Five Thoughts as we enter the All-Star break:
Matt Murray Playing to his Potential
What if I told you Matt Murray has had a typically average season for his standards? Crazy right? Well, it’s basically true. His career SV% is now at .912%, and he sits at .910% for this season. Now, that career number obviously dropped a lot over the past few seasons, but the point is that he’s playing close to his potential again. He still has room to go and needs to do this on a consistent basis, but as of now, there’s some hope.
His .910 SV% ranks 30th out of 59 goalies with 10 GP, and his +3.29 goals saved above average is 24th out of all 100 goalies from this season. That might not be amazing, but what is encouraging is that he’s 4-0-2 in his last 6 starts and has a .939 SV%. Even if we include his first game back from Belleville where he allowed 6 goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he still has a .924 SV% in those 7 games. I wouldn’t say Murray is back yet because the sample needs to be at least over 20 games, but I like what I’m seeing.
Nick Paul’s Next Contract
Bruce Garrioch made an interesting point during Tuesday’s intermission about Nick Paul, saying he might want to “cash in” with his upcoming free agency. Paul is an interesting case and he’ll be worth diving into later on. I think it’s fair to say that he’s extremely well-loved in the market as he’s a hard worker, seemingly a good person, and he fits in well in the bottom-six. However, the Ottawa Senators should be careful about what they’re paying him.
Paul is on pace for 23 points and was on pace for 29 in the two previous seasons, so this is not a player who is going to provide a ton of offense, even though he’s shown a lot more skill than we initially thought. His value obviously comes from his defense and penalty killing, which he has done a great job at. According to Evolving Hockey, he ranks 5th on the team (and 3rd amongst forwards) in defensive value and is first in shorthanded value, so he is quite useful in that regard.
Still though, he’s best-suited for the 4th line and I wouldn’t want to be paying him more than around $2.5M per season. Would he be asking for more in order to “cash in”? I sure hope not because he doesn’t have the track record for that anyway. I think 3 or 4 years for $2.25-2.5M would be fair for both sides.
What would you pay Paul (without robbing Peter)?
Colin White Back Soon
Colin White hasn’t played any games this season and he’s become a forgotten man. He’s still 25 though and at worst is a useful player on the 3rd line. Even in a down-year last year, he was on pace for 33 points while playing good two-way hockey, so that has value on a team that is starving for depth. The problem is he’s making $4.75M and is a potential buyout candidate this off-season. For a budget team like Ottawa, they can’t afford someone scoring just over 30 points while making that kind of money.
According to Garrioch, White could play on February 26th vs. Montreal, which is still a few weeks away but it’s an encouraging sign for his health. That would still give him an astonishing 32 games the rest of the way because of how many postponed games they’ll have to play. It seems like the season should have around 20 games left, yet they’re not even halfway. White will give the Senators some better depth, and he’s essentially playing for his job in Ottawa the rest of the way.
The All-Star break is always a great reset for most NHL players, especially in a season like this where the number of games is just beginning to be crazy the rest of the way. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the last time I actually sat down and watched one or both of the skills competition and the All-Star game, but it’s a great event for the local fans (this time in Las Vegas), and it’s always neat to see new players get All-Star honours.
Furthermore, Vegas always has a way of making things interesting, and it might be worth tuning in tonight to the skills. They’ll have a couple of crazy Vegas-themed events that will probably be worth watching purely to see if it looks cool or not:
The NHL has revealed its two outdoor All-Star Game skills competitions in Las Vegas:— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 31, 2022
The NHL Fountain Face-Off, which will take place at the Fountains of Bellagio, and the Las Vegas NHL 21 in ’22, which will shut down part of Las Vegas Boulevard. pic.twitter.com/bnbwGUyGvA
Hey, at least it’s something different.
NHL Owners and Accountability
Sigh...it’s sad and frustrating that we even have to talk about these things. If you haven’t seen it, Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz gave multiple horrendous answers to reporters on Wednesday at a town hall meeting. The questions were in regards to the Blackhawks culture and what they were doing to make positive changes moving forward, but Wirtz clearly does not want to accept any responsibility for any horrific behaviour of Blackhawks employees:
Mark Lazerus (who asked the first question) wrote a terrific article about these interactions, so read that if you haven’t already. Wirtz wants to pretend like the Kyle Beach situation is over and therefore people should move on and that nothing else needs to change. That is what is wrong with hockey culture because owners like him are unwilling to do the bare minimum and accept that there is a problem. I’m not going to say that every owner is like that of course, but things don’t change if people in power don’t care and just want to throw money at problems.
As people love to point out “hockey culture” isn’t constrained to just hockey, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful. We should be actively looking at ways to stop future assaults, hazing, racism, etc. within the game so that hockey is as inclusive as possible. After all, don’t the owners want to grow the game? The game isn’t going to grow with people like Wirtz in power.