NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 12/01/2008
Turco in Trouble?
For years, Dallas' Turco has been one of the top goaltenders in the league. It's a massive understatement, though, to say that this hasn't been a good year for him. The Stars are the biggest disappointment in the league, and Turco has to shoulder a lot of that blame. He is only 7-10-4. His 3.61 goals-against average is worse than 43 other keepers in the league. There are 44 players with a better save percentage than his .868. This is out of character for Turco - he normally waits until the playoffs to underperform. Dallas needs a scapegoat for their disastrous start, and it seems like Turco is a likely candidate. Coach Dave Tippett has publicly called him out more than once recently, stating the obvious - the goalie needs to be much, much better. Turco has responded - sort of. He has won two of his last three games, but his save percentage in both wins hasn't been above 90 percent, and that's not good enough. This will be an interesting situation to watch, though Turco has one big thing going for him - there isn't a viable alternative. The team shipped Mike Smith out of town last year, so the alternative, Tobias Stephen, is wildly inexperienced.
Brian Burke - Super Hero
The worst kept secret in the world is now out in the open - Burke has been hired as GM of the Maple Leafs. Burke won a Stanley Cup in his second year in Anaheim, but previous underwhelming stints in Vancouver and Hartford leave me wondering just why the opinion seems to be that this guy walks on water. Burke likes to make lots of changes to give a team his own look, and he inherits a Toronto team that desperately needs the changes. It remains to be seen, though, how the team responds to the scrutiny and pressure of the new regime. For what it's worth, Anaheim managed just three wins his first nine games in Anaheim, and the team he took over there was much better than this one. The one interesting note to come out of the team since Burke signed on is that he is very skeptical that Mats Sundin will return to the Leafs. If that is the case then that's the first smart thing I have heard out of Toronto in years.
Claude Lemieux Comeback?
This has to be a joke, right? The 43-year-old Lemieux, a pesky agitator who ended a 20-year career in 2003, is attempting a professional comeback. He started the season playing in the hockey hotbed of Shanghai, but has returned stateside and signed with the Worcester Sharks of the AHL. He says he intends to make it all the way back to the NHL. I doubt that he will pull it off, and I am certain that he won't be of any significant importance to bettors if he does, but this story was too strange to pass by.
Crosby Finally Alive
For a good portion of this season, Sidney Crosby hasn't looked much like Sidney Crosby. Recently, though, he has awoken, and that is not good news for everyone else in the league. He had five goals and an assist in two games on Friday and Saturday, and is averaging two points a game his last two weeks. A productive Crosby is very good news for Pittsburgh - they have won three of his last four multi-point games, and seven in a row when he has recorded an assist. The Penguins already have the third best record in the East, so a sustained Crosby scoring rush could be good news for Pittsburgh backers.
After The Coaching Changes
Both Tampa Bay and Chicago have made unexpected caching changes already this year. So, have the teams responded? Chicago made their change after just four games, replacing Denis Savard with Joel Quenneville. Savard was 1-2-1. Since then the team is 9-4-5 - much closer to the expectations going into the season. The change has not been as profound as it may seem, though - they are just 3-3-3 in their last nine. Progress is definitely being made, but it's not clear that the progress exceeds what Savard might have accomplished.
Tampa Bay's situation is more bizarre. Barry Melrose came out of the ESPN TV studio that had been his domain for 13 years to give coaching another try. After just 16 games the dream was dead. Melrose was out on his ear after posting a 5-7-4 record - not really that bad given the roster he had and the turnover the team was dealing with. As easy as it apparently was to blame Melrose, it isn't at all clear that he was actually at fault. Rick Tocchet, the league's most experienced gambler, took over, and he hasn't exactly set the world on fire. He is just 1-3-3, and he is riding a four-game losing streak. Tampa Bay has a world of problems, and a coaching change isn't enough to change that.