Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Three Years For The Olympics

The NHL is negotiating their next CBA through the media.  In order for a three year extension to the CBA which is set to expire at the end of the 2021/22 season, they would be willing to let their players play in the 2018 Olympics.  Players have been "allowed" to go to the Olympics since 1998 and have not had to give up bargaining rights to get this chance.  The Olympics are a great chance for hockey to get exposure and are the best hockey we have seen in the last couple of decades.

The NHL owners have been a pain to the International Olympic Committee.  They are the only people who get paid to allow competition in the Olympics.  They have used the threat of withdrawing from the Olympics to extort this money.  Recently the International Ice Hockey Federation has suggested that they might be willing to pay the bill instead of the IOC.  Seeing their leverage shrinking they have tried to extort the players.

Should the NHL refuse to stop its schedule for the Olympics, it will lead to problems.  Alex Ovechkin has said he is going to the Olympics whether or not the NHL allows it and I am sure he is not the only player who feels that way.  The NHL would continue its schedule without many star players and without much interest from fans who are off watching the Olympics instead.  The NHL would lose out if they tried to play through the Olympics and yet they demand concessions for not doing it.

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First Selke Leader

One trophy I am yet to pick a leader for is the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward.  Today I am making my first pick this season as Selke Trophy leader.  My pick is Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.  Marchand is the current Corsi leader in the NHL.  He is a solid defensive forward with the Boston Bruins.

For the most part, Marchand has been seen as the number two defensive forward in Boston behind his linemate Patrice Bergeron.  It's not really a knock on Marchand but rather a testament to how good Bergeron has been.  Bergeron is a three time Selke Trophy winner and probably should have won even more than that.  Both are top flight NHL players who starred with Team Canada in the World Cup. 

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Top Goalie

At the end of October, I picked Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild as the top goalie in the season so far.  Dubnyk is having an outstanding season so far.  Dubnyk is posting a .947 saves percentage and a 1.65 GAA he has been passed.  Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is posting a .957 saves percentage and a 1.40 GAA.  Thus Price is the leader for the Vezina Trophy at this point.

Both Price and Dubnyk are doing so well that they are certain to see their numbers drop over the season.

Carey Price is the Vezina Trophy leader at this point.  He is having a superb season in goal.  He won the Vezina and Hart Trophies in 2015.  That was the last season he was healthy.  If he can remain healthy and playing at a top level, he could win those awards again.  Price is currently in the Vezina Trophy lead.

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Worst Regular This Season

I like to keep track of the player who is playing regularly in the NHL.  It is interesting to see which players keep getting playing time despite failing.  Almost two weeks ago, I picked Trevor Lewis of the Los Angeles Kings as the worst regular so far in the season.  Lewis has broken out of his early season funk.  He has four points in his last six games.  He remains the player with the Kings worst +/- rating and hence is questionable as a regular, but if he keeps scoring he is earning his roster spot.

His spot as the worst regular in the league now belongs to Jimmy Hayes of the Boston Bruins.  Hayes has 14 games played with no points scored and a -9 +/- rating. 

Hayes is a checking line forward in Boston.  He has already journeyed around several NHL clubs.  The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him in 2008.  In 2010 before he played an NHL game he was traded to Chicago for a draft pick.  In Chicago he played in 43 NHL games in a little over two NHL seasons.  He was then traded onto Florida.  In Florida, he played two seasons scoring a career best 35 points in the 2014/15 season.  He was then traded onto Boston.  In total Hayes has 95 points in his 257 games played.

Boston is starting to question why Jimmy Hayes is on their roster.  He has been a healthy scratch in two games recently.  He is back in the line-up again but he wil likely have to produce to remain an NHL regular.  So far he has been the worst player in the league this season.

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Lady Byng Leader

A little over two weeks ago I made my first Lady Byng Trophy pick as the player who best combines sportsmanship and hockey ability.  My pick at that time was Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Matthews was off to a fast start among the top scorers in the league and had yet to get a penalty minute.  Matthews is still without penalty minutes but Matthews has slowed down.  He only has two points in his last two weeks plus going back to October 25th.  That is probably expected for a rookie.  There will be growing pains to go with the early successes.  I expect that Matthews has the talent to turn things around before long.  By the end of the season he may be one of the most valuable players in the game, but right now there are more valuable players out there.

One of the more valuable players is Vladimir Tarasenko of the St Louis Blues.  Tarasenko is the sixth highest scorer in the NHL right now with 17 points.  He has zero penalty minutes, just like Matthews.  Thus Tarasenko is the Lady Byng leader at this point.

Vladimir Tarasenko is establishing himself as one of the top players in the game.  He looks to be on a Hall of Fame track if he can keep things going at this rate long enough.  He gives the St Louis Blues the offensive weapon that they have lacked for the last few years.

It will be interesting to see if Tarasenko remains the Lady Byng leader or if Auston Matthews or others re-enter the picture.  Matthews may learn to play with more of an edge and pick up a few penalty minutes before the season ends, thus removing himself from the Lady Byng race even if his play was good enough.

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Top Rookie So Far

There is a good group of rookies this season.  Six of them (Patrick Laine, Mitch Marner,Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Jimmy Vesey and Zach Werenski) have 10 or more points and two more are one point back at 9 (Travis Konecny and Brady Skrej).  That makes eight of the top 90 scorers in the NHL rookies.  I except that some of these rookies will fade as we get into the season and things get tougher for them as opposing teams learn how to shut them down.

Less than a week ago I picked Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets as the top rookie so far.  As the top playing defenceman in Columbus he is definitely in the Calde Trophy race but he no longer leads the way.  Patrick Laine of the Winnipeg Jets is the current leader.  His 11 goals lead the league by two goals.  He is ninth overall in league scoring with 15 points. 

Laine was the second overall pick in 2016.  He outplayed first overall pick Auston Matthews in the World Junior Championships and again in the World Hockey Championships, thus an argument could be made that Laine was the better player last year.  Matthews is stronger than Laine and had been listed as the probable top pick all season before Laine entered the conversation.  It will be interesting to watch to see which of the two has the better career. 

At this point we are very early in Laine's NHL career.  He is looking good so far as the top goal scorer in the NHL and also as the top rookie.  It will be interesting to see how things look in a few months or a few years.  Will Laine look like a better pick than Matthews then?

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AHL’s Top Team

A week and a half ago I wrote about the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leaf farm affiliate) leading in the AHL standings.  They have been passed after splitting a series with the St John's Ice Caps (Montreal Canadiens affiliate).  The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh farm affilate) has moved into first place.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has a record of 8-2 with one loss giving a regulation tie point.  This gives them an .850 winning percentage.  They have points in their last eight games played.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is the team with the fewest goals against this season.  This is thanks to some top flight goaltending.  Casey DeSmith has a .962 saves percentage and a 1.00 GAA.  e is sharing the load with Tristan Jarry who is posting a .936 saves percentage and a 1.69 GAA.  Both are among the league leaders.

Their offence is led by rookie Jake Guentzel who has 12 points in 10 games played.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have been a solid playoff team for the past several years.  Last year they made the second round of the playoffs.  It is a very well run franchise if the Stanley Cup champions farm affiliate can also have the top AHL team.

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Trouba Re-Signs

The longest holdout into this season is over.  Jacob Trouba re-signed with the Winnipeg Jets.  He signed a two year bridge deal with a $3 million salary cap hit.  Essentially he lost his holdout and signed something that must have been "on the table" all summer long. 

The CBA is such that there is little that a player in Trouba's situation can do for leverage.  Until a player has played long enough to qualify for salary arbitration, the team can largely dictate the terms the player signs.  Where the player wins is when he reaches unrestricted free agency.  I think it is clear that Trouba will not stay in Winnipeg under any foreseeable circumstances. 

Trouba claimed his holdout was because he wanted to play right defence on the Jets and he saw Dustn Byfuglien and Tyler Myers ahead of him on the depth chart.  While it is clear that Byfuglien is going to stay ahead of him on the depth chart for a while, it isn't clear that Myers is ahead of him.  Myers has missed about half the games this season due to injury and it isn't clear that his play - when is healthy - puts him in front of Trouba.  Trouba's public argument for a holdout was a weak one.  The desire to leave Winnipeg is most likely because it has the coldest average temperatures of any NHL city.  There is a significant change in lifestyle to get out of a city that spends most of the NHL season below freezing.  I think that is likely Trouba's real desire to leave Winnipeg.  However he failed - at least for now.

Winnipeg is a better team if Jacob Trouba wants to be there and plays his best game now that he joins their line-up.  I am uncertain that is the situation.  I don't think he is happy that he lost his holdout and is stuck in Winnipeg at least for the next while. 

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Early Season MVP

Early in the season it is expected that the leaders for many of the NHL awards will fluctuate.  Few players can lead in the race for an award from very early in the season through to the end of the year.  The Hart Trophy is on such award.  I picked Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers as an early leader a week ago.  Since then he has slowed down and fallen back a few spots in the scoring race.  I think we have a new MVP of the season so far in Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens.

Weber has been the top defenceman in the league so far.  He is second in scoring among defencemen with 10 points and has a league leading +15 +/- rating. 

Some argue that Weber is the second most valuable Montreal Canadien behind Carey Price.  While Price has been very good this year, he has only appeared in seven games and hence has been less valuable than Weber who has appeared in all the games.

Weber is a top level defenceman who has come close to winning the Norris Trophy in the past.  Some suggested his best days were over when he was traded to Nashville this summer.  That is clearly false, although it is unclear how long he can keep up this level of play.  Thus far he is not only the top defenceman in the NHL but also its most valuable player.

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Top Rookie So Far

About two weeks ago I made my first pick for the Calder Trophy leader.  At that point it was Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Matthews remains a top candidate for the Calder Trophy but he has slowed from a four goal opening game and a short run as the NHL's top scorer.  He may well win the Calder Trophy but he isn't the leader any longer.  That is Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Werenski is a defenceman with 10 points in 9 games.  Only Brent Burns has more points from defence at this point.  He is a 2015 first round draft pick who left the University of Michigan after two seasons to turn pro.  He has been one of the best defencemen in the NHL so far this season and is pushing himself into the Calder Trophy race.  He wasn't the top candidate in the off season for a Calder Trophy run but he has the ability that he may be able to stay in the race this season.

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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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