Your rants, my answers

December, 29, 2009

Honestly, you are all really good at ranting. Here's our weekly look at your best:

yankee4life372: I hate this NHL scheduling. The Devils always get screwed over. They had such a big break before Christmas and then had a game on the 26th. They barely practiced, so obviously they would come out flat against the Caps. They also get less games at the beginning of the season and, at the end, they get games piled up back to back and so they get tired and lose games and momentum before the playoffs. BS!

My advice: Dude, I almost fell off my chair when I read this. Are you kidding me? The Devils get to sleep in their beds almost every night. Try on San Jose's travel schedule for a month and let me know how your back feels after you spend half your time in an airplane. New Jersey, the two New York teams (Rangers and Isles) and Philadelphia have the cushiest schedules in the NHL. Other GMs actually laugh about it. I mean, you want to talk about bad schedules this season, try being the Vancouver Canucks with the Olympics kicking them out of their rink for a month.

bobby_snore: Pierre, outside of scouting, is the NHL brain trust watching the World Juniors? I had the opportunity to watch the Canadian junior team play their opener in the Word Juniors the other day and was surprised by the non-stop, very physical hitting, particularly the chest checks that literally bowled opponents over backwards.

The interesting part is that prior to the tournament the IIHF person responsible for the Juniors sent a memo out that, and I'm paraphrasing, stated, "There is no such thing as a legal hit to the head." Players who make head contact are assessed a 2-minute minor and an automatic 10-minute misconduct. So for those who think removing head shots will remove physical contact, check out the World Juniors. You might be pleasantly surprised on how much contact continues to exist once headhunting is removed.

My advice: It's interesting you say that, and I totally respect your reporting what you saw. Just the other day, an NHL GM told me he spent two weeks scouting major junior hockey in Canada (mostly Ontario Hockey League), and he said he was stunned at how little hitting there was anymore and he figured it was because of the no-tolerance rule for hits to the head. His concern, as well, was that kids drafted out of junior now would be less equipped for the NHL brand of hitting (i.e., have their heads down). But it's quite interesting to hear what you saw at the world juniors. Maybe we all have different takes on what we constitute as physical hockey. The 2nd dumbest place for a hockey game is Fenway. The 1st dumbest was Wrigley. The stadium is simply not made for viewing a dinky rink at second base. ALL the seats to me seemed too far and too low to see squat (I sat in the 4th row of the upper deck). You could hardly see the ice surface because of the boards. Maybe a football stadium (the newer ones) with seats up and slightly back from the field is smarter going forward.

My advice: Having covered the first two Winter Classics in Buffalo, N.Y., and Chicago (I'm in Boston this week, as well), I can tell you that there were more complaints about the sight lines at Ralph Wilson Stadium than there were at Wrigley Stadium last year. In the end, neither football nor baseball stadiums are meant to host hockey games. There will be some bad seats either way. Eventually, this novelty likely will wear off, maybe seven or eight years from now, and we won't have to worry about outdoor games anymore. Until then, just being there and having a good time will have to replace actually seeing the puck.

capsfan2k10: What I don't get is how the Washington Capitals' Alexander Semin is so reluctant to sign a contract for more years. It seemed like he was even reluctant [to] sign this 1-year extension. He's on the top team in the Southeast Division and plays alongside arguably one of the best players in all of hockey (Ovi), and Nicklas Backstrom is pretty decent, too. What's up with Semin's hesitancy to sign with the Caps?

My advice: From the conversations I had with people connected to this matter, I don't think Semin was against signing a long-term deal, but I think the Caps weren't willing to pay what Semin wanted in that context. That's not to say they can't figure that out a year from now. But, as it stands, I get the feeling the Caps and Semin's camp have different views of where this player stands in terms of his worth in the NHL landscape. It will be an interesting conversation a year from now with unrestricted free agency beckoning.

LesHabs25: This is an open letter to Bob Gainey and the rest of the Canadiens organization. Don't trade Halak just because he is playing exceptionally well right now and is at his highest trade value to date. Two good goalies are better than one, and I could argue they have the best 1-2 punch in the league if Price is right (pun intended). There are rumors flying of Halak to the Flyers and other teams, but if I was the GM, I would let this hot streak ride out and see where you are at when the deadline comes around.

They are four games into a season long seven-game road trip and have won all four thanks to 180 saves in 185 chances by Halak. This will only motivate Price to play well when he gets his shot. It is no secret of Gainey's love and admiration for Price, but Halak is playing so well, it makes absolutely no sense to trade him at this point in time. I hope someone out there in hockeyland agrees with me.

My advice: You are right; in a perfect world, what's not to like with this one-two punch right now? Jaroslav Halak has been unconscious, while Carey Price has had a nice bounce-back season. Problem is, Halak asked for a trade. He's the one making GM Bob Gainey pick up the phone. Perhaps his latest run will help Halak ease his concerns and he'll stay put. If I were Gainey, I'd try to find a way to keep both because, while both have shown flashes of brilliance this season, they remain largely untested commodities and I would want the protection/insurance of knowing one is ready to go if the other falters. After all, the Habs actually stand a chance of making the playoffs in the mediocre Eastern Conference this season.

rebelfootball1018: A Bruins fan here. The Bruins have the draft picks and the chips in place to land Kovalchuk. I don't think there is much doubt that, if they get him, the Bruins become one of the favorites in the NHL to win the Cup. There are probably two main things holding this back, the Thrashers' willingness to deal him and the Bruins' ability to work a long-term deal out with Kovalchuk. If they can't lock him up for future years, then making the deal is probably not worth it. But when you have a chance to improve your team to become Stanley-Cup caliber, I think you gotta do it. KOVALCHUK TO BOSTON, PLEASE!!!!

My advice: First of all, from what I'm told, Thrashers GM Don Waddell will not allow any team to talk contract with Ilya Kovalchuk before a trade. And that's if he ends up trading him. He still hopes to sign him. But, certainly, if Kovalchuk hasn't soon signed an extension, Waddell will pick up the phone and see what's out there. Boston won't be alone in its pursuit, and the Bruins might not be the best match, either. As long as the Thrashers remain in playoff contention, Waddell will want players in return that can help him now as well as in the future. So draft picks alone won't cut it.

In the meantime, if Kovalchuk is moved this season, it will be as a rental, and that's the risk for the team that acquires him, to gauge how much it gives up in return for a player who probably will walk July 1. Pittsburgh gave up a decent package two seasons ago for a rental in Marian Hossa; but, even though he walked away in July, it was well worth it since the Pens reached the Cup finals.

longviewer: What's going on with the Blue Jackets?! Nine straight losses, one win this month (I'm hoping for another win before 2010), and 11 straight home losses. Those are just some of the ugly numbers. As a die-hard CBJ fan, I was perhaps a little overly enthusiastic about the preseason predictions for the boys in blue. However, I know I wasn't alone when it came to hoping for a repeat of last season's playoff appearance. Where did it all go wrong? The goaltending is terrible right now and some players haven't developed the way the coaching staff imagined. So, as I watch our playoff hopes swirl the drain, I'm looking for an answer to a simple question: Why?

My advice: Well, there are many things not happening right now for the Jackets. I spoke with coach Ken Hitchcock last week, and the one thing he was concerned about the most was the lack of confidence, the way the players feel deflated as soon as a goal is scored against them. That's a dangerous mental state for a team. But, to me, it all starts with the goaltending; Steve Mason is redefining the term "sophomore slump," and Mathieu Garon is just a career backup, so he's not the answer. Until they get Mason back on track, the Jackets have no chance whatsoever. At least GM Scott Howson tried to help his coach Monday with the acquisition of defenseman Milan Jurcina and forward Chris Clark. Sometimes a trade is the right tonic; in this case, I know Hitchcock was hoping to get some help for his blue line.

HockeyM12: Where to start ... remember in the offseason ... I said Coyotes for Presidents/Stanley Cup and you told me to put the bottle down? Well, looks like 1 of us is right and, sorry buddy, it's not you. Tippett for coach of the year and not one mention on how he deserves it. What's with the L.A. bandwagon? The Coyotes are deeper prospect-wise, have better goaltending, better coaching, and yet we get no love in the desert.

My advice: HockeyM12, I do think I remember telling you that, LOL. In that case, keeping drinking what you're drinking because it's working! I love the story the Coyotes are authoring this season. Amazing stuff. And to think they're doing it in front of no one for their home games. My colleague Scott Burnside is heading out to Phoenix soon to chronicle the amazing Coyotes. We're not ignoring the Dogs!

Ronjon2453: With the Olympic rosters coming up, I have a rant about Mike Green and Team Canada. How has his performance this year not made him a lock? As of today, all he's doing is once again leading all D in points, one goal off the D lead in goals, and is 2nd in the league in plus/minus (fifth among all skaters). He's also great on the power play, top 15 in the league in ice time, and I can't think of a guy I'd rather have on the ice down a goal with 2 minutes left to play (unfortunately Scott Niedermayer is no longer the Niedermayer of old). Strangely enough, at the time of this rant, Green also has more hits (51) than Chris Pronger (50). Who knew?

Obviously, there are a lot of good D to choose from (Weber, Prongs, Niedermayer, Keith, Doughty, Phaneuf, Boyle, Robidas, Bouwmeester, Seabrook), but I don't see how you can overlook the best offensive defenseman in the game. What am I missing here? Suggested top six: Pronger-Niedermayer, Keith-Weber and Green-Robidas or Doughty.

My advice: It's a very legitimate point to make. I'm a big Mike Green fan, and even I have a hard time putting him on my 2010 Canadian team. It's really bizarre. He still might make the team Wednesday, but I'm pretty sure from what I'm being told that he's very much on the bubble, in large part due to questions about his defensive play, and yes, that's mostly because of the playoffs this past spring.

I know this: GM Steve Yzerman had Scotty Bowman scout Green recently, and Bowman gave Green a favorable report. So hopefully that helps. But consider the candidates to make that defensive corps, and you see why it's so hard. To me, the five locks are Niedermayer, Pronger, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Dan Boyle. That leaves two open jobs among Green, Stephane Robidas, Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Brent Seabrook and Dion Phaneuf.

Right now, I think Seabrook is a guy I'd like to see playing with Hawks teammate Keith. Team Canada wants to find quick chemistry. So, that leaves one spot open; to me, it's really among Green, Doughty and Bouwmeester. It's not an easy team to crack!

UnbiasedSportsFan: My rant: Russia Butting heads with the IIHF, NHL, and IOC at every turn. Poaching players under NHL contracts. Announcing their Olympic roster as completely provisional, "I wouldn't guarantee a place on the Olympic Team to anyone" I believe was the quote from the Russia coach in your blog. Why even announce the teams, then? ... What exactly do Russian hockey czars hope to accomplish with this attitude?

I honestly think the Russian attitude toward anything hockey related outside of Russia is what is going to be the stumbling block for NHL players playing in the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Sure, Bettman will give his usual line of "may not be worth it", but the players want to go, the fans want to see it, the IIHF and IOC want them, some high-profile Russian stars like Ovi and Malkin have said they are playing no matter what, and it all makes sense. Aside from Russia's attitude.

My advice: This is an excellent rant. It's a complicated issue, but yes, the Russians always seem to make these things interesting. To this day, Alexander Medvedev doesn't have a legitimate answer for how his league could have signed Alexander Radulov when the player had a valid NHL contract with the Nashville Predators. There's a real disregard for rules.

But I will say this: The International Ice Hockey Federation insists the Russians are correct in their interpretation of the Olympic roster guidelines and they can in fact keep making changes to their roster until Feb. 15, regardless of injury. In my weekend blog. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly disputed the IIHF's interpretation and said roster changes could be made only for injury replacements. Either way, and back to your original point, the Russians have a funny way of lobbying for the NHL to participate in the 2014 Games if they're ignoring the NHL's roster guidelines this time around.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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