Bryan Murray has cancer. In 2014 he announced that he has inoperable colon cancer than has spread to his liver and lungs. Since then it has been a surprise that he has stayed on as Ottawa Senators GM with his health issues. Today it has been announced that he is stepping down or perhaps moving upwards. He will become a senior hockey advisor in Ottawa. Taking over as GM is Pierre Dorion. Dorion has been the number two man in Ottawa under Murray.
Dorion has a significant history in scouting. He was a scout for 11 years in Montreal including working as chief scout and spent two years as a New York Rangers scout. In 2007 he came to Ottawa. He served as a scouting coordinator and as chief amateur scout. Since 2014 he has been the assistant GM in Ottawa.
This hire is essentially the same as a team hiring their AHL affiliate coach to replace their current coach. In most cases they are picking the first coach available and not the best coach available. In the same way Dorion is the first GM candidate available. Nobody is claiming he is the best GM candidate available. Dorion's job is to continue down Bryan Murray's path. He isn't expected to take his team in a new direction. His most significant move will likely be to pick a new coach.
Hockey Night in Canada is an iconic television show. It has aired since 1952 on television and has tie to radio broadcasts from as early as 1931. There have been some changes in the show over the past few years. In 2008 CBC lost the rights to its theme which CTV now owns and uses on TSN broadcasts. In 2014 Rogers took control of the broadcasts. This led to changes in the broadcasts. Most notably Ron MacLean was out as primary host and replaced by George Stroumboulopoulos. The quality of broadcasts began to decline. The ratings of the broadcasts began to decline. The "special" feeling of the Saturday night broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada no longer exists.
As we go into the Stanley Cup playoffs with no Canadian teams involved, we see Hockey Night in Canada rating lagging. In part it may be due to the lack of successful Canadian teams but it is also due to declining quality of broadcasts. In response, Rogers has fired Gord Cutler. He is the man who is most in charge of Hockey Night in Canada production. He is senior vice president in charge of hockey production. Several other hockey production staffers have been laid off. This is all being done with the Stanley Cup playoffs still to come. Ratings are down about 16% since Hockey Night in Canada went to Rogers.
This situation is a problem. It is an example of how the NHL is run. In search of money the league has done things that are not good for the game. They have hurt their most significant television broadcast in the process. Is this damage reversible?
Only five days ago I picked Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames as the Lady Byng Trophy leader. Since then Gaudreau has picked up a couple of penalties which makes his claim for a sportsmanship trophy a little weaker. Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings has become the Lady Byng leader. Kopitar has 73 points which is good for 14th in the NHL. This puts him five points behind Gaudreau. He has 14 penalty minutes when compared to Gaudreau's 20. He is also a significantly better defensive player than Gaudreau. Kopitar is a player who will get some Selke Trophy votes - though he has little chance of winning the award - and Gaudreau will probably not be on anyone's Selke ballot at all.
Anze Kopitar is potential Hal of Famer. It is debatable whether or not he is on a Hall of Fame track. He has never won an individual award. While he has scored well he is not a point per game player over his career with 683 points in 763 games to date. His career best is 81 points. Those numbers are a little low for a Hall of Famer. However Kopitar is a strong two-way forward who is a better player than his point totals show and has played a significant role on a Stanley Cup winning Los Angeles Kings team. He is also the first Slovenian in the NHL. He is the first Slovenian NHL star.
Whether or not Anze Kopitar has a Hall of Fame career, he is the Lady Byng Trophy leader. Should he win the Lady Byng it will help in establishing a Hall of Fame case.
The only remaining playoff race is in the East Conference. The Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins are competing for the final two playoff spots. Detroit and Boston are competing for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The loser in that race and Philadelphia are competing for the final wild card spot. Detroit and Boston have two games remaining and Philadelphia has three. Detroit has 93 points while the other two teams have 91.
When we look ahead at the predicted outcomes in this race we see that all three of these teams will likely make playoffs. Sports club stats has Detroit at 85.1% likely to make the playoffs, Philadelphia at 60.1% and Boston at 54.8%. One of these teams will miss out on a playoff berth. At this point it isn't clear which one it will be. Tonight Detroit meets Boston. That game will go a long way toward determining how this may finish.
Yesterday I looked at the underrated stat of ice time. Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators leads the league. Because teams tend to dress three lines of defencemen and four lines of forwards, all of the ice time leaders are defencemen. The ice time leader among forwards is Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres. He has played 21:47 per game. This is 45 seconds more than linemate Evander Kane and almost a minute more than Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
O'Reilly is a valuable player. He plays on a team that makes an effort to get their number one line on the ice as much as possible. His value is shown by his ice time. O'Reilly plays a solid two-way game. He is the top scorer on the Buffalo Sabres. He is used in all situations including power play and penalty kill. I think he is a strong candidate to be named to the Team Canada roster as they fill out the World Cup team.
One of the simplest stats to look at to determine how valuable a player is to his team is ice time. A player who has a lot of ice time is more important than one who plays less. Since teams typically dress three lines of defencemen and four lines of forwards, the ice time leaders are always defencemen. Ice time is most meaningfully measured on a per game basis so that a player with a few more games played does not have a minutes played lead despite having less ice time when both players are in the line-up.
The ice time leader this year is Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. He has played 29:02 per game. This is almost half a minute more than second place Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. This is a strong piece of evidence that Erik Karlsson is a very valuable player. That comes on top of his fourth place position in the overall scoring race as a defenceman. This is why I pick Karlsson as the Norris Trophy leader.
Karlsson is in a race with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. Doughty is better defensively. That does not mean that Karlsson is weak defensively. For example he is much stronger in his own zone than Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks who is the second highest scoring defenceman this year. The problem with picking Doughty for the Norris is that he is almost 30 points behind Karlsson. It is hard to see how their defensive differences can account for 30 points.
I like to try to gage the point when a current hockey player reaches the point in their career that they have earned a Hall of Fame berth regardless of what happens in the rest of their career. Today I think that Patrick Kane has made it to that level.
Kane has been a star since he made it to the NHL. He was a first pick overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in his first NHL season. He won the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in one of his three Stanley Cup victories with the Chicago Blackhawks. He has scored at point per game rate or better in six seasons in his NHL career but this one is the crowning glory that cements his Hall of Fame case. He has 100 points so far this season and is almost certain to win the Art Ross Trophy. He is 12 points ahead of second place Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars who has two games left. Kane is the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy as MVP this year. There is a good case that Kane has been the best player in the NHL this season and also with his Conn Smythe Trophy victory.
A problem with Kane's case has been his behaviour off the ice. This is something that the Hall mandates should be taken into account when a player is to be inducted. It isn't the only factor in an induction but it matters. Kane was arrested when he and his cousin assaulted a Buffalo cab driver in 2009 when he was unable to make proper change for a fare. He was also investigated for a sexual assault in the summer of 2015 but no charges came from it. This has hurt Kane's reputation.
In mid-February I picked Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars as the Lady Byng Trophy leader. Until he went down with an Achilles injury it seemed like he might win the award. However since he has been injured, he has been passed in the Lady Byng race. Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames has become the new leader. Gaudreau has passed Seguin in the scoring race (75 points to 73) and they have an equal number of penalty minutes.
Gaudreau is a talented young player. In his second year in the NHL he is the sixth highest scorer in the NHL. If his career keeps going on this path he will be a Hall of Fame player before he is done. It is rare that a player this early in his career makes the impact that Gaudreau has. He may win the Lady Byng Trophy as an early reward in his career.
In the West Conference the eighth place team is the Minnesota Wild who are five points up on the ninth place Colorado Avalanche. With four and five games left for most teams this is probably an insurmountable lead. Thus the eight playoff teams in the West Conference are essentially determined. The only playoff race is left in the East Conference. There are three teams fighting for two playoff berths.
The Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings are in this race. Right now Philadelphia is in the last wild card spot with 89 points. Boston holds down the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with 88 points. Detroit is in ninth place trying to chase the other two teams with 87 points. As an Atlantic Division team Detroit could catch either of the two teams directly ahead of them to grab a playoff berth. Philadelphia is only in the wild card race since they are a Metropolitan Division team.
Philadelphia has six remaining games. Boston and Detroit have four games each. Thus Philadelphia is in a position that they can runaway with their playoff berth if they win their remaining games.
As the regular season is winding up and the playoffs are soon going to be underway it is important that teams peak right now. The Pittsburgh Penguins are hot now. They won their last four games and ten of their last 11 games. Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin are all scoring at as good rates as they have at any point this season. The only problem is that Evgeni Malkin is out with an injury.
Pittsburgh is a hot team right now. I wouldn't want to be the team that meets them in the first round of the playoffs. Right now it is looking like the New York Islanders will be that team. They cannot be too happy about how their first round playoff match-up is looking.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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