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Mailbag: League trophies unlikely to be renamed

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Jan. 11 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday through the course of the 2016-17 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Is there any chance the Rocket Richard Trophy is renamed the Ovechkin Trophy now that Ovi has tied him in goals? -- @letsgocaps819

Not now. Not any time soon. Maybe not ever, but I can't go that far. For why I know that, I'll refer you to the following quote from Wayne Gretzky, which was given in response to a question he was asked in a joint press conference with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Jan. 1 about changing the names of the trophies to modernize them and honor players like Gretzky and others:

"The greatest thing about our game is the history of our game," Gretzky said. "And, obviously, sometimes change is part of life. But as [Commissioner Bettman] said, his greatest thrill as commissioner is giving out the Stanley Cup. As a player and as a captain, you want the commissioner with the Cup to hand it to you. That's part of our history. That's part of our tradition. The same as the trophies that we have. The Art Ross, the Hart, the Lady Byng. From my point of view, I think they should stay the way they are, because that's the history of our game. And I really believe that that's what separates our sport from every other sport, is some of the history that we have."

For confirmation, Commissioner Bettman added the following:

"By the way, I couldn't have said it any better. And frankly, while there will be certain players we'll have to find ways to commemorate and respect for all eternity, disrespecting those who have been given the honor of having their names on trophies doesn't strike me as a fair or appropriate thing to do."

Video: WSH@MTL: Ovechkin snaps in his 999th career point

Is there no clear-cut favorite from the Eastern Conference given how close the standings are? Teams at the top can't relax. -- @hstempin92

There isn't a clear-cut favorite in the Eastern Conference if you're just looking at the standings and how hot some teams have been of late, but I'm looking beyond that and I can't find any reason to pick against the Pittsburgh Penguins at this point. I don't care that they aren't first in the Metropolitan Division right now. That doesn't matter to me at all. They're the best team in the East. Columbus has been the best story. Washington is the hottest team right now. Columbus obviously was that. But Pittsburgh has been the most consistent from the beginning. I think the Penguins have the best depth at all three positions of any team in the Eastern Conference. That gives them the ability to withstand an injury. They score. They keep the puck out of the net. They're the best team in the NHL in the third period based on goal differential heading into Wednesday night (plus-31). Although I agree that the top teams in the East won't have any time to relax all season, I do think the Penguins are the clear-cut favorite.

Now back to sixth place in the Atlantic Division, what do the Tampa Bay Lightning need to do to be better? How can they fix the current situation? -- @blh3999

Dare I say it starts with health? I know, not an excuse. I get it. But Steven Stamkos is out. Ben Bishop has been out. Brian Boyle has missed time. Brayden Point is out. Braydon Coburn is out. Ryan Callahan, Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat have each missed stretches of time with injuries. Callahan has missed more games than he's played. He's currently out again, too. That's a lot for any team to contend with. Injuries have been a huge part of the Lightning's season.

That said, injuries aren't totally to blame. The Lightning in general have been inconsistent regardless of who is in the lineup. Bishop was struggling when he was in and Andrei Vasilevskiy is struggling in his absence. Bishop could play Thursday or Friday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Boyle could be back soon, too. Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov, Alex Killorn and Palat have under-produced based on what should be expected of them.

So the Lightning need to get healthy, which appears to be happening save for Stamkos, obviously, but they need to get more out of the guys in the lineup too. They need to get more scoring chances. They seem to be settling; they should be attacking. They aren't giving up a ton of chances, but the ones they are giving up are ending up in the back of their net. They need to tighten up defensively. General manager Steve Yzerman needs to help the blue line by acquiring an upgrade in a trade. He can't be passive. He typically isn't.

To get out of their doldrums, though, the Lightning need their goaltending to be way better. It's hard to play, let alone win, when you don't have faith that your goalie is going to make some saves. They have allowed 22 goals during their current four-game losing streak. Someone has to steal a game.

Video: TBL@PIT: Drouin buries rebound to open the scoring

Have you noticed how great the Carolina Hurricanes are at home and how much trouble they have in away games? What causes that? -- @dabrams2021

I have noticed. I've seen it in other teams too; teams currently in a playoff position like the St. Louis Blues (5-10-1 on the road), Philadelphia Flyers (13-6-3 at home, 8-9-3 on the road), Anaheim Ducks (13-5-2, 8-8-6), Los Angeles Kings (12-6-1, 8-11-3). All those records are heading into Tuesday night. I spoke about this specifically with Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on Monday because clearly their road record, just like the Hurricanes' road record (6-11-6), is holding them back from being a consistent team this season. Shattenkirk talked about a belief system the Blues have at home and how they haven't been able to stick with that on the road for whatever reason.

"It's easier to do at home," Shattenkirk said. "It's easier when the game slips away from you and the momentum changes a bit because when you're at home you're able to grab it and turn things back in your favor when you have the crowd behind you. You just feel more comfortable playing at home. When you're on the road it's harder to stop that momentum and we haven't done a good job of reacting to it so far this year."

I can't speak specifically for the Hurricanes and if that is the exact reason they've struggled on the road too, but it makes sense. Their numbers indicate a change in their play, too. Going into Tuesday, they were scoring 2.82 goals per game and allowing 2.35 at home. The numbers were basically flipped on the road, where they are scoring 2.35 per game and allowing 2.78. Even-strength scoring that has been a problem for them on the road because their road power play was 19.7 percent although their home power play was 16.0 percent. They had more even-strength goals at home (39-37) despite playing six more road games. Their penalty kill has been excellent both at home and on the road (86.5 percent at home, 88.9 percent on the road).

Is it all about the points when it comes to the Calder Trophy this season? -- @Swe_Sid

Great question. It might be, but it shouldn't be. My preseason pick was Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine simply because I thought he'd be on a better team than Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and that he would put up numbers, taking votes away from Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray. Well, I'm changing it now and it has as much to do with production as it does for the role he's playing. I'm going with Matthews at the midway point for the Calder Trophy with Laine a very close second. The Maple Leafs have been way better than I or anyone else anticipated and Matthews is a big reason why. Laine has been excellent, but the Jets have been average, albeit with a brutal schedule that had them play 32 games in 60 days to start the season. Matthews is playing 17:51 per game, mostly against first defense pairs and top lines. He has 21 goals and 35 points, the same amount of goals and two fewer points than Laine. He's also played in three fewer games. He has to do more as a center than Laine does as a winger. Matthews is improving in the faceoff circle and he's already a dominant No. 1 center in the NHL.

Video: WPG@FLA: Laine snipes goal after steal by Little

I'll couch this by saying that if Murray was healthy throughout the first half I think he would have more starts than Marc-Andre Fleury at this point and would be my pick for the Calder Trophy. But for now it's Matthews with a slight edge over Laine because of production and the role he plays on the team.

Video: TOR@NJD: Matthews bats puck out of midair to pad lead

Would the New York Rangers buy out Dan Girardi before the expansion draft in order to protect Nick Holden? -- @surlysailor

I never thought of buying out Girardi for this reason. I get that Holden has been good for the Rangers, but I don't think a buyout of Girardi would be so they could protect Holden from the expansion draft. If they buy out Girardi, it would be to free up a roster spot and cap room to go after a different right-handed shooting defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk. However, a byproduct of buying out Girardi, if that's the decision they make, means they can, in theory, protect Holden, who has one year remaining on his contract after this season. In that case, the Rangers would protect Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Holden among their defensemen. Brady Skjei is exempt so they don't have to protect him. Kevin Klein can be left exposed.

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