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From the Branches: Back to Business

Welcome to 2016. It's time to play. The Leafs host The Blues tonight as the World Juniors continue.

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There's not much news today because of a hangover from New Year's, The Winter Classic monopolizing coverage, and The World Juniors taking a one day break; but I managed to scrounge up some links for your morning.

The Leafs are back in action today vs. The Blues. We will have a preview up this afternoon.

Lamoriello to meet with Swedish IHA chair about Nylander's health - PPP
A decision about Nylander's participation in the WJC will be delayed until match day.

Kadri finally seeing rewards of improved play - TSN
It was John Tavares on back-to-back nights and then some combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the Maple Leafs' final game of 2015. Those were the last three matchups for Nazem Kadri, Toronto’s 25-year-old centre. Leafs coach Mike Babcock described them as "real players you’re playing against". He liked how Kadri performed most of the time – Toronto winning twice and losing once.

In Finland there is quite a bit of action today, including Canada against Finland this afternoon. At the time of writing Denmark is leading Russia 2-1 in the third period of their quarterfinal round.

Underdog Canada facing ‘adversity’ against host Finland - The Globe and Mail
Finland poses a particularly steep challenge. Forwards Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine are the tournament’s top three scorers, leading Finland to a 3-1 record to finish second in Group B.

2016 WJC Round Robin By the Numbers - PPP
The WJC preliminary round had some surprises, none more so than the number of 2016 draft-eligible players dominating the scoring charts. A deeper look at the numbers reveals a few other things as...

Winter Classic Recaps

Habs dominate Bruins with 5-1 rout in Winter Classic - Eyes On The Prize
The Canadiens and Bruins were slated to play the marquee game of the NHL season, but only one team showed up to play.

"Embarrassed" Bruins fall flat on the big stage - Stanley Cup of Chowder
The crowd was fired up. The national TV cameras were rolling. The Bruins had a chance to get a huge boost. Instead, they fell flat, playing an embarrassing game that may linger for some time.

The Canucks also defeated The Ducks last night, but there are no recaps from the left coast available yet!

All-Star Game Vote

The All-Star captain vote wrapped up last night and any trace of it has been wiped from the websites. For the record, at about 11:59pm EST last night, which was right before voting closed, this was the top 10:

  1. John Scott - Pacific
  2. Jaromir Jagr - Atlantic
  3. Patrick Kane - Central
  4. Alex Ovechkin - Metropolitan
  5. Tyler Seguin - Central
  6. Mikhail Grabovski - Metropolitan
  7. Johnny Gaudreau - Pacific
  8. P.K. Subban - Atlantic
  9. Jamie Benn - Central
  10. Sidney Crosby - Metropolitan

What will Gary Bettman do about John Scott? If he isn't eligible, or 'declines the nomination', it looks like option number 2 would be Johnny Gaudreau, which is good for the NHL because who else could they choose from Calgary? Matt Stajan? Perhaps they just go with John Scott because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯?

Jagr said he didn't want to go on Twitter, though that may have been tongue-in-cheek, however if any player has the necessary gravitas and pull to have the league grant an exemption, it's him. The Atlantic captaincy would then fall to P.K. Subban, someone with whom the league would also probably like to have there.

Ovechkin for the Metropolitan is a given. Mikhail Grabovski's late surge was puzzling. Perhaps there was a Belorussian vote push like there was a Latvian vote push last year?

Then there's Kane in the Central division: let's just hope we don't have further writing about his return from 'adversity', of which he had little to none.

To tank, or not to tank?

Fast approaching the mid-point of the season, it's time for the annual soul-search by fans of teams close to the basement of the league standings to ponder whether 'tanking' is the best option, and also get philosophical about tanking and its consequences.

Tank Time for the Winnipeg Jets? - Arctic Ice Hockey
[Species comment: Is tanking taking the integrity out of the game, or is it only a symptom of a structural defect of the draft process? The same line of thought can be applied to John Scott winning the All-Star vote last night.]

It's a Thin Line... - Nucks Misconduct
Yeah, the Canucks are probably not going to do the playoff thing this year. But the good thing about enduring a bit of losing? It will clear out the bandwagoners for a while...

Other News

Newspapers, blogs and the different types of analysis to expect - Arctic Ice Hockey
The difference between mainstream media versus blogs, shot-based analysis versus narrative and why they can co-exist happily.

Commissioners: Women's Winter Classic a "First Step" - Blueshirt Banter
Dani Rylan: "The NHL was definitely standing in the middle holding both of our hands as we walked to Gillette."

Michael Dal Colle traded in OHL power move - Lighthouse Hockey
Islanders prospect Colle, who has been dogged by trade rumors during an especially difficult season on the ice, was finally dealt by the Oshawa Generals to the Kingston Frontenacs this morning.

Change in Motion: The Florida Panthers and their Future - Litter Box Cats
The Florida Panthers have gone from NHL wasteland to possible NHL cornucopia.

GM Dale Tallon re-ups for additional three years with club - Litter Box Cats
And why on Earth wouldn't this happen?

The Year That Was 2015 - SB Nation College Hockey
2015 in college hockey was a year of superstar freshmen and an unprecedented three top-10 NHL Draft picks. A year where some new friends in Arizona State ended up joining the party. A year where a few old friends made noise for the first time in decades. New arenas opened. There were upsets, moments of despair and heartbreak mixed with joy.