NHL Week in Review (Feb. 26-Mar. 3)

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One of the most exciting times in the NHL calendar is now passed as the Trade Deadline has come and gone. On February 27th the NHL GMs had their last chance to make their team better or make room on their roster for next year. This year the action was not all it was built up to be as the majority of the deals were not involving big names. The deadline instead saw most of the deals involve some minor parts to provide depth to the teams. Most of the big deals occurred before the trade deadline but the rumours continued to flow about some big names. Big names like Steve Ott, Dustin Brown, and above all Rick Nash. Not one of these players were moved as no teams could work out a deal to bring any of these players to their team. With the trade deadline over all of these players can relax as the rumours of them having to uproot their lives are over for the rest of the season. It is one of the hazards of being a professional athlete as at any point you may need to move your life by being traded. This is what makes the trade deadline so stressful for the players who have to hear the rumours for weeks that they may be traded. This year one of the biggest trade rumours surrounded Rick Nash who was placed on the trade block by the Columbus Blue Jackets after he waived his no-trade clause and gave them a list of 5 teams that he wanted to go to. The rumours persisted throughout the trade deadline but nothing happened for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons for Nash not being moved is that the Columbus Blue Jackets were asking a lot for their captain and many teams did not want to pay that price. Along with this came the big contract of Nash that many teams did not want to take on. These reasons forced the trade deadline to pass without Nash being moved ending all of the speculation. All was calm until the day after the trade deadline when Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson stepped to the microphone to discuss the lack of a Nash trade. First Howson talked to the high price for Nash saying that he didn’t regret asking a lot as that is what they needed if they were to give away their top player. Then Howson did something that shocked most of the hockey world as he announced that Rick Nash had actually asked for the trade and that Columbus had not wanted to get rid of him. A trade situation is always a sensitive time for everyone involved as everyone, including fans, are having mixed feelings about the organization and the player. Putting the blame on Nash did not help the situation except helping Howson himself. By blaming Nash, Howson deflected any blame from himself with his job on the line as the Blue Jackets may blow the team up after a last place finish. Whether or not it is true that the Nash asked for the trade, it is most likely true as the Jackets will begin rebuilding, the fact that Howson decided to put it to the public shows that he is not ready to be a GM in the NHL. Throwing Nash under the bus only angers the fans, who will turn against Nash, and Nash himself who sees that the team does not have his back. This will likely come back to hurt the Jackets as it will only encourage Nash to seek a trade even more in the offseason. With this type of treatment Nash will not likely remain in Columbus for long as he will likely seek a trade to almost any team instead of the 5 teams he listed. Meanwhile Howson will likely be walking a tight rope for the rest of the season and will not likely be back after an almost sure last place finish and the way he handled the trade deadline. Overall the trade deadline was uneventful but the Blue Jackets made a story out of it with Scott Howson saving himself by throwing his best player under the bus and possible putting the last dagger in his career in Columbus.

Another career was also finished late this week as the Toronto Maple Leafs made a last-ditch effort to make the playoffs by firing their head coach. Ron Wilson was at the helm of the leafs for 4 years and had steadily improved the team in almost every year. He had a long way to go from when he started though as the Leafs had been on the downturn. Wilson never made the playoffs as the head coach of the Leafs but this year looked like it was the year for them to break an 8 year playoff drought. They looked to be doing just that as the Leafs played well at the beginning of the season launching them to the top of the conference. Then they began to slow down but they were still within reach of a playoff spot. Then came February where the team began to fall apart and lose more and more as they slid out of a playoff spot. With the collapse came a demand by the fans for a change in any way. At first they were hoping that the change would come at the trade deadline but after a few small moves that did not change the roster much the focus shifted. With no player coming to save them the fans looked to the management and coaching to bring change as they called for the firing of Ron Wilson and they got just that. On Friday a day before their game in Montreal Brian Burke announced that Ron Wilson had been fired from the Leafs. The change had been made as Randy Carlyle would take over behind the bench with the Leafs only having 18 games left to try to make the playoffs with some desperation. The biggest question for many is the timing of the coaching change. Is there enough time now for Carlyle to turn the team around or should they have waited until the end of the season? Why not fire Wilson after their game against Florida earlier in the week to give Carlyle more than one day to look at his team? All of these questions will be answered and analyzed later but for now the Leafs have a new head coach and a very outside chance of making the playoffs but that won’t stop them from trying to make the playoffs with very little games left.

 

NHL Playoff Outlook:

Eastern Conference:

1. *New York Rangers (89)

2. *Boston Bruins (79)

3. *Florida Panthers (72)

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (81)

5. Philadelphia Flyers (77)

6. New Jersey Devils (77)

7. Ottawa Senators (76)

8. Winnipeg Jets (70)

 

9. Washington Capitals (69)

10. Tampa Bay Lightning (68)

11. Buffalo Sabres (68)

12. Toronto Maple Leafs (67)

13. New York Islanders (63)

14. Carolina Hurricanes (62)

15. Montreal Canadiens (60)

 

Western Conference:

1. *Vancouver Canucks (90)

2. *Detroit Red Wings (89)

3. *Phoenix Coyotes (75)

4. St. Louis Blues (89)

5. Nashville Predators (83)

6. Chicago Blackhawks (77)

7. San Jose Sharks (73)

8. Dallas Stars (73)

 

9. Los Angeles Kings (72)

10. Colorado Avalanche (70)

11. Calgary Flames (69)

12. Minnesota Wild (66)

13. Anaheim Ducks (66)

14 Edmonton Oilers (56)

15. Columbus Blue Jackets (47)

 

Key Scores:

New York Rangers 2 – 0 New Jersey Devils

– The Hudson River Rivalry took on a new meaning as both teams were playing for their spots in the playoffs as the Rangers won to stay on top of the conference and the Devils took the loss falling to the bottom of the playoff seeds

 

St. Louis Blues 5 – 2 Edmonton Oilers

– St. Louis looked to keep their strong run for the Central Division and did all they could beating the Oilers to continue challenging the Red Wings as the Oilers will see yet another year out of the playoffs and at the bottom of the league

 

Detroit Red Wings 6 – 0 Minnesota Wild

– The Red Wings put some distance between themselves and the Blues in the central division and continued to fight for the President’s trophy by dominating the Wild who continue to fall apart after a great start to the season

 

Toronto Maple Leafs 3 – 1 Montreal Canadiens

– Randy Carlyle made his debut behind the Maple Leafs bench after being hired on Friday and he gave all Leafs fans hope as the team looked much better beating their longtime rivals the Canadiens who continue to struggle as they have done all season

 

Next Week:

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings (Sunday March 4th; 4:00 pm)

– The Central Division rivalry continues as the Blackhawks look to stay in the playoffs by beating their rivals the Red Wings but it will be a hard task as the Wings look strong again and continue to fight for the President’s Trophy

 

Los Angeles Kings vs. Nashville Predators (Tuesday March 6th; 8:00 pm)

– The L.A. Kings are looking for a playoff spot as they need to start scoring goals with Jeff Carter now in the lineup but they will have a tough time against the quietly good Nashville Predators who are looking for their second playoff spot in two years

 

Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames (Friday March 9th; 9:00 pm)

– The jets are holding on to the 8th place spot in the Eastern Conference and are looking to continue their hold of the playoff spot for their first year in Winnipeg while the Flames are looking to take the 8th spot in the West

 

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Saturday March 10th; 7:00 pm)

– Randy Carlyle will again be behind the bench with one week under his belt as the Maple Leafs continue to look for that elusive playoff spot that will break and 8 year drought while the Flyers are looking to get on a roll heading into the playoffs

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