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Tag:Jacques Martin
Posted on: January 12, 2012 9:44 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:03 pm
 

Mike Cammalleri traded to Calgary

CammalleriBy: Adam Gretz

Just when you start to think the Montreal Canadiens have hit rock bottom on the season, it just finds a way to keep getting crazier. And crazier. And crazier.

The latest development: Forward Mike Cammalleri being traded to the Calgary Flames on Thursday night after he was pulled during the third period of the team's 2-1 loss in Boston.

The deal involves Cammalleri, goaltender Karri Ramo and a fifth-round draft pick going to Calgary in exchange for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a 2013 second-round draft pick. This, of course, will be Cammalleri's second stop with the Flames after having spent 2008-09 season in Calgary, producing what was the best season of his career with 39 goals and 82 points in 79 games. He signed with Montreal after that season, inking a five-year, $30 million contract.

Said Flames general manager Jay Feaster in a team released statement on Thursday, “Mike Cammalleri is a dynamic player who enjoyed great success playing in Calgary. We believe Cammalleri will help our offensive production, solidify a second scoring line, bolster our power play, and bring another strong veteran voice to our room. We are confident that a return to Calgary will be good for Mike and good for our continued pursuit of a playoff berth.”

The "strong veteran voice" comment is certainly interesting, seeing as how his "voice" has to be one of the reasons he was even on the market in the first place. Cammalleri's name was in the news earlier on Thursday for some controversial remarks about his team and the way they prepare for games. Less than 24 hours later? He's gone.

Following Thursday's loss in Boston, the Canadiens are now 16-20-7 on the season and seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The team has already fired two coaches this season, dumping assistant coach Perry Pearn in the first month of the season, and then replacing head coach Jacques Martin last month. The latter was a move that has resulted in the entire organization facing criticism from a vocal minority of fans that are unhappy Martin's replacement, Randy Cunneyworth, doesn't speak french.
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Add in the Cammalleri storyline, both his comments and the ensuing trade, and it's been total chaos.

At the halfway point of the season Cammalleri had been struggling this season and had scored just nine goals in 37 games.

Bourque is obviously the key part of the trade for Montreal, and his name had been coming up in trade rumors for what seems like two years now. And while he's a solid player having scored 27 goals in each of the past two seasons, and on pace for nearly the same number this season, it's hard to argue that the Canadiens are a better team after this move (even though Montreal general manager Pierre Gauthier tried to do just that when announcing the move).

Really, the only benefit Montreal gets is that it dealt a player that made some comments the team didn't like, and saves a few million in salary cap space over the next couple of seasons. Cammalleri's contract still has two years remaining on it with an average salary cap hit of $6 million per season. Bourque is signed through the 2015-16 season and has an average salary of $3.3 million, giving Montreal a savings of about $2.7 million per year.

The Flames entered their game on Thursday night against Anaheim four points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Bourque is currently suspended for his elbow to the head of Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom. It should be noted that the Canadiens, Bourque's new team, play the Capitals on Wednesday, and he will be eligible to play that night.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 22, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Protest planned against 'Anglicization' of Habs

By Brian Stubits

OK, this whole language fiasco is getting out of hand. Who knew the province would be so angry after Jacques Martin was fired as Montreal Canadiens head coach?

A lot of stink has been raised about the fact that interim coach -- as in, not the full-time coach -- Randy Cunneyworth doesn't speak French. Because of that fact and that fact alone, the decision to elevate Cunneyworth to the top spot has drawn a lot of fire.

So much is being made about it that now a protest is being planned by a Quebec sovereignty group to rally against the Canadiens' coaching decision. From the Montreal Gazette:

Mario Beaulieu, president of the French Quebec Movement, and Denis Trudel, of the French Movement Montreal, issued a news release Thursday saying a rally would be held Jan. 7 outside the Bell Centre to protest “the Anglicization of the Montreal hockey club.”

The protest is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. ET, two hours before a game between the Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We will be providing Quebec flags to Canadiens fans who, in waving them during the game, can also express their opinion,” Beaulieu and Trudel said in the news release.

The team's managers don't respect French as the language of Quebec, the release alleges.

The complaints go on to say that they don't play enough French music at games, kvetch about announcements being read in two languages at games (yes, that's really ignoring French) all the way to the fact that there are only a few players on the team who speak French (so I get the sense these Quebecers would rather have a team full of French players who suck than a good team with Anglophones that is good). The final straw to break the camel's back is the coach.

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Ray Ratto Ray Ratto
Storm will die down as Cunneyworth makes Montreal adjustments Read

I understand full well the desire of the people of Monteal (and Quebec) to want a coach that can speak French. To me, it is a very valid request. But what I just don't get is the backlash against this move. People, the coach was fired midseason because your Les Habitants weren't living up to expectations. They didn't have a chance to find the coach they wanted on a full-time basis, so they made an assistant the interim coach. Let it slide.

This does not mean that the Canadiens don't understand what it means to play as Quebec's team. Of course they do, the Canadiens are tied in very tightly with Quebec as a province, as silly as that might sound. The concept of having a Francophone lead their team isn't lost on them. One of the team owners, Geoff Molson, said as much.

Wait until a full-time hire is made before beginning this protesting. If the Habs were then to go out and hire a coach who doesn't speak French, rail away, say the team doesn't respect its French fan base. I'd be fine with that as a reasonable complaint. But it's just not right in this case.

Of course I feel awful for Cunneyworth. This is a guy who is trying to make his way up the NHL coaching ranks and is getting his shot to lead an NHL team. But he is at the center of a firestorm that is really nothing of his own making, unless you feel like faulting Cunneyworth for never learning to speak French. At least the guy should be given a chance to learn French. Instead, from the moment he was "hired" the complaints have been rolling in.

For his part, Cunneyworth says he's not paying attention to the circus environment that it's becoming, telling the Winnipeg Free Press that his focus is only on the team.

"I’m not even concerned with that," said Cunneyworth Thursday at MTS Centre. "Those are stories I haven’t even read or looked at or thought about. I have enough on my plate with the group we have. We’re just trying to win some hockey games."

Asked if the negative publicity undermined his authority with the team, Cunneyworth added:

"I’m not reading those articles or listening to that kind of media. It may be going on, but I only know of it because I get the odd positive comment from a stranger or somebody who is close to me. But I’m not reading those articles, I’m not thinking about those things at this time. I’m really focused on the group we have."

If he is able to drown all this talk out, then maybe he does have what it takes to be an NHL coach. Either that or it's because he doesn't understand the complaints (bazinga!).

Who'd a thunk that being the first Canadiens coach to start 0-3 in his career since the 1920s wouldn't even be his most egregious act as boss of the storied Habs?

Something -- OK, a lot of things -- are being lost in translation here.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey nd @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Teams that are out of the playoff race right now

jacketsPucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the teams that are probably already out of the playoff race.

By: Adam Gretz


We are not even half way through the NHL season, but we have reached the point where a slow start in the standings is going to be too much to overcome, and you can probably already cross a handful of teams off when it comes to the playoff race. And perhaps more than just the teams you would expect.

The NHL has already seen six head coaching changes during the regular season (and who knows how many more to come), and now that Jacques Martin and Terry Murray have been let go by Montreal and Los Angeles over the past week, all eyes have shifted to Columbus and Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel. Earlier this week general manager Scott Howson refused to blame Columbus' brutal start, which currently has the team at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, on coaching issues.

The season started with such promise for the Blue Jackets, in large part because of the big offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, players that filled two of Columbus' biggest areas of weakness -- A No. 1 center (Carter) and a big-time offensive defenseman (Wisniewski). Unfortunately, whatever optimism that might have been floating around the Blue Jackets fan base in the preseason was crushed almost immediately thanks to a 1-9-1 start the team hasn't been able to recover from.

The eight-game suspension to Wisniewski to start the season, as well as Carter missing extended time due to injury certainly didn't help matters, either.

Entering Tuesday's slate of games the Blue Jackets own a 9-20-4 mark, giving them a league-worst 22 points in the standings. They currently sit (again, as of Tuesday afternoon) 15 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which is now occupied by the San Jose Sharks.

Howson was asked about whether or not the season at this point is already a lost cause, and he refused to acknowledge that, telling Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, “I’m not going to acknowledge that, no. Strange things happen in sports. We’ve certainly dug a hole for ourselves. It's a requirement of being in pro sports to keep banging at the door, no matter what's going on. So, no, I'm not going to acknowledge that."

Strange things do happen in sports, but here's something that hasn't happened in the NHL in its current playoff format: a team overcoming a deficit the size of the one Columbus faces to make the playoffs. More on that in a minute.

Meanwhile, out in Edmonton, Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini is reportedly still of the belief that his team, which currently sits six points out of the eighth spot in the West, can still make a run at the postseason, a claim that has left even Oilers fans in disbelief.

Does either team still have much of a chance? Recent history suggests that no, they don't. I'm aware that it's not exactly an earth shattering revelation to announce a team that is 15 points out of a playoff spot at the end of December is in danger of missing the postseason, but the point here is to see how possible it is to overcome that deficit, and whether or not it's been done recently.

Some things to consider:

-- Going back to the 2000-01 season, a span of 10 full seasons, there have been 62 teams that have been more than five points out of a playoff spot on December 20 (Tuesday's date).

-- Only four of them (or a little over 6 percent) were able to overcome that deficit to qualify for the postseason: The 2010-11 Sabres (eight points), 2008-09 Blues (six points), 2007-08 Capitals (seven points) and 2007-08 Predators (nine points).

You wouldn't think that being just five points in December would be such a tall mountain to climb, but it is. And along with Columbus, that's also bad news for the Hurricanes and Islanders (both nine points out), and leaves Tampa Bay, a team that was just one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, and Calgary (five points out) right on the line. The Ducks, another playoff team from a year ago and just one point ahead of Columbus, are 14 points out and should also be considered out of the playoff race at this point.

-- You might notice Nashville overcoming a nine-point deficit in 2007-08 as the largest number, and since 2000-01, it is. There have been 29 teams that have been 10 or more points out at this point in the season since then, and none of them have been able to come back and qualify for the playoffs.

Even worse, if you go all the way back to the 1993-94 season, the year the NHL scrapped the divisional playoff format (Adams, Patrick, Smythe, Norris) and went to its current Conference playoff format (1 vs. 8, etc.), there have been 41 teams 10 or more points back.

Not one of them qualified for the playoffs.

For a team like Columbus or Anaheim to overcome this it would be completely unheard of in the current playoff format.

Ninety-five points has typically been a good bet to get in the playoffs, or at the very least, still be in the playoff discussion during the final week of the season. For the teams mentioned above to reach that mark they would need to finish with the following records over the remainder of the season:

Columbus Blue Jackets -- (Need 73 points in 49 games): 34-10-5
Anaheim Ducks -- (Need 72 points in games 49 games): 33-10-6
Carolina Hurricanes -- (Need 69 points in 48 games): 32-11-5
New York Islanders -- (Need 69 points in 52 games): 30-13-9
Tampa Bay Lightning -- (Need 65 points in 50 games): 30-15-5
Edmonton Oilers -- (Need 64 points in 49 games): 29-15-6
Calgary Flames -- (Need 63 points in 49 games): 28-14-7

Yeah, that's asking a lot, even for Tampa Bay and Calgary. Obviously, no team is going to throw in the towel on a season, nor do I expect a general manager to publicly admit defeat (which explains Howson's comments), but for the fans? Well, there's always next season. And for others (mainly Columbus and Anaheim), there's always prospective No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov to look forward to.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 9:14 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 9:29 pm
 

Habs owner: Bilingual coach 'important factor'

By Brian Stubits

Ah yes, the best way to get a message through is to go after the wallet. As we all know, money talks.

As you already know, a nationalistic group in Quebec wasn't happy with the Montreal Canadiens' decision to fire Jacques Martin and replace him with interim coach Randy Cunneyworth. Their anger has nothing to do with the Habs' poor play and everything to do with Cunneyworth's lack of ability to speak French.

Apparently they don't understand the concept of an "interim" coach, as in a fill-in, a guy keeping the seat warm. Either way, the threat was put out there of a boycott on all Molson products. Of course, Geoff Molson (pictured) is the majority owner of the Habs and his Molson company makes some pretty popular beverages.

The chatter caught his attention (well, I'm sure Molson was already aware of the issue to begin with). Molson released a statement expressing the priorities and concerns for the organization when they hire a full-time coach. Here is a snippet.

"Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.

"Like all our fans we hope for the Montreal Canadiens to be among the top teams in the NHL and we are doing everything we possibly can to win."

More on Canadiens
Ray Ratto Ray Ratto
Storm will die down as Cunneyworth makes Montreal adjustments Read

Everything except hiring a coach that doesn't speak French, of course. That's what I'm led to conclude.

It would seem to exclude Cunneyworth from getting the job full-time if he proves worthy as a coach this season. That's unless he takes some classes in French and shows an effort to speak the local language. It would really be a shame if he didn't get the job primarily for this reason, but that's a long way away.

But with statements like this, it gives the feeling that Cunneyworth is a lame duck. You have to figure that the candidate pool is very limited and you can certainly expect to hear the name Patrick Roy come up a lot, as well as one-time Quebec Nordiques coach Marc Crawford. Funny enough, Crawford didn't speak French when he was hired in Quebec, but he learned. Of course it wasn't much help when the 'Diques moved to Colorado the next season.

But man it would be so delicious to see Roy come back to the Canadiens bench. Could he really complain if a player took exception to his managing and demanded a trade?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:44 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 7:35 pm
 

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

By: Adam Gretz

There can't be a job in the NHL that carries more pressure and faces more scrutiny than being the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Not only is it a rabid fan base that demands perfection, but you also have to deal with two separate groups of equally harsh media, one of which speaks English, and another that speaks French.

Shortly after he was named as the interim replacement for Jacques Martin following his firing on Saturday, Randy Cunneyworth is starting to get a taste of what it's like inside the belly of the beast. And it's all because he doesn't speak French.

Over the past 20-plus years the Canadiens have made it a point to hire coaches that speak both languages, and when looking at lists of prospective new hires it's almost always limited to bilingual candidates. That of course changed with the placement of Cunneyworth behind the bench over the weekend, and predictably, some people in Quebec aren't happy about it. Mainly those that speak French.

Impératif Français, a Quebec-based nationalist group, has criticized the hire and called it a "bodycheck to Quebec." Along with being overly critical of the hire and calling the ability to speak French a "prerequisite" for the job, the nationalist group has also called for a boycott of all Molson Products, the corporation that owns the team.

Pro-French activist Gilles Rhéaume, representing Ligue Québécoise contre la Francophobie Canadienne, released a similar statement as translated by CJAD in Montreal:
"There are many in Quebec and in all of French America who are asking, the day after a unilingual anglophone was given the head coaching job, if the Canadiens' management hasn't been stricken with francophobia, characterized by a total insensitivity to the French fact in Quebec," Rhéaume wrote. "Not being able to speak French is a severe handicap for someone who occupies such a position. Knowledge of the language of Quebec is an integral part of the skills required to lead the Montreal Canadiens."
What? And you thought the ability to lead the team to wins was the the only integral part of the job?

The problem is people like this -- along with having an obvious fear or bias against anything that's from outside of Quebec -- is that they are still stuck in the stone ages when NHL teams were mostly provincial due to territorial rights, and a team like the Canadiens was made up of almost nothing but French-speaking players from Quebec.

Knowing French may be helpful in his dealings with the media, but to be a head coach in the league today is to deal with a wide range of people from every possible background and culture. The Canadiens roster, as currently constructed, has just three players from Quebec. It has five players from the United States and 10 from various countries in Europe, including Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus and Russia.

It's a global game, and the Canadiens are a global team.

As long as Cunneyworth can communicate his message to his players and put them in a position to succeed, the language he speaks (or doesn't speak) shouldn't matter.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Canadiens Fire Jacques Martin
More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:02 pm
 

Kings to name Sutter head coach next week

ds1By: Adam Gretz

In news that is sure to be no surprise to anybody that's been following the situation, the Los Angeles Kings are expected to introduce Darryl Sutter as their new head coach sometime next week, according to Rich Hammond of Kings Insider. Immigration issues have held up the process, and once introduced he will take over for John Stevens, who was named interim coach last week when Terry Murray was fired after the team's disappointing start.

Three head coaches in less than two weeks seems about right for the NHL's head coaching situation this season, as the league has already had six changes behind the bench, including Saturday's announcement from Montreal that resulted in the firing of Jacques Martin. Since the end of last season 12 of the NHL's 30 teams (over one third of the league) has made a head coaching change. Needless to say, it's a tough industry.

In the two games since Murray was relieved of his duties, the Kings have split a pair of decisions, dropping a 3-0 game to Boston before a third period rally in Columbus gave them a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets.

Sutter last coached in the NHL with the Calgary Flames during the 2005-06 season, leading the team to a 46-25-11 record before losing in the first round of the playoffs. That was one season after the Flames went to the Stanley Cup Final. In his 12 seasons as an NHL coach his teams have compiled a 409-320-101 record.

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Almost immediately after Murray was fired by the Kings last week Sutter's name was mentioned as a possibility, and now it's on the verge of becoming official.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Jacques Martin fired by Canadiens

By: Adam Gretz

It had been a couple of days since the NHL went through a coaching change, so it was probably time for another one. On Saturday morning the Montreal Canadiens announced that head coach Jacques Martin has been relieved of his duties and will be replaced on an interim basis by Randy Cunneyworth for the remainder of the season.

The Canadiens will be in action on Saturday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. They enter the weekend with a disappointing 13-12-7 record which puts them in last place in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, two points out of the No. 8 seed. Crushed by injuries all season, especially along its blue line where the team has been without one of its best players, Andrei Markov, from the start, as well as several other key players at various teams, Montreal struggled out of the gate losing seven of its first eight games.

That slow start made assistant coach Perry Pearn the early-season sacrificial lamb, which really did nothing more than buy some additional time for Martin behind the bench.

This was Martin's third season as Montreal's coach, and during his tenure with the team compiled a 96-75-25 record. During his watch the Canadiens qualified for the postseason in each of his full seasons with the team, with the high point being the 2009-10 season when the team made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals behind the stellar goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, eliminating the No. 1 seed Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, both in seven games.

Last season Montreal exited in the first round, losing a game seven to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

Replacing him behind the bench for the remainder of this season will be the 50-year-old Cunneyworth. A former player in the NHL for nearly two decades, Cunneyworth was hired as the coach of Montreal's AHL team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, prior to the 2010-11 season.

This is already the sixth coaching change to take place since the start of the regular season, as Martin joins Davis Payne (St. Louis), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Paul Maurice (Carolina), Randy Carlyle (Anaheim) and Terry Murray (Los Angeles) as coaches to take the fall for their teams early season struggles.

More on the NHL's coaching carousel here

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:52 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

By Brian Stubits

This could be interesting. For people who like boring hockey, this Saturday's game in Philadelphia could be just for you.

Now that we've really sold the game, let me clarify. This weekend the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers will meet for the second time this season. And for some reason, the first game was a bit memorable -- or forgettable, depending on your viewpoint.

Who can forget when the Flyers refused to play into the Lightning's 1-3-1 trap and the Lightning refused to forecheck? What resulted was the biggest stalemate heard 'round the hockey world. Since then there have been discussions about the validity of Tampa Bay's defensive system. Should it even be allowed?

Here's a refresher on what that looked like.

Of course that's all silly talk. It obviously isn't hurting teams from scoring against the Lightning. The Bolts enter the weekend have surrendered the third-most goals in the Eastern Conference.

I highly doubt we'll see a replay of that ugly display in Tampa Bay from earlier this season, especially if Peter Laviolette wises up and remembers he has arguably the most explosive offense in the game. It's not the time to over-coach when you have Claude Giroux on your team.

There were a lot of questions about the Flyers entering this season. Would Ilya Bryzgalov be the missing piece? Can Jaromir Jagr still perform at a high level? (The answers are still undetermined and unequivocally yes).

But the one that everybody wondered about the most was who, exactly, was going to replace the scoring load that was carried by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards? Some assumed it would be James van Riemsdyk, others thought Danny Briere. I think the most popular answer, though, would have been Claude Giroux.

Well those folks were right, but I'm not sure they knew how right they would be.

Not only is Giroux leading the Flyers in points (by 14, no less), he leads the entire NHL in that category, passing early leader Phil Kessel.

It's a bit insulting to call this a breakout season for Giroux, after all, he did have 76 points last season, but it is just that. His 16 goals through just 27 games already brings him within 10 his career-best 25 one season ago. He's on pace for close to 100 points.

Oh, and he's only 23 (he turns 24 in January).

So here's a bit of a plea to Laviolette: let your offense go. Teams aren't having trouble scoring against the Lightning (the goalies share a good chunk of that blame, too). That's a particularly good idea with Giroux around.

Then again ...

"We might sit there for four or five minutes at a time," Laviolette was quoted as saying.

Be prepared for another night of non-action.

Oh my Michalek

Phil Kessel has received a lot of the early season headlines for his goal scoring. Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos haven't been getting the same amount of pub, but people know about their scoring prowess too.

Alex Ovechkin has received a lot of talk too, but for his lack of goal scoring.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to take this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, this time on the NHL's goal-scoring leader, Milan Michalek of the Ottawa Senators.

Maybe it's because he plays all the way up in Ottawa. Perhaps it's because the Senators had such low expectations this season. Whatever the reason, the player the Senators acquired in the Dany Heatley trade is blossoming into a major player and there's little attention being paid to him.

Michalek gets a bigger stage to make an impression on Saturday when the Sens will host the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.

How Wild is this?

The Minnesota Wild are the best team in the NHL based on the standings. It's impossible to give them enough credit right now.

Especially when they head to Phoenix having won six games in a row and completing the California sweep for the first time in franchise history.

Before the season began, how many people really, truly believed that when these teams met on Dec. 9, they would both be in first place in their respective divisions? That's simply ... wild.

Is there any doubt who the front-runner is for the Jack Adams Award in the NHL right now? Sure, Kevin Dineen of the Panthers has to be in the conversation, but as of this moment it's clearly Mike Yeo on the Minnesota bench.

Not even injuries have been slowing his team down. Lose two goaltenders? No problem. Just call up Matt Hackett from the AHL to make his NHL debut and watch him go more than five periods before allowing a goal. Have a defense few people outside of Minnesota can't recognize? No worries. The Wild are still incredibly stingy when it comes to giving up goals.

Pretty soon, people won't be able to ignore the Wild, no matter how much they might try.

Return of the matinee (and Kaberle)

Now that the college football season is done -- seems as convenient a reason as any -- Saturday matinees are returning to the NHL schedule. Last week it was the Canadiens visiting the Kings. This week it's again the Canadiens, this time visiting the Devils.

The game will also be the debut of Tomas Kaberle with the Canadiens. After being traded to Montreal on Friday for Jaroslav Spacek, this will be Kaberle's first opportunity to change the minds of fans of his new team: that he doesn't stink.

That's going to be a hard task, considering the view of Kaberle league-wide is so low. You know it's bad when a GM who signed you a few months ago essentially admits to it being a mistake.

It's also big for Jacques Martin, the Habs coach. The talk surrounding his job security had died down after the Habs had appeared to right the ship, but it's starting to leak again. And with that, people are wondering about Martin's status once anew. Beating the Devils, a team they are battling with at the bottom of the playoff picture right now, would be a helpful start.

We're going streaking!

These are your streaks at play going into the weekend.

Flyers: The Flyers enter Saturday's game with the Bolts having won four straight.

Florida Panthers: People are still stunned by them, and they take a three-game run into Buffalo and then, if it survives, Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Winnipeg Jets: Yes, another Southeast Division team. The Jets are starting to make a push to stay relevant all season and have won three in a row. Their weekend consists of a game vs. the Hurricanes and at the Red Wings.

Wild: No team is playing better than Minnesota in the NHL. None. As mentioned, they head to Phoenix with a six-game win streak in hand.

Vancouver Canucks: Don't look now, but the defending Western Conference champs are starting to roll. Their streak is three games going into Ottawa.

Los Angeles Kings: They are the only team who come into the weekend with a losing streak in the works. They'll have a chance to snap that against the Stars on Saturday.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com