The offseason is officially underway. On Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning became repeat Stanley Cup Champions in front of a full building at home. From that came an amazing interview and more conversations about a fantastic goaltender. With that, practicing patience on contract negotiations, the headache of the “Canada’s Team” narrative and, of course, ice cream, here are my Five Thoughts for Friday:
Following their back-to-back Stanley Cup win, Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov attended his post-game media availability shirtless with a cold beer in hand for what I deem to be one of the greatest interviews we’ve seen from a hockey player in a long time.
Nikita Kucherov not holding back in his post-game. Legendary press conference. pic.twitter.com/6hA9KvpgPE— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) July 8, 2021
Hockey players, for the most part, are either the most boring athletes on the planet or they’re trained to come off that way. There are, of course, exceptions. People like Dylan DeMelo, Curtis Lazar and Tim Stützle have shown Sens fans that personalities do, in fact, exist in hockey. But, more often than not, when a microphone is in front of an NHL player, the same, recycled comments about getting pucks in deep, leaving it all out on the ice, sticking to our game, and the lot is all that comes out of their mouths.
While it’s fresh off a Stanley Cup win and certainly fuelled by at least one beer, it would be great to hear more, honest, fun quotes from hockey players in the future. Kucherov calling the reaction of Habs fans to their game four win hilarious and saying “their final” was last round is media gold and I’d love to see more of that.
On Becoming The Best
At 26 years old, Andrei Vasilevsky has played in a total of 81 playoff games. As was mentioned over and over last night on Twitter, he also closed out every single series during this post season with a shutout. Vasilevsky is, as we know, a star.
This made me wonder, just how good is he compared to the rest? When I jumped into playoff stats for goaltenders since 1918, I found that Vasilevsky is tied for fourth all-time for save percentage of goaltenders with at least 50 playoff games under their belt. To make it more interesting, Vasilevsky’s 0.924 SV% is only 0.03 from second place, 0.09 from first. The goaltenders ahead of him - or tied with him - feature names like Tim Thomas, Braden Holtby, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dominik Hasek.
When I think of the all-time greats, I think of Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden. Vasilevsky has a long way to go to match these players in their accomplishments, particularly in playoff games played, but, at such a young age, Vasilevsky has a lot of time to play catch up.
We have a cool opportunity to watch a goaltender work to become one of the best of all-time right before our very eyes. While I’m not a Lightning fan, it sure would be awesome to watch a player climb to the upper echelon of the all-time goaltending conversation.
On Practicing Patience
While the Stanley Cup Finals wind down, the talk of the down has, unsurprisingly, been why the Ottawa Senators haven’t locked up
potential future captain Brady Tkachuk to a contract extension. Of course, the playoffs are still happening and the Sens almost never get to their RFA contracts before the offseason is well underway but a large amount of trust issues within this fanbase has some folks scrambling.
The brilliant Ian Mendes posted a piece on Tuesday about this particular topic, urging patience and outlining the numerous ways these talks could play out. The overarching theme was the Sens will extend Tkachuk, one way or another, and he’ll be an Ottawa Senator for years to come. That being said, Mendes sees these talks lasting a long time, possibly until or even into training camp and, unfortunately, I agree. There are so many factors here.
First and foremost, the financial landscape. From a career earnings perspective, it’s likely very smart of Tkachuk to look at a bridge deal whereas you can guarantee Pierre Dorion is looking to get Tkachuk signed for as the rules will allow. Second, and almost as important, Tkachuk is one of those rare players who, from most angles, has a ton of value to this franchise that’s difficult to quantify. While his offensive production thus far probably puts him in the $7M AAV range, Tkachuk and his camp know what he means to the Senators and he knows the Senators know that.
At the end of the day, Tkachuk will be a Senator next season and for seasons to come but it’s pretty likely this deal isn’t done until the calendar flips to September. Patience is going to be key.
On Not Understanding Sports Fandom
Anyone who has been on hockey Twitter for five seconds over the past few weeks will have seen a strange array of people clamouring for Canadians to jump on the Montreal bandwagon and cheer for the Habs, as “Canada’s Team”. Some of these people, even ones who are paid to talk about hockey for a living, are showing an interesting level of misunderstanding with how sports fandom works.
Can you imagine a Penguins fan jumping on the Flyers bandwagon if they made the finals, just because they’re from the same state? Do you think Panthers fans were hoping Tampa Bay would bring the Stanley Cup back to Florida? Can you picture a Rangers fan sitting on their couch, donning the Islanders orange and blue, hoping they’d take down the defending champs? No, it’s just not a thing.
I’m not one to gate keep how people cheer for their favourite team. I’m not about to judge you if you were one of the small minority of Sens fans who wanted to see the Habs beat the Lightning. But it is absolutely hilarious to me that we go through this same storyline, year after year, about “Canada’s Team” and how once there’s one left standing, that’s the one all Canadians should cheer for simply because that team happens to be located in the country we call home.
When the Ottawa Senators are the last team standing, whenever that may be, I won’t expect anyone but Sens fans to cheer for them. I will welcome bandwagoners with open arms, but the only time you’ll see me tweeting about Ottawa being “Canada’s Team” will be through posts dripping with sarcasm, poking fun at those who think this is a thing.
On Ice Cream
On ice cream? Yeah, I know.
You come here for the hard hitting Sens thoughts and this couldn’t be more important. You, like me, are up nights thinking, wondering, guessing which Sens player aligns with which ice cream flavour. Luckily, I have the definitive answers for you.
Tim Stützle - The future superstar is obviously bubblegum ice cream. He’s young, he’s fun, he’s sweet.
Evgeni Dadonov - Dadonov is very clearly vanilla. People look at his first season in Ottawa and think nothing of it, when realistically he was a lot better than he was given credit for.
Nick Paul - This is our chocolate ice cream man. He’s ol’ reliable, you can’t go wrong with a bowl of chocolate.
Josh Norris - Mint chip? Mint chip. In his rookie season he produced offensively while matching up against some of the North Division’s top players. He’s a great, balanced combination just like mint chip ice cream.
Drake Batherson - I had to outsource this one to Brandon, who was quick to tell me Batherson is coconut ice cream. He’s new, he’s up and coming, but he’s darn good.
Connor Brown - The red head is clearly strawberry. It’s not just for his locks, but also because you tend to forget how good he is and then you have a bite and you’re like oh heck ya.
Shane Pinto - He’s red bean because... beans.
Austin Watson - A pralines and cream, lean, mean, hitting machine.
Brady Tkachuk - Cookies and cream, it’s simple. He’s got some crunch with a sweet, fun personality.
Chris Tierney - Tierney is Neapolitan. He’s there, he exists.
Alex Formenton - Butterscotch ripple is the choice here because his speed makes waves.
Colin White - He’s a full on ice cream sundae because he needs just a little help being awesome but when he’s got the right toppings, he’s solid.
Thomas Chabot - Peanut butter chocolate, easy, because he’s the best.
Erik Brännström - Another Brandon special, the Brännchise is cheesecake ice cream because he’s awesome but doesn’t get respect because he’s not a traditional flavour.
Victor Mete - Our final Brandon addition, Mete is black cherry because he’s criminally underrated.
Artem Zub - Zub is pistachio because he’s excellent but not enough people talk about it.
Nikita Zaitsev - Here’s your tiger tail. Only like three people think he’s good but he’s actually quite the opposite.
Josh Brown - Brown is Green Tea ice cream simply because he’s fine but I’d almost never pick him.
Matt Murray - Well, it’s been a rocky road so far so...
Filip Gustavsson - Gus is heavenly hash because he’s arguably better than rocky road but people just aren’t willing to admit it quite yet because of rocky road’s reputation.