Landed in Buffalo yesterday and made it to the hotel- staying down in the Allentown district which is not that close to the First Niagara Center, but is a good place to be in terms of having some places to go for good eats and times.
Saw my good friend Lawrence G, who works at the NHL Network- at the famous Anchor Bar, and managed to run into Wade Allison (he’s got the look of a prototypical RW) of all people in my travels (along with Tri-City Storm Clark Cup-winning coach Bill Muckalt). I can’t say it enough- nobody does the draft like the NHL does, with the players and hockey people past, present and future all in one spot. If you’re a fan and have never gone to one, you should consider making the trip to Chicago next year- seeing the players picked is only one aspect. You never know when you might turn around at a bar and have a Hockey Hall of Famer sitting next to you. It’s always a neat experience, and it’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since I attended my first NHL draft as a hockey analyst.
As for the Bruins, I am intrigued at the negative reactions last night and today of the Boston Celtics draft. The Celts had three first-rounders and after not being able to make rumored trades to move the No. 3 overall choice- went with Cal’s Jaylon Brown, which was not a popular choice because he was “only” considered the 5th-10th best player. Never mind that the Celtics loved him…never mind that we have yet to see him or his draft peers play a single minute in the NBA. This is how it works, so now it’s Don Sweeney and his staff’s turn in Buffalo.
I am as guilty of anyone as being a part of the conditioning factor in play here. Readers of the blog understand where I am firmly positoned on players like Dante Fabbro and Charlie McAvoy. Because I’ve been passionate in extolling their virtues, there is a very real possibility of distinct disappointment if the B’s don’t end up with one or the other. If Michael McLeod is the pick, for example, resist the urge to blast the decision and look into him first. A critical tweet takes seconds to write, so what is a few minutes to see the varying views on a player before letting rip? However, this is reality and what we deal with in the modern information age- most fans don’t have the time or resources to see these players themselves. They don’t have an opportunity to interact with them. I’m sold on Fabbro because of my own firsthand observations, but I could end up being dead wrong, and the B’s might not see it the same way. Or, I (and many others) might have him exactly right and he’ll go on to have long success in the NHL whether in Boston or elsewhere. At the end of the day- I challenge you, the reader to do as much research as you can. Don’t settle on just one view but seek out the dissent, measure the evidence and draw your own conclusions. I still have people tweeting me about Kyle Connor a year later…which underscores that the debate from 2015 is far from settled.
It’s the draft- no matter what happens, we won’t truly know who “won” or “lost” for years, but the excitement of opening those presents in the form of the players your favorite team selects are largely dependent on the pre-draft shaping that has gone on for months and even several years. Just enjoy it for what it is- I know I will!
There is not a lot of buzz on trades, but don’t be surprised if the Bruins are in on something. With impending UFAs Alex Goligoski and Keith Yandle (Milton, Mass.) off the market, watch for Boston to re-visit Kevin Shattenkirk. He’s also trying to get something done with Loui Eriksson’s camp, but that doesn’t appear to be on track to bear fruit. If he could convince a team to give him a 4th-round pick (he might need to sweeten the pot), that would be the best way to salvage the situation, but it appears that we will soon just have Joe Morrow and Jimmy Hayes in Boston to show for Tyler Seguin. Ouch.
Reminder- I’m going on TSN 690 (Montreal) today with Kyle Woodlief live from 11-noon broadcasting with host Tony Marinaro- tune in to get about an hour of draft talk and if you have any questions, fire them our way. You can listen to it live on the internet.
Woodlief and I were talking last night about QMJHL D-man Samuel Girard (39th on our final list)- Kyle believes he’s by far the most skilled defender in the entire draft and that there might be maybe 20 D in the NHL more skilled than he is. The problem? “You can fit him in your pocket,” said Woodlief. He believes Girard will fall to the late 3rd or 4th round because of that, which is a shame. Only 6 NHL teams even bothered to interview him at the Combine, which is sometimes the way these things go, but if Johnny Gaudreau taught us anything- it is that perhaps you should believe in the big man trapped in a small man’s body before going for players with known flaws because of size alone.
Okay- that’s it for now.
Enjoy the draft and follow my Twitter account for updates and insights all day- I’ll try to post a wave-top level look at Boston’s top pick on here tonight, but the more in-depth stuff will hit Monday night.