October was a pretty interesting month in the NHL. I wrote a lot of words about October below this, but you have to write more words above it in order to fill out this upper area before getting to the jump. But I don’t want to give away everything I wrote about up here. I’d like you to be surprised. Isn’t it the worst when someone writes, “Coming up, some thoughts on why Lindy Ruff’s ties are the worst in the league” and then you get to the part about Lindy Ruff’s ties being the worst in the league? Like, you saw it coming? The worst, I say.
I have no opinion about Lindy Ruff’s ties, by the way.
OK, so one more paragraph before we get to 21 things about October. It’s a pretty great month. Baseball, hockey and football all happening at once. Also that other sport where tall people bounce a ball. What did you guys all dress as for Halloween? I saw a lot of Heisenbergs this week. Firefighter never goes out of style. I think I’ve written enough up here.
Hey everyone! Here are 21 thoughts, things and tidbits about what took place in the NHL (or LNH) during the month of October:
1. Could the Buffalo Sabres go down as the worst team in NHL history? It’s not as long of a shot as you may think. The 1974-75 Washington Capitals finished with 21 points in an 80-game season. In 1992-93, the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks accumulated 24 points during an 84-game season. None of those three teams had the benefit of earning a point just for reaching overtime. The Capitals wouldn’t have benefited, as overtime for regular-season games didn’t return to existence until 1983-84. The Senators lost in overtime six times; the Sharks lost in overtime five times. The 2013-14 Sabres (2-12-1) have five points in 15 games, which puts them on pace for 27.3 points in 82 games. That doesn’t take into account that they will play their final 69 games without Thomas Vanek and will eventually dump Ryan Miller before the trade deadline and perhaps even Matt Moulson. It would take a whole lot of futility for the Sabres to sink to the level of the ’74-75 Capitals, but it’s within the realm of possibility as we exit October.
2. Copy and paste this block of text and use it as a headline for all Toronto Maple Leafs games: “BLANK outshoots Toronto BLANK-BLANK but falls BLANK-BLANK.” The Leafs have been outshot by an average of nearly 10 shots per game. They are 8-4 in games in which they’ve been outshot. They are 2-1 in games in which they’ve been outshot by at least 20. Jonathan Bernier has a .933 save percentage; James Reimer is at .949. As a team, the Leafs are shooting 12.7 percent, first in the league. The Leafs will continue to look to redefine the word “sustainable” over the rest of the season.
3. Will Corey Crawford play every game for the Blackhawks? Nikolai Khabibulin has allowed 12 goals on 54 shots over three starts and was yanked Wednesday after allowing four goals on 22 shots. Crawford came on in relief and the Blackhawks won that game, but Joel Quenneville is clearly missing Ray Emery. Crawford, who signed a six-year, $36 million extension over the summer, has never started more than 57 games in a season. If Khabibulin doesn’t get it together, Crawford may have to make 70 starts and how he handles that workload will go a long way to determining Chicago’s success this season.
4. No one is going to see the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. That’s not really news, but wasn’t there supposed to be an infusion of excitement and enthusiasm after the team was rescued this summer? The Coyotes are 30th in attendance (11,717) and capacity percentage (68.4) after drawing 7,401 for a game against the Predators on Thursday night. Those numbers are far below the average for last season, when the Coyotes were really bad, and are actually the lowest in team history. This year, the Coyotes are 6-0-1 at home and 9-3-2 overall, so it’s not as though they aren’t putting a quality product on the ice. It’s early and perhaps as the Coyotes play some more division rivals (they’ve already played the Kings and Oilers) the numbers will rise, but this is a pretty bad start. Hockey is like religion — you shouldn’t force it on people who don’t want it.
5. Let’s discuss revenge. Last season, the Bruins swept the Penguins in the Eastern final. The Penguins beat the Bruins on Wednesday 3-2. This does not constitute a measure of revenge in any way. After the Bruins won last year, they earned the right to play for the Stanley Cup. After the Penguins won Wednesday, they went home and went to sleep and began preparing for a home game against Columbus, because that’s what you do in the regular season. If any player in the Penguins locker room had even the smallest sense of satisfaction about that regular-season win, he should re-assess everything in his hockey life.
6. How are the Bruins doing so far without Tyler Seguin? Not bad, actually. They’re averaging nearly three goals per game, up slightly over 2.6 a game last season. Sample sizes and all that, but they’re back to their scoring levels of 2010-11 (2.98) and 2011-12 (3.17). It helps that Milan Lucic didn’t come to camp overweight this season and leads the team with six goals. If Loui Eriksson’s absence due to his head being partially removed by actual NHL hockey player John Scott becomes an extended one, the Bruins will need contributions from everywhere.
7. How is Tyler Seguin doing so far without the Bruins? Not bad, actually. He’s a point-per-game guy through 12 games, but the Stars are in last place in the Central, so that means Seguin is probably partying way too hard or something like that. Because goals and assists aren’t how you judge a trade. Oh no. It’s about chemistry and winning and a culture and /shoots self.
8. There hasn’t been too much complaining about hybrid icing. Sure, there’s been an occasional race that may have been misjudged by a trailing linesman, but nothing super egregious that I’ve noticed. There was that ultra-weird Jonathan Bernier own-goal against the Hurricanes and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock voiced some displeasure with the rule, but it hasn’t cost anyone a game yet and no one has had their leg explode crashing into the end boards. Great success.
9. Brendan Shanahan probably didn’t have to work this hard during the preseason and October as a player. Dating to the preseason, the NHL has suspended 16 players for a total of 76 games. Five additions humans (two coaches, three players) have been fined. Those people have forfeited approximately $930,000 in salary, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. In 2011-12, the NHL suspended 13 players for a total of 71 games in September/October. In 2010-11, the final year Colin Campbell was in charge of discipline, there were eight players suspended for a total of 17 games in that same time frame. Say what you want about NHL discipline, but the current regime is bringing the hammer down far more often than the previous regime.
10. We all thought – well, at least I did – the gap between the West and East would be closed somewhat with the Red Wings and Blue Jackets coming East and the Jets heading West. Once again, I was wrong in my analysis. The West is 54-21-9 against the East this season, good for 117 points. The East is 30-45-9 against the West, picking up 69 points. Blue Jackets president John Davidson once said about the West’s dominance that it was cyclical and it always changes. That was four years ago when he was president of the St. Louis Blues.
11. Is everything OK with Jonathan Quick? He’s 8-4-0 this season, but his save percentage is .903. In 37 regular-season games last year, his save percentage was .902. Excluding his 2013 postseason run in which he had a .934 save percentage, that’s 49 games in which he’s posted a .902 save percentage. Is it Olympic pressure? Perhaps. Is it the fact he had back surgery on a herniated disc before the 2013 season? Maybe, but it didn’t affect him in the playoffs. If he continues to play below expectations, the door could be open for Jimmy Howard or Craig Anderson or even Ryan Miller to win gold in Sochi.
12. Sidenote on Miller: He ends October with a 1-10 record, 3.03 GAA and .919 save percentage. In the history of the NHL, just one goaltender played at least six games in a season and had a GAA above 3.00 and a save percentage of at least .915 – Frederic Cassivi of the 2001-02 Atlanta Thrashers, who had 3.32/.918 line in six games. Only player has gone .919/3.00, and he played just 40 minutes. Here’s the entire list. So congratulations to Ryan Miller, I guess.
13. With 10 points in 12 games, Jaromir Jagr of the Devils in on pace for a 68-point season at age 41. If he holds that pace, it would be the second-best mark for anyone age 41 or older in NHL history. If Jagr stays healthy, he has a chance of breaking Gordie Howe’s record of 71 points, set in 1969-70 with the Red Wings. It’s early, but Jagr looks like he has plenty of gas left in the tank.
14. Because of an errant stick from Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, worldwide hero Teemu Selanne is out two weeks. That means his farewell tour will no longer have stops in Boston, Buffalo, New York (Rangers) and potentially both NHL cities in Florida. The shame of this is if Selanne was a Montreal Canadien, fans would have been burning up the 9-1-1 hotlines seconds after Schenn’s stick made contact with the face of the legend.
15. A lot can happen between now and July 4, but there are a lot more big names heading toward unrestricted free agency. Remember the summer of Brad Richards and…Tim Connolly? This summer could see Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Henrik Lundqvist, Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, Paul Stastny, Ryan Miller, Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Callahan and the Sedins get to the market. Of course, their current teams are likely negotiating with all of their agents behind the scenes and the list always looks better in October than June, but even if four of those guys are available, it’ll be easily the most interesting summer in a long time.
16. Seventeen teams exited October with a power play clicking at least 20 percent. Last year, nine teams hit that mark at season’s end. Two years ago, the most recent full season, three teams reached 20 percent.
17. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic has 10 points in 13 games. His career-best is 36 points in 82 games in 2008-09. Last season, he had seven points in 48 games. This season, he trails just Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and PK Subban, who each have 11 points. I guess what I’m saying is October can be funny sometimes.
18. Maybe we should just cool off on third jerseys for a couple years. Take a break. Come back in 2015-16 and start fresh.
19. Perhaps we can use this block of text to illustrate why we should never reference plus/minus. In four games since returning from injury, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is minus-4. However, he has been Corsi-ing and Fenwick-ing the hell out of teams. Yeah, he’s had some Letang-esque gaffes but it’s essentially his exhibition season and he’s been a possession monster.
20. One of the big talking points over the summer was reduced goalie pads. It would create more goals, they said. Well, it most certainly has. In 2011-12, teams scored an average of 2.73 goals per game. Last season, that number jumped to 2.74 goals per game. This season, teams are scoring an average of 2.75 goals per game. Look out! It’s like 1985-86 up in this piece! Most goaltenders lost an inch or two off the top of their leg pads, so this finally answers the age-old question of will an inch or two make a difference in a guy’s performance.
21. Finally, a microcosm of how toughness is the most important thing in the NHL. The other night, Pascal Dupuis ripped out not one, but two of his teeth. The clip made it onto “Pardon the Interruption” and was the type of thing hockey fans point to and scream THIS IS WHY HOCKEY IS THE BEST. Yet for some reason, Dupuis’ unbelievably sick, skilled one-touch pass that sprang Brandon Sutter for the go-ahead goal that night received far less fanfare. Such is life, I suppose.
Important question for you: If you are starting a hockey team of chips, what brand/chip would you select as your Center, Top Defenseman, and Goalie and why? What NHL team would they represent?
Center- Nacho Cheese Doritos: good, consistent veteran.
Defense- BBQ Lays – always reliable. Can enjoy as a side no matter what the situation!
Goalie- Funyions – a little crazy but very good.
NHL team it represents- Predators or Jackets
Thank you for you time and consideration.
I honestly don’t know. I like Doritos. Let’s agree that I put your question into the mailbag this week and call it even.
You’re asking me to pick between death by dysentery and death by cholera. There’s no right answer, there’s no wrong answer. But I’ll say this — Regier knows how to maximize returns when tanking. He got a great haul for Jason Pominville and way more than he should have for Thomas Vanek. Holmgren is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic by getting Steve Downie for Max Talbot.
What are your thoughts about the quality of play by play men and color commentators in sports today?
Also, you seem to have strong opinions about pizza, so what’s your favorite slice in Hoboken?
They are generally homerish to a disgusting extent. The Cody McLeod/Niklas Kronwall incident was like a parody. If you’re not the San Jose Sharks duo of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, you’re uncomfortably biased in the eyes of anyone watching your games who isn’t a fan of the team. Nationally, all the TSN/CBC guys are great, as is Kenny Albert and anyone who isn’t Doc Emrick on NBC.
But as someone who enjoys baseball, that’s just the nature of local announcers. If you’re going to watch a local broadcast in any sport, you have to swallow an immense amount of homer sauce. I know people love Doc, but the game has gotten too quick for him, something that is evident with a lot of older hockey announcers. I’d prefer anyone behind him at NBC to call a game. And Pierre McGuire is Pierre McGuire.
Finally, Impostos every time. Best slice in Hoboken.
(E-mail me questions for next week’s Bag Skate by e-mailing me questions to the e-mail address dave111177 at gmail dot com with questions)