Pens COVID Division Realignment Party feat. LCD Soundsystem

Pens COVID Division Realignment Party feat. LCD Soundsystem

Penguins

Pens COVID Division Realignment Party feat. LCD Soundsystem

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First things first – I’m new here, so be as harsh as possible.  Geoff & Co were kind enough to grant a 32 year old boy his lifetime Make-A-Wish dream of being bullied on the internet, and goddamit, I’m ready to savor every second.

A more robust intro blog probably won’t come later because no one cares, so for now, just two table-setters:

  1. I’m fired up for the opportunity to rub elbows with the maniacs of Pens internet.  I’m a longtime Pensblog fan all the way back to the Charlie days, so I’ll do my best to not soil the good name.  Tell me I suck here: Follow @GooeyHockey
  2. Analytics:  Let’s get it out of the way now.  There are so many smart people at the forefront of this movement (like Geoff) who use fancy stats in incredibly meaningful and interesting ways.  I am a believer (and a subscriber). *Stephen A Smith Voice* HOWEVA….for me personally, in the context of this blog, advanced analytics are like lyrics on a karaoke machine:  Always there if I need them.  May use sparingly.  But it’s going to be much more fun for everyone involved when I go off the cuff and embarrass myself along the way.  Ok?  Ok.

Moving on – Greg Wyshynski wrote an article last week outlining potential new divisions the NHL is mulling in preparation for a COVID’ed (coveted?) 2021 season.

The idea is obviously to simplify logistics while giving Canada their own division in order to avoid international travel issues.  Should it happen, it will be fun to watch Canada’s alcoholism, divorce, and murder rates skyrocket.

As for our beloved Penguins, the shake-up would be….interesting.  My first reaction was “Manageable”, followed very quickly by “God, it must suck to be affiliated with the Florida Panthers”.

Today we’ll take a snapshot look at each of the Penguins’ potential new neighbors, and polish ‘er off with final standings predictions which will 100% change as I see fit.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTING:  Ever heard of ’em?  People don’t know this, but Tampa’s Hillsborough River flows straight into Cap Hell, which is where the team boat ultimately ended up following their October parade. The Lightning have several depth guys like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Alex Killorn who contributed mightily to the team’s success but are probably gone.  Budding stars Mikhail Sergachev (22) and Anthony Cirelli (23) have to be re-signed, but it will be costly, especially if other GMs have the balls to offer-sheet them. They lost Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian, two players who fans love to chirp but flexed nuts in the playoffs.

And yet…they’ll probably be fine.  The Lightning have been one of the NHL’s strongest organizational teams over the last decade.  Any team with a Stamkos/Kuch/Point/Hedman/Vasilevskiy core is gonna make the playoffs and probably finish in the Top 2 of their division.  Their depth will reload.  Pat Maroon got married this offseason, so expect him to be even fatter as he chases a 3rd straight Cup.

ST. LOUIS BLUES:  Despite finishing the regular season with the West’s best record, the 2019 Cup winners took a step back this year.  The Blues were disposed of fairly easily by the upstart Vancouver Canucks in Round 1 in a series where they never looked like themselves.  Perhaps that was because they never had a fully-healthy Vlad Tarasenko, or perhaps winning a Cup two years in a row during a pandemic is hard.

The Blues’ offseason was marked by the huge signing of Torey Krug, which was made possible by the departure of Alex Pietrangelo to Vegas. Speaking of Petro, how about the Boogie Nights mansion he just bought?

Losing Petro hurts, but the Blues are still loaded on defense.  Krug joins Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko and Marco Scandella in a formidable Top 4.  Ryan O’Reilly is back as the leader of the forwards, who are somewhat underwhelming-but-balanced with guys like Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Bozak, and David Perron carrying the load.

A big question for the Blues will be goaltending.  After getting justifiably cocky in 2019, Jordan Binnington received a tummy full of crow in 2020 to the tune of an .851 playoff SV%.  Ouch.  He’ll need to rebound if the Blues will be serious Cup contenders in 2021.

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is that the Blues will be gifted 2 gimme points anytime they wear their reverse-retro jersey.  Opponents will be too busy being blind and vomiting to skate.  What an atrocity.

DETROIT RED WINGS:  Red Wings fans’ patience will be tested this year as the Yzerplan continues to take shape.  The former Lightning GM is looking to build perennial contender Part Deux in Detroit following a couple of years which can only be described as elephant diarrhea.   I’m no NBA fan, but how’d “The Process” work out in Philly?  Maybe this will be different.

Stevey Y went out and traded for Marc Staal’s corpse, which didn’t seem like a great start to anyone with access to advanced analytics, or, you know, vision.

I really like their young forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi, but my [fat] gut feels like all three are better suited for a 2A type-role on a contender rather than core pieces of a juggernaut.  Magnificent face mask game on Bertuzzi, though.

As for the blue line – they have a couple decent defensive D-Men in Patrik Nemeth and Jon Merrill, but are woefully “below the line” on offensive upside.  Shoutout Mike Tomlin (10-0, bitch).

Yzerman still has about $9MM to play with, so we’ll see.  It didn’t help they got shafted in the draft and missed out on Alexis Lafreniere.  Probably still a year or two away before the Wings contend.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS:  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I am a recent Columbus transplant (by way of Pittsburgh and Denver). I was really looking forward to getting my Miller-Light-soaked-ass kicked at Nationwide Arena following my move in April, but COVID made sure to Dikembe Mutombo that plan.

I really don’t know what to say about CBJ other than they’re going to be a pain in the ass so long as Torts is around.  It doesn’t seem to matter who is on the roster.  By the way – this is a good thing.  Rivalries are what make sports fun, Bub.

The Jackets lost in R1 to the Lightning this year in a measly 5 games, but Lightning fans were uncomfortable for a large portion of the series.

Seth Jones will be back as the cornerstone of an otherwise ‘meh’ blue line.  He is the tits.  The forward group is the real-life manifestation of “death by a thousand paper cuts.”  None of the guys are particularly scary as individuals, but as a group they drive you nuts.  And just in case you were tired of being annoyed by the same old faces, they went out and signed notorious pest Max Domi.  Set the over/under at some moron Pittsburgh radio guy feigning an aneurysm following a questionable Domi-on-Crosby hit at 2.5 games.  ASSAULT!

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS:  When I was living in Denver, I tried to make it a point to go watch Kane, Toews & Keith at least once/year when Chicago was in town.  The rest of the team may have sucked, but watching those bastards share the ice with new-age McKinnon, Gabe the Babe, and Makar is hockey porn.  In that spirit – I’m excited about the potential for more Crosby / Kane matchups.

Unfortunately for Chicago fans, rock bottom is yet to come.  Stan Bowman appears to have as much control over his hockey club as Antonio Brown has of his emotions.  Captain Jonathan Toews shocked everyone this offseason when he revealed that he was able to talk. His comments:

The expectation for the other leaders on this team and myself is to come ready to training camp every year to be a playoff team. I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild. That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”

Yikes.

To Recap:  Captain Canada is #mad, he and your other superstar forward are on the wrong side of 32, your franchise D-Man is 37, you have a handful of albatross contracts, and a directionless GM.  Rough years ahead for Chicago.  Hey wait a minute, this all sounds a little familiar….

Uh…..let’s move on.

FLORIDA PANTHERS:  Just kidding, I’m not going to write a whole paragraph on the Florida Panthers.  They are paying $10MM to Sergei Bobrovsky.  Get real.

Aaron Ekblad is a legit superstar wasting away in South Florida through 2025, so T’s & P’s to him.  They have $8MM in cap space – maybe they’ll do something because Nanna and Grampa ain’t spending their retirement savings on season tickets to see Barkov and Huberdeau.  For now, I’ll show them as much respect as they showed Olli Jokinen.

But hey….the Hornqvist tribute will be sick.  Lots of sunscreen, you beautiful, pale, Swedish son of a bitch.

And that’s that.  Division Predictions:

  1. TBL:  *FRED DURST VOICE* Keep rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin!
  2. CBJ:  My irrational Torts love will be the life or death of me, with almost no in-between.  What do you want me to say?  He cracks me up.
  3. PIT:  I like this team more than most.  They are better now than they were at season’s end.  This division is weaker than the Metro. More on that (and less on Jack Johnson) in future blogs.
  4. STL:  My confidence in this pick is somewhere between Mike Johnston and 2012 Marc-Andre Fleury.
  5. FLA:  Quietly and perfectly mediocre.  Team Nyquil.
  6. DET:  Baby steps!
  7. CHI:  At least you have Nick Foles!!? The Bulls?  Tony La Russa?  Uhhhh…Go Cubs?

I look forward to being very wrong on all these.

Last thing:  I’m gonna try to leave everyone with a good song at the end of each blog that somehow relates to the content (or current events).  Today’s will be Home – LCD Soundsystem, since that’s where most of us are spending all our time.  Fuck Corona, and Go Pens.

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