For those of you who missed it last week, “Thoughts on 30 Thoughts” is a new Backhand Shelf feature where we pick the 10 most interesting tidbits from Elliotte Friedman’s fantastic weekly column “30 Thoughts” and elaborate, often from a player’s angle. If you missed the debut last week, you can read it here.
Friedman’s opening this week was on the Phoenix Coyotes saga (and Quebec’s new arena), which concludes with this paragraph:
While the NHL is refusing to reveal the deadline for finding Phoenix a new owner, it’s clear we’re getting very close. If the team moves, what we know makes Quebec the common-sense solution. But, there’s some pertinent information being kept private – for now.
As a Phoenix resident (and therefore someone rooting for the team to stay) myself, I can barely begin to describe how brutal this situation has been over the past few years, and that’s from someone who certainly didn’t arrive in town a fan. I can’t imagine how it’s been for those who’ve been pulling for this team for over a decade.
As a hockey writer, I wrapped myself in the team’s ownership story when I first got here. I learned the names of potential buyers, the proper people in politics, and got to know some of the fans (which I’m thankful I did). It was interesting-ish at first.
But I can’t even begin to tell you where the needle is pointing on my Give-A-Shit Meter at this point. It’s so far beneath zero they’d need shovels to find it. The endless parade of “Wait and see” and “almost” and “maybe” has taken me to the point that when someone cries “Wolf!”, I don’t bat an eyelash.
I think the fans apathy mirrors my own – they’ve been told they don’t deserve a team for so long people around the city are starting to believe it. So fine – take the damn team. Or don’t. Everyone just wants SOMETHING to happen. The uncertainty has been nauseating, and those that’ve remained loyal through it deserve something special if the League finds a way to keep the Yotes in town.
4. Was interested that the Roy to Montreal report said he’d be GM. People who know him say he has a great in-game feel behind the bench, and is an excellent motivator and developer of players. But, he might want control and the front-office position allows for more of that.
I said this on the podcast yesterday, and I want to elaborate: I wouldn’t be crazy about the idea of playing for a coach that used to be a goalie.
Goalies will tell you that they see everything from back there. They’re on the ice for all 60 minutes, and they therefore have a better “feel” for the game than anyone else. The latter part is 1000% true, which is likely when Roy has that good “feel.”
But the former…no. You see nothing from ice level (which is one reason media members sit in the pressbox, not on the glass). So you have a poor view of systems your whole career, and you never once had to actually play any, and this guy is going to be in my ear telling me about when I should and shouldn’t pinch? During video sessions, 90% of goalies are the guys with the eyes painted on their eyelids so they can sleep.
I don’t think it’s impossible to be a good coach as a goalie. But between the fact that there is an, er, “distinct” goalie personality, and the reason I mentioned above, I know it wouldn’t appeal to me.
7. The most interesting comment heard about Alexander Radulov: “He tried a lot of individual moves that might work on the larger KHL ice surface, but won’t work here.”
I’m sure the source knows far better than me, but I’m not sure what this implies. What move would work on a player on big ice that wouldn’t work on small ice? On big ice you have more room to drive wide, but if he’s trying moves against players, the amount of space on the outskirts of the rink seems irrelevant. What would make more sense to me: “He tried a lot of individual moves that might work on KHL players, but not here.”
9. The Oilers continued talks with Don Meehan, Ryan Smyth’s agent, last week about an extension. Still work to do. Had heard that Edmonton didn’t want to go longer than one year, but that was denied by both sides.
Ryan Smyth is lovable in a 1000 different ways – fans, media and teammates all like him. But I think he’s officially at the point where you don’t give him more than one year contracts.
He’s played in 1,145 games at this point. He’ll turn 37 next year. While his numbers haven’t fallen off badly yet (last four years: 59, 53, 47, 45), they will soon. Yes, he has 19 goals this year, but 12 of those came in the first 22 games. He has seven in his last 54.
I know he does more than score goals, and I know he’d be a good mentor for the kids, so I say absolutely, sign him. But to me, I’d want to take it one year at a time to make sure he doesn’t fall off too hard (which is precisely why Smyth won’t want to).
10. Eric Francis pointed out in Hotstove that it didn’t make sense to play Taylor Hall again this season, which I completely agreed with. However, it was pointed out that Hall probably wants to play at the worlds (and Hockey Canada would probably want it too) because he’s got a shot at being on the 2014 Olympic Team – should pros be in Sochi.
There’s an age-old saying in the minor and junior league’s of hockey - if you’re good enough, they’ll find you. You could play for the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs of the CHL, but if you score enough goals, you will move up.
My point is, I don’t think if Taylor Hall is playing fantastic NHL hockey that they’d leave him off the Olympic roster because he missed the World’s exercising caution with an injury in 2012.
13. The GMs vote for the Vezina. What are they going to do with the St. Louis goaltenders? As of Monday morning, the Blues are 17 goals better than second-place Los Angeles with a true tandem of Jaroslav Halak (43 appearances) and Brian Elliott (35). They’ve got 14 shutouts between them, most in the NHL since Tony Esposito’s 15 in 1969-70. The last shared victory was 1981 (Richard Sevigny, Denis Herron, Michel Larocque), as the league created the Jennings Trophy to eliminate this phenomenon.
They do have quite the pickle on their hands here, it should be fun to see. Fortunately for them, they do have the easy-out when it comes to picking their winner – Henrik Lundqvist (3rd in GAA, 3rd in SV%, 1st in shutouts with eight, 3rd in wins). Their problem is that Jonathan Quick has to be a finalist too (4th in GAA, 4th in SV%, T1st in shutouts with eight, 7th in wins).
You simply can’t win the Vezina when your team plays you in less than 40 of 82 games (Elliotte mentions that in his next point, not shown here), they’re going to win the Jennings, so it comes down to a simple question: which guy makes it as the 3rd finalist?
For my money, if Brian Elliot can hold on to 1st in three categories as he does right now, you give him the nom, but not the win.
15. The Blue with the best chance for individual hardware is probably David Backes (Selke, will get my vote). One opposing exec recently pointed out how the captain plays all three forward positions extremely well. Another criminally overshadowed player is Alex Pietrangelo, but it’s going to be tough to get Norris votes against Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara.
While I don’t believe there are “three” forward positions (wing is wing, you come across the ice for support so much you’re rarely on your own side, and taking passes on your backhand is a basic NHL requirement), I do believe Backes is the right pick for Selke. I hated playing him in college. He takes hockey SO SERIOUSLY it’s mind-boggling. No jokes, smiles, nothing – he wants to win every shift, doesn’t care about your feelings, and will do whatever it takes. That’s tough to play.
Good point about Pietrangelo too, that guy has been money. Still, Karlsson just passed Kovalchuk in points, caught James Neal, and pushed his d-man point lead to 27. How many more does he need before “But he hits less guys!” goes away? Think Lidstrom.
19. Asked a few people what they thought of Sutter’s decision not to use Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen or Curtis Glencross. (Alex Tanguay was hurt and couldn’t do it.) The response was really interesting, because I was surprised how many understood Sutter’s reasoning. You’ve blown a 2-0 lead to the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, which had Matt Cullen playing defence because the blue-line was so banged up. And, a Glencross penalty started the comeback. But, the one thing they all said is this was Game 74, and you’re fighting for your life. The coach’s decision becomes the story instead of the players who underperformed.
It’s amazing that “taking bad penalties” is something you never grow out of. I played with Glencross in college, and man, was he good. Guy skates like a gazelle and has a bomb of a shot (and hits hard too). But the thing is, I’ve seen him “disciplined” 50 times for dumb penalties. He’s missed shifts, periods, been demoted lines – that part of his game ain’t going away (just check out Daniel Wagner’s list this morning of penalty plus/minus winners and losers - he’s one of the worst in the league).
So if “It’s Game 74, and you’re fighting for your life,” to hell with the life lessons – get your best personnel out there when it matters, talk about it after. If Glencross is one of your better shooters, use his skills accordingly.
22. The NHL’s new leader in goals scored on the road: Matt Moulson, with 22. That’s one ahead of Gaborik and Alexander Ovechkin. Asked him last week what he’s learned most to be successful and he said it’s “that everyone has slumps. The Sedins are slumping right now. You can’t get too hard on yourself, you just have to make sure you do the work to get out of it.”
Geez, FINE, Moulson, I believe in you. Three straight 30 goal-plus seasons, wow.
Fun Matt Moulson story: One year during junior hockey tryouts, he flew in from Ontario to (likely) play for our team. And man, was he good. Our team, however, was asked to play a “physical” style of game, which meant that intrasquad games during tryouts were a bloodbath. Fights were basically organized for you during intermission (“Hey Bourne, next period, you and Waddell”). Moulson wouldn’t fight (rightfully so), because he was busy scoring four goals during the particular game I’m thinking of. He was impressive, but he wouldn’t fight.
He got cut. Junior hockey is stupid.
Looks like he came out on top in the end.
23. It went under the radar, but what a big move it was for the Islanders to get Evgeni Nabokov under contract for another year. Remember when they took him on waivers? He wouldn’t talk to Garth Snow and initially refused to report. If you can get guys to change their minds like that, people notice. His family likes it there, which is always a bonus.
I wrote an unnecessarily vicious post for Deadspin about Nabokov when all that crap happened at first, which is a shame, because the point was actually correct. You go where you’re told, and figure it out from there. But I’m not surprised Nabokov likes it there. Because fans tend to get stuck on lazy jokes – Nassau Coliseum sucks, Penner Pancakes, Wellwood is fat etc. – we lose a lot of truth. Long Island is fantastic (and Wellwood isn’t fat).
I’ve lived in Kelowna (BC), Osoyoos (BC), Vernon (BC), Salt Lake City (UT), Los Angeles (CA), Boise (ID), Anchorage (AK), Reading (PA), Stamford (CT), and Phoenix (AZ), and I gotta say LI is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. There’s tons to do there. Hey, hop on the LIRR and you’re in Penn Station in an hour. It’s a great place to raise a family.
25. Some of the Blackhawks were surprised Daniel Sedin already showered prior to the doctor’s visit last Wednesday. They thought it was awfully quick. But, you’ll remember that when Cody Hodgson wobbled after his December collision with Ottawa’s Nick Foligno, the Canucks refused to consider a return. Betting the same thing happened here. There was no way Vancouver was letting him back into the game, no matter what the doctor said.
This makes perfect sense: has any team had an easier go of it than the Canucks down the stretch?
The Rangers are in that tight race with the Pens now for the 1 or 4 seed, meaning you either draw the Flyers (blech), or Ottawa/Washington/Buffalo (who are all stressed out trying to get in and stay there). San Jose/Dallas/Phoenix/LA/Colorado/Calgary have all been in playoffs for weeks, and it’s been a living hell. Save for a few teams that have bottomed out, the Canucks have had an easier go than anyone else. As the 2-seed in the West (which they own), they don’t need the 1 – your draw at the bottom of the conference is really based on luck. Those teams are interchangeable, just like drawing names out of a hat.
So, you rest your star players when they might be hurt. You rotate your tenders. You play your stars less. How wonderful.