We’re about a week into the new season and it seems to me we have a lot more questions than answers.
A lot of them have already been litigated to death — Can the Leafs keep outscoring their defensive problems? Can the Sharks fix their power play? What’s different for Montreal and Ottawa? — with varying degrees of satisfactory answers. But there are a lot of smaller ones that still provide plenty of intrigue, so here we are. The mailbag is a service to you!!! I’m actually doing you a huge favor if you think about it.
Let’s figure it out:
Michael asks: “Which teams that could be expected to fix their slow starts should be more worried about the stumbling?”
This all comes with the caveat that most of the slow-starting teams have played, like, two or three games, so keep that in mind. But the Flyers start the year should be a bit concerning, for sure.
The gamble was always with their goaltending: If the offense can’t produce enough goals to prevent Brian Elliott’s Brian Elliottness from catching up with them, they were likely to be in a lot of trouble. The fact that James van Riemsdyk could be out quite a while isn’t gonna help up front, and the fact that Elliott honestly seems to be the best non-Carter-Hart option in net is going to actively hurt.
The other team here, and I hesitate to say this, is Florida, because they’re 0-0-1 as of this writing but they’re without their starting goalie for as much as a month, so that’s bad.
Dan asks: “Which player that had an underwhelming 2017-18 is looking most likely to have a sustainable bounce back year?”
I mean, the guy isn’t that good anymore, obviously, but I don’t think he’s as bad as the reputation suggests. Like, he isn’t worth the money or anything close to it and he’s clearly lost the confidence of the coaching staff. I would say deservedly so. But if Quenneville can keep this guy from playing 20 minutes a night, I think he can be effective in certain ways.
Not that Chicago wouldn’t just as soon speed up the lockout so they could use a compliance buyout on him, but I guess what I’m saying is I don’t think people will be pelting him with trash walking around town.
Yeah I mean it’s a slow start on a bad team, right? You’d like to see him get more than one shot on goal a game. You’d like to see him have more than an assist. You’d like to see him have a goal difference better than 4-7 in all situations across three games. You’d like to see his underlying percentage numbers at least start with a “4.” All that is true.
But it’s three games. The team sucks. He’s clearly a high-end talent. If you think he’s gonna play like this forever I bet there’s a bunch of teams that would give up a seventh-round pick to bet you’re wrong.
We’ll talk about this issue more later, but you really shouldn’t be judging player performance one way or another before the 20-game mark at the absolute minimum. Maybe closer to 40.
Anderson asks: “How do you think teams around the league will react to Carolina’s victory jump? Any chance other teams relax and have fun?”
Given that we’re talking about the NHL, I’m sure a lot of people are mad about it, but I’m maybe starting to think the league is getting a little more fun. No one complained too much about the Kane/Matthews celebration thing (though if a European or non-white player did it…).
And as Elliotte Friedman said in this week’s 31 Thoughts, of course the Carolina players went to teacher to see if Rod Brind’Amour would let them do the victory jump. If an Old School Guy like Rod the Bod signed off, I think it’s all gonna be fine. Especially because it’s all after the game when the other team is packing up their stuff already.
Missing Nylander asks: “Will Matthews score 50 this year?”
Probably you’d like to see him shoot the puck a little more often than 3.5 times a game to really ensure it, because at his current pace he would need to shoot north of 17 percent over the full 82 to get there.
But the fact is that half his shots have gone in so far and he’s 14 percent of the way there through four games. And well, that helps. So he needs 43 goals in 78 games. If he shoots the puck as much as he has already, he only needs to shoot about 15.8 percent for the remainder of the season, and that’s very clearly in his wheelhouse.
I think 50’s very much on the table, barring injury.
Angie asks: “What can we say about the Sharks’ last two games?”
We can say, “Hockey is random and we’re talking about back-to-back road games in early October.”
As usual, most people aren’t going to accept that as a good answer but it’s probably the best anyone’s gonna be able to do.
Pokecheque asks: “Who’s gonna be the first coach fired? McLellan or Hakstol?”
I can’t remember who but I saw someone yesterday say something like “I thought McLellan already got fired” and yeah that sounds about right to me.
People, inexplicably, have been banging the drum for an Oilers rebound all summer despite no one really do anything to make the team better on paper. They’ve only played one game because of the Europe trip but New Jersey (NEW JERSEY!) made them look pathetic.
If that continues, I think that’s a lot more rational basis for a coach to get canned than what you’d need to can Hakstol. Then again, I’m not a GM whose goaltending solution was “Brian Elliott and ???” trying to save my own job, so…
Rod asks: “Is Jonathan Toews….good again?”
Based on these three games, I don’t think it’s outlandish to say these might be the three best games he’s played in his career. And just to be clear, Toews was never bad, he just wasn’t a 60-point player last year.
So yeah, he has five goals in three games, getting him about a quarter of the way to his full-season totals from the last two years already. But he’s 30 and the draw hasn’t exactly been tough, and he’s shooting 27 percent.
I guess what I’m saying is Toews is another guy who had an underwhelming 2017-18 and should bounce back, but I also feel like you need to give him more than 60 minutes of ice time before making any final pronouncements.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.