Your best rants from this week

January, 26, 2010

OK, you tortured souls ... time for me to look at your rants again this week. And yes, there are many Bruins postings!

big_jim2211: As a life-long Oilers fan, its hard to watch this debacle of a season, but at the same time its a little exciting. I can't believe we in Oiler nation are talking about lottery picks before the 2nd half break but the Oil have never had a pick inside the top 3 in the history of the franchise. With that said, Pierre, if we do get the number one pick is Taylor Hall really the better pick over Seguin and Fowler? Help me out here; I need a little something to look forward to.

My take: Big Jim, I went the extra mile here and went straight to the best source to answer your question, NHL Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire, who has spent countless hours personally scouting Hall, Tyler Seguin and Cam Fowler:

"Hall and Seguin can literally flip-flop on any given night, to the credit of them both," McGuire told on Monday evening. "Fowler is probably only a little notch below, but yet he's going to be a star defenseman, someone around whom you can build a franchise. He's a rock-solid guy.

"Having said that, one more branch higher on the tree are Hall and Seguin. We had Seguin No. 1 in our preliminary list that we [Central Scouting] put out in November and we had Hall No. 1 on our midterm list when it came out in January, a lot because of the visibility and performance on a big stage like the world juniors. And Seguin didn't make the [Canadian] team ...

"But any scout that went to his [OHL] game Friday night, Seguin put on a show against a good Mississauga team. Seguin dominated, he was just totally impressive. It's that close right now between Hall and Seguin."

Jim, one thing another NHL scout told me recently is it also depends on whether the team picking first overall feels that strongly about centers being more valuable than wingers. If everyone agrees Seguin and Hall are dead even in talent, the fact Seguin is a center and Hall a winger could be the tiebreaker. Having said that, most of the scouts I've spoken with give Hall a slight edge over Seguin in terms of talent. We'll find out June 25 in Los Angeles!

bflo2balt: Hey Pierre, Buffalo goes on a 7 game road trip, including 5 games out west against some great teams, and is currently 2-2-2. While a lot of Sabres fans find this record to be indicative of an overrated and under-talented team, I, for one, disagree. They put up a great fight against Anaheim and almost pulled off a 4 goal comeback and then they played a great game against San Jose, controlling the tempo for most of the game and forcing Nabokov to bail out the Sharks. I see this as tremendous progress and I think this team has turned a corner. We Sabres fans do expect a lot from our team, but I think that the anger regarding this road trip is misplaced. I still think they are one or two pieces away from becoming a complete team, perhaps a veteran scorer (Ray Whitney or Sykora come to mind) and a solid back-up goalie (MARTY! MARTY!), with no offense to Patty Lalime, who has showed some brilliance this year. What do you think of that assessment?

My take: I actually agree with that. I watched the game in San Jose on Saturday and thought the Sabres were unlucky to not come out with a better result. But I don't whole-heartedly agree the Sabres need a big trade to help their offense. As of Monday, they ranked 10th in the NHL at 2.80 goals per game and were ninth in five-on-five goals for/against ratio. That's not bad at all. Especially when it's coupled with the fourth-best defensive record.

I spoke with Sabres GM Darcy Regier on Monday, passed on the many urgings from Sabres fans/readers for him to pick up more offense at the trade deadline, and he said he and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff may have helped fuel this desire from their fans by criticizing the production of their top-six forward group at times.

"We think that there's more to get from our top-six forwards," Regier told me from Vancouver, where the Sabres played Monday night. "Right now, Tim Connolly's line with Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville has actually been very good. The other line with Drew Stafford, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek has been more inconsistent, although I see that line competing harder than it has and getting more chances. ...

"It's about getting more from the six guys we have. Roy and Vanek are two prime examples of that. They are two guys who have offensively struggled. It's more a focus of getting them back on track than it is looking on the outside and finding somebody you'll bring in and solve it for you; and who knows what you have to give up to acquire that, as well."

In other words, Sabres fans, don't get your hopes up for trade deadline day.

toderek: Hey Pierre, Derek here from La Cabane. That's all the nice I have in me after watching my beloved Bruins on Saturday and then the disaster yesterday. Savard is our offensive threat but missing 1 guy can't make this team be as bad as they are. Fundamentally something is wrong! Maybe it's time to start cutting ties with certain guys and bring in an offensive threat on the wing that would complement any of our centers. Forget about trying to have a balanced attack and do what a lot of teams do, put on your best line when you need to score and every time they're on, the other team is scrambling to line match!!! The Bruins have the depth and the draft picks to make something happen!!! If the Bruins keep on looking to the future and building for the future then guess what, the present passes by. And what do you have to show for it, pictures of 1972. Sometimes you have to make the gamble and put all your chips in.

My take: Ah, my friend and avid Bruins fan from La Cabane (check out this restaurant if you're in Montreal, folks). I know Bruins Nation wants GM Peter Chiarelli to get in on Ilya Kovalchuk. Here's the question I want to ask Bruins Nation: Do you really believe adding a rental, even one of Kovalchuk's superb offensive talent, would make that much of a difference in a playoff series against Washington, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, the top four teams in the East?

"Yes, I do," a Western Conference executive told last week. "I think Boston, when healthy, is just one offensive player away from being able to be the same terrific team from last year. They need to replace [Phil] Kessel. So, yes, if I were Boston, I would go after Kovalchuk, no question."

From what I'm being led to believe, the Thrashers would want a top prospect, a high draft pick and a roster player who can help them now. Given all the picks the Bruins have acquired over the last year or so, the first part is easy; they're also fairly deep in their system, so the second part is OK. But can you give up, say, a Marco Sturm in the deal? That's the question Chiarelli has to ask himself. I say do it.

MehMapleLeafs: How is it possible not to score when your team is outshooting opponents nearly every game they play? I can understand there being games every once and a while where the team just can't find the back of the net, but watching the Leafs play the Panthers this past weekend was just too painful. It was the first time I actually had to turn the game off out of frustration of not being able to score. Pierre what do the leafs have to do to find the back of the net? Apparently their strategy of putting shots on net is not working. Do we need more snipers? Shouldn't Kessel or Blake be able to do that job considering they are well snipers ... at least they are normally labeled to be. What can the leafs do to turn that around?

My take: Having a high shot total is representative of a team that works hard, and this Leafs team, believe it or not, does work hard. But scoring goals requires a certain level of talent and dexterity, and aside from one forward (Phil Kessel) and one defenseman (Tomas Kaberle), there just isn't enough of it on this team. That's why the goals are low even if the shots are high. You can have a lot of bullets in your rifle, but you need to be a good shot to kill a duck (I'm from Northern Ontario, don't forget). The key now for Leafs GM Brian Burke is to acquire more top-level talent like Kessel. With half the current roster headed for free agency, the opportunity to continue the makeover is there. He's got the financial muscle to make it happen.

skeet6902: Watching the Blues blow another third period lead including allowing a tied goal to be scored with under a minute left for the fifth time this season made me want to vomit Saturday night. There has been talks of the Blues looking to trade for a young goaltender from Vancouver or even Montreal. Who would you say they should deal for? There's no way they trade Perron or Backes, having said that do you [see] any of their younger players, Oshie, Perron, Berglund, Erik Johnson, turning into a routine all star type player?

My take: Skeeter, once in a while, I like to bring in a beat writer who covers a team to give you their insight since they spend every day and night with the team. As such, I forwarded your posting to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and here was his response:

    You weren't the only one ready to vomit last Saturday. The Blues should have passed out barf bags to fans as they were leaving Scottrade Center. As you mentioned, it was the fifth time this season they've allowed the game-tying goal in the final minute. It was also the third time this season the Blues have blown a 3-0 lead at home. The flu bug doesn't have anything on that.

    As far as the Blues' trade interests, the team has a few holes, but I don't think they're ready to give up on their young talent. The rumors sending David Backes to Vancouver were false. He's probably a future captain in St. Louis. David Perron has been one of the team's top scorers this season, and T.J. Oshie has arguably been the team's best player lately. Erik Johnson has struggled to put up the offensive numbers he posted early, but everyone still has faith he will develop. The only youngster the Blues are worried about is Patrik Berglund, but like I said, I don't believe they're ready to give up on him.

    The Blues won't trade any of those guys unless they feel the return would put them in Cup contention, and right now that's not even a consideration. None of the youngsters are ready to be All-Stars, but the potential still exists.

Thanks, Jeremy. To add to that, I would think if they can't get back into the playoff chase, the Blues will look hard at moving their UFAs-to-be, leading with Paul Kariya.

rowdyman81: Pierre, as a Hawks fan, I'm getting tired of the "Blackhawks won't win a Cup with Huet and Niemi" arguments. Neither of those guys are Marty Brodeur or Patrick Roy, but neither were Chris Osgood, Nikolai Khabibulin, Tom Barrasso, etc. when they all won the Cup. And who are these elite goalies teams need to win a championship? Kiprusoff? Miller? Luongo? Neither of these guys have carried their team to the Cup and we all remembered how "well" Luongo played against the Hawks last year. Teams win by having a good team, and right now the Blackhawks are one of a few teams in the league that could win this year.

My take: Rowdy, this is what happens when your hockey team is so deep and talented that people pick on the only area that's not perfect. The Cristobal Huet/Antti Niemi duo does not scare anyone in the league, this is true. But as you aptly pointed out, neither did Chris Osgood over the years in Detroit. Chicago's puck-possession game mirrors Detroit's from the past five seasons. Case in point: The Hawks allow the fewest shots on goal per game in the NHL. Just like the Wings could win championships as long as Osgood was good (not great), the same can be said for the Hawks. I believe they can win it all despite not having great goaltending.

GolfingDevil05: I just want to say that as a Kings fan, though I'd want a player like Ilya Kovalchuk playing for my team, I don't think it would be wise for this team to bring him in as a rental. I think they'll make the playoffs, and they even win a round or two, but this isn't a team that's on the verge of making a run at the Stanley Cup yet.

I think mortgaging the future for a guy who's not going to sign a long-term deal before the end of his current deal is not what this team needs. The price Atlanta wants is too steep, and the Kings are likely going to be on Kovalchuk's list this summer anyway. Why give up anything now when you might be able to get him (or Patrick Marleau, given Dean Lombardi's relationship with him) for nothing this summer? Let him come here on his own without having to give up a couple of good young players - unless all Atlanta wants is Teddy Purcell and Erik Ersberg, in which case I'd say do that deal yesterday.

My take: Some excellent points here, my friend. It's along the lines of what Dean Lombardi and I were actually discussing Sunday in one of those conversations in which the Kings' GM talked about the CBA, building a team, when to go for it, etc. He's a lot of fun to listen to when he gets into the big-picture stuff. He was careful not to get into anything specific regarding Kovalchuk. But reading between the lines, I think what you are saying is exactly what he's debating internally: Are the Kings ready for this kind of impact move, with no guarantee that Kovalchuk will stay past July 1?

When reached again Monday night, Lombardi said "yes" when I asked him if he had decided his team was ready for a noteworthy addition ahead of March 3. That doesn't mean it'll be Kovalchuk, but it means the Kings believe they are ready to add. He has the cap room and a blessing from ownership.

Pensfan231: Is the league still wasting their time chasing ghosts in the Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo and Chris Pronger deals? Or can we look forward to moving on from this farce? If the league wants to cut down on cap-circumventing deals, there's no need to limit the terms of the contracts. All they have to do is ensure that teams that make the deals are stuck with the financial ramifications until the contract expires. Follow me here. If:

1) No contract whose term at its longest point was 5 years or longer can be bought out for anything less than the full cap hit through the end of the contract's life.

2) No player who is over 35 (regardless of when his contract was signed) can have his cap hit removed from the books by demotion to the minor leagues.

3) No player who is over 35 (regardless of when his contract was signed) can have his cap hit removed from the books by retirement, and

4) No contract can have a value in any 1 year that is less than 50 percent of the highest value in any single year of the contract (i.e. Hossa could never make less than 3.95 million in 1 year because he makes 7.9 in another).

How many of these contracts would we see? It would be harder to construct and teams would know they aren't going to be able to get off the hook for the cap hit except through trade. Ever.

My take: Pensfan, the league confirmed to me it is still investigating the Savard/Pronger/Luongo/Hossa contracts. As for your suggestions, the current CBA already has 35-and-over mechanisms. In fact, the Flyers know they will be on the hook cap-wise for the entirety of Pronger's deal, even though it's expected he will retire two years before the end of it. But believe me, the league is very much keen on cleaning up some of these loopholes, loopholes that will be one of the priorities in the next round of labor talks with the NHL Players' Association.

kevrich88: With a lot of the attention being given to the Gaborik fight this week, I thought I'd ask a question about that. I was under the impression that when a player with a visor drops his gloves, he has to take off his helmet before the fight begins. If he does not, then he is automatically fined because the visor is advantageous and "more dangerous" in a fight. Is this still the rule?

My take: Kevrich88, good question. Here's what Kris King, Colin Campbell's right-hand man, told me via e-mail: "If you instigate the fight with a visor on, you receive an extra minor penalty: 2 for instigating, 2 for visor and 5 for fighting. That's why guys take them off and also, they don't like hitting the shield."

JoshLowney: The stupid points system. it's bad enough we have the 1 pt for an OT or SO loss, but now the Blue Jackets GM apparently wants the 2 pts for a SO win to be reduced to 1.5! Can we just go to a simple system like every other major sports league, Wins, Losses, Games Behind, it's that simple. Tough luck if you lose in OT or the SO, a loss is a loss.

My take: I don't like the extra point either, Josh. I wrote about the issue earlier this season. But the truth is, the shootout never sees the light of day during the lockout if there isn't a single point awarded for a shootout loss. I know from speaking to NHL GMs about it at the time that they would have voted for the shootout without the loser point because they believed it was too much of an individual event and teams should not be too penalized for losing it. I don't think that sentiment has changed much. As I wrote earlier this season, give me three points for a 60-minute win! But again, the reason the NHL likes the three-point games is because the standings are closer, which leads to crazy races at the end of the regular season.

coolest_game: I recently saw Brian Burke at a church so I asked him what he was doing there. He said he was praying for a Tim Thomas or a Jonathan Quick to disappear from the U.S. Olympics roster so that he can bring Craig Anderson to Vancouver next month. Then I told him it was a bonehead move by him and his committee to leave the NHL MVP out of the Olympics roster. He said Anderson deserved a spot on the roster at the time it was selected but because his committee thought Anderson could only be the third goalie and would not see any ice time anyway so the idea was for Quick to be there and get the experience so that he can be the number one guy at the next Winter Olympics in 2014. I then told him that first of all no one knows if the NHL will even participate at the Russia Olympics in 4 years and secondly he certainly will not be the guy running the US Hockey Olympics program in 2014. The way his Leafs are playing he may not even be a GM soon. He then started weeping and went back to praying.

My take: I understand the frustration of Avs fans with Anderson being snubbed -- but what does it matter with Ryan Miller likely getting most of the starts? It's Miller or bust for Team USA, and it doesn't matter who is watching from the press box as the third goalie.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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