Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Video Of The Week: Zwan

Billy Corgan (who these days goes by his full name, William Patrick Corgan, because he's super-serious as a solo performer, playing piano accompanied by strings and stuff) once said of his Zwan bandmates:
I'll never go anywhere near those people again. Ever. I mean, I detest them. You can put that in capital letters. Bad people. (Original Smashing Pumpkins members) James (Iha) and D'arcy (Wretzky) are good people. They might be misguided people, but they're good people.
There's also this blog post of his. Oh, and this Chicago Tribune quote about the band's demise:
The music wasn't the big problem, it was more their attitude... Sex acts between band members in public. People carrying drugs across borders. (Guitarist David) Pajo sleeping with the producer's girlfriend while we were making the record.
Followed by this Entertainment Weekly quote just four weeks later:
Sex and drugs and junk. Tick off the list: heroin, band members having relationships... You don't trust the person next to you. I'm on the bus. I send an email to somebody and I throw my BlackBerry in my little day bag. The next day, my ex-girlfriend calls me screaming. Somebody in the group went into my BlackBerry and forwarded her an email that another girl sends me. I mean, that's the kind of stuff we were dealing with.
But taking away the psychodrama, Zwan's Mary Star Of The Sea may very well be Corgan's last very good album. It's certainly his most consistent output in the past 15 years (it came  out in January 2003).

The video for the lead single Honestly was directed by Bruce Dickson, featuring some nice harmonies and apparent chemistry between Corgan and bassist Paz Lenchantin, former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's classic jazz-inspired drum rolls and a bit too much flanger effect on the guitar:

It's colourful and seems more joyous than the tumultuous end(s) of the Pumpkins. Which is the beauty and magic of film, i.e. "make-believe".

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eminem (& The World) Vs Trump

By now, you've probably heard Eminem's cypher (freestyle rap devoid of music or even straight beats), but in case you haven't, here it is:

That was first released during the BET Awards, which have made a tradition of releasing some throughout the years. This was Eminem's third or fourth such cypher for the event in the past decade.

What I mostly came to post about was the amount of support Em received by doing so:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

NHL Predictions 2017-18: Hardware

After going team-for-team with my predictions on the NHL 2017-18 season standings, here are my predictions for all the award winners for the upcoming season:

(First, though, let me toot my own horn for having accurately predicted the Art Ross (Connor McDavid), Hart (McDavid), Vezina (Sergei Bobrovsky), Lady Byng (Johnny Gaudreau), and Jack Adams (John Tortorella) last year...)

President's Cup (regular season champs): Minnesota Wild
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference Cup finalists): Tampa Bay Lightning
Clarence-Campbell Trophy (Western Conference Cup finalists): Dallas Stars
Stanley Cup Champions: Dallas Stars
Conn Smythe (playoff MVP): Jamie Benn

Art Ross (points scoring leader): Connor McDavid
Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer): Alex Ovechkin
Hart (MVP voted by the press): Connor McDavid
Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players): Alex Ovechkin
Vezina (top goalie): Ben Bishop
Calder (best rookie): Clayton Keller
Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike): Johnny Gaudreau
Norris (best defenseman): Erik Karlsson
Bill Masterton (perseverance/comeback): Brian Boyle
Frank Selke (best defensive forward): Jonathan Toews
Jack Adams (top coach): Mike Sullivan
King Clancy (humanitarian): P.K. Subban
Mark Messier (best leader): Jamie Benn
GM: Jim Nill

In terms of holdovers from my previous predictions, I'm staying put for the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Hart, Lady Byng and King Clancy.

And, yes, I'm predicting Ovie shuts his critics up with a comeback season, perhaps as the lone 50-goal scorer once more (last year's leader was Sidney Crosby, with just 44 goals).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Video Of The Week: Tom Petty

Tom Petty died last night, but because we live in a 24-hour news cycle where tweets count as "breaking news", the story was ahead of itself, reports of his demise making the rounds on social media while he was still technically alive, angering his family, friends and bandmates:
from Instagram
How sad a world are we living in? TMZ were once again the only ones to get the news right, but instead of leaving it at that, they actually released the audio of the 911 call his wife made when she found his body. For fuck's sake.

This does, as AnnaKim Violette Petty mentioned, overshadow and disrespect the man and the artist's oeuvre. We're talking about a Rock And Roll Hall of Famer (class of 2002), yet another lost member of The Traveling Wilburys (Roy Orbison and George Harrison had passed away before him, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lyne of Electric Light Orchestra fame remain), and a very successful songwriter whose career spanned five decades.

Some of the songs you may know him from include Refugee, Learning To Fly, Free Fallin', It's Good To Be King, Into The Great Wide Open, Don't Do Me Like That, Runnin' Down A Dream, All Of Nothin', Mary Jane's Last Dance, You Wreck Me, and a terrific and perfect cover of Patti Smith's So You Wanna Be A Rock'N'Roll Star.

Oh, and this tremendous piece of 1980s music called I Won't Back Down that I've sung in concert over a dozen times:

Yes, there are a few cameos in the video directed by David Leland, including Lynne (co-songwriter on most of 1989's Full Moon Fever, Petty's first official solo album), Harrison (who played guitar on it), Mike Campbell (lead guitarist of both Petty's band The Heartbreakers and on this record) and former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who does not play on the actual recording (those are actually Phil Jones' beats). Also missing in the video is Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein doing backing vocals.

Notable covers of this song include Pearl Jam's rendition from the Live At The Gorge set, but young'uns will know it best by Sam Smith stealing it for his Grammy-winning Stay With Me...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Dallas Stars

GM: Jim Nill (since 2013). 8/10
Coach: Ken Hitchcock (second stint, since 2017). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 34-37-11, 79 points, 24th overall, out of playoffs.

Departures: Antti Niemi (G), Ales Hemsky (RW), Patrick Sharp (LW), Cody Eakin (C).

Arrivals: Ben Bishop (G), Alexander Radulov (RW), Marc Methot (D), Martin Hanzal (C), Tyler Pitlick (LW), Brian Flynn (C).

Top forwards: Jamie Benn (75-85 points), Tyler Seguin (75-85 points), Jason Spezza (60-70 points), Radulov (50-60 points), Radek Faksa (35-45 points), Devin Shore (35-40 points), Hanzal (30-35 points), Mattias Janmark (30-35 points), Antoine Roussel (35-45 points).

Must-improve forwards: Roussel was gaining traction when he fell to injury; look for him to take another step up this season. Alternatively, Hanzal was an anchor for the Minnesota Wild, and he likely will be for the Stars as well, possibly forcing Hitchcock to play him alongside Radulov to get some kind of production out of the slow, aging Czech.

Top defensemen: John Klingberg (50-60 points), Esa Lindell (25-30 points), Methot (15-20 points), Stephen Johns (20-25 points), Julius Honka (15-25 points).

Goalies: Bishop (90/100), Kari Lehtonen (77/100).

Top rookies: Honka (21 years old, D, 2014 first-round pick), Miro Heiskanen (18, D, 3rd-overall pick at the 2017 draft), Denis Gurianov (20, D, 2015 first-round pick), Jason Dickinson (22, C, 2013 first-round pick), Riley Tufte (19, LW, 2016 first-round pick).

Like last year's Nashville Predators and the 2013-14 New York Rangers, it will take a few months for this Dallas Stars team to gel and start being consistent, but when they do, it'll be a straight road to the Stanley Cup Final for them.

After dressing the worst goaltending tandem in the league last year, the Stars bought Niemi out and added the best goalie on the market, two-time Vezina finalist Bishop. They also added the best forward on the market in Radulov, but also the most overrated one, Hanzal.

The entire team will be better just for knowing that Bishop will be behind them, adding a layer of confidence and fearlessness unseen in Dallas since the days of Ed Belfour.

Ken Hitchcock - who was also at the helm of the 1999 Cup-winning Stars team and has added two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada since then - will ensure everyone plays up to their usual standards.

I smell another Cup for Dallas.

Prediction: 4th in the Central Division. Top Wild Card spot in the West. Stanley Cup winners.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Ottawa Senators

GM: Pierre Dorion (since 2016). 8/10
Coach: Guy Boucher (since 2016). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 44-28-10, 98 points, 12th overall, Eastern Conference finalists.

Departures: Marc Methot (D), Chris Neil (RW), Viktor Stalberg (LW), Tommy Wingels (LW).

Arrivals: Johnny Oduya (D), Erik Bergdoerfer (D), Nate Thompson (C).

Top forwards: Mark Stone (60-65 points), Mike Hoffman (60-65 points), Kyle Turris (55-65 points), Derick Brassard (50-60 points), Bobby Ryan (40-55 points), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (35-45 points), Alexandre Burrows (30-40 points), Ryan Dzingel (30-35 points), Zack Smith (30-35 points).

Must-improve forwards: Burrows' production took off when he joined the Sens, so hopefully he keeps that going and puts the last few seasons in Vancouver behind him. Ryan and Pageau both had terrific playoffs that bode well for the upcoming season.

Top defensemen: Erik Karlsson (70-85 points), Dion Phaneuf (30-35 points), Cody Ceci (20-25 points), Fredrik Claesson (20-25 points), Chris Wideman (15-20 points).

Goalies: Craig Anderson (86/100), Mike Condon (79/100).

Top rookies: Thomas Chabot (20 years old, D, 2015 first-round pick), Colin White (20, C, 2015 first-round pick), Andreas Englund (21, D), Filip Chlapik (20, C), Logan Brown (19, C, 2016 first-round pick).

The Hockey News didn't just invent that Karlsson should be in the same conversation as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby for the title of World's Best Player - he proved it by being the best player in the postseason last year despite playing on a broken foot. Any roster with Karlsson leading the play has a chance to win the game on any given night.

Add to that last season's Cinderella story, Anderson in net, who has been rock-solid since coming over to the Sens during the 2010-11 season.

Then add three potential (and past) 30-goal scorers on the wing in Stone, Hoffman and Ryan (Clarke MacArthur would have been a fourth, but post-concussion syndrome will probably keep him out of hockey for the time being) and two 60-point centers in Turris and Brassard, and you've got yourself one of the most balanced top-six units in the league, let alone the East.

And that's not factoring in Pageau's development, he of the 4-goal night in the second round last Spring. And Dzingel and Smith by his side. And an effective shut-down unit comprised of Thompson and Tom Pyatt. And a head coach (Boucher) who specializes in defensive systems and has a degree in psychology to tear his opponents apart. Oh, and his assistant, Marc Crawford, is a former Stanley Cup-winning head coach (1996, Colorado Avalanche).

Yeah, these Sens are for real. (At least until Anderson's retirement).

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic Division.

Friday, September 29, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Florida Panthers

GM: Dale Talon (second stint, since 2017). 8.5/10
Coach: Bob Boughner (since 2017). 7/10

2016-17 record: 35-36-11, 81 points, 23rd overall, out of playoffs after finishing first in the Atlantic the year before.

Departures: Tom Rowe (GM and interim head coach), Jonathan Marchessault (C), Jaromir Jagr (RW), Jason Demers (D), Reilly Smith (RW), Jussi Jokinen (LW), Shawn Thornton (RW) Reto Berra (G), Michael Sgarbossa (C).

Arrivals: Radim Vrbata (RW), Evgeny Dadonov (RW), Michael Haley (C), Jamie McGinn (LW).

Top forwards: Aleksander Barkov (65-75 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (65-75 points), Vincent Trocheck (55-65 points), Dadonov (50-55 points), Nick Bjugstad (40-50 points), Denis Malgin (20-30 points), Vrbata (25-30 points), Colton Sceviour (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Bjugstad lost the 2C spot to Trocheck, but perhaps he can play as a winger on the top-six and get going again.

Top defensemen: Aaron Ekblad (30-40 points), Keith Yandle (35-40 points), Michael Matheson (20-25 points), Alex Petrovic (20-25 points).

Goalies: Roberto Luongo (87/100), James Reimer (76/100).

Top rookies: Owen Tippett (18 years old, RW, 10th overall pick in 2017), Ian McCoshen (22, D), Henrik Borgstrom (20, C), Michael Downing (22, D), Jayce Hawryluk (21, RW).

Two years ago, the Panthers finished first in the Atlantic on the strength of a roster that GM Dale Tallon took five years to build (technically less, because he won the 2012 GM Of The Year award after a strong finish). But the Cats' new owners were convinced they could do even better with the help of analytics, so they "promoted" Tallon to President and named his assistant Rowe the GM. Rowe proceeded to tear the team down, starting with the defense, as Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov were sent away and Yandle, Dylan McIlrath, and Mark Pysyk were acquired.

It'll likely take Tallon a couple of years to rid his roster of Rowe's acquisitions and insert some talent and grit around or instead of guys who can barely "move the puck forward". Case in point: the Vrbata acquisition seems like simple "hole-plugging" to me, as almost everyone in the hockey world knows he is unable to produce outside of the Arizona Coyotes organization. But you need players to fill jerseys and reach the cap floor, and trade deadline bait to stock up on draft picks, right?

It pains me to say this, but they're wasting prime years from the Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad, Trocheck, and Bujgstad core, years during which future Hall of Fame goalie Luongo will only get older.

Heck, now that I think of it, perhaps this team should be down in the basement with the Detroit Red Wings. Oh well, I'll maintain my initial gut feeling:

Prediction: 5th in the Metropolitan Division.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Pittsburgh Penguins

GM: Jim Rutherford (since 2015). 8/10
Coach: Mike Sullivan (since 2015). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 50-21-11, 111 points, 2nd overall, repeat Stanley Cup champions.

Departures: Chris Kunitz (LW), Marc-André Fleury (G), Nick Bonino (C), Trevor Daley (D), Ron Hainsey (D), Mark Streit (D), David Warsofsky (D).

Arrivals: Antti Niemi (G), Greg McKegg (C), Matt Hunwick (D), Ryan Reaves (RW).

Top forwards: Sidney Crosby (80-95 points), Evgeni Malkin (75-95 points), Phil Kessel (60-70 points), Jake Guentzel (50-60 points), Conor Sheary (50-60 points), Patric Hornqvist (40-50 points), Bryan Rust (25-30 points), Carl Hagelin (25-30 points), Scott Wilson (25-30 points).

Must-improve forwards: Yeah, uh, no.

Top defensemen: None. Just kidding: Kristopher Letang (60-65 points; he could almost be a point-per-game d-man, but gets injured so often you must take points away), Justin Schultz (45-55 points), Ian Cole (20-25 points), Brian Dumoulin (15-20 points).

Goalies: Matt Murray (92/100), Niemi (71/100), Tristan Jarry (75/100).

Top rookies: Daniel Sprong (20 years old, RW), Jarry (22, G), Dominik Simon (23, C), Filip Gustavsson (19, G), Kasper Bjorkqvist (20, RW).

Mike Sullivan is either a magician or a genius, because he took the joke of the 2015-16 playoffs ("How can the Pens win the Cup with just ONE NHL defenseman in Letang?") and doubled down on no-names when Letang couldn't even dress for a single playoff game. And won a second-consecutive Cup, getting outplayed and boxed in their own zone in 90% of the games.

How "no-name" were they? Four of them left this summer, and Pittsburgh is still likely the top team in the East, ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of that is also a testament to GM Rutherford, whom you may remember as the guy who took the Hartford Whalers from near-obscurity and turned them into the even-more obscure Carolina Hurricanes, lucking out on a Stanley Cup in 2006 and failing to make the playoffs in just about every other season. He then inherited a cap-strapped, underachieving Penguins roster consisting of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang and 19 nobodies and made them the team to beat again by having each one of his acquisitions and call-ups become important cogs in the machine. Oh, and cash-strapped? Yeah, about that: he managed to add the $64M, eight-year Kessel contract to that roster. Magician or genius or lucky, or all of the above?

There is seemingly no end in sight for those two, who have defied expectations (and logic, and reason). Except for the fact that Letang and Malkin tend to miss a lot of games due to injuries, and that the next time Crosby gets hit hard anywhere or just softly on the head might spell the end of his career. And Murphy's Law being what it is, these things will all happen in the same season. But not before the Pens have a chance to three-peat, right?

Prediction: 1st in the Metropolitan Division.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Chicago Blackhawks

GM: Stan Bowman (since 2009). 9/10
Coach: Joel Quenneville (since 2008). 9/10

2016-17 record: 50-23-9, 109 points, 3rd overall. First-round playoff exit (sweep).

Departures: Niklas Hjalmarsson (D), Scott Darling (G), Artemi Panarin (LW), Marian Hossa (RW), Marcus Kruger (C), Tyler Motte (LW), Brian Campbell (D), Trevor Van Riemsdyk (D), Dennis Rasmussen (C), Michal Rozsival (D).

Arrivals: Brandon Saad (LW), Patrick Sharp (RW), Laurent Dauphin (C), Connor Murphy (D), Anton Forsberg (G), Jean-François Bérubé (G), Lance Bouma (LW), Tommy Wingels (LW), Jordan Oesterle (D).

Top forwards: Patrick Kane (80-85 points), Jonathan Toews (60-65 points), Saad (55-60 points), Artem Anisimov (40-45 points), Alex DeBrincat (30-40 points), Nick Schmaltz (30-40 points), Richard Panik (35-40 points), Ryan Hartman (30-35 points), Tanner Kero (30-35 points), Sharp (30-35 points), Dauphin (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: After years of producing in the high-60s in terms of point production while winning Selke trophies as the league's best defensive forward, Captain Serious (Toews) has stagnated at 58 for the last two seasons. Granted, his partner Hossa had a so-so season in 2015-16 and Toews himself missed ten games last year, but he's 29, his decline should not happen for another good three or four years. This time, Hossa's gone for the year (and "retirement" is actually a possibility in his case) and Saad only half-replaces the future Hall of Famer, but that means Toews needs to step up and make his teammates better himself. Perhaps playing in between Saad and Schmaltz might be a solution.

Top defensemen: Duncan Keith (45-55 points), Brent Seabrook (35-40 points), Murphy (20-25 points), Michal Kempny (15 points), Gustav Forsling (10 points).

Goalies: Corey Crawford (91/100), Forsberg (74/100).

Top rookies: DeBrincat (19 years old, LW, over two points per game, 127 in 63, in the OHL), John Hayden (22, C, point-per-game player at Yale), Ville Ponka (23, D), Chad Krys (19, D), Radovan Bondra (20, LW).

A small step backwards for Chicago is still a tremendous season by any other measure.

In true Hawks fashion, they will not rebuild by tearing the roster apart and finishing at the bottom of the standings - they did that a decade ago, ensuring they not have to do it again until Toews, Kane, Keith and Crawford all retire.

Instead, Coach Quenneville will be hard on the young guys and have them learn twice as fast as they would on an awful team. A year or two from now, though, they'll be ready to challenge for first-place in the division again, all while not missing the playoffs in the meantime.

Prediction: 3rd in the Central Division.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Toronto Maple Leafs

GM: Lou Lamoriello (since 2015). 8/10
Coach: Mike Babcock (since 2015). 9/10

2016-17 record: 40-27-15, 95 points, 14th overall. First-round playoff exit.

Departures: Matt Hunwick (D), Antoine Bibeau (G), Brian Boyle (C), Seth Griffith (C), Brendan Leipsic (LW).

Arrivals: Patrick Marleau (F), Ron Hainsey (D), Dominic Moore (C).

Top forwards: Auston Matthews (70-75 points), Mitch Marner (60-65 points), William Nylander (60-65 points), James Van Riemsdyk (60-65 points), Nazem Kadri (55-60 points), Tyler Bozak (40-45 points), Marleau (40-45 points), Connor Brown (35-40 points), Zach Hyman (30-35 points).

Must-improve forward: Joffrey Lupul will likely be assigned to LTIR for the second-straight season, despite some reports saying he feels like he should be playing. Two years on LTIR will likely hamper his chances of securing a new contract next summer, as few teams want to take a chance on a guy who has been forced to sit out two consecutive seasons because of purported health reasons. What he can do is go the Clarke MacArthur route and try to get healthy on his own and force his way into the line-up.

Top defensemen: Nikita Zaitsev (35-45 points), Jake Gardiner (35-40 points), Morgan Reilly (25-30 points), Hainsey (15-20 points), Connor Carrick (10-15 points), Alexey Marchenko (10 points).

Goalies: Frederik Andersen (85/100), Curtis McElhinney (74/100).

Top rookies: Kasperi Kapanen (21 years old, RW, 2014 first-round draft pick), Travis Dermott (20, D), Jeremy Bracco (20, RW), Adam Brooks (21, C), Carl Grundstrom (19, LW).

Hey, it's in my DNA to hate the Leafs as much as anyone else, and I do think they're on the clock to take one step backwards in their development - after all, Coach Babcock did say the rebuild was going to be "painful"...

That being said, let's face it, there's no way they miss the playoffs while playing in the Atlantic Division this season. Even if they just coast through, their line-up will win them 40 to 45 games, and that's enough to finish in third place to set up another chapter in the Battle Of Ontario.

The NHL will pull out all the stops to make this season - the league's and the Leafs' 100th Anniversary - one for the books, but as we've seen countless times before, that's exactly when things never work out. The pressure will just be too great for these kids, who can't handle it yet.

Prediction: 3rd in the Atlantic Division.

Monday, September 25, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Winnipeg Jets

GM: Kevin Cheveldayoff (since 2011). 6.5/10
Coach: Paul Maurice (since 2014). 7.5/10

2016-17 record: 40-35-7, 87 points, 20th overall.

Departures: Paul Postma (D), Ondrej Pavelec (G), Mark Stuart (D), Brian Strait (D), Chris Thorburn (RW).

Arrivals: Steve Mason (G), Dmitry Kulikov (D), Michael Sgarbossa (C).

Top forwards: Mark Schiefele (75-85 points), Blake Wheeler (70-75 points), Patrik Laine (65-75 points), Nikolaj Ehlers (60-65 points), Bryan Little (45-60 points), Mathieu Perreault (45-50 points), Kyle Connor (35-40 points), Adam Lowry (25-35 points), Nicolas Petan (20-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Shawn Matthias used to be regarded as a potential second-liner, but now, on his fifth team, he mans the fourth and plays around 13 minutes per game.

Top defensemen: Dustin Byfluglien (50-55 points), Jacob Trouba (35-45 points), Tyler Myers (30-35 points), Kulikov (20-30 points), Tobias Enstrom (20 points), Josh Morrissey (20 points).

Goalies: Connor Hellebuyck (84/100), Mason (80/100).

Top rookies: Connor (20 years old, LW, 2015 first-round draft pick), Jack Roslovic (20, C, 2015 first-round draft pick), Tucker Poolman (24, D), Logan Stanley (19, D, 2016 first-round draft pick), Eric Comrie (22, G, former Team Canada Juniors star goalie).

Enough with building the team, now's the time to start delivering on the development.

It's not yet fair to lump the Jets with the true contenders - your Pittsburgh Penguins, your Nashville Predators, your Dallas Stars, your Edmonton Oilers - although their offense can definitely hold its own against any team. Their defense needs to find its consistency first, and a lot of that will come when Hellebuyck starts finding his; Winnipeg has everything to win in letting him develop at his own pace à la Jake Allen, because he has "Future Vezina Winner" written all over him.

There's one book that captures the essence of the 1980s Jets, who were a mighty team that had the bad luck of playing in the same division the four-time Stanley Cup champion Oilers and two-time finalists Calgary Flames, aptly titled Coming Up Short. If this generation's team is to stand a chance, its GM may have to pull off his second trade this decade (and win it) to do so.

Prediction: 5th in the Central Division, second Wild Card in the West. Playoff-bound.

Video Of The Week: Lou Canon

Lou Canon (whose government name is Leanne Greyerbiehl) is a Canadian former elementary school teacher and current sister-in-law to songwriter extraordinaire Hayden; it was he who encouraged her to pursue music as more than a pastime, offering his home studio as the venue to record her self-titled 2011 debut album, which he also released on his own Hardwood Records. She also appears on his 2013 release Us Alone.

She released her sophomore effort last April, titled Suspicious, and she releases the second video for it today, called Fever, directed by Sammy Rawal and Vanessa Heins with cinematography by Vancouver-based image-shaper Carl Elster:

Oh, perhaps I should have mentioned that the video succeeds in making wallpaper, milk and skinny white women seem creepy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Minnesota Wild

GM: Chuck Fletcher (since 2009). 7.5/10
Coach: Bruce Boudreau (since 2016). 9/10

2016-17 record: 49-25-8, 106 points, 5th overall.

Departures: Martin Hanzal (C), Jason Pominville (RW), Marco Scandella (D), Erik Haula (C), Darcy Kuemper (G), Christian Folin (D), Jordan Schroeder (C), Tyler Graovac (C), Alex Tuch (RW).

Arrivals: Tyler Ennis (LW), Marcus Foligno (LW), Kyle Quincey (D), Ryan Murphy (D), Cal O'Reilly (C).

Top forwards: Mikael Granlund (65-75 points), Charlie Coyle (55-60 points), Nino Niederreiter (55-60 points), Eric Staal (45-55 points), Mikko Koivu (45-60 points), Zach Parise (40-50 points depending on his playing 60 or 72 games), Jason Zucker (45-60 points), Joel Eriksson Ek (25-35 points), Ennis (20-35 points).

Must-improve forward: He doesn't need to improve per se, but poor Parise has really caught the injury bug, slowing him and his production down from the levels he had accustomed his fans to.

Top defensemen: Ryan Suter (30-40 points), Matt Dumba (35-45 points), Jared Spurgeon (35-40 points), Jonas Brodin (25 points).

Goalies: Devan Dubnyk (92/100), Alex Stalock (79/100).

Top rookies: Eriksson Ek (20 years old, C, 2015 first-round draft pick), Luke Kunin (19, C, 2016 first-round draft pick), Jordan Greenway (20, LW), Gustav Olofsson (22, D), Kirill Kaprizov (20, LW, point-per-game player in the ultra-defensive KHL).

GM Fletcher has gotten himself out of his self-created cap crunch, and Coach Boudreau usually finishes with division titles, a feat he almost achieved yet again last year despite a roster that, on paper, looked average. Extremely balanced and deep, but average nonetheless.

Then again, Dubyk was robbed of a Vezina nod last season by Carey Price's reputation, the same Price who plainly stole the Hart from him in 2014-15. He has become one of the best goalies in the world and will be counted upon to backstop this Wild team whenever the offense and defense falters, which shouldn't be too often.

I do not think Staal has it in him to reach beyond expectations once more, and the previous seasons' whipping boy Koivu will also regress a bit, but with the depth at forward on this team, both will still be able to contribute somewhat. However, the youth have clearly taken over, and Granlund, Coyle, Zucker and Niederreiter will be running the show from now on.

Prediction: 1st in the Central Division.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Arizona Coyotes

GM: John Chayka (since 2016). 7/10
Coach: Rick Tocchet (since 2017). 6/10

2016-17 record: 30-42-10, 70 points, 27th overall.

Departures: Dave Tippett (Head Coach), Shane Doan (RW), Radim Vrbata (RW), Connor Murphy (D), Mike Smith (G), Anthony DeAngelo (D), Alex Burmistrov (C), Josh Jooris (C), Laurent Dauphin (C), Peter Holland (C), Teemu Pulkkinen (RW).

Arrivals: Derek Stepan (C), Antti Raanta (G), Jason Demers (D), Niklas Hjalmarsson (D), Nick Cousins (C), Emerson Etem (RW), Adam Clendening (D), Joel Hanley (D).

Top forwards: Stepan (55-65 points), Max Domi (45-55 points), Clayton Keller (35-45 points), Anthony Duclair (35-40 points), Christian Dvorak (35-40 points), Brendan Perlini (25-30 points), Tobias Reider (35 points), Dylan Strome (30-35 points), Lawson Crouse (15-25 points), Cousins (15 points).

Must-improve forward: Duclair will bounce back, there is no doubt in my mind. Kids need time, and this kid was a tad more difficult to begin with - remember, he'd fallen from the first round to 80th overall (late third round) at the 2013 draft.

Top defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (40-50 points), Alex Goligoski (30-40 points), Jakob Chychrun (20-30 points), Demers (25-30 points), Hjalmarsson (20-25 points).

Goalies: Raanta (84/100), Louis Domingue (79/100).

Top rookies: Keller (19 years old, C, 2016 first-round draft pick), Strome (20, C, 3rd-overall pick at the 2015 draft), Christian Fischer (20, RW), Kyle Wood (21, D), Nick Merkley (20, C, 2015 first-round draft pick).

The 'Yotes are all-in for a playoff spot this year, because they need to sell season-ticket subscriptions or risk having to leave the state altogether.

And so they changed their coaching staff, traded for a true #1 center, likely improved in net, added Hjalmarsson and Demers on D and some decent depth up front in the form of Cousins and Etem, all while youngsters like Domi, Duclair, Strome, Keller and Dvorak look to keep progressing, under the tutelage of new captain Ekman-Larsson.

They will be in it until the very end, but I think they will miss the final Wild Card spot in the West by a point or two.

Prediction: 4th in the Pacific Division.

Friday, September 22, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: New York Islanders

GM: Garth Snow (since 2006). 8.5/10
Coach: Doug Weight (since 2017). 8/10

2016-17 record: 41-29-12, 94 points, 17th overall, tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning right outside the playoff picture.

Departures: Ryan Strome (RW), Travis Hamonic (D), Jean-François Bérubé (G), Mikhail Grabovski (C).

Arrivals: Jordan Eberle (RW), Seth Helgeson (D).

Top forwards: John Tavares (70-80 points), Eberle (50-60 points), Anders Lee (45-55 points), Joshua Ho-Sang (40-50 points), Josh Bailey (40-45 points), Brock Nelson (40-45 points), Anthony Beauvillier (30-35 points), Andrew Ladd (20 goals and 40 points), Mathew Barzal (20-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Ladd was awful for the first half of the season, taking forever to get adapted to his new team and puzzling head coach Jack Capuano along the way. Upon Capuano's firing, he hit his stride, which should continue this season as he takes on more of a leadership role with this young group.

Top defensemen: Nick Leddy (45-50 points), Johnny Boychuk (30-35 points), Calvin De Haan (25-30 points), Dennis Seidenberg (20-25 points), Thomas Hickey (20 points), Adam Pelech (15 points), Ryan Pulock (10-15 points).

Goalies: Jaroslav Halak (86/100), Thomas Greiss (80/100).

Top rookies: Barzal (20 years old, C, 2015 first-round draft pick), Ho-Sang (21, RW, 2014 first-round draft pick, had his moments when called up last year), Pulock (23, D, 2013 first-round draft pick), Michael Dal Colle (21, LW, 5th-overall draft pick in 2014), Kieffer Bellows (19, RW, 2016 first-round draft pick).

Off-ice issues keep surfacing for the Isles, but GM Snow keeps finding ways to improve his roster every season through savvy trades (Leddy, Halak, Boychuk, Eberle) and sometimes even a decent free agent signing (Ladd, for example). He has also drafted well (Tavares, Beauvillier) and boldly (Ho-Sang), and whenever his draft picks do not pan out to his liking, he always finds a suitor in Edmonton who will take them (Strome, Griffin Reinhart) out of his hands.

He's not adverse to making season-impacting mistakes, though, as can be attested by the Bérubé situation last year that was mostly responsible for Halak spending half the season in the AHL, until he was needed to win all 7 of the Islanders' last 7 games - he won six of them, and Greiss surrendered too many goals in the other for Halak to save the day.

Still, when it comes to ranking GMs, he's in the top-5 for bang-for-your-buck trades and definitely #1 for entertainment value. He is never content to just sit on his laurels and watch a season unfold without stamping it with his distinct signature.

That is why I see the Brooklyn-based team finishing with the top Wild Card spot in the East. Well, that and the roster he's assembled, led by Tavares and Halak in contract seasons.

Prediction: 4th in the Metropolitan Division, first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Vegas Golden Knights

GM: George McPhee (since 2016). 8/10
Coach: Gerard Gallant (since 2017). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: This will be their first season; they drafted as if they'd finished 29th of 31.

Departures: After the expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights traded away Marc Methot (D), Alexei Emelin (D), Trevor Van Riemsdyk (D) and David Schlemko (D).

Arrivals: everyone on the roster is new.

Top forwards: Vadim Shipachyov (45-55 points), James Neal (40-55 points), Jonathan Marchessault (40-45 points), David Perron (40-50 points), Reilly Smith (30-35 points), Cody Eakin (25-35 points), William Karlsson (30-35 points), Erik Haula (25-30 points), Teemu Pulkkinen (20-30 points), Oscar Lindberg (20-30 points), William Carrier (10-20 points).

Must-improve forward: Smith was extremely disappointing last year, but perhaps his former coach Gallant can light that spark back up - or at least get him going enough that he becomes trade bait for a decent haul at the trade deadline.

Top defensemen: Shea Theodore (30-40 points), Nate Schmidt (15-25 points), Luca Sbisa (10-15 points), Jason Garrison (8-10 points), Clayton Stoner (10 points), Brayden McNabb (10 points), Jon Merrill (5-10 points).

Goalies: Marc-André Fleury (89/100), Calvin Pickard (86/100).

Top rookies: Alex Tuch (21 years old, RW, 2014 first-round draft pick), Tomas Nosek (25, LW, had an impact at the AHL level last year), Cody Glass (18, C, 6th-overall pick at the 2017 draft), Nick Suzuki (18, C, 2017 first-round draft pick), Erik Brannstrom (18, D, 2017 first-round draft pick).

As is usually the case with expansion teams, the Golden Knights not only have one of the best goaltending tandems in the league, but both of their goalies are good enough to be starters - Fleury just got pushed out of a Stanley Cup-winning team by a younger guy although he carried the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first two rounds, and Pickard was just Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic's latest costly mistake.

Vegas GM McPhee drafted a team that was good enough to challenge for the 9th or 10th place in the Western Conference, right outside the playoff picture, with one of the deepest groups on defense; he traded away the best components of that defense (Methot, one of the three best shut-down defensemen in the league, hard-hitting Emelin, third-pairing two-time Cup winner Van Riemsdyk) to make room for reclamation projects (and for late draft picks) and the team will fall down a few pegs from its best-case scenario.

Instead, Schmidt, Theodore and Brannstrom are good pieces to build around, Garrison is a solid veteran, but Sbisa no longer has a place in any respectable top-6, let alone a top-4.

The offense isn't as deep as other teams', but falling upon a former 40-goal scorer like Neal means they at least started with a legitimate first-line winger. Signing Shipachyov (third in the KHL for points, fifth for goals last year) may have also been a stroke of genius, but he may require some time to adjust to the smaller North American rinks, so he may spend the first month on the third line or even in the AHL.

Then there's the 30-goal Marchessault, who likely will never hit that plateau again but will at least be given a legitimate chance to with top-line minutes; there's also should-have-been-a-30-goal-man Perron, who had found a home on the St. Louis Blues' third line, the Dallas Stars' third-line 40-point man Eakin and former top prospects Haula, Pulkkinen, Karlsson and Smith, so the potential to see one of them develop under Gallant exists, at least.

As long as GM McPhee doesn't make another bone-headed Martin Erat-for-Filip Forsberg deal...

Also, those uniforms have definitely grown on me. I love them.

Prediction: 7th in the Atlantic Division, ahead of the Vancouver Canucks for good measure.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Vancouver Canucks

GM: Jim Benning (since 2013). 4/10
Coach: Travis Green (since 2017). 6.5/10

2016-17 record: 30-43-9, 69 points, 29th overall, missing the playoffs and losing at the draft lottery.

Departures: Ryan Miller (G), Luca Sbisa (D).

Arrivals: Michael Del Zotto (D), Sam Gagner (C), Anders Nilsson (G), Patrick Wiercioch (D), Alex Burmistrov (C).

Top forwards: Bo Horvat (50-60 points), Daniel Sedin (45-50 points), Henrik Sedin (45-50 points), Brock Boeser (35-55 points), Gagner (30-40 points), Sven Baertschi (35-45 points), Markus Granlund (35-45 points), Brandon Sutter (35-40 points), Burmistrov (30 points), Loui Eriksson (25-35 points), Nikolay Goldobin (25-30 points), Brendan Gaunce (10-15 points).

Must-improve forwards: The Sedin Twins are no longer Art Ross-caliber forwards, but have they really fallen so low as to be 15-goal, 40-some-point guys? Eriksson will also likely never live up to the ridiculous contract Benning signed him to.

Top defensemen: Troy Stetcher (25-30 points), Alexander Edler (15-20 points), Del Zotto (15-20 points), Ben Hutton (15-20 points), Chris Tanev (10-15 points), Erik Gudbranson (10-15 points).

Goalies: Jacob Markstrom (84/100), Nilsson (70/100).

Top rookies: Boeser (20 years old, RW, 2016 first-round draft pick), Olli Juolevi (19, D, 5th-overall pick in 2016), Thatcher Demko (21, G), Jonathan Dahlen (19, C, point-per-game in Sweden's second-tier men's league), Elias Pettersson (18, C, 5th-overall pick in 2017).

Some pieces (Horvat, Boeser, Stetcher, Goldobin) might still be around when the rebuild turns into apprenticeship, but most won't. This is perhaps the weakest overall lineup in the entire league - the Colorado Avalanche at least have a potent offense and the Vegas Golden Knights have a true #1 goalie (Marc-André Fleury) and a true sniper (James Neal).

I'm guessing most Canucks fans don't want Benning around when the rebuild truly gets going, either, because he's gotten fleeced in just about every trade he's attempted - when he managed to deal at all. And his free agent signings aren't any better.

And to think this franchise was just one win away from the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Prediction: 8th (and last) in the Pacific Division.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Tampa Bay Lightning

GM: Steve Yzerman (since 2010). 9/10
Coach: Jon Cooper (since 2013). 7.5/10

2016-17 record: 42-30-10, 94 points, 16th overall, missing the playoffs because of injuries when many pundits had them winning their division.

Departures: Jonathan Drouin (LW), Jason Garrison (D), Luke Witkowski (D), Greg McKegg (C), Byron Froese (C).

Arrivals: Dan Girardi (D), Chris Kunitz (RW), Mikhail Sergachev (D).

Top forwards: Nikita Kucherov (75-85 points), Steven Stamkos (65-75 points, barring another season-ending injury), Ondrej Palat (50-60 points), Tyler Johnson (45-55 points), Brayden Point (45-55 points), Alex Killorn (35-40 points), Vladislav Namestnikov (30-35 points), Kunitz (25-30 points), Yanni Gourde (25-30 points), Ryan Callahan (15-25 points).

Must-improve forwards: Kunitz is at best old, at worst over the hill, so I wouldn't put too much stock in him posting record-shattering numbers, but his experience (three Stanley Cup rings) might come in handy in the postseason. Callahan has not only become extremely fragile, but he's also slowed down in just about every way possible. Johnson needs to post better regular-season numbers to be worth his cap hit.

Top defensemen: Norris candidate Victor Hedman (60-70 points), Anton Stralman (20-25 points), Sergachev (30-40 points if he sticks with the team), Slater Koekkoek (20-30 points), Girardi (5-10 points), Braydon Coburn (10-15 points).

Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy (88/100), Peter Budaj (75/100).

Top rookies: Gourde (25 years old, C, hard-working impactful AHLer), Sergachev (19, D, definitely a Calder candidate this year and likely a Norris candidate down the line), Adam Erne (22, RW), Brett Howden (19, C, 2016 first-round draft pick), Anthony Cirelli (20, C).

Just when you're ready to crown Yzerman as the NHL's best GM, signing the likes of Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and most of the core to team-friendly cap hits (the Florida state tax exemption might have something to do with that as well) and managing his expansion draft protection list so well that he got the best defenseman not currently in the NHL for a guy he might have lost for nothing, he goes and signs Kunitz and Girardi for too much money. At least Kunitz brings intangibles, but Girardi just brings you ten minutes per game of being stuck in your own end and accrued fatigue on the rest of the defenders to make up for essentially being shorthanded when he's on the ice.

Still, Vasilevskiy is now the Big Man On Campus between the pipes, and he should run away with it and be very good most of the time. With a defense that includes Hedman and Sergachev and one of the best offenses in the East, the Bolts should have no trouble taking the division title this year, by a long shot.

Look for Jon Cooper to win the Jack Adams Trophy ("Coach Of The Year") along with the division title, meaning he will likely lose his job in early 2019 if recent winners (Bob Hartley, Patrick Roy, Paul MacLean, Dan Bylsma) are any indication.

Prediction: 1st in the Atlantic Division.

Monday, September 18, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Philadelphia Flyers

GM: Ron Hextall (since 2014). 9/10
Coach: Dave Hakstoll (since 2015). 5.5/10

2016-17 record: 39-33-10, 88 points, 19th overall, out of the playoffs.

Departures: Brayden Schenn (C), Steve Mason (G), Matt Read (RW), Michael Del Zotto (D), Pierre-Édouard Bellemare (LW), Nick Cousins (C).

Arrivals: Brian Elliott (G), Jori Lehtera (C), second-overall pick Nolan Patrick (C), Dean Lombardi (Assistant-GM).

Top forwards: Claude Giroux (60-70 points), Jakub Voracek (60-70 points), Wayne Simmonds (55-60 points), Sean Couturier (35-45 points), Valtteri Filppula (35-40 points), Patrick (35-40 points), Travis Konecky (30-40 points), Lehtera (30-35 points), Jordan Weal (25-35 points).

Must-improve forwards: Giroux's stats have been trending downwards for four straight seasons now; this is "do-or-die" for the captain, because if he doesn't get close to 60 points and/or the top-25 in the league, he may get bought out. Voracek's numbers have also been down since he signed his monster deal two summers ago, and he was -24 last year to boot.

Top defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere (40-50 points), Ivan Provorov (30-40 points), Travis Sanheim (15-25 points), Radko Gudas (20-25 points), Andy MacDonald (20 points).

Goalies: Elliott (81/100), Michal Neuvirth (72/100), Anthony Stolarz (82/100).

Top rookies: Patrick (19 years old, C, second-overall 2017 draft pick), Sanheim (21, D, 2014 first-round draft pick), Oskar Lindblom (21, LW), Samuel Morin (22, D, 2013 first-round draft pick), Robert Hagg (22, D), Stolarz (23, G).

Had the Flyers been in the Atlantic or the Pacific divisions, perhaps they would have made the playoffs this year. As it stands, though, in a division with at least three 100-pont teams, they will be right outside the postseason picture.

This may be Hakstoll's final chance behind the Philadelphia bench, partly because he has not shown to be a good enough tactician for the NHL, but mostly because Hextall's rebuild is basically MacDonald's contract away from being complete and he will be expecting results - particularly with Lombardi on board.

It now looks like Couturier might never become the ideal 60-point 2C he was seen as both when he was drafted and when he signed his extension, but the thing is he no longer needs to be, as Patrick will be able to take over for Giroux in two seasons and they can switch their ice time accordingly while Couturier plays a shut-down role on the third line.

Hextall's slow inclusion of his blue-chip blue-liners means he won't necessarily have to pay them all elite money at the same time, some opting for long-term team-friendly contracts in exchange for NHL security, meaning the Flyers could have one of the five best top-4s in the league for close to a decade.

This team is on the verge of greatness, particularly if Stolarz is ready for the #1 gig in two years' time.

Prediction: 6th in the Metropolitan Division, a win away from a Wild Card spot.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: St. Louis Blues

GM: Doug Armstrong (since 2010). 7/10
Coach: MikeYeo (since 2017). 6.5/10

2016-17 record: 46-29-7, 99 points, 10th overall.

Departures: David Perron (RW), Jori Lehtera (C), Scottie Upshall (RW), Ryan Reaves (RW), Nail Yakupov (RW).

Arrivals: Brayden Schenn (C), Beau Bennett (RW), Chris Thorburn (RW), Oskar Sundqvist (C).

Top forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko (75-80 points), Jaden Schwartz (55-65 points), Schenn (55-60 points), Alex Steen (40-50 points), Paul Stastny (45-60 points, depending how many games he suits up for), Vladimir Sobotka (40-50 points), Patrik Berglund (30 points), Ivan Barbashev (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Berglund's 50-point seasons are way behind him, but on such a stacked team, even while centering the third line, he should have been able to reach 40 at least once these past six years.

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

Goalies: Jake Allen (89/100), Carter Hutton (80/100).

Top rookies: Jodan Schmaltz (24 years old, D, 2012 first-round draft pick), Jake Walman (21, D), Vince Dunn (21, D), Tage Thompson (20, C, 2016 first-round draft pick), Ville Husso (22, G).

I'll be honest, I needed a team to take the fall. It was a toss-up between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild to see which team would get hit by the injury bug and a string of bad luck, then would surprisingly fall out of the playoff picture, and I chose the Blues.

Part of it is because Mike Yeo was pretty awful with the Wild a couple of years back, part of it is because GM Armstrong is overrated and surrounded by the likes of Martin Brodeur and Bob Gainey (also Al MacInnis and Larry Robinson, whom I like).

But in this day age, one in which no one managed to score 50 goals last year, Tarasenko is among a handful of players who can realistically aim for that level of greatness. And Allen showed last year to be ready for the #1 spot between the pipes.

Or maybe I'm wrong.

Prediction: 6th in the Central Division.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Montréal Canadiens

GM: Marc Bergevin (since 2012). 6/10
Coach: Claude Julien (second stint, since 2017). 7.5/10

2016-17 record: 47-26-9, 103 points, 7th overall, first in the Atlantic, first round exit.

Departures: Alexander Radulov (RW), Andrei Markov (D), Alexei Emelin (D), Nathan Beaulieu (D), future superstar Mikhail Sergachev (D), Brian Flynn (C), and heavy trade deadline acquisitions Nikita Nesterov (D), Steve Ott (RW) and Dwight King (RW).

Arrivals: Jonathan Drouin (LW), Karl Alzner (D), David Schlemko (D) Ales Hemsky (RW), Mark Streit (D), Joe Morrow (D), Peter Holland (C), Byron Froese (C).

Top forwards: Max Pacioretty (30-35 goals, 55-65 points), Drouin (55-65 points), Alex Galchenyuk (45-55 points, 65 points elsewhere if traded early), Phillip Danault (35-45 points), Brendan Gallagher (40-45 points), Artturi Lehkonen (30-40 points), Tomas Plekanec (35-40 points), Hemsky (20-30 points), Andrew Shaw (30 points), Paul Byron (25-35 points), Charles Hudon (30 points).

Must-improve forwards: Plekanec should bounce back from his lone bad season ever. Galchenyuk needs to find his game again; perhaps if we kept some of his friends around instead of trading away all of his drinking buddies and/or mentors...

Top defensemen: Shea Weber (35-40 points), Jeff Petry (30-35 points), Alzner (10-15 points), Streit (10-20 points).

Goalies: Carey Price (90/100), Al Montoya (80/100).

Top rookies: Hudon (23 years old, LW), Jacob De La Rose (22, C, defensive-minded forward), Jakub Jerabek (26, D), Noah Juulsen (20, D, 2015 first-round draft pick), Nikita Scherbak (21, RW, 2014 first-round draft pick).

How do you dismantle a first-place team? Start by trading two Norris-level defensemen (P.K. Subban and Sergachev) in a 12-month span, then ask another one (Markov) to leave, and follow that with overpaying the overrated goalie, which will be effective next year, leaving the GM handcuffed by the salary cap and with the lower hand in any conversation with any of his peers.

Then make sure to take the confidence away from your 30-goal first-line center by telling him he's not good enough to play that position, then proceed to trade for a guy with the exact same skill-set and who has never played center in the NHL, then announce he will be the new #1 center, meaning the team is now without either a true #1 or #2 center.

Make your captain the guy who has never made a difference in the postseason (or with his national team), in nine NHL seasons. (To be fair, the Habs only made the playoffs four times in that span, where he has accumulated 19 points in 38 games. He'll probably also double in salary next year, knowing GM Bergeron...)

Oh, and have your #1D be an old, slow guy who is slowing down. And have your #2D play the same side as him, then make sure to have six guys suited for a #6D role, and slot three of those higher than they should be.

How about hiring the wrong coach for your type of players? Yep, check on that as well, give a guy who likes to coach heavy, mean, dirty players a bunch of small, skinny playmakers.

This team is doomed for the foreseeable future, because even if the owner gets rid of the GM, the head coach is signed at a high price for the next five seasons, the salary cap situation is a mess and the holes in the lineup are becoming too big to plug with C-level trades, the waiver wire and low-risk free agent signings.

Prediction: 4th in the Atlantic Division, out of the playoff picture because they will fail to be the Second Wild Card.

Friday, September 15, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: New York Rangers

GM: Jeff Gorton (since 2015). 7.5/10
Coach: Alain Vigneault (since 2013). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 48-28-6, 102 points, 9th overall, Wild Card, lost in second round.

Departures: Derek Stepan (C), Dan Girardi (D), Antti Raanta (G), Brandon Pirri (RW), Oscar Lindberg (C), Kevin Klein (D), Adam Clendening (D), Taylor Beck (LW), Marek Hrivik (LW), Tanner Glass (LW).

Arrivals: Kevin Shattenkirk (D), Anthony DeAngelo (D), Ondrej Pavelec (G) David Desharnais (RW), Paul Carey (C).

Top forwards: Mats Zuccarello (55-65 points), J.T. Miller (40-50 points), Mika Zibanejad (45-60 points), Chris Kreider (45-55 points), Kevin Hayes (40-50 points), Rick Nash (35-50 points), Pavel Buchnevich (40-65 points), Michael Grabner (30-35 points), Desharnais (30-35 points), Jimmy Vesey (25-35 points).

Must-improve forward: Remember when Nash was a threat to score 35-50 goals, not points? Whether the injuries have taken their toll, or the pressure of New York got to him, or maybe even the complacency that inexplicably comes when a star player puts on a Blueshirts uniform in the twilight of his career... whatever the case may be, it's getting extremely hard to make a case for defending him.

Top defensemen: Shattenkirk (45-60 points), Brady Skeij (40-45 points), Ryan McDonagh (35-45 points), Nick Holden (25-35 points), Brendan Smith (20 points), Marc Staal (10 points).

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist (87/100), Pavelec (61/100).

Top rookies: Cristoval Nieves (23 years old, C), Ryan Gropp (21, LW), Alexei Bereglazov (23, D), Sean Day (19, D), Lias Andersson (19, C, 2017 first-round draft pick).

This is the year the Rangers start falling down the standings. Lundqvist is still excellent, but he's getting too old to stay consistent for 70 games plus the playoffs, so he needs his backup to provide some 25 quality starts; Pavelec is not the guy who will be able to do that.

Also, hey, DeAngelo was a nice trade pull, but it cost the team's #1 center (Stepan, in a salary dump) and the second-straight quality backup with starter potential in Raanta, after losing Cam Talbot two years prior. That costs you a few wins as well.

Shattenkirk was the year's prized free agent, but like most of them, he will prove to not having been worth the hype; he is, however, much better than the bought-out Girardi, who like Staal was hampering the entire team's defense with his lackluster and slow play. That's a slight win, right there, though the loss of Klein negates a bit of the "win factor" on this one.

Cynics will point to Gorton not re-upping Glass as a victory, because by his being unavailable to suit up, Vigneault will have to ice a better lineup rather than a hard-working weaker one.

As I said, the Rangers will fall, from 102 points to perhaps 94, which will be good enough to bypass both the Montréal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers for the last Wild Card spot in the East.

Prediction: 5th in the Metropolitan Division, Second Wild Card spot in the East.