Sunday Grab Bag: What’s happening in the NHL?December 1, 2013, by
This is going to be a new weekly spot, where I go around the league and touch on certain topics that are news-worthy. This includes who’s hot and who’s not, the Rogers TV deal, players to watch, and much more. If you have anything in particular you want to hear about, be sure to let me know in the comments.
Hopefully this weekly wrapup hones up your water cooler skills, especially if you’re sick of talking football all the time.
1- San Jose Sharks
If you’ve been watching the Sharks this season, you’ve been impressed. They’re absolutely tearing up nearly every team they’re playing a la the Blackhawks of last season. They may not have the points that the Hawks of this season have, but they certainly play a tough game every time they hit the ice. If you like a two way game, check out them out; they’ve got 3 players with over a point per game, the second highest (by a point) goal differential in the NHL and a rookie to watch out for that Rangers fans are too familiar with in Tomas Hertl. My player to watch: Tommy Wingels.
2- Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks are proving that they’re not just a one trick pony, winning two Cups in the past four years and garnering the most points in the NHL thus far this season. They’ve got almost 10 goals on the closest team behind them and don’t show any signs of slowing down. If pure offense is the hockey you love to watch, the streaking (winning their past 6 games) Hawks would be a great Rangers off-day game to check out. They’ve got three extremely dangerous lines, one always-points-streaking Patrick Kane, and the recently added Versteeg from Florida already paying dividends on the third line. My Hawk to watch: Patrick Sharp – it seems like he is always shooting the puck.
The Blues are a team that admittedly, I never watched prior to having Alexander Steen on my fantasy team – and thank goodness for fantasy sports for turning me on to them. The Blues play a similar game to the Sharks. They’ve got the highest goal differential in the NHL, with the NHL goals leader in Steen who, last week, decided that slowing down wasn’t for him, so he restarted a 4 game points streak. Alex Pietrangelo, at 23, has already had a 50 point season, and has already been touted as a future Norris Trophy winner. On top of that, Jaroslav Halak has been consistently good in seasons past and shows no signs of letting up. Look for Steen to cool off a bit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this team goes well into the playoffs. My player to watch – TJ Oshie.
1- Buffalo Sabres
Oy. The Sabres… someone give me some Advil. You should probably watch the Sabres if one of your teams has recently taken a beating and you don’t think it could get worse. This is tough, too, since Olympics MVP Ryan Miller is still pretty decent. He’s second in the league in shots faced, despite playing 3 fewer games than the league leader, and still holds a .918 save percentage. To put that in perspective, Lundqvist has the same games played (20) and has faced 179 fewer shots. Someone get Miller some defense…. or offense, really – they only put up 15 shots against the Devils last night. My Sabre to watch is Matt Moulson, since the trade made some serious waves around the tri-state area.
That was a pretty good leading point, actually. Wasn’t that Vanek trade supposed to sure up the Isles as a serious threat? Since Vanek’s joined the team, they’ve gone 2-7-1 – not that this is Vanek’s fault by any means (he’s put up 7 points and is one of three Islanders with a positive +/-), but their slide has been undeniable. They traded away some pretty good picks for this talent and a playoff run, so it’ll be interesting to see how they can pull themselves together, as Vanek will be a free agent come offseason. My player to watch: Frans Nielsen.
I almost feel bad putting them on here but I want to throw a West team out there and they’re the worst – but what can you expect when you lose 7 of your first 8 games? Next time you think about the Rangers awful beginning of the season, remember that they’ve got more than 18 points. The Oilers’ have barely shown signs of life until very recently, when they’ve won 4 of 6. This is a team with measurable talent – Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Perron are all great players – plus the addition of Ilya Bryzgalov, fresh off his time exploring the humongous big universe. Maybe once Ference gets his Captain legs settled, this team turns it around – their December schedule is certainly doable. My player to watch: Taylor Hall.
Dishonorable mention: Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames
Important things to know about:
Though this will impact any Canadian readers more than US-based readers, the Rogers bid to get exclusive rights to the NHL this week was huge news. They leapfrogged over two of the main competitors and snatched the national pastime away from CBC. Though Hockey Night in Canada (and importantly, Don Cherry’s impressive wardrobe) will be aired on CBC through the 2017-18 season, Rogers will be deciding which games and will have a total creative pull on it. US-based viewers, we still get the pleasure of NBC broadcasting for at least another 8 years, but if you check out HNIC on the NHL Network, you may see some changes soon. Some interesting facts about this takeover: Rogers paid twice what NBC paid in 2011 for US rights ($5.2B CDN), the playoffs will now be split between Rogers (and subsidiaries) and CBC – cutting out TSN from getting any of the early games, and the revenue gained by CBC during these four seasons will go to Rogers.
So what about you, hockey fans? Any teams or players that you love to watch? Leave some feedback and you’ll probably see it next week.