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Rosen's mailbag - Dec. 3, 2014

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Dec. 3 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:

Do the Tampa Bay Lightning strike you as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender now? Or do they need other pieces? -- @tblightning491

The Lightning don't need other pieces. They are deep, skilled and talented. They have three legitimate scoring lines. They have defensemen who pressure the puck all over the ice and pinch into the offensive zone and are able to sustain puck possession. They don't defend; they attack. They have an elite power play, an elite scorer in Steven Stamkos, and a goalie in Ben Bishop who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season and has been solid this season. They also have a coach who appears to know how to push all the right buttons while staying on the good side of his players, an important attribute in dealing with athletes today.

But I can't say the Lightning have everything necessary to contend for the Stanley Cup this season. They are not battle-tested. They have not been hardened by a long, grueling Stanley Cup Playoff series. As individuals several players have playoff experience, but as a team they do not. That's the only thing that is keeping the Lightning back this season.

Bishop has never played in a playoff game. He would have last season, and if he had Tampa Bay probably would have been able to at least make a run at the Montreal Canadiens rather than lose in four games in their Eastern Conference First Round series, but he was hurt. Bishop only can talk about what the playoffs must be like; he has no idea yet. Nor to Jonathan Drouin, Brett Connolly or Vladislav Namestnikov.

Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, Andrej Sustr, Radko Gudas, Cedric Paquette, Mark Barberio and J.T. Brown never have won a game in the playoffs.

The Lightning still have a lot to prove, but I don't think they need any more pieces. This group, this core, should be allowed to figure it out on their own.

Will the New York Islanders be in or out of the playoffs? Home-ice? Maybe even Metropolitan Division champions? -- @samfeygin

In. Yes. Possible.

The Islanders enter play Wednesday with a 10-point cushion on the New York Rangers, the third-place team in the Metropolitan Division. Four of the League's bottom-eight teams are in the Metropolitan Division. It would take a major meltdown for the Islanders m not to finish in the top-two of the division, which would give them home-ice advantage in at least the Eastern Conference First Round.

Impressive doesn't even begin to describe the Islanders this season. They are getting offense from everywhere, whereas last season they were a one-line team. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak should be getting All-Star consideration. The additions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have given the Islanders a deep defense when before general manager Garth Snow made those trades they had arguably the weakest defense in the Metropolitan Division. Those were shrewd moves that should put Snow in the running for the GM of the Year Award.

Islanders fans on Twitter have been not-so-subtly reminding me that I did not pick the team to make the playoffs this season. I made my pick before Boychuk and Leddy arrived; regardless, the Islanders are making me, and many other people in the hockey media, look like fools for not picking them to be a playoff team this season.

Do you think the Los Angeles Kings will make a move to acquire a defenseman such as Tyler Myers? -- @MHulicius

The Kings have extra salary-cap space to work with because the NHL gave them that relief without lifting defenseman Slava Voynov's indefinite suspension. However, if the Kings acquire a defenseman I'm not sure it will be to add one who has another four seasons left on his contract after this season, a contract that carries a $5.5 million salary-cap charge.

The Kings reportedly are interested in re-signing defenseman Alec Martinez, who can be an unrestricted free agent after the season. It would be hard for them to take on another big contract like Myers'. In addition, I'm still of the opinion that if Myers gets traded out of Buffalo he will wind up with the Detroit Red Wings.

If the Kings look to acquire a defenseman, my guess now, because of the uncertainty with the Voynov situation, is they will look for one with an expiring contract. There are several good ones that could become available, including Mike Green if the Washington Capitals continue to struggle and Marek Zidlicky if the New Jersey Devils don't turn things around.

Do you think the Calgary Flames will make the playoffs with the way they're playing? -- @BrendynMclean

With the way they're playing now? Yes. But I still worry about some regression in the Flames' game.

According to, the Flames entered play Wednesday 29th in the League in 5-on-5 Corsi-for percentage (43.2), 27th in 5-on-5 Fenwick-for percentage (45.4), and 28th in shots on goal differential (minus-96). They are, however, second in the NHL in 5-on-5 shooting percentage (.098) and are third in the League in PDO (102.37).

Those numbers suggest the Flames have overachieved because of some lucky bounces and excellent goaltending. There is a fear that some of those numbers will regress to the mean, which could lead to a slump in Calgary's future. Any slump in the Western Conference could knock a team out of a playoff spot, especially if teams currently on the outside like the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild get hot.

However, the Flames' story goes beyond the fancy stats that aren't in their favor right now. They arguably have the best defense pair in the Western Conference, perhaps in the NHL, right now in Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are giving them top-flight goaltending. They're getting production from up and down the lineup.

They have enough to overcome some regression, especially if they can keep building a cushion in the standings.

What's your take on Vinny Lecavalier in Philadelphia? -- @KylePineda2

It's tough to see it come to this for Lecavalier, but Flyers coach Craig Berube only can wait so long for him to come around, especially with the team struggling as it is now.

Lecavalier isn't producing. He's not doing much of anything to help the Flyers right now. He has no points and five shots on goal in his past five games and was a healthy scratch Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks. He hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 1. I don't blame Berube for taking him out of the lineup. Lecavalier has to understand too.

In 16 NHL seasons Lecavalier never has been a bit player, someone who plays 10 minutes a night. To be a productive player he should be playing upwards of 15 minutes per game at the very least. If Berube doesn't think he's been good enough to play regular minutes on at least on one of the top three lines, it doesn't make much sense for Lecavalier to be in the lineup.


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