Ryan Lambert

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  • Huge if True: Assessing the queue for Matt Duchene

    TORONTO, ON – DECEMBER 11: Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 11, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Avalanche defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    At this point it’s beginning to feel as though there have only ever been trade rumors about Matt Duchene.

    Matt Duchene, everyone wants him. Matt Duchene, he says he wouldn’t mind a trade. Matt Duchene, he’s a huge difference-maker. Matt Duchene, he is very strong and smart.

    To be fair, in a league in which everyone is given the impression that they’re in the playoff hunt right up until it becomes all too apparent that they actually aren’t and never were, we can forgive some level of half-baked optimism that 75 percent of the teams in the league might be in on one or two or maybe even three players, all of whom play for the Colorado Avalanche.

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  • NCAA Hockey 101: Despite appearances, Boston College is struggling

    BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 06: Boston College Eagles defenseman Casey Fitzgerald (5) skates with the puck to start a play during the first period of the Beanpot Tournament semifinals game between the Boston University Terriers and the Boston College Eagles on February 6th, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by John Kavouris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    It’s not necessarily easy to find things to complain about when you’re looking at a team that’s 18-10-2 and came out of the first night of the Beanpot tied for eighth in the Pairwise.

    And yet it’s very safe to say that the Boston College Eagles, who currently lead Hockey East, have hardly been inspiring so far this season. They’re a strong possession team, they have a very good young goaltender, and to be frank little was expected of them coming into the season, so shaken by early departures as they were over the summer.

    So to be 18-10-2 with just three league losses through the first week of February is pretty good. But anyone who

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  • Claude Julien, Hartford Islanders, flat cap (Puck Daddy Countdown)

    (In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

    10 – Firing Claude Julien now

    Here’s how you know Don Sweeney is playing whatever the opposite of 12-dimensional chess is.

    Like, everyone in Boston fried him for having the big presser for the Julien firing — inevitable though it may have been — during the Patriots’ victory parade. But that wasn’t why the timing was bad. It was bad because this starts the countdown on Sweeney’s own inevitable firing, which I see as probably being like 15 months from now if we’re being particularly hopeful. Maybe he makes it to the end of 2018-19 but I tend to doubt it.

    Julien was the shield against anyone who was holding out hope Sweeney was building something worthwhile becoming almost immediately disillusioned. Whatever you think of the job Julien was doing, you can’t say it wasn’t “making a roster acknowledged to be pretty underwhelming over-perform.” And that includes Sweeney, who didn’t

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  • Inside Ken Hitchcock's raw deal with Blues (Trending Topics)

    If Ken Hitchcock were a better coach, he would have told Jake Allen and Carter Hutton to stop the extra 23 shots this year they would have needed to give the St. Louos Blues average goaltending.

    But Hitchcock is apparently no longer a good coach, and that coaching talent seemingly disappeared less than nine months after this same team finished second in the Central Division, knocked off their archrivals in the first round and went to a Western Conference Final.

    Back then, Hitchcock could remember to tell his goalie, “Be above-average!” And it worked!

    But something happened and he forgot, so he got fired.

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    By any other measure, the Blues are more or less still the same team as they were last year, when they finished with 107 points. Sure they lost David Backes and Troy Brouwer, and trading Brian Elliott to Calgary seems in retrospect to have been a huge mistake. But you have to consider both what has and has not

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  • Puck Lists: Who should have been in and out of the NHL 100?

    GLENDALE, AZ – OCTOBER 07: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks watches from the bench during the first period of the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    PUCK LISTS are lists of hockey things. They run every Thursday on Puck Daddy.

    The NHL did that thing where they just make everyone mad by doing a thing that is ostensibly well-meaning. This time they let a bunch of chuckleheads including Gary Bettman, Keith Jones, and world-famous hockey talent evaluator Mike Milbury pick the 100 best NHL players of all time.

    So of course they made a bunch of mistakes and unforgivable omissions. Of course they did. How could they have done anything else?

    Obviously when you’re putting together a list like this you’re going to piss people off. But what really did it was the fact that, as was rumored for months, they inexplicably only had six current players as being among the 100 best of all

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  • The Islanders, fast McDavid and tanking Avalanche (Puck Daddy Countdown)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 28: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers competes in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater event during the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition as part of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend at STAPLES Center on January 28, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    (In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

    10. Sticking to sports

    Many blessings to nice, kind Mika Zibanejad. No one should have to deal with this. Anyone who tells him or anyone else to stick to sports on this issue is beneath contempt.

    9. The Islanders maybe?

    I can’t tell if the Islanders are winners or losers for maybe getting tossed out of their rink, but it seems like the answer is losers because it’s the Islanders we’re talking about and they have nowhere else to go in the New York City area that’s not in Nassau or at MSG.

    Maybe they can move in with the Devils? And hey, if they both

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  • NCAA Hockey 101: Western Michigan's bigger and (Ben) Blacker

    At first glance, there isn’t much that stands out for Western Michigan. Except the fact that they’re fourth in the Pairwise right now, seven games above .500, and third in the NCHC.

    But you watch them play and you say to yourself, “these guys seem pretty good I guess.” Solid team, but certainly not fourth-in-the-country good. The stats bear that out too. Their highest scorer is tied for 80th in the country in points (22). Their goaltending is tied for 30th in the country (.906, below the national average). They only have 77 goals. They have a shots-for percentage of 53.1 percent (pretty good but not eye-popping). They’re only plus-15 in the goals department overall. They have a good power play but mediocre PK.

    So how does that get you fourth in the Pairwise and seven games above .500?

    What you have to understand is that Western is coached by Andy Murray. He’s a guy who, much like some of the other high-level coaches who have to do more with less, recruiting-wise, knows exactly the kind

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  • What We Learned: Should the NHL switch to 4-on-4 hockey?

    (Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.) 

    This is not going to be a popular opinion shared by many hockey traditionalists, but sports always evolve.

    I know we like to act as though the game today is in many ways fundamentally similar to how it was played 20, 30, maybe even 40 years ago. Or at least, it would be if not for these giant goalie pads and everyone trying to block shots. It is not. The neutral zone is a different size. There’s more space behind the nets, sticks are longer, there’s video review, and so on. There didn’t used to be a puck-over-the-glass minor. The two-line pass came and went. It used to be that all minor penalties ran the full two minutes. They didn’t even used to have delayed penalties. They got rid of ties, for pete’s sake.

    Hell, there are guys in the Hall of Fame who

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  • Senators in awkward, unenviable NHL position (Trending Topics)

    The Ottawa Senators head into the All-Star break comfortably in a playoff spot, primarily because the rest of their division is not very good.

    Not that 58 points from 47 games and a plus-4 goal differential is necessarily a bad thing, of course. Given the weird way in which the Eastern Conference in particular has stratified itself this season they’re something of a rarity. The other top teams in the conference obviously have positive goal differentials (Philadelphia and Boston are the other playoff teams in the red) but unlike every other top club, Ottawa only has a single-digit differential. In fact, the Sens and their Ontario neighbors (plus-13) are the only ones without at least a plus-25 goal differential in the conference among the positive teams.

    To be so average, and yet so safely ensconced in a postseason position, is a little strange, but especially so when you consider that basically everything the Senators do is underwhelming. Fifth from the bottom of the NHL in adjusted

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  • Huge if True: The Leafs might trade William Nylander? Yeah, okay

    TORONTO, ON – DECEMBER 17: William Nylander #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 17, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Penguins 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    [Breaking down the plausibility of the week’s biggest rumor.]

    Everyone wants a high-end defenseman, don’t they? Especially a young one.

    Why wouldn’t you? High-end defensemen in their early 20s are at such a premium in the league today that you have to give up Taylor Hall just to get back a middle-pairing guy like Adam Larsson, a trade which has not worked out particularly well for either party.

    So obviously you have to give (and give and give) to get. Combining that with a very apparent need for a young defenseman in the busiest hockey market in the world, and a surging young team with a very clear need on the blue line, and you start to get some pie-in-the-sky theorizing.

    For

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