Sunday, February 24, 2019

Video Of The Week: The Hazytones

Most days, I really like "stoner rock", distorted, slow-to-mid-tempo groovy rock like Queens Of The Stone Age, Bloody Diamonds and Priestess. The Hazytones definitely thread in those waters, with hints of Corrosion Of Conformity, Kyuss and heavy 1990s rock as major influences.

In the lo-fi video for the song "Living On The Edge", directed by Seb Black, the Montréal outfit shares the screen with wolf packs, "crazy" trains, fires devastating dead forests, mountaintops and psychedelic colours and effects:

I've already listened to it a few dozen times already this weekend. Good times!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mansplaining Reactions To The News That Ryan Adams Was An Asshole

The New York Times continued to out public personalities as assholes/abusers today with a researched piece that has seven women (among them his ex-wife Mandy Moore) accuse indie darling Ryan Adams of being a manipulative creep.

It's a tad short (the article, not the women's suffering), but to the point.

I believe the women's suffering, and I believe there being (at least) seven makes for a pattern. Those are statements that are most likely facts, in a legal manner of speaking.

What I have a problem with is the public lynching in lieu of due process and the lumping apples and oranges to create a bigger story than it is.

Case in point, one at a time:
From this post
"95% of the music industry, from the independents to the huge stars, are mediocre pervert dudes." Notwithstanding the fact that almost all pop stars are female, that most of the music paid for in the past five years has been made by or with women, that the most influencial acts of the 1990s that weren't part of the "Seattle grunge quadrinity" (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, maybe Mudhoney and Chicagoans Smashing Pumpkins thrown in for good measure) or Nine Inch Nails were women, including a lot of other Seattle acts (Hole, Babes In Toyland, Bikini Kill, L7, Sleater-Kinney, The Fastbacks, The Gits, Heart/The Lovemongers, Sonic Youth, Unwound, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch, The Breeders, Veruca Salt, The Pixies, Suture). I'm sure I'm forgetting obvious ones.

The Beastie Boys - not quite my cup of tea -  helped Luscious Jackson and Cibo Matto have success, because friends help friends, and gender doesn't have to be an issue.

One of the best songwriters of all time came from the 1990s, PJ Harvey, in England, but my limited knowledge of British music from my adulthood has me thinking ladies may have been rarefied there indeed. On the American side of the pond, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair made a huge dent. In Canada, a jazz singer and pianist, Diana Krall, became a world-renowned jazz legend - the only jazz legend borne out of the 1990s of any gender. I doubt their critically-acclaimed work came only from their looks or men wanting to sleep with them.

I was not a fan of Garbage, Fiona Apple, Björk or Alanis Morrissette, but they had clout.

In the 2000s, the only decent new male rock acts were The Strokes, The Raconteurs and The White Stripes (female drummer). The rest of the fun and quality came from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, Sahara Hotnights, Arcade Fire, The Donnas, First Aid Kit, The Pack A.D., The Dead Weather and so many others acts that proven women have a lot more balls and talent than their tired and lame male counterparts. Did all of those acts have to sell their bodies to make it?

And about the men...

Artists: Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, Beck, Andre 3000, Ben Gibbard, Marilyn Manson, Jack White, Robert Plant...

Executives: David Geffen, Russell Simmons, Bruce Pavitt, Jimmy Iovine, Berry Gordy... all pervert dudes? Each of their public personae go against all of that.

That's a serious fucking accusation, a high fucking number - and completely made up.

I ran a music festival for over a decade and every night, we had at least one woman on stage - usually one in at least two-thirds of the acts, never with a quota in mind - it just happened that way because that's what was good and worth sharing to concert-goers; the only style of music that didn't fit that statistic was noize - which is basically a bunch of solo sound nerds doodling and tweedling on knobs.

Here's another extremely harsh accusation:
From this post
I get the sarcasm, I get the exaggeration for effect, but while we're conducting public lynchings instead of going through the (failed, uneven, biased) Justice System, we are all responsible of our words, for the scope and impact of our comments. Hyperbole is dangerous. It isn't you with your friends in someone's living room; it's public, to the world. It's your public reflection of you.

If a threatening tweet can result in probably cause condemnations, so should false accusations.

Fuck, (wo)man, how many rapists do you think are around?

And all of that is saying nothing about the fact that if any one of the people overreacting to this story in particular played devil's advocate for just a few minutes, they could see that he actually has a half-credible defense if he can get expert testimony from a qualified shrink.

That probably wouldn't be enough to prove he wasn't responsible for the way his victims felt (civil case), but there may be enough evidence that someone who was already recognized as having had bouts of mental illness was just responding the way his brain was letting him, with threats of suicide and bipolarity (not guilty in a criminal case).

We're not there yet, but it helps to once in a while put yourself in the other side's shoes with a clean slate instead of a bias to understand the pattern of behaviour.

Again, I'm not defending his actions. But when he says he can sue over this, he might have a case.

What works for the NYT is having his ex-wife and ex-fiancée on record corroborating his actions in terms of behavioral change, tonal change, and so forth. They likely won't get him on impeding careers (not of all seven anyway, but maybe Moore), and he definitely inquired about the young one's age (she refused to provide ID and they never met in person) enough to get away with what would possibly have been the worst charge of all.

As a "fan" of legalese, this is far from the Bill Cosby case, but it's also far from the Chris Hardwick case.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Video Of The Week: Fox And Bones

Somewhere along the lines of five to ten years ago, I took part in a benefit concert for the Mile-End Mission (a homeless shelter) in which all participants agreed to sing political folk songs; most chose to cover Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger. My friend John "Triangles" Stuart used to hold these every month, each time with a different theme, which usually meant new songs we had to learn.

Fox And Bones sound like they would have attended a show like that one and been turned on by the general themes of "songs of the proletariat", but with an indie rock quality to their sound, a bit more polished.

The Portland, OR couple comprised of co-songwriters Sarah Vitort and Scott Gilmore know how to write a fine song; there's a nice positivity about Better Land that rises the song up like the best songs from acts like The Lumineers, however that takes away from the depth of what one expects from "songs for the people":

The video was co-directed by Chris Bigalke and video animator Zachary Winterton.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Video Of The Week: Chris Cornell

Coinciding with the release of a 64-song eponymous collection spanning his time with Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Audioslave and as a failed solo artist, Chris Cornell's estate released this video of the late grunge star featuring his son, Christopher Jr., as a paperboy, tracing back his father's old route and footsteps in the Emerald City, with some of his lyrics and song titles spray-painted all over town:

It was masterfully directed by Kevin Kerslake (Sonic Youth, Liz Phair, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana) as a tribute both to the man and the city, and in that respect works extremely well.

The song also works as a reminder that Cornell's lyrics were very often sad, depressing and suicidal, which should be both a deterrent and fodder for the conspiracy theorists who think the late singer was murdered ("12 years sober!" is generally their rallying cry).

This wasn't Chris Jr.'s first video appearance, as he was also in Soundgarden's Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart, which was pulled from just about everywhere, as it depicts Cornell as a prisoner in the Old West getting ready to be hung, with one shot of a noose being fitted around his neck.

The boxed set itself contains a lot of live material, including Cornell's One, which meshes the lyrics to Metallica's song of the same name over U2's ballad, a Sirius XM studio rendition of Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U, a live duet with Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam on Wild World, and a duet with Toni Cornell (Chris' daughter) on Bob Marley's Redemption Song (which Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder famously did with Beyoncé).

Other covers include Led Zeppelin's Thank You and Whole Lotta Love, The Beatles' A Day In The Life, Mother Love Bone's Stargazer, Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, and John Lennon's Imagine.

Monday, September 10, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Montréal Canadiens

GM: Marc Bergevin (since 2012). 5/10
Coach: Claude Julien (second stint, since 2017). 7.5/10

2017-18 record: 29-40-13, 71 points, 28th overall, out of playoffs.

Departures: Max Pacioretty (RW), Alex Galchenyuk (C), Daniel Carr (LW).

Arrivals: Max Domi (LW), Michael Chaput (C), Xavier Ouellet (D) Joel Armia (RW), Kenny Agostino (RW), Matthew Peca (C), Tomas Plekanec (C), Tomas Tatar (LW).

Top forwards: Jonathan Drouin (55-65 points), Domi (45-55 points), Phillip Danault (35-45 points), Brendan Gallagher (50-55 points), Tatar (40-50 points), Artturi Lehkonen (20-30 points), Tomas Plekanec (20-30 points), Nicolas Deslauriers (20-30 points), Andrew Shaw (30 points), Paul Byron (35-45 points), Charles Hudon (30-40 points).

Must-improve forwards: Domi was acquired in exchange for Galchenyuk, a third-overall draft pick who still leads his draft class in points to this day and has a 30-goal season under his belt. Domi? Two straight 9-goal seasons in Arizona. He needs to find his inner Brad Marchand and add some goal-scoring to his game, to go with the dumb penalties and suspensions.

Top defensemen: Shea Weber (30 points), Jeff Petry (30-35 points), Mike Reilly (30 points), Karl Alzner (10-15 points), Noah Juulsen (20 points), Victor Mete (10-20 points).

Goalies: Carey Price (84/100), Charlie Lindgren (79), Antti Niemi (75/100).

Top rookies: Juulsen (21 years old, D, 2015 first-round draft pick), Charlie Lindgren (24, G), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (18, C, third-overall pick in 2018), Nick Suzuki (19, C, first-round pick in 2017), Ryan Poehling (19, C, first-round pick in 2017), Jake Evans (22, C, 2014 draft pick).

So, there's that Domi thing. That's three summers in a row where Bergevin trades away his actual best player for an admittedly below-value asset. But then there's the Pacioretty-for-Tatar/Suzuki/second-rounder - and that's just amazing value for a leader who can't lead and a scorer who can't score, let alone when they're the same guy.

Tatar's not the second coming of The Rocket, but if the Habs had had him on their second line two years ago, with that dependable two-way play and assured 20-25 goals, it may have prolonged Plekanec's career as a middle-six forward in the NHL by a couple of seasons.

Of course, Montréal's biggest problem isn't the fact that their lack of offensive depth has them having to focus on winning 2-1 games; it's the fact that past Weber, Petry, and Mete, they will have to rely on a youngster like Juulsen to make the roster and hope Reilly reaching age 25 will have him become a full-time NHLer, because we saw last season that Alzner cannot play in Julien's system and Jordie Benn and David Schlemko need to be #8 Ds in the NHL, or else your team's in trouble; Benn and Schlemko played upwards of 18 minutes per game last year and Alzner over 20, with Benn suiting up in 77 games and Alzner playing in all 82. And that's saying nothing of the wear-and-tear on Weber's 33-year-old body, or his contract, which runs until the end of time.

Speaking of which, behind that rag-tag group of glorified AHLers stands (kneels?) a guy who will take up over 1/8th of the team's salary cap for the next eight years by himself, the oft-injured, buckling-under-pressure, one-season wonder and perennial All-Star Price, he of the 3.11 GAA and .900 save percentage last season, far behind Niemi's 2.46/.929 and Lindgren's 3.03/.908. Price had a single shutout in 49 games last year; Niemi had one in 19, and Lindgren had two, in 14 games.

There's worse, though, because the shit-show known as the Ottawa Senators exists.

The future is bright for the Canadiens. Mete, Juulsen, and Reilly on the back end could be mainstays for at least half a decade, maybe more; Drouin's still pretty young, Domi could become a fine middle-six winger, Kotkaniemi and Poehling could become a very good one-two punch at center, Hudon's always there to take a spot on a second line at least temporarily, Danault is still just 25 and able to fill an offensive role in case of an injury and young guys like Nikita Scherbak, Lehkonen, Deslauriers and Michael McCarron may develop well under Joel Bouchard in the AHL to fill valuable roles in Montréal.

But that's all at least a couple of years away, and it will require at least an upgrade on defense and between the pipes.

Prediction: 7th in the Atlantic Division, out of the playoff picture, but ahead of the Sens.

Friday, September 7, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Carolina Hurricanes

GM: Don Wadell (since 2018). 7/10
Coach: Rod Brind'Amour (since 2018). 7/10

2017-18 record: 36-35-11, 83 points, 21st overall, out of the playoffs.

Departures: Cam Ward (G), Noah Hanifin (D), Elias Lindholm (LW), Joakim Nordstrom (RW), Derek Ryan (C), Marcus Kruger (C), Jeff Skinner (LW).

Arrivals: Petr Mrazek (G), Micheal Ferland (LW), Calvin De Haan (D), Dougie Hamilton (D).

Top forwards: Sebastian Aho (60-70 points), Teuvo Teravainen (50-65 points), Victor Rask (40-45 points), Jordan Staal (40-45 points), Justin Williams (40-45 points), Andrei Svechnikov (20 goals and 40-50 points).

Must-improve forward: Rask should be delivering more than 14 goals and 31 points, regarless of the fact that he missed 11 games; he still suited up in 71, he should have hit the 20-goal and 40-point marks.

Top defensemen: Hamilton (45-55 points), Justin Faulk (35-40 points), Jaccob Slavin (30-40 points), De Haan (30-35 points), Brett Pesce (15-20 points).

Goalies: Scott Darling (75/100), Mrazek (73/100).

Top rookies: Svechnikov (18 years old, RW, second-overall pick in 2018), Julien Gauthier (21, RW, 2016 first-round draft pick), Martin Necas (19, C, 2017 first-round draft pick), Nicolas Roy (21, C, 6'4"), Adam Fox (20, D), Jake Bean (20, D, 2016 first-round draft pick), Valentin Zykov (23, LW).

How do you know a team went through an overhaul? They're the 2018-19 Hurricanes: New owner, new GM, new head coach. A mainstay on defense (Hanifin) and an established forward (Lindholm) - both of whom were about to get raises as established young players who were restricted free agents - traded for a top-five offensive defenseman (Hamilton), a prospect (Fox) and some sandpaper (Ferland). New alternate jersey.

Out with the old: Ward and Skinner. Out with the old Chicago players: Kruger.

The Canes just forgot to add themselves an actual goalie, as Darling might not be cut out for a starter's job and neither is Mrazek, which we know for a fact after failing in Detroit and Philadelphia. At the risk of repeating myself, Jaroslav Halak was available.

Up front, Aho's the real deal; he'll finish in the top-5 in scoring every other year for the next decade, and Teravainen heads up a terrific supporting cast. Too bad the NHL is particularly strong in the Metro, meaning the Canes will once again learn at the school of hard knocks.

Prediction: 7th in the Metropolitan Division, but possibly just 5 points shy of a playoff spot. Yes, that's the same prediction as last year.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Buffalo Sabres

GM: Jason Botterill (since 2017). 8/10
Coach: Phil Housley (since 2017). 8/10

2017-18 record: 25-45-12, 62 points, 31st overall, out of the playoffs.

Departures: Ryan O'Reilly (C), Robin Lehner (G), Chad Johnson (G).

Arrivals: Matt Hunwick (D), Connor Sheary (LW), Patrik Berglund (C), Tage Thompson (C), Vladimir Sobotka (LW), Carter Hutton (G), Scott Wedgewood (D), oh and Jeff Skinner (LW).

Top forwards: Jack Eichel (70-85 points), Skinner (45-55 points), Sam Reinhart (40-55 points), Kyle Okposo (35-45 points), Casey Mittelstadt (35-45 points), Pominville (40-45 points), Sobotka (30 points), Berglund (30 points), Alexander Nylander (30-40 points in his rookie year would be nice).

Must-improve forward: Okposo used to be a 30-goal forward. Of course, he played with John Tavares back then. Eichel may become as good as Tavares, but he's not there yet - and by then, maybe Okposo will have been bought out.

Top defensemen: Rasmus Ristolainen (40-50 points), Rasmus Dahlin (look for 35-45 points in his NHL debut), Marco Scandella (20-30 points), Jake McCabe (20 points), Zach Bogosian (20 points).

Goalies: Hutton (79/100) as #1 goalie by default, Linus Ullmark (78/100).

Top rookies: Nylander (20 years old, RW), Dahlin (18, D, first-overall pick in 2018), Mittelstadt (19, C), Brendan Guhle (21, D), Rasmus Asplund (20, C).

The Sabres will be the NHL's most-improved team, with a third line essentially lifted from the Blues that can finally stop the opposition, improved youngsters and the addition-by-subtraction of ROR moving on to Missouri. Captain Eichel will finally be able to rally "his" team instead of having his message muddled by a dissatisfied voice. Former captain Pominville will surely help in that regard.

Skinner is a potential 30-goal man who can play on the first line on a weak team or middle-six on a contender. The problem for the Sabres is they're two or three years (and a goalie) away from being one, and Skinner's going to be a free agent at the end of the year; if he performs well in the first half of the season, the team might be willing to sign him long-term at $7-8M per, which would be a huge mistake, not just because he's more fragile than thin ice, but also because he's not a lock for 55 points, let alone more.

Speaking of not-60-point-men, at 30 and 31 years old, it's safe to say Sobotka and Berglund will never be the point producers St. Louis had hoped for. However, they're dependable middle-six guys (ideally on a third line) who will not feel out of place in Buffalo, wearing blue and yellow.

I can live with the Sabres' defense, but I'm really not sold on their goaltending. Hutton is not a #1 and Ullmark is not yet ready, if he ever will be. A 40/45-game stopgap would have been preferable to Hutton, say a Ryan Miller or a Jaroslav Halak.

I think the Sabres will start hot but cool off in February; they should miss the playoffs by just a couple of wins.

Prediction: 5th in the Atlantic Division

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Philadelphia Flyers

GM: Ron Hextall (since 2014). 9/10
Coach: Dave Hakstoll (since 2015). 5/10

2017-18 record: 42-26-14, 98 points, 13th overall, first-round exit to Pittsburgh in 6 valiantly-disputed games.

Departures: Matt Read (RW), Petr Mrazek (G), Johnny Oduya (D), Brandon Manning (D), Valtteri Filppula (C).

Arrivals: James Van Riemsdyk (LW), Christian Folin (D).

Top forwards: Claude Giroux (70-90 points), Jakub Voracek (70-85 points), Wayne Simmonds (40-45 points), Sean Couturier (65-75 points), Nolan Patrick (35-50 points), Travis Konecky (30-40 points), Van Riemsdyk (45-55 points, 30-35 goals), Jordan Weal (20 points).

Must-improve forwards: Simmonds is a very good hockey player who plays hard. There is no reason why he can't reach the 50- or even the 60-point mark.

Top defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere (45-55 points), Ivan Provorov (30-45 points), Travis Sanheim (15-25 points), Radko Gudas (10-20 points), Robert Hagg (20 points).

Goalies: Brian Elliott (81/100), Michal Neuvirth (72/100), Anthony Stolarz (75/100).

Top rookies: Oskar Lindblom (21 years old, LW), Philippe Myers (21, D), Morgan Frost (19, C, first-round pick in 2017), Carter Hart (20, G), German Rubtsov (20, C, first-round pick in 2016).

Ron Hextall has proven to be one of the better GMs in the NHL. He's stacked a roster of blue-chip prospects (Gostisbehere, Provorov, Hagg, Patrick, Samuel Morin, Sanheim) to an elite veteran core (Giroux, Voracek, JVR, Couturier, Simmonds).

The Flyers are a very good goalie and good had coach (or vice versa) away from being true Stanley Cup contenders for a decade. I can't comprehend why they didn't try to sign Barry Trotz, Darryl Sutter or Alain Vigneault to replace Hakstoll last summer, because half the job would've been done already. There's also the fact that the Blue Jackets will not be able to re-sign former Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky - a.k.a. the best goalie in the league in the regular season - making him available via trade.

There's a curse in the Flyers' net, and perhaps even Bob can't cure it. But a good system would limit the chances against in the defensive zone and might be able to mask or shelter a middle-of-the-pack starting goalie if that were to be needed. Just for a while, until Stolarz or Hart can take over the crease.

This team is on the verge of greatness. The NHL needs its classic teams (Habs, Leafs, Bruins, Wings, Hawks, Pens, Flyers, Rangers, Oilers, Jets, Flames, Isles) to be good at least 60% of the time, perhaps even 75% of it, to be exciting - and having Philly back on top would only mean great things and healthier rivalries.

Prediction: 2nd in the Metropolitan Division.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: St. Louis Blues

GM: Doug Armstrong (since 2010). 6/10
Coach: Mike Yeo (since 2017). 5/10

2017-18 record: 44-32-6, 94 points, 18th overall.

Departures: Carter Hutton (G), Kyle Brodziak (C), Patrik Berglund (C), Vladimir Sobotka (LW), Tage Thompson (C).

Arrivals: David Perron (RW), Tyler Bozak (C), Patrick Maroon (LW), Brian Flynn (C), Chad Johnson (G), Ryan O'Reilly (C), Jordan Nolan (C).

Top forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko (75-80 points), Jaden Schwartz (55-70 points), Brayden Schenn (55-70 points), Alexander Steen (40-45 points), O'Reilly (45-65 points, probably closer to 60 since it's first year with the team), Maroon (20-30 points), Robby Fabbri (30-40 points, depending how many games he misses to injury), Bozak (20-40 points), Ivan Barbashev (20-30 points).

Must-improve forward: GM Armstrong got rid of the usual suspects (Berglund, Sobotka, even Paul Stastny at the trade deadline), which leaves the ghost of Alex Steen. He's being paid like a 60-point player but has not reached that level of production since 2014-15. He's 34, so chances are he'll never reach those numbers again.

Top defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo (45-50 points), Colton Parayko (35-40 points), Joel Edmundson (15-25 points), Vince Dunn (10-20 points), Jay Bouwmeester (10 points).

Goalies: Jake Allen (80/100), Johnson (65/100).

Top rookies: Jordan Kyrou (20 years old, C), Robert Thomas (19, C, 2017 first-rounder), Samuel Blais (22, LW), Jake Walman (22, D), Klim Kostin (19, C, 6'3", 212 pounds), Ville Husso (23, G).

Mike Yeo is not an NHL-caliber coach.

The Blues' players have a history of choking in high-pressure situations; the core used to be made up of Team USA chokers, now they're mostly just very experienced playoff under-performers.

Jake Allen needs an elite goaltending coach, someone whose goalies wins Vezinas, or else he's done as a starter. Johnson's not any better. In fact, he's among the lower tier of NHL backups.

Bouwmeester has looked like an already-retired defenseman at times last year, and it's not going to get any better for him this year.

The Blues have plenty of good pieces to build around in Tarasenko, Schwartz, the good Schenn, and Pietrangelo, but a bunch of uncoachable guys who just managed to get rid of Ken Hitchcock just got coach-killer and selfish star two-way center O'Reilly added to the roster. Look at his time in Colorado, look at his time in Buffalo: he's at his best on mediocre teams because he can't stand not being the best player around, and he gets jealous when he's not the de facto leader, then just stops trying altogether.

This could turn out to be a spectacular shit-show. Chances are Yeo and Armstrong won't be in town at this time next year.

Prediction: 5th in the Central Division.

Monday, September 3, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Boston Bruins

GM: Don Sweeney (since 2015). 6/10
Coach: Bruce Cassidy (since 2017). 7.5/10

2017-18 record: 50-20-12, 112 points, 4th overall, 2nd in the Atlantic. Eliminated in second round.

Departures: Anton Khudobin (G), Riley Nash (C), Nick Holden (D), Tim Schaller (C), Kenny Agostino (RW), Austin Czarnik (C).

Arrivals: Jaroslav Halak (G), Joakim Nordstrom (LW), John Moore (D), Chris Wagner (C).

Top forwards: David Pastrnak (65-80 points), Brad Marchand (60-75 points, 35 goals), Patrice Bergeron (55-65 points, amazing face-off numbers), David Krejci (55-65 points), Ryan Spooner (30-40 points), Frank Vatrano (20-30 points).

Must-improve forward: David Backes. Again. 33 points last year. 38 the year before that. 45 the year before that. 58 the year before that. That's a pretty constant regression. Like Milan Lucic in Edmonton, he's starting to look like a extremely expensive fourth-line grinder.

Top defensemen: Torey Krug (40-50 points), Charlie McAvoy (35-40 points), Zdeno Chara (20-30 points), Brandon Carlo (20-35 points), Kevan Miller (15-22 points).

Goalies: Tuuka Rask (90/100), Halak (88/100).

Top rookies: Ryan Donato (22, C), Urho Vaakanainen (19, 18th overall pick in 2017, D), Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (22, C), Zachary Senyshyn (21, 15th overall pick in 2015, RW), Jakob Sboril (21, 13th overall pick in 2015, D).

I was hard on head coach Cassidy last year. The truth of the matter is he led his team to a fourth-place finish when they should be rebuilding, what with all the veterans they have. He also helped Marchand focus on playing hockey for 97% of the time he's on the ice, making him a lethal offensive force when paired with Pastrnak and Bergeron. He'll still fly off the handle a few times, but he seems like less of a diver/faker nowadays, at least.

McAvoy, Krug, Chara and Carlo make a decent top-4 on the back end, but look for Chara to regress more and more as his 40s take hold; take a look at Jagr, who seemed timeless and immortal on the Panthers' first line then with just one summer of not training at full capacity (he was spending more time looking for a job than preparing for it) went on to become a healthy scratch in Calgary - that's what awaits #33 eventually. Soon. And injuries will also start piling up on his 41-year-old body, each one harder to come back from. I wouldn't be surprised if he was already a gigantic jumble of arthritis and pain.

Rask is still an elite goaltender. As I said last year, he just needed help. He gets that with Halak, a 1A goalie who could be in the crease for as many as 41 games, leaving Rask rested for the playoffs. And ready to take over if Rask keeps failing in the Spring.

Offensively for the Bruins, the biggest question mark is Krejci. Will he again miss nearly half a season of play? Can he get back to the 60-70-point mark? At 32, he should still be in what's left of his prime, but he fell to 44 points in 64 games last year and only hit the 20-goal mark once in the last six years. If he can't put up at least 45-50 assists to compensate, he's a waste of $7.25M on the second line.

Boston still desperately needs to add depth both on their third and fourth lines and in their bottom-pairings to make a dent in the playoff picture. A lot of teams have what it takes to make the playoffs close to a Wild Card spot, but only a few powerhouses have rosters that, on paper, project to go deep. The Bruins lack what the Bolts, Preds, Caps, Jackets and Jets have - a line-up that doesn't have five-to-ten minutes per game where the other team just has free reign on the ice because the guys playing are a deep cut below the opposition's in terms of raw talent.

Prediction: 3rd in the Atlantic Division.