Woe Canada

canada_icon

 

As we near the all star break…not one Canadian NHL team is in a playoff position.

The last time that happened was after the merger of the NHL and WHA in 1979.

A quick glance at the standings would seem to indicate that only the Montreal Canadiens have a chance but let’s take a peek at what the chances are…things may be somewhat different than they appear.

…beginning the bottom of the barrel.

Edmonton Oilers 0.8% (.430 win percentage)

The Oilers are done and have been for quite some time if you take an honest look at things. The Oilers have played the most games in their division (50) and have only managed to win 16 of them in regulation.

Their winning percentage is only better than Columbus and is,  unbelievably, worse than 2 teams that have recently been stripped to the studs and are just beginning a rebuild while the Oilers have been trying to turn north for most of a decade.

It’s no longer arguable that the Oilers rebuild is failing because they stubbornly refused to draft high end defensemen when they had a chance (how would Dimitri Kulikov, Adam Larsson or  any of the buffet of defensemen from the 2012 draft.

While the Oilers have finally acquired 3 NHL calibre centres, many teams have 6 or 7 capable at the position and the Oilers “draft wingers” strategy has failed them miserably.

Only slightly improved goaltending has them ahead of last years pace but consider their points accrual over the past 5 seasons:

2010/11 – 62 points

2011/12- 74

2012/13 – 77 (pro-rated)

2013/14 – 67

2014/15 – 62

2015/16 – 70 (pro-rated)

Give or take some luck, the Oilers have gotten absolutely nowhere since drafting Taylor Hall in 2010.

That is, frankly, embarrassing.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2.2% (.438)

The Leafs are where everyone, including their management and coach thought they would be.

Their rebuild is less than a year old so it’s no surprise they are flying a bit but anyone who watches the team can see renewed effort and structure.

While their goaltending remains in flux,they have two young stud D men to build around and with 2 blue chip C prospects in William Nylander (1.26 PPG AHL) and Mitch Marner (2.09 PPG OHL) coming up down the middle, they are following the winning blueprint all the way.

They will lack size in the top 6 but they will likely draft very high this coming draft and should be able to choose from any of the giant Finns or, more likely, will select Matthew Tkachuk from Head Scout Dale Hunter’s London Knights.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the try and swing a deal to draft Nylander’s brother Alexander (1.41 PPG OHL) who is reportedly a better player than his older brother.

No chance at the playoffs but things look bright.

Winnipeg Jets 4.2% (.469)

The Jets should be much better than their record suggests but shaky goaltending has let them down again and you have to think a major shake up will be on the way in the offseason.

The Jets are very likely to trade captain Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien before the trade deadline so the return on those two assets will be a huge factor in determining their future course.

I would imagine they will eventually address their goaltending and, while they have some very good your D, they will need to add some offsets in their top 6 to be a consistent playoff threat.

Ottawa Senators 18.1% (.530)

Like the Jets, the Senators have suffered from mediocre goaltending that has kept them from the playoff bracket.

While they do have some offence from Bobby Ryan, Mark Stoke and Mike Hoffman, they lead the league in SA/G at 33.3 so their flaws are pretty obvious and I think you can expect a coaching change in the offseason.

Imagine where they would be without Eric Karlsson?

Calgary Flames 25.5% (.500)

On the surface, the Flames seem very close to being DOA but they have a significant number of games in hand on almost every team and are, if effect, in charge of their own fate.

If the Flames can take advantage of those extra games over the net couple of weeks, they can stay in the fight but winning NOW is critical.

Vancouver Canucks 33.3% (.534)

The Canucks record (20-18-11) is somewhat deceiving.

They’ve had several brutally long road trips in the first half of the season and, in fact, have played 21 home games compared to 28 on the road so will have a much friendlier schedule down the stretch.

They’ve been playing for a while without their top 2 C’s and, at various times, without their #2 and #3 D but they are all expected back shortly and, if the Canucks can settle into a rhythm at home, they may have a chance to surpass Arizona and Anaheim for the final Pacific Division playoff spot.

Problem is, the Canucks are only 9-8-2 at home so, unless they can improve that record considerably, they won’t make it.

Montreal Canadiens 54.3% (.542)

On the surface, the Habs have the best chance of making the playoffs but that is somewhat deceiving as well.

They have been awful (3-6-1 10GP) since Carey Price went down and he’s not expected back fro several weeks.

If momentum counts for anything, and I think it does, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ottawa finishes ahead of Montreal in the final standings.

A Carey Price return would prove to be a godsend but I expect it will be too little too late.

To be honest I wouldn’t bet on any of these dogs but, if I was forced to pick one team that might take it, it would be Vancouver.

The combination of an easy schedule, the return of key injured veterans and the continuing emergence of Bo Horvat and Ben Hutton might just be enough but I expect it will, take some cooperation by the Anaheim Ducks for the Canucks to see the post season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Down the Stretch

these_stretching_girls_will_raise_your_mood_640_24

We’re unofficially half way through the NHL season although only the Blues have played 40 games.

Nonetheless, New Year’s Day is a good opportunity to look back on 2015 and make some predictions about what we will likely see in the remainder of the season.

Jamie Benn Superstar

Ice Hockey Gold Medal - Sweden v Canada
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 23: Gold medalists John Tavares #20, Jamie Benn #22 and Corey Perry #24 of Canada celebrate during the medal ceremony after defeating Sweden 3-0 during the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

To me, the most remarkable performance of 2015 is the utter dominance being displayed by Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn. Let’s have a look:

2015 CALENDAR YEAR LEADERS
A look at the top team and individual performances of 2015 (courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau):

GOALS
1. Alex Ovechkin (81 GP): 57
2. Jamie Benn (85 GP): 48
3. Steven Stamkos (81 GP): 39
4. Joe Pavelski (80 GP): 38
5. Max Pacioretty (82 GP): 38

ASSISTS
1. Erik Karlsson (84 GP): 59
2. Jamie Benn (85 GP): 59
3. Nicklas Backstrom (80 GP): 56
4. Henrik Sedin (83 GP): 55
5. P.K. Subban (84 GP): 55

POINTS
1. Jamie Benn (85 GP): 48-59—107
2. Alex Ovechkin (81 GP): 57-28—85
3. Tyler Seguin (74 GP): 35-48—83
4. John Tavares (80 GP): 37-45—82
5. Daniel Sedin (85 GP): 28-54—82
6. Erik Karlsson (84 GP): 23-59—82

POINTS PER GAME (Minimum: 60 GP)
1. Patrick Kane (80 PTS in 63 GP): 1.27
2. Jamie Benn (107 PTS in 85 GP): 1.26
3. Tyler Seguin (83 PTS in 74 GP): 1.12
4. Alex Ovechkin (85 PTS in 81 GP): 1.05
5. John Tavares (82 PTS in 80 GP): 1.03

POWER-PLAY GOALS
1. Alex Ovechkin (81 GP): 25
2. Justin Faulk (83 GP): 17
3. Steven Stamkos (81 GP): 16
4. Jamie Benn (85 GP): 16
5. Joe Pavelski (80 GP): 15

SHORTHANDED GOALS
1. Jean-Gabriel Pageau (82 GP): 6
2. Brad Marchand (76 GP): 5
3. Blake Wheeler (78 GP): 4
4. Max Pacioretty (82 GP): 4
5. Jamie Benn (85 GP): 4

GAME-WINNING GOALS
1. Max Pacioretty (82 GP): 12
2. Jonathan Toews (83 GP): 11
3. John Tavares (80 GP): 10
4. Alex Ovechkin (81 GP): 10
5. Joe Pavelski (80 GP): 9

SHOTS ON GOAL
1. Alex Ovechkin (81 GP): 400
2. Max Pacioretty (82 GP): 331
3. Brent Burns (80 GP): 296
4. Tyler Seguin (74 GP): 289
5. Rick Nash (80 GP): 288

PLUS/MINUS
1. Tyler Toffoli (75 GP): 31
2. Kevin Klein (58 GP): 26
3. Tobias Enstrom (75 GP): 27
4. Marc Methot (78 GP): 27
5. Jamie Benn (85 GP): 27

That’s right folks…Jamie Benn scored 107 points in 2015…22 more than second place finisher Alex Ovechkin.

That Benn is among the top 5 in both PP and SH goals while no other player made both lists, pretty much tells you just how good he is.

Puck Daddy has an excellent read on the ascent of Benn here.

Tallon Rewarded

The Florida Panthers wrapped up 2015 in 1st place in their division and by handing GM Dale Tallon a multi year contract extension.

The Panthers success on the ice is also starting to draw fans to the rink with more than 18,000 in attendance for Tuesday’s win over Montreal.

Now that the team has received a solid financial commitment from Broward County, I expect they will become one of the NHL’s elite teams under Tallon.

Rising and Falling

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 2.11.33 PM

The WC playoff participants have pretty much been decided with the exception two spots in the Pacific Division.

Let’s take a look on what is the most likely scenario to play out based on win% and remaining schedule.

SJS – .5277

ARZ – .527

ANA – .500

VCR – .487

CAL – .487

EDM – .423

San Jose and Anaheim are in the driver’s seat here with the fewest number of games played at 36 and, with Anaheim finally waking from an early season slumber they are making a move on the rest of the division with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10GP.

I expect they will catch Arizona within a couple of weeks and could even surpass San Jose unless the Sharks start to win at home where they’ve gone 5-10-0 so far.

By the middle of January it is highly likely that the 3 California teams have a stranglehold on the division leaving Arizona, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton fighting to avoid the basement.

Amongst that group, I believe only the Flames has a real chance to upset the apple cart with their ability to come back from adversity.

Vancouver, you could argue has been unlucky to be where they are since they have lost 9 games in overtime although there are more than a few Vancouver fans who argue that coach Wille Desjardins deployment in OT is  the real culprit.

The Canucks have also been without 3 of their top 4 D for a while while also being hit with injuries goaltenders and forwards as well.

The odd thing about the Canucks schedule is they have had just brutal, multi game road trips and have played 22 games on the road compared to 16 at home so perhaps they can hang in there if they start winning more at home.

However, if they play like they did in their 5-0 loss to Los Angeles a couple of nights ago, they have no chance.

Arizona continues to surprise but I’m not convinced they’ll hang around much longer. Worth noting that have a -14 goal differential and, while that’s better than Vancouver, Anaheim, Calgary and Edmonton, it’s far worse than the Sharks and the Ducks has been improving game by game.

As for the Oilers, all they have to look forward to is the return of Connor McDavid which appears imminent. But let’s remember that the Oilers were 4W – 9L WITH McDavid in the lineup and their problems are with a shitty D corp and inconsistent goaltending. McDavid doesn’t play those positions.

Playoff Chances from Sports Club Stats:

LAK 99.9%

SJS 73.8%

ARZ 53.1%

VCR 31.6%

ANA 22.2%

CAL 20.7%

EDM 5.5%

And just how good are the Dallas Stars?

Their playoff chances now sit at 99.9% and if, as some folks think, the playoff cutoff in the WC this season will be around 86 points, the Stars could finish the season up with a record of 12-28-3 and still make the post season.

And, to allay the recent post from a commenter that the Stars will fail once they play more again the Central Division, the Stars are 7-2-1 in their own division and 13-3-1 against the WC.

THAT is how you win the west.

Next time, let’s take an early look at which players deserve to be all stars.

 

What Now?

road-ahead

 

We’re getting very close to the point that we can see which teams will have the best odds of winning the draft lottery and there are indications surfacing that give some idea how those  teams are going to proceed for the rest of the season.

There are 8 teams  which, in my opinion, are pretty much out of the playoff race and we can list them but their chances of making the post season courtesy of Sports Club Stats.

Edmonton 0.05

Buffalo 0.1

Columbus 0.7

Arizona 1.1

Dallas 2.2

Colorado 2.2

Carolina 5.7

Philadelphia 8.7

So, now, let’s take look at what we might expect those teams do between now and the end of the regular season.

Edmonton Oilers:

Craig MacTavish, without saying it directly yesterday, has essentially thrown in the towel this season and appears ready to do nothing to improve his hockey team as least until the trade deadline…expecting the “progression of accountability” he sees in the Oilers to pull his team out of last place. That message was reinforced this morning when a very serviceable veteran centre, Kyle Chipchura wasn’t claimed on waivers by the Oilers. In the wake of McTavish’s moaning that he didn’t want to give up any assets to acquire a NHL centre, you’d be right in questioning his veracity.

What I expect will happen is that the Oilers will bumble along until the trade deadline and will trade UFA defenseman Jeff Petry and winger David Perron for the best futures he can get. Unfortunately, both those moves will make the team weaker in the present and Groundhog Day will continue.

Blogging icon Tom Benjamin dropped into Lowetide today to echo what I’ve been saying about the Oilers chances of winning the lottery and rafting MacDavid:

TOM BENJAMINsays:

I don’t see how tanking gets the Oilers anything.

Isn’t it a lottery? Isn’t Bettman still in charge? I’m betting that the Oilers fall as many places as they can possibly fall in the “lottery”. Will the real powers that be in the league let the Oilers claim yet another first overall – and a franchise player to boot? I think the fix will be in and the result will please most hockey fans outside Edmonton. The Oiler brass will know they are getting stuck, but what can they say?

Is that too cynical? I think not.

As I’ve said previously, I doubt the league will “allow” the Oilers to pick in the top 2 no matter what so, if McTavish plans to sit on his thumb for the rest of the season, he may be in for a rude awakening at the draft.

Buffalo Sabres:

The Sabres are a bad hockey team…sporting the worst goal differential in the league at -37. They are also 6-4-0 in the their last 10 games so it’s pretty obvious they haven’t given up and are trying to win despite being so close to the 1st overall pick. At some point though, I think their lack of talent will prevail and both Columbus and Carolina will pass them in the EC standings. The big question here is whether or not any of Edmonton, Arizona, Dallas or Colorado can finish worse than the Sabres. I expect not and the Sabres will have a the best shot at the #1 pick.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

This is really a sad story for this franchise and its fans. When healthy, they have a playoff calibre roster but have lost hundreds of man games to injury. As those players return slowly, I expect they’ll climb the standings somewhat and could conceivably finish ahead of Carolina and Philly in the EC standings. I  any event, they’ll get a very nice player from the draft and, if healthy next season should be right back in the mix.

Arizona Coyotes:

The Coyotes have already started making moves designed to be better in the future and I expect there will be a lot more in the next couple of months. Don Maloney has already traded Rob Klinkhammer to Pittsburgh for a young, inexpensive defenseman in Phillip Samuelson. The 23 year Swedish defenseman is the brother of Henrik who was drafted in the 1st round by Arizona. The Coyotes have also started calling up young players to get them some experience and, as mentioned earlier, waived Chipchura and sent David Schlemko to the minors. There is rampant speculation that Maloney will trade UFA veterans Antoine Vermette and Martin Erat as well as defenseman Keith Yandle in the near future not only to save money in a lost season but to stockpile more 2015 draft picks and/or younger players. Worth keeping an eye on.

More on the Coyotes from Larry Brooks:

Remember how a few short weeks ago Andrew Barroway was on the verge of gaining majority control of the Coyotes, the news first reported by The Post?

Not so fast, for now comes word from a plugged-in source that the deal appears to be falling apart, with Barroway seemingly on the verge of backing out.

Slap Shots has been told the current ownership has directed GM Don Maloney to shed payroll … which would mean stripping the club with the league’s third-lowest payroll into a bare-bones operation.

Who could be going in addition to Keith Yandle (at $5.2 million per season through next year)? Not Shane Doan? Not Oliver Ekman-Larsson?

The equally pertinent question, though, is which will come first: the end of the NHL’s financial problems in the desert or the end of Coyotes?

Actually, it’s not so much a pertinent question as a rhetorical one.

Dallas Stars:

The Stars should be much better than their record but shoddy defensive play and sub par goaltending ( a league worst 96 GA) has deep sixed their season. It’s not inconceivable the Stars could go on a run and finish considerably higher in the standings but the hole is already so deep it would take a miracle for them to reach the playoffs. The Stars will have just a ton of cap space next season to address those issue with Horcoff ($5.5M), Erik Cole ($4.5M) and Rich Peverley ($3.25M) coming off their payroll so I think Jim Nill’s play is likely to ride this out until the offseason.

Colorado Avalanche:

Colorado has been playing a bit better of late but they have been subject to late game collapses that remind me a lot of  last season’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Going into the season, the weakness they have on the blue line was no secret and it appears the addition of veterans Brad Stuart, Jerome Iginla and Daniel Briere has been a disaster that won’t be easy to recover from. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a blockbuster deal involving one of their young centres to try and fix their blueline but that likely won’t occur until the offseason.

Carolina Hurricanes:

This is a team to keep a very close eye on. As the season winds down, I expect the Hurricanes will conduct a fire sale.I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if the Canes convinced the Staal brothers to waive the no trade clauses to move to a contender and may be able to move Cam Ward’s awful contract as part of that deal if the other team is prepared to buy him out. The Hurricanes would then be in full tank mode to try to land MCDavid or Eichel…and I expect they will.

Philadelphia Flyers:

I doubt reality has set in Philly yet (when does it?) that the season is lost and they are likely to make some ridiculous moves to try to save it The biggest problem for the Flyers is that they have virtually no cap space so any move they might want to make will be very difficult to pull off. For a smart GM, there may be an opportunity here to bend the Flyers over if Philly panics.

If I was a betting man, I would wager that the draft order following the lottery will look like this:

Buffalo

Carolina

Arizona

Edmonton

Columbus

Colorado

Dallas

Philadelphia

By the way, there is a HUGE game tonight in Calgary between the San Jose Sharks and the Flames. With a win, the Flames could pull 8 points ahead of the Sharks and the final wild card spot. The Flames are starting to get their injured centres back (Matt Stajan is playing tonight) so Bob Hartley is going to have more weapons to try to keep their winning ways going. Should be a great game to watch.

Go Flames?