Tag:Corey Perry
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:50 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 3:53 pm
 

Ducks GM says all but Selanne, Koivu available

By Brian Stubits

Pick a Duck, any Duck. You can have him if the price is right.

That was pretty much the message that Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray sent to the NHL on Wednesday. The only difference? There are two untouchables: Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, two of the Ducks' three players over the age of 36. They each have no-trade clauses. But if Selanne were asked to be traded, then even he'd be available.

The rest; Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Fowler and the others? Hey, make an offer.

"And the rest of the players in that locker room, I thought they'd figure out when we changed coaches that time was running, the clock was running quickly here. And I don't care who you talked about," Murray said after the Ducks' 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Wednesday.

"But we will not go to draft picks. It's not my intention."

So it has come to this. I don't think many saw this happening in Anaheim this season. Was it a team with flaws coming into the year? Of course. There's not a lot of depth at the forward position and the defense could be better as a unit.

But who saw Jonas Hiller struggling this much after dealing with vertigo last season? Who saw a team with Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf and Selanne struggling so much to score goals? Who saw the Ducks having only 10 wins though 38 games?

Not many, if any. A coaching change didn't work. Letting the players try and work through it hasn't gone so well. What's left then but to head to the trade market with some amazing assets?

So let the rebuilding begin, right? Well we're going to play a little semantics game and say no. Let the retooling begin.

"We're going to get ready for next year," Murray said.

"I think this team can be turned around to make the playoffs next year. I think it's going to be hard to do it this year but I do want them to make a run. But it's got to happen quick. Everybody knows that. ... Let's start playing better hockey."

Honestly, at this point the last thing I'd hope for if I'm Murray is false hope. This hole is pretty much insurmountable. My colleague Adam Gretz detailed that in a recent edition of Pucks and Numbers.

Murray is in a better place than most GMs trying to do the same. He has a lot of desirable players at relatively cheap prices to move. It's pretty easy to get talented players to help you compete now when dealing from such a position of strength.

The hottest name for most of the season, of course, has been Bobby Ryan. Just before Randy Carlyle was fired, there was a lot of speculation that Ryan was going to be the one hitting the road, not Carlyle. Instead, Carlyle was replaced by Bruce Boudreau and Ryan was seemingly pulled off the block. That didn't last long.

It's a really tough spot for Murray. On one hand, the need for change is obvious. This roster just isn't getting it done. On the other hand his trio of Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry is incredibly talented, young and reasonably priced. That's a great mix, who would actually want to get rid of that? Hence, rock and a hard place. How many of the available players do you trade? All of them? Just one?

"I still believe we have some core players. Now, whether we have to change a few core players, so be it," Murray said. "They're deciding who's staying and who's not staying at this point."

I'd anticipate Murray being pelted with offer after offer for any one of these guys. Of course the price will be high. Murray has made it clear that he wants proven NHL talent in return. What team wouldn't want to get its hands on any of Anaheim's top players?

And I'll just throw this out there: The Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs have done business with one another plenty of times in the past.

Now have fun playing with Cap Geek's trade calculator. See if your favorite team can swing a deal.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 2, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 8:42 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Quick on top of his game again

By Brian Stubits

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

It's tough to find a position in sports that lends itself to streakiness more than goaltender in hockey. For some reason, most of them fail to maintain an even balance throughout the course of a season -- Tim Thomas' consistently spectacular play notwithstanding. There season charts resemble roller coasters tumultuous enough to turn even the heartiest rider's stomach.

L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick isn't immune to the turbulence. In the opening month of the season, Quick was absolutely phenomenal. He turned in three consecutive shutouts in mid-to-late October. For his work, he was given a day off on Oct. 25 and that good mojo seemed to vanish.

In his next seven starts and nine of 11, he surrendered at least three goals. Instead of being a large part of why they were winning early in the season, he became a large part of why they were losing. It was a quick reversal of fortunes, if you'll pardon the pun.

But like any streaker -- we're still talking goalies here -- he has reversed course again. Entering Saturday's matinee against the Montreal Canadiens, Quick comes in on a tear. Thanks to a shutout of the Sharks and a nearly flawless 41-save showing against the Panthers, Quick has stopped 74 of the last 75 shots he has seen. Go back a little further and he has actually saved 84 of the last 85 shots.

Here's what Pierre McGuire told an Ottawa radio station about how good Quick was in Thursday's win. "If the kings don't have Quick Florida wins that game. Kevin Dineen's team dominated with speed game".

Yes, he's back on his game. It really is no coincidence, then, that the Kings enter their game against the Habs having earned points in seven of their last 10 games.

They really need him to be the good Quick this season. The Kings have high hopes for this season. Many, myself included, saw them as legitimate threats in the Western Conference race this season. Despite the addition of Mike Richards to some other talented offensive players like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the Kings aren't going to do a whole lot of scoring. As of now, they are 24th in the league in goals per game with 2.32.

So much more than other goalies, when Quick is playing poorly it shows.

Assuming he'll get the start on Saturday, he'll have a chance to extend his already league-high shutout mark of four. The Canadiens haven't been very good this season, that's obvious. But moreover, they have really struggled on the road. You have to go back four weeks to Nov. 4 to find the last time the Habs won a road game in regulation.

In Kings terminology, that was near the beginning of the bad Quick days.

As a bonus for L.A., if the Kings are victorious, coach Terry Murray will have his 500th career victory.

The Bryz is back in town

When the Flyers visit Phoenix on Saturday Ilya Bryzgalov's arrival will be highly anticipated by the local crowd for the second time this season. Earlier this year he made his first trip to Winnipeg, a city he wasn't too fond of possibly moving to once upon a time. He didn't play in that game.

Now Bryzgalov returns to Phoenix, the city where he did play and left this past offseason. It was with the Coyotes that Bryz built up his reputation as one of the better goaltenders in the league before taking a bigger pay day with the Flyers.

This will be the second time Bryzgalov has faced his former team this season. Before the first meeting in Philadelphia, some of his former teammates had some less-than-kind things to say about Bryz. Derek Morris even admitted to being glad that Bryzgalov was gone.

Everybody knows the Coyotes don't draw a lot of butts to the seats. But this game should have a few more tickets purchases not only because of the abundance of Flyers fans who will be there -- rest assured, they will be -- but likely from a few of the Coyotes fans who just want to boo. Or thank Bryzgalov for his time there. Take your pick.

Welcome back, Bruce

We hardly forget ye.

Anaheim Ducks' coach Bruce Boudreau (looks weird) will make his debut with his new team on Friday with the Philadelphia Flyers in Southern California. One thing we know we'll see, at least to start the game, will be the reunion of Bobby Ryan with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the top line.

In his final days as coach, Randy Carlyle had been trying to mix and match, trying to find the best results and cure the woes the lack of depth was causing his team. Boudreau, however, restored the top line to its old self and will try to make due.

Remember, when he arrived in Washington he didn't inherit a Caps team with a lot of depth. It was a very similar situation, actually, with some highly skilled forwards. They soared under his leadership. Will the same happen in Anaheim? We'll get the first glimpse on Friday when the Ducks host the Flyers.

Too bad HBO hasn't begun the 24/7 filming yet and depriving us a chance of more Boudreau, if only in a very small sampling.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

In this case, the ranch would be Washington, Boudreau's old stomping ground.

The Capitals enter the third game of the Dale Hunter era still searching for their first win. If the third time's the charm, it will have to come at the expense of the Ottawa Senators, who visit the Caps on Saturday.

They are badly in need of a win, for their confidence if nothing else. The Caps have lost four games in a row and seven of their last nine. They have fallen -- get this -- five points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division, and that's even with the Panthers leveling off in recent weeks.

There has been a whole lot of difference so far for Washington, but they do appear to be focusing more on defense again and the effort has appeared to be better. But right now they just need a win.

Jason Chimera put it better than I can. "We're going to find ourselves packing an early golf bag."

Still searching Part II

Carolina Hurricanes new coach Kirk Muller is in the same boat as Hunter, 0-2 in his NHL career behind the benches. His task, on paper at least, looks a bit tougher than Hunter's.

That's because the 'Canes will host the high-flying Penguins on Saturday night. Not exactly the team you want to see when trying to bust out of a slump.

It has to start with getting the defense squared away. In the Hurricanes' current five-game losing streak, they have given up at least three goals in each game. Tomas Kaberle isn't working out, that's no secret. But that's only part of the defensive woes. The unit continues to leave Cam Ward high and dry in net behind them.

Nobody told Muller this was going to be easy.

More to prove

The St. Louis Blues have been ridiculously good since Ken Hitchcock came aboard. They are 8-1-2 under his leadership.

But Hitchcock is still delaying his excitement for the team's play until their next stretch of games. Starting with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, they will begin playing teams for a second time. That's when you can start to draw some conclusions.

"We're going to get a push," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You can surprise a team, but we're now playing a second wave. When we start playing the Chicago's and Detroit's again, now we'll have a look. They'll be ready for us. They won't be surprised by our game

What's shocking about it all is that by the end of the weekend, the Blues -- 14th in the West when Hitchcock was hired -- could be leading the Central Division. With their crisp and disciplined play, that's certainly a possibility.

We're going streaking!

New York Rangers: It took them a few games to get going at the beginning of the season, but when they got going, boy did they. John Tortorella heads back to Tampa Bay with the Rangers having won four in a row.

Blues: In addition to Saturday's game against Chicago, they play the Avalanche on Friday night. That's where they take their four-game win streak.

Detroit Red Wings: All this team does is streak. No seriously, look at their schedule. Like the Blues, they have two games over the weekend, Friday in Buffalo then Sunday at Colorado.

Canadiens: Already mentioned, the Habs go into Los Angeles on Saturday having lost four straight.

Capitals: See above: Caps have lost four in a row headed into Saturday date with Senators.

Hurricanes: Currently at five losses in a row, the Penguins visit next. Ouch.

Edmonton Oilers: With the battle of Alberta looming, the Oilers enter on a three-game skid. They would probably like to have Taylor Hall back.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 1, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: December 2, 2011 12:24 am
 

Lessons in Ducks' Carlyle-Boudreau exchange

By Brian Stubits

The Anaheim Ducks couldn't buy a win. They had lost seven straight games and had only two wins in 18 games going into Wednesday.

So for finally getting a win by beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1, head coach Randy Carlyle was fired. Literally, within an hour of winning the game. At the time of the firing, the Ducks announced the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, the former Capitals coach fired just 65 hours earlier, with a two-year contract.

"I was shocked," Teemu Selanne said. "I didn't see this coming. But obviously with the situation, we were expecting something was gonna happen."

The Elias Sports Bureau points out that is the quickest turnaround for a coach in NHL history.

Carlyle was the third coach canned this week. That means in the span of three days a former Stanley Cup-winning coach (Carlyle), Stanley Cup-finalist coach (Paul Maurice in Carolina) and former Jack Adams Award-winning coach (Boudreau) were all terminated. If anything shows how much of a win-now business the NHL (and all professional sports for that matter) is, this is exhibit A, B and C.

So there are a few of lesson in there. OK, there are a lot of lessons in there, but we're going to talk about two.

More on Ducks
More NHL Coaching Changes

The first lesson is the easy one: Don't let your team suck. It's obvious to say, but that was the primary reason Carlyle was fired on Wednesday, the team was playing awful hockey for the last month and a half. None of the tumult in Anaheim would have been spinning like the tea-cups at Disneyland if they could win a game or two.

To illustrate the Ducks sucktitude, the Battle of California blog dug up this little nugget: In the first eight minutes of periods this season -- any period -- the Ducks are a minus-24 in goal differential. In the other 12 minutes, they are even. That doesn't bode well for a coach.

"They didn't seem to believe in themselves anymore, and I hadn't seen that in six years here," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said.

The second lesson is one for general managers. Don't wait to make a move you think needs to be made. The Ducks had hit a point where a shakeup was necessary. That's why they have been talking about trading star young winger Bobby Ryan.

Then Boudreau became available. The move was announced on Wednesday night, but don't be fooled into thinking that wasn't a decision already made. It's not often a coach is fired right after a game, a win no less.

Murray admitted on Thursday that he called Capitals general manager George McPhee very soon after Boudreau was fired. Considering Murray was already looking for "a new voice," as he put it, Boudreau sort of fell into his lap.

On Wednesday Boudreau was doing an interview with 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. about his firing. During the call he was walking in the airport and he told the hosts he was headed to Toronto to see his mother. That might have been a white lie it turns out. Instead he was getting ready to see his new employer in Anaheim.

Good coaches don't last long when they are on the market. And make no mistake, Boudreau is a good coach. You don't go 201-88-40 by being a poor coach. It wasn't until he came aboard that the Capitals took off and became a regular-season stalwart. This situation can be similar.

"It's great to be here," Boudreau said. "I don't think opportunities like this come around every day, with the talent we have here. I jumped at it."

We saw it earlier this season with the St. Louis Blues, too. They obviously wanted Ken Hitchcock to be their coach. There was a lot of talk that the Columbus Blue Jackets were going to fire Scott Arniel and name Hitchcock his replacement. So what did the Blues do? Fire Davis Payne somewhat unexpectedly then announce Hitchcock as his replacement.

Speaking of Hitchcock, he comes off looking like a prophet. It was just on Tuesday he predicted that within 72 hours Boudreau would be back in rinks. Nailed it.

So when you see somebody you want, don't hesitate. Get while the gettin's good. Or should I say get while the gettin's still there to get. There are still a handful of teams who could potentially make a coaching change. The Montreal Canadiens don't have the most secure coach. Same goes for the Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and even Los Angeles Kings. That would have been a lot of teams interested in Boudreau's services. So instead of taking a chance, Bob Murray decided to cut the line now and be the first to reel in the fish he wanted.

The third lesson? Star players will always win out in power struggles. Or at least, coaches will never win them.

Was there a battle between Carlyle and Ryan in Anaheim that led to so many trade rumors regarding the 24-year-old? Hard to tell for sure, but as of yesterday it seemed pretty clear that not all was right near the Magical Kingdom.

The Ducks were shopping a player that every other team in the NHL would love to have. That right there is probably a sign you have somebody worth keeping.

Then there was the incredibly ... odd quote from Carlyle to Ryan. When Ryan got around to talking to Carlyle about the rumors that had Ryan admitting he wouldn't be surprised if he were traded, this was the response from his head coach. "[He] has to find that inner peace in himself to deal with it."

Pretty rough. Never seen a coach give a response like that before. Some might say tough love. Others might say tough times for their relationship.

Obviously this shares a similarity to Boudreau in Washington. The two sides will continue to deny it, but it won't stop the speculating that not all was great between Boudreau and Alex Ovechkin. There are some who will believe for the rest of their time that Ovechkin pushed Boudreau out.

In the end, it seems as though Murray came to his senses and got rid of Carlyle. There is certainly no guarantee this brings an end to the Ryan speculation, but it should. The Ducks got their shakeup with this moves and don't need to trade away Ryan. He's still young and talented, it would be a trade they would likely rue forever in Anaheim.

"I'm hoping everything settles down right now," Murray said, "and I think it will."

That came right after Nick Kypreos, the one who first reported Boudreau was on his way out in Washington and reported the trade rumblings on Ryan, tweeted that Ryan is off the market.

Now, under Boudreau, Ryan will be an asset. It's a situation somewhat similar to what he walked into four years ago in Washington. There are some very talented skill players up front. It will be interesting to see if he does what he did in Washington and just let them go crazy. Open up the ice and let them loose. Ryan would fit into that scheme very nice.

I love the turn of events for the Ducks. Much the same as Boudreau in Washington, Carlyle's time in Anaheim had clearly just come to an end. It was a great run that included a Stanley Cup.

"I want to think Randy for six-plus years of outstanding work," Murray said. "He’s a terrific coach and will be a terrific coach again."

But obviously what Carlyle was doing was no longer working. There is no reason the Ducks should be so low in the standings when they have last year's Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry on the roster along with one of the best skill players of all time in Selanne, who is still playing at a high level.

They might have just bought themselves a lot more wins in future seasons.

More Coaching Carousel News Here

Photo: Getty Images/Ducks Twitter feed

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

Posted on: November 30, 2011 6:27 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 6:52 pm
 

Bobby Ryan trade speculation isn't going away

ryan1By: Adam Gretz

Two days after it originally surfaced little has happened to make the Bobby Ryan trade speculation go away. If nothing else, it's actually picked up steam, and while the Ducks won't confirm that they are actively shopping their young star forward (and why would they confirm it?), they've also done nothing to deny it.

On Tuesday, the 24-year-old Ryan spoke with Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register about the increased chatter that continues to swirl around his name and said that he "wouldn't be surprised" if he was the player sent packing. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Jeff Miller passed along the word that Randy Carlyle, the coach that is now seated on the hottest seat in the NHL following the recent firings of Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice, spoke with Ryan about the speculation and simply told him that he has to "find that inner peace in himself to deal with it."

The biggest rumor that's made the rounds was a potential blockbuster brought forward by Bucky Gleason of the the Buffalo News that would involve goaltender Sabres netminder Ryan Miller. That rumor started to grow when Ducks general manager Bob Murray, as well as two scouts, attended the Sabres game on Tuesday night in Buffalo. Of course, Miller did not play in that game, as he's still sidelined with an injury following his run-in with Boston's Milan Lucic. Miller has since responded by saying that he has no interest in being traded.

No matter what happens with Ryan or the Ducks, the team is in a complete free fall mode right now and currently owns the second-lowest point total in the NHL with 16, ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets. After starting the season 4-1 Anaheim has lost 16 of its past 18 games, including seven in a row, and 11 of 12 during the month of November.

Despite having a lineup that boasts talented forwards like Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, the Ducks are the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL, scoring just 2.13 goals per game. Only the New York Islanders are worse. Ryan is not immune to the struggles, having recorded just 11 points (seven goals, four assists) over his first 23 games.

As a team, Anaheim is getting dominated during 5-on-5 play, getting outscored 51-34 while also getting out-shot by an average of 30-25 during 5-on-5 play on a nightly basis. Even strength play was an issue for the Ducks last season as well, and this year the power play and goaltending that carried the team during the 2010-11 season (and Perry's MVP season certainly helped as well) has not been anywhere near as strong.

Add it all together and you have a team that's probably in too deep of a hole to dig itself out of this season looking to shake things up, whether it's with a coaching change or a blockbuster trade.

More Coverage: Ducks Shopping Ryan?

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 12:25 pm
 

Report: Ducks are shopping Bobby Ryan

By Brian Stubits

Two nights ago, Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet said he was hearing rumblings out of Washington that Bruce Boudreau would be fired in 24-48 hours. Fast forward 12 hours and the deed was done.

On Monday night, Kypreos said he was hearing rumblings out of Anaheim that the Ducks are shopping young forward Bobby Ryan. Might be time to pack your bags, Bobby.

There is no team struggling worse than the Ducks right now, and that includes the New York Islanders. They have lost seven consecutive games, 13 of 14 and 16 of their last 18 games. The word atrocious comes to mind.

From the news conference of Capitals GM George McPhee on the firing of Boudreau on Monday, there was a line he used to describe that situation which applies equally, if not more so to the Ducks.

"This wasn’t a slump," McPhee said. "You can ride out slumps."

At this point, it looks like a lot more than a slump in Anaheim too. That's why something has to be done, something big. Trading Ryan would qualify as something big.

In Ryan, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, the Ducks have about as powerful of a top four scoring set as you can name in hockey, truly. But what they don't have is a lot of depth. Or a shutdown defenseman. In order to get those holes filled, especially the defenseman part, they need a pretty big bargaining chip.

It makes Ryan even more of a target when his slow start to this season is considered. Through 23 games, the 24-year-old American has seven goals and four assists. That puts him on pace for just about 40 points and we're a quarter of the way through the season. His lowest point-total (excluding his 23-game rookie season) was 57 ... and he did that in just 64 games. In each of his three "full" seasons, Ryan has had at least 31 goals. He's already a proven scorer who would be attractive to every single team in the NHL.

For some evidence, here's a trade proposal from Nashville Predators blog Section 303, suggesting the Preds offer Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis, Teemu Laakso and a first-round draft pick. I like the offer, it's at least much more realistic than most fan proposals that normally look like "Sean Avery and a conditional pick ... come on, why wouldn't they take that?"

One person that you can almost guarantee is salivating at the idea and has likely already put a call in to Ducks GM Bob Murray, is former Ducks GM and current Maple Leafs boss Brian Burke. He obviously knows Ryan since he drafted him, he has already worked some deals with the Ducks, snagging Joffrey Lupul, and it appears he has a strong affinity for American players.

The moral of the story? Whether the rumor that Ryan is being actively shopped is true or not, it's about time the Ducks do something to shake things up.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:51 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Ducks searching for wakeup call

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedule: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

You know it's bad when we're still early in November and the Anaheim Ducks call a closed-doors meeting. It stinks almost as much as the Avalanche calling Thursday's tilt against the Islanders a "must-win game." They did, barely (4-3 in OT).

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, things are getting close to desperate in Orange County. The Ducks are the coldest team in hockey having lost six in a row. In a world without the overtime loser point, Anaheim is 5-10. That is not good.

"You have to eliminate any confusion, any doubt before you can take the next step forward," Carlyle said about the meeting.

"A lot of times coaches are talking and nobody says a word and you go to the ice and say, 'Well, I don't think that's work[ing]," Teemu Selanne offered. "It's important that the players can give their input also about the situation. It was really good. It was really honest conversations. I think it was a huge step forward."

They better get things figured out quickly. With Dallas playing as well as it is and San Jose in the division, the Ducks could dig themselves a hole too tough to get out of. They have the fewest goals scored and the most goals surrendered in the Pacific Division. In 15 games they have 29 goals, that's less than two goals per game.

How can a team with Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Selanne be struggling to score this much? Well presumably that's what the closed-door meeting was for.

I can't help but think it's the lack of power of the mustache. Since the month of Movember came around and the Ducks all began growing out their best 'staches, the team hasn't won a game. This is making me rethink my entire stance on the world. Here I was holding the mustache in such high esteem.

Or maybe it could be more rationally explained by figuring out where Lubomir Visnovsky has gone? The defenseman who had 18 goals and 50 assists last season has just four points (1-3=4) in 15 games and is a minus-9. Him finding his game would go a long way in helping the Ducks remove the ugly from their game.

So who do they get to try their presumably new tactics against first? How about the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night? Just the team for a struggling squad to face (the still-not-invented sarcasm font was on there).

But that's not all for the weekend. On Sunday the Ducks welcome the last team they beat, the Minnesota Wild. Of course since that win, these two teams have flipped their fortunes. The Ducks have become the coldest team this side of Columbus while Minnesota has been red hot.

SoCal struggles, Part II: This was supposed to be the season the Los Angeles Kings stepped forward, made a run for the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. It obviously still could be, the season is only a short way in. But right now they could use a swift kick in the rear to get in gear.

Los Angeles has followed a 5-1-1 start with a 2-5-2 stretch, including a five-game losing streak that has people wondering if the boot isn't being polished up before delivering the kick. After all, the Kings have not scored more than three goals in 13 of their 16 games. For a team that acquired an offensive talent like Mike Richards to go with a solid group already, that's not going to cut it.

"The offense, certainly myself at the top of the list, should be scoring more, getting to the net," Justin Williams said following Thursday's loss.

So do you put the blame for the struggling stretch on coach Terry Murray? After all, head coaches are always the first scapegoat. I find it hard to blame Murray. He's trying all that he can, mixing and matching the lines to try and create a spark. But as they always say, you can't really fire the players. I mean you can, but it's a lot more difficult.

One of the issues right now is the play of Jonathan Quick. Remember that shutout streak back in October? That's a thing of the past. In his last six starts, Quick has zero wins. He is giving up nearly three goals per game in that stretch.

About the only thing going well right now for L.A. is the play of Drew Doughty. His game has been on point recently with five points in the last three games.

Like their SoCal neighbors in the O.C., the chance to get on the right track will come against the Wild, Saturday night at Staples Center. Oh, Minnesota enters the game having won five of the last six.

What the ....? You know who's not struggling? The first-place Florida Panthers. Yes, you read that right, first-place Panthers.

Dale Tallon threw together a team that everybody anticipated would struggle to jell, but it came together like jell-o. The Panthers have tallied a point in six consecutive games, including back-to-back wins on the road in Toronto and Winnipeg.

If they want to make it seven straight, they will have to get through the Flyers, who are in Sunrise on Sunday.

This is where I'd like to spread a little love on Kris Versteeg, the forward who is on his fourth team in a two-year span -- the one before the Panthers being the Flyers. He has apparently found the right fit and is scoring at a pace of better than a point per game, leading the Cats with 17 points in 15 games. Brian Campbell hasn't been too shabby either with 15 points in 15 games.

The surprises are all around on one of the NHL's biggest surprises this season. Jason Garrison is a sniper from the blue line? Who knew? But he's tied with Nicklas Lidstrom in the NHL lead for goals among defensemen with six. Jose Theodore can still be effective as a No. 1 goalie? Just talk to the folks in the Washington press box to see how hard that is to believe.

There's no telling how long this will last. First place in a division with the Capitals is asking a lot. But with a start like this, they can at least dream of ending that 10-year playoff drought in Florida.

Texas two-step: Want to know if the Dallas Stars are really as good as their 11-3-0 record indicates? Other than the fact that you are what your record says you are, as Bill Parcells would say, the Stars are in the midst of about as tough a three-game road stretch you can conjure up in the NHL.

They already went through the Capitals, handing them their first loss in D.C. this season. Now they have back-to-back games starting Friday in Pittsburgh. The game was viewed as a potential return date for Sidney Crosby, but that's not happening now. However it is still the top two teams in each conference and James Neal vs. the team that traded him.

If that's not enough, Dallas will take the trip to Detroit where the Red Wings await on Saturday.

I'm not sure how many more tests the Stars have to pass before this start and this team is believed to be for real by the masses. It might be already. I know I'm a believer. But just to be safe, a few more points in this weekend double-dip couldn't hurt.

The Bruins got their groove back: It only took a month, but now the Boston Bruins are showing the form the hockey world expected. After all, ask Boston fans and they will tell you last season was just a whole heaping of bonus -- this was the season when they were expected to be legitimate Cup contenders.

The team that in the early going couldn't score now can't stop scoring. Especially in bunches. Five times in the month of November the Bruins scored two goals within 49 seconds of one another. Five times!

Without a doubt, the most impressive player has been Tyler Seguin. The sophomore is showing why there was such a debate between himself and Taylor Hall before the 2010 draft. He is so quick and always seem to get his stick on the puck near the net.

The above items considered, it should come then as no surprise that the Bruins have won four games in a row and are streaking into their game against Northeast Division foe Buffalo.

The question there is which Sabres goalie will be entrusted with slowing down this now potent Bruins attack? That’s the question every day now in Buffalo where at the moment -- and I stress at the moment -- the goaltending job is a 50/50 proposition between Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. If Miller gets the call, it could be a tough situation to find a slump-busting performance.

Defense rules

The Tampa Bay defense, specifically the 1-3-1 trap that coach Guy Boucher loves to use, is the topic of the week in the NHL. The crux of the issue: people want to see more scoring, less stalling.

If that describes you, maybe you should find something else to do on Saturday night when the Lightning and St. Louis Blues meet. Offense might not be too plentiful.

With Ken Hitchcock now on the St. Louis bench and his preference to play a defensive-minded game, it could be a pretty slow and plodding game. Nothing as bad as the scene on Wednesday night, but still not offense friendly. In the two games under Hitchcock, the Blues have given up two goals.

Of course after all this you can now expect for the teams to hit the over.

Photo: US Presswire

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

Posted on: November 10, 2011 12:23 pm
 

The growing rivalry that is Predators-Ducks

By Brian Stubits

It doesn't feel like there are a lot of rivalries left in hockey. Hatred like that between the Canadiens and Bruins still exists, but the rivalries born from play on the ice and ones that go beyond geography/history? Not too many. The Red Wings and Avalanche had one a while back, but that has petered out. Oh sure, fans, particularly those in Colorado, will tell you they still hate the other team, but the height of the rivalry? It's in the past.

However we might have a new one emerging. I'm hoping so, they make the games that much more fun and interesting.

The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators seem like unlikely combatants being that they are two time zones apart and some 2,000 miles. But familiarity breeds contempt, and these two have been getting familiar since last season. In this case, let's say the relationship is moving at an accelerated pace.

"We got to know each other a lot," Preds coach Barry Trotz said following Nashville's 4-2 in Anaheim on Wednesday. "I don’t think we really care for each other."

Every win is nice in the NHL, I would never argue otherwise. But how often do wins just seem to be extra sweet in early November? Not a tremendous amount of them. But judging by Preds agitator Jordin Tootoo's response, this one was as sweet as candy.

“Yeah, you have to go in with kind of a ‘[forget] you’ attitude,” Tootoo said (with Cee Lo Green channeled). “They talk all the time and talk is cheap. It all comes down to results and tonight we got the two points so they can [chew] on that.”

Where exactly did this hatred begin percolating? Exactly where every good blood battle does.

“It started in the playoffs last year,” Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf said before the team's first matchup this season in October.

If the playoffs was the birth of the rivalry then that first meeting was a growth spurt. There was one play in particular that had Getzlaf in a rage. It came when Corey Perry legitimately slashed Tootoo, who fell to the ice in a pretty dramatic scene.

We won't rehash the entire story from that game, so if you want to read all of the quotes from Getzlaf, here they are. But they were rather incendiary, accusing Tootoo of flopping and lots of use of the word embarrassing.

Here's how you know that a rivalry is getting good. A coach even got in on the sniping back and forth. Trotz had this to say before Wednesday's game.

“They have some guys who aren’t exactly lilywhite, some of their tough guys,” Trotz said. “You watch them behind the play when the ref’s not looking, they do a lot of [stuff]. That’s just whining to me. Go on the ice, play and if you have a problem with someone, take care of it. Don’t go through the paper. That’s all.”

How great is that? Not only is a head coach joining in the barb tossing, but he's throwing in words like lilywhite? Just awesome.

A proposal for the NHL. When you reach your final realignment verdict, can we squeeze the Preds and Ducks into the same division? No? Tis a shame. Just when this rivalry is budding, it could be halted. Well, at least there are two more games this season and, if the Ducks get their act together, maybe another postseason series? I'll be waiting.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 2, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Slumping Ducks finding 'a way to lose right now'

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- This was going to be a story about the ageless wonder that is Teemu Selanne when the game was 4-2. If you had to name the best player on the ice in D.C. on Tuesday night, it would be the 41-year-old Finn. He had two goals. He assisted on Anaheim's other two. Simply put, he is still sensational.

After his four-point game, he now has 14 points in 12 games. Again, he is 41. I was getting my "Teemu Selanne is so awesome ..." jokes warmed up. Seriously, we haven't seen this type of production from somebody over 40 since Gordie Howe.

But then his team lost its lead and, well, it sort of changed the feeling in the room. (Good thing, my jokes sucked anyway.)

It was a game the Ducks had in their grasp. It was right there for the taking, all they had to do was hold off Washington's third line from scoring in the final minute. Instead they ended up losing 5-4 in OT, their sixth loss in seven outings.

"We began to self-destruct," coach Randy Carlyle said after the game.

That's just how things are going for the Ducks right now. They finally get some offensive production but the defense doesn't hold up its end of the bargain.

"We just seem to find a way to lose right now," goaltender Jonas Hiller said after the game. "We definitely have to forget about it and concentrate on the good things and I know everybody can play better. I have to start first with myself."

After Tuesday night, that was certainly a fair starting point. This was the second time in his last five starts that Hiller gave up five goals. The time, against Phoenix on Oct. 23, he was pulled.

"He's paid to stop the puck," an angry Carlyle said. "Simple as that."

The play in particular that was most egregious -- or most telling of Anaheim's recent "luck" -- came in the second period with the Ducks up 3-1. In what looked like a breakaway for the offense turned into a push from Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun the length of the ice, stopping just behind the goal line next to his crease. A few seconds later, Dennis Wideman was firing a laser shot into the net.

"What I think what happened was he was indecisive to go," Carlyle said. "I thought he should have played the puck above the goal line, get out of the net and just stop it."

"I thought when our guys were coming back ... I thought one of our guys was coming back because it was an icing," Hiller explained. "I thought 'well, we'll take that icing call' and then I was surprised nobody was there. But that's what I'm saying. Being in the wrong position at the wrong time."

So that was the problem on Tuesday night, goaltending. But it hid one other problem, the lack of offense. Let me explain.

Here are some numbers from the game that really drew my attention: 6-5-4. No, those weren't the daily pick-em lotto numbers, those were the number of shots per period by the Ducks. Add a bagel for the two-plus minutes of overtime and you have 15 shots in 62 minutes.

Entering Tuesday's game, the Ducks were tied with the Islanders for the lowest goals per game at 2.00. Through 12 games now, the Ducks are the third-lowest in the league with 24.8 shots per game. Only three times have they outshot their opponent. On Tuesday, Washington outshot them 40-15. None of those are recipes to winning.

Look at the production from this team, Tuesday included. As a whole, the Ducks have 25 goals on the season. Exactly one of those have come from a forward not on the top two lines on Tuesday; that was Maxime Macenauer's tally. Every other goal has come from a top-six forward of defenseman.

Obviously the top two lines are supposed to do the bulk of the scoring, but there needs to be balance in there.

Andrew Cogliano was just moved off the center position to the wing and bumped up to join Selanne and Saku Koivu on the second line. It looked like a perfect fit, it was clearly Anaheim's best group of forwards on Tuesday. They also have a pretty darn good top line in Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf.

"We were playing our game for the first half of the game and we were up 3-0," Perry said when I asked if they were creating enough offense. "We were scoring on our chances. It says a lot right there. When we're skating and moving the puck -- chipping it in, chipping it out, no turnovers -- it's effective.

"We got to look at what we're doing right and take the positives out of the game. A little down right now, but if we bounce back and play the way we did in the first half of the game, we'll be OK."

"All you can do is work harder and battle a little more," Hiller added. "At some point those bounces will go your way but it seems like we aren't trying. Everything seems to bounce against us and that's definitely tough but you can't blame whoever, whatever for that. At the end it's us who are playing out there and it's up to us to work harder to get those bounces.

Maybe they can just double Selanne's shifts?

"He's done his part and he continues to," Carlyle said of the ageless wonder. "Other people have got to step up. Simple situation is we can't accept that from this group."

OK, here is one of those bad Selanne jokes: Teemu Selanne is so awesome, that he made a metal wall cry. (Or maybe that was just from the water bottle he threw at the wall after the game. But I'll choose to believe he made that wall cry. I told you they were bad. Sigh.)

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