“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: Quenneville uses leverage

Friedman’s column, June 1st: Lidstrom does it his way, Feaster on the spot: 30 Thoughts

Opening:

Friedman:

One of my favourite baseball players was Mike Schmidt, the great Phillies third baseman. Seven weeks into the 1989 season, hitting just .203, he abruptly retired before a game in San Diego.

“Over the years, I’ve set high standards for myself as a player, and I always said that when I couldn’t live up to those standards I would retire,” Schmidt said that day. “I no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases.”

That sounded a lot like Lidstrom’s own announcement: “Retiring today allows me to walk away from the game with pride rather than have the game walk away from me.”

What a great quote. It leads me to a question - am I the only person who’s been thinking a lot about Chris Chelios lately?

It was admirable that he wanted to keep playing through his 47th birthday, but it totally sullied my memories of the rest of career. The numbers, and accounts from those older than I, all attest to the fact that he was once an NHL stud, yet for some reason all I can picture is him losing ground on a backcheck after getting burned on a pinch, playing for the Atlanta Thrashers.

The point is, I’m glad to see Lidstrom retire after another great season, and before it came to that. True to form, he made one more perfect decision to wrap up his flawless career.

***

1. In my experience with Lidstrom, he had a certain method of doing post-game or post-practice scrums. He preferred to stand and would turn to look directly at whoever asked each particular question. The only other athlete I ever dealt with who always did it that way (unless at a podium) was Michael Jordan.

 

What boggles my mind, is that that’s a rare thing. I’m not the world’s nicest guy, but I’ve made-and-stayed friends with a number of writers who covered teams I played on, simply because my opinion was that they were – and probably still are - humans. I know, that’s a pretty out-there concept, but I used to find it so embarrassing watching certain teammates treat media members like crap because they have some crazy-inflated sense of self-worth. You’d need the ink from every octopus ever thrown onto the ice at The Joe to re-print the amount of times “Lidstrom” and “classy” have been used in the same sentence, and for a reason.

That eye contact and respect are things worth pointing out when a player retires makes me believe there’s a bunch of players treating people like crap on a consistent basis. That sucks.

 

8. Drew Doughty’s improved play may be rising John Stevens’s stock. Stevens, a fitness freak who was known as “Rambo,” is credited with helping Doughty reach his enormous potential in the second half of this season. One thing opponents really notice about the defenceman: he’s a much better player later in games. That has to do with conditioning and confidence. Stevens especially influenced the conditioning.

 

I never improved as much as when I played junior hockey under coach Mike Vandekamp, mostly because of his intense devotion to cardio. As Ellen Etchingham wrote on Wednesday, you really have no idea how far you can push your body until someone shows you how to get to the next level. If Doughty is starting to pay more attention to that with Stevens help, I could see him working his way back into a Norris conversation sometime in his career.

 

10. Montreal is getting close. So far, Marc Bergevin’s hired people he knows very well (Rick Dudley, Scott Mellanby). Of those who are believed to be among the final candidates, the guy he knows best is Michel Therrien. It should be pointed out, though, that Marc Crawford apparently interviewed very well.

 

Sorry to be short here (in the interest of not throwing anyone under the bus), but I’ve played with a number of guys who played for Michel Terrien, and they’ve all said the same thing: they hated playing for him. Never heard an off-the-record account to the contrary.

 

11. With the Brent Sutter stakeout continuing, what others say about the Edmonton Oilers is that they value NHL experience more than anything else right now. (The exception might be current assistant Ralph Krueger.) Can’t help but wonder if Dallas Eakins, whose Toronto Marlies eliminated Edmonton’s AHL team from the playoffs, should at least be interviewed there.

 

Hey, Pat Quinn is available.

Every year I move further towards the idea that taking a talented young coach is a better idea than recycling an older one with experience. I think with the way the game is changing, player-evaluation is changing and systems are changing you need somebody whose attitude isn’t the old-school “We lost? We need to work harder! We won despite giving up 75 shots? Great hustle out there!” The game is getting more technical - smarts are worth as much as hard work, which most “experienced” guys obsess over

 

12. Courtesy Glenn Healy: Zach Parise’s gone 186 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs) with at least one shot on goal. Last time he played and didn’t get one? November 6, 2009 – a 2-1 win over the Islanders.

 

This playoff season has me fully aboard the Parise bandwagon (and incidentally, the Devils), strictly because I think he’s the most relentless player in the League. Parise was one of those guys in college that made you think ”He’s good, but his skill set doesn’t seem different enough from your average good player to have THAT many more points than everyone.” The thing was (and is), he brings it every freaking night, somehow. He’s mentally tough, and his streak is a testament to that.

 

18. I do have a theory about Kesler, though. There are some people who need to be annoyed to be successful. (Ken Hitchcock used to refer to it as “putting people in uncomfortable positions.”) Kesler might just be one of those guys. As his career took off, he played and looked like he was always angry at something. You didn’t see that as much last year. Maybe it was the injuries. Maybe he was a little satisfied. Whatever the case, Vigneault is getting on him early.

 

Kesler has himself a nice contract, he’s solidified as a star, hell, he posed naked in ESPN’s body issue. Some athletes (like Michael Jordan) need to feel motivated by haters, to feel wronged, to feel desperate. The injuries obviously had something to do with his decline in production this year, but he did look like he could use a kick in the pants at times throughout the season.

 

20. Justin Schultz has a lot of options, but do not discount the Rangers. They will make a push, and he’s got two former teammates there (Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan). New York is not shy about inserting young collegians into important roles. See Kreider, Chris.

 

I’m starting to get a little worried about the Rangers, as someone who’d prefer that they don’t succeed (go Isles, etc, etc). They’re extremely young, talented, chasing Schultz, and could potentially get involved with one of the big two free agents (Parise and Suter) this off-season.

Here’s where we get back to old-school versus new-school coaching though – I just don’t think Tortorella will be the right fit for this group going forward. Yes, he squeezed every last drop he could from his team this year, but I don’t think they need that. I don’t think Prust/Rupp/Callahan and beyond need to be told to try really hard. People will think I’m crazy for saying that because of the success the team had this year, but in my opinion, they’d be better suited off with someone who was more concerned with systems than motivation.

 

22. Alright, let’s do some Stanley Cup stuff: In Game 1, the Kings did to New Jersey what they did to Phoenix at the beginning of the Western Final – take a good puck-moving goaltender out of the game. The Coyotes felt they allowed Mike Smith better opportunities to help his defence as the series continued. How? Improving their forecheck in the neutral zone, which didn’t let Los Angeles carry in the puck or put in harder places for Smith to get it. The Devils will have to do the same.

 

In my experience as a player, you never wanted to put the puck where the goalie could get it, regardless whether it’s a guy who handles it well or not. You’re worried about putting the puck in a spot your team can get it – depending on where F1 is, a soft dump or a hard wrap – so it’s tough to “try harder” to take a puck-moving goalie out of the game. You’re always trying to avoid the tender.

As for improving their neutral zone forecheck, that’s one of those thing where you simply have to play better. I’m aware that’s not exactly expert-level insight, but they know the systems inside and out - they weren’t not trying in Game 1, it’s just a simple matter of…playing better. There’s nothing you can really change.

 

24. One thing several Kings say about Darryl Sutter: he’s in the dressing room a lot more than most coaches. Some, like Randy Carlyle, try to stay out of there as much as possible, believing that area is for the players. Not Sutter. He wants to see how they prepare, how “ready” they are for each game.

This would drive me nuts, but it probably helps.

I’ve only played for coaches who come in the room solely to talk to the team. It’s nice to not feel supervised as a group in there. Still, with Sutter being new to the Kings this year, you can’t blame the guy for wanting to get a feel for his guys. It’ll be interesting to see if, once he’s more familiar with his group, he’ll spend less time in there.

 

28. Inside Hockey before Game 6 of the Rangers/Devils series was on the friendship between Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur. Before this season, Kovalchuk was 11-for-41 career in shootouts, just 27 per cent. After Brodeur told him to change his angle of approach, Kovalchuk scored as many times in 2011-12 as he did the previous six years combined. He was 11-for-14.

He was absolutely dynamite in the shootout this year. Parise was too, I’d be interested to know if the same little tidbit wasn’t passed on to him too.

When Kovalchuk signed in New Jersey, it was tough to see how he would fit in with that group. Now, it’s tough to imagine that team without him. Nice to see that panning out well for everyone, so far.