Key NHL injuries, Crosby scores, Ducks’ hot seat (Wednesday Countdown)

Key NHL injuries, Crosby scores, Ducks’ hot seat (Wednesday Countdown)

(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings.) 

8. Todd Richards

Who else?

One of the things anyone always says about coaches when they're about to get fired is, “Who's better than him?” And for a lot of coaches, that is a legitimate concern.

And not to be crass or say the guy “should have been” fired here based on seven games' worth of poor percentages from a decent but overrated roster, but if that's the concern, then it really shouldn't be one. Are we really asking whether a guy who made the playoffs once in seven years as a head coach (and carries a paltry .526 career record) can be reasonably replaced?

Say what you want about John Tortorella — and boy is he the butt of a lot of jokes, for good reason — but dude made the playoffs far more often than not in the salary cap era, and no one talks about him like he's some prize pig because he had that one bad season with Vancouver and, what, “only” got the Rangers out of the second round twice?

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Did the Blue Jackets need a shakeup? Sure did. Was Richards be the obvious guy to go when that was decided? Sure was. But if you think “lack of options” was a reason to retain him, well, by that logic there's no coach in the league who should ever be fired.

Starts don't come much worse than this, and even then teams shouldn't be ready to send a guy packing. It's seven games. They should have taken it easy, but you see why they didn't.

7. Sidney Crosby

Speaking of overreacting to awful starts, Sidney Crosby was still a big loser with no points and only eight shots on goal in his first five games. And the Penguins were only 2-3.

And sure, those wins were “in a row” and “the team's most recent games,” but that doesn't feed into the whole “Crosby is off to a terrible start and he's killing the team as a result” thing. Obviously you'd like to see more offense from a team that's supposed to be winning a lot of 4-3 games this year (i.e. seven goals in five games ain't cutting it, bubba), and Crosby is the face of the franchise and the league, so a lot of the blame is going to land on him.

And then wow three points in one game. Totally out of left field!

But like, did we really expect Crosby to turn in like a 50-point season or something like that? Come on.

6. Losses to injury

The San Jose Sharks are out to a 4-2 start, but they've dropped two in a row here and Logan Couture is out for almost two months. Neither Alex Stalock nor Martin Jones looked particularly solid in these last two games against the New York teams, and you have to wonder what the long-term impact of going Couture-less is going to be.

This isn't a player you can just lose and forget it. He's arguably your biggest offensive star. Fortunately, the Sharks do still have more than a few guys capable of putting up points, even if they're doing it from their nursing homes. Through six games, the top scorers on the team are Joes Pavelski and Thornton (both 2-3-5) and Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward at four points apiece.

The question is: Can they keep that up for the next two months?

Jones is likely going to settle down and start playing good hockey, rather than “incredible hockey” then “bad hockey” in his most recent game. That's going to keep San Jose in it most nights at the very least.

Meanwhile, Duncan Keith is out at least a month after getting knee surgery this week, and that doesn't seem all that good for Chicago. Stan Bowman was reportedly already in the market for a defenseman, and this heaps more worries onto the pile.

The team's start hasn't been that good to begin with, and though the schedule has done them no real favors to this point, the good news is that the next month seems a lot easier to handle. Hard to make hay against anyone with one of the best defensemen in the league in the press box, of course, but with the other talent on that roster, it's handle-able.

Maybe.

5. The Mike Richards cap hit

Man, it must be really nice for the Kings to pay just $10.5 million until 2031-32 — 16 years from now — on a contract that really should have been an albatross around Dean Lombardi's neck for the several years. Richards was owed $5.75 million against the cap in each of the next five seasons, but because of this gross opportunistic “contract termination” and settlement that should never have been allowed, they don't even pay twice the AAV over the next 16 years. Pretty amazing.

The Kings carry a $3.12 million cap hit this year, then $1.57 million through 2020. Then less than a million (in varying amounts) over the following 13 seasons.

GMs are right to be really upset that the Kings got out from under this onerous contract, because not only did they do the crappiest thing imaginable to an person with an apparent substance abuse problem, but they also bilked the system. Now, they say that this isn't going to be precedent when it comes to other contract terminations, and that's fair enough, but there's unlikely to be another awful contract like this specifically because the CBA does not allow deals to exceed eight years. Richards was entering year six of a 12-year deal. Also: GMs are, for the most part, not naïve enough to give anyone deals that long no matter how good they are, because it would be really insane to do such a thing and, unlike Paul Holmgren several years ago, most GMs now know that.

I know we're supposed to feel bad for Dean Lombardi, who has spent several days sobbing about how much the guy he just kicked to the curb with no real support and threw under the bus in a major newspaper meant to him. But this is all really slimy.

FILE- In this Feb. 5, 2015, file photo, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, rear; Rickard Rakell (67), of Sweden; and Rene Bourque (14) yell for a penalty call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in Nashville, Tenn. When the Ducks clinched Boudreau's first trip to the Western Conference finals, the affable coach allowed himself "five minutes of joy" to celebrate the death of his old reputation. His spectacular regular-season success will no longer be overshadowed by his teams' Stanley Cup playoff failures (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
FILE- In this Feb. 5, 2015, file photo, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, rear; Rickard Rakell (67), of Sweden; and Rene Bourque (14) yell for a penalty call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in Nashville, Tenn. When the Ducks clinched Boudreau's first trip to the Western Conference finals, the affable coach allowed himself "five minutes of joy" to celebrate the death of his old reputation. His spectacular regular-season success will no longer be overshadowed by his teams' Stanley Cup playoff failures (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

4. Bruce Boudreau

Okay, let's apply the same logic to the “Bruce Boudreau on the hot seat” nonsense that was being circulated about Todd Richards: Who do you bring in that's better?

Hmmmmm.

Hmmmmmmm.

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Ah yes, it says here the correct answer is “no one.” Let's think about it rationally, though. How many times has Bruce Boudreau failed to win a division title in a full season of work? Why, would you look at that, the answer is “literally zero.” Interesting, interesting. And how many other coaches have done that in the salary cap era? Oh wow, look at that: None. Crazy. Weird.

And we're talking about this with the full knowledge that the goaltending and offense are much better than they have been, and that the team improved dramatically in the summer, and that the other contenders in the West likely took a slight step back in a lot of cases, and that starting the season 0-3-1 with just one goal scored is almost impossible to do for even the worst teams in league history?

Cool. Great. The people discussing this kind of thing seriously are literally the exact people who think that hiring Randy Carlyle instead would make the slightest bit of difference.

3. Tomas Plekanec

Nice to see Plekanec get a nice two-year deal with $12 million total. He's a good player and he's earned it. And wow, that's sensible term for a guy who's going to be 33 on Halloween. Gets him right up to his age-35 season, and even if the money's a little steep, it's not a killer.

It further gives the team plenty of flexibility on important players like Alex Galchenyuk, Tom Gilbert and some fellow called Carey Price.

This probably couldn't have been handled better by Marc Bergevin (insofar as Plekanec wasn't going to take a pay cut and he's still pretty good as a two-way center), and it's another in a long string of good decisions he's making. Pretty worrisome stuff for the rest of the division after his start in the job was quite a bit less than promising.

2. Connor McDavid

Boy, it didn't take long for this kid to start looking like a juggernaut. You hate to start using words like “confidence,” but the “confidence” he displayed against Calgary was really quite something. On the goal he scored against Kris Russell, he was more than happy to skate into all the space Russell gave him (and there was plenty of it), and get off a good hard shot that used the defenseman as a screen while avoiding any stick-check Russell might have been trying to pull off.

Now, I don't know why on earth you have Kris Russell out there against someone with McDavid's talent — it's hard to block a shot when you're skating backwards as hard as your little legs will carry you — and I'm not sure “success against the Flames” is the best way to judge a player's true talent level, but man, Saturday night's game sure was tantalizing.

1. Small sample sizes

That team that's off to a hot start? They're really good and will be all season! What about the bad one with all the losses? Pretty terrible and they'll be in the draft lottery for sure.

(Not ranked this week: Sleeping in.

Don't do it.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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