In December, I picked Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils as the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. Zajac remains a top Selke candidate, but with Rob Niedermayer and Jay Pandolfo returned from injury, Zajac’s defensive role on the Devils is declining. Hence, I am picking a new Selke leader. My selection is Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators.
Fisher is having a very good season and received some consideration for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team. He currently leads the Sens in points with 32. He is doing this while playing one of the toughest defensive roles in the league for the Sens. Fisher is an outstanding defensive centre who regularly shuts down the opposition and he is becoming an offensive threat in that situation. He has been the best forward in the league who is primarily used in a defensive role so far this season.
When I last looked at the AHL standings in mid-December , it looked like a three team race with the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings affiliate), Rochester Americans (Florida Panthers affiliate) and Texas Stars (Dallas Stars affiliate) fighting for first place and a few other teams including the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate) not too far behind. Things have changed. Hershey has won every game they have played since that point. They are on an eleven game winning streak. They have a record of 27-10 (with two regulation tie points) that puts them in first place in the AHL. Hershey is three points ahead of the second place Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens affiliate). All three of the previous leaders have fallen on hard times in the past month. None of Rochester, Manchester or Texas has more wins than losses in their last ten games.
Hershey’s offence is led by two players who have had NHL callups this season. Keith Aucoin has 43 points in 30 games. This puts him second in the AHL scoring race (behind Corey Locke of Hartford - NY Rangers affiliate) but with eight fewer games played than Locke - so he is a good bet to take over the AHL scoring lead if he stays healthy and out of the NHL. Alexandre Giroux is fourth in the AHL scoring race with 38 points in 27 games. Andrew Gordon is a third Bear in the top scorers. He is sixth with 36 points in 36 games. Having three of the top six scorers in the league, Hershey is an offensive powerhouse. Hershey has more than twenty goals more than any other team in the league (Hamilton is second).
In December, I picked John Tavares of the New York Islanders as the Calder Trophy leader. Although he remains the top scoring rookie this season (he has a one point lead over Niclas Bergfors and Matt Duchene), he has clearly slowed down a bit. In fact, Tavares has only one point (a goal vs. Toronto on December 23rd) since I made my selection. This scoring slump has allowed him to be caught in the rookie of the year race. He has been caught by Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres. Myers leads the Sabres in playing time. He has 23 points from defence in 42 games and sports a +9 +/- rating. This is very impressive play from the towering 6’8” 19 year old rookie. He is the current Calder Trophy leader.
The World Junior Hockey Championships concluded yesterday in Saskatchewan. Here are the preliminary round results. This post discusses the results from the medal round.
Switzerland 3 Russia 2 OT This result is a tremendous upset. Most people did not expect Switzerland to qualify for the medal round, while Russia was a probable medal winner. Michael Loichat (undrafted) of Switzerland opened the scoring in the second period. Russia answered with two late second period goals from Vladimir Tarasenko (undrafted) and Kirill Petrov (NY Islanders prospect). In the final minute of regulation play, Nino Niederreiter (2010 draft eligible) tied the game to go to overtime. Niederreiter scored again in overtime to secure the win for Switzerland. Benjamin Conz (undrafted) had a tremendous game for Switzerland making 50 saves. Igor Bobkov (Anaheim prospect) made 28 saves for Russia.
Over the Christmas break, the AHL announced their All Star rosters. The game is played between Team Canada and Planet USA (a team consisting of players from all countries in the world except Canada). The game will be played on January 19th in Portland, Maine and is a great showcase of potential future NHL players. I think that the AHL made a marketing error by releasing team rosters when many people were celebrating Christmas and New Year’s.
At any rate, here are the AHL All Star rosters:
The St Louis Blues fired coach Andy Murray yesterday. Murray was a Coach of the Year nominee last year and the man I thought should have won the award. About half a season later, he is apparently not fit to coach in the NHL. What changed?
The St Louis Blues are not a particularly good team. They do not have any particularly potent scorers. Brad Boyes leads the team with 28 points. Erik Johnson has been their most successful defenceman so far this season. He made the US Olympic Team but would not likely be worthy of he All Star Game. Chris Mason and Ty Conklin have provided solid goaltending, but there is little talent in front of them.
Yesterday during the Winter Classic hockey game, the US Olympic Team was announced. Here were my selections. I expected that about 25% of my selections would not be selected to the actual team (at least until I saw James Mirtle’s picks who agreed with all but two of my picks), but the actual team was not as close a match. Sixteen of my selections made the American team and seven did not. I will explain why I made my selections in place of the players who were actually selected.
The preliminary round is complete in the 2010 World Junior Championships which are being held in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan. The teams are divided into two five team divisions. The top three teams in each division qualify for the the medal round.
1. Canada Canada had 35 goals scored and only allowed six in the preliminary round. Their only challenge came against USA, who they defeated in a shootout 5-4 (meaning they had a 30-2 goal differential in heir other three games). Canada’s deep offence was led by Jordan Eberle (Edmonton prospect) who had 10 points, Gabriel Bourque (Nashville prospect) with eight points and Taylor Hall (2010 Draft Eligible) and Brandon Kozun (Los Angeles prospect) with seven points each. The defence was led by Alex Pietrangelo (St Louis prospect) who had nine points and Ryan Ellis (Nashville prospect) with six. Canada’s top goalie was Jake Allen (St Louis prospect) who played in three games sporting a 1.30 GAA and a .925 saves percentage.
Yesterday the Canadian Olympic Team roster was announced. As expected, about 3/4 of the players on my selections made the team. The remaining players are largely depth players who will not make significant difference to the team. Nevertheless, I wanted to make the case for why I selected the player I did and not the player Team Canada selected.
The six players who made Team Canada that I did not select are Patrice Bergeron, Brenden Morrow, Eric Staal, Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook and Marc-Andre Fleury. In their places I had Brad Richards, Steve Stamkos, Martin St Louis, Mike Green, Robyn Regehr and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Yesterday I wrote about the Detroit Red wing offence. Specifically, I wrote about how they have had the biggest dropoff in scoring in the NHL from last year to this one. I attribute the dropoff to three interrelated factors: injury, player losses due to the salary cap and a natural aging decline of the team. The comments show a lot of interest and in some cases denial of these factors, so I thought a quantitative study would help.
I looked at the goals created by individual Red Wing players so far this season and compared them to totals from last year (but pro-rated over the portion of the season that has been played so far).
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???