NHL Update

November 16, 2007 | Ed Frankovic

Caps Dead Last in NHL

After tonight’s 2-1 loss to Florida, who had lost 4 straight games, the Caps are now dead last in the NHL with a 6-11-1 record for only 13 points. A lack of offense is the main problem as Washington has only scored 41 goals in 18 games and 7 of those goals came in one game in Toronto. The Caps have been hit by injuries to Alexander Semin, Chris Clark, and Tom Poti but the bottom line is this team has little depth because owner Ted Leonsis is tight on the purse strings and GM George McPhee has not done a good job at bringing in talent. He’s made several bad draft picks over the years and one of those, defensemen Steve Eminger (first round pick in 2002 NHL entry draft), is upset that he isn’t even playing. After the season goalie Olie Kolzig is an unrestricted free agent and Alexander Ovechkin is a restricted free agent.
 

Forbes Magazine on the NHL

For those of you who like reading about the financial data associated with the NHL there is a very good article in Forbes Magazine this past week. The bottom line is the salary cap and the strong Canadian dollar has helped the economy in the NHL. Franchise values continue to go up (an average of 23% in 2 years) and the league now makes $96M a year instead of losing $96M a year. For the full story and some interesting data on each team see the following link:

http://www.forbes.com/business/2007/11/08/nhl-team-values-biz-07nhl_cx_mo_kb_1108nhl_land.html

One other note: the authors do not think too highly of Caps GM George McPhee or Coach Glen Hanlon as evidenced by their comments on the Washington hockey franchise.

NHL Hall of Fame Inductions

The NHL Hall of Fame inducted an incredible class this year with Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, and Ron Francis all being honored. It doesn’t get much better than that quartet. I remember writing an article for the Capitals magazine back in the mid 1980’s and in that article I asked Stevens about potentially having his number retired in Washington and going to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It was so obvious to anyone around hockey back then that Stevens was destined for greatness. Stevens never won a Norris Trophy but he did win three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. It’s too bad that after the 1990 season the Caps had that awful Georgetown limo incident and then owner Abe Pollin decided not to match the $1M a year offer the St. Louis Blues gave Stevens otherwise the Capitals may have won at least one Stanley Cup sometime in the 1990’s.

One other NHL Hall of Fame note: Washington Times sports reporter Dave Fay, who died in July after a long battle with cancer, was honored with the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for his outstanding work as a beat writer covering the Capitals. Having covered the Caps in the media and then working for them for 10 years it was great to see Dave finally get his due. Dave Fay and fellow cancer victim Bob Fachet (long time Caps beat writer for The Washington Post) were two writers who really knew hockey and were well respected by the players and the organization.

Around the NHL

So much for any Stanley Cup final hangover:  the Ottawa Senators are a sizzling 15-2 and are giving up only 2 goals a game.

All five teams (Detroit, Columbus, Chicago, St. Louis, and Nashville) in the Western Conference division have an over .500 record. To me this is the biggest surprise in the NHL as we approach the season’s quarter pole. I expected St. Louis to be much better but did not think Nashville could recover from the fire sale they had but as I’ve said many times before: GM David Poile knows what he is doing. Barry Trotz is doing a great coaching job there as well. Chicago has young sensations Patrick Kane (#1 pick in 2007 NHL entry draft) and Jonathan Toews (#3 pick in 2006 NHL entry draft) teaming up with Robert Lang and Jason Williams to give this team a potent offense. Columbus continues to kill penalties at an astounding rate (91.1%) and goalie Pascal Leclaire is saving 94% of the shots he faces.

In the Eastern Conference the biggest surprises are the Boston Bruins (9-6-2 for 20 points) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-10-1 for 17 points). I wasn’t one of those on the bandwagon that had the Pens winning the Cup this year like several prominent publications prognosticated, but I expected them to be over .500 at this point. The Bruins aren’t scoring a whole lot but they are getting phenomenal goaltending from Tim Thomas (.950 save percentage).

Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg had his 17 game point scoring streak stopped this week (27 total points). Zetterberg had a point in the first 17 games Detroit played but was held off the score sheet this week by St. Louis. Tampa Bay forward Vincent LeCavalier took over the NHL point scoring lead from Zetterberg with 29 overall points but the #1 pick in the 1998 NHL entry draft has been red hot of late scoring 5 goals and tallying 11 assists in his last six games.

The Atlanta Thrashers resurgence continues as they are now 8-10 after an 0-6 start. Friday night they travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes in what should be an intense hockey game. The Hurricanes were trounced by the Ligthning, 6-1, on Wednesday night (LeCavalier had 3 goals and 2 assists).

In case you hadn’t heard, Peter Forsberg declared himself not healthy enough to play in the Karjala Cup in Finland two weekends ago so don’t expect to see him back in the NHL anytime soon. Retirement seems more likely than ever for Forsberg.

Forward Jamie Langenbrunner of the New Jersey Devils scored 2 goals in his first game back from hernia surgery this week. Unfortunately for him the team lost, 4-2, to the Rangers. Speaking of the Rangers, they have gone on a tear winning 8 of their last 9, and are looking like the front-runners I predicted they would be in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers penalty killing has been great at 90.2%. Their power play is struggling at 16.1% but that should start improving once Martin Straka comes back at the end of the month.

There are 10 games in the NHL on Saturday night and every one of them is a division game. Here are some of the best ones to watch:

            Ottawa @ Toronto (7pm main Hockey Night in Canada game)

            New Jersey @ Philadelphia (7pm)

            Anaheim @ San Jose (1030pm)

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