The Ask Me Something Mailbag is again. Feels good. It’s been some time.
We’ve debated (effectively, “debated” can be beneficiant) a controversial subject within the hockey world over the previous week, so let’s set it apart for now and get right down to pure on-ice stuff for a change. Typically it’s good to recollect what we love most concerning the sport: the hockey itself. Prepared? Let’s do it.
DB (JTisaleaf) asks…
Do you see Mike Babcock lasting the season?
Hey, DB. I puzzled if Babcock’s quantity was up on the finish of final season after the Leafs had bombed out within the first spherical of the playoffs a 3rd straight time, particularly as a result of Babcock had drawn lots of warmth for his participant deployment. I’m positive you bear in mind Patrick Marleau enjoying extra minutes than Matthews within the third interval of Sport 7 final spring.
Studies surfaced after the summer season that GM Kyle Dubas needed to pink-slip Babcock however that crew president Brendan Shanahan vetoed the choice. And Dubas’ low season roster maneuvering had an air of “Properly, if I can’t fireplace my coach, I can take his toys away.” Patrick Marleau? Gone. Ron Hainsey? Gone. The older vets on whom Babcock leaned to the purpose of being criticized have been not on the chessboard for him to make use of, so perhaps Babcock couldn’t make the identical sorts of personnel choices if his most popular personnel weren’t even on the crew anymore. He additionally expressed a need to up Matthews’ ice time once we spoke in the summertime, envisioning Matthews rising to the 19-minute mark or so.
Babcock has delivered on that promise after which some, with Matthews logging a career-high 19:55 up to now this season. Nonetheless, we’ve seen the identical sample of rigidly sticking to sure questionable roster deployments. Babcock continues to trot the ever-maligned Cody Ceci out on the highest defensive pair with Morgan Rielly – they’ve spent 80.5 % of their 5-on-5 ice time collectively – and stays steadfast in at all times enjoying goalie Frederik Andersen on the primary sport of a again to again no matter which of the 2 opponents poses a more durable matchup. The Leafs are Zero-Four-1 on the second sport of their again to backs this season. Their particular groups have been shockingly poor with a 20th-ranked energy play and 23rd-ranked penalty kill. The Leafs have misplaced three straight video games and 7 of their previous 11. They’re two video games right into a stretch during which they play 9 of 10 video games on the street.
So it seems like momentum is constructing towards a mid-season Babcock firing in idea, proper? We’ve seen underachieving, talent-rich groups do it mid-season and switch issues round dramatically. The St. Louis Blues, in fact, axed Mike Yeo final November and gained the Stanley Cup. The Pittsburgh Penguins gained the 2009 Cup after firing Michel Therrien mid-season and the 2016 Cup after firing Mike Johnston mid-season. So a Leafs crew losing years with a proficient roster may benefit by panicking quickly.
However, Babcock has the armor of damage luck encasing him. Travis Dermott (shoulder) and Zach Hyman (knee) missed roughly the primary month. John Tavares’ damaged finger price him seven video games. Mitch Marner will miss at the very least 4 weeks with an ankle damage. Now it’s dental-fracture surgical procedure for Alexander Kerfoot.
The Leafs have underachieved mightily this season however haven’t performed a single second with a completely wholesome roster, so it’s troublesome to evaluate how good they’re. That may preserve Babcock’s job secure till the summer season…until an upcoming six-game street journey, which commences Saturday, yields 5 or extra losses and a players-only assembly. Then the axe may fall.
John Ramon (@Capitals DieHard) asks…
The place does Braden Holtby find yourself?
Howdy John. I’ve mentioned for the reason that summer season that I felt Holtby’s time as a Capital would quickly finish. Particularly, I began saying that when Sergei Bobrovsky inked his seven-year, $70-million pact July 1. Holtby would be the identical age this summer season as ‘Bob’ was final summer season, and we are able to name Holtby’s one Vezina Trophy and one Stanley Cup a good equal to Bobrovsky’s two Vezinas, so Holtby would have a good shot to earn the same contract on the open market.
In the meantime, the Washington Capitals (a) have middle Nicklas Backstrom additionally going UFA and more likely to command the same wage to Holtby’s, which means we may see them earn $18-20 million mixed on their subsequent cap hits; (b) have solely $18.76 million in projected cap house if the cap doesn’t go up subsequent summer season; and (c) have an important younger goalie in Ilya Samsonov arriving within the NHL.
Samsonov has outplayed Holtby up to now, is 22 years previous and prices $925,000. Samsonov wresting the job from Holtby is definitely a dream state of affairs for Washington. Samsonov’s presence is the No. 1 purpose I anticipate Holtby to finish up on a brand new crew subsequent summer season. What I didn’t anticipate was for him to battle to the purpose of his price ticket probably dropping under the Bobrovsky threshold. That will open up extra touchdown spots for Holtby. So who may use him?
I’ve banged the drum for the Calgary Flames earlier than. David Rittich has been a reliable starter however is simply signed another yr, and his $2.75-million cap hit doesn’t prohibit a costlier goalie forming a 1A/1B tandem with him. Holtby’s play has declined in latest seasons, so he could also be greatest off enjoying 50 video games alongside a high-volume backup. Holtby’s league rank in objectives saved above common per 60 (min. 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5) from his 2015-16 Vezina season to now: 16th, 4th, 38th, 22nd, and he’s 37th amongst goalies with 100 or extra minutes at 5-on-5 this season. So perhaps a more energizing Holtby can be a greater Holtby?
The Flames are the second-closest NHL crew to Holtby’s hometown of Lloydminster, Sask., geographically. The closest, the Edmonton Oilers, have Mike Smith as a pending UFA subsequent summer season, simply because the Flames’ No. 2, Cam Talbot, goes UFA. In order that’s one other crew that would deploy Holtby on the robust facet of a 1A/1B setup. That mentioned, Mikko Koskinen has rebounded properly up to now this season, so we are able to’t say for sure the Oilers shall be in search of a serious goalie improve.
If we’re pondering suitors who’re essentially the most determined for clear slates in internet, the New Jersey Devils may make sense as a touchdown spot for Holtby. They’d have the cap house whether or not they re-sign Taylor Corridor or not, although protecting Cory Schneider’s $6 million on the books a pair extra years can be robust to abdomen. Perhaps he’d be a buyout candidate? It wouldn’t be terribly painful to take action.
Al Seever (@AlSeever) asks…
What’s occurring with NHL hockey in Quebec? Are we any nearer to a crew there?
Hello, Al. I want I had a extra thrilling reply to give you, however it doesn’t seem we’re any nearer to a Quebec NHL franchise than we have been, say, a pair years in the past. The explanations are quite a few.
We’ll begin with the only. Seattle would be the NHL’s 32nd crew, bringing the league’s construction right into a state of symmetry from 2021-22 and onward: 4 divisions, eight groups, sorted geographically. The NHL hasn’t expressed any notion that the league has to cease at 32 groups, however it wants a compelling purpose to broaden additional. And within the eyes of commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL’s board of governors, Quebec couldn’t be much less compelling. The market dimension is method too small. English isn’t the dominant language there, which may restrict its attraction to gamers. The Montreal Canadiens wouldn’t love having to share a province and, primarily, Japanese Canada with one other crew once more. With a small company sector, the alternatives for a Quebec franchise by way of promoting and luxurious bins can be considerably rarer than they’d for bigger markets. So if we’re Quebec as an growth chance, the shiny Videotron Centre isn’t sufficient to sway the NHL.
One of the best ways again to the NHL stays the relocation route. That’s how Winnipeg received a franchise again in 2011. However the query is which market would supply essentially the most sensible relocation alternative. We will overlook Arizona, which has a brand new majority proprietor in Alex Meruelo and is slated to maneuver to the Central Division as soon as Seattle joins the league. If the Coyotes have been to relocate, it might probably should be throughout the Central for geographical causes, and the hungriest NHL market occurs to be Houston. It’s the sixth-largest metropolis in North America and occurs to sit down within the Central time zone. It will be the logical touchdown spot ought to the Coyotes transfer, however that’s not a given anymore. The Desert Canines had a landmark enterprise yr in 2018-19, setting franchise data for ticket gross sales and year-over-year income progress, and that development would possibly proceed with the crew bettering within the standings.
So if Quebec have been to rejoin the NHL by way of the relocation route, we’re most likely an Atlantic Division-based crew whose proprietor has pretty lately threatened to relocate it: the Ottawa Senators. Ticket gross sales proceed to tank, and the LeBreton Flats downtown enviornment proposal fell aside final yr, creating the sense that the franchise is weak to a relocation. But it surely’s not that easy. The LeBreton thought is shelved however not useless. After the NCC critiques proposals for a serious occasion house in January, the thought shall be introduced to town of Ottawa by summer season 2020. So perhaps the franchise will get some excellent news. Melnyk has additionally walked again any threats of relocation, and if he does find yourself bringing in a companion or promoting the crew, it’s possible he does so to a celebration enthusiastic about protecting the franchise in Ottawa.
That is all a great distance of claiming that it doesn’t seem Quebec has a simple entry level proper now, whether or not it’s by way of growth or relocation. The NHL’s disinterest in returning to that market has been clear each time the topic has been raised over the previous a number of years.
Johnnie (@DisneyDadSD) asks…
Who’s most accountable for Vegas’ struggles up to now this season?
Hey Johnnie. Feels bizarre to see Vegas stumble. It’s such a overseas feeling. The Golden Knights have dropped 4 consecutive video games. They didn’t lose 4 straight video games throughout their inaugural common season. They misplaced 5 straight at one level final yr, in order that they’re one loss away from equalling their franchise-worst skid
Earlier than we sort out who’s most accountable for the sluggish begin, let’s handle the what. Excellent news for Golden Knights followers: luck is essentially accountable. In 5-on-5 play this season, the Golden Knights have the league’s third-lowest capturing share at 6.63. For perspective, since Vegas debuted in October 2017, the bottom whole crew capturing share throughout two-plus seasons is 6.85. So Vegas’ quantity will regress to the imply whatever the roster’s expertise stage. The Knights are No. eight within the league at producing and stopping shot makes an attempt at 5-on-5. They create the third-most scoring probabilities within the league per 60 minutes and permit the 10th-fewest. Just about all of the under-the-hood crew stats counsel they’re higher than their ends in the standings up to now. Even their particular groups are above common at 11th on the facility play and third on the penalty kill. So what offers?
Marc-Andre Fleury’s total numbers are down this yr, however I don’t suppose he’s been the issue. He actually hasn’t been unhealthy, and he’s been frolicked to dry with some blown leads and dear turnovers throughout this dropping streak. To me, the most important distinction within the Golden Knights yr over yr is the protection corps’ skill to create probabilities. Colin Miller did an important job crushing his sheltered matchups the previous couple years, however he’s toiling in Buffalo now following an low season commerce. Shea Theodore’s offense has been non-existent after he busted out for 12 objectives and 37 factors final season. He was cleared to begin the season on time after present process low season therapy for testicular most cancers, however is it potential he’s understandably nonetheless discovering his contact after such a making an attempt low season. One other key puck-mover, Nate Schmidt, missed 12 video games with a lower-body damage. So every of Vegas’ prime puck-moving defensemen has been compromised not directly, be it commerce, illness or damage.
I additionally marvel if salary-cap actuality is setting in for Vegas. In at the moment’s NHL, you’re a sufferer of your individual success, as a result of successful breeds raises, raises make your rosters extra top-heavy, and ultimately you need to begin trimming depth. This previous off-seasons’ cap casualties included Miller, Erik Haula and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Vegas’ lack of scoring depth has been arguably its No. 1 drawback up to now this season.
Not less than Alex Tuch is again wholesome now, and at the very least Vegas’ puck luck ought to enhance. I’m thus not anxious concerning the crew’s playoff probabilities.
TD (@omfsmtim) asks…
What’s a practical return for Taylor Corridor on the commerce deadline?
When was the final time a Hart Trophy winner was obtainable as a trade-deadline rental? We may technically say Jaromir Jagr in 2015, however he was 43, and Martin St-Louis was 38 when he received dealt. Even Peter Forsberg was 33 and not on the peak of his powers when traded in 2007. There’s virtually no precedent for what Corridor may very well be on the 2020 deadline: a 28-year-old star within the cap period, nonetheless near his peak years, lower than two years faraway from successful the MVP, obtainable as a rental piece for a contending crew. Regardless of his early-season struggles with the Devils this season, he’d nonetheless be a particularly impactful first-line addition on virtually any roster.
We will thus anticipate Devils GM Ray Shero to demand an astronomical worth for Corridor. The 2019 commerce deadline had some top-end forwards obtainable to lease, so we are able to use them as an inexpensive and up to date baseline to generate a Corridor state of affairs.
Mark Stone netted Ottawa a very A-plus prospect in defenseman Erik Brannstrom, a heat physique in Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round decide. Matt Duchene introduced in prospects Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, a 2019 first-round decide and a 2020 first-rounder conditional on Duchene re-signing with Columbus, which he didn’t.
I like Stone as a lot as the subsequent particular person does however, with all due respect to him and Duchene, neither of them has a Hart Trophy. So I believe Stone can be the ground for a Corridor commerce. Assume first-round decide and elite-level prospect at minimal, plus perhaps one other first rate depth prospect.
For example: I used to be requested this week concerning the Carolina Hurricanes’ possibilities of getting Corridor. If we observe the Stone/Duchene commerce mannequin, Corridor would price one thing like Dominik Bokk, Jake Bean and Carolina’s 2020 first-round choice.
If the Corridor negotiations seem like heading south, the Devils shall be nearly assured a tasty pile of foundational gamers and/or picks in any commerce for him. That’s why, as a Devils fan, you need the crew to be nice or horrible however nowhere in between this season. The worst-case state of affairs can be the crew hanging across the playoff bubble, retaining Corridor as an “in-house” rental, lacking the playoffs or dropping rapidly within the playoffs, then dropping Corridor as a UFA. That’s what occurred to Columbus with its prime UFAs final spring.
So the Devils having the fewest factors within the NHL as of at the moment isn’t the worst information. It’s good and definitive. It may make future choices simpler for Corridor and Shero.
Join: In regards to the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior author at The Hockey Information and has been a part of the crew since 2011. He is your one-stop store for deep-dive participant interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy participant rankings, participant security and hair suggestions. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey Information Reside and The Hockey Information Podcast.