One of the least understandable hockey decisions this season has been the Edmonton Oilers handling of Sheldon Souray. Souray is an NHL level defenceman who pissed off the Oiler organization. He requested a trade in the off season and the Oilers were unable to come up with a deal that they wanted. They placed him on waivers at the beginning of the season in hopes that somebody would claim him. Nobody was willing to take on his contract with two years at a $5.4 million salary cap hit remaining. Edmonton then decided to loan him to the Washington Capitals AHL affiliate in Hershey instead of let him potentially spread his attitude to the players in the Oilers farm system.
At some point it is expected that the Oilers will put him on re-entry waivers, but more than half of the season has gone by and they haven’t so far. The Oilers cannot expect to get anything back for Souray as long as he is in the minors. Whichever team picks him up would have to place him on re-entry waivers and could potentially lose him and have to pay half his salary.
Concussions are the most serious injury issue in the NHL today. Fifteen players are currently listed on the TSN injury list with concussions. Paul Kariya is sitting out the season due to post-concussion syndrome and not listed on the injured list. Sidney Crosby was well on his way to winning the scoring title this season until a concussion sidelined him in early January. Peter Mueller, Bryce Salvador, Ian Laperriere and Kurt Sauer have not played a single game this season due to concussion issues.
All of this has occurred while the NHL instituted rule 48 which banned some hits to the head. This was a half-hearted attempt to solve the problem, but what is the problem, why are concussions an increasing problem in the NHL?
This is all star weekend in the KHL. The game comes to us from St Petersburg, Russia. The all star game is West Conference against East Conference. The West Conference team is known as Team Yashin (named after captain Alexei Yashin of the hometown St Petersburg SKA). The East Conference team is known as Team Jagr (named after captain Jaromir Jagr of Omsk Avangard).
Here are the rosters for the game:
In early December I began to pick Sidney Crosby as the current season MVP. Crosby was the top scorer in the league. He held that position until a concussion knocked him out of the line-up almost a month ago. Since then Crosby has been passed in the scoring race by Steve Stamkos and Daniel Sedin. While I would still argue that Crosby has been the top forward in the league so far this season, he is no longer the MVP.
The current MVP is Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Thomas leads the NHL in saves percentage (.945), goals against average (1.82), wins (25) and shutouts (7). He is tied for the league lead in the final two categories. Thomas is clearly having a very good season but I have been hesitant to call him the MVP for a couple reasons.
Pending NHL approval, the Buffalo Sabres have been sold. Terry Pegula, a billionaire who made his fortune in natural gas has agreed to buy the team for $189 million. This is $175 million in cash and $14 million in debt assumed. Outgoing owner Tom Gosliano bought the team out of bankruptcy in 2003 for about $90 million. That was $60 million in cash and about $30 million in debt assumed.
This transaction shows a lot about the NHL’s finances. Buffalo is a smaller market that does not spend up to the salary cap. It is a market that has lost more high profile free agents than they have signed in the last few years. It is not the most profitable market, but run well Sabres ownership can make a profit most years (if not all of them). This profit is nothing compared to the profit that comes from the sale of the team.
One of the best predictors of how good a team will be in their near future is their goals for and against. It is a better prediction than won-loss records. In fact every team in the NHL right now that has scored more goals than they have allowed would make the playoffs if the season ended now except for the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings currently have 56 points, which is two back of the playoffs. This places them in eleventh place in the West Conference. They are barely out of the playoffs right now, but in a multi-team playoff race.
Los Angeles has 18 more goals than they have allowed. That is the fourth best team +/- in the West Conference. So why is Los Angeles under-performing their team +/-?
The AHL All Star Game is underway today (see rosters here. It is a good time to look at the AHL scoring race. Corey Locke of the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa affiliate) is the top scorer. He has 60 points. Locke had been called up to the NHL but he has been back in the AHL for almost two weeks. He is a streaky player who has been cold for the past week or so. This has allowed Alexandre Giroux of the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton affiliate) to get into the scoring race. Giroux has 58 points. He also has more games played because he has not been called up to the NHL yet this season. There is a good bet that Giroux will not get called up because a 29 year old career AHLer will not likely fit in the plans of a rebuilding NHL team. Locke is 26 and is not really considered a prospect either but is more likely to have an NHL future. There is a bigger risk of Ottawa calling up Locke than Edmonton calling up Giroux. Whether or not either gets called up, the AHL scoring leader this year is likely one of the two.
If the All Star Game must be played each year, I like the idea that each team is represented. The game is supposed to be a showcase and if a given team does not have any representatives, it dampens enthusiasm in that market. As a result, I am not too fond of the idea that some teams are represented only by rookies during the skills competition and by nobody in the All Star Game. It does open up a few more roster spots for deserving All Stars on teams that already have one representative, but at the expense of shutting out an entire market.
I accept that some markets might be shut out of representation if their chosen representative is unwilling or unable to attend. This happened to the Calgary Flames, when Jarome Iginla withdrew. However, the team that should be least happy with their representation is the Florida Panthers.
There are twelve rookies selected to participate in the All Star Skills Competition which has just completed. There is one glaring omission among the rookie selections. The best rookie so far this season is absent. I am talking about John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, who is my current pick for the rookie of the year.
It appears he was omitted because he is not among the top scoring rookies. With 21 points, Carlson is tied for 11th among rookie scorers with Michael Grabner (who is the lone New York Islander representative). Of course Carlson is a defenceman and Grabner is a forward, so it is expected that Carlson will have a smaller point total.
I picked my all stars. I was working under the assumption that each team had to be represented and not by a rookie who isn’t playing in the main game. In the past, I have updated my All Stars at the last minute to replace those who would not be available for the game. I will do that now and I will keep the assumption that each team must be represented. That means if a team’s only player would not be coming to the All Star Game, then he must be replaced with a player from his team. If a player who is not the only player on his team is not there, he can be replaced by a player on any team.
Seven players are in need of replacement: Tobias Enstrom, Ales Hemsky, Brandon Dubinsky, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who are injured and Jarome Iginla, who is out for the historically dubious reason of visiting his sick grandmother and Henrik Zetterberg who requested his omission from the team and thus was never added in the actual NHL game.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???