Oct 202013
 

The Vancouver Canucks played the Pittsburgh Penguins in an early morning match-up so we get a dose of Sidney Crosby with our eggs and coffee.

And that’s not even the best part.

See, after globetrotting over the last few months, Lizz Moffat is back. And so is The Game According to Twitter.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 042012
 

With 98% of the NHL season behind us, it’s time to fill in an imaginary awards ballot.

But before we get to that, let’s take a moment to consider two more dead teams:

Calgary Flames

What went wrong: No team had an easier stretch drive schedule among teams fighting for the last Western Conference playoff spots than the Flames did. They failed to reach the post season because they couldn’t score. The Flames as a team are currently 25th in shots on goal per game. They’re 3-9 in shootouts, rivalling Montreal (5-11) and Carolina (0-6) for the league’s worst record in the skills competition. Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross will finish the year as the team’s lone 20-goal scorers. None of them are consistent (Iginla’s slow starts have become legendary). Calgary sits last in the league in faceoff performance.

What went right: Mikka Kiprusoff carried the team all season with stellar play between the pipes. When finally healthy for the second-half Mark Giordano played well. He has 16 points after the All-Star break and has helped Calgary reach 11th in the NHL on the powerplay. Mike Cammalleri has struggled to stay healthy with the Flames but when dressed has scored at a 30-goal pace.

Off-Season Gameplan: It’s been said in this space more than once, but this aging Calgary team desperately needs a rebuild. After three years of missing the playoffs there’s clearly not enough talent in the lineup to reach the post-season. There isn’t enough organizational depth right now either to create hope for better days in the future. This may the last chance Calgary gets to shop Jarome Iginla before seeing his value depreciate completely on the marketplace.

Winnipeg Jets

What went wrong: There was lots of talk pre-season about what the travel schedule would do to not only the Jets, but other teams in the Southeast Division. Clearly it was a factor for the Manitoba team, as Winnipeg has put together a terrible road record (13-21-5). The penalty kill is below 80%, which hurts a team that’s short-handed a lot (25th worst). As well as Ondrej Pavelec has been at times this season, he tired down the stretch (3.13 goals against in March) and currently ranks 57th in the league in save percentage (.906). Alex Burmistrov was improved this season, but his offensive progression has been slow (just 28 points in year two). Eric Fehr (3 points, 35 games) was a bust, while Tanner Glass (-12) was asked to do too much.

What went right: Blake Wheeler (61 points) and Evander Kane (29 goals) have taken steps forward as top-six, even top-line players. Dustin Byfuglien has had a strong second-half. Off the scrap-heap, Kyle Wellwood has been an effective offensive player (47 points despite just 14:57 per game in ice-time). The MTS Centre has proven to be one of the few home-ice advantages left in the NHL.

Off-Season Gameplan: Continue to build around a very solid core. Veteran depth, particularly the type that could improve the defensive side of Winnipeg’s game, would be helpful. Mark Scheifele will get the Burmistrov treatment next year. If Scheifele’s ready, he could supply enough offense to bring the playoffs back to Manitoba.

***

Now with that little bit of ugly business out of the way, let’s take a quick look at who deserves award recognition for the 2011-2012 NHL season.

Hart Trophy – Evgeni Malkin

Runners-up: Jason Spezza; Henrik Lundqvist

Malkin has been arguably the league’s best player this year. Lundqvist is probably the most valuable, but goalies rarely win this award. A Hart nomination is the feather-in-the-cap to a marvellous season from Jason Spezza.

Norris Trophy – Zdeno Chara

Runners-up: Alex Pieterangelo; Erik Karlsson

Chara wins because he’s put forth his strongest offensive season while retaining defensive dominance (+33 leads all d-men). Karlsson’s had a magical season but his defensive play remains average. Under Ken Hitchcock, Alex Pieterangelo has arrived, breaking the 50-point barrier but more importantly playing extremely well defensively night in, night out.

Vezina Trophy – Henrik Lundqvist

Runners-up: Jonathan Quick; Mike Smith

The Rangers success gives Lundqvist the nod over Quick, whose Los Angeles Kings team have been in a playoff dogfight all season. Mike Smith’s career rejuvenation in Phoenix gives him a slight edge over the two St. Louis Blues goalies (Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott) who’ve split too much playing time to be considered.

Selke Trophy – Patrice Bergeron

Runners-up: David Backes; Anze Kopitar

Bergeron wins almost 60% of his draws and is one of the league’s premiere penalty killers. Backes has flourished under Ken Hitchcock, leading Blues forwards in goals, points, hits and blocked shots. Kopitar deserves greater recognition, is leading the Kings in points once again but, more importantly to this category, has been Los Angeles best defensive player as well.

Calder Trophy – Gabriel Landeskog

Runners-up: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; Matt Read

Not only is Landeskog tied for the rookie points lead, but he’s an incredible +23 and has played in all situations for the Avs down the stretch. He’s a future captain. Nugent-Hopkins is the most offensively-gifted rookie, but injuries have prevented him from running away with the freshman scoring crown. Matt Read leads all rookies in goals and has become an important player in the Flyers lineup.

Adams Trophy – Ken Hitchcock

Runners-up: Paul Maclean; John Tortorella

Hitchcock’s turned a middle-of-the-pack team into arguably the best team in the Western Conference. Paul Maclean has done wonders in Ottawa, taking a Sens team destined for a lottery pick into the playoffs. Tortorella’s nomination is a reward for guiding a team that’s out-performed its roster’s talent level all season.

 THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Another take on possible NHL awards, this one from ESPN.
  • Let’s just get this out of the way: Mike Milbury was a joke as a general manager and he’s a joke as a commentator. His take on league affairs is almost always neanderthal and ultra-traditionalist. Attacking Sidney Crosby gets your name in the paper though.
  • This definitely should be on any list of craziest goals of the year. It also epitomizes the difference in heart between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • At this point, wouldn’t it be for the best for everyone if the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs, fired their coach, and re-built their approach around Ovechkin’s offense than see the gutsy Sabres (one of the best teams in the NHL since the All-Star Game) come up short?
  • Quietly, Willie Mitchell’s having one of the best defensive defenseman seasons in the NHL this year. Granted, the ultra-conservative Kings gameplay helps in that regard.
  • Still without a contract, you have to expect the Edmonton Oilers are ready to walk away from Tom Renney. The talk is Todd Nelson, coach of Edmonton’s AHL farm team, will get a long look. Hard to believe he’s the guy who can take this young team to the next level.
  • It’s a small sample size, but the Nashville Predators are 4-3 in Alex Radulov’s seven games. The big Russian has 3 goals, 6 points in that span and has fit extremely well into the lineup.
  • For all of those people ready to anoint the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, let’s acknowledge the fact that the Penguins are actually 25th in the NHL in team save percentage. Marc-Andre Fleury, not Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, will have the biggest say in how far the Penguins go in the playoffs.
  • Speaking of which, the Chicago Blackhawks, for what it’s worth, are 27th in the NHL in team save percentage. Numbers-wise, Chicago’s entering the post-season with the worst goaltending amongst remaining teams.
  • Some other interesting Pre/Post-All-Star Game numbers: Winnipeg was 22nd in league scoring during the first half; 3rd so far in the second half. Buffalo was 25th in the first-half; 5th in the second half. Going the other way, Vancouver was 3rd in the first half scoring-wise; 15th in the second half. Washington was 9th in the first half; 26th in the second half.
  • Defensively, the Bruins have gone from 4th in the first half to 22nd in the second half. Minnesota from 8th in the first half to 25th and Pittsburgh from 10th to 23rd. Improving their defensive play in the second half were teams like Buffalo (26th to 7th), Anaheim (23rd to 8th), Colorado (21st to 5th) and Ottawa (27th to 13th).
Feb 122011
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins

Call it the tale of two second overall draft picks.

When Bobby Ryan was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in 2005, he was already a dominant junior scorer.

With a terrific combination of size and skill, Ryan scored 89 points in 62 games for the Owen Sound Attack in his draft year, and may have won the OHL scoring title if not for an injury.

Touted as an elite offensive prospect, then-general manager Brian Burke took Ryan after the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby.

What followed was anything but smooth sailing.

Ryan played two more years in junior hockey, posting seasons of 95 and 102 points, before he got his professional feet wet with the Portland Pirates, the Ducks AHL affiliate in 2007. Ryan then spent the 2007-08 season on the bus between Portland and Anaheim, his “slowed” development a result of poor conditioning (reportedly 17% body fat) and foot speed that was not NHL-level.

Today, Bobby Ryan is a core member of the Ducks, on his way to his third-straight 30-goal season. The Ducks took their time with his development, and along the way Ryan learned what it took to compete and succeed at the game’s highest level.

Looking at how Tyler Seguin’s rookie season has gone (8 goals, 9 assists, 12:18 minutes a game. frequent healthy scratch), one can’t help but wonder if the Boston Bruins should have been more patient with him.

Instead of dominating junior hockey and being the go-to guy on his junior team (and most likely a leader on Team Canada at the World Juniors this past winter), Seguin’s an afterthought in the Bruin line-up.

Time will tell if his development has been truly stunted.

Meanwhile, Leaf fans everywhere keep their finger’s crossed Seguin’s career is a bust.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • For comparison’s sake, two other rookie seasons from forwards picked second overall picks: Jordan Staal (29 goals, 42 points, 14:56 minutes per game), James van Riemsdyk (15 goals, 35 points, 12:58 minutes per game).
  • Lots of different, positive ways to spin the Mike Fisher to Nashville deal. Perhaps his biggest impact will be off-ice, with the Predators taking full advantage of the Carrie Underwood association. On-ice though, Mike Fisher is now the team’s first line centre. Despite the heroics of Barry Trotz and Pekke Renne, it’s hard to see this team winning its first-ever playoff round without some additional scoring help.
  • Prediction: In a few years any NHL general manager would happily trade 10 Jack Skille’s for one Michael Frolik.
  • Interesting argument from Cam Cole regarding Sidney Crosby’s concussion situation. What again is the argument against outlawing hits to the head? At the very least, couldn’t the NHL also outlaw hits where guys leave their feet to make contact?
  • Speaking of the Penguins, with 26 wins, a 2.20 goals against average and a .923 save percentage, surprisingly little is being said about Marc-Andre Fleury’s Vezina Trophy chances. Expect that to change if the Penguins, without Evgeni Malkin and Crosby, continue to win thanks to terrific defensive play.
  • That being said, the Vezina Trophy may be Tim Thomas’s to lose. He’s on pace to record the highest save percentage of all-time (.942).
  • Personal over/under on Peter Forsberg’s comeback: 15 games, 13 points. Surprised they’re giving him first line ice-time between Milan Hejduk and Matt Duchesne. Eventually Forsberg might be better served in a secondary scoring role. Biggest hockey comeback since Mario’s.
  • With bonds relating to the Phoenix Coyotes going on sale next week, we may know definitively, finally, if the sale to Matthew Hulsizer will happen at all. Prediction: the NHL owns the Coyotes in the 2011-12 season.
  • Would the Edmonton Oilers consider buying out Nikolai Khabibulin? Devan Dubnyk is clearly the best option in goal, now and in the future.
  • First waffles, now Wanted posters in Toronto
  • Speaking of Toronto, interesting decision facing the front office regarding Tyler Bozak, whose play this year hasn’t been worth his salary ($3.75 million). A restricted free agent after the year, the Leafs could walk away, looking to negotiate a lower salary, longer-term deal. Thing is, if they’re successful getting a first line centre in the off-season, Bozak would be third, if not fourth (behind Nazem Kadri) on the depth chart.
  • A little math for Canuck fans as their team makes a run at the league’s best record. Since the introduction of the President’s Trophy in 1985, times its winner has made the Conference Final (14/25); Stanley Cup final (9/25).
  • With NBC/Versus merging, it’s less likely the NHL moves its product to ESPN. Which is too bad. When was the last time you heard an athlete say they can’t wait to see highlights on Versus?
  • Have to wonder if New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner would be a 25- to 30-goal scorer if he had stayed with the Panthers or the Canucks, the two teams that gave up on him this year. He also leads the Islanders in plus/minus (+6).
  • Leading his team in goals, looks like Milan Lucic is on his way to his first 30-goal season, fulfilling his Boston promise as the next Cam Neely a little bit more.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Ottawa Senators end up with the first overall pick in this year’s entry draft. It would be hard for the Oilers or Islanders to play worse than they are. The Senators could be much, much worse after the trade deadline.
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