The most important event of the NHL season is over. Zdeno Chara and Daniel Alfredsson have drafted their teams. Who’s roster is best for the skills competition? Which will win the All Star shinny? Which one would you take for a seven game series?

 

Team Chara:

  • Joffery Lupul, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa, Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Jarome Iginla, Marian Gaborik, Jordan Eberle, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn
  • Kimmo Timonen, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf, Dennis Wideman, Brian Campbell
  • Tim Thomas, Carey Price, Jimmy Howard

Team Alfredsson:

  • Jason Spezza, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, Milan Michalek, Henrik Sedin, James Neal, John Tavares, Scott Hartnell, Jason Pominville, Logan Couture
  • Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, Shea Weber, Dan Girardi, Keith Yandle, Alexander Edler,
  • Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

 

Very interesting teams, in a real game seven game series, Team Chara has the better goaltending and wingers, Team Alfredsson the better centers. Defense comes down to a coin toss and depends alot on what zone you’re in.

Karlsson, Letang, Seguin, Kessel could all win the fastest skater.

Chara and Weber are the in no way shocking odds of favorites to win the hardest shot.  I like Howard and Quick for side to side movement and could see either of them winning the goalie race. Calling Henrik Sedin and Pavel Datsyuk as the best passers is probably as shocking as the hardest shot names.

Eric Staal has a current stat line of 11-25-36 with a league worst -23, his next nearest teammate Char Larose is a mere -16, probably not what ownership hoped to invest its money in for the season.

Forwards:

  • Even with time off due to injury, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still leads NHL rookies in scoring. The Oilers will probably consider keeping him around a couple more seasons.
  • Just one point behind “The Nuge” is Quebec Nordiques New Jersey Devils stud Adam Henrique who has to play the oppositions top defensive players on a nightly basis. what’s more interesting is that he plays two minutes less powerplay time and unlike Nugent-Hopkins Henrique plays over two minutes a night shorthanded where he’s picked up seven of his points.
  • Matt Read has burst to the top of the rookie scoring race int he last two or three weeks. The Flyers are quite grateful for this given how the injury bug seems to have taken up residence in their locker room. Over five minutes of any given night of special teams time are coming his way. Currently leads all rookies in goals with 15 through 45 games.

Defensemen:

  • Raphael Diaz is still tied atop the rookie defensemens scoring race, with a slightly better plus/minus on a notably worse team than Larsson. 3-12-15 -1 30 Hits 84 Blocks 10 Takeaways
  • Jared Cowen is a monster on the blueline, the Senators moving tower is one point behind the Habs Diaz and the Devils Larsson in points while playing three and a half minutes of shorthanded time a nite.  133 hits 59 blocks and 20 takeaways make it unlikely the other teams fails to notice he’s on the ice even if you could miss a 230lb 6 ft 5 inch defenseman sporting the Canadian capital teams logo.
  • Adam Larsson has led or shared the lead in scoring the whole season and there is a lot to be said for consistency, especially on a team that took quite some time to wind up this season. 64 hits 51 blocks and 9 takeaways. leading all rookie defensemen in average time on ice.

Goalie:

  • This week the San Jose Sharks put Antero Nittamaki on waivers, that should say something about how confident they are in Thomas Greiss. Confidence in the rookie goalie with the best GAA 1.98 and best Sv% .927 among rookies with 10 or more starts isn’t terribly shocking.
  • Richard Bachman also ousted a more senior backup for the second slot on a western team The Dallas Stars relegated Andrew Raycroft to the AHL in favor of Bachmans 6-2-1 record with a 2.50 GAA and .917 Sv%.
  • Despite transportation issues Jhonas Enroth has not so quietly been the better goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres this season. His Sv% at .919 is significantly higher than former Vezina winner Ryan Millers as is his GAA at 2.59, he’s got an 8-9-3 record giving him almost half the teams wins with slightly more than a third the losses.

Honorable mentions:

Justin Faulk: Carolina Hurricanes

Craig Smith: Nashville Predators

Carl Hagelin: New York Rangers

Gabriel Landeskog: Colorado Avalanche

Jake Gardinier: Toronto Maple Leafs

Alexei Emelin: Montreal Canadiens

The All Star game is a widely hyped, quality deficient excuse for sponsors to hobnob with the players built around a completely meaningless game less intense than most NHL teams practices.

 

  1. Admit it’s a farce, take it one step further and add celebrities with NHL players rotating in by period. For extra fun normal fans could enter to win and play.
  2. Give the teams of the players who earn the three stars of the game an extra 2nd round draft pick.
  3. Make it a charitable game of the forwards against the defense and goaltenders with money generated for each save or blocked shot for the defense and goaltenders and for each goal by the forwards.
  4. Allow the three stars of the the game to each rescind a suspension for a teammate the next season.
  5. Every member of the winning team in the All Star game gets an exemption from escrow and a matching donation by the sponsors and leagues to that players favorite charity.

We all have our issues with the NHL, the NHLPA, some major, some minor.here’s a few of the things I’d like cleared up, changed or eliminated:

  1. Why is it that a player who is suspended is allowed the choice of if they will or will not attend the All Star weekend? Isn’t the whole point of a punishment loss of the fun things associated with the job? Granted from the perspective of rest, time away from the press and public one could order players to the ASW…
  2. The NHLPA should be taking part in the discipline process. The PA is afterall the product. Just like movies can have great scripts and be ruined by awful casting, the players bring the most out of the league. For those who remember it’s eleven and a half minutes of fame contrast the XFL with the NFL or CFL. Now imagine that level of players becoming the norm in the NHL.
  3. A realistic realignment plan. Possibly three ten team divisions with the playoffs, and then the next 13 teams getting in and a strict seating by points.
  4. Better broadcasts. Watching a game and having the announcers discussing baseball, or telling the audience for the fourth time in the first period where someone is from or what the scrabble score of their name would be (and I like scrabble) are not things that need to be part of the game. Worse, having the game cut back in fifteen seconds after play start and missing goals, or the inevitable NBC swing of the camera away from a net front scuffle in favor of showing empty ice. Seriously the people who buy the advertisements on the boards pay enough for the privilege of being seen when there is action in front of them, extra time that obscures game action isn’t something I feel warmly enough about to call asinine.
  5. More players jersey’s available in proshops and online without having to customize them and make them nonreturnable if they don’t fit or are defective or having to wait multiple weeks for them.
  6. Players with an outgoing personality on NHL36. Yes I realize the league could as easily be called the IntrovertHL, but people who barely speak when a camera is pointed at them don’t make for compelling television, even for those of us addicted to the sport.
  7. An acknowledgement that players who have something unfortunate happen to them are not victims. An injury is a given in a contact sport and if it wasn’t someone deliberately targeting the head or knees or breaking a stick over another players head they are an injured party, unfortunate but not the result of malice.
  8. An unambiguous statement that players do have the responsibility to be aware of the opposition and rink fixtures and that avoiding injury is better than recovering from an injury and requires less work.

Tim Thomas posted this to his Facebook page:

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

 

It posted at approximately 6:01pm ET.

Or non news.

Tim Thomas chose not to go see a President. He’s not in the military, or the press secretary. It is not his job to make the President look good. That’s the only reason presidents of either party honor teams. Especially seven months after the event. It’s a chance to touch the populace who cares about that sport in a hugely publicized but truly meaningless event no one not there and most people there won’t recall in six months.  Whatever the politics of someone who chooses to not go see a President and quietly, and respectfully disengage and not make a scene that is their constitutional right. Free speech is something America is supposed to be proud to embrace, enforce and celebrate.

Death threats and the nonsense of attacking him over having the moral courage to not go and at the same time not make a scene or be a hypocrite by accepting attention from someone is to be commended. You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t even have to like it. But the next time you go trashing a movie you hated, boo a team you can’t stand or photoshop a picture of you and some celebrity doing the nasty that’s free speech too. Tim Thomas could have gone and caused a scene. He did not. He attended to other things. His job is to stop pucks and help a team win. Making politicians look good isn’t the job of athletes, actors or anyone but their handlers. I don’t recall anything in the NHL’s CBA requiring them to go glad-hand with people who have never expressed the slightest interest in their sport.

One can always count on the run up to the trade deadline to ratchet the cranks spewing rumors into high gear. Some of the teams who will no doubt be sitting squarely atop the sprockets and wearing down the tonfas* of the mills as we get ever closer to deadline day. Who’s at the bottom of the stack hasn’t changed dramatically in the last couple of weeks, but the teams that should be humongous big sellers in the middle, will probably end up buyers.

The Columbus Blue Jackets brought in talent by free agency over the summer. They brought in talent via trade as well. What they didn’t bring in was anything vaguely like depth. When you are spending close to the cap and getting less than teams in your division you are outspending by an eight digit figure. While media pressure, and tradition and the hope of hype will say “draft Yakupov”, I have different advice: trade the pick and the middle or bottom of the roster for a stud defenseman and a good goalie. Shocking as it is to hear, goaltending is believed by some to be critical to winning. Also of note, of the last four Stanley Cup Champions three had a Norris winner on the roster. Just a thought.

The Edmonton Oilers: See all those things I said about defense? Yeah that. It applies to you too. Also, drafting guys with a history of frequent injuries might be something to consider skipping this year.

The Montreal Canadiens are to be sellers if you ask RDS scribe Mario Tremblay. Two of the players on his list of sellable bits just don’t make any sense from the perspective of work ethic and ability. Why someone would trade Lars Ellers who will undoubtedly wear the nickname “Danish Dynamo” when he’s an RFA this summer is beyond me. On the other hand the number of things that make zero sense in Habsland this season exceed the number that are perfectly sensible by an order of magnitude. Brian Gionta has certainly underperformed this year, but its a touch difficult to excel when you’ve got an average AHL team skating around with you. Possibly Gionta asked out? Who knows.

The Hurricanes kicked off the sell off with an early assault on competitiveness by jettisoning the admittedly underwhelming Ponikarovski to New Jersey for not a great deal. Speculation has Ruutu or Gleason (why not both?) being shipped north. Among the other potential destinations for No-Not-Jarkko-I’m-Tuomo Ruutu are the defending Stanley Cup champions. One wonders if Nathan Horton would get as much of a workout out of ragdolling whatever defeneman replaced Gleason in games between the two clubs.

The Buffalo Sabres who’s owner has already given them a pass on the season have bounced off the Hurricanes at the bottom of the east and are above them on the strength of having played two less games. Injuries have been a serious problem yes, but there’s some intangible missing on this team that begs for an overhaul nonetheless. Some would call it competitiveness. Having iced 30 skaters and 3 goalies across the course of the season they at least know what the their system holds. Robyn Regehr might be an attractive trade piece to move out the door even with singularly uninspiring offensive season thus far. Assuming someone thinks they can goose him hard enough to get him looking like a 40 goal scorer again, Brad Boyes is pending UFA and probably not on Lindy Ruff’s top three list of UFA’s to bring back.

If Koivu and Selanne were to ask for trades before the deadline, the return on the two of them would help the Ducks for years to come. Yes, trading the first and fifth leading scorers and second and first in plus-minus will probably make the post trade season look a lot like all of the year up to January when the Occasional-Big-Three remembered they were payed at a passable level to produce wings. That said, having a second line center or legitimate impact defenseman not named Visnovsky or Beauchemin for a couple seasons to come could make early trips to the draft podium a smidgin less likely.

The Flames should be selling, they will probably be buying but I don’t think they can buy enough: 1) A #1 Center, 2) Another solid winger to make any dent in the playoffs. They do still have to make it in, and do have more regulation wins than the three teams ahead of them but it will still be tough to make it in.

Tampa Bay needs a goalie, which I’m sure is the biggest bombshell dropped on the hockey world this year, but it still needs saying.  Adding a defensive defenseman wouldn’t exactly kill the team either.

The Wild should try to be both buyers and sellers. Even more so than Buffalo injuries have rained on the parade of what looked to be the Cindarella team of the season. Swapping out a few of their spare defensemen for some scoring talent, particularly of the long term variety could make them a perennial contender. Having skated 10 defensemen among their 36 total players to take the ice this year it is a little hard to imagine them not having a handle on who is capable of what. Harding is also a UFA to be and teams wanting to evaluate him in their system and get a jump on negotiations with him might pay a premium to do so.

Figuring out what the Islanders should do is tough, (insert your joke here) they have a lot of pending UFA’s, and several promising prospects playing in juniors. Shipping a few of the elders out will bring some return, but what worth from a team that might not be in the lottery for the first time in years is anyones guess. For the future they have between 12 and 20 games covered in net by Dipietro’s cameos, and Poulin might just make it. Overall between the roster and the system they have 15 pending UFA’s including both Montoya and Nabokov in net.

*Thank you Harry Dresden. Parts 1 and Parts 2

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • that Evgani Malkin would lead the league in points while playing 7 games less than Stamkos who was second, and 8 less than Henrik Sedin
  • Patrice Bergeron would be out producing Joe Thornton, and neither would be an All Star
  • Ilya Kovalchuk would average 9 seconds less time on ice per game than Zdeno Chara and Drew Doughty
  • Michael Del Zotto who spent half of last season in the AHL would have more PPTOI than Sidney Crosby’s total ice time
  • Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Dwayne Roloson and Martin Broduer would all be 40th or lower on the save percentage leader board
  • Scott Hartnell who’s previous high for powerplay goals is 10 would be second in the NHL in them with 11 through 46 games
  • rookie Adam Henrique would lead the NHL in shorthanded goals
  • Brandon Sutter would have more shorthanded goals than Patrick Kane has powerplay goals

Teams/League:

  • The Northwest Division would have four teams with negative goal differentials but the division leader would be sixth in points
  • Chicago and Los Angeles would be the last two teams not to allow an empty net goal
  • Ottawa and Chicago would both be among the five most scored against five on five and both would be within two points of their division lead
  • three division leaders; The Rangers, the Panthers, the Red Wings would not lead their division in goals for
  • despite the leagues best efforts at parity, the 12 teams with an even or positive goal differential (301) would have a cumulative goal differential essentially equal to the 18 team with a negative differential (302) .
  • despite all the jabbering about one conferences being stronger than the other, in goal differential they would have an equal split
  • only the Edmonton Oilers would have a losing record when leading after one period
  • the secret to beating the Toronto Maple Leafs would be letting them outshoot you: their winning percentage is  .350
  • the “dirty” Boston Bruins would have the exact same number of misconducts as the “clean” Vancouver Canucks

The Kansas City Cyclones Quebec Nordiques New Jersey Devils picked up  Alexei Ponikarovsky for pocket lint and a firm handshake from the Carolina Hurricanes. The fifteen points he racked up in Raleigh put him equal with rookie defenseman Adam Larsson who is playing his first season of North American hockey. If that doesn’t put the rest of the eastern conference back on their heels nothing will.

Pernell Slewban is at it again. The Canadiens defenseman who is developing a not quite flattering reputation had another $2500 lifted from his pocket for the incident. This is the same player who got Mike Richards to say unkind things in the press about him, and teammate Hal Gill to remonstrate him in front of the media for being a slob in the locker room.  One can only wonder when Subban will focus enough on playing the game to have more stories written about his game winning goals, glorious defensive plays and slick passes than about the boneheaded things he does.

If the playoffs started going into today’s action: three teams in the east would make the playoffs who did not last season, only one team who was out in the west last year would be in.

Lot’s of fun games on the schedule:

  • The Battle of Alberta is rejoined. The Oilers offense against the Flames goaltending provides a nice contrast.
  • The Kings and Avalanche are trying to climb a bit higher in the standings and are currently rubbing elbows and 7th and 8th.
  • Panthers vs Jets: With a win or overtime loss the Panthers reclaim first in the division, with a regulation win the Jets will climb to within one point of the division lead.

The KHL is streaming their All-Star game live for all to see, anywhere in the world.

Also, look for my debut column over at Hockey This Week real soon. They are carefully hidden on Twitter: @HockeyThisWeek I hope you can find them.