Don't Look Now .... But Guess Who Has The Best Record In the NHL East Through The Last 10 Games...
Through the last 10 games the Buffalo Sabres, who are 7-0-3 and have amassed 17 out of 20 possible points, have the best record in the Eastern Conference over the last 10 games. That may not be all that surprising, however what probably is a little surprising is that the New York Islanders who defeated the Sabres 3-2 in a shootout that went 8 rounds have the second best record in the East through the last 10 games with a record of 7-2-1, 15 out of a possible 20 points - 0.750 hockey. Interestingly, the last 10 games through the NHL schedule have essentially begun to "solidify" two intensifying races to the conclusion of the regular season and the playoffs. The first race is among a grouping of four teams: New Jersey (65 points in 46 games), Buffalo (64 points in 46 games), Washington (64 points in 47 games), and Pittsburgh (61 points in 50 games) competing for the top three seeds and spots in the conference. A second grouping of 9 teams: Boston (54 points in 47 games), Ottawa (52 points in 49 games), the New York Rangers (51 points in 48 games), the New York Islanders (50 points in 48 games), Montreal (50 points in 49 games), Philadelphia (49 points in 46 games), Atlanta (49 points in 47 games), Florida (48 points in 48 games), and Tampa Bay (46 points in 47 games); finds itself in a pretty tight race fighting for the final four playoff spots in the Conference.
All of the above along with the fact that out in the Western Conference depending on how you look at things at least 11 and as many as 14 of the 15 teams can be viewed as contending for the eight playoff spots are why last week, when talking to Tariq El Basher of the Washington Post, Washington Capitals General Manager stated: "There aren’t many teams that are out of it, so you might, in years past, have eight or 10 teams you could talk to about players. This year, it might be four or five. It might be slim pickings, so I’m concerned about that." However, the situation shouldn't be all that surprising to any of the NHL's GM, it's a sign that five seasons after the implementation of the salary cap, two inevitable results have occurred and taken hold: A) "parity" and B) the increased value of overall organizational strength/depth and a solid coaching staff. Making matters tougher for GMGM is the Caps have already done a deal with one of the the 4 0r 5 likely trade deadline sellers - Columbus, assuming they have already explored the various potential deals with Columbus, that leaves Toronto, Carolina, and Edmonton for them to be talking to right now. Looking at each of those three teams and their available "rentals" - according to nhlnumbers.com, the Maple Leafs have 8 guys who will be UFA at the end of this season; the Hurricanes have 10 guys who will be UFA in July, and Oilers have 5 guys who will be UFA and Sheldon Souray who has occasionally been the center of some trade rumours from time to time this season.
When I look at those three teams and guesstimate the potential available players who might be the subject of discussion between GMGM and his counterparts here's what I come up with. Toronto - slim pickings as with Mike Green firmly in the fold and turning it up of late, I doubt the Caps will go for any sort of "Tomas Kaberle" sweepstakes, even if the Leafs are thinking about entertaining them. The Leafs have some interesting forwards coming available but given the Caps depth in that area, I don't see them giving anything up for Lee Stempniak, Alexei Ponikarovsky, or Rikard Wallin. Nor do I see any reason the Caps might want to pick up Mike Van Ryn, unless Brian Pothier remains troubled by injuries between now and closer to the deadline; though Garnet Exelby might be someone they'd want to pickup. Carolina has a couple guys of interest though working a deal with a "division rival" generally tends to cost more. Rental services of either Joe Corvo and/or Niclas Wallin has some chance at improving the Caps Blue Line Corps. Up in the list of forwards there are several folks who could help in the way Jason Chimera has though if the offense keeps up the way it has been then GMGM's focus can be pretty much on some blueline assistance. Edmonton brings the possibility of: Mike Comrie, Fernando Pisani, Sheldon Souray, Denis Grebeshkov, and Steve Staios. So as GMGM alludes it's not easy to see how any of these guys really help the Caps get all that much better even though they have the room under the Cap and an ample talent pipeline get any of them. As for the rumoured discussions with Atlanta about Ilya Kovalchuk given the resigning of Alexander Semin, it's hard to figure the Caos would be willing to give up the number and type of prospects Atlanta would likely want for a great guy, but one who would clearly be just a "rental".
Not that anybody asked, these are just my two cents on the subject. Next up the Flyers later today at Verizon. Mike will be using the tickets so I'll be following the game here on CSN HD in Bristow.
LETS GO CAPS!!!