Tuesday, November 8, 2016

NHL stock watch: November

By the time the final buzzer sounds on tonight’s games, we’ll officially be four full weeks into the regular season. That feels like a good time to stop and take stock of how things are going. With the key word being “stock”.

Yes, it’s time to have a look around the league and figure out whose stock is rising, and whose is on the decline. Why use a stock metaphor? Because it’s an easy gimmick for a column a useful way to take the temperature of everything from players to teams to bigger picture storylines. And we’ll open with a surging stock that only recently hit the market.

Stock rising: Youth

We’ll start with the obvious one. The arrival of the next generation of stars has been the opening month’s biggest story, and it’s not especially close.

From Auston Matthews' ridiculous opening night to Patrik Laine's goal-scoring pace to Connor McDavid's nightly highlight reel, the league is being dominated by teenagers to an extent we haven't seen in decades. Mix in "older" guys like Shayne Gostisbehere, Matt Murray and Jimmy Vesey and you've got quite the youth movement sweeping the league.

We've seen it before, but it's rare to see this much talent all appear to be hitting its stride at once. Maybe coaches were inspired by watching Team North America light up the World Cup, or maybe GMs have figured out that entry-level contracts deliver the best value in a cap league. Or maybe it's a fluke that will correct itself over the rest of the season. But for now, the kids are all right, and it's been all sorts of fun to watch.


Stock holding steady: The old guard

Normally, when you talk about a new wave of talent taking over a league, the next step is to mention the old guard that's being pushed out the door. But that's not really happening in the NHL, at least not yet.

Sidney Crosby is still dominating, tied for the league lead in goals despite missing the first two weeks with a concussion. Alex Ovechkin is right behind him, and Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane show up high on the list of leading scorers. On the blue line, we've seen exceptional performances from familiar names like Shea Weber and Brent Burns.

Carey Price is the league's best goaltender yet again. And we've even had some nice rebound performances from veterans like Sergei Bobrovsky and Jimmy Howard.

None of those guys are "old" in the "long white beard rocking chair on the porch" Jaromir Jagr sense of the word (although some of those guys are playing well too). But they're all players who've dominated the stats pages and awards shows over the years, and they don't seem like they're ready to hand their spots over anytime soon. The league's young guns are as good as they've been in a long time, but if they want the spotlight to themselves, they're going to have to pry it out of the hands of some veterans who don't seem eager to give it up.


Stock falling: New starters

The 2015 off-season was the summer of goaltender deals, with plenty of movement on the market as teams sought out new starters. The results were mixed, but there were some notable success stories, with Cam Talbot playing well in Edmonton and Martin Jones taking the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final (where he lost to another new starter, rookie Murray and the Penguins).

So far this season, teams looking for a repeat of those results haven't been rewarded.

Toronto's Frederik Andersen and Calgary's Brian Elliott both got off to slow starts, although Andersen has been better lately. Jake Allen finally took over undisputed starter's duties in St. Louis after Elliott left, but has had his ups and downs. John Gibson did the same for Andersen in Anaheim and has played well after a shaky start.

Meanwhile, the Jets decision to dump Ondrej Pavelec to the AHL in favour of Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck, widely applauded at the time, hasn't worked out at all through the season's first month.

You could even make a case that the league's best new starter has been a guy that wasn't supposed to get the job at all, as Peter Budaj has been good in relief of an injured Jonathan Quick.

It can take time for a new goaltender to settle in, so we should expect at least a few of these guys to put together solid seasons. But for the most part, the league's best goalies have all been familiar faces manning the same crease we're used to seeing them in.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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