There are weeks where finding anything that interests me enough to put a round-up together is a bit of a chore. I suspect you’ll be unsurprised to read that this isn’t one of those weeks, so let’s get to it. In this installment, the Flames make a move and bust a string, I agree with Mike Milbury on something (and live to tell the tale), and a good man of the game passes.
Everyone around the club got to breathe a bit easier this morning after the Flames trounced Chicago. Marty Turco was kind enough to not play particularly well, but Calgary was the better team by a fair margin last night. One move arising from Olli Jokinen’s forced vacation that seemed to work out was one I’ve been agitating for this fall. I don’t think it’s news that Matt Stajan and Mikael Backlund aren’t exactly solid PvP guys, and Jokinen is badly miscast when he’s stuck in that sort of role.
My preference once everyone gets healed or off suspension would be to use Moss, Bourque and GlenX against good players on a regular basis. Moss split his time at EV last night pretty evenly against the Toews and Sharp lines with Glencross and Morrison at his side, and didn’t look out of place. Swap Bourque for Morrison, and you might have a decent group that can handle a bit of rough weather. It’s not as good as having Brad Richards show up, but making the best of what resources are on hand is one thing a NHL coach can control, and it would be a move worth considering, IMO.
The Flames’ new arrivals made their debut last night, playing low key roles in the affair. Anton Babchuk looks off the pace in terms of his skating, and that will be something to watch as he gets regular icetime. He can certainly shoot the puck, which might give a few other players some extra space on the PP at some point. Tom Kostopoulos was a bit player in his first game, properly suiting his ability.
I’ll confess a certain ambivalence about the White trade. Every other well paid D on the roster either has a movement clause or, in the case of Staios, no value, so White was always on shaky ground after the Gio extension. Moving him was likely the right thing to do, and it wasn’t like he was knocking it out of the park every night.
I’m not crazy about the return, of course, but operating on the premise that waiting until the deadline would prompt a team to give up a first round pick or good prospect for a smallish defenseman isn’t necessarily an accurate read of the market. Guys like Corvo, Leopold, Sutton and Grebeshkov went for 2nd rounders or 2nd rounders and spare parts last winter, and Grebeshkov wasn’t UFA at the time.
The one team that moved a first rounder last year for a potential rental was New Jersey in the Kovalchuk deal, and for whatever flaws Ilya might have, he was a more sought after commodity than Ian White would have ever been. You’d never know it by observing the actions of Darryl Sutter, but most teams are loathe to unload a first round pick, especially for a guy that can walk at season’s end. YMMV and all that.
The Avs sent the Rangers on their way with a 5-1 drubbing last night, leaving John Tortorella in a foul mood. Colorado’s still living a bit on the margins in terms of SH%, but actual play on the ice indicates that they’re a better team than last year’s bunch at the moment. Craig Anderson returned to the lineup against the Rags to good effect, stopping 25 of 26 shots.
Speaking of teams riding goaltending and good fortune to a decent record, Minnesota beat Calgary’s next opponent in OT last night. Jose Theodore, signed after the loss of Josh Harding right before the season, has posted some good numbers, but his SV% is inflated by a .968 number when Minny is down a man. Last season, only 4 goalies that played at least 40 games posted a PKSV% over .900. At some point, unless Theo and Backstrom are channeling Hasek, those results will dry up.
I see Nik Khabibulin is on the shelf again. Surprising to see such a robust picture of health on IR, isn’t it? As bad as I think Darryl Sutter is on many days, he can’t touch Steve Tambellini, and for that, all of us can be slightly thankful. Khabi’s injury will allow Devan Dubnyk a a chance to grab the number one job, and the Oilers might be better off for the change, because even if you look beyond DUI’s injury and off-ice flaws, he’s not really an elite goalie at this point.
The Flames will have a chance to meet the struggling Devils this week, with friend of the blog wi in attendance, and they’ll be without Martin Brodeur when it happens. Brodeur has had ongoing elbow issues, with a bump in Thursday’s loss to the Leafs exacerbating the problem. The Devils biggest hindrance is that they can’t get a puck to go in to save their lives 5v5 this year, as they currently sport a 5.5 SH%. That would be very bad in historical terms, so they’ll break the skein at some juncture. It can wait until next weekend, of course.
Boston has been cruising along, sporting a nice record, but again, they might be getting unsustainable goaltending. Rask and Thomas are very, very good, and I’d argue that they’re the best 1-2 combo in the game by a fair margin, but they aren’t .952 at 5v5 good. They’re shooting 9.5% at the other end, and no decent team in the league has anything close to that sort of positive differential, so a slight fall-off in results at some point might be worth watching for. They will get a good player back quite soon that might cushion that fall to a degree, as Marc Savard appears on the cusp of a return to the ice.
Savard, of course, was at the center of this week’s major item of interest. Tyler Dellow’s dot-connecting has left the league looking like even more of a circus than the most cynical might have assumed, and I’d urge all that haven’t watched James Duthie’s interview with Colin Campbell to do so, if only so that should you find yourself in a pickle, you’ll have a clear idea of how not to respond. Mike Milbury, in a moment of clarity so out of character that I can only assume it was brought on by ingestion of peyote, has a perfectly sensible take on the matter.
I suppose my feelings about any potential corrective actions that the league might take are tempered by the realization that the NHL is, at its black heart, the ultimate old boy’s club, and no one is more of an old boy than Colin Campbell. There is exactly zero chance of anyone employed by the league, from Gary Bettman on down, speaking ill of Colin Campbell’s job performance, and we’ve seen plenty of sand in the eyes sort of stuff from various off the record sources this week.
Colin Campbell might be a perfectly nice man who would go out of his way to walk an old lady across a busy street. That doesn’t mean he should be exempt from knowing how to properly recuse himself from certain disciplinary matters, or knowing that a Blackberry can send emails that others might read, or anything else remotely related to his job description.
In other off-ice happenings, I can’t help but be a bit puzzled by the move on the part of the Islanders to exile Chris Botta of NYI Point Blank from their building. Botta, a former employee of the club, apparently got on Garth Snow’s bad side by mildly questioning the rebuilding process currently underway on the Island. There are some damned short memories in that organization, I’d say.
Chris Botta was a very friendly voice in the club’s interminable, and ultimately fruitless, battle with the town of Hempstead to finalize the Lighthouse development project, and for a team with almost no media coverage in New York, you might think that they would see the benefits in allowing a person who seems positively disposed to their franchise to have access.
Pat Burns passed away yesterday afternoon after a lengthy battle with cancer. I’d rather that people didn’t use his death as another chance to scrap over his non-election to the Hall of Fame, and I have no dog in the fight, so I’ll simply offer my condolences to his family and friends. Pat Burns was 58.
Have a good weekend.