On the day of The Hockey News’ 60th anniversary party in Toronto, here’s a mailbag column that has absolutely nothing to do with the Hockey News’ 60th anniversary party in Toronto.
I know most pundits hate to admit when they've made a mistake in their pre-season prognostications, but how about those Blue Jackets so far? Yes, I know it's early, but the early returns are positive. Guess Ken Hitchcock still knows a thing or two – plus Hitch has always made the playoffs for every team he's coached when he's been there a full season, a factor not addressed by the pre-season pundits. Rick Nash has been an absolute beast – he came in noticeably bigger and much better conditioned. He's really bought into Hitch's system and is starting to establish himself as one of the better players in the league. Imagine if he had a No.1 center to work with! To that end, guess those experts who thought Nash was on the hot seat for underachieving were off-base? Again, I just hope he stays healthy. I really love your analysis and your magazine – keep up the great work!
Ed Cmar, Columbus
As I note just about every year, I’m always happy to identify and publicize the errors in my pre-season predictions. When you think about it, sports pundits and prognosticators really are just weathermen without the polyester suits; we look at the horizon, check the available information, and make our best guess as to what will happen.
And like all weathermen, if we predict the equivalent of cruddy sports conditions and the sun winds up coming out instead, we’re happy to be wrong.
The Blue Jackets certainly are getting a much more well-rounded contribution from Nash, but there’s far more to Columbus’ surprising start than their most talented player. Pascal Leclaire finally looks worthy of his high draft selection, Nik Zherdev has done a complete 180 in terms of attitude and output, and guys like Manny Malhotra and Jan Hedja lead the team in plus/minus.
When your entire lineup is chipping in, it makes the job of a playing talent like Nash – and a coaching talent like Hitchcock – much, much easier.
First let me say that I have been following NHL hockey for the past 50 years. Needless to say that this does not make me a New York Islanders fan – yes, I am a New York Rangers fan. Now with that being said, I as a hockey fan would just like to say I think the New York Islanders organization showed an exceptional amount of class and pride in their organization in allowing Al Arbour to coach his 1,500th game. By doing this, they make every New York Islander fan extremely proud of their organization, and every hockey fan appreciate that we have an organization like this in the NHL. Al Arbour always was a classy coach and person, who set the standards high and pushed his teams on to achieve those high standards. Again, congratulations to the New York Islanders organization and their fans for a job well done! Oh yes, one last thing. Let's go Rangers!
Fred Bartsch, Lynbrook, N.Y.
This is another Ask Adam question that technically isn’t a question. But I agree with the sentiment so much, I couldn’t help but include it. Cheers to the Isles for a wonderful gesture, and to you for being a real hockey fan.
What is going on with the Buffalo Sabres? Can the departure of Drury and Briere make the team slide so badly? They just aren't clicking.
Barbara Tosti, Rochester, N.Y.
The departure of Drury and Briere isn’t the main cause of the Sabres’ slide, but to say their absence hasn’t hurt would be wrong, too.
Take, for example, Buffalo’s faceoff win percentage, which is currently rated 27th in the league at just 46.3. Last year, they finished with a far healthier 51.4 percent rating, thanks largely to Drury’s 58.8 percent individual faceoff percentage.
That stat may help explain why the Sabres’ goals-allowed per game is up an average of nearly a half-goal (from 2.90 last year to 3.38 this season), but it isn’t the sole explanation. In my last Screen Shots column, I also took goalie Ryan Miller to task for his sub-par play; as well, I think the health woes of Teppo Numminen have removed a calming influence from a defense corps that was exposed during the playoffs last year as being too soft.
I still believe Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier will turn things around for the Sabres and lead them to the post-season. But unless higher-paid players such as Miller and Thomas Vanek start performing as their salaries dictate they should, it could take Buffalo until the last week of the year to secure a playoff spot that once seemed a foregone conclusion.
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