by Patrick Hoffman on 02/06/12 at 10:00 AM ET
As everyone already knows, I am a big and proud supporter of Sirius/XM NHL Home Ice. In my opinion, it is the best hockey outlet out there with terrific hosts, producers, content and much, much more.
Shalley was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to give us his thoughts on the current season, which teams and players have surprised/disappointed him and much more.
PH: We are well into the 2011-12 NHL Campaign. What are some of your general thoughts on the season?
JS: Certainly it’s been a rollercoaster season. We’ve had many positives, including the amazing run by the Bruins to finish 2011, the incredible push by the Blues under Ken Hitchcock, the Winter Classic between the Flyers and Rangers, and an outstanding hosting of the All-Star Game by the city of Ottawa. However, we’ve had the unfortunate side too. The Lokomotiv tragedy and the death of several former NHL enforcers cast a tragic cloud on the start of the season. Concussions continue to be a threat to many careers. The early rash of suspensions and continued supplemental discipline handed out by Brendan Shanahan and the department of player safety has been one of the major stories of the season. We’ve also replaced nearly half the coaches in the NHL in less than a calendar year.
PH: Which teams/players have surprised you this season? Why?
JS: I’ve been surprised by the Panthers. They gelled quickly, despite bringing in a ton of new faces. Plus, they’ve managed to survive despite getting most of their scoring from their top forward line. The Senators, while they’ve been slumping lately, have been a surprise. Paul MacLean seems to have changed the culture quickly, and with their key players healthy, they’ve been able to outscore their mistakes on a lot of nights. I’ve been impressed by the Devils. They haven’t had Travis Zajac for most of the season, and their blue line corps wasn’t regarded as one of the best in the conference, but they’re still right in the middle of things in the East. Surprise players for me include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Brian Elliott, and Ryan McDonagh. While Nugent-Hopkins has all the skill in the world, I didn’t think he’d be able to take the physical pounding in his first season playing against men. Elliott looked to be on his way out of the NHL, but hard work in the off-season and a defensive system in St. Louis has resulted in a resurgence. I’ve been impressed with McDonagh’s ability to log top-pair minutes and responsibility as a young player on one of the top clubs in the NHL.
PH: Which teams/players have disappointed you this season? Why?
JS: It’s hard not to be down on the Kings. The acquisition of Mike Richards, I thought, gave the Kings the piece they were missing, especially in the PK department. This team’s inability to score has been baffling. Drew Doughty clearly would be one of my disappointing players, as he’s rarely shown the ability to dominate games. Buffalo has to be on the list. Ryan Miller is having one of his worst seasons in his career, big money players like Roy and Stafford haven’t scored, and the off-season signing of Ville Leino has been a disaster so far. While I didn’t feel Montreal had a club that would challenge for the conference lead, I certainly never imagined they’d sit last in the East as I type this. An organizational meltdown.
PH: What are you looking forward to most about the stretch run this season? Why?
JS: I’m obviously looking forward to the trade deadline. The situation in Nashville is intriguing. I’m curious to see if David Poile is able to swing a deal to improve his club, which will then have an impact on his ability to sign one or both of his star blueliners. I’m also looking forward to the race in the Central, which could not only see four of the five teams make the playoffs, but perhaps finish in the top 6 in the West.
PH: If you had a crystal ball, which 16 teams do you see making the postseason this year?
JS: In the East, the Rangers, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Panthers and Devils. In the West, the Red Wings, Canucks, Sharks, Blues, Predators, Blackhawks, Kings and Stars. You probably don’t want to take those picks to Vegas, mind you.
PH: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with readers?
JS: I’d like to thank all of our listeners. Many have been with us since Day 1 of NHL Home Ice in 2005. It’s great to be able to talk hockey for a living and be able to connect with fans across North America.
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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.