So, where were we? Hope you all have had a nice, peaceful holiday. Let's talk some puck.
I love Byron Bitz and Steve Begin as much as the next guy, but Marc Savard needs a legitimate scoring winger to make full use of his passing abilities. Who might the B's bring in to help with their scoring woes?
Jonathan; A couple of early questions on the Bs' offensive woes and it's true a playmaker like Marc Savard does thrive with a guy who knows what to do with the puck. His career was revived in Atlanta playing with a guy named Ilya Kovalchuk and I think it's a given that the Bruins will be calling around if contract talks don't move forward with Kovalchuk in Atlanta. Alexander Frolov is another guy that could be on the move. Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen, a center, I know, but a guy who can do lots, may also be available.
Do you think alexander radulov and nikolai zherdev will come back to the nhl
Craig; I think Radulov is more of a given and I'm pretty sure he'd be back now if it weren't for the Olympics (pressure on him to stay in the KHL through the Vancouver Games). Zherdev is less mature in terms of his playing ability and may be better suited to staying where it hardly matters what you do at the other end of the ice something that drove Ken Hitchcock and Tom Renney crazy when he was in Columbus and New York respectively.
The Sharks are riding a 4 game winning streak and the top players are playing great (Heatley, Marleau, Nabokov, Thornton) but it is the first time all season the Sharks have been a no show in terms of secondary scoring. The 3rd and 4th lines haven't produced anything offensively for awhile now. Should anything be done to try and fix this problem since the lack of secondary scoring is a big reason why the Sharks haven't been able to go deep into the playoffs.Should SJ start thinking about trading anyone away come the deadline?
Andrew; Great question but I would be surprised to see the Sharks make any dramatic moves between now and the March 3 deadline barring a serious injury. That's the nice thing when you have great top end talent is that they can carry you through periods where your depth isn't producing. True, you need it all to win a Cup and the question is whether the Sharks have a Max Talbot or a Dan Cleary lurking in that line-up. Guess you don't know until he pops his head out - or doesn't.
When I moved to DC from Nashville I figured I'd be trading up a lot more in the standings than I have: how have the Predators managed to win like this, esp after their pretty horrible start? Is it as simple as swapping in Goc and Sullivan (great to have Sully back)? Are any of the previous players playing better? Fewer dumb penalties? Special teams? I really need to get Center Ice, I guess. Thanks!
Robert; I think the Preds are one of the great stories of the first half even if they have gone dry in the past week. Barry Trotz talked to my colleague Pierre LeBrun earlier and he talked about simplifying their game and I think for a team that can't match raw talent with the Chicagos and San Joses of the west it's worked. Martin Erat has chipped in nicely as has Olympian Patric Hornqvist. And the blue line has all kinds of weapons not to mention the continued emergence of Pekka Rinne as a top-flight goalie.
If Bryzgalov can continue his outstading play, do the Coyotes have a chance to do some damage in the playoffs?
Ryan; Well, first things first, the 'Yotes have to hang on and get there. A year ago at the All-Star break they were in 5th and fell off the map. Don't see that happening to Dave Tippett's team but they are built for the playoffs in terms of being able to win one-goal, low-scoring affairs. Need to stay in the top half of the bracket, though, to have a hope of getting out of the first round.
Who can you see grabbing the last two to three spots on forward for Team Canada.? Who is one guy you think should make it but wont.
Mr. Mustard; The one guy I'm interested in is Jordan Staal who, in my humble opinion, has earned a spot on that Canadian team. But he'll be in a mix with Brenden Morrow, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Fisher, Mike Richards, Shane Doan and Ryan Smyth and I'm guessing only three max will go from that group. I think it would be a shame, though, if J. Staal isn't there when the dust clears.
It was speculated for awhile that Franzen was going to try and play some games before Vancouver in an attempt to make the Swedish Roster. Now that it has been announced and he has been left off, when is he likely to return to Detroit? They could really use the big man.
Steve; You are right on with the Franzen situation and it's relieved GM Ken Holland who might have been put in a position where he was objecting to a player of his trying to get in shape for the tournament as opposed to rehabbing on the team's timeline which would put him back on the ice post-Olympics. They will need him to get back in the hunt for both a playoff spot and then to make some noise come April.
Any thoughts on the Caps/CBJ trade? Looks like the Caps were able to clear about an additional $1 mil in cap space without giving much up. Additionally, I gives Karl Alzner a chance to play more. With Nylander gone the Caps could be big players at the trade deadline. Kovalchuck as a rental?
Zeke; Interesting deal, for sure. Alzner looks like an immediate beneficiary and with Mike Knuble in the line-up Chris Clark's role seemed to be diminished, not to mention his battle with injury. Clark is a Hitchcock guy and should thrive in Columbus where the wheels have surely fallen off. I don't think there's any doubt George McPhee will be looking to add pieces before March 3 as his Caps have all the tools to make a long run in the spring. Kovalchuk? Maybe but it's going to cost a lot and the Caps will be more interested in someone that won't cost much in the way of futures.
I think the two best teams in the league are Chicago and New Jersey. What more does New Jersey have to do for you to put them ahead of the Capitals?
Russ; I think the 'Hawks, Caps, Devils, Pens and then the Sharks are all in the same elite status and have distanced themselves from the rest. The Caps' play of late has been exemplary and, in my mind, just slightly ahead of the Devils. Should be fun come the second round of the playoffs when these teams will start squaring off, especially in the east where the Devils and Pens will want desperately to have that Atlantic Division crown and avoid a fourth seed in the playoff bracket.
So what's the latest on the contract talks between Atlanta and Kovalchuk? How soon can he be a Bruin?
Marc; I wouldn't be penciling Kovalchuk into the Bruins' power play line-up just yet but the clock is ticking toward a time when Atlanta GM Don Waddell will have to start entertaining offers for the big winger. He is a player, in much the same way that Marian Hossa was two years ago, who can change the balance of power in a conference and dramatically alter the outcome of the playoffs.
How do you see the Stars goaltending situation unfolding in the future? Do they bring Turco back, do they have a prospect they feel good about, or will they look to free agency?
Bill; I think this will be GM Joe Nieuwendyk's first big test (apart from the one he screwed up by hiring Marc Crawford but I digress). The Stars are an only average team in a good conference. They haven't won more than two games in a row all year and Marty Turco will be an unrestricted free agent come July. No real obviously successor to the Stars' starting job but I will be surprised if the Stars offer Turco enough money or term to keep him even though he desperately wants to stay. If he goes look for them to try and bring in another starter via free agency or trading for a back-up they feel can carry the load (how about Jaroslav Halak?).
Is Detroit potentially last year's Anaheim Ducks? A team that struggles until it hits the playoffs and takes out a top team like Chicago or San Jose? Would San Jose fire its GM if it lost to a Detroit team in the first round? It appears Detroit will be a potential 6 or 7 seeded team come playoff time.
Vide; I think a lot of people look at the Wings in just that way. They're 9th as we speak but will get healthier and they will be dangerous if they do get back to full strength. Agreed it's hard to imagine them being better than a 6 seed right now and they could easily give San Jose or Chicago or the Northwest Division winner a real run. And yes, I think if the Sharks take the high dive in the first round again it'll cost Doug Wilson his job. It should, no?
With the latest injuries to key Kings players, what moves do you see them doing to stay within reach of the playoffs?
Kevin; Well, the loss of Justin Williams (broken leg) makes it more difficult for Dean Lombardi to deal Alexander Frolov unless he's going to get a scorere in return and he'll be looking to add a nice big piece come March 3 which means the Kings will be very much in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes if it comes to that.
Who are your early favorites for the Vezina this year?
Mike; Interesting field so far and I like Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Martin Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov right now.
Does this make Alex the Caps new Captain or do they hand it to Laich?
eric; Interesting question now about who will wear the 'C' with Clark gone. Ovechkin seems a natural although not sure you want him worrying about captain's issues as much as scoring boatloads of goals. Brooks Laich makes sense. What about Mike Knuble?
Do you think Ryan Miller can lead the Sabres back to the Stanley Cup Finals if he can maintain? Even though they've played great against top teams in the EC (sans NJ), even if Miller stands on his head I can't see them beating the Caps or Pens. I feel the same way about Miller and the US' hopes of a medal.
Scotty; I think Miller's chances of leading the U.S. to a medal are better than they are of leading the Sabres back to a Cup final. They are a playoff team, in my estimation, but hard to imagine them winning more than a round at the outside especially with Thomas Vanek in a season-long funk.
I know its early, but the Devils have a chance to actually move past the first round of the playoffs this season or does Lou Lamoriello need to make a move? And if so who?
Vinnie; Given how bad the teams are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff ladder I think a first-round victory is a given. But I'm not sure the Devils are deep enough offensively to get past either Pittsburgh or Washington which is what will likely have to happen to get to a conference final or beyond.
Burnside I see your comment about forwards in the mix for Team Canada. Why do you not mention Stephen Weiss as one of the potential candidates?
Kyle; Stephen Weiss has had a great run in Florida and he'll need to keep that up if the Panthers are going to push back into the playoffs for the first time since 2000. But Weiss wasn't invited to the Canadian orientation camp in August and he hasn't been strong enough to dislodge any of the forwards from those that were there. The fact he's a center and the Canadians have oodles of centers also works against him.
Any chance the Wild sniff the playoffs? They have been very hot the past month, but that Darn OTL point keeps teams from climbing.
Luke; Agreed Todd Richards has done a great job in getting his message across after a rugged start. Still, not enough offensive depth in my books to get the Wild into the post-season.
Who do you have being captain for the US? And for Canada?
Charlie; Good question. I am guessing maybe Chris Drury or Jamie Langenbrunner for the U.S. and I think Scott Niedermayer is a lock to be captain for Canada. Jarome Iginla would be my second choice.
Do you think the Hawks goaltending will catch up with them? They aren't tested (thanks to Kieth, Seabrook, and company) very often and it seems Huet gives up way too many easy goals.
Gabe; I think the goaltending will be fine and good enough to get the 'Hawks to a Cup final. Now, whether it's Niemi or Huet who gets them there I can't say. I wouldn't be surprised to see Joel Quenneville use both throughout the post-season.
Hey Scotty... I am hearing rumors about trades in Buffalo... rumors include... Derek Roy going elsewhere... and Biron coming back. Any truth about these?
Mike; I wouldn't be surprised to see Martin Biron return to Buffalo. Guy is much-loved and he's a more capable back-up than Patrick Lalime and there has to be concern about Miller's work load and the Sabres can't afford to miss the post-season three years in a row. But I would be shocked if the Isles could pry Derek Roy out of the Sabres for Biron. Roy is part of the emerging leadership group in Buffalo so I doubt he's going anywhere.
With Vinny Prospal out anywhere from 10 to 3 weeks period, do you see Rangers going for a trade?
Sergey; Not unless they can find some sucker, er, partner to take on a contract like Wade Redden's albatross or the millstone that is Michal Rozsival's.
Can the Flyers turn themselves back into Cup Contenders or is the season a loss?
Jeff; Flyers are an interesting team because as bad as they've been - and that's plenty bad - they're still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth. They have to resolve their goaltending - is Emery going to be able to return the form he showed through the first six weeks of the season - and they have to resolve the significant dressing room issues they have. But they're a team no one would take lightly come playoff time.
Hey Scott. When are you going to get on the Satellite Hotstove with Pierre LeBrun. I think he is taking too much of the spotlight from you. Go get him.
Frank; I always defer in matters of fame to my esteemed colleague. He's got way nicer clothes than I do.
I have heard some say that Dustin Brown will not make the U.S. Olympic team. What's your take?
Brett; Not true. Brown is a virtual lock to make the squad. Brian Burke loves him as well he should even if his offensive numbers are down this season.
Although my Pens lost to the Leafs last night and are getting slapped around by the devils this season but I don't think anybody can take them down in a 7 game series on route to the Stanley Cup. Your thoughts?
Justin; I think that's the question everyone in the NHL asks and I think the answer right now is no. The Flyers got Chris Pronger hoping he could lead them through Pittsburgh. The Devils will give them a run as will an improved Caps team but I think they're still just too good down the middle and too battle tested to give up the crown yet.
whats your opinon on the swedish olympic team?
Mathias; Honestly, I think they're too old and too brittle to win gold again. Plus, there is no Plan B if Henrik Lundqvist comes up lame or has the kind of rough patch we've seen from him a number of times this season.
What do you think the Bruins should do with it's too goalies? should they trade one for more depth or potential draft picks
Eric; Great dilemma for head coach Claude Julien every night but I don't think you'll see any kind of move this season. You can't have enough goaltending and right now I don't think there's a better 1 1A tandem in the NHL.
Why aren't the Ducks playing better? What do you think they will do at the trade deadline if they aren't winning more games?
Lance; Great question. The goaltending hasn't been as good as it needs to be. The defence perhaps suffers from having so many new parts added since last year's deadline and it's impossible to overstate how much they miss Chris Pronger. Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne's injuries haven't helped and there hasn't been much secondary scoring. Guess that covers the bases. If GM Bob Murray can find a taker for J.S. Giguere (unlikely) he'll move him before March 3 but hard to see other significant moves unless Scott Niedermayer agress to go somewhere as a rental.
How long of a leash does Andy Murray have left in St. Louis, and if and when he goes who would be someone that Davidson and Pleau would like to bring in?
Ben; I still think Andy Murray's got time left to turn things around in St. Louis. I talked to one veteran player when I was there last month and he said Murray was the best coach he'd ever had. Still, there are a couple of Cup good coaches available including Bob Hartley and Michel Therrien. John Stevens is a good man, too, very low key which might work with the young Blues.
I love the way Dan Cleary plays and I'd love to see him on Team Canada. With the inside track on Babcock adn Yzerman, what are the chances this happens?
Pete; Love Dan Cleary, too. But lack of production and nagging injury issues will keep him off the Canadian Olympic team. Better for the Wings, frankly, if he rests up.
Peter Mueller, 1st round 2010, 3rd round 2010 ==> Kovalchuk. Too much/little?
Loup; Not enough.
I heard Roy for Kings players... Brown or Frolov...
Mike; If Dean Lombardi can get Derek Roy for Alexander Frolov he's a genius. Doubt that he'd trade Dustin Brown. Heart and soul guy they'll need come April.
Why does a shot that hits the post not count as a shot on net?
Brian; Because shots on goal are those shots that would otherwise be goals if they weren't stopped.
Scott: You've taken over for the over-tenured Glen Sather. You inherit Mr. Redden, whose contract virtually paralyzes your ability to improve your new club, and whose play is wholly unremarkable. Other GMs have not gotten dumber as a result of your hiring. There must be a way to clear him out that will ultimately benefit the team. What on God's earth do you do with him?
Mike; It's called Hartford. The problem you have in burying him in the minors is that it remains a constant reminder of how foolish the organization has been and lots of owners don't like to make those admissions. But it's the only way to free up the cap room.
Does Marian Gaborik have a legitimate shot at the hart trophy?
Tom; The Rocket Richard, yes. Hart? I don't think so although if the Rangers lurch back into the middle of the playoff bracket and he keeps scoring like he does it will improve his chances significantly.
What has gone wrong in Columbus and how can it be fixed?
brian; I think a lot of things (that's insightful, no?) including a young goalie that thought he was better than he was, a defense that continued to suffer from too many breakdowns and an offense that simply isn't up to snuff. The team needed young players to continue to evolve especially up front and they didn't. They miss Michael Peca. Now, do they have the guts to stay the course and hope this year is a minor detour from the path they charted last year or do they blow it up and fire Hitchcock etc. I say they stay the course.
If you were Bob Gainey, would you move Price or Halak? And do you think he will trade away one of his extra defensemen?
Ben; I wouldn't move either right now because Halak is the team's best goalie and Price remains the future. Plus the goaltending is the only thing keeping the Habs in the playoff hunt. All of which means Gainey will move one of them.
Okay folks, must close. Thanks as always for the questions. Off to Boston for Winter Classic tomorrow so stick with us for our reportage from the chilly northeast.