The NHL All-Star break begins today. We’ve finally reached what is colloquially known as the halfway point of the season. In reality, all teams have played at least 48 games at this point of the season. This doesn’t mean that the playoff picture is much clearer in either conference. For example, fourteen points is the difference between leading the Western Conference and being out of the playoffs. Despite how close the competition is, we have a repeat team atop the Power Rankings.
#1 Philadelphia Flyers (Last Week #1)
You win the first weekly Sunday afternoon US TV battle of the season, you get to sit atop the Power Rankings. Granted, the Flyers should have won that game regardless. First, the Flyers are the better team. Second, they’re on a hot streak and are therefore expected to keep it going forever. And finally, the game was at 11:30 AM Central time. That’s about an hour-and-a-half earlier than one would expect an afternoon home game to start in Chicago. But that’s what happens when NBC calls the shots. The Flyers were playing at the normalish time and 20 Cent was probably still drunk from the night before. Philly had that one in the bag when the schedule was announced.
#2 Dallas Stars (LW #4)
Since the Pittsburgh section is taken with Mike Comrie jokes, I’ll talk Big Ben here. There’s a delightful irony to Ben Roethisberger leading the Steelers to the Super Bowl in Dallas in the same season that he was suspended for his off-field behaviour. Like Norm MacDonald said at the ESPYs, the key to the Cowboys dynasty was strippers and crack. I’m pretty sure there’s an obvious joke comparing the old Cowboys antics to Big Ben’s. Of course, no one will care about the fact Ben beat rape charges in the off-season if he beats the Pack. Ask Ray Lewis. Nobody remembers your transgressions if you win a Super Bowl.
#3 Tampa Bay Lightning (LW #6)
Sorry about the random question (though random is just about all I trade in) but is Vincent Lecavalier dead? I’m being serious. I picked him in the third round of my office fantasy pool this season counting on him playing with Stamkos at the very least on the power play. I know he’s missed 16 games this season but he’s still on pace for a pedestrian 44 points this season. I must be cursed with third round picks. Last year, I took Ray Whitney. He’s doing better in Phoenix this year than Carolina last year.
#4 Detroit Red Wings (LW #2)
Last Thursday, I had my Nostradamus moment on Twitter. I issued what I called a preemptive tweet that read “Fucking re-entry waivers.” That’s because KHL players that return to the NHL must pass through re-entry waivers like a minor leaguer. Well, the Islanders put a claim on Detroit’s newest Red Wing and now we have ourselves a problem. Just now do people realize that there’s a problem with this system. I brought this up last week with Kyle Wellwood being signed by St. Louis but going to San Jose because of waivers. Really, if you sign a free agent, joining your team should be treated the same way for every UFA. You sign them, they’re yours. That’s how it works in the summer. That’s how it should work in winter.
#5 Vancouver Canucks (LW #3)
Have you seen the revised All-Star Game commercials? There’s a goalie in a blue jersey with green trim in the mountains hopping on a train. He’s the only player featured in the whole commercial that doesn’t have a name or number on his jersey. Now I wonder who that could be? Poor Bobby Lu. The NHL figured that he’d be an All-Star in that ad but didn’t count on their hockey operations department not picking him. Mind you, I can’t fault not picking him. He is only 8th in GAA and save percentage this year.
#6 Nashville Predators (LW #7)
Suddenly, I’m not so sure that Marc Crawford’s name should be engraved on the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. The Preds are on a hot streak and my boy Barry Trotz is looking to add some hardware to the shelf. Nashville is only three points back of Dallas and four back of Detroit for the division lead. Like I’ve said before, this comes down largely to Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback but a star goaltending doesn’t mean guaranteed success. Just ask fans in Buffalo, Florida and New Jersey.
#7 Pittsburgh Penguins (LW #9)
I read a brief little blurb that one of the tabloids has learned that Hilary Duff is seven or eight weeks pregnant. That would explain a lot about Mr. Duff’s (AKA Mike Comrie) season. He’s only played in 16 of Pittsburgh’s 50 games this season. Even worse for him, he’s only managed five points in those sixteen games. I guess we know what Comrie’s been doing with his time off and why his effort on the ice has been lacking despite starting the season on a line with Malkin. Maybe the British soccer team is right for banning sex during the World Cup.
#8 Anaheim Ducks (LW #8)
Despite their recent flight up the NHL standings, I’m surprised that the Ducks don’t have enough fans to get their NHL Guardian superhero dude unveiled yet. (By the way, “yet” is Wednesday evening.) Twenty-four guardians have been unveiled. Anaheim, Atlanta, Nashville, both New York teams and St. Louis are the odd teams out. The question this raises is does that show a problem with the NHL’s move to social media (i.e. these teams have fewer young/Facebook savvy fans) or that these teams just don’t have many fans.
#9 Montreal Canadiens (LW #13)
I’ve noted before that I don’t write this post top to bottom. I tackle teams as I’m inspired to write about them. The Habs are last this week. That surprises me because they’re bouncing back right now. They looked set to fall out of the East’s top eight just a couple of weeks back but seem to be secure in the playoffs by five points. I think most of that has to come down to Carey Price’s play this season. The Habs are 6th in the league (and 3rd in the East) in goals against. I hate to say it but maybe Pierre Gauthier isn’t as dumb/crazy as I thought he was for trading Halak.
#10 Boston Bruins (LW #5)
I saw a mock draft on NHL.com that guessed who the two captains would take for the All-Star game now that we know who the captains are. What surprised me is that Tim Thomas was drafted as the third goalie of six (7th round, 13th overall). Considering I took him as our first goalie in our Lowdown mock draft, I find this prediction a bit unrealistic. After all, Double T is the only goalie with a GAA under 2. He’s locked up the Vezina already. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins All-Star MVP.
#11 Washington Capitals (LW #12)
Let’s assume that the Red Wings did, as has been rumoured for a while, ask the NHL to keep Hank Zetterberg out of the all-star game so he can recover from various dings. Who does that leave as the next most logical forward to fill in as an injury replacement? I would think that had to have been Nick Backstrom. He’s next highest player in scoring that hasn’t already been named to the game. Instead, they went with Paul Stastny. And despite what I just said, I would have gone with Teemu Selanne.
#12 New York Rangers (LW #10)
I think the Rangers are guaranteed to play in next year’s Winter Classic. Wayne Gretzky recently said in an interview that he’d play in an alumni game for the Rangers if they were in the Winter Classic. The Pens got two Winter Classics in four years even without Super Mario’s committment to the alumni game. Now it’s just down to a venue. I would hope that the New Meadowlands Stadium gets the game if Yankee Stadium can’t host. If Citi Field gets the game… Well, the less said about anything Mets related, the better.
#13 Chicago Blackhawks (LW #15)
You know what pissed me off the most about the NFC Championship game, apart from the fact the Pack knocked me out of my office playoff pool? That people went all high and mighty over Jay Cutler’s injury. At the risk of alienating the two or three bloggers that read this post and said “let’s see how badly he’s hurt”: Fuck off! So Cutler tore his MCL. Phil Rivers played on a torn ACL in the 2008 playoffs. Mike Faulds of the Western Mustangs played in the 2009 OUA playoffs on a torn ACL and came within a pass of winning the Yates Cup. Cutler may have been hurt but he had no heart. At least make an attempt to get back in the huddle instead of leaving the third-stringer out to dry like that.
#14 Phoenix Coyotes (LW #11)
Top Gear is finally back for a new season (or series as they’re called over there). It’s on its 16th season since the show’s reboot in 2002. I know that I’m generally against reboots or remakes but Top Gear might be the only thing to get that right. Well, even calling it a reboot might be a misnomer. After all, the only things in common with pre-2000 Top Gear were car reviews and hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May. The format was completely changed to something almost like a sitcom that reviewed cars. And it’s easily the best show on TV anywhere in the world. Take that NBC’s comedy night and CBS’s #1 comedies.
#15 Minnesota Wild (LW #18)
The Packers are heading back to the Super Bowl. Since, for whatever reason, the state of Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL franchise, I’m covering the Pack’s return to the big game here. Call it sort of an irony because the Vikings’ season was derailed because of Brett Favre while the Pack was carried to the Super Bowl by the play of Favre’s replacement. There were a lot of media types that thought Green Bay was relegating themselves to irrelevancy by letting Favre go for Rodgers. It’s taken three season but I think we can officially ask who’s laughing now?
#16 Carolina Hurricanes (LW #14)
I’m not complaining (or allowed to complain because of Scott) about the newest Carolina Hurricanes All-Star but I will say I’m surprised by his being named to the All-Star game. Jeff Skinner, former Kitchener Ranger and 2010′s 7th overall draft pick, will be the only rookie in the game and the third Hurricane to make the show in Raleigh. I’m just amazed that a rookie like him can sneak through the media without the hype. He’s 38th in the league in scoring but no one is hyping him as the best choice of Rookie of the Year. Mind you, I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s no love for players in Carolina.
#17 Colorado Avalanche (LW #16)
The campaign to bring an NHL team back to Quebec City is officially on. The president of Quebecor says that his company is willing to put tens of millions of dollars on the table to build and manage an arena in Quebec City. It’s thought (not confirmed) that a new arena is a prerequisite to getting an NHL franchise back. The municipal and provincial governments are behind the plan. It’s really a Field of Dreams type scenario. These guys are betting on that if they build it, the NHL will come. No wonder why the federal government isn’t pledging funds just yet. The real question is will the team be called the Nordiques again or keep the name Coyotes?
#18 San Jose Sharks (LW #21)
Here’s your fun Taco Bell fact of the day: Taco Bell’s meat isn’t really what one would generally refer to as meat. It’s beef is actually only about 35% beef. The other 65% is made up of water, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch. I know there have been lots of jokes about the quality of food at Taco Bell but we all still eat it. I wonder if we’ll keep eating Taco Bell when we’re eating stuff with names we need a calculator to pronounce. No wonder why their value menu items are so cheap.
#19 Buffalo Sabres (LW #23)
I think this is the Sabres’ highest ranking of the season. They’re only four points out of 8th place in the East with two games in hand and only three points off 9th. They’re suddenly right back in the thick of the playoff race. The thing is that they’re still lacking scoring. They’ve only scored more than three goals three times in the month of January. They’ve scored only two goals four times. The good news is that they haven’t been shutout since November. Small victories, I guess.
#20 Atlanta Thrashers (LW #17)
Twice in the last three months, I’ve done something I’ve never done or felt compelled to do before. I’ve bought games on the first day they’re out. I pre-ordered Gran Turismo 5 and bought Dead Space 2 on its first day. Granted, the latter was because I was up the street from EB Games for work so I drove by it on the way home and it was a gift for my sister’s birthday on the weekend. Still, I feel like that I’m becoming more of a game nerd later in my life. There’s almost something wrong with that.
#21 Columbus Blue Jackets (LW #24)
By the way, this week’s Lowdown video game plug is for Dead Space 2. This is the last 2011 Game of the Year contender that will drop until November if memory serves. It’s a third-person shooter sci-fi zombie survival horror. Make sense? It will if you pick it up. You go around blowing away zombies in space but they aren’t called zombies even though they’re the undead. And for some reason, EA is running commercials saying how mothers don’t like this game because it’s too graphic/violent. It’s no different from any zombie movie or TV series ever made.
#22 Los Angeles Kings (LW #20)
You know, I’ve never understood why video games have such a negative connotation against them for violence, sex, etcetera when TV and movies are no different. Is the sex scene in Killing Me Softly any worse than the 15 second clip in Mass Effect? Yes because it’s a video game that kids can play. ME1 had a guy’s arse and some sideboob. You saw a lot more of Heather Graham in Killing Me Softly. ME1 was rated M which is the gaming equivalent to Killing Me Softly’s R rating. So what’s so bad about violence and sex in video games? Kids have easier access to hardcore porn on the internet than sex in video games. I fail to see why video game publishers are the ones constantly persecuted but movie producers are royalty.
#23 St. Louis Blues (LW #19)
Greatest invention ever time! Someone called Ma Xi Xuan has invented a USB connector that can go both ways. I’m sure everyone has struggled with plugging in a USB anything at one point in time or another. Well, Xuan’s USB device has some sort of spring-loaded device that means that the USB connector plugs every single time. You don’t have to worry about making sure you’re plugging in with the right side up. It’s only a drawing right now but it’d be cool if someone can make this work sooner rather than later.
#24 Calgary Flames (LW #26)
Hockeybuzz rumour guru Eklund dropped a couple of interesting rumours on Sunday. The first was Calgary shipping Jay Bo, Bourque, Backlund and two picks to New Jersey for Parise, Rolston, Salvador and two prospects. This is an intriguing one. Both teams need cap space but the Flames have more to spare. Somehow the math on this one still works for the Devils. At least, it does this year. The thing is that they’re basically swapping Parise’s big salary for Jay Bo’s. I’d rather Parise myself but the Flames don’t have that superstar defenceman that might help spring Kovalchuk. If that’s the reason why Lou would pull the trigger on this, then this might not be such a bad or outlandish idea.
#25 Florida Panthers (LW #22)
I know I’ve complained about not having enough time to write the Power Rankings these last few weeks but I’ve got a new complaint about writing them this week. For whatever reason, our dog loves eating paper towel tubes. She grabbed one and ran downstairs where I was blogging and watching football. Eventually my mom got a hold of the tube and decided to tease the dog. She lifted the tube up and down and got the dog to jump up after it. And she did it right over my laptop. When the dog landed on it, I lost the 7 keypad key and the enter and right shift keys are banged up to the point where they hardly work. I really need to move out. Too bad apartments don’t exactly exist in the Soo.
#26 Toronto Maple Leafs (LW #27)
Eklund’s second Sunday rumour involved the Make Believes. It has Toronto moving Kadri, MacArthur, Versteeg and a conditional pick to Dallas for Richards, Benn and a prospect (Ondrej Roman). Now there’s no way in hell I see this happening. Unless the Stars don’t win between now and the trade deadline, Richards and Benn stay in Dallas. I know Richards is a UFA at season end but if you’re near the top of your conference, you don’t move guys when you have a shot at the Cup. It just doesn’t work as long as the Stars are in contention. I can see this sort of move after season’s end but not over the next month.
#27 New Jersey Devils (LW #30)
Rejoice, Devils fans. You’re finally off bottom. In fact, you’re the best team in the NHL since January 9th. Who the fuck looks up these ridiculous stats. I know January 9th was a Sunday but that’s still a random day to choose to compare records with the rest of the league. Did anything noteworthy happen on the 9th that would make it a significant date for comparing teams? Sports announcers seem to love dishing ridiculous stats as much as stats folks love digging them up. I wish more commentators would watch a damn game instead of simplify it to a bunch of mathematical formulas.
#28 New York Islanders (LW #25)
I can’t say I feel sorry for Garth Snow. He brings so much of his grief upon himself. Okay, a good portion of it can be attributed to being the front for Charles Wang’s decisions but he doesn’t have to play out the charade. He’d be sacrificing a lifetime of guaranteed income but he could attempt to be his own GM. If Charles Wang wants to be Jerry Jones, let him. If Garth wants to have any reputation, he can either resign or tell Wang to fuck off. Until then, guys
Chuck he claims off waivers will keep hanging up on him.
#29 Edmonton Oilers (LW #29)
I mentioned it yesterday in the WLO but Wayne Gretzky turned 50 on Wednesday. The greatest hockey player since Bobby Orr (for the sake of ducking the debate) is basically the basis for the new NHL. Players are more free from the stick play that slightly hurt Gretzky’s scoring ability. I say slightly because Gretzky was too smart to get caught off guard by defenders. The only Gretzky innovation that we need to do away with is the dedicated enforcer. Colton Orr has no place in a hockey arena, including the stands. That would be the only bad part of The Great One’s legacy.
#30 Ottawa Senators (LW #28)
The Sens have managed to leapfrog the Oil for the bottom of the barrel this week. Not surprising given the way this team has played for most of the season. They’re playing like a team that doesn’t care about anything but the next paycheck. Short of Eric Karlsson, nobody is playing at or above their salary grade. It seems as though most Senators aren’t even playing at the level of somebody worth half their salary. Well, maybe they won’t fuck up their #1 pick this year as badly as Daigle or Berard.