NHLN Notebook: Leastern Conference no more, Doughty Norris Speculation, and Girgensons Trade Rumours

Christian Pagnani
December 12 2016 12:36PM

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The Eastern conference may no longer be the Leastern conference. Four out of the top five teams in the league come from the East, and that becomes all five if you sort by winning percentage. The Metropolitan division is leading the way with five teams projected to either come close or break the 100-point threshold. Both Wild Card spots will likely be occupied by Metropolitan teams and the East will feature some of the league's strongest teams come playoff time. Pittsburgh doesn't look like its missed a beat and Philadelphia and Columbus look like new threats. 

The Dominant East: 

The Western conference, however, has undergone a steep decline. After both Wild Card playoff spots were occupied by Central division teams last season, they're all closer to last place than they are making the playoffs. The Pacific division was often thought of as the best division in hockey with the California teams acting as a sort of death row for teams to run through on a road trip, but this seasons shows a much weaker division. Anaheim is currently in first with 35 points in 29 games, and at their current 96-point pace they would win the division, but this same record would have only placed eighth in the same conference last year.

Winning percentage also shows a more accurate picture with some teams playing more than four or five games than another team at a time. Winnipeg has five more games played than Los Angeles and Philadelphia has four more than Washington. San Jose is out of the three Pacific division spots, but they're projected to come close to the same amount of points as division-leading Anaheim.

Speculation around Doughty's curious 2016 Norris Trophy:

This might be one of the most interesting stories because of how simultaneously believable and unbelievable this sounds.

On Ottawa's pregame show against Los Angeles TSN's Don Brennan says that "some of the methods that [Doughty's representatives] used to get people to vote for their guy last year I find to be, not something that they will ever admit to doing," and that "guys who are in the insider business" were told  "by his agency that if their boy doesn't get some votes the tap for insider information might kind of get squeezed off". The idea that a player or agency wanted an award so badly they would threaten to withhold information from their sources makes some sense if the player was extremely competitive. Then the agency doing whatever they can to help make that happen also adds up as they're just trying to make their client happy. Withholding information to the media seems like a plausible way to secure a Doughty vote. 

Doughty winning the Norris when Erik Karlsson puts up a point-per-game season makes me want to go full-Mulder but the Scully in me feels like this is just a little too farfetched. Drew Doughty shares the same agency as Erik Karlsson so I can't imagine Karlsson would feel too enamoured finding out his own agency was campaigning against him, and I wonder about the potential legal issues with this as there are specific provisions in a players contract that award him bonuses when they win a major award. 

It's a very intriguing story, and even though we won't know how much truth this has to it, it makes the Doughty vs Karlsson debate a lot more fun.

Zemgus Girgensons in trade rumours:

On Saturday's Headlines Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman spoke about he thinks the Buffalo Sabres have been getting calls about centre Zemgus Girgensons, but they're not willing to sell low as they still believe in him.

Girgensons will likely draw some interest as he is a young, 6'2 200lb centre, but he's averaging 11 minutes a game and his offensive game doesn't look like more than a third-line player. Girgensons has a 30-point season to his name but that was when the Sabres were tanking and he was averaging 19 minutes a game. In a reduced role he's likely a 20-point player, but that still has some value with Girgenson's age and potential to improve.

The Sabres have a somewhat crowded centre position with Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel, and potentially Sam Reinhart, so it's easy to see Girgensons having more success somewhere else. The Sabres have a glut of injuries on defense so a similar aged left-handed defensemen would probably be an ideal return for Girgensons. 

Johnny Hockey

Johhny Gaudreau, with a lot of influence from his agent I'm sure, successfully trademarked 'Johnny Hockey'. Gaudreau and his agent are now free to plaster this on clothing as they please, and some people might say this arrogant or egotistical of Gaudreau, but he's just being smart with his brand . I'm sure there are many young Calgary Flames fans that would love to have a Johnny Hockey shirt, and hey, maybe Gaudreau can give some advice to the Vegas Golden Knights regarding trademarks. 

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I like to read and write about sports. I'm @chrispagnani on Twitter.
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