The outlook for the 'rest' of the West

redwingsthrash.jpgEarlier this evening I discussed the five Eastern Conference teams who are battling for the last three playoff spots. The Western Conference has a similar situation in its bottom playoff ranks, although those teams are notably stronger. (Also, Calgary is the only squad with a realistic chance to make the four Western underdogs sweat for a playoff spot)

Much like that last post, I’ll break down each team’s advantages, upcoming schedule and how well they’ve been playing lately. Just to be friendly, I’ll even throw in the long shot Flames for good measure. The teams are listed in order of current (9:50 pm ET) playoff position.

Nashville

Notes: The Predators have the most wins among the five teams (43). They have played 76 games, though, so they may risk being leapfrogged by Detroit and Los Angeles. Current points: 92

Thoughts on their schedule: They have a fairly reasonable schedule: three games at home and three on the road with one back-to-back set of games. They will also have one game against Detroit and one against Los Angeles, so they can “control their destiny” to some point.

Streak: Hot. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and even had a six game winning streak recently. The team just won’t take “snore” for an answer.

Detroit

Notes: Have you ever seen that moment in “The Thing” (the awesome ’80s version that is) in which everyone is having their blood tested to see who isn’t human? I think that Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver are encountering similar emotions when considering the possibility of a first round tilt with Detroit. Then again, I guess losing in the first round of the playoffs isn’t as bad as dealing with … this (warning: ridiculous horror movie gore in that video).

Current points: 91

Thoughts on their schedule: The Red Wings face a relatively easy schedule, with two games against Columbus, one against Edmonton and four out of seven at home.

Streak: Red Hot. Since March 11, the Red Wings collected a staggering 17 out of 18 possible points. They are currently on 5 game winning streak.

The rest on the other West lower seed hopefuls can be found after the jump.


avskings.jpgLos Angeles

Notes: The Kings are sliding quite a bit right now, but they have a fairly safe lead over the Flames. We’ll have to wait and see if they can keep the seventh seed from Colorado; who knows, though, they’re not that far behind Nashville and Detroit either. Current points: 90

Thoughts on their schedule: The Kings have four out of eight games on the road with two back-to-backs. They play once in Nashville and once in Colorado. Despite some tough patches, they get two games against Anaheim (not a cakewalk but the Ducks are struggling), one against Edmonton and one against Minnesota. I’d say that is a nice amount of “winnable” games.

Streak: Cold. They’ve lost three in a row and have generally been looking a little out of sorts lately. You have to wonder if they’re wearing Jonathan Quick out since he rarely gets more than one game off per month.

Colorado

Notes: The Avalanche are running into their own issues of possibly over-extending a starting goalie. They’ve leaned heavily on Craig Anderson all year and you have to wonder if the first-time No. 1 can handle such a huge workload. He’s played all but one game since January 9, 2009.

Current points: 89

Thoughts on their schedule: It’s a mixed bag. The good news is that they are playing five of their last seven games in Colorado. The bad news is that they will play against powerhouse teams like San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago.

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and lost four of their last five.

Calgary

Notes: The Flames’ playoff hopes are on life support right now. They only have six games left this year and are four points behind eighth-seed Colorado.

Thoughts on their schedule: While the road/home split is even at 3 of six for both, they play 5 playoff caliber teams plus Minnesota to finish the year. That’s not good at all.

Streak: Their last ten games’ record is 5-5. That record might be a microcosm for Calgary’s entire season; it’s just been a series of frustrations for the Flames. 

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    Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

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    Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

    Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

    It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

    While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

    For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.

    Presenting: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hockey bobbleheads

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    From the Department of Sights You Can’t Un-see: the Milwaukee Admirals are going to unleash hockey-playing bobbleheads for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “this fall.”

    The Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate continues the fine tradition of headline-grabbing and all-around-odd promotions from the league.

    /Pours one out for the Bakersfield Condors and their Seinfeld “puffy” shirts.

    Feast your eyes on the rather disturbing duo:

    (The replies to that tweet aren’t too weird yet, but it would probably be wise to stay away nonetheless.)

    Naturally, there are other bobblehead options available for the two Presidential front-runners, with the Trump ones being especially entertaining.

    As the youngest GM in NHL history, Chayka is already making waves

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) His time on the ice done, John Chayka would turn to the tape, spending up to 25 hours to break down the game just played.

    He tracked every player on the ice, every possession, touch of the puck, calculating the impact of every decision or movement on the ice.

    The attention to detail, to making himself and his teammates better, led Chayka to co-found his own hockey analytics company. Now it’s helped him become the youngest general manager in NHL history, a meteoric rise even he didn’t see coming.

    “It would be silly to suggest it wasn’t a little surprising,” said Chayka, named GM of the Arizona Coyotes on May 5. “It’s like anything in life; good fortune, good timing, a lot of that plays into it. I always just try to better myself every day, learn every day.”

    Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

    Chayka was like most Canadian kids growing up, playing hockey from a young age on a backyard rink in Jordan Station, Ontario. He had some skill, too, as a high-scoring winger who was good enough to be an Ontario Hockey League draft pick.

    Instead of becoming a professional hockey player, Chayka took a different route to the highest level. He opted to attend college instead of playing in the OHL and suffered a back injury that ended any chance of a continued playing career.

    Chayka liked the analytical aspect of hockey even when he was playing, logging numbers by hand while meticulously going through every play of each game. Once he teamed up with Neil Lane, a friend with an IT background, Chayka was able to vastly expand the data sets he could analyze.

    Chayka and Lane co-founded Stathletes in 2009 and built it up, molding the hockey analytics company to serve the needs of NHL teams and players.

    But in 2015, Chayka decided to make a change. The business was in good shape and the Coyotes wanted an analytics person, so he joined them as an assistant GM prior to the 2015-16 season.

    “The company was in a position for the co-founder to step aside and let it grow, so it was good timing for me to do that,” Chayka said.

    Timing worked out for Chayka again this spring.

    After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Coyotes decided to make a change, firing general manager Don Maloney after nine seasons.

    Instead of hiring an established hockey front-office man, the Coyotes took a bolder route, hiring the then-26-year-old Chayka, making him the youngest GM in NHL history and the first with a primarily analytical background.

    “What people are going to find out about John as he becomes more well-known is he’s a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

    Those smarts, along with a year of watching the Coyotes operations from the inside out, have allowed Chayka to hit the ground sprinting.

    Arizona had one of the highest-rated drafts, landing center Clayton Keller and defenseman Jakob Chychurn, players who could contribute quickly.

    The Coyotes signed top-four defenseman Alex Goligoski after trading for his rights and added some scoring depth by signing left wing Jamie McGinn, who set career highs in goals and points last season. Arizona also signed captain Shane Doan to a one-year deal.

    Chayka has retooled Arizona’s roster by combining his analytical approach with the traditional methods of evaluating players, dispelling the notion that he would be a numbers-only GM.

    “It’s a good holistic approach where you’re weighing both options and ideas,” Chayka said. “Where you have agreements and consistency in your approach, then you have a better decision. When you have those disagreements is where you have real opportunity to learn from it. If the data disagrees with the eye or the eye disagrees with the data, now you have a real opportunity to understand why.”

    The need to understand got Chayka to this unprecedented point. It should be the foundation to keep him climbing as well.

    Report: Wheat Kings’ McCrimmon likely to be named Las Vegas assistant GM

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    The Las Vegas NHL franchise has been in search of an assistant general manager, and that search may be nearing an end.

    According to a report from Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show on TSN 1260, Brandon Wheat Kings owner, GM and coach Kelly McCrimmon is likely to be named assistant GM in Las Vegas.

    The report was backed up on Friday from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

    Last summer, McCrimmon turned down a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs front office.

    It was reported last week that Vegas general manager George McPhee had asked the Washington Capitals for permission to speak with that team’s assistant GM Ross Mahoney.