8. The USA Hockey jerseys at World Junior
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) December 25, 2017
7. Being the Blue Jackets all of a sudden
Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg are both out four to six weeks. Bad news.
On what I’m going to call “a related note,” Columbus has lost three of its last five games. The good news is they’re tied for second in their division. The bad news is both New York teams are only four points behind them with a game in hand and the Jackets’ depth is only now about to be truly stretched up front.
Hell, even the Penguins seem like they might be within striking distance if they can get their act together any time soon. But we’ll get to the Penguins in a minute.
6. Zac Rinaldo
You gotta be some kinda hockey player for it to be a bigger surprise that you’re still allowed to play NHL hockey than that you sucker-punched someone for basically no reason after throwing a dirty hit.
Man, how bad are the Coyotes that this guy is getting 11 minutes a night and has 31 games played this year? Good lord. Contract this team.
5. Connor McDavid being in a position to get hurt
Now if I’m an NHL coach and I have a player who has anything resembling Connor McDavid’s talent level, here’s me when he blocks a shot for any reason at any point in the game: “What the hell is wrong with you? That could have broken a bone. Never block a shot, you moron, you idiot. You’re too important for that. Let one of these other losers do it!”
Honestly, every time McDavid or Crosby or Karlsson or Matthews blocks a shot or gets in a fight, I do that emoji face where you’re gritting your teeth and inhaling sharply through them. The long-standing idea of course is that all hockey players should do all they can to prevent the other team from getting shots through, but man, that shot McDavid blocked was from the middle of the point off a set faceoff play. There wasn’t that much traffic in front of the net. Yeah, the kid has an unbelievable hockey IQ but he therefore really ought to know that there’s no need for him to block that shot.
Of course, Todd McLellan sees the best player in the world leave the game (likely as a precaution only) but is still like, “Yeah I want him blocking shots forever.”
Here’s an issue on which my opinion has evolved appreciably: The entire league would be so much better if you couldn’t leave your feet to block shots regardless of who you were. But if you’re an elite player, you should get benched for a shift for even thinking about doing it.
4. Buying an NWHL franchise
Shoutout to the Pegula family for being the first people to buy an NWHL franchise that wasn’t just going to be owned and operated by the league itself.
It’s really important to get people investing in women’s hockey to that extent, especially because that makes the league less likely to be plagued by the kind of issues we’ve seen over the past couple of years.
However, the Pegulas have a great track record of being insanely rich and a not-great track record of owning successful professional sports franchises, so if you’re a Beauts fan: sorry.
3. Trading Kris Letang?
There are rumors floating around now that the Penguins might trade Kris Letang because he’s not performing that well.
This seemed like a specious claim to me, since most Pens games I’ve watched have seen him be perfectly alright if a little below his usual talent level.
And hey yeah, 53.4 CF%. And 53.6 SF%. Plus he’s at 52 percent in scoring chances. That seems fine to me, so what’s the pr…. ahhhh I figured it out: He’s been on the ice 38 goals against at 5-on-5, and only 14 for. That’s really bad, to be minus-24 at full strength in just 37 games. Hell, it’s more than a goal against per game. Bad!
Now I wonder, if he’s at 52 percent or more in all the underlyings but 26.9 percent in goals, what’s going on!!! In my opinion, it might have something to do with his 91.7 on-ice PDO, facilitated by both a 3.9 shooting percentage for Pittsburgh, and a 12.2 percent shooting percentage for Pittsburgh’s opponents.
My guess: If the Penguins do trade him for some reason — and there’s probably a conversation there vis a vis his contract and injury/health history — they’d be selling awful low on a guy who has been almost incredibly unlucky.
No player has played more than 1,000 minutes in a season and had an on-ice PDO below Alex Edler’s 95.2 in 2013-14. Letang is on pace to blow that out of the water. So maybe chill out?
2. The Calder race
We have so many good rookies in the NHL this year. Just like each of the last few years.
What a joy it is to have Brock Boeser, Matt Barzal, Clayton Keller (who hasn’t been talked about lately but is still scoring three-quarters of a point a game), Danton Heinen, Will Butcher, Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy, Alex DeBrincat, and probably a bunch of guys I’m forgetting.
I love these kids!!!
1. The Golden Knights and Islanders ownership
One thing that definitely rules and has to be an extreme point of annoyance for Gary Bettman and the morally bad owners who demand public handouts to fund their grandiose stadium district plans is the fact that the two most recent NHL arena deals announced privately funded.
One thing that rules even more than that is Bill Foley saying last week that public money should be used to fund first responders and education instead of billionaires’ plathings. Vegas didn’t use a cent of public money. Same goes for the Islanders.
The Seattle deal that will open KeyArena in 2020 will have some public funding, including funneling fees from city-run parking garages and getting some tax exemptions, but it’s not like the city’s cutting a direct check for the renovations. Better than nothing, but still not by a lot.
Anyway, the more Bill Foley is out here saying it’s bad for cities to shell out for this kind of thing, the funnier everything is for all these sad-sack Canadian teams who are vaguely threatening to move to freakin’ Cheboygan or whatever.
(Not ranked this week: The Christmas break.
Man, I had to watch football this weekend. Football! Like a common pig! The NHL should not shut down for Christmas and I believe this firmly. They would do a great job cornering the Racist Sports Uncle market.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)