“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 editionRich 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.

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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.

Comments (10)

  1. You can say Florida doesn’t make winning a cup as Luongo’s priority but I’d say they’re closer than Toronto. They almost beat New Jersey and NJ went to the Finals plus they have a ton of blue chip prospects coming. It’s certainly a more exciting situation than Toronto for him.

    I don’t think he can worry about Markstrom. Florida must have concerns about Markstrom’s viability as a NHL starter or they wouldn’t even be thinking about this trade.

    • “Florida must have concerns about Markstrom’s viability as a NHL starter or they wouldn’t even be thinking about this trade.”

      But that’s the big question. Is Florida really thinking about doing this trade? Or is their name attached to these trade talks simply because of Luongo’s wishful thinking? I think this trade matters more to a team like the Leafs and they will probably make a more serious offer than Forida. Of course the talk around town is that Luongo will only agree to go to Florida. But I’m not sure Florida will offer much for him (because of Markstrom) … making it tough for Gillis to make the trade. As a result, Luongo could find himself riding the pine in Vancouver as Cory Schneider’s backup to start next season. Hard to see how this ends well for either Luongo or the Canucks.

  2. So few thoughts to comment on and you had to burn one just to take a dig at Ottawa.

    The team is definitely on the rise. Murray has done an admiral job stocking the system with young talent. Is Craig Anderson the answer in net? Maybe not, but there is Bishop who proved he can play behind him and Robin Lehner who led baby Sens to a Calder Cup with playoff MVP honours.

    In fact, that Calder Cup team saw a number of graduates who successfully made transition to NHL life last season. Be it Ryane Clowe clone (Colin Greening), versatile Zach Smith, young top end prospects Silverberg (SEL playoff scoring leader last season) or Zibanejad, great young dmen (Karlsson and Cowen) this team has assets loaded.

    They’re at worst a playoff team next season, barring a complete meltdown from the goaltenders throughout the season.

    There is something to be said for the Oilers stocking their system by intentionally burning the franchise to the ground and loading up on #1s, but there is also something to be said for the Senators route of drafting quality players and then using your system to develop them into NHL players. Ottawa has an excellent developmental system in place, which is producing a pipeline of prospects.

    You look at the difference between even Ottawa and Toronto, look at the prospects coming through the Ottawa pipeline. Even though they’ve had worse picks last decade the Sens have managed to develop how many more good and above average NHL players.

  3. Miami: Pros: Less pressure from fans and press. Wife’s #1 choice. Actually made the playoffs last year. Good organizational depth with solid prospects. Southeast division is historically the weakest in the Eastern Conference. Getting to live in South Beach.
    Cons: Non-traditional market that might have trouble spending to the cap.
    Toronto: Pros: Can afford to spend to the cap.
    Cons: More press coverage than any other NHL city. Pressure to win. Only team to not make the playoffs since the lockout. Northeast Division is usually competitive.

    How is this so difficult to understand? Canadian bias?

  4. OK where to start. First, The main reason Luongo wants to go to Florida is because his family lives there and so does he in the off season. He has stronger ties to that community than Vancouver I would guess. Second, the handedness(I think that’s a word) of a center is particularily imprtant on defensive zone faceoffs. A lot of teams have certain centers take the draw depending on which side of the ice the faceoff is on. Next, there’s plenty more to developing a prospect than ice-time. It takes the right people to do it properly because a lot of it has to do with coaching and preparation. Yes, I know lots of icetime will obviously help in most cases, but if a player is always forced into negative situations or gets worn out, it could make him lose confidence. Just want to add that the Canucks don’t HAVE to trade Luongo and won’t without getting one of either Gudbranson, Markkstrom, or Huberdeau in return which supposidly Dale Tallon won’t do. Follow me on Twitter @TheSp0rtsking

  5. When the reports say Luongo wants to go to florida, does that mean he wants to rejoin the Panthers or go to the state of Florida? Seems to me that Tampa would be a much better fit for him, since they need a goalie now and have some high priced talent they might be willing to part with in exchange. Why not something like Lecavalier or St Louis for Luongo, with extras to balance however they see fit? -shrug-

    • Unfortunately he means the Panthers which kind of screws Mike Gillis a bit since the only worthwhile pieces to come back are somewhat untouchable according to Fla management. TB would be a better trading partner since they actually have some players worth taking, I would only take St.Louis if they throw in Connolly, but Vinny in a Canucks jersey would be awesome. IMO Canucks should take a run at Bobby Ryan to play with Sedins and find a way to lure Suter away from the Pens since he prefers to be in the west anyways.

  6. JTB!

    I love Friedman but haven’t read his column in a while. Thanks for bringing me back.

    I’m going to do what you did and pick certain points you talked about and talk about them. This is fun!

    #3 – A couple people have touched on a few of my thoughts – wife likes it there; less pressure; more community ties; and family life. This has been the only destination for Luongo in my mind. Here are three other reasons:

    i) Markstrom is still young and needs time to develop. Throwing a young goaltender to the wolves is often a mistake. So many young talents fizzle because they weren’t developed properly. Schneider is 26, and was probably ready for the reigns at 25. Markstrom is not 25. Give him some time in the AHL, getting used to the length of the season, and as an NHL backup getting 20 games played in.
    Luongo is greater than Theodore or Clemmenson so the move is an upgrade. The current tandem nor Markstrom are going to make the playoffs. Winning is infectious and attracts talent (not to mention no state taxes and beaches), which could bode well for future free agency. ]

    ii) Yes there will be “less presure” in Florida but maybe that’s where Luongo’s head needs to be to continue to perform. Remember, these players are people. Some people can do there job at any location but others want to be happy where they are located. Something tells me Luongo would be happy in Florida. The axiom “Happy wife, happy life” fits.

    iii) Florida is one of the few teams with cap space and need for a goaltender. Sure Toronto is both as well but as someone mentioned above – is Toronto any better a fit? I say no because of my second point. Florida wouldn’t have to find a way to move salary to equal Luongo’s contract, which makes it more attractive for Vancouver as well (nobody wants cap-heavy players in return if possible). Schneider has to sign a contract still but this would give Vancouver a lot of cap space to go out and get another major piece (Say Shea Weber) if they don’t have to take salary back.

    16. There was a theory that Jordan wanted to go to Carolina all along and I don’t really blame him. He’s playing as a third-line center behind Crosby and Malkin. While I would be find to be Esa Tikanen to Gretzky and Messier, I think Jordan is a greater talent that needs more playing time. Carolina’s PK just got a whole lot better.

    21. I agree with you on this one. Listen, I’m a Flames fan so the next comment is something that scares me, but I have no ill-will towards Sens fans. I just don’t see this as a team ready to make the next step. Whenever I’m evaluating a team, I do so in comparison to their division. Boston will still be the top team. Even amongst the turmoil and injuries last year, Boston was able to win the division. The same will happen this year. Buffalo was a team of spare parts last year but they should gel and start to look better. This team can’t be as bad as it was. That leaves the three Canadian teams. I think Ottawa will be the best of those three as Montreal is going nowhere and Toronto is an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by fluffy bunnies. So then the question is: does third in this division get you a playoff spot?

    We’ll probably see the Rangers, Pittsburgh, and Philly back in the playoffs. I have my doubts about New Jersey and then there is, sorry Justin, the Isles. Jersey will be a team on the cusp either way, leaving 5 more playoff spots. Washington will probably grab one of those spots and I’m guessing one more spot will go to Tampa/Florida/Carolina – my guess is Carolina. Leaving 3 spots for Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Jersey, Tampa, and Ottawa. Of those teams, Ottawa is hovering around 3rd or 4th.

    24. This is where you and I disagree Justin. I think player development depends on the coaching they receive in their development. Yes, bad coaching can ruin the team, but great coaching can really help. One needs to look organizationally to the Red Wings or Pens in this situation. The NHL and AHL affiliate share a similar coaching philosophy and structure to the game which allows players transitioning between the two to be seamless. Players unable to perform/produce in the NHL go to the AHL to get some confidence, and if they struggle there it suggests a change is needed. Young talent is often evaluated incorrectly because of the way these players develop in junior. In many cases, these guys have always been one of the best players on their team and now they are joining a bunch of guys in similar situations. The cream rises to the top when the intangibles are focused on but also when the coaches help recognize the talent and have the player become more efficient. It also may take a better training staff to help with nutrition. The players loses 5 pounds of fat and gains 15 lbs of muscle because of better training techniques. Players being fitting into systems because they understand the teachings of their coaches. These things help the intangibles.

  7. You’re ignoring a lot about Ottawa in your assessment there. Yes, Spezza and Anderson are both flirting with thirty and yes, Alfie may retire. But the team has one of the best pipelines going right now and didn’t hafta pick first every year from here to eternity to find any NHLers (seriously, who of the Oilers wasn’t drafted in the first round?? Building a team requires finding NHLers on day two…) Ottawa’s got a seriously deep prospect pool just waiting to break through drafted from all different rounds. Its less sexy than scoring the first pick every year, but I can also admit I’m a fan of my team in a crowded room with then weeping and telling everyone they’ll be out of the bottom five next year.

  8. Putting Karlsson, Sifverberg etc aside, Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad were 2 of the 3 top stars, in my opinion, of the past WJHC in Calgary.

    I don’t know how you can say that the Sens aren’t on the rise?

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