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Rosen's mailbag - Nov. 11, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Nov. 11 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:

Do you think the Colorado Avalanche deal Matt Duchene this spring? -- @ch1088

When it comes to trade speculation I've learned to say anything is possible, nothing will shock me, and there is no way to predict what will happen. All that said, I just don't see why the Avalanche would trade Duchene this spring after trading Ryan O'Reilly during the offseason and letting Paul Stastny sign with the St. Louis Blues after the 2013-14 season. It would take a roster that was rich with talent down the middle and sap it of its depth. That doesn't make sense at all. Center, especially in the Western Conference, is a vital position; Duchene is a legitimate first- or second-line center.


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If the larger point here is the Avalanche have to do something to change things up, yes, I agree. They need to address their defense and, frankly, the way they play. They are far too individualistic and that clearly doesn't work. But it doesn't make sense to trade Duchene, who should be a big part of the solution and isn't necessarily part of the problem.

Let's also not forget Duchene, who had three points Tuesday, has a shooting percentage of 4.7 during 5-on-5 play. That is ridiculously low and should go up over time, which means more production from him and perhaps better results for the Avalanche.

Assume you are an NHL general manager at the trade deadline interested in adding Eric Staal as a rental piece; what do you offer? -- @dabrams2021

Great question, especially because I am firm in my belief the Carolina Hurricanes will trade Staal before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline.

I'd offer a good but expendable player off my roster to rid myself of some of the salary cap burden, one of my better prospects, and a third-round pick. That won't get it done, but that's where I'd start. I think it might eventually take a first-round pick in a package to get Staal, but why would you start the negotiation there? You shouldn't feel you have to pay too hefty a price to get Staal because he is, as you said, a rental player in the final year of his contract. This is different than recent deadline tradesinvolving Keith Yandle and Martin St. Louis because those players wound up on the New York Rangers with another year remaining on their contract.

Any team that adds Staal before the deadline will be better for it.

Is Sidney Crosby going to finally get going back to being the old Sid? -- @rubiconpilotmw

To answer your question, I think Crosby will get back to his form. He's too good, obviously, to be getting only .50 points per game (seven points in 14 games). That has to go up. It will, or at least it should. However, his lack of production so far is alarming because of what is transpiring on the ice that doesn't have to do with the puck going in the net or not. He doesn't look comfortable. He hasn't been as dangerous as we expect him to be. He looks frustrated. These are terrible signs. I think this is as much on Crosby as it is on the Pittsburgh Penguins coaching staff to put him in positions to be himself. The Phil Kessel experiment didn't work out, as I expected. But Crosby has got to find a way to mesh with some linemates that aren't Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. Bless their hearts, but those two guys have lost a step and can't keep up with Crosby anymore. That's not Crosby's fault, but he has to figure out who else he can thrive with on this team. He's doing a good enough job setting guys up, but they're not finishing. That said, he can't hand pick his linemates in a cap league. This isn't Team Canada. And he can't get frustrated when players who are clearly below his level don't finish. I didn't expect it to work with Kessel because his game doesn't jive with what Crosby wants to do. I do think it could work with Patric Hornqvist, but coach Mike Johnston has to give it time to develop.

Would you agree that the New Jersey Devils being [8-6-1] is the NHL's biggest surprise thus far? -- @jrdnmrn

It's high on the list, that's for sure. Is it the biggest? Could be, if you're a glass half-full person. The other surprises are obviously the disastrous starts of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks, but let's keep things positive here. The Devils have been an interesting early-season story because nobody expected much out of them, and they're certainly not blowing away the competition but they are finding ways to win some games and they have surprised some teams too (Chicago Blackhawks). They have been impressive on the power play and in games that extend into overtime. They're 5-1 in such games, including 3-0 in overtime. But I warn all Devils fans not to get too high on this team or excited about what could possibly happen this season because they are flawed. They don't have a first-line player. The Devils have a legit second line acting as their first line and a decent third line serving as their second line. The lack of depth probably will catch up to them at some point, but the growth of the defensemen, particularly Adam Larsson and Damon Severson, has been good to see and they are proving to be a tough out. They've definitely surprised me.

With Zach Parise out, who can step up and score for the Minnesota Wild? -- @Alex_Westad41

You saw it Tuesday in the Wild's 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets. His name is Thomas Vanek. He's the answer. Vanek's opportunity to be an impact frontline player for the Wild is here with Parise out. He got on a line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville in the second period against the Jets and made it work by scoring two goals, including a highlight-reel goal that might land Jets defenseman Paul Postma on a poster for the wrong reason. Vanek had four goals in his first 13 games this season and 25 in his first 93 games with the Wild. OK, but not good enough. His two on Tuesday were a good sign because the Wild need more from him, with or without Parise. He's having a fine season already, so elevating him on the depth chart makes a lot of sense for coach Mike Yeo. Vanek has to run with it.

Should Jack Capuano be on the hot seat for the New York Islanders? The team is too good to perform this poorly? -- @samfeygin

No, but in fairness, you sent me this question before the Islanders' 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Tuesday. That was a strong win for a struggling team. Every team is going to hit a rough patch and maybe the game against the Sharks is a sign that the Islanders are coming out of theirs.

But back to your question, and my answer remains no, Capuano should not be on the hot seat. Let's be fair with Capuano and the Islanders, they're good, not great. Capuano does a good job of getting what is expected out of his players. Could he get more out of some guys? Probably. But how much of that is on the coach and how much of that is on the players? Tough to tell. It is, however, hard to put him on the hot seat when the team is so far performing how I expected it to perform. I figured the Islanders would finish fourth in the Metropolitan Division this season, behind the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. I still think that.

The Islanders, though, do a lot of things well. Their special teams play is excellent (seventh in power play and fourth in penalty kill). Despite their recent slump, the Islanders can score (2.75 goals per game) and they do a good job of keeping the puck out of the net (2.38 goals against per game). They hold leads (6-1-1 when scoring first) and have the ability to come back in games too (2-4-2 when the opponent scores first). They win faceoffs (51.4 percent), but could do a better job of controlling possession.

Those are all stats, I know, and they didn't translate when the Islanders went 1-3-2 in their six games prior to playing San Jose. But they didn't have John Tavares for three of those games and they lost three of them despite giving up only two goals. It's unfair to put Capuano on the hot seat now.

Is it too early for teams (say the Toronto Maple Leafs or Avalanche) to consider themselves as eliminated and sellers? -- @matszabqc

Yes, way too early, for two reasons:

1. There is plenty of season remaining, plenty of time to evaluate players, how they fit together, if they should stay or go. A general manager of a team that isn't supposed to be a contender might discover that a player who he once thought of as trade bait is worth keeping around to help build for the future. They all need more time to evaluate.

2. Players' values go up the closer we get to the deadline, when the contenders and non-contenders are more defined. Teams are usually willing to pay more to get a player for the stretch run, even though acquiring a player now would be more beneficial to the chemistry element coaches want to create. But it's very hard to make a trade in the League at this time with the cap situation for many GMs being what it is. In addition, nobody who thinks their team is in the race wants to consider risking a trade that could potentially help a team he's battling with for standings position.

Everybody is still in the evaluation stage. The season isn't even 25 percent old yet.

Which team is more likely to make the playoffs after a slow start, Anaheim or Columbus? -- @kallejou

Anaheim, for several reasons.

The Ducks were snakebit in October (read: incredibly low shooting percentage). That was bound to come up. There was no way Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were going to stay on pace for, what, 30 points each, if that. Yeah, wasn't happening. That should have immediately told us all that the Ducks would improve, which is happening.

The Ducks are in a much easier division than the Blue Jackets, which gives them an advantage to climb back into the top three. The Blue Jackets are currently eighth in a very good Metropolitan Division, which I think is the second-best division in the NHL behind the loaded Central.

The Ducks never had to go back to basics in the way that the Blue Jackets are doing under John Tortorella.

The Ducks have a deeper defense than Columbus and simply just needed some of those guys, including Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Simon Despres to play better. They are doing that now.

The Ducks were a better team than the Blue Jackets before the season started. They will be at the end too.


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