Check in with Timo Seppa on where things stand with on-ice action and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Hello, everyone! Wow, have there been a lot of early trades this season. Let's get to it, and sort out what's going on in the National Hockey League!
dfloren1 (San Jose area, CA): After Ehrhoff, then Blake left the Sharks, I still have the sense GM Wilson needs to do something to assure depth of roster in the "D" department. So here's the question: Assuming Murray, Boyle, Vlassic, and maybe Wallin stays, which of the following guys might get the axe:
2. Demers; or
And, more importantly, who do you think is out there that the Sharks could nab (even if it takes a Danny Heatley to seal the deal)?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Thanks for sending this one in ahead of time. Clearly, the answer was 3. Joslin, as he's already been traded to Carolina since you posted your question. Demers is a solid young player--something the Sharks need more of, as their farm system is starting to get pretty bare (as I mentioned in the San Jose Team Prospectus)--so I can't imagine they'd consider getting rid of him. Huskins is what he is, a third pairing guy, expendable. For this postseason, the Sharks could use an improvement in their bottom six, but they're right up against the cap. Regarding Heatley, he's definitely lost a step--he looked like he was skating with a parachute trailing him when I saw him against the Devils. He's getting less shots, and I think that's the reason why.
JonL (USA): Timo, what's your position on the way the NHL handles ties during the regular season? That is, a 5 minute sudden-death followed by a shootout.
Why should a shootout be considered an acceptable way to settle the winner of a game in the regular season, but not in the playoffs?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Personally, I like the excitement of the shootout and--even though there's been substantial work done showing how it's much more luck than a repeatable skill--I like seeing the one-on-one matchup – it's like looking in on a laboratory experiment. As I think all of us at Hockey Prospectus feel, the points system should be changed to 3 pts for a regulation win, 2 pts for an overtime/shootout win, 1 pt for an overtime/shootout loss, 0 pts for a regulation loss – like they do in the Olympics. Sure, I'm ever-so-slightly bothered by the fact that the rules change in the postseason, but not that much. What I'll throw in here is that I'm not sure that postseason games should go more than one overtime, even though I acknowledge some vague appeal to those multi-OT marathons. Maybe the postseason is the one that needs the tweak.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hey Timo, thanks for the chat. Broad question for you, is this the Capitals? Are they really a defensive team that can't score? Oh, and how much money would you have made betting on that to happen at the beginning of the season?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I've only seen the Caps once this season, and that was in the 7-0 debacle at Madison Square Garden, the one where Ovechkin fought Dubinsky. So in person, I've only seen the absolute worst they can be. Yet, I guess there's been a lot of that this season, with Washington having looked more like a bubble team than the repeat Presidents Trophy winner that VUKOTA projected.
As of about a week ago, Washington did come in as below-average offensively by Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), and above-average in defense and goaltending. What you might see as promising in that, is that if the offense can FINALLY find themselves, you'd have a great team across the board. We've seen the Devils find themselves this season, so I guess why not the Capitals. But time's running out...
J-Digg (Long Island): How good are the Islanders lately? C'mon man, just give me team some love!
Timo Seppa (Hockey): As you might know, I see the Isles a lot. They really were playing quite well for a handful of games in the early season before they went into that tailspin. What outsiders really didn't see was the number of key injuries New York was hit by: their number one defenseman Mark Streit, their (borderline) top six forward Kyle Okposo, their really underrated young defenseman Andy MacDonald, the underrated Rob Schremp - and there were more injuries than that, but those were the key ones in my estimation. Bailey too, I suppose. Folks didn't understand how decimated the Isles were. Throw in the fact that a few players really didn't mesh with Gordon, and they were in big trouble. The last month or so, New York will mix in a stinker every few games, but they've been playing like I expected them to throughout the season...without that little two month hiccup they had.
Dallas Diva (Dallas): Seeing that Dallas is likely not going to go far in the playoffs if they even make it, are they crazy not to trade Richards and probably get a first rounder out of the deal AND have a shot at resigning him next year?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Gabe Desjardins pointed to Dallas as a pretender earlier in the season, and I think he'll be proven right. The Stars are still fighting for a playoff berth, but I'd personally guess that they'll miss the cut (they're slightly under 50% if you look at team odds at most sites). Tom Awad made the "Trade Richards!" argument in a column a few days ago, showing how he's a good but not elite forward. Yeah, I'd trade him if I could. And no, I wouldn't have traded James Neal.
Gordie Howie Morenz (H.O.F.): what do you think about how the NHL handled the Isles/Pens brawl?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Can't understand why the Isles were disciplined as a team, but not the Pens. After all, it was Pittsburgh that had a player--Godard--leave the bench to fight. That's a big, big no-no.
Sean (Edmonton): All I hear are rumors about the Oilers possibly trading Hemsky or Penner - why would they move good players?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Because they're good but not great players, and at fairly big contracts (both over $4 million per season). The Oilers need to rebuild, and need good and great players for a couple of years down the line. I'd be surprised if one or both aren't moved.
Ryan (Calgary): Seriously Timo, how realistic is the Flames recent "hot" streak? Are they the team that sucked earlier this year or the team lighting it up now?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Hopefully I won't say the wrong thing and get chastised by our Calgary contingent--Rob Vollman and Kent Wilson--but I'd say the Flames are a surprise. VUKOTA projected Calgary 19th in the NHL. They were one of the two oldest teams going into this season. That's basically a position where you never want your team to be: old and mediocre. Usually there isn't much upside with that combo! I suppose they ought to ride out this run, but the key is not to get enticed by a run akin to the 2008-09 Hurricanes. Carolina were old too and they were foolish to try to make a go of it one more time with a creaky, overachieving roster. Calgary's got to rebuild soon.
Joe (Chicago): Which team do you think needs to make a move the most? Where do they need help?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Boy, is this a wide open one! I'd say it's that second tier of teams after the likes of Philly, Vancouver, Detroit...at least the ones that have some cap room to work with. Washington needs to mix things up somehow. Pittsburgh needs one more solid addition to bolster their team...that's assuming that Crosby comes back. A few teams like Nashville, Phoenix, Tampa that have been playing very well overall but have a clear deficiency on the power play or even strength. Who'd you have in mind?
Phil (Pittsburgh): Do you think the Gogo for Neal + Niskanen deal was a good deal for the Pens considering this season could very well be a lost one?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I've always been pretty high on Goligoski, but I'm not sure he's a flat-out star...pun unintended. Top quality defenseman was Dallas' need, but they gave up too much in Neal. So yes, getting Neal was worth giving up Goligoski for the Pens, no doubt. Their season's only lost if Crosby's out. Pittsburgh's got a chance with Crosby, even without Malkin. They've already picked up Kovalev and have got room for another addition.
rawagman (Toronto): Timo - how are the biggest dominos left to fall, and which pending UFA is surprisingly not dealt?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Brad Richards. Vokoun. Gonchar? Connolly? Penner?
Bettman's Nightmare (Milwaukee): Which trade do you think will have the most impact for the remainder of this regular and playoff season? What about for future seasons?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Kaberle's a really solid addition for the Bruins, but frankly he could have helped some other teams that were much more in need of an offensive defenseman. As I said, I like James Neal going forward for Pittsburgh. Less than $3 million next season, then an RFA. Anyone else come to mind?
Scrapper (Chicago): Who gets the last few playoff spots in the Western Conference? Its just ridiculously tight right now.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): It's fun, isn't it? Standard odds have the teams finishing in roughly this order for 4th through 12th: Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, Nashville, Minnesota, Calgary, Dallas, Anaheim, Columbus. I'm not sold on Minnesota, Dallas or Columbus myself; Minnesota's at 0 Goal Differential, and the other two are negative. Maybe Calgary for eighth, with Anaheim as a dark horse if Hiller's back soon?
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hey Timo, what do you see the Caps doing at the deadline? Is dealing Semin a possibility?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): The Captials need to mix it up, that's for sure. Some of Washington's problems might just be bad luck this season, but their core of players plus this head coach have gone from faltering in the postseason to now stumbling through an entire season. The Caps are in a bit of a bind in that it's not a good time to sell low on any of their role players. They just might need to do a challenge trade, packaging one of their name players for one from another organization, just to see if they could get the chemistry to improve. If all else fails, a change at coach might make sense in the offseason.
Matt Coller (Rochester, NY): What statistically is the most important position in hockey? How much do you think losing Toni Lydman hurt the Sabres?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): The GVT metric would certainly make you think goaltender, largely based on the greater number of minutes that a starting goalie sees during the course of a season.
The Sabres weren't hurt so much by losing #2 and #3 defensemen Toni Lydman (4.5 projected GVT) and Henrik Tallinder (5.3 GVT), but by not adequately replacing them. Very roughly speaking, Jordan Leopold (3.9 GVT) was a like replacement for one of them, Shaone Morrisonn (a wishful 1.9 GVT) was not. Buffalo may have overreacted to needing more toughness (as opposed to skill) after having Zdeno Chara and company bully them out of the first round of the playoffs last season. Really, they should have looked for an improvement, someone like Tomas Kaberle.
Geoff (Philadelphia, Pa): The Panthers had a good nucleus - albeit a tiny nucleus - that just wasn't winning. Both Tomas Vokoun and Stephen Weiss are rumored to leave, though both claim to want to stay. What are the odds both end up in Pennsylvania, with Vokoun in Philly and Weiss in Pittsburgh?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Maybe the Panthers just haven't been bad enough for long enough. You look at the Tampa Bay Rays or Kansas City Royals model in baseball - stink long enough, and you're eventually going to get very good as long as you draft competently. Florida needs to sell off their assets and start from scratch. They've got a few good keepers like Markstrom and Kulikov - they just need many more.
As you probably saw in the Deadline Deals piece I did for ESPN Insider, I'm again suggesting that Philadelphia might want to go out and get a truly elite netminder to try to ensure a championship (Vokoun). While everyone pointed to the no name-goaltending matchup from last season's finals--Chicago's Antti Niemi vs. Philly's Michael Leighton/Brian Boucher--we were a few whiskers away from getting the opposite message--that a team could ride a hot Jaroslav Halak or Tuukka Rask into the Finals. And the Flyers just might have stolen the Cup with a real netminder in there. Yes, Bobrovsky looks good, but why not go for better?
Yes, Pittsburgh should get a legit second line center, preferably one that's good on the power play, to replace Evgeni Malkin (who's out for sic months with a knee injury).
Gordie Howie Morenz (H.O.F.): Asking this in advance, so by the time the chat occurs it may no longer be relevant, but the Flyers have waived Zherdev. Do you think he's still a viable NHL player? If so, what organization would be a good fit for him?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Zherdev actually had a pretty nice season for the Rangers in 2008-08, if you go inside the numbers. Haven't watched him in detail myself; he seemed pretty invisible the one time I saw the Flyers in person. Any of the contenders desperate for scoring on their lower lines.
Scrapper (Chicago): What would 3 on 3 hockey look like in OT? Too gimmicky or the future?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Too gimmicky.
Goforthehead (Cheap Shot): Best player in the NHL in 2015 will be ____.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Sidney Crosby? Assuming no health issues, of course. He'll still be 27-28 years old.
doog7642 (Blaine, MN): In the long run, which Johnson (Jack or Erik) will be the better defenseman?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Jack Johnson was just brutal when I saw him against the Islanders. Might have had the worst telegraphed giveaway I've seen all season, giving up a shorthanded breakaway the other way. His recent long-term contract was a head scratcher, to say the least, for a player that's a better version of Michael Del Zotto. Erik's younger, so I guess I'll go with Erik by default.
rawagman (Toronto): There are currently more than one big comeback happening. Are there any teams out there you think will make a surprise visit to the playoffs? Any who will be disappointed by dropping out of the race?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I looked and looked and looked at the Devils situation just as they were starting to make their run, and I could never get them above about 87-88 points, which gave them about a 10-20% chance at the playoffs even with a run to get them there. So I've still got New Jersey finishing just out of the money. The Sharks' run has put them from the bubble to squarely in. The Flames have gone from out to on the bubble - I think they'll make it. Dallas is already dropping. Teams like the Rangers and Hurricanes need to watch out...the Habs are probably already safe. Realistically, Buffalo and Anaheim could still make it.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Concussions are rightly getting big headlines, but I haven't read anything outlining how the NHL can improve safety for players. What do you think?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Issuing suspensions for hits to the head has been an improvement, although it's not like the NHL was exactly proactive there. At least they went there when they were led. Better helmets? I wonder if you'll ever see face shields or cages mandated, like they do in college. It seems like some serious injuries would be avoided that way. I mean, the old guard used to scoff at the idea of helmets being mandated...
Matt Coller (Rochester, NY): Has there ever been a statistical study about goalies being "over worked"? Do you think Ryan Miller sits a single game the rest of the season for Buffalo?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I tried to look at it myself a couple of years ago, but it's a complicated topic. The effects are probably more subtle than pitcher fatigue in baseball, and it's not like pitch counts or Pitcher Abuse Points (is that right?) were the end of the story there. I did see indications that certain goalies were affected by back-to-back games, and I see some correlation between a heavy season's workload and worse postseason performance, especially for young netminders under 24 years old.
doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Will Jakob Markstrom be an elite goaltender? Is there still hope for Filatov? (I know the prospectus still ranked him highly before the year began)
Timo Seppa (Hockey): The 21 year-old Markstrom--the only goaltender in Corey Pronman's Top 50 NHL Prospects--has only a .907 save percentage with one shutout in 37 games for Rochester this season. That's not exactly blowing the doors off the AHL, but I imagine his stock hasn't gone down much.
The Filatov situation's weird. I wish they'd move him off the Blue Jackets instead of just eternally keeping him in their doghouse. As I suggested over at ESPN Insider, dealing him to the Islanders might make sense, as New York ended up as the right organization for former Oilers' bad boy Rob Schremp. I spoke with Filatov just as he was being shipped "off to Siberia" (Akron?), when he was a healthy scratch against the Islanders in December. You couldn't have met a better spoken, funnier, looser, more intelligent young guy. Makes me sad. I'd like to see him find a fit with another organization. Otherwise, it might be a great talent gone to waste.
dogtothedog (toronto): hi. love your work. love hockey and love gambling on hockey. ive always wondered the winning percentage of teams on the secound game of back to back nights. have you done any research on the subject?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I'm sure it's out there. Tom Awad did a piece for us over a year ago on it's effects on a single player. One factor that kind of negates it is that both teams are often playing back-to-back.
Scrapper (Chicago): Is a good defenseman more, less or equally as valuable as a good forward?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Less, even though they get more minutes. If you look at Tom Awad's Player Power Rankings, you'll rarely see a defenseman cracking the top ten skaters. In fact, it's all forwards this week as Kris Letang just dropped out. Only Big Buff and Lidstrom were on the list earlier in the season.
Mark (New York): What's up with Jimmy Howard?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): At least he's having a better sophomore season than Steve Mason! Howard's even strength save percentage was a sub-elite .925 in 2009-10, and is down a notch from there at .917 in 2010-11. That's a smaller spread than the .924 to .908 drop in overall save percentage.
Dion Phaneuf (Lost): What happened to me?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Phaneuf's been defensively suspect for a few seasons now. I'm not sure Phaneuf was ever going to be the next Chris Pronger, although I'm sure that was Brian Burke's hope in bringing him to Toronto. And aside from the similarity in on-ice pugnaciousness, there's isn't much similarity at all, in fact. Chris Pronger is an exceptional leader; I've never heard that claim about Phaneuf.
SimplyFalco (Amherst): Hi Timo. I'm curious as to where you think the Sabres are going for the rest of this season and beyond. Do you think they can get into the playoffs, and if not, do they have anyone they can (or should) trade? Seems like a team could probably use Steve Montador, or hey, maybe Tim Connolly - who is allegedly the Sabres' worst player and already should have been traded because "he doesn't look like he's trying".
What about for the offseason? Currently there are only 7 forwards and 3 defensemen under contract for next season, with about $21 million of possible cap space. The only thing I want for certain is for them to resign Stafford: what are your thoughts?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): With the Rangers and Hurricanes teetering ahead of them, a seventh or eighth seed isn't out of the picture for Buffalo. But do you feel as good about this team as the team that got bounced by the Bruins last season? I don't. Is Ryan Miller giving an all-world performance? Nope. It seems that a playoff berth would be fool's gold this time around. I definitely could see Connolly being gone, and Steve Montador's certainly used to being moved. The Sabres have a few nice young players like Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers to build around--in addition to Miller--but they should consider shipping off some of their nice but not great roster filler for a better future. I'd rebuild or at least retool.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): RE: shootout. I've always wondered why the NHL doesn't do the overtime like this:
5 min of 5x5
5 min of 4x4
5 min of 3x3
The beauty of that is you wouldn't even have to stop the action to make the switch. I doubt it would get to the shoot out very often. What do you think?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I see your point, but for one, that would make for a long regular season game. And 3-on-3 might be more hokey than the shootout. Biggest thing is to change the points system to avoid a defensive end of the 60 minutes.
doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Do the Blues need a playmaking center, or will a power forward like Stewart create his own shots to the point where that isn't as necessary?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): To sidestep the question a bit, the Blues need some star power. Jarmo Kekalainen did a great job building up St. Louis into one of the best farm systems in the league, but unfortunately, they never stumbled upon a superstar, nor are they handing out big contracts to free agents now. You can only go so far with a solid lineup and no superstars. You end up with a team like Phoenix or Nashville at best - above average at even strength, poor on the power play. Even when it's going well, I don't think it works to get you too far in the postseason.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hey Timo, I noticed that the second ranked team in the Eastern conference, Tampa, is a -1 (allowed one more goal than they've scored on the season). They're between Philadelphia (+47) and Boston (+43). How much stock do you place in point differential?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Definitely some, although you want to look at things like shot differential as well. Tampa's been killer on the power play (5th), which has helped offset slightly below-average 5-on-5 play. Their awful goaltending has been somewhat patched by the acquisition of Dwayne Roloson. Seems like the even strength play could be fixed by one or two trades for good depth players.
Scrapper (Chicago): Where did the Blackhawks go wrong in the last offseason? It looks like they miss not only Buff, but also Ladd, Versteeg, Niemi, etc. How do you see the Hawks' outlook for the rest of the season and next year?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I don't think they did go wrong. Stan Bowman did about as well as he could have in fixing the cap mess that Dale Tallon left him (I'd like to use a more graphic metaphor). They traded above-average depth players, which was better than trading their core. Bowman got a bunch of picks and prospects in those trades. Because of the cap situation, I always looked for Chicago to take a step back, but with a pretty quick return to prominence. They'll be good next year, don't worry.
jhardman (Raleigh): You mentioned Carolina's dependence on a creaky old roster for one too many years. What are your thoughts of this Carolina team before and after the trade for Stillman? Can they hold a playoff position and do any damage in the post season?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I'd expected Carolina to make some more hay in the second half of the season - they'd done well to stay on the playoff bubble given their killer schedule. They've got good talent, good leaders, developing youngsters, and a solid coach. I say they hold onto a seventh or eighth seed but get bounced pretty quick. Skinner should be even better next season, so that's one way Carolina will naturally improve for 2011-12.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): RE: Caps challenge trade. How would Semin for Richards be? Is that off the wall?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Yeah, that's along the right lines. Semin's signed for one additional season, but putting that major fact aside, that might be worth it for both teams.
modofacid (Philly): Has anyone ever done work on the replacement level on the PK? Seems to me, the replacement level would be higher than on the PP or at even strength. Is this possible?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): That's more of a question for Tom Awad. This isn't exactly what you're asking, but...GVT definitely considers who's getting extra PP and PK time. In practice, though, you want your skilled older players on the man advantage, and your younger, less skilled players on the penalty kill.
Bettman's Nightmare (Milwaukee): Which teams do you think are the "sleeping giants" (for now) in the Western and Eastern Conferences?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): New Jersey, for sure, if they could ever get to the dance. Tampa probably doesn't get the same kind of credit as Philly and Boston get, but they could definitely make some noise, especially given the right tweaks to the roster. Chicago could get hot. Basically, just about anyone can knock off just about anyone in the West.
doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Who are some organizational prospects whose stock has increased this year?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Sorry, that's Corey Pronman's expertise.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hey Timo, in your opinion, what are the three things this regular season has taught us? If you think of four feel free to share.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Wow, that's open-ended. Well, let me make this really simple and off the top of my head. Steve Yzerman's a good GM. Jacques Lemaire is a helluva coach. And I wouldn't want Jamie Langenbrunner on my team.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hey Timo, Sorry for all the questions I'm bombarding you with. Last one, I promise. There has been much talk about Evgeny Kuznetsov on Caps blogs. What can you tell us about him? Is he likely at all to help the Caps in the playoffs? Thanks for your time today.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Here's what Corey wrote about Evgeny from the WJHC Finals:
"Those who’ve read here before know I’m high on Capitals first rounder Evgeny Kuznetsov and his raw skill set and tonight he showed why. He still has a lot to work out in his development, but boy when he’s on he looks like a high-end prospect. From the 55th minute on through the game-winning goal in the overtime period he was simply dynamic; showing plus skating, good hands and a solid wrister that won the game. The rest of the game for him was largely forgettable though and that’s part of the problem with him."
Scrapper (Chicago): Seems that the metrics are saying that goalie is the most important position in hockey but that goalie performance is fickle and that teams should ordinarily not pay big bucks and commit to a goalie long term. Is that right? Are the Broudeours and Roys of the world just exceptions to that rule?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): There are definitely goaltenders out there that are "proven" to be elite, and they're basically the only ones you want to chance any kind of a long-term contact on - your Lundqvist, Vokoun, Miller types. I'd say that ideally you'll want to have seen at least three above-average seasons in a row from a goaltender to give him a multiyear deal. In Brodeur's case, he's getting old now and might be close to the end of the road.
modofacid (philly): Timo, I imagine you'd run into sample size issues. However, has anyone done analysis to determine if there value of goalies diminishes come playoff time?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): It's hockey. I'd imagine it would be the same!
Timo Seppa (Hockey): That was awesome - thanks for all of the great questions! Good luck to you and your favorite team here in the stretch run and the playoffs. See you next time.