NHL

20 Questions Around the NHL, December 2013 Edition — Part 2

Dustin Brown

Jayne Kamin-Oncea- USA TODAY Sports

Who would be the scarier team to face in the playoffs — the St. Louis Blues or the Phoenix Coyotes? Both teams have scoring, solid goaltending and very good powerplay units. I really like the Coyotes and Shane Doan is one of my favorite players, but I think the Blues are a bit more intimidating.

Is Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang that good? After watching him this season, I am convinced more and more that he is becoming more of a liability than a Norris Trophy candidate. The guy has more turnovers than a bakery. Too bad the team has to start eating that eight-year, $58 million contract. I think the team is better off turning him into a forward because he does not seem to care about playing defense like he used to.

Can anyone believe that the Edmonton Oilers are dead last in the Western Conference? I know they are rebuilding, but with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagne, you would think they would be more of a contender, right? They would not even be a factor playing the Metropolitan Division.

Who would win in a fight – Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ray Emery or Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby? Oh wait … we already witnessed that earlier this year. If you have not seen that brawl, you may want to check it out on YouTube. Emery looked like Mike Tyson beating up on one of the Hanson brothers. No, not hockey Hansons, the boy band Hansons.

After the off-ice turmoil with Semyon Varlomov, can Patrick Roy get the Colorado Avalanche to the playoffs after their best start in franchise history? I loved Roy as a player and I cannot deny what he has done to turn this team around, but I hate to say that they will be clawing at a wild card spot come April. The Coyotes and Canucks will be their competition.

Will the Ottawa Senators ever make heads turn in the Atlantic Division, or is Paul MacLean on the hot seat? Well, he was my pick for the Jack Adams award last season and did an awesome job dealing with an endless list of injuries, but the loss of Daniel Alfredsson cannot mean the loss of this season. The clock is ticking for MacLean despite having the best mustache in the NHL.

How long before the Calgary Flames are back in contention? In three years, I would be confident in their ability to compete once again. They have a decent team. After a couple more first-round picks, they should be right up there.

How long will it be until New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr hangs it up … and hangs it up for good? I for one wish this guy would just retire but with my luck, he probably has it in his head that he can chase Wayne Gretzky‘s record, so I do not expect him to quit for a while.

Even though he is battling back from an injury, how long will it be before Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne wants out of Nashville? If I were him, I would be demanding a trade this offseason unless management agreed to sign some forwards who can score and help out at the other end.

Now that we have reached the one-third mark of the season, who is the front-runner for the Stanley Cup? Well, I do not see anyone in the West competing with the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. But of those two teams, I truly think this is the Sharks’ year. In the East, it is hard to ignore what the Penguins are doing, but the goaltending still scares me because Marc-Andre Fleury cannot play 65-70 games this year and have enough left in April.

I am going to be a rebel and say that the Tampa Bay Lightning are my front-runner and Cinderella team coming out of the East. I know, I’m crazy.

Jeff Ekiert is the Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL beat writer for RantSports.com. Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @jmekiert and add him to your Google account.