In his first season with the Wild since signing as a free agent from the Predators, Ryan Suter is getting lots of Norris buzz. And deservedly so. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
THN’s mailbag doesn’t care that the NHL playoffs are now in high gear. It carries on regardless of weather, time of year, topics or methods of delivery – which include online, in our magazine and on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio. In other words, it is relentless – mostly because your questions continue to pour in with such great frequency. Thanks as always for that.
Hi Adam, I apologize in advance for my bad grammar. My question is: Do you think the Chicago Blackhawks have just as much offensive talent as the Penguins? With players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, and even their third line having 27 goals between the three of them, I think they have a lot more weapons and more depth then the Penguins. What do you think?
Josh Rouse, Sunderland, Ont.
Yes, I do think the Hawks are at least the equal of the mighty Penguins. If you pick up THN’s playoff preview edition, you’ll get my full explanation as to why I think they’ve got the edge over Pittsburgh – and why our editorial department ultimately went with Chicago instead of the Pens as our collective Stanley Cup pick.
Without giving the whole article away, I think Chicago has a few things in its favor. For starters, they’ve got a familiarity advantage over the Penguins, who thanks to trades and injuries won’t have assembled all their weapons together until at least later in the opening round of the playoffs.
In addition, I feel like the Hawks have the deepest and best blueline in the league – one that was bolstered by the relatively quiet off-season acquisition of veteran d-man Michal Rozsival. His presence has allowed Joel Quenneville to ease up on the minutes given to Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy, leaving them fresher for a deep playoff run.
But beyond that, Chicago can more or less match Pittsburgh’s collection of incredible talent at forward. For every Pascal Dupuis type the Pens can roll out, the Hawks have a David Bolland and Toews/Kane are just as dangerous as Crosby/Evgeni Malkin. Both teams are the envy of the league in overall depth, but I happen to think the Blackhawks have a little bit more.
Adam, last year the Kings took the playoffs by storm and formulated an incredible run to win the Cup. Who could be this year's Kings?
Scott Brofman, Los Angeles
Can I answer the Kings again? Just joking. They’re not surprising anybody anymore and are facing a very tough first-round opponent in St. Louis (who I picked to win the series in seven games).
Many people look at a team like the Rangers as having the same aura as last year’s Kings. I picked them to beat Washington, but I’m not confident they’ve got the scoring to win four rounds.
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced there aren’t any teams that remind me of the 2011-12 Kings. I do like the Blues to do damage, but they don’t have the capability to produce a lot of offense. I also think the Senators and Sharks could go on a long run, but they, too have had stretches where they weren’t impressing anybody. Last season’s Kings, on the other hand, rode a massive wave of momentum through the last part of the regular season and never looked back.
There’s not only one way to win a Cup, so I think we should be careful to argue that a team would have to do the same things L.A. did to hoist the best trophy in all of sports.
Adam, who wins the Norris this year – Ryan Suter, Kris Letang or P.K. Subban? Also, do you think Letang will be able to maintain a point-per-game pace for the foreseeable future as he has for the past couple of seasons (injuries not withstanding)?
Chris Fleming, Nanaimo, B.C.
My Norris ballot looked like this:
1. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
2. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
3. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
4. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks
Why did I go with Suter? Because he led the league in average time on ice (27:16) and was instrumental in Minnesota making the playoffs, particularly when the Wild slumped near the end of the regular season. Had Letang not missed 13 games with injuries, it’s very likely he would have been higher on that list. But that didn’t happen and the players I picked ahead of him did more to impress me.
As for your second question, yes, I think any talented defenseman who plays on a team as stacked as the Pens has a good-to-great chance of averaging at least a point per game. Letang may not make the same all-around impact as other players, but he is without a doubt one of the best defenseman in the game today – and at age 26, his best years could still be ahead of him.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.