When I last looked at the AHL scoring race, I noted that Keith Aucoin is running away with the AHL scoring lead. Aucoin’s 86 points are an eight point lead over teammate Alexandre Giroux who holds down second in the scoring race. These two players are a big part of the reason the Hershey Bears (Washington Capital affiliate) are a top team in the AHL.
Although Aucoin has been running away with the lead, there is a good chance that Giroux could catch him. Keith Aucoin was called up to the Washington Capitals. Since his weekend call-up, Aucoin has played two games. In last night’s 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, Aucoin got an assist. This is his first NHL point this season. This could help lead to Aucoin getting more ice time in the NHL (he played under twelve minutes last night).
Over the weekend, former Tampa Bay Lightning owner Bill Davidson died at age 86. Under normal circumstances, a former owner dying might be a sad moment for a hockey franchise, but nothing more. It may not be so simple in Tampa Bay because the current owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie were loaned the money to buy the team from Davidson himself (since they couldn’t get it through more traditional means).
Koules and Barrie have not been successful owners. They are showing signs of financial problems. Team employees now must pay to park and there is no more direct deposit of paycheques. As a result speculation was beginning that the current owners would not make it financially and Davidson might be forced to take over the team again (as its primary creditor).
For a good portion of the season, I have been picking Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins as MVP. He leads the scoring race by a sizable margin (8 points) and the assist race by seven points. He leads his Pittsburgh Penguins with a +19 +/- rating. This is an MVP season, but most people support Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin is the goal scoring leader in the NHL with 49 goals. His 89 points are second to Malkin. Ovechkin is an MVP contender. He should be nominated, but I don’t see why he should win it given the fact he has been consistently well behind Malkin in the point race all season. Of course the MVP race is not decided on points alone, but I fail to see where Ovechkin catches up to Malkin.
Typically, the lowest scoring team in the NHL is not a very good team, but this year they will probably be a playoff team. The New York Rangers are the lowest scoring team in the league with only 2.38 goals per game. If the season ended now, the Rangers would finish seventh in the East Conference with 78 points. They are part of the race for the final eastern playoff spots and are only one point ahead of the currently non-playoff Florida Panthers.
In order to be in the playoff race despite being the NHL’s lowest scoring league, the Rangers must be pretty good at keeping the puck out of their net. Their 2.65 goals against per game is sixth in the NHL. This is due to a good goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, who has had a solid season. This is due to a good defence which is made up of several proven talents in Michal Rozsival, Paul Mara, Wade Redden, Marc Staal and the recently added Derek Morris. This is due to a good defensive system brought in by ex-coach Tom Renney. All of these are reasons that the Rangers have a good defence, but none of them make it great, and given their lack of goal scoring it makes the overall team not particularly impressive.
With the playoffs about a month away, one of the hottest teams in the NHL is the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were Stanley Cup finalists last year, so one has to think they can be successful in the playoffs. The Penguins have won nine of their last eleven games. This moves them into sixth place in the East Conference. They will be a tough first round opponent for the top seed that draws them.
Since I wrote about the Penguins earlier troubles they have had three significant changes. They fired coach Michel Therrien and replaced him with Dan Bylsma, they made trade deadline deals acquiring Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin and Sergei Gonchar returned from injury to anchor their defence.
One under-reported decision that comes out of the GM meetings (although Mike Chen is reporting this) is the NHL’s decision to give a compensatory draft pick to the New York Rangers for the death of Alexei Cherepanov.
Cherepanov was drafted by the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2007 entry draft. He was selected 17th overall. Earlier this season he died, while playing a game in the KHL. The Rangers never had a chance to sign him. When a team fails to sign a first round draft pick the CBA gives them a compensatory draft pick. If the pick was 17th overall in the first round, the compensatory pick will be the 17th selection in the second round. Since Cherepanov died, the Rangers will not sign him. Therefore the Rangers are getting a compensatory draft pick. The New York Rangers will have the 17th selection in the second round.
The Anaheim Ducks were the Stanley Cup champions as recently as 2007. Their fall has been surprisingly fast. It looks like this season the team will miss the playoffs. Right now, Anaheim is in 12th place in the West Conference with 68 points. They are only three points back of eighth place but they are tied for the games played lead in the conference. They have fifteen games left to pass four teams in the standings. That seems very unlikely. All that will be needed to eliminate the Ducks is one or two of the bubble teams ahead of the Ducks going on a hot streak. Given the number of such teams that is very likely.
What happened to the Anaheim Ducks? How have they fallen so quickly?
When you fire a coach it is common to see the team improve in the standings. A new coach changes the system. Players will have to play well to keep their icetime and their role on the team. In the short-term it often leads to a boost for the team that fired their coach. That is what the Montreal Canadiens are looking for from their firing of Guy Carbonneau.
With sixteen games left in the regular season. Montreal has 77 points. Although that is good for fifth in the East Conference, it is only one point up from the New York Rangers who would miss the playoffs with the current standings. A short-term run from a coach firing would likely ensure the Habs playoff berth.
The timing of the firing is a little surprising. Montreal seems to have emerged from their slump. They have a 5-2 record in their last seven games. That follows a stretch where they went 3-12. Perhaps that would have been the more logical time for a firing.
On average about three hockey players are inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame annually. Thus in any rookie class about three players will go on to have Hall of Fame careers. Of course some years will produce more Hall of Famers and other years less, but three is the number we should expect to see in any given season.
Can we look at the rookie crop and try to predict those three from this season? Of course we can try, but the process is not very exact. It is a lot like trying to predict which dog is the biggest by looking only at the end of its tail. One certainly can make those projections, but they are imprecise at best.
Projecting rookies to Hall of Fame careers is different from picking the Calder Trophy winner or nominees (for the record Steve Mason is the likely Calder winner). An older rookie (say 23 years old) may be a better player today than a younger rookie (for example an 18 year old), but the younger player is more likely to have a great career. In five years when he catches up in age to the older player he should be a far better and more accomplished player.
One trade that was made on deadline day was the Tampa Bay Lightning trading Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a 2009 4th round draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Richard Petiot. This is an interesting trade because it basically amounts to selling a fourth round draft pick to the Leafs. Olaf Kolzig had surgery on his left bicep muscle and will miss the rest of the season. His contract expires at the end of the season. Jamie Heward suffered a concussion and should be out for the rest of the season. His contract expires at the end of the season. Neither of those two players will play a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the Leafs will pay them the rest of the season. For their part paying the Tampa Bay contracts, the Leafs obtain a fourth round pick and Andy Rogers from the Lightning in exchange for Richard Petiot.
Neither Rogers nor Petiot look like NHL prospects at this point. They are AHL defenceman who don’t show much NHL upside right now. Rogers is four years younger and a former first round draft pick, so one could argue he is the better prospect, but given the fact he hasn’t scored a goal yet in three years of AHL play, he isn’t close to the NHL and likely never will be.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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