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Wednesday, 1 May 2013
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The NHL playoffs kicked off last night in great fashion.

The first two games went to OT and featured mental lapses that decided the outcome. In the LA vs STL game it was King's goaltender Jonathan Quick charged with the breakdown as he fumbled the puck behind his own net while the Kings were on the PP. Alex Steen quickly put the puck into the cage to give the Blues the win.

Quick is known for having poor puck handling skills and this play definitely overshadowed what was a goaltending clinic that he put on last night.

In Chicago it was Ryan Suter who made a misplay that resulted in the Hawks Brian Bickell scoring the game winner in the extra frame. Suter appeared to forget which sport he was playing as he jumped up for the block at the Wild blueline to no avail. The puck soared past him, resulting in a two on one that the Hawks players capitalized on.

In Anaheim, the Ducks made the most of their first home game, besting the Wings by a score of 3-1.

It was a night of three great games and furious finishes, satisfying the needs of the playoff hockey fan.

Tonight is the night that the hockey world has been waiting for, though, with Boston hosting Toronto. "The Trade" will always be the story when these two teams matchup, but it's Toronto's return to the post season that should have everyone buzzing.

It's no secret the struggles that the Leafs have had lately with the Bruins, but I don't think that everyone should be so quick to count out the Maple Leafs just yet. There's a lot of talk about how the Leafs should adjust their roster to carry less goonery than they have had all season. I ask, why? Why would you change what's worked? It's certainly a gamble, but no more of a gamble then doing it for 48 games in the regular season.

The Leafs are a physical team that lives and dies on the success they have in implementing a rough and tumble style into the game at hand. Boston is the framework for such a team, but the Bruins are more easily jarred than Toronto, for example, Brad Marchand. As easy as it is for Marchand to get under opposing players skin, it's even easier to get under his so this should be the focus point for Randy Carlyle tonight and in the entire series.

In Pittsburgh it's the Super-Pens playing host to the New York Islanders, who are enjoying their first post-season appearance in the John Tavares era. Not exactly the opponent they wanted in their return, but it's a huge experience step for the developing Isles.

Everyone is back except for Sidney Crosby, and I wouldn't expect him to play tonight, or at all in round one if the Penguins don't have any trouble. If Sid sits out tonight and the Penguins stuggle, you could see him back quicker than the organization would like. This is a team that has gone all in to win this year, not next year, this year.

The Vancouver Canucks are at home to play the San Jose Sharks tonight in the third game of Wednesday action. The Canucks window to win a Stanley Cup is closing quickly and I wouldn't expect much from the dysfunctional BC organization this year considering the path to Lord Stanley that is in front of them with the Hawks, Ducks and Penguins.

That's all for now, thanks for reading!
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Sunday, 14 April 2013
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I haven't been posting regularly lately, hopefully that stops soon and gets back to normal. Here's some thoughts and rumors.

- BJ Crombeen should have taken his helmet off in the fight with Douglas Murray. Crombeen is supposed to be a toughguy, yet leaves his helmet on when the other fighter has his off. Shameful. I also don't know why Crombeen fights at all, because he's terrible at it.

- Patrick Kaleta finally dropped the mitts. Whoop-dee-do. Kaleta, along with teammate Steve Ott, are rats. Rats much like Brad Marchand, who run around the ice with a big mouth but never accept a fight offer from someone who actually fights.

- Crosby will most likely be back for the first round of the playoffs, thus moving Pittsburgh back to the status of highly unlikely to be eliminated.

- The last thing the Montreal Canadiens want is to finish fourth and play the Maple Leafs. The Leafs have their number this year and just play a severely more physical game that the Habs can't handle.

- Columbus still has a chance to make the playoffs.

- Edmonton is rotten again this season, time for Tambellini to hit the old dusty trail.

- I'm anticipating another gem of a draft for Jay Feaster in Calgary. He finds ways to screw good things up, this draft should be no exception.

- Expect the Avalanche, Sabres, Flyers, Devils to all be searching for new head coaches when the season finishes.

- Speaking of Colorado, there are rumors out there that suggest an entire house-cleaning of the front office is upcoming, with Joe Sakic headlining the rumors for the GM position.

- Joffrey Lupul is starting his return to the Leafs lineup. He's been cleared for contact in practices. Barring a set-back, Lups should be in the lineup in about 7-10 days, just in time to get his game legs for the post-season.

- Evgeni Malkin was absent from the game against the Florida Panthers last night. Initial rumors were because he was sunburnt. How hilarious is that? That's how much teams respect the Florida Panthers, they go and enjoy the sights and weather and then sit their superstars when they have a little too much fun in the sun. Dan Bylsma said that it was a re-aggrivated injury. I'll stick to the first one, it's the better comic relief.

- I'm really hoping that Montreal and Boston don't play each other in the playoffs. It will be a media back and forth about diving and cheapshots, while the onscreen performance will be like watching synchronized swimming at the Olympics.

That's all for now, thanks for reading.
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Wednesday, 3 April 2013
2013 Trade Deadline Recap

I would classify this trade deadline as interesting. First up, Bobby Lou.

The Luongo talk came and went once again with Bobby Lou putting on a new jersey. The days preceding the deadline overshadowed the actual day. Neither of those are really surprising, but you had to assume that if Luongo was to be dealt it was going to happen today.

The non-trade of Luongo, in my mind, means one of two things.

1. Luongo is going to be bought out.

If no one was willing to take him right now, for a playoff run and beyond, then why would someone take him in the summer? Mike Gillis lives in this fantasy world where Luongo will get him the moon. Sorry, Mike, thanks to your spectacular GM skills you have made Luongo untradeable unless you give him away.

2. Schneider will be dealt in the summer.

Cory Schneider is a much more appealing acquisition strictly for his contract. He doesn't come with 9 years left on his deal. 

As oblivious to reality as Vancouver Canuck fans are, they will soon realize that they really can't keep both goaltenders, especially when Vancouver has only $1.3M in cap space with only 15 players signed. Luongo isn't to blame here either, it's the man making the deals happen, Mr. Mike Gillis.

On to the actual trades.

There were a lot of deals made that really don't mean much, so I'm not even going to entertain them. I do have a few words about four trades though.

Trade #1

To Tampa Bay
Ben Bishop

To Ottawa
Cory Conacher
4th Rd 2013

Analysis: The asking price was rumored to be a 2nd Rd pick and a player/prospect. What it came down to was much better. Cory Conacher is in the running for the Calder Trophy this season and has excelled in Tampa in his inaugural season. The Senators had too much traffic in the crease, which was widely known throughout the league, so a deal was definitely going to happen. Not only did they upgrade their young talent and current roster, they gathered a higher return for Bishop then they originally paid for him. Tampa Bay paid a hefty price, in my mind, sending their top young player(other than Stamkos) out the door. It was a deal that Tampa needed to make, though, given their horrendous goaltending. Bishop fills a huge hole on the Lightning roster and now they can focus elsewhere in the draft and free agency to make the Lightning a playoff team again.

Trade #2

To New York Rangers
Derek Dorsett
Derick Brassard
John Moore
6th Rd 2013

To Columbus
Marion Gaborik

Analysis: This trade basically compliments the Rick Nash trade from last year. The teams could have actually made this deal more simple by going Gaborik+ for Nash, but they didn't and this is where we stand. The Blue Jackets are taking a major risk with Gaborik right now, but it is a high risk-high reward situation for the new GM in Columbus. The Jackets are gearing up for a playoff push and now have a legitimate scoring threat up front. It's a gutsy move but you have to consider that when Jarmo Kekalainen came to town he assessed his current roster and came to his own conclusions as to who was going to be a part of his long-term plan. These three players certainly weren't. The Rangers, on the other hand, added some much needed depth to their roster as they move towards a playoff spot. Notably weak down the middle, they got a centre in Derick Brassard who will help out in several ways. They did lose a 40 goal scorer and that pinch will be felt, but now it's up to Rick Nash and Brad Richards to make people believe in the Rangers again.

Trade #3

To Washington
Martin Erat
Michael Latta

To Nashville
Filip Forsberg

Analysis: I haven't stopped scratching my head since this trade came about. George McPhee couldn't have been thinking straight when he sent his top prospect for Martin Erat, his $4.5M cap hit for two more years and his 4 goal season. That's all I can think of to explain this deal. Martin Erat isn't going to be the difference between a playoff spot and a non-playoff spot for the Washington Capitals. This is a big HUGE win for Nashville as they continue to build their team back. 

Trade #4

To Minnesota
Jason Pominville
4th Rd 2014

To Buffalo
John Larsson
Matt Hackett
1st Rd 2013
2nd Rd 2014

Analysis: I saved the best for last. I've tried forever, well since it happened, to make sense of this from Minnesota's perspective, but I can't. I can only come up with a simple statement: Fire or shoot Chuck Fletcher. On what planet is Jason Pominville worth this return? No planet, that's the correct answer. Buffalo made out like bandits on this deal, but Sabres fans shouldn't get too excited because this one trade may save Darcy Regeir's job. The only thing that I can say will come from this trade for the Wild is that Fletcher's phone will be ringing off the hook when trade season opens up again with 29 teams looking to pawn off their middle-aged junk for a steal.

Most of the playoff-impact deals were made before today and I still have to go with Pittsburgh as the short term trade deadline winners for the deals they made. 

All in all the deadline was a bust and the Luongo saga will continue on into the summer and the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending questions will be tagging along.

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, 31 March 2013
A Broken Jaw + Rumor Mill

Sidney Crosby's status got updated today to the world.

After receiving a deflected slapshot to the mouth area yesterday afternoon, Crosby immediately went to the hospital for repairs. It was a safe assumption to expect several teeth to be non-existent in Crosby's mouth after the play and the worry turned to another concussion.

It's been reported that Crosby is not showing any symptoms of a concussion, but he does have a broken jaw and will be out indefinitely. The good news, if you want to find good news in this, is that the Penguins are stacked with talent as they head toward the post-season. Evgeni Malkin returned a few games ago and will be shouldering the offensive load by himself once again and Jarome Iginla will now play an even more significant role than originally thought with Crosby out.

The length of time that Crosby will miss is up in the air right now but it may write off the rest of the regular season once again. Prior to taking the puck in the face, Crosby was on en route to collecting the Hart, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay awards as he was leading the Penguins to the highest point total in the league and running away with the scoring title.


Rumor Mill

- Steve Yzerman silenced one rumor a few days ago by publicly assuring that Martin St. Louis isn't going anywhere.

- The Leafs and Canucks are back in talks about Roberto Luongo, but what Vancouver could have had two months ago isn't what they will get now. It is still widely believed that the Leafs and Panthers are the two teams that Luongo would really like to go to, leaving the market price for the star goalie on clearance.

- Jay Bouwmeester is generating interest around the league as the Flames look to do some house cleaning at the deadline. I still think part of J-Bo's cap hit will have to be absorbed by Calgary to make this deal happen, unless the price gets lowered.

- Ryan Clowe still hasn't been asked for a list of teams that he would waive his NTC to, indicating there hasn't been much activity out of San Jose. That will more than likely change in the next three days.

- Ryan Miller's name keeps popping up in rumors as the Sabres begin sell-mode. They shipped Jordan Leopold out already and I doubt they're done. I have a hard time believing that the Sabres would actually deal Miller, given the fact they have no one ready to take over in the cage right now.

- Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky are definitely available but the Oilers may choose to keep them past the deadline due to the potential playoff berth they have inched closer to. That being said, you can buy anything for the right price. I'd say Whitney goes, Hemsky stays.

That's all for now, thanks for reading!

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Thursday, 28 March 2013
April Draft Rankings

Ok, I know it's not April, but it is a long weekend and I can't guarantee that I'll be around to post this. So here it is. The Top 10 have moved a little but 11-30 have stayed the same.

I see no reason to move around the bottom 20, I like the picks and their positions. Here's the rankings.

You'll notice a slight change in position, most notably Lindholm moving from 8th to 5th and Nichuskin from 5th to 8th. I base this solely on how important a centre is in the NHL versus a winger.

Overall, things generally stayed the same.

The top three remains intact and I stand by my decision to choose Drouin #1, even though MacKinnon is a centre.

Thanks for reading! Follow @PuckingOpinion on twitter.
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Penguins Gear Up: Iginla Gets Chance For Cup

The Calgary Flames finally admitted they need to rebuild and not re-tool, but not before causing a scene.

Last night twitter erupted when Jarome Iginla was scratched, indicating to most that a deal was imminent. A deal was imminent, but not the deal that was reported first. Jay Feaster spoke too soon when he told Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli that the B’s had won the Iginla-stakes. While Feaster is the man to make the moves it was Iginla who ultimately had the last say in where he went and he chose Pittsburgh over Boston, leading to an apology by TSN Hockey Insiders for the premature reporting.

Can you blame the TSN guys? Nope. The wool was pulled over everyone’s eyes thanks to Feaster’s premature acknowledgement to Chiarelli. This is another blame Feaster case. Feaster told Chiarelli and sources on one side told TSN. After consulting with the player with a no-trade-clause things became crystal clear. Here’s the deal.

To Pittsburgh
Jarome Iginla

To Calgary
Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski, 1st Rd 2013

The first thing that comes to mind when I see this deal is that the Flames got hosed, big time. The Penguins get Iginla and the Flames get two prospects unknown to the world and most likely never going to play for Pittsburgh, as well as the 30th overall pick in the first round when Iginla hoists the Cup. 

As I watched the press conference there was a lot of talk about how nobody knew about Iginla when he came to Calgary from Dallas. That, to me, is trying to find a silver lining in what appears to be a opportunity gone bad for Jay Feaster and company.

I understand Feaster’s hands were tied with the destination of Iginla but you have to generate a return that will help your club move forward and I don’t see either of those prospects having an impact on any future roster of the Calgary Flames. On the bright side this is a very deep draft and that 30th overall pick could mean a 15-25 overall in a normal year.

My hat goes off to Ray Shero, who did a fantastic job of gearing up for the post-season by trading zero roster players to pick up three roster players. That’s depth.

The Penguins have found a whole new gear for the playoffs this year. Here’s what they’ve done in the past week.

To Pittsburgh
Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, DAL 3rd Rd 2013

To Dallas, San Jose, Calgary
Joe Morrow, Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski, 1st Rd 2013, 2nd Rd 2013, 2nd Rd 2014(conditional on Pittsburgh reaching the Eastern Finals), 5th Rd 2013

If you consider the depth that the Penguins have at defence with regards to prospects then you can assume that seeing Joe Morrow in black and gold was going to be a stretch. Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maata, Scott Harrington go along with the already steady Simon Despres to round out a defensive look that includes current staples Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Losing Morrow wasn’t as big of a loss as some people have proclaimed.

Like I said earlier, the two NCAA forwards that were sent to Calgary had a bleak future in Pittsburgh as well and I can’t see them making an impact in Calgary in the foreseeable future.

What you have so far are the Penguins losing three prospects that may have never donned a Pens jersey, not a loss for Pittsburgh.

They also let three picks from this year’s draft go, a first, second and fifth. The fifth is 9.9/10 not going to pan out for you in the long run, so no loss there. The first and second could have been good prospects this year but if they hoist Lord Stanley it would have been 30th and 60th, so is it really that much of a loss? The second rounder in 2014 I thought to be a bit much for Douglas Murray, but I don’t think you can really question Shero right now. 

The Penguins added significant depth to their team and acquired the only other player, aside from Kunitz, known to man in the NHL that has proven chemistry with Sidney Crosby. Ray Shero has put the Penguins in the driver seat in the Eastern Conference for this year’s playoffs, moved Boston to the back seat and put everyone else in the trunk in a single week.

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Deadline Buyers and Sellers

Every year it’s the same thing leading up to the deadline; Who will buy and who will sell?

With Jarome Iginla dealt from Calgary it’s safe to assume that the Flames are finally ready to admit that they are sellers come deadline day. Are the Flames finished dealing, though? Some say no, some say they don’t have anything left to move. I’m more inclined to go with the latter given the size of the contracts that Calgary would have to move. If Calgary does trade, for example, Jay Bouwmeester they most definitely would have to eat some of his cap hit to make the deal happen. It all depends on how desperate teams get when the deadline gets closer.

Let’s take a look at potential buyers/sellers.

Eastern Conference


Pittsburgh Penguins – They’ve acquired three players already so it’s safe to say that they are done, but they were still buyers.

Boston Bruins – After failing to land Morrow and Iginla the Bruins will definitely make a push for other players by the deadline. A player with a similar style to both of those players could be Ryan Clowe.

Toronto Maple Leafs – There are still holes in the Leafs roster despite the solid year they are enjoying and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dave Nonis make a push to grab some players, most likely with the idea of re-signing those players after the season is over. The situation in Pittsburgh could make it extremely difficult for East teams like Toronto to decide to be buyers given the power that the Penguins hold and the reality of actual beating them in the playoffs.


Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres are a horrific hockey team. They have some players that can be shopped around to help their rebuild become more expedient than what it may turn out to be. When Ruff was canned he should have been joined by Regier on the job hunt but by acquiring more assets via a deadline sale he may be able to keep his job.

Washington Capitals – The Capitals are getting a dose of reality this season in the way that they aren’t a powerhouse hockey team. There are talks of Mike Ribiero re-signing in Washington but it would be at a hefty price given the impact he’s had for the Caps this year, so it may never come to fruition. Ribiero would be a hot commodity should he hit the trade market before April 3rd so it would be in Washington’s best interest to explore their options as sellers.

Florida Panthers – The worst team in the league, by far. They have some building blocks already but acquiring more in a dismal season would be wise and Tallon knows this. If there are any teams interested in any of the Panthers not named Huberdeau, Kulikov, Gudbranson, Shore and Markstrom, then there will be a sale in South Florida.

I don’t see any other teams in the East doing anything of significance at the deadline this year. A lot of teams are happy with where they are and others aren’t prepared to push the panic button in a shortened season. There are rumors of Marty St Louis possibly being on the market but I’m not sure if Yzerman is ready to make that bold of a move this early in his GM career. I’d be more inclined to think Lecavalier would go before St Louis, but I doubt either is going anywhere by April 3rd.

Western Conference


Vancouver Canucks – There were missing pieces before this season and if you’ve paid attention to the roller coaster ride that is the Vancouver Canucks then you’ve noticed there are more pieces to this puzzle. The window for the Canucks to win a Stanley Cup is closing and Mike Gillis needs to take a shot.

Detroit Red Wings – Much like the Canucks, the stars are getting older and I honestly didn’t think they would live through this year without Lidstrom, but they have. The window is barely open in the Wings case and there’s no doubt that they’ve been busy on the phones trying to pick up some players for a Cup run.

St. Louis Blues – This year opened the eyes of Blues management as to how good they really are. This isn’t the Blues team that was playing last year, the goaltending is still solid but it hasn’t been as dominant. It gave St Louis a chance to assess problems in the roster and I’d like to think that they will try to grab someone, or someone’s, at the deadline.


Dallas Stars – When they traded Brenden Morrow it was apparent that either A) Morrow wasn’t going to re-sign, or B) they are sellers. I’m going with sellers. IF they make the playoffs they will be the 8th seed and I’m not so sure they will even get in. Jaromir Jagr comes to mind when you talk about a quality rental player that can yield some return. You don’t trade your captain if you plan on making a run.

Colorado Avalanche – I know it sounds crazy given their young talent but there are players that could be dealt. There has been talk of Paul Statsny being traded for a few years now and in a world where centers are hard to come by there could be a market at the deadline for Statsny. Erik Johnson has also been linked to rumors dating back to the pre-lockout off-season. It wouldn’t hurt the Av’s to try to grab another first round pick in this year’s draft to continue to stock the cupboards.

San Jose Sharks – The Sharks dealt Murray and got a good return. There are talks of Boyle and Clowe heading out as well. The media has them as sellers. Clowe most likely isn’t going to re-sign with San Jose so he’s almost a sure thing to be dealt. I think the Sharks will be sellers and they may even entertain offers for Big Joe and Patty Marleau as well. Should the Sharks go into full blown sale mode they will receive more than adequate compensation and would definitely leave the trade deadline on the top of the league.

You could include Vancouver as possible sellers as well as buyers if they decide to trade a defenseman and a goalie at the deadline, something they will need to do in the summer anyway to get under the cap. The Canucks are in a terrible cap position for next year and need to free up some space by either trading or buying out a player or two. Like the East I’d say the rest of the teams are content with their rosters or are not ready to push the panic button in the shortened year. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the East be the buyers and the West be the sellers in a heavily sided way given what the Penguins have done. Teams in the East that are going to buy are going to have to buy hard because the road to the Cup travels through Crosby-Malkin-Neal-Iginla-Kunitz-Morrow-Letang, among others.

While the biggest name, Iginla, is off the market now it’s setting up to be an interesting deadline in the sense of who will be buying and selling. It’s hard to accurately assess your team in a shortened year if you’ve dealt with injuries, like Ottawa, or if you’ve had unforeseen success, like Chicago and Anaheim.

Hopefully the trade deadline will live up to the expectations it carries with it every year and provide us with some intriguing acquisitions as teams gear up for a playoff run.

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The Contenders Edition

Eight teams will make the playoffs in each Conference but we all know that not all eight teams are legitimate contenders moving into the post-season. The LA Kings proved everyone wrong last season as they became the first 8-seed to win the Stanley Cup, but it’s not often that contenders are dismantled quickly in the playoffs (see Penguins last year). 

I’m basing my contender selection off of the top 6 in each conference because I don’t believe anyone below 6 in either conference can pull off a Cinderella story.

Let’s head East.

The six teams to pick from in the Eastern Conference are the Penguins, Canadiens, Jets, Bruins, Senators and Maple Leafs.

Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins were heavy favorites to win the Stanley Cup when the season started, much like they are every year, but if you didn’t have them pegged for it a week ago you surely have to have them pegged now. Add Morrow, Murray and, most recently, Jarome Iginla to an already Cup ready roster and you’ve stacked the deck in your favor.

Boston Bruins – The Bruins fight hard every night and you never get a win handed to you. Certain impact players are struggling right now but goaltending can take you a long way when your offense hits a snag. A very talented roster that shouldn’t be taken lightly, even if they did get punked along with TSN in the Iginla drama.

Ottawa Senators – Most people would have Montreal here, but not me. The Senators have been playing with an AHL roster for quite some time now and have still been able to win games, a lot of games. The goaltending is out of this world and the coaching is wizard-like. With Jason Spezza and Jared Cowen rumored to be coming back for the playoff run this team is only going to get better.

Off to the Western Conference.

The six teams to pick from in the West are the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Kings.

Los Angeles Kings – I can’t bet against the Champs. The Kings started very slowly this season but have since been switching gears at a rapid pace to get into the thick of the Western race. I said before the season started that it wouldn’t shock me completely to see the Kings repeat, given the state of their roster (basically unchanged) entering the year. 

Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks are enjoying a Disney-like season in Anaheim that has them 10 points up on LA for the division crown. Led by a couple of heavy-walleted superstars in Getzlaf and Perry, who already led the Ducks to a championship, it’s time to take the Ducks seriously. The goaltending has been, and will continue to be, the position that takes this team as far as it goes. I was a definite non-believer in the Ducks early in the year but as the season enters the home stretch it’s hard to ignore.

Minnesota Wild – Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Wild made some bold moves in the off-season and with a slow start to the year were cast aside. They’ve since turned things around and are playing the type of hockey that everyone thought they would be. Only three teams in the league (Chi-Bos-Ott) have allowed fewer goals against than the Wild and they are 9-1 in their last ten games. Ryan Suter’s named is being chattered when it comes to the Norris and Zach Parise seems to be getting comfortable in his new surroundings.

Now, it’s easy to sit there and gripe about Montreal and Chicago not being in the top three in their conferences, but look at the teams a little closer. They’ve got 8(Montreal) and 7(Chicago) overtime or shootout games to their records of which they’ve gained 5(Montreal) and 3(Chicago) points for losing games. The point I’m trying to make is that these teams aren’t as dominant as some people want you to believe and I don’t think they have what it takes to make a Cup run this year. When it comes down to it in the West I’ll take a healthy Quick-Bernier tandem over any netminders in the West.

The Blackhawks goaltending has been great this year, but can it hold up to the onslaught of intensity in the playoffs? If I was a betting man I would steer very clear of Ray Emery and Cory Crawford. In Montreal you have a below average offense that has found ways to score but if Carey Price falters at any point then the season is history for the Canadiens. For any team in the East you basically have to ask yourself if they can beat Pittsburgh 4 out of 7 tries and the answer is a stern no, with the Bruins being the only team I’d consider it a possibility for. All that being said we’ve grown accustomed to Marc-Andre Fleury’s biblical breakdowns in the cage, so anything is possible.
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Sophomore Slumps Alive and Well

Last season we were treated to a solid class of rookie production. The top four rookie scorers from last season have all regressed to this point in what was supposed to be the next step in their development.

Here are the top four scorers from last season and their points-per-game average from last year.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 0.83
Adam Henrique 0.68
Gabriel Landeskog 0.63
Matt Read 0.59

The third highest point-per-gamer won the Calder, which I still don’t agree with, but that’s for another day. Here are the same four players and their current point-per-game average for this season.

Gabriel Landeskog 0.6
Matt Read 0.53
Adam Henrique 0.50
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 0.48

Last year’s Calder winner is enjoying the least amount of drop so far, settling only 0.03 points per game from last year. In Landeskog’s defence, even though he shouldn’t have won the Calder, he has enjoyed an injury-riddled season to go along with the absence of Ryan O’Reilly, who sulked for a portion of the year about getting more money than he’s worth. Thanks to Flames genius GM Jay Feaster, though, O’Reilly is back in the lineup with a brand new contract that torched this year’s market.

The player I think should have won the Calder, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, is enjoying the highest drop, going from 0.83 to 0.48 points per game this year. In the 29 games the Nuge has appeared in he’s only been able to find the back of the net twice. There really isn’t any excuse for Nugent-Hopkins’ poor stats, he has the same team around him, even though that team isn’t very good. Some people think that he has been playing injured but I’d like to think Oilers management is smart enough not to damage their future by playing a 2nd year kid while he’s hurt, even though I don’t think too much of Steve Tambellini.

Adam Henrique is missing Zach Parise, which may account for some of the loss, but the Devils aren’t your typical offensive power-house prototype so it’s thought to be a longer development period for the Devils young star.

Matt Read has had goal scoring numbers equivalent to last year but the Flyers have been a disappointment in general this year. His downgrade in production can definitely be blamed on the organization and not the individual here.

Coming into the season it was thought that Landeskog and Nuge would be point-per-game players and step forward in their development. It was also a fleeting thought that Adam Henrique could play to a similar offensive level as last season and that Matt Read would move forward with the development in comparison to Jakub Voracek this season.

Bottom-line? None of those has happened and last year’s top four rookies are victims of the sophomore slump.

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Paul MacLean: The Wizard Coach

What is supposed to happen when you lose the reigning Norris winner, last years 4th highest scorer and a goalie on pace for the Vezina?

Definitely not what happened in Ottawa.

The questions were mounting when Jason Spezza joined Jared Cowen on the shelf. The Senators scoring abilities were immediately questioned, and rightly so. Jason Spezza is one of the most, if not the most, underrated players in the NHL. He brings a playmaking skill-set to the Senators that few players can provide to their respective teams and when he went down Senators fans sank in their seats.

But they kept on.

The reigning Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson, was still there to save the day. The smooth, puck moving, Swede carried the Senators from the back-end and kept them scoring while Spezza was missing. What Karlsson didn’t put on the scoresheet, he made happen indirectly by being the focal point for opposing teams. With Karlsson and Anderson playing at an elite level the Senators were still maintaining their top-club status in the Eastern Conference.

It wasn’t meant to last.

Those hearts that sank when Spezza was injured were about to shatter when Karlsson went into the boards to retrieve a puck that should have been blown dead. An inadvertent skate from Matt Cooke would inflict a 70% on Karlsson’s Achilles tendon and end his season. Cowen and Spezza being on the shelf was already considered bad luck for Ottawa, but this was becoming a bit much for the organization and the fan base.

The general consensus around the NHL was that the Senators were now a write-off, missing three key pieces of their roster, and would surely plummet to the depths of the Eastern Conference. 

That still wasn’t the case.

The Senators continued to play efficiently enough to put more W’s on the board on the back of their top-notch goalie in Craig Anderson. That, too, would soon come to an end as Anderson took a nasty bump which resulted in a sprain that would put Anderson on what now looks like an All-Star shelf.
At the start of the year you had Spezza-Karlsson-Anderson and now as the regular season hits the home stretch you have Turris-Gonchar-Bishop. The wins haven’t been pretty, but they have been wins. Sergei Gonchar has been handed the keys to the blueline city in Karlsson’s absence and has opened the doors to a Gonchar that everyone assumed didn’t exist anymore. The offense has chipped in enough tallies to get the Senators in the win column and the goaltending has been spectacular without Anderson.

So who gets credit? It has to be Paul MacLean.

When you have a roster that gets massacred by injuries and you’re forced to rely on a significant amount of AHL representation there aren’t many people going to stand by you and say you’re going to win many games.

Paul MacLean has instilled a system in Ottawa that has found its way to Binghamton to make a possible transition smoother. It’s this system that has the Ottawa Senators, as a collective group, still staring down the barrel of a playoff spot even after losing so many significant roster players. 

MacLean got his team to buy into his system last year and it resulted in a surprise playoff berth. He’s done the same this year and they started off as one of the hottest teams in the league. As the injuries piled up he kept telling his roster, what was left of it, to stick to the program and continue to play within the system that they had built.

It worked.

The Senators are 5th in the Eastern Conference heading into tonight’s game and no one expects them to lose every game, which was the thought after Karlsson was injured. There were obviously minor tweaks that had to be made given the significant possession time that Karlsson provided, but for the most part the Senators you see, be them Binghamton or Ottawa, are playing the system that Paul MacLean brought with him when he was hired as head coach.

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Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Mid-Season Calder Race + Other Awards

We’re just about mid-way through the season and the Calder race is starting to spread out a bit. Here’s my top 5 rookies right now.

1.       Jonathan Huberdeau FLA 11g 5a 16pts

Huberdeau is the the Florida Panthers, he’s all they have. With Stephen Weiss out for the season the Panthers have nothing to look forward to other than Huberdeau’s development as a top line player. Huberdeau sits 2nd on the team in scoring and it’s hard to ignore his 11 goals this season, a pace that would see him score 39 over an 82 game rookie campaign.

2.       Cory Conacher TBL 7g 13a 20pts

Conacher leads all rookies in points but has a significantly better supporting cast in Tampa Bay as opposed to Huberdeau’s in Florida. Conacher will be able to produce all year long playing with St Louis, Lecavalier and Stamkos so his point total should be expected to be the highest.

3.       Brendan Gallagher MTL 6g 7a 13pts

Montreal has had a pleasant surprise in Gallagher, a 5th round pick from 2010. He’s tied with Galchenyuk for points by rookies on Montreal but has played 4 less games. Gallagher is Montreal’s Brad Marchand, a feisty player who isn’t afraid to get in the dirty areas and antagonize the opposition.

4.       Alex Galchenyuk MTL 3g 10a 13pts

Galchenyuk has faded since his opening six games but he’s still an effective rookie. I still believe he has one of the best hockey senses in the rookie class of this year but he’s struggling to find the point sheet lately, taking him from 2nd to 4th for the midseason race.

5.       Justin Schultz EDM 5g 8a 13pts

After scoring 7 points in his first 7 games, Schultz has 6 in his last 15 and is a -7 on the season. 10 of his 13 points have come on the PP for the Oilers. Schultz drops from 4 to 5 for the midseason due to the rest of the league getting their legs back and Schultz coming back to earth. I’d now consider him a long-shot to win the Calder.

At the end of the day I have to figure that the Calder race right now is between Huberdeau and Conacher. Conacher has the stats and Huberdeau is doing more with less than any other rookie this year. Depending on how many games Jacob Markstrom gets in with the Panthers while Theodore is out and how well he performs you could see Markstrom push for the Calder if he can tighten up the crease for the Panthers and get them out of the basement, but that’s a stretch.

Here are some other midseason awards:

Hart: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Art Ross: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Richard: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Norris: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penuins
Jack Adams: Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators
Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Byng: Pat Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Vezina: Craig Anderson
Masterton: James van Riemsdyk

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Monday, 4 March 2013
A Slovakian Feeding, Quick Notes and Hot Seat Coaches

There has been lots of talk about Zdeno Chara pummelling Alexei Emelin last night. Chara received 2, 5 and a game for his part in the thrashing while Emelin received 5 for getting beat up.

The whole scenario transpired after Emelin broke his stick over Tyler Seguin’s ribs via a cross-check in the neutral zone. Chara then skated directly for Emelin and the rest is history.


Some people say sticks break too easy, but those people are Canadiens fans. Hockey sticks do break more frequently than before, that’s true, but you have to have exert a good amount of force for them to break, unless it’s already broken which wasn’t the case. Seguin took a cheap shot in the ribs, Chara defended his star player, Emelin didn’t want to own up to it until Chara stood towering over him telling him to get up and defend himself or be fed an angry Slovak supper anyway.
I don’t have an issue with what Chara did; I think there should be more players held accountable for their actions. Chara’s instigator penalty is the reason players don’t do it often. I’ve read more comments about Chara not fighting fighters and only picking on small people than I can handle. Newsflash: 99% of players are smaller than Zdeno. Chara is an elite defender in the NHL so it’s not in his team’s best interest if he went out and fed Colton Orr type players every night. Chara for Orr is not a fair trade for Boston, Chara for Emelin is not a fair trade for Boston. It takes a special situation to get Chara to react like he did.
The criticism should go to Emelin, who had his jaw put back together recently by the humpty dumpty manufacturers. If you want to play a certain way and do certain things then you have to be prepared to pay the piper when something you do isn’t going to sit well with the other team. If you can’t fight then don’t break your stick over a player’s ribs. If you’re going to cheap shot someone, doing it against the Bruins probably isn’t the way to go.

Lessons learned: Emelin doesn’t take responsibility and don’t poke the Slovak in the zoo.
Mike Brown was traded today from Toronto to Edmonton in exchange for a 4th Rd Pick in 2014. Very miniscule deal in the grand scheme of things. The Leafs are preparing to have some forwards return from injury and they have added toughness over the season which now stands at McLaren, Fraser and Orr, so there isn’t room for Brown and his inconsistent play. Brown has also battled a few injuries of his own during the season and hasn’t been a staple in the Leafs lineup all year. The Edmonton Oilers have the least amount of fighting majors in the league, probably why they acquired Brown. The Oil’s 3 fights makes them the least toughest team in the league.

Evgeni Malkin returns to action tonight against the Lightning for the first time in four games since taking a nasty fall into the boards against Florida. Hopefully the Penguins aren’t rushing him back but I doubt that’s the case given the history they have with Sidney Crosby and his concussion.
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta has a hearing today for his hit on Brad Richards. It’s a phone hearing so 5 games is the maximum he can receive as a Shanaban. He is a repeat offender so it wouldn’t shock me to see a 4-5 game Shanaban handed out.
If I had to pick five coaches whose seats are starting to warm up I’d have to go with:
Guy Boucher (TB): The Lightning are under-achieving this year and had better hopes heading into the start of the season than what they are actually doing right now.
Adam Oates (WSH): I’m not sure how patient George McPhee is going to be when his own job could be on the line.
Jack Capuano (NYI): Capuano has struggled to find great line combos all season and the Isles are destined for a top 10 pick again this year.
Ralph Krueger (EDM): Here’s another case of a sweaty GM. The Oilers were expected to compete for a playoff spot vice a top three pick this year. Things aren’t working out as expected in Edmonton and Krueger might get the axe if Tambelleni doesn’t get it first.
Peter Laviolette (PHI): The Flyers are 6-4 in their last ten, but if they don’t keep that pace up and fail to make the playoffs then Laviolette may be searching for another job.

That's all for now, thanks for reading. Follow @PuckingOpinion on twitter.

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Sunday, 3 March 2013
Friday, 1 March 2013
Ryan O'Reilly and Random Thoughts

It’s been a wild couple days in the NHL with regards to the transaction world.

Simon Gagne dealt back to Philly.
Erik Cole swapped for Michael Ryder.
Brian McGrattin acquired by Calgary.
Ryan O’Reilly offer sheeted by Calgary, matched by Colorado.

I’ll be honest, the first three things don’t mean anything. Great for Gagne to score in his first game back, but if Philadelphia is going to lean on Gagne to be their Jagr, they’re going to be disappointed.
Erik Cole and Michael Ryder have all had their day in the sun. Here are two players who are past their prime, and never had much of a prime to begin with. Great move for cap purposes by Montreal.
Brian McGrattin doesn’t change the situation in Calgary.

Now, here’s when it gets interesting. Ryan O’Reilly saga comes to an end, well, until this contract is over. Here’s the coles notes version of the deal.

$1M salary, $2.5M signing bonus for this year.
$6.5M salary next year, AAV $5M on the cap.
The $6.5M is the minimum that Colorado can offer to qualify O’Reilly after this contract ends and retain his rights should they not have a deal in place already.
Compensation would have been Calgary’s 1st and 3rd round picks this year.

Colorado matched the offer sheet, which wasn’t surprising to some. If it was me I would have took the name tag right off the locker in the dressing room and moved on with my extra top 10 pick in the deepest draft in years.

Ryan O’Reilly is not worth $6.5M in any season. Sure, the Avs can sign him before they have to qualify him to avoid continuing to pay him a ridiculous amount of money, but look at what he did this year. Here’s a player who hasn’t proved he’s worth $5M AAV, making $5M AAV because one of the worst GM’s in the league offer-sheeted him. He held out this year to get a big payday so what’s going to stop him from waiting until Colorado has to tender a qualifying offer or let him become a free agent? Nothing, if you ask me. 

2013 has been the holdout year and while I’m glad to have the last clown back in the car I hope this doesn’t become a trend. The NFL players do this, hold out for big money when they aren’t worth it, but that’s not how the NHL should operate. Earn your money and don’t demand the moon after a 55 point season.

TSN reported that had the Avalanche let O’Reilly go to Calgary and taken the Flames picks that O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers, which he most likely wouldn’t have. What the situation would have looked like at the point would be: Avs get Flames 1st and 3rd round picks this year, Flames get nothing and another team picks up O’Reilly. Well done, Feaster, well done. This would have been the more hilarious option for sure.

Random Thoughts

Nazem Kadri scored three beauties for his first NHL hatty.

Mike Milbury ripped Alex Ovechkin a few days ago and maybe that’s just what Ovi needs to get back to playing the game like he used to. If he can’t get back to form then he, and his contract, are going to kill Washington.

Mike Brown had a criminal 5-min major called on him that all the experts agreed should have only been two. Ref’s have had a direct impact on several games outcomes this season and it’s certainly going to be a point of conversation at the GM meetings.

The LA Kings are playing the same type of hockey that everyone saw them play from April-June of last year.

Chicago better lose a game in regulation soon or they aren’t going to take it so well in the playoffs when they lose a game or four.

I’m shocked Anaheim is still 2nd in the West. There are rumors of the Ducks shopping Corey Perry around to make sure they get something in return for at least one of their pending UFA’s. If Perry goes then so does 2nd place in the West.

The Minnesota Wild are the lowest scoring team in the NHL, not quite what everyone expected after signing Parise and Suter to massively overpaid deals for the next hundred years.

That's all for now, thanks for reading. Follow @PuckingOpinion on twitter. Here's the video of Mike Milbury sounding off on Alex Ovechkin.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Will The Wang Saga End In New York?

Two weeks ago the NY Post came out with a story regarding Charles Wang and his interest in selling the Islanders.

It’s been no secret for the past few seasons that Wang was entertaining the thought of selling the storied franchise, but it’s also been no secret that he’s asking for the moon in return.

The rumoured price tag he has placed on the New York Islanders is in the ballpark of $300M, much too rich for a team that has consistently lost money the last several years. The market is looking up with a move to one of the 5 boroughs of New York and if a buyer would inject some money into the team rather than penny pinch it would increase the revenue of the team.

Forbes has the Islanders worth $155M in their most recent valuations of NHL franchises so with an asking price of almost double the teams projected worth seems a bit ridiculous. The Coyotes are worth $134, according to Forbes, and they are on the market for $170M via sale by the NHL.

So, would Charles Wang actually sell the Islanders? Absolutely, but it will be on his terms and close to his asking price. No one likes to lose money year after year, but Wang also has no intentions on spending over the salary cap floor so this team will continue to lose in the dollar column as long as Wang is in control.

The $300M price tag hasn’t steered everyone away, though, as the NY Post reported the Raine Group in Manhattan have been talking to Wang to get a feel for what the actual sale price may be. The Islanders organization denied any truth to the rumours and the Raine Group couldn’t be reached for comment. 

For the time being, however, I can’t see Wang’s stance changing which means the Islanders will remain under the tyranny of a penny-pinching owner for the foreseeable future. Another factor in the sale is that the Islanders have a $75M loan that is due for repayment at the end of the 2013-2014 season. Wang would love to get some money back for this team before he has to pay the $75M, otherwise 2014 will be a bad year for Chucky.

I’m positive that if Wang sold the Islanders there would be a parade on Long Island in which thousands of fans would show up and celebrate their freedom. A new owner means that the Islanders can start to acquire players to fill in the blanks, and there are a lot of them, via the trade market or free agency. This is a team that is set up for success with several good, young, players to build around. John Tavares’ contract is one of the best contracts in the NHL. He’s signed long-term at below market value, making $5.5M per year on the cap through 2017-2018. After breaking out last season with 81 points in 82 games, Tavares has 25 points in 20 games this season. We have every reason to believe that JT is a point-per-game or better player now, on a consistent basis, as he strides toward his prime years. 

All in all, there seems to be a buzz in New York right now about Wang shopping his team around and if it were to happen in the near future, my guess would be before the end of the 2013-2014 season. If a sale isn’t made before the loan repayment happens and the Islanders attendance improves at the Barclay’s Center, with the rumour being the current lease will be bought out and the team moves for next year, the Islanders could be stuck with Charles Wang for a long time.

Thanks for reading, give me a follow @PuckingOpinion on Twitter.
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