James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Catching up and catching on

Monday, December 19, 2011


In the grand scheme of things, it’s fun to make hockey predictions, but there are some frustrating moments.

 

The most obvious example comes when you’re flat-out wrong about a team being lousy (see: the Florida Panthers). Then again, there’s the flip side in which you betray your instincts and expect a team to defy logic for another season (ex: the Anaheim Ducks).

 

If there’s one team that almost seems secretly delighted in proving me wrong, it’s the Montreal Canadiens. They’ve foiled my forecasts quite a few times already, but this season might is providing the most maddening situation. The Habs are exactly the mess I expected … a season too late. Just when I began to trust that they could get by on their combination of minimal scoring and tight team defense, just about nothing has worked out in 2011-12.

 

That mess cost Jacques Martin his job, making him the sixth NHL head coach to get canned already this season. To some extent, you could argue that every single fired head coach was the “fall guy” for a franchise that was going in the wrong direction, but Martin strikes me as one of the best examples yet.

 

If you ask me, Martin maximized the potential of some marginal Montreal teams, but eventually the law of averages (and a flood of damaging injuries) caught up to him. The systems are wildly different, but it reminds me of Paul Maurice getting fired in Carolina. Much like Kirk Muller, Montreal's new guy Randy Cunneyworth doesn't have much talent to work with. It's early, obviously, but he already dropped a 5-3 game to the New Jersey Devils.

 

The hope was that Muller could breathe new life into Cam Ward's game, but considering Martin's acumen, I'd be surprised if Carey Price gets a big boost (especially since Ward continues to stagnate). Then again, Ward already got his big contract while Price is in a contract year, so any change could be a good change.

 

Just don't expect miracles in Montreal - Martin squeezed all the minor ones out of that group already. (Unless, of course, the Habs prove me wrong ... again.)


TURRIS TRADED


One of Martin's former teams (the Ottawa Senators) also made fairly big news this weekend. The Sens finally took Kyle Turris off the Phoenix Coyotes’ hands for David Rundblad and a second rounder. Let’s ignore the Yotes’ side of this one since Rundblad is most likely a while away from having an impact. Instead, let’s discuss Turris for a moment.

 

I have to say, I can’t help but notice the similarities between Ottawa acquiring Nikita Filatov this summer and them grabbing Turris last weekend. Both players came into the league with the hype of being high first-round picks. Each one played in stringent systems employed by former Dallas Stars head coaches (Ken Hithcock with Filatov in Columbus; Dave Tippett with Turris in Phoenix). The two forwards haven’t exactly lived up to the hype, although Turris shows a bit more promise as far as production goes.

 

In the case of Filatov, the results have been starkly disappointing (at least in the NHL). He seems like he’s running out of chances, at least in the short term. Turris has been a letdown, too, but he’s at least shown potential to be an everyday NHL player. Turris hasn’t scored a single point in six games this season, but he had 20+ in 60+ games for two previous seasons. That's not much, but it's prolific compared to Filatov's work has done in the NHL.

 

Those numbers should answer your “Should I grab him now?” questions before you even ask (No, by the way). Still, there’s one interesting thing to keep in mind. Filatov received a solid amount of chances to play in Ottawa’s top-six before he started ping-ponging from the minors and back. If Turris gets the same opportunity, then he’ll have every chance to prove that he isn’t overhyped.

 

For that reason, you should at least keep an eye on his progress. Don’t worry if you he slips under your radar a bit, though, as I’ll be taking notes too.


EMERY TAKING OVER

 

Backup goalies have a tendency to usurp the starters in Chicago the past few seasons. Nikolai Khabibulin did it to Cristobal Huet and then Antti Niemi managed the same feat. I don’t think it will be as long lasting a case in 2011-12, but this might be the most surprising situation yet.

 

Last season, Ray Emery made an amazing recovery to even get back into the NHL. Now he’s on a five-game winning streak that helped the Blackhawks climb all the way to the very top of the league, pushing Corey Crawford to the bench for the time being.

 

Is he going to be in the driver’s seat for long? I wouldn’t expect him to, but if you’re the type who is comfortable with exchanging hot and cold fringe goalies, then Emery is the next guy to consider. He has a great team in front of him, so he’ll have every chance to pick up some wins. Who knows, he could end up being a Brian Elliott-type steal.


INJURY/SUSPENSION SNIPES


Zdeno Chara returned to action to get a Gordie Howe hat trick … Sidney Crosby is now on the injured reserve ... Claude Giroux practiced with the Flyers, but he wore a no-contact jersey … Sean Couturier took a puck to the head, which forced him to take a trip to the hospital on Saturday. He was released on Sunday but it’s unclear if he suffered a concussion. Danny Briere looks to get some top line time between Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell now that Giroux and Couturier are sidelined … Milan Lucic will get a call from Brendan Shanahan today regarding a hit from behind on Zac RinaldoErik Cole won’t face discipline for a “head shot” he delivered this weekend … Martin Havlat hurt his leg in a “freakish accident” this weekend to make a brutal season even tougher … Rene Bourque caught Brent Seabrook with a controversial hit. That’s a pretty big worry because Seabrook had to shake off that notorious Raffi Torres hit from the playoffs not too long ago … Sean Bergenheim was starting to heat up this weekend with three goals in two games, but he went down with a lower-body injury. (Click here for the full injury list.)



James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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