“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: Hockey violence, viewers on the rise

Friedman’s column, May 9th: Quenneville uses leverage


Don’t take this out of context, because Friedman takes great pains to make it clear that he hasn’t had a lot of face time in Chicago (as a blogger, my initial thought was “Wait, actually being there helps? Crap”), but here’s his summation of what went down in Chicago that got their assistant coach Mike Haviland fired, but left Joel Quenneville with his job:

Don’t know what happened between Quenneville, his good friend/assistant Mike Kitchen and Haviland. Don’t know who is right or who is wrong or who stood where on what issues. But, the decision to remove Haviland – a coaching finalist in Winnipeg last season – and the explanation for it is proof that people did not trust each other.

Players notice stuff like this. It affects your team.

Quenneville had a lot of leverage. If he walked or was fired, he’d be unemployed for as long as it takes Don Draper to charm a bored housewife. And, there was no guarantee they’d find a better replacement.

I think Friedman hit the nail on the head.

I’ve only been on one team where the coaches were unable to provide a unified front, and the rift only came out during games. It divides guys. They pick sides (the player’s coach always prevails here), and automatically tune out the other guy. If you dislike one of the two, seeing someone stand up to your bad guy is validation that you were right, he is an idiot.

6. Not that he needed to, but Zach Parise increased his UFA attractiveness with a ferocious forechecking performance against Philly. He constantly forced Flyers to turn towards the boards, where New Jersey dominated the entire series. For a great example, look at his goal that puts the Devils up 3-2 in Game 3.

Here’s the goal Elliotte is referring to:

Totally agree that Parise was an absolute forechecking machine in the Devils’ series against the Flyers, I noticed it a number of times. But what really caught my eye here was the backhand-to-forehand pull from behind the net.

It’s a drill a lot of guys work on after practice, I actually used to do it with an assistant coach. You’d stand with your skates above the goal line beside the net, and your stick below it on the backhand side – you’d take a rocket pass on your backhand, coral it, pull it to your forehand, and get it up under the bar. Taking a hard pass on your backhand is hard enough – controlling it and getting it up is another story. Obviously Zach kept it on the ice, but the speed with which he pulled that from backhand-behind-the-line to forehand reminded me of that. I’d be surprised if he hasn’t spent some time on it.

7.  The Flyers downplayed their lack of hatred for New Jersey as a factor, but you’ve got to believe it is a pretty big reason for the defeat. Philly so badly wanted Pittsburgh — and deserve great credit for having that attitude — but succeeding in the playoffs is all about adapting to four different opponents and challenges. If you’re not as emotionally invested in the Devils as you are in the Penguins, you’ve got to find another way. 

If you’re a podcast listener, you know I fully believe that’s why the Flyers got rolled over in five games. That first round series was emotional, wild, and completely engrossed everyone who had anything to do with it. But the next one…

I had a coach who lived and died by the “Never let ‘em see you sweat” mantra. We were forbidden from slamming the bench gate, smashing our sticks on the boards, anything, and you could see how that enrages opponents. Philly seemed undisciplined and frustrated while the Devils seemed robotic – for that, I credit their coach and captains. I think the Flyers really missed having Chris Pronger to right the ship when it was starting to tip in this series.

9. Barry Trotz repaid David Poile for 14 years of loyalty by playing Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn in Game 5. Can’t imagine there is any way Trotz wanted to do it. After the Game 4 loss, he understood the bigger picture: don’t embarrass your GM. Especially when he’s been great to you.

It must be an old-school thing to think that not dressing your most talented players is the best idea (“That’ll learn ‘em!”), but I agree that it’s likely Trotz wouldn’t have minded making the call to sit those two again.

I can’t speak to what was going on in that dressing room, but for a team that’s MO has been all about doing it as a team, not making waves, and playing the right way, I have to believe that threw the group off in Games 4 and 5. And whether you chose to sit them or not, the distraction was still going to be there.

10. One storyline got a little out of control last week. It’s ridiculous to say that you can’t win with Russians, just as it’s ridiculous to say that people were “piling on” them. The fact is this: more than any other “hockey nationality,” you have to do your research — because Russian players have a legitimate financial option others don’t. A lot of them want to play in the NHL and compete hard for the Cup. Some don’t. If you’re wrong, you could get burned by a player who is willing to flout the rules because he sees no consequence.

This was something I thought during the “hockey nationality” escapade, but couldn’t figure out how to properly word on Twitter (and as we know, if it’s not done right, here comes the abuse). I personally didn’t see anyone claim that “All Russians don’t care” (a foolish concept) yet I saw a 1000 people vilifying that sentiment. I think the point the whole time was that it’s reasonable to expect that a human with two options may not be as committed as a human with one. Because they have options.

So, I think there is value in exercising caution with potential draft picks. Is the NHL the priority, is it money, is it location? All fair questions.

14. The better the Kings do, the worse it is for Columbus. The Blue Jackets have an option on the Kings’ first-round pick, but a conference final berth means it can’t be any higher than 27th. The Jackets will likely wait for 2013.

The poor Blue Jackets just can win for losing. First they lose the number one overall pick in the lottery, then the Kings catch fire. Sad trombone.

15. Colorado didn’t create a market for Chris Stewart before trading him to St. Louis, and teams were disappointed they didn’t get a chance at a strong, right-shooting scorer. Not long after the deal, I asked a member of the organization about letting him go. All he said was, “We have our reasons.” That was it. No further explanation, no shot at his character. Just that.

To me that sounds less clandestine, and more “I dunno, we effed up man.” As we highlighted in a video on Backhand Shelf, Chris Stewart is a talented guy who can be tough to play against. I guess you have to give up something to get something sometimes, which seems like a more fair answer than “Don’t worry about it, we got this.”

16. Thought of that conversation when Stewart was a healthy scratch for the second time in the playoffs, Game 2 against Los Angeles. As the Blues packed up, he told NHL.com’s Lou Korac, “This is probably the biggest summer of my career.” Yes, it is, if he wants to prove the Avalanche wrong.

There’s nothing worse than the moment when you realize it’s a big summer for you, and gym visits should probably start pretty soon. You’re still so sore.

It’s so deflating, because in hockey, it’s all about the playoffs, it’s all about winning. So from that Start Again Moment, you have to build: gym sessions, cardio, skating. Then you do it all summer, build and build and build. Then you go to training camp and practices are longgg and you learn and re-learn systems and skate. Ice time is earned, the depth chart is formed, and things start to click. Then it’s Christmas, then the trade deadline, and everything is finally set in stone. Then practice and training finally backs off, and you worry about hockey, about the games. This is what it’s all about. Then playoffs start, then you get eliminated then it’s…back to square one?


18. The next day (Sunday), the Rangers reminded players about their “rules” of shot blocking. As one explained it, Lundqvist (and the coaches), ask that if you’re going to block, you have to stop everything low. That is your responsibility. Green’s shot got through the otherwise excellent Ryan McDonagh for the score.There are not supposed to be any holes along (or slightly above) the ice.

I just want to use this space to emphasize how crazy shot-blocking is. We see it so much we’re used to it, but it is seriously such a physical sacrifice. That puck could go anywhere – as much as you hope to take it in the shin pads, you can get pucks on your ankles, wrists, your face, who knows? These guys that do it regularly are both brave, and totally psycho.

19. Lundqvist gave brief insight into his film work with coach Benoit Allaire. They’ll break down all of the opposing team’s scoring chances, among other things. How many clips is that, he was asked? “About 20.” That’s a lot by today’s standards, as most coaches don’t believe players have the attention span for more than four or five. “Goalies are smarter,” Lundqvist said.

Video patience totally boils down to who the guy doing the clips is. I can watch 20 clips if they’re highlighting a point, and moving on. Some coaches can make five clips last an hour - those are the times I wish I chewed tobacco like a good portion of every team so I had something to do with myself while it was going on. It’s the age of ADD. You have to know your audience.

27. Dale Hunter indicated Beagle would play Game 6 despite missing the morning skate. (He blocked a shot on Monday.) Beagle could barely walk from the ice to the dressing room. Sometimes skating is easier than stepping, but you could see he was really in pain.

I just talked about shot-blocking (it’s crazy), but I wanted to chime in on the skating/walking thing: you never know what you’re going to be able to do until you do it, which is another reason I love morning skate. You can get out of bed, put pressure on your ankle and yelp like a kicked dog, limp to the rink, wince as you put your wheel on, hit the ice and go…”Well shit, that feels totally fine.” Sometimes the pressure spots work in your favour. And of course, other times you’ll see a teammate strutting around the room looking like a million bucks, but he can’t play that night because the skating motion hits his injury at precisely the wrong spot.

In playoffs, all you can hope is that your injuries find those lucky spots, not that you won’t have any.