November 19, 2007

NHL at the Quarter

It's been 20 games (well, approximately), so where do teams stand so far?

Western Conference:


The Good: They kept the right two-thirds of their astounding young forward line of Perry-Getzlaf-Penner.
The Bad: Schneider has only managed six games so far; eight points, which is great, but only six games.
The Weird: They just waived uber-competent goalie Bryzgalov. Can everyone say “Cap Space”?
The Future: Why would they need cap space? Because they might, just might be picking up a forward and defenseman…
Note: Bertuzzi has played the same number of games this year as he managed last one, which was one fewer than the year before.


The Good: Langkow is keeping his newly-discovered offense from last year.
The Bad: Conroy, being relied upon for secondary offence, is being outscored by defenseman Aucoin.
The Weird: A change of backup goalies (Keetly down, McElhinney up) means nothing: combined, they’ve played 33 minutes this year.
The Future: Good speed, lousy finish (See also: Edmonton Oilers). They need more offense if they want playoffs.
Note: Slow starts are endemic to this team, but the fact that Kiprusoff’s not bailing them out is worrisome.


The Good: Lots! Rookies Kane and Towes are the real deal; games are appearing on local television; Lang has been providing exemplary leadership; 4-0 this year against the hated Red Wings.
The Bad: Lots! Young team exciting, but also prone to mistakes; Khabibulin still over 3.00 goals against; supremely talented Havlat managed two shots before injury; not much offense from the blue line.
The Weird: How long before Samsomov returns to Russia? He’s finished with whatever potential he had.
The Future: Suddenly, playoffs are a possibility.
Note: It’s horrible to say, but good timing on the old owner’s death. The new young players should be on television, and that’s now happening. Now it’s up to marketing to restore this diminished Original Six team.


The Good: Stastny. No sophomore slump here.
The Bad: With 7 points, Liles is the top scoring defenseman.
The Weird: Someone other than Sakic leading this team in points.
The Future: A goaltender trade. Budaj isn’t a star, and Theodore is regaining confidence while being almost impossible to move.
Note: Will Leopold ever give his money’s worth for Colorado? He’s played 22 games for them in two years.


The Good: Did anyone get helped more by a coaching change than Leclaire? Five shutouts in 14 games so far.
The Bad: Nash has 14 goals; eight more than anyone else.
The Weird: Zherdev may – finally – be ready for a break-out year. But where’d Vyborny go?
The Future: If they make the playoffs, Hitchcock may be tapped for Coach of the Year.
Note: Back to Earth after a startling 7-3-1 start, but for the first time, the Blue Jackets may be creating an identity.


The Good: increased their offensive output (14 goals in 3 games) since firing their… GM? How often is that the problem?
The Bad: Modano’s lost a step, and it shows defensively: his -9 is worst on the team.
The Weird: Shootout specialist Jokinen has 7 goals this season – 4 in one game.
The Future: Scoring from multiple sources with no real “game breaker” can work – but Turco is going to need to do better than a .900 save percentage.
Note: Modano being the new American Top Gun is always a nice story, and having Roenick close by kept it in the news for a good week.


The Good: Zetterberg on pace for 120 points; 14 wins in 20 games; the supposed backup has a .926 save percentage and 1.80 goals against average and 9 wins in 10 games; leading the Western Conference in points and wins; no long term injuries yet.
The Bad: Supposed starting goalie with an .859 save percentage
The Weird: Four losses to Chicago? When’s the last time that happened?
The Future: More people leaning this way in their cup predictions. I’m not convinced.
Note: With Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, and Samuelsson, Vancouver may be the only team to rely on Sweden more.


The Good: Garon better than expected, outdueling Luongo in a 0-0 shootout win.
The Bad: Team speed not translating into goals: they have only 40 in 20 games so far.
The Weird: So, how’s that Ryan Smith trade working out for you fellas?
The Future: When you average two goals a game, you can only ask “what future?”
Note: Souray and Pitkanen were supposed to carry the offensive load on the blue line, but both were knocked out in October.


The Good: Lots of youth maturing into scorers.
The Bad: Lots of youth means defensive play not keeping pace.
The Weird: Already used three goalies this season – that makes eight in 100 games. How long before Fukufuji comes back?
The Future: Thirteen of first 19 games at home, but only six wins. That will have to improve if they want the playoffs this year.
Note: Defensive mistakes are what make for an exciting game. Kings games are very exciting this season.


The Good: Getting through injuries to major players by secondaries stepping up.
The Bad: Injuries to Gaborik (of course), Demitra, Walz and now Koivu.
The Weird: Even without Bertuzzi, Vancouver just seems to bring out the worst in the Wild.
The Future: Leading division for now, but that will last only if Gaborik can manage more than 70 games, a rare feat for him.
Note: Where do they find these guys? The backup to last years backup has a .921 save percentage.


The Good: Holding their ground in what is – by far – the leagues most improved division despite the heavy losses in the off season.
The Bad: Not just in the off season: Sullivan, who’s been over a point a game for the Predators, has yet to play a game this season.
The Weird: The ongoing circus involving ownership.
The Future: Get the ownership issues resolved and back to hockey! This is still a rock solid team, well worth watching; but the fans need to hear about their play, not about their finances.
Note: The goaltending is solid (Mason’s numbers are a temporary aberration), and the offence is in reasonable shape as well, especially when/if Sullivan gets back. Now if defenseman Weber can find last year’s touch, this team is dangerous once again.


The Good: A road record of 6-3 so far.
The Bad: A home record of 2-7. And, oh yeah: no one has more than 5 goals.
The Weird: All four of their goaltenders have a better – far better – record on the road than at home.
The Future: Well, anything could happen… but not likely in time to reach the playoffs. There is some faint hope in rookies Mueller and Carcillo.
Note: They seem to have added a fifth backup goaltender to their stable in Bryzgalov. Hopefully, he will find the ability to play in front of a home crowd.


The Good: Another tremendously improved team, it can be argued they got better when coaches changed last season.
The Bad: Tell me again why Jay McKee is worth $4 million?
The Weird: On a team with Rucinsky, Tkachuk, Kariya, Weight, and the surprising Stempniak, their leading goal scorer (by five) is… Brad Boyes? Uh oh.
The Future: Still rolling from last season, the goaltending is solid and the scoring has been good enough to get by. Now, about that defense…
Note: This defense should be racking up points, and Erik Johnson may be the answer to that in two years.


The Good: Nabokov has taken the number one position with both hands.
The Bad: The second highest scorer has 13 points, 11 fewer than Thornton.
The Weird: Where’d Cheechoo go?
The Future: What youth the team has in on the club; if it’s not what they’re looking for, then they had better start working those phones.
Note: Their top six scorers are four centres and two defensemen. Even their leading scorer in Worchester is a centre. A little balance would be nice.


The Good: A 6-2 road record, and 8-0-1 inside their division.
The Bad: Missing three of their top four defensemen for ten games, and 2 top of the top four until January.
The Weird: Ohlund is hardly an angel, but he’s on pace for 180 penalty minutes, twice his highest previous amount.
The Future: With a chance to look at young defensemen, Edler plays like a young Ohlund (steady, unflappable), and Bourdon is far more confident than his last visit.
Note: I was confused when the only “big” signing in the off season was Miller, a 36 year old defenseman. Now, I see they were being prescient.

That’s it for this quarter – to the East tomorrow!


posted by Thursday at 8:48 pm


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