Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

The Norris Trophy Race

When I wrote I now consider Zdeno Chara a Hall of Famer I assessed the Norris Trophy race this season and called Zdeno Chara a darkhorse candidate for a Norris Trophy nomination this season.  Given the Detroit Red Wings biases around here many people are upset that I am not pushing Nicklas Lidstrom as the frontrunner for this award.  In fact, I think Kris Letang should win the award if the season ended right now.

I argue that there is no really great defensive performance this season.  Duncan Keith is not playing as well as he did last year.  Mike Green is not playing as well as he did last year.  Drew Doughty is not playing as well as he did last year.  None of the three Norris nominees are playing at the level they did last year.

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I NOW Consider Zdeno Chara A Hall Of Famer

One interesting question I try to track is at which point an active player cements his case as a Hockey Hall of Famer.  At what point should he be inducted regardless of what happens in the rest of his career?  I think Zdeno Chara has reached that level.  This is not because of any single recent event, but rather looking at the totality of his career at this point. 

Chara has won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL in 2009.  He was also a first team All Star in 2004 as well as his 2009 Norris year.  In 2006 and 2008, he was a second team All Star.  He has been a strong performer for Slovakia in international play, having been on their last two Olympic teams.

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World Junior Hockey Championships - Medal Round

The World Junior Hockey Championships concluded tonight in Buffalo, New York.  This post will recap the medal round games.  The preliminary round is here and the playoffs are here.

In the medal round, USA and Sweden met in the bronze medal/ 4th place game.  Canada and Russia met in the gold/ silver medal game.

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World Junior Hockey Championships - Playoffs

The quarter and semi-finals have been played in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo and this post will give their results.  The preliminary round results are here

The quarterfinals pitted Canada against Switzerland and Finland against Russia, with the winners of those games taking on USA and Sweden in the semi-finals.

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Teams Below The Salary Floor

The NHL has a salary floor of $43.4 million, yet a simple look at capgeek shows that three teams project to be below that number.  They are the New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers and Colorado Avalanche The Islanders project to $40.3 million, the Thrashers $41.4 million and the Avs $42.6 million. 

This is possible because in any year that could be the final year of the CBA (such as this one) all bonuses are included in a team’s salary cap hit until it becomes clear they cannot be reached.  The Islanders (for example) have over $5 million in potential bonuses, most of which will not be hit.  Bonuses for all but impossible events, like Kyle Okposo winning the scoring title this year are in the bonus cushion.  When the season is complete, the New York Islanders and Atlanta Thrashers are highly unlikely to make the salary floor.  Most likely Colorado will, as enough of their bonuses should be met, but if things fall apart it is possible they too could fail to make the salary floor.

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Islanders Tanking The Rest Of The Season

The New York Islanders have not had a good season.  They have 11 wins in their 36 games so far and are second last in the NHL.  They will not qualify for the playoffs and will have one of the worst records in the league.  There is a reasonable chance that they could finish in last place; now that the last place New Jersey Devils have a new coach.  Given the NHL draft lottery, it isn’t a given that even with a last place finish, the Islanders pick first overall in the draft.  Nevertheless, the team has chosen to make moves that will make their franchise weaker, at least in the short term.

The Islanders have traded their top goaltender and their best defenceman this season and have not received a single NHL player in return.

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World Junior Hockey Championships - Preliminary Round

The World Junior Hockey Championships are underway in Buffalo, New York.  Ten teams have competed in the preliminary round.  They were grouped into two five team divisions.  Each division played a round robin tournament.  The winners of each division advance directly to the semi-finals, while the second and third place finishers must play in a quarterfinal game.  The fourth and fifth place finishers have no shot at winning the tournament, but play relegation games.

Here are the results:

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Hottest Team At Year’s End

It is the end of 2010.  It is still a long time before the 2011 Stanley Cup is awarded.  At this point a look at the league shows that the Vancouver Canucks are the hottest team in the league.  They have earned points in each of their last ten games.  Their last game was a strong 6-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, the team with the third highest point total in the NHL. 

There haven’t been any truly elite teams in the NHL for several years.  The last team I would pick that made that level is the 2007 Anaheim Ducks, a team that won the Stanley Cup and then had their momentum quashed when Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne went on sabbatical the next season.  I think it is a good bet that there won’t be any elite teams in the 2010/11 season either, but the most likely team to reach that level is probably the Vancouver Canucks.

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Kovalchuk`s Worst +/- Rating

The worst +/- rating in the NHL belongs to Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils.  He has a -26 rating.  This is not the result New Jersey hoped for after a summer where he was the most sought after free agent signing and his ordeal to get a contract accepted by the NHL was the summer`s biggest hockey story. 

This +/- rating is largely an indictment of the New Jersey Devils team.  New Jersey has the worst team +/- rating at -53.  The worst three and five of the worst six +/- ratings in the league are Devil players.  Playing significant minutes on the Devils is going to get any player a bad +/- rating.  Kovalchuk is third in ice time on the team.  The two players who are ahead of him in ice time (Andy Greene and Henrik Tallinder) are the second and third worst +/- ratings.

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Calgary Changes GMs

Yesterday it was announced that Darryl Sutter was being replaced by Jay Feaster as Calgary Flames general manager.  Darryl Sutter had been Calgary’s GM and before that coach.  He has been with the organization since the 2002/03 season.  During his tenure, Calgary went to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.  This is largely a coaching success for Sutter as he was in his first year as general manager and the team was largely built.  He did make one significant trade in acquiring goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff that helped to lead to that success.

Since that point, Sutter has given up the coaching role to be a full-time general manager.  As GM, he has not been so successful.  Sutter has been responsible for several forced trades, which have turned out poorly for the team in the last year or so.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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