It’s the day after American Thanksgiving. Yesterday was filled with such happiness and joy. Yet after eating more Turkey in one sitting than our forebears could have ever imagined possible, and consumed enough beverages to drown a small Pacific nation, regret presses upon our soul like a cheap Tomas Plekanec turtleneck. Suddenly, there appears much in our current situation to be unthankful for. Let’s not go through this agony alone. Surely the suffering of others will make our own pain fade into the background. It’s my pleasure to provide one reason for each NHL team to be unthankful. Today we start with the Metropolitan Division. We’ll cover the rest over the next few days.
Yes, they are currently sitting within touching distance of a wildcard spot, but Carolina can’t outscore their problems. 58 goals in 23 games isn’t great. Also, I love the guy, but if Curtis McElhinney is statistically your best goalie by merely maintaining his career average save percentage, buckle up. Things could get uglier than a Dougie Hamilton floss dance competition.
Columbus Blue Jackets
To an outsider, it’s all sunshine and rainbows for Columbus, a well-balanced team that sits atop the division. But fans of the team see two huge storm cells rapidly approaching, threatening to turn this idyllic environment into a chaotic disaster zone that would make scenes from the movie 2012 look like mere sun showers. Those storm cells take the form of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, and more specifically their expiring contracts. The pain for fans if they fail to win the Stanley Cup and lose both core pieces for nothing at the end of the season, will be unimaginable. Part of me wants to see them both sign in Pittsburgh just to see the John Tortorella presser. Sorry Columbus fans.
New Jersey Devils
Firstly, if Brian Boyle scoring a hat-trick on hockey fights cancer night a year after being diagnosed with leukaemia doesn’t make you get a case of the warm and fuzzies, I don’t know what will. I was bawling my eyes out while watching the game. For that alone, New Jersey should get a pass. But they don’t, so, Cory Schneider. If as a goaltender you’re giving up over 4 goals per game, that’s worthy of unthankful thoughts.
New York Islanders
I just heard that they lost some guy in free agency that’s on pace to score over 50 goals this season. But that’s in the past. A more recent cause for un-thankfulness would be Michael Dal Colle. There’s still time for him to succeed, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely for the 5th overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft. When you consider some of the forwards that went after him, Nylander (don’t worry Islanders fans, I suspect we’ll see this name a little later), Nikolaj Ehlers, Kevin Fiala and Jakub Vrana, the pain intensifies. Also without a certain center, Anders Lee is projected to rack up around 25 goals this season. An acceptable total, but a far cry from the 40 and 34 he posted the past two seasons.
New York Rangers
Their D could be a little better. That’s about it. It would be nice if Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei provided more points from the blue-line, and Anthony Deangelo taking a step forward would be great, but it’s hard to be unthankful about a team most thought were at the early stages of a rebuild, and yet the Rangers are tied for the division lead at the quarter point of the season. I think I’m going soft. Perhaps there’s plenty to be thankful for after all…
When I first saw Gritty, I immediately assumed he was named “Mascot most likely to re-offend” at whatever training facility mascots go to these days. Also their power play has been disappointing. The return of James van Riemsdyk should help, but a team that can ice Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Couturier should be converting at more than a 15.9% rate, 25th in the league. If you thought that was bad, their penalty kill is even worse. Opponents score 31.5% of the time with the man advantage. Only Ottawa has a worse penalty kill. Just a heads up Philadelphia, that’s not great company.
Goaltending. Last year I won my fantasy keeper league with Matt Murray. He was below average, but Pittsburgh could outscore their problems. With a GAA of 4.08, even a team as talented as Pittsburgh is having difficulties. And more importantly, so is my fantasy team. As a result, the Penguins find themselves tied with Philadelphia at the bottom of the division, and five points out of a playoff spot.
Some, including yours truly, thought the Capitals would struggle to start the season. The way they celebrated winning the Stanley Cup, I thought they would be hungover until April 2037. Add in a new coach, and there was potential for teething problems. But Washington, buoyed by the ineptitude of their traditional division opponents, are doing fine. Their penalty kill could be better, but they are outscoring the difference on their power play. They have some minor injuries to be unthankful for with Brooks Orpik, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov all missing some time, but that’s it.
Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck