Greetings all. Returned from the west coast and Board of Governors as well as a drop-in on the Kings and Wild. So, where were we?
Scott, Can you imagine the Wild keeping up this great streak? or do they need to go out and improve their offensive potential.
Paul; It will be interesting to follow the Wild into the New Year to see if Chuck Fletcher gets into the 'buying' action as we approach the trade deadline. I doubt Fletcher will be in any hurry to move any of the top assets he's accumulated over the past couple of years but the team's strong play will make it difficult to ignore looking at bulking up the offense. Good news for the first-place Wild is that they continue to win even with key parts like D. Setoguchi and M. Zidlicky on the sidelines. Great story so far.
Last night's stomping of the Panthers: product of a red hot Ranger team or proof that the Panthers have overachieved?
Alex; Likely a bit of both. The good thing if you're a Panther fan (hey, I know you're out there somewhere) is Kevin Dineen's squad has been able to put these kinds of nights behind them very quickly. The key to not undoing all the good the Panthers have done through the first third of the season is to avoid the kinds of slides that have doomed teams like Colorado. They start a four-game home stand on Tuesday and play New Jersey, Calgary, Carolina and Phoenix. No excuses for not getting back on track.
The Blackhawks have 4 players with 31 pts or more... Do you believe this is the most complete offensive team in Chicago and possibly the entire NHL?
Ryan; Well, the 'Hawks' are a formidable offensive squad right now with their big guys clicking but I think you'd get a pretty good argument that Philadelphia, assuming Claude Giroux isn't out long-term, Vancouver now that Ryan Kesler is cooking and Boston are as deep. All three teams rank ahead of the Blackhawks in goals per game. Still, you could throw all four of those teams into a hat and come up with a pretty compelling playoff series or Cup final.
Scottie, the Sharks special teams have been atrocious. Is it time for the sharks to make some changes? My thoughts would be to fire shaw. It sends a message to the players, but is not overly drastic like firing Todd would be. Your thoughts?
Steven; Well, not sure Matt Shaw would agree with that strategy. And I understand your point; the Sharks are better than their special teams suggests and hanging onto the 8th place in the Western Conference sure isn't inspiring at this stage of the season. But I thought it gutless when Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier fired assistant coach Perry Pearn and doubt if Doug Wilson would send a message by hacking an assistant coach. If you don't believe in the team's coaching staff then start at the top. If you do, give them time. I suspect Wilson is going to give McLellan and his staff lots of rope. No way this team misses the playoffs.
If you're the Devils GM what is the package you are looking for in return for Parise? As a guy who grew up following hockey in Minnesota it would be somewhat of a dream to get Parise back to Minnesota. I can't imagine it even comes up, but I'm curious as to what the Devils will be looking for. Thanks Scott.
Jon; The dilemma,I think, will be whether a team is looking to rent Parise who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 or is looking at trying to acquire him at the deadline with a view to signing him long-term. Risk for the team doing the acquiring and it makes the job more challenging for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello in terms of what he's asking for. That said, I am guessing he'll go for the moon. No doubt he'd like a top goaltending prospect or asset. What about Jonathan Bernier from L.A. for instance? Top draft picks and a top prospect or some variation of the above.
What do you think this Crosby set back does for the psyche of the team?
Rob; Not sure it changes anything for a team that continues to play well in spite of a staggering number of injuries and specifically concussions. At some point you figure not having Crosby, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek et al will take a toll in terms of wins but that hasn't happened yet. I am sure everyone is viewing the recent setback as a kind of, well, better now than in April. Assuming Crosby can return some time in the near future as opposed to this signalling the start of another long period of recuperation.
Scott, in your realignment wrap-up, you asked who were the biggest losers in this whole thing? I think the answer to that is any rebuilding team that would typically be fighting for an 8th seed that now has to finish in the top 4 in their division just to make the playoffs. I mean how are the Islanders making the playoffs in the next 10 years ahead of Pitt, Philly, Wash, NYR? Same thing with Columbus. Although the onus is certainly on them to get better, this can't be a positive development for them.
Jesse; I think you're right on. The good (or bad depending on your viewpoint) is that teams like Washington, Tampa, Nashville and even Chicago were able to jump into the playoff picture in part because the six-division setup allowed for a quicker changing of the guard. Now with four conferences the competiton to get to the post-season is going to be even more keen. There will always be ebbs and flows but teams aren't going to be able to simply assume a playoff position by default as easily as has been the case under the current system especially in the Eastern Conference.
What about a package including Cory Schneider for Parise? Daniel, Henrik and Zach would be a force!
Tom; Hard to imagine the Canucks trading Schneider at least during this season given how well he's played and given how uneven Roberto Luongo's playoff performances have been in the last couple of years. Without a viable Plan B in goal I don't like the Canucks' chances of getting back to a final let alone winning a Cup. But you're right, Parise would look pretty darned good with the twins.
At the start of the year we thought this Carolina team was a playoff type team and at least on the bubble, but obviously they are far below that at the moment. Is this a team that just needs another playmaker and some seasoning, or is this a team that's at least a few pieces away and really needs to think about the coming years?
Richard; A few questions about the 'Canes and Kirk Muller. I think the team's play in the last month or so suggests it's another player or two away. The blue line needs a franchise piece moving forward and Jim Rutherford may already have that piece in place with Ryan Murphy the 12th overall pick last June. And my sense is that Rutherford was looking long-term when he hired Muller not just trying to jump into the fray this year. And if you're not going to be in the playoffs you might just as well be a lottery team to add another top-five pick next June which is exactly where the 'Canes are headed.
Who will the Blackhawks end up trading to be their goalie down the stretch?
Willow; I'm pretty sure GM Stan Bowman will be looking to bolster the blue line before he makes a change between the pipes barring an injury to either Corey Crawford or Ray Emery.
How do the B's adjust for life without Chara? Too many offensive d-men, and now adding kampfer is one more...will they just uattempt to outshoot everyone? At least Corvo proved the other night he can man the PP.
Tony; Hard season for Norris Trophy guys, no? Chara out for a week or so and Chris Pronger out indefinitely. Still, Bruins will be okay short-term. Joe Corvo will get some more PP time and Dennis Seidenberg remains one of the most under-appreciated defensemen in the league. Doubt if the Bruins take much if any of a step back in Chara's absence.
Good class going into the US hockey hall of fame tonight. Do you consider Chelios as the greatest US born player ever?
Rich; Lots of interesting choices when it comes to that kind of debate but I would lean towards Chelios. His play over such a long period of time and on many stages whether it was Stanley Cup playoffs or Olympics etc. put him in a class by himself regardless of where he was born but especially when it comes to assessing American hockey greatness.
Any word on Seattle building a new building to host an NHL franchise,Scott? Will there ever be hockey in Seattle?
Jeff; I don't believe there's been any recent updates although my colleague Craig Custance was exploring the relocation options when we were in California a week ago at the Board of Governors meetings. I know the NHL views Seattle as a desireable U.S. location but the lack of a building remains the obvious hurdle. That said I would not be shocked to see the NHL in Seattle in the next five to 10 years.
Who steps up into G's shoes if he is out for a little bit? Danny Briere up on the top line with JJ and hartnell?
Dicky; Just checked out blog from my good friend Sarah Baicker at Comcast in Philly and she reported that Sean Couturier skated with Jagr and Hartnell which makes sense as Briere can stay in his natural spot. Nice shot for Couturier who has been impressive in his first season with the Flyers after being selected 8th overall last June.
What's going on with the Kings! I thought this was the year to make a dent in the playoffs.
Chris; Just returned from a couple of days in L.A. and spent some time with the Kings and saw their loss to Minnesota. Not good. Last in the league in goals scored, last in five on five scoring. Mike Richards out indefinitely. Pressure will be on GM Dean Lombardi to make a coaching move and if they can't stop their four-game losing skid this week I won't be surprised if Terry Murray goes over the side. A shame, too, given the work Murray has done in creating a strong defensive culture around the team. But too many guys not putting the puck in the net and something's going to have to give. This team is too good to miss the playoffs and not making the playoffs would be a huge setback to the good work done in establishing a real bond with the fan base.
Scott, Everything I hear is Staal is making progress but is there time-table? The Rangers have played the fewest games and have the fewest losses...Are they the best team is hockey? and how much better will they be with Staal in the lineup? Thanks
Kev; I have yet to see anything that indicates any kind of timetable for Marc Staal's return. In fact you see very few NHL teams now provide anything but the move vague idea about a player's ability to return from concussion or concussion-like symptoms. Just too uncertain now and teams are that much more cautious. As they should be. That said the Rangers are certainly in the mix when it comes to 'who's the best team in hockey right now?' discussion. Tough to play against, balanced scoring, good to great goaltending, they are right in there with the top teams in the NHL. Staal, assuming he returns at some point and resumes a level of play similar to what we're used to seeing, makes them a definite Stanley Cup contender. But that, sadly, appears to be well into the distance.
Do you think Mike Green ever can stay healthy and get back to being the offensive force he was 2 years ago?
Joe; Great question. For all of the criticism of Green and his game - and he has not had the kinds of playoffs you'd like to see from a two-time Norris Trophy nominee - he's a terrific talent. And when the Caps went off the rails and Bruce Boudreau was fired I think a lot of that can be traced to Green's absence from the line-up. He simply makes the team much more difficult to defend when he's at his best both moving and carrying the puck, jumping into the play. He will no doubt give Dale Hunter fits at times but Hunter'll take that any time.
How do you see the Wings finishing at the end of the season
Greg; Well, if they finish like they're playing now they're going to be awfully difficult to beat. Nine straight at Joe Louis Arena and getting the big guns going is huge. For me it's whether Jimmy Howard can keep up his Vezina-worthy play come playoff time and can the depth scoring continue to be a factor for the Wings. If so, conference final? Maybe more.
Scott, this Crosby injury, coupled with Savard's career probably being over has really been a bruise on the NHL's seeming rise in popularity. Will more similar injuries to star players hamper the NHL from really competing with the other major sports?
Brendan; I'm not sure you can draw a line between Crosby's absence and Savard's career likely being over and a downturn in the popularity of the game. The NFL remains vibrant in spite of the absence of Peyton Manning. Is the NHL - or any league for that matter - better when its stars are playing? Of course. But the NHL is chock full of terrific stories; Minnesota, the Rangers, Jagr, Kessel. And the fact the league and players' association are trying to move to curtail concussions and blows to the head is also positive I think.
Can the Blues continue winning without the high offensive numbers?
John;Well, you mean indefinitely? I would say at some point it's important for teams that have good skill as the Blues do to see that skill produce goals in that it helps take the pressure off having to win every game 2-1 or 3-2. That said, good teams often become comfortable playing in those situations. Minnesota and St. Louis, the Rangers are teams this season that seem to have a great deal of comfort in playing those kinds of games so maybe it doesn't matter. Come playoff time the experience of winning lots of those kinds of games is invaluable. Or should be.
Should the Penguins just keep Crosby out until the playoffs?
Marc; If that's what it takes I'm sure the Pens are prepared to go that route. But I don't think there's any value to keeping any player let alone Sidney Crosby out after he's ready to play. There's no suggestion that not playing makes the likelihood of Crosby staying healthy through the playoffs any greater. My sense in listening to Crosby is that when he's feeling 100% he'll play again. Could be later this week or next month or, well, you get it. That message has been conistent from the Pens from the get-go.
did i just read you saying the Kessel is a good story?? why cause he forced his way out of boston because he didnt want to play two way hockey, and not he is scoring some goals?? he still cant play two way hockey - one of the worst +/- ratings in the nhl...
charles; John Elway turned out to be a good story in Denver, no? Eric Lindros in Philadelphia? As for Kessel he is first in goals, second in points and is plus-2. I think that qualifies as a good story at this point in the season. We'll see how it turns out for him but hard to argue with what he's done thus far this season for a team that's been starved for good news since the lockout.
Okay folks, have to hit the road. Thanks as always for stopping by. Let's do it again next week.