There was no shortage of storylines this week as the season is officially here. The Maple Leafs decided to name their next captain right before puck drop, we saw a few contract extensions handed out, as well as a little ice in St. Louis. I’m excited for what this season has in store and the takes that will come with it.
1. Tavares Named Leafs’ Captain
The Leafs have a captain once again. On the eve of the first game of the season between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, the team announced that John Tavares was named the Leafs’ newest captain. The captaincy had been vacant since Dion Phaneuf was traded during the 2016 season.
I was hoping that Auston Matthews would be named the next captain. I preferred him to Tavares for a few reasons. The first being that I always think it’s ironic when American players are captains of Canadian teams. There’s just something about rabid Canadian fans investing all of their hopes and dreams into a team led by an American. The second being that he has more personality than Tavares. I prefer to watch passionate leaders as opposed to more subdued ones. In reality, the captain of the Leafs won’t make or break their season. Their play on the ice will, and Matthews is clearly ready to play as he has already scored five goals in his first three games.
2. Blues Get New Ice
Last week, the defending champion St. Louis Blues revealed their Stanley Cup championship rings. The rings were designed by Jostens, who designs the rings each year. My favorite part about these rings is the front. I think the blue and gold really pop and the Blues logo looks great. Sometimes, the designers try and do too much and the rings end up looking tacky.
As for the rest of the ring, I think the designers did a great job incorporating the city of St. Louis, Blues’ fans, and other aspects of their cup run. The one thing I don’t like is the right side of the ring. The St. Louis arch is fine, but the designers tried to depict the crowd during the championship parade with an array of diamonds and sapphires. When I saw the ring for the first time I had no idea what it was supposed to show. It looks like someone just threw a bunch of stones on the side and called it a day. Still, even if the rings looked like shit, I don’t think anyone in St. Louis would care. They’re Stanley Cup champs.
3. DeBrincat Gets New Deal
The Chicago Blackhawks and Alex DeBrincat clearly wanted to avoid trying to negotiate an extension during his RFA summer. The two sides agreed to a three-year deal with an AAV of $6.4 million which will kick in next season. The Arizona Coyotes went the same route when they locked up Clayton Keller earlier this offseason, one year before he was slotted to become an RFA.
DeBrincat chose to go the short-term route with his deal. After the start he’s had to his career, I think this will be a safe bet. In his first two seasons in the NHL, DeBrincat scored 69 goals in 164 games. DeBrincat has really rejuvenated the Blackhawks. The Hawks were obviously in the Nightmare Zone with a bunch of aging veterans on bad contracts. Drafting DeBrincat was huge for them because he became an immediate contributor while making less than $1 million a year. I’m a big fan of DeBrincat because we’re from the same hometown, Farmington Hills, MI. I’m hoping that his bet pays off and he cashes in big-time with his next contract.
4. Schenn Signs Extension
The rich always get richer. After helping the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup last season, the Blues and forward Brayden Schenn agreed to a new eight-year extension with an AAV of 6.5 million. Schenn is 28-years-old and is in the last year of his current contract.
Schenn elevated his game during the 2017-18 season, his first with the club. He posted career highs in goals, assists, and points that season, with 28, 42, and 70 respectively. He was solid last year too, finishing with a stat line of 17-37-54 while adding another 12 points in the playoffs.
If I had to grade this deal, I would give it a C+. Schenn is a really solid player. He’s a great second-line winger and showed he can help a team win it all. I think he will earn his value for the first 4-5 years of the contract. The length of the contract scares me a bit. Most athletes start to decline in their early thirties. Assuming Schenn follows suit, he won’t be worth $6.5 million for the last few years of the contract. Thankfully, a $6.5 million cap hit isn’t that much money right now and the cap will only go up in the future. Also, Justin Faulk is the only player on the roster signed past 2023. So the Blues have time to plan for Schenn’s decline. The Blues are still in their window to compete for Stanley Cups, and locking in Schenn was necessary to keep that window open.
5. Player of the Week: Anthony Mantha, Detroit
For those of you that read this weekly, you know that I’ve been high on Anthony Mantha for awhile. After dealing with injuries last season, Mantha finished the year with a line of 25-23-48. He set new career highs in goals and points. 48 points isn’t the most impressive total, seeing as he scored an identical number the year before. But that doesn’t tell the entire story. Mantha caught fire at the end of the year, scoring 13 points in a five-game span, and 16 over his last eight. He was also a beast at this summer’s World Championships, scoring 14 points in nine games for Team Canada.
I knew this would be Mantha’s year. As of Sunday night, Mantha has already scored FIVE goals in two games, including a four-goal performance against the Stars. He seems to be coming into his own and has developed great chemistry with his line-mates, Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin. If that line can continue to gel and improve, Mantha could be the first 40-goal-scorer in Detroit since Marion Hossa. ■
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.
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