With a network as vast as ours here at SB Nation, we figured we'd put our fine hockey bloggers to good use. You've got questions every week. We know. And we're here to help.
Each Monday at noon ET we'll take your questions on Twitter at @SBNationNHL. Our NHL Blog Council (made up of different bloggers from around the SBN hockey network) will meet and consider your queries. Later in the week we will render our verdicts to the masses.
Without further ado ...
Blog Council: COMMENCE
Which team is more likely to squeeze into the playoffs: Pittsburgh or New Jersey?
J.J. From Kansas, Winging It In Motown: I feel like this head-to-head matchup puts the future of coaching effects on trial in the NHL, as the Penguins are a more talented mess while the Devils are a well-structured bunch of spare parts. I know that's being totally unfair to the Devils and their good players, but come on, they use Jordin Tootoo on their power play. Get real here. I may be a little punch-drunk from all the Bobby Farnham cheap shots to my brain from years of being conditioned to believe Sidney Crosby can leadership his way to the top, but yeah I'm having a hard time believing the more fun-to-watch Penguins don't end up above the Devils in the standings. In truth, I hope they both miss.
Scott Matla, Habs Eyes On The Prize: With players like Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Marc-Andre Fleury and a hopefully healthy Kris Letang it's easy to bet on Pittsburgh beating out a Devils team where Bobby Farnham is counted on to score goals. That said, Pittsburgh's blueline situation is less than desirable should Letang or Olli Maata suffer another long-term injury and opens the door for the other Metro teams. The chaotic part of me is rooting for the Devils to force the Penguins out, if only for all the nuclear level hot takes that the Pittsburgh media would run about Crosby/Malkin/Kessel etc.
Cornelius Hardenbergh, Stanley Cup of Chowder: Well, let's see. The "magic number" for each team to get the drop on the other is 80. The Penguins have two games in hand and Crosby has started scoring again. Pittsburgh has a higher CF% and lower PDO than New Jersey. The Penguins have been playing wildly better with their new coach. All signs point to the Penguins making the playoffs over the Devils this year. Especially if Cory Schneider falls off even a little bit. He is, in a lot of ways, keeping that team afloat. And with the upcoming suspension of Bobby Farnham, where will their scoring come from?
Dan Saraceni, Lighthouse Hockey: As a longtime connoisseur of Penguin tears, I'd like to say the Devils bump Pittsburgh out of the final playoff spot. It's going to come down to whether Crosby, Malkin and Fleury outduel Cory Schneider and his band of anonymous pluggers. I'm kinda leaning Penguins because when Bobby Farnham is fifth on your team in goal scoring, you've got problems.
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Should Winnipeg Jets fans embrace the tank?
J.J. From Kansas, WIIM: Yes yes yes and yes. The Jets are in a position right now to make the same mistake as the Flames did in the early 2010s by believing that punching a ticket to the dance with the crumbling vestiges of a competitive squad is worth it, but their situation is kind of a mess right now with guys that need to re-sign. Believing they should hold onto anybody that Cheveldayoff can't sign to "make a run" is asking for trouble. I mean, there are Pacific Division teams not from Los Angeles ahead of them in the standings. Just give it up, man. Winnipeg doesn't need a total rebuild, but it should be collecting assets right now instead of spending them.
Scott Matla, HEotP : I'm leaning towards yes, starting with offloading Dustin Byfuglien and/or Andrew Ladd at the trade deadline this year. Big Buff is likely to fetch a good return for a top pairing defenseman in the league this year and would go a long way towards developing a mediocre prospect pool currently. They play in the deepest division in the NHL and won't be contending with guys like Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart in their lineup, so maybe tanking for Auston Matthews or Jesse Puljujärvi is the right move. Just don't make them wear a track suit if you want them to actually stay in Winnipeg.
Cornelius Hardenbergh, SCoC: Jets fans should not embrace the tank. Jets fans should keep their hopes up about it all turning around and them going on a miracle run, just so it hurts more when it doesn't happen. Edmonton is winning the lottery, anyways. At least it'll only be slightly below freezing in Winnipeg when they're eliminated from the playoffs, so it's time to dust off the barbecue and get prepped for another losing Blue Bombers season. Free agent camps are underway in Florida this month!
Dan Saraceni, LHH: From what I've been hearing for a while, the Jets have a nice prospect crop coming through the pipeline. If that's true (and I'm sure most cynical Jets fans are probably skeptical), they probably don't need to go into full tank mode, but they might try to dump some veterans for extra picks. They might even find a taker for Ondrej Pavelic, who's going to go into the last year of his deal. But this doesn't seem like a burn-it-to-the-ground-and-start-over situation (trust me, I've seen a few of those).
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Which second-half storylines are you most excited for?
J.J. From Kansas, WIIM: I'm a little biased here, but I'm most interested to see which Atlantic teams are going to make it out of the dummy morass that is the top of that division. Basically every team is a fraud for one reason or another and watching the standings is like watching six people play rock-paper-scissors Three Stooges-style, with eye-poking, head-bonking and the occasional southern how'd-you-do. Outside of the division standings, I think the other story in the Atlantic about how Steve Yzerman is going to look as a GM after all of the Drouin/Stamkos drama is complete fascinates me more than anything (though I don't think it'll be resolved before the second half of the season is over).
Scott Matla, HEotP : From a biased view it's going to be fascinating to watch what Marc Bergevin does with the Canadiens in the second half of the year. He's known for making big time moves at the trade deadline (Vanek and Petry anyone?) but, there's also the added mystery of whether Michel Therrien will keep his job. Other than the Habs, it's all about the surprise teams like the Coyotes and Panthers, and whether they can keep up their level of play and make an impact in the playoffs. And just to make all the old timey "move the team to Quebec City" writers mad, I'm hoping there's an Arizona/Florida Cup final.
Cornelius Hardenbergh, SCoC: My favorite second-half storylines are probably going to be:
- Luongo propping up the Panthers into the playoffs (where they won't do much but will be fun anyways)
- A lot of my least-favorite teams failing to do anything good or useful.
- Boston hopefully taking advantage of those games-in-hand it always seems to have.
- Dwight King's triumphant return from injury. Three goals in his first seven games!
- John Scott hopefully setting All-Star Game scoring records.
Dan Saraceni, LHH: Can the Caps keep destroying the rest of the NHL or will they slow down? And if they do, will it be close to the playoffs? And if it's close to the playoffs ... oh boy. Also, which Pacific Division teams make the playoffs and try to convince themselves that they're actually good and not lucky to be where they are? Finally, what do the Rangers do with Keith Yandle and how will Larry Brooks make it seem like a great idea?