Back in the Saddle

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It’s been a while.

As a summer filled with weddings, fishing, camping and a great deal of SFA is coming to an end, thoughts are once gain turning to hockey.

While I’ve been closely following the minutia of the summer transaction in the NHL, I’ve reached the general conclusion that not much will have changed when the 2016/17 season officially kicks off.

I think this is especially true when it comes to the Western Conference where it appears the powerhouse teams will remain just that while the pretenders have fiddled around the margins a bit but none, with a couple of exceptions, have taken the kind of steps to significantly enhance their chances of post season success.

That’s not to say that there are no curious situations that bear watching and, of course, there may still be a few moves between now and opening night but I think we are close enough to completion to get a read on how the WC teams stack up.

Anaheim

The Ducks’ biggest offseason acquisition was Randy Carlyle. My goodness. Carlyle was brought back to, reportedly, light a fire under the Ducks vets but whether or not that old school approach will work is certainly questionable.

As of this writing, the Ducks still haven’t sorted out their defense with Hampus Lindholm still unsigned and they don’t have room on the roster for blue-chippers Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour so something has to give there and, like most pundits, I expect Cam Fowler may find a new home before the season starts.

The Ducks also, curiously added Antoine Vermette to a centre group that includes Getzlaf, Kesler, Thompson and Rakell (when signed) when their most pressing need seems to be a scoring winger.

Arizona

This team is all about the future as fuzzy-cheeked GM John Chayka keeps adding to an already deep prospect pool.

That pool features a veritable CHL All Star team:

  • Max Domi
  • Dylan Strome
  • Anthony Duclair
  • Christian Dvorak
  • Jacob Chychrun
  • Lawson Crouse
  • Anthony DeAngelo
  • Brendan Perlini

Obviously, it’ll take a bit of time but that group is ridiculously strong but I can see the Coyotes taking a big step ahead this season especially since they added Alex Goligoski to help out Ekmann-Larsson on D.

 

Calgary

The Flames were my pick as the most successful team in the offseason.

They had some very well-defined needs and filled all of them.

Replacing Bob Hartley with a coach who emphasizes high-speed attack hockey will result in a much more dangerous Flames team.

But even more important is the acquisitions they made in goal with Brian Elliot who had the best save percentage in the league last season (minimum 40 games) and capable backup Chad Johnson.

The Flames were the 4th highest scoring team in the WC last season and, if they can cut GA from worst to even average, they will be a playoff team.

They added 20 goal scorer Troy Brower at no real cost and if draft pick Matthew Tkachuk makes the team out of camp (I think he will) they should be a higher scoring team.

Critics like to point out that the Flames D is weak after you past Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton and,on the surface, that is true but those critics tend to forget that the Flames have some pretty impressive prospects in Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson and Kenney Morrison bubbling under.

Obviously the Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid and Derek England contracts all represent obstacles but they will all be gone next offseason clearing up almost $12 million in cap space allowing the Flames to fill out their D with more useful players.

With their talent up front (once they sign Gaudreau) this is a team primed for a major move up the standings.

Chicago

Not much needs to be said about the Hawks and they weren’t busy in the offseason other than trying to stay under the cap but they should be better this season for one reason….Brian Campbell.

Campbell at $1.5 million is a huge steal for the Hawks and addresses their most glaring need for a team that has played with 3 NHL defensemen in the recent past.

Even at 37, Campbell remains an elite puck moving defenseman.

Colorado

If you’re looking for a team that could surprise this season, look no further. The deletion of Patrick Roy may have a huge impact on this team and, while their D is very questionable, they have enough talent up front to be competitive and lets remember they only missed the playoffs by 5 points last season. Replacing Roy should easily make up that gap.

Dallas

Old friend Woodguy bet me last week that the Dallas Stars, who won the WC title last season, would miss the playoffs.

I howled at that notion and even gave him 2-1 odds.

His reasoning I guess revolves around the changes Jim Nill has made to his D by letting Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski head elsewhere.

But let’s take a closer look.

Nill also added veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis who came back from injury last season to play very well for the Canucks.

With John Klingberg anchoring the top pairing and Stephen Johns emerging as a bona-fide second pairing ace, the Stars have the foundation for an exceptional young D on the RH side.

At the moment, Hamhuis joins Johnny Oduya, and Jordie Benn as a veteran presence but it’s the next wave that is remarkable.

  • Julius Honka
  • Esa Lindell
  • Jamie Oleksiak
  • Patrick Nemeth
  • Mattia Backman
  • Ludwig Bystrom

Every one of those players is very likely to have NHL careers which, when they join Klingberg and Johns in the next couple of seasons, will give the Stars the best young D in the league.

Honka is pretty much a Klingberg clone having scored 11G and 44P in the AHL last season and is likely ready for the NHL.

A right hand side of Klingberg, Honka and Johns is just ridiculous especially since Dallas has the LH vets to give them cover.

Esa Lindell is a huge LH defenseman who is also NHL ready after posting 14G and 42P in the AHL last season.

At 22 years of age and after playing against men in the AHL and the Finnish league for the past two seasons, he should have no problems easing his way into the NHL given that he’ll be sheltered by Hamhuis, Oduya and Benn.

No need say much about the best offence in the NHL except to say that the Stars, after getting break-out years from Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark in 15/16, added Jiri Hudler to an already ridiculously deep group of forwards.

Not to mention that Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore are reported ready for NHL duty.

Edmonton

We’ll conclude our look at half the WC teams with an assessment of the offseason work of the Oilers’ Peter Chiarelli.

Anyone who has been following this blog will know that I promoted, predicted and expected a Taylor Hall trade to finally get some help on defense.

Problem is, Adam Larsson is a woefully inadequate return for Hall.

Larson may be a top pairing D some day but he isn’t now and you don’t trade a player like Hall for hope. You just don’t.

I expect Hall contributed to his demise with the Oilers with his entitled attitude but the trade leaves the Oilers going into another season with a putative top pairing of Larsson and the perennially injured Oscar Klefbom who has only 107 NHL games on his resume.

Once again we are reminded that the Oilers organization approached their 10 year infinibuild ass backwards are only now addressing their D in a meaningful way.

They have a very nice group of young forwards but the loss of Hall mitigates that fact and the addition of Milan Lucic, while a good move, won’t replace Hall’s value to the team.

Obviously you can’t talk about the Oilers without mentioning Connor McDavid and, if he can remain healthy all year, the Oilers should be able to recover somewhat from the Hall trade.

But a McDavid, RNH, Klefbom or Cam Talbot injury will expose the Oilers’ lack of depth and have them out of the playoffs race by Halloween.

On his blog, Lowetide has released his “reasonable expectations” stating that the Oilers will end the season with a net neutral goal differential, finish 10th in the WC and 21 overall. (he predicted a positive goal differential 3 seasons ago)

In our next post, we’ll take a look at the other teams who will prevent those things from happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So What?

 

I can hear the whining all the way out here on Vancouver Island.

There is a constant refrain from Oiler fans that the officials are letting the Oilers opponents get away with murder and that the Oilers should have more powerplay opportunities than they get.

That all culminated in last night’s assault by Darnell Nurse on Roman Polak which, viewed objectively,  should not have involved a penalty to Polak when Matt Hendricks lost his balance and crashed into the boards. That was followed, of course, by Nurse seeking retribution for which, by the rule book he should have received 2 minutes for instigating, 5 minutes for fighting, a game misconduct for instigating in the last 5 minutes and an automatic one game suspension.

That things did not play out that way hasn’t dented the blood lust by most Oiler fans who now are seeing this as a watershed moment after which the Oilers will no longer be pushed around and will hard to play against.

Of course that is nonsense and I would imagine San Jose will set the Oilers straight in the next meeting later this month.

The Evidence

But let’s examine the notion that the Oilers would be a more successful team if the on ice officials just called the penalties that they should against their opponents.

While I agree that NHL officiating can be very inconsistent and sometimes spiteful (see Stephane Auger’s vendetta against Alex Burrows), after watching almost every minute of Oiler games this year, I don’t see any more inconsistency than you can see nightly in other games.

While I think it’s true that veteran teams get a little “benefit of the doubt” non calls from the refs, I’m not sure that the volume or result of calling Oiler games strictly by the book would make much difference in any event.

As luck would have it, Sporting Charts tracks penalties throughout the league and provides us with some context.

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As you can see, the Oilers DO rank near the bottom of the number of power plays/game but with 196 PP opportunities, they are only 18 behind the median of 214 received by the Dallas Stars.

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Let’s assume for a moment that the Oilers got a league average of power play opportunities and then let’s take a look at what that would actually mean.

The Oilers power play percentage is currently 16.8%, so, if they got an additional 18 calls, they would have scored exactly 3 additional goals this season.

No telling where or when those goals would have been scored, whether in a tight game or a blowout but I can’t see those 3 goals resulting in any more than 1 additional win.

And that folks would mean absolutely nothing in the big picture.

If Oiler fans want their power play to make a difference then they should focus their attention on how bad Todd McLellan’s powerplay is and stop whining about officiating.

 

 

Snapshots

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Ladies and Gentlemen…the Dallas Stars

Any true fan of hockey who values speed and skill above the dreaded trap style or other defensive schemes that choke the life out of hockey should have been watching the Dallas Stars last two games against Chicago and Washington.

The Stars faced the prospect of of playing back to back against the two teams most pundits are picking as Stanley Cup finalists and….they beat them both.

After a brief unproductive lull, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are both firing on all cylinders again. Seguin has 3 goals and 7 points in his last 5 games while Benn has 1 goal and 5 points.

I expect Jim Nill will make a move for another veteran D before the deadline and the Stars should be primed for a long playoff run.

The 30’s

Speaking of Tyler Seguin, he became one of only 3 players to hit the 30 goal plateau last night.

Alex Ovechkin (35) and Patrick Kane (33) might be tough to catch Especially since Seguin suffered a cut late in the game and his prognosis is uncertain.

The others who should soon join the 30’s club:

Jamie Benn 29

Tarasenko 27

Marchand 27 (seriously?)

Pavelski 25

Duchene 25

Crosby 24

Notably absent from the list are Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Corey Perry and….hey…whatever happen to the 40 goal season that Oiler fans were predicting for Taylor Hall? (18…36th in the league)

Called It…Again

My regular readers may recall that I predicted Hall would fall out of the top 10 in scoring as soon as Leon Draisaitl’s shooting percentage normalized from above 33% in the early part of the season.

Well, Draisaitl is now shooting 15.7% and dropping like a stone.

That has had the expected effect on Hall’s point totals but I didn’t think he would fall off the map completely which he has done in his last 10GP (o-5-5)

Despite a 2 goal performance against Florida on January 18th, Hall has scored only 3 goals in his last 20GP.

Yikes that’s bad.

It’s quite likely that Hall drops out of the top 20 point producers since some very talented players named Kopitar, Malkin, Ovechkin, Tarasenko, Thornton, Burns, Kucherov, Bergeron and O’Reilly are hot on his heels and most have multiple games in hand.

Spitballin’

The continuing malaise of the Vancouver Canucks on home ice has pretty much sealed their fate outside of a playoff spot which means they should be pretty active as sellers at the trade deadline.

Their chief asset, should he be willing to waive his NTC, is Dan Hamhuis.

Washington has been a rumoured destination but I think Dallas is a more logical choice since they covet a solid veteran and have a wealth of young D (too many) that they could offer up for Hamhuis:

Patrik Nemeth

Jyrki Jokkipakka

Jamie Oleksiak

Julius Honka

Steven Johns

Esa Lindell

Any one of those coming back in a Hamhuis trade would provide a much needed to boost to Vancouver’s D prospect depth and would join Chris Tanev and the promising Ben Hutton, Alex Biega and Andrey Pedan as a young future on the Canucks’ blue.

The Canucks will also try and peddle Radim Vrbata, Alex Burrows and Brandon Prust at the deadline but I don’t think the return on any of them will knock your socks off.

 

 

 

 

 

Big Boy Hockey

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Scoring goals is the hardest skill in the NHL.

The 20 players you see here are the best of the best.

Patrick Kane is having an obscene season and is easily the league MVP but, when you look at overall points, Erik Karlsson is making a case.

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Then, when we look at the top 20 NHL players as selected by TSN’s poll of the best 20 players, we see that some defensemen and goaltenders sneak into the conversation.

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I don’t have too many arguments here except that Sidney Crosby will rocket up these standings as his renaissance (8 goals and 18 points in his last 10GP) gathers steam.

You’ll notice that Chicago has 4 players in the top 20 and that likely explains why they are  the best team in the dominant WC and Washington has 3.

Taylor Hall, among a huge number of 1st overall draft picks for the Oilers, is barely hanging on with the Big Boys and will drop out of this ranking in short order.

A team that has drafted 1st overall as many times as the Oilers and have 1 player on the verge of not being in the top 20 in the league is a massive fail.

 

 

Taylor vs. Johnny

I was more than a little bemused by all the whining in Oilerdom yesterday that the “main stream media” were lavishing praise on Jonny Gaudreau while not giving Taylor Hall his due.

Here’s a sampling from Lowetide’s site:

  1. BÖÖK¡JEsays:

    The love for Gaudreau from these announcers is fucking annoying. Honestly, its like Hall doesn’t exist.

     

  2. G MONEYsays:

    “Guys just love playing with Johnny Gaudreau. He’s got such great hands, give him the puck, and he’ll find you.”

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    Never mind that Hall carried the puck all the way from the fucking D zone, made the zone entry, then passed to Gaudreau who had it for half a second before passing it back to Hall for the finish.

    Jeezus H Keerist.

  3. CENTRE OF ATTENTIONsays:

    böök¡je:
    The love for Gaudreau from these announcers is fucking annoying.Honestly, its like Hall doesn’t exist.

    Hall back checked and stole the puck creating that break away.

    But Gaudreau gets the love for a couple tap passes.

  4. CENTRE OF ATTENTIONsays:

    G Money,

    Hall back checked and created that turn over to get the break away.

    That goal was all his.

    Meanwhile, Dubnyk with a big fumble and Sedin just kind of pushes it in there.

    Hall had a very nice game and so did Johnny but that begs the question, since this was a 3 on 3 tourney, which player is better in the overtime format?

    As luck would have it, Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy has an extensive post on just that subject this morning and, as you can see below, it’s not even close.

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    “This is clearly a guy who is considerably better than everyone at just about everything to do with 3-on-3 play. The three guys in front of him in goals, by the way, are shooting 100 percent (Vlad Namestnikov), 75 percent (Jordan Staal), and 43 percent (Jonathan Toews), and you probably make the argument that only Toews — with a similar number of minutes played and only two fewer shots — has a relatively sustainable number in that regard. Namestnikov is 2 for 2 in OT, and Staal is 3 for 4. They’ve also played far fewer actual minutes than Toews or Gaudreau.”

    Obviously there is no further debate about this but there were also some “in game” comments over at Lowetide that Hall is better defensively but the available evidence does not support that and, in fact, the opposite may be true.

    GAON/60

    Hall – 2.81

    Gaudreau – 2.96

    ONSV% 

    Hall – .902

    Gaudreau – .898

    PDO

     

    Hall – 995

Gaudreau – 993

What we see here is that, while Hall has a marginal difference in GA/60, Hall has been the beneficiary of slightly better goaltending.

At evens, Hall is faring better but, considering how dominant Gaudreau is in OT, his team is benefitting in huge measure from his special skills in a very important segment of the contemporary game.

P/60 5V5

Hall – 2.73

Gaudreau – 2.26

As we head into the final stretch, it will be fascinating to watch which player will surpass the other in the final scoring standings.

As it sits….

PPG

Gaudreau – .979

Hall – .960

It’s worth noting that neither player scores much on the road…

Hall has 15 road games left while Gaudreau has 18 so, perhaps Hall has the advantage but anyone suggesting there is much of a difference between these 2 players is a homer.

 

The Pacific Triangle

You-Cant-Get-There-from-Here

What a week in the wacky Pacific Division.

The Los Angeles Kings are pulling away from the pack and have a 9 point lead on everyone with 2 games in hand on most teams. The Kings have won 6 in a row and can put a division championship to bed by the end of December with a schedule that features 5 straight games against their dubious competition between Dec. 22 and 31.

Dec 22 – vs. Sharks

Dec 26 – @ Coyotes

Dec 28 – @ Canucks

Dec 29 – @ Oilers

Dec 31 – @ Flames

Between now and the 22, they play the Sabres, the Canadiens, the Senators and the Leafs so, even if they play 8 of their next 9 on the road, they have a superb chance to put things to bed especially since they sport an 8-3-1 road record. They already have a 99.3% chance of making the playoffs according to Sports Club Stats so I can’t see them faltering.

Behind the Kings, things are getting very interesting as every team has lost more games than they’ve won.

Baseball Standings Dec 11/15

San Jose – .512

Vancouver – .500

Arizona – .500

Edmonton – .466

Anaheim – .465

Calgary – .464

In other words, it’s pretty much a dead heat between 6 teams vying for the two remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference if you concede that 5 Central Division teams will make the playoffs.

Interestingly enough, EVERY Pacific Division team except Arizona is heading out on a road trip this week so how they fare on the road could be a great measuring stick for their longer term chances.

Pacific Division Road Records:

LAK  8-3-1

SJS  10-5-1

VCR  6-5-5

ARZ  7-10-1

EDM  4-10-1

ANA 3-8-1

CAL 3-9-2

Worth noting that  7 of the Coyotes remaining 8 games in December are  at home and the Coyotes have a 7-4-0 record in Glendale.

If they can continue that pace, they should be able to put some space between them and the rest of these dogs by the end of the month.

Another oddity is the Home/Road record of the Sharks. While going 10-5-1 on the road, they just don’t win much at home (4-8-0) so they may keep pace with the Coyotes on their upcoming roadie.

Vancouver is in a very tough spot after losing Dan Hamhuis for a couple of months to a facial injury, leaving them with even fewer bonafide NHL defensemen. This road trip could well spell the end of any playoff glimmers the Canucks may still harbour and they may become sellers as soon as the Christmas trade freeze ends in early January.

The Edmonton Oilers start a 4 game road trip in Boston Monday night before heading to NYR, Chicago and Colorado.

Their current 5 game win streak is almost exclusively because of the play of Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl so we’ll see how that goes on the road when opposition coaches can choose their match ups.

Worth noting, Taylor Hall is scoring 1.6 PPG at home but only .667 on the road.

(For those keeping score…Tyler Seguin is 1.36 PPG at home and 1.40 PPG on the road)

Hmmmm….

After a game at home tonight against the Rangers, the Calgary Flames depart for a trip through the Death Valley Division ® with games against Nashville, Dallas and St. Louis with Detroit as a chaser. There’s little reason to believe they’ll improve much on their road record although Mark Giordano has been much better lately and their goaltending is improving.

The Anaheim Ducks need to fire their coach in the worst way as they inexplicably can’t score and likely need a new voice that will at least prepare them to show up at the opening face off.

By way of illustration…the Ducks have scored 56 goals this season…Dallas has scored 102…yikes.

So, other than Arizona likely to separate themselves from the pack this week and San Jose having a couple of games in hand on most teams, I expect will see much of the same mess a week from now.

Gary’s parity is working but it sure ain’t pretty.

 

Really?

disney-myths

Here’s a provocative quote from over at Lowetide this morning:

sliderule:
So we have two games in a row were the forwards with worst Corsi scored the goals.

Hall to my eyes played a great game against a very good team.

Corsi says otherwise.

Taylor Hall scored a goal in last night’s game against the Dallas Stars and sliderules’ comment about Halls’ Corsi is, of course, much more accurate than his lionization of a player who was absolutely overwhelmed against a team with actual elite players.

At evens last night, Hall was 10-21 in Corsi events but, as I promised in an earlier comment, I finally had the chance to sit down and track every “touch” Hall had in the game and the results are far from pretty.

Now understand, that my tracking will be somewhat subjective but I attempted to be as fair as possible.

First Period:

  1. missed pass
  2. giveaway in the NZ
  3. tip at blue line – turnover
  4. turnover in the D zone
  5. PP turnover (recovered)
  6. PP poor pass – zone lost
  7. good O zone entry – turnover
  8. one touch GOAL
  9. zone entry – turnover
  10. zone entry – fell down -turnover

Second Period

  1. nice outlet pass
  2. pass batted down -turnover
  3. PP good pass
  4. PP pushed off puck – cleared
  5. PP shot blocked
  6. pushed off puck – turnover
  7. knocked down in the ozone – turnover

Third Period

  1. Nice pass in the O zone
  2. Missed receiving pass – turnover
  3. turnover in the D zone
  4. shoot in – turnover

Overtime

  1. Nice pass to Draisaitl

Hall got credit for 3 SOG last night but I think that was very generous and it’s worth noting that Tyler Seguin was credited with 7.

If we assign a +- value to the events listed above, I think we can see how dominant the Stars were and how ineffective Hall really was when playing against elite players.

There is this persistent myth that Hall is the best LW in hockey which to anyone who sees Jamie Benn play on a regular basses is just horsefeathers.

Consider this:

LW -PPG

  1. Jamie Benn – 1.29
  2. Mike Hoffman – 1.19
  3. Artemi Panarin – 1.12
  4. Mike Camilleri – 1.08
  5. Daniel Sedin – 1.07
  6. Johnny Gaudreau – 1.00
  7. Alex Ovechkin – 1.00
  8. Taylor Hall – .963
  9. Max Pacioretty – .926
  10. Max Domi -.885

In response to a reader’s question, I had suggested that Hall’s production would soon suffer as Leon Draisaitl’s 33% shooting percentage crashed to earth and, of course, that’s exactly what has happened.

Even with last night’s goal, Hall has only 2 points in his last 7 games which coincides exactly with Draisaitl’s plummet to 21.1%.

So, while Hall is clearly a top 10 LW in the league, he is nowhere near the best and I expect him to fall further off the pace as the regression of Draisaitl wends its merry way to average.

I’ll track another game in a couple of weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wild Wild West

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14 Things

Black Friday has come and gone and we now have a pretty good idea which teams remain players in the tough Western Conference of the NHL.

The Dallas Stars have been the dominant team I expected them be in my pre-season analysis. They go into tonight’s game against Minnesota with a .784 win percentage and a record of 18-5 which, had they brought their A Game in two losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs, would have been a stunning 20-3.

Enough has been said and written about their superstar studded line up so I won’t belabour the point except to say that Jim Nill took a team that finished 11th in the conference in 2012/13 and built a powerhouse in essentially two seasons. That speaks volumes about teams that seem to need a decade to become competitive.

The St. Louis Blues are performing as well as one might expect considering their deep blue line and the emergence of Colton Parayko on their bottom pairing.

The Blues will have Paul Statsny in the lineup tonight when they face Columbus. Statsny has only played 7 games this season due to injury but has 2 points in the 2 games he’s played since returning to the Blues’ top line. Look for the Blues (14-6-3) to be even better in the second quarter of the season.

The Chicago Blackhawks struggled early but have been coming on hard (6-3-1) in their last ten games led by the all world performance of Patrick Kane.

Kane is on pace for a 125 point season and would normally be running away with the scoring race if not for the Benn/Seguin/Klingberg scoring machine in Dallas.

One thing to keep an eye on though for the Hawks is that any injury to Kane would hurt tremendously as Chicago, even with Kane’s heroics, are only 10th in GF/GP and could fall off a cliff if Kane gets hurt.

The Nashville Predators, predictably, have had trouble scoring and, despite being tied with Chicago in points, could easily fall below the playoff cutline if Minnesota and/or Winnipeg make even a small surge.

You have to wonder how long it will be before David Poile is forced to move one of his hoard of defensemen to ensure his team makes the post season.

The Los Angeles Kings are leading the Pacific Division with 27 points but that total would have them 5th in the Central Division and their lead is precarious with San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver all within 4 points of the Kings.

The Kings are notorious slow starters so I don’t think there is much worry they’ll make the playoffs but one does have to be concerned about the sub standard play of Anze Koptitar who is only on a 40 point pace. I wonder if his protracted contract extension limbo is taking a toll on him. (I have a hunch that Dean Lombardi will not break open the bank for him and he may be traded before July 1st)

The San Jose Sharks have been on a tear of late, sweeping a 6 game road trip and,if they ever find a way to win at home (3-6-0) they’ll waltz into the post season.

It’s worth noting that the Sharks have been without top scoring centre Logan Couture for all but 3 games this season but he’s expected back from a broken fibula as early as tonight against Calgary…that should give the Sharks a shot in the arm.

The Arizona Coyotes somehow just keep hanging around and their not doing it with “Bettman Mirrors”.

The Coyotes have won 12 games in regulation riding a decent D and the superlative play of Martin Hanzal and rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. While Chicago’s Artemi Panarin leads the rookie scoring race, he’s 24 years of age while the Coyotes’ youngsters are only 20.

I’m not convinced the Dogs can hang on to a playoff spot but what we do know is that the Coyotes have two recent draft picks, Christian Dvorak and Dylan Strome with more than 2PPG in the OHL and they should be ready to play next season. Yikes!

The Minnesota Wild have endured the loss of their best player for almost 10 games now but they are in “stealth mode in the Central Division hanging on to the final wild card spot but have a game or two in hand on everyone. Parise returned to action last night in the Wild’s loss to Winnipeg but he should give his team a big boost when he gets up to speed.

The Vancouver Sedins are on fire.

Daniel has 7 goals and and 9 assists in his last 10 games while Henrik “only” has 5 goals and 9 assists.

Ask almost any Oiler fan and they’ll gloat that the Sedins are rapidly declining and will sink the Canucks all while ignoring the fact that the Sedins have never relied on speed but instead on smarts to be among the NHL’s elite, I don’t think you get all that much dumber after 35 do you?

The Sedin’s epic play has been somewhat masking some other issues while the Canucks hang around the WC playoff cut line.

Injuries to Brandon Sutter and Brandon Prust have forced a couple of rookies into roles they aren’t ready for and only recently has last season’s top goal scorer, Radim Vrbata start finding the range.

Vrbata is 10th in the league in SOG with 83 and his shooting percentage of 7.3 is well below his career average so expect more from him.

I expect the Canucks will start winning some of the 1 goal games they are now losing but not sure if that will be enough to hold off the Ducks for the final Pacific Division slot.

The Anaheim Ducks can’t be this bad, can they?

I don’t think so either but you have to wonder if and when the dam will burst.

The last 3 teams in the WC could be thrown into a sack and into a river since all of Calgary, Colorado and Edmonton are quickly going no where.

Fans of all 3 teams seem to be expecting a surge or as some like to call it a “turn north”

To illustrate how unlikely that is to happen, let’s take a look at the Oilers next 10 game segment.

@ Pittsburgh (13-8-1)

@ Toronto (7-10-5)

vs. Boston (13-8-1)

vs. Dallas (oh my)

vs. Buffalo  (9-12-2)

vs. San Jose (13-9-0)

vs. NYR (16-5-2)

@Boston (13-8-1)

@NYR (16-5-2)

@Chicago (13-8-2)

I would be shocked if the Oilers can come any from that stretch with more than 8 points.

Even if they were to saw it off at 10 points that would leave them with only  26 after 33 games and the playoff teams will be far over the horizon by then.

Remember when Jim Nill built a powerhouse in only 2 seasons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Quarter Pole

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Most NHL teams have now played a quarter of their season and the cream has risen to the top and the dregs are being separated.

RISING STARS

No surprise to me but almost unnoticed by the national media is just how absolutely dominant the Dallas Stars have been this season.

The Stars are sporting a record of 17-4 with no loser points and despite not showing up for 2 losses against the Leafs.

The Stars have a 6 point lead over the Blues who have the second best record in the West and they’ve scored 12 more goals (74) than the second place Canucks (62).

Montreal is pacing the Stars with 74 goals as well but they’re playing in the weaker conference while Dallas has run up a 6-1 record against the tougher West. The Stars will be playing more games against the West as the season progresses but there is absolutely no reason to think they can’t keep up the pace.

The most remarkable thing about the Stars is not the all world performances from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (which I expected) but the emergence into an elite defenseman of 23 year old John Klingberg. 

Klingberg is tied for the league lead in assists with Patrick Kane and Seguin at 19 apiece and has hit 3 goal posts in his last 2 games.

Worth noting…the last defenseman to lead the league in assists was some guy named Bobby Orr.…Klingberg might soon make history.

BLACK FRIDAY

We’re only a few days away from the defacto playoff doomsday for teams that are at least 10 points out of a playoff berth. It is almost impossible for those teams to make up enough ground to grab a spot so let’s take a look at which teams could see their seasons effectively over by Black Friday.

The Pacific Triangle

In reality, there is very little chance that the Central Division won’t send 5 teams to the playoffs so that leaves the last 3 spots for the Pacific Division.

 

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Edmonton has a  7-12-1 record heading into the week and have only 4 wins in their past 10 games.

The Oilers face Washington, Carolina and Detroit in the next week and would need to win at least 2 of those games to stay in the hunt. Even then, they would need just the right combination of losses from other Pacific Division teams to remain viable.

What is germaine here for the Oilers is the schedule for the teams that are ahead of them this week.

As of this writing, the LA Kings are losing to the Carolina Hurricanes and both San Jose (vs. Columbus) and Vancouver (vs. New Jersey) play later today and both could enhance their chances substantially with a win and an Oilers’ loss to red hot Washington (6-3-1 in their last 10) would leave them 9 points out.

It also doesn’t help that two teams the Oilers are chasing, Anaheim and Calgary, play each other Tuesday or that Anaheim also plays Arizona on Wednesday and Calgary plays Arizona on Friday.

If there are any 3 point games among that group and the Oilers don’t win at least 2 of 3, their season is pretty much done.

Vancouver also has a couple of tough games this week against the Wild and Stars but have shown an ability to keep games close and pick up points.

If the Canucks can build on last night’s 6-3 hammering of the Blackhawks and pick up at least 3-4 points this week they should hang around but anything less and they may be in trouble.

The Calgary Flames, of course, are also in a very precarious spot but have been playing much better (6-4-0 in their last 10) since TJ Brodie returned to the lineup.They can pretty much write their own story if they can win against Anaheim and Arizona but that’s certainly not a given although I like their chances.

Things will be much clearer by Black Friday.

Sedinery

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We would be remiss to not mention a superb performance by the Sedin twins last night.

Daniel scored 3 and added an assist while brother Henrik had a 5 point night including a goal.

Both have now moved into the top 15 in league scoring (Daniel tied for 6th…Henrik only 2 points back.)

Watch out Pacific Division if the Sedins catch fire.

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots

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  1. Anyone who didn’t take my advice almost a year ago and keep a close eye on John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars should certainly be paying attention now. Klingberg scored the game winning goal and added 2 assists last night as the Stars beat the very strong Minnesota Wild.

Klingberg is now 6th in league scoring with 20 points and is on pace for a 91 point season and he’s a DEFENSEMAN. If Klingberg were playing in one of the big media markets like New York, Toronto Montreal the league would be abuzz about what’s going on in Big D but there’s is little chatter outside Dallas.

The 6’3″ 180 lb. defenseman just turned 23 so who knows what his upside is but if you take some time to watch him play you will see a fast, skilled smart defenseman who can transition the puck as well as Drew Doughty but has better offensive skills than the LA rearguard.

As his experience grows and he gets a little better in his own zone, I think we’re looking at a multiple Norris Trophy winner here.

And he was FIFTH round pick in 2010.

2. As I expected, the Oilers return from a 3 game Pacific Division road trip in last place in the NHL…up next are Chicago and the surging New Jersey Devils followed by a 5 game eastern road trip. That should put the final nails in the coffin by American Thanksgiving on November 26th.

3. Leon Draisaitl has a 33.3% shooting percentage. He’s generating fewer than 2 shots per game. It’s amusing that Oiler fans only mention regression when it applies to players on other teams.

4. Speaking of shooting percentage, I’ve had a long running discussion (and a bet) with GMoney from Oilers Nerd Alert regarding the shooting percentage of Sean Monohan:

Recorded for posterity … a couple of bets I’ve made:

1. On the reversion of Sean Monahan’s shooting percentage, with dashingsilverfox:

DSF wins if Monahans sh% is > 12% next year (2015-2016 season), minimum 40 games played (DSF to verify this last point in case he remembers different).

I win if Monahans sh% is 12% or less.

Terms: One bottle of 10 y.o. Talisker vs two bottles of Osoyoos Larose, shipped or ready for pickup to the others locale.

Monahan has now played 174 games for the Flames over 2 and a bit seasons. His shooting percentage in this 3 seasons:

15.7

16.2

16.7

How do you like my chances? 🙂

5. Would you be surprised to learn that the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the top 15 possession teams in the league as measured by Corsi close?

Well, they are and are also only 2 points ahead of the woeful Blue Jackets and Oilers in the standings. It would appear that scoring skill and goaltending are more important than possession.