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Buffalol Blow-up and Rangers Revamp

With the Sabres in a dire situation at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in mid-December, the management pulled the plug on the coach and the GM and decided the time for change was now.  Despite having the pieces in place which should allow them to compete with the best, they have moved a number of their best players, sometimes for little or no return.  First, Jay Merkley went to Washington for a 4th round pick and immediately slotted in on their second line.  Just days later, Robert Bruce was placed on waivers, before being claimed by the New York Rangers.  He was dumped straight onto the Rangers top line.  With Buffalo in dire straights, the Rangers took advantage by picking up Bruce and saw the chance to gain ground on those atop the Eastern Conference.  Further to the mismanagement of the Sabres, both captain Paddy O'Furniture and Carey Price have been dropped from the starting line-up.  If the aim was to lose as many games as possible whilst aggravating the fan base, the plan seems to be working to perfection in Buffalo.  

 

When a rift broke out in Toronto between L-P Veilleux and management which saw the player placed on the trading block, the Rangers swept in with an offer few teams could refuse.  With Phil Kessel still the number one right-wing on the depth chart and with a number of years still left in the tank, Toronto received the rights to the Rangers past two first round picks in centre Jack Legary and defenceman Eric Zetterman as well as the Rangers first round picks in 2022 and 2023 for Veilleux.  In his first game for the Rangers, Veilleux featured on the first line alongside Bruce and Chris Kreider - a line few Rangers' fans expected to see just one week ago and could only previously dream about.  With the team sitting 8th in the East on the date of the trade (13/12/20), time will tell if the Rangers revamp will have a positive effect.

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NHL Mid-Season Stats '20'-21

 

Stat Line - GP | G | A | Pts | +/- | PIMs | 

 

Steven Austin (Ott*) - 41 | 18 | 32 | 50 | 7 | 14 |

 - 3rd in assists (37 - Duchene)

 - T-4th in points (62 - Duchene)

 

Victor Puck II (Min*) - 36 | 21 | 27 | 48 | 15 | 35 | 

 + Missed one week after blocking a shot which smashed his shin guard

 

L-P Veilleux (Tor*/NYR*) - 34 | 27 | 9 | 36 | 16 | 10 | 

 - 5th in goals (35 - Kessel)

 + Missed 3 weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee

 

Mike van Smith (Ana*) - 42 | 20 | 15 | 35 | -4 | 52 | 

 

Robert Bruce (Buf/NYR*) - 39 | 12 | 23 | 35 | 8 | 35 |

 

Wayne Orr (NJD) - 34 | 8 | 27|  35 | 3 | 34 | 

 - NHL leader in ATOI at 25:16 per game

 + suffered from a herniated disk in his back for the second consecutive season.  Missed 2 weeks in November.

 

Iain Mac (Bro*) - 34 | 13 | 20 | 33 | 5 | 47 | 

 + Originally expected to miss one game, Mac missed 2 weeks with a sore hamstring

 

Doctor Cheddar (Col*) - 42 | 12 | 19 | 31 | 10 | 32 | 

 - 5th in shots with 148 (175 - Nash)

 

Luca Mittens (NJD) - 41 | 11 | 20 | 31 | 6 | 46 | 

 - NHL leader in takeaways with 57

 

Mats Forsburger (Tor*) - 40 | 4 | 26 | 30 | 18 | 69 | 

 

Adam Adobode (Van) - 35 | 14 | 13 | 27 | -7 | 36 | 

 - 4th in hits with 119 (135 - Douglas)

 

Doug Douglas (Bos) - 39 | 9 | 18 | 27 | -10 | 91 | 

 - NHL leader in hits with 135

 - Tied for NHL lead in fights won with 11

 - 2nd in NHL in PIMs (106 - Cohle)

 - 2nd in NHL in takeaways with 45 (57 - Mittens)

 

Butter Lettuce (Dal*) - 39 | 3 | 22 | 25 | 12 | 27 | 

 

Rustin Cohle (Phi*) - 41 | 3 | 18 | 21 | 1 | 106 | 

 - Tied for NHL lead in fights won with 11

 - NHL leader in PIMs

 

Wendel Clarkson (StL) - 39 | 8 | 9 | 17 | -19 | 89 | 

 - T-3rd in NHL in fights won with 8 (11 - Douglas/Cohle)

 - 3rd in PIMs (106 - Cohle)

 

Paddy O'Furniture (Buf) - 22 | 1 | 16 | 17 | 6 | 37 | 

 

Charlie Brown (Win) - 15-17-2 3.12 GAA .893 SV% 1 SO

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NHL Mid-Season Review '20-'21 - Player-by-Player Analysis

 

With the usual format getting slightly weary, it is time for a change.  As a result, this mid-season review, as per the title, will be on a player-by-player basis and each will be given a ranking on the A+ to F scale.  All rankings are based on former stats, predicted stats, linemate production, predicted team standings and current team standings.  

 

Paddy O'Furniture (BUF) - 22 | 1 | 16 | 17 | 6 | 37 | 

It's been a helluva first half-season for Paddy O'Furniture as captain of the Buffalo Sabres.  After making bold moves to improve the team last season and in the off-season, Buffalo were ready for a charge towards a potential Prince of Wales Trophy.  Instead, the wheels came off the tracks early, management panicked and now they look to be somewhere between rebuild and contenders.  O'Furniture himself is not to blame, and the fact management have kept him out of the line-up since November is a disgrace, especially considering his production in the first month and a half of the season.  Tipped for a shot at a Norris Trophy this season, O'Furniture should look for a trade as soon as possible.

Ranking: B+

 

Mats Forsburger (TOR) - 40 | 4 | 26 | 30 | 18 | 4 | 

Signed to a bumper extension in the off-season making him the highest paid defenceman in league history, Forsburger had big expectations resting on his shoulders coming into the season.  With the Leafs tied for the Conference lead and Forsburger behind only Kessel and Kadri on the team in scoring, he's certainly lived up to the hype this season.  Alongside Norris-winner Morgan Rielly, the duo have been excellent against most teams' top lines.  On pace for a career high in almost every statistical category, he's more than living up to the hype so far.

Ranking: A

 

Butter Lettuce (DAL) - 39 | 3 | 22 | 25 | 12 | 27 | 

Originally drafted as a defensive defenceman by Arizona, Lettuce has slowly adjusted his game in the NHL becoming a premium 2-way defenceman.  At just 22 years old, there are few negatives to say about this young man's play.  Signed to a very cap-friendly hit of just under $2.9 million, Lettuce is proving to be the Stars best defenceman night-in, night-out as they look for a playoff spot just one year after being last in the NHL.  

Ranking: A-

 

Wayne Orr (NJD) - 34 | 8 | 27 | 35 | 3 | 34 | 

22 years old, 5th year in the NHL and playing at over a point-per-game pace.  Wayne Orr is arguably the best offensive-defenceman in the league at the moment.  He has improved year by year and despite missing 7 games already this season, seems on pace to top his career high of 69 points.  However, the Devils find themselves in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. But, with Orr as the team's point leader, the blame cannot be laid at his feet.  Needs his teammates to elevate their play: he can't do it all on his own.

Ranking: A

 

Wendel Clarkson (STL) - 39 | 8 | 9 | 17 | -19 | 89 | 

After starting the season the second line, the left-wing experiment failed miserably.  Clarkson was soon moved back into his more preferred 3rd line, RW role.  However, the numbers haven't quite been there for Clarkson or any or his teammates for that matter as the Blues languish at the bottom of the NHL.  While he wasn't expected to be a defensive specialist, he is a team-worst -19.  Offensively, he is on pace for another 35+ point season which is about what is expected and he continues his unbeaten NHL fight record with another 8 wins in 8 bouts (now 59-for-59).  Defence is a huge cause for concern though.

Ranking: C-

 

Steven Austin (OTT) - 41 | 18 | 32 | 50 | 7 | 14 | 

A bold off-season move secured the services of Steven Stamkos and immediately the expectations for Austin rose.  Finally, a linemate with a skill level to match and they have not disappointed.  One of the top scoring tandems in the league, Austin currently leads the Senators with 50 points from 41 games: on pace for a nice, rounded 100-points over the course of the season.  Setting up Stamkos' trademark one-timer, Austin has been having a career year in terms of helpers.  His goalscoring numbers have dropped, but they have been covered by Stamkos' 31 goals.

Ranking: A-

 

Adam Adobode (VAN) - 35 | 14 | 13 | 27 | -7 | 36 | 

With only St. Louis behind them in the standings, Canucks' fans aren't particularly content this season.  Amongst the players attracting the heat from the fans is first line centre Adobode.  With 27 points on the year, Adobode is on pace for his lowest output since his rookie season.  Being paid over $7 million a season, much more is expected of the young man tipped to turn this ailing franchise around when he was drafted.

Ranking: C-

 

Charlie Brown (WIN) - 15-17-2 3.12 GAA .893 SV% 1 SO

After a 0-4-0 start to his NHL career and a GAA of 4.50, Winnipeg were forced to sign James Reimer as back-up to Brown.  At 1-8-0, it looked like Brown's career was possibly over before it had really begun.  However, he has somewhat steadied the ship and seems to be heading in the right direction.  Further improvements need to be made from the netminder who proclaimed himself to be "the best goalie in NHL history".

Ranking: D

 

Doug Douglas (BOS) - 39 | 9 | 18 | 27 | -10 | 91 | 

After a blockbuster trade sent him to Boston, many expected this to be Douglas' breakout season.  Free from the shadow of Toews and Loughton, Douglas was expected to eclipse his career high of 63 points hit last season.  Instead, he has struggled offensively but the whole Bruins roster has as they have scored the 9th fewest goals so far this season.  His defensive play has been nothing short of outstanding, however, and that alone has saved his name from the critics (+29 TkA:GvA).  Needs to up his offensive display in the second half.

Ranking: C+

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Player-by-Player Analysis (cont.)

Victor Puck II (MIN) - 36 | 21 | 27 | 48 | 15 | 35 | 

Scoring at 1.33 points-per-game, Victor Puck II is on pace for 109 points over an 82 game schedule.  This puts him second to only Matt Duchene in PPG pace (1.47 for Duchene).  With Minnesota 3rd in the Western Conference, Puck II deserves the plaudits coming his way.  

Ranking: A

 

Rustin Cohle (PHI) - 41 | 3 | 18 | 21 | 1 | 106 | 

Tough-guy, defenceman and offensive contributor all wrapped in one 6' 2" bundle of Rustin Cohle.  The NHL's leader in fights has emerged as a reliant defenceman for the Flyers since the start of the '19-'20 season and has continued his upward trend this season.  With 21 points already to his name, he is well on course to top his previous career high of 26.

Ranking: B+

 

Doctor Cheddar (COL) - 41 | 12 | 19 | 31 | 10 | 32 |

Playing second fiddle to Nathan MacKinnon is never easy, but that is the job entrusted in Cheddar.  This season, he has proven why he hasn't been given the chance he thinks he deserves on the top line.  With 31 points in 42 games, Cheddar has not produced to the level expected from an elite player within the league - he is tied for 56th in scoring.  He is defensively reliable but needs to show he can be even better.

Ranking: C

 

L-P Veilleux (TOR/NYR) - 34 | 27 | 9 | 36 | 16 | 10 | 

With 11 points in just 8 games since his arrival in the Big Apple, it is easy to see why the Rangers were so keen to get Veilleux.  In the shadow of Phil Kessel in Toronto, Veilleux never really got the minutes to showcase all his talents.  He will get that in New York and it will be interesting to see just how good this kid really is.

Ranking: C+

 

Mike Van Smith (ANA) - 42 | 20 | 15 | 35 | -4 | 52 | 

Taking on the mantle as the team's top player was never going to be easy for MVS this season.  He has done well, if not spectacularly, in putting up 35 points in 42 games (good enough to lead the Ducks in scoring).  With the Ducks not having made the playoffs since MVS was drafted in 2016, they must be doing something right as they currently hold the West's 6th seed.

Ranking: B-

 

Robert Bruce (BUF/NYR) - 39 | 12 | 23 | 35 | 8 | 35 | 

Another casualty of the Buffalo saga, Bruce has been good since his New York arrival.  Shifted between 1st and 2nd lines for most of the season, he has a respectable 35 points.  A +22 takeaway:giveaway ratio is also an added bonus.

Ranking: B

 

Iain Mac (BRO) - 34 | 13 | 20 | 33 | 5 | 47 | 

Struggling with niggling injuries, Mac has still managed 33 points in 34 games on the second line.  A long way off his career best 99 points but well above average.  Despite missing 7 games, Mac is still second on the Dodgers in scoring and is an important cog in the Brooklyn wheel which is rolling steadily towards another playoff berth.  Mac will be hoping he is over the worst of the injuries.

Ranking: B

 

Luca Mittens (NJD) - 41 | 11 | 20 | 31 | 6 | 46 |

In his second full season in the league, Mittens is suffering from a slight case of sophomore slump. 71 points in his official rookie season was always going to be tough to follow up but he is currently on pace for 60+.  If he were to get that, it could be considered a relatively successful season personally.  However, playing on the first line and with the Devils in 13th place, Mittens will no doubt feel he needs to improve.

Ranking: C

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