With the trade deadline finally past, everyone is now turning their attention to the home stretch of the regular season. Everyone is in the neighborhood of 20 games to go, and those 20 games go quick, man.
Of course, maybe that depends on your perspective. If you’re a Senators, Canadiens, or Canucks fan, the next month and a half is probably going to feel like a hell of a slog. (From what I understand, in Vancouver it’s the media and fan’s fault, but I digress.) But if you’re a fan of the Bolts, Bruins, Leafs, Jets, Pens, Flyers, etc., you just want to run out the clock, keep everyone healthy and get to the damn playoffs already.
Nonetheless, we’re about to learn a lot over the next six weeks, and dang it, people have questions! So let’s go already.
LJ2B asks: “Brad Treliving has done a great job re-signing core players and not much beyond that (Stone extension, Brouwer etc). How hot is his seat right now?”
Right this second I don’t know that it’s particularly hot. Even if Calgary misses the playoffs, they can blame Mike Smith’s injury and maybe a few other factors before they have to fire anybody, and they would probably start with Glen Gulutzan before they got to the GM’s spot.
I mean, Gulutzan has made a lot of weird and not-very-good decisions, the most recent of which is trying out Chris Stewart, claimed off waivers from a Minnesota team that can’t score, alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
This is something the Flames really should have been able to address by now; you don’t necessarily need a first-line winger for those two, but you need someone who can skate and has some amount of offensive competence. Treliving has thoroughly failed in helping those guys, but Gulutzan is trying as many square pegs as possible.
Another Gulutzan mistake that has for-sure cost the Flames some points in the standings: Not using Dougie Hamilton on the first power play unit until, like, two weeks ago. How does that not even occur to you?
Anyway, the Flames are in their current position both because Treliving hasn’t done well in the free agent space and because Gulutzan hasn’t put the right personnel together even with the roster a little lacking.
But as so often happens in this sport: Treliving will get the chance to make an actual good call on a coach (Gulutzan wasn’t that) before he’s packing up the stuff in his desk.
Brad asks: “If the Blue Jackets do not win a series in the playoffs or if they miss the postseason entirely, do they bring back Torts to coach next season?”
Well, so, John Tortorella has one year left on his contract after this one, having signed a one-year extension this past summer.
One imagined, at the time, that they were overestimating the quality of the job he did in getting Columbus into the playoffs (before immediately getting smoked by the eventual Cup winners). One further imagines that now, with Columbus trying to hold on to the final playoff spot despite a pretty talented roster, that decision doesn’t appear as wise.
I’ve written about this before, but the problems with Columbus really do seem to be coaching-related, rather than anything to do with a shortage of talent. The special teams have been a disaster, full stop. And that’s on the coach.
So I can very easily see Tortorella being replaced if things go sideways, but the entire management group (GM Jarmo Kekalainen, AGM Bill Zito, and hockey ops president John Davidson) are also only signed through the end of 2018-19, on extensions signed before the start of 2016-17. One wonders if a shakeup behind the bench behooves them or if they feel like this is an issue they can deal with internally.
Trevor asks: “Why did the Panthers not make a trade for a top player?”
I talked about it the other day, albeit briefly, but I really don’t understand the collective delusion surrounding this team. At all.
On deadline day they were five points out of a playoff spot, with multiple teams between them and the second wild card slot. The idea that they could add, say, Ryan McDonagh — for whom they reportedely kicked the tires — and make up that difference is delusional.
So the better question here is, “Why would they try to?” Obviously McDonagh helps you going forward, but should this Florida team really be floating futures to get a late-20s defenseman, regardless of how good he is? The only reason they’re even close to a playoff spot, and that’s being generous by the way, is that a 38-year-old goalie is having one of the best seasons of his career. Probably not something that continues.
Let’s put it this way: If the Panthers are “a top player” away from even being in the legitimate playoff hunt, there’s no point to making that trade. They’d get gutted by whatever team finishes first in the East this year. Better to actually build a competitive roster through all the good drafts they’ve had the last few years.
Angie asks: “How do you regain respect for your team after they brought on Kane?”
Obviously this is a situation where Evander Kane was accused of some very bad stuff and it’s 100000 percent your prerogative to think he’s a bad person. I think most people know how I feel about all this.
But as far as NHL teams go, it’s the same with the Patrick Kane situation: The charges were dropped and if there’s no criminal issue any more, they don’t see a reason they should care about it. Should they care? Absolutely. But they don’t because they are not obligated by law or league rules to do so.
I’ve never really forgiven, if that’s the word you want to use, Chicago for how they handled their own Kane-in-Buffalo case. I don’t have an emotional attachment to the team, of course, but I know a decent number of fans in that town haven’t either. The Sharks, perhaps, have an opportunity to do a little better with it, but if you’re who’s disgusted by teams giving second and third chances to people who have been accused of what the Kanes were, that’s extremely understandable.
With that having been said, it doesn’t look like the Sharks are particularly interested in doing better with it. Their NBC Sports broadcast partner ran a poll on Twitter (since deleted) upon Kane’s San Jose debut about his “past off-the-ice issues” and whether they matter, somewhat trivializing assault allegations. This also allowed the overwhelming majority of voters to say no, they didn’t particularly care about that.
Which, hey, that’s the whole problem: As long as you can play the game really well, you’re free to do basically whatever you want off the ice and have it excused.
The Red Wings have about $18 million in cap space next season, and have to re-sign these two, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Martin Frk, and Jared Coreau. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of roster turnover (except to say they will also have to replace Mike Green).
Both these players are still on their ELCs, and both are having pretty good but not phenomenal years. They likely won’t break the bank unless they go super-long-term. Which they might. Larkin, who has more of a pedigree than Mantha just based on having been in the league for a few years, could end up with almost 60 points. Do you pay a guy like that $4.5 million over five or six years? You probably do, and that seems fine to me.
Mantha, meanwhile, has a shorter track record and, this season, is scoring at more or less the same pace as he did last year. He should end up in the 45- or 50-point range if things break his way over the final 20 games or so, and if you want to say that’s worth in the $3.75 million range, that checks out for me.
However, the Red Wings are such an interesting case because look what Frans Nielsen makes. Look What Justin Abdelkader makes. Look what Darren Helm makes. If you’re judging future contracts for guys on their ELCs on that basis, these are $6-million players, right? But those guys are also veterans who “earned it” as opposed to guys on the wrong side (financially) of 25.
Ryan asks: “Why is the perception so stark between trading a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick for Tatar versus giving an offer sheet to Kucherov for $7,851,948 to get a better value?”
Well I think it’s important to note here that Vegas gave out those picks in three separate years, and if they offer-sheeted someone it would all be in one draft. That’s a major consideration.
However, I think the main reason we don’t see more offer sheets is that almost all of these GMs are good buddies and don’t want to piss each other off and all that stuff. I don’t know why signing guys to offer sheets would piss other GMs off if you were being sensible about it, but the distinct impression you get from talking to people is that it would 10000000000 percent piss them off. So that’s literally the only reason it doesn’t happen.
James asks: “What does Gostisbehere have to do to get some Norris love?”
He needs to not-win for a few more years, and then, at some point in the indeterminate future, become “due.”
It worked for Drew Doughty and it might still work for Alex Pietrangelo.
Honestly, though, I think if this continues and the Flyers stay this high in the standings, my man will get some serious consideration from voters. Probably won’t win, but a top-five finish seems very much in the cards for this year.
Fox asks: “What ‘underdog’ team has the best chance of winning their conference tournament?”
First of all, thanks for asking a college hockey question.
Second, depending upon how you choose to define “underdog” I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team like Union (which has been red-hot in recent months) or Harvard make some noise in the ECAC tournament.
However, I think the tournament that could very clearly produce an “underdog” champion is the Big Ten. Yeah, Notre Dame is great, and so is Ohio State, but Penn State and Minnesota are the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds and I really like both those clubs. An upset there wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise.
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