Here is the Nov. 26 edition of Dan Rosen’s weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.
Does Mike Babcock get another coaching gig with all the negative stories coming out about him? If he does, which team? — @KingsFanInTheOC
Everybody that I’ve talked to around the League has told me the same thing about Mike Babcock, that if he wants to coach again in the NHL, he likely will coach again in the NHL. He’s highly regarded, even if the end of his run with the Toronto Maple Leafs has, in some opinions, left a stain on his resume. I’m not clear on the team, but my guess is it will be a team that he thinks can win right away. I don’t think Babcock will want to go through another rebuilding with youth situation similar to his experience in Toronto unless he senses the team is close, similar to the Joel Quenneville situation with the Florida Panthers. However, I think this situation with how his tenure ended with the Maple Leafs last week should force Babcock to evaluate himself as a coach, his tactics, how he implements them and how he coaches today’s players. He may find through that self-evaluation that he doesn’t need to change, that his rigid, grinding style still works. That’s fine. It’s on him to figure that out. If there is a stain on his resume, it’s one that can be erased with time and a chance elsewhere.
Let’s not ignore that Babcock was good for the Maple Leafs. He came to a team that was rebuilding, that needed a coach to be patient but unwilling to accept losing. The Maple Leafs finished with 69 points in their first season under Babcock. They then went to the Stanley Cup Playoffs three straight times with 95, 105 and 100 points, respectively. They couldn’t get out of the first round and expectations grew to the point where they eventually cost Babcock his job. But Toronto is in a better spot today in part because of Babcock. There’s no debating that point. He couldn’t finish the job. The ship was sinking and it’s hard to argue with the decision to let him go, to replace him with Sheldon Keefe, but the end in Toronto doesn’t mean Mike Babcock is all of a sudden a bad coach. It just means he wasn’t the right coach at this time for the Maple Leafs.
Where is the best place for Taylor Hall to land and what can Ray Shero get back for him at this point? — @KelliX84
In my opinion, the teams that make the most sense to pursue Hall this season are the Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. All could use an upgrade in scoring depth because they either don’t have enough front-line scorers or they have a top line and a drop off in production after their top lines. The most important thing now, as you referenced in your question, is what Devils general manager Ray Shero can get for Hall, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. If the belief is that Hall won’t re-sign with the Devils, getting the best possible return in a trade for him is the next best thing. And getting this done early, meaning well before the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24, should help the Devils maximize the return. More teams are in it right now, more believe that they are legit contenders and that Hall can put them over the top. That should, in theory, help Shero play teams off each other to get the best deal possible for the Devils. I think New Jersey should push to get back a young defensemen, preferably someone in the NHL now who can jump right into their lineup, along with a high draft pick and/or a top prospect. As we know, you don’t always get what you want, and that might be asking for too much. A more reasonable return might not include the NHL-ready defenseman and instead a first-round pick, another later round pick and a prospect.
On a team that has points in 17 games in a row entering Monday, what are the Islanders missing to be a true Stanley Cup contender, or are they one right now? — @johnfiorino97
They’re not missing anything per se, but they’re not perfect. The Islanders are middle of the pack on the power play and at the bottom of the League in shot generation. Another top-six forward who can help in both areas is key for the Islanders. I mentioned Hall as an option for the Islanders in the above answer. He would be a great get for the right price. If I were Shero, I’d be asking Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello about 19-year-old rookie defenseman Noah Dobson. Lamoriello may balk at that, but it’s certainly a reasonable ask. Hall has a better chance of helping the Islanders win the Stanley Cup this season than Dobson. But Dobson has a better chance of being a bright part of the Islanders’ future, especially if Hall intends to test free agency. A player like Ottawa Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau could also be perfect for the Islanders, especially because he can play center or on the wing, and he likely wouldn’t cost as much as Hall in a trade.
Shayne Gostisbehere has been a healthy scratch. Do you think his days are numbered in Philadelphia? If so, where do you see him fitting in on another blue line? — @theashcity
I wouldn’t say his days with the Philadelphia Flyers are numbered. That’s premature. He’s been scratched the past two games and he hasn’t played well enough in his role this season. Gostisbehere should be a possession-driving, skilled with the puck defenseman. He should be putting up points, driving the offense from the back end, playing on the first power-play unit. It hasn’t happened for him so far under coach Alain Vigneault. He’s been out played by Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim. Robert Hagg gives the Flyers more bite defensively, which plays into the initial reason Vigneault gave for scratching Gostisbehere. He said it was lineup driven, that he wanted to play a heavier lineup against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. But then he scratched him again against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday so I wonder how much of it is lineup driven and how much of it is really that Vigneault can’t wait for Gostisbehere to get his game in order. Vigneault also has James van Riemsdyk on the fourth line and Kevin Hayes on the third line, playing behind rookie Morgan Frost. He asked for more from Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, van Riemsdyk and Hayes earlier this season. He’s letting the veteran players in Philadelphia know he’s the boss, but to suggest that means Gostisbehere’s days in Philadelphia are numbered is not right. I don’t think the Flyers are going to just give up on him now, especially when trying to move on from him would mean they’re trading from a position of weakness. He’s too good of a player to sell low on.
Will Alex Ovechkin break Wayne Gretzky’s goal record? — @SIickRick23
Crunching the numbers shows me Ovechkin is more within reach of Gretzky’s 894 goals than I ever thought he would be. Ovechkin has 15 goals in 25 games this season, giving him 673 in 1,109 games played. He’s 34 years old. He’s on pace for 49.2 goals this season. Assuming he stays healthy, let’s round that up to 50, which would give him 708 in 1,166 games, provided he plays in all 82 this season. That would put him 186 goals behind Gretzky when he turns 35 years old on Sept. 17, 2020. He’ll need to average 46.5 goals per season if he’s going to get to Gretzky’s record in four seasons or 37.2 goals per season if he’s going to catch him in five seasons. That’s still a lot of goals, but the one thing I don’t expect Ovechkin to lose is his ability to shoot the puck. He could be good for 20 goals just standing in the left circle and firing one-timers. He’s still in terrific shape. He has stayed relatively healthy for his entire career. He still clearly loves the game and loves to score. The Capitals should be a playoff contender for a while still.
To break Gretzky’s record, though, Ovechkin will have to sign a new contract. His contract expires after the 2020-21 season. He’ll have to avoid the temptation of finishing his career in Russia to continue to chase Gretzky’s record and, of course, another Stanley Cup championship. If he hadn’t already won the Cup I’d say it was a no-brainer that he’d continue in North America, but the fact that he has won could be enough to convince him that he’s done enough here, short of the record, and he can go home now. If he stays, he’s got a good chance to do it.
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