shootout

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.

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Friedman’s column, October 7th: Controversial spin-o-rama move in spotlight

Opening:

Friedman starts out this week by discussing the spin-o-rama, specifically the one Mason Raymond scored with against Ottawa to push the Leafs past the Senators earlier this week. Paul MacLean made some interesting comments after the game, specifically this:

“I was on a conference call at the start of the year with all the other coaches and was informed at that time… that that play would be seriously reviewed and you’re taking a chance that… the goal would be disallowed in the spin-o-rama move. We informed our players of that, and we don’t do that. I think it’s a very unfair play for the goaltender for the guy to come in and blow snow on him. To me, he came to a full stop and the puck went backwards and came forwards, but that’s me.”

Ending with, “But…

 …I’m only a fisherman from Nova Scotia, so I don’t know nothin’ about nothin,”

Paul MacLean’s the best.

Here’s the thing about the spin-o-rama: it’s bullsh*t and needs to be illegal. Yes it’s cool and interesting and neat and Yay For Fun!, but it defeats the spirit of the true breakaway to me, which I believe is what we’re trying to, or should be trying to, replicate (I also think Patrick Kane taking two thousand seconds and a billion stickhandles does too, but I’m an old grump). I think – and this is just me, it’s not in any rulebook or anything – that there should be some representation of actual hockey, which means skating in fairly fast and trying to beat the goaltender as you best see fit. While there are other ways to get the cat skinned for a shooter, including skating in at no-miles-per-hour, and reversing your direction with the puck ala the spin-o-rama, it would best if we at least kept the shots hockey-like.

I say we put a clock on guys and only allow spins, not “spin-o-ramas” (I’m not opposed to fancy, as long as it’s something ala Tomas Hertl’s between-the-legs-at-game-speed style). There’s a difference between a spin and a spin-o-rama, as any halfway-decent skater can attest.

It doesn’t seem fair for the goaltenders otherwise, and it really becomes a sideshow instead of a breakaway competition. I understand that goalies can still stop these shots, I understand everyone is allowed to use them, and I understand I’m being a miser here. Whatever. Those are stupid (fun to watch!) moves that shouldn’t be allowed.

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10 Thoughts

1. Looked a little bit into Ken Holland’s overtime suggestion: four minutes of four-on-four, followed by four minutes of three-on-three if still tied. Then a shootout if necessary. I love the idea, which was tried at the Traverse City rookie tournament the Red Wings host. One of the reasons against it is the league doesn’t want longer games. 

Why, that could be as much as two additional minutes of ice time, maybe even 15 all year for the best players! Rein it in! Their bodies can’t handle it!

No but seriously, the players won’t be hurt by the extra few minutes, and if the League’s problem is with how a longer game could affect the fans, I think you’re really splitting hairs here. “I’ll watch a game for two hours and 39 minutes, but if this thing goes 2:47, I’m out of here.”

Y’all know where I sit on 3-on-3 OT (that would be the “pro” side).

3. The Panthers have drafted some really good young players, but this Tim Thomas/Jacob Markstrom duel is fascinating. Towards the end of last season, you could see how much they wanted their uber-prospect to grab the job by the throat and hold it. Goalie coach Rob Tallas talked about how important it was for Markstrom to get used to all the buildings across the league and take advantage of the opportunity. Clearly, that didn’t happen. Organizationally, he’s still got a clear path to the top job. But in the short-term, they trust Thomas.

I can’t get over how weird that goalie situation is, mostly because Tim Thomas isn’t off to some world-beating start. I don’t think there was much doubt when they signed him the intention was for him to be The Guy, at least for this year, but now I badly want Markstrom to become the clear Guy so we can get as many bitter Tim Thomas interviews as possible. He’s probably pumped to be in Florida so he doesn’t have to deal with a ton of media questions.

“From now on, every time someone asks me about goaltending I’m going to immediately stop the interview.”

6. On Nathan MacKinnon’s first faceoff, Ryan Getzlaf looked at him and said, “Welcome to the NHL.” What did MacKinnon reply? “Thanks,” he said with a laugh. The number one pick added the other “eye-popping” moment of his debut was playing against Teemu Selanne, who was “in his fourth season when I was born.” 

Easy, Nate, we’ll do the research on stuff like that alright?

But seriously, that’s a pretty cool moment, and pretty cool of Ryan Getzlaf to acknowledge it. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen to too many players who get drafted out of the Top-5. I think most of those guys are more likely subjected to stuff like “I’m going to absolutely destroy your career before it starts tonight,” and “I literally have no idea who you are, turn around so I can see your namebar.”

Instead of “thanks” I would have offered a the scent of vomit after I puked a little in my mouth.

Sorry, that was gross.

7. MacKinnon’s biggest adjustment? “Not rushing… teams are tough to break out against, especially if the defencemen pinch. There’s not a lot of time to make a play, but if you take a split second, you can still make them. Good things happen when you are patient, not rushing it.” The day after MacKinnon had two assists in the opener against Anaheim, Colorado coaches were going through video with him about this. Curtis Joseph used to say a young player was ready if they could make the brief hesitation to set up the right play.

This is huge. People don’t realize how tough playing on the walls in your own zone is at the higher levels. I joke all the time about wing being easy – because it is, by comparison – but it’s a little bit like being a baseball player. You don’t have to do anything for long stretches of time, but when you get the ball hit at you that one, two, three times a game, you best be ready and ON IT.

Bottom line players are more likely to just smack the puck off the wall and get to chasing it (“It’s out of the zone, I done good!”), but if you’re a top line guy there’s some expectation that you’re able to make a play with it. To use another sport analogy, that means you have moments where you’re a quarterback and someone’s coming on the blitz went unblocked. You can panic and get rid of it, but the best are able to be patient for an extra split second and get the ball somewhere good before taking the hit.

As that rusher (forechecker) gets bigger and faster, it becomes harder and harder to convince yourself to take that extra time. The good ones can.

9. Another member of the Avalanche on Roy: “He’s made it very clear: We may not win the Stanley Cup right away, but we are going to have a Stanley Cup attitude.” 

That’s really not a possible thing when you’re just a crappy team, but fortunately for Colorado, that hasn’t been the case at all so far. Getting off to a good start is huge for that group, who probably feel like they can win against anyone right now.

I’m curious how he went about the “We may not win the Cup right away” part, because while that’s totally honest, that usually goes unsaid when just heading into a season.

11. Jason LaBarbera starts for the Oilers Monday night against New Jersey. Dubnyk gets a break after a bad start to the season, and Edmonton may be in a tough spot here. Dubnyk is greatly affected by the equipment changes. His knees were exposed a little by the pad changes, and he was not comfortable with a thicker pad underneath his socks for protection. The enforcement of the “paddle size” (mentioned above) forced a last-minute stick change, too. It doesn’t excuse a 60-foot goal, but you can see how it messes with someone’s head. The Oilers need him to figure this out and fast. You can’t make the playoffs in October, but the last decade proves you can miss them in October.

Devan Dubnyk has actually been a pretty darn good goaltender over the past year or two, so it’s a shame to see him struggle (and play how your average fan thinks he always plays, for some reason). The equipment changes were never going to affect all parties equally, and while I hope Dubnyk gets it together for his own sake, I do think it’s good to let natural selection do away with those who’ve been surviving based on being huge and in the way. I don’t think many fans would be opposed to see the game reward more athletic tenders.

15. The Gardiner talk surprised me, because he was so impressive against Boston in last year’s playoffs. There are scouts who still have questions, but most agree that he has a valuable skill — he can skate the puck out of trouble.

“The Gardiner talk” being the rumour that the Leafs are “shopping” – wait, Elliotte hates that word – “feeling out” available deals for the young defenseman. This feels like it’s about to be a pretty classic case of “suffer through a  player’s growing pains, expect to see gains, get frustrated when you don’t get them soon enough, and let someone else reap the rewards.” Maybe he’ll never be among the League’s best, but I think with the proper usage this guy has the potential to be extremely valuable.

That said: not everyone with the raw talent of Jake Gardiner (which he undeniably has) gets it figured out. There are some scary skilled people in Leagues that aren’t the NHL that just continue to make the same mistakes over and over and never “get it.” I’ve watched this kid enough to believe he will, and that the Leafs shouldn’t move him without grand return. But for context, here’s my total resume as a pro scout:

…So yeah.

16. The best news for Montreal two games into the season is Lars Eller. There was some concern about him after an unimpressive pre-season. He’s been electric with Alexander Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. Was a 48-game season enough for those two (and other rookies) to fully understand the rigors of a full NHL year? Or will they hit a wall because they haven’t experienced it yet? 

Eller has looked fantastic so far.

It’s so funny how irrelevant immediate-fan-reaction to trades is. When Montreal traded Halak and Eller was part of the return (plus more), Habs fans were ready to jump off their roofs. Fun to see a deal like that pan out for a club, as you hope it dials back the intensity of future reactions.

I mean it won’t, but you can hope.

24. After Pittsburgh swept Carolina in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice talked about how brutal it was to deal with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal down the middle. After watching San Jose tear through Vancouver and airtight Phoenix, you can see how the Sharks are going to give opponents fits with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Those head-to-head matches with the middle-deep Kings are going to be fierce.

San Jose looks like world beaters right now. Friedman wrote this before they smashed the Rangers 9-2 last night. Thornton still looks like he’s moving pretty damn well, Couture is freaking unbelievable and Pavelski’s as smart as they come. I feel bad for their fans because everyone has the easy jokes about regular season success (like they haven’t been to two Conference Finals and a Conference Semi-Final in the past four years), but they look even better than they have in the past. Like, President’s Trophy good.

I realize they’re three games into the year – three home games, where they only lost twice last season, mind you – but they have a +13 goal differential and haven’t been tested yet. They’re averaging 5.67 goals-per-game over those wins. They’ve given up four total. They’re off to a scary start.

27. One owner said last week he thinks he and his brethren should really force the issue to protect themselves from lawsuits. He believes players should sign waivers indicating they will not sue if injured in a fight. That’s a tough sell, for sure. But, I think it indicates the kinds of challenges ahead on this issue. 

Am I the only one who thinks it’s completely reasonable for the League to say “Hey, we don’t condone fighting, which is why we call it a major penalty. We acknowledge it’s dangerous, so you have to sign a form saying you do too and we’re not liable for you making the stupid decision to trade knuckles with another man, which could potentially hurt you.” I mean, I’m all for the players maxing out their rights and being protected and all that, it just seems to me they wouldn’t have the leverage to say no. “Don’t wanna sign it, you can’t play in this league, enjoy the alternatives.” I know I’d be among a huge majority that would say “Yeah, right, fine, whatever, where’s the pen.”

I’m pretty reckless though. And not a lawyer. It just seems like something they could get guys to sign.