“Thoughts on 30 Thoughts” is a feature that looks at Elliotte Friedman’s terrific weekly post “30 Thoughts.” Justin Bourne selects his 10 favourite tidbits, and elaborates.

Last edition: Pens, Flyers on a collision course (wow was that an accurate topic)

Friedman’s column, April 18th: Hockey violence, viewers on the rise

Opening:

Charles Robinson, a tremendous investigative reporter for Yahoo Sports, tweeted Monday that a “High ranking legal source w/strong ties 2 NFL owners says concussion litigation has grown into biggest financial threat in league history.”

Could that happen to the NHL?

I wanted to address that part of Friedman’s opening bit, because I’m quite sure the answer is yes. With a father that spent 14 years in the NHL (going no-bucket at one point), and a father-in-law that spent 14 years in the NHL (going no-bucket at most points), I’ve heard enough of their own issues and those of their friends to believe that at some point, some players (not my fathers) will pull together and have some real questions for the NHL.

Timing-wise, it’s just a perfect storm - the guys who played during the Broad Street Bullies era are starting to feel the physical effects of their years in the League, they’re seeing what NFL players are doing, and they’re the very guys who got paid peanuts. Don’t be shocked if it happens.

2. Joel Quenneville’s in- and post-game meltdowns — although justified — will test Gary Bettman. Teams were warned not to criticize officiating during these playoffs. On the annual pre-playoff conference call, Bettman got on the line and warned of stiff fines if anyone lashed out at the zebras. One exec called it “The Tortorella Rule.”

One of the few times I’ve seen a coach bubbling with as much anger as Quenneville was in his press conference…was during his in-game interview. He was nearly shaking, and definitely trying not to stab somebody. Sooo, if “don’t criticize the officials” was a league mandate prior to the playoffs, it’s pretty safe to say he’s looking at a fine.

In fairness to the refs, the Torres hit would’ve been a tough call to make in real time.

5. Didn’t know teams that don’t make the playoffs do not get access to press boxes during the post-season. Too much demand for seating. So it’s much more difficult to scout potential free-agent or trade targets in person. “And this is the time of year you really want to see those players,” said one scout. You can buy a ticket and try to do your work in the crowd, but that’s not really efficient.

The press box, for the most part, is not a fun place to watch hockey games, apologies to my reporter friends who dig it. I was so excited the first time I got a credential (it was actually for NHL.com a few years ago), but you truly can’t fathom how high above the ice you are. The game looks so much slower.

I often wonder about scouting from there – I personally think I’d prefer the closer-to-ice-level seat, though I suppose it’s not exactly easy to spread out notes and get an internet connection from section 114. I just can’t imagine how much nuance you’d miss scouting from the rafters.

8. Kept that quote in mind watching Game 3 of Canucks-Kings. How many Canucks looked like they wanted to positively change things? What stood out was Henrik Sedin coming back on the ice for a 3:21 shift, including a power-play, after Dustin Brown clobbered him (legally).

Friedman was talking about what it’s like to be down 2-0 in a series, and how an NHL player told him “Honestly, the thing I remember most is everyone thinking they were going to make the play that would change the series.”

And he’s right about Henrik. I can’t remember a player ever taking as much abuse as he does on the ice, playing through it, staying focused, then getting labelled as something comparable to the (sexist, stupid) nickname ”Sedin sister.”. But no no, he didn’t fight Brad Marchand that one time in playoffs, he’s soft. He’s played over 500 straight games, and do we really think he’s never been hurt? He plays with pain, he takes the hacks and whacks, he wants to win. He’s not your prototypical captain (he’s from not North America!), but he’s a good one.

10. At one Toronto practice, Ron Wilson told his players to “get ready for ‘Drill 237.’” They didn’t know what it was, so he told them to skate until he blew the whistle. One of them stayed on the ice for 2:37 the previous game (also through a power play) and, to make a point, he had the whole team go that long. Needless to say, they were exhausted because — not knowing what Wilson was doing — they started hard. I’m guessing Alain Vigneault and Peter DeBoer were a little more forgiving.

And the Leafs never lost again.

I kid, but this is a pretty regular tool coaches use to combat long shifts. The thing is, long shifts are so circumstantial – if you’re playing the half-wall on the powerplay, you rarely take any strides when you have possession. When you maintain possession, you don’t have to skate the length of the ice. It just totally depends on what kind of minutes you played. Nobody plays 2:37 going up and down the ice.

11. Another theory on why Alain Vigneault removed goaltender Roberto Luongo for Game 3? To put the heat on his players. In some ways, Luongo’s become a built-in excuse — he’s the first one to get blamed, so it takes the spotlight off everyone else. If he’s on the bench, the focus goes elsewhere.

That’s a pretty good call. It also helps that your goalies are basically interchangeable and good.

If you hadn’t heard yet, Corey Schneider is also going to get the nod tonight in Game 4 versus Los Angeles, so that makes things a little more interesting. There’s talk of Luongo having all already played his last game as a Canuck with Schneider emerging to take the ball in so many big moments.

15. One scout: “Most teams have too much respect for Pittsburgh’s talent and play safe. Philly is not in awe and is taking it to them. Forecheck, physical, no space, etc., which is exposing Pittsburgh’s defensive shortcomings.” He added that the Flyers are showing that defencemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang make mistakes under physical pressure.

Loved this point – so many teams try to play the Penguins in the style of St. Louis and Nashville. Smart positionally, smothering, keep it close and the score low. The Flyers came out punching and haven’t stopped.

Part of me wonders how many games they could play at that pace (or how many anyone could, really). I’ll be interested to see how the series changes if it goes more games – surely guys can’t keep going at this clip.

17. Would’ve been very easy to shield Sidney Crosby from a late-Tuesday media availability in Philadelphia (He spoke in Pittsburgh in the morning). But he was there two days after his “I don’t like any of the Flyers” rant. When you’re the captain and your team is down 0-3, you don’t hide.

Since I ripped Crosby for his play last game, a little praise: I love stuff like this.

Phil Kessel gets killed in Toronto for ducking interviews, but he’s not wearing the big Cheddar. Crosby seems to understand that in good times and bad, he’s at the heart of it, so he’s going to have to do this. That’s pretty mature.

18. Braden Holtby’s been a lifesaver in net for the Capitals after struggling through much of his AHL season. One theory? He was bored. Guess it happens, sometimes, with prospects who’ve had a taste of the NHL and feel they have nothing more to learn at the minor-league level.

Totally, absolutely happens. Minor-league boredom is quite the phenomenon, and it drives coaches down there nuts. It’s silly of course, this “not trying as hard as humanly possible” thing, but when you know there’s zero chance you’re losing your job, and you seemed to have no chance to move up, there’s not a lot of daily incentive to prepare as thoroughly. I like Holtby, and think he’s just gonna get better the more playoff games he gets.

21. Are the Oilers and Ryan Smyth headed into another disagreement? He was traded in 2007 as the two sides disagreed over $100,000 per season. There was a two-year offer from the team around the trade deadline — probably no higher than $5 million total — but went nowhere. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said that, as a free agent, Smyth “holds all the cards.” Sounds like Edmonton isn’t certain he’s still a top-six forward. Does anyone really want to go down this road again?

I hate to rip a guy so utterly beloved, but nobody thinks Ryan Smyth is a top-six guy any more do they? I get Edmonton wanting to sign him, what with having lots of young kids who could benefit from playing with a true pro like Smyth, but I just find him hard to watch these days. It was never pretty, but now it’s Ug. Ly.

25. Here is the scoop on Maple Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire: He is telling people he is fed up with being made a scapegoat in Toronto and is considering retiring from the league to concentrate on his goalie school. The “scapegoating” is not coming from inside the organization as GM Brian Burke took pains to publicly defend him. Prominent goalie coaches who could be interested are Eli Wilson (Carey Price) and Andy Nowicki, who coached James Reimer in Red Deer, Alta.

I gotta believe that people know what they’re getting into in Toronto: win and your fine, lose and you’re closely scrutinized. The goalies haven’t been very good there, so you would have to think the goalie coach would come up at some point, no? Not a big fan of the “take my ball and go home” response to the problem here. One more mean thing and I’ll leave!

Comments (5)

  1. Scouting from the rafters, or down near ice level, seems like a silly thing to do in this day and age. There are so many cameras on the ice at all times, would it not be better to contact the TV stations and get a copy of the footage? Then you can see what a player does during his entire game. And what his teammate does. And what their opponent does. And what the goalies do. Hell, even the coaches.

    Point is it seems more comprehensive to get the game footage. Of course, the TV stations may not like to give that away, but I imagine there can be a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ kind of thing, trading interviews for footage. Or something. -shrug-

    • Unless there’s an overhead or very high angle feed (like the “22″ footage for American Football, where you can see every player at all times), I’m not sure how much buying broadcast footage would help.

      So much of what you want to know is what the player does away from the puck…that’s often not on the broadcast feed.

  2. Man, the Blue Jackets would love a great goalie coach like (any) Allaire. Of course, they’d also love a competent GM, scouting staff, etc… but I digress.

    Man, where does one get a talented scouting staff, anyway? Why is, say, Detroit so much better behind the scenes than Columbus is?

    • Detroit being a very good scouting/drafting team is a myth. They have not drafted anything close to an impact player since 2004 when they picked Franzen. In the last decade, they haven’t drafted a legitimate star, though some debate could be had over Howard and Kronwall. Still, that’s pretty bare.
      Yes they had some exceptional picks in the ’90s with Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg but at this point in time, Detroit is not even middle of the pack in terms of drafting.

      Not to say Columbus is any better though…

  3. Just an FYI, at PPP yesterday we found the game that the long shift for the Leafs happened. It was both Franson and Liles stuck on the ice for about that long (Franson a tad longer) and it actually came after their previous shift was 1:47 as well. Both times they started in the offensive zone spent a bit of time there before the Capitals then pinned them down in their own zone for the rest of the time.

    It is sometimes not the players fault they don’t get a change in especially when its defensemen and the puck is stuck in your own zone for over 2 minutes with no whistle

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