I don't think that Patrick Roy is a particularly good technical coach. Most other NHL coaches can strategize and match lines better than he can. That doesn't mean that he hasn't been a successful coach so far this season. He has created the positive atmosphere in Colorado where the team is exceeding expectations. The Colorado Avalanche have an outstanding and unexpected 12-1 record right now and his coaching is a big part of the reason for it. Thus he is my early season coach of the year. I am not sure that he has the ability to turn things around when the going gets tough in Colorado, but as long as things stay positive the Avs are looking very good. Patrick Roy deserves a lot of credit for creating that environment and as long as this success keeps happening, he could win the coach of the year.
Today, I am making my first pick for the Lady Byng Trophy. We are far enough into the season that a clear leader has emerged and he is Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. He has become the Sharks clear leader on the ice surpassing future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton. He is currently tied for sixth in scoring in the league with 16 points and has yet to record a penalty minute. The 2007 first round draft pick was a Calder Trophy nominee in 2011. He is doing a good job of fulfilling that potential and has made himself a very serious contender to earn a spot on the Canadian Olympic Team in Sochi. He only picked up four penalty minutes last year, but failed to earn a Lady Byng nomination. It looks like he is on his way to a high scoring year, with limited penalty minutes. If he does that, he is a strong Lady Byng candidate.
The Buffalo Sabres are in last place in the NHL with only two wins in 14 games played. Their most established forward in Thomas Vanek and their top goalie in Ryan Miller are both unrestricted free agents and quite likely to leave town at season's end. This creates an incentive for the Sabres to give up on the season. It seems that is what they are doing.
Vanek has been traded to the New York Islanders. By trading him now and not closer to the trade deadline, they are hoping to get a better return when they make their trades now than they would have got as rentals. Vanek was traded for Matt Moulson, a 2014 first round draft pick and a 2015 second round draft pick. Obviously the draft picks will have no value this season. Moulson is not as good a player as Vanek. For the remainder of this season, Buffalo has downgraded their offence.
It is quite possible things will get worse. I expect to see a Ryan Miller trade for futures before too long. When that happens the Buffalo season is effectively over. All that will be left is the race for a good lottery pick. We are barely a month into the season and Buffalo has essentially no chance at making the playoffs. They have essentially no chance at even making a good run at the playoffs.
Things are bad in Buffalo and they will likely get worse before they get better. This team is bad now and it will be worse by season's end.
Sidney Crosby may lead the NHL in points so far this year, but the points per game leader is far more surprising. Alexander Steen of the St Louis Blues has 15 points in 9 games played for a 1.67 points per game. Crosby is slightly behind him with 18 points in 11 games (for 1.64 points per game). Who would have picked Steen to be among the leaders in the league? He is 29 and in his ninth NHL season. His career best is 51 points and it happened back in 2010/11.
Steen is probably a short term scoring leader. Nothing in his background suggests he is capable of finishing a season among the top scorers in the league. It is interesting to see how long a trend like his point scoring will maintain itself. I expect that he will, barring injury, have his best offensive season of his career. Given his fast start, he merely has to add about a point every two games for the rest of the season to match his career best. It will be interesting to watch how long it takes him to fall back from the leaders. That will likely be a sign that we have started to play a meaningful number of games this season.
It is clear so far this season that the Edmonton Oilers have not had good goaltending. Devan Dubnyk, their supposed starter, is posting a 4.02 GAA and an .878 saves percentage and his backup Jason LaBarbera is posting an even worse .871 saves percentage with a 3.22 GAA. This gives them the worst goaltending duo in the league so far this year.
This is a big part of the reason that Edmonton is in last place in the West Conference. They may have a solid group of young players including Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov, but if they cannot get NHL quality goaltending they will not succeed as a team. If this group of young stars suffers injuries as they have so far, the Oilers could be in the running for another first overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Dubnyk is a supposed NHL starter but he has never really shown he is good enough to handle that role. Last year he was a borderline success in that role but there is little in his past to suggest that he can do better. LaBarbera has been a solid NHL backup in the past, but he is off to a slow start. He has played in slightly over four games and that isn't enough to gage his true talent level. LaBarbera may prove to be a better goalie than Dubnyk by season's end.
Edmonton has had awful goaltending so far. Even if it gets better, it will still be a weakness for the team. It is the main reason that the Oilers are not going to be a top team, even if their young players succeed. They need a better goalie.
The NHL season is underway and so is the AHL season. Off to an early lead in their scoring race is Travis Morin of the Texas Stars (Dallas farm club). He has 15 points in his six games played. This gives him a three point lead over his nearest competitor.
Morin is a 29 year old career minor leaguer. He has three NHL games played (with no points scored) in 2010/11. This is his 7th partial season in the league. He is a thin 6'2" 175 lbs and does not play a strong physical or defensive game but he has some scoring talent. His best AHL season to date is a 66 point year so he is on a career best pace. Thus it is likely that he will not lead the league all season long. A more proven AHL scorer will likely pass him. It is rare that a 29 year old takes a big step offensively as Morin will have if he continues scoring at this pace. Nevertheless he is a solid candidate to make the Dallas Stars roster by season's end.
I like to try to figure out who the worst player who continues to regularly play in the NHL each season. It is interesting to see what kind of players continue to get a chance to play despite inept results. Usually there is a somewhat established player who struggles out of the gate early in the season who holds this dishonor. It is rare that such a player doesn't have the ability to get n track eventually. This leaves behind goons and hard working but untalented fourth line players as the worst regular player in the league. A player who is hardworking is hard to scratch from a line-up even if he is untalented and unsuccessful because he outworks many of the players on his team and deserves some reward for that.
So far this season, I think the worst regular has been Alex Goligoski of the Dallas Stars. Goligoski is a good player who is considered a candidate to play on the US Olympic Team but his poor start is making that unlikely. He is the second highest paid defenceman on the team and is expected to play a big role on the Stars but so far he has failed. In eight games played he has no points and is tied for a league worst -10 +/-. His Corsi shows that when he is on the ice this season the other team controls the puck. Goligoski is off to an awful start. Despite this the Dallas Stars have been forced to play him. He is one of their most talented defencemen and should be able to recover and play a big role before the season ends. He has played over 19 minutes a game. This is down from over 22 minutes that he played in the season opener. It is a tough situation for Dallas when a key player is struggling like this. At this point, all they can do is hope that things will turn around soon. Until then, Alex Goligoski has been the worst player in the league so far this season.
I like to pick the NHL award leaders as soon as there is a front-runner each season. It is valuable to see when the eventual award winner first emerges as the front-runner. It is normal that many of the early leaders will fade into the season, but some may not. I have been a bit busy in the early few weeks of the season and have not posted the leaders that have emerged for the various awards, so here is one post with my picks.
Calder Trophy: Tomas Hertl San Jose Sharks - Hertl is a 2012 first round draft pick who is among the early season top scorers. A big part of that was his four goal game against the New York Rangers. He hasn't had a multiple point game since, which makes it possible that game was an anomaly, but he remains one of the top scorers this season and as such is the top rookie.
Norris Trophy: PK Subban Montreal Canadiens - The reigning Norris Trophy leader is off to a good start. He is the top scoring defenceman so far this year. His defensive responsibility and success is growing over the last two years. If he keeps this up, he looks like a Hall of Famer in the making
I like to write career retrospectives when players that I think will make the Hockey Hall of Fame retire. In today`s case, Chris Pronger isn`t actually officially retired but he is almost certain to never play another game in his career. His general manager Paul Holmgren is on record saying that Pronger is very unlikely to ever play again. Today I am deciding to treat him as retired.
Pronger is on the longterm injured reserve and is not trying to make a comeback to play again. Pronger is signed until 2017 and his contract counts toward his team`s salary cap regardless of if he plays again, unless he stays on the LTIR. Pronger hasn`t played a game since 2011. If he doesn`t play again, he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015. He will likely not retire officially until 2017 when his contract ends. Thus he could make the Hall of Fame, while still an active player on paper.
The NHL salary cap dropped this season to $64.3 million. This number was negotiated in the last CBA negotiations and has no link to NHL revenues. Many teams would happily exceed this number and nine have so far this year. They are the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a broad cross-section of NHL teams that includes three who missed the playoffs last season. All of these teams are using the long-term injury exemptions to exceed the salary cap.
The Boston Bruins have Marc Savard and Carl Soderberg on the long-term injured list. Savard has been there since 2011. He is not expected to ever play another game but the Bruins intend to keep him on their roster and on the injured list until his contract expires in 2017. This gets the Bruins out of his salary cap hit in the long-term contract he signed. Savard is no longer making an attempt to return to the NHL. He is effectively retired but the Bruins will keep him on their roster for years into the future.
Carolina is exceeding the salary cap due to Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen on the long-term injured list. They used their increased cap space to sign Radek Dvorak and recall Ryan Murphy.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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