The Nation Notebook: Lucic’s struggles, Crosby’s 1000th, and the Trade Dudline

NNNotebook

The Nation Network Notebook is a regular feature that rounds up interesting news, stories, and rumours from around the NHL that don’t quite deserve their own article. 

Where have all the trades gone? By this time last year, we had already seen multiple deals happen. Also, Sidney Crosby scored his 1000th point in just his 757th career game, prompting debate as to whether he’s been under-appreciated as a generational talent. 

MISSING MILAN


Milan Lucic’s debut season in Edmonton hasn’t gone as planned. Throughout his career, Lucic has been a historically good even-strength player and a pretty mediocre player on the man advantage, but that hasn’t been the case. 

This season, Lucic has been poor five-on-five and racking up the power-play points instead. Lucic’s 16 power play points are already a career-high, but that’s not where the Oilers need him to be productive. Lucic has played a successful role as the net-front presence, although it’s hard to see anyone struggling to produce on a Connor McDavid-ran power play. The Oilers need more even strength scoring when McDavid isn’t on ice, as Maroon has usurped Lucic has McDavid’s running mate on left-wing, and a 45-point pace supported by power play points isn’t helping.

Lucic’s contract was always going to carry huge risk, but that was expected towards the latter half of his seven-year deal, not the first year. His even strength scoring is half the rate it was last year and is unlike any season he’s had career-wise. Lucic could be showing signs of decline, 28 isn’t that young after all, but it would be a little much to see this much of a decline this quick. 

The big power forward has a history of being a higher percentage shooter, although this year features one of his lowest percentage seasons to date. It’s also worth noting that Lucic is generating shots better than any season but one, as he’s never been a big volume shooter. The uptick in shots might explain a lower shooting percentage, although his individual points percentage (IPP), which shows how often a player is attributed a point when a goal is scored while the player is on the ice, is 15 percentage points lower than the last four years of his career.

The Oilers have a lot invested in Milan Lucic, but there are some signs of hope that they may get more out of their big winger. Lucic has had success playing with highly skilled linemates, and has been a solid shot-attempt player for most of his career. He’s not terribly old and has a pretty solid resume with his years in Boston and Los Angeles, suggesting he should be providing more than what he’s currently producing. If Lucic can find chemistry with either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl at centre, it will go a long way towards improving the Oilers depth while Connor McDavid isn’t on the ice.

TRADE DUDLINE!


Where did all the trades go? With all due respect to Vernon Fiddler and Nikita Nesterov, there hasn’t been one impact player traded this season. The upcoming expansion could be a reason. Teams won’t trade a good player that might be left unprotected until closer to the actual expansion draft, leaving a lot of moves left in limbo. But even then, there’s been a distinct lack of trades involving NHL players this season.

By this time last year, Kris Versteeg, Trevor Daley, Ryan Johansen, Seth Jones, David Perron, and Carl Hagelin were traded. Dion Phaneuf was moved in a blockbuster trade with the Ottawa Senators a few weeks prior to the deadline. Trades are fun and the lack of movement makes for a boring season with little discussion of who won or lost the deal. The increasing parity likely has a lot of teams spinning their wheels instead of selling off, but even then it’s fairly obvious which teams have even a fighting chance at making the playoffs at this point.

Last year had 20 trades completed in the month of February before the trade deadline on the 29th, compared to the six so far this season. Those haven’t included much NHL-caliber talent beyond Vern Fiddler, and even he’s only a fourth-line player. Expansion might be creating a lull in the market and teams might be reluctant to admit their season involves the draft lottery instead of the playoffs, but the league desperately needs some excitement and trades were a great way of generating some.

ISLANDERS AND FLYERS SWITCH SPOTS


Just a month ago, it seemed like the New York Islanders season was over. They were in the basement of the Eastern Conference, and couldn’t score goals unless John Tavares was on the ice. But since Doug Weight took the bench, the Islanders have rocketed up the standings. Now, they’re ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who, not too long ago, looked like a legit contender. The Flyers went on a 10-game winning streak in December, but have since gone in the gutter. 

Sam Cardichi, in an article from Philly.com, suggests the Flyers should be sellers heading into the deadline, which makes sense, considering soon-to-be UFAs Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, and Nick Shultz would all be coveted assets for teams needed to fill a hole on their blue line. On the other hand, Arthur Staple of Newsday suggests the strong play from the Islanders could prompt the team to be buyers at the deadline, specifically in finding a scoring winger to play alongside Tavares. 

Just over a month ago, everyone was talking about the assets the Islanders could sell, and where the Flyers could possibly add. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. 

CROSBY GETS 1000


In his 757th regular season game, Sidney Crosby accumulated his 1,000th point on a Chris Kunitz goal against the Winnipeg Jets.

Crosby became the 86th player to score 1,000 points, and he’s the 12th fastest player to achieve this feat. The Pittsburgh centre would have likely passed this milestone earlier if it were not for various injuries over his career. Crosby is still one of the greats to play in the NHL, and some of that might get lost because of how much time he has missed. In terms of points per game, Crosby ranks fifth with 1.32 and only trails Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Orr. All of this during a lower-scoring era too makes it feel like Crosby is a little under-appreciated.

Crosby currently sits second in points and first in goals in the NHL this season. There is a lot of exciting young talent in the NHL, but Crosby doesn’t seem ready to leave that elite group for now. 

JOHNSON A CAP CASAULTY?


The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson speculates about Tyler Johnson’s availability in his Hockey World column, as the Tampa Bay Lightning have Ondrej Palat to sign and Brayden Point waiting in the wings to fill in Johnson’s spot at center.

Matheson suggests a defenseman is crucial for any deal involving Johnson, but that might be difficult to obtain. The Lightning already have a large chunk of their cap committed for next year, and Jonathan Drouin needs to be re-signed in addition to Ondrej Palat. Any defensemen returned for Johnson will have to come with a low cap hit with how tight the Lightning are to the salary cap unless Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman can dump one of Jason Garisson or Braydon Coburn and their hefty contracts. Johnson is a productive, right-handed center with a 70-point season to his name, but he also needs to paid as he is a restricted free-agent this summer. 

  • Southalb43

    I don’t think Lucic’s issues have anything to do with chemistry, if anyone’s watched him this year he looks like he’s skating in a sandbox (as bad or worse than Wideman). He is far too slow and while 28 also isn’t old, he won’t be getting any faster. That contract will be one of the worst in the league in the next year or two, He could be another Vegas candidate.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Crosby has been, and has been acknowledged as, the best player in the NHL since not too long after he first stepped onto the ice for the Penguins. With all due respect to Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane, if there’s only one generational talent per generation, he’s it. Seems pretty clear who the next one will end up being too.

  • wojohowitz

    Interesting about Lucic. I thought he was suppose to be McD`s wingman. A big part of his game was being emotionally involved but with his new contract it looks like he has moved into semi-retirement. Maybe he is thinking about the playoffs.