by Patrick Hoffman on 01/22/11 at 06:00 PM ET
One of the best hockey analysts in the business Billy Jaffe, who works for Versus, the NHL Network and NHL Radio, was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to give us his thoughts on the NHL season.
“It has been another great season. You have teams that are surprising some people such as the Dallas Stars, who are having a terrific year under head coach Marc Crawford and the Montreal Canadiens, who are fighting to win the Northeast Division.
You also have your usual terrific individual performances as well as the issue of head shots, which are leading to big injuries this season. With that said, the league is trying to tweak that and is headed in the right direction.”
On Surprising Teams and Players This Season
“From a team perspective, the Dallas Stars have been a wonderful surprise. They are an exciting team, a much better in every facet of the game and their goaltending has been good with Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft. The team has also been better defensively.”
“Offensively, their youngsters Loui Eriksson, James Neal and Jamie Benn have been great. Marc Crawford and his staff have done a great job.”
“The Tampa Bay Lightning have also been great this season. I think everyone is excited to have Steve Yzerman in the league running a team. Head coach Guy Boucher has done a great job and they just got a great goaltender in Dwayne Roloson. The questions are on defense and I think they might make another move to get better.”
“Individually, Dustin Byfuglien has been terrific. Did anyone think he would be good at defense this early? He is definitely a riverboat gambler. Tobias Enstrom has also been good on the Thrashers blue line.”
“Another guy that has had a great season is defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. People say he had a “bad” year last season at 49 points but this season, he has been absolutely phenomenal. He can think the game which is why he continues to shine at an advanced part of his career.”
On Disappointing Teams This Season
“In the Western Conference, I would have to say the San Jose Sharks. They have a lot of superstar players in Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. They also need to address their defense by getting deeper Lot of superstar players (H, T, M) not performing. Needs to address their defense by getting deeper, their goaltending by committee which was not bad in the beginning and they do not show enough of everything. Their dedication and energy level is low and they are just very inconsistent. They should be better than they are.”
“The Los Angeles Kings are also struggling. They need help up front and they also need top six guy up front.”
“In the Eastern Conference, the easy answers are the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are an older team that have been good for many years but right now, they are a complete discombobulation that has had a perfect storm of madeness with injuries, a new head coach, and the Illya Kovalchuk saga set it back with who is going to be there and who is not going to be there. This season was supposed to be about reidentifying the team but that never took hold and they are now in complete disarray.”
On Working for Versus and the NHL Network
“It has been phenomenal. It has been a wonderful year so far. I have been working with Versus much more and the opportunities presented to me by Versus has been fantastic. The network is continuing to grow hockey and become a deep hockey platform in the United States.”
“Working with the NHL Network has been a wonderful experience as well. I am doing a lot of different stuff for them and I am able to utilize some different skills from what I did before as a game analyst. Being able to develop a different skill set has been fantastic for me.”
Thoughts on Kukla’s Korner
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About Goal Line Report
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.