James Tanner: Plus/Minus: Flyers, Leafs, Springsteen, Coyotes etc.


Follow @james_tanner123 Since +/- is the NHL’s worst stat, I thought it would make sense to appropriate it and make it useful as we review the best and worst of the past week in the NHL. MINUS: It pains me to once again kick this column off with a minus for the Coyotes, but they are bad bordering on pathetic.

They sit 14 points out of a playoff spot. They have not won a game in a month against anyone but the Oilers, and they have lost nine in a row in games in which Edmonton has not been their opponent. PLUS:The Coyotes have been labeled by Dreger and Lebrun as the NHL’s most active on the trade market, currently. This is good news because the team seems ready to embrace the rebuild they probably would have embraced at last season’s trade deadline if they played in any other market in the league.

Better news: A team with OEL, Stone, Gormley, Murphy, Domi, Samuelsson, Reider, Perlini, Lessio, Gaudett, Daphin and Visnintin isn’t going to have to rebuild for long.

The Coyotes have one of the better groups young players in the NHL and although not all of those guys will make it, just the fact that they will have OEL and Gormley on the back-end for the next decade is enough to make you optimistic. Add in the fact that they are likely to add a franchise quality player in the draft this summer and it’s real easy to get pumped about this team’s future.

But please, for the love of all things precious and holy, can you stop running Martin Erat out there night after night? PLUS:Kopitar. What’d he have, like 17 points this week? Yowzer. Did I only bring that up so I could use that hilarious picture of him? Maybe. MINUS: To Nintendo. I want a Wii U and I’d be willing to talk about how fun it is to play it, in this column, every once in a while. So far, I’m still waiting. I mean, they cost, what? $400? Which means when they comp them it’s like 50% and I could easily provide good value on the advertising dollar for that. PLUS: To the Oilers for being patient – at least so far – in player moves. It might look bad right now, and one or two of their core players are bound to eventually get moved. Regardless, a lineup of Hall, RNH, Eberle, Draisiatl, Yakupov, Klefbom, Shultz, Petry, Nurse is one day going to be unbelievably awesome.

You can’t win in the NHL without a real top pairing D, a real NHL goalie and two good centres. So, surprise, the Oilers can’t win. However, they aren’t losing because Taylor Hall brings a “bad culture” to the team and anyone who things that’s the reason is a joke.

So relax, lose for another four months then add a franchise player to your team. And use the rest of this season and the summer to get at least one current top-pairing defenseman and a goalie who is capable. MINUS:To me, for writing my Best of 014 two weeks early and missing out on declaring this the goal of the year:

Simply incredible. PLUS:To all the people who “don’t watch the games” who looked at the standing this morning and resisted the urge to say ‘I told you so,’ especially in light of how classy some people were when we told you so. MINUS:To me for making so many bad predictions, but still wasting your time by offering up this final prediction of 2014: Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado are going to replace Winnipeg, Vancouver and San Jose in the Playoffs before the season is through. MINUS:To the Leafs, who, despite going on an improbable win streak, allow 34 shots per game and continue to make bizzarro roster decisions. Sitting Jake Gardiner, a player who generally drives possession, in favour of NON NHL player Kolbinian Holzer is a move so stupid as to defy belief.

I could see if the team had options or whatever, but that isn’t an option. Furthermore, I believe playing and not sitting is the best way to get players through rough spots. I don’t think sitting a guy out of the lineup is any more effective than teaching kids by hitting them. MINUS: To the Leafs for dressing Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak a combined 44 minutes last night. Add in Holzers 15 and you have half of the 120 minutes you allot to defensmen each night used up by three of the worst players in the NHL. PLUS:To OEL, not generally known for his physical play, for nailing Gaborik last night with a heavy, clean hit that almost knocked him out. Unfortunately, Gaborik got an assist on the play, but what are you gonna do?

OEL, despite what some have criticized as a “slow start” is actually playing pretty great this year. His seven goals and 15 points do not tell the whole story. He has a CF% of 50.8, which, considering he’s on one of the worst teams in hockey, is pretty great. Nearly every player on the Coyotes gets better when he’s on the ice and his PDO is is 96.3, meaning he’s been very unlucky and that the goalies have done horribly when he’s on the ice.

Overall, OEL continues to be the one the NHL’s least appreciated star players.

* ALL STATS: http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/ MINUS: Dave Tippett. OEL and Yandle have only played nine minutes of even-strength hockey together all season. What could be the NHL’s premier pairing and he doesn’t even try it. I mean, what do you have to lose? You’re eliminated from the playoffs. Yandle is probably going to be traded (although it if it’s not for a huge, huge package they should resign him, if possible) so why not do it?

Honestly, it floors me that Tippett doesn’t experiment more at this point. It’s not working, why not mix it up? PLUS: I basically hate Christmas music, but this is my all-time favorite Christmas song. I’ll even play this song in the summer, it’s good even in other seasons. MINUS:No Fred Clause 2. What the hell is with that? MINUS:The whole “poor Dallas Eakins” narrative. I know the Oilers never gave him a team that could really compete, but he failed to utilize Nail Yakupov, and he failed to get a power-play with that much talent off the ground. He made weird roster decisions and his team was garbage. Yeah, the management team didn’t help him out much, but to absolve him of blame means you haven’t been paying attention. PLUS: With the Flyers’ Jacob Voracek taking the NHL scoring lead last night, it’s worth revisiting the Carter and Richards trades. The Flyers got Sean Couturier , Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn plus a couple of other picks. That’s a pretty insane haul when you think about it. With the possible exception of Schenn, you wouldn’t trade any one of those guys straight up for Jeff Carter today, let alone Richards. MINUS: Dion’s mustache. PLUS:That Calgary goal into their own net on the delayed penalty. Love to see that. PLUS: Maybe this is the greatest Christmas song.

Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas.