[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
7. Big effin' surprises
“What do you mean the Jets suck?”
This is, somehow, something that's being said in Winnipeg.
See, the Jets won just one of their first five games, which obviously isn't an ideal number. And in those games, they've scored just eight times, and simultaneously allowed 15 goals. A surefire recipe for disaster there, no doubt about it. But the thing is, people in Winnipeg seem shocked by this.
No one, though, is more shocked than Paul Effin' Maurice, who can't understand why this underwhelming roster is so underwhelming that it's losing to Calgary 4-1, but knows exactly what isn't the problem:
"It's not the players' job to tell [media about accountability]. I don't have to open this book up to you and tell you everything that goes on in the room," said Maurice. "I can make you cry in the [effin'] room. Listen, I understand you have to work with what you're given and I appreciate that. But the accountability in the room is fine. We deal with our problems directly. And I apologize for the profanity.”
Worth noting: The profanity is warranted. The Winnipeg media have spent the last three winters blaming everything on the Atlanta loser stink and what is, admittedly, an impossibly difficult division to navigate. Now that any stench from the South at all would have long since worn off, they're looking around for other reasons the Jets continue to stink, so long as those reasons don't involve blaming Kevin Cheveldayoff too harshly. “Look what he was handed by incompetent Thrashers management (and then repeatedly signed to lengthy extensions)!” and so on. It must be leadership. Yeah, that's the ticket. No wonder Maurice is pissed; the team's bad and it was always unavoidable. But you can't just throw your hands up for 82 straight games and go, “What can you do?” So this is the answer.
Meanwhile, they also know very definitively who they can not-blame: Ondrej Pavelec!
Of course Ondrej Pavelec is find and dandy with these guys. After all, he's “done his share” with a .906 save percentage in his first five appearances (.906, of course, is exactly in line with his awful career average) and had a really good preseason. Yup, we're now talking about a good set of like four fake games against mostly AHL talent, and then five real ones in which he's been exactly as bad as ever, and saying that you can't do better than this.
What a market.
6. Tuu Enjoy Myself
You would think that, given his start to the season (.870 in five appearances), Tuukka Rask would want to do as much as possible to draw attention from the fact that awfulness seems to follow him around.
Instead, he sat in on drums with a band that covered a Phish song. Presumably because Claude Julien is always looking for a little more jam in his lineup.
5. Trading for Eric Staal
Well it's five games into the season, so why wouldn't the rumor mill already be churning because some teams are starting a little slower than many expected? And why wouldn't that mill start, oh, I don't know, with an aging, expensive center from a team that's doomed to finish near the bottom of the league this season.
Yes, this particular Rite of Autumn has finally arrived, and this time the player upon whom the hockey world has largely settled for such rumors is Eric Staal. You can see why. He had only three more goals last season than he did in a 48-game campaign the year before, he's about to close out his 20s, and he makes a ton of money from a team that probably doesn't want to pay him any more.
But let's face facts here: Eric Staal isn't like, Capital E Capital S Eric Staal any more. He's not Canadian Olympian Eric Staal. He's not NHL All-Star Eric Staal. He's the second-best center with his last name on his own team. And he makes $8.25 million against the cap. For some reason (well, I mean, I know what the reason is), it seems that many people believe teams would be more than happy to kick the tires on him, because of who he was.
The perceived value of the player here greatly exceeds his actual value. He turns 30 in a week. He makes more than almost every forward in the league. He hasn't scored 30 goals in three seasons and probably won't do it again. He has a no-move clause. He's signed for next year, owed $9.5 million in actual dollars, and would probably want assurances that he'd get an extension if he were to waive that NMC protection. He'd probably want first-line minutes.
All these things scream, “Don't trade for Eric Staal.” And yet, because of that name value, teams will offer actual assets — probably good ones — for his services, and act as though they'd won the lottery if they get him.
Don't get me wrong here. He's still an effective player in the NHL, but the question is for how much longer that will be the case. He's not worth the money — the same cap hit as Ryan Getzlaf with half a million dollars more in actual paychecks — right now, on Oct. 22, 2014. Imagine 2015. Imagine 2017. Imagine a lot of bad things.
Fortunately for would-be bidders, most teams probably wouldn't be able to find a reasonable way to make $8.25 million in cap obligations work under their limits. Which means they won't trade for Eric Staal. Which would be a good move on their part.
4. Throwing your jersey
We're still doing this, huh? And we're doing it after like four games? I wonder if that first guy who threw his jersey a few years ago has these terrible pangs of regret for kick-starting the most feckless, boring “protest” in recent hockey history. “I'm so mad about this I'm throwing a $200 jersey on the ice from my $400 seats.”
Not to get too much into the “real fan” argument, but we all watch Leafs games. We know who the kind of person throwing his dumb jersey (probably with “Clarkson” on the back) is. These are the protests of the rich idiot who's likely already at least somewhat disinterested by anything that's not his iPhone.
3. All you young goalies out there
Things were long-expected to go sideways for the Colorado Avalanche this season after a stellar if unrepeatable performance through 82 last year. So far, that's all right on schedule.
Remember all that stuff about “shot quality is how we score so many goals?” Prior to last night's game they were shooting just 5.5 percent as a team. And how they could also limit shot quality? Their team save percentage was just .915, down from .922 a year earlier. Semyon Varlamov also dropped from .927 to .910. No way to see that coming unless you paid any sort of attention.
But then Varlamov got hurt, and he's looking like he'll be out at least a little while longer. Meanwhile, it fell to Reto Berra (who is bad) to cover for him. Then Berra got hurt in a game late last week, and in came Cal Pickard for two appearances. They didn't go well.
The good news is that the Avs might just be in the market for a halfway decent goalie in the near future — because Berra doesn't meet the minimum standards there — and if you're someone who's even just a little bit better than Ilya Bryzgalov, they might just call you up or trade for you. That means an NHL contract and regular free flights in a private jet to gorgeous locales like St. Paul and Winnipeg. You might even be able to get Patrick Roy's autograph.
Can't beat that deal.
2. The Brodie extension
On Monday, Calgary announced that it had signed defenseman TJ Brodie to a five-year deal that would pay him $4.65 million against the cap on average. General snickering among a certain set of hockey fans commenced. “Haha, that's more than the Kings gave Jake Muzzin.” That sort of thing.
But what people don't seem to realize is that Brodie has quietly become one of the best defensemen in hockey, and more people would know it if: 1) The Flames were any good at all, and 2) He weren't sharing a pairing with someone who is already one of those quietly-became-one-of-the-best-in-hockey defensemen, Mark Giordano.
And sure, playing with a good defenseman helps. And the WOWYs when they're apart don't speak too well (Brodie's CF% is 49.5 when he's separated from Giordano over the last three seasons, and that's over 2,287-plus ES minutes). But at the same time, Giordano is even worse without Brodie than Brodie is without him (47.4 CF% in nearly 2,137 minutes). Together, they're 56.2 percent.
When you add Mikael Backlund to the mix, their total CF% is approaching 60 percent over the last three seasons, which is to say that they are dominant in a way that most other top groups in the league can only hope to be. And so when you take that into account, $4.65 million — including eating three years of unrestricted free agency — plus whatever Backlund and Giordano end up getting this summer (even if it's a lot), the deal is a huge bargain.
1. Montreal fans
Well, it was a banner week in Montreal, if only because the Habs humbled the Bruins once again. They are officially the bogey team of the best Eastern Conference club over the last several seasons, and things get especially hairy when their games are at Bell Centre.
Shining a laser pointer at Tuukka Rask is a dirtbag move, no question about it, and the fan who did it should be banned from NHL rinks. That's plain to see. But unless there were 20,000-plus people shining them at Milan “I'll Effin' Kill You” Lucic to make him flip out, and shell out $5,000, then it's pretty clear the fans up there are in the Bruins' heads to an extent you very rarely see in professional sports today.
You have to wonder how much of it is Boston's own doing (I'd estimate that it's somewhere around “all of it”) because of all the machismo they carry around with Playing Bruins Hockey and how much they seem to genuinely hate the Habs. But the people at Bell Centre feed on that, and play into it, and get the best on-paper team in the East off their game pretty consistently. That's home-ice advantage to a crazy extent.
(Not ranked this week: People who believe “innocent until proven guilty” applies to the NHL's supplementary discipline.
The only thing worth saying about Slava Voynov at this point is that the league clearly got it right, and we don't have to wait to get any real details to know that much. The fact that he got suspended before news broke tells you things in this case are pretty bad, as does his organization and coach basically saying, “This had to be done.”
Voynov does not get the benefit of the doubt from the league and his team and his coach because of the climate in sports today. That's a good thing. Bill Daly can say all he wants that the circumstances here are different than they were with Semyon Varlamov last year, and that's true. But it's only because now, if there's even a whiff that a pro athlete might have assaulted a woman, the Ray Rice thing (and more specifically the NFL's handling of it) basically ensures justice will be swift, and err on the side of not rousing public opinion against the league/team involved by standing with the player during his “tough time.”
People need to keep in mind that “innocent until proven guilty” applies only to the law. The NHL is under now obligation to extend such courtesy to paid employees because they are not putting him in jail, nor are they cutting off his paychecks. They're just not allowing him to play hockey. Frankly, that's the least they can do in this day and age.)