Over the last couple of weeks the NHL has announced the finalists for the awards that interest me enough that I gave my selections in my if I had an award ballot post. I want to comment on the actual selections and how they differ from my selections and what if anything we can infer from the people that were selected.
Calder Trophy- Aaron Ekblad Florida Panthers, Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames, Mark Stone Ottawa Senators. Filip Forsberg is a clear snub. He finished one point behind Gaudreau and Stone and I think that one point made a big difference in voter's minds. I would argue that Forsberg had the toughest rookie season among forwards because he established himself as a star earlier in the season than Gaudreau or Stone. Thus opposing teams made more of an effort to shut him down and yet he finished with effectively the same point total. I would have omitted Gaudreau from the nominees because of defensive concerns. Nevertheless I expect Gaudreau is the most likely winner. He is exciting to watch and was part of a surprising Calgary team and it makes a good storyline to reward him with rookie of the year in honor of Calgary's successes.
I am looking at active hockey players and deciding when I think they have reached the point that they should make the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what they do in the rest of their careers. Today, I am arguing that Marian Hossa has reached that level.
Hossa's argument is made most strongly by his career numbers. He has 1056 career points. This is good for fourth all time among active players. That places him 66th all time among all NHL players. Very few players with that many points who are Hall of Fame eligible have not been inducted. Those that have not been inducted all played in the late 1980s and early 1990s which were the highest scoring era in recent memory. Today's players such as Hossa played in the "dead puck era" where scoring was far lower. Adjusting Hossa's points to a higher scoring era, his numbers would be significantly higher on the all time list. Hossa also lost a season and a half due to lockouts. If he played without labor interruptions his totals would again be much higher.
In the playoffs Hossa has clearly established himself as the second highest scoring active player this season with 134 career playoff points so far. His seven points so far in this year's playoffs have clearly moved him past the rest of the active field (except for Jaromir Jagr). Hossa has a very good scoring record in the regular season and in the playoffs.
One of my favorite questions is to ask when currently active players make it to the level where they are worthy of Hall of Fame induction regardless of what happens in the rest of their career. Today I will argue that Ilya Kovalchuk has made it to that level.
Kovalchuk was clearly on a Hall of Fame track when he left the NHL. He was a point per game player with 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games played. His career numbers are likely lower than they should be because Kovalchuk played in the dead puck era and missed time in his NHL career with two lockouts. He should have bigger offensive numbers to show for his career. Without lockouts he could have 500 regular season NHL goals. Nevertheless his NHL accomplishments are impressive. He had won a Richard Trophy, a Calder Trophy and made the first and second team all star. It was reasonable to project that if he stayed in the NHL he would have been a 600 or 700 goal scorer. The problem was he abruptly ended his NHL career to "retire" and then play in the KHL.
Lou Lamoreillo has been general manager of the New Jersey Devils since 1987. He is the longest serving GM in the NHL. As he ages inevitably he is going to want to slow down. Now that he is 72 that has happened. Lamoreillo has decided to hire a new general manager in Ray Shero. He will remain with the Devils as their president but his role will be reduced.
Shero is a proven NHL GM. He had a successful run in Pittsburgh from 2006 to 2014. He was fired somewhat unfairly when Pittsburgh failed in the 2014 playoffs. Things haven't changed much in 2015 under Shero's replacement Jim Rutherford. The firing was a mistake for the Penguins. It is surprising that it took Shero a season to find a new job.
The main question in my mind is how much of the reigns is Lou Lamoreillo willing to relinquish. Will Ray Shero really get to run the show or will he have to answer to Lou for big decisions? Both Lamoreillo and Shero are proven Stanley Cup winning successful GMs. If Shero takes over for Lamoreillo this is a good thing. If there will be friction between Lamoreillo and Shero there will be problems. Let's hope they can be professional if any disagreements occur.
The first round of the AHL playoffs just completed. In their first round teams play a best of five series as opposed to the best of seven series in the NHL. Here are first round results:
Manchester Monarchs defeat Portland Pirates three games to two. Manchester is the Los Angeles Kings farm affiliate and Portland belongs to the Arizona Coyotes. This was a back and forth series where both teams looked to be in control at different times. All games were won on home ice. Manchester had the top two players in first round scoring in Michael Mersch and Jordan Weal. Vincent LoVerde led their defence. Jean-Francois Berube played in goal for them but was a weakness. Brendan Shinnimin and Henrik Samuelsson led Portland in scoring. Brandon Gormley has been their top defenceman and Louis Domingue was their top goaltender.
In the first round I picked \Vladimir Tarasenko of the St Louis Blues as the early playoff MVP. While Tarasenko had a good first round, his St Louis Blues have been eliminated from the playoffs. Therefore I am picking a new playoff MVP. I see two strong candidates right now - Corey Perry of Anaheim and Duncan Keith of Chicago. Though Perry is scoring at a better than two point per game rate, I think Duncan Keith is the best playoff MVP pick at this point.
Keith is tied for second in points in the playoffs with nine points from defence- only Perry is ahead of him. Keith has played 31 minutes per game - which is twelve and a half more minutes per game than Perry. Keith is the Blackhawks MVP at this point. Given that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are playing well in Chicago that is a strong claim.
I think we can make a strong argument that Duncan Keith has been the best defenceman of the last five years. I think his success has fallen beneath many people's radar. He is showing his value in the playoffs so far. If that success continues and Chicago has a good run, maybe more people will recognize how good Duncan Keith is. Many people see him as one of the best handful of defencemen in hockey when he is more likely the best of that group.
The first round of the playoffs is now over so that makes it a good time to look back at my first round predictions and look ahead to the second round. My predictions were pretty successful in the first round. I went 6-2. My incorrect calls were Vancouver over Calgary and Pittsburgh over the New York Rangers. Another interesting pint is that I made the claim that the Tampa Bay vs. Detroit series might be the closest first round series and was told by several Red Wing fans that I was wrong and Tampa was a significantly better team than Detroit. I think the seven game series did a pretty good job of showing that prediction to be a good one.
Here are my second round predictions:
Anaheim Ducks defeat Calgary Flames. Calgary is the weakest team that won in the first round. They barely made the playoffs. They have been a team that has largely defied their poor puck possession numbers and succeeded. Their best player Mark Giordano is injured, although he may be back in the second round though he will not be 100% healthy. Anaheim is a much better team. With Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, Anaheim has the three best players in the series. Ducks should win.
The goaltender with the top saves percentage among those who have been the clear number one goalie in the playoffs so far is Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks. He is posting a 1.67 GAA and a .950 saves percentage. These are outstanding numbers. He is the latest in a string of unknown goalies who has a significant hot streak at the start of their careers before regressing to more average numbers. This season there has been Michael Hutchinson of the Winnipeg Jets and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators who have fit that pattern. Both are significant reasons why their teams made the playoffs.
Darling is a 26 year old who has only 14 games regular season experience. In fact he has only 28 games AHL experience. Most of his career has been played in lower level professional leagues and in the NCAA.
It is always a bad sign when the guy you just fired becomes the top candidate to be hired by an opponent. That is the situation the Boston Bruins find themselves in when they fired Peter Chiarelli. The Edmonton Oilers are the lucky recipient of the Bruin mistake. They just announced the hiring of Peter Chiarelli as their president of hockey operations and general manager. Chiarelli will have a chance to run the Edmonton Oilers.
I have argued many times that the best way to build a good hockey team is to hire a good hockey man and get out of his way and let him run the show. It looks like Edmonton has finally done that. The incompetents who have been running the Oilers will hopefully be phased out. Kevin Lowe is transitioning out of hockey operations. That will be good. The Oiler record with Lowe around has not been good. Craig MacTavish, the previous GM, is for now still with the franchise. That may change in the future. Todd Nelson finished last season as the Oiler interim coach. Likely he will be replaced with Chiarelli's coach.
The Oilers have been one of the worst franchises in hockey in the last few years. A new competent GM will provide a fresh start and a path to respectability. Add this to Connor McDavid who will be the Oiler's first overall draft choice and there may actually be a reason to be optimistic in Edmonton.
A big reason the Minnesota Wild made the playoffs is that Devan Dubnyk played extremely well after he was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes. He will likely be a Vezina Trophy nominee and will likely get some Hart Trophy consideration. The problem is he doesn't have much of a track record as a top NHL goalie. Last summer it looked like he had nearly played himself out of an NHL job.
In the playoffs, Minnesota has a chance to make a deep run if Dubnyk can play as well as he has in the regular season. The problem is he hasn't. Among goalies who have appeared in all of his team's playoff games he has the worst numbers in the league. He has a 3.06 playoff saves percentage and a .864 saves percentage. Those numbers are looking like the guy who almost played himself out of the league again. Granted it is a small sample size but it is a significant problem for the Wild. Last night was particularly troubling. He allowed six goals on 17 shots before being pulled in the second period.
Minnesota is in trouble without great goaltending from Dubnyk. They are not getting it. That is the problem that can happen when you are riding on the successes of a goaltender who is playing above his expected level. It is likely that he will revert to his mean. Unfortunately it appears that is happening in the playoffs.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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