I didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the whole Ray Emery chasing/jumping/attemptedmurdering Braden Holtby thing over the weekend, but with the news that the League may make a change (I’ll get to that farther down), I figure it’s probably time.
Yesterday the Phoenix Coyotes’ goalie coach Sean Burke gave an interview where he weighed in on the actions of Philly’s notoriously “tough” goalie (amateur boxer, yada yada yada), and I liked what he had to say. It’d be an understatement to say he wasn’t a huge fan:
“Holtby had a shutout going and he could have been injured. He’s a Team Canada candidate. Maybe not a favorite, but he’s playing for a lot right now, and that was just bullying. When you punch a guy 10 times in the back of the head, that’s not being tough.”
No, no it is most certainly not.
I also liked:
“Anybody defending Emery’s actions by saying Holtby’s at fault in any way — that’s just archaic. How would people have felt if Holtby had taken his stick and two-handed Ray Emery? Would that have been justifiable to protect himself? What can you do? What are you allowed to do to defend yourself against a guy against whom you’re overmatched?”
Ab-so-lutely. You’re borderline helpless. I’m sure a few people have proudly trotted out “what they would’ve done,” but in reality Holtby’s options were basically: look soft and try to skate away from Emery (I’m sure that highlight would hardly get played on loop for all eternity), smack him with his stick (brain damage, suspensions, not a lot of great outcomes there), or turtle/semi-turtle, which he basically did, which involves letting someone use your thinking machine like a knuckles-only bongo drum. Read the rest of this entry »
When you’re putting a goalie on waivers, and especially when he’s 36 years old and your backup, it might not be that big of a deal overall. But when your other goalie is 31 and his stats are likewise sub-average, even at the start of the season, it could be a very real issue in the very near future.
Obviously the New York Rangers and the rest of the hockey world are resting assured that despite the slow start to the season for the team, and its otherwise world-class starting goaltender in particular, things are all going to work out fairly well. This is, after all, Henrik Lundqvist we’re talking about, and the Rangers haven’t even played a home game this season.
In this week’s 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman points out that Lundqvist in particular — out of all elite NHL netminders — might be having trouble dealing with the new, smaller pads because he’s the kind of goalie who previously liked to go deeper than almost all others into his crease because he wanted as much time as possible to see the shots. Without the ability to come out every night shaped like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, that deepness leaves him far more open to shots simply getting through him, whether he sees them or not. If he were more aggressive in coming out to challenge shooters, he might be able to keep the angles down and effectively negate the advantage. Bourne outlined all this yesterday.
So maybe it takes Lundqvist a little more time than others to adjust to the change specifically because of how much deeper he goes, and maybe this rough start — in which he’s gone 2-4 in his starts, posting sub-.880 save percentages in all his losses — will straighten itself out sooner than later. His current even-strength save percentage of .887, by the way, doesn’t speak well for his ability to pin all of this on his defense.
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It’s early in the NHL season. I know it, you know it, that terribly uninformed guy at your work who thinks he’s The Schwab knows it. BUT, we are pulling up to the 10% completed mark of the NHL schedule, and some trends are beginning to form. Nobody with zero points by now is leading the NHL in scoring. We’re starting to really get into it, is the point.
For those of you who are only aware of your own team’s successes and failures so far, reading this should give you a good idea of who’s exceeding pre-season expectations, and who’s failing miserably all the way around the league.
Every year some rookies excel. That’s just the way it works in professional hockey – kids can be so crazy talented by 18 even the fact that they’re boys doesn’t stop them from being valued players against men. But this year…this year more than a few rookies are off to some pretty insane starts. For example:
Tomas Hertl: It’s remarkable how quickly the NHL’s scoring leaderboard took on the look we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Crosby’s on top, Ovechkin’s right there, and the other 27 players make perfect sense. Really, it’s uncanny. Only that adds up to 29 players, and it’s a 30 person list on page one – the math doesn’t add up because of this guy, who currently sits tied for third in league scoring with nine points in six games. Oh, and he’s leading the NHL in goals with seven, one ahead of Alex Ovechkin, two ahead of Sidney Crosby. Being on Joe Thornton’s line helps in that regard, but still: crazy start for the 19-year-old Czech.
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In the immediate wake of the Peter Laviolette firing yesterday morning, just hours after the team looked like garbage against a team that is itself primed for a truly awful season, a lot of people just kind of shrugged and said, “Well, sure.”
Yeah the Flyers are bad and yeah they’re 0-3-0 to start the year, having conceded far more goals than they’ve scored and probably no one is all that surprised by the occurrence. But with that having been said there are so many questions that emerge in the immediate wake of the decision that spring to mind.
“Why?” is the first question that should come up, for sure. Three games is a comically short period of time in which to consider a coaching change and it is in fact the fastest any bench boss has ever been fired in the entire history of the league. This was a team, though, that always looked on the poise of putrid. There was always something there, of course, enough that you’d say to yourself, “Okay this could possibly be a good team if things break for them.” After all, before last year’s thunderously bad performance, they posted better-than-100-point seasons, and that was after making the Stanley Cup Final in a streak of luck eclipsed only by the Devils’ accomplishment of two years ago.
This is a team that considered, for example, Scott Hartnell to be something other than a reliable 20-25 goalscorer who was at least somewhat defensibly responsible. They pay him like a skill guy, giving him more money against the cap than any other forward on the team this year, based solely on the fact that he scored a complete-aberration 37 goals playing with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. They consider 68-year Kimmo Timonen to likewise be a No. 1 defenseman and both pay and play him commensurately, but largely due to the fact that other, better options simply do not exist.
That Laviolette had to cobble together any success from this roster, given what was being spent on it, is absurd. That he did so successfully for two seasons is a credit to his prowess behind the bench.
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Exactly what, apart from what he ended up doing, was Phil Kessel supposed to do in that situation? The whole world is having a good ol’ laugh at Kessel this week after he took a two-hander at John Scott’s ankle. Kessel’s options at the time were threefold:
- Fight John Scott and have the Christ beaten out of him.
- Skate away from Scott as fast as possible and bear the brunt of the next several decades of laughs that would come his way.
- Try to keep Scott away from him long enough for someone to intercede on his behalf, perhaps by wielding his stick like a hatchet.
He obviously chose the third and final of these choices and it proved the most judicious. The time on the IR with a concussion that came with No. 1 was always a non-starter, and the scorn from No. 2 likewise was never an option. And now hockey pundits in every major market, most of all those with reason to dislike Kessel (Boston) or the Leafs (Montreal), laughs at Kessel. The Toronto media, for their part, defended their boy and team as well they should have: The kinds of tactics the Sabres employed in that game, following Corey Tropp asking Jamie Devane to fight following a goal. Devane, an aspiring NHLer with naught but 36 pro games (and 90 PIM in them) to his credit obliged. By KOing Tropp. And, in doing so, allowing the player five inches shorter and 40ish pounds slighter than himself to bounce his head scarily off the ice.
In turn, Sabres coach Ron Rolston put out John Scott and an assortment of other non-skill players. Randy Carlyle, given that he had last change a total lack of things happening in his brain, put out his top line, which included Kessel. Thus began the chaos of a line brawl, David Clarkson leaving the bench, and a goalie fight.
But let’s not forget where all this started: It started when the Leafs themselves started loading up on brainless goons, as a means of becoming “harder to play against.” That the Leafs had none of them (save for Devane) in the lineup mattered not at all; if you’re playing Toronto, you prepare as though you’re going to have to fist-fight some people. Thus the inclusion of Scott in the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »
There has been in the last few days, a seeming run on professional tryout contracts being offered to longtime veteran NHLers as teams turn an eye toward signing them but first want to see how they stack up against rookies, or whoever.
Dave Steckel with the Wild. Guillaume Latendresse with the Coyotes. Mason Raymond with the Maple Leafs. Brad Boyes and maybe, by the time you read this, Tim Thomas with the Florida Panthers (though they might have just outright signed him to a standard player contract). Both Hal Gill and Danny Cleary with the Flyers.
And while Cleary’s is a regular-old PTO for right now, and Paul Holmgren swears up and down that that’s all it is, for reasons we’ll discuss in a moment, the rumor kicking around is that he’s been signed to an absolutely awful contract that will pay him way too much money for not one, not two, but three seasons. This is, you’ll recall, 34-year-old Dan Cleary we’re talking about. The same Dan Cleary whose knees seem to have long since done the sensible thing and called it a career, and are now waiting patiently for the rest of his body to follow suit.
A real Dan Cleary quote about the condition of his knees from the 2012 season included the words “loose cartilage” and “bone on bone” and “a lot of fluid” and that’s not a good way for any living human being to have to describe their knees. That was also a year ago, during which time Cleary just played another 62 largely ineffectual games for the Red Wings. Ken Holland wanted him back, because he does continue to have an odd fascination with Detroit’s borderline lifers long after they’ve outlived their usefulness (see also: Osgood, Chris). But he seemingly did not want him back for three years, and certainly not for the rumored $2.75 million he will receive per annum during that time. And certainly-certainly not with an accompanying no-trade clause. Read the rest of this entry »
Smith, left, after one of his five points in 16 games with Tampa.
Trevor Smith is 28-years-old and entering his first season with a one-way NHL contract after touching six AHL teams since 2007-08. The Toronto Maple Leafs picked him up for a league minimum $550k which has to be a pretty great feeling for the guy, because as I understand it, that means you get 550,000 dollars.
Entering the 2009-2010 season, he was on the cusp of making the New York Islanders, and I (wrongly) wrote as much for Islanders Point Blank based on my time spent playing with him during the 2007-2008 season, and my assessment of the Isles team that year. It’s really quite difficult to make the NHL, you’ll be shocked to learn, and Smith just needed a little more time.
My biggest compliment for Trevor’s game is the same now as it was then, and leads me to believe that if given the right opportunity, he could be someone like PA Parenteau who breaks into the league a little older after some AHL seasoning, and becomes a quality contributor. (Frankly, I think had he received the opportunities of someone like Joey Crabb over the years he’d already be there, but I’m pretty biased in that view.)
That compliment: whether he realizes it or not, his ability to shoot the puck accurately and hard from seemingly anywhere in his stance was better than anyone else I’ve ever played with.
In baseball, they use “heat maps” to show where in the strike zone (or out of it) a hitter tends to have the most success. Some guys like their pitches belt-high, and some guys would rather golf it out of the dirt. The same is true for hockey. When you stay out after practice to work on one-timers with guys you learn where they like their passes: off their front foot, mid-stance, off their back foot or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »