The NHL regular season has just ended. As I have done for the last several years, it is time to make my picks for the NHL awards if i had a ballot to vote.
Calder Trophy - 1. John Carlson Washington Capitals 2. Jeff Skinner Carolina Hurricanes 3. Logan Couture San Jose Sharks Here is why I select Carlson. He is not likely the popular pick because he doesn’t have big offensive numbers. He has been the top shutdown defenceman on the first place team in the East Conference and that is more impressive than the offensive rookie’s accomplishments.
The Ottawa Senators season is over. They finish with 74 points in 26th place in the league. As a result they have fired their coaching staff including head coach Cory Clouston. Clouston has never impressed me as an NHL coach. He was an AHL guy who had looked over his in an NHL coaching role. He was never able to make anything more of the team any other coach could.
The problem is the team isn’t very good. The fault for that goes to management. Bryan Murray took over as Ottawa general manager in the summer of 2007. Ottawa was fresh off of a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. The Senators under Murray have been on a steady ride downward to their current 26th place finish. Naturally Murray has been rewarded for this result with a new three year contract and a chance to pick the new Senators coach.
Michael Leighton was a hero for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 playoffs. The Flyers resigned him to a two year contract with a $1.55 million salary cap hit. Leighton missed the first few weeks of the 2010/11 season recovering from back surgery. During that time rookie Sergei Bobrovsky came in and won one of the Flyers goaltending jobs. Brian Boucher was playing well enough to win the backup job. This made the newly resigned Leighton, who had only played one game in the NHL since his new contract, an extra goalie. He was sent to the minors.
Today, the Flyers have called up Leighton. He is subject to re-entry waivers. Any claiming team will only have to pay half of his contract. The other half will be billed to the Philadelphia Flyers and count against their salary cap. This is not a positive thing for the Flyers.
There has been one team that has set themselves apart in the AHL regular season. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh affiliate) have led the league from the beginning of the season. With four games left in the season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has 111 points. This gives them a 13 point lead over any other team in the league. This clearly makes them the Calder Cup favorites.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has the fewest goals against in the league and the fourth best goals scored. A lot of the credit for their goals against goes to Brad Thiessen who has a solid .923 saves percentage and a 1.91 goals against average. Those numbers are good, but they are not MVP worthy. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has a strong team defence.
This has not been a good season in Edmonton. Things are not getting better either. Edmonton has not won in their last 11 games. Through 77 games player, the Oilers have 57 points. This puts them in last place. They are seven points behind Colorado - who is second last. Last season the Edmonton Oilers finished with 62 points and finished in last place. In order to repeat their last place performance from last year, the Oilers must play .500 hockey (or what passes for .500 hockey when some teams get a point in their losses) for their remaining five games.
The Oilers are not as good this year as they were last year. They added several talented rookies this season. Taylor Hall has been out for nearly a month and remains the team’s top scorer this season. Jordan Eberle is only three points behind him. Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark have both made solid contributions this season as well. So why is Edmonton doing worse with those additions?
The Chicago Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions. They were forced to unload a significant amount of talent to stay below the salary cap over the summer, thus making it hard for them to defend their title. Nevertheless, Chicago still has most of their Stanley Cup winning core. They still have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brian Campbell and others. This is a very good team. Corey Crawford has emerged as their number one goaltender and has been arguably the best rookie goalie this season.
This Chicago team had a slow start, but is currently sitting in 8th place in the West Conference. Chicago is only three points out of the fourth seed in the west, but more than likely they will start the playoffs on the road.
I try to pick out the worst regular player in the NHL in any season. In early January I picked Brett Lebda of the Toronto Maple Leafs for this dishonor. He is hardly having a good season, but he no longer is the worst regular. He has improved his +/- to -14 and has four points while mostly playing defence. He has been surpassed by Cam Janssen of the St Louis Blues. Janssen has been the St Louis goon. He plays less than five minutes per game, but has dressed for 48 games. He plays against very weak opposition while doing this but has nevertheless managed to put up a -9 +/- rating, which is the third worst on his team, but looks really bad on a per minute basis. Among players with more than 40 games played, he has the third worst rate adjusted +/- rating. He plays against far weaker competition than the two players (Daniel Carcillo and Krys Barch) who rank below him.
If I asked you who has been the top scorer in March so far, would you guess it was Ryan Getzlaf? Getzlaf has 19 points in 12 games so far this month. Getzlaf has 68 points in 60 games so far this season. On a points per game basis, this 1.13 point per game scoring rate ties Getzlaf with teammate Corey Perry for sixth in the league. Ahead of him are Sidney Crosby, Martin St Louis, Steve Stamkos and the Sedin brothers. This will be the fourth season that Getzlaf scores at more than point per game rate. Because he missed time this season, he has flown under the radar a bit this season. I think Getzlaf could be a value pick in a pool next year. You will be able to pick him after the other players with the same points per game are already gone.
I think Dominik Hasek is the best goaltender in hockey history. He had the highest peak value with his back to back Hart Trophies. The debate is about the length of his peak. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur have more wins and more shutouts. Hasek has had a very long hockey peak. He was a top goalie in the Czech league before coming to the NHL and is still an all star in the KHL. Hasek’s days as the best goalie in the NHL ended around the time of the lockout. Who will go down as the best goalie in the post-Hasek era?
I will be appearing on Edmonton radio tomorrow (Saturday the 26th). I will be on the Team 1260 at 12 noon mountain time to discuss Oilers past, present and future with special attention paid to advanced stats. I’d like to talk to you about the AHL goals scoring race (and what Colin McDonald’s huge increase in goals means for his career), and about the Oilers in general on their show Nation Radio. If you are outside the Edmonton listening area there is a listen live link on their internet page.
I am somewhat of an outsider to the Edmonton Oilers (despite having been an Edmonton resident at one point in my life). So it should be interesting. I will try to post an audio file when one exists.
Updated to add the audio file
You can download the file here if the file won’t upload or you can’t use the media player
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???