Kovy.jpgNow before I get into the meat of this post, I want to make it clear
that I don’t necessarily think that trading Ilya Kovalchuk made the
Atlanta Thrashers automatically better. But I guess that’s what this
article is saying, so….take it was you will. The numbers are
interesting and speak for themselves.

The Atlanta Thrashers did
not make the Ilya Kovalchuk trade out of a will to improve their team
for this season; they needed to get some value for a player they would
lose to free agency this summer no matter what. The Thrashers have been
up and down all season long, actually looking like they might be a
top-five team in the East earlier this season. The season went south,
and the Thrashers traded, yet again, a superstar player who is one of
the best players in the NHL.

Since then, the Thrashers have
overcome a near disastrous six-game losing streak and stand on the
precipice of knocking the Boston Bruins out of the playoffs.

also have a better record than the New Jersey Devils since the trade.

February 5, the day after the trade was made, Atlanta is 8-6-3 (19
points) and New Jersey is 7-7-2 (16 points). Not exactly a cavernous
difference in the records of the two teams, but considering the
expectations of the two teams — and the talent levels involved — it is
a bit alarming.

I also looked at the level of competition between
the two during this time, and found that both the Devils and Thrashers
faced ten teams total that are playoff-caliber teams (top nine in the
conference). The Thrashers currently have a four-game winning streak
against four playoff teams in the East.

So what’s the reason for
the Thrashers appearing to be playing at the same level or better than
the Devils? No specific reason, and it’s most likely a bit of a
coincidence. The Thrashers also have a six-game losing streak in that
time, so it’s not as if they’ve been playing at a very high level
overall since the trade. And they’ve been able to climb back into the
playoff race due to some timely losses by the Bruins and Rangers.

the Devils are fighting for the division lead with the Pittsburgh
Penguins, and the number two seed in the conference. In the short term,
it may appear as if the Thrashers have been freed up and are playing
better after the trade. Yet I’m willing to be that the Devils have the
better long-term success in the playoffs.

Especially if Atlanta
sneaks into the playoffs just to come up against the monster that is the
Washington Capitals.

Scroll Down For:

    Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

    Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
    Leave a comment

    It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

    Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

    Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

    Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

    “If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

    “We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

    To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




    Depends who you ask.

    Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

    Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

    Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

    In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

    Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

    Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


    As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

    The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

    “Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

    Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

    Suter also had something to say about that.

    “It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

    Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

    For example, at today’s practice:

    The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

    Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

    Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

    Garett Sparks

    We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

    Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

    Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

    “He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

    Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

    Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


    Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

    Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

    — The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

    Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

    Alain Vigneault

    Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

    The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

    He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

    But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

    “Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

    “But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

    Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

    The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).