Well, here we are - it’s finally the Christmas season. Or the “holiday season,” if you prefer. Or “that time of year where you spend entirely too much time with family,” if you’re more honest (kidding, kidding, family).
My older brother got to town and suggested I do a “naughty and nice” list on the NHL this season, so for his gift (I drew him in the family gift-buying pool), I’ve taken him up on that idea. So without further ado, here we go: the naughty and the nice from the 2011-2012 NHL season.
Andy Sutton: Andy Sutton is really making an attempt at re-defining “repeat offender” this season. He clipped Gabriel Landeskog’s melon in the neutral zone for a five-game suspension in late October, then followed that up with an absolute human missile assault on Alexei Ponikarovsky (because guys who are sixteen-foot-thirteen tall - that’s a ballpark figure – need to jump to hit effectively).
Ryan Miller: The man I (and many others) considered to be one of the NHL’s best goaltenders heading into the season has played like dogmeat. He’s not-so-proudly sporting a goals-against-average of 3.02 and a save percentage of .902, both well worse than his career averages. He’s let in soft goals, been yanked a handful of times, and is a big reason the Sabres are somewhat underachieving. NAUGHTY. /newspaper to the nose
Alex Ovechkin: One of the games biggest stars, Ovy became famous for being an electrifying, unstoppable machine. Because of that, it’s been heart-breaking watching him try the same moves, which are now: hammer a slapbomb into a defenders shinpads, and throw the blinders on and drive wide. In 31 games Ovy has 22 points (good for T-79th!), and sits at minus-nine. I will now remove the coal that’s obviously been in his socks this year, and put some in…
Drew Doughty’s: The Kings are badly underachieving, and much of the blame can fall on Doughty. Our expectations for him are high (that comes with zillion dollar contracts), but for a guy who looked like a surefire eventual Norris winner in his sophomore season, he sure hasn’t looked the part. He’s on pace for under 30 points, and sits at minus-six. Not good enough for a guy who was one shy of 60 points two seasons ago.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the title of “worst team in the NHL” (oh god it just occured to me – what if they get the #1 pick and grab Nail Yakupov? They could assemble a pretty nasty powerplay with another star). It’s mind-blowing that they can’t score goals when you look at their roster, and yet they’re 27th, averaging 2.33 per game. They’re 9-19-5, and effectively eliminated from playoffs in December.
But enough about the naughty kids, they don’t deserve the attention. Lets show some love to the guys who’ve been nice. Er, good. Whatever, just go with the gimmick.
Teemu Selanne: At 64 years old (I’ll have to fact-check that), Teemu Selanne continues to impress. Thanks to the nine-game point streak he’s currently riding (in which he’s amassed 14), he’s back in the NHL’s top-10 in scoring with 35 points in 33 games. He’s 5th in the NHL in assists with 24. He’s a class act. Just Teemu bein’ Teemu, man.
Daniel Paille & Andrew Burnette: These two men have combined to play 61 hockey games, and have averaged 10::22 and 13:10 minutes of ice time per game, respectively. They have also combined for zero penalty minutes. ZERO. That’s insanity, and the epitome of “nice.” Honorable mentions: Brad Richards (4 PIMS), Anze Kopitar (4), Brian Campbell (2), Frans Nielsen (2), Matt Moulson (2) and Henrik Zetterberg (2).
Dale Tallon: Tallon took his share of shots in the summer for some (all) of his free agent signings, with most folks explaining that he overpaid for middling players. Well, the Panthers don’t even have to sustain this level of play for us to say “okay Dale, you win.” Florida is third in the Eastern Conference (legitimately, not just because they’re leading their division). Their top line is constantly on the scoresheet, and the guys he brought in have had no small part in the team’s success. Here’s a candy cane, sir.
Minnesota Wild: Speaking of teams nobody saw coming, the Minnesota Wild sit second in the Western Conference, one point out of first. First year head coach Mike Yeo has ridden hot goaltending to some early season success and, for the first time since 07-08, has Wild fans thinking seriously about playoffs.
Brian Elliot: For a lowly back-up goalie filling in behind the great Jaroslav Halak – pre-season thoughts, there – things have gone, er, okay. The only stat categories he’s doing well in are save percentage (1st, .948), goals-against-average (1st, 1.43) and shutouts (T-1st, 4). He’s started four games in December already, and is making “platooning” with Halak start to look a little silly.
So ho-ho-ho and all that jazz. Hope your holiday season is a happy one.