Archive for the ‘One Man’s Opinion’ Category

Brent Seabrook

 

There have been two instances of supplementary discipline handed down in the NHL since the start of the playoffs.

The first was to Milan Lucic for a needless and gutless spear on Danny DeKeyser, which netted him a $5,000 fine, the maximum for someone who does not have to go through a phone hearing. That was the second spear Lucic doled out to an opponent in about three weeks, but the first for which he heard from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

The second was obviously much bigger: A three-game ban to Brent Seabrook for trying to see if he could all the way through David Backes’ body if he hit him hard enough.Of course, given that, as of this morning, a total of 21 games have taken place in the NHL, that doesn’t feel like it’s a ton or anything. Especially given the gravity and apparent intensity exhibited in pretty much all the series played to this point. That Chicago/St. Louis and Detroit/Boston were the two to have boiled over into the range of needing DOPS to step in; the former is a hotly-contested rivalry to begin with played between two teams that still value the hell out of being able to beat the hell out of their opponents, while the latter is being played between a team that will never fight back and one that delights in straddling and sometimes stepping over the line of proper physical play. Read the rest of this entry »

Sidney Crosby

honda jpg

This is my second full year as a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, which means I’m one of the folks who has the privilege of voting on the annual NHL awards. I’m once again taking the responsibility seriously, as the awards can actually affect the lives of players (particularly in a financial way), and they most certainly affect the historical record of our game.

The goal of voting is simply to award trophies to players who legitimately earned them during the given season. That means where there are obvious answers, you give them, and don’t try to get too cute about it. And, of course, having stats to back up your opinions is pretty key.

Aside from my own viewing and opinions, I largely used NHL.comExtra Skater, and HockeyDB for research.

(My 2013 ballot can be read here.)



(1) NHL Trophies

HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) — Five selections

I choose to vote for the Hart Trophy a very specific way, which I’ve laid out in full here. The short form of that piece is basically this commentary by Tyler Delow:

“’Player adjudged most valuable to his team’ can mean two things. The lunatic interpretation is ‘Player whose share of the total value of his team is greatest.’ This is the one people are adopting. The sane people interpretation is ‘Player who provides the most value to his team’ with “value” being simply a raw counting number, not factoring in how much total value his team has. I mean, on the criteria these people are explicitly adopting, Zack Stortini could win the Hart, if you put him on a team with 19 mes. “Well, that team was the worst team in NHL history, but Stortini is undeniably miles ahead of all those Dellows.”

And this quick add-on from myself in that piece:

So my point is, after that long walk, let’s say the Hart was for “value provided to team,” literally. What would be the point of that? What are we trying to identify? The worst team who had the most disproportionately great player? That’s just a luck award for one of the league’s best players. It would be pointless.

That’s just my personal take on it. Just thought I’d let you in on how I choose to vote.

Anyway, on to the actual votes! Read the rest of this entry »

bracket

Western Conference Predictions can be found here.

Columbus (4) vs. Pittsburgh (1)

Prediction: Pittsburgh in 5

Why: This series is just ripe for overthinking, isn’t it? Columbus has been very good at times this season, and the Penguins are typically overrated. Their d-corps looks questionable at times. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a nightmare in recent playoffs to the point where he’s needed to see a sports psychologist. The Islanders pushed the Penguins pretty hard in the first round last season…the Islanders!

But c’mon now.

Pittsburgh tallied 109 points this season despite losing over 500 man-games to injury, and that speaks volumes about the coaching. The team is getting healthy at the right time, while the Blue Jackets are looking to start the series without Nathan Horton, R.J. Umberger and Nick Foligno. In Pittsburgh. The big three of Malkin, Crosby and Neal will all be in the lineup, as will Kris Letang, who’s played three games since his stroke, tallying three points and eight shots in an average of over 24 minutes a night. That Penguins powerplay is a force.

Columbus’ best hope is that Sergei Bobrovsky significantly out-performs Marc-Andre Fleury, but even if that happens I don’t see much of an upset shot here. I get it, it’s the playoffs, and anything can happen yada yada yada, but I just can’t make it work in my head.

Philadelphia (3) vs. New York Rangers (2)

Prediction: New York Rangers in 6

Why: I think the Rangers have the edge by a hair at nearly every position.

* Henrik Lundqvist or Steve Mason, who do you want in your net?

* While the difference isn’t that significant, I like a top-four of McDonagh, Girardi, Staal and Stralman over Coburn, MacDonald, Streit and Timonen.

* I think the Rangers have more game-breakers (Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, Brad Richards and more) than Philly (Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek…Brayden Schenn?).

* The Rangers have better possession numbers.

I feel like the Rags took awhile to figure out how to play under Alain Vigneault, and now that they seem to have it, the ex-Canucks coach will have his team well-prepared for playoffs. This is Craig Berube’s first kick at the can leading the Flyers into the post-season, so I don’t really know what to expect there.

It’s not that I expect this to be a walk or anything – a Philly win would hardly be jaw-dropping. I just think Rangers have a slight edge in a lot of categories.

Detroit (4) vs. Boston (1)

Prediction: Boston in 6

Why: This was a bummer draw for both teams. The Red Wings “aren’t” an eight-seed, the way the Kings “weren’t” when they won the Cup. Sure, they technically are, but they’re better than their spot in the standings, partially because of injuries. And now, the Bruins get a tough draw, while the Wings, a team who could probably take down five other teams in the East, get the toughest matchup in hockey.

The Bruins are just too battle-tested to believe there’s any reason they’ll get upset. Yes, they have some young, unproven guys in the lineup, but the bulk of that roster is the epitome of “been there, done that.” They play hard, they play “the right way” (which is to say they know not to cheat positionally), and they wear teams down.

I like what the Wings are doing, but as things currently stand, the Bruins still The Bruins.

Montreal (3) vs. Tampa Bay (2)

Prediction: Montreal in 7

Why: This series is a virtual coin toss, but if Anders Lindback is between the pipes for Tampa staring across the ice at Carey Price, there’s reason to believe the Habs might have a leg up.

The Canadiens really needed another “game-breaker” in my mind, and the acquisition of Thomas Vanek gave them that. On their back-end, P.K. Subban strikes me as another guy from the game-breaker mold who seems unfazed by big moments, and could make the difference in a close series.

While the Lightning still have the incredible Steven Stamkos, who you may have heard of, they rely offensively on depth scoring from a couple smaller, younger players (Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat). I don’t think that’s an outright terrible thing, but to step into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in The Centre Bell as rookies, you’d expect that maybe they’d be a bit distracted for awhile. They’ll be keyed on as point-getters by Montreal, which should make things harder too.

Every game they played this year was close. I expect the same from this series.

Mike Gillis

While Mike Gillis was the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, the team prospered. He took over a pretty good roster (Luongo, the Sedins, Kesler, Schneider, Bieksa, Edler, Burrows), and mostly managed not to mess things up – something many GMs aren’t able to claim after trying to put their fingerprints on their new franchise. They had a .627 winning percentage over his six years, made playoffs five times, won two President’s Trophies and lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Then, things started getting ugly.

The hiring of John Tortorella was the launchpad on which the Canucks season failed to take off before crashing into the Pacific. I like Eddie Lack, but the goaltending situation went to pot (though some would argue that ownership had some hand in that). There was some disagreement about the playing style of the team, and with it came passive aggressiveness in interviews until it became clear that someone had to go. With four full years and eight million left on Tortorella’s deal, Gillis was sort of the odd man out. And once you know you’re going to fire a guy, you might as well do it. No point in waiting for some imaginary milestone. Cut the tension early, get looking for a new guy, and let him start to prepare for the draft.

There’s also this sentiment: Read the rest of this entry »

red wings

With the regular season winding to a close, the playoff picture is becoming clearer. What we know:

* Tampa Bay vs. Montreal is happening.

* Chicago vs. Colorado is happening.

* Three out of the four divisions are sewn up: Pittsburgh, Boston, and St. Louis are going to be playing wild card teams.

* San Jose or Anaheim will be too.

So, with it coming down to five teams – again, Pittsburgh, Boston, St. Louis, San Jose/Anaheim – I thought it would be fun to rank their biggest wild card nightmares. You know how hockey is. 8 seed-1 seed upsets happen (hell, the Kings won the Cup as an #8 seed), 7-2s are barely uncommon, and any matchup closer than that is basically a coin toss.

For the teams who’ve put in the work all year for home ice and “easier” opponents, here’s who they’d least like to draw in round one:

(Washington, New Jersey, I’m sorry – I had to draw the line somewhere, and you guys are cooked.)

#6 Toronto

Let’s be honest: Boston let Toronto win Thursday in hopes they could draw an easier round one opponent than Columbus. They want them in.

…Okay, fine, mayyybe not “let” Toronto win, but you know they wouldn’t be bummed to see them come playoffs.

The Leafs are in a perpetual state of chaos. They’ve got a couple talented d-men who are young and make glaring mistakes, they’ve got little in the way of depth, and quite frankly, last year’s psychological assault would more or less render playing the games pointless. The B’s would walk through the Leafs like they were a ghost, which is fitting, considering their season is pretty much dead. Read the rest of this entry »

Toews possession

honda copy

I keep a notebook of my hockey thoughts, and every so often I’m left with a pile that aren’t column-worthy, but are still points I’d like to make. Let’s get five off the books today, shall we? I’ll try to get through the rest as the week goes on.

1) The race to the top of the Pacific Division is crucial

It doesn’t entirely matter whether the winner of the Pacific Division – either San Jose or Anaheim – manages to eclipse the St. Louis Blues for first in the Western Conference or not. The winner of that division will draw Minnesota, Phoenix, or Dallas. The loser…the Los Angeles Kings.

I’ve got a secret: the Kings will be no fun to play in playoffs. Don’t tell anyone.

williams2They give up a league-low 2.04 goals a game. They’re one of the league’s three biggest teams. They’ve recorded the second-best goaltending in the league (statistically-speaking). They get shots, they don’t give up many, they have the puck an awful lot…you get the picture.

Because I expect the West to be a war of attrition en route to the Final, I’d rather take my chances with a team called the Not Kings if I sincerely hoped to go deep – which means winning the Pacific outright.

One of the Ducks or Sharks will need their best right out of the gate.

2) New playoff seeding kills a few races down the homestretch

The new playoff format is actually pretty simple, despite how it sounds the first time you hear it – the two division winners will get the two wild card teams in round one (in the order you’d expect), and the 2-3 seeds from each division will play each other. Get it? Got it? Good. Read the rest of this entry »

Ryan O'Reilly

At six feet tall, Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly weighs 200 pounds. Like most hockey players, the bulk of that is thighs and ass which give him a stable center of gravity that makes him hard to knock off the puck, and allows him to have some jump in his first few strides after stopping. He’s hard on opposing defenders, is good in puck battles, and isn’t afraid to go to the front of the net. He’s good at hockey in general.

Oh, and also…

Zero PIMs this year. Not a single penalty minute. Not one mis-call that saw him have to sit in the box through 1,316:03 of ice time (basically 22 hours of hockey). That’s the most of any Avalanche forward, a little under 20 minutes per game.

Which brings about these two tweets that I also found relevant. Read the rest of this entry »