Archive for the ‘One Man’s Opinion’ Category

Dion Phaneuf2

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On Friday I wrote a post titled “5 NHL players who aren’t what you think they are,” the goal of which was to kill some of the assumptions the general public has about certain players. The guy who was the last cut on the list was Dion Phaneuf, so I thought I’d revisit his situation today.

If you ask the average hockey fan what they think of him, you’re getting a polarized opinion – he’s awesome or he’s awful. Almost no one out thinks he’s average. The contracts, the hype behind his name, and the Leafs captaincy drive that.

So, in a nutshell – is he good, bad, or otherwise?

In the interest of trying to settle 1000 hockey arguments: Dion Phaneuf is an excellent defenseman. He’s probably worth his seven million by seven year deal. He’s a top pair guy. It’s just the expectation of him that are out of whack. Read the rest of this entry »

daugavins shootout

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It’s the counterargument to those who want to see 3-on-3 added after the initial 4-on-4 overtime: 3-on-3 is as much of a gimmick as the shootout.

More accurately, it’s the counterargument from people who apparently huff paint.

Considering 3-on-3 hockey equal with the shootout in terms of “here’s an actual hockey way to solve a hockey game” can only be the opinion of someone totally guessing.

I don’t have to tell you what hockey is – it’s defending, and positional play, and anticipation, and scoring, which you accomplish by generating chances and defending opponents. It’s a lot of things. There are, if I may understate, several moving parts.

I’ve seen the argument that it’s as much of a gimmick as the shootout - or more of one, if you read Ryan Lambert’s column this morning –  because 3-on-3 happens less than penalty shots in the NHL. Well, no kidding. Fights happen more than penalty shots, but you don’t settle games by using those because they have so little to do with the actual play of the game.

Weber Hemsky 2

Teams are built to succeed in different ways, and by making them trot out their three best breakaway guys you’re taking that out of their hands. The Nashville Predators depend on solid team defense, and they rely heavily on Shea Weber to make scoring a living hell for opponents. Trot out our best three shooters? They’re 1-7 in shootouts. If they’re even 4-4, they’re in the playoff hunt.

The New Jersey Devils surpress shots better than any team in the league, which has them within a whisper of playoffs despite their offensive struggles. 0-8 in shootouts.

Do you believe that if the Devils or Predators were given the chance to play endless Real Hockey OT they’d be a combined 1-15? Of course you don’t. So we should at least allow them more time to try to gain points using the strengths they believe they have. It wouldn’t make sense for the NBA to settle games with a dunk contest when some teams choose to build around playmakers like Steve Nash.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pekka Rinne3

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Most people fear change, but few groups of people loathe it more than hockey fans. This is a sport that feasts on nostalgia, with the league’s biggest successes  of the past decade being the Winter Classic and commercials like “History Will Be Made” and “No Words.” Remember “No Words”?

…tear, tear, tear.

Ah, the good ol’ days, right? “Everything was better then.”

And, maybe some things were. But there’s no way the NHL would be the great product it is today if the league wasn’t willing to evolve, and it has been, to the chagrin of many. They knocked out obstruction, limited goalies ability to break the puck out, downsized their gear and more, all in the interest of improving a product that was becoming overly defensive. Things got sloggy, so they opened up the game. Negative trends emerge, they fix ‘em, and we move on.

I’m in favor of the game evolving with the talent, so with the GMs meetings taking place in Boca this week, I figured I’d throw my hat into the ring. Here are the changes I believe would lead to a better NHL product.

5 changes

Fix face-offs

One thing Darren Dreger tweeted about today after the initial GM meetings was the idea of punishing faceoff cheaters by having them move back a foot. This would be fantastic.

As it stands, when a team needs an extra couple seconds to get set or catch their breath, they’ll send in a winger to take the draw who’ll proceed to cheat so egregiously that he gets kicked out. The team then looks around to figure out who’s going to step in and take it, then…blah blah blah, 10 seconds burned, mission accomplished.

If you don’t want to make that a flat-out delay of game penalty (as mentioned here), I love the idea mentioned above. If you cheat, the other team has a better chance at winning the draw. Fair’s fair.

By the same token, there was an idea to widen the hashmarks (as they do in international play) so there’s less contact off the draw among wingers and d-men, which means less picks, which means more room for talent to work.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Make goalie interference reviewable

Goalie interference is a pretty important call. As it currently stands, when a dicey goal is scored, you hope the ref was looking directly at the player/tender interaction, then you hope he had the right angle of it, then you hope he saw something that indicates if the goal should count or not and doesn’t have to guess.  There have been a number of cases where goals have been called off this year when the player never touched the goalie. Why leave this to chance? That’s a pretty pivotal decision. Read the rest of this entry »

rick nash2

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There was once a time in sports fandom – a simpler time, some would say – where fans didn’t know what every player earned. They watched the games, followed their stats, and rooted for the guys they liked best. This is not so much the case anymore, especially when it comes to “serious” sports fans.

Today, every player is viewed through the lens of his contract, which is not entirely unjustified. The NHL is a league with a salary cap, which means that overpaying one guy limits you from being able to pay someone else more money, meaning you end up with less talented fill-in guys. That makes your team worse, so…overpayments bad, underpayments good. Pretty simple.

But man, has it become blinding, to the point where fans take players earnings personally, and wind up comparing guys based on relative value instead of true contribution.

They’ll boo Scott Gomez when they feel they aren’t getting good bang for their buck, they’ll mock Rick DiPietro mercilessly, and they’ll even bemoan the stats of a guy like Brad Richards (in fairness, DiPietro was generally bad, but you get the point). This is not what We, the collective We as fans and part of this organization, paid you to do, Brad. Along the same vein, there are contract superstars. Mediocre output on a low salary? Value!

The obsession with that much-vaunted word is messing with perception to where it doesn’t accurately reflect reality.

Here’s the thing: a guy under-performing on his contract is not necessarily less valuable than somebody over-performing theirs. It’s okay to occasionally skirt contribution-to-salary ratio in favor of just the first word. All things are equal on the ice. Read the rest of this entry »

Ryan Miller 2

If a team from the Eastern Conference has any shot at winning a Stanley Cup this year, it’s going to be thanks to the West grinding itself into fine powder and the eventual Hunger Games-esque victor being so banged up that they’re not the same hockey team they were at the start of playoffs. And really, that scenario isn’t that far-fetched. The team defenses are generally suffocating out West, so it’s going to take some blood and bruises to create anything.

The Los Angeles Kings are safely third in their division and eight points up on the final wild card spot, yet they can’t score goals to save their lives. Here’s the last three teams in the league in goals for:

goals for

Yup. Prestigious company you’re keeping there, Kings. But it doesn’t matter – to beat hockey teams you have to score on them, and the Kings give up a league-best 2.06 goals-per-game which is a head-asplode type number. So yes, they’re going to brutal to play in the post-season. Grind, grind, grind.

Beyond the Kings, five of the top seven teams in league goals-against-per-game are from the West, with the St. Louis Blues following up the Kings with a 2.27 nightly goals against.

And they felt the need to upgrade their goaltending.

Basically, I’m not sure if the Blues are going to give up a goal ever again (there’s some potential that might be hyperbole, but you get the point).  Read the rest of this entry »

Martin St. Louis

When Martin St. Louis wasn’t initially selected by his own NHL team’s GM for Team Canada, he felt he had been done so wrong that he asked for a trade from the franchise he’s been a part of for 14 years, more or less out of spite.

That comes off as a pretty strong Prima donna move. It comes of as conceited and borderline petty. How unbelievably opaque is that viewpoint from a 38-year-old guy whose one dimension is creating offense when he’s trying to crack a team that doesn’t lack that and might be able to find more from other players in other facets of the game?

Before any fans of St. Louis or the Lightning get too upset with me, some totally sincere qualifiers: I think Martin St. Louis is a stud of a hockey player. I think he’s been a good guy throughout his career, an ambassador for the game, and a player with one of the more admirable work ethics in hockey. But I think this move was the pits.

It’s as blindfolded as those diehard fans who believe everything their favorite team does is great. There are Islanders and Oilers fans who can’t honestly assess that their teams have been trash for years – bottom of the barrel, garbage water bad. They still think they keep getting wronged by the ref or some other third party.

For St. Louis to not be able to look at Team Canada’s roster and assess how amazingly, incredibly deep it was and say “Damn, that is one amazing team, I must have been close though” instead of throwing a Denny Lemieux “Trade me right f***ing now” tantrum isn’t a great reflection on how he views both himself and his relationship with the brass.

Was Steve Yzerman supposed to throw him a bone if he truly didn’t believe he was the best fit for the group? Should Yzerman have taken the advice of the multitude of other great hockey minds and gone against them to keep his own player happy? Read the rest of this entry »

Russian hockey

However you want to classify Russia’s top-six (best in the world? One of the best in the world?), there’s no denying they have an ungodly amount of talent. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Radulov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Semin comprise that group, and each one is known for possessing raw offensive gifts. In a tournament like the Olympics where great teams are bound to run into a couple pushovers along the way, you’d expect a group like this to put up a crazy amount of goals. Only…they haven’t.

Today they beat the last place team in the tournament, Norway, by scoring two goals in the first 59 minutes (they added an empty-netter and a nobody-is-trying-bonus one after that). They beat the Slovaks 1-0 in a shootout – the same Slovak squad that lost to a Slovenian team with a single NHLer on it. They only scored twice against the US, a legitimate opponent, and their big output came against Slovenia, who they beat 5-2. That game aside, we haven’t seen the fireworks we expected.

To my eyes, their offensive issues seem to stem from a too-big gap between their D-men and forwards all over the ice (particularly when breaking the puck out and regrouping in the neutral zone), which is usually the product of overeagerness. In their case, it seems to be a combo of that overeagerness from the forwards, and their D-men getting their feet stuck in quicksand. Read the rest of this entry »