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Friday Four: High praise for Hossa, Halak, Dubnyk

by Kevin Weekes

Each Friday throughout the regular season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four in his Weekes on the Web blog. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, trends or really four of whatever in the NHL that have caught his eye.

A 'Hoss in Chicago, some love for Jaro, the comeback player of the year, and what not to do in Toronto, plus a couple of extras for you. It's all in my Friday Four blog this week.

He we go:

1. Marian Hossa is a machine

Hossa has been unbelievable and it's great for him. He has six goals in the past three games, two in each game. This run he's been on is amazing, but not surprising.

Marian Hossa
Right Wing - CHI
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 40
SOG: 162 | +/-: 3
The value of Hossa being such a dependable star player is huge. Throughout his entire career his coaches can play him in any situation. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville can put his hand on his moustache and just say, 'Go out there, Hoss' and there would be no concern.

There is no matchup problem when Hossa is on the ice. He can play any forward position, penalty kill, whatever. He's an all-situation, skilled, star player. It's nice that he's turning up his game at this time.

The reason he's turning up his game is nothing out of the ordinary either. He's playing his normal game and the goals are just coming.

He doesn't cheat his effort ever. You know what you're getting from him on a game by game basis. He's willing to play through traffic. This is a highly decorated player and perhaps a Hall of Fame player.

2. Jaroslav Halak deserves more ink

He's been excellent. I don't think he's getting enough said or written about him.

You have to give the Montreal Canadiens credit because they had Carey Price and Halak at the same time. Both were in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game this season. That's scouting. That's drafting. That's impressive.

Jaroslav Halak
Goalie - NYI
RECORD: 29-11-0
GAA: 2.40 | SVP: .911
Halak was picked in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL Draft. Price was picked in the first round of the 2005 draft. Halak wasn't supposed to be anything. Price was supposed to be a stud. There was no way the Canadiens could have known that Halak would challenge Price, but it happened.

Now give Islanders general manager Garth Snow credit for bringing Halak in at a time his team really needed goaltending and for a price that is cost effective for quality goaltending ($4.5 million per season).

Halak has stabilized the Islanders. He's answering the bell. He's a really good person and a guy you want to pull for. The way he plays allows the Islanders to be comfortable to play the way they play. We talk so much about Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk on the back end, as we should, but I think it would all be moot without Halak back there.

And now think about what he went through last year, getting traded from St. Louis to Buffalo to Washington. He was also cast off as the second guy by the Canadiens (rightly so, because Price is amazing). Halak has shown a lot of mental toughness to be where he is today.

3. Devan Dubnyk and the turnaround

You have to give a lot of credit to Sean Burke of the Arizona Coyotes for basically picking Dubnyk off the mat and rebooting him. You have to give a lot of credit to Minnesota Wild goalie coach Bob Mason. It would be one thing for Dubnyk to play the way he did in Arizona, but to play the way he's played in Minnesota is just impressive.

Devan Dubnyk
Goalie - MIN
RECORD: 17-6-3
GAA: 2.27 | SVP: .924
Remember, guys are always considered good guys and hard workers when they're getting paid big cake, are on billboards, have sponsorship deals, courtesy cars and the like. Sure everybody kisses those guys and it's great. But you really get to see the value and depth of a human when things aren't going well. For Dubnyk to go to the American Hockey League last year and come to Arizona on a whim, rediscover his game, and now push the Wild into the playoff picture, I think it's an amazing story.

Pekka Rinne is probably the comeback player of the year, if not the MVP, in the NHL this season because he missed most of last season with an injury. But from strictly a performance standpoint alone, not factoring in an injury, I don't know how anybody else can be the comeback player of the year in the NHL other than Dubnyk.

Not only is Dubnyk making the saves he should make, he's making some of the saves people say he shouldn't make too. When the Wild are on their game they're not giving up as many chances as a Colorado per se, but let's be honest, this guy is earning everything he's getting.

And let's not forget, there's a lot of pressure playing in Minnesota. Minnesota is like Canada. They don't love hockey, they live hockey in Minnesota.

4. Why Maple Leafs, why?

I'm hearing a lot of talk about trading impending unrestricted free agents in Toronto, but some of it mystifies me.

Cody Franson
Defense - TOR
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 26 | PTS: 32
SOG: 85 | +/-: -7
Ever since Cody Franson has come to the Toronto Maple Leafs he's played good hockey. He's a good pro, good value, you know he's good stock. He comes from Nashville. We know they do the right things. I would find every way to keep him, not trade him. That's a guy I'd be trying to retain. Don't tell me about the market. Move someone else. I wouldn't be moving him based on leadership, performance, attitude and what he means in that room. That room needs more people like him. I wouldn't move him.

In sticking with that, the same thing holds true with Daniel Winnik, I wouldn't be trying to move him. Why move Winnik? He's in great shape. He's from Toronto and loves playing here. He's a pro each and every day. The way he conducts himself makes him the kind of guy you want. You need more of these guys, not less of these guys.

Mike Santorelli, same thing. He's having an unbelievable season and is playing exceptionally well. You're getting great value from him at $1.5 million. He can play on the power play and the penalty kill. Is there a reason why you should be trading him? Why is it even a consideration to trade him? Those are the kinds of guys you need there.

While the Maple Leafs work through this so-called rebuild, those are the guys you don't get rid of because those are the players that you need on your respective teams. I'd sign all three of them.


I couldn't close this blog without throwing out some love for Anaheim Ducks forward Matt Beleskey and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Goalie - TBL
RECORD: 4-1-1
GAA: 2.09 | SVP: .929
Beleskey is having a great season. He's been amazing. He has 20 goals. He never scored more than 11 in a season before 2014-15. Good for him. Good for the Ducks.

Watch out for Vasilevskiy, and I say this as a guy who is a really big fan of Ben Bishop.

I think Bishop is one of the best goalies in the Eastern Conference, and frankly, the entire League. In talking to Lightning coach Jon Cooper, he said that Bishop has the highest hockey IQ of anybody on that team. But keep an eye on Vasilevskiy now. I think it says a lot about Vasilevskiy that Cooper played him with confidence against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. He is not overwhelmed by the stage. Tampa Bay has great goaltending depth now.

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