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:
Gary Bettman has put a black eye onto the All Star Weekend. Friday afternoon, he announced that players chosen to the All Star Game who are chosen to play in the All Star Game and cite an injury as a reason to not play in the All Star Game must either attend the non-game schmooze fest part of the weekend or miss at least one game either before or after the All Star break. Effectively, this suspends players for the first game after the break who decided not to attend the event.
There are three players who fit into this situation. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to get to Montreal for All Star Weekend on extremely short notice. Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings were unable (or unwilling) to get back on time. This means that these two players will be suspended for Detroit’s first game after the all star break - which is against Columbus.
The Philadelphia Flyers found themselves in a situation where they would be forced to make some moves to fit under the salary cap. Their highest paid player Daniel Briere was about to return from the long term injured reserve and this would put the Flyers well above the salary cap. Although a trade to reduce salary might have been the best move, the Flyers could have been under the salary cap with a series of internal moves. Josh Gratton and Jon Kalinski have both been placed on long term injury reserve. Lasse Kukkonen would be waived and sent to the minors, one of Darroll Powe or Claude Giroux would be sent to the minors and Luca Sbisa would be returned to junior. This would leave the Flyers with a 21 man NHL roster that is salary cap compliant - at least until another of the long term injury players return.
That move has been put on hold when Daniel Briere re-injured his groin. He did so after a three game conditioning stint in the AHL (where he scored five points). He was about to re-join the Flyers (as soon as the salary cap problem was fixed) and he was pulled from the lineup. Briere will now have further surgery and miss at least a month.
So far, there have been only two players who were chosen to the NHL All Star Game who have decided not to play. Pavel Datsyuk suffered a hip pointer in his Tuesday night game against Phoenix and teammate Nicklas Lidstrom is sitting out due to a longstanding elbow injury he has been fighting. Their spots in the All Star Game will be taken by Patrick Marleau of San Jose and Stephane Robidas of Dallas. If this turns out to be all of the injury replacements in the All Star Game, this will be a low number compared to recent years. The entire East Conference team as originally chosen is planning to play in the game. There are reports that Pittsburgh would like Sidney Crosby to skip the game but this has not been officially decided. It is also possible that an All Star may suffer an injury of some sort in the final day of play before All Star break, which is currently concluding.
NOTE: It is confirmed Sidney Crosby will also miss the game. Martin St Louis will fill his spot.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???