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Over The Boards

Playoff chances for Wild, Capitals among questions's Dan Rosen answers weekly mail

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Here is the Feb. 24 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

It seems every year one change or trade sparks the Minnesota Wild. Are they playoff material again under John Torchetti? -- @k_corpstein

The Wild have the same team that I thought was good enough to make it to the Stanley Cup Final when I made my predictions in October. They have an opportunity in the next few days to add to become a better team, or at least a deeper team. I haven't changed my opinion on them. I still think they're good enough to make a run if they can get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's the key. I thought the Los Angeles Kings were good enough in 2012 and 2014 provided they made it, which they did. I thought they would have been good enough to make a run last season if they got in, but they didn't. So yes, I do think the Wild are playoff material under Torchetti just as I thought the roster was good enough to be playoff material under former coach Mike Yeo. The problem is they were off their game for so long that now they have to climb a bit. It's very obvious the players tuned out Yeo and needed a new voice with a fresh opinion and fresh ideas. That happens to teams every now and again. The Kings are the perfect example. Look at the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Look at the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks. All are examples of a good team that needed a different voice, a different leader. The Wild have been good under Torchetti. It looks they're a different team. They've got a lot to prove but I still believe in them. 

How confident are you in postseason success for the Washington Capitals knowing their history when playing well in the regular season -- @JM_jeter

If my confidence was ranked one through 10, one being extremely low and 10 being extremely high, I'd be at an 11. I'm not just confident, I'm positive the Capitals are more prepared for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season than any of their previous seasons with Alex Ovechkin. Their history is noteworthy, but I don't think it blends with this team this season. I look back only to last season because that's the only season when Barry Trotz has been behind the bench. The rest of their trips to the playoffs do not matter for this team this season. They got a taste of what they could do last season, and this season they're more equipped with Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie in their top-six forward group and Mike Richards in their bottom six. I've never seen Ovechkin as dialed in all over the ice as I see him now. Trotz and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis have said numerous times that he doesn't care about individual awards anymore, that he only wants to win the Stanley Cup. Seeing is believing and we're seeing it. They have finally solved their No. 2 center dilemma; now they even have two No. 1s: Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Their goaltending has never been better. Their defense is consistently good. I don't see a weakness on this team. People will target their fourth line or their bottom pair, but the players they have in those areas are serviceable and have shown enough during the regular season to make me believe they can do the same in the playoffs. They even bolstered their depth on defense by adding Mike Weber in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Capitals fans should be confident. 

Video: WSH@NYI: Williams scores game-winner in overtime

Nicklas Backstrom got an All-Star nod, so is this the year he gets a look for the Selke or Lady Byng? Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews make it hard. -- @chris_szimanski

Backstrom should be in the running with those three. Until an injury, which could keep Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly out for 3-4 weeks, he was on pace to make a play for those trophies, with an edge toward the Lady Byng. In my opinion, the only reason Backstrom doesn't get the same level of national respect as Kopitar, Bergeron and Toews is because he has never won in the playoffs. The other three have won the Stanley Cup, and have combined to win it six times. Backstrom has never played past the second round. But he's just as important on both ends of the ice to Washington as Kopitar is to the Los Angeles Kings, Bergeron is to the Boston Bruins and Toews is to the Chicago Blackhawks.  

Who has more to prove to win the Calder Trophy, Connor McDavid or Shayne Gostisbehere? -- @RagsandDeads 

McDavid has more work to do because of all the time he missed, but Gostisbehere obviously is the lesser name of the two. So in terms of national respect I'd have to say Gostisbehere has more to prove. That said, he's proving it with the Philadelphia Flyers. What he's done in the past month is astonishing for a rookie defenseman. He's putting up numbers that only Hockey Hall of Fame defensemen have posted during their rookie seasons. So he absolutely should be in the running for the Calder Trophy. The problem for McDavid and Gostisbehere is, I think, Artemi Panarin is running away with the Calder Trophy at this point. 

If you were Bob Murray would you make any trades seeing as the Anaheim Ducks have great chemistry right now? -- @chrisrahn

I wouldn't stand pat just because my team is playing great now. The goal is to make sure they're loaded for the playoffs, so a general manager can't be fooled into thinking his team is perfect at this point just because of a sustained hot streak. The Ducks were cold for so long this season that I think their phenomenal run since Christmas (18-4-2) really is a market correction, meaning they weren't as bad as they were earlier in the season and they're not as good as they are playing right now. Murray has to consider that as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches. They aren't perfect. For example they could use another scorer to play in their top-six forward group. 

What are your thoughts about the San Jose Sharks and the Roman Polak trade? -- @slushyjake

I combined your two questions into one because it was easier this way. 

On the trade, I understand what Sharks GM Doug Wilson is thinking and why, but I'm not enamored with giving up two second-round draft picks for Polak and Nick Spaling. I don't think either of those players is worth a second-round pick in a one-for-one trade, so to give up two to get them both is a high price to pay. I also don't think either Polak or Spaling will make a big enough impact on the Sharks to make it worthwhile in the end. They'll add depth, but you're basically getting a third-pair defenseman and a versatile bottom-six forward. That's not going to put the Sharks over the top. I don't think they're a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season, and that is the reason why I don't think they should have paid two second-round picks for Polak and Spaling. That said, the fact that the picks aren't from the 2016 NHL Draft does ease the blow of losing them. As Wilson said, they have ample time to recoup those picks. But what will they have to give up to get them back? That has to be considered too. 

Do you think the New York Rangers will try to move Marc Staal in the offseason in order to re-sign Keith Yandle? -- @km2141961

It's an interesting question, certainly something worth exploring, but there are two issues that I have with it. The first is that Staal has a no-trade clause, according to a report from when he signed the contract last year. If he wants to stay in New York, there's no denying him that right. The second is that Yandle and Staal, while both lefties, have different skillsets. Staal is a defensive presence who has mobility but is relied on more for defensive zone starts in a stay-at-home role and as a penalty killer. Yandle is a puck-mover, a free-wheeler, a great passer, big shooter and a power play threat. The Rangers have to determine which skillset they covet more. They also might feel already have Yandle's replacement, which would make losing him to free agency palatable. Brady Skjei, 21, is a lefty who skates and moves the puck well, has offensive instincts and is a threat on the power play. He has 22 points in 52 games with Hartford in the American Hockey League this season and was recalled to the Rangers on Tuesday. The plan is to have him ready to be a full-time NHL player next season.

Video: NYR@PHI: Yandle ties game with 13 seconds remaining

I know initially the Nashville Predators were interested in Jonathan Drouin but haven't heard much as of late. What happened? He'd be great in Nashville. -- @apfleisc

Nothing happened; at least nothing that we know of right now. Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is notorious for playing his cards close so there aren't many leaks around his team and players. Drouin remains suspended indefinitely without pay for failing to report for a game with Syracuse of the AHL on Jan. 20. He has asked for a trade through his agent, Allan Walsh. Other than that it's wait and see with Drouin and the Lightning. He'd potentially be a good fit for a lot of teams, Nashville being one of them.

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