3.15.2007

Would you have guessed that?



There are quite a few happenings in the NHL that few could have predicted. I've come up with a list.
- Jordan Staal's rookie performance. 28 goals, including 7 short-handers (and counting)? Who would have guessed. Actually, quite a few people believed that Staal would crack the SuperPens lineup this year. But almost no one would have thought Staal could lead the NHL in anything, much less a tough subject like short-handed goals. Despite that, Staal has shined. In my mind, he could be another Mike Bossy, with some small changes. Staal has 28 goals but only 10 assists, and should reach 35 by season's end.
- The Philadelphia Flyers total collapse. With all the big names (Gagne, Knuble, Pitkanen, Rathje, Nittymaki, Forsberg), and last year's success, the Flyers had large predictions on their shoulders at the start of the season. The Flyers merely shrugged, yawned, and said, "Forget about it." With a current NHL worst performance of 19-40-11 through 70 games, the Flyers have done the complete unexpected. Pretty much any change would improve the team next season.
- The Capitals have scoring depth and defensive players. Wait, defense? Yes, the Washington Capitals have a much better defense this year than last year. The names show all the difference. Last year, the top seven were (in order of scoring totals): Ben Clymer (who spent some of the year on wing), Jamie Heward, Bryan Muir, Steve Eminger, Shaone Morrison, Mathieu Biron, and Ivan Majesky. They also used Nolan Yonkman and Mike Green in call-ups. This year, they have used the following: Brian Pothier, Ben Clymer, Steve Eminger, Shaone Morrison, Mike Green, Lawrence Nycholat, Milan Jurcina, John Erskine, Bryan Muir, Jeff Schultz, Jameson Hunt, and Timo Helbling. That is a huge improvement. As for scoring depth, the following names have at least 20 points: Alexander Ovechkin (duh), Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, Matt Pettinger, Kris Beech, Brian Pothier and Boyd Gordon. While that isn't much, check out last year; Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, Jeff Halpern, Brian Willsie, Clark, Pettinger, Ben Clymer, Brian Sutherby, Jamie Heward, and Brooks Laich. Only Ovechkin, Clark, Pettinger, Clymer, Sutherby, and Laich are still on the roster. Either way you look at it, this team is good (better than last year, at least).



- Ryan Smyth gets traded. Honestly, nobody at all thought this was going to happen except for Kevin Lowe. I saw a comic example, where it was a big Oilers logo with a hole through the middle. Smyth was the heart, soul, muscle, scoring, leader, and just about everything else of the Oilers. He was 'Captain Canada' for crying out loud! And simply because of a glitched contract extension, the next thing you know, he's in the wrong kind of blue and orange. Despite this, Smyth hasn't slowed down a bit. He's going at a point-per-game in NY, with 2 goals and 6 points in 6 games. Smyth will be a UFA this summer. He has the biggest team spirit of modern hockey players, but after that treatment from Lowe, Smyth will almost certainly sign with either the Islanders or another team besides Edmonton.


- Jeff Hamilton has a five-point game. Jeff who? The 29-year old Hamilton was an Islanders prospect stuck deep in the system when he was called up for 13 games last year. He scored 8 points, and, while that isn't very big, drew the interest of the Chicago Blackhawks. Hamilton slid right in, playing anywhere from the point on the power-play, to right wing on the fourth line, or left wing on the second line. He has 17 goals and 33 points through 58 games, but drew a lot of attention when he scored a hat-trick and 2 assists during a 7-5 Hawks win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Not to mention, that was his second hat trick of the year, and it had his team-leading 4th game-winner. Could he have big things to come? Or will he be a one-hit wonder?


- Kristian Huselius becoming consistent. I hope you don't get annoyed by my coverage of Huselius so much, but he is one of my new favorite players. Prior to the lockout, Huselius was a promising player with a lot of inconsistency. He had a good rookie year in 01-02, scoring 23 goals and 45 points. The next year, he fell a little, only scoring 20 times on 43 points. Then, the year before the lockout, he especially struggled, only scoring only 10 times on 31 points. This showed signs 0f a flop. However, Huselius regained his scorer status in 05-06 by scoring 20 goals and 47 points. This year, he is proving to the Calgary Flames that he was a good pick-up. Playing behind Alex Tanguay, Huselius has still been a point-per-game player. Tanguay has controlled top line time because he gives Jarome Iginla a true playmaker (see 50 assists), but Huselius provides all the goals from the left side. He currently has 30 goals and 69 points in 69 for the Flames. The points are only the start though. Before this season, Huselius' career high in plus/minus was +2, and he had been as low as -11. But now, Huselius is at a respectable +19. He also has a great shooting percentage, scoring on 20.8% of his 144 shots.
Wow, that was a lot of writing. Hope you enjoyed it!

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