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Rosen's mailbag - Oct. 14, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Oct. 14 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:

Best chance for regression this season: Sergei Bobrovsky, Devan Dubnyk or Cory Schneider? -- @cottone_sprtfan

It's Dubnyk because he's the only goalie of the three you brought up who has a chance to be a one-hit wonder.

Prior to arriving to the Minnesota Wild halfway through last season, Dubnyk had gone from a No. 1 on a bad team (Edmonton Oilers) to a middling backup with the Arizona Coyotes trying to get better but without much in the way of job security. He was dynamite for the Wild last season with his .936 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average in 39 games. That's why he was a Vezina Trophy finalist and got a six-year contract. He still has a lot to prove, but I'm a believer in Dubnyk after what he did last season. I don't see his numbers being the same because stretched out over an 82-game season, he'll hit some bumps in the road, but I have the Wild going to the Stanley Cup Final, so that shows how much faith I have in Dubnyk.

Bobrovsky needs to play better than he has so far this season, but he needs some help too. He hasn't gotten any. The Columbus Blue Jackets defense is letting him down big time. They have a lot to clean up in that end, and Bobrovsky is the least of their concerns.

Schneider is an elite goalie on a New Jersey Devils team that isn't near being close to ready to win. His stats will take a hit, but he won't deserve most of the blame. Save for Andy Greene, Schneider is working with an inexperienced group of defensemen in front of him and a forward group that both doesn't have an elite scorer and is prone to slumps. That's tough sledding for Schneider, but he's proven the past two seasons that he is one of the better No. 1 goalies in the NHL.

What on earth is happening with Columbus? I'm astonished by the Jackets' start? -- @KevinZukerman

It's only three games, so it's hard to even call it a trend at this point, but it is alarming that the Blue Jackets have allowed 13 goals in those three games. I wondered as I was making season predictions about the Blue Jackets defense and how it would hold up, if it was going to be an issue, and would it affect their place in the standings. I hedged on the Blue Jackets because of it, still putting them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but as the fourth-place team in the Metropolitan Division. It was a toss-up for me between Columbus and the New York Islanders for fourth and fifth. I still see the Blue Jackets being fine and getting into the playoffs, because, again, three games does not make a season. However, the defensive woes are evident, whether it's through poor puck placement, ill-advised passes to the middle of the defensive zone when facing pressure, or simply just getting beat to pucks in the defensive zone. It hasn't helped that Bobrovsky has been off his game, but then again he hasn't gotten much help either. So, I'm not sure it's astonishing because the defensive depth was a concern going into the season and still needs to be addressed, but I didn't envision Columbus starting 0-3-0 with 13 goals against, that's for sure.

Thoughts on Jack Eichel? Better than expected? Or did you see this coming? -- @scottaferguson1

Jack Eichel
Center - BUF
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 6 | +/-: -1
I saw it coming, but what is better than expected is his skating. Mike Johnson pointed this out on "NHL Tonight" on NHL Network on Monday by diagramming the five strides Eichel took to beat Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner to the loose puck before scoring what turned into the game-winning goal. The one knock on Eichel coming into the season was his skating. There were comparisons to John Tavares when he came into the NHL; great skill, great awareness, great hockey IQ, but needs to work on his skating. Tavares has worked on his skating and now what was a weakness for him is a strength. Eichel apparently heard the critics too, because his skating has been way above par so far.

Chances Oscar Lindberg keeps up the blistering pace he's on? -- @MattSchneider99

Unlikely. Very unlikely. But that doesn't mean Lindberg won't have a productive rookie season. He should. He's a smart player who is good at finding soft spots in the offensive zone so he can get open. J.T. Miller said after the New York Rangers' win on Saturday that it seems like Lindberg is always open because he knows where to go to score goals. He does. He's open a lot, when that line is going. The line wasn't going Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, but that was a tough game for it, because it was a game filled with special teams. The Rangers had five power plays in the second period, but Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg are not on the power play.

Lindberg had 28 goals last season in the American Hockey League. He can definitely score. But no chance his blistering pace to start this season continues. It reminds me of Islanders forward Brock Nelson, who scored four goals in the first three games and 10 in his first 20 last season before cooling off and finished with a respectable 20 goals.

If the Rangers get 20 goals from Lindberg this season, I'd consider that a big win for them.

What team are you most surprised about starting off this season? -- @PHemley08

I'll go with teams, three in a good way and one in a bad way.

I've definitely been surprised by the San Jose Sharks and I'm looking forward to seeing them in person Friday in Newark, N.J., at Prudential Center. Flying across the country and jumping out to a 3-0 lead within the first 28 minutes of the game against the Washington Capitals, even when they don't have Alex Ovechkin, is surprising and impressive. Blanking the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in their first two games, that's definitely surprising and impressive, particularly the 2-0 win against the Ducks. But I should couch this by saying the Sharks were known for being good starters under Todd McLellan, so let's see how they do when the season gets into November and December.

I've also been somewhat surprised with the Florida Panthers, but their competition hasn't been top-notch as of yet. No disrespect to the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes, but many of us had them at or near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. The Panthers, though, played each well, and all they can do is play the schedule in front of them. People should start taking notice of the Panthers because for a while now general manager Dale Tallon has been stockpiling young talent in Florida and it's starting to bear some fruit.

The Winnipeg Jets have some issues (discipline being a central one), but winning three of four on the road to start the season is surprising. If you asked me before the season, I'd have told you four points no matter how they got them would have been a good opening trip for the Jets. They got six, with three regulation victories. That's big. But they need to clean up their penalties.

I also didn't see the Pittsburgh Penguins being 0-3 at this point of the season and Sidney Crosby having no points. That's doubly surprising, but it won't last. Crosby will find his game and the Penguins will get going soon.

Is Dylan Larkin a dark-horse rookie of the year candidate? -- @FantasticFeeg

Dylan Larkin
Center - DET
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 4
SOG: 12 | +/-: 6
Every rookie not named Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel is a dark-horse candidate for the Calder Trophy. Those two will dominate the discussion all season. However, Larkin is proving to be the real deal, and the Red Wings have the makings of a special line with Larkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. Larkin obviously showed he can be effective at center too. He played well in between Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Tatar when they were put together in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Pulkkinen scored twice and the Red Wings rallied for a 4-3 win.

I still haven't seen Larkin in person, which is the best way to get a gauge of a player's true effectiveness, but everything I've seen from watching the Red Wings, highlights of Larkin, and from reading about him and talking to some people, there's no doubt he is a player who could and maybe should be in the discussion with McDavid and Eichel all season. Another in that category that I now have seen in person is Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers, who is impressive and clearly has an excellent shot, as demonstrated by the goal he scored on Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

With the Boston Bruins stockpiling picks, will they go the offer-sheet route for a RFA like Seth Jones? -- @rayguarino

A couple of points with this question.

1) You're assuming the Nashville Predators will let Seth Jones leave. That's a bad assumption to make. There's no chance the Predators let Jones walk. He'll re-sign, whether it's through a regular negotiation or the Predators matching whatever offer sheet he gets. Jones is far too valuable to let go. Teams should never trade young defensemen who have the potential to be elite defensemen in their prime. That's why I had so many issues with the Bruins trading Dougie Hamilton at the draft.

2) I'm now of the belief that general managers will not use the offer sheet. I disagree with that, but it appears to be the case. They have some legitimate excuses for not using it. For starters, only one time in the salary-cap era (2005-present) has a team not matched the offer sheet (Ducks, Dustin Penner to the Oilers), so their chances for success are slim. In addition, GMs know they have to overpay for a player to get him to sign an offer sheet that won't be matched, and why would you want to do that in a cap world? However, I think GMs should use the offer sheet as a way to drive up the price of a player as a way to put a dent into the player's current team's cap situation. Sharks GM Doug Wilson did that when he signed Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four-year, $14 million offer sheet in the summer of 2010. The Blackhawks matched the offer sheet, but as a result, they couldn't re-sign goalie Antti Niemi, who the Sharks wanted all along. San Jose was able to sign Niemi because the Blackhawks couldn't afford him after signing Hjalmarsson. Now, that obviously worked out well for the Blackhawks because Hjalmarsson became a top defenseman in the NHL and Corey Crawford was on his way to being ready, but it was still a savvy move by Wilson.

Who will surprise/break out this year in Dallas? No Kari Lehtonen, nobody coming back healthy, no contract players and no Mattias Janmark (too late). -- @RCT35

You're really limiting me here. Under these terms, I'd pick defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said prior to the season that Jokipakka surprised everyone in Dallas last season and is ahead of fellow defensemen Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak in terms of development. He's a safe, reliable player who will grow into a bigger role, one that features more defensive-zone starts eventually. Last season, the Stars got a boost from defenseman John Klingberg, who became a breakout player for them. Jokipakka could be that guy this season, which obviously bodes well for Dallas' defense unit.


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