Hello pigeons and welcome to December! William Nylander remains a trending topic, however in a shocking move, the editorial staff at Working the Corners has unanimously decided to address the latest information on freshly signed forward a little later. You can skip ahead to the Nylander part, but I warn you that doing so will throw off the entire rhythm of this journalistic endeavor.
By the time you are reading Working the Corners, there is a good chance Seattle has already been approved as the National Hockey League’s 32nd franchise. (if your reading this and Seattle has already started playing, then you have a lot of catching up to do)
So, what now?
The Emerald City would like to drop the puck in the fall of 2020. The renovations, which in this case is a fancy way of saying a rebuild of Key Arena, is just beginning. A friend of mine in the Western Hockey League likens it to taking a house down to the studs from the roof to the basement and then putting something together that from the four outside walls to the arena bowl, will look completely different. Built before the NHL expanded beyond the original six era, Key Arena features a unique sloped roof that is protected under the historic building act. So the roof stays. Knowing the massive construction work ahead, the NHL is going to be conservative and lean to a 2021 start date. So unless Seattle can all but guarantee the work on the building will be ready, expect the league to hold firm.
I don’t pretend to know what the new franchise will be called, but not many people would drop $650 million and not have something in mind.
Believe it or not, the colors will be one of the first things on the to-do list. The name, logo, and colors have been discussed at various levels, but the basic look of the team will be the initial thing we will learn about how this club will look on the ice. So I can say I was; first, the Seattle team will join Minnesota and Dallas as NHL clubs skating in a shade of green. Of course, Toronto (St.Pats), Carolina (Whalers), and New Jersey (vintage sweaters) all wear green from time to time.
Not to take away from the better than expected starts by Buffalo, Montreal, Detroit, and the Rangers, not much has changed at the top of the NHL’s standings. The Lightning, Capitals, Predators and Flames lead the four divisions. Calgary is the only member of the group that didn’t win a regular season division title last year.
Like the Preds, Tampa has had to play an extended stretch with the backup goalie. Louie Domingue has been steady to terrific, but coach Jon Cooper can’t stop raving about blueliner Ryan Mcdonagh. Cooper says Mcdonagh may not be a sexy pick for the Norris, but so far the veteran has been the best defenceman in the league. An example of this was Monday nights victory over New Jersey. Mcdonagh made a quick deke in his own zone before feeding Brayden Point who set up Nikita Kucherov for a goal in transition. It wasn’t the primary assist, but the goal doesn’t happen without the vision and patience of McDonagh.
Another note on the Lightning, I was shocked to see Steven Stamkos is so far behind Nikita Kucherov for the team points lead and that the captain has scored half as many goals as Brayden Point. Even with a goal and an assist against Jersey, Stamkos lost ground to Kucherov (4 points) and Point (3 points). However, an area that Stamkos is carrying a bulk of the mail is in the middle of the faceoff circle. A career 48.6 % man on the draws, Stamkos is up to 56.4% this year, just behind Yanni Gourde for club best.
In a piece posted on Dean Blundell.om on Saturday afternoon, https://deanblundell.com/millard-nylanderwatch-update/ I said one of the challenging parts of any agreement would be getting Nylanders signature on the contract and having it to NHL central registry for approval before the 5 pm eastern time deadline. Some of the mean tweeps made fun of my lack of technology that would easily allow the 4th year Maple Leaf to electronically sign and send the document to his agent and NHL. As it turns out, the all-important electronic document arrived with under ten minutes to go. Agent Lewis Gross even reminded the uber-casual Nylander to treat the process with some urgency.
I am impressed with Nylander. He honestly bet on himself and landed a contract well above the number first talked about when Gross and Toronto GM first met on the topic at the NHL draft in Dallas. If William Nylander was really as chill throughout this entire negotiation as he appeared, I have little doubt he will be able to avoid feeling any additional pressure to produce points. What I like about Nylander’s game the most is the ability to score from a distance. His shot down the right side, coupled with Auston Matthews familiar shooting position on the left forces goaltenders to be more aggressive. When that happens, the passing skills of both players will lead to openings across the hash-marks.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 3, 2018
Nylander’s future is a Leaf, now and the future. Dubas apparently gave his word that the winger/center would not be dealt as long he was running the team. I won’t question the integrity of Dubas, but the contract does not have any officially binding trade protection.
Now to Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. Actually, we may have some time before writing or talking about the negotiations with the high profile restricted free-agents. Marner’s agent is Darren Ferris who in an interview with The Athletic, said he would not be negotiating an extension during the season. Why would they talk turkey? Marner has elevated his value from the start of the season, and that’s coming off a year in which he led the Maple Leafs in points.
Did you know, the word Marners wants to autocorrect to Mariners? I am going to screw up and not catch that one of these times.
Proof that you can teach an old hockey dog new tricks. Go back Anaheim at the start of the last few times the Ducks have gone to overtime. Randy Carlyle has put in a trick play in which if the center wins the draw, that player skates straight to the bench and enters a door closest to the middle redline. A player is waiting at the other door, which because of the long change, is located closer to the opposition blueline. When you factor in jumping on the ice a second or two before the team-mates get to the bench and the distance between the doors, this gives the Ducks an edge. Toss in a stretch pass, and you have a breakaway. It worked to perfection against the Oilers two weeks ago and almost again last week. I complimented Randy on the play and he, in true Carlyle style, said he got it from one of his assistants. I know some will have to read that description a few times, heck, I did myself to try and simplify the wording. You can always look at the clip of the game against Edmonton and see for yourself. 6 weeks ago I would have borrowed Willie Desjardins valued whiteboard, but now those two are back in business trying to save the Kings season.
Let me wish those celebrating Happy Hanukkah.
Not surprisingly I noticed an increased presence of women around our studio on the couple of occasions New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundquist visited. On behalf of those women and the many others who have asked me, “have you met Henrik Lundqvist?” Hank, can you please stop taking your mask off during play! It has happened twice in the last week. On the first occasion, the Senators took a shot and the King was not impressed. It was rather funny watching Lundqvist complain while he held his mask in his blocker. (the player had no idea the goalie’s cheeks were exposed) The second incident saw Lundqvist continue to play after taking a shot up high. It was when Winnipeg has some good pressure that the netminder realized his buckle had come undone on his mask and subsequently tossed it aside drawing a whistle. The chin/cheek buckles do consistently pop off when the puck hits the mask flush, thus loosening the goalie’s protection. I suggested the adoption of chin straps when I reached out to a former NHL netminder. That way the goalie could continue to play without fear of the mask popping off. He agreed that it makes sense, but the argument from goalies is the fear of injury if the mask got tangled up in a collision and could actually choke the player.
Umm, ok. I don’t buy that and firmly believe it has more do to with the mirror or cool factor. My buddy did offer this idea, masks that didn’t have those little plastic buckles. 95% of the goalies never undo their veils when they put them on anyway, merely sliding them on and off. Loop the straps around the mask and to the backplate, and there are no more issues. Most masks would have to be fitted with places for the straps to loop through but in principle, this would work.
Oh, and so we are clear, the mask popping off is the only issue Lundqvist is having. The veteran has been spectacular this season.
A new podcast is coming to Deadblundell.com
The Chirp with Daren Millard will launch when the folks at Itunes adequately vet us. Out of the gate, the production will be a weekly venture to go along with the podcasts that Dean and I drop on Tuesday and Fridays’. The goal of The Chirp will be to interview people in and around the game in a casual setting. I love the logo. The great people at Nvision have been off the charts supportive in this venture. Thanks to Dean Blundell and George Arabian for providing the platform. I can’t wait to Chirp. Let me know in the comment section or by tweeting me if there is someone you would like me to have on. Nobody is too big or obscure.
Happy Hanukkah. Again.