NHL Leaves Itself With No Choice in All-Star Game Selections

Ah yes, the annual ritual is upon us today, complaining about the NHL All-Star Game selections

Well, at least we don’t have any worries about John Scott showing up and, you know, having fun this year.

But, as usual, we have complaints, lots of them. Mostly about who got snubbed, but also about Johnathan Toews, probably rightfully so.

Here’s the thing about the picks. By the time the NHL switched around the format, put more teams in some division than others, and tried to get one representative from each team, there’s not much they can do.

Take, for example, the division I follow most closely, The Metropolitan.

There are 8 teams in the division. Each team has to have one players selected. There are 11 spots on the roster. So, really, there are 3 spots that are up for grabs. Three….

There are over 160 “other” players in the division after you take one from each team, so yeah, go ahead and pick three.

Seriously, think about it, especially if you’re a forward in the division. Fans are going to want to see Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin, so that’s three spots. John Tavares was always going to be the Islanders representative. So there’s really only 2 forward spots open. If your team has a legit defensemen or goalie who could be entered instead, or already has a forward spot taken, you have almost zero chance of being named an All-Star. I’m looking at you Phil Kessel, Nicklas Backstrom, Cam Atkinson, Michael Grabner (Seriously, Michael Grabner?), Nick Foligno, Chris Kreider, Jeff Skinner, and so on. There’s simply no way for any of those guys to get squeezed onto the team. This year, the get squeezed out by Taylor Hall and Wayne Simmonds. Not because those guys are having demonstrably better seasons, but because the Devils and Flyers have to have someone, and their own teams already have someone else in.

It’s that simple. In the current format, the NHL isn’t being mean, it just doesn’t have a choice. It’s not rewarding the best players of the first half of the season, it’s giving the fans they “big names” they want to see, and making sure every fan base as someone to root for.

If you’re looking for fair, this is not the place.


Islander Fans Got The Opponent They Wanted

Yes, it seemed everywhere I looked on Twitter, there were Islander fans rooting really hard against their own team over the weekend, hoping to “fall” into a first round series with the Florida Panthers and avoid the Penguins.

I get it, the Pens have been playing great, the Panthers won what was clearly the weaker division in the East, it makes some sense. It sill made me uneasy. I hate the idea of rooting to lose, and I hate the idea that we all know which team you’d rather face. The truth is, you never know.

Think about it, the Pens have a question mark in Mark-Andre Fleury right now because of injury, the Panthers bring in Roberto Luongo to possibly stir the echos of Mike Milbury trades gone bad. Are we sure we want the Panthers?

Personally, I don’t think it matters. The Isles come in banged up, not playing very well, and still not having won a playoff series in 23 years. This is still the team that couldn’t generate any offense in the playoffs last season, and has been inconsistent on that front all year.

I think it’s going to be 24 years without a series win. I hope not, but I’m predicting the Panthers in 6.

Let’s at least hope the Isles don’t get swept. I’m going to be out of the country until the 21st. If the series only goes 4, I’ll miss the entire thing. If it’s because the Isles won, I’ll take it though! I want to see some Islander playoff hockey!

Hawks and Panthers Get Early Start on Trade Deadline

We don’t know what else the NHL trade deadline will hold for us, but this much we do know.

  • The Blackhawks clearly see a shot at winning the Stanley Cup and are going to do what they can to get there. They’ve already made moves to bolster their forwards, grabbing Andrew Ladd, Thomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise.
  • The Panthers, likewise, seem to be ready to make some noise, adding Jiri Hudler, Jakub Kindl and Teddy Purcell.
  • The Penguins are taking the Justin Schultz gamble, which for a single draft pick might be worthwhile, but he could also be a defensive disaster for a team that doesn’t need one of those too.

What else will we see?

I think the Rangers will make a move. Eric Staal is the obvious choice, but the Rangers will not sit this one out, they need another piece if they are going to make a Cup run.

The same could be said for Tampa, Boston, Detroit, and the Islanders, but whether they make a significant move or not is yet to be determined.

In the West, Nashville needs another piece up front, the Stars need some help on defense, and any of the Kings, Ducks, Sharks, etc. will be looking to shore up their lineups.

The bigger question is will there be anyone available that will actually make these teams better? Oh moves will be made, it’s just not clear that any of them will really push these teams over the top, without being a blockbuster type move for a star player, involving current roster players. I feel like there may be one or two of those in the pipeline, but could also see a trade deadline where nothing like that happens.

In the mean time, there are plenty of rumors. Most of which, are complete crap. The joys of trade deadline day!


What to Expect From the Islanders in 2015-2016

Islanders BannerHonestly, I have no idea what to expect from this team, and not because I don’t know that they’ll be a good team. I just don’t know where they’ll finish.

Last year, the Islanders came into the season with a bunch of new faces. Over the Summer, they brought in a couple of free agents, and then made the September deals for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk that completely remade the defense. The team then went out and piled up over 100 points and a playoff appearance that ended a bit sooner than many of us had hoped, in the first round against the Caps.

This year, the Islanders made precious few changes to the roster, obviously expecting that a return to health of some key players, and improvement from a bunch of core, young, players would leave them even better than last season. I have no doubt that will happen, but can we really expect them to repeat, or improve, on last season’s results? I’m not so sure.

The reality is, the Metro Division boasts 5 of the top 10 teams in the entire NHL, arguably. The Penguins, Rangers, Blue Jackets, Caps and Islanders are predicted to finish in some order in the top 5 spots in the division, and take 5 of the 8 Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Islanders could, quite frankly, wind up anywhere in that mix. They could be on top, they could be the 5th team and have a first round date with a team like Tampa Bay.

Heck, if the team suffers a few key injuries, we could even see them lose out on a playoff spot altogether, while still being a very, very good team. Think about it, the Flyers, if they can keep Mason healthy, could be better, and that will close the gap between 5 and 6. Also, in order for the Metro to get 5 playoff teams, the Atlantic will only have 3. We can assume Montreal and Tampa will be 1-2 over there, but 3rd will be competitive, with a quality Ottawa team along with perennial playoff team Detroit and an up and coming Panther team all involved. For the Metro to have 5 teams qualify, two of those last three won’t make it.

So, while the Isles should be an improved team this season, there are a whole lot of other teams that also improved themselves coming into the season. That makes the whole thing a gamble, but I think there are some keys that will decide the Isles fate:

  1. Division record. – Simply put, with the top 5 of the Metro as talented as it is, the record against each other will determine the order of finish. Win those games, and they’ll be fine. Struggle against those teams, and it could get dicey.
  2. Home Ice Advantage? – The Islanders move to Brooklyn this season, into a new arena. Will the atmosphere from the last season in the old barn, follow the team? Will it turn home games into an advantage with a raucous crowd, or will it be a little too quiet, a little too “hipster”?
  3. Health and Greiss – I have already mentioned how much key injuries could derail a season. It appears the Isles will head into the season with Jaro Halak missing a couple of games. Last season, the Isles did not get very good play in goal when Halak was sitting. Will Thomas Greiss improve on that? How many points will that be worth compared to last season? We’ll find out early, as the team opens with a home and home against the defending champs, without Halak. A full season from Grabovski and Okposo will also help a lot.
  4. Improvements – The Isles will be counting on consistent efforts and improvements from their core group of young players. Can Strome, Nelson, Lee, Pulock, Mayfield, etc. provide that? Will Petrov eventually be in Brooklyn when there are injuries, and can he continue to impress? If they don’t, I don’t think they can keep up in this hyper-competitive group. Will the special teams actually be half way consistent? They have to be better than they were last season if they expect to go further than they did last season. The future is now for this club, time to keep moving forward.

Will they do it? Again, I don’t really know. My gut says to expect this to be a year where the team improves slightly, but takes a step back in results. But I would not be surprised by anything at this point. The team is talented enough to win the division, and inconsistent enough to not make the playoffs. It all comes down to how well they can execute. My best guess is that they will fall somewhere in the middle, finishing 3rd in the division and hopefully winning a playoff series, but that will also be tough. Whether they win or not may just come down to who they play and how well they match up.

Either way, it’s hockey season. Let’s get it on!