Ramblings: Skills Competition, Predictions (Jan. 31)

by Ian Gooding on January 31, 2016

Skills competition highlights, John Scott, plus post-All Star Game predictions

At this point in the day, I’m used to going through the boxscores finding the notable scoring accomplishments of the day. But tonight it’ll have to be a little different. How about some highlights from the skills competition as well as a few second-half predictions later on?

I have to confess that I wasn’t watching the skills competition live because I was watching some six-year-olds play soccer. Yes, I enjoyed that game, and so did the other parents. I’m sure you’ll draw your own conclusions, particularly if you’re not a fan of the skills competition.

I do like to find out who has the hardest shot and who is the fastest skater. It should have been a surprise to no one that Shea Weber had the hardest shot yet again, with a 108.1 mile per hour blast in front of his home fans. The hardest shot competition is below.

But we have a new fastest skater: Dylan Larkin. Like Weber and the hardest shot, Larkin might be winning a few of these titles in his career.

When I saw Larkin play for the first time, the first thing I noticed was his speed. Larkin’s preliminary skate is the first one in the video, while his record-breaking full lap skate starts at around the six-minute mark of the video. His skating style almost appears as though he’s going to trip and fall. He seems to push his boundaries to accelerate and continue to move his feet as he makes very wide turns.

And here’s the breakaway challenge…

Watch P.K. Subban’s “hacky sack” goal at around the four-minute mark, followed by Brent Burns’ son’s shootout goal involving ex-Canuck teammates Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Personally, I liked the Matt Duchene one-handed through the legs goal at around the ten-minute mark. That was something. The Subban “Jaromir Jagr” goal and the Brent Burns “Chewbacca” goal follows the Duchene goal.

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Of course, the most discussed topic of conversation at the game was John Scott. I have to admit, it was strange seeing a guy wearing a generic NHL jersey standing there with the rest of the players and their team jerseys. Kind of like an Olympic athlete without a country competing under the Olympic flag.

Here’s my first prediction, and it’s probably not stepping out on a limb that much: Sunday will be the last time John Scott skates on NHL ice. Never mind that the enforcer is a dying breed, NHL GMs probably don’t want to have anything else to do with Scott after this All-Star voting brouhaha.

I did not vote for Scott, nor was I any part thrilled that he topped the voting. An under-discussed angle to this story was the fact that Scott’s inclusion in the game meant that a more deserving player such as Max Domi or Shane Doan or Henrik Sedin or fill in your own player was not given this opportunity. Let’s not simply assume that they would have turned down the opportunity either. Demetri has that covered in The Contrarian.

When you think about it, many of the same fans that devised this attempt to break the voting system while poking fun at Scott were the same fans that were up in arms later about Scott being traded and possibly not included in the game. That doesn't make any sense, which means that the NHL must eliminate the write-ins on its ballots.

But after reading his Player’s Tribune piece, I’ve gained a whole new respect for Scott. In particular, his reaction of the line the NHL representative used: “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?” Ha. I’d love to tell my children about the time I told someone playing the heavy for a major corporation to go stick it.

In the end, I’m glad Scott decided to experience something that he no doubt won’t ever again. Especially when there are other players who have stated that they’d rather not go (the beloved Jagr comes to mind).

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Okay, on to my predictions now. Some will be player-related; some will be team-related. Let’s look into the crystal ball…

Carey Price will return to action before the end of the season. In an attempt to make the playoffs, the Canadiens will rush him back early. Price’s numbers won’t be what they were pre-injury (although they’ll be better than Mike Condon’s recent numbers), and the Habs will miss the playoffs. I’ll get into my playoff teams a bit later.

John Tavares is a second-half steal. Not even the Islanders’ leading scorer at the moment (Kyle Okposo is), Tavares scored over a point per game (41 points in 36 games) after the All-Star Game last season in a strong push to win the Art Ross Trophy.

Tyler Johnson is also a second-half steal. It’ll cost you more to get Tavares than Johnson. I mentioned Johnson in my Puck Daddy article a few days ago in the sense that he’s not really slumping now, but he’s still not lighting up the league. I’ll predict 21 points over his last 30 games, although that would put him just under 40 points for the season. But watch Johnson fall in drafts next season and be that sneaky value pick.

Speaking of the Lightning, Steven Stamkos will not get traded at the deadline. Steve Yzerman walks from the $10 million that Stamkos wants and he signs elsewhere as a free agent. Yzerman will look smart for not reserving valuable cap space for Stamkos, who is simply a very good player now but no longer an elite one.

By the way, players with more goals than Steven Stamkos at the moment: Mike Hoffman, Tyler Toffoli, and Matt Duchene. Nothing against any of those players, but they were all drafted much lower than Stamkos.

Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis also will not get traded before the deadline, as the Canucks decide to make a playoff run instead. The Canucks fall just short of making the playoffs, though, missing out on adding some prospects to a team that needs to focus on a rebuild.

The Jets trade one of Andrew Ladd or Dustin Byfuglien at the deadline in an attempt to sign the other. The pendulum seems to now be swinging toward Ladd being dealt according to the Winnipeg Sun, which lists Anaheim as a possible destination. But there’s still plenty of time before the deadline.

I’m having a tough time deciding whether Eric Staal will get traded. The Hurricanes should trade him, but does he want to leave Carolina with his brother there? He runs the risk of not being the top-line center for a team that trades for him. But either way, he’s simply not the player that he used to be. He’s on pace for his first sub-50-point season since his rookie season of 2003-04. I’ll take a stand and say no, he’ll stay in Carolina at least until the end of the season.

So yeah, a dull trade deadline. But it seems that this season has lacked many deals.

Patrick Kane runs away with the Art Ross Trophy (not a bold prediction, I know). In spite of slowing down to “just” a point per game and because the Hawks have burned up more games (53) than any other team, Kane finishes the season with 102 points. Yay, a 100-point scorer again after not even having a 90-point scorer last season!

Alex Ovechkin wins the Rocket Richard Trophy. There is the matter of that one game that he will miss after the All-Star Game (Tuesday against Florida). But he turned it up after the All-Star Game last season (26 goals in 35 games). But he’ll fall just short of 50 goals, scoring another 20 to finish with 48. This would be the first sub-50-goal season since Rick Nash won with 41 goals the year before the season-long lockout – the end of the dead puck era.

Just so you can start planning way early for your playoff pool, here are my playoff teams:

Eastern Conference: Washington, Tampa Bay (division winners), Florida, Boston, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, Detroit (last two are wild card teams)

All these teams are over the playoff bar at the moment, but they’ll only swap positions in the standings.

Western Conference: Chicago, Los Angeles (division winners), Dallas, St. Louis, San Jose, Anaheim, Minnesota, Nashville (last two are wild card teams)

Arizona and Colorado will get bumped from the playoff spots they currently hold by Minnesota and Anaheim.

So yeah, that means no Canadian teams in the playoffs. The Stanley Cup Playoffs of America it will be. This will no doubt be the low point for Canadian hockey fans who back whichever Canadian team is left in the playoffs. Yes, it seemed strange that there were Canucks’ fans who were backing Edmonton or Calgary during their trips to the final during the middle part of the last decade. But this is a very real possibility, which could mean that playoff television ratings take a hit in Canada.

Agree or disagree? What else do you see playing out over the remainder of the season?

Enjoy your Sunday. You can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding