I know you picked the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup, but after watching the majority of the teams' games so far, they don't look like they care if they win or not. Is there some inner turmoil that we as fans don't know about? -- Dave Daughtrey, Fairview Heights, Ill.
Melrose: That's a fair assessment. St. Louis has been very inconsistent and is having chemistry problems. The Blues are very talented, but they are only a couple games over .500 with losses coming from very average teams.
Some players I counted on to have great years are not playing up to par. Chris Pronger, the former MVP and Norris Trophy winner, is struggling; he is the key to their defense. The goaltending has been OK, but they're certainly not playing the way any of us envisioned.
There are some problems in the Blues' dressing room that need to be ironed out before they become the team they should be on paper.
Melrose: Audette was made available because he is an offensive player who takes a lot of chances. That may be why he scores goals, but a high-risk player just doesn't fit into the Dallas style or Ken Hitchcock's system.
Montreal needed two players back, one being defensive, so because of that Shaun Van Allen got caught in the trade.
In return, Dallas acquired Martin Rucinsky and Benoit Brunet, two smart, veteran players who can play both ends of the rink. Both are adequate defensively and very good offensively. They will fit in much better than Audette.
This deal was made because it's very hard for the Canadians to compete in the free-agent market, and both Rucinsky and Brunet will be free agents at the end of this year. So, Montreal got two players they can sign long-term while giving up two they probably had no chance of signing.
In the beginning of the season, you said that the Colorado Avalanche will miss Ray Bourque more than they will miss Peter Forsberg. What's your thoughts on that now, considering the Avs' recent scoring drought and lack of offense? -- JP, Charlotte, N.C.
Melrose: Don't forget that Bourque was a great passer. The Avs miss him coming out of their own zone. No offense starts unless the forward gets the puck in full flight. The first is by far the most important pass in hockey, and Bourque was the best at that.
The reason the Avs are not scoring is because they are not working. They still have five pretty good offensive players: Joe Sakic, Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay and Rob Blake. Certainly, they miss Forsberg offensively, but those five players should be able to score. Colorado's power play is terrible right now, even though it is something that should still be good.
You have to look past personnel with Colorado and look at work ethic.
As long as they stay healthy, do you see the New York Rangers staying put with the team they have now? -- Colin, Rochester, N.Y.
Melrose: At more than 20 games into the season, everything is great right now for the Rangers. They've had no injuries, Eric Lindros hasn't been hit, and the goaltending has been unbelievable. But let's wait until 50-60 games into the season. Mike Richter always seems to get hurt, and let's see if Lindros struggles after getting cracked a couple of times.
The Rangers are a good team. They're playing very well, the best they've looked in four or five years, but being great 20 games into the season is different than being great 60 games into the season.
Are you surprised at the "overall" game of Brett Hull this year? He forechecks, backchecks, sets up plays, scores and is playing a little more physical than in the past. -- Ed Abbott, Northville, Mich.
Melrose: Anyone who knows Hull has seen him turn from the one-dimensional goal scorer he was in St. Louis intto a two-dimensional forward in Dallas. What Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman has done smartly is give Hull a ton of ice time. He's a killing penalties, playing the power play and playing regular shifts, and Hull is reveling in that. He is motivated and playing hard. Scotty's doing a great job of keeping players happy with all the superstars he has in Detroit.
Brian Boucher is not in your top five goaltenders for the first quarter of the season? Are you kidding me? He leads the league in goals-against average (1.5) and save percentage (.943). -- Joe Reichert, Philadelphia, Pa.
Melrose: That's a very good point. Boucher has been a great story and would certainly be my comeback player of the year so far. But it's only a little more than 20 games into the season, and he's already hurt with a strained hamstring. Let's get him playing 60 games like he did two years ago and see how he fares. But I could easily put him in with top goaltenders at the start of the year. I have been duly reprimanded.
Is the NHL doing enough to promote its players and its image to gain new fans? It seems to me that the NHL could take a more active approach in increasing the popularity of its superstars not named Lemieux. -- Sage, Placerville, Calif.
Melrose: We could do a better job at getting players out to non-traditional hockey venues. We're starting to see hockey players in "Maxim," "GQ" and a few other magazines. Definitely, any time people get to know the NHL players, they'll fall in love with them. We always fight to promote them. It's a neverending struggle. We have to work at getting the non-fans to know our players.
Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.