At the midway point of the season, a lot of people want to give out grades. Well, due to our busy schedules and the fact that we skipped a podcast, I am going to discuss the teams I think deserve an incomplete and why. So, while all of you are handing out grades, consider these teams for incompletes.
The Ottawa Senators are 11th in the Eastern conference with 50 points. This is a team who had a strong run at the end of last season, and with help from goalie Andrew Hammond, snuck into the playoffs. The team is currently only three points out of a wildcard playoff spot again.
The Senators are a streaky team and I personally don’t think you can insult the team with a C rating. Obviously, Ottawa’s biggest player is defenseman Erik Karlsson and he is living up to it as he leads the team in points with 51 in 48 games played. This man is a beast, and they play him like it too. There have been a few games this season where Karlsson has played over 30 minutes in a game; that’s more than half the game! From a coach’s perspective, it has to be great to have a player who can play at all times.
However, if you look closer, this could be part of the issue. A stat that scares me for this team is Erik Karlsson’s plus-minus rating: it’s only even. This man is responsible for about 40% of Ottawa’s goals, and he’s been on the ice for 51 goals against average. To me this means his partner on D isn’t correct. Now, people will argue that if he would stay home and not play so offensively, or if he would play less, maybe his plus minus would be better. This may be true, but he is also without a doubt their best player. You play the best player as much as possible as long as he can handle it, which Karlsson can.
Now, with the trade deadline around the corner, you have to wonder what trades the Senators might be considering. If I were them, I would be looking for some defensive help, and, more specifically, a partner for Karlsson. Some big names out there for D help would be Kevin Shattenkirk and Travis Hamonic.
To finish with Ottawa, I would tell people not to write them off yet, by any means. They have a lot of winnable games coming up, including my Buffalo Sabres at the end of the month. If their coach can figure out his D-pairs, I would say Ottawa has the ability to go on a run similar to Florida and jump into the division spots.
Not going to lie to you, I have never been a fan of the Canucks, but this team has surprised me a little bit this year. I felt the Canucks would have a rough year, but they are currently 8th in the Western conference with 51 points. They are in the 3rd division spot in the Pacific. Now, we all know the Pacific division is the weakest in the league, but I think it would be wrong to give Vancouver a grade when they have 2 players who have played in all 49 games this season. This stat tells you that nothing is set in Vancouver, and they have had many injury problems this season.
The Sedin twins are leading the way in points, like usual, as Daniel has 43 and Henrik has 37. It seems the twins have started using their twin powers again, and thus have this team in a playoff position. Ryan Miller, the current #1 goalie in Vancouver, just missed 10 games with an injury, and that may not be a lot, but when Jacob Markstrom is your backup, it doesn’t help in the winnable games.
Another advantage Vancouver might have going down the line is their young kids. Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen are kids who will get better with the more games they play. If both of these kids can continue to improve, I feel the Canucks will be in the playoffs, and if Miller can stay healthy, they might be looking at the second division spot.
If I were the GM of Vancouver, I would not be big sellers, but I would be looking for a veteran center to help them in the final push for the playoffs. A name that could come up could be Patrick Marleau, who at the start of the season requested a trade.
Other teams who don’t deserve grades would be the Edmonton oilers, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
These teams all knew they would have a rough year before the midway point. Edmonton lost Connor McDavid early and had the same team as last year. The Sabres weren’t going to go from last to playoffs this soon, as many as some hoped. Toronto fans should know by now the rebuild is in full effect. Toronto should be hoping for Auston Mathews and hope for a Stamkos miracle, but that’s for another post.