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Any chance Radulov's return will have a negative effect on the Predators' room? This is a guy who left them at the altar and now that they are good, he decides to come back? Is he allowed to be on the post-season roster?
A: Mike, this is a very unusual case and Radulov's return may present a number of complications both short and long-term. The Predators are having a very strong season and have managed quite nicely without him, so there might be some chemistry concerns, plus Radulov will become a restricted free agent on July 1 after burning off the final year of his contract with very little service. This is a gamble for Nashville, however, welcoming Radulov back is a no-brainer given his significant offensive ability. Provided he doesn't need a great deal of time to re-adjust to the NHL game, he will make Nashville stronger and a reasonable Stanley Cup contender...and yes, he can play in the playoffs.
Which teams do you think will be looking at front office changes this off-season and who are the hot GM candidates right now?
A: Henry. It's a tad early, but we should expect change in Montreal and if the L.A Kings miss the playoffs, Dean Lombardi will likely pay the price. Columbus seems an obvious target as well, although Scott Howson was kept on to navigate through the trade deadline, a clear sign ownership remains on board. Front office speculation always swirls around Calgary and San Jose. If both miss the postseason, it's possible Doug Wilson's and Jay Feaster's jobs could be in jeopardy. Back in the East, Washington and Buffalo may consider change, but a late season push by both and stable ownership may opt to stay the course. New Jersey is an interesting possibility as well. Lou Lamoriello has historically been considered the Godfather of the Devils family, however, he may want to slow down, or simply want out amid constant financial worry within the organization. Some around the NHL believe Lamoriello is hoping his team is deep enough to give him one more shot at the Cup...this season, before he moves on.
As for replacement candidates...there are many.
Ron Hextall, Paul Fenton, Julien Brisebois, Dave Nonis, Claude Loiselle, John Ferguson, Doug Risebrough, Marc Bergevin, Jacques Martin, Jeff Jackson and Pierre McGuire are among the names that always surface. USA Today recently added Brendan Shanahan to their list of general managers-in-waiting as well, which is to say at the least, intriguing.
Of all the teams fighting for the eighth playoff spot in the East, which one would have the best chance of making a deep run in the playoffs? Same question in the West? I am thinking Washington and Los Angeles.
A: Very interesting question, Dave. In the East, many of us picked the Buffalo Sabres at the start of the season as a contending team, so it's conceivable the Sabres, if they claw into the top 8, might make some noise. Goaltending wins championships and Ryan Miller has returned to form. It's also hard to rule out Washington. The Caps have been an easy team to pick on and the loss of Backstrom has definitely had an impact, but Washington still has tons of star power and character guys in the room. If the Capitals get on a roll, they could go deep.
In the West...no surprise...for me, it's San Jose. The Sharks are a far better team than their record and fight for a playoff spot indicates. All of the components are there.
To your knowledge was there ever discussion of altering the current points system at the GM meetings? It seems ridiculous to me that some games are worth three points while others are worth only two. Specifically, that winning a game in regulation is apparently equivalent to winning a skills competition. I understand the league is attempting to create the illusion of parity, but this seems like a lazy attempt at increasing fan interest. If the NHL is actually interested in parity, shouldn't they stimulate it through drafting, trading and signing protocols? And not through a points system which inaccurately reflects a team's ability to actually win hockey games. To your knowledge, are there any GM's that think this way, or will I be stuck wishing for this change for a long time?
A: James, your issue is with the shootout and a number of NHL GM's would agree. 3-on-3 overtime has been discussed and supported by a few, but doesn't appear to have gained traction over time. Don't forget a year ago, the National Hockey League removed shootout wins from the tiebreaker formula for teams who finish with the same points. There are a number of team executives who believe it's time to take a hard look at the points system, but the shootout isn't going anywhere, so any adjustments will have to devised through other means.
I am an avid Penguins fan, and so am a bit superstitiously wary of all the praise currently being heaped on the Pens. But I also have some family in St. Louis, and so have been interested in the resurgent Blues this season. The success of the Blues has to be one of, if not the singular best story in the NHL this season. But my question surrounds their goaltending situation. Some people may think it's a great thing to have the league's number one and number two goaltenders in terms of GAA and the league's best record heading down the road toward the playoffs. However, time and time again, it seems to be the case that teams tend to stick with one goaltender once the playoffs begin. How much impact, then, do you envision the Blues can have in the playoffs, and when is the last time a true goaltending tandem led a team to a Stanley Cup?
A: Grant, the St. Louis Blues are a fascinating team and a very dangerous team as well. Goaltending has been consistently good and Ken Hitchcock has the luxury of going into the postseason with two goalies who have enjoyed stellar runs at varying points of the regular season. Expect Jaro Halak to get the nod to start the playoffs, but Hitchcock won't waste much time deciding on a change if Halak falters. The Stanley Cup march is a long and nasty marathon and Brian Elliott will no doubt get his share of starts as well. We're all eager to see how the Blues do in the playoffs, but I don't see any reason to doubt this team based on how dominant it has been with Hitchcock at the helm.