Facing Off is a weekly column debating five of hockey’s hottest topics each and every Monday. From current events like trades and hat tricks to bigger-picture stuff like scandals and expansion — you name it, we’re debating it. Albeit, not always with a serious tone. We’re keeping this column light, so keep that in mind when reading, and feel free to join in on the fun by leaving a comment. Follow us on Twitter (@FacingOff_THW) and get in on the debate there too.
Who’s ready for some more Auston Matthews?
Who’s ready for Hockey Night in Canada?
Thanks in part to Matthews — the first player to ever net four goals in his NHL debut — scoring is way up to start this season and the hockey has been wildly entertaining early on.
It's unsustainable, but scoring in NHL up to 6.62 goals per game through 13 games. That's a near 25-year high, since 1992-93.
— Brian Costello (@bcostellothn) October 14, 2016
So entertaining, in fact, that Facing Off couldn’t wait for Monday.
So entertaining that our weekly column, in this case, wouldn’t do it justice.
Instead, Andrew Forbes stepped up on short notice to join me for Episode 3 of the Facing Off Podcast. Andrew, who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and resides in Ontario where Matthews is all the rage right now (and rightfully so), was filling in for Dan Mount this week and making his second appearance on the podcast after previously debuting in Episode 1.
Félix Sicard, another Facing Off regular, did a bang-up job as the guest for Episode 2 and will certainly be welcomed back, while the plan is to work Dan and Sebastian Hedley-Noble into the podcast rotation as well.
As for Episode 3, Andrew and I spent much of the talking about Matthews and his amazing feat — whether he’s now the best prospect to come along since Sidney Crosby, whether we’d trade Matthews for Connor McDavid or vice versa, whether Matthews is stealing the Blue Jays’ thunder, and what Matthews might do for an encore in Toronto’s home opener against Boston tonight.
We also talked injuries and whether the Sabres will be doomed without Jack Eichel, whether the Kings can overcome the loss of Jonathan Quick, and whether the Panthers can still make the playoffs with Jonathan Huberdeau missing half the season.
— Facing Off (@FacingOff_THW) October 15, 2016
We rehashed a couple trade scenarios for Jacob Trouba and discussed the hold-up on Hampus Lindholm before debating our season predictions — both the Facing Off collaborative and my personal standings.
We wrapped up Episode 3 by taking a look at tonight’s schedule — a full slate of 13 games — and the weekend’s most intriguing matchups.
Meanwhile, McDavid and the Oilers continued that offensive outburst last night in sweeping their Battle of Alberta home-and-home to open the season.
Through Friday and the first 16 games, the winning team has scored five or more goals eight times — that’s 50 percent — and no team has been shut out so far. We’ve seen scores of 7-4, 6-4, 6-3, 5-4 twice (both in overtime), 5-3 twice and 5-2.
Hopefully, that trend continues and it won’t revert back to the 2-1 league, but coaches will be tweaking their defensive systems to counter all that offense and the goaltenders will be looking to step it up as well.
It may not be sustainable, but my theory for the increase in scoring is simply that there are more offensive-minded players suiting up. Several teams are rolling four scoring lines — or four lines capable of scoring — rather than relying on grinders and goons further down the depth chart.
The days of icing a ‘checking’ line and ‘energy’ players appear to be a thing of the past. If you can’t score, you won’t be playing in the near future. And, therefore, scoring is bound to go up.
That and the fact these teenagers seem to keep getting better and better. This is another terrific rookie class headlined by Matthews, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for tonight — kicks up feet, grabs popcorn and a cold one.
For the record, though, if I’m Peter Chiarelli and Lou Lamoriello calls me to talk Matthews-for-McDavid, that is a very short conversation. I’m keeping McDavid, but that’s just me. What say you?
Who won this round of Facing Off? Feel free to weigh-in with your opinions in the comments below. We will be checking in periodically to both defend and expand on our initial answers. If you want to see us face-off over a topic, we’re open to suggestions as well.
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.