The most anticipated event at the NHL Skills competition may be changing, at least for this season. Hardest Shot is the traditional front-runner, but the fastest skater is quickly making up ground. The reason is the likely return of Detroit’s Dylan Larkin to the All-Star roster. The Red Wings speedster is riding a career-high thirteen game point streak that has left Larkin as Detroit’s likely representative when the Atlantic Division team is filled out by NHL Hockey Operations. It was three years ago in Nashville when Larkin broke Mike Gartner’s record for the fastest lap of the rink. At the time Gartner told me he didn’t think Larkins time should qualify because he got a rolling start regardless if Larkin returns to the mid-season NHL celebration it sets up a perfect showdown with Connor McDavid who has already been named the captain of the Pacific Division team. McDavid is widely regarded as hockeys fastest player, a head to head match-up with the record holder in Larkin would be legitimately fun to watch.
Still with Detroit. A terrible third month in the Moter City has caused the dispatcher of the vultures to get creative. The birds are already circling Ottawa and Philadelphia. Recent slides have brought Carolina into buzzard consideration while Jersey and Florida are running out of time before they are left to fend off the scavengers. Injuries stalled the success the Red Wings were enjoying, General Manager Ken Holland will wait to get healthy before making any transaction decisions.
The Hurricanes and Panthers shouldn’t be part of this group. Certainly not with fifty percent of the season left to play. While both should score more, the two rosters boast great young talent. The problem continues to be the old bodies in goal.
James Reimer receives a loud standing ovation from Leafs fans after he comes in to replace Luongo. pic.twitter.com/Mu6yc5SYGC
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) December 21, 2018
Keith Tkachuk made more than $73 million in his career, he scored five hundred NHL goals and wore the “C” in three different cities. So when Tkachuk spoke so passionately about Ottawa’s pending unrestricted free agent Mark Stone, I paid extra attention. Tkachuk’s son Brady has billetted with the Stone’s
Tkachuk spoke about his admiration for Stone in episode III of The Chirp Podcast, and the veteran of one thousand NHL points did not tiptoe around what he thinks the Senators should do.
The link to the Podcast is here, and you will find the Brady-Mark Stone segment around 17 minutes into the conversation.
With just one game on the @NHL sked, use the time to hear how Keith Tkachuck sizes up the abilities of @TKACHUKycheese_ and @BradyTkachuk71 to chirp as Dad guests on @chirppodcast Link to the trailer clip is here https://t.co/VTmztYfQfB full episode is waiting.
— Daren Millard (@darenmillard) December 31, 2018
Issues in their own zone are the cause for constant hesitation when trying to declare the Maple Leafs a Stanley Cup contender. Kelly Hrudey is the latest to illustrate Toronto’s issues, his Saturday segment on HNIC also included Columbus Captain Nick Foligno talking about the Leafs problems below the hash-marks. It hasn’t been a matter of if but rather when Kyle Dubas will acquire help, however, the number of teams interested in the same thing increased in the last few days. Minnesota and Winnipeg watched key defencemen go down with an injury. Matt Dumba’s surgery likely ended his regular season. (he injured the arm in a fight) The Jets are still waiting for the report detailing how long an ankle injury will keep Dustin Byfuglien out. In Winnipeg’s case, the team is considered a championship contender and will be aggressive to fill any shortcomings.
Dustin Byfuglien goes down the tunnel after this hit from Luke Kunin. pic.twitter.com/OeDUZ8KPwj
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) December 29, 2018
Congratulations to Vancouver and Montreal. Jim Benning and Marc Bergevin have clubs that are right in the mix for a playoff spot. It would be a significant surprise should either make the post-season.
Edmonton is in a similar place in the standings, but the mood is drastically different. Trades with Florida and Chicago this week brought on salary, age, and size. Coach Ken Hitchcock got the tweak to his lineup that has suffered a correction after brilliant stretch to start his time behind the Edmonton bench. I used to think Edmonton was underperforming. Now my belief is the roster isn’t good enough. The Oilers may be producing slightly better than the assembled group should. Edmonton has slipped from knocking on the door of becoming a Western Conference contender to just trying to scrape into the playoffs. This transition has occurred during the Conner McDavid era and had nothing to do with the Oilers captain.
Hey Connor, are the Oilers going to the playoffs this season? pic.twitter.com/tCFkcua495
— Adam (@OilersAdam) December 29, 2018
Meanwhile, out at the Southfork Ranch……
J.R. Ewing would have been proud of what went down in downtown Dallas last week when the CEO of the Stars ripped into the clubs two best players. The rant used profanity, innuendo, statistics, and an imitation of a child crying was targeted at Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. However, the rest of the roster and General Manager Jim Nill also received glancing blows.
Captain Benn, or Jamie to those who want to be less formal, reacted calmly but in listening to his response, he was not trying to hide how he felt.
Allow me to read into the first answer by Benn.
He referred to the CEO’s comments as coming from the outside and called it noise. There wasn’t the usual, “they are the boss, they have a right to their opinion, etc.” type of reaction. Benn added he likes to keep things inside which is a clear indication he didn’t agree with how Lites handled things and finished off by saying he plays for fans and his team-mates. I don’t know how scripted this was, but Benn was smart to reference the fans. He did not, however, add the word “organization” which I believe to be telling.
Again, this is my interpretation of Benn answering a question.
The National Hockey League Players Association was a little more direct. Here is the statement it sent to me and other inquiring media.
“The comments Jim Lites made regarding Tyler and Jamie are both reckless and insulting. If Players directed such comments towards management, how would those be regarded? To say that Jim Lites’ conduct is unprofessional would be a gross understatement. In professional sports, all individual Players and teams go through highs and lows, but this is not how professionals handle adversity.” – NHLPA
The issue I continue to have with the entire situation is that it occurred in a public arena. There was no back and forth between Lites and the players before the CEO invited selected media in for the sermon. There is a place for sending a message to the masses, it just usually occurs after some behind the scenes communication.
— NHL Prospects Watcher (@Prospects_Watch) December 29, 2018
Scoring race update…….
Everyone scores! Everyone wins!
Did you know only the top four scorers averaged a point per game when Jamie Benn won the Art Ross trophy with 87 points in 2015? A year later, led by Patrick Kane, it was the first five, while two years ago the number jumped to seven.
There were growth indicators available, but nobody saw last seasons explosion of individual offence where the NHL’s twenty most productive scorers were above or at a point per outing and there is not looking back. As the calendar turns to January, the league statistics show the top thirty-five scorers averaging one point per game.
We have transitioned from a period when hitting the century mark virtually guaranteed the scoring title to a time that it may not get you in the top ten.
The flip side of this, goalies are in an era of adjustment. I don’t know if it’s the pads, the pants or the trimmed down upper body gear but netminders as a whole have issues. Case in point, who is the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy? Andrei Vasilevskij has missed significant time and will have to be healthy the rest of the way to win the trophy that goes to the player voted to be the best goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury leads the way in victories, Pekka Rinne has been good but was also injured. This is a competition that more wide-open than league-wide five-holes.
The Chirp with Daren Millard returns this week. The Podcast turns four and will include a story of an NHL goalie being traded away because the clubs another netminder didn’t want him around. This story is told by the goalie who was dealt. We’ve heard stories about goalie partnerships that didn’t click, and this would fall under that category.
Check it out at deanblundell.com
find out when it drops by following @darenmillard and @ChirpPodcast on Twitter. @TheChirpOfficial on Instagram