Welcome back to 4 on 4! Here is week 15 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Thomas Drance of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Where does Ryan O’Reilly end up?
John Hoven @mayorNHL - If you surveyed people living in Toronto, they'd probably tell you the Maple Leafs. After all, if any halfway decent player is available in the NHL, aren't the Leafs always at least 'interested' in or 'exploring' a deal for said player? Maybe. But, this whole situation doesn't pass the smell test. Reports say the Avs have offered O'Reilly the same deal as Matt Duchene and that wasn't acceptable. By comparison, they've played roughly the same number of NHL games and Duchene has almost twice as many goals. So, coming off one 55-point season, which was preceded by back-to-back years of 26 points each, O'Reilly's request isn't reasonable. Even with a seemingly thin talent pool, the Avs shouldn't pay the ransom here. O'Reilly may have shown he's a heart and soul player, can play both ends well and has good hockey sense, but he's still a guy who has one good season on his resume. So, if the Maple Leafs want him, it's time to swing a deal. He's headed to the Eastern Conference, no doubt - just probably not for the rumored asking price (a top roster player and a high-end draft pick, which is about as ridiculous as what O'Reilly is seeking). Colorado needs to accept the fact that this is Ryan O'Reilly, not Jamie Benn. Finalize a trade quickly and drive him to the airport. There are too many other issues in Colorado to be dealing with this nonsense.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - A second round pick who scored 55 points and then plays hold out? Hopefully anywhere but Minnesota. The last thing fans here would want is a punk kid with an attitude problem.
I think he stays in Colorado. At some point, he is going to realize that playing in Russia sucks, and he doesn't want to do it. His agent is going to have to tell him that this is the way the NHL works, and he needs to sign a contract and work his way into being an UFA or put some bigger numbers on the board and earn a bigger contract. If Colorado tires of the games, I can see them dealing his rights, but he'll go east in the process. Maybe the Flyers want him. His bad attitude would fit right in there.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - My gut reaction would be Toronto because they have both the financial wherewithal to structure an offer sheet the Avalanche are incapable of matching and the need for a first-line center like O'Reilly. But given that this saga has essentially been going on since last offseason and we've yet to hear of a team tendering an offer sheet to the O'Reilly camp, I highly doubt that's the direction things turn. If O'Reilly leaves Colorado at this point, it's probably going to be via trade. It's doubtful the Avs deal him within the West, so I'm going to go with the struggling Buffalo Sabres as the most likely trade partner. Regardless of how many points he's leeched off of Thomas Vanek in the early going this season, Cody Hodgson really isn't a first-line center, at least at this point in his career. O'Reilly would seriously solidify the depth down the middle that has slowly evaporated in Buffalo as Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Derek Roy have all left town. After an enviable 2012 draft, the Sabres also have the prospects necessary to get the deal done.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - This may have been the toughest question that could have conceivably been asked this week, and I’ll explain why. It’s rather difficult to say with any sort of certainty where O’Reilly will wind up when the entire situation right from the very start has made absolutely no sense. I honestly couldn’t have imagined a world where the Colorado Avalanche, a young upstart team with a ton of potential, would completely alienate their 2nd best player over very reasonable demands (on his part). My mind is having a tough time processing their logic behind this.
But here we are, on February 15th, and it seems like there’s no way he comes back to the Avalanche. I think that any GM that hasn’t called the Avalanche to inquire about O’Reilly should automatically be fired, regardless of their past track record. I’d say that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be an ideal location for him – he is a GOOD OL’ ONTARIO BOY! after all – but after the entire Phil Kessel saga, I can’t see them moving picks/prospects in that type of deal again. Not yet.
I’ll go with the Ottawa Senators, who are in serious trouble following the losses of both Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson. They’ll need help in a big way, and O’Reilly might be the answer for them. They have quite an impressive pool of young talent in the form of prospects, and we’ve seen them make a similar move already (acquiring Kyle Turris from the Coyotes last season).
Darkhorse pick: New Jersey Devils.
2. Is it time for Kings fans to panic? If not, when?
John Hoven - Panic? You don't panic when you're the defending Stanley Cup champions. If you're a concerned Kings fans, breathe and then look at reality. First, Jonathan Quick was all-world last year and he came into the season still recovering from back surgery. He's going to have some off nights. Second, the Kings' strength was defense last year, not offense. They're missing Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell - something that people are only now truly starting to appreciate. Plus, it's a sellers market. And the Kings already don't have a first round draft pick. You don't trade a valuable piece of the core to fix a hole on the blueline - or you end up playing a game of whack-a-mole, where you plug one hole by creating another. Finally, the last two games were their best collective efforts of the season, see what that leads to over the next ten games before you even think about panicking.
Nathan Eide - Considering where the Kings were 25% through the season last year and where they ended up, it's WAY too early to panic. However, if they are 10 points back at the half-way point then it's time to ignore the Hitchhiker's Guide and grab your towel because Vogon poetry will not be nearly as painful as the taunts of Vancouver fans should the Kings miss the playoffs the year after hoisting the cup.
Derek Tanabe - In a truncated season, there's obviously much less margin for error but I still don't think it's time for Kings fans to panic. It will likely require around 54 points to make the playoffs this season. L.A. essentially needs to earn points at a 98-in-82 clip over the remainder of the season in order to hit that target, more or less the same pace they mustered over the entirety of last season, including their poor stretches of play prior to the Darryl Sutter hire. I still firmly believe the Kings are the best even-strength team in the league. Jonathan Quick has been uncharacteristically awful in the early going but I just can't see that continuing. I doubt his numbers from last year, especially in the postseason, are something he can repeat but he's at least an above-average NHL goalie. Once he gets back to playing like one and the Kings start burying the myriad scoring chances they create every night, they'll be fine.
Thomas Drance - We’re working under the assumption that the Kings actually have fans in Los Angeles who care about regular season hockey? Okay, let’s work under that assumption, as questionable as it may be.
The only possible reason I’d see to panic would be if news broke that Jonathan Quick’s poor play was actually a result of an injury that he had been hiding (which would force him to miss an extended period of time). Otherwise, I think the Kings will be just fine. They’ve got a losing record (4-5-2), and a negative goal differential (-6), but those numbers aren’t telling the full story.
The Kings have once again been a dominant possession team, leading the league in both Fenwick% and Corsi%; by quite a staggering margin, too. They’re currently sporting the lowest team PDO and their shooting percentage at 5-on-5 of 6.5% is good for 27th. That’s all to say that pretty much by any measure, they’ve been playing a successful brand of hockey, and have just been flat out unlucky. I’d suspect that things will eventually turn around for them, and they’ll rattle off a string of wins. Hang tight, and go watch some Clippers games till things start going their way
3. With Getzlaf and Perry summer UFA’s; how would you solve the upcoming Ducks cap issues?
John Hoven - The big question for the Ducks isn't this summer, it's what they decide to do before the trade deadline - do they keep one, both or neither? The reality of the current NHL is you just can't afford to let most players walk away for nothing in return. Getzlaf is their number one center and that usually would give him a leg up in this equation, but he's several years removed from his dominate play of 2008-09. Perry is a former Rocket Richard winner, who despite a slow start is known for for his scoring ability and grit. Both were selected in the first round of the 2003 draft, developed by the Ducks and won a Stanley Cup in 2007. But, GM Bob Murray has a tough decision now. Most likely, it plays out like this - he tries to sign both, knowing that he'll probably have to trade Bobby Ryan if that happens because that will be one of the few assets he can move to help the rest of is roster. But, if you can't get them both inked by the trade deadline, you push hard to sign one so you can trade the other. It just sounds much easier than it will be though. This borders on being a lose-lose situation. Trade one of them and you won't get fair market value. Keep them both and you'll likely have to trade away other pieces because after tying up so much money in that duo. The other less talked about issue is term, which in the case of both players could be just as deadly as the dollars.
Nathan Eide - 1) Allow Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne to retire. 2) Move Souray and Bobby Ryan. 3) Sign Adam Banks to an ELC. 4) Profit
Derek Tanabe - With Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu probably retiring after this season (although who really knows with Teemu?), I think the Ducks should be able to fit substantial raises to Getzlaf and Perry under the cap. The question will be whether they can replace Selanne and Koivu's contributions while staying within their financial means as a budget team. That's why I like the franchise's decision to give players like Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, Nick Bonino and Devante Smith-Pelly legitimate looks in the team's top six in order to gauge what they really have in their slew of forward prospects. It's probably easier to simply walk into Mordor than replace Selanne but I wonder if the Ducks would be interested in bringing Alexander Semin aboard in case they decide that the kids aren't ready yet. I think it really comes down to how much ownership is willing to spend to ensure the team stays competitive; the cap really shouldn't be an impediment to the Ducks re-signing their stars.
Thomas Drance - Easy – buy Ryan Getzlaf some rogaine, and get Corey Perry more toys to play with so that he doesn’t have to worry about sharing with all the other kids at the playground. That should satisfy both of them.
I don’t think I’m being too controversial by saying that the Ducks need to do everything in their power to keep both of them. They’re the faces of the franchise, and have been around for long enough a time to have resonated with the fans. Plus, they’re both pretty darn good at hockey which doesn’t hurt their cases, either. If the Ducks were to lose both of them this summer without having anything to show for it – except for the memories – they’d be set back by years. It’s tough to recover from that sort of thing.
Can they sign both? I’m not sure. One of the more interesting subplots to follow during the stretch run will be whether the Ducks can stay in the top half of the Western Conference. If so, then they’ll have to ride it out and hope they can convince them to sign on the dotted line come July 1st. If they falter, like I suspect they will, though, they’ll need to seriously consider trading them and getting something in return to protect themselves from the potential disaster that is looming.
4. Which team in 1st (Van, Chi, Ana) falls down first?
John Hoven - Vancouver and Chicago were both expected to be good this season, Anaheim was not. So, logic says the Ducks fall first. The Blackhawks still have the core of players that won the Cup and goaltender Corey Crawford has been playing very well. Vancouver is the best team in the Northwest division, which is arguably the weakest division in the NHL - so it's theirs to lose. While Anaheim has been playing well above above expectations thus far, they might be in a little over their heads. Besides the Getzlaf / Perry situation described above. they're also working with a a rebuilt defense and goaltender Jonas Hiller may not be able to keep his starting job much longer. Plus, if Sheldon Souray and/or Francois Beauchemin lose a step as the season wears on, that could be just the opening needed for one of their Pacific Division rivals to pounce on them.
Bryan Reynolds - Vancouver, because it's not always easy to walk after you visit the... uh... coffee shop. In truth, it will be Anaheim. Eventually, the teams in the Pacific are going to remember how good they are, and not even Bruce Boudreau will be able to save them from that. I really want to say it will be Vancouver, but playing in the Northwest, there simply is not a real challenge to them. The offense for the Wild and Avalanche are non existent (29th & 28th respectively), and the Oilers will, at some point, turn back into the Oilers. The Blackhawks are just too good from top to bottom. These guys could smoke most NHL teams playing at half effort.
Derek Tanabe - Undoubtedly Anaheim. They just aren't nearly as good a team as their sparkling record indicates. The Ducks have been heavily outshot at even-strength in every situation imaginable and are living off a ridiculous shooting percentage. Anaheim has scored on 12.5% of the shots they've taken at even-strength. History tells us that isn't something we should expect to continue. As much as I love Viktor Fasth and have been lobbying for an NHL team to sign him for over a year, he's also very likely to cool down after his hot start. Additionally, the Ducks are 5-0-1 in one-goal games, which is equally unsustainable; the bounces are eventually going to start to go against them in close games. Essentially, the Ducks have been riding some very favorable percentages to success in the standings despite mediocre underlying play. They may have already banked enough points to secure a playoff spot, but I can't see them winning the division.
Thomas Drance - This was the easiest question this week, by a mile. It’s the Anaheim ‘Not so Mighty’ Ducks, and it’s not even close. Both the Canucks and Blackhawks are completely legit contenders, and should maintain strong winning paces throughout the season.
The Ducks on the other hand have jumped out to a 9-2-1 record with the help of some smoke ‘n’ mirrors. I mentioned earlier how the Los Angeles Kings have been incredibly unlucky, as was reflected by their low PDO and shooting % figures, despite their strong possession numbers. The Ducks have pretty much been the polar opposite of their Pacific Division rivals.
They’ve essentially ridden unsustainable percentages and a nearly unbeatable goaltender (Viktor Fasth) thus far. As good of a story as it is, I don’t see it lasting. In fact, I would not be even remotely surprised to see them miss the playoffs this season. Given their headstart, they’d really need to fall into quite the tailspin, but I don’t see them as anything more than a fringe playoff team in the grand scheme of things.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - selected as 2012's Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). Works for Engagementlabs. He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.