No long-winded introduction this week, y'all. We're gonna jump straight into the discussion.
The NHL announced the outdoor games schedule for next season. We already knew the Winter Classic was MTL-BOS on New Year's Day. The rumors of CHI-MIN and DET-COL turned out to be true. Many fans were annoyed that 4 of the 6 teams were appearing in at least their 2nd outdoor game. Were you one of them?
Cole: First question and I've already got to warn MHH readers... HOT TAEK INCOMING:
I couldn't be less bothered about the repeat outdoor teams this season. Theoretically that's something that bothers me, but this year I think the NHL not only used it's viewership darlings to ensure all the games are super profitable, but they also created 3 really compelling matchups for fans. This year's Winter Classic between Chicago and Washington? Who cares about that "storied rivalry?" No one. Toronto and Detroit the year before? Same thing. Both those classic's felt a little hollow to me because there was no recent, meaningful history between those teams. This year we've got three fantastic matchups that will make the event extra special for players and fans alike. Is it a little silly that Chicago is outdoors for a third year straight? Absolutely, but the mistakes were putting them in Pittsburgh and Washington, not putting them outdoors in Minnesota
AJ: I dont think I can disagree with any of that to be honest. I like all that you had to say. I think it's silly that Chicago is playing outdoors AGAIN, of course, but like you said, they included them in a compelling matchup. Another thing to consider is that Chicago is one of the league's guaranteed slam dunk cash cows right now. Maybe when the league awarded an outdoor game to Minnesota, the ownership group there thought it was in their best interests to put up the biggest numbers possible and didn't mind tying themselves to the Blackhawks for huge TV ratings boosts.
Hosting a successful outdoor game is not only about selling out the game, after all, as having a smash hit on TV proves that you can sell the game in your smaller market. It could mean another outdoor game later on for the franchise. Was I disappointed as a fan of the game that some other worthwhile franchises aren't being showcased? Definitely. I would have loved to see Dallas or the Islanders slip into an outdoor game. The league would be smart to start hard selling some of the younger, more talented franchises as it looks to setup the mew era of stars beyond the Ovechkin/Crosby/Malkin group.
Cole: And I think we'll see that "passing of the torch" over the next few years. We just spent All-Star weekend hearing a lot about and seeing a lot of Tarasenko, Forsberg, Seguin, Tavares, and Johansen. Take those guys and add the likes of MacKinnon and I think those are the guys the NHL is going to really start to cram down fan throats in the coming years.
Speaking of which, its been a few years since hockey fans got an All-Star weekend to enjoy/be horrified by. What were your biggest highs and lows of the All-Star game in Columbus?
AJ: It really was a wild All-Star weekend. I was happy the league was able to let itself breathe a little bit and show some personality for 4 whole days. Seems the vast majority of hockey fans really enjoyed letting their hair down and just laughing together at the silliness for a bit.
High point for me was the skills competition of course. The drunken draft antics were amusing but a little uncomfortable at times. My favorite moment of the entire weekend was Elliott's selfie as Tarasenko was getting ready to shoot. He really stole the show that night for me by having fun and reminding a lot of people that being selected to an All-Star game is, at least from a player's perspective, and honor to be cherished. Low points? I didn't actually watch the game (I never do...2+ hours of shinny bleh) so I'll say the camera angles during the skills relay. Motion sickness galore. Just an awful production decision.
Cole: Yeah the All-Star game will always be the weakest part of the weekend. I think that the All-Star Draft's first ever trade of Kessel for Seguin will go down in history as one of the all-time greatest moments in an All-Star weekend, because that was AMAZING. I'm glad Columbus got an opportunity to host. Their fans are great and deserve some extra attention from the NHL. How can they improve next year? Let Gaudreau light his stick on fire I guess.
AJ: /giggles I still can't believe that story was true. What a riot.
The NHL's other big announcement this weekend was the return of the World Cup of Hockey. What's your initial reaction to the news?
AJ: I'm excited as hell. I love international hockey competitions. WJCs, Olympics, even the World Championships with the leftover NHLers from bad teams. They're all awesome. The World Cup in '96 was a huge factor in my growing love of hockey. It was so exciting and cool and the only thing you're playing for is pride. There's no big contracts involved. It's just the best players each country can muster up bashing into each other. I'm sad the Little Nation That Could (Slovakia) was discarded in favor of The Euro Leftovers but think it'll be better for the tournament as a whole. I'm extremely interested in the NA U-24 team. I believe our guy Pickard just might be in the running to backup John Gibson on that team and I'd love to see him get that honor.
Im just excited, okay? It's going to be awesome. I'm extremely curious about how training camp and normal pre-season proceedings are going to go down with teams not having several key pieces present. Will they delay it? Will they press on without them? Lots of interesting fallout from the decision to hold the tournament from mid-September through early October
Cole: I hadn't thought much about how the tourney could affect training camps, but it could definitely be interesting. Take a look at the Avalanche, they could be missing Landeskog, Varlamov, Johnson, Pickard and MacKinnon for that tournament. That's no small chunk of your roster at a time when coaches are trying to set up systems and prepare for the season.
I also think in a way that this is preferable for GM's and owners compared to players leaving for the olympic break. If a guy gets hurt in this tournament you enter your season dealing with that injury and have 82 games to make your fate. The Olympics on the other hand, happen so late in the season that an injury in the tournament can completely derail a team just weeks before the trade deadline. That's a big headache for a GM
Alright, last question for this week AJ. Your boy Stefan Elliott was just called up by the Avalanche this afternoon. He's waiver eligible so this is a big make or break stretch for him. I know you're enamored with the offensive d-man and his ridiculous wrist shot, so what do you want to see happen?
AJ: Basically, I want him to be Zach Redmond with a jet engine attached to him. I want to see him picking up lose pucks in the d-zone, skating them out and creating breakout plays. I want to see him get serious PP time. I want to see that filthy wrister unleashed with the fury of a thousand burning suns. I'd love to see him not get smoked several times a game defensively but since I know that's going to happen I'll just hope he ignites the offense in a way that only he can. This is it for him. He has to know that, too. He's done exactly what has been asked of him in Lake Erie but it took an injury to justify bringing him up. This can only be looked at his final shot with the Avalanche organization. Still, I doubt the team has him in its long-term plans so maybe its best he catches fire, shows he belongs on an NHL blue line and the Avs make him a sexy add-on to an O'Reilly trade and we get back even sexier pieces than before.
Cole: Elliott's waiver status is really interesting here because it forces the Avs' hand with Elliott. It's not worthwhile to call him up and keep him on as a healthy scratch, and they can't just bounce him back and forth between the NHL and AHL because he's eligible for waivers. That means the Avs will have to play him, either as a 7th D or as a rotating scratch with Redmond and whoever else Roy feels like sitting. Not only is this Elliott's last shot with the Avs, but it might also be the last time we see him in a Monster's uniform. He's a good value, low risk waiver pickup so I doubt he would clear waivers if the Avalanche go that route, which means they either keep him on the big roster through the end of the season, or they trade him like you suggested.
AJ: If I'm remembering correctly, he's waiver exempt until he's on the roster for 10 games played or 30 consecutive days. So it's not an immediate hand forcing. If EJ ends up being down long-term, then yes, the Avs will have to make a hard decision.
Cole: Oh really? (Damn you capgeek I need my one stop waiver calculator and rule page). That does give the Avalanche a bit more room to work with, but it puts even more pressure on the team to give Elliott some ice time right away. If they can only call him up for these 10 before he's a waiver risk again, they better make sure they see everything he's got to offer
AJ: Exactly. Calling him up to sit him only hurts him. He's having a great season in Lake Erie. Why fuck with that just to have him sit around in Denver twiddling his thumbs? Stollery makes a ton more sense as that guy. Calling up Elliott is potentially game-changing because his talent suggests he could do special things. Give him the chance.
Cole: I'm guessing that without Johnson we'll see Roy go with 7 defensemen more often, sitting Daniel Briere and sometimes Marc Andre Cliche to make it happen.
AJ: Sitting Briere to play Cliche makes my eyes burn. Naturally, I bet this happens.
Cole: It's happened before, it will happen again.