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Biggest NHL Disappointments at the Olympic Break

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As we hit the Olympic break, I have found myself wishing there was NHL hockey on TV instead of dudes ice dancing, but what are you going to do. A lot of the Olympics have actually been fun this year. I expected to be put off and possibly not watch much at all, but I have been glued to the NBC networks watching this stupid shit. Either way there are real sports that need some more attention, but keep your eye out for that little 15 year old Russian chick, she’s better at figure skating than maybe anyone has been at one thing since Jordan. I’m developing a crush, I know, luckily I don’t think it’s rape as long as we stay in Russia.


The Islanders

The more I think about the Islanders the more their slide this year seems to fit. But to be as bad as they have been is unacceptable. As it stands right now they have played 60 games, tied for the most in the East with Toronto, yet have the fewest points in their division and the third fewest in the Eastern Conference with just 52. The biggest blemish on their season has been their home record which sits at 8-14-8. You simply can’t follow up a trip to the playoffs with a home record of 8-22 in your first 60 games of the season.

But like I said, it sort of makes sense. Two years ago, they finished dead last in the Atlantic division and next to last in the Eastern Conference with just 79 points. Then last year was shortened by the lockout. They got hot late and I stress late because they had just 18 points after February before racking up 37 points over the course of the final two months of the season to sneak into the 8th seed and making the playoffs for the first time since 06-07. Now that we are back into a full length 82 game season, they are back to their old ways. They certainly should be a better team, but they are not good on the defensive end and they really struggle between the pipes. There are four teams in the NHL this season with a worse scoring differential, but they are the only team that has allowed 200+ goals this year. Just by doing some simple math, that equates to allowing 3.33 goals allowed per game. You can’t possibly expect to win games when allowing that many goals a night.

Yes, they made that series with the Penguins interesting, but they simply got into Marc-Andre Fleury’s head before anyone else was given the opportunity too. They have some nice talented pieces, at least on the offensive end, but they might be a few years out from actually competing seeing as to how bad their defensive unit currently is.

The Sabres

I know the only things Sabres fans expected from this season, was that they would be trading Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek at some point, but holy hell have they been bad. Vanek was the first to go and we are still waiting for the other shoe to drop, in Miller’s case, but to have just 38 points through 58 games is astounding. They have managed to tally a home record of 9-22 and a road record of 6-20 while having the worst goal differential, in the NHL, by a whopping 16 goals. Not to forget the fact that they have scored just 110 times this season, which is so poor they actually trail the next worst offense, New Jersey, by 25 scores. For the record, they are in fact on pace to surpass the record for fewest goals in a season by a team, 133 by the 53-54 Blackhawks, but anytime you are in the same sentence as a 60 year old record, you really suck. The thought that this Sabres team would be bad may have been unanimous, but they are going over and above to prove us all right.

The New Divisional Playoff System

First I just want to say, I like the realignment. I think it made total sense. I just don’t understand why they would set it so that the top three teams from each division automatically qualify for the playoffs then leaving just two wildcard spots. In my opinion only the winner should be assured a playoff spot, just look at the Eastern Conference in the NBA for christ sake. I could get behind the top two making it, but three is insane. Right now the top Wildcard in the Eastern Conference would be sitting 2nd if they had been placed into the East’s other division. Two years ago, when there were only five teams in each division, the Atlantic Division had four teams with as many or more points than any other team in the entire Eastern Conference. It just feels like this is setting up for a change in the near future, but not before an awful lot of complaining. Luckily for us ESPN doesn’t cover hockey so we won’t have to listen to two straight weeks of talking heads bitching, just a lot of Barry Melrose saying how the NHL got this one wrong.

Josh Harding’s MS Treatment

This poor guy should be viewed as an inspiration far beyond the attention Michael Sam, or even Jason Collins have received. He has battled back from multiple sclerosis to have a career year. He has started 26 games this year, winning 18 of them, while allowing just 1.66 goals per game which is by the way better than 2nd place’s Corey Schneider by .19, which is a remarkable amount. Unfortunately, he received some new treatment for his MS and hasn’t played in a game this calendar year. Hopefully he will be able to bounce back after the Olympic break and get himself prepared for a playoff run, because that Wild team is dangerous if he can be healthy. Also, the selfish part of me would really like to see him return so my +2550 bet on the Wild to win the Cup actually has a shot. I do really feel for this guy though, since it was his MS treatment that has sidelined him during a season in which he has played the best hockey of his life.

The Oilers

How many good draft picks does it take before you stop sucking? Apparently more than picking 7th in 2013, 1st in 2012, 1st and 19th in 2011, 1st in 2010, 10th in 2009, 22nd in 2008, and then three first round picks in 2007 at 6th, 15th, and 21st. Yet here we are at the Olympic break in 2014 and they sit dead last in the West and can only say they have more points than the lowly Sabres. The worst part of having all those picks and still being terrible is the fact that two of those first rounders have never played a game in the NHL and two others played 10 or fewer games in the NHL. Most of those were made by GM Steve Tambellini, who was replaced by Craig MacTavish in April of 2013, but the pick he made hasn’t made his debut yet either. Regardless, how much longer can a Canadian fan base put up with this embarrassment of a franchise?

The Canucks

From the moment they signed coach John Tortorella they were doomed from the start. His system does not fit the style of play Torts likes to run. Luckily for them they have enough pure talent to stay in the playoff hunt. But you can’t take a finesse offensive bunch without much of a defensive presence, and a goalie that pales in comparison to Henrik Lundqvist and expect them to play better in a defensive style of hockey. The Canucks feel like they have overcompensated the way Sidney Crosby and the Penguins did last year during their matchup against the Bruins. The Penguins got beat trying to play Bruins hockey and ever since the Bruins beat up the Canucks in the finals it seems as though they are chasing the bear, only that is not the brand of hockey their team is best suited to play. They have now dug themselves into a hole I’m not sure this group of guys can dig themselves out of. They currently sit in 5th place in the Pacific Division, trailing Dallas and Phoenix by one point for the final Wild Card spot. Two years ago they scored 249 goals while allowing 198, this year in just 60 games they have tallied just 146 scores while allowing 160 goals. In other words they would need to score 103 goals to tie that mark from two years ago when they finished the season with the most points in the NHL. Now that the offense has taken a backseat to Torts’ system, so has winning games.

Kris Letang

While his struggling hasn’t exactly slowed the Penguins down, he hasn’t exactly made good on the 8yr/$58M contract extension that goes into effect next season. He has only played in 34 games this year and was just recently ruled out for another six weeks after suffering a stroke. For a little comparison, last year in the lockout shortened season Letang played 35 games scoring 5 goals and notching 33 assists. This season he has scored more often, tallying 10 goals but his assist numbers have fallen off a cliff to just eight. So in one more game played last season, Letang notched 20 more points. After signing a big deal like that, he finds his way onto this list as a rather large disappointment.

Braden Holtby and the Capitals D

Only three teams in the East have scored more goals than the Capitals this season, yet they find themselves on the outside looking in because of their inability to keep pucks out of their own net. The 24 year old Braden Holtby, was supposed to be the answer to that problem, but has gone the other way since impressing us all in the 11-12 playoff run that he helped the Caps knock out the #2 seeded Bruins before falling in 7 games to the top seeded Rangers. Now Holtby is almost allowing three goals per game which even for a high powered offense like the Caps possess, is almost impossible to overcome.

Jimmy Howard and the Wings home ice advantage

Jimmy Howard has spent all nine of his NHL seasons with the Red Wings and the past five as their unquestioned #1 netminder. When he took over the Red Wings already had quite the home ice advantage but his play began to transform that advantage into something even better. Remember back in the 2011-12 season when the Red Wings ran off 23 straight wins on home ice? A season in which they finished with a home record of 31-7-3? Then in the lockout shortened season last year they matched that loss total in just 24 games. Now this year they sit at 11-11-8 meaning they have lost more games at home this year than they have in any season since 2010-11, but they managed to go 21-14-6 in that season. This year they should eclipse the .500 marker they are currently sitting on, but what happened in just a few short years? Joe Louis Arena was virtually impossible to go into and get two points and now the Wings are pedestrian at best on home ice. Injuries haven’t helped, and Jimmy Howard having arguably his worst season of his career isn’t either.

The Devils in the shootout

How bad do you have to be at scoring to have a shootout record of 0-8 despite having one of the best goalies in the league this year? It’s simple actually, you can be 0-8 in shootouts despite having one of the best goalies in the league this year, by only scoring on one shootout attempt in 25 tries. That’s right, they have only scored one shootout goal in 25 tries.

Cory Conacher

How good can a single trade make one GM look? Conacher was the main piece the Senators acquired when they traded goalie Ben Bishop and yes the Sens had Craig Anderson playing his tits off at the time, but this trade could not look much worse right now. I still believe in Craigy but he has passed the age of 30 and Bishop is vying for Vezina votes right now all the while this kid Conacher disappoints. Bishop has been a bit of a journeyman that never got a legit shot at being a #1 goalie and is really making the best of it right now. He is 3rd in GAA, 2nd in save %, and 3rd in wins throughout the entire NHL at the break. On the other hand you have this kid Conacher who has played 69 total games for the Senators and has totaled just 6 goals and 19 assists. He has had to fight for ice time on a team that has found it difficult to score with any real consistency. The only guy that looks worse than Conacher as a result of this trade is Anders Lindback who was supposed to be the Lightning’s goalie of the future and now feels like he is constantly a few minutes or one gross fart away from being cut.


Monday, February 10, 2014

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