Holy shit it’s been a minute. Right off the hop I want to apologize to you all as I’ve been neglecting this, my first introduction to many of you: the blogging side of The Morning Skate. The podcast is a well-oiled machine that chugs along and I’ve been fortunate enough to hop on and ride with Ked the last bit, but this is where you and first met Dear Reader. This is where our relationship was born and nurtured. This is where we’ve grown together to arrive at where we are now; a comfy spot filled with mutual trust and respect. I also want to applaud your patience while I’ve been dealing with a host of issues not limited to needing a new laptop. The IT issues have been solved and I’ve been planning a State of the Bruins post, but I’m going to wait until after the NHL draft (July 7-8) and free agency begins (July 13). Per usual, I’m hopefully optimistic that the Bruins pull the proverbial rabbit out of their black and gold hat and surround the injured and aging core for another run at The Cup.
In the meantime, I had this idea a while back when the playoffs had just started and the hopes and dreams of fanbases across the NHL were filled with visions of Lord Stanley dancing in their heads. From Los Angeles up to Calgary over to Minnesota and down to Nashville, people believed that THIS WAS THE YEAR. Even here in the Hub of Hockey, I thought that the Bruins were poised for a deep run. As I’ve said numerous times in print and on the podcast, this is why I’m not behind an NHL bench or in a front office: I don’t know shit.
I started to think about all the teams in the playoff format and who (besides the Bruins of course), I’d like to see hoist The Cup. On each squad there were a few guys I liked, but there were loads that I’d like to see shot into the sun (or some onto the Bruins roster if we’re being honest). Anyways, I started thinking about Heroes and Villains: who fits into each category, who plays the game the right way (in my opinion) and who doesn’t, how there’s always a million storylines in the playoffs and basically who I like and who I don’t (for myriad reasons).
I thought this would be a fun exercise and much like my Top 100 Players, this ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would. Here’s the premise: I took each team in the playoff format (minus the Bruins because they’d almost all be on the Heroes squad) and assigned 2 players from each team to the Villains and 2 players to the Heroes. I even made it more challenging as I tried to fill out lines and Black Ace rosters with each squad having 30 players. Get it? Good. Disclaimer: this was done during the playoffs and some players will def have been moved by the time you get around to reading this (McDonough to NSH for starters, listen to the podcast here for more NHL news)
Just to refresh your memory, here are the teams that made the playoffs for this season:
Pittsburgh Florida Washington Tampa Bay
Toronto Carolina NY Rangers St. Louis
Colorado Calgary Dallas Los Angeles
Minnesota Nashville Edmonton (Boston)
Now on some of these squads it was easier to pick one or the other. I mean, let’s face it, the Lightning and Capitals could have filled out the entire Villains roster by themselves. There may be some controversial picks for either team, but as we’ve established in the past, if you don’t like my picks, start your own blog.
Let’s jump into this nonsense.
Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Heroes Roster:
LW C RW
Jake Guentzel PIT Sidney Crosby PIT Claude Giroux FLA
TJ Oshie WAS Connor McDavid EDM Vladimir Tarasenko STL
Gabriel Landeskog COL Ryan O’Reilly STL Matthew Tkachuk CGY
Sam Bennett FLA Jamie Benn DAL Jordan Staal CAR
Cale Makar COL Adam Fox NYR
Ryan McDonough TBL Drew Doughty LAK
Roman Josi NSH Darnell Nurse EDM
Igor Shesterkin NYR
Jonathan Quick LAK
Jake Oettinger DAL
Jack Campbell TOR
Nic Dowd WSH
Marcus Foligno MIN
Corey Perry TBL
Ryan Johansen NSH
Wayne Simmonds TOR
Matt Dumba MIN
Noah Hanafin CGY
Ian Cole CAR
Ok, some names jump out at you I’m sure, and if I miss anyone you have a question about, please let me know @abrow28 on socials or drop us a note for the podcast at Morningskatepodcast@gmail.com and we can talk about it on our next episode.
Let’s works our way down this lineup. Are you going to tell me that you watched this years’ playoffs and you’re not going to team Crosby and Guentzel on the top line? If Trouba didn’t knock Sid out of that game (and somehow avoid suspension due to NHL favoritism of the NYR), would the NYR have made their run? I put Giroux on the other wing because I can guarantee you that once Claude got out of PHI there is no way on God’s green earth that he endorsed that Panthers strip club outing. McDavid did all he could this year, but on my team I’m still going with Sid at 1C (Only cause I can’t pick Bergeron). Oshie and Tarasenko are both bringing more to the table than McJesus has ever had so I expect the 2nd line on this squad to push the top line.
In the bottom six we have to have some jam, and look at that 3rd line of beauties. O’Reilly in between Landeskog and Tkachuk? Holy shit as the boys on Missin’ Curfew like to say “That line fucks”. I would give up the farm for the Bruins to acquire any of them. For the 4th line “grinders”: Bennett, Benn and Staal? Hell yeah! I think Bennett would run the mascot if he thought it would help and Benn and Staal proved this year how valuable they both are to their teams. That’s 12 bonafide studs up front for the Heroes Hockey Club.
On the back end the top pairing of Makar and Fox may never come off the ice. These 2 youngsters can skate for days and contribute at both ends of the ice. For the rare moments when they need a breather? McDonough and Doughty will fill the bill (Yes, I’m ignoring Doughty’s injury for the premise of this post). Then you have Josi and Nurse on the 3rd pair, but I’m probably putting Josi on PP1. That’s 6 of the most ruthless, efficient, professional defensemen in the league. I mean watch Makar’s highlights from just the playoffs and tell me he doesn’t need a level above the NHL to play in.
In net I’m going with the reigning Vezina netminder in Shesterkin. This guy may go down as the best goalie in NYR history, that’s right I said it. He’s unflappable while still battling and has a cocky edge to him that you have to love. Backing him up is quite possibly the best American born goalie of all time, Jonathan Quick. Quick has shown he can still get it up for a run, so I’ll ride these two to the finish line.
The Black Aces? Forgetaboutit. This squad has it all. Simmonds and Foligno keep everyone playing the right way, while Perry and Dowd agitate the fuck out of everyone else. Johansen can fill in anywhere on any of the 4 lines and look at the defense! Cole proved this year that he’s not done while Dumba’s game has improved every year that he’s been in the league. As for Hanafin, he’s the one who got away from the Bruins at the 2015 draft so I had to put him on here. In net you have Oettinger who played his way onto this team when he showed what he’s got vs. CGY in the first round. As his backup I’m going with Campbell just cause I like his story, his teammates and opponents seem to love him and he’s one of 2 Maple Leafs that I can actually root for.
That’s it for the Heroes squad. Keep an eye out for the Villains squad, which I should have out in the next week or so. As always, thanks for reading.