TSN columnist Travis Yost is one of the leading minds in utilizing advanced statistics; a sweeping phenomena that’s led to a transformative outlook on how the game is strategically viewed by NHL organizations and hockey analysts alike. He provides exceptional insight and coverage on the latest trends and happenings throughout the hockey world from a unique and insightful perspective. In the past, Yost has done extensive coverage on the Ottawa Senators and has become one of the most resourceful outlets for news and analysis on the team hailing from the Canadian capital.
In our latest Q&A installment on Devils Army Blog, I was privileged to have Travis as our latest participant. Along with offering his expertise on a few Devils-related matters, we talked NHL expansion, the Senators’ goalie situation, and the state of the Arizona Coyotes. I want to thank Travis for taking the time to personally offer his insight on the Devils and other hockey-related matters that we covered.
Make sure to follow Travis on Twitter @travisyost and read his articles on www.tsn.ca.
On the Devils…
New Jersey was one of the worst possession teams this year. In previous seasons, they thrived in that category. How has the absence of speed in their lineup factored into the downturn of the quality of the team’s puck possession game?
I think the speed/transition element plays a huge role in that. There are a million ways to win the shot battle, but generally speaking, if you aren’t fleet of foot, you better be stifling defensively or punishing during offensive zone cycle sequences. New Jersey lost the first and, really, the second last year. Some of this is coaching systems, but some of this is a talent issue too — New Jersey’s in a weird transition time where a lot of older players are being phased out, so it’s up to the front office now to replace those veterans who did so much years ago with skilled, younger players.
With a surplus of promising young defensemen and more on the way, the Devils have quietly accumulated a substantial wealth of defensive depth. Considering the rebuild they’re orchestrating and the fact that Andy Greene is the only defenseman with more than 200 career games played on their roster, are the Devils better off continuing to supplement their defense with more homegrown youth, or look into adding another veteran defenseman in addition to Greene?
They just need good players — it really doesn’t matter where they’re coming from. Andrej Sekera and Cody Franson really intrigue me from a New Jersey perspective, assuming Shero’s looking to shore things up back there. Both players have a history of favorably driving play and I suspect Franson in particular can be had at a pretty reasonable price.
The transition into the post-Brodeur era was, for the most part smooth for the Devils. Looking at Corey Schneider’s first season as an undisputed starting goaltender, what’s the biggest difference in how Schneider’s playing time was managed by the coaching staff compared to Brodeur’s?
The biggest difference was that Cory Schneider was excellent and justified every start he earned. Martin Brodeur was pretty terrible at the end of his career, yet for whatever reason, continued to see an awful lot of the net. I get the team was ‘committed’ to Brodeur for legacy reasons but you kind of wonder if they more or less punted away a very decent 2013-2014 team to give Brodeur a 39-game swan song. Pretty costly, I think.
On the Senators…
Between the rise of Andrew Hammond and the signing Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor, the Senators are expected to look into moving a goalie. The last time Ottawa executed a goalie trade was in 2013 when they sent Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay for Corey Conacher. Although Bishop was expendable at the time, Ottawa ultimately lost that deal. With a rising availability in goaltenders that includes names like Cam Talbot, Eddie Lack, and Cam Ward (just to mention a few), how likely are the Senators to execute a goalie trade for a worthwhile return?
Ottawa’s cap situation is .. not good. The team won’t spend to the cap, and at $67MM in committed salary for next season things have gotten real tight. They still need to sign RFAs Mike Hoffman and Alex Chiasson, and there are voids being left by UFAs that also need to be filled to complete the roster.
That brings us to the goalie trade. I think Craig Anderson’s a very good (and underrated) goaltender, but he’s well into his 30s. You’d think the team would consider moving on from him and handing the keys to youngster Robin Lehner, but they appear to be doing the opposite — doubling down on the veteran and looking to shop Robin Lehner. In and of himself, Robin Lehner should fetch a decent return — a valuable pick, or a current roster player. But the team needs a trade partner to take on a bad contract, be it Colin Greening or David Legwand or whoever, to clear space. So the return isn’t going to be ideal, or close to ideal. That’s sort of what happens when you say ‘take our good player, but to take our good player you also have to take this bad player.
Around the league…
Between the quality of the team’s competitiveness, their inability to draw fans, and perpetual financial troubles, hockey in Arizona just isn’t working out. However, Gary Bettman remains ambitious on preserving the unstable foundation of the Arizona Coyotes (doing what some may refer to as beating a dead horse). What do you think is ultimately driving Bettman’s perseverance to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, instead of seeking a more accommodative hockey market to relocate the struggling franchise to?
Stubbornness, now. For a while it was a lack of better alternatives too — Quebec City wasn’t ready, Las Vegas wasn’t even a thought, Seattle had myriad arena and infrastructure issues that are still, to this day, mucking up their potential bid. Bettman seems certain that the matter(s) being litigated this summer are going to work out favorably for the team, but I’ve read through the statutes and the CoG’s argument and I’m not entirely sure I agree.
Cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, and Quebec have been brought up as potential destinations for the NHL to expand or relocate teams. What’s one North American city that hasn’t been mentioned in talks that you think an NHL franchise could thrive in?
Milwaukee’s an interesting city. The television market isn’t small — believe it’s bigger than the (inevitable) expansion city of Las Vegas. And that area of the United States is quietly a hockey hotbed. Wisconsin in particular churns out a ton of talent. It’s something that’s off in the distance for sure, though. No idea if the next Milwaukee arena will be prepped for hockey or not.