We are eight games away from the official halfway point of the NHL season, but 607 games (49.3%) is close enough in my eyes to look at how the first half has unfolded.
The Oilers have played half their games, and despite a ten-point improvement over last year they are still in the basement of the Pacific Division. The good news is they are only four points out of a playoff spot compared to being 20 points behind after 41 games last year.
There have been a multitude of surprises, both positive and negative, thus far across the NHL. Here is what has stood out for me.
- Jaromir Jagr continues to impress. He passed Marcel Dionne and now sits fourth all-time in goals with 736. He likely will pass Brett Hull (741) later this year. Jagr turns 44 years young on February 15th, and he has 14-15-29 in 37 so far this year, tied for 50th in NHL scoring. He needs 19 points to tie Gordie Howe for third all-time and is on pace to reach 1850 points later this year. He is a marvel and one of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen.
- Jagr’s Panthers have won eleven straight games and will go for #12 Sunday in Edmonton. They are tied with the fourth most points in the NHL, and while I picked them to make the playoffs, I didn’t expect them to lead their division. I know their possession numbers aren’t great, but they have been a pleasant surprise.
- The Dallas Stars. They are the only team in the NHL whose games average more than six goals/game. They’ve scored 23 more goals than the Washington Capitals, who are the second highest-scoring team. The Stars are 21st in goals against, but they are second in the NHL in points. They win by outscoring the other team in run-and-gun fashion which is very rare in today’s NHL. They are a breath of fresh air in an increasingly low-scoring league. There is only one team who averages more than six combined goals/game in the NHL. That is sad.
- Jarome Iginla became the 19th player to score 600 NHL goals. If he scores eleven more this season he will pass Jari Kurri (601), Dino Ciccarrelli (608) and Bobby Hull (610). We should cherish Iginla’s ability because we won’t see many 600 goal scorers in the future.
- Alex Ovechkin will reach 600. He has 497, but after that I don’t see anyone who is close. Marian Hossa (491) will hit 500, but he is 37, while Patrick Marleau (470), Vinny Lecavalier (411) and Patrick Elias (407) are the only players over 400 and I don’t see Marleau scoring 130 more goals.
- On November 25th Patrick Marleau became the 83rd player to score 1000 points. Marleau should score 20+ goals for the 13th time this season. He’s been a consistent producer for many years and will be the new member of the 1000 club this season.
- Patrick Kane’s 26-game point streak. He is only the seventh player in NHL history to have such a streak, and we hadn’t seen an offensive tear like his since Mats Sundin in 1993.
- Leon Draisaitl’s emergence. No one expected him to be an offensive dynamo this year, never mind being a point-a-game player in his first 31 games.
- Leo Komarov has 15 goals. If you have him in your fantasy draft you should be doing alright. He had 12 goals in his first 104 NHL games, but he has 15 in 39 this year and will represent the Maple Leafs at the All Star game. No one saw that coming.
- The Oilers are only one and two points back of San Jose and Anaheim respectively. If you gave Oilers fans that option at the start of the year they would have jumped at it. Yes, the Pacific Division is weak this year, but at least the Oilers are in the playoff conversation and thankfully we haven’t had to start researching the 2016 draft class in January.
- I think Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin have become locks for Canada at the upcoming World Cup. Both have proved their naysayers wrong, and no one is talking about so-called “character issues” with either of them now.
- Braden Holtby has 25 wins. He needs 23 in the second half to match Martin Brodeur’s NHL record of 48. Holtby and the Capitals are the best team in the NHL in my eyes right now. Imagine if they hadn’t traded away Filip Forsberg a few years ago for Martin Erat. They’d be even deeper offensively.
- The best trade of the off-season goes to the New Jersey Devils. They acquired Kyle Palmieri for a 2nd and 3rd round pick at the 2015 draft. Palmeiri is tied for 12th in goals with Steven Stamkos, Max Pacioretty and Daniel Sedin. What a steal for the Devils.
- Some great local success stories. Blues D-man Colton Parayko is playing 19 minutes a night in St. Louis and looking great. He has as many points as Alex Pietrangelo, but four more goals.
Sherwood Park resident Daniel Carr is another great story. He was never drafted after playing a few years for the St. Albert Steel in the AJHL. He played four years at Union College before signing with the Canadiens. He was in the AHL last year and was recalled after 21 games this season. He has five goals and seven points in 15 games with the Habs and has earned a reputation of being a tireless worker. Both of these guys prove hard work and determination will pay off.
- My favourite story of the first half has nothing to do with the NHL, but it involves a wonderful love affair with hockey for a 16 year old boy named Alex MacFarlane. Take a moment and read Alex’s story. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- A Conversation with Zack Kassian
- McDavid and Yakupov involved in battle drills
- GDB 41.0: Halfway mark
- Looking ahead and a sincere Thank You
- Draisaitl’s work in summer pays off in November and December
- Are three scoring lines realistic
- Adam Oates: The Skills Coach