Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Semi-Finals Predictions

The second round of the playoffs just ended.  Looking back on my predictions I got three correct and one wrong.  My incorrect prediction was picking Montreal to defeat Tampa Bay.  It is hard to take credit for the New York Rangers victory over Washington when it is a seven game overtime decision but that was a correct prediction.  When combined with my first round predictions, I have a 9-3 record so far in playoff predictions.  Thus I am guaranteed to get more playoff predictions correct regardless of what happens in the remaining three playoff series. 

Let's move onto the semi-final predictions:

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World Hockey Championships: Preliminary Round

The so-called World Hockey Championships are underway in the Czech Republic.  While it is hard to take seriously a "world championship" tournament played while many of the best NHL players are not available as they are still playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it does give us some good games and it gives us a look at some of the better European players playing alongside NHL players thus giving us an idea of their relative quality.

This year's tournament is being played in Prague and Ostrava.  The sixteen teams involved are split into two eight team groups that play round robins.  Group A plays in the O2 Arena in Prague and Group B plays in the Cez Arena in Ostrava.  The top four teams in each group move onto a single elimination quarterfinal with the winners advancing to the medal round. 

Here are the results:

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A Tough Free Agent Decision

Devan Dubnyk is a free agent this summer.  He had an excellent year with the Minnesota Wild and is the most significant reason they made the playoffs.  He is nominated for the Vezina Trophy and is most likely going to finish in second place in the voting.  What is the second best goaltender in the NHL worth as a free agent?  Many years at seven or eight million per year?  The problem is Dubnyk does not have the track record of a Vezina nominee.  He was lucky to have a chance to play in the NHL at all this season.  His 2013/14 season was awful.  He started the year in Edmonton and was traded to Nashville before ending the season in the AHL.  He posted a .891 saves percentage and a 3.43 GAA during the season.

The Arizona Coyotes gave him a last chance contract worth $800,000, but when they fell out of contention early they decided they didn't need an experienced backup goalie and traded him to Minnesota for a third round draft pick.

If you were Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher what would you do with Dubnyk?  He is the saviour of this season.  He is due a significant raise.  He is quite a risk given his track record.  If you give him a significant contract and he cannot repeat his 2014/15 season it would be a mistake in the salary capped world.  If he moves on to another team and succeeds there it would also be a significant mistake.  How would you proceed here?

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Award Nominees Announced

Over the last couple of weeks the NHL has announced the finalists for the awards that interest me enough that I gave my selections in my if I had an award ballot post.  I want to comment on the actual selections and how they differ from my selections and what if anything we can infer from the people that were selected.

Calder Trophy- Aaron Ekblad Florida Panthers, Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames, Mark Stone Ottawa Senators.  Filip Forsberg is a clear snub.  He finished one point behind Gaudreau and Stone and I think that one point made a big difference in voter's minds.  I would argue that Forsberg had the toughest rookie season among forwards because he established himself as a star earlier in the season than Gaudreau or Stone.  Thus opposing teams made more of an effort to shut him down and yet he finished with effectively the same point total.  I would have omitted Gaudreau from the nominees because of defensive concerns.  Nevertheless I expect Gaudreau is the most likely winner.  He is exciting to watch and was part of a surprising Calgary team and it makes a good storyline to reward him with rookie of the year in honor of Calgary's successes.

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I NOW Consider Marian Hossa A Hall Of Famer

I am looking at active hockey players and deciding when I think they have reached the point that they should make the Hockey Hall of Fame regardless of what they do in the rest of their careers.  Today, I am arguing that Marian Hossa has reached that level.

Hossa's argument is made most strongly by his career numbers.  He has 1056 career points.  This is good for fourth all time among active players.  That places him 66th all time among all NHL players.  Very few players with that many points who are Hall of Fame eligible have not been inducted.  Those that have not been inducted all played in the late 1980s and early 1990s which were the highest scoring era in recent memory.  Today's players such as Hossa played in the "dead puck era" where scoring was far lower.  Adjusting Hossa's points to a higher scoring era, his numbers would be significantly higher on the all time list.  Hossa also lost a season and a half due to lockouts.  If he played without labor interruptions his totals would again be much higher.

In the playoffs Hossa has clearly established himself as the second highest scoring active player this season with 134 career playoff points so far.  His seven points so far in this year's playoffs have clearly moved him past the rest of the active field (except for Jaromir Jagr).  Hossa has a very good scoring record in the regular season and in the playoffs.

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I NOW Consider Ilya Kovalchuk A Hall Of Famer

One of my favorite questions is to ask when currently active players make it to the level where they are worthy of Hall of Fame induction regardless of what happens in the rest of their career.  Today I will argue that Ilya Kovalchuk has made it to that level.

Kovalchuk was clearly on a Hall of Fame track when he left the NHL.  He was a point per game player with 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games played.  His career numbers are likely lower than they should be because Kovalchuk played in the dead puck era and missed time in his NHL career with two lockouts.  He should have bigger offensive numbers to show for his career.  Without lockouts he could have 500 regular season NHL goals.  Nevertheless his NHL accomplishments are impressive.  He had won a Richard Trophy, a Calder Trophy and made the first and second team all star.  It was reasonable to project that if he stayed in the NHL he would have been a 600 or 700 goal scorer.  The problem was he abruptly ended his NHL career to "retire" and then play in the KHL.

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New Jersey Hires GM Ray Shero

Lou Lamoreillo has been general manager of the New Jersey Devils since 1987.  He is the longest serving GM in the NHL.  As he ages inevitably he is going to want to slow down.  Now that he is 72 that has happened.  Lamoreillo has decided to hire a new general manager in Ray Shero.  He will remain with the Devils as their president but his role will be reduced.

Shero is a proven NHL GM.  He had a successful run in Pittsburgh from 2006 to 2014.  He was fired somewhat unfairly when Pittsburgh failed in the 2014 playoffs.  Things haven't changed much in 2015 under Shero's replacement Jim Rutherford.  The firing was a mistake for the Penguins.  It is surprising that it took Shero a season to find a new job. 

The main question in my mind is how much of the reigns is Lou Lamoreillo willing to relinquish.  Will Ray Shero really get to run the show or will he have to answer to Lou for big decisions?  Both Lamoreillo and Shero are proven Stanley Cup winning successful GMs.  If Shero takes over for Lamoreillo this is a good thing.  If there will be friction between Lamoreillo and Shero there will be problems.  Let's hope they can be professional if any disagreements occur.

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AHL Playoffs: First Round

The first round of the AHL playoffs just completed.  In their first round teams play a best of five series as opposed to the best of seven series in the NHL.  Here are first round results:

Manchester Monarchs defeat Portland Pirates three games to two.  Manchester is the Los Angeles Kings farm affiliate and Portland belongs to the Arizona Coyotes.  This was a back and forth series where both teams looked to be in control at different times.  All games were won on home ice.  Manchester had the top two players in first round scoring in Michael Mersch and Jordan Weal.  Vincent LoVerde led their defence.  Jean-Francois Berube played in goal for them but was a weakness.  Brendan Shinnimin and Henrik Samuelsson led Portland in scoring.  Brandon Gormley has been their top defenceman and Louis Domingue was their top goaltender.

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Playoff MVP

In the first round I picked \Vladimir Tarasenko of the St Louis Blues as the early playoff MVP.  While Tarasenko had a good first round, his St Louis Blues have been eliminated from the playoffs.  Therefore I am picking a new playoff MVP.  I see two strong candidates right now - Corey Perry of Anaheim and Duncan Keith of Chicago.  Though Perry is scoring at a better than two point per game rate, I think Duncan Keith is the best playoff MVP pick at this point.

Keith is tied for second in points in the playoffs with nine points from defence- only Perry is ahead of him.  Keith has played 31 minutes per game - which is twelve and a half more minutes per game than Perry.  Keith is the Blackhawks MVP at this point.  Given that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are playing well in Chicago that is a strong claim. 

I think we can make a strong argument that Duncan Keith has been the best defenceman of the last five years.  I think his success has fallen beneath many people's radar.  He is showing his value in the playoffs so far.  If that success continues and Chicago has a good run, maybe more people will recognize how good Duncan Keith is.  Many people see him as one of the best handful of defencemen in hockey when he is more likely the best of that group.

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Second Round Playoff Predictions

The first round of the playoffs is now over so that makes it a good time to look back at my first round predictions and look ahead to the second round.  My predictions were pretty successful in the first round.  I went 6-2.  My incorrect calls were Vancouver over Calgary and Pittsburgh over the New York Rangers.  Another interesting pint is that I made the claim that the Tampa Bay vs. Detroit series might be the closest first round series and was told by several Red Wing fans that I was wrong and Tampa was a significantly better team than Detroit.  I think the seven game series did a pretty good job of showing that prediction to be a good one.

Here are my second round predictions:

Anaheim Ducks defeat Calgary Flames.  Calgary is the weakest team that won in the first round.  They barely made the playoffs.  They have been a team that has largely defied their poor puck possession numbers and succeeded.  Their best player Mark Giordano is injured, although he may be back in the second round though he will not be 100% healthy.  Anaheim is a much better team.  With Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, Anaheim has the three best players in the series.  Ducks should win.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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