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(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
8. “No, I uhh........ don't(?) want to leave.”
This Steven Stamkos denial interview in the Tampa Bay Times was something else.
He denies that he wants to leave Tampa, and denies that he has a rift with Jon Cooper. Fair enough, and there's not really much of a political reason (i.e. bargaining position) why he would be so vehement with all this stuff, so that's interesting.
Given the extremely high quality of the reporters (Bob McKenzie, Elliotte Friedman, etc.) who weighed in on these rumors to say probably there is something to it, one wonders if this interview was just an attempt to quell the raging sea of speculation. “Everything in Tampa is cool and good” might not be enough to get people to stop asking about his contract status as we move into the new year, though you gotta give the kid an 'A' for effort.
But 'F' for execution, really. Because this quote from the end of the article shows the real issue here:
"There's still a lot of time before then. A lot of things can happen. It's probably not something I can give an answer to right now. Still a couple months away. There's a lot of things that can happen before then."
7. The Fan Vote
Yo, so the NHL isn't telling anyone how many votes any players have because John Scott is embarrassingly far in the lead.
The Fans are speaking loud and clear on the issue: They want John Scott in the All-Star Game. Maybe this is just another case, though, where the league knows what The Fans want better than The Fans do, which is also why salary information doesn't get published on the league website and why their advanced stats page is so embarrassing.
That's the kind of stuff The Fans really want.
6. Good weather for an outdoor game
There was an AHL outdoor game in California this past weekend and it rained a lot the whole time. I'm sure it made the very-watchable AHL product even more watchable.
And if that wasn't enough, you'll never guess what the upcoming forecast is here in the beautiful Boston area, where it's raining really hard and 53 degrees as I type this at noon on Dec. 22. On Christmas Eve, it's gonna be friggin' 70. SEVENTY DEGREES FARENHEIT ON DECEMBER 24. Then a chilly 62 degrees on Christmas itself. And in the mid- to high-40s the entire week, with some rain, before the Winter Classic itself.
Anyone coming to the game is advised to bring a slicker and a pair of shorts.
5. Security at Barclays Center
Is having your fans get into altercations with security to the point that the arena, where there are seats that can't see like 25 percent of the ice, alters alcohol sales policies better or worse than playing at Nassau?
4. The Predators
It's tough to know how to feel about this team. They are so, so, so, so good defensively. They have the best blue line in the league by a fair margin. Their goaltending doesn't even need to be that good and they're going to win plenty of games, but their goaltender is also a two-time Vezina runner-up so he could just go on a run of .940 for a month and the season would effectively just end.
But also we have to acknowledge that this offense is a bit of a mirage, that the Central is still 40ish-game knife fight, and good lord they're still only fourth in the division somehow.
As Elliotte Friedman pointed out in the latest 30 Thoughts, the team may need to add a top forward (and maybe a depth one) if they want to be competitive, but they haven't done it yet and every report about the trade market these days is that nothing at all is happening because of how many teams still appear to be in playoff contention. Thanks to the loser point and how lousy the Pacific is, quite frankly.
There's a lot to like about this team. Everyone agrees on that. But how much liking them is too much? We probably can't say with any degree of certainty until we know whether they're going to make That Big Trade.
3. The Jared Spurgeon extension
A lot of people might look at Jared Spurgeon and wonder why Chuck Fletcher spent nearly $5.2 million on a guy who's clearly a good defenseman but who isn't exactly overwhelming.
But locking up a 26-year-old defenseman for four years at that price point is usually going to be pretty wise even if he's just an okay No. 2 defenseman, which is how Spurgeon is used, but what Fletcher has come to understand is that Spurgeon might sneakily be a No. 1 defenseman.
Chuck Fletcher on Spurgeon: "The analytics show great possession numbers, they show we tend to win the shifts whenever he's on the ice."
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) December 22, 2015
It's tough to say for sure what stats Fletcher is referring to specifically, but in general, Spurgeon is a positive-WOWY-generator of an incredibly high order. Everyone he plays with basically becomes a better player immediately.
Spurgeon is one of those guys that might have slipped through the cracks and been allowed to walk in free agency even two or three years ago. But now NHL teams recognize this kind of sneaky quality more readily, and are more willing to pay for it on an ongoing basis. Locking down Spurgeon until he's 31 is a very, very good idea. Huge win for Minnesota with respect to both term and cap hit.
2. Being John Tortorella
Imagine you're a coach who absolutely is not good. The Blue Jackets are 13-13-3 under John Tortorella this year, but they've also won just three of the last 12 games. And in that 12-game stretch you've been outscored 38-28.
This is bad, right? So what's your solution? Yeah, that's right, you bench the best player on your team.
But the Kool-Aid is pretty potent in Columbus and all the shot-blocking and star-player-targeting has people believing you are Actually Good. So when people are like, “Hey front office folks, what's the story with that?” You say, “Well look everyone's tradeable really if you think about it.”
Must be nice to have that kind of job security.
1. Being on the Columbus Blue Jackets
Maybe the NHL Department of Player Safety doesn't want to kick a team when they're down. That's the only reason one can reasonably come up with as to why they're all but letting the Columbus Blue Jackets do everything but kick opponents while they're down.
What's that old saying? Something like, “One's an incident, two's a coincidence, and three's a pattern.” So what's four?
The incident: On Nov. 27, 2015, Brandon Dubinsky viciously crosschecks Sidney Crosby in the back of the neck. NHL hits him with a one-game suspension. Seemed light, but whatever.
The coincidence: On Dec. 19, 2015, Brandon Dubinsky goes Very Knee-To-Knee on Jake Voracek. NHL does not see a reason to levy supplemental discipline.
The pattern: On Dec. 21, Boone Jenner goes Very Knee-To-Knee on Evgeni Malkin. Columbus coach John Tortorella says flat-out that Malkin embellished to draw a penalty (two whole minutes!). NHL does not see a reason to levy supplemental discipline.
The fourth thing, as yet unnamed: Also on Dec. 21, talentless waste of a roster spot Dalton Prout throws four needless crosschecks at Sergei Plotnikov, only gets a double-minor. NHL does not see a reason to levy supplemental discipline.
Now look, I don't want anyone from DOPS saying this is Lazy Criticism. So let's look at it from their point of view: Maybe you argue that the first Dubinsky incident was the only one that rose to a suspendable offense in and of itself. I would disagree because Prout shouldn't even be in the league, let alone allowed to go off on an actual talented player like that. I would also argue the second Dubinsky incident in less than a month is a clear demonstration that he plays with an intent to injure. I would further argue that the Jenner kneeing incident two days after the Dubinsky one highlights a clear pattern of targeting the knees of star opponents.
All of which falls under the umbrella of “Can we be sure that Tortorella doesn't have this as a top-down directive?”
But hey, one cannot know the heart of a player even after his teammates took intentional runs at opponents. Maybe Plotnikov had a bee on his head and spine and Prout was just being a nice boy.
Fair, then, to just let a good hockey play like that slide. Just this four times. With a wink emoji.
Oh that's right, I keep forgetting the NHL really threw the book at Dubinsky on that first incident, so they're actually doing a great job with all this.
(Not ranked this week: Having two goalies.
If this kind of thing worked don't you think Arizona would have tried it by now? Come on.)
(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)
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