Now, a look at the other half

Updated: January 10, 2006, 5:36 PM ET
By John Buccigross | Special to ESPN.com

Well, here we are at the halfway point of the 2005-06 NHL season. This time last year we were overdosed on E.J. Hradek, Bob McKenzie and an Internet pirate named Eklund. Was there going to be a season or not? I was convinced the players would cut a deal, knowing that February was when they would get the best one possible.

I'll never concede the lost season was at all positive. It is a black mark that will always be on the records of all involved, another example of how grown men act uncivilized over money and power. When I think of the long, cold winter of 2004-05, I will look at the cast of characters in terms of greed, isolationism and arrogance, each bringing their own character flaws to the table to ice the hearts of a loyal and loving fan base.

The fans have returned and the game has been tweaked, but the NHL and the life of being an NHL fan will never be the same. A trust has been broken. And while the game is still entertaining, there is a lingering emptiness that may never be filled. We all have had our hearts broken, and we all, at times, relive that ache. Whether it was because it was so hurtful or because we just want to feel something on those days we feel numb and emotionally sedated. Falling in love again can smother the ache to death. Hopefully, the Stanley Cup playoffs will be that love we can't resist, and it will help erase the ache.

SHOT OF THE WEEK
Every week, we will present an NHL photo and I'll provide a caption. E-mail me your suggestions (include your name and hometown/state) and next week we will use the best ones and provide a new photo.

LAST WEEK:
"Hey, Pete. What's up with Lisa Loeb these days?"

Your submissions:
"OK, now Peter, cough. Thank you."
-- Eric Coulson, Baltimore

"Like Uncle Rico, I once threw a football a quarter-mile."
-- Kris Barnes, Farmington, Mich.

"I just want to be loved, is that so wroooong?"
--Matt T., Phoenix, Ariz.

"The secret phrase is: Hakan Loob. Pass it on."
-- Jake Anderson, Pittsburgh

"Hey, just a little one on the cheek, we're on the Kiss Cam."
-- M. Lussier, Scotts Valley, Calif.

"No one puts baby in the corner."
-- Jon Rickert, Las Vegas

THIS WEEK:

Sid, for a new iPod Nano, how many Super Bowls did Franco Harris win?

Last week, we began our look at the 30 NHL teams and how they may approach this season's trade deadline, and beyond. Sort of a midterm mission statement. We pick it up with the remaining 15 teams after the first 15 last week.

Montreal Canadiens: Bob Gainey is probably learning a lesson. Mike Ribeiro has 41 goals in 235 NHL games. It's who he is. Saku Koivu has played 10 NHL seasons and has only twice scored 20 or more goals. Alexei Kovalev is a major tease, yet continues to rake in millions. He's had one elite year in 13 NHL seasons. He is not an elite player. Sheldon Souray's 2003-04 season was an aberration. Only two players on this roster really excite me: Richard Zednik and Michael Ryder. I love Ryder. The Canadiens are well run, have great fans and will be sniffing for the eighth spot the rest of the way, but they need assets.

Verdict: I would entertain offers for Jose Theodore. They also need a scoring center to complement Ryder, a big winger and an impact defenseman. Something big might happen here.

Nashville Predators: The Predators are a great story. They will battle the Red Wings for the Central Division. A realistic goal for the Predators is to win a playoff series, a major accomplishment that would go a long way toward the franchise's continued growth in Tennessee. The first step is to get one of the top four seeds in the West. Getting home ice will immensely help that goal. The second step is to find more scoring and size. The playoffs are a different animal, and right now, Tomas Vokoun will need to be super human in the playoffs for the Preds to make a run.

Verdict: This is a very good defensive team that will still be king come playoff time. There is no need to do something drastic, but if they can find a goal-getter and some size, the Preds' chances of reaching their playoff goal will improve.

New Jersey Devils: So they lose two Hall of Fame defensemen and their best offensive player doesn't play until January, and we are wondering why it's been a bit of a struggle? Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens aren't walking through that door, but Patrik Elias is back. The line of Elias, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez is among the top eight lines in the East. Is it enough to get the team into the Top 8? Yes, but the Devils are in a hole and they will need to stay healthy the rest of the way. New Jersey has to hope the Rangers take a fall, but former Devil Petr Sykora is now a Ranger and will try to provide scoring depth for New York. The Devils can't add anything big because of the salary cap unless they trade Martin Brodeur, and the only way the Devils will do that is for Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and the rights to Evgeni Malkin. Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Viktor Kozlov have to score goals. If they do, the Devils can make the playoffs.

Verdict: Pray for what I pray for every night: health, happiness and good luck.

You Can Quote Me
"The lay of the land is changing. The difference is you're not seeing as many guys going out for title shots, or guys going out and dropping the gloves at the two-minute mark because you've been thinking about it all week."

-- The Blue Jackets' Jody Shelly, on fighting in the NHL in 2005-06.

New York Islanders: The Islanders are in danger of being bad for a while. Their hands are tied by Alexei Yashin's contract, which hamstrings their cap; an absolute bummer for other Islanders in the locker room. Their best player is Jason Blake, a small, 32-year-old grinder. Remember, the Isles traded Jason Spezza and Zdeno Chara for Yashin. That hurts like an orange street hockey ball to the face. Why does anybody pay Oleg Kvasha to play professional hockey?

Verdict: With what they have, a coach-of-the-year performance can make them an eighth seed at best. This fan base deserves more. Bates, Parrish, York, Hunter and DiPietro makes a neat little core. Still, I don't know if the Islanders can find the impact guys because of the Yashin contract unless the salary cap goes to $80 million next year. I'd trade as much salary as possible, get as much defense to support DiPietro and hope Yashin retires to become a shepherd.

New York Rangers: Go to the Rangers team page here on ESPN.com and click on the Rangers' roster. Look at their defensemen. I bet you say to yourself, "My team has a better group of defensemen than that!" So how are they doing it? Well, there is no longer a gap the length of Manhattan between the team's defensemen and forwards. Jaromir Jagr is the best offensive player in the league, and so far no one is a better playmaker and shooter. Henrik Lundqvist has a .929 save percentage. Sykora, who is not signed past this season, was a prudent gamble because he is a proven goal scorer and has a great shot for the power play, which the Rangers needed to upgrade.

Verdict: As I type this, the Rangers have lost 7 of 10. They are slipping. The Sykora trade had to be made. Fedor Tyutin is improving, but they need to find another defenseman.

Ottawa Senators: Things started so well for this team, Stanley Cup ring molds were being ordered in early November. Then, injuries hit. No team is immune from injuries and the Sens' boo-boos have piled up. I have no concerns up front. My only concern from the get-go was in net. Ray Emery is 23 and Dominik Hasek turns 41 on Jan. 29 (two days after my birthday; send all gifts to ESPN. I prefer 2-cent stamps. I have all these 37-cent stamps and I'm more apt to slap another one on to pay my electric bill than to get a bunch of 2-cent stamps. Caress me.) Back to Ottawa, Hasek is a Hall of Famer with a .930 save percentage, but can his body hold up? Can his mind? What if he tears his groin? Can Emery lead the Senators to a Stanley Cup?

Verdict: I'd trade for an experienced backup goalie, even if I give him wads of fifties and tell him to go to the mall and "we'll call you if we need you." Happy shopping! Otherwise, just order some extra Flintstone's vitamins and an ab roller or something. Just make sure everyone is healthy entering the postseason. If healthy, only the Flyers can hang with this team right now.

Philadelphia Flyers: Speaking of the Flyers, they are with Ottawa as the clear-cut best in the NHL. When healthy, it's the Senators, Flyers, and then everyone else. No one can match the offensive flair and team defense of the Senators and Flyers. If the Flyers can get everyone back from the injured list for the start of the playoffs, they will enter the tournament with one of their best chances to end their 30-year Stanley Cup drought. Hey Philadelphia fans, out of your four pro sports teams, this is your most talented and most fun to watch. They have that perfect mix of veterans and prime and young players. The question is would Bobby Clarke overpay for a goalie like Jose Theodore or Roberto Luongo? I think it is still possible, but it will cost the Flyers at least Mike Richards or Jeff Carter, plus a defenseman and another prospect. It would be costly, but plunking a Roberto Luongo behind a Ken Hitchcock-coached defensive team would be frightening for the rest of the NHL.

Verdict: Everything up front is pretty set. Maybe an upgrade at left wing. Will Donald Brashear be relevant in the playoffs? He has one goal in 38 games and plays about nine minutes a night. Ask Hitchcock if he can win the Stanley Cup with his current crop of goalies. If he says yes, rename Broad Street Niittymaki Boulevard and get on with it. Because Richards and Carter are cap friendly for a few years, it doesn't make much sense to trade them. They are cheap and will take a big leap in production next year. If I owned the Flyers, I would give them both no-trade clauses because I enjoy watching them play too much and wouldn't want an emotional GM to trade either.

Phoenix Coyotes: The margin for error is low for teams who don't score a lot of goals. As I write this, Nashville has scored just 11 more goals than Phoenix and has given up just nine fewer than the Coyotes. Phoenix's power play is slightly better, while Nashville's PK is better than the Dogs'. But Nashville has 13 more points than Phoenix. Part of it is divisional play. Everyone in the Pacific, including the Coyotes, is over .500, while the Central Division has three bottom feeders (Jackets, Blackhawks and Blues). Nashville is also more of a team, built with prudence and patience. The Preds have an elite goalie in his prime, while Curtis Joseph is 38 with lots of miles. Nashville also has a skillful group of tough defensemen.

Verdict: As long as Gretzky is part of the Coyotes, you'll see Phoenix try to be like a Canadian World Junior team -- lots of hungry North Americans who play gritty, fast, together. Nashville and Minnesota are growing up together and will be consistently good for a long time. Phoenix might be caught in between of what those teams do: fight to be an eighth-spot playoff team or acquire young assets that can grow together.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Losing is the best thing that has happened to the Penguins. This mirage that they were a Stanley Cup playoff team never got credence here. Sergei Gonchar and Zigmund Palffy are not playoff warriors. Mark Recchi and John LeClair are closer to 50 than 20. Sidney Crosby is 18, emotional and has more pressure than maybe anyone in NHL history. Who has received more international media buildup? And off a lockout? A franchise that is in jeopardy of moving to another city, despite having Mario Lemieux and two Cups, if the kid can't light a fire under the team and ticket office. It's a heavy burden and you can see it on Crosby's face. But it will all benefit Crosby and whatever city he plays in beyond 2007. He is growing up faster than Mary Kate and Ashley combined. The Penguins need to stay young and let this group grow up together. Michel Therrien is the right coach at the right time to push this young group with his presence and discipline.

Verdict: Recchi can still play (the lockout did him good). I think he could end up back in Philadelphia, although every team should look at him. He'd be a great fit in Nashville and San Jose. I could see LeClair back in Philadelphia, replacing Brashear on the left side. He moves as well as Brashear and will score a little more if he played nine minutes a night. Plus, he would energize the fans. Keep playing the young guys, draft Eric Johnson and don't think someone won't bite on Gonchar or Palffy. Those guys can help good teams they don't have to carry.

San Jose Sharks: This really isn't going as planned, is it? The Joe Thornton trade was unquestionably a good one. He makes wingers better … and rich. But three-for-one trades hurt in the short term. Brad Stuart was probably the Sharks' best defenseman, Marco Sturm was one of their best wingers and Wayne Primeau brought intangibles and grit. This team is eight points out of the playoffs and Doug Wilson has to act now if he wants to make the postseason. They are 10-5 in their last 15 since getting Thornton from Boston, but 10 of those were at home and their home/away record is now balanced. The team is light on the blue line and lacks scoring depth to win on the road. Balanced teams like Ottawa, Philadelphia, Carolina and Nashville can roll out lines and not worry about the home team having the last change and shutting down their best line. San Jose is easy to match up against on the road because Patrick Marleau is not carrying the load. He needs to explode, and he needs a winger to play with.

Verdict: Get Glen Murray from Boston and Recchi from Pittsburgh. Put Murray with Thornton and pair Recchi and Jonathan Cheechoo with Marleau. Recchi is an excellent passer, something Marleau needs.

St. Louis Blues: We know the deal here. The Blues need an owner first and foremost to give them an expansion team feel. Change the uniforms. Simplify them and start over. Keep the blue note, of course -- it's one of my favorite names and logos. Trade all the salary you can and lock up a top-three draft pick. Work from the goalie out and patiently rebuild.

Verdict: They will trade Doug Weight and should get a decent asset in return. Keith Tkachuk will be more difficult to deal, but someone might bite. Pair all the young guys you can with a couple of respected veterans, using Minnesota and Nashville as your models for construction.

Tampa Bay Lightning: We wrote this in our Eastern Conference preview back in September: "They are not as good as they were 16 months ago because of the goaltending situation. That slight downgrade will make a repeat very difficult." The Lightning have come back stale after their Stanley Cup glory. They are about the same team. Some players have struck it rich with their contracts and there is little to play for. They need to shake things up, they need some new, hungry blood, and yes, they need a goalie. They won't win with what they have.

Verdict: Recchi would fit here, too. He works well behind the net, where the Lightning like to set up, and he is an all-out effort player that would rub off on everyone. He can do lots of things. Martin Biron is better than any goalie they have. I know he is not a sexy goaltending name, but he is an upgrade. Consider him.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Atlanta and Tampa Bay will probably sail by Toronto in the second half of the season. Both are younger and, quite frankly, better. That puts Toronto in eighth. The Sabres and Rangers are right in front of them, while the Canadiens, Devils and possibly the Panthers and Bruins nipping at their heels. The Maple Leafs have to deal with age and injuries, but the Olympic break will help their non-Olympic veterans get refreshed for the playoff drive. There is little margin for error. Nine of their 15 games before the break (yes, the Olympics are approaching fast) are on the road. They play Ottawa twice. This is a big stretch for the Leafs. Play well, win more than lose, and they should be in a good position after the Olympics. Their first game back is a home game against Washington. Their last game of the regular season is home vs. Pittsburgh.

Verdict: Health. If the Leafs get healthy and stay healthy, they are making the playoffs. They need to dominate at home. There is not much they can do with their cap situation. They are not a great team offensively or defensively. A good two-way player is the best addition here.

Vancouver Canucks: Yes, this team needs a goaltending upgrade. But they also need a scoring upgrade to help out on the road, where they began the week 8-11-2 as opposed to 15-3-3 at home! Their fans are loud and their rink has a vibe, while Todd Bertuzzi is a royal ball of knots on the road. You wonder how much the boos and Bertuzzi's Eeyore personality bring the team down. Bertuzzi hasn't scored a goal since Dec. 21. This team has a major scoring imbalance, which makes them a sub-par road team. Starting this Friday, the Canucks play 10 of 12 on the road. I wouldn't be surprised to see them do something this week to give some energy to that trip. The Canucks are one of those teams that isn't an offensive powerhouse and isn't a Ziploc bag-tight defensive team.

Verdict: Biron is an upgrade in net. Can I interest you in Recchi to play on the third line?

Washington Capitals: The way the cellar of the NHL is looking, St. Louis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Chicago and the Capitals will make up the bottom five. As Columbus gets healthy, they will probably break away to make it a bottom four. Phil Kessel's playmaking was sub-par and he lacked competitive fire in a hostile World Juniors environment. While he clearly has an NHL shot and NHL skating ability, he's not emotionally ready for the NHL. Another year at Minnesota next season and another World Juniors is probably best for him.

Verdict: Trade Olaf Kolzig if you can get two assets in return. Will Eric Fehr be an impact player? The Caps have the superstar up front. Alexander Ovechkin is a Hall of Fame talent. Undeniable and unstoppable. The best athlete in Washington D.C. (If I'm the Caps, I'd put a picture of Ovechkin on a billboard this summer with the simple sentence: "The Best Athlete In D.C.") Start developing from the back end out now. Get a young goaltending prospect, draft gritty skaters and tough defensemen. You have to draft Kessel No. 1 if you get the pick. If you don't, think two-way, defensive hockey as 50-70 goals, the power play and the shootout are all taken care off by Alexander the Eight.

The Mother of All Mailbags

John,

I'm a concerned U.S. hockey fan. Before this World Juniors tournament, I was told that the U.S. is the team to beat. On top of that, due to a cheap shot by Jack Johnson against Canada (Carolina pick #3 of '05 draft), the U.S. has become the team to root against in this tourney. All of these things seem to point toward poor coaching, do you think this is why the U.S. fell short or do you think that this is a case of overinflated egos? In addition, do you think this will affect U.S. hockey in future Olympics if they can't win with this talent now?

Rob

Montague, N.J.

For whatever reason, Team USA did not mesh well at the World Juniors. Phil Kessel was primarily trying to beat everyone one-on-one, which, from what I was told, changed the opinion of a lot of scouts. He is still an immense talent, an amazing skater and shooter. He looked more like a Kovalchuk- or Ovechkin-type winger to me as opposed to a playmaking center. His grit factor wasn't off the charts, either. Jack Johnson was a star. If you watch the video of Johnson's elbow, you'll see Canada's Steve Downie tap Johnson on the back of the leg as Kyle Chipchura (great hockey name) scored the empty-netter. Kids: Don't tap your stick on the back of a large, competitive defenseman at the end of a hard-fought game. I don't condone what Johnson did, but I know I would have done the same thing in that situation. I'm still shocked Ducks GM Brian Burke didn't draft Johnson No. 2 overall this past summer. Carolina has a real good defenseman coming their way in about 2-3 years.

ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL of this being said, there is one factor that has to be considered when doing any judgment on any player from any country. There was a colossal home-ice advantage for Canada, which is why I thought all along they would win gold. The Canadians played with energy and physicality, and their fans cheered them to heights that made them unbeatable. It was like trying to play soccer in Brazil or baseball in the Dominican Republic. Or if you were a Russian hockey team playing an inferior USA team on U.S. soil in 1980.

I also think the fans got into the USA players' heads with their ugly behavior. USA players love Canada. Chris Bourque's mom and dad grew up as Canadians. USA players have good friends on the Canadian team. Some are NCAA teammates. USA players have boyhood idols that are Canadian and some of their favorite teams may be Canadian. USA players have fun whenever they go to Canada. I'm sure of all the emotions that Team USA felt from the typical, ugly, youth hockey behavior that made up a large portion of the Canadian crowds was sadness. It was probably confusing and emotionally draining for U.S. players because they could think of nothing they didn't like about Canada.


John,

I was surprised to see how badly you missed the mark with regard to why Canadian fans booed the American team at the WJHC. The players weren't booed because, as you suggest, they were bigger and better than the Canadians. No, the simple reason Canadians booed the Americans is for the same reason MOST OF THE WORLD is booing the U.S. these days.

Canadians have more reason than the rest of the world because of the way President Bush, Pat Buchanan, Tucker Carlson, FOX News and many, many other Americans seem to start taking shots at Canadians in the past few years. To take it to another level, in British Columbia, they boo the U.S. because thousands of jobs have been lost by a WTO-decreed illegal surtax on lumber exports that the U.S. continues to impose. It's interesting to see that Americans, so enamored with themselves, are so taken aback when others fail to share in their love of all that is American.

Andrew in Vancouver

So, I get it Andrew. Take all of your political venom, go to a youth hockey game and take out your political views on the most apolitical subjects you can find in the most apolitical environment you can find. I suppose all of Vancouver should have gone to see U2 in concert and boo because Bono owns a house in New York and has a good relationship with George Bush. My bad.


John,

As a Canadian who has lived in the U.S. for the past eight years, I apologize for those Canadian "fans" who were booing the U.S. Junior team. Now that I've lived here for many years, I appreciate how Americans view their country and the fine contributions it makes to the world, not to mention the huge sacrifices the U.S. military has made and continues to make in the world.

I also must say that I've never had any American bother me with anti-Canadian rhetoric other than the odd Bob & Doug McKenzie quote or joking around. It's pretty pathetic to see Canadians cheering for the Russians vs. the Americans when you're our largest trading partner, most Canadians vacation in parts of the U.S. and we both would support each other to the maximum of our ability in the event of a crisis. People in Canada need to get their heads out of their "A's" and realize there's a lot more positive things related to each country and cheer for both teams trying to win the gold.

Thanks,
Vance Raeside


John,

On behalf of true Canadian hockey fans, I would like to apologize for our boorish behavior toward the American team at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver this year. I was put off that so many fans booed the Americans -- just for being American. There are some great hockey players on that team and we should be happy that hockey players of that caliber are being produced stateside and can add to the great sport that we love -- irrespective of where they are from.

T.J. Oshie is welcome to play for the Calgary Flames any time he wants -- no booing.

Tom Gieni
Calgary, Alberta

Hats off to Gord Miller of TSN. Besides being among the top echelon of play-by-play men in hockey because of his reporting skills, he was very courageous in his verbal disapproval of the way his fellow Canadians were behaving. Some would have said nothing or very little. I'm sure he's taking heat for it. In this age of teams paying broadcasters and rights holders too aligned with the NHL, it was refreshing to hear someone go out on any kind of a limb. Especially, when there is absolutely no upside for Gord Miller to say anything. But as someone in the business and someone in America who just wanted to enjoy arguably the world's greatest hockey tournament, it was inspirational as a journalist and reassuring as an American who loves Canada.


John,

Michel Therrien has the Pens playing as a team, working hard on the power play and showing some heart -- the win against Montreal was fun, disgusting, and then awesome to watch, in that order. When (if) Mario comes back, how does Therrien continue to get the team to play as it is now, especially when you consider that Lemieux has historically been a coach-killer?

Ron Coughenour

Phoenixville, PA

It's a great question, Ron. We know two things: The Penguins are not making the playoffs and this is Mario Lemieux's final NHL season. Michel Therrien was too emotional and an abhorrently bad dresser his first go-around as an NHL head coach. I can still remember that Century 21 jacket he wore in the Kyle McLaren-flying-elbow Canadiens-Bruins playoff series. This is Michel Therrien's and Sidney Crosby's team. That's why Therrien gave Crosby the A. He had to get him on his side. It was a brilliant, outside-the-box thinking move. Crosby will always play for Therrien now. Does an 18-year-old deserve an A? Probably not. But it was a statement and an investment made by Therrien, who has experience and attitude behind the bench. He has a group of young, minor-league bus riders who will play for him because they have won with him and they don't want to ride buses anymore.

I think Mario will come back and play hard and basically do whatever Therrien says. Therrien needs to be smart because (A) Mario is a front-office person first; and (B) Lemieux is adored by the fan base. I think everyone will handle this the right way. I've been told Evgeni Malkin's agency, IMG, is having a difficult time getting Malkin out of his Russian contract, and next year and beyond is still in major question.


John,

Looking at Tuesday's box scores, something stood out. There were six games played and four were shutouts. I can't remember seeing so many on one day, especially considering the number of total games played on that day. Weird. Your thoughts?

Steve La Due
Glendale, Calif.

Steve, we've been saying all along in this space that scoring will slowly go down in the NHL as more and more is let go. I'm seeing more and more sticks in the gut as the season goes along. Away from the play, obstruction is back and teams like Calgary will once again become the most dangerous playoff teams.


John,

My wife and I just found out that we're having a boy, and we're trying to decide on a name. His big brother is Callum David. Thoughts? For the hockey fact, do you have any interesting, little-known facts about Ray Bourque?

Brad

Brad D. DeBoer
Caleb Bradley DeBoer

Ray Bourque fact (I asked Bourque this back in the spring of 2002): When you are driving alone in your car, do you think in French or English? "[Long pause] In both, I think. It all depends on what I'm thinking about. But I speak better English than I do French. I express myself better. I know that's hard to believe! But I think more in English than I do in French."

Bourque and his wife converse almost entirely in French.


John,

I know you like to make predictions. How many 100-point scorers do you think there will be this year? There are still quite a few players on pace.

Benjamin
Austin, Texas

Scoring will go down in the second half of the season as NHL officials allow more and more hooking away from the play. We all knew this would happen. I'll say, Jagr, Kovalchuk, Thornton, Heatley, Forsberg, Ovechkin, Crosby and Marc Savard. That's eight. And I'll take a 100-point player to be named later. So let's say the over/under is nine. I'd take the under.


Big Bad John,

When will Tomas Vokoun start getting some recognition, after he wins gold in Turin maybe? The guy doesn't even know what a rebound is!

Marcus Newman
Mount Juliet, Tenn.

Nashville fans, relax! The hockey community knows how good Tomas Vokoun is. They know that Marek Zidlicky would be the best defenseman on over half of the teams in the NHL. The Preds need another big-time scorer down low, especially someone with size and grit, but they are among the best in the NHL. I hope they are aggressive come trade deadline time.


John,

Give us your front-runners for each of the voting trophies.

David Gillanders
Orange, Calif.

Hart: Jaromir Jagr. As I type this he is No. 1 in scoring. The next Ranger (Straka) is tied for 25th and the next is tied for 48th. Jagr is carrying the Rangers' offense.

Vezina: Miikka Kiprusoff. Six shutouts as I type this.

Norris: Nicklas Lidstrom. Quarterbacks the best power play in the league, plays 28:34 a night, gets the puck on net low. You don't hear the puck smack off the back glass when Nick Lidstrom shoots it from the point. A calming, classy influence. If actor Jimmy Stewart came back as a hockey player, he would be Nicklas Lidstrom.

Calder: They both play on horrible defensive teams. They are both breathtaking to watch. Crosby is under more pressure because he is essentially following Lemieux and has an enormous amount of North American media attention and scrutiny. But because Sidney Crosby and Alexander the Eight are exhilarating, I would just vote for the guy who has more points. It's too hard to pick a winner.

Coach of the Year: Andy Murray, L.A. Kings.


Mr. Buccigross,

I just moved from Chi to NYC thankfully as the Blues emerge from the gutter. I am happy to leave the Hawks as I am disgusted at the lack of televised home games. For those who do not know why, could you please explain why? Bottom line, it's disgusting, absurd and horrible for hockey and the NHL knows it. I think I'm going to be sick.

Mike Workman

I've written it before and I'll write it again. If a Starbucks was run like the Hawks are run, Starbucks would take the franchise owner to court and have him removed because that owner would be polluting the Starbucks' brand name. The NHL should not permit the Hawks to be owned by Bill Wirtz.


Bucci,

In a head-to-head (no pun intended) best hair in hockey competition, who would win? Kerry Fraser or Marc Crawford? What events might they partake in to determine this?

Justin,
Denver

Justin, if I've told you once, I've told you a million times, don't mess with Crawford's hair. He would be a 500-follicle favorite over Fraser. Look out for Ryan Getzlaf. He has lottery-pick hair, and with more experience, could take Crawford out.

John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is john.buccigross@espn.com.

John Buccigross | email

SportsCenter anchor
John Buccigross joined ESPN as an anchor in October 1996. He currently can be seen as an anchor on "SportsCenter." Buccigross frequently contributes to ESPN.com during the season.

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