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Morning Skate: St. Louis Cup Parade?

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.


From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Monday, Nov. 11
Subject: North Poles

Let's start with the irony of all frigid ironies. Ilya Bryzgalov going to the team everyone knew he would be going to: Bryz has stamped his passport for nothern Alberta, a place he once likened to the North Pole. I'm assuming Edmonton has more parks than Winnipeg, you know, for the kids. (Truthfully, my trip to Canada in 2008 consisted of sampling various places on Yonge Street, The Hall of Fame, a Leafs game and dinner atop the CN Tower, so I'm curious as to your travels. Have you been to Edmonton? Is Bryz onto something calling it the North Pole?)

Despite the fact that Bryzgalov is still better than more than a handful of goaltenders in the NHL, backup or starter, I'm not buying him on the Oil, mostly because of the team in front of him and what the Oilers pass off as a team defensive system. Bryz was exposed in Philadelphia thanks to their joke of a defense, no longer the happy insulated place that was the crease in Phoenix. The Oilers have issues which run deeper than merely changing the player in the crease and they just dealt someone regarded as one of their minute eaters in Ladislav Smid.

Speaking of the Oilers, we had a Nail Yakupov sighting on Sunday in the 5-4 loss to Chicago, as the "enigmatic" winger grabbed his second goal of the season. (Ed. Note: Yakupov has points in three of his last four games, with two goals and an assist.)

Will you be taking a run at Bryz or is that the classic "let someone else have that headache scenario?" (Ed. Note: Bryzgalov has been recalled by Edmonton from Oklahoma City (AHL))

Fun fact of the evening, Cam Janssen has more goals on the season than Claude Giroux as the grinder potted another in Sunday's 5-0 win over Nashville. Let that sink in, Cam Janssen has two goals in three games, thus putting Steven Stamkos on notice.

Of players not named Ovechkin, Stamkos or Crosby, who do you believe will continue their torrid pace of production?

Phil Kessel
Alexander Steen
Matt Duchene
Ryan Getzlaf

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Monday, Nov. 11
Subject: Fallers, not Flyers

Ilya Bryzgalov -- I'm not touching that dude with a 10-foot pole. Bryzgalov has been -- and will remain -- a product of Dave Tippett's system in Phoenix. Bryz was mediocre pre-Tippett and he sure hasn't been much post-Tippett. Dallas Eakins is a great coach, but I actually feel sorry for him -- his young forwards leave the zone too quickly, his defense is porous and his goaltending just became a freak show.

It is ironic, though, that Bryz has landed in the "North Pole." I haven't been to Edmonton, but friends have told me you really need to enjoy winter to enjoy Alberta in that season. And he thought the media frenzy in Philly was crazy. Just wait until he sees what playing in a Canadian city means.

Claude Giroux's slow start doesn't surprise me one little bit. That severed tendon was a serious injury, no matter how they tried to downplay it. Tendons don't have a lot of blood flow, so they heal slowly. And having had both tendon surgery on my pinkie finger and a seriously injured thumb tendon, I know how slow the recovery was. He'll churn along this season, but he won't be back to full strength until February. Sad. He's so talented.

Pace? Alexander Steen is a nice player and he'll get a fat new contract on the back of this work, but he cannot sustain the pace. But I think he might settle into a Henrik Zetterberg type production. Nothing wrong with that. This is Matt Duchene's breakout year and Phil Kessel is absolutely for real. I am a bit worried about Ryan Getzlaf after he was scratched Sunday -- that "spill" at practice Friday didn't stop him from notching a hat trick the same night, but he worsened through the weekend. What does that sound like? Hmmmmm ... the first two guesses don't count. I hope I'm wrong.

I'll toss some names back at you. Where do the following guys end up?

- Frans Nielsen
- Stephen Weiss
- John Carlson
- Michael Del Zotto
- Nail Yakupov

And what happens with the three-headed goaltending monster in Anaheim? Who gets jettisoned and to where?

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, Nov. 13
Subject: It Gets Better

Of those five players you listed, I have three on my team in Jan Levine's league, with Yakupov being one of my keepers. I picked up Carlson after another owner dropped him and Weiss seemed like a value when I drafted him, which is what I assume Detroit thought they were getting when Tampa Bay threw $5 mil per season at Valteri Filpulla.

Frans Nielsen has always been an interesting player to me. Having watched the Islanders over the years with them being in the same division as the Devils, you get to notice how much Nielsen does on the ice in all situations. He's a heady player, but, as we've noted, hockey sense and defensive ability do not translate to the fantasy hockey world. I can see Nielsen coming in around 50 points with a handful of power play points, but if he were on a bigger team, I think we'd be hearing his name more due to his versatility.

Del Zotto - Does anyone on the Rangers' blue line feel like scoring this year? This has been a surprise to a lot of people considering the offensive skill which MDZ, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh have shown in their young careers. Alain Vigneault always had productive defenders in Vancouver (Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo for the 36 games he played a season), yet that has not happened with the Rags yet. MDZ has been a healthy scratch at times this season, but this is a player who has the skill to bounce back, yet I'm not so sure about him.

John Carlson has been producing the last week or so with three goals in the last four games. Like MDZ, he's too good of a player to stay quiet for as long as he did, but, unlike the Rangers, Washington is going to score goals in bunches and Carlson should see a few points simply by proxy. I snagged him on waivers in one league felt justified in it as he didn't cost me much, but the reward could be nice. Carlson already has a 37-point season his credit and a solid 22 points in last year's truncated campaign. I can see him challenging 30 points this year.

Stephen Weiss - Two goals and a helper in 17 games and now he's out for at least a week with a groin injury. That is troublesome for owners who gambled on Weiss later in their drafts. The groin injury tag is always one for concern as those injuries never seem to heal entirely, just lingering all season. Weiss has shown the ability to produce in relative obscurity, but he's a notorious points-binger, putting up a handful over a few games then disappearing. This year, he hasn't shown up in Motor City. I'm moving away from Weiss.

Giroux's production is scaring me and the Philly media is hounding him, making him the cause of all of the Flyers' issues, as if Giroux is the one who selected the team's players and fired the coach three games into the season. I'm picturing Peter Laviolette cackling with a beer in his hand watching the team lose. I've long been biased against the Flyers, but this whole Broad Street Bully attitude is hurting that team, a team who traded Scottie Upshall and a pick for Dan Carcillo a few years ago. This is a fan base that reacted as if the 7-0 deficit against Washington was erased when Ray Emery pummeled Braden Holtby. If you ask Flyers fans if they'd rather win the fight or win the game, it'd be a tough decision. It's not a surprise this group hired Craig Berube as their coach.

Team questions:

-Is St. Louis this good?
-Is the Metropolitan Division this mediocre?
-Why is John Cooper succeeding in Tampa?
-What has happened to the Sharks' defense?

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Thursday, Nov. 14
Subject: St. Louis Cup Parade

Yes, St. Louis is this good. And they'll be Cup ready when they trade Halak in a deal for Buffalo's Ryan Miller. St. Loo is one of the few places that might be able to ink him to a long term deal. He's pining for a gig on the Left Coast to be closer to his uber-hot actress/model wife, but that's not going to happen unless the Kings' Jonathan Quick is out long-term with a hamstring tear.

The Metropolitan Division was doomed from the outset by its horrific name. Jeez. That aside, there is a theme of misguided management in that division, as well as large, dominant markets where delusion rules thinking. Remember, I live in the shadow of Toronto. I know all too well about the delusions of large market teams. Honestly, the Islanders should be better. At least Columbus is trying to rebuild. The rest deserve their fate. The Rangers especially and I'm not a vindictive person -- Slats is nothing if overrated. Was it his coaching that won those Cups in Edmonton or did he simply get swept along by the talent out there? I err to the latter. And he hasn't exactly delivered in his GM role on Broadway.

Jon Cooper is succeeding in Tampa because he "gets" both the young players and the veterans. He knows how to motivate and to inspire, and, most of all, he gets commitment. He did that in the AHL with several of his current players and they seem to want to go to the wall with him. The testament to his ability to inspire? As bad as Steven Stamkos' injury was Monday, it came as the result of the center skating like a mad man on the back check. Impressive buy-in from the NHL's best sniper.

The Sharks' D got old fast. Dan Boyle was the offensive go-to, but he's in decline. I do like how Pickles (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) has grown his game. He's becoming a top-two defender who might actually become Ryan Suter like. His production has come without PP time. And his D-zone coverage has been strong. The rest of the lot? Nah -- not right now.

I watched part of Wednesday's Leafs' game. Nazem Kadri was channeling his best Darcy Tucker. I knew I was right about that little ...

Seriously, what happens in La-La-Land if Jonathan Quick is out long term? How much does Montreal improve when Alexei Emelin returns this week? And do the Rangers get any better when Rick Nash returns?

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Subject: Captain Coyote
Sent: Thursday, Nov. 14

Taking in the Avs-Blues game right now and it's been entertaining. Tightly played and defensive, but I didn't think both teams would be relevant a quarter into the season. (Ed. Note: This email was written when the 7-3 game was close in the first period). St. Louis, obviously, but the Avs have rather exceeded initial expectations. If only they had players like Kevin Shattenkirk to produce from the blue line. (Honestly, that trade has to be one of the most lopsided since Ryan McDonagh for Scott Gomez, more so since St. Louis got that "throw in" Chris Stewart).

Great points about Stamkos there playing defense. See what evil befalls you when you play defense and don't camp out in the neutral zone for an outlet pass. I still haven't watched the injury and want to avoid seeing clips like that. I don't do well with them be it hockey, soccer, football or any other sport. I was watching the Markus Naslund game live in 2001 and then also had the privilege of seeing the Kurtis Foster incident on replays after it happened. Couple that with a few others and I get a little squeamish when players go down. Great to see him being a team player and it's been interesting seeing the Bolts competitive in that division with what Montreal and Boston have been doing this season.

Jonathan Quick ... hamstrings and groin. Not good muscles to pull when you're an elite goaltender, or say, just a regular human being. Grade 2 hamstring issues are rather serious, from what my brother, an athletic trainer told me and the reports I read on Quick. LA relies on Quick just a bit, and in that bear of a division, you have to wonder if the Kings will fall off a bit. What kind of impact do you see Ben Scrivens having for the Kings? What can owners expect from him in a system different from Toronto's which is not predicated on allowing a zillion shots.

You touched on Alexei Emelin earlier in the season and the stabilizing effect he has on Montreal's blue line, given their stars' penchant for roaming from the back end, it can only help, not to mention the hits Emelin can deliver.

The Rangers I can't make sense of, like Philadelphia, and to a lesser extent New Jersey, they're struggling. Nash can be a boost obviously, but I'm impressed with what the kids are doing on Broadway: Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider. I'm not wild about the Rangers' chances, but that whole division is wide open after Pittsburgh. We're going to have a situation where a team in the Metropolitan (awful awful name) is going to make a guaranteed playoff spot with at least 15 points than a team in a different division who will be subject to the playoff or not even make it at all. Washington seems the second-best out of that group, but we know they have a tendency to vanish.

Yeah, I thought about your reaction to the Kadri hit after he ran Backstrom on Wednesday. I thought that five games could have been a bit more in line than the three he received.

What can we expect form Filppula, Teddy Purcell and the like for the Bolts without their top gun?

Shane Doan is looking like a player who is not Shane Doan. Is there any earthly way he keeps up a semblance of this pace?

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Friday, Nov. 15
Subject: Flipping Out

Steven Stamkos' absence and that'll mean extra checking attention. But St. Louis sure didn't look hindered by any of that Thursday. He's on a 35-goal pace if he can keep things up.

Doan? No way. Enjoy this while it lasts. Twelve of his 15 points have come in the last 10 games. His best season had 78 points in it and he's been on a steady decline for a few seasons -- 60, 50, a prorated 46 and this season ... He might settle in at 50, but that means just 35 more points in the next 63 games. I've always loved Doan, but there are a lot of miles on those 37-year-old legs.

I leave you with the best goal of the night. Jonathan Toews' shootout snipe. Whooosh. I think Mike Smith had to reach down and check to see if his jock was in his pants or lying in the crease. My man Toews. Sweet.