James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Metro Sensibles

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

If it happened earlier this season, the John Tortorella fiasco probably would have received wall-to-wall coverage by the Hockey Daily Dose.

At this point, it’s just all kind of exhausting.

As I mentioned on Monday, I actually think that John Tortorella might benefit from a break. Specifically, he’s getting an involuntary 15-day stay in timeout, which works out to six games missed behind the Vancouver Canucks bench.

That means Torts will be back behind the bench on Feb. 3, which puts him in game two of a five-game road trip to end the Canucks' run of games before the Olympic break. In a grand scheme of things, I think the break might benefit Tortorella, at least on a human level. It all seems appropriate enough, really.

The silly thing is Bob Hartley receiving a $25K fine.

OK, let me clarify. If the NHL always fines coaches that massive amount (no idea what Hartley's making, but I assume this is a considerable chunk) for sending the goons out so shamelessly every night, then great.

Unfortunately, I can't help but believe that Hartley is only being fined to keep people from getting furious about how he’s been treated in relation to Torts' punishment. The bottom line is that as obnoxious as it is to send out your beasts in such an obvious way, plenty of coaches (yes, Torts included) do it too. So if Hartley's only getting fined because this is a highly public moment, yet the NHL turns a blind eye to numerous other examples, then it's another lame example of the NHL being lazy and/or spineless.

So expect Hartley to get fined but few (if anybody) else getting the same punishment or the same situation in which there's no rage-crazed coach trying to start a hallway fight.

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Anyway, no sense banging your head against the wall about double standards and stupidity all day. Let’s continue division-by-division outlooks with the Metropolitan Division, then:


15 home games remaining, 19 road games remaining

Toughest stretches: Boy, things don't exactly look rosy for the Hurricanes, who have played OK enough considering all their bad injury luck this season (Anton Khudobin, in my mind, is the difference between success and failure, as they're playing on a razor's edge of victory and defeat many nights).

The post-Olympic break isn't friendly to the Canes. They hit the road immediately, playing five in a row away from home (going from Buffalo to Dallas to California, yuck) and also play six of seven on the road overall from Feb. 25 - March 8. They get a brief respite, but March ends tough with a three-game road swing and a tough haul overall through April Fool's Day (seven of 10 on the road).

My guess is they're toast once National Annoying Prank Period kicks in, but if not, finishing with three of four on the road might do the trick.

Lucrative stretches: Ignoring more mundane three-out-of-four home runs for the sake of avoiding tedium (there are a couple), the Hurricanes best go into the break with a head of steam.

Starting on Jan. 24 against the Ottawa Senators, they play six out of seven games in Carolina. The opponents during that run are pretty manageable aside from St. Louis, too.

Olympic Factor: Three players, although Alexander Semin has to be Russia's first replacement in case of injury ... right?

The Hurricanes clearly need to catch their collective breaths heading into a tough post-Olympic stretch, so it's nice (and indicative of their mediocrity, which is less nice) that they have a light group of players going overseas. The prospect of Tuomo Ruutu's injury-riddled frame taking any more abuse is pretty depressing, though, frankly.



18 home games remaining, 16 road games remaining

Toughest stretches: It's pretty easy to see the toughest set of challenges ahead for the Blue Jackets, but luckily, the tough times are split up by the Olympic break. (Don't underestimate the impact of that early February break/massive amount of pressure; considering the parity in the NHL, I wouldn't be surprised if helps decide a spot or two.)

Anyway, the Blue Jackets could still lose a bunch of games even with that luck in mind. They end their pre-Olympic schedule with a worrisome trio of road games in California; some might argue they'd be lucky to get out of that with two standings points.

Then comes the Olympic break. After that, it's rotating road games (one home, one away and then one home, one away again) followed by three straight away contests against the Central Division. (I'd say their "former buddies" in the Central, but Dallas mucks that joke up.) On the bright side, it's pretty smooth sailing if they can brave those currents.

Lucrative stretches: Hey, at least the Blue Jackets could conceivably load up on points during two noticeable runs.

The first begins tonight, as they play six of seven games at home to end January.

Things get rocky for quite a while after that, but they face some interesting opportunities in Mid-March. During that span, they:

-- Start off with three of four games at home. March 20-23 is a little tougher with a back-to-back set and two of three on the road, but then they spend three of four games at home to enter April.

-- After that, it's a road game against Philadelphia and then three straight contests at Nationwide Arena before they close the season with two winnable games in Florida.

-- To review, they play 10 of 15 games in Columbus from March 11 - April 8.

Olympic factor: Five players, though I’d argue four, because c’mon it’s Marian Gaborik.

If Gaborik doesn’t go, the Blue Jackets send a ton of Russians overseas. Fantasy owners of Sergei Bobrovsky should root for Semyon Varlamov to get the starting gig, because that means rest for Bob.


19 home games remaining, 13 road games remaining

Toughest stretches: Generally, the worst might be over for the Devils, although Jaromir Jagr's already bummed out.

The streaks are pretty simple:

Jan. 28-31: Three in a row on the road against the Central, though the back-to-back is against the duo of Central "you never know what you're going to get" teams in Nashville and Dallas.

March 7-15: Four of five away from home, though it's manageable East fare.

Nothing else is too taxing, on paper, though.

Lucrative stretches: The Devils are a pretty good team to invest in, I'd say.

-- To start things off tonight, they play three straight at home.

-- After that, it's three of four and four of six in New Jersey after the Olympic break.

-- Things get especially lucrative in mid-March. They play five games in a row in Newark from March 18-27. They also play six of seven at home if you extend it to March 31.

-- They also finish the season with three of four at home.

Olympic factor: Four players

If you're a Devils fan, you should honestly probably root against the Czech Republic, as an early dismissal would mean less work for three important players in Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky. Damien Brunner also might play for the Swiss, health permitting.


17 home games remaining, 14 road games remaining

Toughest stretches: Things seem pretty reasonable for the Islanders, I'd say.

The worst runs are a four-game road trip through Western Canada from March 4-10 and four of five away games to end the season. One could certainly find more harrowing stretches in this post alone.

Lucrative stretches: I'd feel positive about the Islanders making a push based on their schedule.

-- They play four in a row at home from Jan 23-29.

-- What would have been a more impressive run is blurred by the Olympic break, but at least they play three in a row following that time.

-- They play four straight home games from March 14-23.

Olympic factor: Four players

I'd venture to say this is the most Austrian-heavy squad with Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek. The Islanders shouldn't be too encumbered by all of this, as long as John Tavares doesn't shoulder too big of a load (he probably won't, but line juggling can change that) and Lubomir Visnovsky doesn't get re-injured (assuming he goes).

After the jump: the four remaining Metropolitan Division teams.

continue story »
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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