NHL: The Weekend Update: Jets Struggle; Drouin Wants Out; Panthers Success

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By: Rossy Pasternak

Here on SportsNak, we will be doing weekly updated power rankings, with features about three teams each week. The season is now in full swing, and things are starting to heat up in the NHL. These rankings are not only based on the standings, but also the level of team play. All stats are taken from NHL.com. (GD stands for goal differential, the difference between goals scored and goals against)

The Bottom Feeders (30-21):

30. Buffalo Sabres (15-20-4, 34 pts, -14 GD)

29. Columbus Blue Jackets (15-22-3, 22 pts, -24 GD)

28. Edmonton Oilers (16-21-3, 35 pts, -21 GD)

27. Philadelphia Flyers (15-15-7, 37 pts, -23 GD)

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-15-7, 37 pts, -4 GD)

25. Carolina Hurricanes (16-17-6, 38 pts, -18 GD)

24. Anaheim Ducks (15-15-7, 37 pts, -20 GD)

23. San Jose Sharks (18-17-2, 38 pts, -5 GD)

22. Calgary Flames (18-18-2, 38 pts, -20 GD)

21. Winnipeg Jets (18-18-2, 38 pts, -7 GD)

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Credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

The Winnipeg Jets were once a team that I thought were for sure going to make the playoffs, and a team I was thinking of as a dark-horse Stanley Cup contender. The Jets have a nice mix of young players like Nikolaj Ehlers, and veterans like Andrew Ladd. Coach Paul Maurice has a Cup on his resume, and has a team that I think is capable of making a run. The Jets have one major problem however, and that problem is their goaltending. The two-goalie system Maurice is going with – with Michael Hutchison and Ondrej Pavelec splitting time – is just not working. Both goalies have a .906 Sv%, and GAA in the 2.80-2.90 range. For a team with playoff aspirations, this is not nearly good enough. Last year, the Jets rode their much improved goaltending, their outstanding home-ice advantage, and their team game to the playoffs. This year, the team is not playing as well together. When the offence is working, the defence fails, when the defence is on top of their game, the offence lets them down, and when both are finally on the same page, the goaltending struggles. If Maurice and the Jets don’t get things together quickly, it could be time for them to become sellers in the trade market. This would see UFA’s Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd dealt away if they cannot be re-signed. I would expect that Ladd and the Jets work out a deal, as those sides seem to have a lot of mutual interest in working something out. Byfuglien however could benefit from testing the open market, where he can drive up his price and pick his destination. One thing that could be interesting in Byfuglien’s negotiations with the Jets and/or any other team is if the team insists on weight bonuses/incentives, much like Pablo Sandoval got with the Boston Red Sox. The Jets will have a long way to go to make it back to the playoffs for the second year in a row. They sit 7 points out of a playoff spot right now, with four teams in front of them – just to get into a wildcard spot. With a steep hill to climb, the Jets better get it going soon.

The Middle of the Pack (20-11):

20. Vancouver Canucks (15-15-9, 39 pts, -15 GD)

19. Arizona Coyotes (18-16-4, 40 pts, -15 GD)

18. Tampa Bay Lightning (19-16-4, 42 pts, +5 GD)

17. Ottawa Senators (18-14-6, 42 pts, -4 GD)

16. Colorado Avalanche (18-18-3, 39 pts, -1 GD)

15. Pittsburgh Penguins (19-15-4, 42 pts, -2 GD)

14. Detroit Red Wings (19-13-7, 45 pts, -6 GD)

13. Nashville Predators (19-13-7, 45 pts, +1 GD)

12. New Jersey Devils (20-14-5, 45 pts, -1 GD)

11. New York Rangers (21-14-4, 46 pts, +9 GD)

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Credit: nhl.com

Another day, another player who wants out. Jonathan Drouin was sent down to Tampa’s AHL affiliate today. Also today, Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh released a statement saying that he has requested a trade for his client, and that he did so back in November. Drouin had 4 goals and 28 assists in 70 games as a rookie last season, scarcely seeing playing time under head coach John Cooper. This season, Drouin only has 8 points in 19 games played, sitting out many games due to injury, as well as being a healthy scratch in some. Just recently being the 3rd overall pick, there were much higher expectations for Drouin. The struggles, and the strained relationships, must be a huge disappointment for both parties. Just a year ago, Drouin was one of the more hyped prospects to come into the league at the time. Expected to team up with Steven Stamkos and form one of the best scoring duos in the league, Drouin has done no such thing. Stamkos has reportedly had his own complaints and issues with Cooper, who moved the star to the wing in the playoffs, and continues to play him out of position. Drouin also reportedly has his issues with Cooper, who played Drouin less than fourth-line centre Brian Boyle last season. Drouin will make a very attractive trade chip, and if GM Steve Yzerman wants to get creative with a Drouin trade, he can do so. Yzerman can get value from a Drouin trade in many different ways. One way is a straight trade of Drouin for either a pick or a prospect, or both. Another way would be to trade Drouin as part of a package for a young star, maybe Ryan Johansen? A third, and more creative way, would be to package Drouin with Ryan Callahan, who is eating up major cap space while playing a very limited role. If Yzerman packages these two players together, and takes a very minor return back, it is possible he can get a team to take on Callahan’s full cap hit, and clearing up a lot of the cap trouble the Lightning have. The third option, in my opinion, would be the most effective in filling Tampa’s needs. However, to pull off a trade of that type, – a salary dump, as they call it in basketball – Yzerman will have to find a team willing to take on Callahan’s massive and long contract, which, even while offering a prospect like Drouin in a deal like that, will be a challenge. The fourth option for the lightning would be to not honour Drouin’s request, and to keep him. The Lightning have all of the leverage in this situation, and Yzerman is a smart hockey man – he will not deal just to make a deal. Unless the Lightning get full value for a prospect of Drouin’s level, I doubt anything gets done until at the earliest, this summer. Either way, this situation joins that of Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders as one to watch.

The Best of the Best (10-1):

10. Montreal Canadiens (22-15-3, 47 pts, +17 GD)

9. Boston Bruins (20-13-4, 44 pts, +14 GD)

8. New York Islanders (21-13-5, 47 pts, +13 GD)

7. Minnesota Wild (20-10-7, 47 pts, +12 GD)

6. Chicago Blackhawks (22-13-4, 48 pts, +11 GD)

5. St. Louis Blues (23-14-4, 50 pts, +1 GD)

4. Los Angeles Kings (25-11-2, 52 pts, +21 GD)

3. Florida Panthers (22-12-4, 48 pts, +20 GD)

2. Washington Capitals (28-7-3, 59 pts, +38 GD)

1. Dallas Stars (28-8-4, 60 pts, +38 GD)

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Credit: Metro Vancouver

Last Weekend Update, I wrote about Jaromir Jagr, and how he is still succeeding in the NHL, even at age 43. Not only is Jagr succeeding however, but his team is the hottest in the league right now. Using their 8 game win streak to propel them into first in the Atlantic, the Panthers are on a tear right now. Many people expected that a team from Florida would be in that position, but that team was not supposed to be the Panthers. Head Coach Gerrard Gallant has received a multi-year extension, and it is well deserved. The Panthers have been playing outstanding hockey last season and this one. Roberto Luongo is being his usual self, with an amazing .929 Sv% and 2.09 GAA. This run however is not just from superb goaltending, but also a complete team game. The best part of the Panthers success is that there is not one player or line that a team can focus on to shut down. The Panthers are so spread out, and so deep, that the only way to beat them is to play a complete team game. They don’t have a scorer in the top 50 of the NHL, yet they still have 5 players within 5 points of their top scorer Jagr. Jussi Jokinen is having a great year with 24 points, Jonathan Huberdeau is being his usual self with 25 points, Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck are each playing great hockey, putting up 23 points, and new addition Reilly Smith has 21 points.This is a complete team, with a deep offence, a great defence led by Brian Campbell and Aaron Ekblad, and great goaltending. To wrap it all together, they also have a very capable coach. This team could be dangerous in the playoffs if they keep on playing like they have been. Could there be a team from Florida in the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row? We’ll just have to wait and see.

That concludes this week’s rankings. Check back next Saturday for the updated rankings and stories.

Do you agree, or disagree with our picks? Comment below!

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