RotoWire Partners

NHL Schedule Analysis: Fire Sale on the Eastern Seabord?

Brian Rutherford

A freelance writer of all things but mostly sports, music and politics, Brian Rutherford was raised on Long Island, NY and currently resides in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. His favorite teams are the New York Rangers, Texas Rangers, New York Giants and New York Knicks. "So the difference I think, boils down to this: you can either impose yourself on reality and then write about it, or you can impose yourself on reality by writing it." -Hunter S. Thompson "The Proud Highway"

NHL Schedule Analysis
by Brian Rutherford, RotoWire Writer

Ah, the trade deadline is where the NHL finally enjoys a comparison to the great MLB for its exciting period leading up to its trading deadline. With the All-Star Game quickly approaching next week, it's clear to several teams they are out of the race for eight in the Eastern Conference. Three of the teams settling into the bottom of the Conference have four games this week. The Islanders, Devils and Panthers may now commence the auditioning of their talent as trade bait.

Fire Sale on the Eastern Seaboard?

The Florida Panthers are the most talked about professional Florida hockey team, but for all the wrong reasons. Neglecting the fact that Panthers are a mere nine points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, they appear weaker than struggling Ottawa and Toronto. Undoubtedly, several teams (Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota) in the hunt for playoff life, have some questions between the pipes and may come-a-calling for the six-million dollar man, goalie Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun (16-15-1) has been his usual, dependable self this season, posting five shutouts. Set aside a below-average defense in Florida for a second and consider in his 33 games started, Vokoun has allowed three goals-or-less in 26 of those games. That being said, should Vokoun be shipped out of town before next month's trade deadline, back-up Scott Clemensen (5-5 2.39 GAA) has been solid as well in limited action.

Also impatiently awaiting Vokoun's exit in Rochester of the AHL

Jacob Markstrom - 12-16-1 3.14 GAA
Tyler Plante - 5-5-1 3.31 GAA

Cory Stillman, Dennis Wideman, Bryan McCabe, Stephen Weiss and Bryan Allen may also grab some attention from suitors. For now, the Panthers should probably hold onto Vokoun as their schedule this week includes two division rivals.

FLA this week: vs. ATL, CLB, TB @NJ

The trade of Rollie the Goalie (Dwayne Roloson) and D James Wisniewski, on the surface, was pretty much all the Islanders had to offer the NHL 'buyers' of the 2010-11 campaign. Although, you can't rule out the return of Doug Weight (back spasms), you have to figure the Islanders brass may want to keep around a few veterans for all the fresh faces. If Rick DiPietro could ever manage to string together a month of solid goaltending without an injury, you still have his $4.5 million contract to slough off. More likely to be moved from lonely Long Island may be D Milan Jurcina (four points, four PIM in last four games) or LW Matt Moulson (former 30-goal scorer) who has 23 points, 119 shots in 42 games. But let's say the Islanders stick with what they have, what could the rest of the season look like? Well, including their 5-0 loss to Chicago on January 9th, the Islanders have actually been impressive in their last 13 games, posting an 8-3-2 record, which includes a recent 4-3 shootout loss to heavy-handed Vancouver. Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau (five goals in six games this month) and the reinvigorated John Tavares (18 points in last 15 games) have a favorable schedule this week.

NYI this week: vs. NJ, WAS @ BUF, vs. BUF

Are the Devils selling or patiently waiting? The exit of Jamie Langenbrunner brought a conditional third round pick in 2011 draft. If they are selling, would they ever consider trading Martin Brodeur, and furthermore, is anyone goalie starved enough for the declining talent? Twelve players on their active rosters making a seven-figure salary or better, dare I ask, are the Devils a seller? Do they have the talent in Albany (AHL) to sustain sending a few players out for draft-picks or still maturing talent? A quick glance of their AHL goalie statistics says Mike McKenna or Jeff Frazee would get an immediate call-up, but neither have the career stats to insinuate they would be the heir to the Brodeur throne. It's looking like Zach Parise (torn right-meniscus) won't be back until at least April, if at all, and Travis Zajac's number have suffered. Jason Arnott, Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias are known to be great for a team's playoff chemistry, but carry heavy contracts. Sale or no-sale, your guess is as good as mine, though I think GM Lou Lamoriello is more likely to stay put. In the meantime, the Devils have won three of their last four games. This week's schedule features games against four Eastern Conference rivals.

NJ this week: @ NYI, vs. PIT, @ PHI, vs FLA

Not quite for sale, yet

Calgary is 6-2-2 over their last 10 and holding up the rear of Western Conference playoff-hopefuls. Players like David Moss (two goals vs OTT) and defenseman Anton Babchuk (nine points in last 10 games) are starting to add to the production of the roster. Should this continue, it's very unlikely any trades will occur. Calgary looks to get themselves back in the race against very formidable opponents this week.

CGY this week: @MON, vs. MIN, DAL @VAN

The youth movement has energized the vets in Carolina and all of a sudden the Hurricanes are 7-1-2 in their last 10. Jussi Jokinen has a five-game goal scoring streak, which includes 10 (five goals, five assists) points. The Canes take on some of the NHL's best this week.

CAR this week: @BOS, vs. BOS, vs. NYR @ PIT

Fire Sale Suitors?

No rest for the weary as the Red Wings, who seemingly have already met their health-coverage deductible for the year, lost Jimmy Howard (knee, day-to-day) and Tomas Holmstrom (broken hand, three-to-six weeks) this past Friday. With Chris Osgood (groin surgery) out six-to-eight weeks, Joey MacDonald (seven GA in 178 min) is the number one goalie for the foreseeable future, while Thomas McCollum has been recalled from Grand Rapids of the AHL. McCollum is 5-10-2 with 3.11 GAA in 17 games.

Detroit is managing to hang tough though, as they are 4-2-1 in the month of January. Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk are tentatively expected back February 2nd, and Mike Modano has even resumed skating. Question is, just how tough will they be this week with a competitive week to plan for?

DET this week: @ PIT, STL vs. CHI

Nationally Televised action in EST (Record this season 2-2)

VERSUS -- 1/17/11 -- 8:30 pm Los Angeles @ PREDICTION: Dallas 4-3 S/O Final
VERSUS -- 1/18/11 -- 7:30 pm Montreal @ Buffalo PREDICTION: Montreal 4-2
NBC -- 1/23/11 -- 12:30 pm Philadelphia @ Chicago PREDICTION: Philadelphia 2-1 S/O final

The Full Schedule Grid

Team Away Home Total
Atl 2 2 4
Bos 2 2 4
Buf 2 2 4
Car 2 2 4
Cgy 2 2 4
Fla 1 3 4
LA 3 1 4
Mon 2 2 4
NJ 2 2 4
NYI 1 3 4
Phi 1 3 4
Pho 1 3 4
TB 2 2 4
Anh 3 0 3
Cls 3 0 3
Col 0 3 3
Dal 2 1 3
Det 2 1 3
Edm 0 3 3
Min 3 0 3
Nsh 3 0 3
NYR 2 1 3
Ott 1 2 3
Pit 1 2 3
SJ 2 1 3
StL 0 3 3
Tor 1 2 3
Van 1 2 3
Was 3 0 3
Chi 1 1 2