1. If the lockout continues, Justin Schultz could set the AHL record for scoring by a defenceman. The current AHL record for points in a season by a defenceman is 96, set by Chris Snell (34 career NHL games) back in 1993-94. Schultz is currently on pace for 105 points over an 80-game season. He’s also on pace to record the most goals ever scored by a defenceman (41), 11 ahead of the current record-holder, John Slaney (268 career NHL games). On the other hand, he’s also played just over a dozen games so far and his scoring may slow.
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are delivering more or less as expected. Both players are currently on pace to record around 90 points, and the Oklahoma power play has been clicking of late and now sits second overall in the AHL.
3. Oklahoma City’s attendance woes are starting to be a major concern. Few people are benefitting from the lockout like fans in Oklahoma City, who get to watch NHL’ers like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, but there is no sign that they are taking advantage of it. Just under 5,000 people – including tons of school kids – showed up for the Tuesday morning game, well north of the 3,402 fans the team has averaged to date. Attendance has been in decline since the Barons franchise started in Oklahoma: going from an average of 4,155 in 2010-11 to 3,684 in 2011-12 to this year’s 3,402. This is despite a reasonably successful team and plenty of high-profile prospects.
4. Yann Danis’ struggles this season are decidedly unusual. Goalies are the streakiest players in the game, and I’d argue it’s probably still too early to be unduly concerned about Yann Danis’ 4-4-1, 0.898 SV% performance this year (particularly given the defensive breakdowns in front of him). However, he never got this cold last year – his worst month in 2011-12 was March, when he went 4-2-1 with a 0.914 SV%. In fact, this is Danis’ worst save percentage run in any league since closing out the 2008-09 season with the woeful Islanders in the NHL.
5. The struggles of Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz are less unusual. Both Roy (2-2-0, 0.898 SV% in the AHL) and Bunz (6-1-1, 0.906 SV% in the ECHL) are off to mediocre starts, but that isn’t unusual. Roy had some ugly streaks in the ECHL last year – including three where he posted four or more consecutive losses – while Bunz had a great WHL season with some really ineffective stretches last year.
6. Toni Rajala is off to a strong start. It is pretty difficult to muster much enthusiasm for Toni Rajala’s future with the Edmonton Oilers – not only is he in the ECHL, but he is a scoring forward listed at 5’10”, 163lbs. He spent the last two seasons in Finland after a single year with Brandon of the WHL. However, he’s been on fire in the early going – through 12 ECHL games he has recorded seven goals and 16 points, and is averaging more than four shots per game. If and when the lockout ends, he seems like a prime candidate to get a shot on a scoring line in Oklahoma.
7. On the other hand, Rajala’s hardly the only call-up option for Oklahoma… Philippe Cornet, a 24-goal scorer and AHL All-Star last year, has also started well for Stockton. He isn’t the shooter that Rajala is – he’s a hair under three shots per game – but he has 14 points over his first dozen contests in AA Hockey.
8. Tobias Rieder is slumping again. A year ago, Tobias Rieder established himself as a prospect to watch, simultaneously scoring 42 goals/84 points in the OHL and winning recognition for brilliant work on the penalty kill. Rieder’s been streaky this year – after starting with two goals and six points in his first seven contests, he picked up nine points in four games. Since then, he’s had just a goal and an assist over his last nine games. Injury may be a factor – he missed a game recently with back spasms.
9. Put me down for Sergei Makarov. Jason Gregor’s piece two days ago asked which players should make the Hockey Hall of Fame next year, and I’m really hoping that Sergei Makarov makes the cut. Over 10 seasons between 1979 and 1989 (after which he left for the NHL), Makarov led Russia’s top league in scoring nine times. He likely would have gone a perfect 10 for 10 had he not missed 14 games in 1982-83. Add in what he did internationally – he was well over a point-per-game at the Olympics, World Championships, Canada Cup and World Juniors, and the fact that he had a very respectable NHL career in his twilight years and I think the case for him is compelling.
10. Finally, a bit of clarification – there are no “good guys” here. Some people clearly took yesterday’s piece – where I argued that NHL players don’t simply need to roll over and take what the NHL is offering them – as a sign of a pro-player bent. While I do have some sympathy for the players – the NHL is imposing its will, and all the NHLPA can hope to do is limit the damage – I don’t see either side as the protagonists in this current dispute. I’ve been very clear on this point in the recent past:
There is no ‘right’ side in this dispute. It’s not a battle between good and evil, or even a shade of good versus a shade of evil. Both sides are fighting in the margins for small portions of huge chunks of money. Both parties are rich enough to ensure their interests are fairly represented. Both are within their rights to fight in the margins, even if and when the lockout strips away more revenue from both sides than the total figure they’re arguing over. Trying to make a case for one side or the other as the good guys is just a waste of everyone’s time.
However, not everyone feels that way. There are fans vocal in their support of one side or the other, and in Edmonton it seems like ownership gets most of the sympathy. I don’t understand it, personally: the league as a whole makes good money, and they’ll make better money once this is dispute is over. Revenue is up, franchise values are up, and even some teams that theoretically bleed red ink – like Florida – are profitable in a big picture view (Florida, the hockey team, loses money – but the Panthers are a cornerstone tenant of a profitable building, and the organization that operates the team and facility has long been highly profitable).
Ownership exercised their clout during the last lockout to cap the percentage of revenue that the NHLPA membership could receive. They’re using their clout again to make that cap smaller. They’re well within their legal rights to do so, just as the NHLPA is within their legal rights to hang on to every penny they can. Nothing in that arrangement makes either side martyrs or saints.