Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Who's the Olympic favorite?

Team USA is the team to beat in the women’s tournament because of how good they are at hockey and how bad Canada is morally. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Team USA is the team to beat in the women’s tournament because of how good they are at hockey and how bad Canada is morally. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Folks this is something that was a long time coming.

After weeks of questions from Matts and Andrews and Joshes and so on, I said, “That’s too many white-guy names!” Instead, I encourged everyone who doesn’t identify as a man to send in questions, and wouldn’t you know it, a lot of the questions are better than the dumb ones guys send in like “Buhhhhhhh is this guy on my favorite team good?”

So I gotta thank everyone out there who sent in the questions this week. They were above-average and I have to say: I’m not surprised. Please, everyone who is not a man, keep sending in good questions.

Let’s get right to it. A lot of us still have Christmas shopping to do.

Maya asks: “Who’s your favorite for Olympic hockey? And by this I of course mean wohockey, because who cares about the men’s rn.”

The United States of America is the team to beat in the women’s tournament because of how good they are at hockey and how bad Canada is morally.

They just had that little pre-tournament series of games against the Canadians who, surprise surprise, are the only real threat to their chances with all due respect to… I don’t know, Sweden? Russia? Tough to keep track in what has long been a two-team sport for all intents and purposes.

The international hockey system for saying what records are is so stupid, but here goes: The US went 3-0-2-3-0 against Canada in that tournament, but if you translate that to a real and actual readable format, the NHL would say they went 3-3-2. But in a lot of the games I saw, the US outplayed Canada at least to some extent, and a lot of them apparently looked like the game that closed the series: The US lost 2-1 in OT but only gave up 15 shots.

Maybe you want to make a shot quality argument here, but my counterargument is, “You don’t win many hockey games by only getting 15 attempts on net.”

Then again, I’m sure Canada will do something underhanded to screw the US like they always do.

Megan asks: “If the Oilers can’t turn things around, what deadline moves can/should Oiler fans expect and/or prepare for?”

Well first of all I would say you should bank on them not turning things around, but that leads to a lot of unpleasant thoughts about what Peter Chiarelli does despite Wayne Gretzky’s not-so-cryptic comments about how the team has been run the past few years.

To answer the question, the guy I think everyone expected would be moved before he went on a nice little hot streak here is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I dunno, maybe the hot streak just adds to his trade value, huh?

Obviously such a trade would be made for defense and grit, as though that’s the Oilers’ problem right now, but this is Peter Chiarelli we’re talking about, so that is the only logical conclusion to make. But frankly there’s just not a lot of guys who both have moveable contracts and would be something someone wants that would do any more “shaking up” of the roster than Chiarelli has already done.

Just, honestly, prepare to be mad. Best you can do.

Angie asks: “Who do you have coming out on top in the Pacific Division?”

Vegas is the Pacific Division favorite.
Vegas is the Pacific Division favorite.

At this point you gotta say it’s Vegas, right? After beating the Lightning on Tuesday night, they were tied with the Kings, and while I’m not a believer that either team is “for real” in the grand scheme of things, there’s a huge gap between them, San Jose and Calgary. Vegas also has a game in hand on LA.

Here’s a teaser for you: I’m gonna write in-depth about the Golden Knights in Trending Topics tomorrow. It will (probably) be (very) good.

Connie asks via email: “Are the Capitals good? They’ve won eight of their last ten, but have averaged 48 percent of the shot attempts on the season. Given top line and goal tending talent, is this sustainable, or are they destined to plummet?”

It’s actually a little below 48 percent these days, but the general point stands: The Caps generally get outplayed at 5-on-5 but have been winning anyway for two reasons.

First, they have a great goalie who’s having another great season. I think I mentioned it the other day, but Vezina aside, we don’t really talk enough about how good Braden Holtby is. That’s always gonna keep you in games — a la Carey Price with Montreal a few years ago — even when you shouldn’t.

But second, the Caps score a lot of goals because Alex Ovechkin is on one again this season. To a lesser extent, so too are Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie, two guys who also traditionally carry high shooting percentages. The team has an above-average power play, and it almost makes up for their below-average PK, which is a problem because they take more penalties than they draw.

So I don’t think this is the best team in the division, which is where they sit in the standings right now, but they were always going to be perfectly good even after their blue line and forward depth thinned out so much this summer.

Fox asks: “What college hockey coaches do you think should be on the hot seat?

First of all thanks for sending a college hockey question. Second, I think there’s probably only one real answer, especially after so many coaches have changed jobs in the past few summers.

Vermont has long been mediocre-or-worse under Kevin Sneddon but last year won a bunch of games unexpectedly (thanks to a big ol’ all-situations shooting percentage of 10.2 and a soft schedule). People probably thought they were due for another 20-win season because in college hockey, people really don’t look far beyond a team’s record.

But so far this year, Vermont has just four wins from 17 games, and has a bunch of tough games on the schedule in the second half (Lowell three times, a surprising UMass team twice, two road games at Merrimack where few teams get results, then a February featuring Providence, Northeastern, and BU twice each.) It’s entirely conceivable this team doesn’t crack double-digit wins.

Is that enough to get him fired? He had back-to-back seasons earlier this decade of eight and six wins, but that wasn’t coming off a run of three 20-plus-win seasons in four years. I think something has to change in Burlington, and probably the answer is the guy behind the bench.

Laura asks: “How do you project some B1G teams (OSU, PSU) to finish this year? Can either make noise or reach the Frozen Four?”

First of all thanks for sending a separate college hockey question. Second, Ohio State is better than anyone had any right to expect (they entered the season with literally no goaltending experience) and Penn State would be good if they had any goaltending at all.

As for their Frozen Four chances, I dunno. Are they even the third- and fourth-best teams in their own conference this year? I wouldn’t be too optimistic about that. It looks like Notre Dame is the class of the league and everyone else is fighting for scraps.

Zoe asks: “Why are the Hurricanes playing worse in front of Darling than Ward?”

Well they do and they don’t. For every hour they’re on the ice at 5-on-5, the Hurricanes allow more attempts, unblocked attempts, and shots when Ward is out there versus when Darling is.

However, the shots Ward faces are often far less difficult to stop (a combined 27 per hour from low- and medium-danger areas, versus 22.3 for Darling), while Darling faces a good deal more high-danger shots (5.6 versus 4.8).

Interestingly, though, things kinda balance out. In terms of expected goals against (that is, if a league-average goalie faced the same slate of shots) Darling “should” allow 2.25 per 60 minutes, while Ward “should” allow 2.33. It’s a very marginal difference.

Of course, when other teams are on the power play, things are very different. Simply put, that’s where Darling gets hung out to dry. He faces three times as many high-danger chances per 60 as Ward does, give or take.

Now, it’s tough to tell if that’s a function of “Ward is the backup and therefore plays worse teams” or what, but that’s going to be a troubling trend for the coach, and something to work out ASAP.

Jana asks: “Newell Brown’s PP seemed to have run its course during his previous stint in VAN. Has anything changed upon his return this season that is making it more effective/helping mitigate aging Sedins?”

I think the talent around the Sedins was really starting to deteriorate around the time Brown left Vancouver in 2013. Apart from the Sedins, the most common power play guys on the team were Alexes Edler and Burrows, Jason Garrison, and…….. Derek Roy.

This year, it’s Daniel and Henrik, Brock Boeser, Thomas Vanek, Bo Horvat, and Sam Gagner. That’s a pretty big difference in terms of skill level.

Is that the only reason the power play is good again? Almost certainly not, but if I had to point to one thing: Yeah, that’s it.

Boeser, Horvat, Sven Baertschi, and Vanek all have at least four power-play goals already this year. For the full 48-game season in 2012-13, the two leaders were Edler and Mason Raymond at five and four, respectively. Skill really does make that much of a difference a lot of the time.

Aliza asks: “Considering CBJ’s crazy lack of scoring ability this year and their 2 blowout losses this past week, if you could trade for one person to help them get better, who would you pick?

Connor McDavid.

Rebecca asks: “If/when Seattle gets an NHL team, what would you want the team to be named?”

There’s no “if about it,” but dawg have you ever seen the 1917 Stanley Cup champion Seattle Metropolitans’ jerseys? Click this link! They rule.

Update things as you see fit (i.e. get onboard with that neon green/navy color scheme the Sounders and Seahawks use), but if you call the team the Mets and have horizontal stripe jerseys (kinda in the vein of the thirds in this jersey concept) and some sort of stylized S logo, people would lose their minds.

And rightly so.

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

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise.

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