I tried this once before, and I liked it way it turned out. I have a lot of different thoughts about the NHL, and this is a chance to get all of them out in one quick column.
So once again, here are my 33 NHL thoughts for the week.
1. There’s been rumours that Chris Neil may wind up in Montreal. That’s not a good fit though. The Habs play a fast speedy game. Taking one allegedly “tough” player and putting him in that system wouldn’t scare teams like the Boston Bruins or Philadelphia Flyers. If anything, it weakens Montreal’s style, since Neil is neither fast nor speedy.
2. Sens defenceman Chris Phillips wants to stay in Ottawa and be part of the rebuild. Isn’t this just like Tomas Kaberle? For years, some in the media have thought Kaberle just didn’t care to win, and wanted to stay on a losing team instead of accepting a trade elsewhere. Now Phillips is saying the same thing.
3. Just noticed that James Wisniewski’s stick is half white. I wonder if that gives him an advantage when shooting as goalies may not see it winding up as quickly as normal sticks. Also, would it give an advantage to Wisniewski’s shot blocking?
4. I’ve been really impressed with Benoit Pouliot this year. He’s probably the only Habs player that hasn’t played a bad game. He plays well, no matter what his linemates. He forechecks well, plays strong in the defensive zone, and makes plays. While he may not score in every game, he gives it his all, and that’s all you can ask of him.
5. Not understanding the love for Ryan Kesler for the Hart trophy. He’s not even one of the top two choices on the Canucks, much less one of the top three in the league. Yet there are plenty of stories being written about him having a shot at the trophy.
6. If I had a vote, my pick for the Hart would be Steven Stamkos. My second choice would be Tim Thomas (he doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done when it comes to the Hart voting). Third is Daniel Sedin.
7. While everyone has been talking about Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture and Michael Grabner for the Calder trophy, I think Rangers rookie Derek Stepan is a dark horse choice to be nominated.
8. That being said, Grabner is my call to win the Calder. He’s a plus-11 on a horrific Islanders team, has three shorthanded goals, leads all rookies with 25 goals and has only six penalty minutes. And he gets about three minutes less of ice time per game than most other rookies.
9. Would love to see a rematch in the playoffs with the Bruins-Flyers. A hard-hitting series with the Bruins looking for revenge for last year’s playoffs, when they lost a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers.
10. What has happened to Jonas Gustavsson? He went from being the Monster, to #3 in the Leafs organization. He was supposed to be a stud goalie, but he’s quickly turned into a dud.
11. Chicago’s penalty kill is going to give them trouble in the playoffs, if they make it in. They’re 27th in the league om the PK. In the playoffs, when special teams matter, that’s going to give them trouble.
12. Craig Anderson in Ottawa is not a good thing. Sure, he looked good against the Leafs, but that’s not really telling anything, since the Leafs have traded more talent away in the past two weeks then the Sens have completely. But it would be a mistake if Ottawa GM Bryan Murray signed Anderson. The Sens should have learned from the Pascal Leclaire fiasco: do not go after goalies who have only had one great year. You’ll be disappointed.
13. By the way, shouldn’t the new Ottawa GM be making these decisions? Murray will be gone this summer, so why saddle the new GM with Anderson?
14. Congrats to Dave and Holly. Two of my good friends got married a couple of weeks ago. Dave reads this site regularly, and is a big Habs fan. Even though we don’t agree on everything, he’s pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the NHL. And Holly is also a huge Habs fan, and a pretty solid defenceman on our co-ed team to boot. Congrats again guys!
15. Marc Savard’s injury is the only reason the Bruins could trade for Tomas Kaberle. That cap space saved from him being on the injured reserve cleared the way for the Bruins to make a big move.
16. Colorado overpaid for Erik Johnson. Kevin Shattenkirk is probably not too far behind Johnson in development, and Chris Stewart is a dynamite young forward who was tearing up the league before injuring his hand earlier this year. Bad move on Colorado’s part.
17. Not sure why Colorado would want Brian Elliott. The guy hasn’t proven to win, yet they’re hoping he can bring them to the playoffs? Colorado has made some bad moves lately.
18. The trade deadline will be dead this year. With so many teams already making their deals, there won’t be a lot of dynamite deals left. Take Montreal, for instance. They have already made their moves to shore up their defence, first getting Wisniewski, and then Paul Mara. Unless they decide to trade for more offence, there won’t be any more major deals coming from them.
19. Less and less no trade clauses should be coming in the next few years. Teams have found it extremely difficult to get rid of players they don’t want because of no trade clauses. Kaberle, Phillips, Gonchar, etc. All tough to move if they won’t waive their clauses.
20. Something that would be nice to include in the next CBA: a chance for teams to pay for salaries of traded players. For example, Wade Redden. If the Rangers could trade him, and agree to pay half his contract, both teams are happy. The Rangers would save $3 million in cap space each year, while the team trading for him would only accept $3 million in cap space. It would also do away with a lot of drama that comes with players and whether or not teams could afford them. It could make way for more trades, as teams near the cap could make more deals.
21. Joe Thornton is getting old, and look for this season to be a sign of things to come. He’s having an off year, and I don’t think he can get 100 points again. He’s 31, about to become 32 years old. You know how many players had 100 point seasons at the age of 32 or over? Only 10 (Gretzky, Esposito, Howe, Dionne, Jagr, Francis, Bucyk, Ratelle, Sakic and Alfredsson). I don’t think Thornton will join them. The Sharks should probably trade him before his value dips too much.
22. If the NBA and the NFL don’t have seasons next year (or delayed ones), the NHL is in a great spot to capture new fans. Baseball had trouble getting fans back after the cancelled World Series in 1994, and hockey was only able to come back so quickly thanks to the new rules. If either the NBA or NFL are out for a while, then hockey will be one of the only sports to watch, once the World Series is over.
23. Everyone’s been blasting Mario Lemieux recently, and I think it’s well deserved. It’s crazy that he comes out, when his team leads the league in fighting and penalties, and talks about how bad the Islanders were during the brawl (and that’s not even including the fact Matt Cooke is the dirtiest player in the game). But the worst is the end of his statement, when he threatened to take his ball and go home. Look Mario, the league survived fine without you for years, and if you don’t want to be a part of it, then leave.
24. The problem with Alex Ovechkin this season is simple. Last year, he was one of the dirtiest players in the game. This year, he’s changed his style so he’s stopped injuring people. That means he’s not as aggressive, and it’s showing. But, it’s a lot better he play this way than his reckless style that he used to do.
25. Even though the Penguins keep winning without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, they won’t get far in the playoffs with a top superstar. Every team needs a player that is required to come through when it counts. Pittsburgh doesn’t have that right now, and would be lucky to win a round with the squad they have.
26. Sens fans need to be patient with a rebuild. Look at the Oilers now. Despite young top level talent from good draft picks thanks to bad seasons, they’re still one of the worst teams in the league. It’s the same with Chicago, Pittsburgh, Tampa, etc. When you’re rebuilding a team, you need quite a few years to turn things around.
27. Anaheim has shown this season what can happen when you overwork your #1 goalie. Jonas Hiller needed to take time off for fatigue, and the Ducks have suffered since. Montreal and Buffalo are a couple of teams that should pay attention to that.
28. My picks to miss the playoffs in the West out of the logjam: Nashville, Calgary and Dallas. Nashville because they don’t have that top level talent at forward to carry the team on his back, Calgary because their players will have to come back to normal sooner or later, and Dallas because of the fact Brad Richards is out for a bit with a concussion. Crosby has shown that there’s no such thing as a mild concussion.
29. In the east, I don’t really see anyone catching Carolina. The Rangers would be my only guess as to who has a chance to miss the playoffs, but as long as Marian Gaborik stays healthy, they should be okay. (Note, I wrote that line hours before Gaborik received a concussion in the Rangers game yesterday, but thought I should keep it in).
30. It still amazes me at how good Detroit is. They’re the highest scoring team in the league right now (per game average). And that’s with a lot of injuries to a lot of key guys. It’s crazy how good that team is, from top to bottom.
31. At the same time, Montreal needs more scoring help. They’re 25th in the league in goals for per game, and 28th in shooting percentage. Sure, injuries to guys like Andrei Markov and Mike Cammalleri hurt, but every team deals with injuries, so that can’t be used as an excuse. It’ll be hard for them to sneak up on teams in the playoffs this season and create upsets. Teams will be ready for them.
32. Since the all-star break, no team has scored more goals than the New York Islanders. Once they get Mark Streit back next season to help man their powerplay, the team should be playoff-contenders, especially since their young guys will have more experience. They still need a top goalie, but teams have done more with less.
33. Is there a curse of the Kraft Hockeyville? Since having a competition where an NHL exhibition game would be played at a community arena in a small town, teams participating haven’t had a lot of success. If the Sens and the Sabres miss the playoffs (both are out of a playoff spot right now), that means only three of 10 teams participating in Kraft Hockeyville made the playoffs in the season they participated in.