[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
7. Giving up already
The New York Rangers might be the second-best team in the Eastern Conference and just really haven't gotten much in the way of deserved results this season, but that's why the Martin St. Louis trade was so important.
Basically as soon as it happened, people immediately thought of this as being an excellent trade for the Rangers. They offloaded an underproducing and now largely-defensive forward who was going to ask for about a trillion dollars over a billion years this summer, and got in his place an older but far more dynamic offensive threat that the team had been lacking for some time. Now, though, people are starting to change their tunes.
The days of looking moon-eyed at St. Louis's stat line of 61 points in 62 games with the Bolts, many of them played without Steven Stamkos by his side, went away rather quickly indeed, because he now has just two points and no goals in seven games with the Blueshirts. The implication going around these days is that he's really eating a ton of garbage and being a big loser, and Jeremy Roenick implied on television Monday night that the Rangers had officially lost the St. Louis/Ryan Callahan swap because the latter had 1-3-4 in six games with his new club.
It should go without saying that this is of course patently ridiculous, but you know by now how hockey analysis goes in general. First let's consider that St. Louis has 19 shots on goal in his seven games with New York, which is actually slightly up from his shooting rate in Tampa (albeit by 0.02 shots per game). But what's interesting is that he's not being leaned on as heavily, as his TOI has dropped by 2:11 with his new team. That, therefore, implies that he'd probably get more shots on goal if he was used more often, and would therefore continually increase his chances of scoring. St. Louis shot 17.4 percent with Tampa, and there's usually going to come a reckoning for that on the other end.
He's going to be fine. He's going to score a decent number of goals for the Rangers not only in the remaining games of the regular season, but in the playoffs as well. And even if he doesn't, he can always demand another trade when the fans turn on him.
6. Holding your city hostage
Remember during that whole Phoenix Coyotes saga how the arena acted like, “Well, hey look, if you let the Coyotes leave, you're never ever going to get to see the big concerts like Lady Gaga (or whoever) again!” and that in addition to other concerns for the cash-strapped city of Glendale was enough to keep the team there through a rather generous handout from council members?
Well it worked so well in Glendale that the Panthers are trying it in Broward County. The Panthers' owners want to keep their current cut of the profit the arena pulls, because of how much money the team itself loses ($35 million this season). Broward County is not down with that so much.
From the article: “Though county leaders said the arena has helped put Broward County on the map for sports and entertainment, it didn't meet expectations when it comes to profits. By now, the county had expected to glean $76 million, but the real return has been just $331,000.”
While that's only a difference of 229.6 times the amount earned! Don't worry, though, guys. Panthers owners Doug Cifu and Vinnie Viola think it'll all turn around “when [they] make good on their vow to field a winning team that takes home the Stanley Cup.” I hadn't heard anything about such a vow, but boy oh boy.
So how are they going to make sure everyone knows they're serious? Threatening to keep Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen out of the arena is the Panthers are leaving. That'll really get all the rich baby boomer dorks to change their tune: “What if I can't hear 'Piano Man' for the millionth time?!”
5. Crushing it
Well, it took me 20 years of going to about 40 games a season, but it finally happened: On Sunday I saw someone shoot the puck so hard and precise that it actually went through the net.
That's a shorthanded bomb of a goal by UMass Lowell defenseman Christian Folin, who was recently named by the CBC as being the No. 1 NCAA free agent on the market today. It's easy to see why there are anywhere between 20 and 25 teams lined up around the block for the 23-year-old defenseman: He's 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he's a right shot D who can shoot the puck like that, hits like a truck, and he's very sound in his own zone. He can also rush the puck with extreme efficiency, because he skates like petting a puppy feels. There's a reason Steve Yzerman was in the building to see this playoff game between Lowell and Vermont on Friday night, and it wasn't the fried dough.
But even if teams miss out on Folin, there's still a big group of solid NCAA free agents on the market this spring. Perhaps chief among them besides Folin is Greg Carey, who along with his little brother Matt led St. Lawrence to be much better than they had any right being this year. Carey went 18-39-57 in his senior season, after a 28-23-51 campaign as a junior. It's important to keep in mind here that you generally had a good college hockey career if you break 100 points. Carey was sitting on 77 after his first two seasons, in which he netted a combined 38 goals and 39 assists. Matt, likewise, was very good this year, finishing at 18-19-37 in 38 games. The line for them, too, will be around the block.
4. Being underrated
Yesterday, Jaromir Jagr grabbed headlines by saying that Milan Lucic — with whom he played during last year's playoffs — is the most underrated player in the league. I don't know how you say that kind of thing about a guy making $6 million against the cap who has won a Stanley Cup, is beloved in his city, sells a ton of jerseys and looks likely to break 25 goals for the third time in his career this season, but sure. Milan Lucic is underrated.
It's interesting that this is the kind of thing that gets said by anyone, let alone Jagr, who essentially made a career for Hal Gill because he once said the big, lumbering defenseman was the toughest guy to play against in the league (and thus may not be the best judge of this type of thing). What's more interesting, though, is that the NHL seems always on the lookout for the Most Underrated Player. Why?
Remember when Jamie Benn was the most underrated player in the league for like three seasons running? Or maybe it was Loui Eriksson? Or Joe Pavelski or Patrick Marleau or Jordan Staal or Patrick Sharp or Claude Giroux? Remember how people sometimes say Pavel Datsyuk is underrated?
First of all, who cares? But second of all, don't all those names strike you as being guys who are just really good and that everyone recognizes they're really good? There really can't be that many people out there who are like, “Yeah I mean sure he's on Olympic teams and he's been around and playing at a high level for a million years but, uh, I just don't know about this Marleau guy.”
You know who's actually the most underrated player in the league? Some forward you've never heard of or just don't think about who has like 35 or 40 points this season but a sky-high corsi, and doesn't make a ton of money. Think: “If Justin Williams was a little less well-paid.” Think: “If Frans Nielsen didn't score so much.” Teddy Purcell might be the most underrate player in the league. He probably isn't. But he might be.
One guy it for-sure isn't is Milan Lucic.
3. Throwing good money after bad
I love this idea that more NHL teams aren't investing in analytics because the price tag reaches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a league in which a team still employs Colton Orr for close to a million dollars per season.
Maybe teams would rather not spend $250,000 to find out that they shouldn't pay guys like him $925,000.
2. Expansion talk
Because we don't have enough going on in the season right now, why wouldn't we go ahead and start speculating once again on where the league will expand next?
This latest round was of course due to the chatter at the GMs' meetings about the potential for expansion, since really only the Panthers remain as sources of financial difficulties for the league, now that the Coyotes are getting paid to stay in Arizona and someone actually bought the Devils. And so being without the requisite garbage to hurl at the league's flailing franchises, it seems that we're once again talking about Seattle and Quebec City as real possibilities. Which is fine, to an extent. The Quebec City rink continues to be built without the actual promise of a team coming its way.
Seattle, on the other hand, seems to have gotten a little bit trickier. It seems as though the environmental impact statement for the new arena that would, at some point in the nebulous future, house the Seattle franchise isn't going to be ready any time soon, with the earliest completion date apparently being “end of the summer.”
So now we wait. And that means a whole lot of talk gets to happen before then. Which is all anyone really wants.
1. The Boston Bruins
Monday night's game against Minnesota marked the Bruins' ninth consecutive win, which is many to have in a row like that. It should be noted that they've been extremely lucky in this last little while, as their PDO during the previous 10 games was at 104.3. You don't generally win a lot of games in a row without that stat going through the roof.
With that having been said, it should also come as no surprise that Tuukka Rask, who's won six of those games, has allowed just nine goals in them, and on 170 shots (.947). That obviously helps your PDO quite a lot, so the Bruins having shot 9.6 percent during that time is not, in and of itself, so deeply outrageous that they can't keep it up for a little while longer, even if they falter in a single game here or there.
It's simply looking more and more like the Bruins are the best team in the Eastern Conference by what has to now be considered a pretty wide margin, and things aren't going to get better for the other also-rans.
So one now has to wonder what that means for the stretch run, in one respect that is, essentially, inconsequential: The Bruins' ninth win in this run of success also featured Jarome Iginla scoring twice to push his season total to 25, in what was his 1,300th career NHL game. So given how hated the Bruins generally are across the league, will anyone outside Boston and Calgary actually be happy if they win the Stanley Cup, given that Iginla is so beloved?
Seeing him lift the Cup for the first time, after all, means seeing Brad Marchand do it for the second, and it's easy to guess while that's in no way fair for most people, is that a trade-off they'd take?
(Not ranked this week: I get it, guys. You want to say stuff like “Sidney Crosby sucks” and “Evgeni Malkin blows.” It's hilarious. Great stuff. What I like about it most is that it's super-original. But given that this league has partnered with the You Can Play Project and many of its fans have high school degrees, maybe the implication that James Neal Is A Gay isn't one you should be surprised offends people.
Hey I understand, bud, you wanna say, like “Ah I'm just ribbing him. We're rivals. And besides, it's freedom of speech.” Sure. Go toss an N-bomb at Wayne Simmonds in Philadelphia [or anywhere] and see how that defense holds up as a dozen Flyers fans beat the hell out of you for doing it.
How are we not past this stuff? It's 2014. Sorry, fanboys, but if you wanna spend a couple hundred bucks on a jersey, how about you just get one with your favorite player's name instead? Crying to a popular hockey blog about it instead seems stupid. Why advertise the fact that you're a homophobe? Get a grip. These are the kinds of mutants that clap like idiots when an ice girl comes near their section with a free T-shirt. It's the lowest common denominator all around. We really need to stop catering to it as a sport and a society.)
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