Sizing things up at midseason
The exact midpoint of the 2009-10 season -- Game No. 615 on the NHL calendar -- occurred last Saturday: a 6-5 shootout barnburner between the victorious New York Islanders and the Atlanta Thrashers at down-at-the-heels Nassau Coliseum -- the barn considered most suited for burning by pretty much everyone in hockey, but especially by itchy Islanders owner
So as we take a fond look back, remember that
In rummaging around for the perfect phrase to capture the first half of the season, we rejected Miller Time -- more on Buffalo Sabres goalie
After giving it as much thought as Rangers coach
Yes, this was the Half Season of the MRI.
In 2009 and now 2010, MRI took its rightful place alongside PPG, PIM, and GAA in the NHL alphabet. The quintessential numbers were not
From the moment in the second period of Game No. 2 when Montreal goalie
There have been repeated attempts to connect the injury dots -- how does Markov's cut relate to
The NHL really does exist in a state of suspended animation every four years. Much of the talk among hockey's chattering classes prior to the Games is which players will make their national teams and who will be snubbed. After the cauldron is extinguished, the debate shifts to how a roster latticed with Olympians will perform in the playoffs. (In 1998, the exhausted Colorado Avalanche took a knee in the first round, but the 2002 Detroit Red Wings were untroubled, which might have as much to do with the venues -- the 10 Avalanche players had journeyed across the Pacific to Nagano; the Wings had played in Salt Lake City -- but who knows?)
When Commissioner Bettman, who once upon a time had the CBA re-opened just to ensure Olympic participation, hems and haws about committing his players to Sochi 2014 and beyond, it's mostly about owners of the American-based teams wanting to get their game back in February when the light, however refracted, shines on the league. The guess is that he would also like the first half of his season to be viewed as something more than an extended tryout for a 12-day tournament run by the IIHF prissies.
In the next CBA, Bettman will certainly have to arm-wrestle the NHLPA over the issue of NHL participation. The players crave the Olympic experience. As a chopfallen
The Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes should extend Samuelsson's heartfelt advice to the staff at On The Fly, which predicted they would finish 15th and 16th in the Western Conference. (As previously noted, we ain't the Hunchback of Nostradamus.) There is still time for a stunning collapse -- for what little it's worth, we still doubt both will qualify for the playoffs -- but these teams already have far exceeded expectations.
If the Avalanche were bankrupt, the subject of a tug of war between a BlackBerry billionaire and the league, had broken with the best player in hockey history, and hired a coach late in training camp and were now playing in front of crowds smaller than the mob circling the 16th green at the neighboring FBR Open, they would be receiving more of your attention. Alas, the Avalanche isn't that team.
Phoenix is the NHL darling -- conclusive proof that coaching matters.
While traversing the chasm of a season, the hope is neither the Coyotes or the Avalanche looks down.
Now, at this point of our midseason-plus-a-little review, we could make up phony awards, such as Most Disappointing Premier Free Agent: Toronto defenseman
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that Ryan Miller might have been the player with the greatest impact in the first half, but a skater likely will emerge as the Hart winner. Miller has been superb, but we like Vancouver center
Maybe Team Canada's snub of the rover who leads NHL defensemen in scoring and is a healthy plus player colors our perception. In any case, we are jumping (off) the Shark here --
The situation is particularly fluid now that
At the midway point of 2009-10, history repeats itself because Tippett is an obvious choice. He's certainly had a demonstrable effect on the Coyotes, but