What’s weird about the league right now is that there are a lot of haves and a lot of have-nots, with a relatively small middle class.
Before Wednesday night’s slate of six games, there were 10 teams with a points percentage of .650, on pace for almost 107 points. There were also 16 teams with points percentages of .545 or less, a pace for just 88 points. That left just five teams in that gooey middle where they’re pretty good but certainly not great.
Most people don’t have much to say about those 10 teams at the top, but the rest? There are some interesting storylines to get into.
Mitch asks: “What free agent acquisition is looking like the biggest stinker one month into the season?”
Sergei Bobrovsky has an .870 save percentage and he makes $10 million a year. He’s also 31. This is the easy answer.
But if we’re not counting goalies, the fact that Micheal Ferland is being talked about as a potential healthy scratch in Vancouver on a regular basis while his (cheaper) replacement in Carolina is on pace for 50-plus points is a pretty good pick too.
Bored Flyera Fan asks: “What team that’s in a playoff spot now do you think is most likely to miss the postseason?”
I’m not sure I buy it with like half the Western Conference playoff picture right now. Teams that should drop out, based on depth of talent, include Edmonton, Anaheim, and Arizona — plus I didn’t have Vancouver in the postseason (but close) to start the year.
A few of the teams currently below the cut line — Calgary, Dallas, San Jose — seem like they could very easily put together a five-game run and be right back in it. Conversely, all those teams I mentioned, minus maybe Vancouver, could drop five straight and that’d be it for ‘em.
In the East, the obvious answer is Buffalo dropping out and Tampa moving back in. That’s it.
Matthew asks: “Now that Andrei Svechnikov has brought the lacrosse style goal to the NHL, how many more do we see this season, or will the conservative nature of the NHL kill that?”
What I like about the Svechnikov goal is that it came the same day a Canucks prospect did the same thing (but even more impressively) in Europe. It’s easy to imagine Svechnikov seeing that and saying, “I might try that sometime,” only to have the situation present itself within eight hours.
And this is a copycat league. The number of guys who can do this move might surprise you, but it’s higher than you think. Maybe not everyone would try it in a game situation, but if this becomes a common thing, that would be pretty sick.
CJ asks: “Is there anything dumber in hockey right now than Brendan Smith playing 10 minutes a night for the Rangers?”
Even given that his average TOI this season is closer to 12 minutes, it’s not even the dumbest thing regarding the Rangers’ ice time distribution (see also: Lias Andersson getting 9:59 a game).
In fact, you could do this for a while around the league: Cody Ceci’s playing 22:24 a game. Jonathan Quick (.849) has more games played than Jack Campbell. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is getting 21-plus. Everything posed in the question below this one is 100 percent true.
This is going to surprise you but a lot of coaches make a lot of iffy-at-best personnel decisions for bad reasons.
Shawn asks: “Why does Paul Maurice love below replacement players (Sbisa, Letestu, Bourque, Bitetto) instead of potential good NHL players (Niku, Gustaffson, Heinola) and how does Cheveldayoff wean him off this dependence?”
I can’t answer definitively for obvious reasons, but would anyone be surprised if the answer is something along the lines of, “Those guys are seen as safe, low-risk players who provide a veteran presence” or something like it?
It’s understandable that a coach wouldn’t want to roll young guys out when you’re already struggling as a team. Where do you put them where they can be in a position to succeed? But at the same time, yeah obviously your point that talented players are going to be preferable to relatively untalented ones should be well-taken.
It’s a lot like the discussion around David Quinn the past week or so: Would you rather lose playing it safe, maybe going out 3-2 or 2-1 every night because veterans won’t do anything for you but won’t get embarrassed too often? Or would you rather be in a 4-3, 5-4 shootout on a nightly basis, because kids make potentially more glaring mistakes even if they also create more?
In this sport, the obvious answer is the former. Which isn’t ideal, but it is life.
Matt asks: “If the Bruins fail to get consistent secondary scoring, is it possible to see them move Halak for a top-six forward close to the deadline?”
Sure, it’s possible. But they like the rotation, for sure, and there may be other things they can move (picks, prospects) to potentially make things happen. I think the idea of a career backup fetching a top-six winger — because let’s be honest, they don’t need another center with Bergeron and Krejci — is a little farfetched, but if it’s a package deal and the other team needs a goalie, then maybe you can work something out.
It’s a nice idea but probably not realistic. Even if (when?) that secondary scoring doesn’t come through.
Craig asks: “If Ovi and Backstrom are never going to get old, really aren’t the Caps being underrated?”
Is the league-leading team that everyone in Toronto just held up as an example of a group that plays the right way being underrated? Hm well, I think the answer has to be “yes.”
Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.
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