Vancouver Canucks v Anaheim Ducks

Should he stay or go?: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

Finally: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.

The Basics

  • Fowler was projected to be a top-three draft pick but slid all the way down to the defense-poor Anaheim Ducks at No. 12 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He’s listed at 6’1″ and 190 lbs. He also was born in 1991. (Guess it’s time to feel old now.)
  • His next game should have been that magic ninth game, but a broken nose limited him to only six appearances so far.
  • Stats: one goal, two assists for three points and a -1 rating in six games played.
  • His junior rights belong to the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
  • Anaheim has already declared that Fowler will stay with the Ducks this year.

Useless facts and thoughts

For a shameless pun maker such as myself, having a guy named Cam Fowler on the Ducks fills me with “David Duchovny in a sorority house” type temptation. Is it a bit of serendipitous luck or is it a curse? Perhaps that beauty is simply in the eye of the pun-holder.

What’s been said about him

Fowler has impressed Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, as you can see from a quote in this story.

“You have to shake your head at times to remember that he is only 18,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s what separates him from players in his age group. He is able to do things at a very high level. His compete level is right up there, his execution level is very, very high. You don’t recognize him as an 18-year-old at all.”

James’s take:

This is a tough call.

For one thing, he’s getting real experience with the Ducks. In six games played, he’s already averaging an impressive 20 minutes of ice time per game and even produces on the offensive defenseman level of .50 points per game. Of course, that’s an incredibly small sample, but he seems like a poised player with a beyond-his-years-IQ. Let’s not forget that the Ducks aren’t exactly overflowing with defensive talent, either.

Yet the repugnant stench of defeat hangs over Anaheim like a thrice-worn jockstrap. This team doesn’t look like a legitimate contender, at least from what I’ve seen, so why burn one of Fowler’s bargain entry-level years on a lost cause? Let’s also not forget these two factors:

1. The Ducks are extremely cheap, generally speaking.

2. He will be a restricted free agent during the same summer that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will hit the unrestricted free agent market if they keep him in the NHL this season.

By shipping Fowler down to the minors, the budget-conscious Ducks can protect their prize prospect’s psyche while also staggering the team’s toughest contract negotiations. (The team would spread out the negotiations as such: Perry-Getzlaf in 2013, Fowler in 14 or 15, Jonas Hiller in 14 and Bobby Ryan in 15.)

James’s Verdict: Send him down to the minors/juniors.

Joe’s Take:

Fowler has played like he’s been in the NHL all along so far in his rookie season. He’s had to deal with getting over an injury after taking a tough hit and that’s slowed down the decision making process on Anaheim. The Ducks’ defense is an unmitigated mess right now and Fowler has been one of their better players and getting big minutes to go along with that. The Ducks are opting to keep him on the roster for the long run this season and there’s nothing about Fowler’s game that says this is a bad decision. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’ll make mistakes on occasion, but having him learn on the job in the NHL is what will benefit him the most. Another season in Windsor would have him spinning his wheels against guys he’s a lot better than.

Joe’s Verdict: He should stay, and he will stay.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.