The Olympics are growing closer and closer as the NHL season is finally escaping the early season mire. Some teams are still playing at a level that no one predicted, others are about where the consensus pegged them. At this time of year it is easier to get a handle on where players will be in the rankings when it comes time for the NHL to dim the lights and the spotlight turns to a Russian city just north of Georgia on the Black Sea.

Alex Steen

While the Canadian team’s wealth at center is deep enough that they could fill all 12 forward positions with worthy centers, they likely to go for a more balanced approach. This is too bad because it means that Alex Steen who is tied for the NHL goal lead with that other Alex might be left off the final roster. 10 goals in 9 games is a tiny bit of a hot streak. Last year in 40 games he had just 8 goals, in a season that was anything but normal. Don’t be too surprised if the Winnipeg Alex is skating against the Moscow Alex in Sochi.

Ryan Miller

If dictionaries were updated on a weekly basis Websters would have a picture of Ryan Miller, his stats and the Buffalo Sabres record. The American goaltending picture for this year was supposed to be some combination of Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators. The third goalie might as well be an inflatable sheep since it was as likely to see action as whoever was behind those two. In the cold light of reality, Miller is outplaying Quick by such a wide margin it isn’t fair to Miller to compare them.

Let’s take a look:

American born NHL goaltender stats October 27 2013

American born NHL goaltender stats October 27 2013

 

 

And when considering the USA crease, while Quick has won a Stanley Cup, Miller has played in the pressure cooker that is the Olympic tournament and done very, very well.

Mark Giordano

Of the top six Canadian NHL defensemen in scoring which one plays more than 25 minutes a night, has played a season (plus playoffs) for Dynamo Moscow, and also has World Championship experience? If you guessed the Calgary Flames blueliner named Mark Giordano, you’re pretty good at this. Add in 18 blocked shots, and the fact that he plays over three minutes a night short handed and on the powerplay and you’ve got a compelling package. When you consider he’s in the upper echelon of scoring while on a poor team he’s taken over as captain of, you have to work hard to leave him off the roster.

Tomas Hertl

The soon to be 20 year old Czech made the jump from Europe to the NHL on his first attempt, is playing just below a point per game pace. Not may people outside his home nation and the Sharks offices had him on their radar coming into the year. He got off to a phenomenal start, caught some (worthless) criticism for showboating, and has leveled off since. There is still time to pull himself back on track, if he does, there’s a chance he’s sharing the ice with a lot of guys who grew up watching.

Torey Krug

The second year defenseman out of Michigan State is currently leading all American defensemen in goals scored. Three of his four have come on the powerplay helping his Boston Bruins improve enormously in that regard. With six points in ten games, the points pace he’s on is every bit as good as Ryan Suter, particularly when minutes played are factored in. Anyone who’s watched three minutes of Krug’s play should have no concerns about his ability to handle any sized ice sheet.

I’ve been hard at work culling this list of suggestions from the thousands rolling around on Twitter today. Please not as this isn’t a scientific poll you may have seen different names.

10: Winnipeg Claim Jumpers

9: Manitoba Moose (apparently they expect interchangeable quality with the AHL franchise of the same name.)

8:  Canadian Carpetbaggers

7: Atlanta Spirit Gift

6: Seattle’s Future Team

5: Mrs Pronger’s New Least Favorite Market

4: Manitoba Free Agent-less

3: Jets (a name even the old owner didn’t like)

2: Here ’til the Looney Goes Down

1: Vultures

Off the Faceoff is a semi-regular feature filled with a varying number of one line thoughts, mostly on hockey.

Faceoff 1: It’s hockey day in America and the NHL has kindly made it impossible to watch all the games, or even most of the games since three of them start at about the same time.

Response: Great, next time just schedule them all at 6:30 AM ‘PT, the ratings will be about the same. And why aren’t there any sunbelt teams scheduled? I realize a lot of the south thinks of the Mason Dixon as the natural border but there’s no sense in helping the delusion.

Faceoff 2: The Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens square off today in the Heritage Classic. Who are you rooting for?

Response:  As a hockey fan, a Bruins fan, and someone who wants to see more of Jarome Iginla on TV, I want the Flames to roast the Habs. Maybe if they do NBC, Versus, and the NHL will show more of their games on tv in the east and I won’t have to sit through the same four western teams all the time.

Faceoff 3:  There has been lots of comment on Twitter about the possible relocation of the Thrashers to western Canada.

Response:  !) Not happening soon. (Sorry Winnipeg.) 2) Detroit and Columbus would make decent choices to relocate to the East to rebalance the conferences, but the natural choice with the minimum amount of redrawing of the division lines is neither, it’s Nashville.  Weber against Stamkos or against Ovechkin would make great tv and spark some rivalries in that division.