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.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Arizona Coyotes

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

2017-18 record: 29-41-12, 70 points, 29th overall.

Departures: Max Domi (C), Zac Rinaldo (LW), Luke Schenn (D), Joel Hanley (D), Jordan Martinook (LW).

Arrivals: Alex Galchenyuk (C), Vinnie Hinostroza (C), Michael Grabner (RW), Hudson Fasching (RW), Jordan Oesterle (D).

Top forwards: Derek Stepan (55-65 points), Galchenyuk (60-65 points), Clayton Keller (55-60 points), Dylan Strome (40-50 points), Christian Dvorak (30-40 points), Grabner (30-40 points), Richard Panik (35-40 points), Christian Fischer (30-35 points), Brendan Perlini (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Strome had a difficult start to the season last year but finished strong, with 8 points in the team's final 10 games. He's being penciled in as the franchise's long-term #2 center, although he may start on the wing. He may not be ready to fill that role yet, but he needs to consistently put points up on the svcoreboard at a rate of one per two games regardless.

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

Goalies: Antti Raanta (87/100), Darcy Kuemper (77/100).

Top rookies: Barrett Hayton (18, 5th overall pick in 23018), Pierre-Olivier Joseph (19, D, 23rd overall pick in 2017), Christian Fischer (21, RW), Adin Hill (22, G), Nick Merkley (21, C, 2015 first-round draft pick), Tyler Steenbergen (20, C).

The 'Yotes took a step back last year, falling two spots to 29th overall, albeit with the same amount of points as the previous seasons.

How many lives does GM Chayka have? Well, he added essentially 50 goals by acquiring Galchenyuk and Grabner, which would take Arizona from 30th to 10th overall in last year's stats column. He's got some decent young players, enough for them to compete and for the team to have options going forward. And going back to the Peyote jersey is a great move as well.

Re-signing captain Ekman-Larsson was a no-brainer, and Raanta found his game as the season went on, so if it wasn't that the 'Yotes play in such a strong division, I might have pegged them as a playoff team instead of a bubble team.

Prediction: 7th in the Pacific Division.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

NHL Preview 2018-19: Anaheim Ducks

GM: Bob Murray (since 2008). 8/10
Coach: Randy Carlyle (second stint, since 2016). 8/10

2017-18 record: 44-25-13, 101 points, 8th overall, swept in the first round.

Departures: Kevin Bieksa (D), Jason Chimera (LW), Antoine Vermette (C), Derek Grant (C), Chris Kelly (RW), J.T. Brown (RW).

Arrivals: Luke Schenn (D).

Top forwards: Rickard Rakell (70-75 points), Ryan Getzlaf (captain, 60-70 points), Corey Perry (45-50 points), Jakob Silfverberg (50-60 points), Adam Henrique (50-60 points), Patrick Eaves (15 goals), Andrew Cogliano (30-40 points), Ryan Kesler (30-35 points), Nick Ritchie (30 points).

Must-improve forwards: Perry is so far fromoved from his last 50-goal season in 2010-11 that it's a wonder why he's in the upper echelon salary-wise. Then again, so is Kesler, so that just may be the way things work in Anaheim. Silfverberg needs to bounce back as well.

Top defensemen: Cam Fowler (35-45 points), Josh Manson (30 points and over 100 penalty minutes), Sami Vatanen (30-40 points), Hampus Lindholm (25-35 points), Brandon Montour (25-30 points), Beauchemin (15 points), Rasmussen (eating up minutes for 50-65 games).

Goalies: John Gibson (91/100), Ryan Miller (83/100).

Top rookies: Sam Steel (20, C, 2016 first-rounder), Jacob Larsson (21 years old, D, 2015 first-rounder), Marcus Pettersson (22, D), Max Jones (20, LW, 2016 first-rounder), Troy Terry (21, C).

The Ducks are slowing down offensively as their defense and goalie are about to peak. It's a good thing some of the kids are ready to take over, but the aging veterans (Getzlaf, Eaves) and dead wood (Perry, Kesler) are here to stay barring summertime buyouts.

Gibson will win a Vezina in the next decade, whether that's this year or not. When he does, Anaheim will have an outlier season and win its division. In the meantime, they'll struggle and have to hustle to make the playoffs.

That being said, they do have good leadership and coaching, and with the right stroke of luck (early eliminations for all top teams, for instance) could become Stanley Cup contenders.

Prediction: 4th in the Pacific Division.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Video Of The Week: Weezer

Look, by now you've all heard Weezer's note-for-note perfect rendition of Toto's Africa (and probably their cover of Rosanna as well), but since they haven't officially produced a video for either yet, I thought I could feature their sublime (and again, note-perfect) reprise of Radiohead's best-written guitar-driven song, Paranoid Android:

This is a pretty complex song, and Weezer usually fuck around better than they play/write (although they've gotten pretty fucking impressive with the covers in recent years, particularly leader Rivers Cuomo in his solo shows), so I wasn't exactly thrown out of my chair when I noticed the best guitar parts were actually being played by drummer Pat Wilson while session superstar Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, The Vandals, Devo, Guns N' Roses, Paramore, Sting...) took to the skins.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Video Of The Week: Kandle

I haven't been able to stop listening to Kandle since I featured her last month - not that I ever did, really, as she's been playing steadily in my rotation since 2014.

I dove back into her first EP, her debut album, switched up my phone's song list to remove the oft-skipped Baby and replaced it with Gimme A Pill, a song she hasn't played live in a while because it sends mixed signals, often being interpreted as "pro-drugs" when in fact it is about her struggles with chronic migraines.

She shot a video for it in 2016, directed by Maya Fuhr, which depicts a day in the life of an opioid-addicted adult:

"I won't stop until the pain goes away" - the phrase that best describes the millennium so far.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Video Of The Week: Jack White

I haven't been able to listen to Jack White's latest record, Boarding House Reach, with the same fervor as, well, anything else he's ever done; it just doesn't resonate as much as a whole and the individual pieces that I want to listen to over and over are few and far between.

Except the actual song Over And Over, that is, which has a riff reminiscent of Icky Thump and Lazaretto, a fact that isn't surprising considering he's been toying around with it since his days with The White Stripes, having almost recorded it with The Raconteurs as well.

The video, directed by Us (Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor), shows alternate-universe Whites in the same room matching with each White personae, accompanied here and there by his band, background singers, a bunch of children, or by himself:

My conclusion: White The Brown seems like the most natural, while White The Blue is in his solo project's palette; White The White is more country and has the best décor.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Video Of The Week: Kandle

I was at a taping for weekly talk show Le Beau Dimanche last night and was surprised that the musical guest was a favourite of mine, Kandle; she played her recent single Bender, which reminded me that she had a video for it that I hadn't featured yet:

It looks stunning, directed by Kat Webber in what seems like an abandoned NDG appartment, with visuals inspired by horror classic such as Stanley Kubrick's The Shining or the Silent Hill video game series...

Well done!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Video Of The Week: Death Cab For Cutie

Once indie rock darlings (1997-2003), Death Cab For Cutie hit the mainstream hard with their last independent record to date, Transatlanticism as the 00s went in full swing, scoring hit singles with The Sound Of Settling and Title And Registration, but it wasn't until 2005's Plans (on Atlantic Records) that they went off into the stratosphere with peak-of-songwriting gems like Crooked Teeth, Soul Meets Body and I Will Follow You Into The Dark.

This week, Ben Gibbard's main band released Gold Rush, their best song in over a decade (listen to it twice, it takes a minute to sink in...) and lead-off single off of Thank You For Today, which should come out in August:

The video was directed by Alex Southam, a London-based filmmaker responsible for Kwabs' Fight For Love, Mumford & Sons' Ditmas, Atl J's Tessellate (Clean), Laura Mvula & Nile Rogers' Overcome, Rae Morris' Under The Shadows and Labyrinth Ear's Amber, among others.

Friday, May 25, 2018

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2017-18: The Stanley Cup Championship

A month and a half of playoff hockey took the 16 qualified teams and eliminated 14 of them, leaving us with an unbelievable matchup for the Stanley Cup Final:
Both teams were, essentially, built by GM George McPhee.

The Vegas Golden Knights are an expansion team, so as its main architect, he put every piece in place, but he was also the Washington Capitals' General Manager until 2014, and the likes of goalies Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, defensemen John Carlson and Dmitri Orlov, and forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky and Christian Djoos were all acquired via draft, trade, development or signings in his era.

That's pretty much half the team in sheer numbers, but in terms of impact, it's more like over 80% of it. Although many will mostly remember that he was fired for trading an up-and-coming superstar-to-be in Filip Forsberg for an outdated periphery player in Martin Erat for a failed Cup run.

The top two Conn Smythe front runners so far are of course Ovechkin and the Knights' Marc-André Fleury, who has more Cup Finals on his resume than all of the other 45 players involved in the Final put together - all wins since 2009 - but there are other players worth noting.

Kuznetsov has taken Backtrom's place as the Caps' second-best offensive weapon and Lars Eller and Devante Smith-Pelly have found their niche, but the G-Knights' Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, James Neal et al. have all proven to be too much to handle for such strong teams as the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets. Not only are they extremely quick and talented, but they've also proven to be opportunistic, scoring at back-breaking times, such as mere minutes after the opponent scored a tying goal, or at the end or beginning of periods.

Ironically, win or lose, the Golden Knights stand to become the best expansion franchise in NHL history, but the Caps, when they started playing in 1974-75, were the worst team ever,as can be attested by this except from their Wikipedia page:
The Capitals' inaugural season was dreadful, even by expansion standards. They finished with far and away the worst record in the league at 8–67–5. Their 21 points were half that of their expansion brethren, the Kansas City Scouts. The eight wins are the fewest for an NHL team playing at least 70 games, and the .131 winning percentage is still the worst in NHL history. They also set records for most road losses (39 out of 40), most consecutive road losses (37), and most consecutive losses (17).
 So this series will be historic in many ways.

I don't want to jinx it, and I won't be sad if it goes the other way, but I see Vegas taking this one.

Golden Knights in 6.

Friday, May 11, 2018

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2017-18: Round Three

These have been exciting playoffs and the quality of hockey played just seems to get better every round.

Only four teams remain. Here's how they stack up.

For the record, my heart's with Fleury and Ovechkin, but as you'll see, my head doesn't fully agree...

Western Conference

Vegas Golden Knights (2) vs Winnipeg Jets (1)
My heart's with current playoff MVP Marc-André Fleury and the rest of the Golden Knights, but my head says it won't even be close. The way the Jets disposed of the Nashville Predators and dominated the important games tells me these guys are on a mission and virtually unstoppable. I mean, Vegas plays their extremely effective system at 99% capacity with a bunch of guys who rank anywhere between 70 and 87% (with most guys in the late 70s) on the "pure talent" scale, whereas Winnipeg plays their 90% effective system at 90% capacity with guys whose talent level ranks between 79-95% with three full lines of guys over 82%.

They're simply too big, too fast and too good.

Can Fleury steal one? Definitely. Two? Probably. Three? Possibly. Four? C'mon, he's not Patrick Roy, for the simple reason that no current NHL goalie can just decide to be infaillible and deliver on it. On the other side of the ice, Connor Hellebuyck probably had four "let's give 'em four" games to give this postseason, and not only did he already have them, he won a couple of them, too.

Jets in 6.

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals (2) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (1)
Alex Ovechkin is a man on a mission: he wants that Stanley Cup and nothing will be able to stand in his way. The caveat? The guys who are determined to stop him are Norris nominee Victor Hedman, perennial All-Star and former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, legitimate top-2 defender Anton Stralman, future Norris hoarder Mikhail Sergachev, and finally-in-his-right-spot-as-a-number-five Dan Girardi with Anton Sustr and Braydon Coburn rounding out the D for good measure, and that's without mentioning that the Bolts have two Ovechkins of their own in former 50-goal menace Steven Stamkos and current top-5 world beater Nikita Kucherov while the Caps do not have top-level shut-down defenders.

Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins just won consecutive Stanley Cups with essentially an AHL defence, but they had their entire offense; Washington is playing without Nicklas Backstrom, and should Lars Eller effectively replace him, there's no one to take Eller's 3C spot to shut down Tampa's offense.

Bolts in 7.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2017-18: Round Two

 Image result for nhl playoffs round 2 2017-18

Alright, so I disrespected the San Jose Sharks enough to have them sweep the Anaheim Ducks...

Onto Round 2.

Western Conference:

Nashville Predators (1) vs Winnipeg Jets (2) :
The two best teams in the league will duke it out in the second round, with only oen advancing to the Conference Finals - not that that will be a problem. The eight remaining teams are pretty good. This series, featuring the two best defenses in the league, will also pit the regular season's two best goalies in Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck against one another. The former has experience (including medaling on the international stage), the second has youthful exuberance and no fucking fear; Rinne will get the Vezina, but Hellebuyck may very well be the better goalie in this series. Defensively, the Jets' depth is challenged, with Tobais Enstrom not dressing and Tyler Myers playing injured; the Preds' P.K. Subban and the Jets' Dustin Byfuglien are both game-breakers, in every sense of the terms: Subban can make defensive plays, score goals, make a magical pass or drop the puck sending the opponents' quickest forwards on breakaways with equal probabilities (20% chance of each), while Byfuglien takes fewer play-making risks and has 30-40 pounds on Subban, but he also has a temper that could get him suspended for a game or two, so these two even each out, as do Jacob Trouba and Roman Josi, Dmitry Kulikov and Mathias Ekholm, and Myers and Ryan Ellis. The Predators' biggest problem will be dealing with Winnipeg's unusual mix of speed and heaviness. I really like both teams, want both to do well, and the series really is a coin toss. The Jets are better balanced, but the Predators have the best coach.

Nashville in 7.

Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs San Jose Sharks (3):
Congratulations, San Jose, you made it farther than I expected and now that Joe Thornton is injured and Patrick Marleau is gone, your choking days may be over. So this won't be a series where you choke, just one where you lose to an expansion team. Vegas' Marc-André Fleury has been the best player in the postseason thus far, and he just beat his current opponent Martin Jones' mentor, the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick. Also, the Sharks' coach, Peter DeBoer, has never won despite being handed some very fine teams in San Jose and New Jersey; Gerard Gallant has provided tiny miracles in the shape of unforeseen division titles with both the Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers. Vegas has the edge.

Vegas in 6.

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs Boston Bruins (2):
At least Boston beat the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the Bolts are the best team in the East, with MVP candidates at every single position, from Norris candidate Victor Hedman, former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and future Norris hoarder Mikhail Sergachev on defense to Andrei Vasilevskiy in net to an offense comprised of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, super-rookie Brandon Point, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, and playoff performer Tyler Johnson. The Bs have aging superstars Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, as well as solid sniper David Pastrnak. It's an uneven fight, save for the Bruins' nastiness (and, let's be honest, character).

Bolts in 6.

Washington Capitals (1) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (WC1):
Go Caps Go. Go Alex Ovechkin Go. Keep in mind, this one's for my heart, not my brain, which is saying "Pittsburgh in 7"; I just really want Ovi's efforts to be rewarded. He deserves team success (and to shut his detractors up). It looks like Braden Holtby is back to his old self, too, which helps.

Caps in 6.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

NHL Playoffs Predictions 2017-18: Round One

The first round of the NHL playoffs have a few interesting match-ups this year, including one in which I dislike both teams playing. There are also many regional rivalries, yet just two Canadian teams.

Here's how I think they'll go.

Western Conference:

Nashville Predators (1) vs Colorado Avalanche (WC2):
The best team in the league, one with no glaring weakness, plays a bunch of kids, no defense and a backup goalie. Simply put, the Avs don't stand a chance. They might win one on the strength of MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon, but a defense made up of Roman Josi, Mathias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Alexei Emelin, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber won't let him dominate like he did in the regular season twice in two weeks. And Jonathan Bernier loses the goalie duel to likely Vezina winner Pekka Rinne before the puck even drops.

Nashville in 5.

Winnipeg Jets (2) vs Minnesota Wild (3):
The Jets are no joke. They have one of the most potent offenses in the league, one of the best defenses, and goalie Connor Hellebuyck is two years ahead of my predictions as a star starter. The team itself may not have won a single playoff game in its current iteration (and that includes a decade as the Atlanta Thrashers, by the way), but they have guys who've had the experience of grinding out a Stanley Cup Final in captain Blake Wheeler and the league's most feared defender Dustin Byfuglien. The Wild have... a fine defense, and the league's most consistent goalie of the past four seasons in Devan Dubnyk. Head coach Bruce Boudreau often looks outmatched in the postseason. Dubnyk might steal one, but he can't steal two from these guys, let alone four.

Jets in 5.

Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs Los Angeles Kings (WC1):
Well, well, well. First off, it looks like the players may indeed have been sick of Darryl Sutter's message, as they bounced back from consecutive postseason misses to face their newest rivals - and the league's biggest surprise. Goalie Jonathan Quick is back to his old self, as is star defenseman Drew Doughty, former captain Dustin Brown is scoring again and Anze Kopitar has posted his best year so far, which will likely earn him a couple of MVP votes. However, the Golden Knights are the better team, way more balanced, better coached, and their net is just as safe with Marc-André Fleury standing between the posts. I could see the Kings playing extremely physically and slowing down the G-Knights, winning a couple of games along the way. This series could cost the Knights a Conference Final, as I see them coming out too battered and bruised to continue much further.

Vegas in 6.

Anaheim Ducks (2) vs San Jose Sharks (3):
If you've read any of these posts from me in the past, you know I trust the Sharks do to one thing right: choke in the postseason. I don't care that they added ball of anger Evander Kane at the trade deadline, he's just one more loser to add to a full stable, effectively taking up Patrick Marleau's spot as the second-line goal scorer who can't carry his team when it needs it. The Ducks have an aggressive and relatively talented defense that will crush San Jose's forwards at every opportunity, and the best goaltending tandem in the postseason in John Gibson and Ryan Miller (although the latter's far removed from his 2009-10 peak form). They also have three lines of 230-pound guys who can score as well as they can decapitate, unless Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler lose their cool, which usually only happens when they lose... which should be starting Game 2 of the second round.

Ducks in 7.

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs New Jersey Devils (WC2):
Let's make something clear: the Bolts are the second-best team in the league, and the Devils don't belong in the Final 16 - especially not if they're going to start their backup Keith Kincaid over underachieving starter Corey Schneider. Taylor Hall will win the Hart Trophy and might get his team one W, but when the next scorer was 41 points behind him on his team and he's facing a defense comprised of Norris candidate Victor Hedman, former New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and future Norris hoarder Mikhail Sergachev and a bunch of guys who are just as good as he is on offense (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde), it's going to spell B-E-A-T-D-O-W-N.

Bolts in 5.

Boston Bruins (2) vs Toronto Maple Leafs (3):
If there was a way to have neither team advance, I would definitely root for that. Yes, the Leafs have talent up front in Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and the rest of the kids, and Frederik Andersen is a fine netminder, but the Bs - against all odds - have still "got it". That means Patrice Bergeron remains among the best and most effective centermen in the world and Brad Marchand is still a pest who is as likely of scoring a hat trick as he is to get suspended for three games for a boneheaded move. But Boston now also has David Pastrnak, an offensive talent they have lacked since the 1988-90 heyday of Cam Neely. The Bruins' defense is still very suspect, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have just won two straight Cups with not just a "no-name" defense, but the worst d-corps of the postseason. And, like the Pens of the past couple of years, the Bs are solid in net with Tuukka Rask.

Bruins in 7.

Washington Capitals (1) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (WC1):
This is an unfair match-up, as neither of these teams deserve to be out in the first round; the Jackets are NOT a Wild Card team by any stretch of the imagination. They have a top-tier coach in John Tortorella, the stingiest goalie in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky (in the regular season, at least), the best young defense in the game headlined by Zach Werenski, Seth Jones and Ryan Murray, and a balanced attack that features a superstar with a chip on his shoulder, Artemi Panarin, as well as 35-goal sniper Cam Atkinson. And yet, the Caps managed to win their division with a team that, on paper, was depleted compared to that of years past; Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom are elite forwards, but the defense has lost too many important players to be considered solid, and the team enters the playoffs with their backup, Philipp Grubauer, playing better than their starter, Braden Holtby. The goalie controversy is likely what will once again sink the Caps. I would really like for Ovechkin to get that elusive Cup to shut his critics up, but it won't be this year.

Jackets in 6.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs Philadelphia Flyers (3):
Normally, I would call this "Flyers in 7". I would talk about Pittsburgh's shitty defense, their fragile players (chief among them Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby), I would say that the Flyers have a knack for getting under Crosby's skin, and I'd poke fun at them and predict they'll fail, especially against world-class players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Except that with two back-to-back Cups - both of which came from a wide range of memorable runs from the likes of Fleury, Matt Murray, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the young guns, despite Crosby's two unwarranted Conn Smythe wins - this team has shown it can and will find ways to win. And against this particular Flyers team, the Pens are much better coached (Mike Sullivan trumps Dave Hakstoll any day of the week), and a team cannot hope to contain Pittsburgh with Brian Elliott in net - not four times in a possible seven-game span, anyway. And those are words I would say even if Malkin hadn't been having an MVP-level season, which he is.

Pens in 6.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Video Of The Week: The Voidz

The things: I hate the 1980s, generally speaking. And Julian Casablancas can usually do no harm.

The former The Strokes singer now has a new band, The Voidz, with whom he continues to explore old 1980s synth music, and I like the dark undertones found in the song QYURRYUS ("curious"), for which he directed this video:

In addition to sounds reminiscent of Indian music (particularly the oeuvre of Bollywood classics like Donga, a.k.a. the "Indian Thriller" movie) and German electro, the video looks like a hair metal clip interspersed with George Michael rainy sexiness, an old Mike Patton/Faith No More look and the feel of a "shred" parody video.

Michael Bolton Signs John Bolton

Growing up in the 1980s, there were two staples of what was then called "Adult Contemporary" music that were lame as fuck and downright tacky: Kenny G and Michael Bolton. Well, John Tesh, too.

But both Bolton and G, as opposed to Tesh, have since embraced that fact and just ran with it, now laughing at that personae and taking it to new levels in a comedic way.

Bolton's been a tad more successful, particularly via his collaboration with The Lonely Island and his Netflix special, and he was on Stephen Colbert's The Late Show this week to show the ridiculousness of John Bolton's past comments:

I never thought I'd say this until that Lonely Island collab, but that fucking Michael Bolton is one hilarious guy who can sing.