Q: Will the New York Islanders hold onto a playoff spot?
A: Yes, the Atlantic division is highly dysfunctional, and the ISlanders are both better than many people think, and many people think, and better at being dysfunctional.
Q: Will he San Jose Sharks escape the first round?
A: Maybe, I can’t see the Kings falling to San Jose, however if Vancouver holds on to the 3rds seed in the west, I think they have a better shot.
Q: Which two current division leaders are the most vulnerable to a first round upset?
A: Easily Vancouver and Washington. The Canucks haven’t had an identity since the end of the Stanley Cup finals and you can’t win if you don’t know who you are. Adam Oates hasn’t fully crafted his vision of the Washington Capitals team, and their goaltending has been so-so.
Q: What team entering the playoffs in the bottom half of the bracket is most dangerous?
A: The Senators. This isn’t even close, both St Louis and Minnesota can bloody someones nose, but Senators are used to punching out of their weight class and simply can’t be intimidated. On top of the Senators are playing in the toughest division in the NHL this season.
Q: Which General Manager’s off season moves likely saved their job?
A: Chuck Fletcher, his Wild were in a bad, bad place for several years, and while trades for Heatley, Coyle, and others in the past two season were good, signing both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise slotted so many players into the right slot for their capabilities.
Q: Which general manager did a better job selling off assets, Darcy Regier or Jay Feaster?
A: Darcy Regier, handily. He may not be able to build a winning team, but he easily got more for Jason Pominville than Feaster got for Iginla and Bouwmeester combined.
Q: Who is the most intriguing goaltender going into the off season and free agency?
A: Mike Smith. At 31 he’s shown what he’s capable of, and a look at his numbers shows he plays his best when he plays the most, he might get a really good offer this of season. He might not get $5-6 million, but don’t be surprised when he pulls down $3.5million or more.
Q: Are the Devils better off making the playoffs or tanking the rest of the season?
A: Financially and short term they should push for the post season. For hockey long term, especially as the post-Brodeur era approaches the better picks the Devil’s can make, the better the team will be over the next five to seven years
Q: Who’s your MVP shortlist?
A: Nazim Kadri for being the fulcrum that is pushing the Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Ryan Suter for very quietly pushing the Wild into the playoffs for the first time in a long time while breaking in a talented rookie partner. Sergei Bobrovsky for making redemption real in his second NHL stop.
Q: Will the buyout talks around Ilya Bryzgalov stop before July 1?
A: Probably not. There are three ways I see them ending; 1) Bryzgalov announces his retirement. 2: Bryzgalov goes on an incredible run to end the season. 3: Flyers ownership or upper management comes and definitively states one way or the other if they will buy him out.
Q: Who is your pick for the Jack Adams Award?
A: No brainer: Paul MacLean. Not only has he lost high end players and Erik Karlsson to frequent injuries, he’s managed to stay firmly in playoff position throughout. It’d be a fist class disgrace if anyone else goes home with it.
Q: What will you think of any team that drafts first and fails to select Seth Jones?
A: Unless he shows up at the draft weighing two hundred and sixty pounds with a crackpipe in his mouth, and an underage hooker on his arm there’s just no reason to pass on him, and the team needs to fire the entire front office.
Q: Which team should be blown up this off season, the San Jose Sharks or the Detroit Red Wings?
A: Both, the teams are both old and mediocre, but some of the parts are valuable to teams trying to build a contender into a champion.
Q: What’s the most exciting thing to watch from now until the playoffs start?
A: Other than who makes it into the 7 and 8th slot in each conference, the race for the Norris will be won and lost in the next two and a half weeks.
Q: Ok, why is the Norris race so fascinating?
A: Because there’s no clearcut winner this year. Chara is the only name getting any attention who has won before, Karlsson and Letang both had their hopes dive like, well like they do, when they were injured. Suter, Ekman-Larsson, Subban, Beauchemin and anyone else you can name this year aren’t well known across the league, and for Subban his reputation might work against him, and Suter is laboring under the reputation the Wild have for being a trap team.
Q: If you were starting a franchise tomorrow, what NHL player under 25 would you want to build your team around?
A: Tossup. P.K. Subban makes the short list, but is edged out by Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo. Doughty has the Cup winning chops, but he’s also played on the better built teams his whole career. Both play a pretty complete game with Doughty being better known for his offense, but I think Peitrangelo is probably better defensively.
Q: Who are the five players every NHL fan should get to know better?
A: Alex Pietrangelo, see above. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tomas Plekanec, Mikko Koivu, and Justin Faulk.
Q: Who should the finalists in each conference be?
A: Anaheim, Chicago, Boston, Montreal are the most complete and balanced teams in the league. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the goaltending to make it, and Minnessota lacks the playoff experience to run that deep.
Q: What two North American cities would you add NHL teams to?
A: If we’re picking US cities, I think the NorthWest either Seattle or Portland make sense, Kansas City and Houston also have their virtues. For Canadian cities, Quebec City and somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area make sense, but Saskatoon has pushed for a team, and if they can get enough corporate support and good ownership that could work. Also, there hasn’t been an NHL team in Calgary in years.
Q: If you could take over as head of hockey operations any team that won’t make the playoffs this year, what would it be?
A: Good question, the Flyers are obviously deep enough in cash that I’d be able to spend, and the fans are energetic. Buffalo could really work well if Pegula commits to a full reset, and Edmonton is highly fixable with the right leadership. And San Jose’s ownership is at least patient and loyal to their players. Ideally I could have be pretty sure of low ownership interference, Buffalo or Edmonton, I think the problems run too deep in some other cities that aren’t named here.