David Clarkson4

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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, April 7th: Evander Kane too valuable for Jets to give up on

Opening:

Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts piece opened with a pretty clean thought: Evander Kane is worth too much between his age, size, ability and contract to just give up on.

I wrote a post yesterday where I allowed myself the type of pure speculation you and your buddies do when you’re talking sports, because frankly, that’s what everyone behind the scenes is saying. That speculation was that Kane has obviously messed up a few times (whether that means being late for team events or whatever, Maurice has hinted at it), there seems to be some friction between him and the organization, and it seems like he wants out.

As Friedman says, that doesn’t mean he gets out, and I agree it’s worth making every effort to keep him. I guess it just remains to be seen if he’s willing to mature into a guy who wants to be a part of what they’re building in Manitoba or not. If he’s miserable and they’re not willing to move him, you’d expect to see more flare ups like this over the next four years, and that means more trade rumblings.

10 Thoughts

3. Whenever we get close to the end of a season, you hear the usual rumours about potential changes on the bench and in front offices. I try to be very careful about this stuff, because it isn’t always accurate. There’s a lot of it this year, more than normal. One of the difficulties with predicting change is how one dismissal affects others. There are a couple of current coaches with the potential to create a domino effect. The first is going to be Barry Trotz. If the Predators make a change, there is going to be a lot of interest. There are teams who think he will benefit from a fresh start and more offensive punch.

It would be really interesting to see what Barry Trotz could do with an offensive lineup. I feel like coaches in Trotz’s situation – running a lower budgeted team without pure offensive talents to frequent success (think Dave Tippett) – are comparable to GMs who do well with a shoestring budget, then get the chance to spend big with a new team, and don’t have success.

I believe it was Glen Sather, once the GM of the Oilers, who made noise about what he could do with the NY Rangers budget. I wouldn’t say it’s been an endless downpour of Cups there since.

Some coaches are really great at getting the most out of teams that don’t have the raw talent, and part of that is convincing them that because they don’t have the Crosbys on their team they need to be better positionally. If he suddenly went somewhere that did have offensive tools, could he get the team to play as responsibly? Would he succeed at utilizing his firepower, or feel more inclined to chain it up the way he’s gotten Nashville to be good over the past handful of years?

4. Nagging feeling: Nashville takes a run at Thomas Vanek.

Something about the black-and-white simplicity of “we need offense, an offensive player is available, let’s get him” never feels quite right to me. I think you need the right offensive player, and I’m doubtful Vanek is that guy for Nashville. I think he’s at his most useful when he’s playing with someone like John Tavares. Someone who thinks like him, understands creativity, and will be able to get him the puck in the sneaky places he can get to. You need him to play with someone who can retrieve the puck well too.

He’s also 30, and played a bit of a “slow the game down” style, even when he was younger. For what he’s going to cost, I don’t think the Preds would be wise to allocate their dollars to Vanek.

5. One of the toughest things coaches/executives who think they are in trouble go through is “the second round” of change. The first comes right at the end of the regular season. If you survive that, you worry about guys who lose earlier than expected in the playoffs. Coaches will be watching Pittsburgh. You can’t swing a dead cat on the internet without seeing speculation about Dan Bylsma’s future. If he is available at some point, there are going to be chasers.

I’m seeing/hearing the same thing as Elliotte, but I don’t really get why. The Pens lose more players to injury than any other team and walk away with the Metropolitan Division and people are like, “Yeah, but their defense sucks, Bylsma’s head’s on the chopping block.” Pardon? Isn’t putting a d-corps together the job of his boss? All he can do is run these guys out on the ice in the proper pairings, give them the right minutes and systems and try to win.

105 points into the year with three games to play and this is a guy we’re talking about letting go? I don’t get it.

9. Ten months ago, MacLean won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year and received a three-year extension, which begins next season. Quite likely, he gets another job if he’s let go, but, let’s say for argument’s sake he doesn’t. Then, the Senators, who have a tight budget to begin with, are going to pay him to do nothing? Will it hurt their ability to do other hockey business? That makes a lot less sense than sitting down with a guy who’s got you into the playoffs two years in a row and saying, “We have some concerns, let’s figure out how we’re going to fix them.” Also better than a sixth coach in eight years.

There’s no chance the Senators fire Paul MacLean, precisely for the reasons Elliotte brings up. I think we can put this one to bed.

I’ve often asked people how many wins per season they believe a coach can swing a team’s pendulum. I tend to think it’s somewhere in the 5-7 range, while your average fan would probably guess higher. But as my Dad always said “To be the best coach, get off the bus with the best players,” which is to say, you can only do so much with a roster. You’re gonna write a guy a gigantic check to start fresh with a new guy who, at best, maybe grabs you an extra win or two, if implementing his new system doesn’t cost you too many games in the early going? As a cash-strapped organization? No, you’re not.

(Apparently I’m only responding in question form today.)

10. You can’t help but wonder if Ottawa’s decision will be influenced by something also faced by the likes of Toronto, Vancouver and Washington — the budgeting of playoff revenue. I’d be curious to hear how many home playoff games each of these franchises expected. (It sounds like the Maple Leafs hoped for three.) It is rare for a team that makes the post-season not to include this kind of projection a year later. And, if that goal is endangered, frustrated owners write blog posts like, “Media Says It All About Last Night’s Game” complete with links to the gory details.

I’m no businessman, so excuse me for wading into the murky waters of money here again, but how are teams banking on playoff revenue in a league where half the teams don’t make it? It just seems like teams would build their budgets on projected regular season revenues, and consider anything after that gravy. I dunno, maybe someone into numbers out there can explain this to me.

15. Dale Tallon likes his ex-Blackhawks. Could see a role for Dave Bolland around Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Brandon Pirri.

I think this would be a good fit for all parties involved. Bolland is likely to get a decent contract on the heels of a pretty good year, and Tallon knows what he’s getting in Bolland.

I think if he stays in Toronto, it goes sideways. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why the Leafs and most of the media have hitched their wagon to him. Bolland’s behind-the-scenes reputation (at least what I know of it) is far from that of the picture painted of him – this noble, hard-working captain-like guy that more players should emulate. He’s a fine guy, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he likes to have a good time off the ice, and I’m skeptical his give-a-damn meter is as maxed out as people imply it is. If he stays in Toronto as a “centerpiece” it’ll be interesting to watch play out.

17. There’s no question Therrien is harder on Subban than the other Canadiens. As we move into the newer-friendlier era of coaching, Therrien is a rarity, a Bob Knight-style throwback. And, if you ever read about Knight, he was hardest on his best players, especially for defensive mistakes. Subban won the Norris Trophy playing for Therrien, who has Montreal in the playoffs for the second straight season after falling to dead last in the East. Bergevin knows what everyone else might not care to admit: like it or not, they’re good for each other — right now.

Coaching certainly isn’t a “one-size fits-all” gig, and while I’ve shared that I personally don’t think Therrien is the greatest coach, Elliotte’s absolutely right that this seems like a good fit for Subban’s game right now. It’s not that you need someone to clip Subban’s talented wings, because you never want to do that, but you want him to find for himself the spots that are best to use it, and when it’s better to just make the safe play. Having a coach that’s hard on him in his early years is probably good for him developing that sense. (As Friedman addded…for now.)

19. Daneyko had another suggestion. Clarkson is playing 58 seconds per game on the power play. Last year, it was 3:33. The season before, 3:03. It might not be the worst thing to put him on it this week, just to try and end the season positively.

I totally agree here.

I actually don’t think Clarkson is such a bad fit as a net-front guy on the PP. He works hard at recovering pucks, which is a big part of having a successful powerplay, and his obvious pride in being a gritty player could pay off in rebounds and tips, given that he’s not afraid to take some crosschecks to the lower back. At the very least, he could draw attention away from your skill guys on the second unit.

Clarkson seriously just needs to calm down and be told it’s okay for a second. This year has been a frenzy from the get-go, with him clearly trying to prove he’s a “team first guy” early on biting him in the ass, and he’s been playing catch-up ever since.

21. Obviously, there’s a lot of talk about with Randy Carlyle to Winnipeg if Maurice doesn’t stay. I’m not sure if anything was ever offered to him after Anaheim, but Carlyle didn’t think working for the Jets was a good idea at the time. He’d be seen as the “coach-in-waiting” after Claude Noel, and didn’t think that was fair. 

I like Paul Maurice, but if he has to go, my vote is for Dale Hawerchuk. The former Jets player has a demeanour that’s cut out for coaching. He’s a smart man who understands the game extremely well. He’s got a little bit of a mean streak, but has a funny deadpan delivery that makes him easy to both like and fear, which is a hell of a combo for a coach.

After taking over a terrible Barrie Colts team his first season coaching, he’s now led them to finishing second, first and second in their division, losing in the final round to the London Knights last year. Think that hiring would go over well in Winnipeg? It’d be Patrick Roy-esque.

24. It hasn’t been an easy ride between Brown and Darryl Sutter, who wanted to move his captain to the third line. It’s similar to Jordan Staal in Carolina, who’s battled with the expectations of a big contract. Teams say, “Be who you are,” but sometimes players think they have to change and be more offensive. It affected Brown during the season and at the Olympics. Forget the money. Just do what you did to make it.

Same issue with Clarkson too. I totally get it, because the majority of players who earn big dollars do it for scoring goals, so when you get that money, it’s natural to think you should too. But team’s value more than just raw boxcar numbers, and the mindset of players has to come along with that of the fans. If we paid you to be a rat, don’t start trying to be a skill guy. Temper your personal expectations. Brown is a perfect fit for a quality third line, something true Cup contenders need.