For the first time this season, there is a single clear leader in the AHL scoring race. When I last took a look at it before Christmas, David Desharnais of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens affiliate) was in the lead. He has been called up to the NHL. He has three NHL games so far with one assist scored. It isn’t clear that he won’t be back in the AHL soon, but in his absence Corey Locke of the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa affiliate) has taken over the lead in the race.
Locke has 51 points. This gives him a six point lead over Desharnais and a nine point lead over Alexandre Giroux of the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton affiliate). Giroux is the second highest scorer in the league behind Locke, who is not currently in the NHL.
The NHL is going to announce the 42 players who will play in the 2011 All Star Game, which will be played in the last weekend in January and hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, in the upcoming week. Thus I thought I would make my picks first. There are six players voted to the game by the fans: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. I gave myself the constraints that I think the NHL will use, that each team must be represented by at least one player and that there is no point adding a player who is injured and likely will not be healthy in time for the game.
Here are my picks:
I try to track the worst player who is regularly playing in the NHL. I think it is instructive to see what kind of player continues to get ice time in the NHL despite failing to play well. Just before Christmas, I picked Rod Pelley of the New Jersey Devils for this dishonor.
It is hard to remain the worst regular in the NHL. If you play well, you won’t remain the worst regular in the league. If you play too poorly, you usually find yourself unable to remain an NHL regular. In Pelley’s case, he has played too well. He has scored two of his three points this season in the past two weeks. Thus he is no longer the worst regular in the league. My new choice is Brett Lebda of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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