Once again, my 33 NHL thoughts, including my playoff predictions. I also list my choice on who is going to win the Stanley Cup.
1. Bryan Murray was re-signed with the Sens. Some believe he deserved to be brought back after the trades he made this past half a season. Of course, it was his fault he had to trade away bloated contracts that he gave players, but that’s besides the point. Or so some would have you believe.
2. One thing I don’t understand. If Murray was able to fix his mistakes and the team competitive in the latter half of the season, why was his job safe and not Cory Clouston? Shouldn’t Clouston have also been rewarded for making a team of AHLers competitive?
3. Remember Murray giving Chris Phillips that bloated contract at the trade deadline? The one that will see Phillips get a little more than $3 million a year for the next three years? Since that deal, Phillips has been a minus 10, despite the Sens posting a winning record of 11 wins, eight losses and one overtime loss.
4. Phillips finished last in the league with a minus 35. That’s what $9 million gets you nowadays.
5. In the Habs-Sens game, Chris Neil challenged Scott Gomez to a fight. It seemed strange to me, considering he was getting a facewash from Hal Gill at the time. But that’s what Neil does. Instead of going after the other team’s tough guys, he decides to go after guys he knows he can beat. Of course, if my fights against tough guys went like this, I’d probably stop challenging them too.
6. I know the playoffs start today, and the Habs series starts tomorrow, but is it too late to fire coach Jacques Martin? I don’t get what the appeal is with him. He seems to get outcoached many times. He doesn’t even get credit for the playoff success last year, as a lot of the accolades went to Kirk Muller.
7. Lots of talk about the Hart trophy, and about whether Daniel Sedin deserves it over Corey Perry. But as much as I hate the Bruins, Tim Thomas put on a show that deserves the trophy this year. Perry finished with 50 goals, and Sedin just over a 100 points. But that’s not actually too rare. Thomas dominated this season, and had numbers that goalies haven’t had in more than a decade.
8. There’s actually been a lot of talk for various goalies being nominated for the Hart trophy (Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist), but I don’t think any of them get nominated. Not even Thomas, despite my previous point.
9. Coach of the year has got to be Penguins coach Dan Blymsa. He lost Jordan Staal for the first half of the year, and then Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for the second half. Yet they still finished fourth in the conference, and was actually making a push towards the division title down the stretch. That’s unbelievable.
10. Compare that to other teams, and think of their coaches. Could Vancouver have had the success they did if they missed Ryan Kesler for the first half, and the Sedin twins for the second half? Does Tampa make the playoffs if Vincent Lecavalier misses the first half of the season, and Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos the second half? I don’t think so.
11. I understand injuries play a role, but I’ve never understood why Jacques Martin likes to break up lines when they’re working. Case in point, the PhD line. Benoit Pouliot, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche played great when they were on the same line. But they were broken up way too early. Hopefully, we’ll see them back together in the playoffs.
12. No one got 60 points in Montreal? Not good. And there’s not a lot of cap space to go out and get help.
13. The Habs aren’t the only ones with that problem. Despite the “new” NHL leading to more scoring, there are plenty of teams without a 30-goal scorer or a 60-point guy.
14. What is Andrei Markov worth this summer? After three major injuries in the last two years, I’m not sure what the market will be like for Markov this summer. A team like Colorado might go after him, but really, I think Markov needs to sign a one-year deal with the Habs, have an awesome season, and then look to sign a big contract the following year.
15. Nazem Kadri won’t be eligible to win the Calder trophy next year. I understand the Leafs wanted to get the kid some games, but playing him in 29 games is a little silly, especially when the cutoff for rookie of year candidates is 25. They could have sat him out of an extra five games, and he would have had something extra to play for next year.
16. Scott Gomez finished the season with seven goals, meaning he is getting paid $1 million per goal. I wouldn’t mind if he was an Adam Oates type of player, getting tons of assists. Or if he was a hard hitter. Or if he actually contributed anything to the team. But he doesn’t. But because he makes so much money, he’s always on the top two lines. His minus 15 doesn’t help matters either.
17. The question now becomes, should the Habs buy Gomez out this summer? Of course they should. According to CapGeek.com, if the Habs buy him out, they would save $5.5 million next season. For that price, they could sign five guys who could score only seven goals a season.
18. I love PK Subban, but his penalty minutes need to be lower. Getting 42 minor penalties is way too much. That’s the worst in the league, and it’s way too much for such an important player on the Habs.
19. Don’t like the fact that Andrei Kostitsyn has more hits on the Habs than anyone else. Even though the Canadiens play a speedy game, they still need to have a couple of grinders that can help wear the other team down.
20. Leafs fans should curb their optimism about next season. Career year from certain guys helped, and so did a rookie goalie. But you can’t expect everyone to meet those same numbers next year.
21. Sens finished one goal ahead of their lowest scoring regular season in modern history. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of offensive help coming. Can you count on Bobby Butler over the course of 82 games? History says no.
22. If all the Devils do is re-sign Zach Parise this summer, they’ll be a playoff team next year. There’s no way guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur start off the season as bad as what they did this year.
23. Is there any hope of Florida ever being a playoff team? Things look bleak there. I’m a huge NHL fan, but I don’t think I could name five Panthers.
24. It feels like there are more coaches than ever being fired right now. So far, Dallas, Minnesota, Ottawa and Florida have all fired their coaches already, and the playoffs haven’t even started yet. If there are a couple of first round upsets (Washington, for example), then there could be a couple of more coming, plus more from teams already eliminated. Not sure what the record is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a new one set for coaches fired in a single offseason.
25. It’ll be interesting to see how many playoff teams have trouble in the postseason thanks to the shootout inflating their points. Both the Kings and the Pens won 10 shootouts, with the Rangers winning nine. And the Kings, for example, only one won game in overtime during the whole season. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates to postseason success.
26. Interesting to note: Only one team has a winning percentage when losing after the first period. The Washington Capitals. So never count them out of a playoff game.
27. Way back at the start of the season, I tried to make some crazier predictions (see them all here). Some of them, I was way off, especially when it comes to the trades. Probably the worst prediction was saying Kris Versteeg will finish with 80 points. He had 46, and was traded once it became apparent he couldn’t be a top-line player.
28. My favourite prediction that I came close on? Michael Grabner for the Calder trophy. He probably won’t win, but he should be a nominee.
29. Other predictions I was right on: ” Daniel Sedin gets more points than his brother, Henrik.” Most people had it the other way, considering Henrik won the Hart trophy and the Art Ross last season.
30. “Despite all their rookies, no one on the Oilers will be nominated for the Calder trophy.” The nominees haven’t come out yet, but I feel pretty confident in this one.
31. My first round Eastern playoff predictions: Capitals over Rangers, Sabres over Flyers, Canadiens over Bruins and Lightning over Penguins.
32. Playoff predictions for the West: Blackhawks over the Canucks, Sharks over Kings, Wings over Coyotes and Ducks over Predators.
33. Stanley Cup finals will be between the Ducks and the Sabres, with the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup.