The hottest team in the NHL right now is the New Jersey Devils. They have won their last eight games and are safely in first place in the Atlantic Division (they have a five point lead over the New York Rangers. This run is surprising because they have done it with Martin Brodeur, their superstar goalie injured. How have they done it?
They have had strong goaltending from Scott Clemmensen. He has done a surprisingly good job filling in for Brodeur. It will be interesting too see what becomes of him when Brodeur returns. Will he continue to play or will he become a seldom used backup?
For several years, Rod Brind’Amour was a very valuable NHL player. He was the forward with the most ice time (or very close to the most) in the entire league. Brind’Amour could score pretty well, but his true value was defensive and he won the Selke Trophy twice for his efforts. At age 38, his Selke Trophy days are gone and he has struggled at times this season. His -29 +/- rating is tied for the league worst with Brendan Witt. Brind’Amour has still scored 29 points (which ties him for third on his team) and he still plays a large role in Carolina. Among forwards on the Carolina Hurricanes, Brind’Amour has the second most ice time.
Eric Staal is first. Staal has not only had more ice time than Brind’Amour, he has played against a higher calibre of opposition. I think Staal is developing into a top level defensive forward and a possible Selke Trophy candidate.
Yesterday Peter Forsberg announced that he will not be playing in the NHL this season. If he plays hockey this year it will be for his former team Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik in Sweden.
Forsberg’s career has basically been put on hold due to serious problems with his right foot. Last season, he held out most of the year to have surgery on it before signing with the Colorado Avalanche at trade deadline time. Forsberg managed to play nine regular season games and seven more in the playoffs, with eleven games along the way missed due to injury. He did manage the highest points per game in the regular season last year. His 14 points in nine games (for a 1.56 PPG) beat out eventual Art Ross winner Alexander Ovechkin.
Goaltending is extremely important in the NHL. It is very hard to win without good goaltending. Naturally, the team with the weakest goaltending in the NHL will be a weak team. So far this season, that team has been the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Usually, Vesa Toskala plays in goal for Toronto. Toskala has been a solid NHL goaltender in the past, but he hasn’t done it this season. Among goaltenders with enough games played to qualify for the individual stats, Toskala has the second worst saves percentage in the league (his .884 beats Chris Osgood’s .880). His 3.31 GAA is also second worst - but this time Johan Hedberg is the worst.
One of the more dubious arguments put forth to defend the suspensions of Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom for missing the All Star Game is that this rule interpretation was made clear in a February 2008 GMs meeting. Obviously, I don’t attend GM meetings (not being a GM) but it seems odd that there is not record of this rule interpretation in any media report from February 2008. You would think that if this was made clear at the meeting somebody would have seen fit to mention it to a reporter who would have thought it important enough to write about. Strangely that didn’t happen. I have looked for such an article and I never found it. I asked the Kukla’s Korner readership if they could help me find such an article and nobody did.
I like to write final career perspectives for the players I believe are going to the Hockey Hall of Fame when they retire. The problem is sometimes they don’t clearly announce retirement. I have not seen any clear announcement of Ed Belfour’s retirement, but I think it is clear that his NHL hockey career is over.
Ed Belfour was born in Carmen, Manitoba on April 21st, 1965. He grew up playing in the Manitoba junior hockey system. He first reached some level of prominence in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League while playing for the local Winkler Flyers in 1983/84. This is a high scoring league and Belfour who had a GAA above four in his first two years (he had a 3.83 GAA in his third year in 85/86). These numbers did not gather much interest from NHL scouts and he went undrafted. It was, however, good enough to get a shot playing for the University of North Dakota in the NCAA.
It has been stated that the ruling that Gary Bettman would use to suspend Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom for their All Star Game no shows was made clear during a February 2008 General Manager’s meeting. Does anyone have any evidence from February 2008 that this is true? Any links to a story about it from last February? I can’t find any and one would think they should exist.
I am picking Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets as the current Calder Trophy leader. He is not only the rookie of the year, he is also a serious Vezina Trophy candidate (though at this point I would pick Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins), that makes him the runaway Calder leader.
However, there is another rookie who I could imagine giving Mason a race in the second half. This is especially true if the back spasms that kept Mason out of the Young Stars Game affect his second half play. That rookie is Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks.
Here are the top 10 American born scorers in the NHL and where they rank in the overall NHL race as of All Star break:
A few days ago, Paul Kukla asked people to post their opinions of the top five players by position. The task was not entirely defined. Most people listed 5 forwards, 5 defencemen and 5 goalies, a few listed only 5 players and others broke up their forwards into right wingers, left wingers and centremen. Some people picked the top five players so far this season, while others looked longer term and included injured players who would belong on their list.
I went through the comments as best I could and tallied the votes. Most comments were votes. A few comments were merely musings on the voting so far and were ignored. A few of the votes were not selections of players (for example picking “New Jersey’s defence’ as one of the top five defencemen) and were ignored.
Here are the votes:
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???