It is often valuable to look at the leaders in the AHL to learn about which NHL franchises have depth and players available who might make a significant NHL impact. Currently, the first place team in the AHL is the Portland Pirates. They have a 9-2 record (with one overtime loss). This gives them 19 points in 21 games. They are the Buffalo Sabres minor league affiliate. So not only is Buffalo off to a good start with 19 points in their 14 games, which has them in seventh place, they have plenty of depth in the minors.
The Masterton Trophy is given annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. In practise this means that a player who overcomes a significant handicap (injury, illness etc.) to continue his NHL career and make a significant impact on his team. This working definition is a more meaningful one than worrying about which player is more sportsmanlike.
By that definition, I think it is quite clear that Teppo Numminen of the Buffalo Sabres will likely win it this season, assuming he has any level of success with his team. Numminen is a solid defenceman with a good team. He plays about twenty minutes a night and has six points in 14 games played. He is even on the All Star ballot.
Yesterday, I decided that I would write something today about how the San Jose Sharks have been the best team in the NHL so far this season. They made me second guess that decision when they lost 4-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes last night. However, a second look at the standings after the loss only helped to show how well San Jose had been playing. Even with the loss, San Jose sits first in the league with 26 points. San Jose has the best “winning percentage” of .813 (in their case it is a true winning percentage as they have no regulation ties that became losses). San Jose has the best team +/- as they score 0.87 more goals per game than they allow (Montreal is second at 0.75).
Last year, San Jose was a good team that finished second in the league. They were good enough to have expected a playoff run and fire coach Ron Wilson when it didn’t happen. They are doing even better this year. It is a reasonable question to ask what has improved.
Generally I disagree with the mainstream media when they pick coach of the year candidates. I feel that picking the coach of the most improved team as coach of the year is usually wrong. There are lots of reasons why teams improve. Coaching is only one reason.
If Bruce Boudreau is such a wonderful coach. why is he not a coach of the year candidate this season? Is it because Carolina leads the Southeast Division this year? That is likely because their goaltending is not so strong with Jose Theodore in net and they missed Alexander Ovechkin for a few games and he is not among the NHL’s top scorers. Boudreau came into a good young team that was ready to take off and they did under his coaching.
For several years, including this one, I have believed that Jacques Lemaire is the best coach in the NHL.
I like to try to pick the point in a player’s career where they establish themselves as a Hall of Famer. They have to have Hall of Fame credentials that will remain untarnished regardless of what happens or does not happen for the remainder of their career. Here are the standards I use to decide if a player is Hall of Fame worthy. Today I am ready to declare that Sergei Fedorov has reached that level.
Earlier this season I picked Mike Smith of the Tampa Bay Lightning as the best goaltender so far this season. His fast start is over and he seems to be dropping off of his early levels. I think the best goalie so far this season has been Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.
Hockey is a rough game. Anyone who plays regularly for many years will have a sore shoulder, knee, back or some other body part. This would be a recurring injury or a degenerative condition. This is especially true at the NHL level.
In the current CBA, teams can buyout players during a period in the summer. Generally, underperforming players get their contracts bought out. Teams save money in this process. They pay out 2/3 of the remaining money on the contract to a player over a time period of two times the remaining time on the contract. This reduces the annual salary cap hit to 1/3 of what it otherwise would have been and allows teams (with this salary cap penalty) to use the remaining salary cap room to pay for other players. Problems can come in this arrangement when players are injured. Injured players cannot be bought out - although they can be placed on long term injury exemption lists to free up salary cap space. The problem is most players who have had lengthy careers will have recurring or degenerative injury conditions and can use these to claim that they are injured and cannot be bought out, if they believe they will not get another NHL contract.
Yesterday, the NHL released the list of players that will appear on the ballot for the NHL All Star Game. Voting begins online on November 12th and continues until January 2nd. The voting will occur at vote.NHL.com which is currently an unavailable website (the NHL would have been better advised to have this site up when they announced the ballot).
Here is the list of players on the ballot:
One of the NHL’s victories in the 2005 lockout was the breaking of the NHLPA. Bob Goodenow, who had been a tough adversary for the NHL, was replaced as NHLPA head by Ted Saskin, who was much easier for the NHL to keep in place. Saskin’s NHLPA had little purpose for the players. He spent much of his effort trying to maintain power and was ousted because he eavesdropped on player’s email to do this.
The Paul Kelly NHLPA is making an effort to be relevant to the players and is willing to fight for their causes and be more proactive with their positions. They are holding a secret ballot vote about whether or not the current CBA should be renewed (since the players can opt out this summer) and have been on record about potential franchise re-locations.
Their first battle of the season is over the defected player status of European players.
Last Friday I wrote about the leaky pipeline of Russian talent coming to North America that lost Pavel Valentenko. There have only been two Russian rookies to play in the NHL so far this season (Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nikita Filatov of the Columbus Blue Jackets) and the NHL is on the verge of losing its second Russian prospect to the KHL. Alexander Nikulin, an Ottawa Senator prospect, has demanded that Ottawa trade him (with a deadline of tonight) or he will return to Russia.
UPDATE: It turns out that Nikulin is not leaving North America yet. He has been traded to Phoenix for Drew Fata.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???