On Ice: Five Questions For Dan Sebastian
Just a Bit Outside prides itself on providing great hockey content. Actually, we provide as much as our great hockey experts provide us. Each week I'll be conducting a sit down interview with NHL expert Dan Sebastian. Enjoy, ladies and germs:
Are the Minnesota Wild a legit championship contender?
- Every day I look at the standings and see the Minnesota Wild at the top of the heap, I feel like I have to pinch myself. Reading their roster, you see some names that you recognize as borderline elite players in the NHL (Heatley, Koivu, Backstrom) but beyond that, it really is a motley crew. The first question that jumps to mind is, can a team led in ice time by Jared Spurgeon really be a cup contender? My gut tells me no, and that leads me to believe a lot of what is going on in Minnesota will level off soon.
- The team is leading the NHL despite only having a +13 goal differential, which tells me that they are a solid team who knows how to win, but over time that will catch up to you. Their goaltending is championship caliber, Backstrom is elite and if he goes down, Harding is a more than capable backup who will probably get a solid contract as a starter somewhere else next season.
- The verdict on the Wild is that they lack the offensive and defensive depth to make a serious run. They will likely finish 2nd in the Northwest division, and make the playoffs as a 4-6th seed and maybe sneak into the second round of the playoffs. Anything beyond that would be over achieving for a team that is not quite ready for prime time.
2. Why have the Flyers been so great on the road this season?
- Most coaches will tell you, nothing will bring a team closer together than a good road trip. It forces players to spend time together and forget about many of the stresses of home and family life. This is doubly true for a team that has as many new faces as the Flyers do this season. Being on the road allows guys to assume their roles on the team on the bus, on the plane, in the locker room, out to dinner. The team does everything together on the road and it can create a tight knit group as it has this season.
- Beyond that, there is something to be said about the pressures of playing at home given the number of changes made this summer. When an elite player like Bryzgalov stumbles out of the gate a bit, having a few road games in a row is a good thing to let him shake off the rust without the potential for boo birds to come out. Not to mention that there is no pressure to put on a show on the road. They can play a more conservative style late in games and use their #1 goalie to squeak out those one goal wins that last year would have escaped them. The fact is, good teams can win in any environment and the Flyers over the past few weeks have shown no matter the location, no matter who is in or out of the lineup, they can get it done. That will go a long way come April, May and (hopefully) June.
- 3. Is Bruce Boudreau a good fit in Anaheim?
- Anaheim clearly has the talent to be a contender, as they have been a playoff team most years with the same nucleus of talent. What they need is a coach who can manage personalities, instill some confidence, and right the ship without blowing up the core of players who they have built up. I do not believe Bruce Boudreau is that guy.
- We got a peek into Boudreau’s coaching style last year during HBO’s 24/7 at it does not seem conducive to helping a fragile team overcome what seems to be a lost season. He lost control of a Washington team that had one of the most talented rosters in the NHL. Lucky for Bruce, there will likely not be many decisions made based on his performance in the last 50 games in the regular season. Stranger things have happened, but I think the Boudreau experiment in Anaheim will be a fruitless exercise in change for change sake.
4. Do you believe we have seen the best of Sidney Crosby's career?
- If time has told us anything about sports and especially elite athletes, it is do not doubt the great ones. Mario Lemieux beat cancer to come back and become an elite player, Bobby Orr managed to play at a high level on knees with no cartilage and Sidney Crosby will once again be the best player in the game when he gets healthy.
- That being said, the “kid” has lived a charmed life up to this point. He has won a world junior championship, a memorial cup final appearance and tournament MVP, Hart trophy, Stanley cup and of course, Olympic gold in which he scored the game winner. That “golden moment” most likely will be the pinnacle of Crosby’s accomplishments, so in that sense, the best is behind him.
- Despite the injuries, every time he takes the ice for the next 10 or so years, he will likely be the best player in the world. Very rarely can an athlete live up to the immense media hype that surrounds the great ones these days, but Sidney does that and then some. He is a winner who competes every game and has an insane skill set. It doesn’t matter if he plays 10 games a season, he will still be the best. Once this string of bad luck ends, I expect him to leave all the injury concerns in the dust and continue to prove why he is the best in the world, raising the bar that he has already set incredibly high for himself.
5. Are you surprised with the Florida Panthers leading the Southeast Division?
- Surprised? More like shocked. The Panthers were panned this summer as being freewheeling spenders who rather than target solid players at a fair price, seemed to overpay every borderline 2nd liner who was on the market. Dale Tallon is not a GM who gets high marks from many people in the hockey world, but he knew something that no one else did this summer apparently, because this plan actually worked.
- Granted, a lot of their success can be attributed to the decline of the Washington Capitals, who normally sit solidly at the top of the division. It also helps that Tampa’s goalies can’t stop a beach ball, nothing is going right for the Hurricanes at all and the Jets are just not that good (despite their respectable record). That being said, you can’t sleep on the Panthers. They are getting an elite performance this season from Kris Versteeg who is fully healed from an injury that kept him in check last season. Steven Weiss has taken a huge step forward this season looking more and more like a number one center than the borderline #2 he was looking like a few years ago. Brian Campbell is having a Norris caliber season, but no one seems to care since he is playing in Florida.
- Do I have faith in a team that is led by the Jose Theodore? I don’t know. His 2.36 GAA and .926 SV % are both great numbers through 22 starts, but he has been wildly inconsistent in his career, so hopefully for the Panthers sake Jose can keep it up. They are definitely a playoff team, and since it looks like Tampa and Washington are both treading water at best right now, there is a good chance they stay on top of the division. If they can get that high level of goaltending when it matters most, they will be in the mix come April.