First half highlights in NHL

KidsInTheHall

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:  

    • Chet.

      Thanks for that article about Alex. I still remember the 20+ years ago when I put on my first timbits hockey jersey for novice house league.

      For the love of the game!

    • Jay (not J)

      Iginla’s had an alright career for a guy without any Cups but he has no business passing Jari Kurri on the all time goal scoring list. Hit 600 hundred on the last day of the season and call it a career.

    • Flying Elinski Brothers

      What a great story about Alex, and some of the parents who helped out . It’s amazing how many parents step up for the love of the game. There are some parents on my sons team who have stepped up giving rides etc. to kids who need rides etc. I always say hockey is cheaper than lawyers and re- hab.

    • Flying Elinski Brothers

      I hope the oilers become the team Dallas is. Decent enough goaltending and okay defense and just blow the other team out of the water

      I’m officially on the Florida Bandwagon just so that Luongo can shove it in all the canucks fans faces

      Oilers win 5-2 tonight

    • Rob...

      I hate the Flames but find it hard not to have Johnny Gadreau’s continued success as a half year mark highlight for the NHL. As a massively undersized player his success is due to hockey sense, a quick stick, a no-quit attitude and an ability to stay healthy in a way that defies logic. He gives hope to any talented hockey player who isn’t over six feet tall and 200+ pounds.

      • Will

        Also hate the Flames and despise Gaudreau. What I find is his greatest skill as an undersized player is to sneak into dangerous scoring areas without anyone picking him up.

        He gets a lot of goals in the 3 on 3 and on the break away and in the slot as he finds a way to glide in under everyone’s nose. Both his goals against Edmonton the last time they played happened that exact way. No one picks that kid up.

        He is not like Eberle who can do things in tight. I want to go yell at other coaches playing against the flames and tell them all they need to do is make sure Guadreau is picked up, just someone pick em up. That’s it, Flames don’t win.

        • Rob...

          This isn’t his first year in the league. He’s identified as the player on the Flames you have to watch, yet he’s still scoring by not getting picked up. That takes talent that is undeniable. He also doesn’t give up on plays, something Eberle still needs to work on, despite being a more veteran player.

        • workashardasSmyth

          It’s just that easy, surprised no one’s been able to do that in the last 120 games.

          And you are right he’s not like Eberle, he’s MUCH better

          • Krusher

            You better hope he is not better than Eberle or he is going to be hard to keep from making 6M plus a season . Same for at least a few others on the Flames like Monahan ,Hudler , Colbourne , Jooris ,Jones , Russel ,etc. . All 3 goalies including Ortio . Flames in deep cap trouble at end of this year , and even extends into prospect list which is long and coming up for next season . How many Flames going to bolt ? Gone are the days of discount for players not on Stanley Cup major contenders .

      • Chet.

        Well put. I’m not a fan of Calgary either, but you can’t deny talent. Have to give credit to those players.

        I’m not a fan of Ovechkin, but wow can he ever play.

        • CaptainLander

          I think Johnny hit the league at a good time. The reduction in head shots makes it harder to hit smaller players without being penalized for it as clean hits can end up being head shots. I am ok with it, I would rather the league have more Gaudreaus and Tyler Johnsons them Gazdics and John (Allstar) Scotts.

        • Rob...

          I can’t argue with that. As I said, I hate the Flames and hate how they’ve gone after our stars in the past. Good luck to Gryba in trying to hit him though. I think it’s safe to assume that at every level so far that allows hitting Gadreau has been a target.

        • workashardasSmyth

          I don’t think it is wise to target skilled players with what only could be described as a cheap shot. Ask Bieksa about what a Ferland hit feels like, and have him pass it onto McDavid. For every action, there is an equal reaction.

          Play with some class and the Oiler may become a playoff team in the future.

    • lmelnychuk19

      Alex’s story is amazing. The next tickets 1260 gets should most definitely be given to him. They’re always giving away tickets to deserving kids and I couldn’t think of a more deserving one than him.

    • Van isl Oiler

      Some of the hilites I like this season are the trades taking place in mid season rather than waiting for tade deadline . Lombardi says better to trade now for value of trade than wait for trade deadline where prices escalate much higher . As he put it , if those players do not work out as planned then you still have opportunity at trade deadline to fix them . It also allows those players extra time to get into teams chemistry , etc. rather than have them try to make that adjustment and assessment in March or playoffs . I think this is a good plan for Oilers , but no trades seem to be in the coming . Are we hoping the inflated trade deadline will be a bonus to a seller like we appear to be setting up for . I doubt we have little other clubs might want at trade deadline other than some star players .

    • J.G., super story on the Alex Kid.I know there are many kids that can’t afford the game, but I bet not many have the will like he does and doing it on his own dime and time.

      Come on Oilers spring for a couple tickets for this kid.

      ON another note, how did Parayko slip by the Oilers scouts. Local kid, played in Ft.Mac, Alaska college, makes the Blues line up first crack @ NHL. Maybe McGregor only scouted the BC jr. league.?

    • There is lots of positives and negatives on Oiler team so far . Positives : Hall and Draisaitl , Purcell looking like an NHL player again . Nurse and Davidson doing better than anticipated . Our results despite the injuries . Negatives : The play of Schultz and lack of scoring from Lander . Key injuries to Eberle , Yak , Klefbom and McDavid . Poor performances from some defense such as Fayne . Poor road record . Lack of scoring from Hopkins and Eberle .

    • Jason Gregor’s referencing of the Kane streak:

      “… we hadn’t seen an offensive tear like his since Mats Sundin in 1993”.

      While Kane’s streak was one game longer than Sydney Crosby’s 25 games, Crosby scored 50 points in his 25 games, compared to Kane’s 40 points. So Kane’s consecutive game point streak was longer and that is to be highly commended, but Crosby’s “offensive tear” was equally if not more impressive. BTW Sundin scored 46 points in his 30 games, a model of consistency, but again not as prolific. Crosby was concussed 2 & 3 games after the streak ended, and was done for the season with 66 points in 41 games. Kane has 60 points after 42 games this year.

      And another real impressive “offensive tear” during that time span, how about Mario Lemieux coming out of retirement halfway through the 2000-01 season to score 76 points in 42 games, with points in 36 games.

      • Jason Gregor

        Crosby streak was great, but it wasn’t 26 games, which is what Sundin’s was, 28 in fact. I was referring to the length of the streak.

        Crosby and Lemieux were great, but not as long for consecutive point streaks and Sundin was the most recent one that was 26+ games. I wasn’t referring to points in a short period of time, which as you pointed there have been better, but this was about a long streak. Kane in today’s scoring era is very impressive. Scoring in NHL is 2nd lowest in 60 years.

    • pkam

      Great article about Alex. His parents might have been able to afford hockey for him but they obviously raised him right. Learning the value of hard work and commitment early in his life will certainly help him out in the long run.

    • passenger

      Taylor Hall as Bruce mcCulloch is appropriate, as he was the best Kid. I feel like Eberle would have made a good Dave Foley, if just for the tooth gap. The Scott Thompson/McDeezus parallel is tough to figure out. Well photoshopped, photoshopper. GOILERS