Sorry for being pretty absent over the past few weeks. I was away for a couple weeks on vacation visiting family and stuff. But things should hopefully pick up from here on.
I would like to take a moment to announce that Joe, from Joe’s Washington Hockey Blog has moved his blog to Capitals.hockeyanalysis.com and will become the maintainer of the Capitals blog on HockeyAnalysis.com. Joe will be a great addition to HockeyAnalysis.com as the Capitals are challenge Boston for top spot in the east and are a represent the eastern conference and are a serious threat to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals.
Brian Burke’s first trade as Leafs GM was anything but a blockbuster acquiring Brad May from the Anaheim Duck’s, but it does confirm indicate that Burke really likes to acquire players he knows well. As I have said before, Burke isn’t one to make a trade just to dump a player he doesn’t want or need, he makes trades to acquire a player he wants. He wanted to add more toughness and Brad May was his guy.
Despite the fact that the Senators have one of the worst records in hockey, many people still claim that they are a very talented team playing below where they should be. They have three highly skilled players in Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson but might be the least talented team in the NHL from player #4 on. Their #5 point producer is Alexandre Picard, who hardly had a regular shift in Tampa last year. Brendan Bell, who couldn’t make the Phoenix Coyote’s team last year is not getting a regular shift and nearly 17 minutes a game on Ottawa’s defense. Jason Smith who saw his ice time diminish significantly in Philadelphia last year is now getting 18 minutes a game for the Senators. Winchester, Ruutu, Foligno, Donovan, Phillips, Volchenkov, Kelly, Schubert, Neil, McAmmond, etc. all have their beneficial attributes but being highly skilled are generally not among them. Please, the era of the Sens being one of the most talented teams in the NHL is well behind us.
Don’t look now but the laughing stock of the NHL early in the season are now back in the playoff race. Yes, I am talking about the Dallas Stars who are now one game above .500 with 39 points and trail 8th place Phoenix by just 4 points and have 3 games in hand. The Stars are 9-5-1 since the Sean Avery incident and subsequent suspension. Prior to that they were just 8-11-4.
The Jonathan Tavares sweepstakes will probably come down to three teams, the New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers, and the St. Louis Blues. The Islanders are a downright horrible team with no stars and the Thrashers aren’t much better with just one star player who is playing poorly. Both will likely trade away more talent come the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Blues have been devastated by injuries. It started off with Erik Johnson before the season began and Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer and Jay McKee are out with injuries. This Blues team probably wouldn’t have challenged for a playoff spot but without Johnson, Kariya, Brewer and McKee they just aren’t a very good team. My bet is Tavares goes to one of the eastern conference teams but the Blues will be in the hunt with their injury situation. Honorable mention goes to toe Lightning and Senators who probably will be able to stay ahead of these other dreadful teams.
Kris Versteeg leads all rookies with 13 goals and 33 points and may very well have the inside track on rookie of the year thus far (now that Brassard, my pre-season pick is injured and out for the season) but two guys to watch for are Bobby Ryan and Steve Mason. Ryan has 8 goals and 22 points in just 23 games and has been playing a key role in Anaheim’s offense. Ryan was the second overall pick in 2005 behind some guy names Sidney Crosby and he is finally showing why he was so deserving of being picked so high in the draft. Meanwhile, Steve Mason has gotten the Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoff hunt with a 13-9-1 record with 5 shut outs, a 1.82 gaa and a .934 save percentage. His goals against average and save percentage are both tops in the NHL. If he can continue to play anywhere close to this level for the remainder of the season he’ll be a lock for rookie of the year.