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Cullen: Notes on Stamkos, Krug, Jagr, Bryzgalov and more

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Scott Cullen
11/12/2013 10:37:46 AM
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Stamkos suffers a major injury, Krug producing for the Bruins, Jagr can still play, Bryzgalov, Hagelin, Crosby and more in Scott Cullen's latest blog.

1. As I was getting ready to write this blog, I was all set to lead with Steven Stamkos. The Lightning had won seven of their last eight games (before Monday's loss to Boston) and, in those eight games, Stamkos had nine goals and four assists, giving him 23 points for the season, moving into a tie with Sidney Crosby for the league scoring lead.

Then, Stamkos crashed into the Tampa Bay net while backchecking (there's a lesson for you high-scoring kids out there -- never back-check) and suffered what Aaron Ward reported as a broken tibia. There are different types of breaks, so that will determine recovery time, but the injury is serious enough that Stamkos' availability to Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics is in doubt.

Moreover, the Lightning now have to somehow manage without their MVP candidate for at least the next few months. Down the middle, they still have Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson, who have some offensive pedigree, if not nearly at Stamkos' level, but losing such a high-percentage finisher is going to be impossible to replace.

Since the start of the 2009-2010 season Stamkos has scored on 18.3% of his shots, the best among players with at least 100 goals in that span. Second-best is Sidney Crosby, at 15.8%.

The likely effect of losing Stamkos, though, is that it's going to be more difficult for Martin St. Louis to rack up assists, without his top triggerman, so the Lightning will have to get more from their supporting cast. Teddy Purcell, Alex Killorn, Ryan Malone and Brett Connolly will need to contribute more if the Lightning are to have any hope of holding the fort in Stamkos' absence.

If Stamkos is going to be out long-term, maybe that could provide the impetus for the Lightning to promote Nikita Kucherov from the AHL. They've called up J.T. Brown, but Kucherov has higher upside. A 20-year-old right winger, he was a second-round pick in 2011 and has started his pro career on fire with 12 goals and 22 points in 13 games. He's not Stamkos, but if generating offence is a challenge, Kucherov might be able to help.

2. Bruins rookie D Torey Krug burst onto the scene in last year's playoffs, scoring four goals in his first five postseason games, before settling down and managing one assist over his last 10 games.

This year, the Bruins have installed Krug at the point on their top power play unit and he's producing, with six of his 10 points coming with the man advantage.

While he's scored on 16.7% of his shots, which is not sustainable for a defenceman, Krug is generating 2.25 shots on goal per game, putting him in the top 20 (tied with Chara for 17th) among defencemen to have played at least 10 games this season, an indication that in his current role, Krug should continue to provide offence.

3. In his last 10 games, Devils RW Jaromir Jagr has 10 points, all while skating for a Devils team that offers precious little offensive support. D Marek Zidlicky is the only other Devil with more than seven points on the season -- that's 17 games.

Certainly, Patrik Elias would be considered a reliable offensive performer, but he's only played 10 games (and has seven points), but Travis Zajac, Damien Brunner, Michael Ryder, Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov are the ones being counted on to generate offence, so it's a real credit to Jagr that he's been this productive.

Jagr has also had strong puck possession numbers, but is only generating 2.00 shots on goal per game, his fewest since his rookie season, 1990-1991.

4. The Edmonton Oilers, obviously feeling desperate, agreed to a deal with G Ilya Bryzgalov over the weekend. In the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons, there were 44 goaltenders to play at least 40 games. Bryzgalov ranked 36th among them with a .905 save percentage. Devan Dubnyk, incidentally, ranked 16th with a .917 save percentage.

Expanding the view, to include Bryzgalov's years in Phoenix, there were 61 goalies to play at least 100 games between 2007-2008 and 2012-2013 and Bryzgalov ranked 20th with a .914 save percentage, as well as ranking fourth with 365 games played. (Dubnyk 26th on that list, .913)

Obviously, Dubnyk is off to a horrendous start this year and no team can win when their starting goaltender has an .876 save percentage, so if Bryzgalov can upgrade the position, that's great. At the same time, the Oilers are 4-13-2, 14 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

How impossibly great would Bryzgalov have to be in order to make the Oilers competitive this season? And how likely is it that he can be that great, given his play over the last two seasons?

5. The Rangers got off to a slow start this year, not least of all because their first nine games were on the road, but also because captain Ryan Callahan was injured. Also injured, as he recovered from shoulder surgery, was LW Carl Hagelin and Hagelin has been an integral part of the Rangers' resurgence, contributing four goals and eight points in seven games.

Not unlike Jagr, Hagelin has good possession stats, but has only generated 2.00 shots on goal per game, well below last year's 2.75 per game, so he's had to rely on a high on-ice shooting percentage. It suggests that regression is coming, but no one is expecting Hagelin to score a point-per-game over the long haul anyway. But, he can be a quality second-line scoring winger and that Rangers are a better team with him in the lineup.

6. Ducks G Frederik Andersen is forcing Anaheim into a decision as Viktor Fasth is nearing a return from injury. Andersen has a 1.41 goals against average and .952 save percentage in his first six games, making it impossible to view him as a temporary fill-in who can be easily jettisoned to the AHL.

Andersen dominated the Swedish Elite League in 2011-2012, posting a 1.67 goals against average and .941 save percentage in 39 games, then had a 2.19 goals against average and .929 save percentage in 47 AHL games last season, so he's stopped the puck everywhere he's been and his play could make it much easier for the Ducks to shop Jonas Hiller, the veteran who will be a free agent at season's end, and go forward with Andersen and Fasth.

7. Blue Jackets C Ryan Johansen is coming off the first three-point game of his career, Saturday against the Islanders, but that only put an exclamation point on his improved play in his third season.

In the last 11 games, Johansen has tallied 10 points (5 G, 5 A) and has played at least 18 minutes in nine of those games. He's playing harder minutes and having a reasonable amount of success when it comes to puck possession. In fact, with a little better finish from his linemates (R.J. Umberger and a rotating cast of wingers on the other side), his offensive production could be even better.

8. Kings RW Tyler Toffoli had every right to be disappointed when he didn't make the team out of training camp. After scoring 11 points in 22 (regular season plus playoff) games in a late-season audition as first-year pro, Toffoli looked like a good bet to secure a spot on the second line this season.

But, the roster numbers being what they were, the Kings decided to send Toffoli to the AHL rather than expose other forwards to waivers, and Toffoli put up seven goals and a dozen points in 10 AHL games before Kings RW Jeff Carter suffered a foot injury, opening the door for Toffoli's promotion.

Since joining the Kings, Toffoli has skated with C Mike Richards and LW Dwight King, putting up five points (2 G, 3 A) in three games and is playing dramatically more (17:27 ATOI) than he did when called up last season (11:59 ATOI). If Toffoli continues to produce, giving the Kings a potent second line, it's hard to imagine they won't find a way to keep him around this time.

9. Penguins C Sidney Crosby (1 G, 5 A in last 9 GP) has run into a period of merely decent production, following a sizzling start (7 G, 10 A in 8 GP) and Saturday's loss at St. Louis -- obviously a tough matchup -- resulted in Crosby's lowest Corsi of the season.

There's no need for panic, so long as Crosby is healthy, but if production doesn't change, then it's possible that linemates will, so that bears watching. Certainly Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have much higher value when they are playing regularly with No. 87.

10. Jets C Bryan Little has gone up and down, particularly in terms of goal production, throughout his career and this season appears to be an up season in that regard as he has scored 10 goals in 19 games (after scoring seven goals in 48 games last season).

He's scoring on a career-high 24.4% of his shots this year, which won't continue, but Little is generating shots. His current rate, 2.16 shots on goal per game, is the third-best of his career, just behind seasons in which he tallied 2.18 and 2.19 shots per game. In those two seasons, Little finished with 31 and 24 goals, respectively.

SMID TRADE
When the Edmonton Oilers traded Ladislav Smid to the Calgary Flames, they cleared out a contract that has three years (after the current season) remaining with a cap hit of $3.5-million per season. While the move could have ostensibly been made to bring in Bryzgalov, the Oilers aren't making that kind of financial commitment to the flighty goaltender, so the cap savings can be used for other moves.

Smid played tough minutes for the Oilers, starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone, but he was also taking on a lesser role this season, playing fewer than 18 minutes per game after averaging more than 20 minutes per game over the previous three seasons. He's not going to score much, his career-high is 15 points, but Smid plays a physical game and can kill penalties. The Flames have three defencemen (Chris Butler, Kris Russell and Derek Smith) set to be unrestricted free agents at season's end, so Smid gives the Flames some roster insurance moving forward.

Smid also has a history with Flames president Brian Burke who, as GM of the Anaheim Ducks, traded Smid to Edmonton in order to acquire Chris Pronger. 27-year-old Smid has a good opportunity to play 20-plus minutes per game for the Flames, who could use a little more bite on the blueline.

The Flames also got G Olivier Roy as part of the deal. Roy, 22, was a fifth-round pick in 2009 and while he's had ECHL success early in his pro career, he hasn't been as strong in the AHL, posting a .906 save percentage in 32 AHL games.

Going the other way, the Oilers get G Laurent Brossoit, a 20-year-old who was a sixth-round pick in 2011. The first-year pro has split his starts between the ECHL and AHL this year, but he did backstop the Edmonton Oil Kings to a WHL Championship and Memorial Cup berth in 2011-2012, so there may be higher hopes for Brossoit's potential than Roy's at this point.

The Oilers also received LW/C Roman Horak, a 22-year-old who has 18 points in 82 career NHL games. He has decent size, can skate and could develop into a solid checking forward. He also has 41 points in 86 career AHL games.

FIRST NHL GAMES
Adam Almquist, D, Detroit - A seventh-round pick of the Red Wings in 2009, Almquist is an undersized but mobile blueliner who had 38 points in 81 career AHL games before getting called up due to injuries (Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith) on the Detroit blueline.

Chad Billins, D, Calgary - Another smallish defenceman, who had 37 points in 76 games with Grand Rapids of the AHL last season after a four-year career at Ferris State, Billins had six goals and eight points in 12 games for AHL Abbotsford this season to earn a promotion. He contributed two assists in two games for the Flames, though he did take a beating in the possession game.

Taylor Fedun, D, Edmonton - The 25-year-old, who played four years at Princeton, missed the entire 2011-2012 season after suffering a broken femur in a preseason game. He rebounded wit ha strong season for Oklahoma City last year and has 31 points in 82 career AHL games. He scored goals in each of his first two games for the Oilers.

Lindey Vey, C, Los Angeles - Playmaking forward has steadily improved since he was a fourth-round pick in 2009. He scored 43 points in 74 AHL games two years ago, as a rookie pro, then put up 67 points in 74 games last season before opening this year with 11 points in 10 games, earning a recall when Jarret Stoll was injured. He had one assist in his first two games with the Kings, though his possession stats weren't ideal.

Marek Mazanec, G, Nashville - A sixth-round pick in 2012, the Czech goaltender was pressed into service when the Predators pulled starter Carter Hutton after Hutton had allowed three goals on eight shots, in just 8:23 at Winnipeg. Mazanec allowed two goals in the remaining 51:37. He doesn't figure to be ready for much NHL duty right now, but does have a 1.97 goals against average and .933 save percentage in five AHL games this year.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Stamkos Injured (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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