I'm not suggesting the Columbus Blue Jackets can't win the Stanley Cup. It'd be idiotic for me to make such a suggestion. My pick has been and remains the Chicago Blackhawks, but it's anyone's game coming out of the Metropolitan Division, which means coming out of the Eastern Conference if you ask me. The Blue Jackets stack up well against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a lot going for them except for experience. That's important, but it's not the ultimate deciding factor. If goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is at his best and the power play gets hot again, look out for Columbus.
Has Doug Weight done enough to get the full-time job? -- @emotrin
The short answer is yes.
I love what Weight has done with the New York Islanders. He has seemingly resolved the goaltending situation, which has plagued the Islanders all season, even though they still have three goalies on the roster. He has brought in Joshua Ho-Sang and given him the top-six and power-play role he needs to have in order to be successful. He has given more responsibility to forward Anthony Beauvillier because he has earned it. He has been steady but at times hard on the veteran players, demanding more even though he understands they've been climbing uphill for a long time and that puts a severe mental and physical strain on a player. He has control.
However, nobody knows if Weight wants the full-time job. He doesn't know. If he does know, he is keeping it a secret, and Weight isn't one to hold back with his words or opinions, so I doubt he would hold back if he had a desire to coach the Islanders next season. He doesn't know because he's so focused on the task at hand that it's impossible to know if this is something he wants to take on full time, which means a busy summer, planning for training camp, making cuts, etc. Those are the difficult parts of the job.
Weight doesn't need any of it, but if he wants it he's the right coach for the Islanders.
What's wrong with the San Jose Sharks? Are they going to figure it out before the postseason? -- @bloodfury96
I had a conversation with Sharks coach Peter DeBoer last week when he dropped a line that I picked up on but didn't dive into further.
"We are a year older, which you can't hide from, especially some of our key guys," DeBoer said.
It's been bugging me since we spoke that I didn't dive into it further because of the struggles the Sharks have had of late. The Sharks are an older team. Five of their top-nine scorers are 31 or older, including Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both 37, and Paul Martin and Joel Ward, both 36. Marc-Edouard Vlasic turns 30 on Thursday. In a normal year, that wouldn't make that much of a difference, but this isn't a normal year. The Sharks played into mid-June last season, so their summer was short. It was shorter for thirtysomethings like Thornton, Vlasic, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski because they played in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. And this season the Sharks, like the other 29 teams, are dealing with a compressed schedule because of the World Cup, All-Star break and built-in mandated five-day breaks. NHL teams have 175 days to play 82 games this season when you factor all of that in; they had 187 days to play 82 games last season. That makes a big difference to an older team.
So have the Sharks hit a wall or are they content with where they are in the standings, understanding they will be in the playoffs and are trying to conserve energy? I'm not sure, but the last thing a team wants to do is go into the playoffs with a sour taste and plenty of losses in the last two to three weeks of the regular season.
What should the Colorado Avalanche do after the season? -- @Petexxmetal
Build up their back end. Period.
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic (and I'm assuming he's going to be the GM this offseason too) has to remake the defense corps, because it's not close to good enough and it's killing Colorado. Yes, it might mean trading Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog to do it, but sometimes a GM has to steal from an area of strength in order to improve an area of weakness.
If Sakic finds another way to do it he should explore that avenue, but he might be stuck. I wouldn't want to trade Landeskog and Duchene. It's not as if Colorado is so loaded up front that those players are easily expendable. However, the Avalanche have some high-end young talent up front and more coming eventually (Tyson Jost); they don't have much on the back end outside of Tyson Barrie, who may be a second-pair defenseman even if he is a first-unit power-play guy. I'd argue that nobody on Colorado's defense is untouchable, but Barrie is at least the closest. Erik Johnson is solid too, and he's not going anywhere considering he's owed $6 million per year through the 2022-23 season. He also has a no-movement clause and a no-trade clause, according to CapFriendly.com. Francois Beauchemin is signed for one more season at $4.5 million. Including Barrie's $5.5 million, the Avalanche have $16 million locked up in those three defensemen. So that's the start. Sakic has to beef it up. Nobody else already in Colorado should be guaranteed anything. The Avalanche don't even have any high-end defense prospects coming either. They have to address their NHL depth and their organizational depth at this position.
Who is your pick to win the Vezina Trophy? -- @WerenskiWarrior
I saw a stat tweeted out by Aaron Portzline, a friend and longtime Blue Jackets beat writer for The Columbus Dispatch that said "Sergei Bobrovsky has the highest save percentage [.935] of any NHL goalie with 40-plus wins in a season." Even Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price had a .933 save percentage in the 2014-15 season, when he won 44 games and dominated the NHL Awards show by winning the Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and William M. Jennings Trophy. Braden Holtby of the Capitals had a .922 save percentage last season, when he won 48 games and the Vezina Trophy.
Bobrovsky isn't just the right pick for the Vezina Trophy, he deserves some Hart Trophy attention too.
Video: PHI@CBJ: Bobrovsky stifles Weal's power-play chance
If the Buffalo Sabres miraculously win the lottery do they trade the No. 1 pick for a top pairing defenseman? -- @DisplacedSabres
The ultimate speculative question. The honest answer is, I have no idea. The analytical answer is that Buffalo is in that 6-11 range, meaning sixth fewest points to 11th fewest points, so winning the draft lottery will be a mathematical miracle. We're talking about somewhere in between 3-8 percent chance to win it. Don't forget, the Vegas Golden Knights will be put into the lottery and given the same odds as the team with the third-fewest points, so it's one more team to contend with. So to even entertain this idea is kind of silly. To take it further, though, even if the Sabres pull off this mathematical miracle, they'd have to find a team with a top pair defenseman (and they can be defined in so many different ways, by the way) that A) doesn't have a no-movement clause or a no-trade clause, or would waive it if they do; B) plays for a team that is dying for a center like Nolan Patrick, who is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick. I'm pretty sure the Sabres are going to have to address their issues on defense in a different way.
Should the Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy and JFK to ELCs for NHL duty now or wait until next year? Thoughts on Brad Marchand for Hart? -- @tdeon26
McAvoy is the key guy. "JFK," whose actual name is Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, isn't as necessary as McAvoy, who would bring size and much-needed skill to the Bruins defense. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Tuesday that McAvoy could sign and be in Providence of the American Hockey League by the end of the week. I spoke with Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on Monday and he was very quick to say the Bruins don't have a lot of skill on defense. McAvoy has the element the Bruins need, but let's pull back on the expectations for him. He's a college sophomore, 19 years old. He might not be the type of NHL defenseman Boston and many scouts believe he can be until he's 23 or 24. He might seem like a nice addition now, if only because of the skill he has and the fact that he could be a shot in the arm too, but going to the AHL and potentially to the Calder Cup Playoffs with the Providence Bruins could help, too. It did wonders for Blue Jackets rookie Zach Werenski last season.
As for Forsbacka-Karlsson, I can't say I know too much about him other than I've read comparisons to Patrice Bergeron. SLOW DOWN! Bergeron is one of the best players in the NHL. Let's not put that on Forsbacka-Karlsson yet.
Is the Dallas Stars goaltending situation something to focus on during the offseason? Doesn't look right not seeing them in the postseason. -- @SPGavin0409
It has to be a priority for general manager Jim Nill, but it extends to owner Tom Gaglardi too, because it's probably going to require a buyout of Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen, or both, to get the Stars back on track in the goaltending department. A buyout requires money spent for no services rendered. It's a must. They can't keep up with the duo they have because it's clearly not working. The Stars have other areas of concern too, specifically on defense, but goaltending comes first. A team can't be successful without quality goaltending.
A Lehtonen buyout would cost the Stars $1.67 million on the NHL salary cap for the next two seasons. A Niemi buyout would cost them $1.5 million on the cap for the next two seasons. Both figures are according to the buyout calculator tool at CapFriendly.com. It's conceivable the Stars could buy out both. It would cost them less next season to do that than it would to keep either Lehtonen ($5.9 million cap charge) or Niemi ($4.5 million) around. They'd be burned in the 2017-18 season because each goalie has one more year left on his contract.
Who wins the Metropolitan Division? -- @gdohlke79