McPhee easy choice to win NHL GM award, but who else would have worked?
March 06, 2018 3:00 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
George McPhee, general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, is a shoo-in to capture the National Hockey League’s GM of the Year award. Let me be the first – well, almost – to offer a hardy congratulations.
But pretend the Knights franchise didn’t hit the ice until next season. With McPhee absent from the ballot, who should be the winner of the award for 2018-19? With kudos to Ron Hextall of Philadelphia, who I earlier declared will capture the honor next season – the late run by the Flyers keeps them in contention for the Metro Division crown – the choice could be directed to Boston GM Don Sweeney.
Many believed the Bruins had so many flaws at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, Sweeney would need to do some fancy dancing to avoid being fired after surviving the jettison of head coach Claude Julien in May 2015.
Well, folks, this man certainly can dance, as the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs battle to avoid playing each other in a first-round playoff series, bypassing Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division and instead meeting a wild-card club.
Buoyed by development of youth thanks to the acquisition of several draft choices, it may have taken one year longer than desired, yet one can argue the Bruins may currently be in the best form over any other NHL team.
Sweeney wasn’t shy, initially trading D Dougie Hamilton to Calgary, the acquisition and quick re-trade of G Martin Jones from L.A to San Jose, and the draft selections like centers David Pastrnak and Danton Heinen, plus defensemen Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy.
Of course, anchors in G Tuukka Rask, D Zdano Chara, LW Brad Marchand, C Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and the deadline trade for Rick Nash are core components to make Boston a tough out for the Stanley Cup.
Remember, Sweeney, a native of New Brunswick, isn’t dumb. He played four seasons of college hockey for Harvard, then logged more than 1,000 games with the Bees.
So when the Bruins blew out Pittsburgh last Thursday, 8-4, the 12 goals topped their previous season high of 11, also against the Penguins. It matched the franchise’s high since a 12-spot against the Flyers – a 7-5 win – in January 2011.
In other words, Pittsburgh hopes to avoid Boston in the Eastern Conference Final, as Pens G Matt Murray may have the Bruins in his head. In two appearances (one in relief), he has an .894 save percentage.
The bigger problem for Pittsburgh is Murray’s absence in last week’s game with Boston. A few days earlier against Florida, Murray exited early with a concussion. Should he remain on the injury list as long as Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury did (60 full days), the Penguins may be out of the playoffs early.
Boston went on a solid 14-0-4 run before falling to rising Anaheim, then added four additional victories to catch Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Toronto is 13-4-5 since New Year’s to also catch the Bolts, plus (after playing Tampa Bay and Nashville on the road, Mar 20-22) play 6-of-8 of their final games at home.
Even I expected the season-long Over trend to end sometime toward the close of the regular season as teams seek to get primed for the playoffs. Well, not yet.
Due to the resting of goalies, along with injuries (listed above), and the return to a speed game, the Over on the Grand Salami remains hot for the casual bettor to enjoy. And it’s not only during Golden Knights contests.
Last Thursday for example, in eight games, 61 total goals were tallied, as the Over went 5-2 with a push. Both Unders saw 5 goals in each – bad beats? – barely staying under the Total.
Two days earlier, 58 goals in nine games featured a pair of games with 11 goals each for an another easy Over – and the general public loves it!
PATH is here
Earlier in the season, I explained how PATH – Protocol on American Thanksgiving in Hockey – states that 75% of the teams in playoff position on the holiday would remain there and advance to Stanley Cup play.
In the Eastern Conference, Detroit was replaced by Boston in the Atlantic, while then last-place Philadelphia is in – and contending for the Metro title – and Carolina is out. However, this division seems to change almost daily, yet the 75 percent standard remains solid.
In the West, Minnesota is now it after serving time in the penalty box – they were tied for last place with Chicago – while San Jose overtook both Calgary and Vancouver to also the three-quarters rate.
However, Anaheim is tied with St. Louis for the No. 8 berth, with the Blues currently owning the ROW (Regulation and Overtime wins; no shootout wins) tiebreaker.
Yes, I understand PATH may not be a Yellow Brick Road to professional handicapping, but South Point sportsbook’s Vinny Magliulo, the VP of strategic partnerships and marketing, admitted on VSiN.com they were surprised yet verified the information and slightly adjusted some of the Futures lines – a non-money move!
Vinny, please send my consultant fee in care of the GT office.