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Over The Boards

Mailbag: MacKinnon vs. Matthews, biggest surprise in Eastern Conference's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Here is the Oct. 23 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.


Nathan MacKinnon or Auston Matthews? -- @SIickRick23

I wouldn't make the trade if I were the Colorado Avalanche because of the contracts alone. MacKinnon is in the fourth season of a seven-year, $44.1 million contract ($6.3 million average annual value), arguably the best bargain in the League. Matthews is in the first season of a five-year, $58.17 million contract ($11.634 million AAV) with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you take the contracts out of the debate, I'd still take MacKinnon ahead of Matthews. The difference is MacKinnon's speed. This isn't to say Matthews is slow, but how MacKinnon drives the defense back is the deal breaker for me. His speed is a threat alone. When you factor in his shot, it makes him almost impossible to check.

MacKinnon has also been more durable and productive since the start of the 2017-18 season, when he took off and became the player he is today. In that span, he has 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 165 games, an average of 1.26 points per game. Matthews has 147 points (79 goals, 68 assists) in 141 games, an average of 1.04 points per game. Matthews missed 20 games in 2017-18 and 14 games last season because of injury. MacKinnon played in all 82 last season and in 74 games in 2017-18.

They're both elite. They both score like crazy. I'd prefer MacKinnon for the reasons laid out above, but can I have both?

Video: COL@STL: MacKinnon rips home wrist shot for PPG


Biggest surprise in the Eastern Conference so far? -- @Marc_b86

The easy answer is the Buffalo Sabres, who I wrote about in this space last week. Although I am surprised by their strong start, they did start well last season, too. I am buying the Sabres as a Stanley Cup Playoff contender now, but it's with some hesitation because I need a bigger sample size to feel comfortable. 

A team on the negative side is the New Jersey Devils. I thought they'd come out of the gate better than they have (I picked them to make the playoffs). It's too early to back away from that prediction now, but I need to see a lot more and their goaltending concerns me. 

But my biggest surprise is the fact that Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson leads the NHL with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists). As good as Carlson is -- he had 70 points (13 goals, 57 assists) last season -- nobody could have seen this start coming from him. 

The biggest thing I've noticed from Carlson is his head is always up, he's always looking to make a play. There is no thought to dumping the puck in and living to fight another day unless he realizes there is no developing play to make. He is also making a lot of passes to set up one-timers that the Capitals are connecting on. But Carlson isn't sacrificing his defense either, he's still playing well in his own end. 


Who is one player who has not been "noticed" yet this year that needs to get it going? -- @TJRinger1

Jamie Benn.

The Dallas Stars captain has five points (one goal, four assists) and 24 shots on goal in 11 games. He should have at least double the points and 10 more shots on goal. Benn should be close to a point-per-game forward, and he should average in the neighborhood of three shots on goal per game. That's what he did in his best years. From 2013-18, Benn had 403 points (172 goals, 231 assists) in 404 games, third in the NHL, and averaged 3.02 shots on goal per game (1,221 total), 13th in the League. Benn isn't an old player, he turned 30 this offseason, who has played in more than 1,000 games (756), so why has his production dipped so drastically? He had 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) and 189 shots on goal in 78 games last season. The good news is he has an assist in three straight games, so maybe that's a start of some production coming his way. The Stars (3-7-1) need it. Benn is one of their most important offensive players. They won't be a playoff team if he doesn't get going.

Video: CGY@DAL: Benn finishes feed off from Hintz for PPG


How do you read Taylor Hall after the Devils tough start? Do you think at this point he wants out or does he still want to be a Devil long term? -- @KelliX84

It's not easy to get a read on Hall because all he talks about is how focused he is on this season. We know there has been some negotiating, or at least some communication, between Devils general manager Ray Shero and Hall's agent, Darren Ferris. That's a good sign for New Jersey. Hall likely wouldn't have his agent engage in dialogue with the Devils if he didn't have an interest in re-signing. I think his interest is sincere, that he sees a lot of positives about the future in New Jersey. He won't be swayed by a rough start. If he re-signs, it's because he has a chance to play for the next several seasons with a young center who should only be getting better, whether it's Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes. I also don't think the Devils will try to get Hall to take some kind of discount. They know his value, and the cap charge on his next contract likely will come in around $11 million, similar to the seven-year, $81.5 million contract Artemi Panarin signed with the New York Rangers ($11.6 million AAV) this offseason. But Hall is right to be focused on this season, too. He needs to be 100 percent committed to the Devils. He also needs to be more productive. One goal in eight games isn't good enough.


Do you think it's likely that we'll see a team platoon two healthy goalies and make a deep playoff run? -- @BillMcGerath417

I don't. If we were going to see it, it would have been last season with the Boston Bruins, when Tuukka Rask started 45 games in the regular season and Jaroslav Halak started 37. But Rask played every game in the playoffs because he started hot and stayed hot until Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. If he cooled, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy would have turned to Halak, but if Rask cooled, it might have also put Boston in a difficult position that it wouldn't have been able to climb out of. We see teams ride two goalies in the regular season because the condensed nature of the schedule makes it grueling, especially with the travel and playing three games in four nights. Teams need two healthy goalies, but once they get to the playoffs, the travel isn't as big of a factor and there is usually at least one day, and sometimes two, in between games. You rarely see a back-to-back. It allows coaches to ride one goalie, which is preferable for that goalie in the long run.



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