Vegas, WNBA Betting Big on A’ja Wilson

The WNBA is a league that has consistently struggled to recruit and retain viewers since its inaugural season in 1997.  League and network officials have adopted many strategies to increase viewership, but one of their their biggest assets includes the characters and storylines that develop.

We may think we watch movies for drama, and sports just for good competition. However, a look at some of our favorite sports moments proves this does not always hold true.  What makes Tiger so electrifying? He is a fresh breath of diversity, and is a hero in the throws of a dramatic story that mirrors a Greek tragedy.  The NFL has resolute champs that defy natural laws to consistently win (Tom Brady), balanced with explosive, attention-demanding characters who always have something to say. (Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski).  The MLB is currently making a comeback with a batch of fresh exciting faces. The sandlot features Trout vs. Harper, the emergence of a dominant Goliath in Aaron Judge, and mystery, intrigue, and international presence from Shohei Ohtani.  And of course, the NBA has King James, with a throne that is threatened by the young, west coast juggernaut of Golden State.

These character, heroes, and villains are the reason for a following.  College athletics are popular for displaying incredible talent, but not as popular as professional sports.  Their star players have drastically higher turnover rates, and therefore have less time to develop characters and storylines that captivate even casual sports fans.  Tom Brady is a household name. Even for someone who’s never touched a football. Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, not so much.

Therefore, it is imperative that the WNBA recognize and cultivate these characters and storylines.  This is not to say they should manipulate competition or drama, like Vince McMahon tried (and failed) with the XFL.  Rather, the WNBA must aggressively market the faces and plots that will grab currently uninterested fans. This is where we turn our attention to Las Vegas and the latest South Carolina women’s hoops superstar.

Enter A’ja Wilson, a six foot five inch forward with remarkable athleticism.  She plays with a comfortable finesse that is uncommon for her size. She exits the premier Gamecocks program with impressive career numbers.  She averaged 17.3 PPG, and 8.7 rebounds per game. Her senior season was hot, in which she averaged a double-double (22.6 PPG and 11.9 RPG). Defensively she commanded respect, swatting 2.6 shots a game.  Her career scoring (2,389 points) and blocks (363) are both school records. Long story short: she will be missed

The 2018 number one draft pick is also entering the league with a habit of winning.  She helped South Carolina capture four straight SEC conference tournament championships. Each of those four wins was in double digits, and the last three were at the expense of the mighty Mississippi State.  Wilson also enjoyed incredible success in the national tournament, with trips to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and winning a national title (in her junior year).

One difference between the NBA and the WNBA is the balance of talent between guards and low post players.  The last low post player to win the NBA MVP was Mavericks franchise player Dirk Nowitzki in 2008. In that span, the WNBA has had four low post MVPs, including two centers (Lauren Jackson, 2010/ Sylvia Fowles, 2017).  The last true center to take home the NBA MVP? Someone named Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

This means that a strong low post player is that much more important to win in the WNBA, and that A’ja Wilson is a huge building block for the newly arrived Aces.  The Aces will have three meetings each with the Lynx and the Sparks. This means basketball fans get to see the most talented recent addition to the WNBA square off against former MVPs six times this summer.  These are the big-time battles on which the WNBA needs to double down.

While the former Gamecocks ace enters her professional career as a beacon of hope for the league, she also lands at the beaches as a hero for her city.  Las Vegas is in the midst of an exciting time for sports fans. They are set to welcome the historical and colorful Raiders franchise in the next few years.  The expansion NHL team, the Golden Knights, beat the odds by making the playoffs in their inaugural season, the first NHL team to do so since 1980. They have since shocked the world (and Sideline Intel’s own expert Josh Zaklis) by sweeping the LA Kings last week.  

Now Wilson joins the young guns like Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum as the franchise moves out of San Antonio, looking to add to the incoming success of the Golden Knights.  Wilson and the Aces represent youth and excitement that could challenge the status quo of powerhouses in the WNBA, and are another chapter in the exciting story of Las Vegas’ rapid development as a significant sports hub on the professional level.

This summer, in addition to the unfailing curiosity and excitement of the NBA summer league, Las Vegas will be the stage for one of the hottest storylines in the WNBA.  Any fan of good basketball and competition should keep an eye on what A’ja Wilson and the Aces are able to accomplish.

Staff Picks: NHL Playoff Edition

Some of us know a lot about hockey. Some of us know nothing about hockey. Here are all of our picks.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE

Metro Division — No. 1 Washington Capitals (105 pts) vs. WC Columbus Blue Jackets (97 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Washington in 5

Josh Zaklis: Washington in 6

Jeff Griffith: Washington in 5

Ryan Ladika: Washington in 5

Jacob Rosenfarb: Columbus in 7

Consensus: CAPITALS

Metro Division — No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins (100 pts) vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Flyers (98 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Pittsburgh in 5

Josh Zaklis: Pittsburgh in 6

Jeff Griffith: Philadelphia in 7

Ryan Ladika: Pittsburgh in 5

Jacob Rosenfarb: Pittsburgh in 6

Consensus: PENGUINS

Atlantic Division — No. 1 Tampa Bay Lightning (113 pts) vs. WC New Jersey Devils (97 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Tampa Bay in 5

Josh Zaklis: Tampa Bay in 5

Jeff Griffith: Tampa Bay in 4

Ryan Ladika: Tampa Bay in 5

Jacob Rosenfarb:Tampa Bay in 4

Consensus: LIGHTNING, 4-1

Atlantic Division — No. 2 Boston Bruins (112 pts) vs. No. 3 Toronto Maple Leafs (105 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Boston in 6

Josh Zaklis: Toronto in 6

Jeff Griffith: Boston in 7

Ryan Ladika: Boston in 4

Jacob Rosenfarb: Toronto in 6

Consensus: BRUINS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division — No. 1 Nashville Predators (117 pts) vs. WC Colorado Avalanche (95 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Nashville in 5

Josh Zaklis: Nashville in 5

Jeff Griffith: Nashville in 5

Ryan Ladika: Colorado in 7

Jacob Rosenfarb: Nashville in 4

Consensus: PREDATORS

Central Division — No. 2 Winnipeg Jets (114 pts) vs. No. 3 Minnesota Wild (101 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Minnesota in 6

Josh Zaklis: Winnipeg in 7

Jeff Griffith: Minnesota in 7

Ryan Ladika: Winnipeg in 6

Jacob Rosenfarb: Winnipeg in 5

Consensus: JETS

Pacific Division — No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights (109 pts) vs. WC Los Angeles Kings (98 pts)

Ryan Sharp: Los Angeles in 6

Josh Zaklis: Los Angeles in 7

Jeff Griffith: Vegas in 6

Ryan Ladika: Vegas in 6

Jacob Rosenfarb: Los Angeles in 6

Consensus: KINGS

Pacific Division — No. 2 Anaheim Ducks (101 pts) vs. No. 3 San Jose Sharks (100 pts)

Ryan Sharp: San Jose in 7

Josh Zaklis: Anaheim in 7

Jeff Griffith: San Jose in 7

Ryan Ladika: San Jose in 5

Jacob Rosenfarb: Anaheim in 7

Consensus: SHARKS

NHL Playoff Preview: First Round

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils

This series is comprised of two teams that missed out of playoff hockey last year, the Devils by 25 points and the Lightning by just one point. Both teams came out motivated this year and as a result find themselves with a chance to bring home some hardware.

The Devils rode on the back of Taylor Hall who finished sixth in the league with 93 points this season. The next closest Devil was Nico Hischier who has just 52 points. The Devils also owe much of their success this season to the early season play of goaltender Cory Schneider, however his struggles to stay on the ice and preform once he is out there has left the Devils playoff hopes in the shaky hands of Keith Kinkaid.

The one man show and inconsistent goalie play that New Jersey will be bringing to this series, combined with the absolute dominance that the Lightning have seen from their entire roster this season spells a quick, easy series win for the Lightning.

Lightning in five

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

It is always a treat to see an original six match up in the playoffs, but espically when it is between two teams that have 100+ points on the season. This is exactly what we have in store for us in this first round match up.

Toronto has been trending up since the end of last season when they lost to the Capitals in the first round of last year’s playoffs. After a great regular season and earning a better seed, the Leafs have positioned themselves for a deeper run this year.

Standing in their way are the Boston Bruins, who were the second best team in the East this season, finishing just one point behind the Lightning. The Bruins have a solid team lead by goalie Tuukka Rask who is ranked inside the top ten in both GAA and wins. Rask’s stellar performance and the fact most of this Bruins team has been in the playoffs before make them a formidable opponent.

Although many think the Bruins can make and win the Stanley Cup, Toronto is a dangerous underdog as they have beaten the Bruins three out of four times on the season. If the Leafs can steal one of the first two games on the road, the Bruins should be placed on upset alert as the Leafs are 29-10-2 at home this season.

Maple Leafs in six

Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

After being two of the best teams during the regular season last year, the Caps and Jackets regressed a little this year as the NHL spotlighted shifted it’s attention from the metropolitan division to the Atlantic. However, just because they haven’t gotten a lot of attention this year, does not mean that these teams are undeserving of their playoff spots.

After a break through season in 2016-17 Columbus did their best to keep the band together heading into 2017-18. Lead by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky the Blue Jackets are a solid team that will be a big test for a Capitals team which has struggled mighty in the first few rounds of the playoffs.

Many experts are saying that this is a different Capitals team because of the lack of expectations, the team has not been as dominate in the regular season as they have in the past. This could mean that the team is regressing, or that they are just saving up to show out for playoff hockey.

Despite their struggles in the second round of the playoffs they have been money in the first round since 2014-15. The teams are pretty equal when looking at goalies and defense, but when looking at forwards the Capitals have a clear edge. Simply put, while the Blue Jackets are good, the Capitals are just better at putting the puck in the net, and all the first round experience has to count for something, right?

Capitals in six

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

This is perhaps the most interesting playoff match up East of the Mississippi this year. The Pens embark on a quest to become one of the greatest dynasties of all time by winning their third straight Cup as the Flyers seem to be like the rest of Philadelphia since the Eagles won the Super Bowl, on fire.

The Flyers have seen overall great play from their entire team this year led by captain Claude Giroux who ranks among the NHL’s best in points, assists and plus minus. The one weakness for Philly seems to be the man in the net. Brian Elliot led the team early int he season but has had barely any time to get back into the groove of things  with his first two games in over two months came last week against two non playoff teams.

Pittsburgh on the other hand seems to be firing on all cylinders as they look to their team with tons of playoff experience to lead them to the promise land once again. The most dangerous part of this Pens team is that there aren’t really any question marks on how players will perform in the playoffs.

This is especially scary for a Flyers team which has been in and out of the playoffs over the past six season with one common variable, a first round exit. While this will certainly be an intense, physical series that could hamper the victor in later round of the playoffs, it will be Pittsburgh advancing to the second round of the playoffs continuing their dreams of a three-peat.

Penguins in 6

Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are the little engine that could of this years NHL playoffs, after missing the playoffs by 46 points Colorado finds themselves in the playoffs by the hair of their playoff beards.

The Avs have shown a special energy this year by laying together as a team and proving to a former star, who shall remain nameless, that Denver is the place to be for playoff hockey. To have success in the playoffs the Avs must lean on offensive weapons such as Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. The latter found himself in the NHL top ten for points and goals. If these two forwards play well it should spark to rest of the team to follow suit and bring that crazy upset vibe that can only be seen in a first round matchup between the best team to make the playoffs and the worst one.

Unfortunately for the Avs, Nashville is all to familiar with that energy as they were in the Avs shoes last year when they upset the Blackhawks in just four games. So the Preds know how to handle an upstart playoff team. On top of this they are the best team in the West, after winning the Western Conference last year and have some of the best defense in the league. Oh and don’t forget, they are hungrier than ever after falling just two wins short of the Cup.

Overall it is pretty easy to pick a series winner here, the Predators are just too good, too hungry and have experience from last year to prevent a jaw dropping upset in the first round. This is not to say this will not be a good series because it will be, Colorado should steal a game or two at home but at the end of the day Nashville will be moving on to the second round.

Predators in 5

Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild

This series will probably fly under the radar in a first round that contains an expansion team, a team going for a three-peat and a battle between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. However, this is not to say that the Jets and Wild won’t put on a show, both teams have solid team which are coming off great regular seasons.

The great thing about the Wild in this series is that you know exactly what you are going to get, Minnesota has kept most of their players since 2012-13 which is when this current streak of six straight playoff appearances began. While the Wild have not found much success in April, the years of experience give them an edge over the Jets heading into this series.

For the Jets, it is about keeping the magic going as they finished with the second most points in the NHL (114) and just three behind the Preds for the division title. Winnipeg appears to be ready to win with Blake Wheeler ranking among the NHL’s best in points (91) and assists (68), while his teammate Patrick Laine finished with 44 goals on the season. Five behind Ovechkin who lead the league with 49 on the season.

Despite it flying under the radar, this will be one of the most entertaining first round match ups because of how well these teams match up with one another. Ultimately the Jets magic season and the Wild’s ability to be the Capitals of the Western Conference will win out allowing Winnipeg to move on to the second round.

Jets in 7

Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings

If the Jets had a magical season than the Knights had a super natural one. Becoming the first expansion team to reach the playoffs in their first year with the league, but after a flaming hot start and a good finish to the season that is exactly the situation in which Vegas finds itself.

The Knights were led by center William Karlsson and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Karlsson had an unreal season for the Knights leading the league with a plus/minus of 48 and picking up 43 goals to finish third in the leauge. Fleury showed that he is still an elite goaltender ranking in the top ten in save percentage and GAA. The one thing that should worry the Knights is their utter lack of playoff experience. Something that their opponets have in spades.

Securing the first wild card was huge for the Kings as they would avoid playing the deadly Predators in the first round. After missing Jonathan Quick and subsequently the playoffs last year, the Kings are back and Quick is healthy and ready to go. The Kings star goalie ranked top ten in the NHL in GAA, wins and shut outs.

This series will be decided by goaltenders as the Kings and Knights are pretty even when it comes to forwards and defensemen. This is dangerous for the Knights as Fluery has a lower save percentage and higher GAA than Quick in the playoffs. This combined with the lack of playoff experince for the Knights will spell their doom by the end of this series. Essentially, there is a reason why Los Angeles is the Kings and Vegas is only the Knights.

Kings in 7

Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks

Minnesota, Winnipeg might be the most under the radar game this first round, but this Sharks, Ducks series will be the most evenly contested series and your best bet to go the full seven games as the two teams were separated by just one point going into the playoffs.

The Ducks have been able to make the second round and conference finals consistently over the past few years but always seem to lose to a team that is just a little better. Last year that team was the Predators and two years before it was the Blackhawks. History, and the lack of big moves, points to another empty handed exit for the Ducks in this year’s playoffs however maybe the Ducks will get some luck this year. They’re certainly due after only missing the playoffs twice since 2005-06.

The Sharks are an interesting team only missing the post season once since 2005-06, their most recent success coming two years ago when they lost to the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. There is not reason to count the Sharks out of this series as they have made the right moves to stay in contention.

When filling out our NHL bracket this series the most dangerous one because there is no clear winner here and whoever does come out on top has the posssiblity to make a run and win the cup based on talent and playoff experience. At the end of the day, the Ducks will come out victorious simply because neither team will lose a game at home in this series. The Ducks have four games at home and the Sharks have three.

Ducks in 7

 

The First Line: April 3, 2018

Right Wing: Patric Hornqvist- Pittsburgh Penguins

With two games remaining in the regular season the Pens have officially claimed their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in large part thanks to their veteran right winger.

Hornqvist was continued to be a solid source of offense for the Pens as 2017-18 marks his fifth straight 20+ goals season as he has found the net 27 times and added on 19 assists.

This past week, the 31 year old rally stepped up his game tallying four points via three goals and one assist. Pittsburgh will look for Hornqvist to carry this momentum through the final few games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Despite projecting as a five seed right now (six seed Blue Jackets only two points back) the Penguins know how to win in April as they have shown over the past few seasons and should be treated as a threat.

Center: Auston Matthews- Toronto Maple Leafs

Since entering the league in the 2016-17 season, Matthews has proven himself to be one of the best young players in the game, with a nice season last year to win the Calder and lift the Leafs into the playoffs.

This year has been more of the same for the all-star center, collecting 33 goals and 27 assists and has yet again been an instrumental part of Toronto locking up a top four seed in the Eastern Conference (tied with three seed Washington with 103 points).

Over the past week Matthews has taken has game to the next level, with four goals and three assists. This is music to the Leafs’ ears as they see their star getting hot at just the right time and hope he can carry that play into the playoffs.

Left Wing: Filip Forsberg- Nashville Predators

For most of the season people around the world were fascinated with the Vegas Golden Knights and their historic first season. But over the past month, the Predators have crept back into first in the West and are a win away from winning the conference.

Forsberg has been clutch for the Preds all season, tallying his fourth straight 20+ goal season (he has 23) and setting a new career high for assists (38). Forsberg continued to shine the last week of March and into April with six points on two goals and four assists.

Much like the two players above, the hope for Forsberg is simple, continue roll through the end of the regular season and help the Predators get off to a hot start in the playoffs. Now that Nashville has ‘some’ postseason experience, there is no reason for Preds fans to think this is not possible.

The First Line: March 20, 2018

Left Wing: James van Riemsdyk- Toronto Maple Leafs:

After making a brief appearance in the playoffs last year the Leafs seem to be even more motivated this year as they have picked up 93 points as they look to cement their place as the three seed in the Eastern Conference.

van Riemsdyk is one of the big reasons why the Leafs have been among the league’s best this year with a team (and career) best 31 goals while also adding 16 assists.

Over the past week, the winger really stepped up his game picking up five goals and one assists and lifted his team to a 3-0-0 record over that stretch.

As the Leafs shift their attention from the regular season to the playoffs they will look for van Riemsdyk to supply a lot of the offense so the lights at Air Canada Centre stay on until late May.

Center: Tomas Hertl- San Jose Sharks

After the trade deadline one thing was clear about the Sharks, they were going all in to make the playoffs and try to win the Cup.

Hertl working to make that goal a reality by having a career season by recording 22 assists and 20 goals ranking seventh and second on the Sharks in those two categories.

This past week was more of the same for Hertl who picked up seven points via four goals and three assists in an effort resulting in eight much needed points for San Jose.

The center man’s continued success will only become more crucial for the Sharks as they enter the home stretch of the NHL season. Especially since the 3-8 seeds in the Western Conference are all separated by less than five points (Sharks are fourth in the West).

Right Wing: Mikko Rantanen- Colorado Avalanche

With two years of play under his belt, Rantanen is getting the feel for being a star wing in the NHL and the Avs are reaping the rewards of his great season.

This is Rantanen’s second week this month on the first line, the forward has been incredibly crucial to the Avs final push for the playoffs in one of the tightest Western Conference races we have seen in recent years.

This season Rantanen has scored 25 goals surpassing his previous career high of 20. The winger also has blown past his previous career high of 18 assists piling up 52 helpers this season.

The past week has been no different for Rantanen who pick up two goals and four assists to help his team to a 3-1-0 record to keep the Avs in the playoff picture.

 

 

The First Line: March 4, 2018

Left Wing: Daniel Sedin- Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks have not had a season to remember by any stretch of the word. They are the second worst team in the Western Conference and the fourth worst in the league.

Possibly the sole saving grace for the Canucks this year has been Daniel Sedin, who has 21 goals and 25 assists on the year showing that he can still produce and the age of 37.

This past week as been no different for Daniel Sedin who picked up seven points with five goals and two assists.

Although this is the last year of his (and his twin brother Henrik’s) contract, they have made it very clear that they would like to continue to play, but only in Vancouver.

It is possible that the Canucks fulfill this request. It would give the Sedin’s one or two more seasons to say goodbye to the fans as well as a chance at the cup however unlikely that may be.

Center: Nathan MacKinnon- Colorado Avalanche

After being the worst team in the league over the 2016-17 season, the Avs are experiencing a strong resurgence that is putting them right in the thick of things regarding the playoff picture.

Nathan MacKinnon has played a huge role in the resurgence this year already hitting career highs in goals (31) and assists (46). MacKinnon also has the highest shot percentage of his career with 14.6 percent of his shots on net finding the back of it.

This past week has been a great one for the Avs center who put up 10 points by way of five goals and five assists with a +/- of  plus eight.

Even though he might not win any major awards this year, MacKinnon’s play has made the himself and the Avs relevant on the NHL stage for at least the near future.

Right Wing: Mikko Rantanen- Colorado Avalanche

Unlike his teammate, Rantanen was not an all-star thus not giving him as much name recognition as MacKinnon.

However he has been just as crucial as his line mate MacKinnon to the success the Avs have experienced this season setting career highs in goals (22) and assists (42).

Over the past week, Rantanen recorded two goals and five helpers to lift the Avs to a 3-0-1 record.

The Avs have also been hot of late as the team has points in six of their last seven contests.

These are crucial for a team like Colorado who currently sits one point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the eigth playoff spot.

 

NHL Trade Deadline recap

There were a lot of moving pieces ahead of, and up until the trade deadline today, and sometimes it is not easy to sort out what was important and what doesn’t really matter with so many moves in such a short time.

This is a list of the five biggest trades that took place on the trading deadline.

Number Five: Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets

For the Jets, this trade means that they are going all in.

The Jets gave up two picks and a player just to have Stastny on their team for the next month and a half (plus however far the Jets go in the playoffs), so it is clear that Winnipeg thinks they can win the cup.

That is not to say this move is a mistake, Winnipeg is only three points behind Vegas for the top spot in the West, and is tied with Toronto for the fourth most points in the league.

This move makes the Jets a legitimate threat to reach, and maybe even win the cup, especially if Stastny is sniping like this.

For Saint Louis this moves seems to have a couple of layers. At first glace this is a move of a team who is about to tear it all down. Trading away a good player as his deal is set to expire to acquire some future picks is an earmark of teams getting ready to tank.

Yet maybe that is not what the Blues are thinking. When trading Stastny they received a first round pick in 2018, a fourth round pick in 2020 and Erik Foley who could be a key piece in the future of the Blues.

The Blues might have just wanted to reload quickly for the near future and moving Stastny (a player who might have just left after this year anyway) was a great way to do it.

 

Number Four: Erik Karlsson to No one

One of the biggest non moves this trade deadline day was that Karlsson stayed put on a Senators team which is the second worst in the Eastern Conference and the third worst in the NHL.

While the Senators still have another year to deal Karlsson, the fact that no team was able to put together an offer that impressed the Senators says a lot about the price on the defender.

Karlsson could have done a lot for a team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race but his modified no trade clause might have been a roadblock in the Senators ability to make a deal.

Unless there is a drastic turnaround for Ottawa, Karlsson will be on the trading block again next year and will probably be moved at it is the last year of his contract.

Number Three: Tomas Tatar to Vegas Golden Knights

Tatar has been a productive forward for the Red Wings over his seven years with the Red Wings, averaging 32 points per year. He also has not dipped below 40 points since 2013-14, his first season of extended playing time for the Wings.

Tatar is also a GM’s dream as he is only 27 years old and is under team control until 2021 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

This all added up to a blockbuster deal where Tatar was dealt to the Golden Knights as the NHL’s newest franchise looked to improve their squad before heading into a cup run as well as one up the Jets in their move for Stastny.

Tatar makes the Knights even better and puts them in the conversation for Cup favorite heading into the playoffs, however it cost them a lot down the road.

More the Knights had to give up a first (2018), second (2019) and third (2021) round pick to land the forward and make the deal worthwhile for the Red Wings.

While it is never a good idea to give up young controllable talent like Tatar, it made sense for the Red Wings who will be hitting the height of their rebuild, right when Tatar hits the peak of his career.

These picks will allow the Red Wings to add some great talent into their rebuild and help launch the team’s next dynasty.

Number Two: Evander Kane to San Jose Sharks

With Kane in the final year of his contract, and the Sabers nowhere near a playoff spot, Buffalo knew that they had to get rid of Kane now or be forced to watch him walk in free agency.

The Sharks, knew this was Buffalo’s situation and used it as leverage to land Kane for what might wind up being a bargain.

As far as picks are concerned, the Sharks only had to give up a conditional first (2019) round pick and a conditional fourth (2019) round pick.

The Sabers will get the Shark’s 2019 first round pick if Kane resigns with the Sharks, which according to Sportsnet’s On Point podcast, he has not discussed doing.

For the fourth round pick, the Sharks have an option to push it back one year (to the 2020 draft) but if San Jose elects to do that it will become a third round pick.

The Sharks will also give up 24 year old forward Daniel O’Regan, who was name the AHL rookie of the year in the 2016-17 season.

This trade gives the Sharks a boost in their hunt for a playoff spot in the West as they currently sit in fifth place, 11 points back of the Golden Knights.

For the Sabers, it allows to club who last qualified for the playoffs during the 2010-2011 season to continue their rebuilding process.

Number One: Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning

The Rangers appear to be in full rebuild mode as they continue to dismantle their team (other than Henrik Lundqvist) and acquire young players and draft picks.

The Rangers gave up McDonagh, and 24 year old center J.T. Miller.

Tampa Bay gave up a 2018 first round pick, a conditional 2019 second round pick (it becomes a first round pick if Tampa wins the Cup in 2018 or 2019),  center Vladislav Namestnikov, and two prospects. Defenseman Libor Hajek and center Brett Howden.

This is perhaps one of the boldest trades made today as the Lightning gave up a lot for a chance to win now.

If the Lightning are unable to bring home a Stanley Cup over the next three or four years it will be clear that the Rangers won this deal based on the sheer amount of prospects, players and picks they gained from this transaction.

However just one Cup for the Florida based franchise would be enough to validate the loss of picks and prospects given up.

For the Rangers they have flung themselves into a full rebuild, with four first round picks in 2018 New York is primed for a few bad seasons, followed by another run of playoff appearances.

 

 

 

 

 

The First Line: Feb. 18, 2018

While many have been distracted by the shock and awe of the Winter Olympics, or the pageantry of NBA All-Star weekend, the NHL has continued to roll on through the latter half of its season.

Here are three forwards — one center, left wing and right wing — that fans should keep an eye on after their performance over the last week:

Nikita Kucherov, Right Wing: Since breaking into the league in the 2013-14, Kucherov has been money for the Lightning. His performance has gotten better and better each year in the league and this season is no different. Kucherov already has 31 goals (he scored 40 last year and has set a new career high in assists with 46. Yet over this past week the Russian born forward has been on fire picking up eight points through two goals and six assists.

Alex Ovechkin, Left Wing: It is just another season in the career for Ovechkin who has been on a hall of fame career path since he recorded 106 points in his first year in the NHL. This year Ovechkin has already recorded 65 points and is on pace to challenge his point total from 2014-15 (81) and maybe even 2010-11 (85). This week, Ovechkin has taken his anger over not being allowed to play in the Olympics out of opposing teams picking up two goals and five assists in just four games played.

Mark Scheifele-Center: In his second year of an eight year deal, the 24 year-old has helped Blake Wheeler give Winnipeg one of their best seasons in recent memory. With 23 games left to play the team currently sits three points behind the Knights in the Western Conference. The Jets played and won three games over this past week in large part thanks to the work of Scheifele who picked up two goals and five helpers. While the Ontario native isn’t having a career year, but weeks like this will keep him and his team as a contender in the playoff picture.

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Care About the NHL on Super Bowl Sunday

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, so for most Americans there is only one game that matters. It starts at 6 p.m. EST and it will either end in Tom Brady getting another ring and seven months of annoying Pats fans. Or the entire country being forced to deal with Eagles fans for the seven years and how great this team was.

Neither option is great.

But there is another way, on Sunday starting at 12:30 EST there are three NHL games that you can watch to avoid just a little bit of Super Bowl mania.

This is a preview of how each of these games will impact the standings and maybe, be more entertaining than the Super Bowl.

Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals

Unless you have been living under a rock since September you are at least somewhat aware of how #good the Golden Knights have been in their first season ever.

What you may not know is Vegas has been historically #good in the 2017-18 season.

The Knights have 34 wins which is the most ever by an expansion team in NHL history. Oh and by the way, it’s February so Vegas is very much in the mix for a playoff appearance as they boast the best record in the Western Conference and second to only the Tampa Bay Lightning in the league.

So if you have a chance to watch this team, you should take it.

As for the Capitals, while they haven’t been as good as last year they have the most points in the Metropolitan division and have been one of the best (regular season) teams in the NHL in recent years.

I give this game a watch-ability rating of: Better than any Redskins or Raiders game that was on in 2017.

San Jose Sharks at Carolina Hurricanes

This is also an intriguing match up in large part because of the impact that it has on the standings.

A win for Carolina would not only put them in the playoff picture, but it would put them in first wild card seed. Granted they will be tied for that slot and still only ahead of the Flyers by one point. But the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoff picture is not something you see every year and should be cherished.

For the Sharks this game will be all about building separation between themselves and the Anaheim Ducks. Right now San Jose sits two points up on the Ducks for second place in the Pacific division.

The Sharks have been in the playoffs the past few years but other than a Stanley Cup run in 2016, they’ve struggled to get it going when the calendar turns to May. The San Jose core is also getting up there in age so the team knows they only have some many runs left in them before players start to leave or retire.

I give this game a watch-ability rating of: Panthers vs. Saints in week 13

Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiéns

While this game doesn’t have a huge impact on the standings, there will be  some interesting players to watch this in the game.

For the Canadians the player to watch is Carey Price, he is a world class player who is having a below average year by his standards. Price continues to look to bounce back to spark his team as they try to make a late run to the postseason.

The Senators are well out of the playoff race, however many people forget that Matt Duchene is having somewhat of an under whelming year for the Sens and he will be looking to start building a case for himself and why he deserves a huge contract when his contract is up after the end of the 2018-19 season.

I give this game a watch-ability rating of: Broncos vs. Giants, both teams were supposed to be good but neither was and now it’s week 10 and this is just a bad game.