As the season progresses, I am picking more and more initial leaders for the NHL awards. Today, I am looking at the coach of the year. Generally, my opinions on this award are out of synch with the hockey media who vote on the award. Generally, the media seem to pick the coach of the most improved team as coach of the year, when often that improvement is due to the players much more than it is due to coaching. Following that line of logic, the coach of the year will likely be one of Davis Payne, Terry Murray or Guy Boucher as St Louis, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay are some of the most improved teams in hockey. Past coaches of the year like Bruce Boudreau in Washington and Dave Tippett in Phoenix have no chance to be coach of the year because their team cannot improve enough for them to be candidates again.
At any rate, my coach of the year pick is none of the above. It is Mike Babcock of Detroit.
It’s very easy to make a trade in the NHL during mid-season. All you have to do is offer up your finest young star in exchange for another team’s 30 year old free agent to be third liner. It’s really hard to make a good trade and that is why we see few trades of any significance during the NHL regular season, at least before the trade deadline hits. To make a trade, you have to trade players and contracts both by length and by salary cap hit, rarely can all three of these factors coincide to make a deal that makes sense.
The Calgary Flames have just traded Brett Sutter and Ian White to the Carolina Hurricanes for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos. This trade is interesting because Calgary GM Darryl Sutter trades his son Brett.
Last week, I picked Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins as the worst regular player so far in the season. It is not too surprising that he soon improved his game. He is far too talented to be the worst player in the NHL. In the past week, Fleury has three wins, has improved his saves percentage by thirty points and has dropped almost 0.7 goals off of his goals against average. He still has numbers that are below his established career norms, due to his poor start, but he is getting on track.
My new pick for the worst regular so far this season is another goaltender who was picked first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. I pick Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders as the worst regular in the league so far this season. He has played in seven games and has won twice. He has a .854 saves percentage and a 4.21 goals against average. Both are the worst in the league by a large margin.
Tyler Dellow of Mudcrutch Hockey wrote a wonderful piece about Colin Campbell, the NHL vice president in charge of discipline and suspensions, who wrote some questionable emails. These emails came to light as a result of the labor relations case for referee Dean Warren’s dismissal by the league. Tyler did a very good job of filling in some of the blanks and putting things in context and it doesn’t make Colin Campbell look good.
The main idea behind the lawsuit was that Campbell moved to fire Rick Warren when he became an executive in the NHL Officials Association (NHLOA) and threatened to stand in the way of some of the league’s plans.
I recently wrote that the New York Islanders are in trouble having lost their last ten games. I went on to argue that their problem that their problem comes from poor management and from having the league lowest payroll among the players that they play on the ice. The three highest salary cap hits this year are Alexei Yashin, who had his contract bought out 3 years ago, Rick DiPietro, who has been injured and ineffective in the short periods between injury and Mark Streit who is injured. That doesn`t leave much to acquire talent that will help to win games. The problem is management and ownership. The best story to show what is wrong in Long Island is the story of how Garth Snow took over as GM.
Instead of addressing these problems, which is hard to do in mid-season, the Islanders decided to fire coach Scott Gordon.
I have been playing in a deep 30 team fantasy hockey league with a salary cap, playoff system and small minor system for each team. This league has been running since 1999 and some GMs have been around that long. A couple teams have opened up and we are hoping that somebody who reads this blog might be willing to take over a team. Please drop me an email through my profile if this sounds interesting and I will get you in touch with the right people who are running the league.
The New York Islanders have not won a game in their last ten. They have managed one regulation tie point to keep them from being entirely shut out in that period. This has the New York Islanders in last place in the NHL.
Things would look even worse were it not for a solid start to the season where the Islanders put up a 4-1-2 record. Even during their hot stretch, the Islanders only won one more time than they lost, but with the glories of regulation tie points managed ten points in seven games.
The problem with the Islanders can be seen by looking at their payroll. They are the second lowest payroll team in the NHL (Atlanta is the lowest). The problem is that payroll is not contributing on the ice.
As the season moves on, I am able to make first picks for the NHL awards. It is valuable to see how the frontrunners for the awards change over the season and to see when the eventual winners take over as frontrunners. Today, I am picking an early season leader to the Selke Trophy.
I think the best defensive forward this year has been Jeff Halpern of the Montreal Canadiens. Halpern leads Habs forwards in penalty kill time and has done very well in that role. He plays against the toughest competition of any Montreal player. He leads the Habs in defensive zone starts. Halpern has played an extremely tough role with the Habs and he has succeeded. In this role, Halpern has the second highest +/- rating on his team at +7 and he is fourth on the team in scoring with 10 points. Halpern has played an extremely difficult role with Montreal and succeeded so far.
I think teams should be very careful in using 18 and 19 year old players on their roster. There is an opportunity cost associated with it. The player in question uses up a year of his entry level deal, where he will likely be a bargain to his team. It pushes the player in question a year closer to unrestricted free agency, as that can occur after a player turns 27 or has seven years in the NHL, whichever happens first. An 18 year old in the NHL will reach potential free agency at age 25. This means that his team could lose the player in his prime, two years earlier than he otherwise would have been lost. The loss of the cheap entry level years is also significant. In a salary capped environment, teams win Stanley Cups when their roster significantly outplays their salary cap hits. Entry level contract players are some of the best bargains who outplay their salary cap hits. For example, last year Chicago had Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as entry level bargains in their Stanley Cup run. This seems to be a near-mandatory step toward winning a Stanley Cup under the salary cap.
I try to track the worst player who is playing regularly in the NHL. I find it informative to see what kind of player can remain in the NHL despite failure. I have found that during the season, the early season biggest failure is usually a name player who is relied upon by his team. It is through the large amount of ice time that he gets that he is able to distinguish himself negatively. This player usually finds his game before we are too far into the NHL season. As the season progresses, it is usually a goon or a hard working but talentless role player who takes over as the worst regular in the league.
Earlier this season it looked like Simon Gagne of the Tampa Bay Lightning was well on his way to this dishonor, but injury has kept him out of the lineup. Today, I am picking Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins as the regular NHL player who has been the worst so far this year.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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