Yesterday I posted my my picks for the Canadian Olympic hockey team. Today, I will give my picks for the American team. This team will be announced during the winter classic game in Boston on January 1st.
This is not my prediction for who will be selected to the team. It is the selections I would make if I was given the chance to pick the team. I expect that at least a handful of these players will not be selected to the actual team.
With Olympic Teams starting to be named (and Canada scheduled for December 30th) here are the selections I would make for the Canadian Olympic Team. This is not a prediction of who will be selected. I know a few of my picks are not likely. I expect the actual Canadian team to have about 3/4 of these players and to have passed over some of the young players in favor of more experienced but slightly less talented veterans - and likely in hindsight this will result in questionable picks like the 2006 omission of Sidney Crosby. I expect it does not make a significant difference to the success or failure of the team.
I think the biggest criticisms of this team will be the lack of a dedicated shutdown forward. This is something I don’t think is necessary given the talented defensive forwards already selected (many with Selke nominations in their past). Picking a Patrick Sharp or a Mike Fisher is a mistake given the talent Canada has available. It results in a better player being omitted and doesn’t add much to shutdown situations that cannot be done with players already being selected.
With Martin Brodeur breaking the career record for shutouts last night with his 104th of his career, he is now the holder of the significant career records for goaltenders. I gave a top 10 list of goaltenders all time to place Brodeur in his appropriate place in history and today will rerun that list.
10. Ken Dryden Dryden was a top goaltender for a relatively short career. He was a five time goals saved leader with the Montreal Canadiens - although this was a team with such a good defence (and thus allowing such low shot quality - which is not taken into account by this method) that Denis Herron and Richard Sevigny could lead the league in goals saved after Dryden left. The controversey with Dryden, much like Brodeur, is that he played on a top team. How good would he have been on a weaker team? Dryden’s Habs were far more dominant than the Devils under Brodeur and due to his short career; he has less top level years than Brodeur.
One recurring trade rumor so far this season is that the New York Islanders will trade Martin Biron as soon as they have Rick DiPietro healthy. Along with Dwayne Roloson, the Islanders would have an extra goalie. The problem with that theory is that Martin Biron has not been playing well so far this season. In sixteen games played, Biron has a 2-12 record (with two regulation ties). No other goalie with a double digit number of games played has less than four wins. Biron has a .897 saves percentage and a 3.30 GAA. There are few if any teams that would consider it an upgrade in goaltending to add Biron to the fold.
This has been Martin Biron’s worst NHL season to date and it comes when he is on the trading block. Should no team want Biron, he would probably find himself relegated to the minors. It is unlikely that the Islanders would carry three goaltenders and he is the clear odd man out. Biron is 32 and will be 33 before next season. There isn’t much market for a goalie who has begun aging who has just played himself out of the NHL. Should the Islanders be unable to move him, which would be hard given his level of play so far this year, his NHL career might soon be over.
In November I picked Chris Pronger as the best defenceman so far this year. Since then his Philadelphia Flyers team have run into problems (they are 14th in the East Conference). The Flyers have struggled lately and Pronger has not avoided those struggles.
My current pick as top defenceman in the NHL so far is Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. Green is clearly the best offensive defenceman in hockey. He leads the NHL’s defencemen with 33 points. His puckmoving ability is instrumental to the Capitals offence. The criticism has been his defence, which is clearly improving. Green is playing in more and more tough defensive situations with the Capitals. Green’s defence was good enough to make him a Norris frontrunner last year and it is better now.
Yesterday I wrote a post complaining about the NHL’s standings system that gets distorted by offering a point for losing games - if you lose in overtime or a shootout. This system appears designed by the NHL to create a false parity in the standings. It is set up to prevent good teams from getting too far ahead in the standings so that weaker teams appear to be in the race for as long as possible. Some people support this idea such as Paul in Miami Beach who writes IMO, it makes the playoff race MORE exciting because it keeps things closer in the standings. more teams have a chance to make the playoffs later in the season - which was the goal, wasn’t it? but it isn’t good for the quality of hockey.
The NHL standings are heavily distorted by a ridiculous point system. Games are worth two points, unless they go to overtime. Then they are worth three points. A team that manages a lot of regulation ties benefits in this system. They have more points available to them (as more of their games are three pointers) and are better able to have a higher position in the standings.
An extreme example of this can be found in the West Conference standings right now. The Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks both have played 34 games played. Dallas has won 14 games and lost 20. Vancouver has won 19 games and lost 15. Dallas is ahead of Vancouver in the standings. How can this be true? Dallas has a league-leading 11 games that they have lost after regulation time has ended. Vancouver is last in the league in that department. They have not lost any games that went beyond regulation time. For that Vancouver is effectively being punished. Vancouver is 11th when ranked by wins per game played (a much more logical way to rank teams). Vancouver is 17th in league standings. Dallas is 23rd when ranked by wins per games played and 14th in league standings.
Near the beginning of December, I picked Andrew Peters of the New Jersey Devils as the worst regular in the NHL. At that point, Peters had played in the last eight straight games for the Devils - hence qualifying him as a regular. He has not played an NHL game since. Thus Andrew Peters cannot be the worst regular in the NHL because he is not a regular in the NHL.
My current choice as the worst regular is Kyle Chipchura of the Anaheim Ducks. Chipchura is having a horrid season statistically. He has 25 games played and no points scored. He has a -11 +/- rating. He has been traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Anaheim Ducks for a fourth round pick.
I don’t think anyone would have predicted that the Los Angeles Kings would be first in the West Conference in mid-December, but they are. The Kings have a 22-14 record (with three overtime loss points) to give them 47 points. Skeptics are quick to note that Los Angeles leads the NHL in games played and some western teams (San Jose and Chicago) have better winning percentages in fewer games played. Whether or not you think Los Angeles can maintain top spot in the West, it is clear that they are a much better team than predicted.
They have a good young core of players that is emerging to stardom together. At forward, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Jarret Stoll have significant talent and are leading the team offensively. Ryan Smyth was a significant contributor as well, before he fell to injury (he may be back soon). Justin Williams and Wayne Simmonds have also been significant contributors. This is a deep group of offensive players and many have the potential that they will likely keep improving.
When I last wrote about the AHL standings the Rochester Americans (Florida Panthers affiliate) had taken a bit of a lead. They have been caught by a couple teams. The Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings affiliate) and the Texas Stars (Dallas Stars affiliate) have passed them in the standings. Manchester has the league lead with 43 points in 31 games. Texas is next with 42 in 30 games. Rochester has 39 points in 27 games and maintains the top winning percentage, but has fewer games played at this point.
None of these teams have anyone among the top scorers in the league. Rochester’s top scorers are Jamie Johnson and Chris Taylor who have 22 points in their 27 games. They have two players with higher per game scoring rates in Jeff Taffe (17 points in 18 games) and Michal Repik (18 points in 22 games) who have been called up by the Florida Panthers. Manchester’s top scorer with their team is Gabe Gauthier with 19 points in 31 games. Called up are Corey Elkins (19 points in 30 games), Andrei Loktionov (17 points in 20 games) and Oscar Moller (18 points in 25 games). Texas does not have any high scoring call ups missing, but has been led by Greg Rallo and Aaron Gagnon who have 18 points apiece. All of these teams have deep offences that are among the top scoring teams in the AHL, but none are lead by top scorers. Rochester and Manchester have been weakened by NHL call ups.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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