All NHL teams have 10 or less games to play still in the NHL regular season and now the Western AND Eastern Conference Wildcard playoff races have become a slugfest to the finish. Let's take one more look at the playoff picture, as of right now, with just a handful of games remaining before the playoffs begin on April 15th.
Eastern Conference - IN: Montreal, Tampa Bay, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, Detroit LAST 2: Washington, Ottawa BUBBLE: Boston, Florida OUT: Buffalo, Toronto, Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, Philadelphia
Wow has this been fun to watch in the East. Well, maybe not if you are a Bruins fan. But as a fan of hockey in general it has been quite the roller coaster. First it looked as if the Bruins could hold off the Panthers for the final spot down the stretch, then Florida started making a real run for the 8th spot, then fell off and now it's the Senators making their push backed by goaltender Andrew "The Hamburglar" Hammond. The Sens have been 9-1-0 over their last 10 games including winning their last 7 straight, while Boston has fallen 1 point behind in the 9th spot in the East, going 5-3-2 over the last 10 while losing their last 5 straight. Talk about trending in opposite directions. Also, Carey Price is on a level of his own. If you don't believe me go look at some of the saves he's made the past few days. Insane.
Western Conference - IN: Anaheim, St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, Vancouver, Calgary LAST 2: Minnesota, Winnipeg BUBBLE: Los Angeles, Dallas OUT: Arizona, Edmonton, San Jose, Colorado
I have no clue what to make of the wildcard race in the Western Conference. Is it Winnipeg? Is Calgary for real? Is Los Angeles going to make their usual run into the 8th spot and then win the Stanley Cup? Is San Jose this bad? All questions that I can only answer by shrugging my shoulders as I sit back and enjoy the mayhem in the last few days of the season. The NHL would LOVE to have Los Angeles in the playoffs because, well, duh...Defending Champs = Ratings. But it's looking more likely that they may just have run out of late season magic over the past few years.
It's been an interesting road back to the Milwaukee Admirals for former Captain Scott Ford. A veteran of 366 games with Milwaukee, Ford rejoins the team after playing part of this season with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. Ford is second in Admirals AHL history in games played, only behind Mark Van Guilder who passed Ford just a few days ago. He was not signed with the team at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, but was not far from the team being spotted around the home dressing room early in the season. It seems the work has paid off for Ford to return to Milwaukee, a city he has embraced fully in his 6 years with the Admirals, and the city has embraced him right back.
A few comments from the news Ford was returning to the Admirals:
Adrian K. - "It's about time!"
Travis R. - "So glad for you to be back where you truly belong!"
Erin L. - "Our favorite Admiral is back in Milwaukee!"
I was able to talk with Ford a few days after his return to Milwaukee as the Admirals get set for their Wednesday night (3-25) game against the San Antonio Rampage:
Today we unveil the very first installment of The Fan Hockey Podcast! Very excited to have the opportunity to have talked with Steve "Dangle" Glynn earlier today. You can find his work at LeafsNation.com, on YouTube with his Leafs Fan Reaction (or LFR) video series, and for SportsNet in Canada. He was able to spend some time talking about the Leafs season, the NHL Playoffs, and much more. Follow the link below:
Monday kicked off the NHL general managers meetings in Florida with topics like goalie interference, diving, 3-on-3 overtime, and replay challenges to be the main focus of the discussions over the next few days. The main focus will be on the extent of replay in the NHL and the possible expansion of replay to include coach challenges of goalie interference in games, which is currently up to the referees on the ice.
The purpose of the review is always to leave a call without a doubt, and in recent past, interference calls have come under scrutiny. Having coaches be able to make the challenge could slow down the action, which is what one anonymous NHL coach is afraid of, but he is reportedly in the vast minority. The action in the NHL is so fast-paced that to rely on the naked eye of the on-ice referee is becoming harder to stomach when your team is on the wrong end of a game-changing call. Especially when NHL games are televised with some 20 cameras on the action, you can access replays on your smartphone, and every angle of the game is viewed from an NHL replay center. There is too much technology in today's age to not consider an expansion of the replay system.
Another topic on the table is the implementation of overtime rule changes similar to those that happened in the AHL this last off-season. The American Hockey League, the minor-league for the NHL, made changes to their overtime rules this off-season that included a 4-on-4 period for 3 minutes of play, then a 3-on-3 period of play for 4 minutes and if no goal occurred THEN heading to the shootout.
Just yesterday, the AHL released their overtime data through March 15th:
Games ending in Shootouts
2013/14 - 15%
2014/15 - 5%
Overtime games ending in Shootouts
2013/14 - 65%
2014/15 - 23%
It is staggering to see the percentage of games that go to the shootout dip so low after just 60+ games of the new rule being in place in the AHL. Also to see the number of overtime games ending in shootouts cut by over half is insanely refreshing. Do we love the highlight reel dangles and goals that come from the shootout? Yes, but to have the outcome of a game come down to a 1-on-1 situation is not the right way to do it. Watching AHL games that go to the overtime period, you almost hope that nothing happens in the first 3 minutes, just so you can see the 3-on-3 segment. Every trip down the ice becomes an opportunity to end the game, shifts become more important as the ice expands and odd-man breaks are rampant. Talking with coaches, they hate it. Talking with players, they love it for the most part. It would be a lot of fun for fans to see NHL pros playing with so much open ice and if 3-on-3 overtime were to land in the NHL, we'd see some tremendous, throwback style pond hockey with the best players in the world.
It remains to be seen whether or not the fuddy-duddies General Managers, will enact changes for the future of the NHL in these spring meetings. What do you think? What would you change about the league?
About a month ago we took a look at the NHL Playoff picture with less than 30 games to go. Now every team has less than 20 games to play before the end of the regular season, so let's take a second look at what the playoff picture tells us.
Eastern Conference IN: Montreal, Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, Detroit LAST 2: Washington, Boston BUBBLE: Florida, Ottawa, Philadelphia, New Jersey OUT: Buffalo, Carolina, Toronto, Columbus
It seems as if the Bruins will do just enough to hold off the Panthers for the final spot in the East, while trying to catch up to Washington seems just a bit out of reach for Boston. Florida is facing goalie issues with injuries, nearly having to turn to their goalie coach in an emergency spot after both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya got hurt against Toronto a few days ago. The Rangers continue to head north, Philadelphia looks to make a run (Won't matter), and Buffalo is officially eliminated from playoff contention.
WesternConference IN: Anaheim, Nashville, St, Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Vancouver LAST2: Winnipeg, Calgary BUBBLE: Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado, Dallas OUT: Edmonton, Arizona
Don't look now but the Predators are trending in wrong direction for the first time this year and they could not have picked a worse time to do so. Anaheim has taken the lead in the West while Minnesota has surged into the top 6 spots thanks to San Jose slumping after the All-Star break. Chicago is still, somehow, deficient on the power-play which will never help your team down the stretch to the playoffs and Calgary continues to be a surprise top 8 team, while the defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings are on the outside looking in. Also, Edmonton and Arizona continue to rebuild and hope for some Vitamin McD come June.
It came and went on Tuesday at 2pm local time, the NHL Trade Deadline saw some of the biggest blockbuster rumors NOT follow through, and the major storylines were to tank on one end, and win now on the other.
So here are the best and worst moves of the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline:
Best "Win Now" Deal - Chicago Blackhawks acquire Kimmo Timonen, Antoine Vermette, Andrew Desjardins
For a team that just days before the trade deadline lost their best player, the Blackhawks at first glance have mortgaged their future for a run at the Stanley Cup this year. They trade away Klas Dahlbeck, Ben Smith, and their 2015 1st and 2nd round picks in the process, while retaining veteran winger Patrick Sharp amongst (untrue) rumors of locker room divide. But at a second glance, the Blackhawks will receive early round picks back this summer as Sharp is more than likely going to be traded at or before the NHL Draft as the cap hits of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane kick up after this season.
Best "Awww" Moment - Jordan Leopold traded to Minnesota Wild and Jordyn Leopold's Letter
If you haven't seen or read it yet, go and search it out as Jordan Leopold's daughter wrote a letter in January to the Minnesota Wild, pleading for them to make a trade to bring her father to their hometown team because he was "lonely." It makes you realize that the business of sports and especially the free-agency and trade factors of the business take a toll on more than just the player. Families are involved as well. It was a touching moment and hoping Leopold in no longer lonely and helps the Wild in their hunt to make it into the playoffs.
Worst "Bang for your buck" Deal - Jeff Petry traded to Montreal Canadiens from Edmonton Oliers
So get this, in 2006 the Oilers select Petry with their 2nd round draft pick. Then spend the next 8 years developing him into a serviceable defenseman and a player that they could turn to in their year-to-year rebuild since losing in the Stanley Cup finals in 2006. Then they trade him away to Montreal, the only really respectable Canadian NHL team at the moment, for what...a 2nd round pick. The Canadiens get that much better on their blue-line and Edmonton sinks deeper into the abyss of the NHL.
Worst/Best "Tank Job" deal - Buffalo trades away Brian Flynn, Michal Neuvirth, Torrey Mitchell, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, and Chris Stewart for 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th round picks and Chad Johnson / Arizona Coyotes trade away Keith Yandle, Antoine Vermette, and Zbynek Michalek for Anthony DuClair, John Moore, Klas Dahlbeck, Maxim Letunov, two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick.
The Sabres have truly gone off the edge. Seriously, who in the hell are they going to put on the ice? They've literally become an AHL team and didn't even walk away with a 1st round pick for it. Oh, and there isn't a guarantee that the great Connor McDavid will land in Buffalo. But enjoy Evander Kane before he gets sick of losing. On the other hand, the Coyotes decided that being bad for the next year will land them either McDavid or Jack Eichel, and they come out with promising youth in DuClair, Letunov, and Dahlbeck as well as extra 1st round picks in the next two NHL drafts. Stick-taps to the Yotes here.
Best "....WHAT?" Deal - Toronto Maple Leafs trade David Clarkson to Columbus for Nathan Horton
David Clarkson has probably the worst return for his contract in recent NHL history. In 118 games with Toronto, Clarkson amassed 26 points (15G, 11A). For his services, Clarkson is making $4.75 million this year, $5.5 next season, $7 million the next 2 years, $4.75 again, and $3.25 in the final year (2019-2020). That is insane money for a guy with a career .36 Points per game percentage, .22 PPG over the past two seasons. They get rid of that for Nathan Horton, a guy who has not played this year due to long-term injuries in recent years. Horton may not play again in the NHL ever again, but if he does get back to full health, his return for the contract that the Leafs would be on the book for ($6 million/year for the next four seasons, $4.5 and $3.6 million between 2018-2020) would be around a .67 PPG for Horton's career. Incredible deal for Toronto as they hold on to players rumored to be shipped out like Phil Kessel, Dion Phanuef, Tyler Bozak, Joffery Lupul, Nazim Kadri...literally everyone, until the summer rolls around.
What do you think? Who won and lost at year's NHL trade deadline?