On Par To Start In 2018 – Who Is Par Lindholm?

May 17th, 2018 the Toronto Maple Leafs announced the signing of Pierre Engvall, Jesper Lindgren, Igor Ozhiganov and Par Lindholm. The last name may be the most interesting as the Leafs are shallow when it comes to centre prospects.

Lindholm however, is 26 years old and has spent his last four years developing in the Swedish Hockey League. His age and experience are certainly pluses to the Maple Leafs at this time as they could see an easier transition to the North American style of play for the centre ice senior prospect.

At 5’11”, 187 lbs Lindholm has good size and uses it well; a quick youtube search shows that he knows how to throw his weight around. As a potential fourth line centre for Toronto, Lindholm promises to bring some solid hands along with a good physical, energetic play style to the bottom unit.

Noted via eliteprospects.com as a versatile player who can play in all situations, Lindholm could factor into the Leafs penalty kill unit. The leafs notoriously used 4-man pk units with speedy wingers and stout defencemen to add counter attacking pace to their penalty kill. Lindholm offers good speed and aggression on the PK, while adding considering value to the unit with his face off abilities.

Lindholm is coming off a great season in Sweden, one of the reasons the Leafs tendered him a one-year contract a few months back. He was the 4th highest scoring player in the SweHL last season with 47 points, netting 19 goals with 29 assists in 49 games for Skelleftea AIK. His contribution helped his team to a fifth place finish, and a loss in the playoff finals. Hopefully he can add his Swedish experience in the playoffs to the growing playoff status of the Maple Leafs now.

A potential line for Lindholm is flanked with quick right winger Connor Brown and physical left winger Carl Grundstrom. Brown is coming off a down year with 28 points (14g, 14a) following his first full season in the league where he put up 36 points in 82 games (20g, 16a). However he has good speed, is a top penalty killer, and wins a lot of puck battles with his aggressiveness.

Grundstrom had a real coming out party this for the Marlies during the playoffs this post-season. Before joining the Marlies for two regular season games (3 points) and their championship winning playoff run (14 points in 20gp), Grundstrom spent his season at Frolunda in the SweHL where he put up 24 points in 35 games. Grundstrom, 20, is a very highly rated prospect for his physical play and ability to convert like an archetypal power forward. He and Lindholm could have some Swedish based chemistry this season, and with Brown mixed in that could be a tough energy line for other teams to match up against.

For Leafs fans a player like Lindholm should be viewed with optimism and understood as the new normal for the foreseeable future. If Tavares signs with Toronto look for the remainder of the roster to be highlighted with young and older prospects filling out the lines at minimal cap hits. Even if he doesn’t, the Leafs’ top young players will need to get paid and when they do international players on the cheap will be more and more common. For Lindholm he is making $925,000 on a one year contract but obviously could be extended should he see success under Babcock.

So, will Par take his chances with the big team? I bet yes. What I do not want is another Miro Aaltonen; comes, makes a small splash and when it came his time, he left. Lindholm is a great centre option for Leaf fans to get excited about for the upcoming season, even if he isn’t named Tavares!

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Could Montreal Be Starting A Rebuild? (Amended…NOPE)- 200takes

Per Darren Dreger the Montreal Canadians have traded Simon Bourque for Steve Mason, Joel Armia, a 4th round pick, and a 7th round pick. Presumably this is a salary dump for Winnipeg to resign their deadline acquisition Paul Stastny, but it is a little more complicated for Montreal.

This may be a cataclysmic move for Montreal, signalling a trade of Price and beginning of their rebuild. Their current goalies with contracts are Niemi, Mason, Lindgren, and  McNiven. IF the Canadiens keep Steve Mason, and that is an extremely large if, then it may in fact mean that their franchise player is on his way out the door.

For Montreal the return would be massive for Price. Presumably a top goalie prospect, 1-2 first round picks, some young roster players and or A-level prospects. It would not only send Montreal into a rebuild, it would catapult them forward passed a lot of the hard parts (asset acquisition).

It would be a great but tough move for Montreal, who really haven’t been close in recent years. Blow it up and build around Drouin and Domi… not a bad plan! The only issue is their current GM may not be the man for the job.

 

AMENDMENT: Steve Mason on buy out waivers

With the Montreal Canadiens buying out Steve Mason it appears any thought of a rebuild is off. Shame for Habs fans as they don’t really have a team direction at this point. A shaky D core, a forwards group without any elite centers, and a goalie who is elite but has more value as a trade acquisition at this point. Bergevin strikes again!

Two Linked Targets West Ham Should Buy

The West Ham squad is currently in transition as new manager Manuel Pellegrini and his director of football Mario Husillos have assumed their positions, and look to improve the quality of players at their disposal. A few names have been linked, but a midfielder from FC Porto, and a defender from Bayer Leverkusen with Premier League experience may fit West Ham’s needs in more than one way. One thing that links these two targets is that that are good friends with our likely strikers next season

Herrera from FC Porto

Currently on international duty for Mexico, Hector Herrera patrols Porto’s midfield in Liga NOS. Herrera is reportedly great friends with West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, and could help solidify his stay in East London. Reports emerged that Hernandez was unhappy after being relegated to a bench position last season under David Moyes. It was also believed that Hernandez was looking for a move to MLS to be closer to his home in Mexico in the January transfer window.

The addition of Herrera would not only help settle Hernandez under new manager Pellegrini, but would also allow for more and better options in the midfield. Herrera, who played in 42 games in all competitions last season, scored 5 goals and added 7 assists. These totals eclipse the duo of Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang for combined scoring last season.

Herrera hasn’t quite reached his lofty scouting potential in 2014. He was originally ranked 7/10 across the board on skills, and given a 10/10 for potential when scouted at age 22. Now 28 Herrera has settled into an advanced midfielder role. He can play central midfield well but also likes to jump into the attack and contribute offensively, too. For Herrera to fit in it would likely be the likes of Joao Mario not getting a new loan/permanent deal to East London. It would be about £10 million in savings for West Ham and could prove to be good business if Pellegrini believes a club youngster could potentially be filling that void soon…cough cough Marcus Browne.

Aleksandar Dragovic from Bayer Leverkusen

A defender most West Ham fans should be familiar with, Austrian international and Leicester City loanee Aleksandar Dragovic is good friends with Marco Arnautovic. The 27 year old defender played in 18 games in all competitions last season without registering a point (not the end of the world for a defender).

His greatest attribute, according to his scouring report, is his size matched with his ability to read play. Dragovic comfortably adjusts his defensive coverage and man marking, especially on dead ball plays making him an ideal late game defensive substitution. He is also very strong on aerial balls, noted for winning duels in the air and using his heading abilities to out let the ball.

With links to Manchester United and back to Inter Milan, it is crucial for West Ham to settle Arnautovic, their truculent front man, and have him commit to the team for the foreseeable future. The addition of this depth defender would likely see the end of Winston Reid at West Ham who one the whole is probably a better defender than Dragovic, but near constant injury problems have caused his value to drop in recent years.

Overall, I don’t love the idea of letting players dictate who is brought into the club but I can make an exception when the moves would be mutually beneficial. Dragovic and Herrera would make West Ham better, and both are not on onerous contracts (Herrera one more year, Dragovic three). If making these two smaller moves allows for West Ham to know their striker duo will be settled at the club they would be two moves of solid business for the club.

West Ham World Cup Group Stage Round Up

The World Cup group stage has concluded and for West Ham’s three club players representing there has been mixed success with their personal and team performances. And although there is just one Hammer moving on to the round of 16, there were some performances that deserve some credit.

Javier Hernandez – Mexico: Round of Sixteen
West Ham’s lead striker and fox-in-the-box has looked as authentic as ever for Mexico in their first two match. In their opening match Hernandez fed Hirving Lozano for a fantastic goal putting Mexico ahead and on their way to an unlikely 1-0 over reigning World Cup champions, Germany. He followed up this performance with the game winning goal in a 2-1 victory over South Korea.

Chicharito and his team collectively had a day to forget against Sweden, losing 3-0 in a match that became very interesting. If Germany had not lost to South Korea, Mexico would have not moved on despite their two wins. However the unlikely happened and Germany fell meaning Mexico would advance, finishing second place in the pool.

The emergence of Lozano has been terrific to watch, but all eyes have been on the now veteran, proven, would class striker that leads the team on the front line. Chicharito has inspired viewers from all over the world to support Mexico, not only with his performances on the pitch but with his emotions pre and post game. So proud to be singing his national anthem he has tears streaming down his face while singing along, and so proud of his teammates for beating Germany that again he was overcome with emotions, Chicharito is inspiring the Mexican movement and making Hammers’ fans proud, too.

Cheikhou Kouyate – Senegal: Finished Third in Group H, Did Not Advance to Round of Sixten
West Ham’s enigmatic yet polarizing midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate did not advance passed group play, ending the last hopes of an African nation in the round of sixteen. Senegal were in a competitive group that saw Colombia and Japan move on, while Poland and Senegal missed out.

Despite being named team captain before the tournament, Kouyate did not feature in the first match against Poland, and only came on as a sub against Japan. He did start in Senegal’s final match against Colombia, but Senegal failed to secure a point and were eliminated on fair play points as they were tied for points, goal differential and wins with Japan.

Kouyate looked lively on the ball and was actually tracking play well. He used his height to dominate aerial battles and closed down opponents rather quickly – something devoid of his play in recent games for West Ham. Kouyate’s World Cup hopes ended and unfortunately for West Ham fans Kouyate didn’t show much more than what he did in a lackluster West Ham season.

Lukasz Fabianski – Poland: Finished Fourth in Group H, Did Not Advance to Round of Sixteen
West Ham’s newest member finished strong for his country despite Poland’s surprisingly awful showing in Russia. Fabianski backed up Juventus’ Wojciech Szczesny for the first two matches, which resulted in a combined five goals against on six shots. Fabianski put up a three save clean sheet in his one start for Poland against round of sixteen member .

Fabianski looked great in his game. He made some tough saves that required some theatrical dives, but also commanded his box without hesitation, coming off of his line at ease. West Ham fans should take this performance as a huge positive as the 33 year old keeper looks spry and ready to take the number one job.

Overall it is a mixed bag of performances for West Ham fans to mull over. Chicharito has been one of the faces of the tournament on an unbelievable team. But, on the other hand West Ham fans are forced to say good bye to their other two members of the World Cup prematurely. I guess we’re all Mexico fans now, right?

Blue Jays Trade Steve Pearce To Red Sox In First Move Of Many

The Toronto Blue Jays have moved IF/OF, right-handed batter Steve Pearce to the Boston Red Sox for minor league SS Santiago Espinal. In the first move of (hopefully) many this season, the Blue Jays add an interesting young piece to their prospect pool.

Steve Pearce has struggled with injuries this season but when healthy has played very well. Hitting .291 in 26 games played this season Pearce has hit 16 home runs and collected 16 RBIs in limited playing time. Able to play both infield at second base and first base, and the corner outfield, the Red Sox get a veteran utility player with some major league pop and clutch hitting.

While there is a logjam of SS prospects with six ranked in the Blue Jays top-30 prospect pool, infielders who can hit are a commodity league wide, and will never go out of style. So, who exactly are the Blue Jays getting in 23 year old shortstop Santiago Espinal?

In Class A Advanced ball with the Salem Red Sox Espinal is having a solid and repsectable offensive season:

Batting Average: .313
On Base Percentage: .363
Extra Base Hits: 25
Runs Batted In: 32
Home Runs: 7
Strike Our Percentage: 7%
Walk Percentage: 14%

What the Blue Jays appear to have gotten in this trade is a discipled hitter who looks to add offence through contact, line drive hitting rather than home run power. His biggest asset may be his ability to play around the infield as a utility player, playing 2nd base 3rd base, and shortstop at an above average level defensively. The 2016 tenth round pick also has above average base running speed and will steal a good amount of bases (9 in 65 games this season).

Espinal could possibly see some starting time this season, especially since Aledmys Diaz has missed time due to injury already this season, Troy Tulowitzki is MIA, and prospect Richard Urena has already been called up this season as a stop gap. As well, his versatility in the infield could see him draw time at third base if Solarte and/or Donaldson are moved.

The asset collection has begin for Toronto with Pearce being moved early ahead of the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Next up… Donaldson? Maybe not, but there should be significant movement surrounding veteran players like Happ, Estrada, Tepera, Solarte, maybe Donaldson, and Granderson. Buckle up Jays fans, its turnover time!

Don’t Sleep on Mike Green

With John Tavares hogging all the attention, everyone is forgetting about the arguably best UFA defenseman available, Mike Green. While he is far removed from his ridiculous 70 point seasons in Washington, he is still a very serviceable player. His four straight 35+ point seasons from the back end put him in good company. Any team looking for an offensive defenseman who can quarterback a powerplay should be looking right here.

Who are some good fits? The first team that comes to mind is Las Vegas. They have a ton of cap space and could very well be losing a couple key vets in Perron and Neal. Mike Green could be a perfect addition to provide that leadership that will be lost with them, and give a little boost to the back end. The second team that comes to mind would be the Toronto Maple Leafs, provided they miss out on Tavares. It’s clear JT is their priority heading into July 1st, but I think Green would be a great backup plan, and could still play on the top pairing beside Morgan Rielly.

The big question is how much will he cost? His previous contract with the Wings was for an average cap hit of $6 million per year, so we can safely assume is should be below that. Add on top of that, he is coming off surgery which should lower his value, and I would estimate he could be had for around $4.5-$5 million average on a short term deal. It could be a moderate risk with potential for high reward for a number of teams.

Will Mike Green re-sign with Detroit? It is reported he has been offered a deal by the Detroit organization, but he wishes to test free agency at this point, so it couldn’t have been too enticing.

This is a defender who still has a lot left in the tank. He lead Red Wings in ice time averaging over 22 minutes a night. It’s a good time to get value on him while the focus of Free Agency is turn toward Tavares.

Do Big Club Struggles Mean a Better World Cup?

An end of game goal from defender Marcos Rojo saw Lionel Messi’s Argentina team through the group stages of the World Cup. A team that boasts Messi, Dybala, Aguero, and Higuain shouldn’t have struggled against Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia but they did. As much as it took a toll on Argentina fans hearts, for neutral viewers this World Cup may be the best in recent memory, and it’s all about the open doors elite teams are leaving the underdogs – or rather the doors the underdog teams for smashing open.

As fun as the round of 16 should be, few days will have as much tension and excitement as June 25th – the day Iran almost topped Portugal and Spain. Group B, the Group of Death was aptly titled but for all the wrong reasons. Spain and Portugal were in hot water on the final day of group play with Iran threatening to not only eliminate one of the two Iberian footballing giants, but win the Group! The football gods would not allow this to happen, however the thrill of a no call red card, or un-disallowed goal made tuning in and switching between the two simultaneous games a thrilling experience.

Like group B, groups E and F are full of potential world class upsets. Group E had bookie favourite to win the World Cup Brazil slotted in alongside Serbia, Switzerland, and Costa Rica. Despite Keylor Navas, Costa Rica was written off from the start, and it was believed that while Brazil would easily grab top spot, the group would have an interesting battle for second place between the Serbians and the Swiss. Fast forward to the final day of group play and we see the likes of Brazil facing a real threat of missing the group stages by losing to Serbia and Switzerland. Although this did not happen, Costa Rica who was out of contention to move on had a terrific final game and fought back to earn a 2-2 draw against Switzerland.

Group F was similarly destructive to “safe” sports bets all over the world and exciting to onlookers around the world. Germany have looked less than their elite selves leading up to this World Cup and started off poorly by dropping all three points against Mexico and needing a stoppage time free kick winner to defeat Sweden. Germany’s disappointment has translated to Mexican and Swedish joy as the unlikely happened. Germany needed to win against South Korea after Mexico put up a shockingly bad performance in a 3-0 loss to Sweden. To shock the work Germany fell 2-0 to South Korea in a result that saw Sweden and Mexico move on to the round of 16 while the defending champions go home.

France has made it through the group stages, but has done so in unimpressive fashion. They narrowly defeated Australia in their opening match 2-1, a close 1-0 win over Peru, and a 0-0 draw with Denmark. No one would have predicted that such a young, talented squad would be challenged when it came to goal scoring. But, the struggles for France meant an underdog team like Denmark were able to shut them down with strong defensive play and escape through to the round of sixteen.

Denmark’s spot through group play is an example of what some might call a symptom of a better World Cup – underdog success. But, It is hard to say “better” since enjoyment is so subjective based off of national support of each viewer. If we look at this World Cup objectively up to to this point it is a more competitive tournament that has made matches that include teams like Iran, Morocco, Sweden, and Switzerland much watch viewing.

Realistically there have only been three big-dogs who have gotten to eat so far – Uruguay, Belgium, and England. Uruguay were tagged as the group A favourites and haven’t disappointed going unbeaten in group play and not yet conceding a goal. Belgium and England reside in group G together and have collectively put up 16 goals (8 a team) against Panama and Tunisia. Sure their competition hasn’t been great, but both teams looked comfortable so far, and just have each other yet to play to determine who takes first in the group. So, a massive accolade to the the less elite ranked teams; you are making this World Cup different and exciting, not the football superpowers.

What Russia 2018 is proving is that the gap between the world elite and the underdog countries is quickly closing. Does this mean it is a better tournament? Maybe not, but more exciting? Absolutely. What this World Cup should be remembered for (so far) is the smaller nations having success on the world stage, upsetting the heavy favourites along the way.