Eric Staal started slow last season, but ended up with 70 points. This season, he's on a tear with 30 points in 24 games. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth/NHLI via Getty Images)
Random thoughts for a Monday, thoughts that may one day grow up to be full-blown columns:
• The best thing about the NHL’s realignment proposal that will be rubber stamped by the owners this week has nothing to do with realignment at all. Having every team in the league play a home-and-home series against each of its 29 opponents was long overdue.
• Still on realignment, if getting the players’ approval turns out to be the final push the league needs to continue playing in the Olympics, they could have had Vancouver and Florida in the same division and forced them to play 41 home-and away series for all I cared.
• As usual, Wayne Gretzky is right: Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL today. Crosby is on pace to score 83 points, which would be a great season during a full schedule.
• The Vancouver Canucks have $13 million in long-term cap space tied up in David Booth, Keith Ballard and Jason Garrison. Oh my.
• Speaking of untenable situations, how are the Florida Panthers going to get themselves out of this mess? They lost the chance to get anything for Stephen Weiss at the deadline when he suffered a season-ending injury, plus they have so many untradeable, long-term deals.
• Went to the Toronto Marlies game against the Peoria Rivermen with my son Sunday afternoon. After watching Jake Gardiner on the Marlies blueline, I can’t figure out for the life of me why he’s there. Randy Carlyle has done an exemplary job this season, but what he sees in Korbinian Holzer over Gardiner is a mystery to these eyes.
• Not enough is being made of the outstanding season Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes is having.
• It’s a complete cop-out for NHL types to point to the fact that players overwhelmingly want fighting in the game as a reason to justify its existence. If you extend that logic, the NHL would not have a salary cap, there would be no instigator rule and goaltenders would not be allowed to wear equipment that makes them enormous. Since when does the league care about what the players think?
• With the emergence of the Minnesota Wild this season, the Southeast Division has now officially reacquired the status of being the worst division in the NHL.
• What’s this? The Anaheim Ducks are six points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for first in the Western Conference with two games in hand? The big test for the Ducks, though, will come in how they handle the next month. Starting Tuesday night through April 10, the Ducks play 17 games and at no point in that stretch do they have more than one day off between games.
• If Corey Perry is intent on testing the free agent market, there’s nothing the Ducks will be able to do to prevent it. But if they allow Perry to walk without doing everything possible to re-sign him, they’ll regret it for years.
• I realize it was a charity event for the Easter Seals and Brian Burke has more than done his part, but to listen to him stand there and take credit for taking almost five years to build a team that is five games over .500 in a weak Eastern Conference as though he’s the second coming of Sam Pollock is rich indeed.
• Is it just me, or do NHL linesmen actually miss about 10 offsides per game?
• Just so we have this straight, you throw a forearm shiver/flying elbow at a guy’s head (Jannik Hansen on Marian Hossa) and you get suspended for one game. You hurl a bunch of obscenities at the game officials (Brent Thompson) and you get two games. You’ve got to love justice, NHL style.
• Why on earth did Devan Dubnyk drop to his knees on David Legwand’s dump-in from center ice Friday night?
• The Buffalo Sabres have become a lesson in watching what you wish for (hate those sentences that end in prepositions). When the Sabres were on a shoestring budget, they couldn’t afford to make mistakes and, as a result, almost always had a competitive roster where hungry prospects filled in for veterans who departed for more money elsewhere. Under new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres have overpaid and missed the mark wildly on a number of players. Nothing forces a team to make wise player personnel decisions like a tight budget.
• As the trade deadline approaches, I always look forward to what Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero has up his sleeve. If he and Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli aren’t the most innovative GMs in the league, they’re right near the top of the list.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.