Out of Town Notebook: Early Returns and Exit Polls
[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]
As many of you know… As a few of you know (given voter turn out rates lately), it’s election season in North America. The US 2010 midterm elections are on November 2nd, while here in Canada several municipalities (including Toronto and Calgary recently) are going to the polls.
Early returns and exit polls are a huge part of the horse-race nature of election news coverage.
After almost a month of hockey, the early returns are starting to trickle in on the 2010-11 NHL season.
The following groupings are based on games watched and a comparison between the team’s current record and their performance in six categories: goals for, goals against, shots for, shots against, special teams, penalty minutes per game and face offs.
As Good as Advertised (aka “The Social Network was Awesome” Division)
Detroit – Rumours of Red Wing demise are greatly exaggerated. They’re top-10 in powerplay, faceoffs, goals for, goals against, shots for, shots against and penalty minutes per game.
Tampa Bay – Goals against (and maybe Simon Gagne’s disappearing act) the only concerns so far. This is a fun team to watch night in, night out.
Montreal – A quintessential Jacques Martin squad: among the league leaders in goals against, shots against and penalty kill. Are the Habs riding Carey Price hard to convince everyone (the fans, the media, themselves, Price) they made the right decision re: Halak? Or is management worried Alex Auld might win a game or two and cause controversy? Is Carey Price the new Ed Belfour – a goalie who plays his best when he’s not challenged at all by his back-up?
Los Angeles – A team that was expected to score more, but they’re winning games thanks to surprising defensive play.
Boston – Giving up a few too many shots against, but Tim Thomas has been in Vezina form. This is a deep team that seems destined for 100+ points.
Deserve Better Results (aka the “Parenthood is the Best Show you aren’t Watching” Division)
New York Islanders – If they gave out monthly coaching honours, Scott Gordon would be the October winner, as the Islanders are playing like a top-10 NHL team.
San Jose – The goaltending’s been just good enough and they might have the league’s best offense.
Pittsburgh – Special teams have been a bit of a nightmare but their off-season investment in the defense is paying off. Brent Johnson has badly outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury.
Calgary – Who knew this was Rene Bourque’s team now, and not Jarome Iginla’s? Ian White has had a tough start.
Minnesota – Nik Backstrom has been razor sharp. They’re last in the league in shots for per game, but they have the league’s best powerplay. Somehow, Martin Havlat is still goalless.
Philadelphia – Not quite the offensive performance that was expected (the Nik Zherdev experiment isn’t working), but they’ve played very well defensively. Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher have been better than expected in net.
Buffalo – They’re having a tough time scoring, the penalty kill has been brutal, and Ryan Miller has been sub-par. Still, they should have more than three wins.
Florida – They’re running an AHL-calibre offense in Miami, but Coach Peter DeBoer has the team playing great defensive hockey. If there’s a Brad Richards sweepstakes, do they have the money to get involved?
Worse Than Advertised (aka “Outsourced is a TV Abomination” Division)
St. Louis – Same approach as the Panthers but with a bit more offensive punch. Maybe that’s why the Blues have one loss and the Panthers have five.
Toronto – Big improvements defensively, despite the continued struggles of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin. Phil Kessel remains the team’s only offensive threat.
Columbus – Despite six wins in nine games, the team is struggling offensively. Is this team’s young nucleus (particularly Steve Mason, Derrick Brassard and Jakub Voracek) good enough? When does Rick Nash demand a trade?
Nashville – On paper it looks like just-another year of defense-first hockey in Nashville. And in fairness, the goaltending has been very good. But it’s had to be, as the team is giving up far more shots than in previous seasons. They’re not exactly shooting the lights out either.
New York Rangers – It’s becoming a bit of a mess in The Big Apple, where an extra from The Mighty Ducks movies could probably get an audition at centre. Henrik Lundqvist has to be better, although he’s getting hung-out-to-dry by the defense.
Dallas – As discussed in last week’s column, they’re starting to fall back down to earth.
They Are Their Record (aka the Dennis Green Division)
Chicago – The ‘Hawks do seem to have taken a step back, and the Marian Hossa injury will really test them over the next month. Patrick Kane has struggled, and they’re giving up a lot of shots.
Washington –Is there a more talented, less intense powerplay in the league? At this point the Caps should probably decline any opportunity to go on the man-advantage. That being said, the kids have been great in net.
Vancouver – The offense is holding this team back from much greater things.
Colorado – They can score. They can’t defend. Is that a fork sticking out of Scott Hannan’s career already? He’s only 31.
Phoenix – The offense hasn’t come around, and the special teams have been quite poor. They don’t look like a playoff team.
Atlanta – The expectation was Craig Ramsay would bring in a strong defensive system. The Thrashers have shown anything but, and might be the league’s worst at preventing goals.
Just Awful (aka the “Kevin Weekes as Broadcaster” Division)
New Jersey – Three bold predictions for this mess: 1) Lou Lamoriello will retire before the 2012 season 2) Martin Brodeur will be offered around the league 3) Larry Robinson will coach this team in March.
Ottawa – Near the league bottom in goals for, goals against, shots for and shots against. They’re also taking too many penalties, but the penalty kill has been good. Could Daniel Alfredsson get dealt if the team chooses to rebuild?
Carolina – Knee deep in the swamp that is a rebuild. Looks like a season where most wins will come from Cam Ward stealing them. Jeff Skinner is a special talent though.
Anaheim – Does Randy Carlyle last until Christmas? They’re giving up almost 40 shots per game, and they’re among the league’s worst in most categories. The powerplay is keeping them alive.
Edmonton – They’re exciting, fast, young, and will be a special group in future seasons. But right now? The worst team in the league. Can someone explain the rationale behind carrying three goalies at the pro level?