“Paddy’s Impressions” are the random musings of what is going on around the National Hockey League according to one misinformed and misguided Irishman who’s still trying to get to grips with the game while living in the biggest hockey market in the free world.
The First Ten
A lot of talk across the hockey world after the first three weeks of games is surrounding how we are expected to assess teams after the first ten games, and whether there’s any real merit to it. While the consensus seems to be that you really shouldn’t come to too many conclusions and we’ve still got another 72 to go, the fact of the matter is that a win counts for the same in Game 1 as it does Game 82. Points on the board are important, and while you’d have to be hesitant about writing off any more than two or three teams, the reality is some on the bubble come March may look back at October and wish they could have had a few more (see Toronto, Washington, and Colorado.)
The Injury Bug
Almost every club goes through a bit of an injury crisis at some stage, and after a slow start we’re beginning to see a few teams get bitten rather hard. Two of those teams are playing out of the East and are 2013/14 play-off teams, St. Louis, Columbus and Boston. While most would expect Boston to be strong enough to ride it out and keep in contention, Columbus aren’t in the same league from a pedigree standpoint and have arguably suffered more than most. What’s worse, Columbus were projected to be one of the bubble teams that would have had to be fighting for a wildcard spot in the East, and may find themselves in trouble after what’s been a below-par start. After their off-season woes with the Ryan Johansen contract saga, you’ve got to wonder if it’s going to be the Blue Jackets year, which is a real shame after a spirited play-off performance last year.
Surprise surprise, the Western Conference is rocking the shit. Much like last year, Anaheim have raced off to a delightful start and look like a team that’s primed to sit perched atop the West for the first half of the year, and I’m sure the wily cup veterans that are Chicago and LA will be happy to let them have it as they pace themselves for the marathon. The feisty starts of Nashville and Vancouver have caught a few people off guard, and Calgary has proved that they may be a tough out if they’re indeed going to be the whipping boy down the road, but the reality is that if you watch the heavyweights of the West battle it out compared to that of a big Eastern conference tilt, you can see the difference in intensity. I can’t imagine that the Western conference doesn’t take the cup back this year.
Race to the Bottom
So in case you didn’t know, all of the NHL is abuzz with the talent on offer in the 2015 rookie draft. North of the Border, Connor McDavid is giving pundits and GM’s alike a wet dream with his hockey excellence. Puck Paddy has heard this name for the past three years, so he’s been on the radar around these parts for a long time, and with good reason. He had been given underage exemptions (much like John Tavares) to play in the OHL and he has yet to find his level because he is putting on a hockey clinic with the Ere Otters right now. And if you aren’t lucky enough to get the winning ticket for young McDavid, word on the street is that Jack Eichel of Massachusetts is potentially of the same class. I suppose this is quite good news for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres, because these teams are, in a word, terrible. Buffalo isn’t necessarily a surprise and they’ve be positioning themselves for this draft since last season, but Carolina’s dramatic decline has caught people a little off guard. Sure, we figured they’d be in the lower third of the league, but no regulation wins in eight games…that’s bad hockey.
Today, I sit in Bicerin on Baldwin St, downtown Toronto. A sedin look-a-like just walked past the window of the coffee shop I sit in. It reminded me to speak of Vancouver’s resurgence, and most notably, the Sedin’s beginning to get the magic touch back. The Torteralla experiment was a terrible idea from a desperate GM, but early signs are good from the new regime and Vancouver are playing themselves in to contention in what is an extremely competitive Western Conference play-off race. Colorado’s “sophomore slump” may be more dramatic than we were expecting given their patchy opening, so we may have a spot open for someone like Vancouver to sneak back in. Of course, Ryan Miller will let them down when it matters and they’ll be unceremoniously dumped out by, oh I don’t know, let’s say St. Louis #revenge.