NHL Rink Wrap: Campbell leads Maple Leafs; Some life from Predators

NHL RInk Wrap: Campbell leads Maple Leafs; Some life from Predators
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Image

Top players from Wednesday in the NHL

Kevin Fiala, Wild

Look, Jack Campbell probably ranks as the actual top star for Wednesday in the NHL. You can scroll and read plenty about his season, and general impact on the Maple Leafs, though. Let’s give someone else a moment in the spotlight, too.

After Wednesday’s NHL action, the Wild sit atop the Central Division with 18 standings points in 12 games (9-3-0). They got there after clobbering the Coyotes, who may view any narrow win as a miracle at this rate.

Despite a modest ice time of 14:03, Kevin Fiala scored a goal and two assists on four shots on goal.

I’d wager Fiala, the Wild, Fiala’s agent, and his accountant all hope this begins a hot streak. After scoring three points in as many games to start the season, Fiala went pointless in seven of his last eight games. (He enjoyed a two-assist game vs. the Senators during that slump.)

The 25-year-old can be frustrating, but also dazzling. And he’s very much a player to watch — not just for the Wild.

His $5.1M cap hit merely serves as a stopgap and another contract year. With the Wild eyeing a serious cap crunch from the Ryan SuterZach Parise buyouts, it’s possible Fiala just won’t be affordable. Maybe that hinges on how hot or cold he can get this season?

NHL news: Bob Murray resigns, tough injury update for Avs

Highlights from Flyers – Maple Leafs, Wild – Coyotes, Predators – Stars

With three games on Wednesday’s NHL slate, enjoy highlights from each contest.

Jack Campbell and William Nylander powered the Maple Leafs’ win over the Flyers:

Scroll for more on the scrappy Predators, who beat the Stars:

Finally, it almost felt like the Wild could name their score in a win against the lowly Coyotes.

 

Wednesday’s NHL takeaways

Believe it or not, the Maple Leafs find occasional bargains

When the Maple Leafs traded for Jack Campbell, it seemed like a solid bet on a potentially above-average backup. It was unusual, too, since the Kings already extended Campbell for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons for a $1.65M cap hit. Back then, it seemed like a decent bit of speculation.

Instead, it’s increasingly looking like one of Kyle Dubas‘ best moves as Maple Leafs GM.

With Frederik Andersen injured and inconsistent last season, Jack Campbell was a revelation for the Maple Leafs. He managed a fantastic 17-3-2 record with a sparkling .921 save percentage.

Once again, Campbell’s delivering while a would-be starter can’t stay healthy. The outlook for Petr Mrazek is grim, but Campbell’s playing so well, the Maple Leafs probably wish they could just give Mrazek’s contract to Campbell. With a 36-save shutout on Wednesday, Campbell stands as one of the NHL’s best goalies this season at 7-3-1 with a marvelous .936 save percentage. He’s probably already paid for his $1.65M cap hit through one month.

[Where the Maple Leafs and other NHL teams stand in the Power Rankings]

The bargains aren’t always of the buy-low, hope-for-the-best variety. For all of the hand-wringing about William Nylander’s holdout, getting the sorely underrated star under contract for a touch less than $7M per year through 2023-24 was deft work. (Sure, it meant a strangely lopsided contract, but that’s why you hire capologists.)

No doubt, it’s huge for the Maple Leafs to see Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews shaking off their funks. But Nylander’s simply been delivering. With two goals on Wednesday, Nylander’s not far off of a point-per-game (13 points in 14 games).

So, don’t say the Maple Leafs can’t find any bargains. You can definitely claim that they can’t find enough of them, but plenty of other NHL teams can relate.

Signs of life from the Predators

Overall, the Nashville Predators haven’t accomplished enough to totally change the narrative. They still feel like an expansive team with budget talent.

But being uninspiring doesn’t always translate into cellar-dwelling. After a grim 1-4-0 start (with four of five games at home), the Predators look like players in the Central Division at 7-5-1. Through the first five games of a six-game road trip, the Predators managed a 3-1-1 record. That included Wednesday’s tight win over the Dallas Stars.

Even with that road trip ending against the Blues on Thursday, the Predators could still wobble. Their upcoming slate is an interesting mix of challenges (counting that visit to St. Louis, four of their next five games on the road) and opportunities (games against the Coyotes, Senators, and Canadiens).

Truly, at least a partial rebuild might be the wisest idea. That doesn’t seem likely, though, so at least they’re hanging in there.

Ducks should turn the page after Bob Murray resigns

Quite frankly, it’s been puzzling to see the Ducks’ one (webbed) foot in, one foot out approach to a rebuild. They had the opportunity to trade diminishing assets like Josh Manson at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. After allegedly setting the price artificially high, they instead basically stayed put.

For every gesture toward rebuilding (shrewd picks like Trevor Zegras, selling high on Ondrej Kase), it feels like there’s at least been one stubborn stab at fighting reality.

Perhaps Jeff Solomon can make an impression by unabashedly pushing for a Ducks rebuild. Somehow, Cam Fowler is already 29, and Jakob Silfverberg is already 31. Defensemen in contract years like Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson should be trade deadline fodder.

[Statements from NHL, Ducks, Bob Murray]

Frankly, this team’s window for success simply might not match up with John Gibson‘s prime at age 28. By the time they get their act together, it’s uncomfortably plausible that Gibson’s confidence could be shot.

In a piece worth reading (sub required), The Athletic’s Eric Stephens calls for Ducks ownership to emerge from relative obscurity following Bob Murray’s resignation. That’s a worthy argument, but if the Ducks’ owners want to stay in the shadows, they should at least empower Solomon to tear things down — however tenuous his position might be.

From the sound of things, the Ducks’ culture change has been a long time coming.

Even just on the ice, their rebuild is also long overdue.

Expect even more on the Ducks’ future later this week.

Thursday’s big story

Please let the mega powers collide in Bruins – Oilers

So far, at five-on-five, the Oilers line up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with each other slightly more often (95:43 minutes) than not (89:49). There are a lot of strategic reasons to split them up. After hit-or-miss stretches, Draisaitl’s proven he can carry his own line. In particular, you might want to split the two up on the road.

I say hogwash to that on Thursday.

The past month-and-change has been grueling for fans of the sport. With that in mind, the Oilers and Bruins should be fined if we don’t see Draisaitl + McDavid + someone lucky vs. the Bruins mega-line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.

There are plenty of enticing NHL games on Thursday, yet watching those two lines battle it out would take the cake. (So force the coaches to match them up, too. Surely this will be easy.)

Click here for more on Draisaitl and McDavid once again driving the Oilers to success.

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Maple Leafs 3, Flyers 0
Predators 4, Stars 2
Wild 5, Coyotes 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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