I try to track the worst regular player in each NHL season. I am interested in what kind of players continue to play in the NHL despite their failure. Usually the worst player in the NHL is a hard working borderline NHL player with little pro hockey talent, but he has the respect of coaching and his teammates, which keeps him in the line-up. The last player I picked in this role is Kevin Westgarth of the Los Angeles Kings.
It is hard to remain the worst player in the league. There are a couple players on every team with similar roles to you and limited talent as well. If you play too poorly you lose your NHL job, but if you play too well, somebody else takes over as the worst regular player in the league.
On of the more surprising numbers this season is Andrej Meszaros’s league leading +/- rating. His +22 is four points better than anyone else’s. He is a player who has not put up a particularly good +/- rating (last year he was -14) since his rookie year of 2005/06 in Ottawa. He recorded a +34 that season.
There are a lot of similarities between this season and 2005/06. Philadelphia is a first place team this year with the highest team +/- rating. Ottawa was a similar top team in 2005/06.
The NHLPA has finally confirmed Donald Fehr as their new union head. He fills a stop left vacant since Paul Kelly was fired over a year ago. This gives the NHLPA is strong leader for their upcoming 2012 CBA negotiations. Leadership is not the only problem that the NHLPA faces. The players that form the rank and file of the NHLPA are not united or willing to stand up to significant bargaining pressure. The NHL knows this and will apply significant pressure to get an even more owner friendly CBA than the current one which the owners basically wrote and the union capitulated and fired Bob Goodenow.
When Luca Sbisa was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008 he looked like he could be an NHL star. When he made the Flyer team as an 18 year old rookie, it looked even more likely.
Then problems occurred. Salary cap issues forced the Flyers to send Sbisa back to junior despite the fact he had played 39 games and had used the first year of his entry level contract. Sbisa went back to the WHL where he starred with the Lethbridge for the remainder of the season. He also managed to play two AHL games with the Philadelphia Phantoms after the Lethbridge season ended. This made him enough of a prospect to be the centre-piece of the Chris Pronger trade, that made him Anaheim Duck property.
The Masterton Trophy is officially given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. That definition is not too well kept by the voters. Nobody considers sportsmanship for this award. In practise, the award is given to the player who overcomes the biggest obstacle to continue his career and makes the biggest impact with his team.
I think the leader for this award this season is Kurtis Foster of the Edmonton Oilers. Foster broke his leg very badly in a race for an iced puck in 2007. He was out of hockey for over a year recovering. Many thought his career was over, but he made it back.
So far this season the Colorado Avalanche have been the top scoring team in the NHL. They have 3.53 goals per game so far this year. This is about 0.2 goals per game more than any other team and a 0.6 goals per game improvement on last season.
For the most part this improvement has come from a deep young offensive team. Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk are all scoring at about point per game rate. Duchene is a talented second year man in the NHL who seems to be on his way to stardom. Paul Stastny has been a good scorer in Colorado for a few years, but has also missed time to injury.
Every year I pick out a team that could be a solid contender if only they had goaltending. Last year I picked the Ottawa Senators, a team that did not solve their goaltending issues and wound up losing in the first round of the playoffs.
My choice this year could not be more obvious. It is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa has the second lowest shots allowed per game at 27.1. They also have the worst goals against average in the league at 3.47. Their goaltenders Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have the two worst saves percentages in the league at .876 and .872 respectively.
Last week, I looked at the AHL scoring race. Dustin Jeffrey of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh`s farm affiliate) and Andrew Gordon of the Hershey Bears (Washington`s farm affiliate) were tied for the scoring lead. Since then both have been called up to the NHL. Jeffrey has two points in his one NHL game. Gordon hasn`t scored in his game. As a result of their call-ups, both of these players have fallen back in the AHL scoring race.
The current AHL scoring leader is Corey Locke of the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa`s farm affiliate). Locke has 34 points so far this year. This is a two points more than anyone else in the league.
One of the debates in hockey circles recently is about whether rookies need to earn respect before they can show their personality. This comes on the heels of two events. On Friday night, Linus Omark of the Edmonton Oilers was in his first ever NHL game playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He won the shootout with a highlight reel goal where he did a spinorama before entering the offensive zone and scoring on Tampa goalie Dan Ellis.
About three weeks earlier, PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens was publicly denounced by the Philadelphia Flyers, led by Mike Richards for not showing the proper respect and instead trash talking the Flyers.
I have often said that it is easy to make a trade in the NHL, as long as you make a bad trade, where you give away far more than you get back. It turns out that even that isn’t true. Boston has been trying to trade Marco Sturm to Los Angeles for next to nothing. It was first reported that the trade had been made last week, but it fell through. It is reported as being complete today. The trade is Marco Sturm to Los Angeles for future considerations - pending a physical. The future considerations appear to be nothing more than salary cap space. Boston had to try for at least a weak to give a player away.
The trade is necessitated by Sturm returning from injury. He had been on longterm injury reserve since the season began and needed some salary cap space freed up to return. Instead of freeing up the space Boston gave him away for nothing.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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