by Patrick Hoffman on 12/08/10 at 10:16 PM ET
As you are all well aware of by now, I am a big fan of NHL Home Ice. I’m a big supporter of the hosts, the shows and the content they produce on a daily basis.
With that in mind, it is an absolute honor and pleasure to bring the man behind it all - Joe Thistel. Mr. Thistel was kind enough to take time out of his hectic schedule to give his thoughts on the NHL season, which he reminded me one-third of the way through as of tonight.
PH: So, we are at the one third point of the NHL season. What are some of your general thoughts?
JT: Generally speaking, I think defence is winning out over offence. It was just a matter of time before the coaches figured it out, but goaltending, shot-blocking and video tape have brought us back to where we were before the lock-out – or at least we’re heading that way in a hurry. The game may look different going up and down the ice than it did in 2004, but the results are becoming eerily similar. Just check out the number of shut-outs we’re seeing in this offensively revamped NHL.
PH: Which teams/players have surprised you the most in a good way? Why?
JT: Atlanta is the flavour of the month – a few weeks ago it was St. Louis and last year it was Phoenix and Colorado. That could change with a five game losing streak of course, but you have to be impressed with the way they’ve put this squad together and how hard they work for each other game in and out. Andrew Ladd and Dustin Bufyglien came from a Championship team, sure. But Anthony Stewart was plucked off a scrap heap, the goaltending was a question mark and Craig Ramsay wasn’t supposed to be able to relate to the kids or the game as its now being played. He’s the Coach of the Year so far – and his boss, Rick Dudley, is at the top of the list of team Executives. As far as players go, nobody could have predicted the resurgence and brilliant play of Tim Thomas.
PH: Which teams/players have been disappointments? Why?
JT: I have always had a soft spot for Jason Spezza because he never seems to get a fair shake. Mistakes are magnified while his offensive skills generally go unrewarded. So it’s hard to watch him go through such a tough stretch and a change of scenery has to be coming. Evgeny Malkin is another head-scratcher to me, although there could be an injury factor involved. I would think Crosby’s play would energize him, but he seems content to let Sid take the lead. He has too much size and talent to take a back seat to anybody, even # 87. Team play? Well, the New Jersey Devils are the only team that has been a total waste of time and the magnitude to which they’ve sunk so far is shocking. You have to ask yourself how far is down?
PH: Being that you are a chicago Blackhawks’ fan, how surprised/not surprised are you by their play this season?
JT: The Hawks play so far is exactly where I’d predicted they’d be, and there’s always a hangover and some adversity to deal with after a long Cup run – not to mention the three month party that follows. I don’t consider the team to have been dismantled, but realistically, they lost some important components. They’ll make the playoffs and it will depend on how they’re playing when the chips are down again. They’re young and ambitious – I wouldn’t rule out another significant run this spring.
PH: How do you think the injuries to Kane and Hossa will impact the Hawks going forward?
JT: Losing two of your top six forwards would impact any team, but the Hawks have so much talent in other areas, I’m confident that they’ll keep their current pace intact. Their defence is the key for the next month – and Seabrook, Keith and Campbell are as good a top three as you’re likely to see in a long time. They’re big, mobile and quick to transition – so puck possession should stay on the positive side of the ledger. Listen, are they going to catch the Red Wings – not likely. But they’ll finish comfortably in a playoff spot and then the new season begins. They’ll be fine.
PH: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share with readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
JT: Just that every hockey fan should appreciate the talent that we are privileged to watch each and every night, from all corners of the world. The game is better than it’s ever been, and so are the players. The league has its pick of a magnificent global pool and we’re seeing things on a nightly basis that were unimaginable twenty years ago. Enjoy the ride and don’t take it for granted.
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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 email@example.com.