I have been moderately remiss in posting of late as my Hockey Fandom has been slightly wounded. I love Hockey. I hate Hockey’s internal politics. The spate of Coach firings extending all the way to the corner has painted the league in a terrible light. Jim Montgomery was the latest victim and we still don’t know what he actually said or did. I’m OK with not knowing. Let’s get it back on the ice.
The firing of coaches has had an interesting influence on their respective teams. Calgary has been on fire since sacking Bill Peters rattling off six victories ina row and having slumping scorers like Johnny Hockey regain their touch. The Leafs had a similar reaction to Mike Babcock’s dismissal but now seem to be averaging out. The Flames are back to reminding people that they had the best record in the West last year. A lot of parallels between the two Canadian teams at this point. The Dallas Stars firing of Jim Montgomery become even more curious as the Stars were on the road back to contention after a very cold start.
Not enough people are talking about the Washington Capitals as they are the top team in the NHL while refusing to allow the shockingly good New York Islanders to gain any ground. Perhaps more impressive is that the Caps are doing it with mediocre goaltending from Braden Holtby and an injury stint from Nik Backstrom. John Carlson is channeling the spirit of Mike Green from 2007-2010. While we’re on the subject of Washington’s defence I’d like to take this opportunity to hate on Philadelphia Flyers management. Why did they trade Radko Gudas to Washington for Matt Niskanen? OK, Niskanen might be a marginally better defenceman than Gudas, particularly on offence. But Gudas is one of the most feared physical players in the league. Now Washington has two of the meanest beasts that can play a regular shift (Tom Wilson and his quiet 11 goals being the other). I say that, but maybe a culture change was needed in Philly. They’re back to being competitive and their most heavily penalized player is Claude Giroux! Travis Konecny’s concussion will be a big problem though, dude was killing it when he went down.
I was lucky enough to go to the Leafs Vs. Avalanche game last week. A disappointing result for my squad, but it’s always nice to see a team that you’re very unfamiliar with. I realize I’ve been underrating Nathan MacKinnon because I’d never actually seen him play. I don’t feel bad about it – there’s a subset of teams that I never see due to time zones. You’d be surprised though, it’s never the far West teams. I often see West Coast teams on the weekend playing the late game on Hockey Night in Canada against the Canadian teams – Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg. The ones I never see are the Western Conference teams that are further east and don’t have pure West Coast start times – Minnesota, Dallas, St. Louis and Colorado. I suppose Nashville and Chicago should be up there too but for some reason I always manage to catch a few of their games. Anyhoo, the point is having never seen MacKinnon play I wasn’t giving him enough credit. I got the impression that Sidney Crosby and he share a playstyle in addition to a hometown. MacKinnon likes to have the puck a lot, and uses his beefy lower body to keep and protect it. It’s more impressive the speed that he does it at as well. I was also impressed by Cale Makar who was an absolute beast for a teenager and looked like a veteran. He’s gonna run away with the Calder Trophy and it’s well deserved!