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NHL Mailbag: Give Cale Makar the Calder right now

Ryan Lambert
Nov 7, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Cale Makar is the early front runner for thee Calder Trophy. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The good thing is there wasn’t a lot that happened in hockey this week, right? I wasn’t paying a ton of attention but I feel like this was a pretty quiet stretch as we roll toward U.S. Thanksgiving and… ah, yes I see. Everything happened this week.

I specifically asked people not to send in Babcock questions because that would have been the whole thing, but we can certainly open with one and hit the ground running.

Let’s go:

DC asks: “So how fast does Ron Francis send an offer to Babcock?”

I think this is an intriguing option because we saw in his early days with Toronto that Babcock does well with underskilled veteran rosters, which is what an expansion team would have. Even if you think Babcock is overrated — he is — and his act wears thin on a lot of guys — it does — it’s something the Seattle team should at least kick around because he’s a good coach.

The question is obviously whether he’d want to be on the beach for an entire year and half waiting for this group to come together. Not that he would need the income since Toronto’s paying him either way, of course, but I can’t help but think someone else who feels like they’re close to a Cup, talent-wise, but underperforming will make a call in the near future. San Jose, Tampa, Montreal, Nashville, Toron… never mind.

Taye asks: “Should they just give Cale Makar the Calder right now?”

Assuming he stays healthy it should be the biggest walk in recent Calder history, and it’s felt like a lot of walks in Calder voting the past few years. But I’ll do you two better: He should be in the Norris conversation at the very least (obviously Carlson’s got the scoring numbers Karlsson used to have, and then some, and North Americanness Karlsson always so critically lacked).

And how about this one: Right now, Makar leads the league in WAR, so maybe if he keeps this up he should be in the MVP conversation.

It’s a long season, obviously, and rookie defensemen sometimes hit a wall. But this kid is as legit as it gets. He’s not just a great rookie, not just a great defenseman. Like 25 games into his NHL career, the kid should be an All-Star.

Pat asks: “ How do you feel about the Islanders long term? Should they be going all-in at the deadline? If so, who should they be in the market for at the end of February?”

Obviously they aren’t going to keep PDOing like this, but they’ve banked a ton of points and they’re likely to figure out whatever systemic deficiencies are lingering to make you question their ability to avoid a Huge Collapse.

As for all-in, I dunno. Depends who’s available. If you feel like you can get a Taylor Hall type, even as a rental, I think that’s something you have to do because the offensive depth on this team just isn’t there and top-end talent is even less in evidence. But if you want them to push all in for, say, middle-six guys or something like that, I’d keep my powder dry for the season. Hell, it worked last year.

In that case, maybe try to swing a trade at the draft with that first-round pick since, yeah, you never know how long this magic is going to last and you should buttress it as best you can.

Dixon asks: “Did the Flyers rebuild-that-wasn’t-a-rebuild take too long and now their older players suck?”

The problem is that they tried to do the thing of being competitive while also not-rebuilding-wink-wink and that really doesn’t work out very well unless you have several late-20s stars and a few good younger players, like the Bruins a few years ago. Which the Flyers did not.

I wouldn’t say their older players — at least not the ones they’ve had this whole time — suck, but they’re not what they’re paid to be, especially in point production. I have a general theory that you don’t want your roster to be too shallow in the middle of the aging curve. It’s still good to have a bunch of good players on the wrong side of 30, and better to have a bunch of good players under 24, but if you don’t have a good chunk of really good contributors around 26, 27, 28 you’re going to struggle more than people think.

Kyle asks: “The Preds. What gives?”

Remember that thing I was just saying about the Flyers and not having enough good contributors in the 25-28 range? Yeah. And the Preds don’t even really have the U-24 guys.

There are too many stars on this team who aren’t carrying their weight, Ryan Johansen in particular looks horrible, and the two best players on the team are defensemen. They can’t get a save from anyone, even as they have one of the best team defenses in the league.

I’m a little surprised to be saying this but this, like the Leafs, looks like a classic “Team In Need Of A Coaching Change.” The talent level shouldn’t allow for this little attacking prowess, and yet here we are. It’s a team that’s struggling despite shooting almost 11 percent. Doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Shawn asks: “Is Neal Pionk a better player than Jacob Trouba? How do you explain Trouba’s 39 percent corsi?”

He obviously isn’t a better player, though I will say Trouba’s dropped off a bit in the past couple years and probably isn’t the huge difference-maker the Rangers thought they were getting.

That said, the reason his underlying numbers are so bad is because he’s on the Rangers, a team with almost no depth (Trouba has played the vast majority of his minutes with Libor Hajek, which…) and rather poor coaching.

It’s not more complicated than that. All his underlying numbers are bad because he’s getting top matchups on a team where no one can handle them.

Jimmy asks: “Any hope for the Sabres?”

C’mon man you don’t have to do this to yourself.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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