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Posted On Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 5:25 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Kings have gotten it together while Flames sink

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

We're looking at the playoff race out west this week and focusing on two teams trending in opposite directions:

What's clicking?

The Los Angeles Kings are a team that put itself in the position to have to play well late in the season, and to their credit they've won five games in a row.

Darryl Sutter has come in and instilled a positive system to get his team going. Whether it was tough love or just good structure, the Kings are playing more as a team, together, with unity. The players have bought into the system, and that's always so important, especially for a new coach coming into a playoff race.

The Kings have found a way to start scoring goals. They are still one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, but now, in push-comes-to-shove time, down to the last three weeks of the season, they are finding their offense.

It was nice to see Mike Richards get on the board Tuesday night against San Jose. He played a real solid game, and L.A. scored five goals in a win. It's proof that the Kings need Richards a lot.

He can bring it. He's just a solid, solid hockey player. For some reason he has lost his goal-scoring touch, but hopefully the game against the Sharks gives him more confidence because he can be the difference maker for this hockey club. He plays physical, very strong defensively, he's a good teammate, and he can make players around him better. That's why he was the captain in Philadelphia.

I'm also proud of Anze Kopitar, one of my favorite guys in the League. He has picked up his game. He's starting to skate. He's starting to shoot. He's starting to be that dominant forward that everyone expected him to be in the beginning of the season.

Can you say anything more about Jonathan Quick? He's out in L.A., doesn't get as much publicity as he should, and he continues to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL while playing for a team that just didn't score enough goals for 90 percent of the season.

If you ask me, Quick has to be on the final ballot for the Vezina Trophy along with Henrik Lundqvist and probably one of Pekka Rinne, Marc-Andre Fleury or either of the guys in St. Louis. If Quick is left off the Vezina ballot, shame on the voters.

The Sharks have opened the door. The Coyotes have opened the door. The Flames kept the door open. The Kings are storming right through it.

What's missing?


The title question here, at least as it pertains to the Calgary Flames, is almost impossible to answer. The Flames are one of those teams that you just can't figure out.

Seriously, why can't they win games when it matters? They have talent, a top-end goaltender, one of the best scorers in the history of the game in Jarome Iginla, but for some reason they let up inopportune goals or they don't get enough secondary scoring in order to find ways to win critical hockey games.

The other night in Colorado was a perfect example. There are the Flames in the playoff race, playing a team that is hot, but also a young team that they could have and probably should have beaten. But they only score the one goal and lose in overtime.

You can't help but think that the Flames are going to miss the playoffs for a third straight season. This is one of the reasons why I thought it might be time for Jarome Iginla to move and find a chance to play on a championship-quality team.

It would be a shame if Iginla doesn't win the Stanley Cup with the career that he's had. He has been a model of consistency, the ultimate professional, a great poster boy for the National Hockey League.

There are a lot of people in this game that hope Jarome gets a Cup, but I just don't see it happening with Calgary, at least not with this team. And, worse yet, the Flames didn't make any moves in the offseason to help themselves.

They're paying for it right now.

They have a great coach in Brent Sutter, but Alex Tanguay is not carrying his weight and neither is Olli Jokinen. Even Miikka Kiprusoff, for as good as he is and has been in his NHL career, just hasn't been the same goalie this season. He's letting in some soft goals, and Calgary doesn't have enough goal scorers on its roster to compensate for that.

Look, when you're in a playoff race you can't go into a set of games against the 29th- and 30th-ranked teams in the NHL and get only one point. Playoff teams get three or four.

Calgary is a great city, a hockey-loving city, but it certainly looks like it will be without playoff hockey for a third straight spring.
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 6:09 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Pens clicking without Sid, B's need to rally

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

What's clicking?

It's that time of the season, and the frontrunners are gearing up and the pretenders are fading away. There are few teams establishing themselves as teams to contend with like the Pittsburgh Penguins are nowadays.

I think Pittsburgh is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference without Sidney Crosby, so you can imagine how I feel about them with Crosby and potentially Kris Letang returning to the lineup Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). Imagine how difficult that team is going to be to beat.

I truly believe that top to bottom, Pittsburgh's core group of players is as solid as there is in the NHL.

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 38 | ASST: 46 | PTS: 84
SOG: 277 | +/-: 12
Evgeni Malkin is the odds-on favorite to win the Hart Trophy. He's carried the team all season and has been a model of consistency. Marc-Andre Fleury has continued a very high level of play, again. Chris Kunitz has played well. James Neal is having a career season. Jordan Staal is one of the most attentive and responsible players in the National Hockey League.

You just continue to go down their lineup and they are just solid, solid players. They play strong and hard every night. And if everybody is healthy in that lineup come the playoffs, I don't know if there is a team that can beat them four out of seven games, especially when you have a world-class coach like Dan Bylsma.

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 5:58 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Stars soar, while Sharks, Coyotes hit skids

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

It's all about the Western Conference playoff race this week, the good and the bad.

What's clicking?

It is probably an extremely high-blood pressure, high-intensity time if you're a player, coach, executive or fan in L.A., San Jose, Colorado, Calgary, and you can even throw Dallas in there despite the fact the Stars are first in the Pacific Division and third in the conference. They still have 77 points, which is only two more than Phoenix and three more than Los Angeles and Colorado.

But the fact that Dallas is first in the Pacific Division, third in the Western Conference and winners of three straight, seven of their last eight, just speaks to the unbelievable job Glen Gulutzan is doing down there.

It's just amazing that he's been able to do this with his captain, Brenden Morrow, being out with injury. It's very impressive what they're doing on the road. They've won five in a row away from American Airlines Center, including Tuesday's 5-2 win in Vancouver.

If anybody else is not absolutely 100 percent impressed with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, then you just haven't been watching enough hockey. They're carrying that team on their back and Mike Ribeiro has been a strong supporting actor.

Phoenix was in a comfortable spot after a great February, but the Coyotes have fallen off and now Los Angeles, Colorado and Calgary are winning.

Looking at the Kings, if Tuesday's 5-4 win over Nashville is an indication of how they're going to play down the stretch, then it's going to be troubling for a lot of these teams fighting for a playoff berth with them. We already know how good Jonathan Quick has been this season, but if the Kings start scoring consistently, watch out.

I give a lot of credit to Colorado for sticking in it. The Avalanche have had a nice stretch here to put themselves in position to fight for the eighth spot, but if Matt Duchene is going to be out then so is Colorado. Duchene's ankle injury could seriously damage the Avs' chances.

And then there is San Jose. If you're a Sharks player, coach, executive or fan, are you absolutely freaking out right now?

You should be, but more on that in the next section of this blog.

The fact is this race is going to come down to the wire, and I'm looking for the superstars to step up. We'll see which ones are going to earn their keep.

What's missing?

I'm a fan of San Jose. I love the market and the organization. But I'm scared to death for the Sharks.

I honestly don't know what is wrong there. I don't understand how they're struggling at home, how they're struggling to win hockey games. Why those guys, at such a crucial point in the season, are struggling to put the puck in the net.

I'm really nervous for this team. I'm nervous for Doug Wilson.

Again at the beginning of the season they were supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender, but they're struggling to hold on to the eighth spot. They have it by the games-played tiebreaker right now.

If those top two lines don't score goals, they're not going to win games. Other teams realize that they just have to shut one line down and if they do they can win. More than that, Antti Niemi has been average of late.

I talked about looking for the superstars to step up, so in San Jose I'm looking at Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. You're not going to get any consistency out of Patrick Marleau because he can't find it in him to get angry, mad, ticked off enough to help lead this team out of the doldrums.

Right now I'd be scared. I'd be mad. I'd be huffing like a raging bull right now. I'm not sure that Patrick Marleau can do that. I don't know if he has it in him to bring this team into the playoffs. I'd like to see him get angry, show some passion.

But it's not just San Jose that has me concerned. The Phoenix Coyotes were flying high, but now they're in a very precarious position with four straight losses, including two against Columbus. That's unacceptable, and I have to think that Dave Tippett is livid with this recent skid.

Even if they just won one of those games they would have themselves in a much more comfortable spot, but they're not. Neither are the Sharks.

There is going to be some high drama, high tension coming down the stretch in those markets.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 3:43 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Coyotes, Leafs illustrate opposite ends of spectrum

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Two teams going in opposite directions as the Stanley Cup Playoff races head down the stretch. Read on to find out who, what, why, all of it...

What's Clicking?

The Phoenix Coyotes = red hot.

They've had the most controversy of any team in the NHL during the last two or three years with the ownership issue, but GM Don Maloney has done just a tremendous job of not only keeping the faith within that dressing room, but bringing in quality players and a coach who has created a great playing atmosphere for these players.

You can tell by the way they play.

They were up against adversity going into the All-Star break, and they come out playing like their playoff lives were on the line. Now to be unbeaten in February and third in a difficult, strong Western Conference without any major superstars just tells you how much pride is in that locker room.

Shane Doan, who is one of the best men I've ever met in the game, is a true professional in the way that he runs this team, captains this team, leads it by example.

Radim Vrbata is drastically under-appreciated in the NHL for what he can do and for the season he's having. For him to not make the All-Star Game was such a kick in the face.

And, I've got to give props to Ray Whitney -- 20 years in the NHL and he's leading the Coyotes in points. He continues to be a great locker room leader and a fantastic person to watch on the ice. To keep his level of play as high as he has is a true testament to him as a competitor.

All in all, I am very proud of the Coyotes and I hope for continued success for them. I really hope they can continue this right on into the playoffs and be that team that nobody wants to play come April 10.

Kudos to them. Job well done.

What's Missing?

The Toronto Maple Leafs = ice cold.

This is a team that is under probably the most scrutiny of any in the NHL, especially because they haven't made the playoffs since 2004, but you have to wonder what it is now. It's not coaching because obviously Ron Wilson has a system in place that had the team flying high in the beginning of the season.

You know what, I'm going to make the same statement I made last week about the New York Islanders: Does this team even want to make the playoffs? Does this team even want to make the sacrifice that it takes to win crucial games night in and night out?

I know Florida is a good team, but you can't lose to the Florida Panthers at home when you're battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There are too many teams right now that are refusing to take that next step, and Toronto is in that group.

Phil Kessel has continued to play strong hockey. Joffrey Lupul has fallen off a bit. But, the guy who has fallen off the most and is hurting this team is Mikhail Grabovski.

It bothers me so much when a guy with that much talent has so many ups and downs throughout a season. You can't be as good as Grabovski was and then be as poor as Grabovski has been. Either you're good or you're not.

To me, it's simply about effort.

Grabovski is a great player and he needs to step up and be accountable for the way he's performing.

But, unfortunately, goalies James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson have also fallen on quiet times. That's not helping the cause at all for Wilson and Brian Burke or the Toronto Maple Leafs' fans.

Finally, I have heard they're calling for Wilson to be fired, chanting for it at Air Canada Centre; but it's not right. Why is it Wilson's fault now? What about the beginning of the season? They weren't calling for his head then.

It now goes down to the players because they're not performing to their expectations. They have proven that they can do it, that the system works, but now they have to play the system and stop blaming the coach.

They just need to do what it takes to win hockey games.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 9:00 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Ducks clicking, Islanders inconsistent

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

The Anaheim Ducks' amazing run under coach Bruce Boudreau and why the New York Islanders can't ever get over the hump. It's all in the blog, so read on:

What's clicking?

It's amazing to watch what the Anaheim Ducks are doing right now. They were 20 points out of eighth place on Jan. 6, but entering Tuesday's game in Tampa Bay they are five points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference

Incredibly, when Boudreau arrived just a few days after getting fired by Washington, the Ducks still couldn't get it right. They won just three of their first 14 games under him, but they are 15-2-4 in their last 21. For a team that looked like it couldn't do anything right, to change coaches like that and all of a sudden catch fire the way the Ducks have and play as soundly defensively -- it's just amazing.

This is a team that couldn't keep the puck out of the net, and now teams are finding it hard to get even one goal. Mind you, these are some of the same teams that were scoring in bunches against the Ducks. The same teams now can't score against them. Amazing.

My hat goes off to Boudreau and the mentality he's brought in there. I'm sure there were players on that team that were sick and tired of Randy Carlyle's drill-sergeant mentality; seeing now how Boudreau is with this team, at least it seems to me that the players are really playing hard for him and buying into his system.

The run they're on now, being as close to a playoff position as they are -- and with a lot of it being on the road -- tells me this is a team on a mission.

Moreover, they are fun to watch.

Teemu Selanne, at 41, continues to defy his age. He's just as fast as anybody out there now, and with his brilliant hockey mind he's leading this team. Guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan are following right with him.

Perry, in fact, is the best second-half player in the NHL, bar none. You saw the way he finished last season on an absolute tear, and he's doing it again. He's scored six goals in his last five games.

Between Selanne and Perry, they're bringing this team back into the playoff hunt.

It'll be interesting to see if they make the playoffs, and even more interesting to see if a coach that got fired by one team can win the Jack Adams Award in the same season with another team. That's never happened before. I would think Boudreau would be a shoe-in if the Ducks make the playoffs.

What's missing?

I don't know if the New York Islanders even want to play in the postseason.

This team probably works as hard, if not harder, than any in the National Hockey League. But when the moments get bigger, they seem to find ways to lose in big ways.

So there they were, six points out of a playoff spot, battling hard in every game to get there, working hard to climb up the standings, believing in coach Jack Capuano and the system he has put in place. They're beating the best teams in the NHL with that work ethic, and they get close to the playoff spot. But with a hot team in Ottawa coming into their building, they lay an egg in a 6-0 loss.

That is just so frustrating. You'd think it wouldn't happen when they can see the playoff line, so like I said before -- I wonder if the Islanders even want to make the playoffs? I wonder if they're so young that they don't have that mentality.

That's not a knock against their team; it's a knock against their age and maturity.

Their best player, John Tavares, is having a good season, but he's not bringing the team over the hump to get them more consistent. They have other good players in Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau, Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit, but they can't seem to grasp the mentality of how to slam the door.

Who is going to teach them that? Well, I believe having Doug Weight behind the bench is one of the best things the Islanders can have. That guy is a winner and can be a really good mentor to the young guys, but Dougie is such a nice guy. He needs to have some tough love with these players.

These guys work hard, but they're finding ways to lose when they're in critical situations. It frustrates me and I'm sure it frustrates Islanders fans everywhere. It's about time this young team matures and doesn't accept getting blown out 6-0 when they're in arm's reach of a playoff spot.

I sure hope Capuano and Weight put their foot down and expect more out of their players. I sure hope they can get back into the playoffs sometime soon.

Islanders fans have endured enough already.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 12:33 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: An exciting weekend for hockey in America

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Hockey Weekend Across America and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Jeff Carter are on my mind this week:

What's clicking?

Hockey Weekend Across America is coming up this weekend, and to be honest, I don't know why they didn't start this years ago. This is a great way to introduce hockey awareness to sports fans in the Unites States.

USA Hockey really has moved leaps and bounds ahead of where they were in the 1980s and '90s in their push to make hockey a much more popular sport. To get the awareness of hockey out there has been at the forefront of their mission, which I think is so important. Now NBC has pushed to get kids interested not only in the game, but the rivalries in the game, the logistics in the game, the competition.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 5:17 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Birthday wishes to an elite young scorer

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Wishing happy birthday to a young superstar in Tampa and hoping that the officials in the NHL can receive some help in the future to make one of the judgment calls there is to make in the game. Read on to find out who and what I'm talking about:

What's clicking?

Steven Stamkos is just lighting it up this season and he's probably going to be the only 50-goal scorer in the NHL. He should get to that 50-goal mark and regain the Rocket Richard Trophy.

It couldn't go to a better guy.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 35 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 58
SOG: 184 | +/-: 5
It was Stamkos' 22nd birthday on Tuesday and we saw players on his team chasing him around, trying to stuff one of those shaving cream pies in his face. You can tell how much these guys love to be with Stamkos.

Everybody around the League should sit down in front of a television set to watch him play. Just watch his demeanor, how he conducts himself, how he treats others -- he's truly a treat to be around and he's one of the great ambassadors for the NHL.

He's also one of the most dynamic players in the League and one of the most talented goal scorers we've seen in a long time. When you put a guy like that with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, you're going to have something special.

It's great to see that as of late the Lightning have been winning some games and trying to get back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. They work so hard, but unfortunately the team's defensive liabilities take away from the offensive ability it has, an offensive ability that Stamkos leads the way on.

So, this is a happy birthday blog for Stamkos, a guy I love to watch play. He should get to 50 goals again this season, but no matter how many he scores, his personality doesn't change. He's humble and fun to be around. He's a treat, and he deserves to be recognized for it.

What's missing?

After seeing what happened in New York on Tuesday, when Marian Gaborik was called for goalie interference, negating a game-tying goal with only seconds remaining in the third period, I think it's time that the League allow the officials to go to video review to determine such plays.

This happens a lot, especially late in games, when guys are going to the net and defensemen are valiantly trying to keep them away. But a lot of the times the goaltender interference happens as a result of the defending team's actions. The Gaborik incident was an example of that.
 
On the play, it appears that Gaborik is trying to stop when Anton Volchenkov pushes him into his own goalie, and the goal is disallowed. If the officials had the opportunity to go to a video review of that play, it's possible the goal would have been allowed and that game would have gone to overtime. The officials would have had the opportunity to review if Gaborik was trying to stop and if Volchenkov created the contact between Gaborik and Martin Brodeur.

At the very least, the officials would have been allowed to take what is a split-second decision amid chaos and further analyze it before coming to a better judgment.

The officials have an incredibly hard job and they do it quite well, but it wouldn't hurt for them to have a little help on plays such as the Gaborik interference. It also wouldn't take very long for them to determine with 100 percent certainty, or as close to it as there is in this game, that they are making the right call.

It is such a reviewable circumstance because goals are so hard to come by in this League, especially late in a game when a team is going for the tying goal to get it to overtime.

I know the goalies are being protected, and they should be, but a lot of times it is the defenseman's fault that they're getting contact. And who's to say it is not the defenseman's strategy or tactic to push or ride an attacking player into his goalie, especially when he knows he's likely going to get the call to go in his favor.

There has been so much talk about protecting the goaltenders and using the instant replay for goals to find out if pucks are in the net, but these plays are also critically important and the officials should be allowed to have every piece of technology available to make sure they get it right.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Preds' brilliance, Coyotes' struggles intrigue Roenick

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Two teams out in the Western Conference have piqued my interest this week. One is red-hot and deserves our attention; the other is near and dear to my heart, but needs some type of jolt to get back in the hunt. Read on to find out who I'm talking about and why:


What's Clicking?

The Nashville Predators are on fire despite having very little fanfare around them other than Ryan Suter's contract talks.

The Predators don't get the respect and the attention they deserve, but I can tell you they're a team I didn't like playing against. They're a very tough, stingy, competitive team, and it seems their coach, Barry Trotz, is a wonderful guy.

He's extremely smart and he seems like a good players' coach. He always has a very solid, sound system that he displays to his team. His team believes in the system and plays hard for him. Every single night they are disciplined, they work hard and they are sound defensively.

If there is any one knock against the Predators it would be their lack of consistent goal scoring, but lately they've found ways to win games by scoring goals. Mike Fisher is scoring like crazy right now. When Martin Erat starts scoring a little bit more, the Predators are going to be even harder to beat than they are right now, and in the last 15 games they are 13-2.

Look at the standings. Nashville is only three points behind the top spot in the National Hockey League, and yet you don't really hear anything about that. It's disappointing to me, because the Predators have paid their dues. They've sat in the basement, worked their way back to respectability, and now they are arguably one of the strongest and most disciplined teams in the NHL.

Pekka Rinne is one of the best goaltenders in the world and he's anchored by probably the best tandem in the NHL with Shea Weber and Suter.

Hopefully Suter's contract situation doesn't distract this team and he's able to sign eventually. We'll see what happens with that, but right now I'm just very impressed watching this team play hard together, play a very organized system.

Trotz is one of the most tenured coaches in the NHL right now, and I don't think anybody should question why he's been in Nashville for so long. His team really loves playing for him and always responds to his coaching tactics.

I would not want to play this team in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trust me, I know they're a very difficult and frustrating team to play.

What's Missing?

The Phoenix Coyotes are very dear to me. They're a team I love to cheer. You can see how hard they work on a consistent basis and are backed by a fantastic coach in Dave Tippett, but they're also a team that I seriously worry about right now.

The Coyotes lost Tuesday night at home to Anaheim and are just 3-4-3 in their past 10 games. They sit No. 12 in the Western Conference because for some reason they can't get over the hump; they can't string three, four or five wins together to find their way back into the top eight.

They're a team without any major superstars or big-time goal scorers they can market and be that game-breaker, so in my opinion GM Don Maloney has to start thinking about making a trade for a proven scorer before it's too late. He has to do it in order to have an opportunity to make the playoffs this season.

And we all know how important it is for the Coyotes to make the playoffs and get that extra revenue from selling out the building for playoff games. They can't afford to miss the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata is trying his hardest to be that offensive punch, but Phoenix is not going to rally around Radim Vrbata. I mean no disrespect to him, because he's a fantastic player and he should have been in the All-Star Game this year, but the Coyotes need a marquee player.

The first name that comes to mind is Jeff Carter from Columbus. I know he has a big contract, 10 years and millions still left on his deal, and he has not played his best as a Blue Jacket. But this could be one of those cases where desperate times call for desperate measures.

If they want to get into the playoffs, they need a marquee guy that is going to score on a nightly basis. And I don't think they're going to be able to get a consistent, marquee goal scorer on the cheap.

The Coyotes are a very difficult team to play against because of their defensive structure and hard work, but they always seem to lose in overtime or by one goal. And by getting a marquee goal scorer, if they can, I think the Coyotes can make the playoffs and therefore make some extra money that would greatly enhance the interest in Phoenix.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 10:42 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: All-Star Game will be great, but needs Ovi

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

All-Star Weekend is upon us, so naturally this blog entry has to do with all things All-Star related. There is so much to appreciate at this time of the year, but there's also one storyline this week that really disappointed me:

What's clicking?

It is really cool that with Ottawa hosting the All-Star Game, the fans there really got behind their players by voting and getting four of them onto the rosters. That shows a lot of commitment and a lot of loyalty from the fans to their players, and you can tell that they're really excited about having the All-Star Game come to their city.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Credit to Kovalchuk, concern for Leafs

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

I have to give some kudos and offer my respect to one of my least favorite players, but I also have to get critical with one of my favorite teams. Read on to find out what I'm talking about:

What's clicking?

Ilya Kovalchuk is really playing like the player that he should be, and that's a really good sign for the New Jersey Devils.

One of the reasons this team is winning is because their best player is doing the little things he's supposed to be doing to allow his team to win. He's working harder defensively, and his coach is playing him more in penalty-killing roles because of his speed and because of how well he's playing. When you play well, your coach is going to reward you with more ice time.

Kovalchuk is very focused on scoring goals and being one of the best players in the game, and that's pretty commendable for him.

I've been all over him in terms of his team mentality. I've called him selfish. I've called him a lot of different things, but I've been impressed with his dedication to Pete DeBoer's system and how he's been playing to the system. You know what, he's scoring goals and he's one of the hottest guys in the League right now because of it.

I can be mean, but when you're playing well and playing properly, within the team rules and the team concept, I can appreciate that, too. And I need to give a lot of respect to Kovalchuk for his recent play. I hope he keeps it up because if he does, the team will continue to do well and creep up the board to secure a playoff spot.

Hey, I will say that Kovalchuk is not one of my favorite players. I have no problem telling you that, but I do appreciate his dedication to the team and that his work ethic seems much more focused. I recognize good, solid hockey when I see it. He has more success when he plays a team-oriented way.

What's missing?

I'll go on record and say the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of my favorite teams because of their fan base, their history, and it was also one of my favorite places to play because of the fans, their knowledge, and the history behind the Maple Leafs.

But Toronto's last playoff appearance was in 2004 when we [the Philadelphia Flyers] knocked them out with one of my favorite goals of my career against Eddie Belfour. Since then, it's been a downhill spiral.

The Maple Leafs started off so hot, but they've lost three in a row and now they're ninth in the Eastern Conference.

At the beginning of this season it looked like they were on the right path to getting out of that playoff funk. They started out so hot and Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were off to career years, but now the Leafs have lost three in a row and they're again flirting with the possibility of missing the playoffs.

One of my favorite coaches, Ron Wilson, just received a contract extension and some people might have scoffed at that, but this is less about coaching and more about putting enough talented players on the ice. Brian Burke is a very savvy, smart GM, but because of Toronto's inconsistencies in winning hockey games and with missing the playoffs looming again, he needs to make a trade.

Burke needs to get somebody that will help the Leafs secure a playoff spot for this year, and he needs to do it now because time is running out for the Maple Leafs. How much are the fans and the media going to allow with this team missing the playoffs?

It's funny, though, because I don't know if it's goaltending, defense or offense. It befuddles me as to why this team can't find consistency.

It has to be the players, and Burke, being as smart as he is and being this close to the trade deadline, he has to start shopping people around and getting on the "I need" list for players to help his team get into the playoffs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need something, and they need it now.
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