1) As of this morning, 5 of the 7 Canadian teams in the NHL are in a playoff position…except for Ottawa and the team that is dead last in the NHL. Their winning percentages are as follows:
Ottawa keeps flailing about, being scuppered, mainly, by dreadful team defense…they’re giving up the 2nd most shots/game at 34.9. Only Buffalo is worst at 36.1
2) No surprise there but what is surprising to me is that the Vancouver Canucks appear to have sustained their early season excellence based on a resurgence of the Sedins, the perfect fit that Radim Vrbata has been with the twins and boatloads of secondary scoring.
2nd line centre Nick Bonino is on pace for a 23G 62P season, rookie Linden Vey looks like he’ll hit 20 goals and Jannik Hansen is on pace for 26.
Jim Benning‘s other big off-season acquisition, Ryan Miller, has posted a .910 save percentage so the Canuck’s have at least adequate goaltending so, if they keep scoring at their current rate, I can’t see the Canucks missing the playoffs.
3) Speaking of scoring…which team is leading the NHL WC in scoring so far this season? No…it’s not Anaheim…not the Blackhawks…nor the Sharks…it’s the surprising Calgary Flames!
The Flames have scored 83 goals this season compared to the Canucks second best at 79. Actually the Flames and Canucks are tied for 4th in the league at 3.08 G/G behind only Tampa Bay, Toronto and Pittsburgh who of course play in the weaker EC.
The Flames scoring leaders are Mark Giordano (26P) and Jiri Hudler (25P) but they’re getting tremendous contributions from TJ Brodie (21P), Johnny Gaudreau (19P) and Sean Monahan (17P). Monahan is on pace for 28 goals so those who suggested he got “lucky” last season may want to reassess their opinions.
Some Calgary players have sustainable shooting percentages (like Josh Jooris at 27.6) but you have to bear in mind the Flames have been scoring and winning without 3 of their top centres and a top 6 winger. Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, Joe Colbourne and Mason Raymond will all be back from injury by the new year so the Flames will be getting an infusion of talent to try to hang on to a playoff spot.
4) A couple of weeks ago, venerable Lowetide poster and sometime Edmonton Journal blogger Woodguy, bet me a bottle (Talisker please) that the Oilers would finish ahead of the Flames this season (and the following 2 seasons as well). At the time of the bet, the Flames were leading the Oilers by 9 points but have now widened that lead to 18 points and counting. Mmmmm…Talisker.
5) Speaking of the Oilers…it appears the team is going to hold the fort after an uptick in panic in Edmonton. Really, other than cleaning house from top to bottom, I don’t think there is much they can do in any event. Apparently Nail Yakupov has zero trade value around the league, the Oilers are over-valuing Jordan Eberle and only David Perron seems likely to be moved if Craig MacTavish can find a dance partner.
In a poll conducted by David Staples at the Edmonton Journal’s Cult of Hockey, more than 90% of respondents want Daryl Katz to put on his big boy pants and get out the broom but Staples doesn’t think that will happen.
Two things obvious with the Edmonton Oilers:
1. Massive change is needed.
2. Massive change won’t happen because owner Daryl Katz is loyal to old friends.
It’s obvious this is a gigantic mess and has been for years. Full-scale changes badly needed. The ball is in Katz’s court and yet he does nothing.
The team has been the worst team in the NHL under his watch since July 2008, the management team — in various permutations and combinations — has been in charge forever in NHL terms, and there’s no sign of things ever getting any better.
6) Staples post also reveals something that I easily predicted would happen once the Oilers started play predominantly WC teams.
While Edmonton wasn’t winning games in the first six weeks of the 2014-15 season, at least it was holding its own when it comes to shots plus-minus and scoring chances plus-minus. In the first 19 games of the year, the Oilers averaged 14.6 scoring chances for per game and 14.2 against. Those are good numbers for a team that was so weak last season, and all the better because the Oilers were even with other teams when it came to Grade A chances, the very best scoring chances, dangerous one-time shots or wicked shots from the kill floor right in front of the net.
At that point, as recently as a few weeks ago, despite the losing, I was open to the argument that maybe things were getting better, and the only real issue was weak goaltending. Of course, the fact that the Oilers had kept around the same goalie coach who had had little but poor results for years didn’t speak well of the organization, but there was some rational reason that a decent enough team was getting atrocious results in the won-loss column.
In the past six games, though, the team has come apart completely. The Oilers have been outchanced: 11.2 for, 16.7 against.
When it comes to Grade A chances in the past six games, things are even worse. The Oilers have created 31 and given up 62.
So, there you go. It’s going to get worse folks.
7) As boy, I had a chance to watch some of the all time greats play hockey on TV. Howe, Hull, Orr, Esposito…it’s a long list. But there was one player who was absolutely unique in the way he played the game and conducted himself off ice. Pierre Lebrun of TSN/ESPN has written a great piece today about the hockey legend:
Jean Beliveau batted .500 in the most impressive hockey category of all: 10 Stanley Cups in 20 seasons.
But he batted a thousand where it mattered most.
“What a wonderful person,” fellow Habs legend and former teammate Dickie Moore told ESPN.com a few years ago. “All these years, he’s always thought about everyone else but himself. That’s Jean Beliveau.”
Beliveau died Tuesday night. He was 83.
No classier human being has ever laced them up in the 97-year history of the NHL. His talent was all-world, but it was his humble demeanor that will forever be remembered.
“He was, in every way, a one-of-a-kind player, matched only by his grace and quality as a human being,” wrote the great Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette.
I would hope there NHL will immediately name one of its trophies after Beliveau…perhaps the Lady Byng.