(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
7 – Asking John Tavares about his contract status
Everyone’s gonna ask him if this is a big deal to him in a training-camp scrum, and I don’t know what they hope to accomplish. You, the reporter here in this very real scenario coming soon to a practice rink near you, are not gonna get him to go, “Ah y’know what I’m actually leaving this year and I hope they trade me ASAP.”
Let the man live!
6 – Never drafting 18-year-olds again
The good thing about the NHL’s brewing designs on raising the draft age to 19 is that everyone, regardless of where they stand on the issue, seems to see it for exactly what it is: A naked attempt by teams to make sure their GMs whiff on slightly fewer draft picks.
An extra year of observation against a theoretically higher level of competition gives more data to make more informed decisions about who should be drafted, say, 12th overall. It’s hard to get top-10 picks wrong, or harder than it is outside the top 10. That leads to a lot of teams torching mid-round draft picks while other teams get good players, and everyone writes, “They took So-And-So but passed on This Guy? Unbelievable!” Very embarrassing, so it makes sense that teams would want to limit that embarrassment as much as humanly possible.
The NBA and NFL have already done this to a certain extent, giving the NCAA cartels at least a little more grist for the amateurism mill, and while it certainly hasn’t hurt the popularity of either of those leagues — which, I’m sure, is all the NHL cares about — it erodes the rights of the workers involved in those sports.
Yeah, most guys aren’t in the NHL at 18 anyway, but why should Rasmus Dahlin, or whomever, have to wait an extra year to make money because Don Sweeney can’t tell the difference between players worthy of a mid-round pick and those very much not? And hell, why should fans be denied that extra year of Connor McDavid?
I don’t feel like I’m arguing for exceptional-player status here, either. Every 18-year-old should be given a full opportunity to make a team out of nowhere, like Patrice Bergeron did. And yeah, OK, that’s an example from 2003, but you see the point.
Again, everyone understands this is cynical garbage from the league built on it.
5 – Marc Bergevin, brain genius
This whole saga with Alex Galchenyuk is the Subban stuff all over again. Everyone seems to have a collective position with this guy — in this case, literally — and the Habs’ take is, “Actually we know better.”
At some point, Marc Bergevin has to entertain the idea that he actually doesn’t know better. That definitely proved out with the whole Subban trade, and it’s more than likely to be proven true here as well. The Habs don’t have a wings problem, they have a center depth problem, and while Bergevin has a potential solution, he’s made up his mind. “I’ve seen enough to know it won’t work,” seems to be the prevailing attitude.
But what percentage of his career has Galchenyuk actually played the pivot? He’s taken about 1,700 faceoffs in 336 games, but really got most of them (nearly 1,400) the last two years. That’s really not a lot. Mike Fisher has won more than that.
At least try it, right? Or hell, just trade the guy. Both solutions would work, to varying degrees for the parties involved.
4 – Declaring your principles
Like honestly this is the dumbest stuff I’ve seen the league do in a while, and this is the NHL we’re talking about.
The NHL and the people around it love to talk about how hockey is morally superior to all the other sports. (Which I’m sure has little to do with the overall whiteness of this sport versus others.) Now it has it in writing. Meanwhile, they’re sending out Snapchats or whatever of Patrick Kane as a cute little puppy. “Ha ha ha, the objectively bad person is so fun!” And that happened the same day as the Declaration Of Principles.
Truly a special league!
3 – Damon Severson, I guess?
Well this seems like it’s a perfectly OK deal. He does a lot of stuff very well but he’s somewhat gently used. This price point used to be the range for lots of good young defenders coming out of their ELCs: sixish years, $4-5 millionish AAV. TJ Brodie, Chris Tanev, John Klingberg, Adam Larsson all got deals like that.
I would’ve thought that price point would go up a bit given the way the cap has moved the last few years, but it’s lucky for the Devils it really hasn’t. This kid can play a bit and now is his chance to really prove it with a bigger role, especially on a team that, well, is gonna be quite bad.
2 – Let the criminals be the law men
Ahh, well, George Parros. Sure.
The good news is he can’t be worse when it comes to protecting players than Stephane Quintal, whose administration was the worst since the start of the focus on headshots. But then again, Parros’s stated area of focus is going to be … slashing? This is entirely because of the Methot slash, right? Stick play does damage in this league no doubt, but there are more pressing problems, like the league giving Colton Sissons zip for crosschecking Olli Maatta in the face during the Cup Final.
Here’s the thing, though: You can focus on both of them.
All anyone should want out of the Department of Player Safety is a consistent record of protecting people across the board. No one problem is necessarily bigger than the other but the results of some of those problems certainly can be.
But the first headshot that goes without punishment is gonna happen on, like, Day 2 of the new season. And they’ll throw the book at someone for a fairly-common-but-still-pretty-bad high stick. You can believe that.
1 – Cherry Coke Zero
If the pope can name one NHL player, I will let him get away with this support letter. Get him on the phone!
(Not ranked this week: Not signing Jagr.
If the first of these forwards who turns a PTO into a regular NHL deal signs before Jagr, I’m gonna lose it.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)