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Monday Musings: The All-Good Game, Jets in First, Injuries and Could the Cup Drought End?

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Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers begin the week in a playoff spot for the first time this season. They dug themselves a 2-8-1 hole to start the season, but they are 18-7 since and are riding a seven-game winning streak as they head out on the road for games in Chicago, Detroit and Montreal this week. The Oilers have chance to set a franchise record and win 10 in a row. But, as Calgary learned yesterday, there are no easy games in the NHL.
— The injury bug is biting the Chicago Blackhawks to a level rarely seen. Prior to their game yesterday they had $35.8m on the IR. Seth Jones ($9.5m), Taylor Hall ($6m), Tyler Johnson ($54m), Andreas Athanasiou ($4.25m), Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15m), Nick Foligno ($4m), Connor Bedard ($950K), Joey Anderson ($800K) and Taylor Raddysh ($758k) were all out. Eight forwards and Jones unavailable, and Chicago terminated Corey Perry’s contract earlier this season. The Hawks dressed 11 forwards and 7 D-men v. the Flames and the 11 forwards had a combined cap hit of $13.9m, but despite the injuries and significant recalls the Hawks managed a 4-3 victory. Amazing win for Chicago, and an absolute kick-to-the-junk loss for Calgary.
— After Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Ottawa, the Oilers found themselves in a playoff spot for the first time this season. That is still one month earlier than the 2019 St. Louis Blues, who weren’t in a playoff spot until February 7th, when they held the second wildcard spot. On Valentine’s Day the Blues were up to third in the Central. They finished the season in third place with 99 points, but only one point out of first in the Central. Nashville had 100 points and Winnipeg had 99. The Oilers are five points back of LA for third in the Pacific, and both teams have played 36 games. The Oilers are 10 back of Vegas, with four games in hand. Now that the Oilers are in a playoff spot, their sights are set on finishing as high as they can in the Pacific. The final 46 games should be highly entertaining.
—  Vegas continues to battle with injuries. Adin Hill is close to returning, but William Karlsson will now be out at least a few weeks, as will William Carrier, and Zach Whitecloud will also miss a few games. Shea Theodore has missed the past 19 games, Ben Hutton has been out since December 28th, and Kaeden Korczak has been out since December 10th. The Golden Knights used their 11th D-man, Lukas Cormier, this season v. the Islanders. When healthy Vegas is very good, but injuries have brought them back to the pack and opened the door for the Oilers to gain more ground before they are fully healthy. The race in the Pacific is going to be great to watch.
— Another yearly reminder to the NHL to make the simple, smart and easy change to their playoff format. If four teams from each division make the playoffs, there is no crossover. The NHL wants to build rivalries, so stop with the foolish crossover unless two teams from the same division grab both wildcard spots. This is an easy change that will reduce travel, increase rivalries and make for better playoffs.
— The NHL’s All-Good game will be in Toronto this season. You can’t call it an “All-Star” game, because it isn’t the best players. I’m not asking to change the pace or tempo of the game. The game itself will never be high intensity, and it doesn’t need to be. It is supposed to be a fun, laid back weekend, but mainly it should be an honour to be selected— so pick the best players. The NHL needs to get rid of their outdated viewpoint that each team needs to be represented. There is no reason for it. Please, don’t use the “kids in every city need to see a player from their team” argument. The NBA proves this isn’t the case. The NBA All-Star weekend is a major event. The best players want to be there, because it is a major privilege to be chosen.
In the NHL, it is the opposite. They announced the first 16 players from each conference, and the focus was more about who wasn’t on the list than who made it. At the time, 10 of the top-20 scorers in the NHL weren’t on the list. Artemi Panarin, William Nylander, JT Miller, Mikko Rantanen, Elias Pettersson, Cale Makar, Leon Draisaitl, Jesper Bratt, Jake Guentzel and Brayden Point didn’t make it. Neither did Zach Hyman, who is tied for fifth in goals
Instead, the NHL announced the following players, who are solid NHL players, but not close to All-Stars this season: Nick Suzuki (52nd in scoring), Clayton Keller (64th), Oliver Bjorkstand (85th), Frank Vatrano (87th), Brady Tkachuk (89th), Tomas Hertl (93rd), Elias Lindholm (121st), Tom Wilson (191st) and Boone Jenner (212th).
Again, this has nothing to do about the quality of the game, but rather that making an All-Star team should be a massive honour based on merit, not which team you play for. It is an easy fix, and one that would benefit the league because major sponsors will get to see and mingle with the true best players in the NHL. Or just change the name of the event.
— The Winnipeg Jets are in first place in the NHL. They have been atop the NHL standings for four days. This is the first time they’ve been in first place in the NHL at any point in a season. The 2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers were in first place for one day, (November 8th, 2006), but this is the first time the City of Winnipeg has seen their team in first place. Awesome. The Jets, Canucks, Oilers and Leafs give Canada arguably its best chance in recent memory to end the country’s Stanley Cup drought. Four solid teams.
— It was wise for Toronto to re-sign William Nylander. He’s a very good player, and he’s having a great year. However, I don’t see why he gets paid more than David Pastrnak. Pastrnak signed his eight-year, $11.25m extension last March. I know some will say the salary cap has gone up, so salaries will go up, but Nylander has never been more productive than Pastrnak. Over the past 2.5 seasons Pastrnak has 30 more goals, over the past 1.5 seasons he has 24 more and even this season with Nylander having a career year, Pastrnak has more goals and points. Next year Pastrnak’s cap hit will eat up 12.8% of the Bruins cap, while Nylander is at 13.1%. I realize it is a small difference, but the Maple Leafs continually pay the max price for their players. They will have four of the top-11 AAVs next season in Auston Matthews (1st at $13.25m), Nylander (T-5th at $11.25m), John Tavares (T-8th at $11m) and Mitch Marner (11th at $10.9m). What will Marner want when his deal expires at the end of next season?
— Connor Brown leads the NHL in a category he’d prefer not to lead in. He has the most shots on goal among NHL forwards (45) without scoring a goal. Nicolas Deslauriers (34 in 38 games) and Rasmus Kupari (22 in 15 GP) are second and third. Brown has logged the most minutes at 410, and the top-10 are as follows: Deslauriers (336), Bo Groulx (278 in 22 GP), Jakub Lauko (263 in 28 GP) and Ross Johnston (209 in 28 GP), Jansen Harkins (193 in 23 GP), Joey Anderson (173 in 13GP), Rafael Harvey-Pinard (170 in 13 GP), Filip Chytil (159 in 10 GP) Austin Czarnik (157 in 18 GP).
— The Edmonton Oilers became only the ninth team in NHL history to have three seven-game winning streaks in a span of 43 games.
FranchiseFrom_SeasonTo_SeasonStreaksGames won in streak
Edmonton2022-232023-2439, 8 and 7 games
Boston2022-232023-24310, 7 and 14 games
Tampa Bay2018-192018-1938, 7 and 10 games
Tampa Bay2018-192018-1937, 10 and 7 games
Chicago2011-122012-1337, 11 and 7 games
Philadelphia1984-851985-8638, 11 and 13 games
Edmonton1983-841983-8437, 8 and 8 games
Montréal1977-781977-7838, 7 and 9 games
Boston1928-291929-3038, 14 and 11 games
Tampa Bay had four winning streaks of 7+ games in 2018-19, and all of them occurred during a 50-game stretch between games 26-75.
They won eight, 1OTL, W7, 1L, 3W, 1L, 1W, 1L, 1W, 1L, 2W, 2OTL, 10W, 1L, 2W, 1L and 7W. They went 41-6-3 during that run. Utterly ridiculous.

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