I do not like the way the NHL works out its standings. It doesn't make sense that some games are worth two points but if the game goes to overtime it is worth three points. A team loses a game and gets no points unless they lose in overtime then they get a point. The winner gets the same two points regardless of if the game went to overtime or not. The best solution to this problem is to change the standings so that there are only two options - wins and losses. Get rid of regulation tie points. Failing that make a regulation victory worth three points and an overtime or shootout win worth two with an overtime or shootout loss worth one. At least in that scenario all games are worth the same three points.
This year we have a meaningful example of how this weird point system cost a team significantly. The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs with 42 wins. This is more wins than Philadelphia, Detroit, Nashville or Minnesota and all four of those teams earned playoff berths. Boston had 42 wins. Philadelphia, Detroit and Nashville had 41 wins and Minnesota had 38 wins. Boston's problem is that they didn't lose in overtime as much as the other East Conference teams in Philadelphia and Detroit. Should that determine a playoff berth?
The news that the Arizona Coyotes fired GM Don Maloney is a couple days old but I haven't addressed it yet with the end of the season and my playoff predictions. Today I want to talk about this move.
There are a few ways that a team can be poorly run and unable to climb out of the cellar. One is having financial problems that do not allow them to pay for a good team. Arizona already has that problem. They had been moderately successful despite that problem largely because of good management and coaching. Don Maloney is a former GM of the year and Dave Tippett is one of the top coaches in the NHL. The problem is ownership wanted to be involved in hockey decision making. One reason they are ownership and not management is they are not qualified to manage a team. They would be well-advised to get out of the way of competent management and let the management run the team. However owner Anthony LeBlanc fired Maloney complaining about the fact that he wasn't collaborative with ownership. Maloney wasn't on the same page with ownership. That all strongly suggests ownership was interfering.
Another way a team can be poorly run is to have incompetent management and ownership interference. Arizona seems to be going for that problem to go with their lack of money. Arizona will not escape from the cellar if that is how they are run.
With the playoffs soon to start I am going to make my predictions for the first round of the playoffs. As always predictions are a fool's game. It is expected that some of these series will not go as anyone predicts. Nevertheless, let's get started.
Dallas Stars defeat Minnesota Wild. Dallas's goaltending will be their Achilles heel as the playoffs go on but the Minnesota Wild are unlikely to be the team to beat them. Minnesota has Zach Parise suffering from back problems and will have Devan Dubnyk in goal. Dubnyk is no superstar despite last year's results as a counterexample. Dallas should have too much offence from Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and defenceman John Klingberg. It isn't clear that Tyler Seguin will be healthy but he could be a significant player in this series.
Every year when the regular season ends I like to post my picks for the major NHL awards. As I did last year I will list five candidates for the awards that have five spots on their ballots and three on the awards that have three spots on the ballot. Later I will compare my list to the award nominees and winners.
Calder Trophy: 1. Artemi Panarin Chicago Blackhawks 2. Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers 3. Connor MacDavid Edmonton Oilers 4. Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres 5. John Gibson Anaheim Ducks Panarin is the runaway leader. I have been picking him since November for this award. Of the top three rookie candidates he is the only one who played a full season. I pick Gostisbehere second because he played significantly more games than MacDavid. More games are required for a better rookie season.
Bryan Murray has cancer. In 2014 he announced that he has inoperable colon cancer than has spread to his liver and lungs. Since then it has been a surprise that he has stayed on as Ottawa Senators GM with his health issues. Today it has been announced that he is stepping down or perhaps moving upwards. He will become a senior hockey advisor in Ottawa. Taking over as GM is Pierre Dorion. Dorion has been the number two man in Ottawa under Murray.
Dorion has a significant history in scouting. He was a scout for 11 years in Montreal including working as chief scout and spent two years as a New York Rangers scout. In 2007 he came to Ottawa. He served as a scouting coordinator and as chief amateur scout. Since 2014 he has been the assistant GM in Ottawa.
This hire is essentially the same as a team hiring their AHL affiliate coach to replace their current coach. In most cases they are picking the first coach available and not the best coach available. In the same way Dorion is the first GM candidate available. Nobody is claiming he is the best GM candidate available. Dorion's job is to continue down Bryan Murray's path. He isn't expected to take his team in a new direction. His most significant move will likely be to pick a new coach.
Hockey Night in Canada is an iconic television show. It has aired since 1952 on television and has tie to radio broadcasts from as early as 1931. There have been some changes in the show over the past few years. In 2008 CBC lost the rights to its theme which CTV now owns and uses on TSN broadcasts. In 2014 Rogers took control of the broadcasts. This led to changes in the broadcasts. Most notably Ron MacLean was out as primary host and replaced by George Stroumboulopoulos. The quality of broadcasts began to decline. The ratings of the broadcasts began to decline. The "special" feeling of the Saturday night broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada no longer exists.
As we go into the Stanley Cup playoffs with no Canadian teams involved, we see Hockey Night in Canada rating lagging. In part it may be due to the lack of successful Canadian teams but it is also due to declining quality of broadcasts. In response, Rogers has fired Gord Cutler. He is the man who is most in charge of Hockey Night in Canada production. He is senior vice president in charge of hockey production. Several other hockey production staffers have been laid off. This is all being done with the Stanley Cup playoffs still to come. Ratings are down about 16% since Hockey Night in Canada went to Rogers.
This situation is a problem. It is an example of how the NHL is run. In search of money the league has done things that are not good for the game. They have hurt their most significant television broadcast in the process. Is this damage reversible?
Only five days ago I picked Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames as the Lady Byng Trophy leader. Since then Gaudreau has picked up a couple of penalties which makes his claim for a sportsmanship trophy a little weaker. Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings has become the Lady Byng leader. Kopitar has 73 points which is good for 14th in the NHL. This puts him five points behind Gaudreau. He has 14 penalty minutes when compared to Gaudreau's 20. He is also a significantly better defensive player than Gaudreau. Kopitar is a player who will get some Selke Trophy votes - though he has little chance of winning the award - and Gaudreau will probably not be on anyone's Selke ballot at all.
Anze Kopitar is potential Hal of Famer. It is debatable whether or not he is on a Hall of Fame track. He has never won an individual award. While he has scored well he is not a point per game player over his career with 683 points in 763 games to date. His career best is 81 points. Those numbers are a little low for a Hall of Famer. However Kopitar is a strong two-way forward who is a better player than his point totals show and has played a significant role on a Stanley Cup winning Los Angeles Kings team. He is also the first Slovenian in the NHL. He is the first Slovenian NHL star.
Whether or not Anze Kopitar has a Hall of Fame career, he is the Lady Byng Trophy leader. Should he win the Lady Byng it will help in establishing a Hall of Fame case.
The only remaining playoff race is in the East Conference. The Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins are competing for the final two playoff spots. Detroit and Boston are competing for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The loser in that race and Philadelphia are competing for the final wild card spot. Detroit and Boston have two games remaining and Philadelphia has three. Detroit has 93 points while the other two teams have 91.
When we look ahead at the predicted outcomes in this race we see that all three of these teams will likely make playoffs. Sports club stats has Detroit at 85.1% likely to make the playoffs, Philadelphia at 60.1% and Boston at 54.8%. One of these teams will miss out on a playoff berth. At this point it isn't clear which one it will be. Tonight Detroit meets Boston. That game will go a long way toward determining how this may finish.
Yesterday I looked at the underrated stat of ice time. Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators leads the league. Because teams tend to dress three lines of defencemen and four lines of forwards, all of the ice time leaders are defencemen. The ice time leader among forwards is Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres. He has played 21:47 per game. This is 45 seconds more than linemate Evander Kane and almost a minute more than Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
O'Reilly is a valuable player. He plays on a team that makes an effort to get their number one line on the ice as much as possible. His value is shown by his ice time. O'Reilly plays a solid two-way game. He is the top scorer on the Buffalo Sabres. He is used in all situations including power play and penalty kill. I think he is a strong candidate to be named to the Team Canada roster as they fill out the World Cup team.
One of the simplest stats to look at to determine how valuable a player is to his team is ice time. A player who has a lot of ice time is more important than one who plays less. Since teams typically dress three lines of defencemen and four lines of forwards, the ice time leaders are always defencemen. Ice time is most meaningfully measured on a per game basis so that a player with a few more games played does not have a minutes played lead despite having less ice time when both players are in the line-up.
The ice time leader this year is Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators. He has played 29:02 per game. This is almost half a minute more than second place Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. This is a strong piece of evidence that Erik Karlsson is a very valuable player. That comes on top of his fourth place position in the overall scoring race as a defenceman. This is why I pick Karlsson as the Norris Trophy leader.
Karlsson is in a race with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. Doughty is better defensively. That does not mean that Karlsson is weak defensively. For example he is much stronger in his own zone than Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks who is the second highest scoring defenceman this year. The problem with picking Doughty for the Norris is that he is almost 30 points behind Karlsson. It is hard to see how their defensive differences can account for 30 points.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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