Ramblings: Stamkos a Step Slow, Schneider Excellent, Johansen Inconsistent (Jan. 28)

by Jeff Angus on January 28, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Stamkos a Step Slow, Schneider Excellent, Johansen Inconsistent (Jan. 28)

Ramblings: Angus returns to talk Stamkos, Schneider, Johansen and more.

Greetings DobberHockey!

It has been a while – almost two-and-a-half years, to be exact. A lot has happened in the world of hockey (and in the world in general since that time). I still check in from time to time – Steve does an incredible job with the ramblings – taking what we built to another level.

Since I left DobberHockey in the summer of 2013, I moved to Oregon (Go Ducks) where I studied and received my MBA, graduating in June of 2015. I accepted a position soon after with PlaySight, a really cool and cutting edge sports video and analytics company – primarily focusing on tennis and basketball for now, but hockey is on our radar. We have tennis courts all over the world, including in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver with Tennis Canada. (Go Milos!)

I moved out to New Jersey (something I never thought I’d say) for work last summer, and was lucky enough to check off a bucket list item – attending the US Open Championships. I lived in ‘Dirty Jersey’ for about four months – in that time, I saw the Devils, Rangers, and Islanders play. I don’t follow hockey nearly as much as I used to – I’d say it is equal parts living in the United States (where the gateway to hockey is either Barry Melrose on ESPN or Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire on NBC…) as well as hockey fatigue after covering it so closely for six or seven years.

And as of January, I am now living in beautiful Los Angeles. I have yet to meet Jay and Dan, but I am definitely hard on the trail. I came out here to open PlaySight’s second office (I run the company’s marketing). It would be great to connect with any SoCal readers we have on the site here. I am sure there are at least a few of you!

If you want to get in touch with me, shoot me an e-mail (jeffpangus at gmail dot com). I’m excited to hear from many of my old friends and hope that everybody is doing well.

Anyways, enough about me – let’s get to some hockey. Today’s ramblings will be more general than specific – I simply can’t offer the analysis at that sort of level since I haven’t been following hockey close enough. But I hope to provide some value with more of a general update and some musings on things I have seen recently and over the past few months.

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Of course I have to kick things off with some Canucks coverage, right?

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The Canucks have been up and down this season, which isn’t much of a surprise to anybody who took one look at their roster. I’d actually say they have been over performing in many ways, and lucky that the Sedin twins continue to play at an elite level into their mid-30s.

Ben Hutton is going to be a very solid 30-35-point defenseman in a few years. He plays with a lot of confidence and has a lot of room to grow offensively.

If Dan Hamhuis is able to fetch the Canucks anything of substance at the deadline, it will be based purely on reputation. His play has ranged from terrible to below-average this season, which is completely out of character for one of the most reliable defensemen in the league over the past 10-12 seasons.

Up front, obviously everybody is familiar with Bo Horvat, especially after his strong play in 2016. I’m not completely sold on Jake Virtanen as a player yet – he’s got some nice tools but at 6th overall I’m not sure he has the hockey sense to combine them all together.

It’s still really (really) early, of course. Virtanen reminds me a lot of Chris Kreider – big, really fast, and a great shot, but he doesn’t think the game as fast as he skates. Kreider is a solid player so this isn’t necessarily a bad comparison, but there are some intriguing names that were taken after Virtanen back in 2014.

Ryan Miller is a well below-average goalie who shouldn’t be starting. The fact he makes $6 million a year (a higher cap hit than Roberto Luongo) is criminal. At least Jacob Markstrom has performed well this year, and Vancouver also has Hobey Baker hopeful Thatcher Demko waiting in the wings, too.

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I’m really interested to see what happens with Anton Rodin next year.

“Through watching Rodin a few times this season, he has developed his game to handle that physical play and added an element of escapability to his repertoire. He will find that soft spot in coverage and then bury his chance. If he plays with a player like Jake Virtanen, there may be a match as Virtanen will do the battling, so that Rodin can use his skills to be effective.”

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Steven Stamkos.

(I wrote this before his GWG against his hometown/future team last night.)

I figure there aren’t many more interesting stories in the hockey world right now than with 91 in Tampa Bay. The rumors of an $8.5 million offer from Steve Yzerman created hysteria on both sides of the Stamkos fence, although “embarrassing low ball” seems to be the strongest consensus answer.

For whatever reason (you could easily substitute in the words ‘injury-related’ for the word ‘whatever’), Stamkos has not been nearly as dominant over the past two-and-a-bit seasons. He was arguably not even one of Tampa’s three or four (or five) best forwards during their Cup Final run last year, and he seems to be stuck in first gear this season as well.

For a player that relies on his acceleration, power, and shot so much, he seems to have lost a bit of zip on all three.

Of course it usually takes a season or two for “real play” to catch up to a player’s “reputation” (for better or worse), but Stamkos, today, is not an $8.5 million player in terms of the value he is bringing on the ice. To Tampa Bay he probably is, for reasons off-ice. To other teams around the league, he probably is too.

Stamkos is still young (but not all that young by hockey standards). He has a great work ethic and is notorious for his fitness level and physique. But hockey isn’t played in a gym, and his overall game has diminished significantly. It’s very troubling, and there’s a reason that the Lightning began negotiations at $8.5 million per. Are they willing to go higher? You bet – it is negotiation 101. But if Stamkos wants a deal at $10 million per (or more), he’ll likely be playing somewhere else next year.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn’t been stellar this year, although he did have a good game last night. I still think he has the skill and potential to be a top two or three goalie in the NHL in a few years.

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Great piece on one of the best young players in hockey:

Speaking of Larkin… does he remind anybody else of a former Red Wing forward? Not the biggest, not the fastest, but really smooth and smart with and without the puck.

And according to those “in the know” he has future captain written all over him, too.

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Gary Bettman: Seattle would be an intriguing market for the NHL.

I agree Gary. There are a surprising number of hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest (maybe not surprising considering the WHL success in Washington State and Oregon).

The NHL is not fast to move on any expansion teams right now, and I am sure that the awful Canadian dollar won’t exactly expedite any potential movement in Quebec City.

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As mentioned above, I saw a lot of the New York/New Jersey teams during my East Coast living. Here are some quick hits.

Islanders

Keeper/one-year leagues, I’d be doing everything in my power to buy low on John Tavares. He can control a hockey game like few others, but he just isn’t finding the scoresheet right now.

The Islanders are only a few pieces away from winning a Cup. They have depth, great skaters, size, and a solid mix of goal scorers and playmakers. Jaroslav Halak has obviously gotten hot and carried a team deep into the postseason before… but I think they need at least one more defenseman to make some noise in the East.

Among fans inside an arena at a game, I don’t think I have encountered a player more polarizing on his own fan base than Josh Bailey. There was an unofficial Bailey fan club in the row behind me, but everybody else was on him all game long.

Whatever I wrote about Bailey three years ago is still relevant today – solid player in a depth role on a team that doesn’t need to rely on him for production every night (or anything else on most nights).

Devils

Horvat better keep up his strong play this season and beyond, as the argument could be made that Cory Schneider is the best goalie in hockey.

Eric Gelinas isn’t going to turn into the player that I had hoped for a few years ago. His game has never really evolved beyond his hard point shot, and other teams now know this.

Rangers

What should the Rangers do with their back end? One of Dan Girardi or Marc Staal may have to go to clear some space for the younger guys that need some new deals soon.

Rick Nash isn’t scoring as much as usual this season, but he’s arguably been just as effective.

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I may be living in LA now, but there is no chance I will become a Kings fan any time soon. I’m heading to a Kings/Ducks game next month and am leaning towards cheering for the Sharks.

Kidding aside, the Kings in 2015-16 may be better than either of the previous two Cup-winning teams. Deep up front, arguably the best center in hockey, the best defenseman in hockey, and a goalie who can turn his game up three notches come March through June.

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Sticking with California hockey – does anybody have faith in David Perron as a legitimate fantasy threat any more? What happened?

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Oilers fans… is Cam Talbot the goalie of the future? His new contract certainly says “yes.”

“If Talbot's new deal were to begin today, he'd rank 24th among goalies league-wide in terms of compensation, which seems about right, just ahead of Jonathan Bernier and his $4.15 million contract. If he can provide the Oilers with the kind of bottom-third starter play that his even-strength numbers suggest, that's probably fair value. 

If he's a legitimate starting goalie, Edmonton wins this deal comfortably for the next three years. If his even-strength numbers this year are a sign of what is to come, Edmonton loses this deal badly. Right now, all we can really say is that this deal isn't a discount and carries some risk but also has a chance of paying off.”

Of course Edmonton’s issues run a lot deeper than goaltending. Talbot has been both great and awful this year, but until the team has some stability and continuity on the back end, it won’t really matter who they put in between the pipes.

Defense is the issue in Edmonton. It was the issue last year. It was the issue five years ago. The Oilers are perfect case study of the importance of defense – keeping pucks out of their own net and enabling forwards to put pucks in the opposing one.

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson would likely be regarded as the best defenseman in hockey if he played somewhere other than Arizona. He doesn’t have Weber’s physical presence, Karlsson’s flash, or the swagger of Subban or Doughty, but he combines it all to play at an extremely high level.

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Columbus will emerge as the winner in the Jones-for-Johansen swap in the long run. Ryan Johansen is an impressive player, but I see more Eric Daze than Jamie Benn in his game (minus the injuries, of course). He was plagued by the same issues in junior – his switch would get stuck in “off” too much for a player of his caliber.

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This is easy advice, and it used to win be a lot of pools. Sell high on players outperforming their career numbers, and buy low on players off their usual pace. This is such obvious advice that is always overlooked.

Now may be the time to see if Ryan Kesler is still available in any one-year leagues….

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I told Darryl when we touched bases that he donate whatever he would have paid for the ramblings tonight to Hockey Fights Cancer. After having witnessed very closely what a shitty disease cancer is over the past few years, I’d encourage those of you who have also been affected by cancer to do the same. Let’s do some good today, DobberHockey!