Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Seguin and shootout haters
[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.]
Liking the shootout is a thing for which you would deserve much scorn were you ever dumb enough to actually do it.
Accepting it, sure, that's one thing, but enjoying it? I don't know about all that. It's not going anywhere. The loser point is here to stay because this league so loves the phony parity it creates — look how close everyone is to a playoff spot even if they're total garbage — and because ties are, like, bad?
Well the AHL came up with something cool and great that stops the shootout from happening anywhere near as much: 3-on-3 overtime. It works. It's great. It makes for exciting hockey.
So of course the NHLPA is against it. Of course they are. Because there's no money in it for them. At least, not until the league sandwiches it between a pair of commercial breaks. Then there's money in it for them, and at that point I'd bet a whole bunch of hockey-related revenue that all the concerns about “wear and tear” on “top guys” vanish pretty quickly.
This is all grandstanding, obviously. Canadian dollar's dropping after all. Gotta scrape together some extra cash any way you can.
6. Marc-Andre Fleury's 2015
Suffice it to say that the 2014 calendar year was one of the best of Marc-Andre Fleury's career. He went .914 on more than 2,100 shots across the end of the 2013-14 regular season, 2014 playoffs, and the start of 2014-15. Good job, Marc-Andre!
In fact, there was talk for a little while there that he might end up winning the Vezina because he started this year in the .930 range and kept it up for a good while there. Lots of people credited a change of coaches and some good results in the playoffs for helping him get his game back together, without actually thinking that it might be something else entirely: variance. Or, put another way, luck.
But lo, the first five weeks of 2015 have started inauspiciously for the netminder, who has faced 268 shots so far this year and allowed 30 goals (.888). Obviously Fleury isn't this bad, but if you go that long getting mostly good bounces, then at some point your luck has to turn. That's hockey, as they say.
Take, for example, the 20-of-24 performance he turned in on Sunday against Nashville, right? I don't think you could really fault him for one of the four he allowed, and yet here we are. The thing with save percentage is that it doesn't really care if a goalie is at fault or not, but it does tell you many shots out of 100 they're stopping. Over the course of a season, or two, or three, or four, it tends to even out to give everyone a pretty good picture of your actual quality as a netminder.
Fleury was about a .911 goalie coming into this year, and in just five weeks his save percentage has fallen from the high .920s to the high .910s. And given what we know I'd expect it to drop at least a little bit more over the next few weeks before leveling off at a .912-.915 area, which is where he's been the last few years. The odds of that are far greater than of him somehow becoming Vezina-quality MAF again.
But yeah, these last five weeks. Not great. Hope y'all sold high for your fantasy teams.
5. The critics of Nonis' off-season moves and where they are now
(No, not the Leafs' front office.)
It wasn't so very long ago that the Maple Leafs were kind of stuck in a weird spot with respect to the new contracts for Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri. Both ended up taking short term and not a huge amount of money with an eye toward landing a big contract. Franson in particular has taken two one-year deals at what I'd have to think is a little below his market value.
The implication of these deals was that the Leafs were giving their players the opportunity to “show them” that they were worth investing in long-term.
Well both players have certainly done that to this point and now it's time for the Leafs to start thinking about re-signing them for longer periods of time. The problem with that seems to be that Franson, at least, doesn't appear to have any particular interest with re-upping in Toronto. It was reported in the past week that Franson has turned down a multiple-year deal worth $4.6 million against the cap annually.
Which sucks if you're the Leafs because, well, Franson is one of the few actually good defensemen they have on the team, and they're now looking at the prospect of trading him for a pick and a prospect (they hope) so they don't lose him for nothing this summer.
All of which is probably because Dave Nonis didn't really see what he had in Franson two summers ago, and let things get contentious instead. Let's just say he's lucky Kadri's only a restricted free agent this summer.
(And okay sure, maybe trading Franson for a pick and a prospect, in a best-case scenario, isn't a bad idea if you're gonna blow up the Leafs roster anyway. And you probably should. So maybe you can also say Nonis might have fallen ass-backwards into a good situation for himself. But I don't know if you can give him credit for failing up.)
4. Tyler Seguin's value
Jim Nill on his No. 1 center: “He reminds me a lot of Steve Yzerman when I was in Detroit. They’re so good offensively and so many tools and competitive and everything else, and now it’s just learning the little parts of the game that make you one of the elite players in the game.”
High praise indeed.
Seguin's one of those guys who gets bagged on for not being good defensively but I'm not really sure where that comes from. I think a lot of it — and this goes for just about any player who puts up a ton of points but is seen as “irresponsible” or whatever — comes from the fact that he gets so many puck touches that of course he's going to turn it over more than, say, an above-average third-line defensive center. Erik Karlsson and PK Subban get painted with the same brush: They're too enterprising to be good defensively. But for every three turnovers they commit in trying to do something amazing, how many times do players like this actually puncture the defense and create a scoring chance?
But we expect that and therefore don't praise or even notice when it happens unless it results in a goal. We do not expect turnovers from players like this, and on the rare occasion they do happen, all we have for these players is groans.
I think an Yzerman comparison, especially from someone like Jim Nill, who watched that older No. 19 play for more than a few years, shows what Seguin at least could be. No one questions his elite offensive ability, but he's not exactly Patrice Bergeron in his own end (well, who is, I guess?). Thus, he is Bad Defensively. Which strikes me as being a bit of a jump. If he's in his own end less than the other team's, isn't that where he ought to be? His CF% in Dallas is close to 54 percent this season. Last year it was 52.2 percent. And his zone starts aren't exactly as far to the right as Jonathan Toews, either.
And look, when he's on the ice, the Stars have scored close to 60 percent of the goals in the last two seasons. When he's off it, they don't even crack 50 percent.
You wonder just how long the Party Boy Doesn't Care angle is going to follow him around. When he wins a Stanley Cup, maybe? That's what did it for Patrick Kane, who's rightly viewed only for his on-ice play, which is in some ways more deficient than even Seguin's. Not that you'd know it from the coverage.
This guy is about two or three years away from being one of the top three centers in the league, and I'm not sure that's really up for debate. He's 23 years old and he's basically a guaranteed 40-goal guy who dominates possession and is steadily improving in areas where he's had problems.
He might never win a Cup, but using that metric as any sort of validation or condemnation is a faulty premise.
3. Totally not tanking like even a little bit
Before Tuesday night's 3-2 victory over Montreal, the Sabres had lost 14 straight games and hadn't won since Dec. 27. And before that, they lost four straight. I swear to god, from Dec. 16 to right now, the Sabres are 2-17-1. They're even out-tanking the Oilers. Such an impressive feat, really. You have to give them credit for being so committed.
Boy do I hope they lose the draft lottery.
2. The hard-charging Bruins
Hey remember how dismal the Sabres have been since mid-December? Opposite for the Bruins.
Since Dec. 15, they're 12-3-5, meaning they took 29 of a possible 40 points, a .725 winning percentage.
And remember how bad Marc-Andre Fleury has been since the calendar rolled over to 2015? Opposite for Tuukka Rask, who went 7-1-3 with a .949 save percentage after an un-Rask-like .910 over the first three months of the season.
What's interesting is, this is absolutely not a whole roster that basically flipped a switch and said, “Oh right, we're an elite puck possession team.” They're in the lower-middle of the pack league-wide since this run of success began in terms of corsi-ing their way to victory. Their shooting luck hasn't really improved either. Instead, it's basically all Rask. Which is fine because he's their guy and he's an elite goaltender who's probably going to put up numbers near the top of the league the rest of the way. They're not scoring a ton of goals again, and I doubt they're ever going to get back to having that kind of offense, but their system is to choke the life out of games, and they sure are doing it.
1. Fixing the All-Star Game???????
Can someone explain to me why, a week later, it just occurs to someone to say a 17-12 final in the All-Star Game is “an embarrassment?” I said it last week, but here goes again: If you tune into the All-Star Game looking to see defense and stuff like that, you need reevaluate the way you view the world. When was the last time someone threw an actual honest to god check in that game? When was the last time this even remotely mattered?
There's no solution here. You can't put close Pandora's box. Certainly, you're not going to solve things by having an all-rookie team play a unified All-Star team.
Let's think about this critically, and put together a one-team NHL All-Star Team (even from the thinned-out roster that played this year, and yeah a lot of guys will be left off, and yes some guys are playing out of position), versus an All-Rookie Team.
Alex Ovechkin - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Rick Nash - Ryan Getzlaf - Steven Stamkos
Ryan Johansen - Tyler Seguin - Phil Kessel
Claude Giroux - John Tavares - Jake Voracek
Shea Weber - Drew Doughty
Kevin Shattenkirk - Brent Burns
Duncan Keith - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Johnny Gaudreau - Filip Forsberg - Mark Stone
Jonathan Drouin - Anders Lee - Mike Hoffman
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Linden Vey
Tanner Pearson - Anders Lee - Kevin Hayes
Aaron Ekblad - John Klingberg
Nikita Zadorov - Damon Severson
Christian Folin - Matt Dumba
Yeah, those kids would play hard, but would it even matter? The game wouldn't end 17-12, but you'd sure as hell see 29 goals either way.
(Not ranked this week: Gary Bettman's shoes.
Couldn't have swung by a dang Brooks Brothers on the way to the White House, Gar?)
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