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Rosen's mailbag - Dec. 17, 2014

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Dec. 17 edition of Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

If the Chicago Blackhawks continue to play the way they have, can anyone beat them in a seven-game series? -- @jhoman29

I picked the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup, so you know my answer to this question right off the hop. But I'll assume here you don't necessarily care about my pick, but more about the way the Blackhawks are playing. So here is your answer:

Nobody can beat them in a seven-game series when they are playing the brand of hockey they're playing now. Nobody as in NOBODY!

The Blackhawks have Patrick Kane on their second line because Marian Hossa is on their top line. They have Patrick Sharp, a four-time 30-goal scorer, playing out of position on the third line right now because their depth is so great. Ben Smith on the fourth line is perfect for Chicago because he can skate, has some speed and skill, but understands his role is to check. That's unbelievable depth at right wing.

Chicago has Brad Richards and Andrew Shaw slotted perfectly right now behind Jonathan Toews. Let's not forget about Marcus Kruger, a center who fits perfectly on Chicago's fourth line, its checking line. Kruger, though, can do more than just check. So that's ridiculous depth at center.

Brandon Saad, Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell give you a mix of speed, skill and size at left wing. Daniel Carcillo gives them added bite as long as he stays out of the penalty box, which he's done a better job of this season. So that's envious left-wing depth.

Is there a better top-four on defense than Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya? Hard to say there is with any certainty. I'd argue that there isn't. Toss in Michal Rozsival, Tim Erixon and David Rundblad and you've got a defense corps that fits perfectly with the up-tempo, puck possession style the Blackhawks want to play.

Corey Crawford is a legit No. 1 goalie, and the Blackhawks now know they have more depth at that position than they thought with the emergence of Scott Darling to challenge Antti Raanta as the backup.

On top of all that they have experience and motivation after losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final last season.

When the Blackhawks are at their best, they are the best.

Who stays when @KidElls1 (Brian Elliott) comes back to the St. Louis Blues? -- @ghart84

Jake Allen
Jake Allen
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 11-3-1
GAA: 2.47 | SVP: .908
It should be Elliott and Jake Allen. As great as Martin Brodeur has been in his career I don't think he can carry a team through the Stanley Cup Playoffs again, and I don't think the Blues can rely on Allen to do it either.

But if the Blues can't move Brodeur in a trade it certainly muddies the situation, particularly since Allen can be sent to the American Hockey League without waivers. The Blues don't want to do that, nor should they. Allen has done everything he possibly can at the AHL level and he is proving himself to be a capable NHL goalie.

The catch here is the Blues will have to find a trading partner that suits Brodeur as much as it suits them. They can't just think they're shipping Brodeur anywhere and he'll accept the trade and go. They know they have to have more respect for him than that. Brodeur is a legend in this League and he deserves to have a say in where he goes. He's earned that much.

Can you see any decent defenseman that will be available by the NHL Trade Deadline that the Boston Bruins could trade for? Also any right wings? -- @WillysTeam

The Bruins won't be able to do much unless they move players from their current roster out in exchange for a defenseman or a right wing. Their salary cap situation being what it is, it's going to be hard for general manager Peter Chiarelli to do much without disrupting the core of the team.

But let's indulge in this what-if game anyway.

The most intriguing possibility is Keith Yandle of the Arizona Coyotes. Once again his name has surfaced in trade rumors. It's like clockwork with Yandle, who has one year with a $5.25 million salary-cap charge remaining on his contract.

I'm surprised the Washington Capitals have held on to Mike Green this long. I imagine his injury has something to do with it, but I'd be shocked if Green was with Washington beyond the trade deadline this season.

I can see Marek Zidlicky become available if the New Jersey Devils continue to slide. The same holds true with Zbynek Michalek (Coyotes) and Andrej Sekera (Carolina Hurricanes), though I wouldn't be surprised if the Hurricanes were interested in resigning Sekera.

As for right wings there are a few rental possibilities (players in the final year of their current contracts), including two former Bruins who are now Devils in Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder. Would Jagr leave New Jersey for another chance with Boston? Hard to say, particularly since he didn't fare too well in Claude Julien's system the first time. There is also Chris Stewart, who I see as a perennial underperformer with loads of talent that just hasn't come out enough.

It's funny you mention defense and right wing, though, because the rumors now around the Bruins involve left wing Taylor Hall. Of course, if Hall becomes available from the Edmonton Oilers there will be 28 teams not in Boston that are interested, or should be interested.

What do you think of the San Jose Sharks recent surge? Any promise? -- @nonowright

As someone who predicted a down season for the Sharks, one that did not include a trip to the playoffs, I have to say I'm surprised and impressed with how they have picked up their game of late, winning seven of their past eight games. My prediction was looking pretty solid there for a while, but the Sharks have gotten back on track with strong defense, solid goaltending, attention to detail all over the ice, and just enough offense. Their recent wins against the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild are proof of what I'm talking about.

The promise for the Sharks comes in the fact they're winning these games in regulation, including four of their past seven against playoff contenders in the Western Conference. Those are important points that the Sharks are not only gaining, but not giving up. They're still infusing rookies into the lineup, and with that comes growing pains, but if Alex Stalock and Antti Niemi continue to stay hot the Sharks will be able to pile up some points to give them a cushion for when those growing pains come back to bite them.

What needs to happen in Edmonton to change the direction of the Oilers organization? -- @Emasty10

I addressed some of this on my Twitter account Monday night, but the biggest thing in my opinion that has to happen is the Oilers need to find a veteran coach with legitimate NHL credentials who is not going to be a pushover or learning on the fly just like the players. The two names I immediately came up with were Jacques Martin and Ron Wilson, but quickly a media colleague mentioned Terry Murray as a possibility as well. Heck, I'd put Craig MacTavish into that mix as well. These are coaches who demand respect, have been around the League a long time, and have a history of building teams up into contenders, even if it means they contend when they're gone. Wilson's latest turn in Toronto notwithstanding, of course.

That's why it surprises me that MacTavish decided to go back to the AHL well again, even if it's on an interim basis. Todd Nelson might very well become an excellent NHL coach, but to put him into this situation now is putting him in a difficult position. I hesitate to say it's a position to fail because he knows a lot of these players having coached them in the AHL, but this is the NHL and this is different. To ask another coach to learn on the fly with this roster in Edmonton is difficult and, frankly, surprising.

Of course there is the possibility that it doesn't work out for Nelson and the Oilers go searching for yet another new coach after the season. That would give them a chance to get the veteran bench boss I'm talking about, but it also means Nelson is back in limbo. He could go back to Oklahoma City, but he wouldn't exactly have a vote of confidence from the organization.

To change the culture of losing in Edmonton, you need to bring in someone whose voice is loud enough and experience rich enough. This isn't going to be fixed by a trade or two.

It's a limited sample size, but Keith Kinkaid has been awesome for the Devils. Trade bait? -- @C_Diercks

Keith Kinkaid
Keith Kinkaid
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 0-1-2
GAA: 1.71 | SVP: .942
It's generous to call two starts a limited sample size. That's barely a sample size at all. Limited would be a handful, this isn't even a handful. But yes, Kinkaid has been solid for the Devils. He has earned more reps as the backup to Cory Schneider, and boy do the Devils need a backup for Schneider in the worst way. Before Kinkaid came along I thought Schneider was going to start 80 games.

But why would you even consider Kinkaid as trade bait? Isn't the purpose to develop a backup goalie to Schneider, particularly one that would come on the cheap so the Devils can build the rest of the roster up without having to worry about their goaltending? If you trade Kinkaid you're back at square one, with Schneider starting every game. They're seeing what Kinkaid can do now to get out of that position. Besides all that, the Devils could barely get a middle-round draft pick or a middle-tier prospect for Kinkaid now.

There are so many reasons not to consider Kinkaid as trade bait right now. I can't even think of one reason why he would be trade bait.


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