by Patrick Hoffman on 12/29/10 at 11:27 AM ET
PH: So, we are past the 1/3/ point of the NHL season. What are some of your general thoughts?
SW: Kind of hard to believe we’re one-third of the way through the season, but I think the torrid pace of Sidney Crosby is going to be the story until he slumps for two games or more. The continuation of maturity for Steven Stamkos has been great, considering what he went through in his rookie year. Plus, Tim Thomas really bounced back from his horrid season last year, showing that his Vezina year wasn’t a fluke at all.
PH: Which teams/players have surprised you the most in a good way? Why?
SW: As far as players go, Dustin Byfuglien moving from Chicago to Atlanta and forward to defense while continuing to be an integral part of the offense is something that has been a great story. Although I don’t think he’s a Norris candidate as he seems to be in the same mold as Mike Green and could have the same knocks against him. When it comes to teams, the Thrashers have been a great story, while the Dallas Stars bounce-back has been a great revitalization for the fan base there.
PH: Which teams/players have been disappointments? Why?
SW: You start and end disappointment with the New Jersey Devils. The salary cap has really bit them in the backside and while they have the talent, they don’t seem to buy into anything that is being sold to them. I also expect more out of the Capitals, but they’re still in the race for the top spot of the Southeast Division; but they aren’t as explosive as they have been in years’ past. Alex Ovechkin is one of the ones who haven’t been his dynamic self and hopefully for Caps fans, he can snap out of it soon and get back on his pace.
PH: Being that you live in Calgary, what do you think of having Jay Feaster as the team’s general manager? Ultimately, what do you think he is going to do to the team?
SW: When Jay Feaster got hired on in the summer as assistant GM, it was pretty much a matter of time before he usurped Darryl Sutter’s position. I’m sure he’ll use the rest of the year as a “feeling out period” then the summer will be his time to show what he has to offer. There’s a lot of work to do with the cap issues and contract nuances that Feaster has to deal with—but if you look at what he did in Tampa, you can hope he can do the same in Calgary….or at least get them back to a respectable level of competition.
PH: What do you think about the Devils’ play this season? How surprised/not surprised are you by what has happened to that team this season?
SW: It’s odd to see what has happened to that team….but with the issues they have, it was not unexpected. Not to mention the injury to Zach Parise, and it’s just a throw-away year and adjustment period with the cap hits they have going against them. The guy I feel bad for is John MacLean, who was thrown into a bad situation from the get-go. While he may not have been completely ready; he didn’t deserve to get the hook the way he did. I’m sure he’ll catch on as an assistant sooner rather than later.
PH: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share with readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
SW: I will make a bold statement that, if the paces stay as they are—Jeff Skinner should win the Rookie of the Year over Logan Couture. As much as I’m impressed with Couture’s play—he is 21 years old to Skinner’s 18. I think that Couture will maybe lose votes due to being on the West Coast and having some years of development. That all said, a wise man once said to me there’s always going to be someone in the second-half to tear it up and make everyone forget about the first-half leaders. It could be Kevin Shattenkirk, could be Cam Fowler, could be one of the Edmonton trio—but this year could be a prime example of a second-half rookie coming through.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.