Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A closer look at the Western Conference playoff chase

Here is today's look at the playoff odds updated after last nights near perfect evening as far as the Winnipeg Jets are concerned. I say near perfect only because Minnesota won. Everyone else who mattered lost with the exception of Dallas, but someone had to win that game with Phoenix. Thankfully it was decided without the Bettman point. So what is number today you ask? 18.9%, up 4.9% from the previous day. You can find the link here

The bigger questions for me is what are the teams in this race going to do as far as adding or subtracting players. All the teams in question have impact UFA's that they need to make a decision on. (with the exception of Vancouver) The Canucks face another problem though, they are right up against the cap ceiling. In order to add a player, they will need to subtract. Today we will look at the seven teams (I am including LA now) that will battle for the three playoff spots from a trade deadline point of view. What players are they at risk of losing for nothing if they don't trade them at the deadline

LA Kings 66 points - 82.6% chance of making the playoffs - 14th highest salary cap spend

Trevor Lewis - 3rd or 4th line role player
Colin Fraser - 4th liner
Willie Mitchell - 3rd pairing, character D man
Matt Greene - 2nd or 3rd pairing, tough as nails D man
Jeff Shultz - Depth D man

All role players, all pieces that teams would be looking for at the deadline. Kings won't be selling any of them and in fact will probably be buyers at the deadline as they badly need an influx of scoring.

Minnesota Wild 67 points - 65.3% chance of making the playoffs - 17th highest salary cap spend

Dany Heatley - Fading fast and may be in tough to earn another decent contract. Minny wanted to buy him out last summer and couldn't due to injury.
Mike Rupp - Character, role player
Clayton Stoner - 3rd pairing, character D man
Nate Prosser - Depth D man

Nothing there that Minnesota can't lose and easily replace. Word is that they are in on the Ryan Miller sweeps and will be buying.

Vancouver Canucks 63 points - 44% chance of making the playoffs - 2nd highest salary cap spend

Pascal Pelletier - Depth forward
Mike Santorelli - A player that is lost for the rest of the season and was playing very well. Big loss
Raphael Diaz - Just added to a VERY crowded blue line.
Andrew Alberts - 3rd pairing, character D man on LTIR

How do I put this politely… Canucks are an out of control dumpster fire at the moment. They need to right the ship fast and decide on their entire program moving forward. Their window may have closed. They also have cap issues if they want to add players.

Phoenix Coyotes 62 points - 38.2% chance of making the playoffs - 22nd highest salary cap spend

Radim Vrbata - Top 6 winger, very consistent 2nd in team scoring
David Moss - Top 9 forward
Paul Bissonnette - The most famous 4th liner in the NHL
Tim Kennedy - Depth forward
Jeff Halpern - Depth forward
Derek Morris - Solid 3-4 D man
Thomas Greiss - Was once considered the next big thing in San Jose. Hasn't turned out that way…

Phoenix is very similar to Winnipeg. They probably have more depth though and can probably accept the loss of these players. The Coyotes are never buyers, not sure what they will be thinking this year with new owners. Have the cap space and prospects to make it happen if they want to. I predict they do very little to nothing.

Dallas Stars 61 points - 45.7% chance of making the playoffs - 21st highest salary cap spend

Ray Whitney - Still a top 6 forward and there was talk Dallas was shopping him already.
Vernon Fiddler - 4th liner, good role player
Stephane Robidas - Lot of miles on the player but still a valued contributor. Would be very attractive to every other playoff team.

I still believe Dallas is more of a seller than buyer. They may decide to leave the team alone and then deal with the departures of the players listed. I believe in his heart of hearts, Jim Nill knows his team isn't good enough and will not want to lose the assets but the perception of selling could be harmful to the market. Again, I'm guessing they do nothing.

Winnipeg Jets 61 points - 18.3% chance of making the playoffs - 15th highest salary cap spend

Olli Jokinen - 3rd line center
Devin Setoguchi - 2nd/3rd line winger
Chris Thorburn - 3rd/4th line winger
Mark Stuart - 2nd pairing D man
Adam Pardy - Depth D man
Al Montoya - Backup goalie having a career year

The Jets are in a tough spot here as well. They have limited depth at the NHL level and cant afford to lose all these players for nothing in the off-season, especially Stuart. That being said the fans want this playoff run and the team cannot sell off if they are in the chase. They will not sell their top prospects though for rentals so don't expect any additions.

Nashville Predators 59 points - 5.9% chance of making the playoffs - 23rd highest salary cap spend

David Legwand - #1 center and having a career year
Devan Dubnyk - Backup goalie
Carter Hutton - Backup goalie with maybe starter potential

The Preds are fading out of the race and coach Barry Trotz is on the hot seat. For that matter, David Poille may be on the same seat. I can't see them trying to load up for a run because traditionally that doesn't work for them. They will probably end up moving Legwand for a nice package.

The cost of doing business for all these teams will be high, but the cost could be higher if they decide to not sell. It is such a sellers market this year that if one of these lower teams decide to sell, they could make out very well. The Jets are in a tough spot and it will be interesting to see if they use the Olympic break to make any contract offers.

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