Eastern Conference Rewind
With a little over a quarter of the season complete, the Eastern Conference continues to provide enough news to keep any fan of hockey talking. The Tampa Bay Lightening show their commitment to winning by locking up key personnel, the goaltending situation continues to get weirder and weirder for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Detroit Red Wings have a couple of their wings clipped, the Philadelphia Flyers have one of their own visiting Player Safety and Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers pleads his case for NOT going to the All-Star Game.
The Tampa Bay Lightening announced this week re-signed head coach Jon Cooper to a 3-year contract extension. Cooper has posted a 112-70-23 record since taking over in March 2013. General Manager Steve Yzerman stated, “I’m very pleased with the job Jon is doing. I like the way our team plays. I like the style of hockey we play. I think it’s a style that is conducive to having success in the NHL.”
One team that is isn’t having much success in the crease is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs announced that starting goaltender James Reimer will be out a few more games again after reinjuring his leg. While Reimer has been out, the Maple Leafs have brought up little known Garrett Sparks to help backstop the team to a 3-0 over the Edmonton Oilers. With that shutout, Sparks became the first goaltender in Maple Leafs history (again, the first in Maple Leafs history) to do so. As a result, the Leafs optioned Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Marlies for a conditioning stint in order to get his confidence back and into game shape.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs struggle to find their rhythm in between the pipes, the Detroit Red Wings continue to not miss a beat, even if they do lose a couple of players to injury. The Red Wings stated that they will be without left wingers Teemu Pulkkinen due to a dislocated shoulder and Drew Miller suffered a broken jaw in the team’s 5-1 win over Arizona. Both players will be out a minimum of six weeks while they recover from these injuries. Pulkkienen had his shoulder dislocated on a hit from behind that sent him into the boards hard, and Miller had his jaw broken in a collision where the opposition drove his elbow through his chin. Many of Miller’s teammates stated that it was a clean hit, and there was not much Miller could have done to prevent this. Henrik Zetterberg on the hit that broke Miller’s jaw: “Looked like a heavy hit. Obviously hit Drew right in the jaw with his shoulder. That hurt. It looked like a clean hit to me, just hit him in a bad spot.”
A clean hit has the Wings’ Miller out for a while, a more questionable hit by Radko Gudas of the Philadelphia Flyers has him sitting for three games. Gudas’s elbow to the head of Mika Zibanejad was harsh enough that it warranted a phone call and hearing from NHL Player Safety. Gudas had no prior run-ins with Player Safety, however; according to the rationale given, Zibanejad suffered an injury on the play, and Gudas did not check him properly, a suspension was necessary.
Finally, in much lighter news, Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers has one small request: don’t vote for him for the All-Star Game. Jagr, who is 43, is enjoying a bit of a rebirth playing in Florida this season. Jagr leads the Panthers with 18 points in 24 games, says he’s too old to play in the Mid-Season Classic. In a message he sent to his fans, Jagr said, “Fans-I appreciate your votes for All-Star game, but 3 on 3 would kill me, and i (sic) don’t want to die yet. Thank you for understanding. Too old.”
One thing that isn’t too old is this season, which is still very young at the quarter mark. The season is in full swing, and the news will keep flowing from the East.
Western Conference Rewind
Let’s begin in the Windy City. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has made a little bit of history lately. He is currently on a massive 21-game point streak. He has tied Blackhawks great Bobby Hull with this record, as Hull accomplished a 21-game point streak back in the 1971-72 season. Kane’s point streak began back on October 17 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has registered 35 points in these 21 games played. The Blackhawks will face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. Will Patrick Kane make history in front of the United Center crowd?
Now let’s shift to some injury news:
Calgary Flames goaltending prospect Jon Gillies is out for the rest of the season. He will have hip surgery next Wednesday in Nashville. He will miss 4-6 months of action.
Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter will be out of action for the next 4-6 weeks after he had sports hernia surgery.
Nashville Predators centre Mike Fisher has been placed on injured reserve. He will miss the next few games with a lower-body injury and he will be re-evaluated next week.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene had shoulder surgery this week and will be out indefinitely.
Heading into Friday, Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk leads the entire NHL in shutouts with 4. Dubnyk is also ranked 2nd in wins (13). The Wild are fighting with the Predators and Blackhawks on securing the third spot in the Central Division. All three teams currently have 30 points.
The Western Conference is shaping up to be very competitive all the way until the very end this year. Currently, from 2nd place to 12th place, there is a separation of 10 points. If a team has a bad week, that margin can easily be made up by another team that has a good week.
The NHL All-Star voting is open, and the fans can choose one representative from each division. Currently, there is a strong push from the fans to get Arizona Coyotes enforcer John Scott into the All-Star game.
I have lost interest in the NHL All-Star Game. The fans that are voting are spoiling the event. I do not think fans should be allowed to vote in this event. I think the event needs to be scrapped, and the NHL needs to come up with something new.
In the Central Division, I am pretty sure that players such as Patrick Kane (CHI), Tyler Seguin (DAL), and Jamie Benn (DAL) will be locks. In the Pacific Division, I am confident that Taylor Hall is a lock.
All has been quiet on the NHL Trade Front recently. There seems to be very little activity among the NHL GMs. The reason for this is probably because the teams are so close together still. Even the teams that are a few points out of the playoff picture have not given up on the season yet.
The biggest trade chip right now in the Western Conference is probably Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. He is on an expiring contract and will probably command a raise from his $5.25 million salary he is making right now. Could Big Buff get $7 million on the open market? I think he could. He has the ability to play forward or defenseman, so he has a good range of versatility. He was mentioned in the Hamonic trade rumors, but I doubt the Islanders will accept Byfuglien on an expiring contract. The Jets are also in tight bind right now too because defenseman Jacob Trouba is up for renewal. He will certainly command a nice raise off his entry level deal.
By Andrea Sobolik and George Foussekis