The Edmonton Oilers are in a familiar place. They are in last place in the NHL. They have a 6-20 record this season with five regulation tie points. This gives them 17 points. Even if they win in today's game against San Jose, they would remain in last place. This Oilers team finished last in their conference last season. They escaped last place by finishing in 28th place. In the lockout shortened 2012/13 season they finished in a lofty 24th place overall. That was preceded by a 29th place finish. Before that, they finished in last place (30th overall) in two consecutive years. In fact since 2004, the Oilers have only made playoffs once. Granted they made the finals that year, but it is not enough success for a decade of hockey. In fact the 2006 playoff run is the only time the Oilers have won a playoff series this millennium.
Obviously there are deep problems in Edmonton. The problem is they do not know how to turn things around. A full rebuild with several first overall draft picks (and other early draft selections) has not worked. That is often a suggested solution when a team struggles. Clearly we have evidence that it doesn't always work. Anyone who suggests that their team tank for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel need only look at the perils of the Oilers to see that tanking isn't a clear solution. A decade of tanking can lead to a future full of another rebuild and more tanking.
One of the surprises so far this season is that Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars leads the NHL in goals. He has 19 goals. His closest challengers are three back with 16 goals. Seguin has a great pedigree having been selected second overall in the 2010 Entry Draft. His offensive numbers have been increasing every year in his career.
Seguin was drafted by the Boston Bruins and traded to Dallas in a seven player deal where Loui Eriksson was the main player obtained in return. This was a poor deal for Boston. Boston would strongly like to find a player like Seguin today. No current Bruin has more than six goals so far this year.
Whenever a player that I think is a future Hall of Famer retires, I like to write his career retrospective. Today, Daniel Alfredsson has announced his retirement. Here is the post that I wrote almost three years ago when I first thought he made it to the Hall of fame level.
Daniel Alfredsson was born in Goteborg, Sweden on December 11th, 1972. He was first noticed by NHL scouts in the 1990/91 season when he played with IF Molndal in the Swedish second division. He joined the team late in the year and played three regular season games. In the playoffs he added eight more points in eight games. He followed things up with a full season the next year. In 1992, he moved up to the Swedish Elite League and played with Vastra Frolunda. After two seasons there, at age 22 he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators with their fifth round selection 133rd overall. This was his fourth year of draft eligibility. Alfredsson was a late bloomer who was not seriously considered to be drafted at age 18.
Fan balloting for All Star Games has always lead to questionable choices. Fans stuff the ballot box for hometown players who often do not deserve an All Star berth. This year is no different. The top vote getter so far is Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres. He is a forward with 14 points so far this season. That places him 121st in scoring in the NHL. That is hardly All Star calibre numbers. It may place him second in scoring on the Buffalo Sabres, but they are a weak team.
Girgensons is getting votes because he is from Latvia and his country decided to stuff the ballot box in his name. So far it is working. Typically fan voting increases as the voting process carries on. More people cast votes in the later days of the process. It will be interesting to see if Latvia can keep up when that occurs or if they will have such a big head start that they cannot be caught.
Right now it looks like Girgensons is going to be voted into the All Star Game. He certainly doesn't deserve to be a starter based on his hockey ability, but given the weakness of the Buffalo Sabres, he will probably fulfill the requirements that Sabres send a player to the game.
It was less than a week ago when I last looked at the AHL scoring race. Chris Wideman of the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa affiliate) had taken the lead. His lead was short-lived. After the weekend's games, he has been passed by Teemu Pulkkinen of the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit affiliate). Pulkkinen has 23 points and Wideman is in a three-way tie one point behind with 22.
Pulkkinen is an NHL prospect. He is 22 years old and is in his second full season in North America. Last year he put up a solid 59 points in 71 games. He is showing improvement in his second AHL season. He played three NHL games last season without scoring any points. Pulkkinen grew up in Finland and established himself as a successful player in the Finnish Elite League before coming to North America.
Pulkkinen will likely not win the AHL scoring title. If he has the talent to maintain his lead in the scoring race, he will be in the NHL by season's end. The top scorer in the AHL will likely be an older player who is no longer considered an NHL prospect and thus is less likely to get an NHL callup.
At the end of October, I picked Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings as the early Vezina Trophy leader. While he is having a good season, he has been passed by Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Rinne is posting a .933 saves percentage and a 1.82 GAA. He is the league leader among number one goalies in both statistics. Rinne is a big part of the reason that Nashville is in a tie for first place in the league.
Rinne missed most of last season with a hip injury. His comeback has clearly been successful. If he can keep up his level of play this will be a career best season. Rinne is having a Vezina calibre season so far.
The only trophy that interests me where i have yet to pick a leader is the Selke Trophy. There are two strong candidates and picking the leader between them is difficult. Defending champion Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are the two strong candidates. Both play a strong defensive game. The most meaningful difference between them has been their usage. Toews has strong offensive ability and often is given offensive zone starts. This may maximize his offence, but it limits his chances to show his defensive game. Bergeron succeeds despite playing many more defensive zone starts and more frequently against top opposition. They both play strong defensive games and manage to control the puck even in defensive circumstances.
Bergeron is a top level defensive forward. He is on the rare Bob Gainey track, where a defensive forward can make the Hall of Fame. He has two Selke Trophies in his career to date. Boston does not have any top offensive stars but Bergeron is as good an offensive player as they have. He has 16 points, which is good for second on the team. He does this on top of the best defensive play of any forward in the NHL.
In early November, i first looked at the AHL scoring race. At that time, Kris Newbury of the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate) led the league. His closest challenge came from Travis Morin of the Texas Stars (Dallas affiliate). A few other players remained contenders for the scoring lead including Chris Wideman of the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa affiliate). Wideman has since taken the scoring lead. He has 22 points in 18 games. This places him a point ahead of Newbury and Morin. It remains a close race between these three.
Wideman is young enough to be considered an NHL prospect. He is 24 years old. The most impressive thing about him is he plays defence. A defenceman leading any league in scoring is rare. Wideman spent four years playing hocking in the NCAA with Miami University of Ohio. There he was drafted by Ottawa. After graduating, he spent most of his time in the AHL. His offensive numbers have improved in every year he has spent there. Last season he managed 51 points in 73 games played. This season he is scoring at well above that rate. It may be an unsustainable improvement, but it clearly makes Wideman a player that Ottawa should be interested in calling up this season. I think Wideman will have a hard time holding the scoring lead all season in part because he is a defenceman who is making a big improvement, but more significantly because he will likely be an NHL callup. A player like Chris Wideman looks too good to remain in the AHL all season. He is currently leading the AHL in points.
A week and a half ago, I picked Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers as the Lady Byng Trophy leader as the player who best combines gentlemanly conduct and playing ability. He has doubled his penalty minute total since I made that pick, which means his gentlemanly conduct credentials have dropped. My new pick is Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. Kane has 21 points, which currently places him in 17th in the league in scoring. He has no penalty minutes at all which gives him strong credentials for sportsmanlike play.
Kane has come close to winning the Lady Byng Trophy in the past. In 2013, he was the runner up to the award - which Martin St Louis won. Statistically he probably should have won it. The main reason Kane did not win the award is a dispute over a taxi fare in 2009, which lead to an indictment on criminal charges. He wound up with a conditional discharge. While this is embarrassing and not exactly gentlemanly conduct, it did not fall within the realm of the award. It did not occur on the ice or within the season the award was for.
The first place team in the NHL right now is the Montreal Canadiens. They have a sufficient lead that they will still be in first regardless of how today's games come out. They have a 15-6 record with one regulation tie point for 31 points overall. This is a two point lead over second place Anaheim.
This result is surprising given the fact that Montreal has a +7 team +/- rating. That is currently tenth best in the league. Usually goals for and against correlate well with a team's win loss record. They do not in Montreal's case. Essentially Montreal has won their close games and been blown out in their losses. A truly top team should win their blow outs and if they lose, it only occurs in a close game. This suggests that Montreal is lucky to be in first overall and it is only a matter of time before they get caught.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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