(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
6 – Being a goalie for the Golden Knights
Oh hmm, jeez, now even Oscar Dansk is hurt. So that means we’re down to Max Lagace (a bad AHL goalie) and … Dylan Ferguson?
I had to look that up, by the way. Know who else would have had to look it up? The freakin’ coach of the Golden Knights. When asked about who replaces Dansk after their loss to the Islanders, Gerard Gallant literally said he had no idea. For the record, Ferguson is a seventh-round pick from this year’s draft.
He has an .878 save percentage in the WHL this season.
Not for nothin’, but I bet that 8-2 record starts to turn real bad, real fast. Not really anyone’s fault, but here we are.
5 – The Leafs all of a sudden
Ah speaking of which, seems like the Leafs have gotten pretty bad all of a sudden for very different reasons.
They’ve lost four of the last five, and while part of that comes down to not being able to get a save lately (they’ve surrendered 21 on 180 shots), you really need to look at that shots-against number. Giving up 180 shots in five games is a TON. And here’s the thing: The Leafs have given up fewer than 30 shots just once this season.
That’s all well and good when you’re putting up 30-plus or even 40-plus with regularity, which the Leafs are still doing for the most part, but it really puts you in a tough position where you have to continually have a higher shooting percentage than your opponent. Not always easy, even for a team with this much talent.
I will say, however, that given the quality of the coaching, and the fact that this is a relatively young team with a so-so defense, most of this seems fixable. Not the defense, though, and I’ve been banging the drum on both “they need to make a trade” and “there probably isn’t a trade out there” for a while now.
Everyone goes through slumps where they’re not playing well. The Leafs are too good for this to be a long-term thing. I’m not worried. They and you shouldn’t be either. Still one of the best teams in an okay division.
4 – Alain Vigneault
The Rangers not so much. But we knew that, right? You don’t trade your borderline No. 1 center in the offseason, and your backup goalie, in the middle of what has been called a rebuild on the fly by the damn GM, and say, “We think this is a team that should be good.” In a rebuild of any kind, being good is counterproductive.
The only way the Rangers were going to get notably better this year was if Henrik Lundqvist got his act together after a down season. He hasn’t. In fact, he’s worse. And at this point, we’re in the longest bout of submediocrity he’s ever experienced in the NHL. Gotta say: Seems more likely than not that it’s here to stay.
As a consequence, the idea that Alain Vigneault needs to go, or that any coach in the world is capable of turning this around, is silly. Plainly so. If anything, this rebuild on the fly should start to look a lot more like a regular old rebuild. Hell, there are rumors out there already that Chris Kreider might be a target for Edmonton. Make it happen. See who wants Rick Nash (probably at the deadline). Get out from under whatever McDonagh’s next contract is before you have to be the team that gives it to him.
But here’s the problem: I count six Rangers with at least some no-trade protection. And boy, that sucks for ol’ Jeff Gorton, who really should be looking to make some deals here. As a result, heck, it could be AV eating a pink slip just to try to wring out a little more competition from this group.
Bet it doesn’t work. Bet people who ought to know better act shocked when it doesn’t work. Bet that’ll be fun.
3 – Asset management, baby!
How ’bout those Vegas Golden Knights signing a guy who was a very exciting player in Russia and then using him for three games, and he had a goal in one of them, and was on the ice for a bunch of goals for, and all that with just 32 minutes of ice time? And for the faceoff heads out there, he went 12-9 at the dot, which ain’t bad.
So now Vadim Shipachyov won’t play in the AHL (for obvious reasons) and wants to go back to Russia. Vegas will let him. What goes on over there? Honestly, it’s like no one put any thought into this team’s roster or asset management at all. The idea that Shipachyov wasn’t good enough to be on a roster with this many demonstrably bad forwards on it is nonsense.
2 – “Give it, like, a second”
Whoa hey, look at that, the Canadiens, who everyone said a week and a half ago were terrible and couldn’t score, are suddenly scoring a ton of goals. Last four games? Eighteen goals. Still gotta tighten up that 12 goals against, but if you’re scoring 60 percent of the goals in your games, you’re in good shape overall and will continue to win at a high rate.
Man, imagine what happens if (ahem, when) Carey Price figures it out. Wild stuff! Totally unforeseeable.
1 – Trade possibilities
Now that it’s November, all the trade rumors are gonna start heating up for real, and I gotta say: I’m here for it. The best part is that so many teams have no idea what they are that some ill-advised trades will happen in the next month or two, and those are always the best ones; when Bob McKenzie says something like, “It’s one-for-one,” I’m truly sustained.
(Not ranked this week: Milan Lucic’s Joker costume.
Not only did Lucic pick the Suicide Squad Joker — as weak-ass a Joker as there has ever been — but it also looks like a bad impressionist painting of the Suicide Squad Joker. I know we’re all supposed to be mad at Connor McDavid’s costume for some reason, but Lucic’s was truly the most offensive thing any NHL team costume party produced. Which is weird to say, because you don’t really associate “offensive” with Milan Lucic any more.
Pretty good joke there. Proud of myself.)