Have a look at the NHL standings.
Ahead of Tuesday night's games, there seemed to be maybe two teams (Pittsburgh and possibly Carolina) that could threaten to take away a playoff spot from a team currently occupying one. The middle of the Metro is a bit of a mess, after all.
But out West? Everyone else is just jockeying for position. Arizona and Minnesota are pushing for playoff spots, in the strictest sense of the word, but the odds they get them are vanishing. Feels Minnesota probably only has about a 1 in 3 chance to make up the gap, and Arizona is actually dead but doesn't yet know it.
Which means, boy oh boy, it's gonna be a fun final two months of the season out West and probably in the East as well.
Gentlemen, start your tank battle.
8. Moral indignation
So Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney basically told Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt the same thing he's been saying for a year: “We were awful in 2014-15 and I thought it was my job to ensure we were as awful as possible so we could get a high draft pick, maybe Connor McDavid. But also watching your team lose every night sucks.” I'm paraphrasing, obviously, but that was the thrust of it.
People were somehow upset by this. In 2015-16.
It's amazing to me that people would prefer he be like, “Gee whiz I don't know why we were so bad down the stretch. Sure is weird that after I called up half and AHL team and they all got 20 minutes a night we wound up getting smoked every game. Anyway I, the man in charge of putting people on the roster, sure didn't intend for a half-AHLer/half-bad-NHLer team to get run out of the rink. Connor McDavid? Who's that?”
Because whether you're tap-dancing around your tank-job or just being frank about it, the end results are the same: You get outscored badly and lose most nights. Hell, if Maloney were really smart he'd be trading every veteran whose deal expires in the next two years and is in some way contributing to the team's continued mediocrity. “If you're having a good season, enjoy your time on a contender's third line, and we'll take the second-round pick.” Their season is over anyway. No way they catch up to anyone in front of them. So just jettison everything. Why not?
I really thought the hockey world was over being upset about tanking but some things never change.
7. Not-trading Stamkos
It's not often you see a general manager say he will not trade someone, but that was Steve Yzerman's move on Monday and boy was it a weird one.
Like, OK, fair enough that you're very much going to finish top-two in the Atlantic and you're probably one of the three best teams in the East, but making this kind of announcement states your intention to either re-sign Stamkos or lose him for very little indeed.
It's easy to understand the impulse to stick with Stamkos, who's still a very, very good player having a bit of a down season (partly, I think, due to how he's used) because he is a difference-maker. But at the same time, the risk of literally losing him for nothing is very real, and it should fill Yzerman's heart with dread.
Here's an example of where it didn't really hurt to trade a helpful player from a good team just before the deadline: The 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning. Marty St. Louis wanted out, Yzerman obliged, and they still finished with 101 points. Probably would have been more, too, if Ben Bishop hadn't gotten hurt and Anders Lindback played like an actual professional goalie (.891 in the regular season, .881 in the playoffs).
Obviously this isn't a situation where Stamkos definitively wants out, as negotiations are ongoing. Some suggest he might even prefer to stay in Tampa if he can. But to preclude even the possibility that you'll trade him if talks go south in the next two weeks seems very short-sighted.
The idea of only trading the rights to Stamkos, say, ahead of the draft, nets you a far lesser package than what you could likely get on the open market in February. And that's a best-case scenario.
Will it be worth it? Sure, if the Bolts go deep into the playoffs, which seems likely. There's almost no way they don't make the second round.
But losing Stamkos for nothing is a borderline-fireable offense, and to release a statement that precludes you from avoiding that seems unwise.
So it now seems that Carey Price is done for the season, but the Habs are basically saying, “Oh I'm not sure I mean he might come back who knows?”
Gotta sell those tickets, because people generally don't show up to see a team actively try to lose every night. Of course, they don't generally show up if you just happen to lose every night either, so the point is: Just shut him down instead of playing coy. Because who cares?
5. Saving the Wild
Firing Mike Yeo was the wrong thing to do but it's easy to understand why it happened. They were trending in the wrong direction and suffering some pretty rotten luck.
But anyone who thinks this team can dig itself out of the hole in which it is currently lying face-down in an inch of scummy water is going to find to their chagrin that this is not the case.
4. Extending Cam Ward and Eric Staal
Earlier this week on Puck Daddy Josh Cooper talked to Ron Francis about the team's designs with respect to re-signing Cam Ward and Eric Staal.
It's a weird thing to see a team talk about how they'd like to re-sign a sub-replacement level goaltender, and maybe that's just because they don't want to piss him off and see him invoke his no-move clause (on the other hand, who on earth would trade for him?) before they can just start giving Eddie Lack all the time he wants.
The likelihood of a smart team like Carolina re-signing Ward is basically zero, because he is really bad and has cost this team plenty of points over the last four years or so. Even if he said he'd take league minimum, I can't imagine wanting him back.
But as for Staal, well, the stats aren't really there — only 9-21-30 in 56 games? Yeesh — but he's still a dominant possession player who's been unlucky this year and probably serves as a very solid No. 2 center on even pretty-good teams. Even as he's getting on in years (he's 31, which makes me feel a million years old) getting a player like that locked up for three or four more seasons is probably a good idea.
Of course, the issue here is that it was reported at the start of the year that Staal was seeking $9 million annually. That number has likely come down since he's on pace for the second-worst season of his career, but even still, that was an insane valuation for anything but 45-goal Eric Staal circa 2005-06.
The days of Staal clearing double-digits in shooting percentage on talent alone seem to be gone (he's only done it once in the last five seasons, and that was the lockout-shortened year), so the idea that he's going to be a goal factory like he once was — there was an era when he gave you a guaranteed 30-plus — is fallacious at best. Especially as he moves into his mid-30s.
So to recap: Hard pass on Ward at any price, hard maybe on re-signing Staal if he wants to be rational (say, $5.5-6 million per for four years). If not, you shop 'em both.
These are arguably the two most important players in Carolina (non-Hartford) history though, so it'll be weird either way. But you have to be prepared to move on.
3. The Ryan Murray extension
Is this... is this an actual good contract from the Blue Jackets? For a defenseman? Seems impossible but here we are. A mutually beneficial deal and everything. What world is this?
I touched on it very briefly in What We Learned this week, but Jim Benning is 100 percent off his rocker.
Actual quote: “I would even look to add, if we can, to make our team better to compete for a playoff spot. We want to make the playoffs.”
Now granted, he said this following two straight wins on the mom's trip, and he couched that in the interview itself (full audio here, with this topic addressed around 1:10) as something he's going to have to evaluate on an ongoing basis.
I listened to the audio because I thought there was no way that was an in-context quote, but nope, there he was, blaming injuries and bad bounces, and refusing to sell even if they're not totally and completely out of it. Which they already were and now definitely are.
But here's the thing: If, after 50 games, you're still saying to yourself, “I'm not sure if this team is any good so we might make some trades to get better and make the postseason,” you should flat-out not have a job any more.
I said earlier letting Stamkos walk would be a borderline-fireable offense. Getting rid of young players or prospects to help this trash heap of a team make the playoffs — which by the way isn't going to happen — just so they can get pounded into a fine dust by Anaheim or San Jose in a best-case scenario is a definitively fireable offense.
If anything, the Sedins should be out in front of the rink with cardboard “For Sale” signs around their necks. Let those guys go get a Cup somewhere instead of wasting their remaining useful years in service of whatever this shambling catastrophe is.
And let's not forget: This is a team that just last year got embarrassed in the playoffs by the Calgary Flames of all the rotten teams in the league. And has seen its two most recent games go 10-4 on aggregate to the Minnesota Wild and half the Toronto Marlies ft. Jake Gardiner.
This team is trash, and it's six points out of a wild card spot. If they try to buy, they deserve every fan walk-out they get for the next four years.
1. Brad Marchand
After this insane scoring run of his, he's up to ninth in goals-per-60.
Dude is gonna get so much money this summer, and he will deserve all of it.
(Not ranked this week: Stating the obvious.
Really, the Flames should sell? Ya don't say. Amazing.)
(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)