Here is the Jan. 14 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:
Hearing so many "Babcock to…" stories. Is there really any doubt he'll stay in Detroit? Surely he can at least leverage rumors. -- @r0bertwaters
There is plenty of doubt about Mike Babcock's future in Detroit. He is not signed after this season. He doesn't want to negotiate during the season. He has offered no indication one way or the other about staying or leaving. He has told me that he knows he has it good in Detroit and the grass isn't always greener on the other side, but that doesn't mean he isn't thinking about leaving. There will be a lot of money coming his way regardless of what decision he makes. The biggest thing for Babcock is does he think he can win the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings, or is he up for a challenge in a different market. Clearly the Toronto Maple Leafs are thinking about going all in on Babcock. Why else would they name Peter Horachek the interim coach for the rest of the season? There are good coaches available such as Peter DeBoer, Dan Bylsma and Paul MacLean, but the Maple Leafs are waiting for Babcock before they make any decision. So, yes, there is plenty of doubt about his future in Detroit. He hasn't done anything to erase that doubt either.
Should the Predators make a run at Phil Kessel if he's available? Should the Predators be buyers at the deadline? -- @JeremyR86
Phil Kessel is an elite scorer, but I wouldn't make a run at acquiring him if I was David Poile for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the cost. It would cost the Predators too much to acquire Kessel from the Maple Leafs, and frankly, as good as he is, he's not worth the price. David Perron cost the Pittsburgh Penguins a first-round draft pick and a depth player; Kessel would cost the Predators three times that, if not more. The other reason is acquiring Kessel would mess with the Predators chemistry. They have a good thing going now and Kessel has shown a lack of ability to adjust in Toronto. I wouldn't go after him if I was Nashville, but I don't think he's available anyway.
As for the Predators being buyers, yes, they should look to improve their overall depth. If they can get another frontline scorer who doesn't cost a lot and has shown the ability and willingness to play a 200-foot game, a playoff-style game, they definitely should consider it. If Nashville stands pat it wouldn't be the worst thing either.
Despite not having a proven scorer, can the Florida Panthers make the playoffs? -- @BorossTyler
The climb is steeper than it may appear if you take only a quick glance at the standings, but I think the Panthers have a legitimate chance, their 8-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday notwithstanding. Here's why:
They have reached the halfway point of their season, but they have already played 24 games on the road, where they are 11-7-6. That means in the second half they will have 24 home games. They're 9-5-3 at home. They need to improve their home record, but overall having a lot of home games is good, particularly because their home vs. road splits are promising.
Heading into their game Tuesday, the Panthers had a 49.1 percent 5-on-5 Corsi-for in 23 road games as opposed to a 55.1 percent Corsi-for in 18 home games, according to War-on-ice.com. They were allowing four more shots on goal per game on the road (30.4) than they were allowing at home (26.3). They don't score a lot regardless of where they play (2.39 goals per game away; 2.22 goals per game at home), but overall they give up fewer scoring chances when they're at home versus when they're on the road.
The Panthers have to make up some ground in their next five games, all at home, three of which are against teams currently outside the playoff race, like they are. One is against the Detroit Red Wings, a team they're chasing that just lost goalie Jimmy Howard to a groin injury.
February will be a tough month, perhaps a make-or-break month as they play 16 games, 10 of their first 14 on the road, but they come back and play 15 of their final 22 games at home.
The Flyers are clearly a mess, what is the biggest thing they need to fix? -- @Chicagodelphia
Their back end. They need to fix their defense. I know a lot of people will say it starts with the goalie in Philadelphia, that they haven't had a steady hand at that position since Ron Hextall, but it's bigger than that. The Flyers are too slow on most nights and it hurts their transition game. They are one of the slower teams at going from defense to offense. That lack of speed fuels their inconsistent game. They need to get faster on the back end, but they have five defensemen signed through at least next season and one, Nick Schultz, who they reportedly have an interest in bringing back. This won't be an easy fix, but they need to get some speed back there.
Do you believe the Wild should go out and go get a goaltender? And if so, who could be some candidates? -- @mustang_goalie5
If they're interested in saving this season they should go get a goalie. Darcy Kuemper is too hit or miss when he's healthy, and can't be relied on yet to be a No. 1 goalie. He has a promising future, but his inconsistencies have hurt the Wild this season. Niklas Backstrom can't be relied on to be a No. 1 goalie anymore. So yes, the Wild should try to acquire a goalie. All indications are that GM Chuck Fletcher has been attempting to do that, but Fletcher is a patient GM and he will not jump if the price doesn't fit his needs.
Cam Ward is an intriguing possibility, even if he's due to make $6.8 million next season and carry a $6.3 million salary-cap charge. If the Wild got Ward there would be no debate on their No. 1 goalie. Ward would buy the Wild another year to develop Kuemper, unless they have to give up Kuemper to get Ward.
Lower cost goalies would be Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth of the Buffalo Sabres. They both appear to be available. Neither is exactly proven, but at least they are more proven than Kuemper. If the San Jose Sharks believe in Alex Stalock, and coach Todd McLellan has had his back all season, Antti Niemi could probably be had as a short-term rental. Niemi can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Viktor Fasth is another one to keep in mind. He can also become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Are there any moves the Ducks can make to improve their goal differential and possession numbers? -- @joelg791
This is a tough spot for Ducks GM Bob Murray because the team has obviously done well this season, but a majority of its success has come in one-goal games. The Ducks are 21-0-6 in one-goal games. They have been so good in those situations that even if they regress in the second half of the season they should be fine. They have a 10-point cushion in the Pacific Division. But that's what makes it tough, because they could use an upgrade in order to better foster puck possession so they can limit playing in such dangerous games. Murray take an honest approach with this club, which is why I wouldn't be surprised if he was looking around the League and analyzing the cost for depth centers on struggling teams.
There is a significant drop off in production and minutes from Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler to the Ducks remaining centers. I'm just floating this out there, but I wonder what it would cost to acquire Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes? I have heard nothing about a Vermette-to-Anaheim trade, but it would make sense, at least from Anaheim's perspective. He's a second-line center on most teams, but he would give the Ducks enviable center depth behind Getzlaf and Kesler. He could take some defensive zone assignments from Getzlaf and Kesler, which would give them the ability to play against some bottom-six lines, particularly at home. That, in turn, would help drive Anaheim's offense.
With Olli Maatta potentially out for the season, will the Penguins keep Paul Martin for the postseason? -- @JohnMoyer14
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said Tuesday night that Maatta will miss the remainder of the season, and one would have to assume Martin will not be traded. I have never understood the fascination some have with trading him. Martin is a valuable defenseman for the Penguins. He's been one of their best defensemen for several seasons. He might not have a future in Pittsburgh beyond this season with the young defensemen the Penguins have coming up, but right now he is an important player on the team playing in a top-four role. If you're a playoff team, you don't trade one of your best defensemen if you're not sure who you can trust to replace him.