Columbus Blue Jackets playoffs

Crunch time! How far can Columbus go?

It is the crucial time of the season where teams begin to solidify themselves from the pack, and the Blue Jackets are doing just that. But just how far can Columbus go?

The Blue Jackets are currently on a 10-game winning streak, and in that time frame, they have beaten playoff-bound teams such as Boston, Vegas, Colorado, San Jose and Florida. At the beginning of the month, the Blue Jackets were considered to be a bubble team, but now with seven games remaining, they rank third in the Metropolitan Division and are very much in play for the division title.

High level of play

Since March 4, no team has been able to compete with the Blue Jackets. The boys in blue have by far been the best team in the NHL during this winning streak. On this run, they have the most goals for in the NHL with 42 while allowing just 22.

The most impressive part about all of this is that they are doing it at even strength. A lot of times, winning streaks are fueled by good power plays and red-hot goaltending, but the Blue Jackets are genuinely just beating other teams at their best. Of their 42 goals on this run, 36 of them have come at even strength, and they even have a short-handed goal as well.

Columbus is going in night in and night out and are beating teams at their best on the offensive end. But the party doesn’t stop there for the Jackets. Head coach John Tortorella has his team playing very sound defensively down the stretch.

Columbus Blue Jackets playoffs

(Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Through these 10 games, Columbus leads the NHL in blocked shots and rank third in takeaways. They are doing a fantastic job of turning solid defense into offense, and in turn, it has led to the miraculous run. But this couldn’t happen without a little star power.

Artemi Panarin

Before this streak began, Artemi Panarin had just 53 points on the season. Fast forward a few weeks, and now he sits at 69 points. Panarin has scored in nine of the 10 games on this winning streak for Columbus, including four multipoint games.

Panarin has been the fuel to the offensive fire at even strength. His seven even-strength goals since March 4 rank first in the NHL, and his nine assists have him tied for seventh in the NHL.

Panarin is averaging 1.6 points per game on this run. If he continues playing at this level, he is likely to topple his career high in points. After spending his first two seasons in Chicago, Panarin has thrived in Columbus. Every Blue Jackets fan will be hoping for it to continue.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky will be the ultimate decider in just how far this Blue Jackets team will go. He has been the definition of excellence in net on this run for Columbus. He is 7-0-0 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.86 goals against average.

At home, Bobrovsky has been world class. He is sporting a 4-0-0 record along with a .959 save percentage and a 1.25 goals against average. If he can play anywhere close to these levels in the playoffs, the Blue Jackets have an excellent chance at making a run.

How far can Columbus go?

Columbus Blue Jackets playoffs

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Columbus has all the tools to make an intense run in the postseason. They have gotten significant contributions from Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin recently, and the rest of the team is on fire offensively. Time will tell whether or not this surge in play continues in the postseason, but there is no telling why it won’t.

The Blue Jackets are asserting themselves as one of the top teams in the NHL, but Columbus will just have to keep playing their game in order to win. As long as they do not commit foolish turnovers and penalties, they will have a very good chance.

They have proven they can win, but now they need to do it in the playoffs. After a disappointing end to last season, the Blue Jackets are hungry for postseason hockey.

 

Featured image by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

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NHL bubble teams

Bubble teams: Who will get in and who will play golf?

Bubble teams in each conference are fighting for their playoff lives. Florida is the only team in the East behind the eight ball that seems to have a reasonable chance to make the playoffs. Out West, the second and third Pacific division spots, both Wild Cards, and three teams on the outside looking in are all battling for their postseason lives. These last three weeks will be fun.

Eastern Conference race (at the start of play on March 13)

Wild Card No. 1: Columbus Blue Jackets (79 points, 12 games left, next game March 15 @ PHI)

Wild Card No. 2: New Jersey Devils (78 points, 13 games left, next game March 14 @ VGK)

Ninth place: Florida Panthers (75 points, 15 games left, next game March 15 vs. BOS)

Western Conference race (at the start of play on March 13)

Wild Card No. 1: Dallas Stars (82 points, 13 games left, next game March 13 @ MTL)

Wild Card No. 2: Colorado Avalanche (80 points, 14 games left, next game March 13 @ MIN)

Ninth place: Anaheim Ducks (80 points, 12 games left, next game March 14 vs. VAN)

10th place: St. Louis Blues (79 points, 13 games left, next game March 15 vs. COL)

11th place: Calgary Flames (78 points, 12 games left, next game March 13 vs. EDM)

 

More competition in the West poses a tougher task for the teams on the bubble. The East not only has less teams, but more clubs that are hit or miss with every team in the hunt having a minus goal differential.

Two teams to watch are the Florida Panthers and the St. Louis Blues. Each of these teams have newfound energy after being inconsistent for most of the season. The Panthers are 8-1-1 in their last 10, while the Blues are winners in their last two after going 1-7-2 in their previous 10.

Things are heating up in South Beach

NHL bubble teams

Photo from NHL.com

The Florida Panthers came into the month of February with a record of 20-22-6. Since then, they have gone 14-4-1, sitting as the lone formidable bubble team out East. This club has star power, a hall of fame net minder, and undeniable team chemistry.

Coach Bob Boughner said they are all in it and all screaming from the bench after big plays. It’s coming together at the right time, but some would say this was a playoff team all along.

This team has three players with at least 60 points (Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau). Throw in Evgenii Dadonov and they have four with at least 50 and Keith Yandle and Nick Bjugstadsix make six with at least 40.

All-Star talent and well-balanced scoring is the basis to all playoff teams. After a rocky start, the Panthers are in line to make some real noise down the stretch with the fire power they have on their roster.

Everyone has been waiting for when Roberto Luongo’s level of play is going to fall off a cliff. Well, the 38-year-old has not slowed down yet this year. He has gotten himself into the 400-win club (11th goalie in history), posted a 2.61 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in just 26 games played. Had his season not been cut short due to injury, we might have seen this bubble team be seen in the thick of things more so as it pertains to the playoff picture.

Nevertheless, do not sleep on the Panthers these last three weeks.

What type of Blues will they be singing in the end

NHL bubble teams

Photo from NHL.com

It is difficult to figure out what to make of St. Louis as the end of the regular season draws near. After a 21-8-2 start, I was thinking about Lord Stanley. The Blues then proceeded to go 14-19-3 in their next 36.

After scoring just 10 goals in their previous eight games where they went 1-6-1, St. Louis has won their last two for the first time since Feb. 8 and 9. Trying to forget the past, the Blues sit just one point out of the final playoff spot with 13 games remaining.

When the Blues traded Paul Stastny at the deadline, many saw that as throwing in the towel. St. Louis currently sits 23rd in the league in scoring and a league-worst 15.1 percent on the power play.

However, coach Mike Yeo has reunited the top line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko and reconstructed the depth chart. They scored 11 goals in their previous two games against LA and Anaheim. Yeo knows there is still work to be done, but they are getting closer.

Jake Allen’s year started off with great promise as he posted a 17-8-1 record. Allen then recorded just two wins in his next 19 games played. It seems to be a confidence issue with him because when he is on, he is among the league’s best in terms of talent, but in the bottom half when he is off his game. St. Louis’ starting goaltender may have found what he did a year ago as he has recorded three straight solid starts, going 2-1-0 and allowing just five goals.

If the Blues have any shot to make it to the postseason and make noise when they get there, they must have a confident Jake Allen.

Any team at any time can get hot

Neither of these bubble teams expected to be in the position they currently sit. No one saw the Panthers playing meaningful games in late March and into April at the start of the season. No one saw the Blues trying to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs at the start of the year.

Regardless, both teams are trying to light the fire and get hot at the right time. No one cares how you start the year, only how you finish.

You may think neither of these teams deserve recognition, but their stories are interesting. At one point in time or another, every hockey follower had them out of the playoff race or an after thought. When Florida was under .500 in February, or when St. Louis lost their seventh in a row in February, we all thought these two were lost causes. Let’s let them decide.

 

Featured image from NHL.com

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NHL Super 8

Not so super 8 – Feb. 17

This week finally picked up a bit in the top 16.

However, a couple of teams were snubbed by the panel in place of what feels to be less deserving teams (LA Kings and New Jersey Devils.)

Let’s get right to it.

ANAHEIM DUCKSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Ducks should’ve had a spot in the Super 16. Some of the other teams that made it into the top 16 definitely are not as hot as the Ducks right now. They likely missed because of their close victories with below average teams.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Ducks need to start showing up and taking command against lower-ranked teams as stated earlier. They only beat the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers each by a score of 3-2, and then lost to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1. They are getting destroyed by the better teams in the league and barely squeaking out wins against every other team. The Ducks are 5-3-2 the last 10.

COLORADO AVALANCHESuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is another team that is in the top 16 rankings wise that didn’t make the power ranking cut. They probably also should have made the Super 16 over a couple other teams, but they missed due to their just “ok” last 10 record of 4-5-1.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Last week they got destroyed by the St. Louis Blues and then lost to the Carolina Hurricanes. This week they barely beat the Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens and then were blown out by Winnipeg. Much like the Ducks, they need to start finding victories against better teams and need to limit the scoring of lesser teams.

They are also seeing impressive offensive numbers from their forwards. Nathan MacKinnon has 61 points followed closely by Mikko Rantanen with 52 and Gabriel Landeskog with 42. They just need their goalies to pick it up a bit. They only have a combined .914 save percentage.

CAROLINA HURRICANESSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Hurricanes have honestly done pretty well over their past 10 games, but aren’t really in a ranked position to be in the Super 16. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and won three straight before losing their last two to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Hurricanes are on an upward path. Their victories have come against some quality teams. They beat the LA Kings 7-3 earlier in the week. If they continue to play well against teams like the Kings, they have a shot to move up significantly in the standings.

FLORIDA PANTHERSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

While the Panthers have won their last two and are 6-4-0 in their last 10, they have been struggling to shut down their opponents offensively not only in their losses, but also in their wins. Like when they beat the Oilers on Monday by a score of 7-5.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Roberto Luongo has stepped up his game in the crease, but the backups need to become more reliable. James Reimer and Harri Sateri have a combined .910 save percentage. Considering Reimer has started the most games this season, those numbers just won’t cut it.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is where things start going downhill. The Islanders are 4-5-1 in their last 10, which is “ok” but not great.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

If the Islanders can see more goaltending performances like that of Jaroslav Halak against the New York Rangers (50-save shutout), then they may start looking up. His .912 save percentage is less than average, but if that changes, they may be ok. Especially with the impressive offensive numbers they are seeing. John Tavares has 64 points so far this season and is followed just barely by Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey, who each have 62.

DETROIT RED WINGSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Redwings are 4-4-2 their last 10. They are low in the standings and can’t seem to find a winning rhythm, which is why they keep missing out on the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Turn those two OT losses into wins and their record the last 10 is 6-4-0, and they are up three spots in league standings. Regulation wins would really help boost this team, especially at home where they have a league-leading seven OT losses.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETSSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blue Jackets were 3-5-2 in their last 10. Their record in the last 10 games alone is what is keeping them from even getting close to the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Blue Jackets have been on a significant downward spiral these past three weeks. They barely missed the Super 16 three weeks ago. Now they aren’t even close and are traveling closer to the bottom of the standings.

This past week, they have been very hot and cold. They will beat teams by large margins, like when they beat the Islanders 4-1 and the Devils 6-1. They also lost by significant margins to the Leafs (6-3) and the Washington Capitals (4-2).

The Blue Jackets really need to stay consistent here to even have a shot at breaking into the Super 16.

ARIZONA COYOTESSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They are last in the league, so it is clear why they missed. But they are more deserving to sit in this spot just due to their efforts in their last 10. Their record sits at 5-4-1 the last 10 and they are on a three-game winning streak.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They can actually keep winning games. It is hard to break this down because everything needs to change for the Coyotes. In reality, they have no shot of even getting close to the Super 16, but their effort the last stretch is worth recognizing and their fans should appreciate it.

 

Team logos and featured image from NHL.com

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Super 8

Not so Super 8-February 9

And we are back with this week’s “Not so Super 8”.

There was quite a bit of shifting this week in the Super 16, some of which I am not totally in agreement with. I mean sure the Golden Knights lost a couple games in regulation. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be dropped to the third spot.

This week also had a lot fewer teams that even deserved to be in consideration. Most of the teams that missed the Super 16 are on huge slides right now.

Let’s get right to it.

Super 8LA Kings

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This one is tough. They are on a two game win streak, their record the past 10 is 5-5-0 and they are in the top 16 in the NHL. It really just game down to choosing between them, San Jose and Anaheim.

Super 8

Offensive statistics for the LA Kings (Screenshot from NHL.com)choosing between them, San Jose and Anaheim.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

We need to start seeing more production offensively from players other than Anze Kopitar. Just take a look at their offensive stat breakdown. Kopitar leads the team in points by almost 20 above Drew Doughty. And while there is nothing wrong with defensemen who are offensively minded, why the hell is Doughty above any other forward in point production?

In addition to this, Jonathan Quick is not playing his best for the Kings. With only a 2.51 GAA and a .919 S% he really needs to cement his place as the Kings’ number one guy in the crease.

Philadelphia FlyersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Flyers did pretty well this week, so much like the Kings, I am not super sure. Also on a two game win streak and sporting an even better record the past 10 games of 6-3-1, I think they also could’ve had a spot in the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

It is too bad the Flyers don’t have better goalies because they have three players with plus 50 point production. The struggles in the crease are killing the team. With Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvirth combing for a dismal 2.67 GAA and a .910 S%. They need a pick me up or their woes will continue.

Super 8Carolina Hurricanes

WHY DID THEY MISS?

This is where the play quality takes a steep drop in the list. The Hurricanes are at an okay 4-5-1 the past 10 games. They have been 9-10-1 their past 20 so they are really playing pretty averagely right now.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They are only pulling out close wins against average or less than average teams and they are getting smoked by good teams. The Hurricanes really need to find a way to pull out wins against the better teams if they want to move up in the league at all. They need more offensive production but they really won’t ever win games if their goaltending continues to be awful. Cam Ward and Scott Darling combine for even worse numbers that Elliot and Neuvirth, with a 2.85 GAA and a .901 S%. I mean those numbers are just awful and potentially the worst in the league with the exception of the Coyotes.

Florida PanthersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Panthers missed purely because of actual ranking in the NHL. Other than that they are on fire, they have won four straight games and are 6-4-0 in their last 10.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

In their six games before the win streak they had 27 goals against. That is 4.5 goals per game, and it is completely unacceptable. Roberto Luongo needs to step up in a big way to keep their goal differential lower. This team could easily be in the top 16 in the league, they have the pieces to the puzzle. They just need to execute.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have lost one and are 3-5-2 their last 10. They are gathering points but just not quite enough to keep them on par with the Super 16.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Win. In. Regulation. A couple of their regulation losses have been by a one goal margin. In addition to that they lost twice in overtime. They need to start pulling that second point instead of settling for one. Also they lost to the Coyotes and the Sabres in that time frame. Those are the worst two teams in the league a win in both of those games flips their past 10 record to a better than average 5-3-2.

Columbus Blue JacketsSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blue Jackets are closer to being in the league’s top 16 than a lot of the teams above them. They missed because of the three game slide they are on right now with a past 10 game record of 3-6-1.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They need to start getting contributions from their key players. Josh Anderson is leading in goals with 16 and Artemi Panarin leads in points with 42. That’s fine and all, bit where are Zach Werenski, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg? I found them. Way down the stat sheet not really contributing to their team.

Chicago BlackhawksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

I was really starting to grasp at straws here. The Blackhawks record the past 10 is 2-6-2. That pretty much speaks for itself.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

With the amount of star power this team has, it never ceases to baffle me how badly they are doing this year. They are just waiting for something to click, and when it does I am sure they’ll be back to their winning ways.

Edmonton OilersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Oilers are just finally starting to figure things out this season. It is too late at this point. Their 5-4-0 record the past 10 is okay and it’s far better than most of the bottom dwellers they share real estate with.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

It can’t be just “The Connor McDavid Show” anymore. The kid is LITERALLY carrying the team to victory. He scores the majority of the goals whether they win or lose, and there isn’t much other offensive production.

I have no bonus team this week because every team that did not make the Super 16 cut was relatively average. Whereas in the past teams have been snubbed.

Team logos and featured image courtesy of NHL.com

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Metropolitan Division

Things are very much congested in the Metropolitan Division

I have been slightly incorrect in the past. The central does have have the better collection of teams overall. However, the Metropolitan Division currently has the most traffic…

Prior to games on February 8th:

  1. Washington Capitals – 67 points – 29 games remaining
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins – 63 points – 27 games remaining
  3. New Jersey Devils – 62 points – 30 games remaining
  4. Philadelphia Flyers – 59 points – 29 games remaining
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets – 58 points – 29 games remaining
  6. New York Islanders – 58 points – 28 games remaining
  7. Carolina Hurricanes – 57 points – 28 games remaining
  8. New York Rangers – 55 points – 28 games remaining

This is not the most talented division, nor does it possess a top three team, but each club is in play for the postseason. Both wild card spots in the East are held by a member of the Metro. It is one hundred percent a three-man race in the Atlantic. This makes for just a 4-point separation between the number one wild card spot (held by the Flyers) and the last place Rangers. The margin for error gets smaller and smaller as every single game now has playoff implications.

So, we meet again…probably

The matchup everyone now looks forward to every season is most likely forthcoming again. It is always known that Sidney Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup Champ while Alex Ovechkin has yet to reach a conference final…in fact, Crosby has served as Ovi’s kryptonite having never beaten him in the playoffs. The past two years each of their teams have met in the second round with the Penguins winning in six in 2016, then in seven in 2017. There is a very good chance we see this movie yet again this Spring…

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NHL.com

Washington Capitals: Why they will finish in the top three of the Metro

Alexander Ovechkin – 32 goals (leads league)/26 assists/58 points (11th in league)/+12

Depth – Four Players (Ovechkin/Kuznetsov/Backstrom/Carlson) with at least 40 points

Braden Holtby – 27 wins (tied for 3rd in league)

Pittsburgh Penguins: Why they will finish in the top three in the Metro

Trending upwards – 7-3-0 in their last 10 – 20-7-1 on home ice

Special Teams – Power play is 26.8% (leads league) – Penalty Kill is 82.5% (7th in league)

Experience – 15 of their 20 current players on roster have won a Stanley Cup together

We have the cast and crew ready to go. The two teams battled it out on the Friday before the Super Bowl in D.C. with Pittsburgh prevailing 7-4. Will we see the same ending to this trilogy as we have seen in the previous two??…or will the Washington Capitals finally breakthrough and compete for a Stanley Cup??

You gonna make a move or stand pat??

Philadelphia Flyers: Sell it seems like

The Flyers are too inconsistent to be true contenders in the East (5-4-1 in their last 10). Therefore, selling would be smart to keep adding prospects and draft picks to keep building for the future. Ron Hextall added a first rounder in the offseason for Brayden Schenn. Seeing what the market would bring for someone like Wayne Simmonds (which would be a bundle) would be smart. “It all depends on what’s coming back” Hextall says (The Inquirer).

Columbus Blue Jackets: Buy more than likely

The Jackets have scored the least amount of goals (139) of any team in the Metropolitan Division. They are -11 on the year and will look to bolster their roster offensively. Columbus is a league-worst 14.1% on the power play as well. Looking around the league, a reunion with Rick Nash may be the best option.

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NY Daily News

New York Islanders: Toss up

Star Center for the Isles John Tavares is on pace for a 40-goal/90-point season. He is in his prime at 27 and has an expiring contract and will become a free agent on July 1st. Islanders’ GM does not expect to move him before the deadline, but seeing what the market will offer may be in his best interest. The team also knows how to put the puck in the net better than any team in the Metro with 181 goals on the year, but gives up more than anyone in the division (197 goals against). Bolstering their defensive core will be on their minds one way or the other.

One point separates these three teams. All are in play for the postseason. If you have a shot to make the playoffs, the advice should always be to go for it. The parity is real…ask Nashville.

Close, but no cigar

The Hurricanes and Rangers round out the bottom two in this jam packed division. The Rangers have asked Rick Nash for his no-trade list, but GM Ron Francis has not ruled out buying before the deadline. Two different approaches, but similar team finishes if changes don’t soon occur…

Metropolitan Division

Photo from NHL.com

New York Rangers: Selling most likely

Trending downwards – 3-7-0 in their last 10 – 8-14-2 on the road (16 road games left)

No elite scoring – 0 players with 40+ points

Carolina Hurricanes: Buying??

Trending downwards – 4-5-1 in their last 10 – -20 goal differential (worst in division)

Elite scoring and depth – two players (Teravainen/Aho) with 40+ points – five players with 30+ points

As constructed, neither of these teams are dangerous come mid-April. However, if either GM decides that this year is worth giving up significant pieces for their future with how tight the standings are, this could be extremely interesting down the stretch.

Do it

Whether you’re buying, selling or standing pat on February 26th, do it. Very rarely do all seven-eight teams in a division have a clear shot at ending up in the playoffs. All you have to do is get to the dance and right now, the last place Rangers are just three points out of that last wild card spot…

The Hurricanes have a Stanley Cup-winning net minder in Cam Ward and the Rangers obviously have a hall of fame goalkeeper in King Henrik. You can win any playoff series with hot goaltending. Anything can happen. Whatever these teams are thinking, each have a shot…so do it.

 

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Super 8

The not so Super 8 February 2

The NHL puts out their picks for the “Super 16” power rankings each week. They consider these teams the hottest in the NHL.

Every week I will take the eight teams closest to making the Super 16 cut, plus one bonus team (a team that made the Super 16 that should not have) and tell you what I think they are doing wrong and what they need to do to break into the Super 16.

Here are the team in the order that they missed the Super 16 by:

New Jersey Devils Super 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

Honestly, this one has me a little unsure. The Devils sit at 12th overall in the NHL and their record the last 10 games is 4-5-1. It isn’t stellar, but they are sitting better than a few of their counterparts that made the cut. Three of those losses came to the Predators, Bruins and Flyers, all very good teams. The only reason they missed is likely due to the fact that they were on a bit of a downward slide when the Super 16 was released.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE? 

They really need to have Keith Kinkaid step up his game as backup net minder. He has a less than stellar 3.10 GAA and a .896 S%. In addition to that Taylor Hall is leading the team offensively by a great amount. If some of their secondary contributors would step up the team would benefit greatly.

Calgary FlamesSuper 8

 WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Flames were the hottest team in the league to start the year off. They had a seven game win streak and an 11 game point streak. Even though they extended their point streak for 11 games they have lost six straight games.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Flames need to learn how to hold a lead. In their last two losses (to the Golden Knights and Lightning) they held a two goal lead at some point in the game. Unforced errors lead to break downs in their defense and ultimately a couple of rough losses. They also need to start winning at home.

Columbus Blue JacketsSuper 8

  WHY DID THEY MISS?

The Blues Jackets’ record the last ten games was 5-4-1, not great, but not too bad. They mostly missed out here due to the fact that a few of their losses the ten games have been to pretty subpar teams (i.e. the Sabres and the Canucks).

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They need to start beating the easy teams. In addition to that, they need to start beating some of the league leaders as well. They aren’t competing when it counts and it is costing them. Sergei Bobrovsky is playing incredibly well so they need to capitalize on that.

Carolina HurricanesSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

While the Hurricanes are on a three game win streak, they have a deep hole to dig themselves out of. Their record the last ten games is 5-5-0.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

Their net minders need to both step up. Both Cam Ward and Scott Darling are playing at very average levels. In addition to this they aren’t able to keep up with any of the better teams in the league, and they are losing by too big of margins.

Chicago BlackhawksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They are sitting at 4-5-1 in their last ten games. They have put the beat down on lesser teams but aren’t able to compete with the top teams in the league.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The Blackhawks are surprisingly bad. They have all of the pieces. They are a team of all-stars, but nothing is clicking for them. Once they are able to click at the right time and actually start competing with the better teams in the league maybe they will climb out of this hole. They also need to improve their power play.

Florida PanthersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have won two straight but are still just 4-5-1 in the last ten games. Much like the Hurricanes, they are often getting blown out by average teams.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The fact that they have both James Reimer and Roberto Luongo and they still aren’t able to have solid goaltending is shocking. Both net minders need to step up.

New York IslandersSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have two straight losses and a 5-4-1 record their last ten.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

They are getting pretty solid numbers offensively but they are backstopped by one of the worst goalie combos in the league. Not much more to say there.

Vancouver CanucksSuper 8

WHY DID THEY MISS?

They have been consistently struggling not only this year but for the past four or five years. They are sitting at 5-5-0 in their last ten.

WHAT CAN THEY CHANGE?

The player with the highest contribution is their rookie, Brock Boeser. The veterans need to step up and start contributing more and leading the team.

BONUSSuper 8

I don’t think it’s super surprising that the Philadelphia Flyers are the team I think shouldn’t have made the Super 16. They sit below three teams that didn’t make the Super 16 (Devils, Flames and Blue Jackets) and they aren’t even on a hot streak. They have lost three straight and their record the last ten games is 6-4-0, which is fine but still not impressive.

All team logo images courtesy of NHL.com

Featured image courtesy NHL.com

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trade deadline

Buyers and Sellers at The Trade Deadline: February 26th

The end is near for some. For others, it’s just the beginning.

The majority of teams are past the halfway point of the regular season. The marathon part of the year is over, it is now a dead sprint to the finish line and to playoff hockey.

Buyers and sellers will soon come forth as we approach the trade deadline. There are obvious active participants as we approach Feb. 26th, but also inactive participants. You have teams like Vegas who are willing to stand pat and trust their current rosters as they embark on a playoff push. Regardless, everything is now kicked up a notch..

Today we will discuss teams that are willing to buy or sell. It also cannot be stressed enough that the greatest tournament in sports (the Stanley Cup Playoffs) is right around the corner. We will dissect the statuses of the handful of teams most likely making moves, but will also note that the battle for Hockey’s Holy Grail is near. Nevertheless, who’s buying and who’s selling??

Buyers–>The St. Louis Blues.

trade deadline

Photo from Twitter

Yeah, I got to do it. In the most humble and non-biased way possible, the St. Louis Blues need to be buyers as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They have been fighting the injured reserve all year, which has taken a toll on their depth. Their top point getter (at the time of injury) Jaden Schwartz went down with an ankle injury on December 9th. Since then, the Blues have won just six games and have scored only 26 goals in their last 14 games sitting in 2nd place in the Central..

GM Doug Armstrong has said to Hockey Central that the team is not in the market for a rental player (reported by Sportsnet). With their limited cap space they have expressed interest in a 28 year old Mike Hoffman (Senators) who is signed through 2020. Hoffman would be a vital piece to St. Louis having scored 27, 29, and 26 goals the past three seasons. They have Ottawa’s attention as well with their prospect collection (Jordan Kyrou/Klim Kostin) and seem to be ready to make a move. Getting Schwartz back within the month and adding another sniper in the mix puts St. Louis in a much better position heading into the postseason.

Tuesday night marks the last game for the Blues before their bye week. They have played far more games than everyone in their division at 46 (after Tues.) making a win crucial. St. Louis will take the ice against the Florida Panthers at Scottrade Center at 7pmCT before getting a chance to rest and refuel.

Sellers–>Montreal Canadiens.

trade deadline

Photo from A Winning Habit

The Habs are currently seven points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot in the East. They are in a bad spot because they would have to leapfrog six teams, three of which have games in hand on them. Their position prior to the trade deadline has been deemed as sellers. The Canadiens have scored 13 goals in their last eight games. Montreal is in no way out of the playoff race, but Carey Price would have to go on a run down the stretch as they are 29th in the league in scoring (2.46 goals per game).

Max Pacioretty (Canadiens Captain) has been reported as the main player on the trading block. It’s hard to imagine with Pacioretty having five of Montreal’s 12 30-goal campaigns in the last 20 seasons. He has immense value as the 29-year old is not even a rental with one year beyond 2018 remaining on his contract. GM Marc Bergevin has said that while the team is obviously looking for picks and prospects, they also are eyeing a top goal scorer in return for the Habs’ captain.

Montreal is off until Saturday when they are home to the Boston Bruins. They have 40 games remaining to make some sort of push, but it is almost clear they cannot compete with playoff teams. With points in only four of their last 10 and just seven wins away from home it’s going to be a tough road down the stretch.

Buyers–>Columbus Blue Jackets.

trade deadline

Photo from MyNHLTradeRumors.com

The Blue Jackets made a splash in the offseason acquiring Artemi Panarin. Everything seemed to be falling into place as they were atop the Metro Division for the majority of the first half. The Capitals hot streak that has surged them to the top along with key injuries to Columbus makes them buyers at the trade deadline. The Jackets are currently without top players Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky. Columbus is currently just 24th in the league in scoring putting in 2.71 goals per game.

As the Jackets continue to battle in getting healthy, GM Jarmo Kekalainen will definitely look to add to his contending team. He is said to be targeting a top two center by the February 26 deadline. Kekalainen has approximately 4.3 million in cap space to work with as he eyes former Blue Jacket Derick Brassard. The 30 year old has played in 40 games this year for Ottawa with 11 goals and 16 assists. The Canadien born center spent his first six years in Columbus and could most certainly bolster their somewhat underachieving offense.

The Blue Jackets sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They have played two more games than Washington and three more than New Jersey coming into Tuesday. It is going to be a dog fight to the very end of the regular season for home-ice advantage. Columbus has the talent to compete, but are again looking for help with 38 games remaining on their schedule.

“Let’s getter goin’ here”

All of this is very relevant information as we approach almost one month until the trade deadline. The reshaping of teams will soon commence, but there is a much greater circumstance forthcoming. Every game and every two points on the line now takes greater significance..

We are two and a half months away from playoff hockey. Two and a half months away from throwing the standings and seedings away and the best teams competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup..

It is the toughest trophy to win in sports, and the decisions made prior to February 26th have great impact. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. Let’s just getter goin’ and enjoy it.

 

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Johnny Bower

Johnny Bower: The pioneer of hockey toughness

In honor of the passing of Johnny “The China Wall” Bower over the holiday break, I thought it would only be right to dedicate this article to one of the original “tough guys” of hockey.

A Brief History of Johnny Bower

Bower grew up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to a poor, working class family. Growing up in a family of nine children meant his family couldn’t even afford hockey equipment. So Bower created his own using an old mattress for pads and a tree branch for a stick.

At the age of 15, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Canadian Army during World War II. In 1943, he was discharged due to rheumatoid arthritis.

That didn’t stop Bower from being active. Less than two years later, Bower made his professional hockey debut with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL.

Bower bounced between the AHL and NHL for many years before finally getting claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958.

The Toughness of Johnny Bower

If joining the Army at 15 years old and then playing professional hockey with rheumatoid arthritis isn’t evidence enough of how tough he was, then let his teammates, the statistics and the nature of his position convince you.

Being a goalie in this era of hockey was absolutely brutal. With no masks and minimal padding, injuries were an expectation, not an inconvenience.

Johnny Bower

Johnny Bower played most of his career in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo from AZ Quotes)

Dick Duff, one of Bower’s former teammates, said in an interview with CBC Radio, “[goalies] … the leg and arm, they would be yellow, green, black from stopping the pucks.”

Not only was Bower tough, but he was also talented. He won the Vezina Trophy two times. His name appears on the Stanley Cup four times (three of which were in consecutive years). He also remains the career leader in wins in the AHL.

When speaking of Bower specifically, Duff called him “fearless.”  Others refer to Bower as a “legend.” One thing for sure is that Johnny “The China Wall” Bower will live on in hockey history forever.

Hockey Toughness Through the Years

Bill Meltzer hit the nail on the head when he said,

“‘Hockey toughness’ is not about an individual player’s physical strength or fighting prowess. It’s about teammates protecting and defending one another, preserving together through adversity and pain. It’s not about a lack of fear but, rather, a willingness to face it head on.”

On Nov. 18, 2016, halfway through the second period during a game between division rivals Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers, Blue Jackets’ left-winger, Matt Calvert, took a nasty slap shot to the face courtesy of the Rangers’ Nick Holden. (Video is bloody, be advised) (YouTube link from jguth95)

He was quickly helped off the ice and taken to the dressing room where he received 36 stitches.

One would assume that he would not see the ice again that night, but after passing a concussion test, he took to the ice again midway through the third period. Not only did he come back to play in the same game, but he also scored a short-handed goal, which proved to be the game winner.

Calvert’s return to the ice that night after what should’ve been a game-ending injury serves as only one example of why hockey players are some of the most physically impressive athletes in professional sports. On top of the physical toughness, they also possess great amounts of mental toughness. Having to insert themselves into such a physically demanding situation when already injured takes insane amounts of courage.

Calvert isn’t the only hockey player to have displayed this kind of perseverance. Here’s some ‘tough’ hockey history.

In the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals, Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Bobby Baun injured his leg badly enough that he had to leave the ice on a stretcher. He returned for overtime where he scored the game winner. It was later revealed that he did indeed have a broken leg. (YouTube link from NHL)

Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers returned to the ice after breaking his jaw in a 2014 playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Boston Bruins’ Gregory Campbell blocked a shot during the 2013 playoffs, which resulted in a broken fibula.  Campbell got up and finished killing the penalty before leaving the ice. (YouTube link from Fred Murtz)

The list goes on and on. Endless amounts of lost teeth, stitches, breaks and sprains. Injuries that would often force the best of athletes to sit from anywhere between one game and a few months show us why hockey is a sport that demands respect, if for no other reason than the unmatched toughness of the players.

 

Feature image from Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Grades for the latest NHL trades

Browsing social media this week, hockey fans were champing at the bit for newsworthy NHL trades. There were minor deals as the expansion draft passed, and the suspense only grew as the NHL Draft approached.

It’s safe to say that the fans got their wishes.

The past two days have featured former first round picks, backup goaltenders and Stanley Cup champions. If that wasn’t enough, there are likely more coming even before free agency hits on July 1. Until that happens, let’s analyze the top NHL trades that went down before the draft.

Golden Knights ship Trevor van Riemsdyk to Hurricanes

Trevor’s time in Vegas was short-lived, as the expansion team acquired a 2017 second round pick for trading him and a 2018 seventh round selection.

van Riemsdyk is a young asset heading to a younger team. One needs perspective when analyzing his season. He missed time with an upper-body injury which underscored his stats. Still, he was +17 with 100 blocks and 16 points in 58 games.

The former Blackhawk joins three former teammates in Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom and Scott Darling. Perhaps that can help his transition. He’s a capable right-handed shot that helps Carolina get younger and faster. Vegas adds another high draft pick to build their team.

Grade: B+ for Carolina, B for Vegas

Oilers and Islanders swap Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome

Jordan Eberle was the first of what Isles fans hope to be more NHL trades.

Jordan Eberle heads to the Big Apple. Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images.

New York getting Eberle long seemed inevitable, but it was intriguing how it occurred. It was a one-for-one swap after many reports had Edmonton seeking a prospect or draft picks.

This was an excellent move from Isles general manager Garth Snow. He paid a heavy price in a first-rounder to prevent Vegas from taking a number of players, and it essentially means they traded it for Eberle.

The former first-round pick disappointed with the Oilers after scoring just 51 points. Pairing with his world championship teammate, John Tavares should boost his input and give Tavares confidence to sign in New York long-term.

As for Edmonton, this was a move that helps more for cap than on-ice skill. They ship $6 million on Eberle’s contract, which helped them extend defenseman Kris Russell. It also increases cap space for when Hart winner Connor McDavid needs a new deal.

As for Strome, he didn’t live up to his fifth overall selection with just one 50-point campaign in four years. He could benefit from a new environment, but on the ice, the Oilers don’t benefit as much. Edmonton could’ve received more for Eberle, it seemed.

Grade: A for New York, B- for Edmonton

Canadiens bring in David Schlemko from Golden Knights

Vegas sends out another expansion draft pick for a 2019 pick. This was a minor move from both sides, which didn’t have to give up much.

Montreal needed defensive help after shipping prospect Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu. In Schlemko, they get a blue liner with back-to-back double-digit point seasons. The 30-year-old vet had 112 blocks and a 53.6 percent Corsi rating. It’s not a major step forward; he hasn’t played a full season. If he’s healthy, he helps.

Grade: B for Montreal, INC for Vegas with draft pick too far away to judge

Niklas Hjalmarsson moves from Blackhawks to the Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson's move to Arizona ignited the flurry of NHL trades.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is headed to the Coyotes. Photo by Matt Marton, AP.

This is when the NHL trades started to boil. Chicago sent their 10-year defenseman to Arizona for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Even though Arizona’s front office is in a tenuous phase, they still took a big swing for a three-time Stanley Cup winner. He logged over 20 minutes per game in the past six seasons and had a career-high 181 blocks last season. He has excellent size, moves the puck well and can anchor the Coyotes’ blue line for a few more years.

As for Chicago, let’s just say fans were not happy about the news. They lose a strong core of their championship teams to relieve their cap.

Murphy is the better piece in the return deal, but he’s not as skilled as Hjalmarsson defensively. He’s 6-foot-4 and more lauded for his skating ability. The 2011 first-round pick can develop well under new assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson. How well he does dictates if this gamble pays off for Chicago.

Grade: A- for Arizona, C+ for Chicago with chance to work out better

Brandon Saad returns to Midway while Artemi Panarin heads to Columbus

Chicago wasn’t finished. In fact, they dropped a bomb on the NHL with this move. Saad returns to the Blackhawks along with goalie Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-rounder. The Blue Jackets receive Panarin as well as forward Tyler Motte and a sixth round pick in today’s draft.

This is a slam dunk for Columbus. They receive a Calder Award winner with consecutive 30-goal seasons. He’s dominant on the power play and adds a versatile offensive game to a team that can use it. His contract runs for two more years at $6 million, about the same as Saad.

The decision-making behind this for Chicago stems from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Panarin’s next contract would cost too much for Chicago based on their contracts. Plus, Saad was impressive playing on Toews’s line for two Stanley Cups.

Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Lazerus made a good point yesterday: Toews could regain his success with Saad while Kane will still produce without Panarin.

The Blackhawks have turned their team around to keep themselves atop the Western Conference. They have the chance to do that after these trades, but it’s a gamble. Columbus should get a productive Panarin, but it remains to be seen if he can contribute just as much without Kane. Each trade has its risks, but this is a balanced trade on both sides.

Grade: A- for Columbus and Chicago

Rangers dispatch Antti Raanta, Derek Stepan to Coyotes

Arizona continued to wheel and deal yesterday when they snagged their new starting goalie and a top-six forward. In exchange, young blue liner Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick, which the Rangers used to pick center Lias Andersson.

As written last week, Raanta was a name to watch in the expansion draft. When Vegas didn’t select him, Arizona was salivating. The Blueshirts’ netminder enjoyed a career season. He deserves the chance to nab the starting job.

As for Stepan, his contract was steep for New York and he’s automatically the Coyotes’ most expensive player. He’s also the best center now, recording four straight 50-point campaigns. Stepan also helps on the power play that ranked 26th last season in the desert. This was a high-upside trade that fills multiple roles. Now, about finding a head coach…

Meanwhile, New York gets younger on defense with DeAngelo. He’s just 21 years old with an offensive acumen, notching 14 points in 39 games for the Coyotes. DeAngelo is undersized and will have to improve defensively to crack the Rangers’ lineup. Andersson’s play will determine how this trade shakes out for New York. He comes from the elite HV71 in Sweden. While his skating, versatility and defense are superb, he didn’t stuff the scoresheet with 19 points in 42 league games.

Grade: A for Arizona (not just for the alphabet), B- for New York

Blue Jackets and Wild exchange forwards

Rounding out yesterday’s pre-draft NHL trades came with a small move for both teams. Dante Salituro heads to Minnesota while Jordan Schroeder goes the other way.

The 20-year-old Salituro provides goal scoring ability from a 5-foot-8 frame. He impressed in training camp and signed a three-year, two-way contract with Columbus last July. In 295 games across five OHL seasons, he tallied 122 goals and 160 assists. He won’t arrive in the Twin Cities anytime soon, but he has potential.

Schroeder is another small forward but is six years older. With the Wild this year, Schroeder scored six times for 13 points in 37 games. At 5-foot-9, he has to overcome his size. But on the ice, he has the instincts to maintain a roster spot.

Grade: B for Minnesota, C for Columbus

Blues snag Brayden Schenn from Flyer to shed Jori Lehtera

While yesterday trade hype built in the afternoon, it was quiet for most of the draft. There was a minor Blackhawks-Stars trade, but St. Louis and Philadelphia broke the silence. Schenn heads to the Blues by himself while Philly acquired Lehtera, the 27th overall pick (used on Morgan Frost) and a future conditional first-round pick. Elliotte Friedman breaks down the conditional pick.

The Blues upgrade with a more bona fide scorer in Schenn, who has 82 goals in the past three seasons. Lehtera is a great facilitator, but Schenn is an upgrade and Lehtera is making a lot of cash. The negatives for St. Louis is the possible price. They went back into the first round by trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, so the 27th doesn’t hurt. Two possible first-round picks can be a steep price.

Philadelphia can use Lehtera for depth as they ease new draft pick Nolan Patrick into the team. Frost provides speed and special teams abilities down the middle too. It seems the Flyers are prioritizing playmakers that can move the puck. Depending on where the conditional pick winds up, they can add even more pieces.

They have to replace Schenn’s production. Will they give Patrick the chance? Those two questions are the risks for Philadelphia at the moment, but ones that have quick solutions for a team on the rise.

Grade: B for St. Louis, B+ for Philadelphia

The Final Trade

As for Reaves heading to Pittsburgh, it’s icing on the cake for the Metro division. Reaves is an aggressive player that was 10th last season in hits. The Penguins love those types of players. He should perform well there as the division improves exponentially.

 

Feature image of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman by Anthony Souffle of the Chicago Tribune

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What Will it Take for Montreal to Win the Cup this Season?

After starting the season 13-1-1 the Montreal Canadiens have cooled off considerably. The Habs got off to a red-hot start this season but have managed only a meager 14-12-6 record since the start of December. Since returning from the All-Star break they have dropped four of their last six contests.

The Canadiens were humiliated in Denver on Tuesday night by the Colorado Avalanche. Given that the Habs trounced the Avs 10-1 back in December, Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the League’s last place team ought to be a bit of a wake-up call for the wavering Canadiens.

Though they won in the desert last night against the Arizona Coyotes, it was a less than commanding performance from the Habs. Carey Price had another less than stellar performance, letting in four goals after the team got off to a two goal lead in the first.

That said, Montreal is still sitting atop the Atlantic Division. Barring a repeat of last season, Montreal is almost certainly a lock to make the playoffs. But then what?

General manager Marc Bergevin has repeatedly stated that this is Montreal’s year, that his team is “all in.” And so it is here that the Habs organization and fans alike must ask themselves, what will it take for Montreal to win the Cup this year?

PRICE TO PLAY LIKE PRICE

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: . David Zalubowski, Associated Press.

Last year Montreal’s best player spent the better part of his season on the Injured Reserve. For the Habs, losing Carey Price to injury was the equivalent of the Washington Capitals losing Alex Ovechkin or the Pittsburgh Penguins losing Sydney Crosby.

Luckily for the Canadiens, that’s not been the case this year. Yes, injuries have plagued the team but their roster has remained more or less intact. Still, especially as of late, Price has not been Price.

Since December Price has struggled to stop the puck from finding the back of the net. He’s allowed three or more goals in 13 of his last 20 starts. Accordingly, his goals against average has suffered. Though Price has a very respectable .918 GAA on the season the statistics are skewed. For the month of December he sported a very un-sexy .898, January .901, and thus far in February its been .874. These are not Carey Price numbers.

Though he is still widely regarded as the best goaltender in the world, Carey Price is having a hard time living up to this title. Though nobody expects him to stop them all, three and four goal games are not something the Habs should get used to. If Montreal was producing on the front-end then this might not be such a big problem.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

SCORING

It’s simply too easy to say that the Canadiens won’t win unless they score goals. That’s obvious, it’s precisely the point of the game. Just how they manage to find those goals is up for debate.

If you’re head coach Michel Therrien, your solution to the slump is probably to continue mixing things up. Though Therrien’s ‘blender’ has been the punchline of distraught fans for years he has never abandoned the practice.

The main criticism of the ‘blender’ has been that it doesn’t give guys enough time to generate chemistry before being force to move to a new line. Without chemistry there is no production, without production Price has no support, and without those things games are lost.

Now if you’re general manager Marc Bergevin your options aren’t quite as narrow as Therrien’s.

The Canadiens’ lack of depth in scoring, particularly at center, has them rumored to be on the hunt for a goal scorer before the Trade Deadline. Among those rumored to be available for trade, the Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene has reportedly been on Bergevin’s radar. But at what cost? Avs general manager Joe Sakic has been clear that Duchene won’t come cheap.

Is Montreal willing to wager its future for the chance at a Stanley Cup in the present? This argument extends to any trade Montreal might make before the deadline. The alternative to a Duchene type trade would be to either secure a rental player for a relatively smaller return or leave things be and hope for the best.

Of course, as some have suggested, there is also a third option: fire Therrien.

The COACHing Conundrum

Fans have been calling for Therrien’s dismissal for years now.

Last season’s blunder was largely the result of injury woes and poor point production. Therrien, according to Bergevin, was not to blame. So instead of instituting a coaching change, Bergevin used the offseason to shuffle up the roster; trading away star defenseman P.K. Subban for the much more defensible responsible veteran blue liner Shea Weber.

The Canadiens find themselves in similar slump as last season, even with their revamped roster. But this season is different than last. They have Carey Price in net, they are capable of scoring (even if they haven’t been as of late), and the market is flush with coaches. Not only is it a buyers-market for teams looking to make move behind the bench, but if Montreal insists on a French speaking coach as they historically have, the time is ripe.

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: Bernard Brault, La Presse.

Claude Julien is only the latest head coach to be let go. His 14-year coaching career included stints with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and the Boston Bruins. He sports a very attractive 512-309-10-111 record over that span. During his tenure with the Bruins Julien won the Jack Adams Award in 2009 and the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: Associated Press.

Gerard Gallant was one of the seasons earlier coaching departures. His resume is considerably shorter than Julien’s but let’s not judge a book by its cover. Gerard’s first NHL coaching gig was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003. But after coming up short in 2003-04 and 2004-05, missing the playoffs both years, Gallant was let go 15 games into the 2006-07 campaign.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Gallant would take another stab at manning the helm, when he was brought on board by the Florida Panthers. Although the Panthers missed the playoffs in Gallant’s first year behind the bench he is largely credited with turning the team around, finishing first in the Atlantic Division last season, and making it to the Conference Quarterfinals. Injuries plagued the Panthers to begin the season and Gallant was unable to stop the ship from sinking, hewas relieved of his duties only 22 games into the season. Gallants sports a 152-141-4-31 record over the course of his coaching career.

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today

Patrick Roy rather abruptly left his post as the Colorado Avalanches head coach in the offseason. It’s no secret that Roy has strong ties to Montreal. He grew up in Quebec, began his playing career with the Habs franchise, and won two Cups with the team. He’s coached three season in the NHL, all of which were with the Colorado Avalanche. During his first year as an NHL coach Roy won the Jack Adams Award. But the team quickly crumbled, and Roy is no longer an NHL coach. During his time as an NHL bench boss Roy managed to put up a 130-92-24 record, winning a division title in that span.

Of course, if Montreal goes the route of firing Therrien mid-season, assistant coach Kirk Muller (former Hab and Stanley Cup champion himself) would most likely get the nod as interim head coach. Muller was brought back to Montreal after a brief coaching stint in Carolina Hurricanes ended.

SOMETHING HAS GOT TO GIVE

Though it’s unlikely Bergevin is looking to make a coaching change, a recently held meeting between himself and the players (sans Therrien) has many speculating that the Habs’ bench boss is on his last leg with the team.

Quite simply, they are looking for a spark. And that spark needs to come from somewhere. Whether that means upgrading the roster through a trade or saying bon voyage to their head coach the Habs are in desperate need of some wins if they have any chance at making a run at the Cup.

One thing’s for sure, if the Canadiens are to win the Cup this year Price will need to play like the All-Star he his and his team will need to support him with some production.

Just how the Habs plan to accomplish this remains to be seen.

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