(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
7 – Sore losers
Seems to me, and I don’t have data to back it up, that there has been a lot more “message-sending” in these playoffs than I remember from before. Guys trying to set the tone for the next game by trying to murder someone at the end of contests that are already out of reach.
How the NHL didn’t see fit to suspend Tommy Wingels for the straight-up elbow he threw at Scott Wilson’s chin, away from the play, down a touchdown and an extra point, is damn mystifying? One imagines the decision was made in much the same way a different part of the league’s disciplinary functions refused to suspend Ryan Getzlaf for calling what was allegedly no-one-in-particular a homophobic slur: “Their team has an important game coming up!!!”
Things got kinda ugly even at the end of the Ducks/Preds series, which was silly but to be expected given the number of dirtbags on the Anaheim roster.
The NHL doesn’t take this stuff seriously, but fans should. Cheap shots at the end of games need to be punished harshly.
6 – Shea Weber
Imagine you’re Shea Weber. Yeah you’ve got the millions of dollars every year and a ton of job security, but you gotta be feeling pretty low these days.
First, Ryan Suter leaves town and Weber starts to look like a lesser defenseman than he had before. Then several years later he gets traded, having a greatly diminished value, and has the hopes of a better chance of winning a Cup and finally getting some individual success.
Didn’t work out. Instead, the Preds are through to a Cup Final, Weber is sitting at home again — he’s still never made it out of the second round — with his chances for winning a Cup dwindling each year as Carey Price ages out of his prime years.
Meanwhile, the Preds have Subban (unequivocally the best player in the trade) and a young core that’s likely to have tons of success even in a much tougher division than the Atlantic, for years to come.
They have about $19 million to spend this summer, and while the expansion draft complicates their situation (they’re guaranteed to lose a middle-six forward, like Colin Wilson or Calle Jarnkrok) they really only have to re-sign Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson for pretty big money. Call it $6 million a year each. Get a Mike Fisher replacement, somewhere. Make a couple of RFA contracts happen, maybe hit the open market for some bottom-six forwards. Then you’re bringing back pretty much every major player in the Cup run.
Man, this Nashville defense is so good. People still act like Subban isn’t the reason they took a huge step forward. Look at the numbers in this postseason. He’s been a huge force. And for those still inexplicably on the “Subban’s Not A No. 1” train, here’s a definitive and correct ranking of the Nashville top-four by quality: Subban, Ekholm, Ellis, Josi.
Honestly, I doubt they get to this point with Weber as their clear No. 1. With the top-four being deployed as-is — pretty much equally and as-needed — Peter Laviolette has so much flexibility with this roster as it’s currently constituted.
Probably none of it would have been possible with Weber on the roster.
5 – Sens attendance (Att-sens-ance? I don’t know. Probably not.)
The idea that this team was even close to not selling out a Conference Final Game 6 — regardless of how Games 4 or 5 went — tells you everything you need to know about how people should feel about them. Bad team, bad ownership, bad arena situation.
Have we considered moving the Senators to a real hockey market, like Nashville?
4 – “But the schedule!!!”
I had a good idea for what the Ducks could have done if they didn’t to play seven games in 13 days or whatever they were all crying about after getting beat (albeit “unfairly,” if you want to call it that) in Game 6 on Monday night.
It’s a little off-kilter but here goes: If you don’t take all seven games to put down a mediocre team like the Oilers, you probably get a little extra time off.
The reason I think this is a plausible idea is that I seem to recall the Preds put down the Blues in fewer than seven games and then got a bunch of days off. I bet they all went to the mall and maybe got in some quality time with the family. Impossible to know for sure!
This is just a theory I’m testing. Curious to see what happens with it.
3 – Naming your son after Phil Kessel
I don’t want to go in too hard on a newborn baby here but “Kessel” is a very bad name. This is like when Game of Thrones got popular and people started naming their daughters “Khaleesi.” Khaleesi is a title, not a name, and similarly Kessel is a last name not a first name. This poor kid.
2 – Power moves
It is very cool that Ralph Krueger had the opportunity — not once but twice — to get a head coaching gig in the NHL. And it’s even cooler that he turned them both down flat.
My man got a raw deal with the Oilers a few years ago, catches on with a soccer team and has a pretty decent amount of success. Comes back to North America to coach the Euro team everyone thought was a joke and suffer a pair of narrow defeats to a juggernaut Canada team.
So when some NHL teams can their coaches, they say, “Hey Ralph, want a job?” And he goes, “I’m good, dudes. Thanks though.”
1 – Preds Pride
Oh yeah baby we’re just a little more than a week from Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton doing the anthems in Games 3 and 4. What a team. What a market. Wowie zowie!!!
(Not ranked this week: Injuries.
The problem with this year’s Cup Final is that both teams in it are going to be operating at like 80 percent. The Sens and Ducks really took their tolls on both clubs in the Conference Finals. It’s ugly. But that’s hockey I guess. Oh well.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)