Welcome to another edition of the Hockeybuzz hotstove.
In this one we’ll be sharing our biggest surprises of the season thus far. Todd Cordell: Nashville
The biggest surprise for me this year has to be Nashville. I thought they’d contend for a playoff spot, but early on they’ve been one of the best teams in all of hockey, and their underlying numbers suggest that probably won’t change.
I really liked the hiring of Peter Laviolette and thought his up-tempo system fit in perfectly with the personnel they have – especially on defense – in Seth Jones, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, etc. but I didn’t expect it to work out this well.
Will they win the Central? I’m not sure I’d go that far just yet, but I do think they’ll make the playoffs comfortably. Ryan Wilson: Calgary Flames
Hard to argue with this one. I don’t think many people had Calgary consistently winning games to start the season. They are the third worst possession team in the league so unless they can sustain an extremely high PDO I don’t expect it to continue, but for now it has to be pretty exciting in Calgary.
Colorado pulled off the poor possession high PDO tight rope walk last year so it has been done before. Tim Chiasson: Nashville Predators
The biggest surprise has to be Nashville who has been an absolute power in the Western Conference this year. If the games played were evened-up they could be leading the entire NHL.
Peter Laviolette has done a great job with this team but no one could have expected the results that the Predators have so far this season.
Filip Forsberg is flying and reminds Washington with every game how plays how bad that trade was. Pekka Rinne is playing lights out and is the quarter-mark Vezina favorite. There’s just so much to like about the Nashville Predators so far this year and nobody predicted it. Matt Henderson: Jakub Voracek
I guess my biggest surprise this year has been Jakub Voracek. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t know he was good before, I did. As an Oiler fan it was always interesting to see how he was doing vs how Gagner was doing and he surpassed the ex-Oiler’s production a few years ago. That said, his career high was 62 points and he’s on pace to almost double that. He has to slow down at some point, I’m sure, but what a wonderful season he’s having. His traditional stat line is almost identical to Sidney Crosby’s. That’s crazy. Good for him. Special mention on this subject goes to Giordano in Calgary. Adam French
My biggest surprise is a tie between the emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko and sheer apathy of the Oilers.
1. I always knew Tarasenko would be a star one day. Watching him in the KHL and international tournaments you could see he had it in him to be special. There were and have been flashier Russian forwards on his teams (Kuznetsov, Filatov, Petrov and Kabanov), but his game always stood out for his consistent effort, while the others were always mired with inconsistencies. It may have taken two years to really get used to the NHL style, but he’s learned it and he’s elite. It’s insane how one single player can get 7 prime scoring chances a game out of virtually nothing and set up 4 or 5 at the same time. He’s just on another level. Hell, I think there should be some Hart consideration here. His 91 shots are 5th in the NHL, but I’m sure if somebody took the time to look at each individually you will find about 83 of them are threatening and not just “Jason Blake” style blue line lobs. When I wrote about him I took a lot of flack for saying how underrated he is defensively in the KHL and how he was bordering on being excellent. Mainly because he’s a Russian ergo, terrible, lazy and one-dimensional. Blues fans know the truth, he gives it his all, all over the ice. Glad he’s finally broken through and don’t you feel silly GM’s who passed on him because of “the Russian factor.” Sometimes…risks are worth it.
2. The utter despair of the Oilers. I’m genuinely shocked. Unlike a lot of writers who were desperate to write them into playoff contention, I still felt they were one of the worse teams in the conference. Signing a bunch of 5-6 defenders to big contracts and inconsistent big wingers wasn’t doing it for me in the disgustingly brutal West. Yet I didn’t think they were this bad, I don’t think anybody did. It’s frightening. I just finished watching the Arizona game and it was pathetic. Junior teams have more structure, more awareness, more…brains? I’ve never liked Dallas Eakins as a coach, in the NHL or AHL, I’ve listed my reasons before so I’ll spare you the diatribe. But I can’t even fault him for this. He’s either the best coach in the world for teaching his players a system and style that is the worst defensively and attentively in the NHL or his players have just gone insane. I like to talk to the Oilers fans on this site, they’re some of the more lovable nuts on here, but they’re being drained, these are the hardcores and diehards and they’re close to done. Where once lay hope, now only cynicism and disbelief. I don’t know how to fix this mess, but they have to do something. As amazing as it might be to get McDavid or Eichel, and even if that is the beginning of righting this ship, hardcore fans won’t be there. Like Columbus and Atlanta of old…it might be time to trade the face of the franchise. James Tanner: Edmonton Oilers
I think there have been a few good surprises, but I don’t know if there’s an obvious one, so here are a few:
The Oilers. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought they were going to be a playoff team and last place is really surprising. Their team has talent, they souped up the bottom end of their roster, I thought Fasth would help in net and I really thought a team with that much talent would do better. They actually are better, a little, but the results haven’t been there.
The emergence of Tarasenko. I knew he was good, but he’s been outstanding so far. I’d add his centre Jori Lehtera too.
The Leafs keeping pace with Boston, Detroit keeping pace with Tampa, Buffalo being only fourth last, the Flyers being a point ahead of Buffalo and the Coytoes – I am probably the only one surprised! – all but eliminated by Thanksgiving. Recent posts What is the Oilers’ biggest problem? Was Jason Spezza’s extension a good one for Dallas? Will the Flames make the playoffs? Will the Blue Jackets make the playoffs? Best line in the NHL this year?