Alexander Radulov left Nashville Predators with one year left on his entry level deal to play with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. He walked out on his contract. That created a controversy where the KHL did not honor existing NHL contracts. Radulov was able to make more money playing in the KHL than he could on an entry level NHL contract. He spent four years starring in the KHL and now the NHL is going to get him back. In order to do so, they must ignore a couple of their rules and this is a problem. As a potential star player, the NHL is willing to cheat in order to make sure he is back their fold.
Any player who plays outside the NHL in a season is subject to re-entry waivers if he returns to the NHL in the same season. This is a rule held over from the late 80s to prevent teams from hiding players in Europe and bringing them back in time for the playoffs. This rule has made it so that almost all returning KHL players do not stay with the team that signed them ( Evgeni Nabokov is the most famous case).
In January I picked Evgeni Malkin as the MVP so far this season. In February, Henrik Lundqvist took the MVP lead. I am back to picking Malkin as MVP. When I picked Lundqvist he was posting a .940 saves percentage and a 1.78 GAA. Those numbers have fallen to a .934 saves percentage and 1.89 GAA. While those are still Vezina Trophy numbers they are not good enough to be MVP. Lundqvist isn’t dominant enough versus the other goaltenders in the game. Malkin is the NHL’s top scorer with 88 points. He is second on his team with a +15 +/- rating. He has done this while only playing 64 of his team’s 71 games. This puts him second in points per game in the league behind teammate Sidney Crosby (who has been limited to 11 games played) and significantly ahead of anyone else. Evgeni Malkin is the current MVP at this point in the season.
One of the motivations that keeps me blogging about hockey is seeing some of the nonsense that can be produced by the mainstream media. That isn’t to say that everything they produce is nonsense but a regular amount of what comes out of the mainstream media is silliness that any good blogger would never even consider posting. A clear example of this is the Steve Simmons piece up on Slam Sports. He argues that the Columbus Blue Jackets must trade their first pick in the 2012 Entry Draft (which will more than likely be first overall). How does that work? He thinks last place teams can rebuild by trading their top draft picks?
He argues that the number one pick in the draft will be a Russian. Nail Yakupov is top rated by Central Scouting and Mikhail Grigorenko and Alex Galchenyuk come next. He argues that Columbus (and only Columbus?) cannot draft Russians.
The Norfolk Admirals of the AHL won their 17th straight game last night and became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth. This ties them for the record for the longest win streak in the history of the league (a 76 year history) with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004/05. Norfolk is the Tampa Bay Lightning minor league affiliate. This streak is what has catapulted the Admirals into first place in the league. They now have a seven point lead over the league. The streak is unlikely in part because number one goalie Dustin Tokarski was called up to the NHL when Mathieu Garon suffered an injury. They changed goaltenders mid-stream to Jaroslav Janus with no change in their results. At this point Norfolk has to be considered the favorite to win the Calder Cup.
The NHL trade deadline occurred on the 27th of February. That is barely half a month ago. It was a day that was remarkable for the lack of big deals. I thought the biggest deal of the deadline period was the Jeff Carter deal. It is too early to make any final decisions about the deadline deals but some early returns are in. The most successful player who was dealt so far has been Jamie McGinn who moved from San Jose to Colorado.
McGinn was traded along with prospects Mike Connolly and Michael Sgarbossa for Daniel Winnik, TJ Galiardi and a seventh round draft pick. This deal was seen as a trade of futures and depth players and was not likely to make a significant impact this season. Of the NHL players involved in the deal, Daniel Winnik was the highest scorer last year with 25 points. While the NHL players involved are young and have not likely hit their peaks, none are expected to be high impact stars.
Tim Thomas is one of the best goalies in the NHL. He is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and the defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner. He was voted to be the starting goalie in the NHL All Star Game this season. Recently his top season is falling off the rails. In nine games played so for in the month of March, Thomas has recorded a .842 saves percentage and a 4.06 GAA. What is wrong with Tim Thomas?
The simplest answer might be to look at his age (37) and the amount of hockey he has played in the last year or so with his playoff run last year. Thomas has played in 133 playoff and regular season games in the last two seasons. That is a lot for a goalie. It may be more than a 37 year old is capable of handling.
If I have to pick one team as most likely to come out of the East Conference in the playoffs, it would be the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have the second best record in the conference (behind the New York Rangers by four points). They are the hottest team in the NHL right now, as they are on a nine game winning streak. Most importantly their stars are starting to come back to the lineup. Sidney Crosby is coming back from his latest concussion on Thursday. Kris Letang is likely close to returning from his concussion as well. Some reports have him back on Thursday too.
A hot Pittsburgh team with all their stars back will be tough to beat. While anything can happen in the playoffs, the Pens have a good chance of making a run.
The top four teams by points in the East Conference are the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils. All of those teams play in the Atlantic Division. The lone Atlantic Division team doing poorly is the New York Islanders. They are second last in the conference. This makes the Atlantic Division more dominant in their conference than the Central Division is in the West Conference as four of the top five teams in the west are Central teams. The Atlantic Division has ten more points so far this year than the Central. This is largely been because Columbus is doing so poorly.
The Atlantic Conference’s dominance in their conference is partly because of weakness of the other division. The Southeast Division is historically weak. No team in that division has more goals scored than goals allowed.
At the beginning of February I picked Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks as the Selke Trophy leader. He has been out with a concussion since the middle of February, thus he is no longer my pick. I think the best defensive forward in the league so far this year has been Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.
Bergeron is tied for the NHL lead with a +33 +/- rating. He plays against tough competition, spends significant time killing penalties and gets as many defensive zone starts as any Bruin forward. He is a key cog of the Bruins defence. I think he has had more defensive value to his team than any other forward this season.
The Edmonton Oilers season hasn’t been a good one. They are second last in the league. This is an improvement over the previous two seasons where they finished in dead last, but it’s not a good year. There is one sign that things will be okay in the near future. Edmonton has the top power play in the league with a 22.0% success rate.
Power play is a place where players have a chance to show their offensive ability. Often young players first succeed on the power play before learning to succeed in situations where they do not have a man advantage. Young Oiler players including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall and first year defenceman Corey Potter have scored a significant portion of their points on the power play. Nugent-Hopkins and Potter have more than half their points in that situation.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???