Welcome to the third installment of Blake’s Takes. This week, we will look at some career milestones, the Bolts’ big bet, and a player we don’t want back in the NHL And I finally have an opinion on The Global Series.
1. Slava Voynov Applies for Reinstatement
Slava Voynov has applied to be reinstated to continue his career in the NHL. For those who don’t remember, Voynov was a solid defenseman for the L.A. Kings during their two Stanley Cup Championships and was rewarded with a six-year, $25 million contract. Then Voynov was arrested and jailed for domestic violence against his wife.
Let’s be clear, Voynov went to jail for two months for committing AWFUL crimes against his wife. I won’t go over them here, but they are gruesome and horrific. So bad that the Kings rightfully canceled his contract. Voynov literally fled the United States to avoid probation and to continue his hockey career. He has spent the last three seasons in the KHL and won a gold medal with the Olympics Athletes from Russia this past winter. This is a great time for the league to make a statement that not only is domestic violence unacceptable, but Voynov should not be allowed anywhere near a locker room because of his crimes. I pray the league gets this one right and denies his application to return to the NHL.
This week was a big week for milestones:
• Eric Staal – 400 career goals
• Jonathan Toews – 300 career goals
• Jason Pominville – 1000 games played
• Ron Hainsey– 1000 games played
• Jack Johnson – 800 games played
The first two milestones are obviously the big ones. Both Staal and Toews have a shot at the Hall of Fame and both of those benchmarks could go a long way in helping with that cause. They both need to increase those numbers by 100 or so to cement their place in the Hall. Thankfully they both have major postseason runs (three for Toews) to help with their case.
It’s great to see that the other three guys have achieved those milestones. To put that in perspective, that puts Pominville and Hainsey in a three-way tie with Tomas Plekanec for 16th all time on the active list. All three are tied with 1,001 games played as of yesterday.
3. John Stevens Canned
The L.A. Kings have had their best runs in team history over the past decade. Darryl Sutter, their Head Coach from 2011 to 2017, was a huge part of that. During his six seasons behind the bench for the Kings, the team made the playoffs four times, the conference finals three times, and won two Stanley Cups. He was shockingly fired after the team missed the playoffs in 2016-17. He was replaced by John Stevens, who was the Kings’ Associate Head Coach. He led the team to the playoffs last year but was swept by Las Vegas in the first round. Now, after the Kings awful start to this season, the team announced that he was fired this week.
This doesn’t look great for the Kings, who with Sutter at the helm, were a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Now, with all of the stars they have under contract, it looks like they are trending towards the worst place any professional sports franchise can be in. Having a lot of money tied up in great players on a team that doesn’t win. Because if the Kings decide their run is over, they will have to trade draft picks to help offload contracts, which will deplete their resources in the future, delaying their rebuild. It will be interesting to see if Willie Desjardins, can right the ship for the Kings before everyone else decides to jump.
4. Global Series Time Slot
Last week, I wrote about how I had yet to form a strong opinion on the NHL Global Series. I have decided that I don’t like that they scheduled both games for the middle of the day on weekdays. I’m aware there isn’t a way around this. Helsinki, Finland is seven hours ahead of North America’s Eastern Time Zone. So there is no way for them to start a game in Helsinki at a time that would be watchable in North America. I understand, but a regular season NHL game is not something that even the biggest hockey fans will plan their day around. Each team plays 41 home games each year. People are not going to alter their work/school schedules in order to watch a game with little meaning unless they have tickets to the game, much less watch a regular season game being played thousands of miles away.
On the other hand, it’s no secret that if you were to sacrifice television ratings and gate prices for two markets, Winnipeg and Florida are probably on the top of your list. While the NHL has done a great job building strong fan bases in non-traditional hockey markets, the two teams taking part in last week’s global series are two of the smaller markets in the league. The NHL made a safe bet in knowing which teams to send to Finland as long as they understand that fans in North America will care very little about two games being played across the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Lightning Bet Big With Gourde
The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the best teams in the NHL and have some of the best players in the league. And last week, they locked up one of their newest stars, Yanni Gourde, to a six-year, $31 million deal. That’s no small sum for an undrafted free agent with less than 120 games of NHL experience. Gourde is a really good player that looks like he is quickly coming into his own. But this is a statement by Tampa Bay’s new GM, Julien BriseBois, who has recently replaced Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman has put together one of the best rosters in the NHL and locked most of them down to long-term deals. During Yzerman’s tenure, the Lightning emerged as one of the top GMs in the league because of his staff’s ability to develop late round picks and undrafted players. The danger with signing Gourde to a long-term deal is that now the Lightning have NINE players signed through the 2021-22 season. That leaves them with little flexibility going forward if something were to happen to one of their star players.
You can see it with the Detroit Red Wings right now. They have so many aging players signed to expensive, long-term deals that there is little to be done but ride out each contract. Most of the players the Lightning have under contract are fairly young. Of those nine players, none of them are over 30. The Lightning are betting big on this core of players. If they stay healthy and these contracts work out, this could be the start of one of the most successful runs in NHL history. If injuries mount, they could be in major trouble going forward, especially since their star goaltender, Andrei Vasilveski, will be a free agent in two seasons. And I’m sure he is a player the Lightning do not want to let walk. They succeeded when they bet on him and traded Ben Bishop. But that won’t work out every time. I’m excited to see how each contract pans out for Tampa Bay. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.