Hockey

Well, you can’t say things aren’t at least getting interesting over on West Madison lately. After nothing but radio silence regarding the status of top prospect and A New Hope for the future Lukas Reichel was suddenly promoted to The Show on Wednesday. After initially saying he’d only be on the taxi squad, Coach King relented and tossed him in the lineup last night. What resulted was nothing spectacular, but also was not awful either.

How long he’ll be up on the main roster is unknown at this point, but I would hazard a guess that if he acclimates quickly and shows he belongs, the Hawks brass will be hard pressed to come up with an excuse to banish him back to Rockford. At least for the time being we have something to watch that might potentially be here in 3 years.

 

1/15 Vs. Ducks

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Emilio Estevez Is A Moron: Anaheim Calling

 

Up until about 10 days ago, the Ducks were (somehow) the best team in what is admittedly a very barren Pacific Division in the Western Conference. How they got to that point nobody knows, but even after getting passed up by Vegas the meltdown everyone assumed was forthcoming has not shown. Part of the Ducks success has been their uncanny ability to make it into OT and secure the extra point before losing. They lead the entire Western Conference with the Loser Point with a whopping 7 of them thus far. To put that into perspective, they only garnered 9 OT loss points in the entirety of the 2019 season, so they’re on pace to blow that record out of the water.

The Ducks have very few familiar faces these days, other than Ryan Getzlaf’s giant one. The turnover on the front end has been what you would expect from a team that’s been sitting in the basement of the West the past 5 years. Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras lead the team in scoring, both high picks of the Ducks in the last few drafts. Columbus castoff Sonny Milano and his glorious hair seemingly has finally put it together after never living up to his 1st round pedigree in the O-H-I-O. The Hawks luck out, as two of Anaheim’s more dangerous forwards in Rickard Rakell and (to a lesser extent) Jakob Silfverberg will most likely miss Saturday’s tilt as Rakell hurt his shoulder during an awkward collision into the boards and Silfverberg’s got the Rona.

John Gibson is still here, and he’s about as exciting as white bread covered in mayo with his 2.64 GAA and .917 save percentage that is somehow good enough to get picked for the NHL All Star Game. Where he DOES stand out is when the Ducks are on the PK, which is the 3rd best in the league at suppressing shots. A lot of that comes from their very mobile defense, which denies zone entries with some of the best in the league. With the Hawks PP sinking further and further to the bottom of the league, the ability of the Ducks to flip the ice looms large.

 

1/17 @ Seattle

Game Time: 4:00 PM CST (Seriously)

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Johnny Depp Sucks: Davy Jones Locker Room

 

One of the few teams actually statistically worse than the Hawks, the Kraken are nevertheless providing some entertainment for their new fans in the Pacific Northwest. Jordan Eberle leads the team in points, which is somewhat impressive given his role as a #2 scorer for every team he’s ever been on. To be fair, some of that is due to the fact that Connor McDavid and later John Tavares were on his teams. He’s an excellent skater, and is able to create a shot for himself (which he needs to do quite a bit on this team). He’s also 31, which while not exactly young anymore is not so old that he can’t be the face of the franchise for the next few years while they attempt to cash in on all their draft picks.

On the back end they have…uhhh…Mark Giordano? And some other guys? Their goaltending is pretty terrible as well, with both Phillip Grubauer and Chris Driedger having GAAs over 3.30. The Kraken are pretty much what one would expect an expansion team to be, making Vegas truly the exception that proves the rule. They don’t do anything well, except play with a chip on their shoulder which can make them dangerous on any given night. Their fans are loud (mostly because they’re Seahawks fans which makes them insane criminals), and just happy to have a team. So they’ll probably drop 6 on the Hawks and toss the team bus into the Puget Sound.

Everything Else

The Lighthouse Project may be dead, but LighthouseHockey.com lives on. Dominik is their maven, and he joins us today to fill in on the blue and orange. 

The Islanders sit atop the Metro. In your wildest dreams did you think anyone would say that this year?

At no point did I expect the Islanders could say in 2018-19 they are in first place in the Metro. I don’t expect it to last, but I am now convinced they should be a playoff team, and one others won’t want to face.

Brock Nelson and Anders Lee are both free agents after the year. If things had gone as expected they might have been trade bait. Are they both getting extended now?

I think everyone has long expected Lee would be extended, at least from the point where they named him captain. He’s a risk because he’s a big body heading into his 30s, but he’s also someone who has continually improved his game rather than peaked and declined. And obviously, he’s not someone who needed Tavares to set the table for him. He’ll get a deal that is probably a little uncomfortably long, but not in an Andrew Ladd way.
Nelson is more uncertain. I expected him to be trade bait, but Trotz has taken a liking to him, cracking the code that long frustrated Islanders fans. (Nelson seemed like yet another drafted center who ended up at wing, yet Trotz has found a way to make him productive at center.) The Islanders are also fairly thin at center in their system, which gives Nelson leverage. And Nelson has taken them to the wire on the previous two RFA extensions, including accepting a one-year deal to bet on himself last summer. So he won’t be traded, but how the rest of this spring plays out will determine whether both sides can feel good about the other’s terms.
Jordan Eberle is UFA too, and while it’s hard to see all three being retained, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be selling any rentals.

Help us with something. It’s easy to attribute the Isles surprise run to Barry Trotz being a really good coach. They are best in the league in goals against. But every other metric against–attempts, shots, scoring chances–has them middle of the pack at best. While that’s a massive improvement from last year, isn’t this just having two goalies playing really well?

On their surprising standing: No, it’s because Barry Trotz is a really good coach. The goaltending has been great — and certainly they were key to banking wins early on when those other metrics looked pretty bad. But look at the metrics after the first month of the season and a different story emerges, certainly a legit top-10 team right now. So Trotz did what he always does, locking down on defense first and then building from there. That organization and predictability has helped Greiss and Lehner, who both always had real talent, rediscover their games.
You remember how frustrating Trtoz’s Nashville teams were even when they had no talent? Well the Islanders have become like that — organized, robotic, suffocating — except they do have some talent on top of it. It’s fun to watch in a gawk-at-this-experiment kind of way. Finally calling up Devon Toews and using him regularly has helped, but Toews is one of several examples of decent talent finally organized and channeled into the right place.
Hell, Trotz has even figured out how to make a functioning team out of a roster that added Matt Martin, Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula (and extending Ross Johnston for four years) over the summer — a gluttonous helping of bottom-six acquisitions even Trotz admitted he wasn’t sure about until Lou “made the case.” Basically those guys are all still what they are, but under Trotz they have a role and are playing to their ceilings. I’m sure it’s helped that collectively the team has a post-Tavares chip on their shoulders. As we see so often in this sport, it’s easy for everyone to stay on the same page and do all the necessary but less sexy grunt work game after game when the perceived common enemy is outside the room.

Before the season it was thought the Isles would be something of a project. Is their current standing going to see them make a deal or two that might be considered short-sighted down the road?

As for the trade deadline, I have no idea what Lou will do, and it doesn’t seem like anyone ever does since he keeps a tight-sealed ship. But it’s even harder to figure now because this is Third Life Lou. In a lot of ways he’s the old ’90s GM with old-school ways and archaic priorities (e.g. no facial hair or high number because I said so), so I’d fear him adding some Grinding Veteran With Winning Experience. But in other ways he appears to have adapted at least a bit to the post-post-lockout-cubed NHL, and is realistically evaluating the team. Meanwhile, Trotz thinks they’re still a year away from being ready to contend and their lineup has been stable…so short-sighted moves seem unlikely.

 

 

Game #51 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Dan Saraceni is one-half of the editing team at LightHouseHockey.com. You can follow him on Twitter @CultureOfLosing. 

After losing Tavares, the Isles are somehow hanging around a playoff spot in the East. How and why? 
 I’d like to just write, “TROTZ” but it’s a little more complex than that. Yes, having a coach who actually knows what he’s doing makes a big difference. And after three straight coaches getting their feet wet in the NHL (two with AHL experience, one just as an NHL assistant), having a guy show up with a defined game plan and a crew that’s worked for 20+ years and a Stanley Cup changes a lot of things. There’s way less headless chicken action going on out there and everyone seems to be on the same page regardless of skill level (or lack thereof). The goalies have also been lights out, which can be traced back to better defensive play and – again – coaches like Mitch Korn and Piero Greco that actually have a clue. Whether they actually make the playoffs is still up in the air, but playing like an actual NHL team and not beer league walk-ons has been fun so far.
Is Jordan Eberle playing himself into being actually affordable in the summer for the Isles? Or is he still going to do one?
Eberle is hurt right now, and Josh Ho-Sang has been more than holding his own in Eberle’s spot on the second line. I don’t know if we know why he’s been so unproductive this season, but it’s not really the way you want to go into a UFA year. Between him and the Islanders’ other UFAs (steady captain Anders Lee and the suddenly awakened Brock Nelson), Eberle is easily the odd man out and could be a rental for someone at the deadline. He’ll be coming off a $6 million a year contract from the Oilers, so I don’t know if he’ll come cheap to whoever signs him. If he somehow loves Long Island, maybe he’ll stay but it’s probably not happening.
What on Earth has happened to Nick Leddy? Only 11 points and his metrics smell worse than a skunk on a hot day.
This is from October by our LHH colleague Cary: https://www.lighthousehockey.com/2018/10/23/18014512/nick-leddy-analysis-islanders-slump. Although he’s looked better lately, Leddy’s problems stretch back to the middle of last season, and no one’s sure what happened. It’s frustrating watching a guy who can skate that smoothly and carry the puck well do jack shit with it (especially on the power play. Maybe some guys just aren’t made to be quarterbacks). Maybe he’s trying to do too much or getting too caught up in the defensive aspects of Trotz’s system, but the points just aren’t coming for him and it’s a problem that (so far) the Islanders have managed to overcome. Again, he’s looked okay lately, but when you’re winning, everything looks okay.
Does Lou Lamoriello really provide any hope for Islanders fans or is he the dinosaur we think he is?
Lou provides hope that the New York Islanders can be run like an actual, adult NHL franchise for the first time in a generation. Yes, he’s old as shit and his various rules are largely stupid (ask Dom!). But after years of out-of-the-box thinking, it’s been refreshing to see the Islanders think within the box for a change. Like hiring people to do jobs that most NHL teams have and making changes when stuff isn’t working. That might be a low bar to clear, but it’s something the Islanders haven’t been able to do in quite some time. Any GM is only as good as his last deal, but so far, having Lou looking over everyone’s shoulders has been good for the franchise.

 

Game #43 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Before the season, Jordan Eberle probably had every reason to be excited. After this campaign, he would be an unrestricted free agent for the first time. And while he’s never quite proven to be the top line talent he has flashed at various times, players who consistently put up 60+ points can expect to make $6 or $7 million or more. That’s what Eberle makes now, so he was probably dreaming of a raise on what will be his last big contract.

And in 35 games he’s not even averaging a half-point per game. Whoops!

We’ve always thought Eberle was something of a luxury player. If you had everything else in place or thereabouts, you could afford to have Eberle weaving his pretty patterns on your top six without requiring him to do much dirty work. Because he’s always been on a team that has never been close to having everything, he’s always disappointed just a touch. Even with all those points.

He seems the idealized Kris Versteeg, at least in Versteeg’s mind. Though Steeger never minded doing the defensive work and could be trusted with a specific assignment. You get more skill with Eberle and the ability to produce something out of nothing, but you don’t get the defensive side. So it leads one to wonder why anyone should give a shit.

Eberle has only been in the playoffs once, and while it’s never entirely fair to blame one player for that, especially a winger, Eberle has always been in a top six. So he’s supposed to be making a difference. And you can’t really argue he ever has. And with his big chance to convince teams otherwise that will have open checkbooks in July, he’s got seven goals.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

 

Game #43 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Once again, almost all of the talk about the New York Islanders won’t have much to do with what goes on on the ice. There’s going to be tons of stories about where they’re going to move, because clearly sticking in Brooklyn isn’t going to work (who knew a building built for basketball wouldn’t attract a fanbase that is still mostly based an hour away, nor could they generate a following amongst Brooklyn residents who are more concerned with finding a vinyl copy of that album with the girl who plays a theremin with cat). When it’s not that, it’ll be whether they’re trading John Tavares or where he might go as a free agent if they don’t. Or if he’ll stay (he won’t). And sadly for the twelve Islanders fans that are left, the product on the ice isn’t likely to be nearly enough to distract from all of this.

New York Islanders

’16-’17 Record: 41-29-12  94 points  (5th in Metro)

Team Stats 5v5: 47.7 CF% (28th)  49.0 SF% (22nd)  46.0 SCF% (29th)  8.8 SH% (3rd)  .918 SV% (24th)

Special Teams: 14.9 PP% (28th)  81.9 PK% (11th)

Everything Else

250px-Ozymandias at ball-of-oil

Game Time: 8:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Rear View Mirror: OilersNation

blackhawks-lineup-card

oilers-lineup-card

The times, they are a-changing in Edmonton. They’ve got a fancy new building wherein the lights are actually at full power and the benches are on the proper side of the ice, even if that ice is not as fast or as high a quality as that at Northlands/SkyReach/Rexall (sky point). They’re even trying the novel concept of having the puck more than the other team, which so far has yielded positive, if modest results.