Hello all, welcome back. Lots of storylines to kick around this week. Now, where were we?
Excited with the Avs 3-0 start but now do you see thi steam doing over the course of the whole season and will they unload one of the centers for some depth?
DJ; I think the Avs' start is one of the early surprises of the season (I know, bold statement) and not just for the three straight wins but the solid defense and terrific goaltending turned in by Semyon Varlamov. Not sure that's sustainable over the course of the season and the Avs are certainly armed with loads of talent up front if Joe Sakic decides he needs to bolster the blue line. No question that would be a priority at the trade deadline if the Avs are still in the mix for a playoff spot.
when kris letang gets healthy, do you see any roster moves by the penguins? Maata has seems to be playing himself into a roster spot and to stay cap compliant, do you see a niskanen trade any time coming up?
Mike; We've been talking for awhile about the Pens' great depth on the blue line vis a vis prospects like Olli Maatta the 22nd overall pick in 2012 and Maatta has taken advantage of Letang's absence early on to make a case for himself. Still, pretty sure the Pens won't be in any hurry to rush him along (and hence deal an established player like Niskanen). Maybe later in the season pending injuries and productivity that becomes more attractive but am guessing the Pens will be taking the conservative route.
Scott, is it too early to hit the panic button in New York after the Rangers' frightful showing in San Jose and Nash's injury concerns?
Andrew; Not sure about panic button but certainly time to hit the 'wow, am pretty worried' button. The combination of the team's poor pre-season play and how it's bled into the regular season, the uneven play of Henrik Lundqvist, the injury to Rick Nash combined with the extended road trip to start the season point to a potentially deep hole from which the Rangers might have to crawl. Because no one knows exactly how fierce the competition for a post-season berth is going to be with realignment falling into an early hole would be a bad thing. And that's where the Rangers have pointed themselves. Now, can they avoid such a pit? Of course but things are going to have to change in a short time and without the benefit of being at home until late in the month for that to happen. Definitely first real test for head coach Alain Vigneault.
Hi Scott, What do you think will be the fallout in Washington with Erat? Erat is an 11yr NHL veteran who has shown throughout his career that he is a very capable top 6 forward. Great vision, puck control and defense. What could be the explanation that players who aren't as good as Erat like Chimmera, Johansson and Laich have been peddled out in front of him game after game? Can anyone explain Oates's decision? Some in the washington area say that there is external pressure on Oates from higher up to have Laich in a top 6 role. It just doens't make sense, Forsberg for two 4th liners is ridiculous.
Chase; The whole Martin Erat situation, right from the moment he was acquired from Nashville for promising forward Filip Forsberg has been more than a little puzzling. Erat wanted out of Nashville but was never 100% and had zero points in four playoff games. Now he's got zero points in three regular season games and hasn't yet topped the 10-minute mark in ice time. Will that change? Clearly Adam Oates doesn't have the confidence that Erat can do what he wants him to do playing a more prominent role. With Forsberg getting a chance to show his stuff in Nashville (he scored in his first game this season) this is a deal that right now looks like a clear win for the Predators.
When are people going to recognize that the Islanders are actually a good team?
Earl; I think people have been giving the Isles at least some love for the past year or so. I must admit I wondered if they were going to be good enough defensively and questioned GM Garth Snow's decision not to upgrade the goaltending after Evgeni Nabokov was only ordinary in the Isles' first-round loss to the Penguins last spring. But so far so good as they have given up just seven goals in three games. Is that sustainable? I still remain skeptical but a good start nonetheless.
What is the flyers biggest concern right now? Do you think they can turn it around and get back into the playoffs?
Jen; Surprisingly the Flyers seem to lack confidence on the offensive side of the puck and that needs to change if they're going to be a playoff team. For me it all starts with captain Claude Giroux. I know he was hampered in camp by his off-season hand injury thanks to a broken golf club but he needs to return to that kind of offensive swagger we saw a couple of years ago. He sets the tone for the team not just with his five-on-five play but on the power play and the Flyers right now are pressing mightily on the offensive side (five goals in three games)and that puts too much pressure on the blue line and goaltending to collect wins on a consistent basis.
B's/Av's tonight ... who ya got?
Paul; Another nice test for the Avs after their strong play in Toronto (2-1 Avs) and conversely a nice test for Boston after beating Detroit in their last outing which seems like a month ago. Will give the edge to the Bs 4-3 in a shootout.
Any chance the Pens could bring on Ryan Miller at the deadline?
Dom; Certainly the outlook for Tomas Vokoun vis a vis his blood clot issue will be much more clear come the end of February and I think Ryan Miller would be a definite option if Ray Shero is looking to upgrade his goaltending depth. Obviously the question will be what the asking price is going to be (we already mentioned the Pens' considerable defensive depth). But if I am Craig MacTavish in Edmonton and Devan Dubnyk can't get into a real groove (or, frankly, even if he can) I'm looking at a pre-emptive strike to try and pry Miller out of Buffalo long before the trade deadline. We saw Steve Yzerman make such a move acquiring Dwayne Roloson early in January 2011 and Roloson helped the Bolts to the '11 Eastern Conference final. Can't imagine Miller is a Sabre come March 5 (trade deadline) so it's a matter of just where he ends up.
Scott, I thought at the time the contract the Wild gave Backstrom was, well, generous to say the least. Will they be hamstrung with his contract considering his propensity to get injured (unlucky and freak accidents I know, but still)? Do you have confidence in Harding and Kuemper to lead this team to the playoffs should Nick miss a large amount of time?
Matt; Will admit I was a bit surprised that the Wild went for a three-year deal for Backstrom totaling $10.250 million in the off-season after he came up lame moments before the team's first-round playoff series against Chicago. And I think it's fair to question whether Josh Harding with his own medical/injury issues and Darcy Kuemper are good enough to keep the Wild in the hunt if Backstrom is out long-term. Fair to ask whether Backstrom is that guy if he's healthy. If you assume Chicago and St. Louis will own the top two spots there is still a bit of a horse race for the third guaranteed playoff spot and the Wild figure to be in the middle of that but they'll need to be able to count on quality, consistent starts between the pipes and right now that isn't a given by any stretch of the imagination.
When the dust settles, and small sample sizes have become large ones, which of the following goalies do you see having the best season: Bishop, Dubnyk, Mason? Will any of them a) finally take the reigns as full time starters and b) follow that up with a performance worthy of being a #1?
Andrew; Great question. Certainly Bishop's play early on, two straight wins, suggests he's going to assume the starter's role over Anders Lindback in Tampa. And my sense in talking to Philadelphia goaltending coach Jeff Reese during training camp is that they really believe Mason is in the right frame of mind to recapture his Rookie of the Year form. Dubnyk is 'the man' in Edmonton. That's not in dispute; just his level of play is in question. If I had to say which has the best chance of putting up stronger numbers I would go with Mason followed by Bishop and then Dubnyk.
It was a shock in the 2012 draft when Grigorenko fell to Buffalo at the 12th pick. Now it's a shock to hear that the Sabres are scratching him, despite the team's abysmal offense. What's up with this former top prospect?
Luke; I don't have any insight into what Grigorenko has to do to impress head coach Ron Rolston other than this is a team in transition where young players are being given a chance to play lead roles but that those opportunities have to be earned not just handed out. Frankly I like the idea that a player isn't simply being slotted into the Sabre line-up because he was a 12th overall pick. Guys like Zemgus Girgensons have moved, at least temporarily, ahead of Grigorenko in the depth chart and one can only assume it's based on effort and willingness to follow Rolston's plans even if the results haven't been reflected in the win column yet. Hard lesson but maybe a valuable one.
What are your thoughts on Hertl? Impressive performance thus far no doubt, but does his excitement and over-exuberance put a little bit of a target on his back?
Danny; Off the charts terrific. Another example of how the Sharks do things right with Hertl (the 17th overall pick in '12) spending an extra year playing in the Czech Elite League and preparing him for life in the NHL. As for his exuberance I don't think it will have a bearing on how other teams treat him and pretty sure the Sharks will put up with it if he keeps pouring goals in opposing nets. This is a team that some folks liked to finally break through and reach a Cup final or win a first-ever Cup and Hertl's play early on hasn't discouraged that kind of thinking.
If I call commissioner Bettman 10x a day for the next year, do you think that would help get the NHL to Seattle and Quebec City? I think the Pacific Northwest is ripe for another team (the rivalry w/Vancouver would be fantastic) and I miss the Nordiques like crazy. Financially it doesn't make sense to expand, but it seems like Canada needs another team and Seattle/Portland could flourish. I hate moving clubs from their current homes, but wouldn't it make sense to relocate the teams in FL?
Matt; With the NHL having resolved (at least for the time being) ownership issues in Phoenix, Florida and New Jersey I think the time is as good for expansion talk as its been in more than a decade. Agree that Seattle is a natural and my sense is Vancouver would welcome a built-in geographic rival. If you assume Seattle is tops in the pecking order for expansion (and I believe it is) then it leaves Quebec City and perhaps Toronto as the next most desirable pending the opposition to a second team from the Leafs. I don't think you'll see anything in the way of relocation talk in the coming years but I do think we're going to get a lot of expansion talk as the league moves towards a 32-team slate with a balanced conference set-up.
Can a player sent to Juniors be recalled to the NHL?
Matt; Had to check on this one. But yes once a junior-aged player has been sent back to his club he can be recalled after that junior club has been eliminated from playoff play. There are also times when a junior player can be recalled on an emergency basis during the season or when he wouldn't miss any junior games but he can't be recalled for more than five NHL games in either case.
Heck of a game played between Chicago and St. Louis last night. Did the early season tilt show you anything about these two teams last night? Also, do you think the way Jaro Halak is playing is sustainable?
Nathan; Terrific tilt as expected. No doubt Halak's play will be closely monitored as the season moves along as he's in the final year of his contract. If he keeps it up look for the Blues to try and lock him up beyond this season but if he falters or more likely if he succumbs to injury GM Doug Armstrong will be looking to shore up the position (hello Ryan Miller). Right now though Halak looks like he did when he was a star in Montreal and during his second season in St. Louis.
Hi Scott - Maybe it's too early to make the call but who's your darkhorse playoff team (as in nobody expects them to GET to the playoffs, not somebody who can actually do damage)
B-Diddy; Well I guess the Avs would definitely qualify. And I'd put Winnipeg and Tampa in that group as well given their early play. And you're right, way too early to glean much vis a vis which teams could sustain their early play and earn a surprise playoff berth. Of those three I'd give the inside edge to the Avs given their talent up front and the play of Varlamov. Will be fun to watch all three of those teams, though, especially the Jets.
Nobody in Calgary getting ahead of themselves, but a nice start to the season by the Flames! Is Calgary maybe a little better than any of the experts gave them credit for or are teams just taking them lightly to start the year? And how about Sean Monahan? He?s certainly making a case to stick with the Flames all season.
Rob; Agreed and must admit I'm pleased for Bob Hartley and Jay Feaster (and newcomer Brian Burke). We were talking to Mike Cammalleri in New York before the season about how virtually everyone had the Flames picked to finish dead last in the Pacific and near the bottom of the entire standings. Monahan will be tough to send down and the Flames will have to decide not whether he deserves to stay but whether it's best for him. Tough call. But good on guys like Baertschi, Giordano, Brodie, and Glencross for ignoring the critics and working hard to put some points on the board early on. Should have included the Flames in my earlier answer on teams that would be a complete surprise if they are in the hunt for a post-season berth.
Okay folks. As always a pleasure and thanks for dropping by. Until next week. Be well.