10 Questions on the NHL Season: November 2013

Anaheim Ducks v Philadelphia Flyers

Hello, TJ McAloon and Kyle Warne here, NHL analysts at Place to be Nation, presenting the second of a monthly series.  Every month we’ll look at some of the most intriguing storylines in the NHL, and predict what the future might have.  Each month we will look back on our previous predictions and bask in the glory of being right! (hopefully)

Response to last month’s questions

1) Who will win the job as the Maple Leafs’ starting goaltender?

So we both went with Reimer and we both weren’t wrong.  We weren’t right either.  This one is VERY much still in the air with both guys posting solid stats.  I have no idea who is going to eventually come out on top in Toronto’s crease, but it will be exited watching to find out!

2) Is Andrew Ference being named captain a sign that Edmonton is still too young and underdeveloped to be an elite force in the NHL?

The Oilers are 29th in the league, only the expectedly terrible Buffalo Sabers have a worse record.  Lars Eller was right when he called Edmonton a junior team, these kids are in over their head without a veteran presence to stabilize them.  I stand by every condescending thing I said about this team last month.

3) The New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks essentially traded coaches in the off-season, which team will show more improvement early on?

So uhh…I’m an idiot.  Way to go TJ, My massive underestimation of both Tortorella and the Canucks has me looking like a doofus already!  Vancouver’s 12-9-5 record blows New York’s .500 12-12-0 out of the water.  Still, it’s not like I predicted Vancouver to suck or anything…

4) Which coach is most likely to be fired first?

Mother Fucker.  OK, I REALLY undersold Torts and Vancouver, Oh—and TJ predicted this correctly as Peter Laviolette.  You win this round!

5)  The Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings, and Columbus Blue Jackets have moved into new Conferences.  Who benefits the most?

Hey, I got one right!  The Red Wings are 11-7-7, good enough for fourth in the Atlantic.  Meanwhile the Blue Jackets are sitting at seventh in their conference.  The Jets are in the Central basement only above the Dallas Stars.  They ‘aren’t moving, not in that monster division.  TJ and I know not to bet against the Red Wings

6) Which First round pick from the 2013 NHL draft has the biggest upside as an 18-year old rookie?

And right back to missing what was in plain sight.  In my defense, who the hell saw a 17-5-0 start for Colorado coming?  Apparently TJ did, because Nathan MacKinnon has had a pretty nice start to his career.  13-points to date beating my pick of Jones who has been struggling.  Jones is an NHL defensemen, MacKinnon is a part of something special.

7) Will Chicago suffer from a cup hangover in the early season?

17-4-4. The Blackhawks are the Blackhawks, and they’ll contend for the cup again—I’m with TJ (which is proving to be a smart stance) This team is the closest thing to a dynasty we’ve seen in the cap era.  Odds are low they repeat a cup win this year, but don’t be shocked if we see Chicago hoisting yet another cup banner in the next 5 years.  Notice how every prediction I get right TJ did to?

 8) Will Hybrid Icing do well enough to warrant it’s continued existence.

Fuck. Hybrid. Icing.  Countless bad icing calls by the refs—this shit can cost teams games, playoff series—heaven forbid the Stanley Cup.  Ito doesn’t even eliminate the dangerous play it was created to combat!  If the attacker is ahead the race continues as always.  No touch Icing is easy to call, and the only way they eliminate the dangerous touch icing play properly.

9) Will Jaomir Jagr be traded to the Islanders, thus completing his tour of the old Atlantic division.

This is still looking just as plausible as before.  The Devils can’t score and the Islanders are a bubble team in the weak Metropolitan division.  Unless it looks like Jersey is going to make the playoffs (not bloody likely) Jagr will be shipped at the trade deadline for whatever the Devils can get for him.  Jagr is proving he still has something to offer as the Devils. The Islanders are as good a home as any.  A long shot, but not impossible.

10)    Will Marc-Andre Fleury be traded if he struggles in the early season?

Now an irrelevant question, Fleury has been excellent with a .919 save% and a 2.05 GAA, 6th in the NHL.  The Flower is staying put, for better or worse.

New Questions

maple-leafs

1) The Leafs were out shot in 13 of their first 15 games, yet are off to an impressive start 2nd in the division with a current 15-8-0 record. Is it unsustainable puck luck or proof of the team’s opportunism?

KYLE: I’m gonna level with you, I’m a Leafs fan—and I can tell you that the Leafs have been disgustingly lucky.  Seemingly every other game they’ve played has required the Leafs net minder to steal the game for them.  It’s not all bad news, the Leafs showed they can win games they have no business winning, which is the sign of a great team.  Still unless they correct their shots for/against ratio the Maple Leafs will start seeing more losses.  Ugly ones too, much like their away game in Vancouver.  I’m not predicting a catastrophic 10 game losing streak or anything, but the Leafs will not be leading their division by the end of November, Especially with injuries to 1st line centre Tyler Bozak and 3rd line centre Dave Bolland.  It’s do or die for the Leafs in November, is this really a playoff team—I say yes, but they aren’t no president’s trophy winner.

T.J.: It’s a little of both. The Leafs will not be able to stand the pace that they’ve set forth if they continue to allow teams to run all over them in the shots department. However, with how bad the Metro division has been this continued pace will not hurt their overall chances at making the playoffs. And if they do make the post season tournament, anything can happen.

Like being down three games-to-one, coming back to win the next two, going up by three goals in the third period only to lose in overtime, type of anything can happen.

2)  The Metropolitan division is currently under performing, is the division as bad as it appears or just off to a rough start?

KYLE: I’m going to tackle this team by team.  The Penguins lead the division and should have no trouble winning it.  What?  It’s the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby are good at this hockey thing!  Washington is in second only two games over .500.  I want you to re-read that last sentence.  I predict the Caps will improve in December and develop a record more competitive with the Atlantic division.  What? Alex Ovechkin is good at this hockey thing!  There is a steep drop off from there; the Pens and Caps are the only two Metropolitan teams with positive goal differentials (+11 and +9 respectively).  The Rangers are in third with an 12-12-0 record.  That’ll likely improve, but only because they get to beat up the stinkers in the division.  New Jersey can’t score; when it’s 2013 and JAOMIR FUCKING JAGR is your best forward your team has serious issues.Carolina has is a team wide minus margin, and their franchise player and Captain Eric Staal is a -11.  It’s the same story as last season for Carolina, they just can’t keep the puck out of their net.  Columbus is only two points out of last, which means they are only one point in front of those scrubs in orange masquerading as a hockey team.  Claude Giroux has hit rock bottom and the Flyers are a joke.  They may as well just strap some skates to the Broad Street Bullies.  Sure, they’re 60, but they can’t  do any worse. The Islanders are even worse than the Flyers sitting at the very bottom, and they still have no goaltending.

In conclusion, this is the weakest division in the NHL by a long shot.  They have been dominated in inter division play, and they will continue to be dominated in inter division play.  They have 2 teams that could hang in the Atlantic division, and 6 teams behind the Canadiens (5th in Atlantic).

T.J.: I think it’s just off to a rough start. As we’ve seen, the Penguins have come back to the pack while the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers have stepped their play up to contend for the division crown.

As for the rest of the division, their play is still very suspect. However, if the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, or the Philadelphia Flyers can put together a strong December, they’ll be right in the middle of a top-seed in the playoffs.

3) Will Varlamov see reduced starts because of his legal troubles? Should the Avs even care?

KYLE: No and no.  Roy is no stranger to controversy and will play Varlamov as long as he’s hot.  Also of note is that Giguere is getting the job done.  There is no reason to panic in Colorado.

T.J.: Yes his starts should be reduced and yes the Avs should care. This is the typical “how much does this player mean” type of situation. If the legal troubles that Varlamov were facing a role player like, Cody McLeod, he’d be released from the squad. However, because it’s their starting goalie, he gets a pass and is allowed to continue to play.

While the legal process plays out Varlamov should sit on the sidelines and wait till he’s either found guilty or innocent.

Claude+Giroux+Philadelphia+Flyers+v+Florida+H62vr4Id6pyl

4) Is it even possible for Claude Giroux to reverse his fortunes and have a shot at team Canada for the Olympics?

KYLE: No, the guy could score 4 straight hat tricks and I wouldn’t trust him to be consistent.  Besides, he won’t, in case you hadn’t noticed—The Flyers suck.  It’s hard enough to break out of a slump on a good team, the Flyers will just drag him down to their level.  Every morning Giroux wakes up contemplating how he can go on in life, looks in the mirror, takes a deep breath and says:

“At least I don’t play for Buffalo”, then he weeps.

True Story.

T.J.: With the recent injury to Tampa Bay Lighting forward Steven Stamkos, yes. When Giroux is on his game, like we saw in the first round of the 2011 playoff series against Pittsburgh, he is an elite player. He is one hell of a talented player and should represent his country in Sochi.

5) The Tampa bay Lightening have had more than enough offence for years with Stamkos lighting it up and St. Louis becoming the oldest man to win the Art Ross last season. Bad defense and goal tending have kept them out of the playoffs both of the last two seasons. They are currently tied for first place in the east–will they keep it up through November–or will their bad defensive tendencies come back and spoil the party?

KYLE: Tampa is for real, with the scoring support new goaltender Ben Bishop will receive, he only needs to be average, and his .931 save% and 2.08 GAA will get it done.  Also worth noting is the quality of their opposition.  Tampa has already beaten Boston, Chicago, and Colorado.  Tampa, Detroit, Boston, and Toronto are in a position to take first place in the Atlantic.  Tampa will compete for that placement all through November.

T.J.: With the loss of Stamkos to a broken leg, no. He will be back before the playoffs, I’ve seen as early as February, so they’re playoff hopes (THANKS METRO DIVISION!) aren’t dead.

fleury

6) With the sub-par play behind Marc-Andre Fleury and no timetable for a return of Tomas Vokun do the Penguins have to make a move for a viable backup goaltender?

KYLE: No, Fleury is playing great and their division sucks.  It’s not worth giving up something of value for a back-up unless Vokun won’t be healthy for the play-offs, otherwise The Penguins can wait it out.  We’re talking about a clear backup system in Pittsburgh, not a 1A 1B system like what’s in Toronto.

T.J.: Yes the Penguins must go out and find a backup goalie. There’s been no word on not only will Vokun be back this year, but if he’ll be able to come back at all. Now this isn’t a panic move to get someone like, Ryan Miller, but they should go out and look at a serviceable backup for a playoff run.

Like Tim Thomas from Florida.

7) After the first month of play San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hurtl looks to be a favorite to win the Calder. Will he continue to be the front-runner at the half way point of the season?

KYLE: Hertl is really promising, and playing for an awesome team, but I’m going to play the odds that ANY of the other rookies can step it up.  Monahan or Mackinon are the other current front-runners, but there are lots of rookies in the NHL.

T.J.: He’s currently five points up in the rookie scoring race over a four-way tie at second. The only competition that I can see overthrowing Hurtl is the number one pick from this year’s
draft, Colorado’s Nate MacKinnon.

If he can carry the Avalanche to a playoff berth, after getting the top pick in last year’s draft,
it may be enough to sway the voters away from the talented Sharks’ rookie.

8) The Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames, which team will have a better shot at making the post season when the calendar flips to December?

KYLE: The Oilers will have the better shot.  This doesn’t by any means mean that Edmonton is good, but their management is at least trying to make the play-offs.  Calgary is in rebuild mode—perhaps willing to send a top player in Monahan to the world juniors.  Also, who knows what will happen now that Bryzgalov and his thermos are on their way to Edmonton…God, just when I thought the media around Edmonton couldn’t get any better!

T.J.: Ha, I’ll take you readers behind the curtain here and tell you that when I wrote this question the Flames were in somewhat contention. Now, both teams are in the bottom of a very tough Pacific division with a better chance at making the Grey Cup than the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So my answer is neither.

1385439247000-11-25-2013-Alexander-Steen

9) Alexander Steen has 19 goals in 23 games could he make a 50-in-50 run?  

KYLE: I really like Steen, but there’s no way.  His shooting percentage is almost 30%, completely unsustainable.  A 50 goal season is possible and no small accomplishment itself, but 50 in 50 talk is a little premature.

T.J. : Kill Steen Kill is off to a great start, and it’s very hard to expect a guy who’s highest goal total in his career is 24 to keep this pace up. So, he will not keep this pace up. This pace is set for the elite goal scorers and not players who have been blessed to be off to a hot start.

10) Now that Peter Laviolette has been the first coach to get fired, who will be the next to lose their coaching job? (news of Kevin Dineen’s firing broke as I was typing this final answer.  So I’ll go for the next AFTER THAT.)

KYLE: Claude Noel.  The Jets desperately need wins, and Winnipeg fans are beginning to lose patience.  It’s Noel’s third season behind the bench, so he has had plenty of time to prove himself (as opposed to someone like Dallas Eakins).

T.J.: It’s hard to predict who the next coach will be to go now that Florida and Buffalo have cut their dead weight from behind their respected benches. I think that the rest of the league’s managers are safe, for now. However, if we visit this question again around the first of 2014 and a team like Ottawa, New Jersey, Nashville, or Winnipeg are still struggling then I’d be inclined to put their coaches on the hot-seat.

That’ll do it for this month.  See you in December to find out how many predictions TJ beat me at this time.

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.