“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: Rich Nash’s potential suitors
Friedman’s column, June 21st: Time to free up NHL free agency
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Elliotte Friedman including a picture with a University of Alaska Anchorage player in it was a direct nod to this column, right? I mean, that’s my alma mater, and he knows I FJM (or MST3K, for you sticklers) his column every week, so….yep. I’m sticking with the theory that it was no accident. Thanks buddy!
Let’s dive in.
3. Reports indicate Roberto Luongo only wants to waive his no-trade for Florida, but that’s a tough one for the Panthers to pull off. You could see how they would want him, hoping to grow momentum from a Southeast Division title. Florida’s goaltending wasn’t great in the playoffs and he could serve as a bridge while Jacob Markstrom gets ready.
I don’t really get Luongo’s thinking here. Obviously priority 1A isn’t winning a Cup, or he wouldn’t have Florida as his main pick. But that’s fine, he likes the lifestyle, etc. etc. But if his main problem in Vancouver was “young goalie with a lot of potential got good and put pressure on his starting job,” is moving to a team with Jakob Markstrom as the back-up really the right choice? I’m not saying Markstrom is going to turn into a legit starter tomorrow, but it seems to me that there’s a very real possibility that Luongo could be leaving his situation (assuming a deal could ever get done, which I’m skeptical of) for one that’ll end up shaking out the same way. At least Florida’s fans and media won’t abuse him so much, I suppose.
7. Generally, offer sheet talk is a waste of time. But I’m curious to see if two other players get any action. One is is Sam Gagner. He’ll be 23 in August and the fit hasn’t always been good in Edmonton. You’re not going to throw $5 million at him, but is he worth a first- and third-round pick? (That’s between $3,364,391 and $5,046,585.) There are a lot of teams looking for centres.
I included this one just because I wanted to talk Sam Gagner, who is really quite good at hockey. There’s so much young talent in Edmonton (I mean, honestly, it’s insane) that this guy could get swept aside and not see the minutes he needs to reach his potential. I know the old boys club frowns on throwing out offer sheets, but in a circumstance like this, I wouldn’t hesitate. The Oil are going to have to spend a lot of money when their #1 picks rookie deals expire, so I doubt they’d match.
8. The other is Shea Weber and that probably depends on where Parise and Suter end up. The Pittsburgh Penguins have the rest of the league, especially the Eastern Conference, a little spooked. If they get one or both of them, other contenders are going to be desperate to do something. Desperate enough to make all-world defender Weber an offer?
“The rest of the league, especially the Eastern Conference, a little spooked” – and so they should be. Jordan Staal is a terrific hockey player, there’s no doubt about it. But Brandon Sutter isn’t exactly a bum. There’s undeniably a difference between the two right now, but that’s reflected in the nearly $2 million per season cap hit difference, money they can put towards another big name player. If the Pens can land either Suter or Parise, they’re not going to be a whole lot of fun to play.
12. Two months after their opening-round loss to Philadelphia, it’s still a painful memory for Pittsburgh. But the lessons are being learned by Penguins GM Ray Shero. “The Kings won the Stanley Cup allowing 30 goals the entire playoffs,” he said Monday. “We scored 30 in the first round and lost (Actually, they scored 26, but you get the idea). “We played so well when [Sidney] Crosby came back that we lost our identity a little bit … We became a more run-and-gun, off-the-rush team. Look at the penalty kill. We were first [in 2010-11] and third this year. In the playoffs, the Flyers scored at will.” Pittsburgh’s penalty kill was 47.8 per cent against Philadelphia, by far the worst of any playoff team.
That’s an interesting observation, almost the reverse of Bill Simmons’ “Ewing Theory.” It makes sense though. Once Crosby comes back to your line-up, it’s likely you feel less pressure, less unsure about your team’s ability to score goals, so you’d play less tight. That’s where the Pens had their major issue in playoffs - scoring had nothing to do with it, but letting their foot off the defensive gas with The Saviour back might have been the root of the problem.
….That, or Marc-Andre Fleury miraculously out-awfuled Ilya Bryzgalov. Or possibly a combo of both.
13. What does all of this mean? Shero is targeting players like Brandon Sutter because “he is comfortable defending anywhere on the ice. You have to be able to defend to win. And not just your defencemen, but your forwards as well.” Hockey analyst Darren Pang made a great point about Sutter on Twitter. Sutter’s a right-handed shot — a balance for lefty centremen Evgeni Malkin and Crosby.
I fail to see where the hand of a centerman is relevant. In case they face some tough left-handed pitching? I suppose if those guys play together (on the powerplay, maybe?) it could be relevant, but otherwise, it’s just a thing, not a “thing,” like it would be if he were a PP defenseman. Not many coaches are going to send out Brandon Sutter over Sidney Crosby because a draw is on the right side, and it’s minutely easier to win a draw on your backhand.
15. Heard a lot of praise for Brian Dumoulin, the Boston College defenceman Pittsburgh got in the deal.
I have so much faith in Ray Shero (or Ray sHero, as someone put it on Twitter), that I’m convinced this kid is going to be an NHL stud. When you hear about the “throw-ins” in other NHL trades, you’re usually discussing some future AHL/ECHLers. Something about the way the Penguins organization has worked lately makes me feel like that’s not the case here. After all, BC’s a great program, and Jerry York’s a great coach.
16. Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford handled this very smartly. He called Shero once after Pittsburgh was kayoed, promising not to be a bother, but admitting his interest. He called a second time six days before the draft. Then, when the Penguin GM was ready last Friday, Rutherford didn’t fool around and made a serious deal. The head Hurricane had great incentive to get it done. Jordan’s a terrific player. Also, why screw around, risk him getting sent elsewhere, thereby annoying your franchise player and captain?
My favourite part about that story is the “serious offer” part. Most people don’t have Carolina at the top of their “favourite destinations” list, so when you have an NHL stud who wants to join your team, don’t tinker around. Don’t offer 11 little parts, just flat out let the team know what you’re willing to part with. Carolina still needs the major building blocks to contend – now that they have another one, they can worry about fill-in parts. (Incidentally, this is why Nashville should go broke retaining their two big D-men. They’ve filled in their lesser parts nicely, but without those guys, you’re just a team of fill-ins. And you’ll lose. A lot.)
21. Another attraction to Ottawa would be that the team is on the rise. Senators GM Bryan Murray didn’t want to discuss Nash, but did slightly temper things: “We’ve got a lot of good young players, but we have to see which ones take the next step and which ones ‘flatten out.’”
My notes on this thought are written out as follows: “It is?” (In response to the first sentence.)
Karlsson is on the way up, and Turris is okay, but, in general, isn’t it sort of a “meh” team with an aging Spezza, aging Gonchar, and Craig Anderson in goal? I mean, not trying to kill the Sens here (as I’ve often been accused of doing), but I can’t imagine there’s a lot of people looking at Ottawa like they’re Edmonton and thinking “Just wait until Daniel Alfredsson retires in a year, then they’ll really be ready!”
Serious question: do you think Ottawa makes playoffs next year?
24. The biggest test for the Flames now belongs to their player development staff. Whatever anyone thinks of 21st-overall selection Mark Jankowski no longer matters. They’ve made the pick and must make sure their investment is properly cultivated. You’ve heard all the adjectives: “raw,” “project,” etc. Now you’ve got to make sure he gets from point A to point Z. One scout compared him to Blake Wheeler, a surprise pick at fifth overall in 2004, which isn’t too shabby.
Here’s Daniel Wagner with “Jay Feaster thinks Mark Janikowski will be the best player to come out of the 2012 draft” on some crazy hockey website.
I’m not exactly sure how one develops a prospect, aside from giving them ice time. You basically put him on the right team (whether that be in the NHL, AHL, NCAA or CHL) and hope, don’t you? Beyond that, it comes down to an individual person’s physical abilities, willingness to learn, and general work ethic. You can’t teach those things (though you can give them a kick in the ass) – for the most part, they’re just something you’re intrinsically given. So…I’d say the draft part is a pretty big moment, then you cross your fingers and help where you can. (FWIW, I think it’s possible to ruin a players development with terrible coaching.)
28. Besides being traded for each other, Schenn and van Riemsdyk have something in common: both needed a change of scenery. As I’ve written before, many teams believe Schenn will be better off outside Toronto and now we find out if that’s right. The Flyers just seemed unhappy with van Riemsdyk as he was constantly included in trade discussions. He’s more than capable of being a difference-maker, but must stay healthy.
The “change of scenery” thing is a very, very real hockey issue. Sometimes, when relationships sour, there’s just no way to dig yourself out of the hole. You know your coach will react to what you do (read: how you mess up) in a certain way, and if you don’t care for his response, it’s depressing. You know your teammates tendencies (“Oh, 2-on-1, no way I get the puck here when Smitty has it”), and you know the team has a ceiling in mind for you.
Sometimes a fresh start inspires you to push yourself to your limits so you can show your new team and coaches what you can do. Sometimes you forget just how good you are. I think both van Riemsdyk and Schenn will have career years next season.