Rant answers: An All-Star omission, future of Ward and maddening Sabres

Some holiday venom on display in this week’s Rant Blog. Well done, people. Let’s take a look:

shawnp422: So Jimmy Howard just won his 20th game of the year, which leads all goalies, and I decided to go vote for him in the All-Star game...AND HE'S NOT EVEN ON THE BALLOT? How can the goalie for one of the model franchises of this league not be on the ballot?

My take: Yes, it’s very surprising. There are other notable omissions as well. It’s never perfect. If the league’s hockey operations department (which selects the ballot) put everyone on there so that no one would have any complaints, there would likely be 200 names on it. My own suggestion, since most of the voting is now done online, is to not have a ballot but rather have voters select from the entire 700-plus player pool. What’s the difference anyway? As for Howard, who has rocked the house for my fantasy team this year, check out Scott Burnside’s Trophy Tracker blog on Wednesday, when he’ll focus on the Vezina contenders. Pretty sure you’ll be happy.

clane33: Hey Pierre, I'm an avid Hurricanes fan and there season so far has been far more than a disappointment. How much of their mediocre start is due to the defense? Cam Ward is an elite goaltender even though numbers may not show it this year. Should I expect him to be a Cane at the end of the season? He does everything in his ability to help the team stopping more than 30 shots a game. I know he must be frustrated about all this. What's the solution for Carolina to begin winning games?

My take: It’s retooling time in Carolina. Forget about trying to win games to get back into the playoff picture. Focus on getting a high draft pick. The Canes will move out some of their UFAs before Feb. 27 to get some assets. Tim Gleason, Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen are among the forthcoming UFAs who could be moved. As for Ward, I agree he hasn’t had the kind of season we’re accustomed to with him. That’s certainly hurt the club. At this point, I don’t see him going anywhere, but it’s possible, I suppose, that the Canes will revisit that thought come the offseason. At this point, however, I don’t see him going anywhere.

courv: Scrap the All-Star Game and implement a midseason tournament. There are too many undeserving "All-Stars" and too many great players left in the shadows. Make the tournament single elimination NCAA style brackets and seeding. Award one point to the winners of the rounds of 8 and 4 and then 3 points to the tournament winner and one to the loser of the final. It would only take two weeks to complete and it would be a lot more exciting than what we currently have.

My take: Well, you certainly had me five words in. Scrap the All-Star Game indeed! I’ve been saying that for only five years or so. As for your tournament idea, I’ll give you credit for some creativity, but the last thing the league wants to do is add more games to the season. If anything, with the injuries in today’s game and the season-long grind, it would go the other way. Frankly, given the success of the Winter Classic and the way that event has become a way for the league to take care of corporate sponsors, etc., the All-Star Game has lost that much more relevancy. Blow it up!

WhnMusicsOver: The one thing I don't like about the new playoff format for next season is that it makes winning your conference/division virtually meaningless. Sure being the 1 seed in your division grants you home-ice advantage through the first two rounds. But as far as playoff matchups go, there isn't likely to be a big difference between playing the 3 or playing the 4 in your own division. Now teams in the regular season are just going to fight to be in the top 4 rather than try and win the division and be guaranteed a top 3 seed as in the current format -- a much bigger advantage. Why would the NHL try to dilute the importance of the regular season?

bmac76er: It seems to be a return to the old system from before the '94-95 lockout. I think it could be a very good change. Those Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe Division playoff series were usually awesome. This guarantees plenty more rivalry matchups in the playoffs. I have to admit, a Devils-Panthers or Rangers-Senators matchup isn't as enticing as Devils-Rangers or Bruins-Canadiens.

My take: Well, bmac76er took care of answering WhnMusicsOver rant for me. Indeed, this is a return to the kind of divisional playoffs in the 1980s and early ‘90s that some fans still consider the great rivalry period of the NHL because the same teams had to play each other over and over again every spring in the playoffs. The hope is that the new conference setup starting next season will generate much the same kind of renewed rivalries or create new ones.

Cofomike17: What happened to the goalie poke check?

My take: Check out Jonathan Quick on Joffrey Lupul in Monday night’s shootout in Toronto.

ColoAvs82: A coach’s job is to use the players and their abilities to create the best possible outcome for winning games. Yet in Colorado we have Joe Sacco that knows just one system, dump and chase and hope to get lucky bounces. He is a B-rated coach in the AHL at best, but management is dragging their heals to fire Sacco and try to salvage what is left of this pathetic season. Only thing worse than the Avs right now is the way they are being managed upstairs in the office.

My take: Avs fans continue to burn in their anger. They did beat Philadelphia in a shootout Monday night. Maybe that will appease Avs fan a little for 48 hours. Not sure if you Avs fans noticed, but Patrick Roy held a news conference in Quebec after coaching a junior game on Sunday and told reporters he’s considering an NHL job for next year if there is interest.

"Once the end of the season arrives and if a team shows some interest in me -- Colorado or Montreal, for example -- it's certain I would listen to see what kind of role I would have in the organization," Roy told the assembled media.

chwpgh64: I am so SICK of people hating on Crosby. They say he isn't tough. News flash: Concussions have nothing to do with toughness or skill. Also, most of the people questioning Sid's toughness are ones that have never put on a pair of skates. They say he's a crybaby and he gets too much attention. He himself said that he was sick of cameras coming to his stall every day after practice. He's the best player in the world, so he will get some attention whether he, or other people like it.

My take: Well said. I’m pretty tired myself of all the Crosby haters. If they got to know the kid as some of us have had the chance over the past several years, they’d have a different impression of him. I can guarantee it. It’s why he’s won the admiration of the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr et al because of his all-world skill, but just as important because of his work ethic and the way he respects the game. Enough said.

Shurikenman23: As a Sabres fan, this past offseason gave me immense hope for the team. Terry Pegula putting up big money, making big moves such as acquiring Ville Leino, Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, signing Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers to long contracts. But Regehr and Ehrhoff are the only ones who have even done that well this season. Ehrhoff playing decently on the blue line and Regehr leading with hits and blocked shots keeping our end of the ice safe. The injuries have been huge and costly to the team. Obviously, not too much that can be done about that, but considering so many starters out, wouldn't Ryan Miller try to play better and play harder and put more effort forth?

I guess not, unless an average of five goals allowed in the last three games is considered playing hard and putting forth your best effort. It's clearly time for moves. Some that can't be made until players are healthy. I'm willing to wait another year on Leino. Brad Boyes could be considered useless now since he's still injured, but he can play and will hopefully show that when he gets back on the ice. Patrick Kaleta can be traded off for a decent replacement. If talks of Bobby Ryan leaving Anaheim resume, Jochen Hecht, Kaleta, and Drew Stafford in exchange for Ryan and perhaps a draft pick. Some of the new boys, Kassian and Adam (in his first full season with the team) and McNabb, who’s doing a decent job on our end of the ice, have really shown up where a lot of the vets have not, which is really disheartening. Someone needs to light a fire under this team. I think Lindy Ruff can do it, but I don't think GM Darcy Reiger can continue to build a team for Ruff that can be put out on the ice night after nice and play with a fire in their hearts. So Darcy, you've got to go.

My take: I will have more on the Sabres later today/this evening in my Rumblings blog, be sure to check it out. But indeed, the interesting thing about finally having expectations in Buffalo after years of being limited by small-market financial constraints is that it raises the level of hope. The buzz leading into the season was surreal. The team has been maddeningly inconsistent. Injuries have played a big part, to be sure.

prashanthiyer: Hey, Pierre. Obviously the rant of the week is the obnoxious amount of concussions we have had this year. My rant is about why the NHL won't kick it into 2nd gear, realize that they are dealing with a serious issue, and look to the IIHF and some of its rules that they have in place that have minimized concussions and serious facial injuries. First off, why not widen the rink to international size and increase the space behind the nets? Also some form of no-touch icing. In IIHF controlled leagues, all players born after 1974 are required to wear visors and all officials are as well. Match penalties are assessed to players that cause an injury with a direct blow to the head. These rules are found all over the world, except for in the NHL. Why not? Also, even though this doesn’t pertain to concussions, the IIHF also has the 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime win, 1 point for an overtime loss. Pay attention to them!

goblew14: Then the NHL would turn into the NBA. No contact. Concussions are part of the game, but I'm all for safety of the players. No-touch icing should probably be instituted. Also, I think people are starting to get a sense of what is a hit to the head and what isn't. In terms of visors, I think the players should choose what they want. No one is forcing them to play and if they don't want to wear one they know the risk of what they're doing.

ZZUCRU: I don't want to see the physicality of the game removed. I play in a no-check league and it is simply not the same game. But they need to do something. It seems that given the flimsy design of hockey helmets, they could prevent many concussions by improving the helmet designs. I agree with the match penalty for targeting the head.

My take: Three concussion posts in a row, illustrating the common arguments involved right now with this gigantic issue. No question, this is the most pressing issue in the game right now. But you can’t say the NHL is ignoring it. That’s not factual. The league has protocol in place and, more than ever, prevention/treatment is a point of focus for all 30 teams. However, you can still argue that not enough is being done. The key is to continue as a league and players’ association to dig deeper and push even harder on this issue. Talk to as many doctors and researchers as you can, continue to gather as much information as possible and be as proactive as possible. The league has taken some important steps, but the battle is far from won.