The Wild Wild West III



As I expected, and predicted, the Minnesota Wild are poised to clinch a playoff spot in the near future.

Sports Club Stats has them sitting at a 98.8% chance of making the playoffs going into tonight’s game at home against the Kings. A win would out them at 99.8% and with 95 points they would have a death grip on a wildcard spot and would be, in fact in 3rd place in the Central Division although the Blackhawks would have 2 games in hand.

The game tonight, though, also has tremendous implications on the playoff hopes of the Calgary Flames who now trail the Kings by 1 point.

Calgary still has 3 was to make the playoffs…finish ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division…finish ahead of the Kings in the Pacific Division or grab the final wild card spot if any of Vancouver, Los Angeles or Winnipeg fades down the stretch.

I’m really hoping all of Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary makes the playoffs since that would enhance the chances of a Canadian team winning a cup…something that hasn’t happened since Christ was a cowboy.

It’s not that I don’t like the Kings or appreciate how good they can be but it would be refreshing to have a different dynamic in this years’ playoffs.




Grasping at Straws



In an apparent effort to defend the drafting of Anton Lander 40th overall in the 2009 NHL draft, there are more than a few Oiler fans declaring that Anton Lander has “finally arrived”

Of course…that’s nonsense.

Let’s examine the actual evidence.

Lander has played 26 games for the Oilers this season…scoring 6 goals and 13 points…and racking up a -12 rating.

What the fanboys are ignoring is that Lander has 4 goals and 6 points on the power play meaning he has scored 2 goals and 7 points at even strength.

Lander is also riding a 17.1 shooting percentage while his career shooting percentage is 6.8 percent.

I think it’s likely the penny has dropped for him somewhat offensively this season but his numbers are all based on a very small sample size on the PP and with a totally unsustainable shooting percentage.

He’s still getting his head kicked in at even strength and since he is averaging just over 1 shot per game…that ain’t going to change.

Now, let’s take a look at a few players who were drafted AFTER Lander in the second round. We’ll do this by PPG since the number of games played varies widely depending on the development strategy of the team drafting the player.

Tomas Tatar – .568

Brandon Pirri – .489

Eric Gelinas – .405

Drew Shore – .297

Richard Panik – .269

Jeremy Morin – .267

Dimitri Orlov – .261

Anton Lander – .017

And then there are all the later round picks who have passed Lander by like a house on the side of the road.

Tyson Barrie, Brayden McNabb, Reilly Smith, Taylor Beck, Cody Eakin, Casey Cizikas, Mattias Ekholm, Marcus Foligno, Sami Vatanen, Marcus Kruger, Anders Lee and Jordan Nolan are just some of the players who are showing more promise than Lander and unless Lander can find a way to contribute offence while getting 1 SOG per game or become a shut down defensive beast…he’s a whiff at #40…6 years ago.

You can find better 3rd line centres in the remainder bin every offseason so spending 6 years developing a mediocre one is a waste of time and resources.



Re Drafts


A couple of comments on Lowetide last night regarding the painful progress of Nail Yakupov got me thinking about what a little hindsight would do to the draft rankings in 2012.

I was always in favour of taking Alex Galchenyuk first in the draft…mainly because he was a centre but also because his draft year injury left him undervalued. Obviously time has proved those to be correct assumptions but it also gives us a chance to re-assess that draft in the cold light on a March day in 2015…and the results are not kind to Yakupov at all.

I mentioned last night that I didn’t think Yakupov would go in the top 10 in a re-draft and after examining the evidence more closely this morning, I think that’s a reasonably safe assumption.

Galchenyuk, while being brought along slowly in his first couple of seasons, is on pace for a 25 goal 50 point season while Yakupov has only 11 goals and 25 points despite getting extreme Ozone starts and playing very soft competition. It’s also worth noting that, despite and that tender loving care from Oilers coaches, Yakupov also has the worst plus/minus in the league at -35.

Now, I’m not one to put too much stock in the plus/minus stat but when your are among the worst in the league for consecutive seasons, it does say something about your game.

But the misery for Yakupov and his supporters don’t end there.

These are the the PPG stats for some of the top players in that draft in my opinion. Let’s keep in mind it was a very D heavy draft but, even so, some of these results show you how poorly Yakupov has performed. (D in bold)

Forsberg – .678

Galchenyuk – .547

Hertl – .509

Yakupov – .446

Trouba – .419

Lindholm – .414

Girgensons – .397

Maata – .387

Rielly – .368

Some things become pretty obvious…Yakupov, despite his extreme sheltering is barely out producing defensemen taken lower in the draft and despite it still being early days on this draft class, I think an update at this juncture would seem to indicate the Oilers would like a mulligan.

It also should be noted that other teams have a different (read:more patient) development schedule for their rookies so a few others may soon leave Yakupov in the dust too.

I’m thinking of players like Teuvo Teravainen, Tanner Pearson, Derrick Pouliot, Jacob Trouba and Matt Dumba who is having a fantastic season in Minnesota.

Another provision is that Ryan Murray has been hampered by injuries so we don’t have a real read on him yet.

My Redraft:

1) Alex Galchenyuk

2) Filip Forsberg

3) Morgan Rielly

4) Jacob Trouba

5) Tomas Hertl

6) Ollie Maata

7) Hampus Lindhom

8) Zemgus Girgensons

9) Matt Dumba

10) Nail Yakupov

I expect Tanner Pearson would also be in the top 10 if not injured as he had 12 goals in 42 games and that Cody Ceci also merits consideration but he’s being brought along slowly in Ottawa so we may not know his top end for a while.




The Home Stretch



Only 5 weeks remaining in the NHL regular season and we’re in for a helluva finish in the WC and there are still 3-4 teams that could grab the final wild card spot in the EC.

The Boston Bruins just defeated the Flyers in OT.

Boston moves to 73 points, up 3 on Florida and 4 on Ottawa and Philly. Given that Florida is without their top 2 goaltenders they may be all but out of it and I’d keep an eye on the streaking Senators who are 8-1-1 in their last 10GP, somehow.

Much more interesting in the WC where Minnesota, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, San Jose and even Dallas, are still all vying for a playoff spot.

I had all but counted the Stars out of the race but there’s word today that Tyler Seguin is expected to return from injury tonight much sooner than expected and, if they can get even average goaltending, they may well be right back in it.

As for the others, I would bet a sizeable amount that the Minnesota Wild will make the playoffs with a very good chance to overtake the Blackhawks and/or St’ Louis for 2nd or #rd in the Central Division.

Then it gets really interesting.

Winnipeg has been exceeding expectations all season but now they are without their best player, Dustin Byfuglien, and their top centre, Bryan, Little for an extended period. I’m not sure they can withstand that double body blow.

Vancouver is almost impossible to get a read on. In their last 10 games, they’ve beaten Minnesota, the Rangers, the Islanders, Boston and St. Louis but lost to Buffalo, Arizona and New Jersey. You have to wonder why they can’t beat the teams they should beat.

The Calgary Flames continue to amaze. Everyone was counting them out when Mark Giordano went down with a season ending injury but all they’ve done is beaten Detroit, Boston and Philly…all on the road….since he went down. What the Flames are accomplishing with the lowest payroll in the league (other than those who sold the farm at the deadline) is a testament to great coaching and hard work. Yes, I know they are getting hammered in the possession stats but what many of the staszis don’t often recognize is that shot blocking is a demonstrable, repeatable skill and the Flames are exceptional at it. Flames defenseman Kris Russell leads the league in BS by a wide margin with 221 compared to 175 for the second place shot blocker Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators. Dennis Wideman, TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano are also among the top 20 in the league. Shot blocking may not be good for your Corsi rating but it sure does stop goals from being scored.

It also helps that the Flames are among the top scoring teams in the league (11th) at 2.82 while the supposedly young, fast talented Oilers will all those #1 picks are 28th at a paltry 2.17…only Arizona and Buffalo are worse.

Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are both providing great numbers fro such young players and those who expected Monahan to fall back this season have been very disappointed…he could hit 30 goals and 60 points.

Both Los Angeles and San Jose remain just outside the wild card spots and, while I expect LA will make it, San Jose appears to be in serious trouble despite their star-studded lineup.

Buckle up…it’s going to be a great ride.








Well, the dust is settled and we’re now in the home stretch heading into the playoffs. The bottom line at the trade deadline is that the rich got got richer and the poor are tanking.

1) The Buffalo Sabres, as currently constituted, may be the worst team ever in the NHL. After moving out both of their starting goaltenders, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Torrey Mitchell and the enigmatic Chris Stewart and with Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons injured, the Sabres leading scorer is  Matt Moulson who has 9 goals and 29 points. Yikes!

2) The Arizona Coyotes are also in full tank mode after trading their best centre Antoine Vermette, their leading scorer, Keith Yandle and another top 4 defenseman in
Zbynek Michalek.

3) Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish set off a firestorm among fans when he pulled an “Iraqi Information Minister” performance out of his bag of tricks by expressing his utmost confidence in what is likely the worst defensive corp in the entire league. That the Oilers lost their best defenseman for a paltry return tells you pretty much everything you need to know about MacT’s ability to assess defensemen.

4) As the trade deadline loomed, the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks pulled off a very interesting trade. The Flames sent Sven Baertshi to the Whale for a 2015 2nd round pick. The young Swiss (Vancouver now has 3) players had reportedly asked for a trade and said he would not be re-signing with them at the end of the season so Clgary did very well getting a 2nd for the former 1st round pick. The Canucks are just playing the odds here, in my opinion, since the chance a 2nd round pick turns into an actula NHL player is around 25% and I’d wager there is a 50% chance Baertschi makes the grade.

5) The worst news of the day also involved the Flames who have lost their best player and captain to season ending surgery. If the Flames somehow manage to hold on to a playoff spot without Mark Giordano they will be due all sorts or accolades for playing an incredible team game under very difficult circumstances. I’m pulling for them.

6) The Anaheim Ducks showed their very serious about a cup run when they acquired James Wisniewski from the Columbus Blue Jackets. As for the Jackets, they cleared out a $4.5M contract in preparation for off season acquisitions as well as picking up a promising young prospect and an extra 2nd round pick in the draft.

7) The Arizona Coyotes are, in my opinion one of the biggest winners in the wake of the trade deadline. They not only picked up another 1st round pick, but also added blue chip prospects in Anthony Duclair and Klaus Dahlbeck. Considering they are likely going to get one of the top 3 picks in a very deep draft and already have premium prospects in Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson on the way, their rebuild centred on Norris quality defenseman Oliver Ekmann-Larsson, hockey should be fun again in Arizona…at least until they move somewhere else.

8) Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis tired to sell the farm yesterday without much success. Apparently a deal was close to send Dion Phaneuf to Detroit but it fell apart over the Leafs taking back a toxic contract and Toronto insisting Anthony Mantha being part of the return. I wouldn’t be surprised, after Craig McTavish strikes out on signing Johnny Boychuk, that he takes a run at Dion in the offseason. Phaneuf takes way too much heat fro what’s wrong in Toronto but I don’t think he would do very well playing for another loser franchise.

9) Poor old Shawn Horcoff…the Dallas Stars tried to give him away yesterday…no one wanted him.

10) The Dallas Stars are loading up on Swedish defensemen. They now have half the starting D from the 2012 Swedish WJC gold medal winning team in John Klingberg, Patrick Nemeth and the newly acquired Mattias Backman. If the other two play as well as Klingberg, the Stars are going to have lethal d>



Epic Tank Battle II



The Toronto Maple have finally achieved a weeks long descent into the depths of the National Hockey League standings.

The latest standings in the Epic Tank Battle:

Buffalo – 43

Edmonton – 46

Arizona – 47

Toronto – 55

Carolina – 55

I’d wager Carolina will slowly pull away from this group since they are playing pretty well in their last 10GP (6-4-0)

I would also wager Arizona (1-9-0) will drop below the Oilers (4-5-1) by the end of the regular season.

I guess it’s possible the Oilers will also pass the Leafs but 9 points is a huge gap with only 19 games left in the season.

The question then becomes, who wins the lottery and why?

If ever there was a draft that the league will keep a close eye on where 2 generational players end up, I think it’s this one.

The Coyotes desperately need a marketable player and I would think nothing would make Gary Bettman happier than to reward Andrew Barroway for riding in and rescuing the Coyotes in the latest bailout in the desert.

On the other hand, Bettman might be cognizant of the fact that Rogers Communications (part owner of the Leafs) stepped up big time when it spent billions of the new Canadian TV contract.

I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Toronto “won” the lottery and drafted Connor McDavid while Arizona, if they continue to lose every game, selects American wundkind Jack Eichel while Buffalo has to make do with the #3 overall pick.

As noted before, McDavid is a GTA boy and has stated he would be thrilled to play for the Leafs.

American Jack Eichel would be a great fit in Arizona and Buffalo would still be rewarded by a very skilled pick in any of Hanifan, Strome or Marner.

It’ll be fascinating to watch.