Lately, I've been asking myself this question: If the Minnesota Wild make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is goalie Devan Dubnyk suddenly a serious contender for the Hart Trophy?
The Wild have been the hottest team in the NHL lately and they're climbing up the standings. If they do make it in, as far as I'm concerned, Dubnyk is going to be the reason why. He's been stellar since arriving, going 10-1-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and four shutouts, and as a result Minnesota is now on the cusp of cracking the top eight. Acquiring Dubnyk has completely changed the outlook of this team and completely changed its fortunes, and when you take that into account, as unheard of as it would be, I think you can make an argument that he's been the most valuable player in the League.
Goalie - MIN
GAA: 2.25 | SVP: .924
I've never heard of someone getting the Hart Trophy after playing for a team for only half of a season, but there's no doubt that Minnesota doesn't make the playoffs if it doesn't make the Dubnyk trade. No doubt. Before he came in Minnesota was floundering. It was done. The Wild were going to go quietly and probably cost Mike Yeo his job, but now they're the hottest team in the NHL and if they keep it up they might scare one of the Western Conference's big dogs in the first round. Minnesota is now a force to be reckoned with, and it's all because of a trade for a goaltender that couldn't make it in Edmonton.
MAPLE LEAFS START MAKING MOVES
It looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs' rebuild began in earnest Sunday when Toronto traded Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for Olli Jokinen, a prospect and a first-round draft pick. I think this is just the start of a massive rebuild for the Maple Leafs, and I think it's something the team has to do. This is not the first time Toronto has been in this situation. Every season the Maple Leafs have ideas about getting better, getting better defensively and beginning to become a contender, and here they are still sitting in the same boat or even getting worse.
Brendan Shanahan was brought into Toronto for a reason, and I don't think it was to keep the same group intact. After all, if there are no changes to be made then why make a change up front? I expect Shanahan to be aggressive. I wonder how much he can do and if the players he wants to move are actually movable, but it's a start.
Nashville, on the other hand, already has the best mark in the NHL, and the Predators are better today than they were two days ago. Franson and Santorelli are solid players who will now get a taste of winning after being in the pressure cooker of Toronto, and now they've joined one of the real players. Nashville is a well-rounded, talented team and it has, in my opinion, the best goalie in the League in Pekka Rinne. This move just made them even stronger as they try to contend for their first Stanley Cup championship.
THOUGHTS ON THE LATE STEVE MONTADOR
I didn't personally know former NHL defenseman Steve Montador, who passed away on Sunday at 35. I had only watched him play as a broadcaster and I know he always played hard and was a good heart and soul guy. Even if I didn't know him, the NHL is a very close-knit society and everybody knows somebody who knows someone. I'm sure there are a lot of people, many of them my friends, who knew Steve and were affected by him over his years in the NHL.
There are no ways to sugarcoat something like this and make it easier. Death is always very sad, but when it happens unexpectedly to someone who is so young it is very difficult and it's very difficult to focus on your jobs when you're a part of this game. I was in a similar situation a few years back when Marc Potvin died at 38. Potvin had been coaching the United Hockey League team I owned with Steve Levy in Adirondack at the time and it was very tough to go through. Marc had played for me in Adirondack and Los Angeles, and I had known him for many, many years.
At that time for me, as I'm sure is the case for dozens if not hundreds of people around the NHL today, a lot of things went through my mind. A friend, a teammate, someone that played for you. When one of them passes at such a young age, you sit back and evaluate your life and the things that go on sometimes. You think about how lucky you are to get to play this game at this level and how brief and crazy life can be. It's a terrible thing when someone passes away so young like Steve Montador did, and there are many people feeling pain and thinking these things all around the League today.