Welcome back fans of the frozen frenzy. Now, where were we?
Scottie, what is the problem with my Flyers? My monday bar league team plays with more heart!!!! What the $%@* is going on?
Nick; Excellent question. Watched them Saturday and they really looked like a team getting in a groove (thanks Leafs) but looked soft against a Columbus team they should have handled. Not an excuse but you have to wonder about the Stanley Cup final hangover. Not having Chris Pronger at full strength is an issue, too. Too good a team, though, to slide too far. Of course we said that a year ago, no?
Dean Lombardi looks like a genius for not signing Kovy, any thoughts?
Mario; Well it's the old case of be careful what you wish for (or what you shell out $100 million for). My sense all along was that Kovalchuk was coveted more by ownership in both New Jersey and L.A. even though Lou Lamoriello denies this (what else is he going to say?). Now, do the Kings have the offensive goods to win a Cup? Don't know. But Dean Lombardi has lots of assets in terms of picks/assets and cap room to make a big move closer to the deadline if he feels he needs to.
Hi ScottAs a Ranger fan, should I be optimistic with the early showing from players like Anisimov, Dubinsky, and Del Zotto? Could the Rangers finally be starting to turn the corner with gasp....a youth movement?
Ted; I have been impressed with the hard work put in by the injury-ravaged Rangers the past week or so but as was the case last year the issue for this team is going to be consistency. And with a young team that's a hard commodity to come by sometimes. But those guys you mentioned are going to get a chance to learn lots and play a big role if the Rangers are going to get back in the playoffs after last year's disappointing finish.
How big of a blow is losing Johnny Boychuk for the Bruins? And what kind of ceiling do you place on a guy like Boychuk?
Phil; How's the view by the way? Johnny Boychuk's loss will be significant in that he plays some PP and takes some of the ice time pressure off Zdeno Chara. He made Dennis Wideman expendable in the Horton deal so the Bs will certainly miss him for the next month or so. That said, Boston has been pretty good at filling in holes which is pretty much how Boychuk got to where he is right now. One man's broken forearm is another man's opportunity for an NHL gig.
With a number of goalies struggling early on this season, from Hiller in Anaheim to Mason in Atlanta, which teams do you see making changes in the pipes early this season?
Sun; The problem for a lot of teams that might like to make a change between the pipes is of course the salary cap issue. But at some point there are going to be tenders available. Tomas Vokoun will be UFA this summer and doesn't fit in the Panthers' long-term plans so he'll be on the market (barring a surprise charge to the top of the Southeast standings). I know my colleague Pierre LeBrun is trying to track down Ray Emery to see where he's at with his hip rehab. As for a guy like Tim Thomas yes his value could be at an all-time high given his play early on but don't look for the Bruins to try and move him even with their own salary cap crunch coming.
Is the central the best and who will come out on top?
cody; Right now I think it's the best division in hockey. I will be in Nashville Thursday night for the Blues/Preds tilt, should be fun with two good-looking young teams going at it. Throw in Chicago, Detroit and a Columbus team that's shown signs of life in the last week and there are no gimmes there at least at this stage of the season.
Do the Wild look slow to you? There seems to be a lack of speed. Also, whats up with 2 d men in a shootout?
Todd; Good point on the defensemen (Zidlicky, Burns, right?) in the shootout. Was watching and was wondering where Gilluame Latendresse was? Oh well, guess that's why I'm not an NHL coach (yet). As for the Wild's speed I've watched the Kings a couple of times and they can make teams looks slow given their attacking style. But certainly the Wild could use a little more zip to their attack.
Scott, NHL..AHL...I can get hurt anywhere. For my own sake is it time we take fighting out of the game? Or should I just punch someone with a softer head than Jarome Iginla or Matt Clackson?
Sheldon; Not sure what you were thinking other than 'ouch'. Sitting out with a fractured hand for the next two weeks sure won't help your trade value. Not sure taking fighting out of the game is going to help guys like you, though, who seem to find injury around every corner regardless of whether it's an NHL corner or an AHL corner.
Scott, who do you think will finish higher in the standings this year...the Rangers or the Islanders? If you started a new team and had a choice of taking either team's roster for the next 5 years...which would you take?
Jesse; In my pre-season predictions (think the tablets on the mountain) I had the Isles and Rangers both missing the playoffs with the Rangers slightly ahead (if memory serves). But I've been impressed with both squads. I think in terms of talent, and assuming good health, the Isles might have the upper hand but the issue for me looking at five-year plan would be goaltending unless Dwayne Roloson is still clamoring for ice-time at age 45.
Do you see the Caps making any moves for a goalie?
Steve; Michal Neuvirth has been terrific early on and so I think the only reason to make a move for goaltending will be if Semyon Varlamov continues to be in and out of the lineup because of injury. If his durability continues to be an issue then look for George McPhee look for a veteran back-up. Tomas Vokoun might be a nice insurance policy, no?
Why are the Dallas Stars having so much success early on? Do you think they can last through til the end of the season and nab a playoff spot?
Andrew; Actually had a chance to talk to both Marc Crawford and Joe Nieuwendyk about this a while back and they cite a number of things starting with Kari Lehtonen's play in goal. Young players are taking more of a leadership role with Modano and Turco gone. The coaching staff is more well-rounded with Willie Desjardins in from the WHL. And their veteran leaders like Morrow, Richards and Ribeiro (aside from his restaurant behavior) have been terrific. Long season in a tough conference, though, but the Stars look like the real deal vis a vis the playoffs so far.
Penguins are a first place team minus Staal, Michalek, Asham, and a confident Fleury.. how scary could they be when all the parts start rolling?
Clint; It's a great point. Also note that Mike Comrie is having trouble putting points on the board, too. Think back to '08 and '09 when the Pens went to the final they had to play for long periods without Sergei Gonchar, Sidney Crosby and Fleury among others. May sound trite but getting it done through injuries really does build character. Interesting to see how Dan Bylsma introduces his injured players like Asham back into the line-up.
Hey Scott. I think the Devils are starting to realize they are too old up front on forwards. Given their cap situation and lack of draft pick (something the Devils always covet), do you think they will let Parise walk during his RFA period in order to land multiple first round picks?
John; I think the Parise thing will be interesting to follow especially if he decides he'd rather be somewhere else. Now, he will be a restricted free agent but given the Devils' ongoing cap issues Parise would be ripe for an offer sheet. Even if they received the draft picks for not matching an offer sheet it would be a dark day for the franchise. This soap opera isn't close to being finished, though, especially if the team continues to struggle as they have.
Despite all the turnover I think the Hawks looks really good and just got a little worn down from having so many games early in the schedule. Do you still see them as a cup contender?
Drew; I do. In fact in my pre-season predictions (once again refer to stone tablets on the mount) I had the 'Hawks returning to the final against Pittsburgh. When Brian Campbell returns that will ease some of the burden on Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson. The core up front remains deadly and the young guys like Bickell and Skille are going to get a chance without having to shoulder too big a load. As for Antti Niemi, not missing much there given his play in San Jose.
is Toronto the biggest surprise story so far? and can they keep it up?.... as a Bruins fan i hope not, i want another lottery pick next year.
Dave; Not sure if you watched the mighty Leafs the last three games but the water in Leaf Nation is seeking its own level. I still don't think they have enough offense outside Kessel to carry the freight and Dion Phaneuf needs to get his play ironed out if the Leafs are going to capitalize on their fast start.
Hey Scott, couple of things. First, I'm a die hard wings fan (transplanted to Blues country because of work). How scary are the wings going to be when they actually have that third line humming along like everyone thought they would. Second, Babcock recently said he might break up the 2nd line to get the third line going. Is this a good idea? Bertuzzi has 9 points in 7 games and franzen is a game changer. Add in puck moving center filpula and I don't understand why he would do this. Thoughts?
Keith; Wings have the potential to ice the best three lines in hockey but that third unit; Mike Modano, Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary have been unable to get untracked. I think Babcock is thinking to last year when injuries really sucked the life out of the team through the first two thirds and he'd like to roll three lines and six defense in equal portions of time to keep everyone fresh. He can't do that if the third group is a drag on offense which they are now. It's a risk, no doubt, to mess with the second unit that's playing so well but I think that's the logic.
Hi Scott,I was just wondering what you think of the Sabres this year. Do you think their early season struggles are just a slump and they'll dig out of it or do you think they'll struggle the rest of the season?
Justin; Saw the Sabres when they were in town last week and Lindy Ruff was saying he wanted more finish which we saw a couple of times last week against Atlanta and New Jersey. I still wonder about the leadership in that room, though, and whether there's enough to help them pull out of the up and down start we've seen from them. It's no longer enough to simply hope Ryan Miller pulls them out of the fire 65 or 70 times a season.
Could you be more of a Penguins homer?
Mark; I will work on it.
Kings power play is coming around, their penalty killing looks strong what do you see as the Kings biggest weakness besides not having a number one sniper? (I think spreading the points around keeps all the players happy)
Ross; Was looking at the Kings' roster the other day and they didn't have anyone with more than six points (before last night's win over Minny) which isn't a bad thing as long as everyone's pulling on the rope. I'm still not sure you can go on a long run in the post-season without a Toews/Kane, Crosby, Zetterberg/Datsyuk, Daniel Briere, elite go-to guy(s). Maybe Kopitar will emerge as that guy but he hasn't quite got there yet.
What do the Sharks need to do to get on track?
Ben; I was talking to an NHL player the other day and he pointed out that he thinks the Sharks are simply too slow. Talented, yes. Lots of size, yes. But in a conference where there are so many fast, talented teams (Detroit, Nashville, Dallas, St. Louis, Vancouver) are the Sharks built the right way? Interesting point. No reason for them to be off to the rocky start they are (other than sub-par goaltending) so it will be interesting to see how/if they turn things around. Maybe the absence of Rob Blake is being felt more acutely than one would have imagined.
Is it possible that four teams from the Central division will make the playoffs? I see the Wings, Blues, Preds, and Hawks making the playoffs.
Jay; Yes, I think it's possible. That would mean teams like Calgary, Anaheim, Phoenix and maybe Colorado fall out of the mix but it's possible. Since the league reduced divisional games from eight to six it's more likely that four teams from a strong division could get into the playoffs because there's less beating up on each other.
Scott, what is your prediction for how many games we will win on our upcoming road trip against tough teams San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago. Yikes. If we go under five hundred on that trip will my coaching career "die hard..with a vengeance" under Lou's quick hook.
John; Hate to say it but I figure the Devils to be no better than 1-3-1 maybe 1-4 with Anaheim the only team that looks like an easy(?)stop on the trip. And if the Devils head home with a 3-9-2 record or something like that I think you can start looking for one of those 'special assignments' that all old Devils coaches get when Lou drops the hammer.
When will I win the Jack Adams Award?
Barry; Keep up this level of play and they can start inscribing your name now. Of course, winning the Jack Adams isn't necessarily a path to job security so maybe you're better off just getting nominated every once in awhile.
In regards to SJ being to slow - that is right on the money. Jesse Rogers (Hawks blogger) said exact same thing when predicting the Hawks/Sharks series last year...and we saw how that worked out for the Sharks. They just could not keep up with the Hawks.
Imre; Jesse is great. Every team wants to play up-tempo and pressure hockey. Some teams just don't have the tools in the box to do it. If you don't you have to come up with a game plan that compensates for that and usually that means having exceptional defense and terrific goaltending. Not sure the Sharks have either at this point.
Any idea why Brian Burke goes public with "solid offers" and potenial deals? Don't most GM's like to keep that under their hat?
Paul; Brian Burke marches to his own tune and I think in these days of social media, blogs, twitter etc. he feels he can control his own situation by explaining what he's doing and why. Maybe ticks off other GMs but it's refreshing to see.
Okay folks. Join us Thursday night for our 'Game of the Week' from Nashville and I'll be back here next Tuesday for more hockey talk. Best.