* The biggest hockey laugh of July comes when the Las Vegas gang starts posting odds on who'll win the Stanley Cup next June.

* As anyone who studies playoff history knows, it takes until the third round to get a line on who will or won't make it.

* Exhibit A is the Rangers. Odds against the Blueshirts getting past the second round were enormous and -- whaddya know -- they marched all the way to the Final.

* And, yes -- despite what the band wagon crowd insists -- with a break here or there -- Alain Vigneault's sextet could have captured The Mug.

* I like what David Poile is doing in Nashville; no blockbusters but a solid collection of adds.

* Yes, you skeptics, Mike Ribeiro will get his talented act together and prove a significant asset for the Preds.

* Ditto for Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen, not to mention the biggie, James Neal.

* Add to that a pretty darn good coach in Peter Laviolette and I'm excitedly rooting for Nashville.

* One of the most fascinating "look" of 2014-15 will be the manner in which Jaromir Jagr tries to match his miracle effort of the past campaign.

* Now that the Penguins have shut the door on Martin Brodeur it seems to me that the only club open to Mister Goalie is Toronto.

* But for that to happen some club would have to pick up James Riemer who still labors under the misapprehension that he's better than Monsieur Bernier.

* Since nobody has signed Martin Brodeur today, I'll take a brief pause to identify two lesser -- yet meaningful -- signings that I like: Casey Cizikas and Calvin de Haan.

* I was there when de Haan was plucked in the same first Draft round as John Tavares. He was tall and skinny and articulate. Now he's taller, not as skinny and a very promising rushing defenseman.

* This just came to me: does anyone miss Sean Avery besides Yours Truly?

* My Top Flop Of The Past Three Years Award goes to Zach Bogosian. Remember he was the third overall Draft pick in 2008.

* For years I've wondered how come Tom Renney is the best-dressed gentleman in hockey. Now I know. His first career was running a clothing store -- otherwise known as haberdasher -- in Trail, British Columbia.

* You can bet a pair of Renney's very pointed and expensive shoes that Tom will nab his ex-boss, Mike Babcock, to coach Canada's 2018 Olympic team.

* Of course, that's on the assumption that Bettman, Inc. decides that it wants the torture of breaking up an otherwise good season for three weeks.

* My son, Simon, who knows his hockey, says that the late, great, Bing (Der Bingle) Crosby, best pop singer of all-time -- would not have liked Sidney Crosby.

* Der Bingle could never abide whiners; with the possible exception of Frank (Ole Blue Eyes) Sinatra.

* "Slapshot," to this day, remains the best hockey movie ever made. Paul Newman did a John Brophy better than Brophy.