Welcome to Blake’s Takes, where I look at the players and teams that stood out to me during the past week of hockey.
1. Do you remember Steven Stamkos?Steven Stamkos has been one of my favorite players in the NHL for a few years now. I was hoping he would sign with the Red Wings when he almost tested free agency back in 2016. Over the past few seasons, his goal-scoring numbers have declined slightly as he is surrounded by a few very talented teammates like Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and Victor Hedman. He is still a point-per-game player in the NHL, but it doesn’t look like he is going to be scoring 60 goals this season. Although, Saturday night he reminded everyone that he is still a premier player in the NHL even if he is third on his team in scoring.
Stamkos recorded four points (two goals and two assists) against the Avalanche. He scored two really impressive goals, one on the power play and one on a breakaway. His assists were just as impressive. If he continues to play like that all season, I would be big on Tampa Bay winning the Stanley Cup this season.
2. The Emergence of Elias LindholmElias Lindholm was taken with the fifth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. After five seasons with them, it was looking like he was never going to be a difference maker. He scored 17 goals and tallied 22 assists during his second season in 2014-15 and his career high in points had only grown by six points since. He played a minimum of 72 games in each of those seasons. So, the Hurricanes traded Lindholm, along with Noah Hanifin, to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox. Not only was Lindholm traded, he was rewarded with a six year contract weeks after the deal.
Since the trade, Lindholm has done what many players do when they experience a change of scenery: exceed expectations. Lindholm has already matched his career high in goals with 16 only 30 games into the season. He is also 11 points away from his career high. If the Hurricanes didn’t look to be meshing so well this season, I would say that this trade was a steal for the Flames. I’ll give it another few years before I made that distinction. Though, this is a trade that I’m excited to see play out for both teams down the road. It could even be the rare occasion that each team benefits from a trade.
3. Seattle Is Coming…As I wrote last week, the NHL Board of Governors voted this week to decide if Seattle would be the location of the NHL’s newest franchise. The Board voted unanimously and Seattle will be the NHL’s newest addition. The team will begin playing during the 2021-22 season at the now, renovated KeyArena. Not much information is available yet, but I’m sure that will be released soon. Keep checking back for updates for all things about NHL Seattle. I promise I will have some opinions about their choice of a team name, front office hires, and uniform decisions. So be on the lookout.
4. This Week’s Unloved Team: The Panthers
I am definitely one of those fans who gets angry when pundits and journalists (I would consider myself neither) only cover a few teams big-market teams. There is only so much Maple Leafs and Bruins talk that we all can take, and I personally enjoy hearing about teams/cities that aren’t covered as much. So, I’m going to try and dedicate one take each week to a team that doesn’t get enough love. For the first edition, I’ll focus on the Florida Panthers.
Well, there isn’t really that much to say about the Panthers except they are really bad. They currently sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings are have a real shot at landing the number one overall pick in this coming draft.
But, I’m going to focus on the positives. They have a lot of talent at forward. Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgeni Dadonov, and Mike Hoffman are all point-per-games players this year. Alexsander Barkov is one point short. It’s very rare to see a team with four guys with that kind of talent, yet are so far down in the standings. The Panthers definitely aren’t the most talented team in the conference, but they should be significantly better. I didn’t even mention guys like Vincent Trochek, and defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle. Granted, I haven’t watched much Panthers’ hockey this season, but if anyone can explain to me why they suck so bad I am all ears.
5. A Deserted Team
I just ran across Forbes’ list of NHL team valuations. The list comes out each year for all four major sports and ranks each franchise by its current value. There weren’t too many surprises. Each original six team was ranked in the top eight and teams that play in big cities were ranked pretty high. The Golden Knights rank #12 which was actually a bit shocking to me. But, this isn’t about the Knights or 30 of the 31 teams in the NHL. It’s about the Arizona Coyotes.
They rank dead last. Again, not a surprise. It just serves as a reminder that no one in Phoenix or the league office knows what to do to draw fans. Especially with the success of west coast teams like the Golden Knights and the three California teams (all rank no lower than 18th). Let’s not forget about other teams that play in non-traditional hockey markets like Dallas and Tampa Bay, ranked 14th and 21st respectively. Both teams have clearly found a blueprint to establish hockey in the south. If I were the Coyotes, I would send a spy to go work for another organization and figure out what the hell they are doing, because they clearly don’t have any idea. They have been the doormat of the league for years now and add almost no value to the NHL. Figure it out. ■
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.