This was my first season with Raw Charge, my first year in “hockey media” in any capacity. Before this year, I didn’t know how to write properly, and I didn’t know how to act in a professional or even semi-professional capacity. I also was unfamiliar with the best way to share my work with more than the few hundred who followed me on twitter back then.
I needed to learn a considerable amount in a lot of different areas in hockey media. I tidied up my beyond rusty grammar and spelling with guidance and patience from Achariya and Alex on a daily basis. I took home tips from Matthew about how to be a reporter and how to prepare interview questions. I watched in awe — and with a mental pad and paper — as Alan shared with us his view from the analytics community. (Lesson #1: Not everyone’s stat is good; a model becomes reliable when months of critiquing follows it’s release.) Finally, Geo taught me how to analyze a game and turn it into something readers can actually follow and learn things from.
Geo is my Secret Santa in July, so I’m going to highlight what I learned from him about how to be a true fan, an entertaining voice, and a firm but fair analyst. Capturing all three into one document is something that is very hard to get right, and Geo finds a way to nail it all the time. Sure, he might take 4000 words to get his point across, but that’s the best part of Geo; he doesn’t skip steps!
I have a few articles that I would like to highlight from this past season. First is Geo’s article stating that the Tampa Bay Lightning can afford both Nikita Kucherov and Erik Karlsson under the team’s cap. It was a complicated situation and included a lot of numbers. The answer to the question required a really intense look at the organization’s cap situation, an inherent knowledge of the CBA, and a realistic understanding of Steve Yzerman (and his staff’s) plan. Geo was able to delve deep into the topic and came out with a pretty definitive answer.
The Lightning have certainly shown their adeptness at managing and navigating the salary cap and Brisebois is a big part of that. It’s hard to think that the Lightning would have even considered wading into the Karlsson conversation without a plan that included keeping Kucherov long term. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brisebois has worked up dozens of scenarios with different contract amounts, different potential salary caps, different trade possibilities, or the emergence of certain prospects to give the team an idea of what they need to do to go down any of these routes. And adding Karlsson is likely one of them.
Don’t count the team out on Karlsson yet. There are plenty of moving parts and there are plenty of lines of play for this team to get a deal done and not jeopardize the future of this team and it’s chances to win a Stanley Cup.
I remember the day Geo stepped into the Raw Charge offices and threw down a 4000 word dissertation on the Lightning’s draft strategy and how it’s changed over the seven years under Yzerman. He hinted at something a few weeks prior, but it was never supposed to be something as intense as what was produced. Geo found a pattern and evolution in the types of players the Lightning drafted and he ran with it. It turned into one of the hallmark pieces of the season:
Point has certainly paid off for the Lightning in the third round turning into an offensively talented, defensively responsible second line center. At the time of his draft, the question marks on him were his size and smaller question marks on his skating. Since being drafted, he picked up a couple inches and 10-15 pounds of muscle that helped him play more physically to win battles in the corners. While Point was always a fast skater, he refined the little things in his skating that made him even more effective in his short area movements and perhaps even added a step or two to his top speed. Yzerman traded up a single spot in the third round to make sure he got Point.
The Lightning had clear goals of drafting defensemen in this draft, and added four to the system. While a couple haven’t worked out, there’s still opportunity for the other two to make it in the NHL. Point again showed that the Lightning are not scared off by size concerns.
In Stephens, Cirelli, and Joseph, the scouting staff was looking at offensive performers in juniors that displayed high hockey IQ, character and two-way talent. These are the kind of players that fill in the gaps around your skilled core players. Tammela also fits this mold as well, though to a lesser extent with the offensive skills as he is more of a pesty, energy winger than a two-way player.
The overriding factor in every draft has been that this front office highly values hockey IQ. It’s one of the things in a players game that cannot or is very hard to teach. Some players just naturally get it, and some players have to work hard to get it. After that, skill and production are important. Size and skating can be tiebreakers when the IQ, skill, and production are similar, but both are lower down the list. Where a player comes from or plays prior to the draft seems to mean very little for the scouting staff. If they find them and think they can become NHLers for the organization, they go on the board.
Judging by the Raw Charge Twitter account, Geo is opinionated to say the least. And he isn’t afraid to explain his side thoroughly. Raw Charge did player evaluations for the all the Lightning players from the 2017-18 season. Most of the group agreed on a lot of the marks given too players, but there were three players Geo disagreed with the readers and his fellow masthead the most. It led to a great discussion about expectations, looking at the whole rather than the most memorable moments, and what real value is.
For me, Killorn exceeded expectations and exceeded them far enough for him to get an A-. That’s also combined with the fact that he mostly played a third line role throughout the year and put up second line points. I see a lot of people calling Killorn “just a third liner,” but that does him a disservice and doesn’t reflect his actual performance in the league.
Victor Hedman: It doesn’t take away from a great season where he once again was a Norris Trophy finalist. But I think for me, the expectations for him at this point are to have Norris caliber seasons. His point production ended up right around my expected numbers. If he had gotten into the 70 point plateau or had a Brent Burns-esque goal total or had been the runaway, without a doubt favorite to win the Norris Trophy, I would have been giving him an A grade.
So, yeah, that’s Geo! As one of the best writers at the site, it was very hard for me to choose three, let alone one article out of Geo’s extensive library of pieces. I basically spent my entire vacation in England last week perusing through all the webpages I had saved to try and pick my favourites. I’ll link to the others below if you would like to read them. Have a great weekend!