With the NHL All-Star Game approaching, going strictly on performance and not popularity, who would be your picks for each division? -- @theashcity
The NHL.com staff did this exercise last week, when the 2020 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by adidas opened. I was part of the group that selected the Pacific Division captain and all-stars, including six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. You can see that story here.
My picks for the Pacific Division were:
Captain: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Forwards: McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Oilers; Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks; Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames; Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Oilers; Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks; Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
Goalies: Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes; Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights
McDavid, Draisaitl, Pettersson, Kuemper and Fleury speak for themselves. Tkachuk has been the Flames most consistent player. Couture leads the Sharks in scoring and has helped to drive their resurgence. Kopitar has been the Kings best player. The Oilers have impressed me enough that they warranted three players, which is why Klefbom is in. The Ducks don't have a lock, so Fowler, arguably their most consistent defenseman, is my choice. Hughes leads all defensemen in the division in scoring.
And for the rest…
Captain: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Forwards: Ovechkin, Capitals; Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers; Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins; Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders; Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes; Blake Coleman, New Jersey Devils
Defensemen: John Carlson, Capitals; Dougie Hamilton, Hurricanes; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
Goalies: Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers; Thomas Greiss, Islanders
Tough omissions here with Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, Flyers forwards Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and Capitals goalie Braden Holtby all left out. But you have to get at least one player from every team. The easy picks were Ovechkin, Panarin, Barzal, Carlson, Jones and Hamilton. I took Teravainen over Svechnikov, Guentzel over Malkin and Coleman over the field because he's the Devils most deserving player. Once I realized there wasn't enough room for Konecny and Couturier, Hart became an obvious choice. Greiss barely made it over his goalie partner Semyon Varlamov because his stats are slightly better.
Captain: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (because he would have a blast doing it)
Forwards: Marchand and David Pastrnak, Bruins; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres; Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs; Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
Defensemen: Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Bruins; Frederik Andersen, Maple Leafs
It's almost impossible to believe I don't have Panthers forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov on the team, but I ran out of room because Bertuzzi and Pageau have been the most consistent players on their respective teams, and the Red Wings and Senators need representation. There's no debating the other four forwards. It's also amazing that goalies Andrei Vasilevskiy (Lightning), Carey Price (Canadiens) and Sergei Bobrovsky (Panthers) aren't on my team, but they haven't been good enough to get a sniff.
Captain: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Forwards: MacKinnon, Avalanche; Brayden Schenn and David Perron, St. Louis Blues; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets; Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Defensemen: Cale Makar, Avalanche; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators; Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
Goalies: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets; Jordan Binnington, Blues
Stars goalie Ben Bishop was the toughest one for me to leave out, but he got edged by Binnington, who has faced more shots, has more wins, and has almost identical numbers in save percentage and goals-against average.
Video: CHI@COL: MacKinnon puts home Rantanen's nice pass
Could the pace of 3-on-3 overtime be improved if they didn't switch ends and there wasn't the long change? Too many times players take the puck into their own zone in order to get a line change. It slows the play down too much. -- @TrishTheMiddle
It doesn't bother me that they switch ends to create the long change that teams also have to deal with in the second period. Overtime is all about possession. Keep it and you have a chance. Give it up and there's a good chance you're scrambling. Teams with possession backtrack into their zone to get a change because of two reasons: 1) They realize the other team is stuck with tired players on the ice and it's an opportunity to strike; 2) It could give them a chance to hit a stretch pass to a player coming on the bench near the attacking blue line. The defending team can't always risk going for a change at the same time as the attacking team because chances are they will get caught in an odd-man situation against. If they didn't change ends, it would be easier for the defending team to change on the fly and cover the fresh players coming on the ice. A missed shot or a turnover creates chaos. Tired players on the ice also can lead to chaos. Chaos is fun.
What do you think the goalie market will look like come the offseason? Does it make sense for the Devils to go after a guy like Braden Holtby if he hits free agency? -- @Rob_Oswald
It makes sense pending what the Devils do with forward Taylor Hall. If he re-signs, no question they have to go for Holtby and/or Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom if one or both become unrestricted free agents. They wouldn't sign both, obviously, but they'd have to pursue both because they'd be in win-now mode. If they trade Hall, there's two reasons that could and potentially should stop the Devils from going after Holtby and Markstrom: 1) They get a goalie back in the trade that they love and believe can be a No. 1 immediately or in short order; 2) They want to reset again and don't want to pay a big chunk of money for a goalie in his early 30s when they're not going to be built to win in other areas for another few years.
No. 1 is possible, especially if the Canadiens want Hall and are willing to part with 20-year-old Cayden Primeau, believing it's Carey Price's net for a long time and Primeau's value is high enough now. It's similar with the Canucks. They might love Markstrom enough to re-sign him, which opens the possibility of the Devils prying Thatcher Demko, who turns 24 on Sunday, or 20-year-old Michael DiPietro out of Vancouver. Even if they don't love Markstrom, they might be willing to move Demko or DiPietro. No. 2 isn't palatable to Devils fans, but it's something to consider because they have parts now like centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, and defenseman Ty Smith that they didn't have when they went into the initial rebuild a few seasons ago. It could be a quicker process to get the Devils back to being Stanley Cup contenders if they trade Hall and continue to build with youth. It wouldn't make much sense in that scenario to sign a veteran goalie to big money. You save that for when you think your team is ready in the other areas and the goalie is all you need.
Video: WSH@NYR: Holtby stretches out to deny Lemieux
With the Winnipeg Jets rounding into form in November, are they a sleeper pick to go far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? -- @Vishan_Joel
I'm not ready to go there. I still wonder how much of their success has been propped up by the elite goaltending they're getting from Hellebuyck. He is 14-7-1 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in 22 games (21 starts). But the Jets are in the bottom third of the NHL in shots against per game, power play and penalty kill. They've been heavily reliant on winning one-goal games (11-2-1), a great statistic to have now but also a risky one because of how one mistake or bad goal can turn it against you. I question if it got to a seven-game playoff series how the Jets would handle a more balanced team like the Avalanche, Blues or even the Predators if they can get their game fully in order. But they're winning now on effort, compete and discipline. They are last in the League in times shorthanded (65). If they can stay ahead in those three areas, continue to get elite goaltending from Hellebuyck and maybe add some depth scoring, they could be a tough team to deal with in the playoffs.
Are the Edmonton Oilers for real? How long can they keep relying on McDavid and Draisaitl before they are burnt out? -- @tealforreal_96
They're for real when it comes to being a legitimate contender to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Beyond that, I have my reservations because the Oilers, as you mentioned, are heavily reliant on one line. Mikko Koskinen (.921 save percentage, 2.52 GAA) and Mike Smith (.907 save percentage, 2.83 GAA) have helped push them to the top of the Pacific Division. However, to win in the playoffs you need three lines that can score and a fourth that can at least be considered a threat. You need a second power-play unit that can be a threat. The Oilers lack in both areas. A team also needs a strong three-pair rotation on the back end, not too much drop off from the first pair to the second pair, and from the second pair to the third pair. The Oilers are close, but there is still work to be done. We'll have a better idea where they stand after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24. Let's see if general manager Ken Holland is able to address some of their areas of concern to strengthen the team for a playoff push.