Puck Daddy Countdown: Niemi, Bettman threats and surging Flames

Jaromir Jagr has yet to heat up, but the Calgary Flames are excelling. (CP)

5. The Jets haters!!!

Folks the dang Winnipeg Jets are currently second in the Central Division! I knew it.

Now sure, you might say to me, “But RL, they’re one of the worst possession teams in the league!” And you might say, “But RL, only two of their forwards are doing anything!” And you might also say, “But RL, there’s no way they maintain a 102 PDO.” And you might further say, “But RL, I’m pretty sure Connor Hellebuyck isn’t a .925 goalie!”

To which I say, “Shut up. They’re good.

“I think.”

Look, I don’t know that it’s advisable to assume Patrik Laine is gonna be a crap shooter all season, or that the defense is quite this bad. Hellbuyck, well, all his numbers in his entire career suggested he could be borderline-elite, then he joined the Jets and got himself a career .910 save percentage entering the season because, well, that’s kind of the Jets’ thing. Point being: I can see a guy who was a career .945 in college and .922 AHL goalie, who became an NHL regular within two seasons of turning pro keep up a .920 save percentage for a while.

4. All the teams claiming Antti Niemi

Speaking of good goalies, Antti Niemi is the opposite of one. But he keeps getting jobs. It’s incredible.

Decent but not great start to his career in Chicago, then goes to San Jose and is often above-average. So far so good.

Then San Jose trade his rights to Dallas for basically nothing because they’re gonna lose him, and he instantly becomes literally the worst regular goalie in the league. Two horrible years in Dallas later, he gets bought out and Pittsburgh takes a flyer on him as the new backup to Matt Murray. Not really that wise, it felt like, but hey, you never know; those Stars teams were coached by Lindy Ruff.

Instead, he doubles down on being horrible, going .797 — SEVEN NINETY SEVEN — in three appearances. Pens waive him, he goes to Florida and improves, but not to anything an ECHLer couldn’t do; .872 in two appearances. So Florida, understandably, also waives him.

Then Montreal picks him up? Marc Bergevin says the waiver claim was intended to give the team a “safety net,” and hey, Carey Price is hurt, so fair enough. But boy that seems awful dangerous, doesn’t it? The Habs are playing well!

3. The Hall of Fame class

I think I’ve voiced support before for the majority of the NHLers who made the Hockey Hall of Fame this year (certainly not Jeremy Jacobs, but all the players for sure). By any reasonable definition, Dave Andreychuk, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi, and Teemu Selanne deserved to make it based on the standard laid out by everyone else in the Hall.

But I gotta tell ya: Four guys getting in every year for the rest of our lives is too many damn players. Like, all those guys are fine, tough to line up against them, but at some point we’re just letting in too many people.

Martin Brodeur is, fortunately, the only sure thing for next season. Martin St. Louis probably also makes it, and once again it’s like, “I guess so, man.” Dany Alfredsson, yeah, why not? Sergei Zubov? Okay, sure.

But when there are so few guaranteed HHOFers making it every year, it seems like the committee feels as though they gotta start squeezing in guys just for fun. Jeremy Roenick is gonna be a Hall of Famer one day. God, maybe even Theo Fleury or Chris Osgood. This is “Hall of Very Good” stuff and it effectively doesn’t matter at all, but still, you have to ask, “Were any of these guys ever a top-three guy in the league?” The answer for a lot of them is, “Obviously not.”

So I dunno. You want a big Hall? That’s fine. I get that. And like I said, I can’t mount any specific objections against most of these guys, but maybe for a little while, you just say, “Unless he’s a lock, it’s gotta be a no.” That would be cool.

2. The Gary Bettman Vague Threats About Cities Building New Arenas For Canadian Teams Tour

Fresh off getting his ass handed to him in the Calgary mayoral election, Gary Bettman has now moved his campaign of glowering and darkly intoning that something’s gotta give with this whole arena situation to Ottawa.

Where, by the way, only like 12,000 people give a rat’s ass about the team until they’re two rounds deep into the playoffs.

The issues with the Sens’ arena situation is well-worn and they probably do need a downtown rink to keep people coming to games on a regular basis. No one wants to schlep to Kannata and I respect that. But — buuuuuuuuuut — also let’s try to keep in mind that it shouldn’t be incumbent on taxpayers to foot that bill, even though Eugene Melnyk is gonna turn out his pockets with incredulity from his palatial and definitely-not-eyebrow-raising Barbados estate the second someone mentions to him the words “re-sign Duchene.”

So paying for an arena? “Buddy, I’m only worth $1.2 billion!”

Thus it falls to Gary Bettman to tell everyone in the greater Ottawa area that they might lose out on the chance to watch Erik Karlsson lug a team of sad-sack guys like Mark Borowiecki and Ryan Dzingel to repeated playoff appearances until his ankles explode with the force of 100,000 sticks of dynamite when he’s 41 and has never come close to being on a 100-point team.

Poor Gary. His heart can’t be in this. Not to take the arrows for Eugene freakin’ Melnyk. If this were a non-goober owner, sure, maybe his heart’s in it. But not Melnyk.

1. The Flames all of a sudden

After starting an uninspiring 5-6-0, the Flames are suddenly 10-7-0. Pretty good turnaround, winning 5 of 6 like that.

And hey, whaddaya know, just days after I published that column saying I really like their offense if they can get Jagr back and involved, they start scoring at a ludicrous pace. They had 26 goals in their first 11 games. They have 25 in their last six. Jagr’s been back for three games and has three points, plus great possession numbers, and he’s making Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski look great. Folks, seems like, if you ask me, I was right about this.

Of course, there’s another thing I was right about, and it’s a major point of concern: Since this run for the Flames started, it seems like your old pal Mike Smith (.897) is back to being Mike Smith. It’s a small sample and his numbers are still good thanks to his hot start, but that’s something to keep watching. If he can’t be The Guy long-term — and honestly, why would he? He’s Mike Smith — the Flames might start losing a lot of games again.

All I’m saying is: This is a good team whose apparent flaws could still hold them back. Which is all anyone should have been saying all along.

(Not ranked this week: The Holtby haters!!!!!!!!)

Last week, Brayden Holtby passed 200 wins, which is a nice little number. He’s also the second-fastest goalie to ever reach that number, behind a little guy who you might have heard of from way back when called uhh … KEN DRYDEN! Ever heard of him, you millennial loser?

Holtby coming even remotely close to a guy like Dryden’s record gave a bunch of Olds the perfect opportunity to talk trash about how actually Holtby sucks and only old guys are good.

Fun fact No. 1: Holtby has a career save percentage one point higher than Dryden’s, and he’s tied for the best ever among goalies with at least 300 appearances.

Fun fact No. 2: When old people tweet stuff like this, they are being willfully obtuse, presumably because they’re old dummies.

Oh really, they didn’t have OT or shootouts back then? You don’t say. They also didn’t have a salary cap, tons of cross-country travel, all-road back-to-backs, or shooters who could lift the puck off the ice. Also Montreal was, in effect, an All-Star team that made Dryden’s job easy as hell. Any goalie from 1973 would be killed by the first shot he faced from one of today’s fourth liners. They’d drag Ken Dryden’s carcass off the ice after a Brayden Point wrist shot went through his chest two minutes into his first game. Who cares?

It’s possible, and I know this is a crazy thing to say, but it’s possible that both Brayden Holtby and Ken Dryden are really good and should be celebrated.

It’s also very possible that judging goalies on wins is dumb as hell.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)