This was an extremely (not) boring week around the NHL, and there's a lot to get to. So on that note, here are my five key notes and anecdotes on the week that was:
EVANDER KANE TRADE A GRAND SLAM FOR THE JETS
When looking at it from Winnipeg’s perspective, you must first consider the fact that there was no scenario where Kane was staying with the organization.
What he becomes from this point forward is almost irrelevant to whether or not they win this trade. Now, once you’ve taken that into account, consider that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff found a way to take a horrible, difficult situation and turn it into a potential watershed moment for the franchise.
Forget, for a minute here, about the prospects going to Winnipeg in the deal. Tyler Myers is 25-years-old. That’s it. He’s still pretty young. If the change of scenery was all he needed and he gets back to playing defense at a higher level, you’re looking at a blueline that consists of Myers, Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. That’s not just very good; it’s enviable.
Shift your focus back to youngins Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, and the haul looks even better. And don’t forget about Drew Stafford, who’s almost the “throw-in” of this trade. Twice a 20-goal man and once a 31-goal scorer, Stafford’s a quality second or third liner who can certainly chip in offensively.
Everyone and their mother-in-law figured that Kane, while certainly still worth something, would go at a discounted rate because of recent events and that no one was trading for him now while he was injured. Kudos to Cheveldayoff for pulling off one heck of a trade here.
DON’T COUNT OUT THE CATS JUST YET
We’ve had our fair share of surprises this season, but nobody seems to be talking about the Florida Panthers and the job they’ve done so far. This team is just four points behind the Boston Bruins for the final Wild Card spot in the East, and they deserve your attention.
Have they been overachieving? Is their playoff contention simply a byproduct of the slow start Boston got off to? I would say no, because even still there are other teams below them that they’ve had to beat out for their current position. And besides, good teams don’t just take matters into their own hands; they also take advantage of the circumstances and pounce on opportunities they’re handed. The Panthers have done both of those things.
How are they doing it? For one thing, they’re getting excellent goaltending from Roberto Luongo and, for another, they’re developing some offensive depth and it’s showing on the ice. Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri, Jussi Jokinen and Jimmy Hayes are all contributing, and even Vinny Trocheck’s had his moments. Additionally, you can’t give enough credit to Aaron Ekblad who, in his rookie year, is already morphing into one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and, no, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
STUBBORN PREDATORS REFUSE TO FALL DOWN NHL LEADERBOARD
The Preds weathered the storm and, now that they’ve got Rinne back, they’re still winning hockey games and they’re still on top of the NHL. These days, there’s a large emphasis on speed and offense, which is what Peter Laviolette has instilled from behind the bench. And it’s not like Rinne and that defense, which includes the likes of Shea Weber, Seth Jones and Roman Josi, suddenly forgot how to excel at the other end of the rink. To have everything clicking simultaneously, that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
KINGS HEATING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME
That having been said, they’ve rattled off three-straight wins and are now just three points behind Calgary for a Wild Card spot. We know they’re talented enough, and as much as I like the Jets’ future, I think it’s more likely that they fall out of the race and LA gets in than it is that the Flames burn out (I’ll be here all week).
I think the Kings’ odds of making it have increased exponentially, and in the blink of an eye no less.
DEVAN DUBNYK, LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE?
Let me preface by saying that I like Devan Dubnyk, both as a player and a person. He’s a good guy and, once he got out of Edmonton, he showed that he’s definitely got some game. I think he’s a reliable backup goaltender, a quality goaltender. But, do I think that he’s the heir apparent in Minnesota (or anywhere else for that matter)? No, I don’t. I think he’ll turn back into a pumpkin one of these days, albeit a more ripe pumpkin than the one he was with the Oilers.
Stylistically and talent-wise, I’m just not convinced he has what it takes to live up to his recent performances over an 82-game stretch. Crazier things have happened before, but for now, I’m gonna go ahead and say he’s a textbook example of lightning in a bottle.
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