(Photo from CanesCountry.com)

(Photo from CanesCountry.com, by Jamie Kellner)

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.


Friedman’s column, November 5th: Manny Malhotra celebrates return to the NHL


Friedman opens today’s 30 Thoughts with a bright, sunny smile for y’all, which as he notes, have been too few and too far between in NHL news lately. (Twitter, man. Don’t let it get ya.)

Manny Malhotra has battled past an eye injury that saw him miss a huge swath of time, and seemed to have cut his NHL career short. Even with medical clearance, the Canucks were hesitant to give him another shot.

There were some teams with interest last summer, but they just weren’t sure about the eye – even with medical clearance to play. Malhotra had no interest in using the goal against them or the Vancouver Canucks, who decided it was unsafe for him to play.

“All I want to do is prove Carolina right for taking the chance,” he said.

That’s a quote from one of the good guys right there.

To go with Malhotra’s moment, Tuesday night saw Taylor Fedun score his first NHL goal after a broken femur put his career in jeopardy.

From Malhotra:

“We’re very privileged to play this game. It seems like every story is what people want out and what’s wrong with the sport.

“There are positives all around. We should highlight what is great as opposed to what is negative.”

Hugs, you guys.


10 Thoughts

1. About that missed overtime “goal” for the San Jose Sharks in Tuesday’s 5-4 OT loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Tyler Myers sweeps the puck out of the net and under goaltender Ryan Miller after the shot hits the post. Referee Mike Leggo waves it off. The Sharks broadcast does catch it later, but Buffalo’s never shows the play. What does this mean? Even more reviews because it can’t happen again. Teams would rather the video officials make the final call anyway.

The situation in San Jose made me think of how well the NFL is doing with stuff like this. All plays reviewed in the final two minutes, all scoring plays reviewed, coaches challenges and so on.  I don’t tend to believe NHL refs are as terrible as your average fan makes them out to be (hockey moves awfully fast), but like the NFL, I want to be sure the correct calls are being made, especially ones that directly affect the outcome of the game. I have to believe refs want to get it right too, even if it takes a little more time, because they never want to be the story. So yeah, I’m fine with more video.

(Update: The NHL is saying it shouldn’t have been a goal anyway, to which I say HA.)

2. Malhotra on Tuesday’s win, which broke a five-game losing streak: “We needed it because our guys were playing the system, making high-percentage plays and trusting the process. I’ve been around long enough to know that’s what you have to do. We stuck with it and were rewarded.” As he was saying that, I thought about the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton.

That’s such veteran-ese from Malhotra. It’s funny, when you’re winning and not playing the system, all the back-patting and high-fiving masks the fact that, at some point, this is all going to come undone. “Really capitalizing on our chances well.” “Really getting great goaltending.” It buys you time to fix the problems, if you have a coach savvy enough to not be blinded by wins and losses to see them.

On the other hand…you have to be real savvy to be mid-losing streak and not be panicking, saying stuff like “we’re doing the right things, stick with it, it’ll come.” Maybe Malhotra will be just the type of guy the Canes need to push them to the next level.

3. Here’s a snippet of why the Avalanche are playing so well. With 14:37 to go in the second period of Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, Avalanche defenceman Ryan Wilson leads the rush. Watch how Ryan O’Reilly covers for him at the blue-line when Wilson is cut off. PA Parenteau sees O’Reilly chase the play, so he waits to make sure he’s above the puck in case of a turnover. O’Reilly forces a quick pass, which Wilson intercepts. If he’d missed it, Parenteau was in position to cover. It all results in a Canadiens penalty. That is “playing the system,” as Malhotra said.

The young players on the Avalanche are remarkably responsible, and I’m not entirely convinced it’s coaching. Gabriel Landeskog doesn’t get named the captain at fourteen (or however old he is) without being someone who’s setting an example and sticking to the game plan. Ryan O’Reilly isn’t playing 306 minutes a game (or however many he’s playing) because he represents a 50/50 chance to score or get scored on. Even Duchene, who likes to go-go-go a little bit more is generally decent about doing the right things with the puck. Stastny has always been as smart a forward as anyone out there. I’m not NOT crediting Roy for the Avs success, I’m just saying – they seem to have acquired players who prefer to play within a system than to play shinny.

4. Contrast that with, say, bad pinches or four guys getting caught at the opposing goal-line; bad giveaways; or guys getting beaten and giving up. This is Dallas Eakins’ biggest challenge as head coach of the Oilers. You can’t just say, “We’re done this year.” Maybe you can’t save your season, but you’ve got to do something about your future.

I don’t think their season is lost (though that division is a real b***h), but I don’t envy Dallas Eakins or Craig MacTavish right now. The former because, what the hell do you do? Your team has had terrible injury luck in the early going, you’ve got this four-pack of extremely talented kids you’re supposed to deal with properly (some need hugs, some need the switch), the season is slipping away, and the lack of success means a few players aren’t going to buy in to what’s being taught. It’s an uphill climb.

For MacTavish, you want to do something, but you’d sure love to be trotting out your full, healthy lineup to know what needs to address. Yakupov is slowly going from phenom to problem, and whether that’s legit or not doesn’t matter – the clamouring around him just keeps getting louder (quick sidenote, if they trade him they’re glue-huffing crazy, but it sounds like they’re not). The goaltending probably isn’t as bad as it’s been. For both these guys…there’s nothing but frustration all around them.

5. The attention is on Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish, who would like to perform some surgery on his roster, but other GMs say Florida’s Dale Tallon is trying just as hard. Speaking to The Miami Herald’s George Richards, Tallon promised changes after Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss to Edmonton. Apparently, there was a GM-wide email about Ryan Whitney’s availability last week, but it’s been widely reported many of his veterans are similarly out there.

“A GM-wide email,” eh? Wonder what that does to a guy’s value? “Hey, does anybody want this guy? We’re awful, but he’s so awful I need to remove him from our roster to make for, I dunno, anyone. I realize you realize this means he’s going to be on waivers in an hour, but hey, what’s a fifth round pick, amirite? Anybody wanna toss us one? A sixth, maybe?”

8. Most of the reaction to last week’s Steve Downie/Max Talbot trade was, “That’s a weird deal.” Downie’s upcoming status as an unrestricted free agent played a role, as did a training camp skirmish with Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. Landeskog tripped him during a skate, which angered Downie, who suffered a bad knee injury last season. He took a run at Landeskog, who has a concussion history, and the two nearly fought. That didn’t go over well. The Flyers really like Downie, so there was a willingness to barter.

The Flyers aren’t wrong to like Downie, he’s a good player with an engine that won’t quit, but sometimes moves have to made by teams that aren’t entirely roster-based (but the Avs wanted to improve their league-best penalty kill!). There’s this belief among fans, for some reason, that NHL GMs are playing a game of fantasy, acquiring assets and trying to turn those into better assets, like it’s a video game.

Half the damn job is HR.

Just like there’s a reasonable chance that Nail Yakupov IS tough to coach, there’s a reasonable chance that Landeskog and Downie couldn’t be in the same room together without being near fighting. Maybe other guys had grown to resent Downie for being an idiot and almost hurting their young captain with a concussion history. Maybe divides were forming. You’re familiar with the story going on in the NFL about inner-team issues, right? Richie Incognito and crew? Sometimes things have to be solved before the devolve.

(Oh, and also I think they like return because Max Talbot at that price for a couple more years isn’t such a bad asset, even though that’s not really what we’re talking about here. Just thought I’d throw that in.)

10. Speaking of Colorado, does anyone else see Matt Duchene on Sidney Crosby’s wing at the Sochi Olympics?

I mean, I see it, and it’d be ohhh-myyy-goddd scary to defend, but I only like it if the other linemate is a trigger. Both Crosby and Duchene can absolutely shoot it, but neither are pure one-timer guys (they can both do it, it’s just not their biggest strength or desire). With Crosby’s ability to dish, I always like to see him with someone who’s dying to bomb it anytime it’s within three feet of them. Stamkos, maybe? (I don’t care about positions. Get the best players dressed.)

12. One NHL exec on Phoenix Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson: “If he played for a Canadian team, he’d have won the Norris already.”

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think by now my love affair with OEL is fully public. If he were a horse, he’d be the same breed as Erik Karlsson. Long, lean, skips when he skates and appears to be doing it in fast forward, is always thinking goal, can shoot it, great hockey sense. That’s some breed. Hell, he might even be better defensively than Karlsson. In conclusion, total stud. (Team Sweden’s defense in the upcoming Olympics is unbelieveable.)

13. There’s a lot of heat on Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel. In preparing for our Hockey Night in Canada broadcast last weekend, I asked Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff if Noel was in any trouble. His reply was different: “That’s an unfair question.” He’s probably right in the sense that he can’t say, “Yes, he’s in trouble,” for obvious reasons. If he says, “No, I’m not making a change,” then he gets ripped if it happens.

I’ve always thought this – it reminds of Martin Brodeur being asked if he’d waive his no-trade clause if asked. It’s an instant story regardless if answer, so what’s the player/coach/GM to say? I’m not sure if this is good reporting by Friedman (getting an implied answer) or actually being unfair (because you’re giving the guy the option to lie or unwilling move up his agenda), but either way, it gets the job done. Claude Noel is probably in some trouble.

19. You’ve likely heard reports about the possibility of an automatic suspension for any goalie who crosses the blue-line to fight. Remember, any rule change has to go through the players, who have a vote in this process. I can see them having a problem with this because it could lead to outnumbered situations if a goalie at one end of the ice becomes involved.

That was definitely something I missed in my piece where I said I’m not in favour of a mandatory suspension for goalies who travel the length of the ice to fight (rumoured to be 10 games, same as the leaving the bench penalty). You just can’t give these guys an automatic suspension. There’s a six-on-five going at one end, and we can’t bring our sixth guy down to at least get things level? What’s more dangerous, one-on-ones or two-on-ones?