1) The Buffalo Sabres, with a little help from the Edmonton Oilers, are now in control of the Epic Tank Battle in the dungeons of the NHL. While the Sabres have an identical win percentage, .337, the Sabres have control of the all important tie breakers with only 8 regulation wins to the Oilers’ 9 and also have a sparkling -76 goal differential to the Oilers’ -50. The Sabres have a game in Detroit later today so it’s a good bet they’ll tighten their grip even further.
2) The Arizona Coyotes continue to tumble down the standings and GM Don Maloney has the for sale sign up with all of Antoine Vermette, Martin Erat and Keith Yandle all likely to be shipped out soon so don’t count them out of the race quite yet.
3) Which raises the question of who is likely to win the draft lottery? Well, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman owes new Coyotes’ majority owner Andrew Barroway a solid for bailing out the Coyotes once again so don’t be surprised if Connor McDavid pulls on a Phoenix jersey at the draft.
4) McDavid would be a great start to a rebuild in the desert…he’s a very marketable young player, obviously, and the Coyotes also have several young blue chip prospects to help kick start the process. The Coyotes prospect depth includes WJC star Max Domi, Henrik Sameulsson (now playing in the AHL), 2014 1st round pick Brendan Perlini and youngsters Tobias Reider (thanks Oilers), Luca Lessio and D Connor Murphy who are already playing in the NHL. Considering the Coyotes will also likely receive young prospects and/or picks for the aforementioned Vermette, Erat, Yandle et al, the Coyotes are already well positioned to push the re-set button.
5) And that, of course raises another question…how close to the wood does Barroway want Maloney to go? With a glut of young defenseman in the desert, would they also look at moving Oliver Ekman-Larsson and his $5.5 million dollar cap hit for the right deal? I think they might if the return was another flashy forward with marketabilty like, say, Taylor Hall?
6) The only way the Oilers are going to take a major step forward is to acquire at least one bona-fide top pairing D and the only way they’ll be able to do that is to move one of their “core”. It would be counterproductive to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins given the organizations dreadful centre depth and Jordan Eberle won’t have enough value to do it, so, if I’m the Oilers GM I would be all over that kind of move. As Dean Lombardi says:
“Don’t fall in love with your players.”
7) I see Tyler Seguin, who has been battling the nasty flu virus going around (tell me about it…2 weeks and counting) seems to have recovered putting up 1G and 1A last night and grabbing a share of the goal scoring lead again. (Since surrendered to Rick Nash)
8) Which brings us to Nash’s brilliant play this season. As of this writing, he has another 2 goals today as the Rangers romp over the Penguins, bringing his goal scoring total to 28. Nash is perhaps the best current example of a player, like Taylor Hall, selected 1st overall and expected to lead his team to glory, who just can’t get the job done in his current environment. And the Blue Jackets, who traded Nash to the Rangers for multiple assets, were stuck in neutral until they made the trade. Win-win and remember:
“Don’t fall in love with your players.”
9) David Perron serves as the current most visible reminder that the Edmonton Oilers excel at de-valuing their players and then moving them for pennies on the dollar. Perron posted another goal and an assist in today’s loss to the Rangers and is thriving now that he’s not stuck with 3rd line minutes and a couple of stiffs to play with. As you know, the Oilers used a 10th overall draft pick on Magnus Paajarvi and then moved Paajarvi and a second round pick to St. Louis for Perron before moving Perron to the Penguins for a low 20’s overall pick. St. Louis got their required salary dump, a chance to see if Paajarvi could be an NHL player (he isn’t) and Ivan Barbashev. Barbashev is ripping up the QMJHL (34GP 24G 28A) and would seem to be a pretty good bet to be an NHL player while I expect Pajaarvi will return to Sweden, Pittsburgh got an outstanding scoring winger and, of course, the Oilers ended up with a draft pick. Good grief.
10) I keep thinking the Winnipeg Jets are going to falter and fall out of the playoff race and, then, they win another game. Guess they’re better than I thought.
11) And, of course the Calgary Flames keep the flickering alive. Despite a long losing skid, the Flames have rebounded and hold down the final wild card spot after beating the Sharks in San Jose last night. The Flames have won 3 straight and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 all with the league’s lowest payroll. Makes you wonder what they will be able to accomplish when they finally open up the cheque book.