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Lightning Round: fake firings, draft shenanigans, and the Buffalo Sabres

and a (former?) Sabres fan loses it on Buffalo radio.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning
Nov 25, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know about you, but the weird and wacky headlines we get on a semi-regular basis in the hockey world just hit a little different on Thursday.

Bob’s Rankings

The day started off pretty normally, with Bob McKenzie of TSN releasing his mid-term rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft. Bob’s rankings come from his research into these players, as well as sorting them using the scouts and connections with the teams in order to come up with a list that most often reflects reality, and not just a list of the best players available in order. Yes, sadly for hockey, these are not identical lists.

Since our intrepid junior hockey expert, Lauren Kelly, is also one of my best friends, she lent some knowledge about what this year’s draft means for teams with picks late in the first round (like the Lightning) and those who don’t have a first rounder altogether. She noted the differences in Bob’s list from the data, showing that there will be a good number of very talented teenagers left out of the first round, and perhaps even out the second round.

Those names could include the likes of Noel Gunler (27th), Donovan Sebrango (47th), Topi Niemela (51st), Jan Mysak (53rd), Roni Hirvonen (57th), and Zio Nybeck (HM). Most of these guys should be first rounders, but the way things are shaping up, maybe only one will get picked on the first day.

This bodes really well for the Lightning, who might have as many as three picks in the first 62. They currently have two firsts should the Vancouver Canucks also qualify for the playoffs (they’re first in the baby-soft Pacific) and their own second.

Of course, the Lightning are probably going to trade some of their assets at the Trade Deadline in order to stock up ahead of the 2020 NHL Playoffs, but it’s nice to dream about a nice stock of quality prospects right before they’re traded for six weeks of a third pair defenseman or something.

Yotes caught doing illegal testing (allegedly)

Right, coming back to the crazy, but sticking on the Draft, it seems like the Arizona coyotes have been caught doing illegal physical testing on some draft eligible CHL players. It is illegal for teams to gather physical data (height, weight, wingspan, blood pressure, etc etc) before the NHL Draft Combine in June. This is obviously a story that will develop in the coming days, especially since the Coyotes have acknowledged the reports and are speaking with the NHL about it right now.

“According to Craig Custance of The Athletic — citing the NHL’s combine testing policy — teams are allowed to interview and do psychology tests before the combine but not physical tests. Custance also reports that violations could lead to fines of $250,000 or more and quotes a line from the policy that says ‘There will be strict enforcement surrounding this policy and the subsequent fine associated with the violation.’” - Sportsnet

New Jersey Turnpike

Wow! That’s an amazing new lineup of coaches. So many ex-players and legends of the Devils franchise. It’s a shame you don’t spell Devils with two “i”’s. This parody account got over a thousand likes on their tweet, and some incredible press.

Gerard Gallant used to be head coach in Vegas (their first one, in fact!) before he was fired earlier this month. Ever since, he’s been touted as the next coach to be hired. Turns out, that was enough for 8 News NOW in Vegas, Nevada, who jumped on the story and wrote a full article on the #BREAKING news.

You can’t take it back, 8NN, you’ve been duped forever!

Life isn’t fun in Buffalo

Last on the list from yesterday is the Buffalo Sabres. They’ve been bad... pretty much since 2011. But through a rebuild that has seemingly lasted a decade, including the worst NHL season in post-lockout history (2014-15, 48 points), the Sabres thought they had turned the corner last season when they started it off with a 10-game winning streak.

Things since that streak have been, frankly, awful for the Sabres and their fans. the team has become feisty against any negative press, the owners (Terry and Kim Pegula) have been cheaping out and failed to answer to fans, and all of this was just too much for Duane. Check out his rant, you don’t want to miss this.

Duane has become a local sensation. There have been memes, hats, and even t-shirts created!

This all happened, let’s keep in mind, on a game day. Later that night, the Sabres lost 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens, who have now passed them for fifth in the Atlantic Division. The Sabres are now two points back of Montreal, 10 points back of Florida and Toronto, and only six points up on the Ottawa Senators (and gaining fast).

Twitter the night of this game was fun, uhh, depending on who you cheer for.

Here is the ENG that sealed it. The NHL has broken the first two picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. You can feel the energy Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid share and it’s not good. They have been broken by the teams they play for.

‘Tis But A Scratch

The only other times I’ve heard of a player tearing both the ACL and MCL in their knee have been in football games when people with not nearly enough padding run full speed at each other without barely any care for each other’s health. I don’t know if those injuries have gone down since the last time I paid attention to NFL news in the early ‘10s, but I hope so. They look absolutely brutal to heal and that’s what Tomas Hertl is going to have to manage for the foreseeable future.

Here is the injury where it happened. It doesn’t look like much, but then you remember that legs aren’t supposed to bend backwards with any force at all. Really unfortunate.

Lightning Links

Sean is one of my favourite visualizers of hockey data in the community. He makes some really great descriptors of how teams and players have performed in certain categories in the league. I especially like his new ones because it shows the Tampa Bay Lightning happily rocketing towards the “Good” corner of the chart like the elite team they are.

Am I the only one who finds this tweet really funny? Agents, always selling their players.

Last but not least, Lauren (who I mentioned earlier) is going to be doing her second color commentary for the Mississauga Steelheads radio broadcast. Best of luck, Lauren! Talk your socks off!