Greetings all. Well, practices, scrimmages, injury reports, contract squabbles. Hockey is really back. Now, where were we?
Please predict that the Devils will miss the playoffs again. That'll practically guarantee that they get in. Thanks in advance!
NJ; I've been wrestling with this all week. No Parise. Johan Hedberg and Martin Brodeur combined age is just shy of 80 and neither played during the lockout. Henrique hurt. Kovalchuk annoyed. Yup, looks like Lou Lamoriello's got his Devils just where he likes them. Seriously, I think it'll be a tough road for Pete DeBoer's boys to get into the top eight but have learned through trial and error (okay mostly error and error) never to cound the Devils out when it comes to qualifying for the post-season.
Can Schultz defenseman have same success for Oilers as he did in minor league ahl level?
Xing; Welcome. I think it's a tall order for Schultz to come into his first NHL experience and be as dominating as he was during his time at the American Hockey League level. He's going to be a good one but there will be a learning curve now that he's playing against the big boys.
Can Lindback goalie be big surprise of season?
Ibe; I think it's possible. It's a big step going from basically playing every 8th game or so to being expected to play, let's say, two-thirds of the Lightning's games. But he's big and agile and has the potential to jump the Bolts into the post-season after a disappointing 2011-12 season.
Do we know when the trade deadline will be? And in this shortened season, how important will it be and which teams do you think will be trying to make some moves?
Austin; April 3 which means there will be about 3 1/2 weeks of hockey left after the deadline. The problem I see in terms of activity on deadline day during a shortened season is that there will be far more buyers than sellers. The standings will likely be so packed that teams won't want to trade free agents etc. because they will still have a shot. It's possible that there will only be two or three teams in each conference out of the picture as far as the playoffs.
Have you heard any whispers at all on the Ryan O'Reilly front? I know we're kind of a forgotten franchise these days but Factor is our most important player. It kills me that after the whole lockout, the owners aren't willing to pay him.
Matt; Agreed that O'Reilly is a crucial piece to a team that I think has a real chance to surprise people and jump into a playoff spot. The Northwest is in a state of flux with the Canucks dealing with Luongo situation, injury to Kesler, while Minnesota trying to figure out what they have with Parise and Suter and the Oilers trying to make some magic with their young talent. In short I think the door is wide open in the that division. O'Reilly is a key part of an interesting mix of offensive parts and if this drags on much past the part of the start of the season it will do nothing to endear fans to the franchise.
Hola! Do you foresee a quick resolution to the Jamie Benn situation in Dallas, or do you think this will continue to drag out?
Hernando; Much the same way that O'Reilly represents a big piece of the Avs' offensive machinery Benn is arguably the Stars' most important offensive element. GM Joe Nieuwendyk bolstered the offense with Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Derek Roy but optically it's important to get Benn under contract as quickly as possible so as not to become a distraction for a team that needs all the good news it can get in Big D. That said, I'll be shocked if this drags on for much longer as I think both sides would like to get a deal done.
Burnside, its a great time to be a hockey fan, glad you are back! With our team basically the same as last, are the Predators a contending team this year?
Jackson; Thanks. And yes, it's great to be talking real hockey after a long dark fall. As for the Preds they're a little bit like New Jersey in that you can never underestimate them. For me it's which young players are going to take the step forward we've seen other others like Patric Hornqvist and Pekka Rinne take. Is it a Ryan Ellis or Jonathon Blum? What about Craig Smith, can he keep it going? Colin Wilson, come on down? Not sure they've got a division title in them but do like the Preds to return to the playoffs.
Does Gustavsson take Howard's job in Detroit when all is said and done?
Chris; If you're talking The Monster simply playing better than Jimmy Howard and winning the top spot for the Wings I would be shocked. With the departure of Brad Stuart to San Jose and Nicklas Lidstrom retired Detroit goaltending will have to be as good as it's been in many years to ensure the team's playoff streak remains in tact so Gustavsson will get plenty of opportunity to show he's capable of challenging for a starting NHL spot.
I'm curious as to why the Kings really aren't getting much respect going into this season. They CRUSHED everyone in the playoffs last season, and they are bringing back the same team almost entirely intact. Why the lack of love for the defending Cup holders?
Matt; I think it's a couple of things. First, history tells you that it's a complete uphill battle to win two in a row. Last time 97/98 with the Wings of course so that tells you all the things that have to go right. Plus I think people are curious to see how Jonathan Quick performs after his back procedure in the off-season and then there's Anze Kopitar and his knee. I saw he skated after practice yesterday so maybe he's close. Trust me there is no shortage of respect for the Kings and what they accomplished and most people have them at the top of the Pacific Division and the conferences standings. And frankly it wouldn't be a surprise at all if they did run the table for the second year in a row. It's just that history suggests it's unlikely.
Are the Blackhawks a cup contender with this roster, or do you think they need to make a move or two?
Mike; I do like the 'Hawks roster. A couple of young guys that will make their impact known up front and still have a terrific blue line. Can Corey Crawford rebound from a pretty ordinary playoff? I think there's a lot of pressure on head coach Joel Quenneville to get the 'Hawks off on the right foot. One thing owners/GM Stan Bowman won't stand by idly. If they don't think Crawford is up for the task I'll be shocked if there isn't a move made pretty quickly to shore up that position. In the hunt for the Central Division title I would think. Playoffs? Yes. Cup? Let's see.
Any chance of offer sheets being signed by some of the higher end restricted free agents (Subban, Benn, etc...)? Or is that still a "no-no" among the GM's......for the most part.
Lou; Whatever motivates GMs not to do it; honor or fear of having offer sheets delivered on their players down the road (I've heard both offered as reasons) or just the plain fact that in almost every case the team will match I doubt if anyone is going to go after P.K. Subban or Jamie Benn or Ryan O'Reilly in that manner. Even if a team thought that the Avs might not match or Florida in the case of Dimitry Kulikov I think the decline in the cap starting next year is going to make it hard to execute a successful offer sheet.
Who's the most overrated player in the league? Be honest now...don't dodge this question, Scott!
Hank; Let me qualify this by saying overrated is a bit subjective. Do you mean overpaid? Heck there are lots of those guys. But if you mean just hasn't quite delivered the goods in the way he was expected to I would have to say Joe Thornton. Great guy. Terrific numbers. And yet for all of that never quite seems to be the guy to make everyone around him better or take his team to the next level. Doesn't mean he hasn't tried just means it hasn't worked.
Do I ever play in the NHL again? Does some team take a chance on me for 1 year after I'm bought out?
Scott; I know no one is going to feel sorry for you making $5.5 million this year to sit around but that's got to hurt. And I say, yes, someone will give you a chance. Just as they will give Wade Redden a chance. You'll never make close to what you're making now to not play but I am guessing we see you both back on NHL rinks next fall.
Are the rangers true contenders this year, or does the shortened season not give them enough time to "gel?"
True; Oh I think the Rangers' are the favorites to come out of the east. Add Rick Nash to a team that has a terrific young blue line, great coaching and a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender and why not? I don't think chemistry will be an issue.
the central isn't looking quite as tough this year with detroit and nasheville losing key pieces. still the best division in the west? do they send 3 teams to the playoffs this year?
al; I'm with you that there's a little less urgency in the division. I think the Blues walk with the title with Chicago likely second. Might be room for three if the Preds can keep pace. Honestly wouldn't shock me if the Wings didn't make the playoffs at all. Pacific I think might be the best with the Kings, Coyotes are perhaps better and Anaheim and Dallas should all be in the hunt, too.
Do you think the Ducks have a chance of getting back to the postseason this year?
John; Absolutely they can. If they play at the pace they did from January on (5th best record in the conference over that period) it's a given. That means, though, the Big Three (Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry) have to be ready to go Saturday and not a month from Saturday. Both Getzlaf and Perry can become unrestricted free agents next summer so a lot of pressure to get a deal done and the best way to see that happen will be to get off to a good start. Should be interesting times in Anaheim this season.
Since your love for the Islanders shines through whenever you discuss them, how bad do you see them being this year? Can we make it out of the bottom 5 or is that a long shot?
Nick; Nothing against the Isles and I like what they have assembled up front with Tavares moving steadily toward elite status. Still not sold on goaltending and defense which is a bit of a problem in the Atlantic. But in a short season if Nabokov (or DiPietro...did I just say that?) gets on a roll and they stay healthy (already an issue) then the Isles could stay in the playoff hunt to the end. I still think it's too much to see them jumping over the Devils and Flyers in the division which is what I think it would take to make it into the top eight in the conference but in a short season a lot of wacky things will happen.
Speaking of the west. Who do you see coming out of the west?
Jim; I had to submit end of season guesses, er, predictions and had St. Louis beating Los Angeles in the Western Conference final and then beating Pittsburgh (whom I had beating the Rangers in the east final) for the Blues' first Cup win.
Do you think the shortened season will result in more or less parity in the league this season? and what do you think the playoff benchmark will be in terms of total points?
Andreas; I think the standings will be jam-packed in both conferences right to the end. Talked to a GM who thinks it will be much tighter than in 1994-95 and he pointed to the fact that traditionally there are more three-point games (overtime, shootouts) in the second half of a normal season. Teams just play tighter. He expects that from the moment the puck drops Saturday because each game's meaning is magnified. I wouldn't be surprised to see the last six or seven spots in each conference separated by five or six points by the end of April.
Who non playoff team last year from the East and West do you see making a big jump this year?
Jeff; I think Colorado and Anaheim can both jump into the playoff mix. And I think Carolina and Tampa both have a shot in the east.
You never *did* predict that the Devils would miss the playoffs. Please...for ME, Scott...
NJ; Alright. The Devils are out. Now don't say I never do anything for you.
Scotty, do you think Marc Staal could emerge as one of the league's elite D men this year now that he's healthy and after what we saw of him in the playoff run last year? He was excellent
Anthony; I think this could be a breakout year for Marc Staal. After struggling with his concussion issues last season and then playing so well in the playoffs I think the expectations are certainly there for him to become one of the 'it' defensemen in the game. He's never going to be like a Shea Weber and he doesn't play like Erik Karlsson but can he shoulder his way into Norris Trophy discussion? Sure.
Stamkos gets +-36 this year?
Auston; I assume you mean goals. Was wondering aloud about that the other day. He had 60 last year so 36 would be about right although obviously less margin for error with a short season. Question? Will 35 goals be enough to win the Rocket Richard?
The Wings are very light and unproven on D and have a lot of young forwards who won't be able to crack lineup. Do you see the possibility for an early-season trade if the defense struggles out of the gate? Maybe with Phoenix for Yandle.
Jay; I know Keith Yandle's name came up a lot leading up to the draft in Pittsburgh but I honestly don't believe the 'Yotes have any intention of moving him unless it's a deal that blows them away and I assume that would involve a top-flight scoring forward, likely a center.
How do you think Jonathan Huberdeau will fare in his first NHL season with the Panthers?
Terry; I think he's going to do very well there. He's got all the tools and has the right personality to fit in nicely with a Panthers team that needs to keep stepping forward in Sunrise.
Okay folks. Will be, all things being equal, in Philadelphia for the season-opener Saturday afternoon. Can't wait. Look forward to picking this up again next week. As always, thanks for the time and the queries.