James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Johnny's Five

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

(Note: In case you’re wondering, yes, this post’s headline is a reference to the movie “Short Circuit.” If you’re in my age bracket, that’s one of those movies that is “important yet almost a total blur and is probably really terrible in hindsight.” In other words, it remains awesome.)


I don’t know about you, but today seems like a really good day to talk about John Tavares. After all, I think I should save my remaining Olympic selection outrage for Tuesday’s inevitable Canadian firestorm. And really, how much time can you spend pondering the Czech Olympic team’s snubs before your head just goes ahead and explodes?


Even with that note aside, this really is an ideal time to talk about Tavares, especially if you’re a New York Islanders fan looking for a bright side to look on with Evgeni Nabokov getting scuttled to the IR on the same Monday night that he was injured (which seems oddly quick, doesn’t it?).


There are some convenient reasons to talk about the 23-year-old in a more individual context. He looked fantastic in scoring three goals and two assists in the Islanders’ 7-3 win against the Dallas Stars.


Neatly enough, he also hit the 300-point mark for his career, doing so in a tidy 334 regular season contests. The question (well-timed enough for the Canadian Olympic selections, though you’d hope he’s a no-brainer) is: where does Tavares rank among the NHL’s best scorers?


I’m glad you pretend-asked.


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It’s hard not to admire Tavares’ attitude, even if it’s something many of us - fans and sportswriters and increasingly murky combinations of the two alike - probably conjure up in our minds more than anything else.


He was drafted to the stinky Islanders to play in a stinky arena run by a franchise that seemed almost unable to reverse its stink. Through the good and mostly bad times, Tavares seldomly stinks. He’s been a key player basically since he first put on that sweater.


And it’s not as if he’s been handed a bevy of marquee linemates to work with, as the Islanders have often subsisted on bargain values (but still bargains) in guys like Matt Moulson, P. A. Parenteau and even Brad Boyes. The Thomas Vanek trade hasn’t turned things around like many hoped,* yet I bet Tavares felt like a child tasting chocolate for the first time when he heard that his team anted up for a big-name player.




Anyway, despite that lack of firepower around him and amid some serious dysfunction both on and off the ice, Tavares keeps getting better and better. The simplest numbers tell that tale.


-- Since his rookie season in 2009-10, Tavares ranks 18th among active forwards with 295 points. That's one less than Brad Richards and two more than Jonathan Toews. Other guys right ahead of him include Ryan Getzlaf, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux (he also beats out some big names including Patrick Marleau, Phil Kessel and Jarome Iginla).


-- Things get even more impressive if you narrow it down to what one might consider his “breakout” season of 2011-12 through today. Tavares comes in fifth in that group with 174 points. He's only 12 points behind Evgeni Malkin's 186 point mark for first place.


Does that make Tavares a top-10 forward in the NHL? Where does he ranks among, say, the top 50 players overall? I don’t know precisely how I’d answer that question, but I think you’d be pretty nutty to deny his elite status (unless you’re really getting into semantics about what constitutes “elite” … and even then, you might need to concoct some strange standards for leaving Tavares out).


Long story short, he’s the kind of talent that makes a looming move to Brooklyn seem like a fun and potentially lucrative adventure more than a frightening undertaking.




Logan Couture could miss as much as a month with a hand injury. I wouldn’t be shocked if that keeps him out of Team Canada’s mix. Why risk it when you can enjoy ample high-level alternate options? … Mikko Koivu seems primed to miss about a month with ankle surgery. Big-time ouch … Most of the other injury bits were pretty positive on Monday, though (comprehensive list here, again). The early vibe on Ben Bishop and Roberto Luongo’s issues is that they are minor. So exhale, unless you own guys like Eddie Lack (in which case, feel weird about being bummed that a guy is healthy) … Tyler Myers received a three-game suspension for his hit on Dainius Zubrus.






-- Obviously we mostly mopped this one up, but there are a few things worth pondering. For instance: I’d like to extend a belated kudos to Matt Martin for mopping the floor with Drew Miller’s mop in the bit of chirping 24/7 captured in its third episode. (NSFW)


-- I’m guessing Kari Lehtonen will get it together, but things haven’t been going too smoothly for him lately. Maybe Dan Ellis picks up a stray start, then?


-- Sergei Gonchar and Trevor Daley returned to the Dallas lineup last night.




-- Sergei Bobrovsky looked sharp in his first game in more than a month, stopping 40 out of 43 shots to return to .500 (11-11-2). He's now won three in a row and four of five stretching back to before his groin injury.


-- Chris Kreider might be on suspension watch, as he was ejected on Monday. On the bright side, he generated an even better-than-usual output, with 17 PIM, two SOG and an assist. If hits (93) were a more universal fantasy stat, I'd guess he'd be owned in more than 27 percent of leagues. He still should be, anyway.


-- Brandon Dubinsky is a rich man's Kreider right now. He has 28 points, 70 PIM, 94 SOG and 105 hits in 37 games played. Impressive.




-- I'm surprised that people are still sleeping on Aleksander Barkov, who's only owned in eight percent of leagues. The Panthers rookie is really picking things up, with a six-game point streak (one goal, six assists). He also has 10 points in his last nine contests. I think people often get too excited about someone being a good scorer for a rookie, but the big forward hasn't needed that caveat (lately).


-- OK, he didn't score a goal, but Max Pacioretty did plenty of other great things last night, with an assist, a stunning nine SOG and four hits.


-- If Carey Price is left off Team Canada's roster, I might pass out. (And I'm from the United States.)




-- Seriously, though, how is Jiri Hudler not on the Czech team? He hasn't maintained his early season pace, but he still has 35 points in 42 games played in 2013-14.


-- While I cautioned against misjudging rookies while discussing Barkov, there's also the "but this is fun and I like the guy" tiebreaker. If you're still super-psyched about Nathan MacKinnon, top pick, then why not give him a shot? He's been hot lately, with four goals (and 10 SOG) in his last two games. Three of those tallies came on the PP. I'd like to see him get steadier minutes, but the production is promising.


-- Paul Stastny's high on the list of boring-but-good players, but it's tough to dismiss five points in two games. (Yet I still find myself yawning here.)


* - Though Vanek doesn’t deserve to be buried under the disappointment of the Isles’ mediocrity. He quietly has a nine-game point streak (five goals, nine assists for 14 points) to give him 27 points in 28 games on Long Island.

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.
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