Blake’s Takes: The Blues Stay Busy

For what was another slow week in hockey, I have a solid variety of takes. We can thank St. Louis Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong for staying busy. I’ll share my thoughts on his variety of moves and an update from the NHL regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. I’ll also take a look into a surprise retirement and a contract termination.

Stay safe everyone!

1. NHL Extends Self-Quarantine Recommendation (No Surprise)

The NHL has officially extended its self-quarantine recommendation for coaches, players, and staff through April 30. This adds another 15 days to the previous recommendation which was set to expire on April 15.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. We’re still in the midst of the worst part of the pandemic. The statistics in many states show that we’re set to hit the peak of cases any day now. Even when the number of reported cases begins to decline, the league will still have to figure out how to resume play without putting players, staff, and fans at risk.

The jury is still out on when the league can return to playing games. In the meantime, we need to be diligent about self-quarantine so we can flatten the curve. Only then will hockey come back.

2. Pick Your Red Wings Squad

As I’ve mentioned in past weeks, many NHL social media accounts and individual team accounts have been doing anything for content. Many have been live-tweeting old games their local networks have been broadcasting. Last week, the Detroit Red Wings accounts posted this graphic.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Which lineup would you choose?! 👀

A post shared by Detroit Red Wings Hockey Club (@detroitredwings) on

This graphic asks fans which of the two teams made up of former Red Wings, an All-North American squad and an All-World squad, would win if the two faced off. Being a Red Wings fan, I thought this was a great piece of content and definitely something I engaged with. I thought I would use a take to describe which team I would pick if I needed to win one game.

Before I give my thoughts on who would win, I’ll share my thoughts on which team has the better unit at forward, defense, and in net.

Forwards

As nasty as the World team is on the first line, you can’t beat three Hall-of-Famers on one line for the North Americans. Not only do they have three Hall-of-Famers on the first line, but they arguably have three of the best forwards of all time on that line. I don’t think any team on the NHL can match the talent of a line with Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Ted Lindsay.

In addition, the North American squad has at least one Hall-of-Famer on each line. Obviously, not all of these guys spent their best seasons with the Wings. Still, Dino Ciccarelli on the fourth line isn’t really fair.

The World team just doesn’t have the depth. Marion Hossa and Sergei Fedorov can hold their own with anyone on the first line. The World second line is great too, with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. The depth starts to fall from there. While Henrik Zetterberg is on the third line, the other guys around him just don’t match up to the talent of the North Americans.

Advantage: Team North America

Defense

Having Nicklas Lidstrom on your team automatically gives you the advantage. I think most would agree with me by saying that one sentence is all the explanation I need to give the edge to the World team. The North Americans do have a great defensive corps. Red Kelly and Chris Chelios are both Hall-of-Famers. Neither are seven-time Norris Trophy winners.

Both units lack depth. The North American team does have some offensive firepower with Brian Rafalski on their third pairing. I actually think the North American side has better depth on defense.

I’m still going to give the edge to the World Team because I’ll take Lidstrom, Vladimir Konstantinov, Nicklas Kronwall and Vyacheslav Kozlov over Kelly, Chelios, Reed Larson, and Marcel Pronovost. They just have a bit more talent.

Advantage: Team World

Goalie

Again, the World team has the advantage of having arguably the greatest player to ever have played the position on their side. Dominik Hasek was a force that singlehandedly won an Olympic gold medal by himself. He helped the 2001-02 Wings to the Stanley Cup and backed up Chris Osgood during the Wings 2007-08 cup run.

However, the North American team is stacked, too. Terry Sawchuk is a top ten goalie of all time. Osgood is arguably the best goalie ever to not be in the Hall-of-Fame. The Sawchuk/Osgood combination provides depth that the World team doesn’t have with Petr Mrazek as the number two.

I’m still going to give the edge to the World team. If I’m trying to win one game or a series, Hasek is the guy that’s going to get me there. That being said, if I had to get through an entire regular season, I would probably take the North American team.

Advantage: Team World

Overall, this is such a tough decision. The North American team is much stronger at forward than the World team. Each team is pretty evenly matched in the other two departments. If I’m picking a team to win me one game, I’m taking the World team. Lidstrom and Hasek are too good of a combo to pass up.

Like I mentioned in the goalie category, this North American squad would be deadly over the course of an 82 game season. They would definitely set some sort of record for most goals in a season. They’re also great on defense and would have arguably the greatest goalie pairing of all time.

This was a fun exercise because it was nice to remember the Red Wings players I got to watch growing up, instead of the team that suits up for them now.

3. Blues Are Busy Giving Out Extensions

Over the past week or so, the Blues GM, Doug Armstrong, has been signing extensions left and right. Forwards Sammy Blais and Mackenzie MacEachern signed extensions. As did defenseman Marco Scandella.

The most notable of the three deals was Scandella’s. The two sides agreed on a four-year, $13.1 million deal. Scandella will carry a cap hit of $3.275 million. The Blues acquired Scandella at the deadline this year from Montreal. He posted one assist in 11 games before the season was paused.

Scandella spent the first seven years of his career in Minnesota. He then was traded to the Sabres where he spent a little over two years before being traded to Montreal earlier this season.

The 30-year-old is a solid depth defenseman. He doesn’t put up a lot of points but eats much-needed ice time. He also comes at a reasonable price tag, which is necessary if the Blues want to retain their stars.

Blais got a nice little raise, too. The 23-year-old signed a two-year extension worth $3 million. Blais would have been a RFA after this season. So, this deal keeps him with the Blues for cheap for the next two seasons. Blais made some plays in the playoffs last year and earned some notoriety during the Blues’ march to the Stanley Cup. He is an interesting player and the Blues did well to keep him on the roster to see if he can develop further.

MacEachern is the last of the bunch. I’ve always liked MacEachern as we are the same age and both entered Michigan State the same semester. I never knew him, but I did get to see him play a few times. MacEachern was going to be a RFA after this season, the Blues didn’t want to lose him. They signed him to a two-year contract worth $900,00 a season.

This is a good deal for both sides. MacEachern is still young, so it was smart of the Blues to retain him for next to nothing. He was making only $750,000 on an entry-level deal. For MacEachern, he gets to stay with St. Louis and develop for another two years. That’s two years to prove himself and collect a few nice paychecks. All with a team coming off a Stanley Cup run. Not a bad deal.

A special thank you goes out to Doug Armstrong for giving the hockey world something to pay attention to during this crazy time.

4. Markov Hangs Them Up

Andrei Markov has officially retired. For those of you that don’t know, Markov was playing in the KHL for the last three years after leaving Montreal. He spent 16 years, his entire NHL career, with the Montreal Canadians.

Markov had a very good career in Montreal, especially when you consider he was a sixth-round pick taken with the 162nd pick in the 1998 NHL draft. Markov was a two-time All-Star and reached the 50-point plateau three times. Although he was never a superstar, he was a very good player for Montreal.

Congrats to Markov on a great career. I hope he’s honored by the Canadians as soon as we’re able to get back to hockey.

5. Big Buff Hits the Open Market

The Winnipeg Jets have officially terminated Dustin Byfuglien’s contract. The team and Byfuglien have also mutually resolved his grievance with the team. This is all part of the very confusing rift between the Jets and Byfuglien. I still don’t know exactly what happened. But, you may remember Byfuglien was unsure if he wanted to continue playing hockey and refused to suit up for the Jets this season — even though he was still owed $14 million by the team.

I won’t try and give you all the details, but. I will share this article that might shed some light on the situation. Still, if Byfuglien does want to return to the NHL. he’s now free to do so with any team, provided that there are games to suit up for.

It will be interesting to see if he does return and how much money he signs for. He already turned down $14 million. I’m not sure any team will sign a 35-year-old defenseman with a bad ankle for that much money. Still, Big Buff remains one of the most interesting players in the NHL. That’s something no one can take away from him. ■

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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