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
Why does New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault overuse players like Tanner Glass over players like J.T. Miller who are actually good?
Erin Bolen, Defending Big D: One of my cardinal tenants of evaluation, whether that's a player or a coach, is that people always have some sort of rationale for their decisions. Coaches aren't out to make wrong calls (though they certainly can be wrong in retrospect). I know legitimately zero about the Rangers, but from a cursory overview of the numbers, it appears Vigneault doesn't trust Miller with minutes in his own zone, which may limit his usage. Whether that's the best decision in the long run is anyone's guess.
Dan Saraceni, Lighthouse Hockey: Why does Vigneault still play Dan Girardi like he's a first pairing defenseman? Why does Jack Capuano play Brian Strait at all? Why did the Flyers stick with Zac Rinaldo for five seasons? Why do Bruins media members still Facebook stalk Shawn Thornton? Why does Kevin James keep making movies with Adam Sandler?
Wait. What was the question again? Oh, right. I have no idea why Glass keeps getting playing time from Vigneault. But my guess is that it's because players like him make up for their lack of skill with a certain type of consistency that the coach likes. That consistency might be be found in some pretty simple actions (i.e. "I know this guy's gonna hit some people and make them mad") that may or may not coincide with scoring goals or possessing the puck, but it's something the coach can count on while pulling his hair out trying to figure out why two of the three guys on his first line just don't have it that night as 18,000 people are calling for him to be fired. And if a guy like Glass gives up a goal, well, then he did it doing what he does and will do again on his next shift
Scott Wheeler, Pension Plan Puppets: I think a lot of coaches are guilty of using depth players as checkers, and sending them over the boards on too many defensive zone draws because they don’t trust their more gifted offensive players in their own zone. That’s mostly a game-to-game matchup decision though. On the season, Glass is last among regular Rangers players in TOI at 10:16 while a player like Miller rounds out at 14:46. You’re always going to find misusage in a coaches deployment game-to-game, but if the averages are where they need to be then it’s hard to find fault in a coach like Vigneault.
Adam Herman, Blueshirt Banter: We're all at the risk of letting bias and emotions affect our outlooks and decisions. Even the best hockey coaches aren't immune. I think Vigneault means well, but I also think it's clear to everyone that he holds different players to different standards. My own personal theory on the subject, and it's purely conjecture, is this; Tanner Glass reminds AV of himself. Both guys were very late draft picks. Both guys are reasonably intelligent and personable. They both had to grind their ways to the NHL and got there purely on the basis on hard work and a willingness to play a physical game. Combine that with the time they spent together in Vancouver during some successful years, and it's easy to see how Vigneault could become blind to reality in the case of Glass.
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Are the Penguins starting to get it together in time for a playoff run?
Erin Bolen, Defending Big D: Pittsburgh has been blessed with a pretty favorable schedule over the last stretch here (since February 21, five of their nine games have been against Buffalo, Winnipeg, Arizona, Calgary and New Jersey). But you can only play what the schedule gives you, and Pittsburgh has been doing very well with that recently. A playoff run in that division will be a challenge of the Capitals and potential playoff heroics of Henrik Lundqvist, but the signs are definitely encouraging at this point.
Dan Saraceni, Lighthouse Hockey: As a fan of a Metro Division rival, I hope to hell the Penguins aren't starting to get it together. But from the looks of their game against the Islanders on Tuesday, they are, and that was without an injured Carl Hagelin. The big concern for the Penguins going into the playoffs will be how that bottom half of the roster holds up. Because right now it's basically Matt Cullen and seven dudes from Wilkes-Barre Scranton or the nearest Giant Eagle.
Scott Wheeler, Pension Plan Puppets: I think the Penguins have been good for quite some time now. They were already showing signs of improving before the coaching change and they’ve taken off since. When you add a new star to the fold like they did with Phil Kessel, it’s going to take time to adjust. They’ve been one of the best teams in 2016 and the team that runs into them in the first round might be in trouble. Crosby is back to being Crosby, Fleury is playing really well, and Hagelin has fit in nicely. They’re scary.
Adam Herman, Blueshirt Banter: I think so. Everyone agrees that Chicago, LA and Washington are the three top contenders in their own tier. After them, I think Pittsburgh is as dangerous as anybody. For the first time in a while, they have four legitimate lines. Crosby and Malkin are back in form, and Kessel is acclimated now. While I don't think Justin Schultz was the ideal addition at the deadline, as I think they needed a good shot suppressor, he certainly does add some flair to the back. This isn't a perfect team by any means, but I think it's one that is good enough to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.
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Should the Dallas Stars be worried?
Erin Bolen, Defending Big D: Based on what set of expectations? If I'm worried about the team relative to its 19-5 start this year, I think you have to be concerned, particularly about the drop off in the goaltending and the recent slumps of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, sporting both frustration and abysmal luck to the tune of a 91.9 PDO since Jan. 1. But in the grand scheme of the development cycle, where the Stars were about a 50-percent pick to make the playoffs at all this season, they're on a very understandable patch of bumpy play while still maintaining perhaps an accelerated trajectory. So to answer the question, it depends on what point of reference you're using.
Scott Wheeler, Pension Plan Puppets: It seems like all of the team’s you’d expect to play well in the Western Conference are doing just that, except Dallas. The Ducks are unstoppable, San Jose added serious depth at the deadline, the Kings and Blackhawks are dominant, and St. Louis is a real threat if they can ever get healthy. I think Jim Nill has done a good job with the Stars but I question whether the acquisition of Russell really makes them better. If they’re going to compete in the playoffs, Niemi and/or Lehtonen will have to be much better than they have been too.
Adam Herman, Blueshirt Banter: Depends on one's perspective. The Stars have made the playoffs just once since the 2008, and didn't make any noise in their lone appearance. Now they're battling for the top spot in the West. Their two best forwards and best defenseman are all young. Seems like this is a good time to be a Stars fan.
That being said, there should be legitimate concern about the team for this season. Their goaltending situation is only marginally better than it was last season, and the defense is solid but hardly enough to make up for that major deficiency. The Russell acquisition seems like one made out of desperation. They can get away with beating many teams 5-3 every night, but that's not going to work in a seven-game series against the likes of Chicago or LA. If I'm a Stars fan, I'm not over-analyzing this season and just enjoying the ride. But once summer hits, Jim Nill better be working on a way to upgrade what is 10-and-a-half million dollars of bad goaltending. Especially with Jamie Benn set to become a free agent in 2017.
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Bonus: Help settle an internal SB Nation debate: Is pie overrated?
Erin Bolen, Defending Big D: Fruit pie is completely overrated. Crème-based pies are delicious and belong in the desert hall of fame when done right.
Dan Saraceni, Lighthouse Hockey: Pie is great. Anyone that says pie is overrated has never had a good one and needs to have their dessert priorities reconfigured.
Scott Wheeler, Pension Plan Puppets: Pies are the worst desert. Anyone who says apple pie is better than apple crumble/crisp is a liar.
Adam Herman, Blueshirt Banter: Pie is so overrated, holy crap. Apple pie is good stuff. Make me a good apple pie and we can be friends. But every other pie is garbage. You know why the colonials ate pumpkin pie, pecan pie, frozzleberry pie and whatever other crappy pie you can think of? Because they had no choice. They were a bunch of random people on new land who had little experience suddenly tasked with doing domestic work, like cooking. Guess what happens if I show up to Sir Reginald Livingstone's picnic with some dank Oreo milkshakes, a plate of brownies, and a tub of cookie dough ice cream? Nobody touches the stupid pies, and I get accused of witchcraft on the basis of providing delicious dessert. Pies were once were the best society had to offer. We've now advanced to the point that they are heavily outmatched by the many superior alternatives, yet some people still bizarrely cling to them. They're unnecessary vestiges of the past. Like fax machines. Or the New York Islanders.