I am a worrywart by nature. If I have nothing to worry about, I worry about that.
So when I look at the NHL standings and scoring statistics one month into the 2016-17 season, plenty has me concerned.
Is it time to pull the plug on Jaromir Jagr? Listen, I greatly respect Jagr’s passion for the game and his commitment to fitness, but with one goal and six points in 14 games, he is taking the place of a young player who could be gaining valuable experience. Jagr’s play deteriorated as last season progressed and he was a dud in the playoffs. Jagr has had an incredible run, but Florida will be hard pressed to make the playoffs with an unproductive soon-to-be 45-year-old geezer on the roster.
What, exactly, is the big picture game plan for the Carolina Hurricanes? Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2005-06, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs in nine of 10 seasons including the past seven. You can look at some teams near the bottom of the standings this season and see rising stars gaining valuable experience so that when their team turns the corner, they will be solid contributors. The Hurricanes have solid building blocks in Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin, but they also have too many players at or near the end of their careers. Looks like it’s going to be another long season.
Are the Vancouver Canucks in need of a tear down and rebuild? I thought the addition of veteran right winger Loui Eriksson and rugged defenseman Erik Gudbranson would give the sagging Canucks a much-needed boost. That has not been the case. Even though he played so well with the Sedin twins in the World Cup of Hockey, Eriksson had just one goal and five points in 15 games. Gudbranson had three assists and was minus-7. With nine (Henrik) and eight (Daniel) points, the Sedins aren’t exactly lighting it up, either. Wonder what the duo would fetch on the trade market?
Which begs the question, is there such a thing as a trade market anymore? The salary cap, no-trade and no-movement clauses have conspired to make the in-season blockbuster trade a thing of the past. Even trade deadline day has become anticlimactic. Sure there will be veteran players with expiring contracts moved as rental players, but I miss the days when two teams would swap their top players for one another.
Where is the Detroit Red Wings star power? It seems like only yesterday we were watching the Red Wings win championships with the likes of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Chelios, Brendan Shanahan, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. With each passing day it seems like the Red Wings become more bland. Zetterberg is still kicking around and Dylan Larkin has star potential, but the rest of the team looks like a bunch of cookie cutter robots. The Red Wings are actually off to a decent start; they just aren’t that much fun to watch anymore.
Is Brian Elliott the answer between the pipes for the Calgary Flames? So far he the veteran goaltender has not exactly been lights out for the slow-starting Flames. With three wins in 10 starts, a 3.30 goals-against average and .885 save percentage, Elliott has not been the answer for the Flames who have not had a dependable starter since Miikka Kiprusoff left following the 2012-13 season. The Flames woes are not all Elliott’s fault; he just hasn’t been the solution.
Are the Toronto Maple Leafs a serious playoff threat? I said they were prior to the season, but a 7-0 spanking by the Los Angeles Kings, who were only playing at a .500 clip themselves, was an eye opener. Coach Mike Babcock responded by putting his players through a gruelling bag skate the next day. The Maple Leafs are for the most part going through a youth movement and there will be growing pains. A few years from now, when the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner have accumulated significant NHL experience, the Maple Leafs will surely be a competitive team. In the meantime, however, Toronto will scratch and claw in an attempt to make it to the post-season. And there will likely be a few more bag skates before the season concludes.