Taylor Hall says he remembers each of his playoff games in “great detail.”
That’s either a testament to the 28-year-old’s memory retention or a reminder of how sad it is that a player of Hall’s caliber has dressed for a grand total of five NHL postseason contests.
Either way, Hall feels he’s finally in a position to reverse his fortunes by joining the Arizona Coyotes, who sat atop the Pacific Division and ranked 10th among 31 teams in points percentage prior to Monday’s slate of games.
“That’s what this is all about,” Hall said during a conference call Monday following the blockbuster trade that sent him from the lowly New Jersey Devils to the 19-12-4 Coyotes. “It’s not about what line I play on, or what power-play unit (I’m assigned to). I’m really just looking forward to winning games.”
We’ll get back to the fit with Hall and Arizona, but, first …
What’s the Devils’ angle?
It’s never a positive sign when the team parting ways with the only NHL player in the deal – a star, no less – receives nothing concrete in return. For that reason, Devils general manager Ray Shero gets a failing grade for his role in the Hall trade.
Shero shipped Hall and AHL forward Blake Speers to Glendale for a top-three-protected first-round pick in 2020, a conditional third-round pick in 2021, and three promising but unspectacular prospects in forwards Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr, and defenseman Kevin Bahl.
The Devils, who are retaining $3 million (50%) of Hall’s salary cap hit, clearly hope the Coyotes go on a deep playoff run and convince the winger, who’s a pending unrestricted free agent on July 1, to stay long term. The 2021 pick becomes a second-round selection if the Coyotes win a playoff round or re-sign Hall. And it becomes a first-round selection if the Coyotes win a playoff round and re-sign Hall – a double whammy, of sorts.
“I’ve been open to anything, and I haven’t closed the book on signing with any team prior to July 1,” Hall said of his thought process in the leadup to his first crack at testing the UFA market.
So, if the best-case scenario for Shero and the Devils comes to fruition, it’s fair to say this trade will look decent, in hindsight. The haul would be two first-rounders and three prospects for a star on an expiring contract and an AHLer.
Shero could then walk away from the disaster that is the 2019-20 season and feel he’s at least made a little progress toward a better future. Right now, though, there’s no way New Jersey can claim this year is going according to plan with Hall officially gone, Shero changing coaches earlier this month, and last offseason’s splashy additions contributing less than expected.
Now, if one of the other scenarios play out, in which that 2021 pick remains a third-round selection or is upgraded to a second-rounder, this trade will be a tougher pill to swallow for Jersey.
Realistically, given Arizona’s trajectory this season, the 2020 first-rounder is probably going to be a mid- or late-round pick. Then, you factor in the prospects, who, based on sources around the league, don’t project to be NHL stars, and there’s not much to get excited about.
One, two, or perhaps all three of Merkley, Schnarr, and Bahl may blossom into everyday NHLers – the latter, a 6-foot-7 blueliner with some solid upside, is considered the best of the bunch – but that’s a long shot. In the end, the Devils didn’t yield a single blue-chip prospect for the best rental in the league. That hurts.
How’s the fit in Arizona?
As for Arizona and GM John Chayka, there’s significantly less hedging required because the fit with Hall is, in a word, apt.
This is exactly the kind of trade that Coyotes fans have been clamoring for since Chayka was crowned GM in spring 2016. Yes, the 30-year-old has developed a reputation as one of the NHL’s most active executives, but he hadn’t landed one bonafide offensive spark plug prior to the Phil Kessel swap.
Hall injects a dynamism that was sorely lacking within Arizona’s forward group. To get him at this rate, and in the middle of December rather than late February, promotes this to a two-thumbs-up victory for a club that believes in itself already.
“He’s a game-changer. He’s an electric player. He’s one of my favorite players to watch, just in terms of entertainment value,” Chayka said. “Then, when you really start to dig into some of the deeper analytics of how this guy impacts the game and impacts his teammates in so many different ways.”
It helps that Hall is motivated to turn around a season in which his counting stats aren’t matching his credentials as the Hart Trophy winner of two seasons ago. Though a career-low shooting rate of 5.5% suggests he’s been the victim of poor puck luck, Hall’s accumulated just six goals and 19 assists for 25 points in 30 games this year.
“I feel like the organization in Arizona does a lot of due diligence. They respect the analytics of the game, and for them to want to pursue a player like myself, it’s definitely flattering,” said Hall. “It’s been a tough year, and it hasn’t gone the way that I’ve wanted, but coming into a new situation and a team that has confidence that you can help them, it’s a really nice thing.”
Hall is a rare goal-scoring winger who tilts the ice for his teams. He’s speedy, crafty, and consistently on the right side of the puck. Over his career, which includes six years in Edmonton and three-and-a-half in New Jersey, Hall’s teams have owned 50.7% of the even-strength shot attempts when he’s on the ice, versus 46.1% of the attempts when he’s not. Both Hall’s supreme abilities and the poor quality of his former squads have contributed to that huge gap.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, aren’t serial winners themselves. Only the Buffalo Sabres have a longer playoff drought than Arizona’s seven-season skid. The narrative around the organization is changing, though, with new ownership giving the green light to spending to the cap, Chayka improving the roster bit by bit and now enormously, and head coach Rick Tocchet providing ultimate credibility.
“We know Taylor wants to win. That’s kind of the main criteria for him to re-sign,” Chayka said. “We feel like we have a chance to win for a long time here, so we feel like our opportunity is as good as anybody.”
The Coyotes are set between the pipes, with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta providing one of the best one-two punches in the NHL. Their group of defensemen, led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun, is deep. Up front, they’ve traditionally failed to generate much offense but have some guns, including Kessel, Nick Schmaltz, and Clayton Keller.
It’ll be fascinating to watch how Hall’s presence alters Tocchet’s forward combinations and how opposing teams change their defensive tactics. All of a sudden, a creative guy like Keller is less of a priority for shutdown units and can move about the ice more freely.
Regardless of what transpires over the next few months, as the Coyotes attempt to clinch that elusive playoff spot, Chayka made what he calls a “potentially once-in-a-lifetime” move. He believes the Coyotes’ timeline aligns well with Hall’s and has been asking a simple yet profound question both internally and externally: “Why not us, at this stage?”
John Matisz is theScore’s national hockey writer.
Maple Leafs hire Paul MacLean as assistant coach – Pension Plan Puppets
Today the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they’ve hired another new assistant coach, adding Paul MacLean:
“Over nearly two decades as an NHL coach, Paul has filled every role on a coaching staff, winning a Stanley Cup and Jack Adams trophy along the way,” said Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “Adding someone of Paul’s expertise and character to advise and assist our staff is something that we felt was very important as we seek to make tangible steps next season.”
MacLean spent the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets after being hired on November 21, 2019. He previously served as the head coach of the Ottawa Senators from 2011-15, leading the Senators to a 114-90-35 record and a pair of playoff appearances. He won the Jack Adams Award while coaching Ottawa in 2012-13 after being a finalist for the honour in 2011-12. MacLean served two stints as an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks spanning 2002-04 and 2015-17 and was an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings from 2005-11. He has been an assistant coach in the postseason on 11 occasions and has made three appearances in the Stanley Cup finals (2003, 2008, 2009), winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.
MacLean, 62, joined John Tortorella’s staff in Columbus in November of last year after not having a coaching job for two years. He worked for Randy Carlyle in Anaheim after being fired as head coach in Ottawa in 2015.
The power play of the Columbus Blue Jackets is not something the Maple Leafs should be looking to emulate. In my pre-playoffs coverage of the Blue Jackets I said their power play was so bad that the only PK squad better than Columbus’s own powerhouse unit was whoever they tried their power play against on any given night. That wasn’t exaggeration, their power play really was that bad, although it improved whenever Seth Jones was available.
Last offseason, the Maple Leafs hired Paul MacFarland, and most of us here at PPP weren’t very thrilled at the prospect of his power play concept coming to the Leafs. We can only hope this goes better.
With the news that Bruce Boudreau would not be hired by the Leafs, MacLean seems to be next man up on the veteran leadership coaching list. He joins Dave Hakstol, Manny Malhotra, and the goaltending and video coaching staff. And the new guy is getting the up in the rafters job.
Sounds like Paul MacLean will play the eye in the sky role for the Leafs coaching staff, advising in all areas of the game.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 25, 2020
And in case you were wondering how a guy who’d never been to the Soo got this job:
It’s worth mentioning that Paul MacLean is the father of Marlies assistant coach A.J., who is one of Sheldon Keefe’s best friends and has worked with him for more than a decade. Keefe and Paul aren’t walking into this blind to one another — at all.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) September 25, 2020
Also today, the Arizona Coyotes hired Maple Leafs goaltending scout/consultant Brian Daccord to be their Special Assistant to the GM and Director of Goalie Operations. I don’t think they mean hip surgeries, but who knows?
He has been with the Leafs for five seasons prior to this change.
Canadiens sign defenseman Jeff Petry to a four-year contract extension – NHL.com
MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced today that the team has agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension with defenseman Jeff Petry (until the end of the 2024-25 season). The deal has an average annual value of $6.25 million.
Petry, 32, registered 40 points in 71 games with the Canadiens last season (11 goals, 29 assists). He posted a third straight 40-point season, ranking first among the team’s defensemen in points every season during that span. Petry was Montreal’s hits leader with 177 this season, and he also led all Canadiens defensemen with 30 takeaways. He also tallied two goals (both game-winning goals) and an assist in 10 playoff contests in 2020.
In 11 seasons in the NHL, Petry appeared in 680 regular season games with the Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers, recording 253 points (69 goals and 184 assists). He also added seven points (five goals, two assists) in 25 postseason contests. Petry has lit the lamp 52 times since joining the Canadiens, which puts him in a tie with Shea Weber for 16th among defensemen in franchise history.
Before making his first strides in the professional ranks, the 6’3 ”, 201 lbs right-handed rearguard played with the Michigan State University program for three seasons (2007-08 through 2009-10). He concluded his collegiate stint with nine goals and 67 points in 118 games. Petry also played two seasons in the USHL, sporting the Des Moines Buccaneers colors (2005-06 and 2006-07). In the junior ranks, he recorded 19 goals and 41 assists in 103 regular season games. He added two goals and 13 points in 19 postseason appearances with Des Moines.
A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Petry was selected in the second round, 45th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 NHL Draft. The Canadiens acquired Petry from the Oilers at the 2015 trade-deadline in return for a 2nd round and a conditional 5th round pick.
MLB playoff push: Blue Jays can still catch Yankees after securing berth – Sportsnet.ca
It’s been four years since the Blue Jays last played post-season baseball, and the club that will embark on this post-season is completely different from the one that captured all of Canada’s attention en route to the 2016 American League Championship Series.
Currently sitting in the eight seed with that second wild-card spot in-hand, the young team can actually still rise in the post-season ranks before the seeding is fully locked in, thanks to their 3-1 series win over the Yankees this week. Toronto can catch New York in the standings and jump into that fifth seed with a strong showing against the Baltimore Orioles to close out the season, but only if the Yankees stumble and suffer a few losses, too.
So while a Rays-Jays first-round showdown is the most likely matchup, it’s not yet set in stone.
Here’s a closer look at where they stand in the MLB playoff picture…
If the playoffs began today
The top two teams in each division make the playoffs along with the top remaining two teams from each league for a total of 16 playoff teams. Those 16 teams will then face off in eight best-of-three series that precede the League Division Series.
If the post-season began today, these eight American League teams would qualify:
And these eight National League teams would qualify:
How seeding works in 2020: According to MLB, the top three seeds in each league go to the three division winners in order of record. The next three seeds go to the three teams that finish second in their division, in order of record. The final two seeds will go to the two teams with the next best records, regardless of division.
In striking distance
After being more or less locked up for the past few weeks, the American League’s playoff picture just has one last berth up for grabs — though, calling it “up for grabs” is being generous. The Houston Astros, currently sitting in the sixth seed, can lock up their place with just a single win in their final three games, dashing the hopes of the Los Angeles Angels — who, at 26-31, are the only remaining AL club that hasn’t officially been eliminated from contention yet.
Otherwise, the only change to come in the AL is in the form of playoff-bound teams jockeying for position within those top eight seeds. The Blue Jays will most likely be meeting the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, but that could still change. As outlined above, the Jays can still catch the Yankees and jump into second in the AL East with wins over Baltimore and New York losing to the Marlins. The Rays clinched the division earlier this week, but aren’t locked into that No. 1 seed just yet as the 35-22 Twins can still catch them. If the Twins can jump into the top spot and the Jays stay put at No. 8, that sets us up for a Minnesota-Toronto first-round clash.
Meanwhile, in the National League, the field is still wide open. While the Dodgers and Braves have clinched their respective divisions and the Cubs and Padres are guaranteed post-season berths, there are still four spots for the taking.
The Philadelphia Phillies (28-29) and Milwaukee Brewers (27-29) are playing for their post-season lives this weekend, while none of the Cardinals, Marlins, Reds and Giants can afford to lose down the stretch.
Get ready for drama, particularly in the NL Central: the Cardinals and Brewers finish the season head-to-head, a series that feels like we’re already in the playoffs.
Playoff odds report
With the Blue Jays finally hitting 100 per cent with their post-season berth secured, we’ll shift this portion of the MLB playoff push to where the drama is by looking at the National League’s odds for all teams still on the hunt.
Cardinals’ FanGraphs odds: 87.4% | Cardinals’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 90%
Marlins’ FanGraphs odds: 90.7% | Marlins’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 93%
Reds’ FanGraphs odds: 88.1% | Reds’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 91%
Giants’ FanGraphs odds: 47.1% | Giants’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 44%
Phillies’ FanGraphs odds: 50.5% | Phillies’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 54%
Brewers’ FanGraphs odds: 33.9% | Brewers’ FiveThirtyEight odds: 26%
The Blue Jays will send Taijuan Walker to the mound Friday while the Orioles will counter with Jorge Lopez in their bid to play spoiler in Toronto’s mission to move up in the seeding.
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