Saturday marked the first day of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars. Tampa was without their captain Steven Stamkos, and it looks like they could use him. I’ll share my thoughts on Dallas’ big win in Game 1.
Outside of the bubble, the other 29 teams were busy making moves and on the personnel and marketing side. I’ll spit out some hot takes on everything that happened around the league, including a horrific logo change.
1. Dallas Wins Game 1
Saturday marked the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals. I’m sure many expected the Tampa Bay Lightning to represent the East, but I’m sure few expected Dallas to represent the West. After 60 minutes, the Stars won the game handily by a score of 4-1. Joel Hanley, Jamie Oleksiak, Joel Kiviranta, and Jason Dickinson scored for Dallas. Yanni Gourde scored Tampa’s lone goal. What I took away most was how well Dallas played defensively and made it hard for Tampa to get good shots.
I’ve raved about Dallas’ defense and goaltending all year. I’ve seen it in the numbers. But, watching them play is another thing entirely. They just didn’t let Tampa get good shots. It sounds so easy, to prevent quality chances. But, that’s what they did. Even on the power play, Tampa never had a great chance. Gourde’s lone goal was a fluke, with the puck deflecting in off of his skate. I don’t think I’ve seen a defense this good in a long time.
I was also very impressed by Dallas’ stud defensemen, Miro Heiskanen. Again, I’ve seen it in the stats, but I haven’t watched him play a ton. The kid is a fucking superstar. He was without a doubt the best player on the ice on Saturday. He dictated the pace of the game and led Dallas’ offense. If Dallas wins this series, he’s my pick for the Conn Smythe Trophy. I love Heiskanen and I bet he wins more trophies than just a Conn Smythe.
2. Junior Hockey Player Comes Out
There are zero openly gay players in the NHL, but there is now at least one openly gay player playing junior hockey. Last week, Yanic Duplessis of the Moncton Rallye Motors Nissan Flyers came out as gay.
I hadn’t heard of Duplessis or the Moncton Rallye Motors Nissan Flyers before, but now I’m happy I have., because this is a huge step in changing the culture from the bottom up.
I’ve talked a lot about how changing hockey culture starts at the youth level. Not only does this force a culture shift for everyone that might interact with Duplessis, but it also puts the LGBTQ community on the map for the hockey world. Younger players who are LGBTQ now have someone to look up to, someone to identify with. Duplessis is blazing the trail for many younger players that are desperately in need of trailblazer.
This is a big step forward for the LGBTQ movement in the hockey world, and hopefully, one day hockey truly will be for everyone.
3. Senators Throw it Back With New Logo
The Ottawa Senators have decided to bring back their old logo. The new logo is a modernized version of the Sens’ old, “2D” logo. The “2D” logo was the Sens’ original logo which was replaced in 2007. The logo and corresponding new uniforms are set to be revealed before the NHL draft on October 6th.
Another shitty decision for the Ottawa Senators. This logo sucks and looks outdated as hell. I know many franchises are reviving their old logos, but only the good ones deserve to be brought back. This logo was always boring and should have stayed dead. Once again, the Senators and owner Eugene Melnyk prove they can’t read the room.
4. Wild Cut Ties with Captain Koivu
— Minnesota Wild PR (@mnwildPR) September 18, 2020
Last week, Minnesota Wild General Manager Bill Guerin announced that the club will not re-sign Captain Mikko Koivu. This ends Koivu’s 15-year run with the only club he’s ever known. It also means the Wild will have a vacancy at captain.
Before I get into my thoughts on how the Wild handled this, I’m going to share some of Koivu’s accomplishments. He is one of the most beloved players in the NHL and deserves to be celebrated. In addition to being the Wild’s longest-serving captain, he is also the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, assists, points, +/-, and shots. He will finish his Wild career with 205 goals, 504 assists, and 709 points. Congrats to Koivu on a great career in Minnesota, and I hope I see him somewhere soon.
I like how Minnesota handled this for two reasons. The first is that it’s obvious Guerin is trying to improve their roster. At 37-years-old, Koivu is no longer contributing much. He finished last season with 21 points in 55 games. Everyone’s time comes at some point.
I also like that the Wild acknowledged that they would not re-sign Koivu. Instead of keeping the fans wondering or participating in a bitter negotiation, they published a statement thanking their most beloved player. While it would have been cool to see Koivu get a proper sendoff with a one-year deal, the Wild didn’t draw this out. The NHL is still a business and I respect the way the Wild went about it.
I hope Koivu gets his number retired in Minnesota. While they didn’t win a lot while he was there, he played 1,028 games in Minnesota and was all class. Congrats again to Koivu on a great run in Minnesota.
5. Caps Hire Laviolette as Next Head Coach
After a disappointing first-round loss to the New York Islanders, the Capitals fired Head Coach Todd Reirden. They didn’t waste any time looking for a new coach, hiring Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette has a pretty lengthy CV. He’s coached 1,2010 games in the NHL, with a 637-425-25-123 record during stints with the Islanders, Hurricanes, Flyers, and Predators. He’s coached three teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Predators in 2017, Flyers in 2010, and won it all with the Hurricanes in 2006. Laviolette is a good coach and I expect him to whip this Capitals team into shape.
That being said, it feels like the NHL keeps recycling the same old coaches. I believe Laviolette is a deserving candidate and has a great resume, but coaches get fired for a reason. Dave Tippett is a good example. While I don’t have enough knowledge to gauge whether Tipptt was a good coach or not, it just feels like NHL teams keep picking into the same bin when they need to hire new coaches. Few teams look to do something new and change it up. That being said, Washington did give Reirden his first NHL coaching opportunity, and that didn’t work out too great for them.
Laviolette is an established coach who has been to three Stanley Cup Finals. I’m sure he’ll be a good hire. It just makes me wonder who is going to be the first team to try and do something different. ■
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