We are now officially one week away from the start of the playoffs, and no one seems to be thinking too much about anything else.
Well, that’s not totally true, because the Sedins are retiring and I got one question about them. It’s understandable and I love talking about the damn Sedin boys, so I’m all for it, but otherwise, it’s all playoff stuff, baby.
And I want to send out an extra special thank you to the question-askers this week for not asking me anything about the MVP race, which has broken the brains of many otherwise smart people, including some very good friends of mine who maybe used to run this site. Anyway, not getting a single MVP question this week has done my heart (Hart, ha ha ha) good, and tells me I have cultivated an audience of exceptionally smart people who do not exist solely to antagonize. It’s better than I deserve!
Anyhow, lets get to it:
Brad asks: “Ratings implications aside, what would be the most interesting Cup Final match-up?”
I gotta tell ya: I truly can’t care about the ratings. I know as a professional hockey writer I’m supposed to gnash my teeth if they’re down a fraction of a percentage point, but people are gonna watch what they’re gonna watch, and if that’s another episode of Young Sheldon then what do I care?
And I have a boring answer for this one, too: I think it would be most interesting to see the Bruins and Preds absolutely smash each other. They’re the two best teams in the league, they’re both exciting to watch, they have fun personalities on both sides, etc. I would also accept Tampa and Winnipeg as a good Cup matchup. Hell, even throw in the Leafs.
Basically I think there’s a solid top five of those teams and then the rest are kind of less engaging to me as options. I just feel like there’s a big gap between them and everyone else in terms of being interesting.
Harry asks: “Should the Caps keep Trotz around?”
Of course they should.
Look, we all thought the Caps were gonna take a step back this season, and potentially kind of a big one. Instead, they won their division again, which is really not that much less competitive than it was last year in a lot of ways, and cleared 100 points again.
They lost a lot this summer to free agency and necessary trades, and it seems to have affected them very little, if at all. Some of that can be attributed to luck (they have the third-highest PDO in the league) and the overall quality of the players still sticking around, but you have to say Trotz did a pretty good job managing the reduced talent.
Put another way, the question of “Should ________ keep _______ around?” should always be followed with, “… and would his replacement do a better job?” While there are probably coaches who can maybe wring a little better of a process out of this group (they’re running a sub-48 Corsi share) but with this group, I’m not sure how much.
Basically, I don’t know how you let a guy like Trotz walk unless you’re sure his replacement would be as good or better. If Joel Quenneville becomes available, half the teams in the league might fire their coaches to try to get him, and if that’s something Washington could do, then sure.
But otherwise, I let him ride out the rest of the Caps’ window.
Tony asks: “Nashville and Winnipeg are the two obvious favorites to come out of the West, and the rest seem like they’re all in the same tier. Who’s your favorite of the bunch?”
The easy answer here was to say Minnesota. They’re still running pretty hot, and have been for months, but I’d need to see more proof of concept since Ryan Suter got hurt.
I can see San Jose doing some damage, especially if they get deep enough into the postseason to get Thornton back. Maybe LA if Quick can get on one, which has certainly happened before. And maybe, maybe you say Vegas, but I think everyone knows where I stand on them.
After that, I don’t have a lot of faith in any of the three other teams in the wild card hunt.
CF asks: “Was the review in the Panthers vs. Predators game a sign that goaltender review is trending in the right or wrong direction?”
I think it’s going in the same direction as before. Which is to say, “Nowhere anyone likes.”
Let’s not forget, everyone hates this, but the GMs did almost nothing and the league’s solution was to tell everyone, “Please stop complaining about this.” So now, instead of NHL referees in the rink not really understanding the rules and making a call anyway, you have former NHL referees watching on TV not understanding the rules and making a call anyway.
But here’s where I say something people won’t like: That overturned goal was a 50/50 call, moreso than any other controversial review in recent memory. I can see the argument that Luongo got pitchforked a little bit, and I can see the argument that he turned himself a little bit.
My whole thing now is that video review is ruining the NHL and we should probably just do away with it until we can just microchip everything and write better rules, because there’s so much subjectivity on goalie interference and offside that it’s effectively guesswork and a coin flip. Everyone hates it, so you have to change everything.
Tom asks: “Is there a model now on how to ‘rebuild on the fly’? Three years ago I thought the Bruins and Penguins windows were closed.”
I’m not sure I agree that either were really rebuilds on the fly. The Penguins just stopped giving middling wingers $5.5 million AAVs just because they were playing with Crosby and Malkin, traded for Phil Kessel, and let some expensive defensemen walk. Some of their contributors were certainly drafted and developed in-house but these are guys with skillsets better suited to what Crosby and Malkin needed all along.
With the Bruins, I’m more convinced that this was a successful rebuild on the fly, for sure. But they lucked into no one picking Charlie McAvoy before 14, and that includes THREE other defensemen. Other than that, who are their newer contributors among the young guys? In this argument I’m not counting David Pastrnak since he’s been in the league four years now.
Only one was a first-round pick (Jake DeBrusk, and they shouldn’t have taken him there), and a few more were taken in the second. I guess I’m wondering how much of a skill it is to have a handful of third- and fourth-round picks come in for you, and how much is luck. Certainly Don Sweeney seems to be doing better than most people would have expected, but he still traded away an elite defenseman for picks, so…
As with any other rebuild, I think the ones on the fly only work when teams get a little (or a lot) lucky and have elite players already. If you want to call that a formula, go for it, but it seems tough to replicate.
Cornelius asks: “How [BS] is it that Chara has only one Norris?”
Extremely. He’s the best defenseman of his generation and got screwed out of at least two, one of which (the Nick Lidstrom lifetime achievement award) was total and utter BS to an alarming extent. He’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the fact that he was only recognized as the best defenseman in the league once is a bit silly, no?
Hey speaking of underappreciated Hall-of-Fame careers…
ZA asks: “The consensus in British Columbia seems to be ‘The Twins are no-doubt HHOFers.’ Are Canucks fans in for a fun new type of disappointment?”
You never say it’s a sure thing with the Hall of Fame because those old white guys hold grudges and make dumbass decisions all the time.
That said, I think they’re pretty safe because they’ll have a pretty strong advocate in Brian Burke really banging the drum for them, and they deserve it.
Among players with at least 800 games played since the turn of the century, they’re fifth (Henrik) and seventh (Daniel) in points, with Marian Hossa — another slam-dunk pick — between them. This despite spending a lot of time on rotten teams, often playing with subpar players. They’re not quite on Jarome Iginla’s level of scoring a ton while not exactly having a lot of help, but they’re certainly in that conversation.
Walker asks: “Why do colleges put such emphasis on hiring a coach with previous ties to the school? Minnesota added Motzko, Michigan hired Pearson, and Wisconsin got Granato to name a few. Why do ADs immediately cull their options so dramatically?”
First of all, thanks for asking a college hockey question.
Second, I think this is a function of a couple issues being in play. First, alumni, who tend to donate a lot of money, love stuff like that and might see other guys as being more mercenary or not really Understanding The Culture of the program or school or whatever. Second, I think it probably engenders a lot more loyalty to the team and, if you do well, might convince you to stick around despite some potentially better offers.
Take, for example, Norm Bazin at UMass Lowell. He played there in the early 90s, met his wife there, was an assistant coach there after his playing career ended, all that stuff. He then went to other programs as an assistant, got a few years of head coaching experience in Div. 3, and got hired at Lowell. In doing so, he beat out guys with NHL pedigrees like Ron Rolston, among others.
And obviously it’s worked out great for all involved. Bazin wins a ton of games for his alma mater, and his alma mater sells a lot of tickets as a result. Plus, Bazin’s contract was expiring after this season, so last summer he interviewed for the AHL job in Utica a number of times. How serious he was about taking it isn’t for me to say, but my guess is, “Not very.” He used it to leverage a slightly better annual salary and a new deal out of the school.
In the long run, if you can get a good coach who isn’t likely to leave your school for greener pastures when the opportunity presents itself (like, say, I don’t know, Bob Motzko), that’s extremely valuable. It shouldn’t be the primary determining factor, but it should probably be in the mix.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.