A Legacy Unlike Any Other: Why Sylvia Fowles is the WNBA’s GOAT and Most Important Player

There are some athletes you watch a majority of life and revel in. It could be they’re not like any player or athlete you’ve ever watched. They could be the classiest and sweetest person ever, interacting with regular people like they’re family. Perhaps it’s the number of hobbies and fun activities when not scoring, running races or blocking shots. Or maybe, it’s because they stand out so much in and out of sports that it blows one away and you can’t help but want them around, forever wanting their presence and energies.

Sylvia Fowles is all wrapped into one. I’ve watched her play professionally since her early days with the Chicago Sky around the turn of the 2010s. I still have yet to hear a bad word about her from teammates, coaches or fans since watching and analyzing women’s basketball.

Fans found out before last season started she likes to knit and sew. She loves plants and how they bring good energies. Sylvia’s planted gardens across Minneapolis, helping serve healthy food to those who want local shops and places to go to. She swims to keep up with fitness, believes in reincarnation (she’d love to be an eagle or elephant in a next life), is avid about her mental health, loves bike-riding and charity for children. Sylvia’s obsessed with science and education, and is a talented dancer and comedian.

Since August of last year, Sylvia’s finally getting a good amount of honors, appreciation and respect she should have much of her career. You probably heard what she wants to do now that she’s retired from the WNBA, but you may not know why. I had known she’s been wanting to become a mortician because there was interest in Chicago to ask her things past basketball, but there’s still a lot to learn about someone who’s been quiet yet motherly to her teammates.

Why Sweet Syl is very important to the league and to those covering the WNBA

The WNBA had a renaissance woman they could’ve promoted for 15 years. Sylvia was the second overall pick by the Chicago Sky in the 2008 draft. To this day most see her as LSU’s best women’s basketball player. The league blew it in ways no other sports league would.

One can say Sylvia never wanted the attention and would be both uncomfortable and weirded out. Past a point, her accomplishments can’t be overlooked and she should be both praised and told how she’s one of the best players to take the court. This falls on who covers women’s and men’s sports with what best to say.

It’s why despite her farewell tour (which she was hesitant on and absolutely felt a lot of emotions her last weekend of play), the media and the league decided to focus on another WNBA star for most of the season. Unless one watched her games throughout 2022, it would be hard to know she was retiring until ESPN put on segments in the middle of August.

You may have figured out there’s a certain pattern as to why Sylvia didn’t get the attention, and it’s not because she doesn’t want it. She’s a very tall, dark-skinned black woman who probably has a deeper voice and is intimidating to both opposing teams and anyone covering women’s basketball. All of this outside of intimidating the media is correct. Some of her own teammates joined the Minnesota Lynx because they were tired of facing her at least three times a season. Outside of the media tidbit, this is a problem the league hasn’t addressed and falls face first on.

Think of who the faces of the WNBA are today. Chances are most, if not all look closer to me than her. You probably assumed who the other retired player was or pictured to be even if you don’t watch the sport. It would be hard to figure out Sylvia is the only player to lead two franchises in rebounding, or be the only woman to have 4,000 rebounds. In an interview with LaChina Robinson aired at half-time of her last game Sunday August 14th Sylvia said she takes this to the chin, and she does get in her feelings at times (it’s also one of the few interviews she’s fully herself when it comes to her being in basketball), but she’s adamant of knowing she at least deserves the full respect, something that’s been quiet off the court in most markets.

This is something the league and mainstream media need to not just address but fix and figure out before the start of the 2023 season. Promote and talk about players like Jonquel Jones, Kahleah Copper and Arike Ogunbowale just as much as Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu and Candace Parker.

What makes Mama Syl GOAT-worthy

Ask yourself who the last dominant center you watched play professional basketball was; male or female. Chances are most men would say Shaquille O’Neal. No center has played as close to Sylvia’s level since Lisa Leslie retired (one could say Brittney Griner but she hasn’t played since 2021).

Here are things you can say about Sylvia that you can’t say about many or any players in the W. They include

  • One of ten women to dunk, one of four to do it more than once
  • Most field goals in a quarter with nine
  • best shooting/field goal percentage at .5932
  • Rebounds (stats above)
  • 404 Rebounds a season, highest rebound avg. at 11.88
  • 282 rebounds in 2018, most in a season
  • Over 2,500 defensive rebounds (career)
  • tied for 3rd with 17 defensive rebounds (most per game)
  • Second most defensive rebounds in a half v. an opponent (12)
  • Tied for first with most defensive rebounds in a quarter (nine)
  • Led Minnesota to largest margin of victory in a WNBA regular/post-season game at 59 points
  • Led Minnesota to most wins consecutive to start a season with 13.
  • Led Minnesota to second three straight championship appearances
  • Had the highest point and rebound total in the 2017 WNBA Finals, first player since Lauren Jackson in 2004 and third champion to do it overall.
  • Helped lead Minnesota to most playoff appearances with 11
  • Won defensive player of the year award twice while admitting she never watched film until heading to Minnesota
  • Won the WNBA Peak Performer Award three times (2013, 2018, 2022)
  • Two time WNBA blocks leader (2010, 2011)
  • Was WNBA Finals MVP in both championships won
  • All rookie team in 2008
  • Three time champion in three different continents
  • All-WNBA First Team in 2010, 2013 and 2017
  • Four time DPOY in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2021
  • Seven time All-Defensive First Team: 2010-13, 2016-17, 2021
  • WNBA Rebounding champion in 2013, 2018 and 2022
  • A Lock on the WNBA 25th Anniversary Team revealed in 2021

It’s a rarity to find a player in basketball, regardless of sex to have a list of accolades this deep, thorough and impressive. Sylvia’s well known for defense but is a critical player around the hoop to either score, generate second-chance opportunities or draw fouls. Unlike with forwards or guards, there’s been no solid counter to Sylvia for almost her entire career. Minnesota still ran an older style of offense and defense when she started games. The Lynx didn’t want to make three-point shots a main focus of scoring when Fowles was on the court. It slowed opponents’ games and worked in Minnesota’s favor all but one season. On defense, teams preferred having second chance scoring opportunities rather than numerous three point chances. No other player in her three decades of play commanded that much respect.

Many of us obsess over male athletes (and to be honest, with good reasons) because we know how hard things are for them to attain either the levels of greatness or to stay a good person especially with normal people around for long periods of time. A fewer amount do the same with female athletes or try to understand them unless they fit a certain description. Sylvia didn’t and for the most part, still doesn’t fit a lot of the characteristics a good amount of the public wants from both taller and dark-skinned female athletes. Yet she’s one of the most empathetic, comedic, creative and wonderful people you’d ever come across.

In the end the league never deserved a one-of-one, unequaled individual. As a true fan, I’m happy and blessed I got to watch her play for as long as she did. While I’m mostly at peace she leaves on her own terms, it’s also true to say the league will not be the same without her. It won’t be as colorful with that extra height space and the added sweetness she brought every summer. In the end, it’s safe to say the true fans were the ones playing funeral all year.


2022-2023 NBA First Half Analysis, Questions, Answers and Much More

What a fun first half of the season. Most teams are close in the standings with good chances of making the NBA playoffs. The incumbent champion Golden State Warriors are in the middle of their division and conference. The MVP race is either Nikola Jokic’s or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s to lose while coaching and managers are inconsistent. The second half is set up for a fun, intense finish.

Here are the most important topics and questions after the first half of the season.

More teams prefer to contend for the playoffs than tank for Victor Wembanyama

The Washington Wizards probably won’t make the playoffs, but they’re determined to play their best basketball instead of tanking for the number one pick.

At the All-Star break, there are four teams eliminated from playoff contention. What’s more shocking is how both conferences are competitive and close in almost every playoff seed. Teams such as Orlando, Washington and Utah can make strong pushes and multiple winning streaks to stay in the middle for a play-in round. Veteran teams such as Golden State, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers are struggling to stay in a top seed despite the stars and coaches who usually make their teams excel.

It’s the reverse of what many fans and analysts expected at the beginning of fall 2022. Teams want giant phenom Victor Wembanyama and will do a lot to land him at the number one or two overall pick. Right now there’s a lot of fight in the 26 competitive teams and that might not stop until the last month of the regular season.

Coach of the year is an easy choice

The third best team in the western conference and the number one team in the pacific division is none other than the Sacramento Kings coached by Mike Brown. No matter how this season ends in California’s capital, this season will be a success to the playoff deprived fans.

The coach of the year winner should be Sacramento’s Mike Brown. The Kings are the best team in the deep Pacific division after one half of season play and are third overall in the western conference. Almost an entire generation of NBA fans have never seen Sacramento in the NBA postseason, but that might finally change under Brown’s leadership. Unless Boston, Phoenix or Denver break league records, it’s Brown’s to lose.

How serious is the conversation on reduction of regular season games?

MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo has battled through several injuries this season, but his last game against Chicago made him leave early due to a wrist injury. While the x-rays came back negative, it fuels the call for fewer regular season games.

The topic has a larger audience the past few years and it’ll continue when play resumes. Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and many other star players around the league are or have battled injuries throughout the season. While rest management became the topic of discussion heading into 2020, more criticism of a long NBA season are growing among coaches, players, fans and analysts. While things won’t be resolved at the end of the league’s 76th season, be aware this storyline will stay heading into fall.

The Top 30: Time for one view for each team. The view can range from improvement to an easier transition during the second half of the season.

Hawks coach Nate McMillan held the team back most of the season and it might cost the team a playoff spot the last month of play. Atlanta has a number of critical decisions to make this upcoming summer.

Atlanta: The Hawks are eighth in the east and a benchmark for mediocrity. DeJounte Murray has floundered at times and coach Nate McMillan was finally fired after all kinds of mismanagement. This was supposed to be a top team in the Southeast and a better contender in the east. They need to figure it out fast.

Boston: Joe Mazzulla is officially locked in as the Celtics permanent head coach. Everyone expects Boston and Milwaukee to be the conference finals contenders, but we need to see how well Mazzulla is in the postseason compared to his predecessor.

Brooklyn: A year ago James Harden was traded to Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal that brought in Ben Simmons and Seth Curry. The Nets are hanging on to fifth place in the east due to interim coach Jacque Vaughn even after the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant trades. No matter where Brooklyn finishes in the standings, they have a reliable coach in Vaughn and can assess who to add on the roster.

Charlotte: One of the four worst teams in the league, it’s stunning how awful the team is when LaMelo Ball isn’t playing. They’re at the bottom in three point and field goal percentage and ahead of only Detroit in the east. Add in critical players such as Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre and Gordon Hayward are injured for a while and this team just can’t catch a break.

Chicago: The Bulls are in a tough situation. On the edge of a play-in round with Indiana and Orlando close behind, this roster doesn’t fit well and coach Billy Donovan is running out of options. Expect Chicago to make a run but big changes are coming this offseason.

Cleveland: This team is better and more dangerous with Donovan Mitchell. The past two years solidified a talented roster that can make a run in the postseason. Don’t expect the Cavaliers to drop off when play resumes.

Dallas: The Mavericks finally have a solid number two option to take pressure off Luka Doncic in Kyrie Irving. While the debates rage on, it’s equally important Dallas brought in Markieff Morris. The Mavericks need more options at power forward and that should be discussed more among NBA analysts.

Denver: Nikola Jokic is having another MVP caliber season but the play of guards Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson will help push Denver past the second round of the playoffs if everyone stays healthy.

Detroit: Even with Cade Cunningham injured, you’d think the young core of the Pistons, with the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic and Nerlens Noel could be a more competent team. The problem is either coaching, management or a combination of both. Unless Detroit really wants Victor Wembanyama this team is in crisis mode.

Golden State: At first glance the defending champions can’t catch a break. Franchise star Stephen Curry got injured, former first round pick James Wiseman was traded, and Gary Payton II had trouble coming back to the team due to a failed physical. But the Warriors are tied as the number one scoring team in the league, are close to unbeatable at home and would be in the play-in if the season ended today. If this team gets on a roll after the All-Star break, the west could be in trouble fast.

Houston: Turns out coach Steve Silas might not be as good as many people thought. In his defense, how can you tell with this assembled mess called a team. At least the Rockets have a bunch of draft picks heading into summer.

Indiana: The Pacers can’t continue to be the Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner show. Management has to make trades and signings to bulk up a roster that’s close to being a play-in contender.

Los Angeles Clippers: There might not be a more frustrating team in the western conference than the Clippers. No one knows what team they’re getting any given night. Will the team that thumps the rival Lakers take the court or will the team that gives up double digit leads show up? It’ll be a headache thinking of how well they’ll do in any playoff round.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers got the needed additions at the trade deadline but now we’ll see how good Darvin Ham is with the upgraded talent, especially late in games. Get ready for more headlines about how LeBron James feels on leadership after the moves these next few months.

Memphis: The west would be different if Grizzlies point-guard Ja Morant didn’t shoot his mouth off on the roster rivaling the Celtics. Memphis is a great team in the conference but the young core isn’t conference championship level yet and whoever they play the first two rounds will let them know it.

Miami: I don’t doubt the Heat can leap to a top four or five seed in the east but it’s alarming how they’ve sputtered most of the season and are bottom five in so many categories on offense. There are too many injured guards on this team and one must wonder if they flame out fast in the first round. That could thin out the true contenders category quick.

Milwaukee: The Bucks and Celtics are the top teams in the east. If Milwaukee wants to come out on top and return to the finals, they have to remain at full health and continue being the best rebounding team in the league. More scoring opportunities and offensive possessions will wear down opponents late in the season.

Minnesota: It’ll be fun watching a Timberwolves team that just traded for Mike Conley contend when Karl-Anthony Towns returns from injury. Can coaching elevate this team past a play-in round seed into a top six spot? We’ll find out fast.

New Orleans: Zion Williamson’s injuries would dominate basketball headlines if the Pelicans were worse and didn’t have other quality players like C.J. McCollum stepping up. His health problems aren’t going away anytime soon.

New York: It’s hard to understand the Knicks. Two years ago they were a surprising playoff team. Last year they fell off a cliff in offensive production. This year they’re a top six team in the east. There aren’t words to describe this team outside of wild.

Oklahoma City: The Thunder were another team people wrote off as a lottery team but are a contender in the play-in round. That’s due to the MVP caliber play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey leading the third highest scoring offense in the league. This is already an interesting team to watch but their draft picks focusing on depth at center and small forward will make the roster more formidable next year.

Orlando: A team where numbers don’t tell the whole story. Rookie Paolo Banchero was a great choice at number one in the draft and this team plays hard despite their record. There will be teams such as the Bulls, Nets and Hawks that face serious challenges to their roster after the season and some teams will be elevated to playoff contending because of that. The Magic could be one that finds themselves lucky to move up.

Philadelphia: It’s time for Doc Rivers to stop coaching. The 76ers do have the third best record in the east but they’re not championship contenders if they face off against Boston or Milwaukee. That’s alarming despite P.J. Tucker and Montrezl Harrell on the roster. Plus the number of blown leads and terrible decisions holds them back further.

Phoenix: It’s been an up-and-down season in the desert. The Suns could’ve went the roster demolition route but instead traded for Kevin Durant and gave up a lot of draft capital. This is a move that’s regarded as a success only if a championship is won, and it’s been a long time coming for Phoenix to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Portland: At what point do the Trailblazers tell Damien Lillard he has to go in order for this soap opera to end? He won’t win a championship in the pacific northwest and it’s ok for everyone to admit that. It’s just a shame he’s wasted the best years of his career never getting to an NBA finals appearance.

Sacramento: Not many people (especially analysts) are talking about how the Kings are tied as the number one team in scoring, the third best team in field goal percentage and are top ten in three point percentage during their short reign on top of the Pacific division. It probably won’t stay the second half of the season but it shows how well coach Mike Brown has done improving the offense and making De’Aaron Fox a true threat at point-guard.

San Antonio: If this isn’t coach Gregg Popovich leading the Spurs every night, this team would be getting trashed on television every night. San Antonio can’t compete and people are wondering if they began tanking the season early for Wembanyama.

Toronto: Late in 2022 writers were wondering when coach Nick Nurse would be fired so the Raptors could do a full re-build on the roster. Toronto may not have that option due to how many players prefer being on a team in the U.S., so the firing of Nurse and building a better roster from the ground up would be a terrible idea. On the other hand, the Raptors have looked worse since the bubble tournament in 2020. There are valid concerns, but it feels more on management’s hesitations than coaching.

Utah: I don’t think anyone had this team near .500 when the season began. Danny Ainge and Dwyane Wade are re-vamping something special in Salt Lake City. Their offseason should catch most true fans’ attention.

Washington: Statistically and roster-wise, this is a team that could advance past the play-in round. The question on will they actually play to that potential is what will be most interesting since Atlanta, Toronto and Miami might fizzle out faster.

Lauri Markinen’s leadership in Utah has his team in the play-in discussion. We could see the Jazz accomplish that feat depending on who flames out after the All-Star break.

Marshawn Lynch reveals how much the NFL fined him for not speaking to media — Seahawks Wire

Marshawn Lynch may be the most beloved Seahawks player of all time. While the fanbase almost universally adores him, his relationship with the media is a bit more contentious. Lynch never liked speaking to reporters after games – so much so that he was willing to get fined to avoid it. Speaking as a guest…

Marshawn Lynch reveals how much the NFL fined him for not speaking to media — Seahawks Wire

Marshawn Lynch on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: ‘He is a psychologist’ — Seahawks Wire

It takes a lot of skills to be a successful head coach in the NFL. Some of the greatest offensive and defensive minds burn out when they step up into the big chair. Truth is, it takes a master motivator to get the most out of any team. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll does it…

Marshawn Lynch on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: ‘He is a psychologist’ — Seahawks Wire

DK Metcalf dominates NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, wins MVP — Seahawks Wire

This is what happens when you put real professional athletes in a basketball game against professional entertainers. Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf dominated the NBA’s Celebrity All-Star Game last night, leading Dwyane Wade’s team to an 81-78 victory. Along the way, Metcalf racked up 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. DK METCALF GOING…

DK Metcalf dominates NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, wins MVP — Seahawks Wire

NFL Super Bowl LVII Prediction

The Super Bowl features the best team in each conference. Kansas City and Philadelphia mirror each other in their running games, touchdowns scored and yards per game. Both offensive and defensive lines play better after offseason upgrades and the secondaries know when to shut receivers down. It’s time to reveal which team has the best chance of winning the Vince Lombardi trophy and why.

#1 Kansas City Chiefs v. #1 Philadelphia Eagles

Two number one seeds versatile in running the ball, executing deep-ball plays and having a lot of speedy playmakers face off in what could be the game of the year. Andy Reid and Nick Sirianni have been coaches on both teams and know what they want in star players. Both quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes II and Jalen Hurts were MVP candidates this year and have better offensive lines after debacles the previous postseason appearances. Just as last round proved, this is where depth decides the champion.

Both Andy Reid and Nick Sirianni are familiar with each others’ schemes, wants in players and how each others minds work. This will be a close game regardless of who wins. Whoever adjusts most should come out victorious.

The winner of this game and the champion of the 2022-23 season will be determined by the offensive and defensive lines by both teams. The offensive line duo of Isaac Seumalo and Lane Johnson will be tasked with stopping both George Karlaftis and Khalen Saunders. Saunders is exceptional in stopping the run and has improved on rushing the passer while Lane Johnson’s had an extra two weeks to nurse his ailing groin injury. If Johnson aggravates the injury further it could alter Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz scheming and Jalen Hurts’ timing of throws.

On the other end the Eagles’ defensive interior of Fletcher Cox, Linval Joseph, Jordan Davis and Javon Hargrave have the numbers advantage against Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Kansas City’s interior offensive line will have their hands full with a deep defensive front that gets plenty of rest and will be refreshed even late in the second half.

The Eagles have an elite secondary, but the anchor is Fletcher Cox (91) on the defensive line. Left guard Joe Thuney will have a rough day trying to stop Cox from getting to Mahomes and the runningbacks.

Last but not least, coaching will determine who comes out on top. Unfortunately for Kansas City, Andy Reid is known for letting leads slip away despite fantastic starts for most of the Super Bowl teams he’s coached. As mentioned in the NFC Championship prediction, Nick Sirianni finds an opponents weakness and doesn’t let up. The mindset with the Eagles is different due to the depth and an exceptionally talented 53 man roster. It wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the best second half performances and an Eagles comeback win due to how Philadelphia can adjust and attack first on every side of the ball and overwhelm the Chiefs.

Super Bowl 57 Winning Prediction: Eagles win Super Bowl 33-28 and take home their second Vince Lombardi Trophy

Conference finals predictions record: 1-1

2023 overall playoffs record: 9-3

2022-2023 NHL First Half Analysis, Questions, Answers and Much More

What a fun first half of the season. The Boston Bruins are hotter than the 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Lightning. Martin Jones, Erik Karlsson and Anze Kopitar have turned back the clock in their performances. Then there’s the numerous comeback wins we’ve lost count over. The tone is set for the second half of the regular season. Get ready for one of the wildest finishes we could witness in NHL history. Here are the top takes, questions and answers as All-Star weekend closes.

What is going on with and what is triggering all these comebacks night after night?

San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer (47) blocks a shot by Carolina Hurricanes’ Stefan Noesen (23) in the second period of Carolina’s shocking overtime victory the last weekend in January. The loss was newsworthy to the point it gained the attention of Sportscenter’s Scott Van Pelt’s Bad Beats segment the following Monday, January 30th.

A layered question impossible to fully answer. Goaltending is a major factor and NHL Network at one point in December mentioned there were three goaltenders with a save percentage over .900. Those three were Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin and Juuse Saros. Part of it is also coaching as we’ve seen with Dave Quinn’s San Jose Sharks and Paul Maurice’s Florida Panthers on the losing end after a lot of early leads, but the same can be said with comebacks by veteran teams in Boston, Tampa Bay and Dallas.

If this trend continues, this season would have the most comeback wins after a team takes a two goal lead. It makes for fun hockey but it’s not healthy for these poor coaches, defensemen and audience growth.

Are the Boston Bruins really this good and can they sustain this level of play?

Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark sported one of the best Winter Classic masks audiences laid eyes on. His play has been just as good if not better, anchoring Boston to a record better than the 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Lightning at the half-way point.

Many analysts and fans knew Boston had the talent to make the playoffs with coach Jim Montgomery returning to the NHL. Nobody thought the Bruins would be record-breakingly good at the half-way point. Five losses in regular time and four in overtime is almost impossible to achieve. Linus Ullmark breaking Tiny Thompson’s 1929 records wasn’t a thought for even hardcore fans.

While the Bruins will be the first team to clinch a playoff berth this February, two thoughts arise: how will Toronto and Tampa Bay close the gap and who will Boston draw the first round? Popular consensus for lower seeds would be the Islanders, Capitals or Penguins and those three teams could give Boston headaches.

Very few coach firings in the first half of the season. Is it possible teams are learning that desperation two months in isn’t a good look?

Former Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau is the only head coach fired this season.

There’s been one firing of a head coach (Vancouver surprisingly) after one half of the regular season. I do wonder if it’s a mix for franchises wanting better chances to land the number one pick to draft Connor Bedard, teams finally seeing what their young core players can do or if this is a positive step forward to letting a season play out fully before making a decision. Regardless of what happens, there will be more firings at the end of the season.

What’s the biggest surprise of the season?

The Carolina Hurricanes may be the top team in the Metropolitan at the start of February, but the Lindy Ruff coached New Jersey Devils are close behind.

I don’t think anyone had the New Jersey Devils as a top four team in the eastern conference. What Lindy Ruff has done in the development of Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt is coach of the year worthy. Even if New Jersey somehow misses the playoffs, the franchise has taken at least two steps forward to having a championship contending roster.

32 Takes for 32 Teams

Time for one view for each team. The view ranges from improvement, observations not highlighted often or an easier transition during the second half of the season.

Anaheim: Poor John Gibson. The Ducks could’ve traded him anywhere for more draft picks and asset players. Instead they waste their starting goaltender’s prime while gifting him with shot-blocking PTSD in return. I don’t think Gibson would help any team starting after this year.

Arizona: The Coyotes are where the Ottawa Senators were a few years ago. Minus the Jacob Chychrun trade conversation held every month, there’s a good core in place with Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, Nick Ritchie and Christian Fischer. Speaking of trades, it’s a smart prediction Karel Vejmelka will be dealt to a playoff contender before the season ends.

Boston: A major factor in the Bruins’ record breaking run this season is the elevated play from second and third liners such as David Krejci (second in assists and third in total points) and Jake DeBrusk (tied for third in goals scored). Trent Frederic has one less goal than the recently extended Pavel Zacha (eleven at the all-star break. Frederic has ten). It’s not just the Perfection Line scoring, the whole team is formidable when they shoot the puck.

Buffalo: After everything the Sabres went through two seasons ago, Don Granato has to be nominated for the Jack Adams award no matter where Buffalo lands in the standings. This was the most unattractive job opening when Granato took over. Jack Eichel had to be traded and there were rumors former first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin was being sabotaged in his development. At the beginning of February, the Sabres just miss the eighth seed in the east and Granato is 90% of why they have this many points.

Calgary: From Flames fans booing Johnny Gaudreau’s return to the dismal play of Jakob Markstrom, Calgary is floundering. Everyone’s to blame for this circus.

Carolina: Everyone (including me) wants to say the Hurricanes will be the eastern conference rep for the Stanley Cup finals but the goaltending injuries and the middle-of-the-league offense despite trades and signings before the season began raises concerns that coach Rod Brind’Amour isn’t the coach to get Carolina to the championship.

Chicago: The league’s laughingstock continues their downward spiral. From franchise icons biting the dust to team leadership wanting trades elsewhere, no other team deserves the scrutiny and criticism. Connor Bedard should pray Rocky Wirtz Inc. doesn’t land the number one pick.

Colorado: Funny how I absolutely failed on last year’s hot take. Even funnier are those overreacting to Colorado’s slump this season. Anyone who follows a Jared Bednar-led team knows a second half surge is coming no matter who’s injured. The only difference is this team’s the defending champions.

Columbus: It’s a dismal season but Kirill Marchenko is a great find for a franchise needing depth scoring and standout players. Now the Blue Jackets need more defense in the draft and free agency.

Dallas: The good news for Dallas is Peter DeBoer was the right hire in order to get maximum production on offense. The bad news is it’s Peter DeBoer. When things go downhill, net-minder Jake Oettinger will be the scapegoat (Scott Wedgewood might be as well). Let’s re-visit this a year from now. In the meantime, the Stars have one of the best offenses in the league and play like the most complete team in the western conference…which should worry people.

Detroit: Outside of the top three teams, the east is a close race. Detroit’s found gems in Ville Husso starting in net and the right veterans were added, but the Red Wings aren’t playoff-bound yet. The Yzer-Plan is ahead of schedule, and that’s something the other 15 teams in the east want kept down a little while longer.

Edmonton: Connor McDavid is the leader in the Hart Trophy race and Leon Draisaitl has established himself as Mr. Game-Winner. What is concerning is the underwhelming play of goaltender Jack Campbell. He did better in Toronto with less defense in front of him. It’s puzzling he looks worse.

Florida: There might not be a worse fall for a President’s Trophy winner than South Florida. Many knew they wouldn’t replicate last year’s success but many didn’t expect they’d play this messy. The Panthers struggle to hold leads and to come back from deficits, Aleksander Barkov isn’t scoring as much and their best goaltender is Alex Lyon. They have to get better in the second half of the season…right?

Los Angeles: While the Kings are bottom ten of the penalty kill, the offense is consistent and head coach Todd McLellan’s having a good run developing younger players while Blake Lizotte, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar produce night after night. The addition of Kevin Fiala might have been the best move any team made last offseason. He’s playing the best hockey of his professional career.

Minnesota: Talk about a segue with Kevin Fiala leaving. The Wild need more scoring contributions from the lower lines. Their goal plus/minus is plus-eleven despite 80 goals from Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy. They need to make a move at the trade deadline if they want to be serious contenders.

Montreal: I bet Sam Montembeault would be a welcome sight for the Florida Panthers. He leads the Canadiens in almost every major goaltending category. Many knew Montreal wouldn’t make the playoffs but losing top scorer Cole Caufield the rest of the year cements a top five pick opportunity.

Nashville: This team is confusing. Last year they were breaking franchise scoring records and barely made the playoffs. This year they’re bottom five in scoring and are three points out of the last playoff spot. Math or no math, I don’t get it.

New Jersey: Whatever happened to Jonathan Bernier? He was a great starter in Detroit and wanted to win somewhere else, so he picked New Jersey for a good contract. He hasn’t played a game this season despite multiple injuries to Mackenzie Blackwood and Vitek Vanecek. Something is going on that we’re not hearing about.

New York Islanders: The Islanders are tenth in the Metropolitan and you wonder how better this team is if general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t fire Barry Trotz at the end of last season. They traded Anthony Beauvillier and a first round pick in the upcoming draft for Canucks captain Bo Horvat. They will be better with Horvat playing but again, how much better would this team be with Trotz at the helm?

New York Rangers: This team is six points behind New Jersey and out of reach from Carolina. One factor might be Jaroslav Halak’s uneven performances when he’s started in net. Halak is 6-6 in 13 games with a higher goals against despite starter Igor Shesterkin’s higher workload. The offense has to be more consistent but this conversation is much different if Jaroslav has one or two more wins before the start of the second half.

Ottawa: The good news is Ottawa finally fixed the power-play issue. They’re third in the league converting over 26% of their chances. The offense gives coach D.J. Smith a rare winning record at the end of a regular season month. The bad news is this team still lacks quality defensemen depth and might move on from Cam Talbot after 2023. As we’ve learned from the Florida Panthers, a team with little defense won’t go far in the playoffs no matter how good the offense is.

Philadelphia: What a perfect hire John Tortorella is for the Broadstreet Bullies. The tone was set early benching Kevin Hayes during his career-high year in scoring and now Travis Konecny, Tony DeAngelo, Carter Hart, Scott Laughton and Noah Cates are on board. Keep an eye on Hart’s backup Samuel Ersson moving forward. He’s impressed in almost every game started.

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby may be the face of the franchise but Tristan Jarry is the MVP of the team and you see it night after night when he’s not playing. When Jarry plays, Pittsburgh’s a top four team in the east. When he’s out, the Penguins hover around eighth to ninth place.

San Jose: What do the Sharks do with Erik Karlsson? The defense is awful and the team won’t score without him on the ice, but they’re still in a playoff race and will surpass at least two teams the next month. Management wanted him in the worst way from Ottawa and at full health he’s delivering. Why would they want to move on from that?

Seattle: There are so many positive headlines for the Kraken this year ranging from Ron Francis’ competence to a surge in offense, but by far and away the best one is Martin Jones’ career resurgence. This looks like the goaltender that got San Jose to multiple western conference finals appearances before the never-ending nosedive. Seattle was basically the last stop if Jones wanted to keep playing in the NHL and at the end of the first half, he has three shutouts, a 2.82 goal average and a .895 save percentage. He’s also the starting goaltender for the first place team in the pacific division.

St. Louis: Did Nazem Kadri knock out some of Jordan Binnington’s talent after that post-season collision? St. Louis’ starting net-minder has been shaky at best this season and a heartbreaking loss in Winnipeg last Monday night could impact the Blues’ season. The franchise has to let this play out the second half before making a move.

Tampa Bay: Is Jon Cooper ever going to win the Jack Adams award? Ryan McDonagh was traded to Nashville and Ondrej Palat’s signing to New Jersey meant the team would take a backseat to Florida and Toronto in the Atlantic. They’ll need another defenseman to compliment franchise icon Victor Hedman but this team hasn’t skipped a beat with depth stepping up (I’m looking at and praising you Nick Paul).

Toronto: Until the Maple Leafs find a way to win a first round playoff series, don’t waste energy or thoughts regarding where this team is. We’ll find out when the regular season ends.

Vancouver: If we’re talking disappointments, Vancouver’s leadership with Jim Rutherford is number one. The slow team start wasn’t just on coaching, but to pin the blame on Bruce Boudreau is criminal. Then trading the team captain who said he wanted to be a Canuck for life and properly earned the C on his chest is damning of an organization that hasn’t won anything.

Vegas: One year of Jack Eichel and it appears the Sabres won the trade. Former Golden Knight Alex Tuch has over 20 goals in Buffalo. On the bright side, Logan Thompson and Adin Hill are a great goaltending tandem.

Washington: Despite middle-of-the-pack stats, this is a feel good team. Charlie Lindgren is better than Darcy Kuemper in net and he will be used more in pivotal games. Alex Ovechkin could hit 1,000 goals by the time his career ends. Last but not least, the team should be fully healthy by the time April rolls around. Be patient Caps fans.

Winnipeg: Rick Bowness coaches with an iron fist and now one must wonder if Paul Maurice was holding this team back from playing good defense and growing the core players. We’ve known the Jets have had one of the best offenses when they’re doing great, but now we’re seeing how good the defense can be.

The Great One will one day be surpassed by The Great Eight in goals scored. It’s only a matter of when.