NHL Roundtable: League’s best player, big bargain, worst team, more
• With 500 goals under his belt and the Capitals in first place in the Eastern Conference, is it time to recognize Alexander Ovechkin as the best player in the game?
Sam Page: No, and I’m not at all conflicted like Mike is. No disrespect to Ovechkin, but there are two ways to ask this question and Ovechkin is not the answer to either one. Is he the best player of his generation? Crosby has been better. A playmaking, goal-scoring center who creates easy goals for his teammates and can shut down opposing forwards makes Crosby basically the ideal skater. Even granting that goals are greater than assists, the fact that Crosby has just 48 fewer points in 133 fewer games is staggering. He’s even within six points this season of Ovechkin after what is undoubtedly the worst start of his career. Saying Ovechkin is the best is like saying Brett Hull was better than Wayne Gretzky.
SP: Seguin and Jamie Benn are, individually, worth more to the Stars than their collective cap hit ($11 million). But I know I’ll win Al over by pointing out that Roman Josi of the Predators makes just $4 million dollars this season on a contract that runs through 2020.
AM: I don't know how their GM David Poile sleeps at night, taking advantage of poor Josi like that. They need to start passing the boot around Bridgestone after every home game to try to make it up to that kid.
MB: Does Mike Hoffman’s $2 million show-me deal count? He led the Senators with 27 goals in 2014-15 and he’s certainly showing the Ottawa brass this season. He’s 24th in the scoring race (20-16-36), ranks among the top 10 in points per 60 minutes and has racked up most of his goals in five-on-five play. Despite the fact the Senators are one of the worst possession teams in the league, Hoffman is one of the players on the roster who makes his teammates better.
SP: (Scrolls through Penguins roster) Hmm…too obvious. Ryan Getzlaf won’t shoot 3% for the rest of the season, so he seems like a pretty sure bet. Also, look out for Ryan Johansen … six points in four games with Nashville so far. (And yes, I say this while wearing my custom Johansen Preds feety pajamas.)
AM: Yeah, it’ll be the Jackets. And even with Jones, their defense will jam their spokes. Columbus has the league’s worst team GAA (3.20), the worst goal differential (–32). The Jackets allow too many shots and spend too much time chasing the puck (47.4% Corsi). And with the inevitable sell-off of veterans coming, they’ll be even harder pressed to dress a legitimate team. Tough break for their fans, who were expecting more after showing after so much promise late last year, but if they’re going to bottom out, this isn’t a bad year to do it.
SP: I’ll take the opportunity to brag that I resisted the Jack Eichel hype and picked Buffalo to finish dead last in the East in SI magazine (subscribe now!) before the season. So I guess I have to stick with the Sabres.