Blake’s Takes: Two Weeks ‘Til Hockey

Hockey is right around the corner! The NHL will officially be back on August 1st. With that being said, the league has a lot of work to do before that. Just this week they announced most of their award finalists and have continued to test players for COVID-19. There was also some interesting news surrounding the league including a stupid lawsuit and an international signing.

1. Hockey is F@#%ing Back

With everything messed up in the world right now, this video from the NHL gives me life. We are now less than two weeks away from seeing NHL players take the ice again. If all goes well, a Stanley Cup champion will be crowned before 2020 is over.

I mentioned recently that the NHL has been hitting home runs all summer. They did it again with this video. They know their fans are hungry for hockey and this video makes me starving. Shoutout to the Spittin’ Chiclets account where I saw it first. Let’s go.

2. Jeremy Roenick Suing NBC for “Anti-Straight Discrimination”

I studied political theory in college so I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment, as are most people. But Jesus Christ, Jeremy Roenick! Just because you have the right to say whatever you want doesn’t mean you should or there won’t be consequences for it.

For those that forgot, Roenick was fired by NBC after the remarks he made on Barstool Sports’ massive hockey podcast, “Spittin’ Chiclets.” He said a few things about his NBC colleague Kathryn Tappen that I’d rather not type out. I’ll let you read them for yourself with this link.

I’m a big fan of the podcast and I think it’s successful because retired players have the peace to speak their mind and share their stories. But, what Roenick said was disgusting. It’s definitely something I agree he should have been fired for. Women in the workplace do not deserve to be spoken about like that, regardless of Roenick’s relationship with Tappen. Now, Roenick has decided to sue his former employer for “Anti-Straight Discrimination.” Here’s my take:

There’s no such thing as Anti-Straight Discrimination. Roenick said something offensive and stupid. You can’t say the things he said and get away with them.

Roenick looks like an idiot here for claiming he was fired for Anti-Straight Discrimination. It should be pretty obvious these days that there are thousands, if not millions, of people around the country that are discriminated against because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. What he said was stupid and offensive, there’s nothing more to it than that.

Worst of all, regardless of Roenick’s views, this makes him look bad. Suing NBC is not going to help you get your job back. Best-case scenario, he gets a payday from NBC to shut him up. Again, if we’ve learned anything from what’s going on in the country, people like it when you grow. They like it when you change. He’ll never get another job in hockey again after this. If he had come out and said how stupid he was and showed contrition, maybe people would have forgiven him. That ship has sailed and he’s only doubled-down on the stupid shit he said. I hope he found it worth it because he’s destroyed his reputation.

3. Mad Respect for These Guys

It’s pretty obvious there are some roles in the NHL that are underappreciated. Shot-blockers are one of those. That’s why, when I saw this graphic from the NHL’s Twitter account I knew I had to share it.

First, it’s a cool graphic. It shows the leaders in blocked shots as the season progressed. What I thought was funny is it shows when each player was on the IR with an injury, which is no surprise when you’re taking a puck to the body.

Second, after seeing the graphic, I was curious as to who is the all-time leader in blocked shots. I Googled and it and I found some interesting numbers. Unfortunately, blocked shots weren’t tracked as an official stat until the 2005-06 season; at least that’s the data the NHL has. I learned that Brent Seabrook is the all-time leader in blocked shots recorded. No wonder the Blackhawks were so good when he was in his prime. He prevented a lot of shots from getting on net with his body.

A lot of guys in that graphic are high up on the all-time list, too. Andy Greene is 7th all-time and Alexander Edler is 14th all-time.

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

4. Kaprizov Finally Signs with Minnesota

Kirill Kaprizov in late 2018. [Photo Credit: Vladimir Bezzubov]
The long wait is over Minnesota fans, Kirill Kaprizov is a member of the Minnesota Wild. Last Monday, Kaprizov signed a two-year ELC with Minnesota. Kaprizov will not be allowed to play in the Qualifying Round but will be allowed to practice with the team.

The 23-year-old Russian forward was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Kaprizov became one of the best players in the KHL. During his six-year tenure, Kaprizov was a five-time KHL All-Star and helped CSKA Moscow to a Gagarin Cup. Kaprizov jumped on to many pundit’s radars after he tore up the 2018 Olympics, helping the Olympic Athletes from Russia to the gold while leading the tournament in goals.

Minnesota fans should be excited about Kaprizov. He has proved he can produce big numbers in the second-best league in the world. Not only that but as a smaller forward, he’s showed he can produce against grown men. Here’s what Corey Pronman, the Senior NHL Prospects Writer for The Athletic, said about Kaprizov in his piece for the publication:

I think Kaprizov is going to be a top-six forward and could be that from the very first game he plays for Minnesota. Is he going to be that true 30-goal, 60-plus point force at the top of the lineup? I am not overly confident that the answer is yes, but I do think it is a realistic outcome. I am hesitant because I am not sold that the speed and skill combination for his size is so overwhelming that he’s a no-doubt impact NHL guy right away.

If he scored 25-30 goals in a full 2020-21 season, I wouldn’t blink. But I would be skeptical of him having the type of production someone like Artemi Panarin had in the NHL.

Minnesota fans should jump at that ceiling. Their organization is barren of top-end talent and they should take what they can get.

5. Award Finalists Revealed

The Vezina Trophy

As most of you may remember, when the NHL announced the format for their Return to Play Plan, they decided that the regular season had ended. It’s been a few months since that announcement. So, the votes have been counted and the league has been releasing the finalists for most of their top awards. Not all the finalists have been revealed. When they are, I’ll start to give my predictions for the winners. For the finalists that have been announced, I’ll list them below.

Vezina Trophy Finalists

      • Connor Hellebuyck – Winnipeg Jets
      • Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins
      • Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning

Masterton Trophy Finalists

      • Stephen Johns – Dallas Stars
      • Oskar Lindblom – Philadelphia Flyers
      • Bobby Ryan – Ottawa Senators

Lady Byng Trophy Finalists

      • Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
      • Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs
      • Ryan O’Reilly – St. Louise Blues

Jack Adams Finalists

      • Bruce Cassidy – Boston Bruins
      • John Tortorella – Columbus Blue Jackets
      • Alain Vigneault – Philadelphia Flyers

Ted Lindsay Award Finalists

      • Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers
      • Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
      • Artemi Panarin – New York Rangers

Calder Trophy Finalists

      • Quinn Hughes – Vancouver Canucks
      • Dominik Kubalik – Chicago Blackhawks
      • Cale Makar – Colorado Avalanche

Some rapid-fire thoughts from me before I close out:

    • There are a ton of different countries represented among the finalists. Off the top of my head, I can count finalists from at least six different countries.
    • There’s a new crop of superstars in the NHL and the old guard has begun to fade. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are nowhere to be found.
    • Artemi Panarin is getting the respect he deserves.
    • I feel bad for Kubalik because this is the Hughes vs. Makar award. ■
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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