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Mailbag: Evgeni Malkin belongs with greats

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Feb. 1 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the 2016-17 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Who do you think was left off the NHL100 list that was most deserving to be on there? -- @HW06

To me, Evgeni Malkin clearly should have been one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players. Malkin has 814 points in 691 games. He is 13th all-time in points per game (1.18) among players who have played at least 600 games. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Art Ross Trophy winner and three-time First All-Star Team selection. He also has won the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Calder Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy. Malkin checks every box for a top 100 player.

So now the argument turns to who should come off. It pains me to say this, but the first name that comes to mind is Mats Sundin. I know there was a lot of debate about Jonathan Toews and not much about Sundin, but Toews is a three-time Stanley Cup champion as a captain, a Selke Trophy winner, Conn Smythe winner and a player who has done his best work in the clutch. I think he belongs on the list. There's a great argument to be made for Sundin too, but his accomplishments do not measure up to Malkin's and Toews', which are each ongoing. Sundin was a dynamic player and a big-time scorer who had 564 goals and 1,349 points in 1,346 games, but he never won the Stanley Cup or a major individual postseason award other than the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Sundin was terrific and you can certainly make the case he belongs on the list, but not over Malkin. 

Video: WSH@PIT: Malkin blasts one-timer from one knee

 

Why was Joe Thornton not named to the 100 greatest players? -- @kerrymb20

Terrific question. I can only speculate because I was not part of the voting process. I do think there is a valid argument for Thornton if you're going to have Sundin on the list. Thornton isn't the goal-scorer Sundin was, but Sundin wasn't the passer Thornton still is. Their stats are somewhat comparable. Thornton has 1,373 points, including 993 assists, in 1,418 games, plus another 121 points in 156 playoff games. He won the Hart Trophy in 2006. He is 13th all-time in assists and 24th in points. He could finish in the top 10 in assists and the top 15 in points on the League's all-time lists. Sundin is 22nd in goals and 28th in points. It's obviously harder to score than get an assist in the NHL (two for one and all), so give Sundin credit there. Neither of them won the Stanley Cup, though Thornton did finally get to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Thornton easily could have been on the list, but again, I'd put Malkin in over him too, and that's not a knock on "Jumbo" at all. 

 

What made the Minnesota Wild such a different team this year? Coaching? Eric Staal? Chris Stewart? Combo? -- @ZGalo35

Combo.

Bruce Boudreau is allowing his offensive players to be scoring threats but is making sure every one of them is being held accountable defensively. Boudreau even told me during All-Star Weekend that I needed to take a closer look at Mikko Koivu because he deserves some consideration for the Selke Trophy. I don't vote for it, but he's right. Koivu is having a dynamic season as a 200-foot player. He's better than he has been in recent seasons. With Eric Staal, the Wild have two big, physical, defensively responsible players to center their top two lines. Boudreau likened it to when he had Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler in Anaheim.

When you talk about coaching, though, don't overlook the job being done by assistant coach Scott Stevens, who is running the defense and the penalty kill. Devan Dubnyk, who for my money is the Vezina Trophy favorite and a potential Hart Trophy candidate, praised the work Stevens has done with the defense corps that plays in front of him. He's coaching players for who they are, not trying to mold them into what he was when he was in his Hall of Fame playing career. Ryan Suter said the communication Stevens has with all the defensemen is excellent.

The Wild are also getting breakout seasons from Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker. They are no longer secondary scorers for the Wild; they are frontline scorers along with Staal, Koivu and Zach Parise, who I think is going to have a big finish to the season. You also mentioned Stewart, who has 11 goals despite averaging fewer than 11 minutes per game. That's tremendous production from a fourth-line forward. Matt Dumba is coming into his own and Jared Spurgeon is having another strong season.

Put it all together and the Wild are a legit Stanley Cup contender. What they are now is what general manager Chuck Fletcher and former coach Mike Yeo thought they could be a year ago. I did too, considering I picked the Wild to get to the Stanley Cup Final last season. They might get there this season.

Video: MIN@DAL: Koivu finishes smooth passing play for PPG

 

Who do you think comes out of the Eastern Conference as the two wild cards? The entire conference is jam packed. -- @TheRealScalia10

Yes it is jam packed, which should make for an exciting final few months of the season. I keep thinking and saying the Tampa Bay Lightning have a run in them, that they're going to get hot here soon and climb back into at least a wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. I am going to stick with that even if I'm having some trouble believing it these days. Jon Cooper is too good of a coach, and the Lightning, even without Steven Stamkos, are too good not to make a run. I also think general manager Steve Yzerman has a move up his sleeve to give them a push. They need a defenseman, but I still think they'll make the playoffs as a wild card. The Columbus Blue Jackets will be the other wild card. I think the New York Rangers will move past them, and the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will finish first and second, in whatever order, in the Metropolitan Division. Henrik Lundqvist is finding his game and the Rangers are improving in front of him. They need to get their power play to be consistent. The Blue Jackets have a brutal schedule in the last month and a half of the season with 24 games, including 14 road games, in 44 days. It'll catch up to them and they will drop into a wild card.

 

Is the window for Henrik Lundqvist to win a Stanley Cup closed, closing quickly, or still open? -- @mattoharaa

Still open, for now.

Lundqvist turns 35 on March 2 and he's shown some natural regression in his game this season coupled with some troubling play in front of him, but he's not done and the Rangers are young enough, fast enough and offensively skilled enough to make a run with him in net. I would not have said that before this season, but they have proven me wrong. The Rangers have better depth at forward than expected. The emergence of Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Pavel Buchnevich has been a huge development. Jimmy Vesey has been hit or miss, but give him some time and he'll be a big-time player. The Rangers clearly have to work on their defense if they plan to win the Stanley Cup with Lundqvist. That's up to general manager Jeff Gorton to figure out, but before the season I would have said the window is quickly closing; now I think it's still wide open. My guess is it will remain so this season and all of next season. 

Video: PHI@NYR: Lundqvist gets low to turn away Raffl

 

Who is the Detroit Red Wings' best trade chip? -- @TomMcGowan1

Mike Green.

I previously would have said Jimmy Howard, but he's injured and Petr Mrazek hasn't exactly proven himself to be the goalie of the future. Howard has been better than Mrazek when he's been in; the problem is he's on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury. They can't trade him now, and I wouldn't trade him when he's healthy unless Mrazek shows he's a No. 1. Howard has two years remaining on his contract after this season. Mrazek has one year left on his contract after this season. Jared Coreau has been effective but his sample size is still too small. 

So it's Green, because with one year and $6 million remaining on his contract after this season I think he can get the Red Wings value in return. There are teams in need of a right-handed defenseman who can move the puck, shoot and score. The Rangers come to mind. So do the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. I doubt the Red Wings would trade him in the division if they trade him at all. There is still time for the Red Wings to make a run to try to keep their playoff streak alive (they have qualified for 25 straight seasons), but if by late February it becomes clear that their odds of making the playoffs are low, look for general manager Ken Holland to be active.

 

Good? Bad? Ugly? -- @whoopoi

Good: Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, All-Star Weekend, Sidney Crosby at an All-Star Weekend, Ambassador Gretzky, Cam Atkinson, Wayne Simmonds, Braden Holtby, Craig Anderson, Nicholle Anderson, 2016-17 rookie class, Connor McDavid''s hands, McDavid's feet -- I could go on and on here.

Bad: Schedule for the Ottawa Senators, Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders -- who each will play 34 games in the final 67 days of the regular season -- the Islanders arena situation, the fact that the Blackhawks won't play another home game until Feb. 18 and have only three this month, Jared Bednar's first season coaching the Colorado Avalanche.

Ugly: We're talking about hockey; nothing could be this bad.

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