Nashville Predators v Anaheim Ducks

Thoughts on 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 editionNHL realignment still needs work (Full Friedman edition here)

Friedman’s column, March 11th: Getzlaf contract may impact Perry


The opening this week was on the Getzlaf contract. Initially, Friedman notes that some people didn’t think Getzlaf took a “hometown discount,” and that had he hit the open market, he could’ve possibly been paid more than his AAV of $8.25M. I gotta say: initially I was one of the people slagging Anaheim for giving Getzlaf the moon, but the more I think about it, the more I realize Getzlaf essentially had a knife to Murray’s throat.

“Oh, don’t wanna give me more than $7.5M? Okay, well we both suspect Perry is going to walk, so if you like, you can play hardball with me and lose both of us. Or not. Thanks for your time, hope to hear from you in the near future.”

He mentions all they can do is throw their best bait at Perry, see if he bites, then figure out their plan from there. Ducks have to do this early so they know what they’re dealing with at the deadline – you’ll have to go high, but if you get him, well, you’ve got two pretty great pieces for a long time. If there’s any doubt, you can get to work on the best possible return.

Friedge also advocates the “going for it” idea when you’re this close (after finding out what your owner wants to do). I’m not on board if I’m in the GM seat, but dealing Perry certainly isn’t an easy call with Teemu Selanne playing late into his career for another crack at the Cup, and that you’re only trading him as a couple month rental, so he’s not worth that much.

The only real thing Murray has going for him is the new CBA: you can offer your guy an extra year of term, and there’s now a period where a player can hear the best pitches from other teams before signing, meaning if you really do throw him the best package, you might be able to retain him. Tough situation.



7. The one thing everyone should remember about Iginla is that he is tight with owner Murray Edwards. There may not be any talks yet, but if he wants to stay — and they want him to stay — it will get worked out. Could he get traded, then come back in the summer?

I love the concept of this. I was racking my brain earlier trying to think of instances where it’s happened in the NHL in the past (and I took the question to Twitter, and got a ton of help there too). Here’s what I’ve come up with:

In 2005-06, Mark Recchi went from Pittsburgh to Carolina in a trade before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, won the Cup as a rental player (7G, 9A for 16PTS in 25 playoff games), then went back to the Pens in the summer.

Also a successful rental for Carolina that year? Doug Weight, who was a member of the St. Louis Blues and pending UFA who got dealt before the deadline, played with the ‘Canes on their run, won the Cup (putting up 3 and 13 for 16 in 23 games), then went back to St. Louis in the summer.

Other names that were dealt then returned:

* Keith Tkachuk – a deadline deal sent him from St. Louis to Atlanta in 06-07, where he enjoyed four playoff games, then went back to the Blues in the summer.

* Marty Reasoner - sent from the Oilers to Boston in 2005-06, he played 19 games for them, then re-signed in Edmonton that summer.

* Olli Jokinen – dealt from the Calgary to the Rangers in 2009-10, snuck in a hot 26 games, then headed back to Alberta.

* Glen Wesley – In 2002-03, Wesley was sent from Carolina to the Maple Leafs, where he played a whopping seven games before heading back to Carolina that summer.

* Joe Corvo – Carolina to Washington and back to Carolina, starting during the 2009-10 season.

Carolina: kind of a fan of rentals going both ways.

If you have any other names, feel free to share them in the comments section.

So yeah: it’s a long shot, but if the Flames aren’t going to win the Cup this year (the Flames aren’t going to win the Cup this year), it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Iggy to allow them to trade him for some assets and come home. I’m aware of how ridiculous it sounds to bank on something like that – and they won’t, I’m sure – I just think it’d be #neat.

10. Every team goes through “drags” during a season and now is Vancouver’s. Minnesota came at them with an edge, and the Canucks had no answer. The question they must address: Will Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler solve this problem, or is there a deeper malaise?

The problem with a team like Vancouver (and their coach), is that they’re good. They’ve been good, they are good, and they will be good…and they know it. It’s cool that the Wild are technically in first in the Northwest right now and all, but come on – Vancouver is taking at worst a #3 seed thanks to their mostly-cake division.

Knowing that makes it tough to give it your all night-in night-out, and I imaging that’s even harder during a condensed schedule. So for Vigneault, his role is obviously to motivate, but he can’t go crazy and scream and yell and jump around, or you risk losing the room, because they know he knows the story. You need to save your “this really effing matters” speeches for when it really effing matters.

So, some nights you’re only getting a mediocre effort from the Canucks. They’re not being outwardly lazy or anything, but this is a team with another gear. Vigneault can’t let them get to playoffs before saying “time to flip the switch,” but come April, mid-April, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a concerted effort to tighten things up, assuming they don’t need to throw that switch earlier in the season.

11. Alex Killorn told a great story last week. As the Lightning returned from their last road trip, Steve Yzerman sent director of team services Ryan Belec to bring Killorn to the front of the plane. The GM had great news — get a place, you’re staying with the club. The message was delayed for a few minutes, though, as Killorn disappeared. What happened? “I was looking for gum,” Killorn said. “I was worried my breath was bad.”

Oh man, the “get a place” message is The Best Thing. I imagine it’s like what getting a rose on the Bachelor feels like. I had this happen once to me, in Bridgeport. I was in a house in Stamford, CT with five other guys who were up and down between Salt Lake City (ECHL) and Bridgeport (AHL), and I swear, the sleeping arrangement was almost exactly like that of Jersey Shore (holy hell two reality show references in one answer, someone set my computer on fire) – you shared a room with another guy and got your very own single bed. That’s just the way it was, depending on who the Islanders needed, who got hurt in Bridgeport, and who was excelling in Utah. I had a car in Salt Lake City, so when I’d go up and someone would go down, I’d ask if they’d like to swap keys, which they almost always did.

But the day the “get a place” conversation happens is amazing (as in, somewhere that isn’t the team barracks). You can exhale, you can loosen up the grip on the stick, and you can just play for a bit. You’re not going anywhere for awhile.

14. There’s a lot of speculation about Tampa’s coach, Guy Boucher. Saturday’s loss, in which they blew a 3-1 lead to Montreal, was a kick to the solar plexus. Yzerman sat in his box for awhile after that one with assistant GM Julien Brisebois and assistant GM/director of player personnel Pat Verbeek. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Yzerman about it, but the sense around the organization is Boucher will get the full season to make it work. Goaltending is a huge problem and no coach looks good when that’s bad.

It must be terribly frustrating to be a good coach, as I believe Guy Boucher to very much be, and to even remotely have to worry about your job because your goalie can’t stop a beach ball. I mean, isn’t it the GMs job to get the players who can play, first and foremost? I’m not saying Yzerman hasn’t done a great job in Tampa – so far, he has – but it was him who brought in Anders Lindback from Nashville, who currently has a 3.11 GAA, and an .894 save percentage in 17 games played, which is flat-out terrible. Mathieu Garon has a 2.85 and .912 in 10 games, which is also below NHL average. Even Cedric Desjardins, who’s only seen one game, posted a 4.07 and .862.

Tampa is struggling badly, with a 10-14-1 record, just one point out of the basement in the East. But they’re certainly not struggling to put the biscuit in the basket. They’re second in the entire NHL behind only the Penguins with 85 goals-for in 25 games, good for an average of 3.4 a night.

They just need to get some stops. They’re also only ahead of the Flames, Islanders and Panthers in goals-against per night, giving up an average of 3.12 (yes, they have a plus goal differential despite their terrible record). The heat shouldn’t be on Boucher. It should be on the goaltenders, who have to see the trade deadline on the horizon.

16. One thing the Lightning must fix is the amount of odd-man rushes allowed. When Tampa gets the puck behind the opposition’s net, they really like to send guys hard to the front for a potential scoring chance. Opponents say there is plenty of opportunity for counter-attack if you can defend this.

Okay, if this is the case, then maybe we can talk Boucher.

On all offensive zone possessions, teams always keep the third forward top-of-the-circles high (I’ve diagrammed proper offensive zone rotation in the past). For the better part of your average hockey game, this does not change. If F3 heads into the play, whether it before for a scoring chance or to help with puck recovery, someone is supposed to always pull out. So even if they are sending that high guy in, someone should be pulling back at the same time.

The only time this may not be the case is when you’re playing from behind, as the Lightning have done fairly often this year. If you need goals, you have to take some chances, and often it ends up looking bad on your team, because you’re already losing and now giving up rushes.

17. Nazem Kadri told Hockey Night in Canada‘s David Amber that he knows the next step in earning Randy Carlyle’s trust is improving his faceoff work. He’s at 45 per cent, and it’s not like the coach hides him depending on the zone. Kadri said he learned lessons lining up against Vincent Lecavalier, who was constantly disguising his plan by changing hand locations and positions.

The need to “build trust” is kind of crazy, given I can’t think of many instances where he should’ve lost any to begin with. Get this kid more opportunity.

There are some coaches who seem to want to remind people who’s in charge by never making the decision the general public is clamouring for, whether it’s right or wrong. And sometimes, that decision makes sense to me (partially because most people are simple. SHOOOOOOOT!). There were people during the Bruins run to winning the Cup saying Tyler Seguin should get more ice time, more powerplay time, more opportunity. Especially after his four point night. He wasn’t ready for that role as he is now, and I thought Claude Julien used him well. In this case, however, Carlyle seems to be stubbornly rejecting the notion that his team’s leading scorer should play more than his current 15 minutes a night, or that he should get to play on the top line with top talent Phil Kessel. Cause y’know, heaven forbid you separate him from Tyler Bozak.

(Bozak is a bit of an anchor for Kessel. Here’s some proof from this season, via Cam Charron:

kessel bozak

…and if you want to know more about that, check out the full post.)

22. Despite all of the offence, coach Dan Bylsma has taken great pains to show the Penguins video of goals they scored from getting the puck deep in the offensive zone and winning battles there. There’s a still a mindset problem in Pittsburgh — they can outscore you and they know it. Trouble starts when they make mistakes carrying the puck in neutral ice.

When I was with the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL, oh, a decade ago (Jesus), we easily had one of the most talented rosters in the league, which isn’t why we swept our way through playoffs. We did it because our coach recognized that we were a skilled group, and therefore didn’t need to take risks – we’d cash in on our opportunities when they came about organically through good defense and opponent breakdowns, meaning we weren’t in a position where we had to create chances, AKA force plays.

That’s the tough part for coaches with under-skilled rosters. The Nashville Predators aren’t going to score a ton, so sometimes you have to let guys open things up and try things, because you can’t win without putting the puck in the other net. You can play sound D all you want and have moderate success (ala Phoenix), but to win championships, I believe a skilled team playing a relatively defensive system is your best bet. As much as I love risk-taking and creativity, I respect that Bylsma knows they don’t need to throw caution to the wind.

24. Two big wins for Penguins backup Tomas Vokoun, including one in relief over Philadelphia. He stopped 37 of 38 shots one week after giving up 10 goals in 90 minutes. Both Kelly Hrudey and Glenn Healy noticed Vokoun was having serious trouble getting up after going down. He did not play during the lockout. At 36, maybe he needed time. The Penguins need this week to be the true picture.

If you’re a Penguins fan, this is the one area that has you concerned. There’s no doubt that this team can score (as I mentioned earlier, no team in the NHL does it more than them), but you haven’t forgotten playoffs last year, where the Penguins scored 26 times in a six game playoff round and lost. 

Marc-Andre Fleury’s numbers aren’t pretty – 2.71 GAA, .902 save percentage – and a lot of people have started to, or completely lost faith in the Flower. Those people are likely hoping that this theory about Vokoun needing a little time to get back to right is correct. His 3.07 and .896 in 11 games is obviously ghastly, but it’s good to see it heading the right way.

This is a team that has designs on a Stanley Cup. If they’re to do that, the question mark in the crease needs to be answered soon.

27. Once Calgary and Los Angeles play tonight, every team will have reached the halfway point except Boston. Its 24th game will be Tuesday in Pittsburgh. For the rest of this season, the Bruins have back-to-back days off just once (March 28-29). One reason is a snowstorm-related makeup against Tampa.

Whoa whoa whoa back this thing up: the Bruins have two consecutive days off…once, for the rest of the NHL’s regular season? Crikey.

I see one of two potential scenarios coming to be here:

1) All those congested hockey games lead to injuries, which derail what I think might be the best team in the NHL (top three, anyway). Or,

2) They experience some injuries and losses while slogging through early on in the second half, have guys out with injuries (Chris Kelly got hurt last night), end up with a mid-seed…then get those guys back in time and absolutely bury some poor squad in a 4-5 seed match up.

I suppose there’s always hope that they just stay healthy, keep operating at the NHL’s highest clip (points-percentage-wise), and things just go peachy, but it seems pretty unlikely given that schedule.

29. How important is health? The Canucks lead the NHL with 12 players appearing in every game. Second is a tie between the Kings, Bruins and Penguins (11). Those four teams are a combined 58-26-11. (Chicago led that category until last week.) Worst attendance? Five players from Colorado and Buffalo have appeared in all their team’s games. Six for Columbus, Florida and the Rangers. Their combined record is 49-58-19.

Some years you just have bad luck and players get hurt, but seeing the teams Elliotte mentions have stayed healthy versus those that haven’t makes me wonder: is there some connection between good teams and less injury because of their talent level? Maybe they’re leading more games so they don’t need to put themselves in dangerous situations as much – “to hell with the corners, we’re up three,” “to hell with blocking this shot, we’re up two,”  and so on.

Because pre-season, you already knew Vancouver, LA, Boston and Pittsburgh (and Chicago) were going to be good. I wonder if it’s just coincidence that they haven’t lost as many bodies as teams like Columbus and Florida.

Chicken and the egg, or is there a followable trend here?