Last Night’s News 📰
MAC IS BACK: After missing the past eight games with a lower-body injury, Nathan MacKinnon is expected to return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the Avs have hardly missed their superstar teammate, going 7-1 in his absence, getting a three-time Hart Trophy finalist back can’t be a bad thing!
FRANCHISE MILESTONE: For the fourth time in NHL history, a team reached the 3,000-win mark in franchise existence. The Detroit Red Wings held on for a 2-1 win on Tuesday night to join the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and Toronto Maple Leafs in the exclusive club. Only the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Philadelphia Flyers have more than 2,000 wins.
FILIP 4s-BERG: Tuesday was a night to remember for Filip Forsberg, as the Nashville Predators winger scored four goals and recorded his 400th career point. Forsberg has 10 goals and five assists on the season, with nine of his 15 points coming in the last five games.
FIVE FOR BITING: Brendan Lemieux received a five-game suspension on Tuesday for biting Brady Tkachuk over the weekend when the Ottawa Senators visited the Los Angeles Kings. Lemieux will be without pay during the suspension and his $38,750 in forfeited salary will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Is He Worth It?
On Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils announced they’ve extended Jack Hughes to an eight-year contract worth an $8 million average annual value (AAV). For a player that had a career-high of 31 points last season—prorated to 45 points over 82 games—it may come across as surprising. Was it worth it to lock down a player before he has unlocked his full potential? Let’s try and answer that question right now.
Upside To This Deal
There is a lot to like about Hughes’ game, from his dynamic skill and puck handling abilities to his deceptive speed in transition. Here is a look at his overtime winner against the Chicago Blackhawks from earlier this season, where he cut across the middle of the ice and deked past Kevin Lankinen to put it home.
On the analytical side of this, Hughes has some of the best underlying metrics in the league. Looking at his transition numbers, he is in the 100th percentile in zone entries from the 2020-21 NHL season, meaning he was the best in the league in that category. He also ranks in the 96th percentile in completing passes around the slot and in the 99th percentile in generating takeaways.
Downside To This Deal
As mentioned above, Hughes has terrific potential because of his underlying numbers, but he has yet to produce or finish at an elite level. This contract is reminiscent of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013. Nugent-Hopkins signed a seven-year deal worth $6 million AAV and was constantly criticized by the Oilers fanbase about how he wasn’t worth it.
At the end of the day, there are more positives than negatives to this contract, and Devils fans can enjoy the fact that Hughes will be on the team until he is 29 years old.
Down, Not Out
It is common knowledge that hockey fans and media use the American Thanksgiving benchmark as an indicator of which teams will be playoff-bound in the spring. In normal circumstances, the teams that are in will most likely remain, while the teams on the outside will probably not see the postseason. Like most things in life, there are exceptions to this rule, including the St. Louis Blues during the 2018-19 season and, more recently, the Montreal Canadiens. Therefore, we rounded up some teams who are on the outside and have a chance of jumping into the playoff picture this spring.
New York Islanders
It’s no secret the Islanders have struggled this season. They began the campaign on a 13-game road trip, and have yet to win in their new arena. Even with a points percentage of .353, this team should not yet be counted out. New York made it to the Eastern Conference Final the past two seasons, and if anyone can turn this ship around, it’s Barry Trotz.
Los Angeles Kings
Approaching this season, the Kings were considered a potential dark horse. So far the team has been average at best, with a record of 9-8-4, as they have been battling some early season injuries, including Drew Doughty only appearing in four games. When fully healthy, they will be the team to watch in a very interesting Pacific Division.
New Jersey Devils
Even with their impressive offseason acquisitions, most expected the Devils to miss the postseason. They are currently only three points out of a wild card spot and after 20 games, have fans questioning if the playoffs are a real possibility. When the team is on, they look like they can beat just about anyone, and if the Devils can learn to play a consistent game, the rest of the league better watch out.
Seat’s Getting Hot!
Thanksgiving is behind us, which, as we’ve been told ad nauseam, means that early NHL trends have taken hold and are statistically more likely to remain meaningful the rest of the way. Couple that with considerable disenchantment from certain fan bases (hi Vancouver!) and you’ve got a pretty good recipe for coaches who might be on the hot seat!
This season, we’ve seen Joel Quenneville resign from the Florida Panthers over his role in the Kyle Beach sexual abuse scandal and Jeremy Colliton fired by the Chicago Blackhawks after the club’s slow start. More could be on the way, like these guys, for example.
The head coach of the Montreal Canadiens remains in the aftermath of wholesale changes to the club’s front office, but for how long? You’d have to figure that new Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton and a Marc Bergevin replacement-to-be-named may want to bring in their own guy. Habs owner Geoff Molson didn’t exactly inspire confidence when he said of Ducharme, “As far as I know he is the coach, and he is staying there.”
Ask any Canucks fan, and they’re likely to tell you that it’s actually GM Jim Benning who’s to blame for the club’s current standing in the basement of the Pacific Division. Unfortunately for the well-liked Green, a change at the top typically signals a subsequent move behind the bench. Plus, it’s not like the fourth-year coach is getting the most out of his stars.
Montreal isn’t the only franchise in disarray after recently reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The Dallas Stars, already sporting two losses to the Ottawa Senators, have needed a five-game win streak just to get back into the mix in the Central Division. Their current streak might help grant Bowness a stay of execution, but another lapse could spell trouble for the NHL lifer.
For all the struggling teams we’ve discussed, no organization has underwhelmed to date as dramatically as the New York Islanders, a disappointment underscored by their humiliating 0-4 start to open UBS Arena. It’s hard to imagine a coach as respected as the two-time Jack Adams Award winner getting axed mid-season, but it’s equally hard to fathom the current plight of the Cup-contending Isles.