Ramblings: Should the Canucks turn the page? Also, a great sleeper pick, the Isles looking grim and more
The Canucks. It seems I talk about every team but, with the exception this year of Loui Eriksson’s ineptness, the Canucks. That’s because, back in the Jeff Angus days he had them covered pretty well. And I know Ian Gooding’s a big fan so they get a fair share of mentions every Sunday. But they scored six goals on Tuesday and so I want to focus on them for a minute. Six goals were scored and Daniel Sedin managed just one assist. Henrik Sedin managed just one assist. Loui Eriksson managed just one assist. Has the page turned on these guys? In November of 2013 the twins signed a four-year contract extension that carries them through the end of next season, at which point they’ll be almost 38 years old. They are two seasons removed from 76 points (Daniel), but since that time everything has declined. The advanced stats indicate that the ideal situations for production are actually improving slightly, but the results are declining. And puck luck is right around the league average. There’s no reason for a decline other than…well, simply losing a step.
But in a game where Sven Baertschi gets leaned on a little more, they score six times. Baertschi gets three points and he also saw more power-play time than he’d seen in a month – and by percentage of available PP time he saw the most this season. The Canucks didn’t convert on the PP, but it does indicate to me that maybe Baertschi starts to play a bigger role. Not that I think he’s this slam-dunk future star, I actually don’t think highly of him, but on a team devoid of talent he’s the only other option along with Bo Horvat.
I’m just musing aloud here, but if the twins start getting 18 minutes of ice time instead of 19 or 20, and a portion of their PP time starts going to the second unit, then that might be better for all involved. The Sedins, the kids (like Baertschi, Horvat) – everyone.
Of course, all this is speculating about 40 and 50-point players. I mean, the Sedins are on pace for 55 (Daniel) and 52 points (Henrik) and Baertschi’s pace is for 41 points. But with different ice time distribution, it could be a catalyst for something that adds six or seven points for each of them.
By the way, Eriksson’s ice time is now being given to Baertschi. Sven is on the top PP unit with the twins and Brandon Sutter, while Eriksson is now on the second unit. As if you need me to paint you a grim picture of Loui Eriksson.
There was another side to that 8-6 game too. The side that actually won. And it’s time to start taking Derek Ryan seriously. The late-bloomer had three points last night and has seven points in his last four games, nine points in his last seven games. Here’s the lowdown on Ryan. He’s 29 years old and was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He had a middling career in the WHL (Spokane, where he played with the likes of Jared Spurgeon and Michael Grabner), though he did lead his team in scoring twice (once as an over-ager). It wasn’t enough to get drafted, because he wasn’t overly big or strong and his scoring was prolific enough to ignore that. He elected to go to a Canadian University, and in that circuit it’s tough to get noticed by NHL scouts. It happens (Mike Ridley, Steve Rucchin), but very rarely. He earned his degree in Science (and did well doing it), to cover his bases if the hockey thing didn’t work out (and it didn’t look great, not being drafted and all).
With the degree in his pocket, he continued to work on his hockey career and make a living at it while he could, signing to play in Austria. He led that league in scoring in 2012-13. After four years in that league, he signed a contract to play in the SHL and he led that league in scoring in 2014-15 with 60 points in 55 games and also won the MVP that year. That led to the Hurricanes signing him. He led Charlotte in scoring last season and was named the team’s captain. And now he’s up with the big club, but he’s producing so well that they can’t send him back down. Here were Carolina’s line combos last night:
#1 27% LINDHOLM,ELIAS - NORDSTROM,JOAKIM - STAAL,JORDAN
#2 23.9% AHO,SEBASTIAN - STEMPNIAK,LEE - TERAVAINEN,TEUVO
#3 23.9% RASK,VICTOR - RYAN,DEREK - SKINNER,JEFF
#4 15.2% MCCLEMENT,JAY - MCGINN,BROCK - STALBERG,VIKTOR
Playing with Skinner and Rask – yes, it’s time to take Derek Ryan very seriously. He’s owned in just 9.2% of Fantrax leagues.
Here's a couple of Ryan's points, as part of a four-goal-in-five-minute onslaught that got Ryan Miller pulled:
Just one day after I question Jamie Benn’s ability to produce, the Stars light it up. And they did it all in one period, too. From 5:41 of the third period through 13:57, Dallas scored five times and chased John Gibson out of the net. Actually, that last goal was an empty-netter from their own end. Anyway, Benn picked up three points, which was enough to put him on pace for 71 this year. Still a decline, and a steep one by his standards, but better. For what it’s worth, his 5on5 SH% is just 5.73% which is super low for him almost by half, indicating that puck luck has cost him more than a handful of points.
Jiri Hudler was stuck on the checking line, though he did pick up his first point as a Dallas Star. But because the team scored so many goals, I doubt there will be any line juggling for next game. So Hudler is stuck there for now.
Sergei Bobrovsky now leads the NHL with 17 wins. How about that. Remember how low his value was in the summer? Between his questionable injury history and Columbus’ (very) grim outlook for this season, and people were drafting him late if at all. But now suddenly Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson are superstars (kind of expected, but we weren’t really sure it was coming this year if at all) and Nick Foligno tapped into 2015. And Sam Gagner tapped into 2012. And of course Zach Werenski. Now Columbus is this legit playoff team with a top goalie and depth scoring. Who knew?
Still looking for his first point – Nick Bjugstad. Eleven games and counting. He was injured to start the year so I always give a player seven or eight games before passing any kind of judgment. But he’s past that number and he’s coming off three seasons in which he’s managed just barely more than a point every two games. I’m about ready to call a duck a duck here. He walks like one and he quacks like one. He’s still only 24 and I keep reminding myself not to completely 100% jump ship off a player’s potential until he’s 25. But boy am I close.
Roberto Luongo under Gerard Gallant: 8-6-0, 2.20, 0.925
Roberto Luongo under Tom Rowe: 2-3-2, 2.78, 0.903
With two points last night Jason Zucker has 10 points in 10 games. Still not getting any power-play time, though. Seriously – the guy is fifth on the team in scoring, three points behind the leader, and he leads the Wild in points per 60 with 2.7. But nada on the power-play time.
Dmitry Orlov has four points in his last five games and nine in his last 16, if you’re looking for a depth option on defense. And he had a point taken away from him last night too. His PP ice time has been fairly steady as a second-unit guy.
The Islanders are almost certainly not going to make the playoffs this year. You can put the nail in their coffin already. The only thing that could save them is an insane winning streak, or something close to it. And honestly, I think something like that is possible – if they fire the coach. You know I’m the last guy to call for a coach to lose his job. I’m usually defending them when the knee-jerk fans start getting antsy. But in this case, it needs to be done. Jack Capuano has been there for a long time. He accomplished a lot last season, after going through so much crap over the years to get there. But the team has won 11 out of 28 games this year and they’re in a division that’s ridiculously good. I mean, have you looked at the Metropolitan Division? They boast the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh best teams in the entire league right now. They have 54 games to catch a team that is 12 points ahead of them today, and leapfrog the Lightning and the Panthers to do it. I think if they lose the next two games then Capuano is gone. And next game the play the mighty Blackhawks, followed by Buffalo the very next night. The Sabres sound like an easy win, but they’re actually 4-2-1 in the last seven and the Isles will be playing them tired.
My thought – I’m seeing which Islanders I can get for cheap, as long as I have room on the bench for them. Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Strome and Nick Leddy are a couple of targets. Again – only if they cost very (very!) little and I can afford the roster space for a couple of weeks. Because when a coaching change happens, all Islanders will be taken off the clearance rack in your league.
Well, Henrik Lundqvist will get his net back now. Antti Raanta let in a goal. And lost a game. But it was a nice run and even in the lost he only allowed two goals on 26 shots. In all, during the four games he allowed three goals on 89 shots. I’m sure we’ll see Lundqvist play Dallas on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday before Raanta gets the net for the second of back-to-back nights against New Jersey on Sunday. A couple of stinkers from Lundy and a solid outing on Sunday by Raanta and the goalie situation gets pretty damn interesting.
If you click on either of their names above, you can see Raanta and Lundqvist in a chart with side-by-side comparables in various categories. Here are some interesting ones…
SV%, 1-15 feet: 0.883 (Raanta); 0.838 (Lundqvist)
SV%, 16-30 feet: 0.921 (Raanta); 0.879 (Lundqvist)
SV%, 31+ feet: 0.985 (Raanta); 0.951 (Lundqvist)
Avg. Shot Distance: 32.31 feet (Raanta); 35.11 (Lundqvist)
So the team plays better in front of Lundqvist, keeping the shots to the perimeter.
Jimmy Vesey fired seven shots on goal for the Rangers. He’s had 15 SOG in the last four games after 40 SOG in his first 26 contests. Could be a sign of breaking out of his minor slump.
With a goal last night, Zach Hyman has seven points in his last nine games. He’s starting to show about what kind of rate he can score at if he plays with the two future superstars. And frankly I think this will be a long-term trio. I think Mike Babcock really loves him with Auston Matthews and William Nylander (who had two points each last night).
Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed last night’s contest with an undisclosed injury. He’s considered “day-to-day”, but it’s concerning because last game he only played eight minutes and frankly he’s been struggling with the injury since sustaining it at some point during the November 26 game. Seven games without a point has pretty much killed his trade value. I know. I own him in one league. When he had seven points in 21 games he was still tradable. Seven points in 28 games…not so much. Now last year is looked upon as a fluke. I don’t see it that way. He had 51 points in 91 regular season and playoff games under a new coach who uses him differently. And following that up with seven points in 21 games isn’t concerning to me. A couple of two-point games and that number gets fixed. But instead, playing through an injury, his stats get worse and now we Vlasic owners are stuck.
With two points last night, Viktor Arvidsson has a nice little four-game points streak going. He’s tied for 14th in the league with 92 shots on goal. He has 12 points in his last 15 games and his PP time is way up since November 25th. That being said, he has zero PPPts since November 25th so I guess my point is moot. But he sits one point behind Ryan Johansen for the team lead in points. I don’t think it ends up that way (second on the team), but I do think Arvidsson will meet his current pace, which sits at 56 points.
RIP Alan Thicke. The Canadian actor died yesterday while playing hockey with his son.
Wayne Gretzky was at Alan Thicke’s house on August 9, 1988, babysitting his son Robin. He got a phone call from Bruce McNall letting him know that he had been traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Thicke will be remembered mainly as the father in Growing Pains, but there’s some pretty cool hockey lore to remember him by, as well.
And let’s end on a brighter note. Start your work day with some Rick Jeanneret calling a beautiful Jack Eichel snipe:
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