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SI.com hockey scribes debate John Scott’s wacky NHL All-Star vote lead, if the Oilers should trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and more.

By SI.com Staff
December 04, 2015
Every Friday, a trio of SI.com staffers will sit down for a discussion of the hockey world’s hot-button issues. This week, Sam Page, Michael Blinn and Al Muir talk about the All-Star voting debacle, some worthy selections for the game, the World Juniors and trade options for the Edmonton Oilers. First up:
• The NHL’s All-Star fan vote has already taken a controversial turn with Arizona’s seldom-used enforcer John Scott grabbing an early lead in the race to be named captain of the Pacific Division. How does this reflect on the league? And how does it play out?
Sam Page: I think it actually reflects well on the league that it is honoring the real results of the fan vote. If it reflects poorly on anyone, it’s the people who voted for Scott. I see the humor, but it’s also a little cruel to do it at Scott’s expense. His quote on the results to azcentral sports — “I don’t want to have my name in the headlines for this reason” — made me feel bad for him.  I don’t think he ends up going—either because the joke runs its course or he bows out —but weirder things have happened.
Girgensons, Jagr ask fans to give NHL All-Star vote to those more deserving

Michael Blinn: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The All-Star Game is meant to be hokey and with its new format, it got hokier. The league does its best to not look like the fool with the process, but there’s only so much it can do. This looks worse on the fans, especially since (as Sam points out), Scott is now painfully aware that the joke is on him. I’m guessing that this guy, who has mechanical engineering degree, is smart enough to keep his name out of this event.

Al Muir: I’m right there with you. It has nothing to do with the “sanctity” of the All-Star Game or anything like that, but it is about respect. Guys like Scott and Rob Scuderi and Chris Thorburn might have a good sense of humor about it but they know why they’re getting these votes and it’s not flattering in any way. If fans want to shake things up, there are plenty of unsung hero types out there for whom a pretty good case could be built.
•​ So what off-the-wall choices truly deserve our consideration?
BLINN: I think James Reimer deserves all the love we can give him. He’s providing stellar goaltending on a not-so-stellar team, posting numbers that put him among league leaders in most categories. He might not be a household name like Carey Price or Roberto Luongo, but I’d be O.K. with him as the second goalie behind either for All-Star weekend. 
PAGE: Scott Hartnell. The Blue Jackets have to send someone. Ryan Johansen could very well be traded by that point. Hartnell’s tied for second on the team in points. But more importantly, he’s a beloved former Predator who played for Nashville as a teenager. He’ll get a good ovation and add personality to the event.
MUIR: How about New Jersey’s Adam Henrique? Here’s a guy who quietly has scored as many goals as Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares and Evgeni Malkin—three players who are certain to make the roster—all while delivering his usual strong defensive game. He’s one of those guys who, by virtue of being a mid-round pick, never quite gets the respect he deserves. Be nice to see him get it here. And can I have one more? How about Joel Ward? There’s not a lot of flash to his game, so maybe he’s not ideally suited to the three-on-three format, but he is someone who stands out every time I watch the Sharks with his physical game and his net-front presence. And 20 points in 24 games? Not bad. Another former Pred, too. Maybe they can make it Old Home Week in Nashville, eh? 
•​ Buffalo has won the rights to host the World Juniors in 2018 over Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Did USA Hockey select the right city?
BLINN: Buffalo hosted the 2011 tournament, drawing the second-best attending crowd at that time (330,000-plus). That alone earns it another shot, and when you add in the Sabres reportedly bidding for the 2018 Winter Classic, not to mention the Pegula family name which continues to do good things for grassroots hockey in the U.S., the city brings a whole lot to the table. 
Why Buffalo is USA’s new Hockeytown

PAGE: Buffalo: It’s a great city. Couldn’t be more deserving. I find it vastly superior to towns like St. Louis and Pittsburgh, which were the other finalists. Is it too obvious I’m trying to make up for burying the Sabres in my preseason predictions?

MUIR: I wrote about the greatness of Buffalo this morning, so I’m on board with the pick. Honestly, the Pegulas might be the best friends hockey has these days with their passion for the game and willingness to pick up the tab for a variety of projects. They deserve whatever marquee events come their way, and so do those fans. And let’s face it: The proximity to a vast number of Canadians who will help fill the rink no matter who is playing makes Buffalo a zero-risk proposition for USA Hockey. You can’t say the same for Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

BLINN: Also, think wings. Don’t count out the city that gave us buffalo wings.
MUIR: Buffalo wings: the most overrated food in America? I think this needs to be addressed.

•​ There’s lots of trade talk coming out of Edmonton lately, with much of it surrounding Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Is that an option the Oilers should pursue? If not, what would you suggest GM Peter Chiarelli do about his struggling team?

PAGE: I think everyone can agree the Oilers need a top-pairing defenseman, or at least someone who is a good bet to develop into one. The problem is there aren’t too many of those players out there and I’m not sure you get one by selling low on Nugent-Hopkins. It also seems as if every team is always looking for more center depth—why give up your chance to have a Crosby-Malkin-Staal-type threesome for a few years? Trading Jordan Eberle makes more sense to me. He’s older and his track record helps his trade value. Besides, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl carrying lesser wingers in the future seems a lot more likely than Eberle making a Nugent-Hopkins replacement palatable. 
BLINN: Has anyone out there not suggested that the Oilers need to make a trade? Anyone? I’m pretty sure at this point you could point to a name on the Edmonton roster, put it into a Google search with the word ‘trade,’ and get some intriguing results.
RNH has value, as does a guy like Eberle, as do any one of the lottery picks up and down the roster. This is not a playoff-bound team, and Chiarelli selling low on any of his struggling players just to send a message seems like a silly play to me. You know who has some value? A guy like Andrew Ference, a veteran who could eat up valuable minutes on a contender come trade deadline time. 
MUIR: Ugh. God bless Ference—the guy was warrior when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever speak with, but his tank is empty. If Chiarelli could find a taker for him it would go down as the greatest move of his first year with the team.
How an NHL team’s system affects a player’s performance

That said, I’m right there with you on the silliness of making a play now. Everyone knows that they are wanting for help on the back end, but the type of player they need, someone who can help now and be a part of their foundation moving forward, I mean, other teams aren’t giving those guys away. Obviously Travis Hamonic of the Islanders is out there and he’d certainly be a nice fit, but not at the cost of RNH.

Look, everyone knows the Oilers need to do something at some point. And if the right player becomes available, they have plenty of assets that might be in play. Maybe Eberle, maybe Nail Yakupov, maybe even Justin Schultz, although he’s just coming off a back problem, and with an expiring contract his value is at a low point right now. But one area where they look set is at center and it makes sense to build around McDavid, RNH and Draisaitl rather than risk turning an area of real strength into something less.
Of course, if they get the first draft pick next spring and have a shot at Auston Matthews, all bets are off.
•​ Finally, since we missed out on last week’s roundtable due to the holiday, let’s take a moment now to express what we’re hockey-thankful for.
BLINN: I’m thankful for hockey Twitter. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
PAGE: I’m thankful for Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne talking to each other on Twitter.
MUIR: After a night spent flipping from Capitals-Habs to Blackhawks-Senators to Stars-Canucks, I'm thankful for the bounty of televised hockey that is available via Center Ice. Still amazes me that I can be in my office in Texas on any given Saturday and turn on Hockey Night In Canada. Now if we could just get a Tim Hortons and Harvey’s down here, I’d be all set.

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