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The Chip ‘n’ Chase: All those bad teams, starting with the Sabres

Oct 23, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Ryan Miller Getty Images

This is a new thing we’re trying. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We’re calling it the Chip n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. This week we’re talking bad teams, and whether any of them can turn it around.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so I’ve got some great advice for the Buffalo Sabres ahead of tonight’s game on national TV against the B’s. Tell me what you think. Maybe, just maybe, they should try really, really hard as soon as the puck drops. The only reason I suggest this is because standing around not doing anything isn’t working for them.

In all seriousness, did you see the Sabres’ last two games against Vancouver and Colorado? I believe they were out-shot a combined 134-3 in the first period. At home. Their fans deserve a lot better than that. It’s embarrassing.

MORE: Bruins aim to add to Sabres’ suffering tonight on NBCSN

Mike Halford: Yeah, it’s pretty ugly. The Sabres are so awful even their own players are distancing themselves. Did you hear what Ryan Miller said the other day? You can read the whole thing here, but I’ve plucked the key quotes:

“I can only do my part.”
“I’m not going too high or low.”
“I’m not going to worry about it.”
“I’m not going to try to be overly intense.”

This is like that pre-breakup stage of a relationship when you know it’s all but done so you start prepping for the split. All that’s left now is for Miller to start “working late” with a “friend.” But enough about the Sabres, let’s move on to the tire fire in Philadelphia. I now present the complete list of Flyers forwards who have more goals than the Coyotes’ Mike Smith, who it should be noted, is a goalie:

Tye McGinn
Brayden Schenn
END OF LIST.

That’s bad, right?

JB: Bad, yes. Also, pretty shocking. At this rate, is there any way Claude Giroux makes Team Canada and plays in Sochi? With all those great Canadian centers, he’s an easy cut right now for Steve Yzerman.

You know, I have to admit, of all the talent on the Flyers’ roster, I would not have predicted Steve Mason would be their best player after eight games. Without Mason, they’re still winless. He was the first star in their 2-1 triumph (and what a triumph!) over the Panthers, which is their only W so far. That’s right — the Flyers have only won once, over the worst team in the NHL last season, and they didn’t even deserve to win it.

OK, so here’s a question for you. Of all the teams off to awful starts — Buffalo, Philly, Edmonton, Florida, New Jersey and the Rangers — who do you think has the best chance to make the playoffs?

MH: The Rangers, I guess? Remember that, two years ago, New York started with a similarly brutal road trip and only had three wins in their first nine tries. That team made it to the conference final. Now check out the Rangers’ schedule from Dec. 7 to the start of the Olympic break — they play 20 of 30 at MSG. Pretty good opportunity to make up for a lousy start.

I’m glad you mentioned Edmonton, by the way, because I love trade speculation. And of all the struggling teams, the Oilers seem most ready to make a deal. Nail Yakupov‘s been a healthy scratch twice, their goaltending remains questionable (even though Devan Dubnyk is playing better recently) and, as others have pointed out, the Mike Brown-to-San Jose trade leaves them with just 48 contracts on the books, suggesting room’s possibly being created for a larger deal.

Pretend you’re Oilers GM Craig MacTavish (quick, put on these stylish glasses) — what would you do?

source: Getty ImagesJB: I sure wouldn’t trade Yakupov for anything less than, well, a heck of a lot. Even if “his team game is really, really poor,” as one scout put it, he also scored 17 goals in 48 NHL games as a teenager. That’s an asset you can’t fritter away. Think of how many teams are desperate for scoring around the league. Think how many would love to generate the buzz that adding a first overall pick would generate.

I do actually think MacTavish should be shopping Yakupov, but not because goaltending was an issue to start the season. Panic moves are dumb. And besides, Dubnyk isn’t the Oilers’ biggest problem. Nor is scoring. Team defense and maintaining consistent puck possession, now those are issues. Lars Eller wasn’t wrong in his assessment; he just maybe shouldn’t have said it publicly.

We haven’t really looked at the Devils yet, so let’s do that before we get back to bloggin’. The way I see it, riding Cory Schneider is the only way they’re going to get back in the race. Sorry Marty, you should be the backup now. We can call you Brodongo!

MH: I’m thinking Luodeur, and as much as I hate banishing Luodeur (see, it’s catchy) to the bench, I do agree — the Devils have to ride Schneider for the foreseeable future. Heck, even Marty agrees they “might as well try to get a little roll going.” (Note: said roll stopped rolling last night in Columbus.)

Problem is, Schneider can’t fix everything himself. The Devils’ defense is not good (though they finally parked Adam Larsson, which is good), they’re getting no production from Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique, and Ryane Clowe, their big offseason signing, is still on IR with a head injury.

On the bright side…yeah, I’m having trouble with that one.

  1. 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    As a Devils fan, and someone who was excited about Larsson getting drafted, I do not see why MH would say that about him being benched. I think it’s terrible that they benched him.

    Why would benching him be something good? Am I missing something? Why does he always seem to get the Gas-face Goat-horns?

    • Mike Halford - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      Because he was playing badly and making it harder for them to win hockey games.

      • jessejames182 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        The “team” is playing badly, and making it harder for them to win games. And the best defenseman New Jersey has in +/- is Fayne with an impressive 0, who has also only played 3 games.

      • 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Uhhh. That’s genetic nonspecific statement. That’s the idea we get when a player is always a healthy scratch. The whole team sucks. Larsson barely ever plays. So explain your comment.

        Define “he was playing badly” and “making it harder for them to win hockey games”

      • Mike Halford - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        -11.7 CF% rel (worst among Devs dmen), -12.4 FF% rel (worst among Devs dmen), -17.5 SF% rel (worst among Devs dmen). Play around with this site (http://www.extraskater.com/players/on-ice?sort=pdo&min_gp=1&team=nj), it’s got good sortable stats.
        Cheers.

      • ibieiniid - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        Halford information pwn.

        I’d never even heard of those stats til just now. Halford, I think you just earned a job as PHT’s fantasy hockey analyst….. or at least contributed to my fantasy hockey algorithm I’m writing.

      • thailer35 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        Halford with the sabermetrics!

      • thailer35 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        ibeiniid, have you noticed we are constantly saying basically the same thing at the same time lately? It’s like you know what I’m thinking…

      • ibieiniid - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:02 PM

        who’s to say I’m not Tyler Durden?

      • ibieiniid - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        http://www.matchsticksandgasoline.com/2011/7/29/2290643/understanding-advanced-stats-part-one-corsi-fenwick

        Might you be a certain mike_H in the comments (and mentioned in the article)???

      • Mike Halford - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:04 PM

        Nope. Honestly. Not me.

      • 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Dear Lord! I’m reading the definitions of words like Corsi, and Fenwick. Had to google them both. Once I get the hang of them, I’ll look for them when I’m at a game. But wow, these are all new to me.

      • 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        But now that I get the gist of them. I think the Fenwick seems more relevant, but not by much. I’ll attribute these bad stats to a new Dman being too scared to be set free. It seems to be like a +/- for quality shots being taken while your on the ice towards your net and towards the other net. That’s a strange stat considering goalies like Brodeur who tell the dmen not to block shots if he can see them as opposed to goalies like Lundqvist who need it.

        So, if a player is a bit too anxious about impressing his coach, and finds himself in the doghouse, then there is the chance that the coach is hampering his development with lack of communication. Maybe its Scott Stevens fault?

        Very interesting stat though.

  2. 19to77 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    On the bright side, at least the Devils should finish with a very high draft pi-

    Oh.

  3. earpaniac - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    I like the new feature. The Mike Smith/Flyers stat was a little shocking, and a lot more kinda funny. How about a morning roundup of the night before’s games, like on the baseball part of the app?

  4. travishenryskid - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    The Sabres are bad, their is no question, but I don’t think they are as bad as they are made out to be. Even good teams would have struggled against their schedule. They have played 7 playoff teams and 3 teams that are clearly on the rise.

    Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Vancouver, Colorado, Ottawa , Minnesota, NYI, Tampa, Columbus and tonight, Boston.Even a mid-level playoff team would be lucky to escape that stretch over .500. Things will lighten up for them.

    • billsin20xx - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      Things will not lighten up for them until Regier is fired and they get a new coach and a new team attitude.
      And the only reason people are saying they start out bad and get better is they are boring the crap out of their opponents (and fans!!!), by the 2nd period the opponents are ready to just get the game over with, hence the Sabre’s start looking better…

      • bullwinkle88 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        I have to admit, it’s a cold day in hell when the Sabres are as bad as the Bills (aka Bums), but after 40+ years, that day has finally arrived.

  5. billsin20xx - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    Regier should get fired for even playing Miller and Vanek. What happens to their trade value with a season ending injury?

    • ibieiniid - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      sabresin22xx

      • ibieiniid - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:19 PM

        sorry, had to get my jab in. jab back if you must. this article was about my team too lol.

  6. billsin20xx - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    No, I’m with you – but I dunno, still have 77 years. Hopefully since Pegula won’t fire him Regier will retire in that time!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. DED - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    This was great, guys (JB & MH). Keep this going. :)

    • govtminion - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      Agreed, this is a feature I’d like to see as a regular throughout the season!

  8. barkar942 - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    “OK, so here’s a question for you. Of all the teams off to awful starts — Buffalo, Philly, Edmonton, Florida, New Jersey and the Rangers — who do you think has the best chance to make the playoffs?
    MH: The Rangers, I guess? Remember that, two years ago, New York started with a similarly brutal road trip and only had three wins in their first nine tries. That team made it to the conference final.”
    One difference- they had a coach who played them to their strengths-grit and swagger, not to try to run and gun with their opponents truly offensively talented players!
    If AV remains the coach after game 20- the Rangers are toast!

  9. barkar942 - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    “The RANGERS are bad, their is no question, but I don’t think they are as bad as they are made out to be.”
    “Things will not lighten up for them until AV is fired and they get a new coach and a new team attitude.
    And the only reason people are saying they start out bad and get better is they are boring the crap out of their opponents (and fans!!!), by the 2nd period the opponents are ready to just get the game over with, hence the RANGERS start looking better…”

    Just remove Sabers and Regier and insert Rangers and AV. Same statement is true for both teams!

  10. DED - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    I hate to bring this up but, out of fairness, there are also only two Rangers with more goals than Mike Smith: Richards and Callahan.

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