Welcome fans of frozen rubber. Now, where were we?
Scott, it's obviously still very early in the season and hot starts can cool down in a hurry. That said, I've got too semi-bold predictions: Toronto WILL make the playoffs in the East and Colorado will make the post-season and improve on their point total from last season. Agree or disagree on either?
Jason; Agreed that it's early but I have watched the Leafs and Avs quite a bit in the early going and have to say I feel strongly that the Avs will be in the playoffs and may even improve on last year's impressive point total. The Leafs have been surprisingly good on special teams and given the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference I think you're right that they could sneak in for an unexpected playoff berth. The next five to 10 games will be crucial for the Leafs to see if they can avoid the kinds of slides that can destroy all the good work of early on.
Most people believe that the Kings are not an elite team, do you see this team needing to add a player to reach that level or is the current roster added with experience enough to put them there.
Mario; This will be an interesting season for the Kings who seem ready to crest the playoff wave and go on a deep run. But you make a good point. Do they need another piece to the puzzle like another impact forward? Interesting to see if Dallas can't re-sign Brad Richards and decide to move him before the deadline is that the kind of player could put the Kings over the top? GM Dean Lombardi was expected to make that kind of splash (ie. Kovalchuk) in the off-season and didn't. He's got lots of time, though, to still add that one big piece. In the end, though, the Kings are going to succeed or not based on the signficant homegrown talent assembled in L.A.
Will the league actually consider suspending Nicklas Backstrom for boarding Marcel Goc (Goc is out 2-4 weeks with a separated shoulder)? Or will they give Backstrom the "star treatment" and look the other way? 2 minute minor wasn't enough for this hit. It's what the league is trying to get out of hockey. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAJSQve9Fig&feature=player_embedded
Martin; I must admit I haven't seen the Backstrom hit. But I don't think it's a question of Backstrom getting 'the star' treatment, not with Shane Doan getting three games for his hit on Dan Sexton. I thought the Hjalmarsson suspenion was adequate for his hit on Pominville. The fact Backstrom was penalized is likely seen as being sufficient even if it isn't nearly enough for Preds' fans.
I know it's early, but the Panthers seem to be much improved. Any shot at competing for a playoff spot this year?
Joe; 'Cats have been impressive (five goals against in four games) but it's going to be a long road to the post-season. Very thin down the middle and the issue is going to be what to do with guys like Tomas Vokoun and Bryan McCabe who will be free agents next summer and almost certainly won't be back. GM Dale Tallon will want assets for them so it could get complicated in south Florida if they stay in the hunt.
Have you seen my man Hossa beasting this year? Try to tell me there's someone playing better right now and I'll call you a LIAR!
Pelt; No need to go calling names. But you are correct in your assessment of Hossa so far. He's at the top of his significant game. One of the reasons I still think the 'Hawks will go a long way not just in the regular season but next spring as well.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg have started off kind of slow. See them turningit around against Calgary, or is Babcock going to end up seperating them?
Jordan; From what I hear out of Detroit coach Babcock will separate the two on the power play in the hopes of getting the PP going but I suspect he'll keep them together for the time being with the injuries to other parts of the line-up (Franzen, Rafalski etc.). Still early but the Wings looking a little like last year's edition, beat up and trying to cobble together points to stay in the hunt.
Smart decision to break up Kovalchuk and Parise so soon or do you think it was a reaction to the poor start?
Ryan; Well when you've been as bad as the Devils have been - their only win a Martin Brodeur special, 1-0 in overtime - it's never too early to panic. As we saw in Atlanta it's sometimes difficult to find the perfect fit for a talent like Kovalchuk. Good thing is they can always go back to it if re-working the top six doesn't work.
uh, yeah, so.....we stink. ANY chance we can right the ship? do we need to bring up Luke Adam? Mistake to let Kassian go back to Juniors? hard to imagine we'd be worse off with them ont he team.
Kurt; Well, at least you're not an Ottawa fan. Ouch. But you're right and I'm curious to get a look tomorrow when the Sabres are here in Atlanta to see what the vibe is like in the room. Hard to imagine they won't get better. Of course it's hard to imagine they're as bad as they've been out of the gate.
Has the Coyotes drama finally ended with this new buyer and do you see any other teams battling relocation in the coming years?
Andrew; A couple of questions about the 'Yotes' ownership situation. Unless there is a complete collapse of discussions (and this is Glendale we're talking about so all things are possible) Matthew Hulsizer will take over the team and keep them in Phoenix. Bad news for Winnipeg good news for the faithful in Phoenix who've weathered quite a storm waiting for some stability.
So, what are your views on the Islanders now after giving them such a "glowing" pre-season review.
Janice; Do I sense some sarcasm? That's okay. I watched a fair amount of that game last night versus the Leafs, terrific tilt. And Scott Gordon is making lemonade out of the lemons he's been dealt early on. Long-term, though, don't see how they can keep this up. Of course I have been wrong before. Once. Back in....
Afternoon Scott, what player and what team are you most surprised at so far in the early going?
Mustard; Well I would have to include your hometown boy Clarke MacArthur who has been terrific early on with five goals in five games. How about Brent Johnson with four wins in relief of the uneven Marc-Andre Fleury? Or the Stewart brothers Chris in Colorado (five goals) and Anthony in Atlanta (four goals)?
Scott, Seems like Dudley and Ramsey may really be able to turn the Thrashers around. Dudley is a great talent evaluator and Ramsey is known as a great teacher. Especially with young players. Do you see this team getting to the playoffs this season, or is the learning curve too big? Also, Evander Kane looks like he has really improved his game from last year. he is definitely growing up before our eyes.
Jeff; Was at the skate today and agree that this is a good tandem for a young team with lots of up-side. Kane has been impressive. Anthony Stewart (see previous question), Chris Thorburn, anyone who plays hard is going to get a shot under Ramsay. If the goaltending can hold under Chris Mason (and Ondrej Pavelec when/if he gets back to game-ready) I think there's a spot for the Thrashers in the post-season.
Hi Scott - As great as Tim Thomas looks right now, I'm a big believer in Tuuka Rask. Is there any chance we try to move Thomas this year to free up cap room and get back a cheaper asset? Thanks
John; Real dilemma for GM Peter Chiarelli as his best goalie right now (Thomas) is the one he'd ideally move to give him some flexibility against the cap. But that's why they say you can never have enough goaltending. I assume he'll continue to ride this out hoping Rask comes around and Thomas remains a potentially valuable commodity come trade deadline time.
Should the Flyers stick with the rookie in goal (Bubrovsky or something, I can't remember), go back to Boucher, or wait until Leighton comes back and put him in?
Ryan; A few questions about the Flyers and their start. Sort of an up and down first five although I think Bobrovsky has to be given lots more leash before the Flyers decide how to proceed. Of course not knowing exactly when or how Michael Leighton will come back from his back surgery is compounding the issue. Beyond that not getting a lot of balance from the offense (Daniel Briere is cooking but that's about it) is an issue. But this is a good team that will get better regardless of who's between the pipes.
How can the caps get back on track on the PP? It seems like they are having the same problems this season as they did against the habs in the playoffs, only being able to get off soft, long-range wristers. Do they need to start looking into a new system, because it looks like teams started to figure out last year's style.
paul; Guess it shows you no team is perfect. The Caps PK has been, well, perfect, and they've been getting great goaltending and timely scoring but you're right the PP needs a little shot. That much talent, though, and you have to assume it will get back to the kind of productivity we saw during the regular season last year. Maybe a little bit of residual playoff hangover? Guys thinking too much? Could be part of the problem.
Is Shane Doan a dirty player. He broke Cam Fowler's nose and got suspended for a hit on Dan Sexton during the last Ducks game. What is your take on the hits? Love Doan and wish the Ducks had someone like him.
Rick; Don't think Doan is a dirty player at all. Plays hard and you're right to covet a player like him. But he earned his suspension for the hit on Sexton, no question about that.
Why is there not more media coverage of the Joe Thornton signing? If that was any other elite center in the league taking less in compensation at his prime and taking less then market value it would be all over the place.
Mike; Just me but maybe it has something to do with the fact both Thornton and the Sharks have been perpetual underachievers when it comes to the playoffs. No one disputes Thornton's talents but he has yet to establish himself as an elite leader of men. When he signed for less, a selfless gesture to be sure, I think people don't see it as that big a deal. If he wins a Cup next spring it will look a whole lot different. Not that I think there is any chance of that happening but, well, that's me.
B's v. Caps tonight ... who ya got?
Paul; This should be a good one; Nuevirth versus Thomas, both red hot. 2-1 Washington in overtime.
The stars have played really inconsistant, but found thier way to win close games. Do you see them fighting their way into the playoffs?
Dylan; Great start for a team desperate for a great start. Lots of great parts up front from Neal to Eriksson to Richards to Morrow and even Ribeiro in spite of his after-hours problems. Not sure the defense is good enough to get them into the post-season in a tough, tough, division. And is Kari Lehtonen ready to carry a team the distance, something he's never been able to do in the past? Great story if it happens.
Hi Scott! Do you think the Rangers can make it to the playoffs without a credible first line pivot?
Tuukka; Welcome. And no. Not a chance. Watched them again last night and with their injuries and line-up woes on the blue line and down the middle this promises to be a long, long season for the men in blue.
Do you think cliff lee will return to the rangers next season?
Eric: The Rangers would love to have him if he can play center and if he can quarterback the power play from the point.
Cmon Scott, the Stars' PK is horrendous. It will catch up to them sooner than later. The 4-0-0 start was a fluke.
You may be right. Hurt them again last night against Tampa as they gave up four ppg.
scotty, do u think Hartford will ever come back to having a NHL franchise?
Adam; Sorry, no, not going to happen. Too many 'old' NHL cities waiting for a do-over like Winnipeg and Quebec City.
I know a lot of people had them pegged as a cup contender before the year, Do you see Vancouver has just having a slow start or is there a deeper issue, or lack of personnel that needs to be addressed?
Eric; I still like the Canucks to win that division and then flame out in the post-season again. I think the early wobbles are simply a function of integrating new parts like Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard (I know he's hurt).
Will Ottawa give Lehner a start in net? Could he seize the job, or are LeClaire and Elliott too entrenched/expensive to bench?
Dennis; I think the Sens would put Ron Tugnett between the pipes if they thought he'd get them a win. At this stage putting the kid in might jump-start a team that hasn't looked ready to play on too many nights in this early season. Really, could things be any worse if they do start Robin Lehner?
Hi Scott-Part-time leafs fan here (full-time AVS), if the Stars hit the skids and don't resolve their ownership what do you think of Kadri, Komisarek, and a 2nd rounder for brad richards? Would that be enough from Dallas's perspective?
B-Diddy; I think the Leafs will be very cautious about giving up young assets like Kadri even if it meant getting a top center like Richards. Only way it happens is if Leafs are in the hunt come February. And doubt the Avs will be interested in Komisarek at his price point.
Scott, who is least likely to finish the season in the AHL: Sheldon Souray or Wade Redden?
Chris; I don't see any way Redden is returned to the Rangers. The question for Edmonton is whether they bury Souray all year and find a better trade offer in the off-season when he only has one year left on his deal? At this stage the Oilers are only spending money so there's no real rush to move Souray. Either way you cut it that's a whole bunch of money to be riding the buses in Hershey and Hartford. Hope they're picking up lots of tabs (and I'm sure they are).
What's your opinion of Cam Fowler so far? Does he stay up with the Ducks or sent back down to Juniors? I think he's been fantastic. He almost had his first 2 goals back to back on Sunday night.
Sean; Good question. He has looked fine and the Ducks have had a nice bounce-back after a dreadful road trip to open the season. I am guessing he will stay and learn on the job.
Given the Blues current ownership predicament, and the possibility of non-local investors buying the team, is there any real threat that the team could leave St. Louis?
Jon; I see almost no threat of that happening. If you've watched the NHL fight tooth and nail to keep the Coyotes in Glendale/Phoenix and given the league's history of backing the Pens when it looked grim in Pittsburgh rest assured the Blues won't pull up stakes any time soon. Good hockey market and don't expect the team to go anywhere.
when will the rangers fire sather?
paul; Ha, ha, ha. Sorry. One of the great mysteries of the universe but the answer is never.
After a great 3 games by the Hawks should my mind be eased about the questionable off season, rough pre season and slow seasonal start that the Hawks had?
Jim; No doubt there will be some more ups and downs but that core remains rock solid and there are a number of interesting moving parts (Skille, Kopecky) that are still evolving and will improve over time. Let your mind be at peace grasshopper.
Us Caps fans said it all summer: Goaltending is a strength not a weakness. D-man and Center is where we need help. Will GMGM go and get it?
eric; So far so good with Neuvirth. Defense has been good, too. Yes, depth down the middle may be an issue as time passes but this is a great chance to see what the Caps have without having too much at stake. No doubt George McPhee will have the green light to do what he needs to do before the deadline as was the case in the past.
Okay folks. Many thanks as always for the questions and the time spent here. See you next week.