(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
6. Shea Weber
I mentioned this in WWL but this is a wild story that continues to develop.
Shea Weber hasn’t been playing well the past few weeks, and everyone knew it was because he was injured. Everyone knew that because Claude Julien said as much, but in doing so also said that while Weber was clearly hurt — now reportedly in Game 1 of the season — he wouldn’t be shut down (presumably because the Habs were on that little win streak).
Then this past week, with Weber’s game deteriorating and the Habs now on a little streak, ah well heck, time to shut the guy down and send him back to Montreal during this road trip. Only, hey, there he is in Vancouver with the rest of this team.
Like, just send the guy home, y’know? Hell, this is the guy who’s supposed to play another six seasons after this one, and he’s already 32. Maybe the Habs don’t care because they don’t get stuck with the cap recapture, but this seems like a handle-with-care situation since he’s still your Franchise Defenseman for the next few years at least. Or, he would be in an ideal situation.
So apparently now they’re saying he’s actually going home today, and will be on the sidelines indefinitely. That’s also not ideal, but it’s probably better than having a guy play a third of the season on a bum foot and then getting to this point.
Why, again, is playing through injury good?
5. The Canucks
The idea that Brock Boeser wants to play through a bone bruise in his foot shows why he has what it takes to be an elite player. Lots of skill (probably the best player on the team, right?) and lots of desire to get out there. Pretty good qualities to have.
However, we return again to the idea that if the Canucks would let him do that, for any reason, it’s a problem.
Unlike Weber, Boeser is very good and very young, and will be a Canuck for probably a decade to come. Why on earth would you let him get involved with playing through the kind of foot injury that is normally quite severe.
Maybe the team feels like it’s still in the playoff hunt — it isn’t — and that any attempts to keep pace with the clubs in front of it must be undertaken. But at the expense of a future franchise forward’s health? Folks, c’mon now. Yeah they won a lot early but this was always supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Canucks, but they let a handful of unexpected wins dissuade them from doing the sensible thing and tanking for Dahlin. It’s not very smart, but I guess that’s par for the course in Vancouver.
4. The Penguins
Hey, if the league is going to mandate that you can’t make any trades after Dec. 19, then you might as well get on the damn phone.
Seems like Jim Rutherford used Monday to go out and acquire two guys to address organizational needs. Too bad those guys are Michael Leighton and Jamie Oleksiak, and that those two guys cost you a borderline NHL forward in Josh Archibald, a goalie who was never going anywhere with the organization in Sean Maguire, a sixth- and conditional fourth-round pick.
The Pens apparently believe the acquisition of Oleksiak in particular will help them make more trades in the future, and that’s all well and good, but this team is plus-151 in shots in all situations, but minus-10 in goals. Which of those things is more likely to last.
I have a lot of time for this team even if they can’t seem to fully put it together for too long. Is Oleksiak or Leighton going to sort that out? Is a non-major trade going to do that? I dunno, man.
But hey, thanks for making Tuesday interesting.
3. The Bruins?
Well hey lookit that, the Boston Bruins have wins in six of their last nine games, and points in seven of 10. Sure, they’re through an easy part of the schedule and probably should have lost in regulation to the Wings last week, but they’re winning and doing it mostly through The Kids, which is what you want if you’re trying to do one of those rebuilds on the fly.
At this point, it would be borderline impossible for them to not make the playoffs unless things go seriously off the rails here, and well for someone else. They’re six games above .500 in regulation, and no one else behind them in the Atlantic is better than one game below it.
They’re five points up on the Canadiens with two games in hand, so if you had it “Tampa, Toronto, Boston” in that order to start the season, well, congrats. It’s a bit of a surprise berth, considering Montreal figured to be pretty good, but here we are.
However, anyone who thinks this team — which despite decent goaltending and a high shooting percentage, is still only plus-6 in goal difference — is actually something resembling truly competitive in the Eastern Conference, I don’t know what to tell you. They have great possession numbers but their defense seems likely to get ground up by some of the deeper teams in the league.
McAvoy is the future of this club and it’s great that everyone collectively acknowledges that, but it’s tough to see this team surviving the second round.
One more season of Coyotes hockey before they inevitably stop playing in Arizona! Wow, what a joy for you all!
1. The Islanders (maybe?)
It is unequivocally good that their bid for Belmont Park will create for them a permanent home. This poor team has been through a lot in recent years and the uncertainty surrounding their permanent residence in the Greater New York Area has long been up in the air even at the best of times.
However, the fact that this rink probably won’t even be open open until 2020-21, and there’s no guarantee that they will have a definitive home rink for 2019-20 is, like, extremely bad, right?
The whole “where are they gonna play” thing has been perhaps the biggest acknowledged wedge issue when it comes to re-signing John Tavares. And now they have that certainty, but they also have to now sell him on, “Oh by the way it’s: 1) this season and next in the rink everyone hates, 2) ???, 3) New rink that you will like.” By the time you get to No. 3 on that list, John Tavares is gonna be 30 years old.
(Not ranked this week: Eugene Melnyk.
A thing I forgot about with the whole Melnyk thing, and which some nice person reminded me of on Twitter, was that Melnyk basically begged for a kidney from the Senators fanbase, got one from an anonymous donor, and still feels like he has to be a class-warmonger in the media because no one wants to pay to come see his rotten franchise that he by the way refuses to fully invest in.
Let this be a lesson to everyone: No matter how altruistic you may be, the rich see you as nothing but literaly organ farms beneath their contempt.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)