Feb 262008
 

Here are a few of my thoughts about the trade deadline action.

Short Term Winners

Pittsburgh Penguins – Adding Hossa, Dupuis and Gill has the potential to make them a really scary team. Think about it. In recent weeks the top line of Malkin, Sykora and Malone have been one of the best lines in the NHL and over the next week or two you will add Crosby and Hossa to fill out a 1A line. Losing Armstrong and Christensen will hurt the third line but with a top 2 lines that good they may not need a third line. In Hal Gill they add a very big, physical, defense first defenseman that will make life for opposing forwards much less pleasant. If Conklin continues his stellar play it isn’t hard to conceive that the Penguins are now easily the best team in the East.

San Jose Sharks – Brian Campbell is exactly what the Sharks needed. They have the talent up front and they have some solid defensive defensemen but what they didn’t have was that top tier puck moving defensemen and PP quarterback. Campbell is that guy. They still need some of their other players to step up their games if they want to be true Cup contenders but the Sharks should be a lot better today than they were yesterday.

Long Term Winners

Atlanta Thrashers – We knew they were going to trade Hossa but by getting two very solid young and cheap 3rd line players, a good prospect and a first round pick they got more than I thought they would. They now have some young depth role players that they very much needed and if they can add a nice centerman in the off season with the money they saved from Hossa they will have the makings of a nice core of players.

Losers

Montreal Canadiens – If you think you have a chance to make a run in the playoffs I don’t understand the thought process of trading your top and only established goalie for a second round pick. The Canadiens are now rushing Price to the NHL and while he has looked great at times he has looked mediocre at times too. Rushing goalies to the NHL is never a good thing. Just look at Marc-Andre Fleury as evidence. This move puts Price’s confidence and development at risk. On top of that GM Bob Gainey was talking for a couple weeks about wanting a big name player to add to the team but he came up empty here too. He wasn’t even able to add some needed size to the line up. Overall the Canadiens are not as good a team after this evening as they were this morning.

Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks aren’t losers because they made a bad trade but they are losers because they weren’t able to make a trade they desperately needed. That is to add some much needed offense to the lineup. With a bit more offensive punch they could have been a threat in the playoffs. Instead they may not make the playoffs.

Undetermined

Dallas Stars – I am partly surprised that they didn’t have to give up more to get Richards but Richards with his huge contract is also a significant long term risk. No doubt that Richards will help the Stars but will he help them to the tune of $7.8 million salary? Last year Richards got 70 points and he is on about the same pace this year. That’s not bad but that’s not $7.8 million value. People will say that it is largely due to the fact doesn’t play regularly with top level players which is partly true (he does play on the top PP unit) but he also plays in the horrific defensive southeast division. Richards has 28 points in 23 games against southeast division opponents and 29 points in 39 games against the rest of the league. That is 60 point pace against non-southeast opponents and I can assure you he isn’t going to a team in Dallas that is loaded with offensive players. Maybe this trade will invigorate Richards and he will return to his 90 point form but that is far from a certainty and until we see what Richards does we don’t know if Dallas does well in this trade or not.

Ottawa Senators – If you go by acquisition cost, Martin Lapointe’s value is somewhere between Wade Belak and Rob Davison. That would indicate that Lapointe won’t mean a whole lot to the Senators and he probably won’t. But the Senators have the talent to make a run in the playoffs regardless of what they did today but they are also in a downward spiral and if they can’t turn it around and they exit the playoffs early I am sure we will all look back at this trade deadline and say they should have done more.

Feb 252008
 

It is a crazy thought but could the Senators miss the playoffs? You may think it is rediculous to think that the Senators could miss the playoffs but the Senators are only 9 points out of 9th spot currently held by the Philadelphia Flyers who a few short weeks ago were in as comfortable a playoff position as the Senators are now. The Senators are a dismal 4-6-2 in their last dozen games and with several important important games coming up followed by a tough west coast trip they have to turn their game around soon.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the Senators play the 7th Boston Bruins and Thursday they play the 8/9th place Flyers. On Saturday they have strong Pittsburgh Penguins after which they go on a tough west coast road trip with games against Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix before coming back east for games with Boston and Montreal. If the Senators can play .500 or above during that span of 9 games their playoff hopes look good but that is a real tough schedule.

The star forwards on the Senators are currently playing horrible hockey. Fisher has just one point in 11 games. Alfredsson has 2 in 7 games while Heatley and Spezza both have 3 in 7 games. A Senators fan might hope for a big time trade deadline deal to turn the team around and while that is possible it is actually fairly rare that a deadline deal has a major immediate impact on a team. Plus one of their biggest problems since their hot 15-2 start has been inconsistent goaltending and I can assure you that the Senators are unlikely to be able to address that weakness before tomorrow’s trade deadline.

It certainly would have been unbelievable after the first month and a half of the season and even a few weeks ago but if the Senators can’t turn their fortunes and struggle for the next couple weeks they could certainly find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Feb 202008
 

Unfortunately it has been a while since I posted these rankings so here they are.

Rank 7 Days
Ago
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
Rank
1 1 Detroit 0.669 0.508 0.661
2 3 Minnesota 0.567 0.522 0.592
3 4 Dallas 0.563 0.518 0.580
4 2 San Jose 0.542 0.525 0.576
5 6 Anaheim 0.540 0.520 0.556
6 5 Nashville 0.532 0.518 0.551
7 7 Ottawa 0.583 0.474 0.549
8 11 Vancouver 0.525 0.513 0.537
9 10 St. Louis 0.500 0.524 0.536
10 16 New Jersey 0.558 0.478 0.533
11 12 Phoenix 0.500 0.526 0.533
12 15 Pittsburgh 0.542 0.480 0.516
13 9 Calgary 0.500 0.520 0.516
14 8 Colorado 0.492 0.522 0.514
15 19 Montreal 0.549 0.471 0.512
16 14 Philadelphia 0.525 0.479 0.502
17 18 Boston 0.500 0.487 0.494
18 13 Columbus 0.468 0.526 0.493
19 17 Buffalo 0.517 0.478 0.493
20 21 NY Rangers 0.492 0.485 0.482
21 20 Chicago 0.449 0.523 0.470
22 23 NY Islanders 0.467 0.490 0.467
23 24 Carolina 0.492 0.468 0.452
24 25 Washington 0.475 0.467 0.431
25 22 Los Angeles 0.387 0.534 0.427
26 26 Atlanta 0.443 0.477 0.425
27 28 Toronto 0.418 0.490 0.416
28 29 Florida 0.419 0.474 0.397
29 27 Edmonton 0.369 0.527 0.397
30 30 Tampa Bay 0.415 0.476 0.393

AdjWinP is a teams winning percentage when shootouts are considered ties and there are no points awarded for overtime losses
SchedStr is an indication of a teams relative difficulty of schedule
Power Rank is the teams expected winning percentage if team played all .500 teams

Feb 112008
 

Today we saw the first significant trade leading up to this years trade deadline as the Ottawa Senators traded Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo to Carolina for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. Although this trade should help the Sens this season, a word of caution has to be put out concerning the trading for players from the southeast division.

The southeast division is one horrible division and it could be argued that 5 of the worst 10 teams in the league play in the southeast division. A big reason for this is bad defenses and outright horrible goaltending (Tomas Vokoun aside). The three worst teams in terms of team save percentage are Tampa (.881), Washington (.889) and Carolina (.891) while Atlanta (.904) is a marginally more respectable 12th worst. Because of this weak goaltending offensive players who play in the southeast division often look better than they probably are. Cory Stillman is a perfect example.

Cory Stillman vs SE division: 18GP, 11G, 11A, 22PTS
Cory Stillman vs rest of league: 37GP, 10G, 14A, 25PTS

In double the games he has fewer goals and only slightly more points.

And it isn’t just Stillman. Here are a few other big name trade acquisition possibilities.

Marian Hossa vs SE: 19GP, 11G, 10A, 21PTS
Marian Hossa vs Others: 36GP, 13G, 14A, 27PTS

Olli Jokinen vs SE: 20GP, 9g, 15a, 24pts
Olli Jokinen vs others: 38GP, 20g, 14a, 34pts

Jokinen has actually done well in terms of scoring goals against the rest of the league but his overall point totals are still lower.

Vaclav Prospal vs SE: 22GP, 12g, 15a, 27pts
Vaclav Prospal vs others: 34GP, 11g, 13a, 24pts

When it comes to acquiring offensive players from the southeast division it is definitely a case of buyer beware. They may not be everything you hoped they would be.

Feb 082008
 

When one looks at the standings one often gets an incorrect view of them due to the difference in number of games played. For example, Buffalo trails the Rangers by 3 points but this is deceiving because the Sabre’s actually have the better win percentage having played 4 fewer games. What I prefer to look at is how many games above .500 is each team. Here is what we get for the eastern conference.

Ottawa +15
Philadelphia +12
Montreal +12
Pittsburgh +11
New Jersey +10
Boston +6
Buffalo +5
NY Rangers +3
Washington +2
Carolina +1
NY Islanders -1
Florida -1
Atlanta -1
Toronto -3
Tampa Bay -4

Based on the above you see that Ottawa, Philadelphia, Montreal, Pittsburgh and New Jersey are all in very good shape to make the playoffs barring a major catastrophe for any of them. Beyond those teams you will get one team from the southeastern division making the playoffs. The edge would go to Washington because they currently have the best record but they are also playing the best hockey right now. But realistically none of the teams can be counted out as none of them are likely good enough to pull away from the pack and all are capable of sticking with the group. That will leave the final 2 playoff spots to be decided between Boston, Buffalo and the NY Rangers. I like Buffalo to make it because I think they have the most talent but they have also been the streakiest teams in the NHL this season with some really long winning streaks and some really long losing streaks. The Rangers have been really inconsistent as well looking like an elite team one night and a complete dud the next. Drury isn’t living up to his contract, Jagr is unpredictable and hasn’t found the chemistry with Gomez he had with Nylander, and Lundqvist is looking over worked. Meanwhile Boston has just been cruising along all season neither looking spectacular, nor looking bad. They have benefitted a lot from some great Tim Thomas goaltending and so long as that continues they have a great shot at the playoffs. The Bruins and Sabres have 3 games remaining against each other starting with a game tonight in Buffalo and ending with a game in Boston the final Saturday of the season. The Bruins also have one game against the Rangers while the Sabres play the Rangers three more times. These games could go a long way to determining which two of these teams makes the playoffs.

Now for the western conference.

Detroit +30
Dallas +13
San Jose +12
Minnesota +10
Colorado +8
Anaheim +7
Nashville +7
Calgary +7
Vancouver +6
Phoenix +5
Columbus +3
St. Louis +3
Edmonton -1
Chicago -1
Los Angeles -7

The first thing you will notice is how rediculously good Detroit is. The second surprise might be Dallas in second spot. Some wrote them off as contenders early in the year when GM Doug Armstrong was fired but they have fought hard to keep pace with everyone but Detroit. I still think coach Dave Tippett deserves some serious coach of the year consideration for what he has done in Dallas this year and the past several years.

At this time last year in the western conference pretty much all 8 playoff spots were set. The Colorado Avalanche posted a late season surge to make it close but realistically at this point in the year last year the playoff teams were decided. This year is clearly different as only 3 teams, Los Angeles, Edmonton and Chicago would be considered very long shots to make the playoffs. If I had to guess I would say that St. Louis and Columbus are pretty good bets to miss the playoffs as well but of the other 10 teams anything can happen. Phoenix is currently 2 games back of Calgary but they have been one of the best teams in the NHL since they acquited Bryzgalov and have to be considered serious contenders for a playoff spot. Vancouver has struggled a bit recently thanks in large part to a rash of injuries on defense. Bieksa, Miller, Krajicek and Miller have all been out but if they can get a few of them healthy and in the lineup the Canucks should be in line for the post season. The teams that need to be watching the Canucks and Coyotes from below are the Avalanche, Nashville and Calgary as these are the teams I believe are most likely to fall. But the Avalanche are set to have Paul Stastny return from his apedectomy surgery on Saturday and Ryan Smyth should be returning from his broken ankle late February and Sakic may return from his hernia surgery in March so they have some postives happening too. Plus it would not surprise me if they win the Peter Forsberg sweepstakes which we may find out in the next week or two.

And speaking of Forsberg, that is where things get interesting. Where Forsberg decides to go could have a significant impact on trade deadline happenings, particularly if he chooses one of the bubble teams in the western conference like Colorado or Vancouver. It is going to be interesting to see how the teams react to where Forsberg ends up and whether they desperate move at the trade deadline to keep pace.

Feb 072008
 

It seems the common wisdom and general consensus amongst the Toronto media and fans is that Maurice is a decent to good coach and is not to blame in any significant way for the Leafs woes this season. But is Paul Maurice really a good coach? I personally don’t think so.

A lot of people point to how Maurice took the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001-02 as evidence of his good coaching ability. Certainly he has to be given some credit for that but on the flip side if we assume that the Leafs won’t make the playoffs this season Maurice coached teams will have missed the playoffs in 7 of 10 seasons. That isn’t a record to be proud of or one that I would consider evidence of good coaching ability. Add to that his 7-12-8-2 record in the year he was fired in Carolina and you could easily argue that his historical track record is quite horrible.

But let’s take a closer look at what he has done with the Leafs. In 2005-06 the Leafs were coached by Pat Quinn and finished the season with a 41-33-8 record narrowly missing the playoffs. This Pat Quinn team featured a defense that included Alexander Khavanov and Aki Berg neither of whom played another game in the NHL and who were essentially replaced by Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill. Regardless of what you think of the contracts given to those two players you all have to agree that Kubina and Gill are vast upgrades over Berg and Khavanov. Also on the Pat Quinn team was Jason Allison and Tie Domi who haven’t played another game in the NHL and Eric Lindros, who had one more largely unsuccessful campaign in Dallas before retiring. In essence that Pat Quinn team that ended up with 92 points had 5 fringe players on the roster 4 of whom never played in the NHL again but Quinn managed to get them to 92 points.

But the following season Maruice took an improved team (on paper) from 92 points to 91 points and a 40-31-11 record. That was followed up with this season where Maurice essentially has the same team as last year with better goaltending (Toskala) and a 40 goal scorer (Blake) and turned the team into a team on pace for 76 points. Something doesn’t seem right.

But what may be more of a statement against Maurice is what he has done with the Leafs special teams. In 2005-06 under Quinn the Leafs power play was one of the best in the league with a 21.4% success rate while the PK% was 80%. In Maurice’s first season the power play dropped to 17.7% and the penalty kill to a near league worst 78.5%. This season the Leafs powerplay is a dreadful 13.9% (only the Blues are worse) and the Leafs penalty kill is 78.5% (only Carolina is worse). A huge part of the Leafs problems this season and last can be attributed to their bad special teams play. This is nothing new as Paul Maurice coached teams have rarely had good powerplay or penalty kill percentages. In the year he took Carolina to the Stanley Cup finals the Hurricanes were 20th in the league in PK% and 12th in the league in PP%.

In summary, seven of ten Maurice coached teams missed the playoffs, Maurice coached teams have poor special teams play, and Maurice led a more talented Leaf team to fewer points than the less talented Pat Quinn team. Is Maurice a good coach? The evidence says certainly not.

Feb 062008
 

As has been the case for almost 2 years now the western conference dominates these rankings but maybe the biggest surprise is the Phoenix Coyotes. Every since they acquired Ilya Bryzgalov the have been one of the better teams in the NHL which has pushed them to 5th in the Power Rankings. Nashville is also a surprise team in the west and it is certainly conceivable that both Phoenix and Nashville make the playoffs. Who’d have thought that before the season began.

Another note worth mentioning is that for the first time this season the Ottawa Senators are not the top ranked eastern conference team as Philadelphia has passed them while Boston and Montreal are right on their tails.

Rank 7 Days
Ago
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
Rank
1 1 Detroit 0.736 0.517 0.735
2 3 Minnesota 0.585 0.534 0.626
3 2 San Jose 0.577 0.534 0.620
4 12 Nashville 0.537 0.528 0.564
5 4 Phoenix 0.509 0.537 0.557
6 8 Dallas 0.535 0.524 0.553
7 14 Philadelphia 0.598 0.464 0.542
8 13 Colorado 0.509 0.531 0.538
9 11 Calgary 0.500 0.535 0.536
10 7 Anaheim 0.509 0.533 0.535
11 6 St. Louis 0.481 0.539 0.535
12 5 Vancouver 0.509 0.524 0.535
13 9 Ottawa 0.602 0.454 0.533
14 10 Columbus 0.482 0.539 0.522
15 15 Boston 0.519 0.480 0.512
16 16 Montreal 0.556 0.459 0.508
17 18 New Jersey 0.538 0.463 0.497
18 17 Pittsburgh 0.519 0.467 0.480
19 20 Buffalo 0.510 0.465 0.472
20 19 Chicago 0.423 0.545 0.472
21 22 NY Rangers 0.482 0.470 0.457
22 23 Los Angeles 0.391 0.545 0.439
23 21 NY Islanders 0.444 0.476 0.433
24 24 Carolina 0.473 0.458 0.426
25 26 Atlanta 0.446 0.464 0.420
26 25 Washington 0.463 0.460 0.417
27 27 Florida 0.436 0.462 0.402
28 28 Edmonton 0.355 0.537 0.389
29 29 Toronto 0.391 0.475 0.374
30 30 Tampa Bay 0.398 0.466 0.369

AdjWinP is a teams winning percentage when shootouts are considered ties and there are no points awarded for overtime losses
SchedStr is an indication of a teams relative difficulty of schedule
Power Rank is the teams expected winning percentage if team played all .500 teams