Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Montreal’s Desperation Move

When you fire a coach it is common to see the team improve in the standings.  A new coach changes the system.  Players will have to play well to keep their icetime and their role on the team.  In the short-term it often leads to a boost for the team that fired their coach.  That is what the Montreal Canadiens are looking for from their firing of Guy Carbonneau.

With sixteen games left in the regular season. Montreal has 77 points.  Although that is good for fifth in the East Conference, it is only one point up from the New York Rangers who would miss the playoffs with the current standings.  A short-term run from a coach firing would likely ensure the Habs playoff berth.

The timing of the firing is a little surprising.  Montreal seems to have emerged from their slump.  They have a 5-2 record in their last seven games.  That follows a stretch where they went 3-12.  Perhaps that would have been the more logical time for a firing.

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Today’s Rookies And The Hall Of Fame

On average about three hockey players are inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame annually.  Thus in any rookie class about three players will go on to have Hall of Fame careers.  Of course some years will produce more Hall of Famers and other years less, but three is the number we should expect to see in any given season. 

Can we look at the rookie crop and try to predict those three from this season?  Of course we can try, but the process is not very exact.  It is a lot like trying to predict which dog is the biggest by looking only at the end of its tail.  One certainly can make those projections, but they are imprecise at best.

Projecting rookies to Hall of Fame careers is different from picking the Calder Trophy winner or nominees (for the record Steve Mason is the likely Calder winner).  An older rookie (say 23 years old) may be a better player today than a younger rookie (for example an 18 year old), but the younger player is more likely to have a great career.  In five years when he catches up in age to the older player he should be a far better and more accomplished player.

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An Important Small Trade

One trade that was made on deadline day was the Tampa Bay Lightning trading Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a 2009 4th round draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Richard Petiot.  This is an interesting trade because it basically amounts to selling a fourth round draft pick to the Leafs.  Olaf Kolzig had surgery on his left bicep muscle and will miss the rest of the season.  His contract expires at the end of the season.  Jamie Heward suffered a concussion and should be out for the rest of the season.  His contract expires at the end of the season.  Neither of those two players will play a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the Leafs will pay them the rest of the season.  For their part paying the Tampa Bay contracts, the Leafs obtain a fourth round pick and Andy Rogers from the Lightning in exchange for Richard Petiot.

Neither Rogers nor Petiot look like NHL prospects at this point.  They are AHL defenceman who don’t show much NHL upside right now.  Rogers is four years younger and a former first round draft pick, so one could argue he is the better prospect, but given the fact he hasn’t scored a goal yet in three years of AHL play, he isn’t close to the NHL and likely never will be.

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The Biggest Deadline Day Non-Move

A lot has been written about the trades that occurred on trade deadline day.  There are many interesting stories behind them and many different interesting lines of speculation for what might be their result on the teams involved.  In some cases the big story is not the trade that is made, but the trade that does not get made.  This is definitely the case for the Florida Panthers.  The Panthers best player is defenceman Jay Bouwmeester.  He is going to be an unrestricted free agent last summer.  I wrote earlier this season that the decision of whether to trade or not to trade Bouwmeester was the biggest hockey decision left this season.

The Florida Panthers have not made the playoffs since the year 2000.  Currently, the Panthers have 74 points, which puts them in a three-way tie for sixth to eighth places in the East Conference with the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  They are only one point up on ninth and tenth place Buffalo and Carolina.  A playoff berth is by no means a given, but it is a serious possibility.

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The Worst Trade This Year

With the trade deadline passed we can take a look at the trades of the past year and start to make some assessments.  One that is very clear is that the worst trade made was one made last summer.  The Tampa Bay Lightning sent Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich to the San Jose Sharks for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a 2009 first round draft pick and a 2010 fourth round pick.  This trade happened only months after Boyle had signed a six year $40 million contract to stay with the Lightning.  The new owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie were doing their job as bad fantasy hockey GMs (except they had control of an NHL team).  Several years earlier, Barrie and Dan Boyle had been teammates with the Florida Panthers.  There was something Barrie saw then (or at least thought he saw) that proved Boyle was not a player worth keeping.  The Lightning owners pressured Boyle into waiving his no trade clause and then made this deal.  At this time, Jay Feaster was still the official Tampa Bay GM, but he was not involved in the deal.  Tampa Bay’s new ownership was willing to do some crazy, unconventional things and this was an example.

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Quick Deadline Day Summary

As I have done for a few years (see last year’s summary here) I am posting a quick summary of the trade deadline.  I pick the biggest winner and loser both long and short term. 

It was an interesting deadline with lots of small deals.  Few big name stars moved and as a result few teams gave up significant chunks of their future for a player.  It was also interesting for who was not dealt (Jay Bouwmeester).

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Hot For The Stretch

Since the beginning of January 2009, the best player in the NHL has likely been Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers.  He leads the NHL with 23 goals in that time frame.  He has not been noticed because he plays in the hockey purgatory of Atlanta.  The Thrashers are the second worst team in the standings (only the New York Islanders are behind them) and are well out of the playoffs. 

Kovalchuk has climbed to seventh in the NHL scoring race after a slow start.  He has 71 points going into tonight’s games.

Kovalchuk is a star player and a top goal scorer.  If he is ever given a talented team to play with and a good passing centreman for a linemate, he could do some amazing things.

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Watch Out For The Devils

Since the beginning of January, the New Jersey Devils have had a 20-7 record which makes them the best team in the league during that period.  The Devils have done very well offensively in that period.  Four of the twenty highest scorers so far in 2009 are Devils.  Zach Parise has 33 points in a tie for third so far this year and he is followed by Jamie Langenbrunner with 30 points (7th place), Travis Zajac 28 points (14th) and Patrik Elias 27 points (19th). 

With that offence, Scott Clemmensen did very well in goal.  He was rewarded with a trip to the minors when Martin Brodeur returned.  In Brodeur, the Devils have probably the best goaltender in hockey.  He is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner (a four time winner of that award).  In three games since returning, Brodeur has two shutouts a 0.67 GAA and a .971 saves percentage.  That brings his season numbers to a 1.81 GAA and a .928 saves percentage.  Had he played all season (as opposed to only 13 games) those would be Vezina Trophy calibre numbers.

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Keith Aucoin Running Away With AHL Scoring Lead

Barring a major surprise in the remainder of the season, Keith Aucoin of the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate) will win the AHL scoring title.  Aucoin currently has 82 points for a nine point lead over teammate Alexandre Giroux and a nearly twenty point lead over anyone else. 

Keith Aucoin is an AHL superstar.  It is interesting to see where AHL superstars come from and why they are not NHL players.  Aucoin is currently 30 years old and likely playing the best hockey of his career.  He went undrafted by the NHL after a high school hockey career in Massachusetts and chose to attend the Norwich University.  This is a division III school in the NCAA.  While there, Aucoin was a star.  He graduated as the school’s all time leader in goals, assists and points.

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NHLPA Trying To Fix Its Problems

There was a bit of a stir created when Eric Lindros resigned as NHLPA ombudsman.  Given the past corruption in the NHLPA history, a man to watch the head of the player’s association is a very positive step.  Watching that man leave the position unappreciated and without having given much of a chance by the players in the league was a bad thing.  Worse was Paul Kelly, the head of the NHLPA, openly campaigning for days when there was no ombudsman.  Since the ombudsman’s job is to watch Kelly, there is no way Kelly should be calling for his removal.

The NHLPA is acting to try to fix those problems.  Buzz Hargrove has accepted the position as interim ombudsman.  This shows that the NHLPA is serious about having a qualified ombudsman.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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