Admittedly, I “slept” on the results from ESPN’s Confidential Players poll for a bit, but after hearing some complaints about the answers being restricted by “Insider” status on Twitter I thought I’d share some of the more interesting results. (Yes, I am an Insider. Yes, I paid for it myself.)
Now, naturally, all the results can be found here (although I must warn you that there will be laborious clicking since every answer is within its own link).
Anyway, here are some of the highlights of the poll. First, I’ll start with the more “typical” questions.
Alex Ovechkin (64 percent)
Sidney Crosby (24 percent)
Ovechkin nearly tripled Crosby’s results. Interestingly enough, Roberto Luongo was named the league’s most overrated player (although he only received 6 percent of the votes).
Detroit (60 percent)
Pittsburgh (14 percent)
Jeez, the Penguins are getting second place often enough that I have to check and see if Marian Hossa is back on their roster. (Phoenix was named the worst franchise, for the record.)
Should the NHL contract teams? If so, which one?
No: 48 percent
Yes: 38 percent (and if yes: Atlanta received 41.3 percent while Phoenix received 31 percent.)
No comment: 14 percent (Boo that isn’t a fun answer.)
OK, now for a few fun ones.
John Tortorella won the “last coach you’d want to play for” award in front of former coaches Mike Keenan and Ken Hitchcock. Somewhere in Russia, Nikita Filatov smiles.
Edmonton and Montreal apparently have the best ice. Want bad ice? Just go to the state of Florida.
The Minnesota Wild have the best visitor’s locker room, while the relatively ancient Mellon Arena is found to be the worst. Do hockey teams really want to be that accommodating, anyway?
Montreal’s groupies are apparently the best. Vancouver comes in second. Have some pride, American groupies!
Derek Boogaard was named the best fighter while Chris Pronger was named the dirtiest player.
(Again, for more results, click here. You will need an “Insider” subscription, though.)
At 33 years old Alex Ovechkin is not supposed to be scoring goals at this sort of pace.
He is not supposed to be scoring goals the way he was when he was in his mid-20s.
The typical aging curve for NHL players, even the elites, says they are supposed to be slowing down at this point in their career and seeing their numbers slide south in a downward trend.
But as Ovechkin has shown throughout his brilliant career, he is not typical.
He is also not slowing down.
With three more goals on Tuesday night in the Capitals’ 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, the game’s greatest goal-scorer added to his league leading total and now sits atop the NHL with 25 goals through his team’s first 30 games.
He also extending his current point streak to 12 consecutive games.
These numbers are impressive, even for Ovechkin. Especially when you consider he has never at any point in his career scored more goals through his team’s first 30 games (22 was his previous high at this point) and is currently on a 68-goal pace for the season.
These numbers are downright comical because they are completely unheard for a player this age. They are bordering on absurd.
Since 1987 no player in the NHL at age 33 or older has ever scored this many goals through 30 games (no one had more than 22).
In the history of the league only 13 different players have recorded a 50-goal season over the age of 30, while only three (Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Hull, and John Buyck) have recorded one at age 33 or older.
Ovechkin is now literally halfway there with still 52 games to play this season.
It would not be unfair to say he has had some puck luck on his side so far, and that was especially true on Tuesday night where two of his goals came off of fluky bounces. He also has a 21.5 percent shooting percentage that is seven points higher than his previous career best (14.6 in 2007-08, when he scored 65 goals) and nine points higher than his career average. That sort of pace is unsustainable in the modern NHL, even for somebody as great as Ovechkin.
But even if he shot at his normal career average (12.6 percent) over the rest of the season that would still be another 25 goals based on his current shot output. That would put him at exactly 50 goals for the season, and what very well might be an eighth goal-scoring crown.
It is expecting a lot given that no one has ever really done anything like this at this age, but would you want to bet against him?
The defending champs have now won 11 of their past 14 games and extended their lead in the Metropolitan Division with Tuesday’s win.
Even when it seems like they may have been able to catch one.
In the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers, defender Robert Bortuzzo innocently dumped the puck into the offensive zone from just outside the blue line, where it bounced off of referee Tim Peel’s midsection and ended up in the back of the net behind Roberto Luongo.
It was bizarre. It was flukey. It was strange. It was also illegal.
From the NHL’s situation room:
At 5:17 of the first period in the Panthers/Blues game, Robert Bortuzzo’s shot deflected off an official and into the Florida net. Rule 78.5 states that apparent goals shall be disallowed “when the puck has deflected directly into the net off an official.” No goal St. Louis.
Peel was shaken up as a result of the play and had to leave the ice.
Fortunately for the Blues they were able to score four goals in the third period that did count to pick up a much-needed 4-3 win over the Panthers.
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Capitals and especially Red Wings probably wouldn’t admit this – at least on the record – but both teams should be pretty happy about where they are right now.
For the defending Stanley Cup champions, it’s a familiar place. Through early ups and downs, the Caps have mostly shook off an expected Stanley Cup hangover, finding away to grab the Metropolitan Division lead. Also familiar: Alex Ovechkin keeps lighting the lamp, as the prolific sniper already has 22 goals (to go with 36 points) in just 29 games.
If the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs began on Tuesday, the Red Wings would be on the outside looking in. Even so, the Red Wings have 32 standings points coming into their game against the Capitals, placing them 10th in the East. That’s not half-bad when you realize that this team is very much in a rebuilding process, whether they like it (and accept it) or not.
Sure, the Red Wings will be underdogs in this contest. They’d already carry that role out of context, but that’s especially clear being that they’re wrapping up a back-to-back set after beating the Kings 3-1 on Monday.
Washington would be foolish to take Detroit lightly, however. The Red Wings are 4-2-1 in their last seven games, enjoying solid seasons from Dylan Larkin (29 points) and Gustav Nyquist (27).
Can the Capitals take business at home? Find out on NBCSN.
Waddell himself admits that trades don’t happen often during this time of year, but it can often be better to be proactive. And, if nothing else, the Hurricanes might want to consider how certain decisions might make certain players more or less “marketable.”
Let’s look at the five defensemen one could (perhaps loosely) deem “premiere,” by Waddell’s words. More realistic movers will receive extra attention, and the defenders are listed in order of their 2018-19 cap hits.
Yes, it would be a bit odd if the Hurricanes traded Hamilton mere months after that big trade during the weekend of the 2018 NHL Draft. They’d also be selling low, as Hamilton’s off to a mediocre offensive start (three goals, 10 points in 28 games) and is averaging one fewer minute per game (20:32 TOI average) than he did during his final year with Calgary.
Yet, for a savvy team, Hamilton remains enticing.
Just about every sign points to him being more useful in a different situation, especially if you sprinkle in better luck. Hamilton is a strong possession player even relative to teammates on a dominant puck possession team, and a low on-ice percentage indicates that he’s not getting bounces.
PHT’s been beating this drumfor some time now, but the situation is practically screaming for Hamilton to be the Hurricanes’ top power-play defenseman. The logic wouldn’t just revolve around restoring trade value, as he simply seems to be the most explosive scoring option on that blueline. Much like with Calgary, it’s maddening that the Hurricanes aren’t finding more time for Hamilton in these situations. The Hurricanes want more goals, and while you’re best served having forwards take most of the shots on the power play, it’s not outrageous to wonder if Hamilton could provide added punch if better optimized.
Maybe there’s just an impasse with Rod Brind’Amour? If so, the Hurricanes may be wise to cut their losses, and Hamilton could very well be worth the cost of a decent top-six forward. While his contract has some term on it, that affordable rate – at least for a rehabilitated Hamilton – could make for a bargain, and some helpful cost certainty.
It’s tough to imagine the Hurricanes trading away their biggest minute-eating defenseman (23:22 per game). Slavin is young, and his contract looks solid now, but could grow to outright-fantastic as the cap rises.
Then again, those reasons might prop him up as the sort of player who could land a truly outstanding return. During that TSN Insider Trading segment, Darren Dreger mentioned that Hurricanes’ left-handed defensemen were being looked at – not just righties, where they’re most overloaded – so Slavin’s worth at least mentioning.
Honestly, when the Hurricanes landed Hamilton, I figured that Faulk’s days were numbered … to the point that he might not have even begun the season with Carolina. That’s obviously not the case, and Faulk continues to be the QB of a power play that’s been disappointing at best, and his pedestrian scoring numbers (just eight points in 28 games despite that plum job) factor into the bewilderment over Hamilton’s light usage.
It made some sense to trot out Faulk on the top power play unit earlier this season, as the Hurricanes might have viewed pumping up Faulk’s trade value as the tiebreaker against giving Hamilton that role. That course really isn’t doing anyone favors at this point – especially the Hurricanes, who could be dangerous with at least an adequate power play – but it’s not all bad news.
While his standing in the league isn’t what it once was (anyone else forget that Faulk is a three-time All-Star?) Faulk is on an affordable contract that expires after next season. Good right-handed defensemen are hard to find, so it’s conceivable that a team might give up some decent pieces for Faulk.
It was a touch surprising that the Hurricanes made their defense even deeper by signing the former Islanders defenseman this summer, yet it was also lauded as an analytics-friendly move. By those measures, De Haan is mostly living up to those standards.
Like other Carolina blueliners, he’s not getting the scoring stats that are easiest to market, however, as De Haan has just four points.
Considering the significant term of his contract, middling scoring stats, and the notion that he’s sneaky-good, a De Haan trade feels quite unlikely. And that’s perfectly fine for Carolina.
The logjam of quality right-handed defensemen dealt the harshest blow to Pesce. His possession stats are troubling relative to his teammates, he’s not scoring much (four points in 19 games), and his ice time has dropped by almost two minutes per game to 19:04.
Yikes. Hamilton and Faulk are both in spots where their market value would likely be depressed, but it’s especially glaring with Pesce. Considering his talent (again, those possession stats are still promising) and contract, it’s really tough to imagine Carolina moving him. That said, it’s also likely that plenty of NHL people still hold him in high regard, so he’s listed.
These two aren’t really in that “premiere” tier (in Fleury’s case, at least not yet?). Theoretically, one could be moved if a lower-cost swap would happen, though.
One can only speculate about what other NHL GMs would take, and what they would give up, so there are a ton of scenarios that could play out.
Personally, the most realistic ones would involve moving Faulk or Hamilton. To an extent, they both have redundant skills/roles, right-handed shots, and contracts that are fairly movable.
The notion that a trade would likely come later, rather than sooner, points in two very different directions. On one hand, the Hurricanes don’t get to clear that logjam. They lose extra games to integrate a new player into the system after a hypothetical move. Conversely, the Hurricanes could get hotter offensively, which could restore/drive up trade value for the likes of Hamilton or Faulk.
Ultimately, the Hurricanes have a better chance of taking that next, crucial step to the playoffs if they strike a balance. There’s a lot to like about this team right now, but moving an excess defenseman for that elusive additional forward could provide that extra oomph.