NHL has never had this much sheer skill amid offensive explosion

It seems as if the dead puck era is as much a thing of the past as the Flyers winning Stanley Cups and the Maple Leafs winning playoff series. 

Because while we are operating under a small sample size of 70 games having been played through Thursday, NHL clubs are scoring an average of 3.3 goals per game, the highest threshold in 30 years, since teams recorded an average 3.63 GPG in 1992-93. 

Over the first 10 days of the year, seven or more combined goals had been scored in 39 of the first 70 contests. That does not include the two — only two — shootouts that have transpired. 

It’s a veritable offensive explosion. Games are fun, even if lacking in uniform intensity. The league’s average save percentage of .902 is the lowest since 2005-06, the first year of the hard cap era, in which the new-age rules meant to open up the game were instituted following the Shanahan Summit and power plays were cheaper by the dozen. 

A footnote: Brendan Shanahan, who conceived, convened and covered all the expenses of the congress, deserves credit for imagining the ultra-modern game. 

But I must say that Gary Bettman had the same vision and indeed expressed it to me during a number of phone calls that took place prior to the 2004-05 canceled season. I have not spoken to the commissioner one-on-one since (his choice, not mine). 

Trevor Zegras
Trevor Zegras
Getty Images

There is more sheer skill in the game than ever before. It’s more of a fun league, even if the nightly passion stoked by rivalries and physicality have largely dissipated. Let’s not argue about whether this is necessarily good or bad for the game. Instead, we can all agree that it is different. Even highlights from the early aughts can often seem prehistoric. 

You have 10-year-olds routinely taking power skating lessons, working with skill coaches, glued to their screens watching endless loops of highlight clips and routinely doing The Zegras. Advances in technology and equipment enhance speed. 

(Ironically, Trevor Zegras himself seems to be toning it down a bit, but that doesn’t mean that he barely, if ever, can play with the puck in open ice, does it? We don’t need him to make the Mike Modano transition to strict two-way focus quite this early in his career, do we? Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins does not get a vote here.) 

Meanwhile, through Thursday, 32 goaltenders had played at least three games. Fourteen of them had a negative goals-saved-about-expected rating, per Money Puck. We’re not talking about a bunch of EBUGs here, either. That group includes Thatcher Demko, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jack Campbell , Jonathan Quick, John Gibson, Elvis Merzlikins and Alex Georgiev. So is there a goaltending crisis or should we amend our expectations? 

There is more skill, there is more open ice. But do you know what there is much less of around the NHL? There are many fewer practices, so not as much time to work on stifling the attack. (I am wondering how David Quinn is adapting to a West Coast team’s travel schedule.) 

Again, it is early. Maybe coaches and goaltenders will catch up. Until then, enjoy the goals. 

Why am I getting the idea that the same individual who modeled the Devils’ reverse retro jerseys off the design of the Kansas City Scouts was also responsible for selecting Pavel Zacha sixth overall in the 2015 draft? 

Or wait? Is it modeled on the Colorado Rockies’ garb? I’m about as confused as the guys at the New Jersey table who overlooked Zach Werenski, Mikko Rantanen, Timo Meier and Ivan Provorov. 

Reverse retro, third jersey or whatever you want to call it, the Islanders have missed their calling by not adopting the vintage New York Americans sweater. 

It is a blot on humanity that Zigmund Palffy is remembered as an iconic Fish Stick. 

Please, please, please. 

Do not call a hockey uniform, “A kit.” 

I beg of you. 

The texts, emails and eyewitness accounts from those who were there all read the same: “There’s no one there/here.” 

These folks were talking about the multitude of empties evident in Sunrise, Fla., for the Panthers’ home opener on Wednesday against the Flyers. 

The Panthers struggled to draw fans on opening night.
NHLI via Getty Images

So … the gold medal for creative accounting goes to the person in the Puddy Tats’ front office who came up with the attendance number 17,421 for the match. Maybe that is the individual who is calculating the NHLPA escrow debt as the league plays its peculiar will-we-or-won’t-we-raise-the-cap game. 

The Panthers were doing just fine in Miami and had an opportunity to remain downtown. Instead they moved to Sunrise, where they entered witness protection a little more than two decades ago. 

Mike Sullivan has never been named winner of the Jack Adams Trophy as NHL coach of the year. Neither has Jon Cooper. 

Surprised no one from Tampa or Pittsburgh (especially the latter, where vigilance on things allegedly done wrong to the Penguins is always on high alert … and look, Jacob Trouba has just thrown another hard hit!) has charged voter fraud. 

I’m not asking about two or three years from now. But this season, who do you have; Willie, Mickey or the Duke? As in Mika (Zibanejad), Jack (Hughes) or Mathew (Barzal)? 

This just in. Aaron Boone says the Rangers would have beaten the Sharks on Thursday if the Garden roof had been open.

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