November 30, 2009
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
We are now sufficiently deep into the season that we can start looking at whether or not a team's offseason moves have worked out for the best. If nothing else, it will give you a reason to feel really good or really bad about the team you have chosen to support.
To be honest, a shocking number of huge decisions have turned out to be very, very good. The Dany Heatley(notes) trade is working out for everyone, Phil Kessel's(notes) been lights-out in Toronto, Jay Bouwmeester(notes) has helped the Flames' defense be not-terrible and Ryan Smyth(notes) was dominant in LA before going down with an injury.
But those aren't as interesting as some of the massive blunders GMs across the league have made in acquiring what they thought would be exceptional players only to find they got a dud.
What, for example, were the Edmonton Oilers thinking?
[Coming up: Jordin Tootoo's(notes) No. 1 and so is Corey Perry(notes); Angelo Esposito's(notes) old trick knee is acting up again while Patrice Bergeron's(notes) (unspecified) is bothering him; Miller's save-of-the-year candidate; the Wings revel in beating St. Louis in a shootout; the Sharks' power play goes in search of the Washington Generals; the Habs get a participant trophy; and the Leafs hire Mocha Joe to mediate a dispute.]
Edmonton could have re-signed Dwayne Roloson(notes) on the cheap for a year or two and gotten a somewhat effective goalie. Instead Steve Tambellini gave a four-year, $15 million deal to injury-prone, 36-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin(notes), who couldn't even out-duel Cristobal Huet(notes) for a starting job in Chicago.
The results, of course, have been predictable. He's played 18 games with a 3.03/.909 line, and -- guess what? -- now he's hurt, leaving the Oilers to rely upon Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who is somehow even worse. And jeez, that Mike Comrie(notes) deal worked out too, didn't it? I still don't know how people thought this team would make the playoffs.
But it's hard to have done a worse job than the Canadiens did over on the other side of Canada. Mike Cammalleri has been just fine, but Scott Gomez(notes), Brian Gionta(notes) and Hal Gill(notes) were hilariously bad decisions, especially considering what the Habs gave up to get Gomez in the first place, not that anyone thought the Habs were getting their loonie's worth when they signed anyway. And here I would also list some of the Maple Leafs' offseason acquisitions like Mike Komisarek(notes) and Francois Beauchemin(notes), but that'd feel too much like kicking the slow kid.
The Rangers, too, have problems. Sure, their three big free agent signings of Marian Gaborik(notes), Vinny Prospal and Ales Kotalik(notes) are leading the team in scoring, but by acquiring them, the Rangers went all-in on a defense made up of two rookies, two decent second-pairing guys, and Michal Roszival and Wade Redden(notes). Couldn't have invested $11.6 million in defense? Offense is nice but when you score better than league average and then allow more than you score, that's a very, very bad thing.
Speaking of Gaborik, Minnesota replaced him with Martin Havlat(notes) which seemed like a good idea at the time. Consider, then, that Kyle Brodziak(notes) has twice as many goals as Havlat, ye fantasy owners, and weep.
And finally, what was going through Ken Holland's head when he let Marian Hossa(notes) walk, and then replaced him with Jason Williams(notes) and Todd Bertuzzi(notes)? Keeping the team together is important, I guess, but you can't know you're going to let a 40-goal guy go and not have some sort of contingency plan. That blunder is a huge reason they're 10th in the West right now.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: As bad as Anaheim has been this year, Corey Perry been just as amazing. On Friday he tied Teemu Selanne's(notes) club record for consecutive games with a point, getting a point in 17 straight. Then last night he picked up a helper on Bobby Ryan's(notes) late game-tying goal to break the record. During the run, he's scored 9-15-24.
Atlanta Thrashers: That's two ACL tears in two seasons for Angelo Esposito. Oh yeah, and it was the ACL in his right knee both times, which, speaking as an unlicensed and untrained medical professional, isn't good.
Boston Bruins: So Patrice Bergeron drops in front of a Filip Kuba(notes) slapshot in Saturday's game and blocks the shot, but immediately begins writhing in pain on the ice (he returned later but was not available to the media after the game and his status is uncertain for Wednesday). But to make matters worse, while Bergeron was still lying on the ice, the Senators scored a goal. That's literally adding insult to injury.
Calgary Flames: Kind of interesting to see players talking shop on shootout technique. At least I think so. I also think it's interesting that Saturday's shootout victory over Columbus was only Calgary's fifth win ever at Nationwide Arena.
Carolina Hurricanes: Despite whatever moves the team makes in the next few days, don't go around thinking that Paul Maurice is going to get shuffled out as well. Jim Rutherford backs him 100 percent. What's less clear is why he does so.
Chicago Blackhawks: Things are taking a turn for the worse in Chicago. They didn't score in close to two games' worth of hockey before Jonathan Toews(notes) picked up his fifth of the year early in the third period. As such they haven't won in TWO WHOLE GAMES. Time to panic!
Colorado Avalanche: Jibblescribbits takes a whack at breaking down the Avs' flaws. Whether or not you agree with them, he at least nails this part: "Well, the critics may be insufferably smug now that the Avs have been a very pedestrian 4-5-3 in November, and falling out of 1st place in the Northwest." Yes, yes we are. Very smug. I do find being right all the time rather burdensome.
Columbus Blue Jackets: It won't be a trade that fixes Columbus' recent struggles. Someone, says GM Scott Howson, has to step up. You'd think they would have realized this prior to Saturday night's loss when they had a .500 record but a minus-13 goal differential. Just for fun: I blame Ken Hitchcock!
Dallas Stars: Said Marc Crawford of his team's late comeback against Tampa on Saturday: "It's all about patience with our club. We have to show patience throughout 60 minutes as the game unfolds. We can't change the way that we play. The lesson for us is to stay with it." Patience, staying with it, and playing Tampa's backup goaltender. All recipes for success.
Detroit Red Wings: As if we needed more proof that even when the Red Wings suck, that's when they're most dangerous -- it took them 175:57 to break their scoreless streak (the team's longest since 1977), but when they did, they scored three goals in the third period and won 4-3 in a shootout.
Edmonton Oilers: You mean Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers coughing up four goals on seven shots in 8:25 cost his team the game? Get outta here.
Florida Panthers: A lot of questions to ponder following Florida's demoralizing loss to Nashville, but this is probably the best one: "Why - OH WHY - did defenseman Bryan McCabe(notes) lead his team in SOG?"
Minnesota Wild: So I'm on Twitter last night, checking out what people think about their team's games as I do. And I stumble across this from the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Russo: "Get Hnidy off the PP." This should be common sense, but that tells you just how bad the Wild offense is. Sheriff Shane Hnidy's(notes) career high in points after nine years in the league is 12. And he's on Minnesota's power play. Yikes.
Montreal Canadiens: Normally, Mike Boone is one of the best hockey writers alive, but I hate stuff like his "‘A' for effort" talk regarding the Habs' shootout loss to the Caps. Yeah, they didn't get embarrassed by a skills-y team.
They also blew a 2-0 lead and gave up the tying goal with 12 seconds left. Good work everyone.
(Ed. Note: As pointed out by a few of ye, including Puck Buddy Matt B. over email, the Habs rallied from 2-0 down and then blew their lead late. Bad Lambert!)
Nashville Predators: Congratulations are in order for Jordin Tootoo, who got into his first fight of the year on Saturday, and then his second about eight minutes later. The two scraps moved him into the top spot on the Preds' all-time penalty minutes list. Well done.
New Jersey Devils: Early in the week it looked like the Devils could be in trouble. Hosting then-Northeast leaders Ottawa Wednesday night, visiting current Northeast leaders Boston Friday afternoon, then hosting the Islanders Saturday afternoon. The results: 3-1 win, 2-1 shootout win, 6-1 win. This is a pretty good team right here.
New York Islanders: There was one interesting note from the Isles' embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Devils -- Andrew MacDonald(notes) finished a plus-1 and therefore was not on the ice for any of New Jersey's four even-strength goals. In fact, he hasn't been on the ice for one in any of his games this season (okay, so he's only played three, but still).
Philadelphia Flyers: Why aren't more people talking about the contributions of James van Riemsdyk(notes)? The kid has 19 points in 20 games as a rookie, including four of his six goals being game-winners. And by the way, this is his first full year as a pro.
San Jose Sharks: Todd McLellan is now critical of his team's third-ranked power play, referring to it as "Globetrotters" because it looks great doing nothing. That's a fantastic term right there, and I like it so much I think I'm going to steal it.
St. Louis Blues: Remember like a week ago when everyone was all upset that David Backes(notes) had essentially played himself off the U.S. Olympic team with four points in 21 games? Well he might just play his way back on it. With Saturday's two-point night, he's got five in his last three games and has gone from a minus-4 to a plus-2. Not bad.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Least-surprising headline of the week goes to the St. Pete Times for: "Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos in the mix for Canada's Olympic team." Scoring more goals over the last 49 games than everyone in the league but Ovie and Rick Nash(notes) will do that, I guess.
Toronto Maple Leafs: So Mikhail Grabovski(notes) took a swing at Francois Beauchemin at Leafs practice Sunday. Actual Ron Wilson quote: "They were arguing over the last 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' episode. Grabo did not quite understand of those some of the little idioms, and Francois, who is a master of the English language, was explaining to him." I now suspect that Beauchemin revealed to Grabovski that he does not respect wood. That being said, Grabovski apparently wrote the pamphlet on fighting teammates, since he scrapped with Jason Blake(notes) in practice last year. Now that's acting without acting.
Vancouver Canucks: I love how, thanks to one stupid empty net goal that he needed two tries to score, Kyle Wellwood(notes) has achieved some sort of folk hero status among the media in Vancouver. Same thing goes for the chuckleheads on Hockey Night in Canada. "HOW DID HE DO IT?" they asked. Oh I know, it must've been by 86'ing the composite stick. That was the problem. He's gonna make a serious run at the Rocket Richard now. (Ugh, after I wrote this he went and scored early against San Jose. Now I really hate Wellwood for going out of his way to make me look bad.)
Play of the Weekend
Have a look at this golazzo by Phil Kessel on Friday.
Gold Star Award
Well, Sid Crosby, if you're gonna score a hat trick (and add two assists, but who's counting?), you might as well do it on Hat Night, eh?
Minus of the Weekend
Patrick Kaleta(notes) wins this one in a runaway. Not for the big, illegal hit on Jared Ross. It happens, whatever. But he pulls down this award for turtling like a scared schoolgirl the second someone challenges him.
Even if you think he didn't deserve to sit out two games for that hit (you're wrong, by the way), he deserved it for that Cold War-quality duck-and-cover job. What a punk.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
The username "Blackhawkswincup" is a tipoff that the poster of this proposal is a Blackhawks fan. The proposal itself is a tipoff that he's out of his mind.
Yeah, because Joe Corvo's having such a great season?
Let's see some smiles, people. It's a party, not a shareholders' meeting.