them. Constant player shuffling is not allowing the players to form any chemistry with each other.

Top Line: Boeser, Pettersson, Miller – They have proven they can get the job done

Second Line: Höglander, Horvat, Pearson – They have had chemistry since day one, and Green really shouldn’t mess with this line.

Third Line: Garland, Dickinson, Podkolzin – This would be a tough, responsible line that can score goals.

Fourth Line: Dowling, Lammikko, Chiasson – I’ve liked Dowling and Lammikko but they are fourth line players. Quit playing them higher in the lineup. Chiasson could be interchanged with Podkolzin for third/fourth line duties.

Garland is skilled, hardworking, and tenacious, but has not developed any chemistry with teammates yet that I can see. Why mess with the existing chemistry just to shoehorn Garland into the top-six?

speering major:

My experimental combo:

Höglander Pettersson Boeser

Miller Horvat Garland

Fallback plan #1 if that’s not clicking:

Lotto Line

Höglander Horvat Garland

Fallback plan #2

Podkolzin Pettersson Boeser

Pearson Horvat Höglander

Dowling Miller Garland

Green is out in left field with line combos this season. They should have got things mostly in order during camp and given them some time to sync up and get used to each other. Now it’s just a blender of rotating experiments.


Today`s practice in Chicago:




What should be obvious to Green but isn`t:

1- Hoglander is not a LW. He should be Horvat`s RW.

2- Pearson does not want to be a third line checker but Horvat`s LW.

3- Miller needs Pettersson and Pettersson needs Boeser.

Defenceman Factory:

There tends to be three prevailing philosophies used by different hockey coaches at all levels:

  • Lines don’t matter, put your best forwards in the top-six and rotate in other players based on who’s going and who isn’t.
  • Stay consistent with two players on a line and rotate the third player.
  • Keep lines consistent most of the time.

Green moves players around a lot between lines but seems fixated on keeping Boeser and Petterson together, as well as Horvat and Pearson. I think the line inconsistency is detrimental and his consistent pairings aren’t necessarily right.

Miller needs to play with Pettersson. Boeser is fine on right wing there but he was also fine or Horvat’s right wing. I’d at least try Höglander or Garland with Miller and Pettersson.

Move Pearson to the third line. Use two of Boeser, Höglander, and Garland with Horvat.

Make a decision on the best combinations of those six before the last two exhibition games, then have them play together for an extended period of time.



This line created some good scoring chances in the preseason. Sadly, they only got to play a few shifts together.


This line is getting better each game because Green has not mixed it into his line blender. They are slowly developing chemistry and more importantly, they are starting to score goals.


We have all seen what Boeser and Miller can do when they play on the same line. Bailey was making a lot of smart plays in the offensive zone last season until Lucic put a stop to that. He is fast and talented, but also horribly unlucky. It’s too bad he couldn’t properly participate in training camp this year. One game at the end of camp wasn’t enough.

Beer Can Boyd:

Need to see a lot more out of Dickinson. He sure looks a lot more like a fourth liner than a third so far. Otherwise, Miller becomes the de facto third line center, which is bad news for the Lotto Line.

I am Ted:

Miller – Petterson – Boeser

Pearson – Horvat – Garland

I don’t like Pearson there but you know he will be with Bo…always. I’d rather Pod or Hog.

Later in the year, the bottom-six should be:

Podkolzin – Dickinson – Höglander

Motte – Sutter – Lammikko


Tkachuk – Pettersson – Nylander

Toffoli – Horvat – McCann

Coulda shoulda woulda.


This is what I think Benning sold the fans last summer, and it hasn’t happened yet, making us all deeply unhappy:

  1. Miller – Pettersson – Boeser …Bring back the Lotto Line! We’re not a deep team, we should be concentrating our firepower up top.
  2. Höglander – Horvat – Garland …Horvat and the angry Lilliputians. Benning had us excited in the summer that Beast Mode Bo was going to be unleashed. So, unleash the beast!
  3. Podkolzin/Chaisson – Dickinson – Pearson …Pearson’s an offensive black hole at this stage of his career, but he can still play good hockey. So put him on a shutdown line with Dickinson and Chaisson. Plus, the three vets can bring along Podkolzin and teach him how to be a pro in The Show. Miller’s wasted in this spot.
  4. Motte – Sutter/Lammikko – Highmore …Energy line, pest line, whatever. We just need these guys to play eight minutes of dependable hockey a night and contribute to the PK.

coconuts grow:

Miller – Pettersson – Boeser

Pearson – Horvat – Höglander/Garland

Höglander/Garland – Dickinson – Podkolzin

Free the Lotto Line. Build some consistency in the group. Shuffle Höglander and Garland for the right fit, but lay off the blender.


Höglander Pettersson Boeser

Garland Miller Podkolzin

My ideal top-six has Miller on the second line, he is our best overall player, so I can’t understand why people always peg him as a 3C. Pettersson needs to prove he’s our number 1C without the Miller crutch. If there is anyone I would want to see Garland spark, ignite, and drag into the fight, it would be Miller, because he has that Kesler-like ability to get mad, go beast mode, and physically dominate a team.

By the way, why does everyone always have to hedge their lines by putting infinite number of players in one spot like: “my first line would be” Miller/Höglander/Garland – Pettersson –  Boeser?

Well, I guess that’s what our first line actually looks like when Green’s team is down two goals…


It’s so easy, no wonder Green hasn’t tried it yet.

Lotto Line


Bo with Garland and Hogs would be relentless, leaving Pearson, JD, and Pods on the third line.


So, a great hockey team needs to have at least a couple great lines, and great lines need to have great names. This is just basic logic as far as I’m concerned, so I’m thinking Lotto Line is our de facto great top line name, and we just need a great name for our second line and we’ll be set. Enter the “Christmas Line” of Garland, Horvat, Höglander, or “Garland, Ho, Ho!”

If that doesn’t catch on, I’d like to see:

Höglander Petterson Garland; won’t win a faceoff but will be possession monsters.

Pearson Horvat Podkolzin; Tanner and Bo off the rush with Pods setting them up.

Miller Dickinson Boeser; wtf? No, it’ll be great on matchups and Miller/Boeser were legitimately very good together last year. Just don’t put JT at centre.


Coaching staff needs to look at it as top-nine instead of just top-six. Unless they are planning on exhausting their top-six forward group with 20+ mins a game, during the meat grinder that is the NHL 82-game season.

I like the idea of two-player pairings (BoHo/TP, JTM/BB, Petey/Garland) and rotating the third player in. By all means, shorten the bench and throw the Lotto and (BoHo/TP/Garland) lines out when we are behind a goal in the third.

Ensuring that every player is involved and feeling like they have a defined role encourages team chemistry and long-term success. And for god’s sake, stop with the panic line blender and let them lines develop some chemistry (something that should have been done at training camp, Petey’s absence notwithstanding).


I think Höglander deserves to be on the first line right now and I’d mix it up in a big way.

Höglander – Pettersson – Garland

Miller – Horvat – Boeser




Scratched: Highmore

I know that will never happen. Highmore is a “Green guy.” Good effort, low skill level, so expect Podkolzin to keep getting scratched and then sent to the AHL when Motte comes back.


Right now, Miller doesn’t seem disciplined or interested enough to centre/carry his own line, but if he was, this is what I’d do:




That third line could be a matchup killer, and with the way Dickinson has shown he can shoot and generate offence on the cycle, all three lines would be dangerous.


I’m going to give more than top-six, because that’s the only way this makes sense. I think all these lines are dangerous and potential matchup problems. Miller and Chiasson bring the grit and physicality for Pettersson to be effective (anyone remember Anson Carter and the Sedins? Guy parked his butt in front of the net and got a career year and contract out of it). Real easy to swap Boeser for Chiasson when you want the “Lotto” Line. Theres really no “top” line. The more I think about it, the more I like this. How do you match up/game plan against it?





GAME DAY Wings aim to capitalize on momentum in Washington

After two days off, the Detroit Red Wings will return to action Wednesday against the Washington Capitals with the intent to continue the good habits that led them to a 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 24.

Wednesday’s matchup is a long time coming. Detroit and Washington were scheduled to play at Capital One Center on Mar. 12, 2020; due to the emerging prevalence of COVID-19 in North America, the game was postponed and, later, cancelled.

The Red Wings haven’t played a game in the District of Columbia since Dec. 11, 2018, when they lost to the Capitals by a 6-2 score. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick for Washington while Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist tallied for Detroit. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier barely lasted half the game before being replaced by Jimmy Howard.

Only three Detroit players from that game remain with the team: Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Michael Rasmussen. They’ll all be in the lineup Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET to try and help the Red Wings continue their surprising early-season success.

The Red Wings

Detroit scratched defenseman Filip Hronek on Sunday for the second consecutive game. We expect he’ll return to the lineup on Wednesday.

Here’s how the Red Wings practiced on Tuesday:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Lucas Raymond
Robby Fabbri – Pius Suter – Filip Zadina
Vladislav Namestnikov – Michael Rasmussen – Adam Erne
Carter Rowney – Mitchell Stephens – Sam Gagner

Danny DeKeyser – Moritz Seider
Nick Leddy – Filip Hronek
Marc Staal – Troy Stecher

Alex Nedeljkovic will likely start for the Red Wings on Wednesday after stopping 32 of 35 shots against Chicago.

The Capitals

Washington went with these lines and pairings against Ottawa on Monday:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha – Connor McMichael – T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin – Lars Eller – Garnet Hathaway
Conor Sheary – Hendrix Lapierre – Daniel Sprong

Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk – Justin Schultz

Ilya Samsonov started for the Caps in Canada’s capital and let in five goals on 37 shots. Expect Vitek Vanecek to man the pipes for Washington against Detroit.

Scoring leaders

Detroit: Tyler Bertuzzi (six goals, nine points); Dylan Larkin (two goals, seven points); Lucas Raymond (four goals, seven points); Moritz Seider (zero goals, five points); Vladislav Namestnikov (three goals, four points).

Washington: Alexander Ovechkin (seven goals, 12 points); Evgeny Kuznetsov (four goals, nine points); Tom Wilson (zero goals, seven points); T.J. Oshie (four goals, five points); Anthony Mantha (two goals, four points).

Players to watch

Detroit: It’s nice to see Vladislav Namestnikov off to a productive start in 2021–22. The 28-year-old winger already has three goals and an assist in six games; in 53 games with Detroit last year, Namestnikov had just eight goals and 17 points. There are still some reasons to be concerned about Namestnikov’s play-driving but if the goal is to move him before the trade deadline, he’s already helping his stock.

Washington: How can it not be Alex Ovechkin? The 36-year-old winger is chugging along at better than a goal-per-game pace to start the season and appears to be dead-set upon surpassing Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career goal-scoring record. If Ovi can score 50 goals this season, he’ll only be 112 away from Gretzky’s 892 — with four years still remaining on his contract.

Viewing and listening options

Saturday’s Red Wings game will be broadcast on Bally Sports Detroit and NBC Sports Washington Plus, starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. It’ll be sent over the airwaves on WXVT-FM 97.1 “The Ticket” in the Detroit area, as well as on the Red Wings’ official website.

Baggedmilk on theLOCKERROOM Connor McDavids Heater, Zach Hyman, and more

Happy Wednesday, Internet friends, and welcome to yet another chapter of your ol’ pal Baggedmilk’s adventures in radio. As I do every week, I jumped on the air with the boys on The Locker Room for a quick segment to talk about the Oilers while also offering my takes on anything else that’s going on in the world.

To kick off this week’s segment, we jumped in with a look at Connor McDavid’s heater and whether or not he can keep this going. On his current pace, McDavid would be the first player since Wayne Gretzky to pass 200 points in an NHL season so we wondered out loud if that is actually possible in today’s NHL. I mean, we all know that Connor McDavid is a freak but 200 points? Personally, I won’t ever expect him to hit such a lofty mark but I wouldn’t bet against him either. Next up, we looked at Zach Hyman’s fit with the Oilers after he’s gotten off to a very quick start in his first season with his new club. And not only is he fitting in well but his play and personality have also caused some to compare him to former Oiler, Ryan Smyth, so we spent a few minutes comparing both guys to see if there’s actually anything there. Needless to say, it’s been a fun start to the season for Oilers fans as we all cannot wait for tonight’s game against the Flyers.

Listen to this week’s segment below:

Previous Appearances:

McKenna Whats Wrong With The Vegas Golden Knights Power Play

The Vegas Golden Knights have the worst power play in the NHL. They’re 0-for-11 this year with the man advantage. And it’s been 28 attempts – dating back to last season – since Vegas found the back of the net on the power play.

It’s gotten progressively worse over time. During the 2020-21 season, the Golden Knights finished 22nd in the NHL with a 17.8 percent conversion rate on the power play. It dropped to 9.3% during the Stanley Cup Playoffs that same year – worst among the 16 teams that competed in the postseason. 

Vegas hasn’t scored a power play goal in well over four months. The last time they converted with the man advantage was June 4, 2021 against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Second Round. And to make matters worse, the Golden Knights are without key offensive weapons.

Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are on injured reserve. Alec Martinez is out of the lineup. Nolan Patrick missed Sunday’s game against the Islanders with an upper-body injury. And Alex Tuch probably won’t be available until sometime in 2022.

Lack of power-play production cost the Golden Knights in last season’s playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. And it’s a big reason why the team has started the 2021-22 campaign with a 1-4-0 record. Teams simply cannot expect to win games with a futile power play.

Even with Stone and Pacioretty out of the lineup, the Golden Knights have players capable of scoring. ‘The Misfits Line’ of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith have combined for 56 regular-season power play tallies since the Golden Knights’ inception in 2017.

Defenseman Shea Theodore has racked up 49 points on the power play as a Golden Knight. Alex Pietrangelo spent almost a decade with the St. Louis Blues patrolling the blue line with the man advantage.

So what’s wrong in Vegas?

More than anything, I don’t think the Golden Knights are moving the puck fast enough with players in motion. The key to scoring on the power play is creating lanes and presenting trade-offs for the defense. Making them decide who to cover and who to leave open.

Right now, that’s not Vegas. The Golden Knights are predictable. They’re deliberate. And they’re not using the flanks as effectively as other NHL teams.

From a goaltender’s perspective, it always made me nervous when I didn’t know where the shot was going to come from. It would happen when I played against the Capitals: I knew Alex Ovechkin was the primary trigger man. But I also had to worry about John Carlson drilling a one-timer by my ear with TJ Oshie standing in front. That’s without even mentioning how silky of a passer Nicklas Backstrom is.

The Golden Knights may not have an elite puck distributor like Backstrom, but they do have shot options. Jonathan Marchessault can hammer the puck. So can Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore. Evgenii Dadonov was brought in to shoot. And shoot often.

So far this season Dadonov has two shots on the power play, both coming from well outside. Below is a chart of where all 20 of his power-play goals have come from dating back to the 2017-18 season.

All stats, graphics and videos from instatsport.com

Dadonov is able to score multiple ways on the power play. He’s dangerous on the rush and can tip point shots. He can bury quick passing plays. But the Golden Knights have yet to find a way to get him the puck in the slot area. He needs to be unlocked.

One player that has been able to find middle ice is Jonathan Marchessault. But he’s not hitting the net. Every “x” on the image below represents a shot going wide.

Marchessault has missed the net five times from the stationary high slot area. That can’t happen. He’s been successful there previously tipping pucks and corralling loose rebounds. But the positioning is an interesting choice for Marchessault. 

I’d argue Marchessault is most effective on the flanks. Look at his goal map since coming to the Golden Knights.

When playing the left side, he can bomb the one-timer.

On the right side, Marchessault excels when his skates are going downhill towards the net. He’s got a quick release and is able to use defenders as a screen, like this example against the Ottawa Senators.

Skating at the net, receiving the puck in motion: that’s missing from the Vegas power play right now, especially with Max Pacioretty out of the lineup. He can beat a goalie clean with his snapshot. And he’s great on the flank.

Teams around the league are using the strategy. I recently wrote about how the Senators – in particular Connor Brown – are finding success by skating downhill.

It’s something Alex Pietrangelo has done well previously in his career with the St. Louis Blues.

At times Pietrangelo has been active on the power play with the Golden Knights, moving up and down the walls and attacking the net when necessary. But so far this season he only has two power-play shots on goal with the man advantage.

It’s not just Dadonov, Marchessault and Pietrangelo that need to get going. William Karlsson has been virtually non-existent on the power play and Chandler Stephenson hasn’t been much better.

The bright spot for the Golden Knights has been Reilly Smith. He leads the team with five power-play shots and several of them have been high danger chances in front of the net.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like: the Golden Knights need a power-play goal. And to get it done, they need to snap the puck around with bodies in motion. Find lanes. Skate towards the net. And blast away from the flanks.

The post McKenna: What’s Wrong With The Vegas Golden Knights’ Power Play? appeared first on Daily Faceoff.

Tunesday the Leafs beginning we kinda saw coming

Welcome everyone to the first regular-season edition of the Not Enough of Blue playlist! This one is short and sweet but encapsulates the fan feelings well. Beginning to the end of these first two weeks, the outcome was predicted by many. Everything is linked down below, so feel free to listen while you read!

After what felt like forever without fans and real cheering, the time has come for a new reality. Fans are back and their presence, as well as their energy, can breathe new life into this team. First up and representing our home opener we have Applause-Lady Gaga.

“I live for the applause, applause, applause

I live for the applause-plause, live for the applause-plause

Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me

The applause, applause, applause”

Morgan Rielly is ready to feel all the good feelings again. Truly I think we all live for the applause. We are 100% ready to see this team dominate, and they should be ready to hustle.

In the chorus, Lady Gaga sings,

“Give me that thing that I love (I’ll turn the lights out)

Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch (Make it real loud)

Give me that thing that I love (I’ll turn the lights out)

Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch (Make it real loud)”

Here she is commanding the crowd to clap and celebrate her return to the music scene. In analyzing the song you see what kind of thrill this applause gives her. Performing gives her life, just like being in front of fans gives the Maple Leafs new life. It brings everyone joy and happiness. It also directs our attention to the light at the end of the tunnel that is everyone going back to some kind of normal.

Every night in my dreams… I see the Toronto Maple Leafs winning a lot of games, making it to the playoffs, and potentially winning the Stanley Cup. Maybe I’m just listening to too much of our second song My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion? What better song to bask in your sadness than the love theme from Titanic. Sometimes loving this team is like a sinking ship. Just as painful as seeing Jack die or Rose throwing the necklace into the ocean. PURE PAIN. 

Next up we have Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beetles. I chose this one mainly for the upbeat, but very nonchalant vibes of the song. The chorus goes like this,

“Ob-la-di, ob-la-da

Life goes on, bra

La-la, how the life goes on 

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da

Life goes on, bra

La-la, how the life goes on”  

I hear this song and immediately think of the 50% of fans that don’t put too much thought into the losses the Leafs have suffered in the last two weeks. Life does go on, the season goes on! We move forward and hope the team does too. 

In her song Wrong Direction, Hailee Steinfeld speaks about a relationship in a way that a lot of us can relate to. She starts the song with, 

“I don’t hate you

No, I couldn’t if I wanted to

I just hate all the hurt that you put me through

And that I blame myself for letting you”.

I’m sorry for comparing how we feel about the Leafs to a terrible breakup with a relationship that was supposed to be perfect, but that’s exactly what it is. On paper, this year and last this team have magic written all over it. Something just isn’t clicking. Some will say it’s a curse or a lack of effort and accountability. Whatever it is they are going in the wrong direction and need to do a 180 ASAP. 

Last, on the list today is I’m Still Standing – Elton John. Why? Because we need to have some kind of optimism. From the first verse, Sir Elton sings, 

“And did you think this fool could never win?

Well look at me, I’m a-coming back again”

The Leafs are in a bit of a rut right now, and it sucks to watch and it sucks to be in it. This is not the end. Granted they need to snap out of it and fast, but they still have their skates under them. They have got to get right back up after this fall and say “I’m still standing”. 

Apple Music Link 

Not Enough of Blue will be updated biweekly so don’t forget to follow and save on your favourite streaming services. *PS We have moved Music Monday to Tuesday because Tunesday sounds more fun. 

Are you ready for the next few games? Let us know how you’re feeling in the comments!

WATCH Svechnikov buries Dubois feed for first goal with Jets

Winnipeg Jets forward Evgeny Svechnikov scored his first goal with his new team during Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Early in the second period, the 24-year-old winger broke into the Ducks’ zone alongside linemates Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor.

Dubois carried the puck down the right side before dropping it to a trailing Svechnikov, who beat Ducks goaltender John Gibson with a quick wrister to open the scoring.

Connor picked up the secondary assist on Svechnikov’s first goal as a Jet. Here’s the video of the goal, as posted to Twitter by Hockey Daily 365:

The Detroit Red Wings originally selected Svechnikov with the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He scored five goals and 12 points in 41 games over parts of four seasons with Detroit.

Svechnikov became an unrestricted free agent in the 2021 off-season after not being tendered a qualifying offer by the Red Wings.

He signed a one-year American Hockey League deal in August with the Manitoba Moose and subsequently earned an NHL deal after attending the Jets’ training camp. Through his first four games and two periods with the Jets, Svechnikov has one goal and two assists.

Less than three minutes after Svechnikov’s goal, Sonny Milano scored for the Ducks to tie the game. Winnipeg and Anaheim are currently tied 1-1 after 40 minutes of play.

Blake Coleman is making a huge impact early in his Flames tenure

Calgary Flames fans have every right to be skeptical about the team’s expensive free agent signings.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving has spent much of his tenure searching for forwards capable of helping his team in a variety of different ways.

In James Neal, he sought a sniper who could give his roster at least 20 more goals each year. With Troy Brouwer, he wanted to add two-way proficiency, playoff experience, and sandpaper to a young team. He brought in Mason Raymond to try and bring some respectability to a forward group that had just lost Michael Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak.

All three of these additions failed spectacularly. The Flames bought out both Brouwer and Raymond just two years into their respective contracts; Neal only spent one disastrous year in Calgary before being shipped off to Edmonton for Milan Lucic.

That’s not to say Treliving has never found success when taking big swings. Michael Frolik was an excellent two-way forward and a perfect complement to Mikael Backlund for much of his five-year deal; Derek Ryan was a delight to watch and an extremely positive influence in his three years as part of the Flames’ bottom six.

Blake Coleman’s contract with the Flames is the longest one Treliving has ever given to a forward in unrestricted free agency. Coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins with the Tampa Bay Lightning and excellent two-way play as a top-six forward with the New Jersey Devils, Coleman certainly earned a payday.

Still, six years at a cap hit of $4.9 million is enough to give any Flames supporter déjà vu. For much of the summer, the question lingered in Calgary hockey circles: “Will Coleman be a Neal … or will be he be a Frolik?”

Maybe that was the wrong question to ask.

Frolik was undeniably a valuable part of a few Flames teams and a founding member of the “3M Line.” He was also strictly a complementary piece. Make no mistake: Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk led that unit.

Coleman isn’t a supporting player by nature but, if called upon, he’s capable of being of the best in the league. He was cast as a third-liner on an extremely strong Tampa Bay team out of circumstance, not due to a lack of skill.

Looking back at his tenure with the Devils, Coleman was a top-six forward who scored 20 goals in back-to-back seasons. He brings toughness and doggedness, yes, but he’s also one of Calgary’s most skilled players with the puck. Remember when Coleman was a human highlight reel in New Jersey?

Remember when Coleman dove through the air to score critical goals for Tampa in back-to-back Stanley Cup runs?

Brouwer, in particular, was lauded for his “grit and compete” when the Flames signed him in 2016 to a four-year deal. He ended up as a seldom-used fourth-liner who only helped the team prevent events from occurring at both ends of the ice.

Coleman is every bit as tenacious as Brouwer — if not more — but has shown, time and again, to be capable of harnessing that fire into creating offence. He’s not the type to hit for the sake of hitting or to fight for the sake of fighting. He takes powerful strides and muscles past his opponents when he needs to create separation before a scoring chance. He’s that kind of energy player.

How many Flames players do you think are capable of making plays like this while their team is shorthanded?

The Rangers defenceman who Coleman sped past with apparent ease? That would be none other than reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.

Coleman is an extremely fast player. He’s strong on the puck and takes a ton of shots (he peppered Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin with eight on Monday). When he needs to be, he’s capable of being the most noticeable physical presence on the ice surface.

Best of all, he drives play. In Coleman’s small amount of 5-on-5 ice-time this season, the Flames have dominated their opponents. His +12.31 relative on-ice expected goals percentage ranks third-best on the team (according to Natural Stat Trick), behind only Oliver Kylington and linemate Tyler Pitlick.

In a larger sample of play, Coleman has been just as effective.

Season Team(s) Games played Total Goals Above Replacement (GAR) Cap hit Value provided*
2017–18 New Jersey 79 10.8 $0.7 million $7.6 million
2018–19 New Jersey 78 5.3 $1.8 million $3.6 million
2019–20 New Jersey/Tampa Bay 66 10.9 $1.8 million $7.8 million
2020–21 Tampa Bay 55 5.5 $1.8 million $3.5 million

* – Value according to Evolving-Hockey‘s “Goals Above Replacement” and “Standing Points Above Replacement” models.

Coleman’s teams paid him a total of $6.06 million over the past four seasons. In turn, he provided them with $22.5 million of value through his play.

In his first four games as a Flame, Coleman has already amassed 1.9 GAR. After scoring a goal and an assist in Monday’s game against the New York Rangers, he’s up to three points on the year. Coleman will keep scoring if he keeps up his strong play at 5-on-5 and gets more bounces (and, perhaps, if he starts skating on a power-play unit).

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Blake Coleman. If the rest of his tenure in Calgary resembles his first four games, he’ll quickly establish himself as an extremely popular player around the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Right here, right now, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is well worth his cap hit to the Vancouver Canucks

Most took the July 23, 2021 blockbuster between the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes as essentially two separate transactions.

The first entailed swapping the 9th overall selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft for Conor Garland. Six games and eight points later, that portion of it seems to be working out beautifully.

But the more controversial half of the trade was always going to be the exchange of Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and a couple additional draft picks for Oliver Ekman-Larsson — or, to be more specific, for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the remaining six years of his current contract.

Even with Arizona retaining some salary, the Canucks found themselves on the hook for an AAV of $7.26 million through 2027, which would constitute a huge financial commitment for any player, never mind one who had been trending downward for half a decade prior.

And yet, right here, right now, the man they call OEL looks to be worth it. Not just worth the return of Eriksson, Beagle, and Roussel — that was a rather low bar to clear — but worth the onerous cap hit that came with him.

Will that remain the case throughout the next six seasons, too? Almost certainly not. But that’s a problem for another day. We’re living in the now, and present tense OEL is earning that paycheque.

Through six games, Ekman-Larsson is second on the Canucks in average ice-time, bringing down about 24:33 on a nightly basis. There’s no real need to distinguish which of he or Quinn Hughes’ truly counts as the top pairing. Both are playing top pairing minutes at the moment.

It is Ekman-Larsson’s minutes, however, that really stand out as consequential.

From HockeyViz.com

To date, Ekman-Larsson has faced a deployment that is significantly more difficult than that of an average NHL defender, which a large portion of his ice-time coming against opposing top lines.

Right now, those minutes also include zone-starts that are split relatively evenly between the two ends of the ice, but one has to expect that ratio to skew in favour of the d-zone over time.

Like it or lump it, coach Travis Green is employing Ekman-Larsson as the Canucks’ primary shutdown defender right now. And it’s arguably working out quite well.

From NaturalStatTrick.com

Despite the deployment, Ekman-Larsson is still a positive player at five-on-five, on the ice for six goals for and five against thus far.

All other indicators of Ekman-Larsson’s control of the game are extremely encouraging. His even-strength Corsi rating is second on the team behind Alex Chiasson at 55.61%. His control of scoring chances ranks third, and in high-danger chances specifically, OEL is tied for first.

This, again, comes with the context of having faced the toughest competition on the team.

It also comes with the context of blowing last season’s Arizona numbers out of the water. OEL is playing more minutes and tougher minutes in Vancouver, and yet almost all of his analytic measures have jumped up nearly ten percentage points.

This is what bouncing back looks like, and it looks pretty darn nice.

If anything is lagging, it’s Ekman-Larsson’s offence with only two points through six games. But that’s of secondary importance right now, and it’s almost guaranteed to rebound anyway. Ekman-Larsson leads the Canucks with 25 shots on goal, and is shooting at a percentage about half of his career average. The points will come with time, and they’ll make OEL even more valuable when they do.

Ekman-Larsson has even managed to make a strong impact on the penalty kill. The Canucks have been struggling mightily whilst shorthanded in 2021/22, but not so much with OEL out there.

Not only does Ekman-Larsson lead the team in shorthanded ice-time at nearly three minutes per game, opposing power plays also score at approximately half the rate against him as they do Vancouver’s other regular PKers.

But the stats, as always, can only tell us so much. Fortunately, the intangible factors also speak rather loudly in favour of OEL.

We wrote last week about how Tyler Myers is finally playing like the defender the Canucks are paying him to be. There, we gave plenty of credit to Myers, and we’ll continue to, but we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that the biggest reason for the turnaround is that Myers is now paired with Ekman-Larsson on a nightly basis.

With a new partner, Myers has gone from defensive liability to quasi-shutdown D. And that comes with an enormous benefit to the Canucks, both on and off the ice.

If OEL and Myers’ combined $13+ million in cap hits were being spent on two ineffective players, it would simply be too much for the Canucks to overcome. OEL reviving his own play, and dragging Myers along with him, singlehandedly makes the Canucks a more financially efficient team. That might be as big a difference-maker as the on-ice impact.

All of which goes to prove that adding Ekman-Larsson to the mix for 2021/22 has been a net positive. But it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s worth his cap hit.

Across the league, there are 24 defenders making an average of $7 million or more per season. By that measure, OEL would have to be a top-24 blueliner to justify his salary, and he’s probably not. By that measure, he’s still overcompensated.

But here, we have to go back to that trusty ol’ context, and start thinking about the existing team structure.

Before OEL arrived, Vancouver possessed one of the leakiest bluelines in hockey. They had absolutely no one capable of skating against opposing top lines on a regular basis, never mind breaking even against said top lines. It was the single most obvious gaping hole in what looked to be an otherwise playoff-worthy lineup, and it was glaring.

Enter OEL.

Now, through his presence alone, the Canucks have not one, but two workable shutdown D. If he and Myers can just continue their current rate of success under their current level of deployment, that’ll be all the Canucks need to be a playoff team. If the OEL/Myers combo can take it a bit further and improve upon what they’ve already shown, it will put the Canucks several paces closer to being a genuine contender.

Adding Oliver Ekman-Larsson was one small step for Jim Benning, but one giant leap for the Vancouver blueline.

And worth $7.26 million? Right here, right now, the answer is yes. Tomorrow, that may change, but that’s a problem for another day.

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