Some NHL speculations

First off, yes this is still a Jets fan site but what happens around the league affects the Jets too and I think from time to time it’s important to talk about what is happening around the NHL as well. Therefore, on every Sunday starting today you can expect to see a post that relates to the entire NHL. A writer from WinnipegWhiteOut.com will comment on what is going on in the NHL as a whole the past week. You’ll be able to find past articles in “The Other 29″ section of our site.

Trade Rumors in Calgary

The past week has been a week of speculation in Calgary. Is it time to trade Iginla? Should Kipper be moved? When will the rebuild start? And it seems that every time it looks like the Flames need to be blown up and rebuilt they string together a few wins and preserve themselves. The Flames sit one game below .500 after 3 wins in their last 4 games. They are by no means out of it just yet and until they are I think it’s a safe bet they won’t trade Iginla or Kiprusoff just yet.

However if the Flames start to spiral out of control, something that is certainly possible especially since it looks like top defenceman Mark Giordano could be lost for the year. If/when that starts to happen expect those rumours to heat up especially as we approach the trade deadline on February 27. So allow me to throw some more speculation onto the fire. It appears that the Flames will not be a team that contends for the Cup over the next few years, which would cover the remaining years of Iggy and Kipper’s contracts.

Both these players have done everything they could for Calgary and Feaster should ask but one more thing of them – waive their no trade clause and send them to contenders. Now this is the part that might hurt for Calgary Flames, not that their stars would be traded but who I’m gonna suggest would net the biggest gains for their team.

Iggy should be traded to the Canucks for Cory Schneider. Schneider has proven that he’s capable of being not just a number one goalie in this league but an elite number one. The last time the Flames got a number one goalie it was also when he was buried behind a guy who wasn’t going anywhere in Nabakov. Despite Luongo’s struggles he’s still entrenched in Vancouver thanks to that contract and no one in their right mind would take it on in a trade, so Schneider will have to be moved at some point and moving him to acquire a star player in Iginla makes more sense for the Canucks at this time, then trading him for prospects.

The Canucks got one game away from the cup last year and have kept most of that team together. Putting Iggy on the wing with the Sedin twins suddenly gives you the most potent top line in the NHL, because everyone knows Iggy’s a sniper and the Sedin’s are better playmakers. While at the same time the Flames get their goalie of the future and one that is ready for the future today. Also trading Iggy to Vancouver, which is close to his summer home in Kelowna, has got to be higher up on his list of acceptable destinations and a nice way of showing you appreciated what he’s done for your organization.

So where does Kipper go? If Iggy to the Canucks doesn’t sting, this one certainly will. The Oilers might be the best fit as the team has looked great at times but defensive lapses and some shaky goaltending has caused them to fall down the standings. Edmonton has a stock pile of good young players that they could package together with maybe a draft pick that would help speed up Calgary’s rebuild. We all know what Kiprusoff can do when he gets into the playoffs and if the Oilers are within striking distance adding a legitimate number one goalie would make a lot of sense and they have the pieces to trade for him, perhaps a player like Onus Linmark that seems to be the odd young man left out of the Oiler’s plans?

Realignment

Now we recently broke down some of the options being considered for realignment so I’m not going to go into great detail with both plans but I do want to talk about the four conference set up that is being discussed. The current Western conference would have Winnipeg added to it and be split in the middle giving it two conferences of eight, while the current Eastern conference would be split into two conferences of seven.

The NHLPA is said to not be in favor of this plan as it’ll be unfair to the teams in the eight division conferences. There is also the factor that Detroit would stay bunched up with Chicago et al in the old Norris division. And it’s also been rumored that they were promised to be moved into the East so their fans can have early start times for games. I’m not sure what would be stopping them from taking Detroit and adding them into the conference with Toronto and Montreal since with this plan they are abandoning the two conference model and going with four so after only one team remains they would be re-seeded meaning a Winnipeg/Edmonton Stanley cup would be theoretically possible.

My suspicions are that this new realignment is being done in a way that makes it easier for a relocated Phoenix team next season to slide over into one of the seven team conferences instead of Detroit doing that this year. It would be unfortunate if Phoenix is relocated but I read the fact that Detroit is still with the Western teams as a vote of non-confidence in the Phoenix situation. The other potential is to look at further expansion into two new markets or perhaps revisited markets to round the league up to 32 and four eight team conferences.

We’ll know more about realignment by Tuesday night, so we’ll save further speculation for next weeks column.

Buffalo Soldiers?

Something needs to be done in Buffalo or Ryan Miller’s career will be cut short by injuries. First it was the Lucic incident and the other night Jordan Tootoo practically superman dived right over him. It was Miller himself who was first to attack, hitting Tootoo with glove and blocker shots. This was Miller’s first game back from a concussion that was suffered on the Lucic hit. Now I’m not condoning what Lucic or Tootoo did but something I learnt back in kindergarten was that two wrongs don’t make a right.

When Lucic bowled over Miller, Miller’s first response was to viciously swing his stick in the direction of Lucic and thankfully did not make contact, because he could have easily broken Lucic’s ankle on the play. (I don’t care if he’s wearing protection, I’ve experienced something similar and ended up having to have bone fragments removed and missed half a season).

In this latest incident he starts hitting Tootoo with his blocker! I don’t know if you’ve ever had the unfortunate pleasure of being hit with one of those but they hurt (my brother was a goalie). In all intents and purpose it’s a weapon and while I’m not going to spend time trying to find it in the rule book I’m pretty sure there is something in there about a penalty or ejection if a goalie punches a player with his blocker on. The only thing that saved Tootoo in this instance was his face was buried into the ice and the blocker shots were to his back and back of the helmet.

So while both incidents could and in one case did cause serious injury to Miller, both times his reaction could have caused potentially even more damage. Two wrongs don’t make a right and I agree he has to protect himself and be protected but do you think Shanny didn’t factor in the attempted retaliation when deciding if he should suspend Lucic or not? The NHL doesn’t want vigilante justice. If they did they’d remove the instigator rule and every team would go out trying to find the next Bob Probert.

Now some people think that what Miller did was awesomeness. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I learnt that in Kindergarten. If someone is going to cheap shot you, defend yourself but don’t retaliate. It’s a fine line and one that Miller clearly hasn’t learnt and until there is someone on the Sabres that will strike a little fear into their opponents, this might be a recurring theme in Buffalo this year. Paul Gaustad just doesn’t cut it.

Coaching Carousel

So both Marshall and Jeff have touched on the firing of Randy Carlyle and I discussed how new coaches in Washington and Carolina could affect the Jets. The yearly shuffling of coaches from struggling teams is nothing new to the NHL and has become a hazard of the job. St. Louis has climbed the standings since handing the reigns over to Ken Hitchcock. Dale Hunter got his first NHL head coaching win the other night over Ottawa, while Kirk Muller is still searching for his first win in Carolina. In Anaheim Bruce Bouderau found work quickly but lost his first game behind the Ducks bench.

Not all coaching changes pay off, and some take a while before players learn and buy into the new coaches system. The Jets have started to play better hockey lately and a large part of that is they now know how to play Noel’s system and it took them a while to learn that. They even had the preseason to learn it and it still took them about 10-15 games before they started to use it effectively. Mid-season firings is something no organization wants to do as it doesn’t always work out the way it did in Pittsburgh when Dan Bylsma took over and led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.

In fact since the 1926 season when the WHL folded and the NHL was the only league competing for the Stanley Cup, only three coaches have taken over their team mid-season and gone on to win the Stanley Cup that same year. Byslma did it with the Penguins in 2009 finishing up the final 25 games of the regular season. Larry Robinson took over in New Jersey for the final 8 games of the 2000 season before leading the Devils to the cup. Lastly Al MacNeil took over in 1971 for the final 55 games of Montreal’s season and led them to the cup.

Going a little bit further only 14 other coaches have led their team to Stanley Cup victories in their first year behind that teams bench. (Burns ’03, Bowman ’92, Keenan ’94, Lemaire ’93, Johnson ’91, Muckler ’90, Perron ’86, Raul ’69, Primeau ’51, Gorman ’34 and ’35 Leafs then Maroons, Irving ’32, Denneny ’29, and Gill ’27)

Over the last 84 years there was a 3.57% chance you would win the cup replacing your coach mid-season and a 16.67% chance that you could win the cup with a new coach at the start of the season.

When you look at these numbers you know that team executives are not making the decision to fire a coach lightly, as it rarely results in the ultimate success during the first year. That being said, there are a few coaches that remain in the hot seats. Scott Arniel in Columbus and Jacques Martin in Montreal are the two front-runners currently.

Q & A

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Until next Sunday, hope you all have a great week and Go Jets Go!

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of winnipegwhiteout.com and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.