In a shocking turn of events, Alexander Radulov has announced he will be returning to the NHL to fulfill his contract to the Nashville Predators. Radulov has been gone since 2008 and has spent the past four years getting paid by the bucket to rack up points in the KHL. Coincidentally, this is the first year since he left that Nashville is a cup contender. I’m sure one has nothing to do with the other…scoff..
Still, there is no point in bemoaning how much of a greedy bastard he is and how the NHL is letting him stomp all over them to return at his own fancy. What’s done is done. More importantly is how Radulov’s sudden reappearance affects the Canucks.
For the regular season, Radulov’s return makes no difference whatsoever as the Canucks don’t face Nashville again this year and are in no danger of being dislodged from their second place standing in the Western Conference. With regards to the playoffs, Nashville is currently positioned to play either Detroit or Chicago in the first round. To call Detroit a sleeper team this year feels weird because of how much of a powerhouse they were at the start of the season. But because of nagging injuries, they have taken a dip in the standings. By the time the playoffs roll around, Nashville will have to contend with the full force of Detroit featuring a healthy Datsyuk, Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard rearing to go. To be blunt, there is little to no chance Nashville will make it out of the first round alive.
The best thing that could happen to Nashville right now is if Chicago, currently two points behind them, manages to take the 4th slot and they get knocked into 6th so they can play the ultra-weak 3rd ranked pacific division winner in the opening round. Even then, they would still have to deal with Chicago or Detroit in the second round. Moral of the story: you can dodge the bus, but the train is still going to hit you.
As for the Canucks, they are sitting in second place. Or, as their play of late indicates, drinking beers and hanging out in second place. They are unwilling to put in any extra effort than necessary and with Radulov’s return, this is yet another reason to maintain the status quo. The odds of Vancouver playing Nashville in the first round are close to zero. But don’t be surprised when the Canucks start playing hard, high quality hockey if the 3rd place team gets hot on their heels. The Canucks know sitting second is the easiest route to the cup and have no problem taking it.