The NHL Elite

  • The_Killers_logo_wallpaper

For many years, I have considered an elite offensive players as one who could post more than a point per game played. But, as score g has declined since the last lockout, there are fewer and fewer players who are able to hit that mark causing me to reassess what we should expect from an elite player in the NHL.

As recently as the 2013/14 season there were 13 players who finished above the 1.00 mark.

In 2014/15, that number has dropped to 8 and this season is much the same although there are another 4 players within the range.

TOP P/PG Players 2015/16

  • Patrick Kane – 1.29
  • Jamie Benn – 1.10
  • Connor McDavid – 1.03 (small sample size)
  • Tyler Seguin – 1.03
  • Evgeni Malkin – 1.02
  • Sidney Crosby – 1.02
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov – 1.01
  • Erik Karlsson – 1.00

  • Johnny Gaudreau  – .99
  • Joe Thornton – .97
  • Joe Pavelski – .97
  • Niklas Backstrom – .97

At, .94, Alex Ovechkin doesn’t make the grade but with 41 goals on the season I think we can give him a pass and declare him an elite player.

Moving the Goalposts

Obviously, 1.00 P/GP in the current NHL is too high a bar since you will note, of the 12 players listed above. 3 play for the Washington Capitals, 2 for the Dallas Stars, 2 for the Pittsburgh Penguins and 2 for the San Jose Sharks leaving only 3 players on other teams in the league.

It appears that, if we move the goalposts to .80 PPG in the modern NHL, we may have the issue surrounded.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 12.32.37 PM

And?

There are really no glaring omissions from this ranking but there are a few noteworthy items.

A very slow start to the season has impacted Jakub Voracek in very dramatic fashion. Last season, Voracek scored .99 P/GP but it should also be noted that he has been climbing higher in the scoring rate for the past couple of months.

Two seasons ago, Taylor Hall posted 1.07 P/PG but since then is .72 and .80. Has the league figured him out and knows he will just rush up the left side and fire a generally harmless low percentage shot on goal?

Seeing Johnny Gaudreau at .99 P/GP  after a .80 in his stellar rookie season is a revelation. Despite playing on a team that is near the bottom of the standings, Gaudreau has emerged as the premiere LW in the WC outside of the dominant force that is Jamie Benn.

Patrice Bergeron is quietly having an exceptional season. After posting .68 P/GP last season and winning the Selke Trophy, he’s kept up his defensive dominance and his scoring has jumped to .90 and he looks like a sure bet to score 30 goals and 70 points this season.

And finally, I can’t say enough about what Jaromir Jagr is accomplishing in Florida and his golden years.

His .82 P/GP on a low scoring Panthers team is remarkable at his age and it appears he has the ability to play a few more seasons at a very high level.

All hockey fans should hope so.

Eye on the Oilers

hal-9000

With the Oilers settling in to 30place in the NHL, there’s more than a little chatter about the competence of both GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan.

You may recall, upon the occasion of their respective signings, that I cautioned Oiler fans to take a closer look at their respective records.

Of course, no one did, proudly proclaiming that both Peter and Todd both had track record that would immediately result in a bolt up the standings.

Peter was going to reproduce the success he had in building a Stanley Cup winner but I cautioned that much of his success in Boston was the dumb luck he had when Ottawa made a the wrong decision and let Boston have one of the most dominant defensemen of the decade in Zdeno Chara.

Yes, Peter made some good moves on his own but let’s remember it WAS on his watch that Tyler Seguin was traded and that he so botched the Bruins cap situation that he was fired.

His early dealings in Edmonton indicate he may still have some trouble in that regard since he paid too much in both dollars and term for Andrei Sekera who even Chiarelli himself says is a second pairing D.

That he has also vastly overpaid in the trade to acquire AHL defenseman Griffin Reinhart is another huge red flag.

It’s too early to tell if he has another Seguin arrow in his quiver but I would be very concerned about that.

I also attempted to warn Oiler fans that they should not expect miracles from Todd McLellan since his record with a stacked San Jose Sharks roster was relatively mediocre.

He inherited an elite team from the fired Ron Wilson and never got the Sharks to take a step forward.

It’s no surprise to me that the Sharks are on pace for a 96 point season without Todd which is more than the 89 points in his last season in San Jose with essentially the same roster.

After peaking at 117 points in his 1st season, the Sharks under Todd would see their points totals slowly dwindle to that 89 point finish that got him fired that season.

It appears he may have been the problem in San Jose.

I also recall that many Oiler fans were predicting that the Oiler PP under McLellan would match the success of the group in San Jose especially with all the high end talent he would have at his disposal in Edmonton.

Not so fast.

As of this writing, the Oiler PP ranks 20th in the league at 18.1%

The Sharks PP ranks 4th at 22.2% and only a smidgeon behind the league leading Capitals.

So much for that fantasy.

And, as the Oilers enter the final quarter of another dreary season, a couple of questions linger.

What exactly is the Oilers record with and without Connor McDavid in the lineup?

Who is going to be the new Seguin in Peter’s world?

 

 

Snapshots

Snapshots-logo

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots

Snapshots-logo

Best of the Best

TSN released their Top 50 players in the NHL earlier today.

There weren’t a lot of surprises except for Sidney Crosby (#14) dropping from #1 but Sid has been on a tear lately and will surface in the top 10 in NHL scoring very soon.

The poll of  NHL head coaches did, however, get it right when they picked the best LW’s in the league other than indicating that Patrick Kane is a LW when he is, in fact, a RW.

While Kane is having a memorable season, Jamie Benn is the dominant LW in the league and it isn’t even close.

Second best LW?  Alex Ovechkin…no argument from me.

3rd?…Johnny Gaudreau.

If you’ve been following along…I said this a year ago and Taylor Hall is 4th although I expect Panarin will eat his lunch shortly.

Eye of the Hurricane

I’m sure you want to know which team will be the “Next Big Thing” in the NHL.

It’s the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here is why.

The Hurricanes currently have $22 million in free cap space and are in the conversation for a playoff spot based on top 5 possession metrics mostly due to their elite D and coaching.

The Canes will be adding Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeon to that D corp next season and, with the expiration of the contracts of Eric Staal and Cam Ward, will have about $30 million in free cap space with which they can pick the bones of cap strapped teams.

Oh, the humanity.

Crashing Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are on course for their worst season in team history and have two high profile pending UFA players in Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.

Ladd will end up in Florida while Buff will soon be a Star.

Book it.

Woe Canada

The Vancouver Canucks, based on the difficulty of schedule, are the only Canadian team with a reasonable shot at making the playoffs.

Anaheim is finally starting to show their power so the Canucks only hope is to track down Nashville or Colorado for a wild card spot.

50-50….at best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating the Stars

PRO_RATED_Background_1268971696

 

**** I thought I would update this post since I’m being called out by name over at Lowetide’s Fanboy Site ®****

SEISMIC SOURCEsays:

Off topic, but just returned from reading DSF’s site. Its killing him that Hall is playing so well.

Fact of the matter is, Hall is performing EXACTLY as I expected he would when Draisaitl’s 15 minutes of fame faded into oblivion.

Also of note, as I’ve mentioned for weeks, Hall doesn’t produce on the road when other teams can shut him down.

Hall has only 13 points in 21 road games this season….that’s only .619 PPG on the road.

Just for comparisons sake…Tyler Seguin has 25 points in 21 road games this season…that’s 1.19 PPG on the road.

One of these is not like the other.

Many teams have now reached the half way point of the season and we’re starting to see some risers and fallers in the statistical rankings.

Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have been out in from of the pack for almost the entire first half and I think it’s unlikely that changes much going forward.

Normalized for games played, here’s how the top 10 forwards look by the PPG measure:

Patrick Kane 1.43

Jamie Benn 1.27

Tyler Seguin 1.22

Vladimir Tarasenko 1.03

Blake Wheeler 1.03

Johnny Gaudreau 1.03

Joe Pavelski 1.03

Taylor Hall 1.00

Evgeni Malkin 0.97

Daniel Sedin 0.95

Most of the above names have been pretty consistent but a couple have been moving up rapidly after slow starts to the season.

Joe Pavelski has scored 8 goals and 13 points in his last 10 games and, with the return of Logan Couture from injury, I expect Pavelski will keep up that pace.

Likewise, Malkin has scored 5 goals and 11 points in his last 10 and should pass a couple of others on the list in short order.

At the other end of the scale, Taylor Hall has scored only 2 goals and 7 points in his last 10 GP with 3 of those points coming in 1 game against the Jets.

You may recall, I predicted a few weeks back that Hall’s production would tail off as Leon Draisaitl’s unsustainable 33% shooting percentage would normalize which it has done in a big way (now 13.2% and dropping like a stone).

Oiler fans should also be concerned that Hall just doesn’t score much on the road…getting only 1 goal and 5 points in his last 10 road games.

Unless that somehow changes, Hall will drop out of the top 10 very quickly

The Snipers

Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in hockey so players who put the puck in the net at a significant rate hold the most value to me eye.

Here’s how that looks in GPG.

Jamie Benn .585

Patrick Kane .575

Vladimir Tarasenko .575

Alex Ovechkin .568

Tyler Seguin .561

Joe Pavelksi .541

Mike Hoffman .528

Tyler Toffoli .487

Evgeni Malkin .473

Johnny Gaudreau .447

Obviously, any player that is on both of the above lists is a tremendous offensive player and deserves to be at the all star game.

The Bobby Orrs

The modern NHL game relies to a very large degree on fast, mobile defensemen who can move the puck and contribute to the offense.

Erik Karlsson is having just a ridiculous season with 1.05 PPG and I’m beginning to believe he should win the league MVP award.

Dallas Stars phenom John Klingberg isn’t far behind at .902 but he’s cooled off a bit lately and Brent Burns, at .919, has passed him.

I’d keep an eye out for Justin Faulk at .750 and Tyson Barrie also at .750 to  keep moving up as the second half unfolds as well as the Flames TJ Brodie who is returning from injury and has been coming on strong at .689.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trader Jim

 

maxresdefault

What an astounding performance last night from the Dallas Stars.

The Minnesota Wild lulled the Stars to sleep and took a 3-0 lead early in the 2nd period before the Stars collectively said “that’s enough of this shit”.

After being outshot 9-7 in the 1st period, the Stars amped it up and out shot Minnesota 35-15 in the final 2 periods and wound up winning the game 4-3 in OT.

Only a stout performance from Wild goalie Darcy Kemper kept this one close.


 

In response to a reader’s comment last night, I thought I would expand on the amazing work of Dallas GM Nill.

We’ll let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting but as impressive as what follows has been…there’s much more to the story that we’ll get to afterward.

 

In April 2013, he was hired as GM of the Dallas Stars. Nill immediately made several major transactions starting with trading a 6th round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to the Ottawa Senators for DefensemenSergei Gonchar and signed him a 2-year, $10-million dollar contract.[1] On July 4, 2013 in a blockbuster trade, Nill sent 2011 NHL All-StarLoui Eriksson and prospects Joe MorrowReilly Smith, and Matt Fraser to the Boston Bruins in exchange for the former 2nd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry DraftTyler Seguin as well as Rich Peverley and Ryan Button.[2] On the same day he traded prospect Philip Larsen and a 7th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for their captain Shawn Horcoff.[3]

On July 1, 2014, Nill traded for Ottawa Senators center and captain, Jason Spezza and right winger Ludwig Karlsson for Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill, and a 2nd round pick in the 2015 NHL draft. On the same day, he also signed unrestricted free agent forward, Ales Hemsky to a 3 year, $12 million contract.[4]

On July 10, 2015, Nill traded for forward Patrick Sharp and defensive prospect Stephen Johns from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt.[5] On July 15, 2015, Nill signed unrestricted free agent defenseman, Johnny Oduya to a 2 year $7.5 million contract.[6]

Nill’s unique ability to pull off the blockbuster trade has been attributed to a Jedi-like wiggle of his trademark mustache, nicknamed “Monty.”

Yes, a few blockbusters in there and I think the only mis-step was Hemsky’s 3 year deal but there is also a back story that is often missed.

You may have noticed the name Stephen Johns in the trade for Sharp and that’s only one example of Nill dealing with the present and future at the same time.

John’s was a 2nd round pick of the Blackhawks and is currently playing in the AHL.

He’s joined in Texas by Mattias Backman, a promising defenseman that Nill drafted in the 5th round while with Detroit and whom he got for virtually nothing when he traded UFA Erik Cole for Backman and Mattias Janmark who is currently playing more than 13 minutes a night on the Stars’ 3rd line.

More on that trade and the players involved from Defending Big D.

As you can see, Nill managed to move a player who is now out of hockey for a blue chip defensive prospect and yet another centre.

So, not only has Nill given lie to the notion that you can’t acquire elite centres except through the draft but he’s also built Dallas’ defensive depth from awful to among the best in the league in what amounts to only two seasons of work.

Take a peek.

John Klingberg (5th round 2010)

Alex Goligoski (very good#2 D inherited by Nill)

Jason Demers (Nill acquired in a trade with San Jose)

Johnny Oduya (signed as a free agent by Nill)

Jordie Benn (inherited by Nill)

Jyrki Jokipakka (7th round 2011)

Patrick Nemeth (2nd round 2010)

Jamie Oleksiak (1st round 2011)

Those are  the 8 defensemen Dallas has carried this season not wanting to lose any of them to waivers although, at some point, I expect Nill will deal from a position of extreme strength and make a another trade.

But, as alluded to earlier, it doesn’t stop there.

These D are warming up in the bullpen in the AHL and appear to have a solid NHL future:

Stephen Johns (trade)

Esa Lindell (trade)

Mattias Backman (trade)

Julius Honka (1st round 2014)

Ludwig Bystrom (2nd round 2012)

That depth is just ridiculous and, while Nill certainly can’t claim credit for all of them, he now has so many bullets in his chamber he’s set himself up for many years.

When we examine Nill’s draft history, we have to remember that he was “The Man” in Detroit as well as the GM of the Wings’ AHL team before moving to Dallas….or, in other words, the man mainly responsible for “the Detroit Model”.

Since his first draft in 2013 with Texas Nill has picked the following players in the first 2 rounds.

2013 

Valeri Nichsuhkin 109GP

Jason Dickinson 15P in 20GP AHL rookie

Remi Elle 6P in 11GP AHL rookie

2014

Julius Honka 40P in 87GP in AHL

Brett Pollock 31P in 28GP Edmonton WHL

2015

Denis Guryanov playing in the Russian junior League (an odd pick)

Roope Hintz playing in the Finnish SM Liga.

I admit I have to wonder about those 2015 picks but Nill has a long track record of discovering NHL players in Europe so at this point I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

To summarize, Nill had some pretty nice pieces to work with when he took over the Stars (Jamie and Jordy Benn, Klingberg on the way, Goligoski etc.) but he immediately got to work and acquired the pieces needed to win all while stock piling his prospect depth.

To be able to acquire Seguin, Spezza, Sharp and Oduya, Demers and all that D depth without losing anything of consequence is just remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wild Wild West

wild-west-crispin-delgado

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

quarter-pole-675x445

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.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 11.52.02 AM

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

sedin-video-shot

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.