Sports

Smoke's Rant: Harkins Snubbed for Summer Development Camp

Harkins Now, this really grinds my gears. As a hockey fan and a fan of the WHL's Prince George Cougars, I am more than a little discouraged that Jansen Harkins was left out of the Team Canada Summer Development Camp. Yes, I know that he still has a chance to make the team if he does well in the start of the regular season either with the Cougars or the Jets. It's the fact that he has been passed over by most of the Canadian teams, despite being a catalyst for the resurgence of the Cougars organization. The Smoke Show had Cougars President Greg Pocock in the studio a couple of weeks ago; he mentioned that the reason some of the other players on the team got the looks they did from the scouts was due  in major part to Harkins plays and draft status. How can you ignore something like that?

If Tom Renney and company wanted to bring in fresh faces to see what they looked like, why not bring in a guy that has helped your nation to a gold in the Ivan Hlinka tournament and a bronze in the under 18 tournament last year? Maybe they have seen what Harkins can do on multiple stages and want to look at players that they have never seen at any point in the international realm. Then why do you have Dylan Strome, Jake Virtanen, Lawson Crouse, Robby Fabri, and Tomas Konecny? All of these forwards are high draft picks and they were on the world junior team next year. There is no need to "develop" these particular players because you already know that they are the best in the world for their age group. It is time to give the likes of Harkins their due on one of the biggest international stages in sports.

Speaking of draft picks, one could argue that all the aforementioned players were drafted higher than Harkins, so they deserve to be in Calgary instead of Harkins. I present exhibit a) Dylan Sadowy. Sadowy plays for Saginaw of the OHL, and was drafted in the 3rd round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, he also happens to have the exact same physical stats that Harkins does. Both are 6 foot 1, both are 180lbs, both shoot left handed. So, why do you invite a guy of similar attributes physically but has supposedly less skill to a Team Canada camp. Colour me confused. Exhibit b) Spencer Watson. Now this one really baffles me when compared to Prince George's Harkins. Watson is smaller at only 5 fo0t 9, and he was drafted a significant amount lower in an arguably weaker draft year; he was drafted 209th overall. Now, I can do into some conspiracy theory arguments right about now showcasing that the vast majority of the invitees were from the Ontario Hockey League (much like where most of the brass is from), or that you can count on one hand how many players are from B.C compared to the overwhelming majority that were born in the east. No, I am not going to go down that path. Instead, I am simply going to say that Team Canada missed the boat on Harkins, but they better start giving him a fair look when it gets closer to Christmas and Hanukkah when he is ripping it up for the Cougars or NHL's Rudy, the Winnipeg Jets.

My name is Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on Team Canada snubbing Jansen Harkins from development camp. Thank you very much for reading and, Hockey Canada... YOU HAVE FAILED THIS CITY!

Smoke’s Rant: Toronto Blue Jays; Stop Giving Fans False Hope

1024px-Toronto_Blue_Jays_Logo_1997–2002.svg The Toronto Blue Jays have stormed into the Friday’s MLB trade deadline with the might of Mjolnir, making the rest of the teams in the league take notice. On July 28th, the Jays pulled off an improbable trade sending dugout and fan favorite Jose Reyes to the Colorado Rockies for the consensus #1 shortstop in the majors Troy Tulowitzki. Even to the casual fan of the Jays, this trade seems to be almost highway robbery in the favor of Canada’s ball club. Tulowitzki is ranked first in every statistical category for a shortstop. He has the best batting average on the Jays now, and he has the best on base percentage of any shortstop the Jays have had in a long while. Heck, he even lit things up in his debut against the Phillies on Wednesday, getting 3 RBI’s and blasting a homerun out of the park. Nothing about this player screams that this won’t work out, but only time will tell.

 

Then Alex Anthopoulos goes and makes another gigantic deal mere days later acquiring dominant ace pitcher David Price from the Detroit Tigers for some prospects. I am not saying that the prospects of P David Norris, P Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt won’t turn out to be great assets for the Tigers in the future, but to get an ace like Price to try and Juggernaut your way into the postseason takes some major stones and some masterful negotiating by the Jays GM. Price has a 2.53 ERA and is 9-4 on an underachieving Tigers team. Now put him on a team with the most potent offense in the league and you have a recipe for success. But why am I saying that these trades lead to a false hope for Jays fans?

 

Well, recent history shows that the Jays like to hover around .500 year-after-year. They start every season campaign saying that they are going to contend for the divisional title and then predictably they miss the playoffs with a mediocre record. Yes, adding these pieces is a huge step forward for this season, and yes, Troy Tulowitzki is locked up long term (6 more years) but Price is only a rental, and if the Jays miss the playoffs and continue their par play next year, then Jose Bautista is definitely going to walk once his contract is up. It does seem like the Jays are going all in for this season and possibly next year as well, but they are heading towards a cliff that they might fall off if they are not careful. If one looks at the Jays payroll, one would realize that most of their players contracts expire in a year or two. Josh Donaldson and Mark Buehrle are free agents at year’s end, although at least Donaldson is likely to resign with the team. Encarnacion, Dickey, Bautista, and Izturis are all free agents at the end of next year with at least a couple of them destined to be opponents afterwards. Of course the Jays will have Rogers money to try and keep the team in tact, but one has to believe that some of these players are inching closer to the end of their careers and want a legitimate chance at the World Series Championship. If the Jays fall flat on their faces at the end of this season, then Toronto becomes a less desireable team to stick with for current players and even less desirable for top-end free agents to come to the north. In talking to a Jays fan before writing this article, him and the rest of Jays nation have been dragged through the mud hoping that they will see their team in the promised land but fail to make it every time, who's to say this time is any different. The Blue Jays need to stop giving their fans false hope, because you keep hearing tens of thousands of baseball heart break every single year.

 

I am Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on the Blue Jays giving their fans false hope after two spectacular blockbuster traders. Thanks for reading, and, It’s Clobbering Time!

 

Smoke's Rant: Kenny Lally Makes PG Proud at PanAm Games

Lally The PanAm games recently finished in Toronto with an astounding showing by Canada racking up 217. One of those Canadians that made our nation proud, and more specially, our northern city proud was boxer Kenny Lally. I mean let's be honest, Prince George is a beautiful town, but we are also a tough town. It's about time that we have a champion fighter to try and combat Williams Lake and Quesnel, who can boast that they have perennial #1 contender Rory MacDonald in the UFC. Boxing is the oldest and most prized fighting in the world. When there is a big fight, the world stops to watch as the next icon makes there way to squared gladiator arena to entertain the masses in a physical chess match the would make Bobby Fisher roll in his grave in fright. Now the new wave of Gladiators enter the ring, and this time Canada has one of the best fighters in the world. Kenny Lally is a 6 time national champion and has made huge strides to gaining a spot in the Olympics. His quarter-final match against Ecuador's Padilla Segundo was fast paced and exciting. The Canadian champ ended up with a split-decision call to earn a spot in the semi-finals against Cuban boxing sensation Andy Cruz. Unfortunately for Lally, he couldn't muster any sustained offense against the Cuban, who looked like he could have tried out for the Justice League as the scarlet speedster. Despite the fact that the casual observer believes that offense wins bouts, elite level boxing uses a lot more strategy and angles. Look at Floyd Mayweather or even Lally's idol Muhammed Ali, both fighters used their speed and angles to frustrate opponents before going in for the kill. Cuban fighters in Lally's division are the gold standard, but Lally has been one of the only Canadians to be successful as he defeated a Cuban during the Continental Championships in 2010. Even though he fell short against Cruz (the eventual gold medal winner), he captured the bronze medal at the games and has gained incredible momentum when he continues to make his bid for the Brazil Olympics in 2016. Lally's next tournament is in the middle of August when he knocks heads off in Venezuela. But, before he makes that journey, he is training hard in his hometown of Prince George, as well as making his debut on The Smoke Show on Wednesday. I will have the honor to sit down with Kenny Lally to talk about the PanAm games, the upcoming Continental Games, his training regime, and his debate between boxing and MMA. Listen live on Wednesday at 4pm for all the action.

Smoke's Rant: Prince George Cougars Charity Golf Tournament

This past weekend, the Prince George Cougars held their 4th annual charity golf tournament at the PG Golf and Curling club to benefit the Spirit of the North Healthcare foundation. This charity directly benefits the Prince George Northern Health hospital with gaining funding to buy expensive medical equipment; such as the SPECT CT scanner that the hospital has been trying to purchase for a while. Just like with most charities around northern B.C, people came out in droves to support this worthy cause. Even current NHL stars and Cougars owners Dan Hamhuis and Eric Brewer made the trip to their old stomping ground to take part in the weekend festivities. The Cougars set up a meeting with the fans on Friday at 4pm, where fans could get autograpghs from their favorite Cougars alumni. CFUR 88.7fm caught up with current Vancouver Canuck d-man Dan Hamhuis to talk about the charity, the Cougars, the Canucks, and his golf game.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxiV5C7L-GI[/embed]

CFUR and The Smoke Show would like to thank Greg Pocock and the rest of the Cougars organization for facilitating the interview and making this past weekend a positive time for every sports fan in PG. I am Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on the Prince George Charity Golf Tourney. Cut off one head, two more shall take its place...HAIL HYDRA.

Smoke's Rant: New CFL Rules are AWESOME

The CFL came into the new season with a handful of new rules that were meant to inject some more excitement into an already exciting product on the field. The CFL is forever fighting the battle of legitimacy because of our neighbors to the south having a larger than life football entertainment. A new set of rules voted in by the CFL board of governors aim to do just that. If you are not up on the rules; here's a rundown:

1) Holding the five interior players at the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked: What the heck does that mean? Well, it means that the center that snaps the ball, as well as the two players on either side of the center have to stay where they are until the ball is kicked from the punter. CFL vice president of officiating has stated that this rule change gives more time to the punt returner, less "no yards" penalties, and less illegal blocking by the returning team. This new rule is aiming to give the returning team a better chance to make a fantastic run before being mauled by their opponents. Unless your name was Cory Banks, you were not going anywhere after you caught the ball on a punt return last year. Teams were on the returner like white on rice, which made for a much more boring play. Now the field has opened up more for the flashy runners to gain some more yards.

2) Illegal Blocking on the Defense: No longer can the cornerbacks harass the receivers after 5 yards. This rule is for pure entertainment and high scoring affairs. The board of governors found that there was too much grabbing and obstructing from the cornerbacks and safeties against the receivers. After the receivers get past five yards from the line of scrimmage, defenders are not allowed to push, grab, or obstruct the receivers ability to catch the ball. The defender will have to try and knock the ball out of the air or have a brilliantly timed hit that will cause the receiver problems holding onto the ball. This rule was on full display when the B.C Lions took on the Roughriders last Friday at BC Place Stadium. The Roughriders Kevin Glenn was able to complete 23 of 29 passes for 271 yards, but the most impressive part of his play was that he connected with Weston Dressler on numerous occasions including 2 wide open touchdowns that made their opponents defense look completely silly. The Lions QB Travis Lulay did pretty darn good as well with a 77% completion record with an astounding 400 yards passing. Lulay finally found the openings that he had been searching 3 quarters for, as he roared back from a two touchdown deficit to force overtime. All this action would not be possible without the blocking rule change for defense.

3) Longer Field Goals and Short Two-Point converts: This may not seem significant, but it definitely is for a couple reasons. The first reason is that the point after is no longer an after thought. Most of the time, when fans are watching the game, the extra point is so close to the uprights that everyone expects the ball to go through. One of the biggest reasons that people watch sports is because the athletes are challenged on every play or every shift. The board of governors understood this particular problem and decided to bring the extra point back from 5 yards to 25 yards away. As the vice-president of officiating, Johnson, stated, "the likelyhood of the kicker making the point after goes from 99.6% to around 80%" (MontrealGazzette.com). People will now covet the point after as entertaining instead of routine. Second, the reason this rule change is significant is because now there will be more two-point conversions. Last year teams tried a two-point conversion only 30% of the time after a touchdown. Now, the CFL predicts between a 40%-50% likelyhood that teams will go for the extra exciting play instead of kicking it through the uprights.  Much more strategy is being implemented when you have to plan whether you wan to take a chance on another endzone play or kicking the football. Another aspect of this new rule that coaches have to factor in is, the starting point for a two-point convert is now even closer to the endzone. Before, teams would have to start their conversion on the 5 yard line, now they are starting it on the 3 yard line. Johnson stated that they wanted to make the extra point harder and the two-point convert easier to make the more exciting play more appealing to the coaches. This was again in full display at Friday's entertaining match-up between Saskatchewan and B.C. Lions kicker Richie Lionne made , what many thought to be a crucial missed extra point (after the Roughriders completed a couple of two-point converts), before making a clutch 54 yard field goal to push it to overtime. An amazing play made possible by intelligent rule changes by the league.

Unlike rule changes from other leagues that sometimes don't pan out the way the board of governors would like, this has been a breath of fresh air. The fact that we even give a damn about the extra point, is something spectacular. The fact that we get to see more highlight reel plays from our star player, is a sorely missed aspect of the game over the last year. The fact that Travis Lulay hasn't shattered like glass over the first couple of games has been a huge bonus to Lions fans everywhere. I am Smoke Stark and this has been my informative rant on the new CFL rules. Thanks for reading, and, in the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.

Smoke's Rant: Really Racist Teams

Community-Stand-Against-Racism-Sign Now, I have been pissed off a lot with sports politics and general antics that come with some professional sports ie crime in the NFL, crime in the NBA, corruption in soccer, and the white hot lights beaming on Connor McDavid despite not playing an NHL game yet (too much pressure for a young guy); but one issue that has pissed me off for a while is the racist names for some sports teams. I am looking straight at you Washington and Cleveland.

U.S district judge Gerald Bruce Lee decided to uphold a ruling by the Trademark and Registration Board to cancel the trademark on the name "Redskins" due to the fact that it's blatantly racist against Native Americans. Thanks the Gods someone high up in American society has a brain and a more bone in their body. How would Caucasians like it if there was a team called "the crackers" or "the pale people"? It's time for owners of sports teams to get a grip and make sure that their names are culturally sensitive. It's not like anyone is trying to tell them to change it from the Washington robots to something else; YOUR NAME IS OFFENSIVE! Owner Dan Snyder has come out and tried to explain to the media and anyone who cares to listen, that the name is rooted in tradition and historical significance. The tradition he is talking about is the fact that no one has had the brains to change the name. The historical significance is that George Preston Marshall, who founded the team, was known as the biggest racist in the NFL while owning the team. During his tenure as team owner, he refused to sign any African-american players while others were signing and even drafting players in the early 1940's. He tried to play it off saying he wanted to pander to the southern market as a reason for not signing African-Americans; no you're just a terrible person. To have a person with the societal standing of Snyder saying that he respects this tradition, commissioner Roger Goodell needs to give him an ultimatum; either change the name or sell the team. Just from a business standpoint, your brand is being rightfully dragged through the mud. Your sales will plummet because no new fan is going to want to be associated with a racist name. Taking emotion right out of the equation, change the name and while you're at it, grow a heart.

Now, despite Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins are getting all the negative attention, there is a team in baseball that is even worse. Not only does the MLB team from Cleveland have a very racist name "Indians", they also have an even more racist logo. Everyone with half a brain knows that "Indian" is a derogatory name for First Nations and Native American people (despite the Canadian government still using the term in a very significant piece of legislature), not to mention the fact that you are grouping a very proud people in with people of a similar skin color that are halfway across the world (India). Lets now focus on the logo, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? How on earth are people lighting torches outside Larry Dolan's house trying to force him to change both the name and the logo. The logo originates from a caricature of Native American people entitled: Chief Wahoo. A rather alarming business fact is that when the caricature logo was put on to their hats in 1986, the sales went through the roof. Yeah, consider me a little shocked and offended too. At least the Redskins logo is somewhat respectable illustrations of a strong looking Native-American who is ready to kick some ass in battle. The Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL have shown the world how to actually represent the Native-American community with dignity and respect. Their logo is of a proud Blackhawk warrior and is used a symbol of strength throughout the city of Chicago and beyond. In multiple surveys of sports teams logos, the Blackhawks have consistently been voted as having the best logo in North American sports. The one positive aspect of the Cleveland Indians is the fact that Larry Dolan is not as ignorant to societies stance on inappropriate logo's as, since 2014, his team is using a "C" in block lettering as their primary hat logo. Bravo Larry Dolan, now wouldn't it be easy to just either phase the logo out all together or do a re-imagining of the logo?

You must now be thinking, what name should the Redskins use instead? Or, what logo and name should the Cleveland Indians use instead? Well, here is some options:

Options for the Redskins name change:

1) Crows: A fierce and noble tribe of Native Americans all over North America.

If they change the logo, it could be either:

thunderbird-clkr   or     jon-snow-of-night-s-watch-nights-watch-37593290-4912-7360  (Jon Snow in GoT)

2) Change the name and logo all together:

Name: Washington Orcas: Orca's are one of the national animals of Washington and they are pretty violent creatures.

Logo: 585abd5156daedc9943a35cd5be38045   or   how-to-draw-a-orca_1_000000004269_5

 

As for the Cleveland Indians, here are my suggestions for a complete re-branding:

Name #1: The Cleveland Lebrons:

Lebron James is probably the only good thing to happen to this rust-belt city in its history.

 

Logo #1)lebron_awh

 

Name #2: Cleveland Rockers:

Cleveland is home to the Rock-and-Roll hall of fame. Every game could have a upstart band rocking out during the 7th inning stretch.

Logo #2: marilyn_manson_1450905 or      165953761 copy

 

Let me know what you think of the article, name changes, or the logos. My name is Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on two of the most racist teams in sports. Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians YOU HAVE FAILED THIS CITY!

 

 

Smoke's Rant: Winners of NHL Free Agency

Christmas comes early in late June and early July as the NHL Entry draft transitions into the Free Agent Frenzy that keeps hockey fans glued to their television, tablets, and phones to see how many changes that their favorite team makes. Fans of the the top teams are hoping that their GM can just keep the team together, while fans of bottom feeders hope that their team gets a shakeup to turn their fortunes around. Since the dust has settled a little bit from all the off-season action, it is my sworn duty to tell you which teams have gotten better and which have gotten worse. Here are the NHL's two biggest Winners of the the off-season so far:

1) Calgary Flames: If the Flames were not already scary enough because of what they did last season, they got even more scary. At the draft, they pulled off the best trade that has been seen in some time trading away a 1st round pick, and two 2nd round picks in exchange for young star defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. Some would say all those picks are a steep price for one player, but it was the missing piece to a pretty awesome puzzle in Calgary. When they played against the Ducks in the second round of the playoffs this past season, they were very vulnerable in their own zone and as well as against the transition game. Dougie Hamilton gives the team a young guy that can contribute a little bit offensively, but on the defensive end of the puck, Hamilton is as solid as any young player can be. He always makes the safe play up the board, or makes an outlet pass to let the forwards charge into the oppositions zone with a head of steam. Critics of this addition to the Flames might say that he is not a game changer or that they have never really noticed him as an integral part of the Bruins. THAT"S THE POINT!!! Hamilton will never wow you with making highlight reel goals, he might not even be very noticeable at time, that's because he is doing his job properly. A good defensive d-man is one that nobody notices unless they make a great defensive play or when you look at the score sheet at the end of the game and realize he has a great +/- record. In 2013-14, Hamilton played 64 games, got 23 points and was an astounding +22, one of the best in the NHL. The Flames needed to get a young pillar that they form their defensive core around, they found one of the best young defenceman in the entire league. The Calgary Flames also added some secondary scoring, picking up Michael Frolik from the Jets in the free agency market and locked him up for 5 years. Frolik not only brings you exactly 42 points a season (exact same points that last couple of seasons), he also gives the Flames some much needed Stanley Cup experience, which they will need when they try to make a long run in the playoffs next year.

2) Edmonton Oilers: The Edmonton Oilers are finally moving in the right direction. They went from looking like the goat of the league to a young dragon destined to become a devour-er. The stellar off-season started in April with the luckiest lottery pick in a decade. Facing insurmountable, the Oilers got their name called to pick the 1st overall pick. On June 27th, the Oilers made if official by drafting Connor McDavid, but that was more luck than skill for the Oilers brass. The true work came after the 1st pick when they got Cam Talbot in a trade with the New York Rangers. Now, I am not completely sold on Talbot as a legitimate #1 goaltender. His numbers this past season were great, but he was just covering for an injured Lundquist. Talbot is going to have to face the scrutiny and media that surrounds the Oilers. Next, Peter Chiarelli went into free agency and targeted his team's other weakness by snagging Mark Letestu from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Andrej Sekera from the Kings. Letestu was a solid secondary scoring option for the Jackets with 34 points in 64 games in 2013/14. At only $1.8 mil per year for 3 years, he is low risk good reward. Sekera is the prize signing fore the Oilers, who has very particular stats that interested Chiarelli. When Sekera is on the ice, his team

Teams that were once floundering have now become the envy of most teams with a dominant off-season of change. I am Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on the NHL winners this off-season. I am the best at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice. Thanks for reading Sports Fans!

Smoke’s Rant: Team Canada does Nation Proud at Women’s World Cup Despite Early Exit

7227319 Sure, some would say that it was disappointing that the Canadian team didn’t go as far as they did in the 2012 London Olympics where they captured bronze, but that is complete garbage. The girls went unbeaten in the round robin, then shut out a very strong Swiss team with a complete defensive game, the likes of which coaches around the nation should look at when trying to make their own minor teams better. Hell, GK McLeod had three clean sheets in five games. Christine Sinclair and company took the weight of a nation on their shoulders and performed on the biggest stage of them all up until the last whistle. Even, when faced with a team that was ranked higher in the world ranking than them, team Canada still went out and dominated the game; unfortunately the result did not go in their favor. So, what happened in the quarter finals against England?

 

One simple answer: we couldn’t finish. I am not talking about finishing strong in the game, I am talking about the inability to capitalize on golden opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. The biggest culprit go throwing away chances was striker Melissa Tancredi. Less than 1 minute into the game, Christine Sinclair kicks a beautiful cross to Tancredi and she beats the defender that was on her, but instead of taking the time that she had and placing the ball for a perfect shot, she decides to fire a shot off in a hurried fashion and wings it about 10 feet over the net for a missed opportunity. Just get the ball on the giant net and see what happens! Throughout the game Tancredi had a handful of glorious chances to help get Canada the lead to tie the game when the team was down, but failed on every attempt. Coach John Herdman realized about three-quarters of the way through the game that Tancredi had lost confidence in herself and her abilities and mercifully decided to switch her out for Andria Leon, whom created more chances and looked sharper overall then Tancredi did. John Herdman relied heavily on some players to pull through for him, which ended up being his team’s downfall in the end.

 

Second simple answer: Sesselmann. For those who watched Canada’s last two games, a one name explanation is all you need. For those whom unfortunately didn’t catch some of the spectacular action displayed by number 10, let me catch you up to speed. Let’s start with the game against the Swiss. Sesselmann appears to have a lack of confidence from the very first kick. Placed at left-back to defend from any crosses that might worry the goalkeeper, it became very clear that the Swiss were targeting her side for entrance into the offensive zone. Everytime the ball crossed halfway, i would close my eyes and predict where there midfielder was going to take it, and without fail, it was always to Sesselmann’s side. Thank goodness John Herdman is not blind. Because halfway through the game, after numerous glorious chances for the Swiss, Sesselmann was put in the center-back position for the remainder of the game. This is not to say that this fixed the problem altogether, but it did reduce the number of chances for the opposition. So, one would ask themselves, why don’t we put another defender in the next game that has confidence in herself and is solid defensively. John Herdman may not be blind, but he might have amnesia, as Sesselmann was put in the starting rotation for the game against the English. Within 10 minutes, after Tancredi has missed a couple of grade A scoring chances, Sesselman coughs up the ball on an easy pass from her teammate this gives England a partial breakaway, which striker Taylor makes no mistake putting the ball past McLeod. It was the second guessing of herself and the errand passes she made all tournament that caused Canada to not go as far as its supporter wanted.

 

Despite Tancredi and Sesselmann’s lack of stellar play, the overall effort of the team was absolutely incredible. To have the girls even get past the round robin stage, is a feat in of itself. The fact that stepping on the pitch and playing with as much heart as they did inspired a nation of young girls and boys to pursue their passion in soccer, in the hopes that one day they can represent their country like Sinclair and company.

 

As Andrew Soltis brought up on The Smoke Show, Canada has a great chance to get right back on the horse in August as they represent their country again in the Pan-American Games in Toronto. This next tournament gives them a chance to prove to the world that they are even better than their World Cup result signified, and bring a nation to their feet one more time on home soil.

 

I am Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on Canada doing us proud at the Women’s World Cup. Thanks for reading and the night is always darkest before the dawn. 

Smoke's Rant: NHL 2015 Draft Predictions

Draft My first rant for this week is more of a prediction. Since the draft order for Friday’s draft has been made available, I have work tirelessly to try and come up with the most accurate prediction of how the draft is going to go down. Keep in mind, these picks are baring any trades that may or may not happen. The Arizona Coyotes have already been fielding a few legitimate offers for their 3rd overall pick, so that pick might be going elsewhere. With that said, the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry draft will be….

1) Edmonton Oilers: CONNOR MACDAVID. (F)

Connor MacDavid has been talked about ever since he arrived on the OHL scene at age 15. The kid is an absolute wizard with the puck and can see the ice better than most current NHL stars. Even in a year where he sustained a pretty severe hand injury that put him out of action for months, MacDavid came back to the OHL (after a gold medal at the world juniors) to produce 3.5 points per game and still captured third in the OHL scoring race with 120pts. There is no doubt in any person’s mind that McDavid is going to be the next mega star in the NHL, that’s if the Oilers don’t screw him over like they have the last couple of 1st overall picks they have gotten.

2) Buffalo Sabres: JACK EICHEL. (F)

Eichel is starting to develop an ego to match his incredible talent, as he has stated that whoever pick him must commit to playing him for the full NHL season or he won’t sign with the team. The Boston College standout has been going head-to-head with McDavid for the last year to see who goes number 1 overall. Eichel had a mediocre world juniors, which made the gap between the two star insurmountable. Scout and analysts alike have said that they would put Eichel 1st overall in any other draft in the past, ahead of the likes of Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. Buffalo is in desperate need of a playmaking center to accompany their newest star acquisition: Evander Kane.

3) Arizona Coyotes: NOAH HANIFIN. (D)

Also hailing from Boston College, Hanifin has been rising up the rankings throughout the year. Some scouts had him going as low as 10th overall, but his play in the later part of the NCAA regular season and playoffs, coupled with a stalwart performance as team USA’s anchor on defense, Arizona can ill afford to pass on this stud d-man who I would liken to a Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues. With so many great forward prospects, the Coyotes need some help on the back end if they have any chance of becoming a contender years down the road.

4) Toronto Maple Leafs: DYLAN STROME. (F)

The Maple Leafs need a lot of help everywhere, but the most important position is right down the middle. The Leafs are likely trading away their star sniper in Phil Kessel, thus need a player that can fill in for Kessel in the near future. Despite being somewhat of a product of McDavid’s immense talent, Strome proved critics wrong as he kept up his stellar play when his teammate was injured getting 29points in 20 games. The extra bonus with Strome is that he won’t get wowed by the bright lights of the NHL because he has already gone through the process with his older brother Ryan, who is a star player for the Islanders. The only problem is that if he doesn’t get help, he cannot carry a team on his back, especially early on in his career. Dylan Strome is a player that the Leafs need, but should also pay careful attention in developing properly.

5) Carolina Hurricanes: MIKKO RANTANEN (F)

With the Hurricanes shopping around Jeff Skinner in the offseason, they are in desperate need of scoring at the top end of their lineup. Rantanen is a huge body at 6”3 and 211lbs, which he could use to make room for himself to be open for a beauty of a pass from Stall and company. Even though there are forwards considered better in the draft, the Hurricanes need to understand their need in scoring and have a player that is ready to step into the NHL right now.

6) New Jersey Devils: MITCH MARNER (F)

The London Knights playmaking forward is the perfect fit for the Devil’s if he slips down to number 6. The Devil’s struggled finding anybody to fill the 2nd line center role to help the likes of Patrick Elias and relieve the pressure of Travis Zajac, who other teams have targeted on every shift he plays. Marner complied 82 assists for the Knights last year. Scouts have likened him to a Patrick Knae, but I would lean towards a Patrice Bergeron.

7) Philadelphia Flyers: LAWSON CROUSE (F)

Despite having a very German last name, this Canadian is all red and white heart. At 6”4 and 215lbs, Crouse can give Flyers fans a taste of the orange and black of old, but his playmaking hands and nose for the net will be a huge compliment for Claude Giroux and company. Crouse will be developing alongside a plethora of young prospects that the Flyers are bringing up in their organization. Imagine him on a line with Giroux and Brayden Schenn? Scary!

8) Columbus Blue Jackets: IVAN PROVOROV (D)

From the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, Provorov has been one of the main reasons that his team was so dominant throughout the regular season. Constantly giving the likes of the Prince George Cougars a headache the moment they crossed the red line, Provorov is the perfect addition to the weak Jackets blueline. I ask you this, name another defenseman after Jack Johnson? Exactly. Sergei Bobrovski can only do so much with before the onslaught of forwards swarm his crease. Ivan Provorov can be the start of a blueline rebuild that most believe is way overdue for an upgrade.

9) San Jose Sharks: OLIVER KYLINGTON (D)

Going slightly off the board with this pick, Kylington was considered to be the cream of the crop in the beginning of the season, but he struggled down the stretch and pushed him down most rankings. I believe the size and mobility will be clear to the Sharks and they will have another cornerstone d-man alongside Mirco Mueller.

10) Colorado Avalanche: ZACH WERENSKI (D)

Another top end talent coming out of the NCAA this season, Werenski is a big body presence on the back end, but also has the hands to put up some major points against other team’s top threats. 25 points in 35 games is pretty darn good for a defenseman, especially considered he was one of the youngest players in the league. Colorado needs another big time offensive defensemen on a core that is getting ancient by the minute.

11) Florida Panthers: TIMO MEIER (F)

After drafting Aaron Ekblad 1st overall last year, the Panthers are looking to bulk up on the offence. No one fits the bill better than Halifax Mooseheads leading score Timo Meier. At 6”2 and over 200lbs, Meier possesses the raw talent to take games over down low. Not only is he a strong offensive force, he is also responsible offensively, which is a trait that is rare in such a young player. Alongside Nick Bjugstad and Alex Barkov, the Panthers could be building up one of the best young offences in the league.

12) Dallas Stars: JAKUB ZBORIL (D)

From the QMJHL Saint John’s Sea Dogs, Zboril is a fast puck moving defenseman, whose talents would fit perfectly into the style of play that the Stars have developed under coach Lindy Ruff. In his rookie campaign, Zboril tallied 33 points in 44 games. The stars are looking to make their d-core younger and faster if they are wanting to keep up with the likes of the Blackhawks and Blues. Zboril will not be on the opening day roster for the Stars, but expect him to put on a few more pounds onto his frame and be ready to make a big impact in a couple of years.

13) LA Kings: JACOB LARSSON (D)

Larsson is a stay-at-home d-man, who has had the chance to play with men in the Swedish Elite League. At 6”2 and just shy of 200lbs, Larsson’s style of play will help the Kings in one of the only areas that they are weak (in their own zone). For too long the Kings have relied on Johnathan Quick to bail them out, problem is, he only plays well if he gets into the playoffs. Larsson should signify a movement by Kings management to stop loading up talent for an all-out attack, and focus more on the times that the puck is in their own zone.

14) Boston Bruins: MATHEW BARZAL (F)

The young phenome ran into a bit of injury trouble, which took him out of action for over three months. Widely considered to be a top end forward talent in this year’s draft, his stock has dropped a bit. The Bruins are in desperate need of replenishing the offensive well in their organization. Barzal will not be available to play for the Bruins this year, no should he. Another year with the Seattle Thunderbirds under his belt will give him the confidence to try and crack the lineup for the 2016/2017 season.

15) Calgary Flames: Thomas Chabot (D)

With a wealth of young talent up front with the likes of Gudreau, Monahan, and Ferland, the Flames are in need up help on the blueline. With the best prospect being Tyler Wotherspoon, the Flames need to create a balance of young prospects in their system. Chabot is considered more of an offensive threat than other d-men in the draft, which is useful when you need to break out of the zone and feed your young teammates the put. Mark Giordano will be a great mentor for Chabot to make him a better-rounded player, but there is no denying his upside will make the Flames winners at the 15th position.

16) Edmonton Oilers: GABRIEL CARLSSON (D)

Carlsson is a must for the Oilers! They have more than enough high end talent in the forward position, they need to get more defensively responsible. While playing with Linkoping’s junior team, Carlsson put up a very modest 7 points, but managed an astounding +21 rating in 39 games. He has managed to be selected for every national team that he can and excels when put in crucial situations. He says that his favorite player is Nicklas Lidstrom, the Oilers are just hoping that he can help save Scrivens (or Talbot) from drowning in a pile of pucks.

17) Winnipeg Jets: KYLE CONNOR (F)

Even though the Jets made the playoffs and was everyone’s Rudy for the 2014/2015 season, the Jets need to face reality; the Jets overachieved. With the likes of Evander Kane gone to Buffalo and Drew Stafford likely testing free agency, the Jets need some help up front. Mark Sheifele is the only player of note so far that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can hang his hat on. Kyle Connor is the next answer to their offensive woes. The Jets had an awful time of not being able to get the next goal to put some games out of reach. Connor’s stellar play in the USHL was something that, no doubt caught the eye of Jets scouts as well as many others around the league. If Connor is still on the board, the Jets will not pass on him.

18) Ottawa Senators: PAVEL ZACHA (F)

The Sarnia Sting center is an absolute giant at 6”3 210lbs already. His rankings have been very consistent over the whole year at the 8th spot in North America. His transition from the Czech Republic has been very smooth compared to other Europeans that have made the trek in years past, I guess it helps when your mentor if former NHL great Petr Nedved. With 34 points in 37 games, Zacha’s nose for the net will be a great asset for the Sens if he falls lower in the draft than other experts believe.

19) Detroit Red Wings: JEREMY ROY (D)

Ever since the retirement of Nick Lidsrom a few years ago, the Red Wings have been trying to fill the void at defense. Jeremy Roy fits the bill in the future. In Sherbrooke of the QMJHL, Roy had 43 points in 46 games, which still lead the team in defenseman scoring. Winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year and following it with a very strong performance in his shortened season this year, the Red Wings are looking at a player that can be a rock on the blue line for years to come.

20) Minnesota Wild: TRAVIS KONECNY (F)

The wild have always struggled with scoring, whether it is because they have had the most boring of playing styles, or if it’s because they trade away all their offensive talent. If the wild want to find someone to skate alongside Zac Parise in a year or two from now, Konecny has the balanced attack to light the lamp as well as be defensively responsible. With more than a point a game, the Wild need to have an offensive talent like Konecny in their system if they ever want to get passed the second round of the playoffs without relying solely on their goaltending.

21) Buffalo Sabres: NOAH JUULSEN (D)

The Sabres already have their forward of the future with Eichel, now it’s time for them to focus on their own zone. While Noah Juulsen did not have the greatest of starts, his play in the second half of the season showed scouts and experts alike that he is just getting started. With a 6”2 frame, Juulsen is another kid that needs to fill out more. Put, 20lbs of muscle on him and he becomes a dangerous weapon on a team that’s about as lethal as a ham sandwich. Stylizing himself after Canuck fan favorite Kevin Bieksa, Juulsen possesses a great eye for offense while still maintaining a great +/-. He won’t wow you with amazing goals, but Buffalo just needs him to help get rid of the red light sun burn that Sabres goalies are used to these days.

22) Washington Capitals: NICK MERKLEY (F)

The Capitals will be thanking their lucky stars if the Kelowna Rockets standout is still on the board at the 22nd spot. He is a dynamic forward that can beat you with speed and get the best out of his fellow linemates with beauty passing and great vision. Merkley and Rourke Charttier tore apart the WHL this past season with a berth in the Memorial Cup as their prize. Despite being an undersized player, the eastern conference is a perfect place for the right winger to thrive. Seeing him beside the likes of Ovechkin and Backstrom will be the envy of the rest of the league. This could be the steal of the first round.

23) Vancouver Canucks: RYAN PILON (D)

Coming off a season that saw his team dominate the WHL until hitting the roadblock known as the Kelowna Rockets, this puck moving offensive d-man is exactly what the Canucks need in their system. Since the likelihood of Bieksa being a Canuck next season, Benning and company need to be looking at replacing him with a younger version. Even though fans might think that a stay-at-home guy like Brandon Carlo of the Tri-City Americans would be a better fit, I have to believe that the speed of Pilon is a great counter to the sluggish problem that the Flames capitalized on in this past season’s playoffs.

24) Toronto Maple Leafs: BRANDON CARLO (D)

The Leafs will be thanking the Canucks that they didn’t lose out on Carlo a pick before. Having already acquiring the services of Dylan Strome earlier, Shanahan’s management group will be looking to give the goaltenders a little help. Carlo is a huge 6’5 and 200lbs, with a mobility of a guy much smaller. Even though he is not known for his shooting ability, the Leafs will get a solid d-man that won’t disappoint (I’m looking at you Luke Schenn).

25) Winnipeg Jets: JANSEN HARKINS (F)

There is a gut feeling that the Prince George star forward will be called to the stage to put on a Jets jersey come Friday. With their second pick in the first round, the Jets will be looking to stockpile an already impressive forward core. Harkins is not likely going to be ready for the bright lights of the NHL for a few years at least, but when he does, you can look forward to hearing a lot of “ Harkins down the wing, shovels it to Sheifele aaaaand scores top self baby; what a beauty!”.

26) Montreal Canadiens: SEBASTIAN AHO (D)

Coming from Umea, just south of the arctic circle, Aho has been playing with men for the majority of the season. His small stature can be a bit of a problem, but the Canadiens have had some pretty good success with smaller talent. Despite his size, Aho has incredible speed and vision for the ice. The fact that he is an accomplished young two-way d-man, in a couple of years, he might even be Andrei Markov’s replacement.

27) Anaheim Ducks: EVGENY SVECHNIKOV (F)

This fast Russian winger used his speed in Cape Breton to launch himself to 78 points in 55 games. Evgeny also fits in with the Ducks size as he is 6”2 and 200lbs. Like Zacha, he has made a seamless transition from mother Russia to the CHL. He can create havoc for Perry and Getzlaf in front of the net, while still having the touch to tap in the dirty rebound. The knock on this player is that he might need a little work on the 200 foot game instead of concentrating on the offensive side of the puck.

28) Tampa Bay Lightning: PAUL BITTNER (F)

The Lightning showed in the playoffs that they need a little bit more size on forward. Bittner is a monster from the Portland Winterhawks at 6”4 with aggression to match. The Lightning are a speedy team but need a third line winger that gives John Copper a little more options when trying to use his minutes well and let some pressure off Stamkos and Tyler Johnson.

29) Philadelphia Flyers: DANIEL SPRONG (F)

Sprong gives the Flyers some much needed speed in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have long been the victim of faster teams like the Canadiens and Lightning. He could be likened to Joe Sackic with his release. Sprong also shoots in bunches as he notched 270 pucks at the net, which could help create rebounds and other scoring chances.

30) Arizona Coyotes: COLIN WHITE (F)

With the last pick in the first round, the Coyotes will go back to the forward position for their second pick with Colin White. White has fallen down the ranks due to injury and a poor performance at he 5 nations tournament in Czech Republic. , but when he was on the ice, he tallied a point per game and has shown to be a playmaker with 26 assists in 45 games. He is also a clutch performer scoring the gold-medal winning goal in the world under-18 championship.

And with that, we the picks are locked in. If you disagree with the picks, please feel free to leave your comments below. As always, I am Smoke Stark. Thank you for reading, and with great power comes great responsibility.