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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)

What you had to say about Canada’s NHL teams

We took an unscientific survey, which asked some general questions about each Canadian NHL team and you responded. What did you have to say about the state of Canada’s teams?

Since they’re all still in the playoff hunt despite battling injuries to key players, it’s not surprising that you haven’t written anyone off just yet.

The Canucks, Habs, Senators and Flames earned ‘B’ grades from the majority of respondents.

The Oilers, last year’s Stanley Cup finalists, earned a solid ‘C.’ The Leafs, meanwhile, well let’s just say the bulk of respondents were undecided as to whether they rated a ‘C’ or a ‘D.’ Call it the pressure of expectation, too (realistic or not).

No team earned a solid ‘A’ overall as we release this mid-term report card so there’s plenty of room for improvement for all six of our NHL entries.

Who will have made the grade come season’s end? There’s plenty of hockey left to be played before that’s determined.

CANUCKS

If Canucks watchers had any early questions about goalie Roberto Luongo after the team struggled out of the gate, they seem to have been settled by the all-star break. Respondents to our poll gave Luongo, who was 27-16-2 with three shutouts, 2.39 goals-against average and .918 save percentage an ‘A’ for his first-half efforts.

Alain Vigneault has done a ‘good’ job according to the majority, earning a ‘B’ from 50% of respondents. Another 22% gave Vigneault an ‘A’ for what he’s managed to do with the Canucks in leading them to a 27-19-3 record and first place in the Northwest Division.

As for captain Markus Naslund, the report wasn’t so favourable with 30% giving him a ‘C’ and another 26% a ‘D.’ There’s plenty of room for improvement and getting going in the scoring department will likely take care of that. Despite a 20-game goal-less streak, Naslund still ranked third in team scoring behind the Sedins with 36 points in 49 games.

In terms of what’s most needed, the consensus was clear: offence. So if anything can be acquired at the trade deadline, it would be someone that can pop in a few goals.

The Canucks enjoyed a hot streak before the break, which likely helped earned the team an overall ‘B’ grade from 50% of voters and an ‘A’ from 22%. Had the poll been taken at the quarter-pole would you have been as generous?

OILERS

You seem to have expected more from a Stanley Cup finalist than what the Oilers have delivered. The Oilers snuck into the playoffs last year and went on a dream run before losing to the Hurricanes.

With players struggling to score and even goalie Dwayne Roloson proving to be human in the first part of the schedule, the Oilers found themselves in last place in the Northwest Division.

Roloson earned a ‘C’ from 30% of respondents and another 24.71% thought him worthy of a ‘B.’ With a 2.74 GAA and .906 save percentage, his numbers aren’t much different than last year’s totals. But for the Oilers to reach the playoffs, they’ll need to see his ‘A’ game.

Fans graded coach Craig MacTavish’s work as fair to good, with 26% saying he’d earned a ‘B’ and 25% giving him just a ‘C.’

No one could find fault with the ever-steady Jason Smith as he earned a ‘B’ in our survey but when a team needs goals, he’s not exactly your go-to guy.

So what’s most needed, according to our survey results? Someone to fill the void left by the departure of Chris Pronger, perhaps? Nearly half of all respondents identified defencemen – both stay-at-home and offensive-minded types – as what’s on the trade deadline wishlist.

By and large, poll respondents said the biggest surprise of the first part of the season was that the Oilers were still in the playoff hunt but overall, the squad earned just a ‘C’ for its first-half performance. To be fair, the Oilers ranked last in the Northwest Division once the schedule resumed – just five points back of the frontrunning Canucks in the standings.

FLAMES

The Flames boast two of the league’s best at both ends of the ice in offensive star Jarome Iginla and goaltending stalwart Miikka Kiprusoff. And those two stars will be keys to any team success.

Iginla, who leads the team in scoring with 53 points in 39 games but suffered a knee injury before the break, earned an ‘A’ from the majority of respondents. Kiprusoff, with an impressive 2.25 GAA and stellar .923 save percentage, also made the grade with an ‘A.’

There was much worry as to whether or not the Flames could survive without their captain. But survive they did -- posting a 6-2 mark in eight games leading up to the break -- to rate as the best surprise of the first half.

But the worry is still there. Despite the strong showing and the emergence of players like Kristian Huselius on the scoring front, consensus is the Flames need to bolster themselves offensively before the trade deadline.

Jim Playfair seems to have the approval of respondents, the majority of respondents giving him a ‘B.’

Overall, the team also rated a ‘B.’ To earn an ‘A’, they’ll not doubt have to improve their road record. Heading into the break, the club was 19-5-0 at home but only 7-11-5 away from the Saddledome.
 

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Discussion Starter #2

What you had to say about Canada’s NHL teams

We took an unscientific survey, which asked some general questions about each Canadian NHL team and you responded. What did you have to say about the state of Canada’s teams?

Since they’re all still in the playoff hunt despite battling injuries to key players, it’s not surprising that you haven’t written anyone off just yet.

The Canucks, Habs, Senators and Flames earned ‘B’ grades from the majority of respondents.

The Oilers, last year’s Stanley Cup finalists, earned a solid ‘C.’ The Leafs, meanwhile, well let’s just say the bulk of respondents were undecided as to whether they rated a ‘C’ or a ‘D.’ Call it the pressure of expectation, too (realistic or not).

No team earned a solid ‘A’ overall as we release this mid-term report card so there’s plenty of room for improvement for all six of our NHL entries.

Who will have made the grade come season’s end? There’s plenty of hockey left to be played before that’s determined.

LEAFS

Even some NHL pundits were questioning themselves as they made their first-half assessments of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It seems some actually believed that Andrew Raycroft, who was picked up in exchange for Finnish prospect Tuukka Rask last June, was the answer to the club’s goaltending woes.

But Raycroft has struggled to an unimpressive 21-16-4 mark with a 3.04 GAA and .894 save percentage. That hasn’t helped the club in the standings or helped him curry favour with respondents who thought he rated a ‘C’ to ‘D.’

In Raycroft’s defence, the Leafs have suffered from injuries to key players like Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and Michael Peca for extended periods. But respondents still think goaltending is an area of weakness that needs to be addressed before the trade deadline.

Paul Maurice earned a ‘B’ from the majority. He’s certainly done a good job at guiding a youth movement as call-ups continue to step in and step up with the big club. He’d likely improve that grade if he could get the same out of some of the veterans on the club, though Jeff O’Neill has started to contribute.

Sundin, who declared his intention to retire a Leaf, earned a ‘B’ from 26% of survey respondents and a ‘C’ from 19%. It’s clear they feel he can step up and provide both offence and leadership. Sundin is on a point-per-game clip with 43 points in 43 games.

And while fans say the biggest surprise of the first half is that the Leafs are still in the playoff race, they expect more from the club – 25% graded them a ‘C’ while another 25% thought they merited just a ‘D.’

Hearing that poor grade is the kind of thing that would spur on a player like Tucker to produce. He’s emerged as the heart and soul of this team and, like him or not, will be central to their success.

SENATORS

The Senators were one of the season’s surprise failures early on. There were calls for coach Bryan Murray’s head and there was talk of trading away some of it’s prized firepower.

Could they really have missed hulking defenceman Zdeno Chara that much? As it turned out, it was more like Martin Gerber just wasn’t up to par. Enter Ray Emery, who stepped in and won the right to be called the club’s No. 1 netminder.

According to poll respondents, he was the best surprise of the first part of the season. Though he did only earn a ‘B’ from the majority despite the fact his.923 save percentage put him in a group that made more than five times his annual salary.

Emery clearly hasn’t won over everyone, since goaltending still topped the list as the No. 1 need at the trade deadline.

In a reversal of early season thinking, Murray has won folks over. Murray earned a ‘B’ for his first-half efforts in leading the Senators to a 29-2-2 mark – good for second in the Northeast Division.

And they still like Alfredsson’s leadership, with 38% awarding him a ‘B.’ Alfredsson broke out of a scoring funk, which should help the club’s fortunes. So will the return of Jason Spezza from injury.

With Alfredsson, Spezza and Dany Heatley, the Senators should be a club with which to be reckoned. Overall, they earned a ‘B’ in our survey but this trio could easily make that an ‘A’ by season’s end. That is, if Emery holds up down the stretch.

CANADIENS

It’s hard not to like the Montreal Canadiens – particularly when they’re led by the affable Saku Koivu, who has battled cancer and returned this season after suffering a serious eye injury in last year’s playoffs.

Koivu, who was leading the club with 16 goals and 42 points in 49 games, earned a ‘B’ from the majority of respondents. Though there were also a large number who felt his performance in the first half warranted an ‘A.’

The Canadiens drew some of the most favourable responses in our survey. Rookie coach Guy Carbonneau earned a ‘B’ from 32% of respondents and an ‘A’ from 28%. With Carbo behind the bench, the Habs posted a 27-18-5 mark and were vying with the Senators for second in the Northeast Division.

Cristobal Huet, with a 19-11-3 record to go with a 2.67 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, earned a ‘B’ from 32% or participants while 29% gave him an ‘A.’

Sold on Huet as a solid No. 1 netminder, respondents figure what the Canadiens need most before the trade deadline is some offensive help as 38% felt they could use a scorer.

Finding out Huet was no flash in the pan after a solid debut last year was a nice surprise many respondent agreed as was the emergence of some younger players like Guillaume Latendresse.

But the best surprise of the first part of the schedule was the emergence of defenceman Sheldon Souray as an offensive threat. With 16 goals, 24 assists and 40 points, Souray was challenging for the club lead in all three areas.

Can Souray keep up the pace? That will certainly help a need for more offence. And it will help improve their final season report card. Overall, the team rated a ‘B’ in our poll. But all signs are positive for the Habs as they look to be headed in the right direction.
 

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Old time hockey

I'm rooting for Montreal and Toronto to make the playoffs. Maybe even meet in a series.
 
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