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Peter’s Picture: The NHL Landscape Vol. 8

The Daily’s Peter Knowles gives a professional hockey update

By

It’s time to recap what went on in the NHL this week — including two winning streaks extended, rebuild concerns in San Jose and a Buffalo Sabres-inspired look at the April 12 trade deadline.

Islanders and Hurricanes approach 10 straight wins…

The New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes ride nine- and eight-game winning streaks, respectively, into this week, and both find themselves atop their divisions.

The Islanders, sporting a 12-0-2 record at Nassau Coliseum, continue to dominate and are yet to lose a regulation game at home. They are getting contributions from their whole roster, including rookie forward Kieffer Bellows, who scored three goals against the New Jersey Devils over the weekend, and they are also getting forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau and defenseman Noah Dobson back from the COVID-19 protocol list this week. On the flip side, they just placed their captain and leading goal-scorer Anders Lee on injured reserve.  I don’t suspect they will extend their amazing winning streak much longer, with games this week against the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers.  

The Hurricanes have been equally impressive and have one of the most balanced rosters in the league. To go with their dynamic offense is the emergence of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who has been nothing short of excellent, backstopping the Canes to six wins in his eight starts and providing instant relief for the injured No. 1 goalie, Petr Mrazek, who has been nursing a thumb injury. The Hurricanes have four of their next five games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with the other against the Detroit Red Wings. Don’t be surprised if this win streak is extended past 10.

Rebuild concerns in San Jose… 

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson raised eyebrows over the weekend after he expressed his unwillingness to endure losing seasons, citing his time with the Ottawa Senators and saying “I did not sign here to go through a rebuild or go through what I did for 10 years in Ottawa” in an NHL article. Karlsson went on to express optimism and belief in the core group of players on the Sharks, touching on his ultimate desire to capture the Stanley Cup. 

Unfortunately, Karlsson has not been the high flying, game-changing, coast-to-coast Swedish beauty that the Sharks signed to an eight-year, $92 million deal just two seasons ago. Many around the league have been astonished with how Karlsson’s play has declined since his arrival in the Bay Area. A lot of his regression can be blamed on injuries, but after an extended offseason and plenty of time to heal, Karlsson has looked mostly apathetic thus far on a team that is on the outside looking in.

Although the club has won three straight heading into this week, it is an underwhelming 11-11-3 and sits in seventh place in the Pacific division. The Sharks have an uphill battle ahead if they want to qualify for the playoffs in a division that wields the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild. On the bright side, forward Evander Kane has emerged as the productive and physical winger that the Sharks desired when they first acquired him, and Karlsson showed flashes of his old self over the weekend against Anaheim.  While I wouldn’t bet on them, the Sharks could certainly turn things around if Karlsson continues to inch his way back toward the crown he once held as the NHL’s best defenseman.  

Dream trade scenarios… 

With the NHL trade deadline less than a month away, it is time to draw up some fantasy-like trade scenarios from across the league. I will start with the trades I see as most likely and move into the less likely (but fun) territory.

David Savard to the Philadelphia Flyers — The Columbus Blue Jackets are likely to move veteran right-handed shot David Savard in the next month, and the Flyers have made known their desire for a top-four defenseman.  Savard would slot in nicely on the Flyers blue line and would certainly give them a better chance to succeed in the postseason.

Mattias Ekholm to the Montréal Canadiens — Ekholm is a veteran left-handed defenseman who should be a hot commodity as we get closer to the trade deadline. It is looking very likely that he is moved given the Nashville Predators’ disappointing season, and there is no better fit for Ekholm than the Canadiens. To me, this trade would give the Canadiens an edge and give them the best chance to emerge from the North division in the playoffs. With defenseman Ben Chiarot out with a fractured hand for the foreseeable future, this deal becomes more necessary for the Canadiens.

Alex Goligoski to the Toronto Maple Leafs — Goligoski, like Ekholm, is a veteran left-handed defenseman who should be sought after by many clubs down the stretch. I think when Ekholm is no longer available, Goligoski is the next best thing available. It seems like the North division is sporting three serious contenders this year, by my estimation, in the Maple Leafs, Jets and Canadiens, and I would not be surprised to see both Goligoski and Ekholm landing amongst these three clubs.  

Rickard Rakell to the Boston Bruins — Boston turned to Anaheim last year as well when it acquired Ondrej Kase. Kase has not panned out as well as the Bruins hoped, so why not give it another try?  Rakell is a great talent and I believe he would thrive in a system where he is not relied upon as heavily as he is in Anaheim.  It would give Boston scoring depth and a chance to win against its tough divisional opponents.

Eric Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes — Staal, who won a Stanley Cup during his previous stint in Carolina, would join the club led by his brother, Jordan, and give the Hurricanes even more forward depth, giving them a better chance at dethroning the Tampa Bay Lightning. This would be a great reunion and a compelling storyline. 

Taylor Hall to the New York Islanders — Ah, yes. The trade I want to see most. The specifics of this deal would have to be sneaky, as the Islanders can only fit Hall’s cap space with their captain Anders Lee on the injured reserve and some other tricky maneuvering. But this would be Hall’s best team by a mile and finally give him a chance to shine in the playoffs and free him of his suffering with a Buffalo team that has lost 11 straight games.

Jack Eichel to anyone — It is looking increasingly unlikely that the Sabres will trade their captain as he continues to nurse an injury, but by the grace of the hockey gods he might still find his way out of Buffalo. If he does, it will not be to a contending team, but hopefully at least to an organization with some competence and a bright future, like the Los Angeles Kings or New York Rangers.  

Peter’s Power Rankings: The Top 10 Teams Right Now.

Last week’s ranking in parentheses.

  1. Carolina Hurricanes (3)
  2. New York Islanders (5)
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning (2)
  4. Vegas Golden Knights (1)
  5. Minnesota Wild (10)
  6. Washington Capitals (6)
  7. Florida Panthers (9)
  8. Winnipeg Jets (7)
  9. Pittsburgh Penguins (Not ranked)
  10. Toronto Maple Leafs (4)

What to watch this week…

Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames: Wednesday, March 17 at 7 p.m. PT

Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning: Sunday, March 21 at 7 p.m. PT

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Peter Knowles '22 is a staff writer in the sports section. He is a Psychology major from Valencia, California and plays on the Stanford Hockey team. Contact him at pknowles 'at' stanforddaily.com.