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Adam Proteau will return Feb. 26. In his absence, the The Hockey will feature several guest bloggers. Up today is The Hockey Editor Edward Fraser:

• Few, if any, thought hiring Garth Snow as GM of the Islanders was a good idea. I'm not suggesting it was, but there's no denying he's made some good moves – dumping Alexei Zhitnik and Mike York on the Flyers, for instance – that have kept his club in playoff contention and put them in good position for the future (we'll chalk the DiPietro signing up to ownership influence).

That being said, the majority of credit for the Isles success this season has to go to coach Ted Nolan – my pick for the Jack Adams whether they make the playoffs or not.

There were only four teams I was sure couldn't make the playoffs before the season began. The Islanders were one of them.

• Speaking of Zhitnik, the 34-year-old played his 1,000th game Tuesday, making him the 215th player to reach the mark. The 215th, eh? At what point do we stop announcing this? I'm guessing when Dave Babych's great, great, great, great, great grandson becomes the 16,392nd to accomplish the feat.

• The Pittsburgh Penguins will make the playoffs, but won't get out of the first round. A goalie with no playoff experience and top “defensive” pairing of Sergei Gonchar and Mark Eaton is a recipe for an early exit.

• One inherent problem with having an inexperienced GM: he must balance the best interests of his team while trying to preserve his own employment.

Case in point – the Leafs aren't going to win the Cup this year. I don't care how many times I hear “All you have to do is make the playoffs; just look at the Oilers.” It ain't happening.

With this in mind, John Ferguson should be dealing away assets (i.e. Darcy Tucker) with an eye on the future. But if he makes such moves and the Buds don't make the playoffs, his job could be on the line. So, instead there's rumors he's looking to bring in one of Gary Roberts, Anson Carter or Bill Guerin – all of whom are UFAs in the summer and couldn't be re-signed under the Leafs' current cap situation – which would require sacrificing young talent and further cement Toronto mediocrity for years to come.

Quite the conundrum.

Forty years and counting.

• If I'm a Western Conference team, I really don't want to face a club from the Northwest Division in the playoffs' early rounds.

Vancouver, Calgary, Minnesota and Edmonton have been playing playoff-style hockey since December, making each one battle-tested and ready for the war of seven-game series.

Could make for some tough sledding for a team with a lot of “cruise” games and little playoff experience (hello, Nashville).

• There's an innocence and delight in this photo that makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you:


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