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Since Brodeur is always overworked by the time the playoffs roll around, how dangerous would he be if he returns with the team still in the playoff hunt?
That's a really interesting and valid point. He is one of the all time great workhorses in the NHL. In fact, the last time that he played fewer than 67 games was way back in 1994-95. That was a season that was cut in half by labor stoppage. That was also the team's first Cup victory. It will be interesting to see if they're still in the playoff hunt and if he's able to rehab himself back into form. I think the potential for him to be fresh and maybe not breakdown the way we've seen him break down in the playoffs the last two or three years is certainly there. Good point and something to keep our eye on.
Is there any chance that claude lemieux will work his way back with the 'big' club in sj?
Well, hmmmm. I always hate to say never or in this case 0%, but it just seems so unlikely that a man who's 43 and who has been out of the game for a number of years could suddenly get himself back into, not just playing shape, but playing shape for one of the best teams in the NHL. It's too Hollywood for me. I do understand the attraction for Lemieux. He is a playoff warrior. If there's one mingling question for the Sharks is if they have enough Cup experience, especially up front. That said, it's the longest of long shots that he'll see action for the Sharks this year.
He last played in the NHL in 2002-2003, he played 32 games for Dallas. But, another update on the watch, he has a goal and an assist and 2 PIM in three games for Worcester.
With Morrow out long-term and the Stars collapsing, isn't it time to give Modano the C again? He's the obvious leader in Dallas, and just put up his 1300 point with the organization.
That would seem an obvious choice. I must admit, I don't really know the dynamics of the dressing room politics. Obviously, an emotional time when Modano was relieved of the captaincy and Morrow was given the captain before the '06-'07 season. I don't know if it's a matter of just giving it back to him. There are other players who might wear the C if they are to give one, as opposed to simply going with a group of alternating captains. Whether Modano is wearing the C or not, is a moot point. His contributions yesterday in a big win. This is a Stars team that has a lot of character, guys who've won, guys who understand what it takes to pull together. Mike Modano is one of those guys. They have dug themselves an enormous hole. I'm still of the mind that this is a team that will be there when the playoffs start.
With their current roster (assuming a healthy Briere, Randy Jones and Ryan Parent), how far can you see the Flyers going this season?
They were a team that I, along with many observers, thought they would be at the top of the division. I still think that's the case. It's the most competitive division in the East and one of the top 2 or 3 top divisions in the NHL. I go back to the annual question in Philadelphia, is there enough goaltending. Last year, they got that, but this year, they're off to a rocky start. I think that will plague Biron and the Flyers to the playoffs. They are a tough, physical, very skilled team.
Think Hossa has finally hit his groove with the Wings?
Yes. I'm not sure finally, he seemed to hit the groove as soon as they dropped the puck. He's been terrific. There's no other way to put it. Where you might have expected a period of transition, especially on a Cup winning team. He's got 26 points in 23 games. He's +8, he has three game winners on a team that's already chockfull of bright stars, he's assumed a place at or near the top of the list for the Red Wings.
Is there a more terrifying player in the league right now than Milan Lucic? That man's a monster!
I happened to be in Boston a little over a week ago. What he did to Nick Boynton of the Panthers isn't pretty. And he's been doing that all year. He's a force, physically. He's brought with him a good set of offensive skills. In talking with GM Schiralli, only the real issue with Lucic is making the 20 year old understand what got him to the NHL. They don't want him suddenly thinking that he is Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux or even Cam Neely, a player to whom he is often compared. He is a very physical player and that is his forte. He's been a tremendous surprise. He's become a lightning rod for fan excitement in Boston and that's a great thing.
How long before you think Carolina pulls the trigger on a coaching change? any rumors out there?
Even in the offseason, whether they were fair or not, there was a lot of speculation, that Laviolette was going to have a short leash. That's what happens when you miss the playoffs two straight years after winning the Cup. The Hurricanes went through a horrific string and missing the playoffs by two points. They began this season with even more injuries. Justin Williams has been out all season. He's an important part of the Hurricanes offense. They miss Pitkanen. But you're right, this is a team that always seems to be not quite in the groove. They're 4-6 in the last 10. They've given up 10 more goals then they've scored. They're not what they were in their Stanley Cup run. I still think Laviolette is a fine head coach. You don't win a Cup by luck. There certainly are rumors that the leash is getting shorter for a team that's getting desperate. Missing the playoffs for three years in a row is a kick in the shins. Unless the Canes can show some life, I'm sure there will be a lot of discussions about what changes need to be made.
What's your biggest surprise of the players among the top 15-20 scoring leaders so far?
I'm not sure whether I'm surprised by Semin in Washington. Having seen a fair amount of the Capitals last season, I understood that he was a real raw talent. But the fact that he is putting it together. But with 27 points in 16 games, he and Ovechkin are as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the NHL. I know people will point to Malkin and Crosby in Pittsburgh. Boy, wouldn't it be great to see Pittsburgh and Washington in the playoffs? It's also great to see Simon Gagne back on track. He missed most of last year with concussion problems. He's 3rd in NHL scoring. He's +15. That's another one that's a pleasant surprise.
With the way Thomas is playing and seeing that him and Fernandez both are in contract years, do you see the Bruins shopping Fernandez this year or do you think they have to keep him through the playoffs and end of the year since hes played so well as the backup...(7-0-1 in his last 8 starts)
Great point. It's certainly a pleasant dilemma for Schiralli. One of the wild card in that equation is Tuukka Rask, who is honing his skills in the AHL. He, long term, is the future of goaltending in Boston. There is no doubt that Tim Thomas is the present of goaltending in Boston, which leaves Fernandez on the outside. But as the season goes on and barring injury, and the Bruins looking to not just make the playoffs, but deep into the playoffs, it may not be the worst thing in the world to having Manny Fernandez ready to pinch hit for Thomas, as opposed to putting Rask in the position to having to come in relief in the playoffs. I think you'll find that Thomas will sign long term and Fernandez will sign somewhere else. But it's a nice thing to have -- too much goaltending.
Vancouver appears to need some more scoring to offset the loss of Roberto Luongo. Since they were willing to throw $20M at Sundin would they be in the market for Jason Spezza?
That's funny. You must be looking at the same rumor boards or listening to the same buzz that I am. Clearly the Canucks are looking for a big, skilled center to give them added offensive depth. Obviously they're still very keen on bringing Sundin to the West Coast. The fact that they've played as well as they have, it makes Sundin's possible move there more likely than last July or August. But if they can't land Sundin, the pressure will be on GM Gillis to find offense somewhere else. He has a number of potential free agents, including Ohlund. And if he doesn't think he can re-sign Ohlund, then he might try to move him. Ottawa, looking for help on the blueline, also needs to shake things up. It would be a knee jerk reaction in trading Spezza, but that's a rumor that has legs.
Since it doesn't look like the Panthers can re-sign Bouwmeester, where does JayBo end up? What kind of return can the Cats get for him?
I think he's certainly not going to walk at the end of the season. The Panthers are a long shot to make the playoffs, once again. It seems Bouwmeester has little interest in prolonging his career in Florida and who can blame him. If he wants to play somewhere else and can do so as an unrestricted free agent in July. Their GM will be looking for a big package of picks, prospects and at least one NHL position player for Bouwmeester. He should be able to get such a package. Who knows, maybe from new Toronto GM Burke.
Do you see Doug Wilson making a move to add more depth the defensemen or to shore up a third line that has lacked identity so far?
Depends on where Lemieux fits in, I suppose....just kidding. Certainly Doug Wilson has not been shy the last couple of years at making moves around trade deadline time to try and give the Sharks that extra boost to get over that playoff hunt. It hasn't worked. Bill Guerin and Brian Campbell are the two noteworthy moves that Wilson made the last two years. Still the Sharks couldn't get beyond the second round. I would think, assuming the Sharks continue at the high level they've played and barring injuries to the crucial parts of the lineup, that he will only tinker with the roster. That would be prudent -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
With Jonas Hiller playing so well, is there a goaltending controversy brewing in Anaheim?
No. With all due respect to Hiller, I don't see that he poses much of a threat to J.S. Giguere. He is quite simply The Man in Anaheim. That's not to say the Ducks aren't happy to see quality play from Hiller. We mentioned it earlier in the chat, the teams that want to go far in the playoffs, almost always have to have a second goaltender who can deliver the goods, if only for a few days. We saw it in the playoffs two years ago when Giguere wasn't available at the start of the playoffs, because of some family issues. Ilya Bryzgolov stepped in and was terrific and helped the Ducks get on the role that saw the Ducks win the Cup. Hiller may find himself in a similar position. But this is still Giguere's show in Anaheim.
What's your opinion on the Rangers so far? They've had some bad games, but always seem to bounce back with a good 3-4 game winning streak?
You're right. That's a mark of a good team. You can already start to see the separation of the standings. Teams that can't get out of the rut of win 1 lose 2, win 2 lose 2 pattern. The Rangers are not perfect, and they have not played as well in the last 3-4 weeks as they did at the start of the season. There are still some concerns about their offense. They need to find a comfort zone for Drury and Gomez. I think there are still concerns about their defensive depth and play. Some criticism of Wade Redden, a free agent signing in the offseason, and some of Michael Rozsival, and Dimitri Kalinin. Things are not perfect on Broadway. But they still have one of the game's best goaltenders. They have a more explosive offense than a year ago, potentially. Barring a huge collapse, they're going to be in the playoffs for the fourth straight year since the lockout.
What do you see the Hawks doing this season with trades? Obviously moving Khaby has been talked about, but what about Havlat, who's a FA at the end of the year. As good as they are playing this year, shouldn't they be focused on winning the 10' cup realisticaly?
Well, yes, I don't think the expectations are that this Chicago team is good enough to beat a San Jose or Detroit right now. But they are also a vastly improved team from a year ago. If they can keep Havlat all year, that's something they'll want to have going forward this spring, even if they have not intention of bringing him back this offseason. The goaltending situation is somewhat similar to what's going on in Boston. Khabibulin is their best goaltending. Cristobal Huet has not shown that he can match Khabibulin's play. That makes it difficult for the team. Do you trade your team's best goaltender because he's the most marketable or do you keep him to see if he takes you for a long ride in the spring?
Wasn't Brendan Shanahan supposed to sign with the Flyers a week ago?
Well, I think if Brendan Shanahan had his way, he'd have been playing somewhere by the end of December. But that's the way of the salary cap. I think the Flyers would like to have him on the team. I'm sure their GM will tred lightly before upsetting the dynamics of the dressing room. Perhaps Shanahan ends up in New Jersey. But the Devils have issues of their own with players coming back from injury. It may still happen in Philadelphia, but the stars have not aligned to make such a move possible.
Evgeni Malkin is having a great year and we're already hearing talk of MVP. But can he ever really take over the leadership role that Crosby has and deserves?
To me, that's the great thing about the dynamic in Pittsburgh. Crosby is perfectly suited to be the leader of that team. He has the perfect disposition for it. He understands the pressures of being the star and promoting the league. I'm not saying he likes it, but he understands. Malkin is uncomfortable in the spotlight and with TV cameras. Playing in Crosby's shadow has allowed him to flourish. He will get better and better because Crosby and his personality allows it. I don't think there will be a leadership battle in Pittsburgh.
We finally have Brian Burke. Who will be on the short list of players that may be brought in and/or shipped out?
As big a personality as Burke is and as dramatic as he has the potential to be, he will take the time to sort out what he likes and doesn't like. I think too much has been made of his anti-European stand. It's true that his Ducks team that won two years ago was mostly North American in style and heritage. To say that he'll trade someone simply because he's European makes no sense. Burke will be happy to keep those players if they play well. He will want to make sure his team isn't undersized, which it is now. He wants a better combination of skill and size. We talked a little earlier about Bouwmeester of Florida. He is the type of player that I can see Burke taking a good hard run at before the trade deadline. This team will change, that much is certain, I just don't think it's going to happen in the next week or two. Rather, he'll take a good hard look and in January I think we'll see the wheels turning and Burke's imprint on this squad.
Do you agree with the critics that Henry Lundqvist won't truly get the respect he deserves until he cuts down the size on those ginormous leg pads?
I've never actually heard anyone say that it's the pads not the man in relation to Lundqvist. All of the equipment in the NHL are inspected. I think it's the quickness in the legs inside the pads that make him as good as he is. He has earned all of the respect he has and that respect is considerable.
Steve Mason is playing like an bonefide NHL top 15 goaltender in his limited duty this year. What do you think of him stealing the starting job of Pascal LeClaire and will the Jackets powerplay ever be able to score a goal?
The second question first. I think head coach Ken Hitchcock shares your pain. This is a Columbus team that's very much a work in progress. They made whole sale changes to the blueline. They are desperate to make the playoffs. But they aren't quite there yet. As we speak they are 10-10-3. That's not good enough to make the playoffs. That's why you are seeing more of Mason then you are used to seeing. LeClaire has battled the injury bug. He's been more inconsistent than one might imagine.
The Kings. Are they overachieving at the moment or are we seeing them develop into a solid team?
It might be a little bit of both. I talked to Murray a couple of weeks ago and Bill Ranford, the goaltending coach. This is a team that's learning much more quickly about what it takes to win in the NHL. They still miss Jack Johnson on the blueline. They are slowly getting there. They are 10-9-3. That's a pretty good accomplishment at this stage of the season. They're a team like Columbus, St. Louis -- it looks like they're close to being a playoff team, because the points are close. But we'll see what kind of team they are in the next 20 games. The pressure to play at a high level every other night or three out of four nights is a lot for a young team. Nothing would be better to see the Kings sneak into the playoffs, but I think it's still too early.
What do you think of Washington's injury situation and how they found ways to remain in the picture with so many key guys out?
That's the $64 question right there. The Capitals have been hit by injuries and to key players. We mentioned Semin, Mike Green among others. It sounds trite to say it, but these are the times where teams find out aobut their roster, where they find out about players who get ice time and top four forward minutes. They prove if they are NHL material or not. The Capitals are still in the mix to win the division and make the playoffs. I don't think that's an issue. By the end of the season this stretch might actually help them.
Will the Stanley Cup finals be returning to Boston for the 1st time since 1990?
That's a pretty big mouthful just 24 games into the regular season. But I have been very impressed with the Bruins. They have a lot of desirable elements. They have a good amount of depth at the blue line. They are tough. They have improved their skill quotient dramatically over last year. To me, it's too early to say yes, this is a team that could go to the Finals. I can see the Bruins going at least to the Conference finals. I'm afraid that's as far as I can go right now. Plus, what else would I say for the next 60 games if I already annoited them finalists?
What did you think of the Wings/Boston game? Were the Wings pathetic or is Boston that good?
That's the danger of those kinds of meetings during the regular season. Leading up to them, they take on magnified proportions. And after, especially with the way the Bruins won, they are skewed. No, I don't think the Red Wings title defense hopes are done after that one game. It's probably more important for the Bruins that they're better then they think. The Red Wings already know how good they are. The Bruins are still finding that out.
I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. We're going to go headlong into the holiday season. Before we know it, we'll have the outdoor game. I look forward to chatting next Monday.