Here is the Dec. 30 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday in the Over the Boards blog during the 2015-16 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Let's get to it:
How do you compare the Rangers' struggles to those of the Canucks in Alain Vigneault's final season in Vancouver? -- @hogey94
Vigneault's last season in Vancouver was 2012-13, the lockout-shortened, 48-game season. That has to be taken into account. But the comparison actually holds water.
The Canucks were 8-2-2 through 12 games, which was the quarter-mark of that season. But I don't think they were fooling anybody into thinking they were the same team that won the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back seasons and went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. There was something about them that seemed off.
At roughly the quarter mark of this season, the Rangers were 16-3-2. But if you watched them closely you saw that they weren't dominating games; instead, they were capitalizing on mistakes and getting great goaltending. I didn't feel at the time their success was sustainable. They were too reliant on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was cleaning up their defensive zone problems.
The Canucks slumped through the second quarter, going 3-5-4. It started when they lost 8-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. They allowed 39 goals in those 12 games (3.25 per game). They allowed 23 goals in their first 12 games (1.92 per game). Their defense was collapsing. Their goaltending wasn't holding up. Their offense was inconsistent (28 goals, 2.33 per game).
The Rangers are nosediving through the second quarter this season. They are 4-10-2 since starting the season with 16 wins in their first 21 games. Their defensive-zone issues are no longer being masked by Lundqvist. They are running around too much in the 'D' zone and they aren't playing with speed, which is a staple of Vigneault's teams when they are successful. They are just not getting enough out of their top guys. It's not a recent trend either. It's been a problem for the majority of the season.
The Canucks responded well, going 15-8-1 in the second half. It was good enough to help them win a weak Northwest Division, but they were swept in the first round by the San Jose Sharks. The Rangers are not going to win the Metropolitan Division unless they have a massive turnaround. I don't think they're at risk of missing the playoffs yet, particularly because the Pittsburgh Penguins have not figured out their own problems. But if the Rangers continue down their current path, it won't be a pretty finish.
Pekka Rinne's numbers vs. Braden Holtby's numbers: Coincidence, or is it goalie coach Mitch Korn? -- @aelifsey
Korn is the link, obviously, and he's proven himself to be one of the best goalie coaches in the business. He is like a goalie whisperer, really. He's one of the greatest characters in the game today, one of the most down-to-earth people, and he clearly knows what he is doing. He did great work with Rinne and now has Holtby on a Vezina Trophy pace. Holtby was a little bit all over the place before Korn got there. Korn has given him a plan, settled down his game, got him out of his own head and has him playing at an elite level. Holtby always had the talent; Korn put his game together. Holtby, like just about every other goalie other than Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco, still has his idiosyncrasies (watch him during the National Anthem and you'll understand what I'm talking about). But Korn should be credited for settling him down and getting the best out of him. That's also what Korn did with Rinne.
What's the impact on a player's earning power when he suffers a long-term injury in a contract year like Jaden Schwartz? -- @Allen_Schneider
It remains to be seen, because Schwartz should return this season. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said he is scheduled to be re-evaluated in three weeks. He should have time, plus the likelihood of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to get his game on track and show he's worthy of getting the third contract he was initially hoping to get before his injury. Schwartz had 63 points last season and 56 points in 2013-14. He has a good base for contract negotiations. He also needs to bring some ammo from this season to the negotiations, but don't forget that he's still only going to be a restricted free agent, which gives the Blues the upper hand. Schwartz, though, has not been injury-prone in his career, which helps him in negotiations. He missed 12 games in his first three seasons. He doesn't have a nagging muscle problem or back issue that would be cause for concern. His injury is a fractured left ankle. Those heal and shouldn't be an issue going forward. Schwartz will be 24 when next season begins. I would think the Blues would want to keep him and sign him to a contract that would eat up some of his unrestricted free agent years.
Do you think the Predators would prefer to move Shea Weber or Seth Jones? -- @NateInVegas
Neither. They'd like to keep both. Is it feasible? That's another question. Is it responsible to keep both? That's an altogether different question, especially because the Predators clearly need an upgrade at center. They should exhaust all options to try to figure out a way to do it without shedding from their elite blue line. Defense and goaltending are essential to winning in the playoffs. They are above par in both areas. They have the best defense in the NHL. If they can trade picks and prospects, do that. If they can go the free-agent route, do that. It's too big of a risk for them to be patient and wait for prospects such as Vladislav Kamenev and Yakov Trenin to be ready because they do need to be in win-now mode with Pekka Rinne being 34 years old. The last thing they want to do is trade Weber or Jones, or Roman Josi for that matter. The last thing they want to do is deconstruct the best part of their team as part of a package to help the part that is ailing. But if they're going to be get a center such as, oh, Ryan Johansen, it'll probably take more than picks and prospects. As crazy as it sounds, Weber would be the choice among the three (and I know you only asked me about the two). Jones and Josi are untouchables. Weber might not be for the perfect price.
Do you think Ryan O'Reilly can make Team Canada at the World Cup? -- @NickDoes13
I would say his odds have improved this season for a few reasons:
1. He's one of the better two-way centers in the League. He has been for some time now, except in Buffalo he's getting the chance to be the No. 1 guy. He's been excellent in the role.
2. Ryan Getzlaf's struggles put him on my questionable list for Canada's World Cup roster. Getzlaf has played a heavy and hard game for almost a decade in the NHL, and I wonder if the wear and tear on his body is showing now.
3. It's very possible that Canada takes Steven Stamkos as a right wing.
Even with Stamkos on the wing and Getzlaf on the questionable list, Canada's center depth is still insanely good. The Canadians still have Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby (yes, he's going to be fine), John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan MacKinnon, Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux, among so many others. O'Reilly has played his way into the mix.
Besides the Canucks' D' dwindling to nothing with injuries, are they missing a power 'C' and maybe a second-line winger? -- @nhlinformant
I didn't think the Canucks were good enough to be a playoff team before the season started. The only reason they're in the mix despite winning only 37 percent of their games (14 of 38) is because of their division. Their defense was thin and lacking a true No. 1 even before the injuries to Luca Sbisa, Dan Hamhuis and Christopher Tanev. I like Alex Edler, but I'd like him more if he didn't have to play nearly 25 minutes per game. They are definitely lacking down the middle. They don't have a No. 2 center, at least not yet. Bo Horvat is struggling with more responsibility. They miss Nick Bonino, especially since Brandon Sutter, who really should be their No. 3 center, is injured. Radim Vrbata has not been as good as they need him to be. They're missing a lot of pieces. It has to sting the Sedin twins, who have been two of the best players and best professionals in the NHL for 15-plus years. It's not fair to them that the Canucks are a shell of what they were under Vigneault. The roster just isn't deep enough or good enough right now.
Do you think the Oilers will be in the hunt for a playoff spot all season or will they collapse? -- 2TyboyN17
I don't see a collapse coming, especially because Connor McDavid is coming back soon, likely around the All-Star break, either just before or right after it. I think they'll be in the mix or at least right on the fringe, which is better than it has been in Edmonton and about what I and a lot of other people expected from the Oilers this season. The division allows them to be. McDavid will make them better. General manager Peter Chiarelli has a chance to do that as well. He should. The Oilers have to be done worrying about draft position; they need experience in big March and April games. That's the next step in the growth of this team. It behooves Chiarelli to make a move, big or small, to shore up the defense and even the depth up front. There's no reason why Edmonton can't make a move to finish second in the Pacific Division. Nobody can truly believe that the Arizona Coyotes and Canucks are going to run away from the pack in the Pacific Division. In fact, ask yourself this: Would you like to have the Oilers' roster, the Coyotes' roster or the Canucks' roster? Give me the Oilers' roster and the potential for some upgrades. I like the direction they're going.