February 21 2017 07:00AM
This is a four-part series analyzing where each NHL teams stands heading into the trade deadline based on the context of each division, and the short- and long-term implications of buying or selling with the expansion draft around the corner.
The Atlantic Division is complete wide open. Every day, depending on who happens to have a game, the standings shuffle up and down, as only a whopping twelve points separates first from last in the division. The Canadiens have a closing window that their general manager will surely try to capitalize on, while the Red Wings, Sabres, and Lightning, have had disappointing seasons and could sell. In the middle are the Senators, who nobody expected to be playing so well, the Leafs who still have their eyes on the future, the Panthers who are finally playing at a high level, and the Bruins who, uh, who knows!
February 20 2017 02:03PM
Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY SPORTS
Just over a month ago, on January 17th, the Leafs looked to be in a strong position in the standings. They had just won four out of five games and were 7th in the Eastern Conference, one point back of sixth with four games in hand. The standings were tight, with four teams beneath the Leafs within one game of them, but based on the way the Leafs had been playing and the fact that they'd played fewer games than most of the conference, it seemed like the Leafs would be able to build on their recent success.
Instead, in the sixteen games since, Toronto has gone 6-7-3. The Leafs briefly fell to ninth in the conference after Saturday's loss to the Senators but have climbed back into a playoff spot after last night's win against the Hurricanes. However, with the surging Florida Panthers, suddenly hot New York Islanders, and climbing Buffalo Sabres all right in the mix behind them, the Leafs' recent struggles have understandably led to concerns among a fan base that was riding high only a month ago, as their strong position has slowly deteriorated. But how much concern should there really be? Is Toronto's play slipping, or is there something else that explains recent results. I decided to dig into the numbers a bit to find out.
February 20 2017 01:54PM
Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
I've been having an internal debate over these last few weeks over why the Canucks have held at 46 salaried player contracts for the season.
At a glance, flexibility seems the most obvious reason. With 46 contracts, the Canucks can add players without too much handwringing. There's value in peace of mind, and by not overextending themselves it's likely the Canucks granted themselves just that.
However, another angle has come to the forefront. It's one I'd given consideration to but never credence, without definitive information to reaffirm it. What if the Canucks are saving contract spots for their NCAA prospects so that they might use games this season as an ace in hand and entice them to sign? With the possibility of burning a year of their ELC as a carrot to dangle?
February 20 2017 01:30PM
© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Once in a while I get someone telling me the Winnipeg Jets are a better team without Toby Enstrom. Typically the individual will defer to the Jets losing record with Enstrom dressed for the Jets.
So, how much validity is there to this position?
February 20 2017 12:00PM
It's been a rough season for the Flames' most dangerous player.
With 11 goals and 35 points in 49 games, Gaudreau is on track to put up his worst goal per game (0.22) and points per game (0.71) pace since entering the league. He has just two goals in his last 22 contests and was recently demoted the fourth line for a few periods after a poor turnover that led to a goal against. On top of all that, he's an unsightly -18.
A lot of theories have cropped up to explain Gaudreau's struggles. Eric Francis and Brian McGrattan suggested the team isn't tough enough to protect Gaudreau, leading to less scoring. Many fans have pointed to Glen Gulutzan as the culprit, with the notion that the new bench boss' systems are suppressing his stars' scoring. I've also seen the theory that the league has "adapted" to Gaudreau and he has to find new ways to generate points or that the player suffers from off-ice issues.
Out of curiosity, I took a look at Gaudreau's numbers to see what they could reveal. Have his coach or teammates somehow failed him, leading to fewer chances and shots? Has the league figured out how to keep Gaudreau away from the dangerous areas? Is he partying too much?
Spoiler alert: Probably not.