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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Lightning counting on Point, Flames' chances in Pacific Division

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Dec. 5 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Does Brayden Point keep up this production all season? He's really bailed the Tampa Bay Lightning out a lot. Obviously a crucial player, but can he keep it up or does he fall off? -- @BenGriecoSports

Point has 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games. He will probably go through a scoring slump at some point, but I don't think there's any question that he's a potential 40-goal, 80-point player. He's that good. Even on a team with the star power the Lightning has, I think Point is their best forward and their second-best player behind defenseman Victor Hedman (I'm not including goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the discussion). Point does everything for the Lightning, and he does everything well. He had 32 goals and 34 assists last season, making him one of 24 players in the 30-30 club last season. It was a breakout season and a sign of things to come because of how he plays the game. In fact, this question reminded me of something Lightning coach Jon Cooper said to me during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Video: TBL@NJD: Point and Kucherov team up for a PPG

"You want players from other teams to think, 'This isn't going to be an easy night for us,'" Cooper said. "He does that, regardless of who he's playing against. If it doesn't work out for him early, you know he'll find a way to make sure it does."

He's an elite skater who might even be faster with the puck than without it, a rare skill. There isn't one way to shut down Point, and that's what makes him so effective. 

 

What do you think is going on with Cory Schneider? Should the New Jersey Devils let him play through it? Can't afford to drop too many games while he figures it out, but the Devils definitely need Cory at his best if they want to make any attempt to salvage the season. -- @Rob_Oswald

I agree with everything you said about Schneider and the Devils. The goalie is 0-5-0 with a 4.19 goals-against average and .862 save percentage in seven games, five starts. That's why one thing New Jersey could try to do, and I'm not saying they will do it but it's food for thought, is send Schneider to the American Hockey League for a short period with the idea that it might help him find his confidence.

Schneider would have to clear waivers to go to Binghamton of the AHL, but that shouldn't be an issue considering he's a 32-year-old struggling goalie coming off hip surgery who carries a $6 million cap charge for this season and three more. Those players aren't exactly hot commodities to pluck off the waiver wire. 

 

I'm a huge Ron Hextall fan and I'm hoping he continues to pursue success in his hockey career. How does the rest of the League perceive him and what role might he pursue in the future? -- @BartlettBrando

Hextall isn't done in the NHL. The former general manager left a stocked cupboard in Philadelphia, a team that is ripe to win with many talented young players and some high-end prospects coming, including goalie Carter Hart. He was fired because of what Flyers president Paul Holmgren labeled philosophical differences. The take is that Hextall's patient approach was wearing thin with Holmgren and Dave Scott, the chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the company that owns the Flyers. Holmgren and Scott want to be aggressive in their pursuit of winning now. Hextall didn't quite think the Flyers were ready to, as he said, "sell the farm" to win now. There is likely more to the fractured relationship between Hextall and the Flyers simmering below the obvious, but the philosophical differences were enough. But there's no denying that Hextall has put the Flyers in position to try to be aggressive now because of a strong four years of drafting and developing. He followed the same model as an assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings from 2006-13, culminating in a Stanley Cup championship in 2012 and another in 2014 that he wasn't around for because he had moved to Philadelphia. Any team interested in building from the base should be interested in bringing Hextall into their management team. Perhaps Hextall will have learned from his experience in Philadelphia too, mainly about finding middle ground with his superiors about the direction of the team.

 

What do you think of the hiring of Chuck Fletcher for the Flyers? -- @diamondback42

Fletcher is a fine hire for the Flyers, especially since it's clear they want an aggressive GM who isn't tied to the old days of the team. He didn't draft any of the players on the Flyers, so he comes in with a clean slate and can be aggressive in pursuit of winning now. He proved to be an aggressive and successful GM with the Minnesota Wild as their GM from 2009-18. The Wild reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times in his nine seasons. Yes, they won only two postseason series, but getting to the playoffs consistently is a significant accomplishment. Fletcher made some bold moves outside of signing forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. Signing center Eric Staal to a three-year, $10.5 million contract looks like a stroke of genius. So does acquiring goalie Devan Dubnyk for a third-round draft pick on Jan. 15, 2015. Trading defenseman Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks is not a great look but getting forward Nino Niederreiter for forward Cal Clutterbuck in a trade with the New York Islanders has worked out for the Wild. Niederreiter has scored 104 goals in five-plus seasons with the Wild. Clutterbuck is a useful fourth-line forward for the Islanders who has 49 goals in his tenure with them. He drafted forward Jason Zucker, forward Mikael Granlund, defenseman Matt Dumba, defenseman Jonas Brodin, forward Jordan Greenway and center Joel Eriksson Ek. He also traded defenseman Nick Leddy and lost forwards Eric Haula and Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. There's good and bad, but I'm OK with the Flyers choice of Fletcher because they get an experienced GM who won't be afraid to put his stamp on the team soon.

 

The Calgary Flames have been hot throughout the season so far. Can they keep this up and maybe win the Pacific Division? -- @TJRinger1

Yes.

There's a lot to like about the Flames, especially with the emergence of goalie David Rittich. He struggled in Calgary's 9-6 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, allowing three goals on 14 shots before he was replaced by Mike Smith, but the majority of his play this season has helped to stabilize what unfortunately was an unstable position for the Flames at the start of the season. Mike Smith has raised his level as a result and the Flames goaltending overall has improved, the six goals against in Columbus notwithstanding. But the Flames scored nine against the Blue Jackets, more evidence that they can score their way out of trouble. 

The keys with the Flames are they can win close games (5-3-2 in one-goal games) and they win going away too (9-2-0 in games decided by three or more goals). They seem to be at their best in the third period (plus-21 goal differential, 43-22). Their power play is strong (3-for-4 against Columbus, 23.8 percent this season). They have high-end players who can take over a game (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan). Elias Lindholm has fit perfectly with Gaudreau and Monahan. Matthew Tkachuk has emerged as a star. They're getting quality depth minutes out of Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski and Derek Ryan. They try to have an in-your-face identity and they're good at controlling the puck.

Video: WPG@CGY: Tkachuk goes coast to coast to extend lead

The Pacific Division is wide open for the taking. The Flames are good enough to take it.

 

Do you expect the New York Rangers to be major sellers at the deadline with expiring contracts, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes? -- @Jurrrmeh

I expect Zuccarello to be traded, for a draft pick or a prospect. The forward is in the last year of four-year contract and he doesn't fit into the Rangers' plans of building with their youth, drafting and developing well and signing players to big-ticket contracts only if they believe they'll get getting the prime years of that player.

They will get the prime years of Hayes if they sign him to a multi-year contract. Hayes has been arguably the Rangers' most consistent forward this season. He can play in a scoring role or a shutdown role. He's making anybody who plays with better. He's productive and physical. More than that, Hayes has bought into everything coach David Quinn is selling. He's been the model player for Quinn's hard work or you don't play philosophy since getting benched at the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 6, the second game of the season. Hayes is 26 years old, so if the Rangers were to sign him to a five or six-year contract, I think they will be getting Hayes in his best years.

Video: NYI@NYR: Hayes tucks slick backhander past Lehner

He has improved in each of the past two seasons, and he's better now than he has been at any point in his previous four seasons with the Rangers. This is a player on the upswing and I think he fits perfectly into what the Rangers are trying to do. Hayes could be the Rangers next captain.

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