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Friday Four: Praising Luongo, Blue Jackets, Hartley

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.

I'm talking about goalies, a surging team, a struggling team and a coach who got a well-earned extension in this week's Friday Four:

1. Roberto Luongo

People aren't really talking about how well he's played, and he's played really well.

Let's take it back before we get to now. Obviously Luongo became a star with the Florida Panthers, then he went to the Vancouver Canucks and was a star there, but he wasn't ever fully appreciated in Vancouver. There was always something else he could have or should have done.

Roberto Luongo
Goalie - FLA
RECORD: 11-6-6
GAA: 2.30 | SVP: .925
Whatever he did wasn't good enough, but he's the best goalie in the history of that franchise.

I don't think it's a secret that because he wasn't loved fully he was open to the possibility of going back to Florida. But it's one thing to go back and it's another to go back and play well. He's been amazing. He really has. He's been awesome.

People always argue in favor of a really good goalie playing on a really good team, but it's another thing for him to continue to be the goalie he is on this team, which has exceeded expectations. I have to give him a lot of credit for that.

I know people say the pressure on Luongo went down when he went from Vancouver to Florida, but there was a lot of pressure for him to go back there just based on the contract, on him having played there before, based on his wife's family being there, and that it's a young and inexperienced team.

He's gone back there and knocked it out of the park, albeit quietly.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

They won seven in a row before an overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, and for me it all starts in the net. It starts with Sergei Bobrovsky.

First of all, he's back to being healthy. On top of that he's back to playing at his Vezina level. Everything from that team goes out from him. He's the backbone of that team. He gives confidence to that group.

From talking to people in Columbus, he is unquestionably the hardest-working guy on that team. He sets the tone. They're very dependent on him and on his game. All in all, since he's come back he's been amazing.

You look at the seven-game winning streak before playing the Washington Capitals on Thursday and his numbers are microscopic. He had a 1.63 goals-against average and .950 save percentage in December before playing Thursday. That's amazing.

It's no surprise the Blue Jackets are playing the way they're playing with him playing the way he's playing. Columbus has a nice thing going there now. Look out for them.

And I know I've said this before but I'm going to say it again, the Nick Foligno story is very intriguing and impressive. He is essentially a point-per-game player right now and nobody is talking about him. Even if they are, they're not talking about him in that way.

Ryan Johansen is the star in Columbus, but if Johansen is going to play in the All-Star Game then Foligno should too, and that says a lot. Just the mere fact they're in the same zone as far as points go is impressive. It's not that Johansen has come down, Foligno has gone up.

He's scored big goals, timely goals, super high-skilled goals. He's scoring and generating offensive chances in different ways and different situations.

3. Edmonton Oilers

I respect the banners in Edmonton. I respect the history of the game, the dynasty they had and the great players that played there. But at some point in time you have to propel yourself forward into now.

The reality is Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Fuhr, Moog, Anderson -- those guys are not playing now. But Jarret Stoll could be, and he's not. Andrew Cogliano could be, and he's not. Matt Greene could be, and he's not.

You want to know another reason why the Oilers are struggling? Don't look any further than the players they used to have, the players they have gotten rid of in recent seasons.

Stoll was one of the best-conditioned guys on the team, a penalty-kill specialist, a faceoff specialist and he loved playing in Edmonton. Greene is a hard defenseman to play against, a minute-muncher and, of course, a PK specialist. They got to the Stanley Cup Final with them.

Stoll and Greene were traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Lubomir Visnovsky. Stoll and Greene have won the Stanley Cup twice in L.A. Visnovsky is on his third team since that trade.

Cogliano scored 20 goals last season without a sniff on the power play. He's one of the fastest guys in the League. He's fanatical about his conditioning. He's detailed in practice. He was traded for a second-round draft pick

OK let's talk about more veteran role players that the Oilers could have had.

The Chicago Blackhawks got John Madden and won the Stanley Cup with him. Talk to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane talk about Madden. Now listen to Nick Bjugstad talk about Madden, an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers. He could have done something for the Oilers.

Chicago got Jamal Mayers, who won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks.

Where is that player in Edmonton? Oh that's right, that player is in Southern California now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the Oilers' talented young trio and yes, Justin Schultz is a skilled 'D', but where are the support pieces? When they went to the Cup Final in 2006 they had those players. When they were winning Cups they had those players.

There's no Pascal Dupuis in their group. There is no Madden, no Jay Pandolfo, no Stoll in that group. You need players like that to win.

Moreover, they need to figure out what it means to be an Oiler. They need an identity.

I know what a Bruin is. I know what a King is. I know what a Blackhawk is. I know what a Red Wing is. What is an Oiler?

4. Calgary Flames

A big part of why Bob Hartley got his contract extension is he's doing in Calgary what nobody has been able to do in Edmonton. He's establishing something, a certain way of playing, an identity.

Look at TJ Brodie coming on, Mark Giordano going to the next level, Sean Monahan's development, and Johnny Gaudreau's introduction to the NHL. A lot of that is because of Hartley.

If you watch a Flames pregame skate you'll think you were watching a hockey school. There is a lot of skill development. That's because of Hartley.

Let's give him credit. He's a different Bob Hartley than he was 15 years ago. He has a different demeanor about him, a different way about him. He has a different approach to young players. He's more open to the players today and better with them.

I really give him a lot of credit for evolving as a person and his approach to coaching. It's very different than it has been.

Of course there is a market correction going on in Calgary and they've lost six in a row, and that was coming, but all things being equal, the way he has evolved and handled that group and the strides they have made, impressive.

Look player to player, prospect to prospect, everybody would have said Calgary didn't have any prospects, that Edmonton was in a better position. Well …

I think that Jay Feaster, although he's no longer there, deserves a lot of credit for fully believing in Bob and knowing that he has evolved in those ways. And secondly, give Brad Treliving and Brian Burke credit too. A lot of times what happens is new guys want to bring in their own guy, but you have to bring in the right guy. They had the right guy. Credit them for recognizing that and extending him.

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