Full disclosure right off the hop: Vincent Trocheck is one of my favorite players in the entire NHL.
So of course I was excited when I saw Trocheck was a guest on the 31 Thoughts Podcast a couple of weeks ago. During this interview, he told Elliotte Friedman something very interesting, and that was he couldn’t recall having a meeting with his hometown team Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another Hockey Fantasy.
Trocheck was drafted in 2011, 64th overall, making him a third-round pick. Looking back at his numbers, that’s a little surprising for a player who would be a consistent 20-goal scorer in the OHL and makes one think that he would have been higher if he were drafted later, but I digress.
The 2011 Draft had some really high caliber talent selected in it, including First-Rounders like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Scheifele, and Dougie Hamilton, as well as Second-Rounders like Boone Jenner, John Gibson, Brandon Saad, and some bum named Nikita Kucherov, whoever that is.
But who I want to focus on, of course, are the Penguins.
The Pens, in the first round, selected defenseman Joe Morrow with the 23rd overall pick, and then in the second round selected Scott Harrington. Another defenseman.
Off the top of my head, neither of those players jump out as a difference maker or even someone you remember is still in the league, as is often the case when I see Harrington in the lineup for Columbus. (Sorry Scotty.) Morrow has been the most useful, seeing a decent number of games with the Bruins, Canadiens, and now the Jets. But given how scouting reports touted his offensive ability, he hasn’t put up numbers to match those expectations, but he is still a solid depth two-way defenseman.
In fact, the most use Harrington was to the Penguins organization was when he was part of the package that went back to Toronto in exchange for Phil Kessel. So I guess he was worth something.
It is hard to say whether or not Trocheck would have developed at the same rate as he has with the Panthers, though I bet that he would considering he has in recent summers skated with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, so why wouldn’t he do that full-time with Crosby?
The problem does lay, however, in Trocheck becoming another Jordan Staal. Vinnie would have to be the third line center, obviously, but he is not a third line center. Sooner or later he would want more minutes and larger role, just like Staal wanted, and I would dare say he is a better player than Staal (I was a huge Jordan Staal fan too, as a friendly FYI.)
Having the recently added Nick Bjugstad at $4.1 million a year, and Jared McCann at $1.2 million is more favorable money wise than Trocheck’s $4.7 million- money that is justifiably well spent- especially for the cap crunched Penguins. But the thought still remains how some of the runs between 2009 and 2016 could have looked with a solid 3C like Vincent Trocheck in the Pens arsenal.
Saturday night I watched yet another outdoor hockey game when the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins. About halfway through the first period, we were told that the first intermission entertainment would be Keith Urban.
That’s right, Keith Urban. Because when you think of Philly, you think of Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, Keith Urban.
The NHL has done this before, showing they are indeed tapped into the social and pop culture veins of their fans, like when they asked Kid Rock to perform at the All-Star Game last year.
With that said, I am going to help the NHL out by providing a list of musical acts from each city that should be considered for any and all outdoor games, All-Star Games, whatever. And yes, my bias is absolutely coming in to play here. I should also note that I am focusing mainly on bands, not individual performers. I don’t have the time or the tolerance for that.
My first choice for Anaheim was Dick Dale, because try and tell me a stadium of fans hearing the opening riff to “Misirlou” wouldn’t turn the crazy up a bit.
But Dale, who moved to Southern California when he was 17, is technically from Boston. Thus, I have to give the nod to the easy choice, which is No Doubt, but with one stipulation: no material from “Rock Steady” or after. Only 2000 and earlier.
Mesa Ariz. natives Jimmy Eat World offers the pop and commercial success to appeal to all. But Mesa isn’t Glendale (one person may be saying). Glendale. Phoenix. Mesa. The Coyotes are always rumored to be on the move anyway.
Easy, Bell Biv Devoe. Next.
No, no, I’m kidding. This is a tough one though. The easy choice, the one that’s already been done at the 2010 Winter Classic, is the Dropkick Murphys. And DKM would be a great choice now, but I’m going to stick a little more mainstream and go with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones with my logic being that I have yet to meet someone who A. Doesn’t know “The Impression That I Get” and B. Doesn’t enjoy it or get involved with the song in some way.
Case in point, I started playing this and my wife immediately began nodding and playing along with the horn intro.
Buffalo offers nothing, and I don’t think it’s right to subject people to watching and listening to the Goo Goo Dolls. Maybe they can borrow an act from Toronto.
At first I want to say Loverboy, in honor of Chris Farley, but then I consider how many young fans would actually appreciate it. I don’t think many. That is why my choice is Tegan and Sara.
This is going to be one of the few, if only times, I concede to the country genre by suggesting The Charlie Daniels Band. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you.
If consideration for this list is overall pop appeal, the obvious choice for this is one of my all-time guilty pleasures, Fall Out Boy. But I am going to add the same rule here as I did with No Doubt in Anaheim: 2008’s “Folie à Deux” is the only most recent album they can pull material from, but preferably keep it to mainly “Take This to Your Grave” and “From Under the Cork Tree.”
Good Lord are pickens’ slim here. The Fray? No. The Lumineers? Hell no. Do I really have to say OneRepublic here? I guess so, but only if they allow my old beer-league teammate Jerrod Bettis play drums for a song or two. Now excuse me while I pick this dropped name up.
Really? Is Twenty One Pilots really the best we can do, Columbus? Because I’m not putting Rascal Flatts on this list. Get it together, Columbus.
I’m taking the approach that if the act is still alive, they can still perform, which means Meat Loaf playing half of the “Bat Out of Hell” album means an instant stealing of the show.
Iggy Pop. Enough said.
And if you argue with this choice you are admitting that your taste in music sucks.
I really wish I could say Tom Petty, but with his passing in 2017, that’s nearly impossible. This is going to be a stretch for many, but I nominate ska punk band Less Than Jake. They aren’t a household name, but I know that their live show is one that would win plenty of new fans and most importantly entertain.
The most challenging given the volume of bands to come from this great city. But the choice also has to be something so LA that you can’t argue with it, which makes it that much more challenging. Because of that, there is really only one choice: The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I’ve found that most people forget the great musical acts that have come out of Minnesota, and there are plenty. Similar to Florida, there should only be one answer, and that is Prince. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2016, but it still doesn’t take away that Prince should be featured some how. With that said, I think the only appropriate choice is a combination of The Revolution and Morris Day and the Time.
This is a no brainer as well. Chromeo. A very unique, entertaining, and talented duo, they are also responsible for one of my personal all-time favorite songs ever, “Old 45’s.”
I understand it’s Nashville, which means country, but Nashville boasts a nice roster of rock bands as well. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a country fan, but I understand the importance of the roots in this city. However, I think my choice brings a very complimentary combination of both country and rock with their bluegrass/string style, and that is Old Crow Medicine Show. It’s a bit of stretch, sure, but one I believe would please all fans.
A rare overlap is about to take place, and that is because the Devils goal song is currently “Howl” by Jersey’s own The Gaslight Anthem, and that band should be the one tapped to represent the Garden State as well.
New York Islanders
When you are talking about Long Island, big arena performances, and music, you have no other option than the Piano Man, Billy Joel.
New York Rangers
A similar issue as Los Angeles. Needed is an act so New York it cannot be argued. This is also the most challenging because of how many great bands formed in New York, but also how many of those bands have had members pass on.
When in the Big Apple, you have a Big Performance. If by some miracle, you can have a combination of Blondie, the Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend, the Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C., Lady Gaga and whoever can make this performance the delicious smorgasbord that it should be, you do it.
Joan Jett gets the booking here, again, because of her appeal across multiple generations and her songs are easy recognizable.
Yinzers will immediately demand Donnie Iris because Donnie Iris is the only musician they know. And then when he’s not booked they would demand the city revert its thinking back 20 more years.
My most experimental pick goes to the experimental act Girl Talk, the mashup genius. The first time I heard “Play Your Part (Pt. 1) it blew my mind just how seamlessly everything meshed together. This would absolutely be an intermission show for the ages.
The Doobie Brothers? I guess?
This list is very bad, almost as bad as Columbus’, so I’ll just choose Nelly and move on.
Aaron Carter or Brooke Hogan, your pick. Either way, you have chosen poorly.
The dream choice, of course, is Rush. The members- Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart- called it a career in 2018 saying they would no longer tour, but I would hope playing a major NHL game would convince them enough to tune up one more time.
Some cities don’t have much to offer. With that said, I’m heading back to my personal favorite well and offering up The Real McKenzies to rock Vancouver.
The Killers. They’ve already done the Lil’ Jon thing.
You’re not going to know them, but Ted Leo and the Pharmacists is the perfect act for the nation’s capital. The right amount of rock and pop.
The Guess Who, performing an extra extended version of “These Eyes” accompanied by Michael Cera’s performance art dance.
This is something I have been thinking about doing for a few months now. This is not fantasy hockey, this is hockey fantasy. Hockey fantasy is what could have been, what should have been, what never was. What if Eric Lindros wasn’t a big baby and actually played for the Nordiques? What if the Maples Leafs’ strangle hold on Ontario hadn’t failed and they had drafted Red Kelly from the start, and not let him slip to the Red Wings because a scout said he wouldn’t play 20 games in the NHL?
What if the Hurricanes were actually able to sign a goalie they drafted named Frederik Andersen in 2010? Would they still be going through the carousel of backup goaltenders they hope and pray can be a starter because they throw money at them?
We’ll never know. But that’s what hockey fantasy is. And because I am a Penguins fan, I want to start with the Pens and the always referenced “open window” of theirs.
Let’s first fantasize that after 2009, winter wasn’t as cold as it was supposed to be, so all of those bugs didn’t die and it required the Pens to install some heavy-duty screens- the window is open, it’s just… blocked a bit. And with that blocked window, the Pens decide not to always go so all-in, especially with some of their trades.
In the 2009-2010 season, one move did not need to be made, and that was trading a 2010 second round pick to Florida for Jordan Leopold. Leopold, in my opinion, was a fine defenseman. In hindsight, however, it was a wasted move because in 20 regular season games, Leopold scored four goals for eight points. In the playoffs, he was then concussed in Game 2 of the first round thanks to a vicious hit from Ottawa’s Andy Sutton.
Leopold would return in the second round against Montreal, but registered zero points and was a minus-two in eight total playoff games.
Meanwhile, that second round pick that was sent to Florida turned into Connor Brickley. Imagine, instead of losing a second round pick, the Penguins kept it and, instead of choosing Brickley, they chose the next player in that draft, Calle Jarnkrok, picked by the Red Wings.
Jarnkrok, who was drafted as a center but can play leftwing, has been a consistent 15-goal, 30-point player the last three seasons for Nashville. A Penguins team with him developing in the minors waiting to debut full-time in the 2014-15 season… Penguins fans remember what happened in the 2014-15 playoffs run right?
Fast forward a year, first, now to the 2010-11 season. The trade that stands out, and that didn’t need to be made, was the Pens receiving Alexei Kovalev from Ottawa for the Pens’ seventh round pick. A seventh round pick, doesn’t sound too exciting or promising, right? Wrong! That pick turned out to be Ryan Dzingel! RYAN DZINGEL! The seventh round pick who has been playing left wing on the first line for the Sens and showing he can be a consistent 20-goal scorer even on a terrible team like the Ottawa Senators.
The Penguins having not one but two left wings in the system- which they are desperately short on- could have turned the tides not just five seasons ago, but today as well.
Finally, one honorable mention trade I want to bring up: the Douglas Murray acquisition for a second round pick in 2013 and one in 2014. The 2013 pick turned out to be Tyler Bertuzzi. Depending on what kind of hockey you enjoy, I think Bertuzzi is a valuable player for an NHL team. He is a bottom-six agitator, one of those players that today could answer the common question “What do you do about Tom Wilson?” A team wouldn’t need Bertuzzi to fight a guy like Wilson, but you do need a player who knows how to annoy the hell out of the other team.
Or, the Pens could have saved that pick to take a defenseman who could actually skate like Brett Pesce thus eliminating the need to sign Jack Johnson in 2018. But that’s part of the fantasy.
It’s easy to understand the logic behind the Penguins always going for it. When you have two of the best players in the world on the same team, you put all of your eggs in the same basket. That’s not to say that, if there was one person involved with the team who would have spoken up to say maybe this isn’t our year, the future would have been even brighter. That is hard to argue with back-to-back Stanley Cups on the horizon for the Penguins, but some awful years like the 2014-15 season where they were eliminated by the Rangers in the first round could have been avoided.
With that said, if the Pens stayed a little more patient from 2009-2011, my hockey fantasy lines today would be
I want to talk about NHL teams and their American Hockey League affiliations. More specifically, I want to talk about the distance between those two, geographically, which has become kind of an obsession for me.
That obsession fully formed when Seattle was awarded an NHL franchise in December of 2018. The seeds of that obsession were planted when my wife and I decided to move to Atlanta, where the only hockey club is the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators. But it was Seattle that got my hopes up that maybe, just like hockey fans saw in 2015, that some realigning will take place that move some teams up from the ECHL, and some NHL clubs see their farm team move a little closer.
First, let’s take a look at how the NHL clubs and their farm teams are aligned right now.
As you can see, blue points represent the Metropolitan Division, green for the Atlantic, red for the Central, and grey for the Pacific. (Feel free to uncheck the different layers for better viewing, especially in the Northeast.)
Let’s get the teams out of the way that have a very cushy NHL/AHL relationship: Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Boston, the Islanders, the Rangers, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Arizona. All of these teams, if they’re not located within the same city as the parent club, are less than two hours away by car.
The obvious winner is playing in the Metro or Atlantic divisions, but keeping with tradition, Vancouver is getting a raw deal when it comes to travel, with their AHL team being the farthest away at 2,290 miles. Next is Las Vegas, with their Chicago Wolves 1,523 miles away.
These measurements, however, do not take into account any additional travel required. Scenarios where Edmonton or Calgary, for example, cannot get direct flights to their AHL cities of Bakersfield or Stockton, respectively, instead needing to fly into Sacramento to drive an extra hour to arrive in Stockton, or catch a connecting flight through Phoenix to arrive in Bakersfield.
I’m no travel agent, but I am going to assume that there are not a ton of daily direct flights from Vancouver to Utica, NY. Vegas may have the second longest distance to travel, but they have the advantage of having both of their teams in major cities with major airports.
The ones that stand out to me, personally, is Tampa Bay and Florida. The Lightning look at a 1,102 mile distance to their affiliate in Syracuse, NY, while the Panthers have a similar trek of 1,185 miles to Springfield, Mass.
If you haven’t already, add the ECHL Teams layer on the map above.
Focusing on these ECHL affiliations is not important because the solution is to reshuffle the entire scope of the league. For example, there are three ECHL teams in Florida- the Jacksonville Icemen, the Orlando Solar Bears, and the Florida Everblades. Adding two of these teams to the AHL- again, like what happened in 2015- now means the Panthers and Lightning have their teams right down the street.
Selfishly, I would suggest that Atlanta gets bumped up to the AHL and become the affiliate for the Nashville Predators, making it a three hour car ride as opposed to Nashville waiting on a player’s one-to-three hour flight with at least one stop from Milwaukee.
Additional tweaks would include Vancouver’s new AHL club being the Idaho Steelheads and Las Vegas gaining the Utah Grizzlies. Also, if you hadn’t noticed on the above map, the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche currently share their AHL team, the San Antonio Rampage. Calling up one or two of the Allen Americans, Tulsa Oilers, Wichita Thunder, or Kansas City Mavericks, would solve any sharing issues currently seen.
I know I’m not the only one thinking and talking about this idea. When mulling over realignment, the options are almost infinite, but playing around with some maps to see the actual correlation between cities and teams is a fun, harmless exercise.
The Seattle ownership group has said that they will have their own AHL team. Where that would be, it’s hard to tell, but no matter where that farm team is located it will throw off and present even more ideas for shuffling around AHL affiliations and the futures of ECHL teams.
The Atlanta Gladiators hosted the Jacksonville Icemen on MLK
Day, the second meeting between the two teams in the last nine days. The Icemen
are second in the South division, fourth in the conference. The Gladiators…
well they’re dead last in the division and conference, but they are second to
last in the league, so you know, silver lining.
But the last time these two teams met, the Gladiators beat
the Icemen 6-3. Milton, Mass native Nick Bligh stood out during the game with
four goals in the first period- two at even strength, one short-handed, and one
on the power play- and would make his presence felt again on January 21.
Bligh, a 26-year-old forward, played his college hockey at Dartmouth. His best season was his senior year with 10 goals for 18 points in 22 games. His career stat line reads like this: 96 games, 19 goals, 23 assists, for 42 points. Not overly impressive, but Bligh was honored as one of only 10 NCAA players, and the only ECAC player, listed on the 2012 Central Scouting preliminary list.
After a little digging, I found a 2011 scouting report from writer Kirk Luedeke that sums Bligh up as a good skater, shifty through traffic with great ice vision, great on face offs, and solid play in all three zones of the ice.
Throughout the game, Bligh looked to be a head above his
peers, specifically in regard to his speed. Even another member of our party
who was there, who is a casual hockey fan at best, mentioned how Bligh stood
out with his skating compared to every other player. He is fast, not just on
his skates, but in seeing the game as well. Cue that great ice vision.
Despite those traits, he was relatively quiet on MLK Day,
minus getting his head nearly chopped off along the boards in the first period
and taking a high-sticking penalty in the third. But Bligh showed his skill in
the shootout, patiently avoiding a poke check by Icemen net minder, Mikhail
Berdin, and scoring on a wide open net, giving the Gladiators the 2-1 victory
for their fifth straight win.
In all seriousness, I’m not here to tout Bligh as the next
big thing that 30-31 NHL teams got wrong. What I see is a player who has improved his
stats each season, and a player that looked like he could take the next step up
the hockey ladder.
With pending free agents, and some of those players needing
to move up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, I think Bligh could be the exact kind of
player the Baby Pens love having in their organization. The speed, the open ice
play, the playmaking ability, that’s what drives the Penguins hockey engine.
My role at CBS was to make sure full episodes and clips were uploaded to various digital outlets in a timely manner with the correct metadata and copy. These included MLBAM, Amazon, iTunes, and of course Google Play and YouTube. Below are the shows and projects I was responsible for.
While at FX, I served as the point for our award winning promo team, ensuring every department was on deadline and had all of the necessary elements in order to meet those deadlines. The shows below were my key focus.