Ryan Lambert

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florida panthers

The Florida Panthers, not long after getting themselves a shiny new owner, are still bad, because even having someone who actually cares about your team is not an immediate cure-all for being one of the worst teams in the league. You can ask the Winnipeg Jets about that.

There is, however, some enthusiasm in Sunrise these days because new owner Vinnie Viola — who won his name in a card game with a cartoon mobster — has taken time out of his day of busily shaking down local politicians for more taxpayer money to keep the team there to assure Panthers executives that when it comes to the summer’s silly season, they have free reign to spend as much as they like.

Here’s Dale Tallon on the subject from over the weekend:

“This team’s been bleeding money for a long time, but I’ve been told we’re going to be a cap team and want to try to break even. They want to invest money into the team. They want to win. That’s what’s going on here. They’ve given me the green light to be a cap team. So that’s fantastic. Not a floor team, a cap team. We’re excited.”

The idea of the Panthers as a cap team is an interesting one, insofar as it’s obviously never happened before and the team is currently ranked 30th out of 30 in terms of the amount of their cap space being used. As of yesterday, the team could have, in theory, taken on more than $68.4 million in salary if acquiring people via trade without hitting the cap ceiling. That is an astonishing number in and of itself. But one also has to keep in mind that this comes despite the fact that they’re retaining $2.2 million in salary from the trade that shipped Kris Versteeg back to Chicago, and are paying some serious bums way too much money this season. Read the rest of this entry »

sean monahan

John Scott’s corsi percentage this year is 38.1.

The reason that Scott’s corsi percentage is in any way important to anyone outside of the Buffalo Sabres’ organization, and is in any way germane to the point about to be made, is that it’s pathetic on a grand scale. This is a remarkably low number even for a player generally considered to be the worst in the entire National Hockey League at the actual playing of hockey. More often, even a goon’s numbers will hover somewhere around 45 percent. That’s a player getting dominated in no uncertain terms, ranking him 725th among the 745 players league-wide who have played in at least four games this season.

Meanwhile, Sean Monahan, the Calgary Flames first-round pick in last year’s draft who made the NHL team despite all reason stating that he should have been sent back to the OHL, has a corsi-for percentage of 41.3 percent. To his credit, it used to be much higher.

The reason it’s sinking into Scott territory these days is that he broke his foot in late November and missed two and a half weeks. Tough bounce for the kid, who’d been a little better than OK in getting some sheltered and advantageous usage out of coach Bob Hartley; soft competition, lots of offensive zone starts, power play time, decent linemates, and so on.

He was making the most of it, too. In his first 24 NHL games, as a kid who was barely 19, he had nine goals and 15 points, which isn’t all that bad, considering he’s on the appallingly bad Calgary Flames. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Marchand2

Quite the kerfuffle with the Bruins over the last 10 days or so, what with Shawn Thornton KOing an unsuspecting victim and getting suspended 15 games, the whole team getting the flu, everyone getting injured, Jarome Iginla dislocating a finger in a needless fight, Tuukka Rask giving up a goal from center ice, and the Bruins losing 6-2 to Vancouver, and Milan Lucic being assaulted by some no-neck clown in a bar for little to no reason at all.

But the thing that’s most egregious of all of these, and for which the team will under no circumstances stand, is Brad Marchand making fun of the Canucks and their fans. He kissed an invisible Stanley Cup ring. He raised an invisible Stanley Cup twice.

The first of these incidents came during warmups, and everyone would have had a nice little laugh about it. The second came with the Bruins down 3-1, following a run-in between Marchand and Ryan Kesler. The third came with Boston trailing 4-1. Coach Claude Julien was in no way happy about these incidents:

“He’s a good player, and he’s an agitator, and there’s some good things to that part of his game, but there’s certain areas where — again, I’ve said it before — you can’t cross the line. … The perception it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things. … He’s too good of a player and we don’t want him to be a different player, but there’s certain things we want him to be different at. From what I hear, what happened, that’s definitely not something we will accept in our organization.”

Read the rest of this entry »

bozak clarkson

The Eastern Conference has been viewed, rightly, as a barren wasteland with a meek populace lorded over by a very small number of actual good teams. We know for sure, for example, that Boston, Pittsburgh, and probably Detroit are going to make the playoffs. You might as well not even play the rest of the season as far as they’re concerned. They’re in, unequivocally.

For everyone else, though, things are a little more dicey. Tampa is sub-.500 in its last 10 games because they’re not very good away from home (where six of those 10 have been played), they’re cooling off after a hot start, and of course, they’re missing Steven Stamkos. Yet they entered last night sitting top three in the Flortheast because of Montreal’s slow start and Toronto’s quick decline.

But that’s the thing, right? Even if you finish outside the top three in your division, any crummy team in the East has at least a decent chance of sneaking into the playoffs because of how hard Toronto is dropping off (and will continue to do so because their December schedule is murder).

The Leafs will, rather definitively, not be playing after the regular season ends, and a number of potential suitors awaits, with varying degrees of credibility behind their claims to the conference’s final playoff spot.

The fact of the matter is that we’re now already one-third of the way through the season, and so it’s time to look for some replacements.

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dion phaneuf

Much to the consternation of the quote-unquote advanced stats community, the Toronto Maple Leafs have repeatedly dismissed the kinds of statistics which state that they’re going to be bad in the very near future, and this is largely due to the fact that they haven’t been given a reason to embrace them.

The Leafs made the playoffs last year, for example, because the season was just 48 games long and their inability to actually possess the puck and generate shot attempts in no way hindered their ability to make the playoffs or push the Bruins far deeper into the first round than anyone outside the Air Canada Centre would have expected. The team rightly saw that brutal collapse against Boston as a stroke of bad luck — and maybe you could say it was a season’s worth of well-earned bad bounces finally going against them in one improbably short period of time — and set about this past summer tinkering with aspects of their team which did not need tinkering.

So it was that the doom-and-gloom nerds who swore up and down that regression was going to pummel them this season got their chance to rub their hands together furiously in anticipation for a season-long period of mayhem brought down by the corsi gods on high. You can’t, they argue, go 48 games at 30th in the league in shot attempt percentage and expect to make the playoffs again and not expect comeuppance. Read the rest of this entry »

Henrik Lundqvist

When you’re putting a goalie on waivers, and especially when he’s 36 years old and your backup, it might not be that big of a deal overall. But when your other goalie is 31 and his stats are likewise sub-average, even at the start of the season, it could be a very real issue in the very near future.

Obviously the New York Rangers and the rest of the hockey world are resting assured that despite the slow start to the season for the team, and its otherwise world-class starting goaltender in particular, things are all going to work out fairly well. This is, after all, Henrik Lundqvist we’re talking about, and the Rangers haven’t even played a home game this season.

In this week’s 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman points out that Lundqvist in particular — out of all elite NHL netminders — might be having trouble dealing with the new, smaller pads because he’s the kind of goalie who previously liked to go deeper than almost all others into his crease because he wanted as much time as possible to see the shots. Without the ability to come out every night shaped like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, that deepness leaves him far more open to shots simply getting through him, whether he sees them or not. If he were more aggressive in coming out to challenge shooters, he might be able to keep the angles down and effectively negate the advantage. Bourne outlined all this yesterday.

So maybe it takes Lundqvist a little more time than others to adjust to the change specifically because of how much deeper he goes, and maybe this rough start — in which he’s gone 2-4 in his starts, posting sub-.880 save percentages in all his losses — will straighten itself out sooner than later. His current even-strength save percentage of .887, by the way, doesn’t speak well for his ability to pin all of this on his defense.

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peter laviolette

In the immediate wake of the Peter Laviolette firing yesterday morning, just hours after the team looked like garbage against a team that is itself primed for a truly awful season, a lot of people just kind of shrugged and said, “Well, sure.”

Yeah the Flyers are bad and yeah they’re 0-3-0 to start the year, having conceded far more goals than they’ve scored and probably no one is all that surprised by the occurrence. But with that having been said there are so many questions that emerge in the immediate wake of the decision that spring to mind.

Like, “Why?”

“Why?” is the first question that should come up, for sure. Three games is a comically short period of time in which to consider a coaching change and it is in fact the fastest any bench boss has ever been fired in the entire history of the league. This was a team, though, that always looked on the poise of putrid. There was always something there, of course, enough that you’d say to yourself, “Okay this could possibly be a good team if things break for them.” After all, before last year’s thunderously bad performance, they posted better-than-100-point seasons, and that was after making the Stanley Cup Final in a streak of luck eclipsed only by the Devils’ accomplishment of two years ago.

This is a team that considered, for example, Scott Hartnell to be something other than a reliable 20-25 goalscorer who was at least somewhat defensibly responsible. They pay him like a skill guy, giving him more money against the cap than any other forward on the team this year, based solely on the fact that he scored a complete-aberration 37 goals playing with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. They consider 68-year Kimmo Timonen to likewise be a No. 1 defenseman and both pay and play him commensurately, but largely due to the fact that other, better options simply do not exist.

That Laviolette had to cobble together any success from this roster, given what was being spent on it, is absurd. That he did so successfully for two seasons is a credit to his prowess behind the bench.

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