Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

I NOW Consider Daniel Sedin A Hall Of Famer

I try to pick out the point where currently active players have sufficient career accomplishments that they should make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their career.  Today I think Daniel Sedin has made it to that level.  He joins his brother Henrik who made it to that level last season.  I picked Henrik first because he is a former Hart Trophy winner and has more career points, although it was clear that Daniel was well on his way to that level. 

Daniel's progress may have been a bit slower than expected because the Vancouver Canucks have struggled.  They missed the playoffs last year and look very likely to do so again.  Daniel is the top scorer on the Canucks so far this year but with 20 points he is one of the lowest top scorers on any team in the league. 

Daniel now has 962 career points which is around the toal Henrik had when I picked him as a Hall of Famer.  Daniel has more goals than Henrik.  Daniel Sedin was the top scorer in the NHL in 2010/11.  He won the Ted Lindsay Award as MVP as voted by the players and made the NHL First Team All Star but was not the Hart Trophy winner.  Voters gave that award to Corey Perry in what was a poor choice.  Daniel made Second Team All Star the year before that.

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Best Defenceman

It was late in October when Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens established himself as the early Norris Trophy leader.  Weber has slowed down recently.  He hasn't scored a point since November 26th.  Thus he has been passed in the Norris Trophy race.  Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks is the current leader.  Burns leads all defencemen in the league with 13 goals and 28 points.  Burns is the Sharks point leader and +/- leader.

Last year Brent Burns made a jump from being a good defenceman who is a potential all star to being a contender for the top defenceman in the NHL.  He was a Norris Trophy nominee last year and is the current leader for that award.

It is rare that a player makes as big a step forward at age 30 as Burns has.  He is on an unusual career trajectory.  Burns recently signed an 8 year contract extension with an $8 million salary cap hit.  He will be 40 when it is over.  It will be interesting to see if he maintains his value that long.  Right now he is clearly one of the better players in the game and is the top defenceman so far this season.  By 2025 what will his game have become?  Will he be worth big bucks at that point?

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Flyers Ten Game Winning Streak

The hottest team in the NHL right now is the Philadelphia Flyers.  They have won their last ten games in a row.  This gives them a 19-13 record with three regulation tie points.  They have 41 points on the season.  This puts them in third place in the Metropolitan Division.  Their record before this winning streak was 9-13.  It took this winning streak to make the Flyers look like a playoff team.

A big reason for their improvement is goaltending.  Steve Mason has posted a .926 saves percentage and a 2.33 goals against average during the streak.  Before it, he had a .892 saves percentage and a 3.04 GAA.  Michal Neuvirth has been hurt during this streak but he posted a .859 saves percentage and a 3.54 GAA so far this year.  Their goaltending is improved but there are better goaltenders in the league.  Thus it takes more than goaltending for a 10 game winning streak.

Jakub Voracek has 16 points in the streak and 17 in the 22 games before it.  That makes him the highest scoring player in the league during this stretch.

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Dale Tallon Effectively The Florida GM Again?

The Florida Panthers have been an example of how not to run a hockey team this season.  In May it was first announced that Dale Tallon was moved upstairs out of the Florida GM position.  Moving into the GM position was Tom Rowe who had a lengthy career as a minor league coach but limited experience in managerial positions.  A few days after than announcement, Rowe was officially named the Panthers GM.  Near the end of November, the Panthers abruptly fired coach Gerard Gallant and Rowe took over as coach.  The Panthers have two wins in eight tries since that ill-advised moved occurred.

I argued that Rowe had been given enough rop to hand himself and he quickly has.  By bringing back Tallon to run the club, Florida has a proven successful general manager (though he is yet to officially get that title again).  Rowe was promoted beyond his experience level by becoming a general manager.  He may be above his talent level as an NHL head coach but at least he has successfully coached at some level in the past.  He may not last as the Florida Panther coach longterm, but by moving him out of the general manager position, Florida has a chance to return to sanity.  They may be able to right the ship.

Florida is now the fourth team back behind a playoff berth.  They are nine points out of the final wildcard spot in the East Conference.  This little misadventure with GM and coach Tom Rowe may be the reason Florida misses the playoffs this year.  It seems they lack the coaching to climb back up into the race.

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AHL’s Top Scorer

Today I will take another look at the AHL.  A little over a week ago, Brad Hunt of the Chicago Wolves (St Louis Blues affiliate) had moved into the AHL scoring lead.  He has recently been passed by Taylor Beck of the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers affiliate).  Beck has 30 points on the season.  This is impressive because he plays on a western AHL team.  Those teams play fewer games than the rest of the league.  Some players have six more games played than Beck.

Beck is a 25 year old winger who still may have an NHL shot.  He played one nhl game this season.  He has 88 career NHL games played with 23 points scored over parts of five NHL seasons.  In his most significant NHL season he scored 16 points in 62 games with Nashville in 2014/15.  At the AHL level his biggest season was a 49 point season in 65 games played the year before his biggest NHL shot.  He has never showed the ability to be a point per game player since he was in junior.  Thus it is reasonable to think that he won't hold onto the AHL scoring lead all season.

Taylor Beck is the current AHL top scorer.  This is impressive because he has fewer games played than most of the eastern AHL players.  He has no record as a top scorer at the AHL level.  Thus his continuing to score at this level is in doubt.  He has done very well so far this season.

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AHL’s Top Team

A little over two weeks ago the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville minor league affiliate) moved into in first place in the AHL.  Milwaukee had a tough weekend losing to the Chicago Wolves (St Louis Blues affiliate) and the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate).  This has allowed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh affiliate) have moved into first place.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has a 16-8 record with three regulation tie points.  This gives them a .729 winning percentage.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's success is largely due to keeping the puck out of their net.  They have the best goals against average in the AHL.  Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have shared their goaltending.  They have .91 and .929 saves percentages respectively.  Their top scorers are Jake Guentzel who has 23 points in 19 AHL games.  He spent five games in the NHL this season scoring four points, so he may find himself called up again soon.  Behind him in scoring is Oskar Sundqvist who has 21 points in 22 games.

The Penguins have the ability to hang onto first place if they keep their goals against average down.  They may find it tough to hold onto first place if their top scorer Jake Guentzel spend an extended period of time in the NHL and that's is a strong possibility.

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Calgary Leads The Pacific Divison

It is interesting to notice that the Calgary Flames are in first place in the Pacific Division right now.  They have a record of 16-15 with two regulation tie points for 34 points.  They have played more games than San Jose, Anaheim and Edmonton who are all one point behind the Flames.  Thus their lead in the division is precarious.

Calgary got off to a slow start.  The main reason they improved is an improvement in goaltending.  Brian Elliott was brought in in the off-season from St Louis to improve their goaltending.  He had produced some strong numbers in St Louis after some struggles in Ottawa.  He is back to struggling.  He has a .885 saves percentage and a 3.31 goals against average so far this year.  Likely those numbers will improve with time, but it is a reasonable question to ask how much of his success in St Louis came from the Blues defensive system and can he succeed without it.  Chad Johnson has taken over as the Flames goaltender.  He is new to the team having been acquired from Buffalo.  He has great numbers so far this year.  He has a .932 saves percentage and a 1.98 goals against average.

Johnny Gaudreau is back from injury and has two points per game in his return.  He is the best offensive player on the Calgary Flames.

Calgary is a much improved team as long as their goaltending holds up.  They are a probable playoff team, but their odds of keeping first place in the division are low.

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Masterton Trophy Leader

The only trophy that I usually make a pick for that I have not made a pick yet is the Masterton Trophy.  I think the current leader is Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators.  He is having a solid season in goal while his wife is suffering from cancer.  He is posting a .924 saves percentage and a 2.46 goals against average.  That is a solid performance in trying times.

I am uncertain that by the end of the year he will be the Masterton leader.  Bryan Bickell of the Carolina Hurricanes has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  That is a bigger hardship to overcome since it is Bickell himself who is sick and not his wife.  The problem is Bickell has not played any games since the end of October and his diagnosis.  it isn't even clear that Anderson will be the best nominee from the Senators t the end of the season.  Clarke MacArthur is fighting to come back from a concussion that has kept him out of all but four games since last season. 

The Masterton Trophy is a weird award because each team picks only one nominee even if they have multiple solid candidates.  Ottawa may have to select between Anderson and MacArthur assuming he makes a solid comeback for their nominee and both could be deserving.

I think Craig Anderson is the best Masterton Trophy candidate at this point.  I am not sure if that matters.  Given their track record, the voters may give the award to Jaromir Jagr for still being in the NHL or Craig Cunningham who isn't in the NHL at all but had a heart attack in the AHL or some other illogical candidate.

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Hart and Vezina Trophy Leader

Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens had a slow start to the season due to injury.  As he played he moved into the award picture.  In mid-November I picked him as the Vezina Trophy leader.  Less than a week later he became my Hart Trophy leader.  Price has been passed in both of those races.

Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild is playing better than Price is.  Dubnyk has a .946 saves percentage and a 1.65 GAA.  Both are numbers better than Price has.  Dubnyk has done so facing more shots than Price has.

In 2015, Price and Dubnyk were both contenders for these awards.  Price won them both.  Dubnyk was a Vezina nominee and finished fourth in the Hart Trophy voting.  For Dubnyk this was seen as the likely high point in his career.  The season had been a comeback year after he had nearly played himself out of the NHL with Edmonton and Nashville.  Last year he had a more average season so this season is a bit of a surprise.  It isn't clear if Dubnyk can continue the season at this level.  The best guess is he will regress toward his established levels.  However right now he is the top goalie and most valuable player in the NHL so far this season.

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Blue Jackets Improvement

The most improved team in the NHL this is the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Last season they finished second last in the East Conference with 76 points.  So far this year they are one point out of first place in the Metropolitan Division with games in hand.  They have a 15-9 record with four regulation tie points.  This is good for 34 points.  How has this team improved so much?

The answer is largely due to goaltending and offence.  In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky has proven to be a top level goalie when he is healthy but doesn't always have successful healthy stretches.  Last season he put up a .908 saves percentage and a 2.75 goals against average.  Those numbers have improved tremendously this year.  He is posting a .930 saves percentage and a 2.03 GAA.  This is an improvement of over 26% percent in his goals against average.

Offensively there were no significant scorers on the Blue Jackets.  Brandon Saad and Cam Atkinson tied for the team lead in points with only 53 points.  This season there are six Blue Jackets on pace to better that mark.  They are Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad, Sam Gagner and Zach Werenski.  Gagner and Werenski are both newcomers to the team.  Werenski is a rookie and Gagner is a free agent signee from the Philadelphia Flyers.  Of the other players making significant offensive improvements, only Wennberg is young enough that he might be making a sustainable jump.  He is 22 years old.

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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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