Here we are, late May, and we only have to wait another four more off-days until the NHL gets going with the Stanley Cup final. These two clubs will be so rested they’ll be almost asleep.
Lucky hockey fans!
Here’s this week’s mail bag: (click here to submit a question)
Q: Boy, we would have loved to have seen the OT between the Sens and Sabres but were shuffled off to the racetrack instead by NBC. Surely that wasn't the case in Canada...or was it too?
Martin Shaw, Las Vegas
A: No, but we have the great good fortune to be able to count on CBC and Hockey Night in Canada. The Great Apocalyse, it would seem, would be only event that would ever pull the national broadcaster away from overtime of a Stanley Cup playoff game. The fact that NBC gave its affiliates the choice, of course, just illustrates the opposite; how limited the commitment of NBC is to hockey, and how hockey is held in such low-esteem by a broadcaster that would never do the same to the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball. Or NASCAR, for that matter.
Q: Hi Damien,
The Leafs appear to have more depth at defence than forward, and are desperate for some pure skill up front. Are there any "Pavel Kuvina" contracts out there at forward, particularly on a team that could use a top 3 defenceman? Do you think it would be possible to trade Pavel + bad contract for (insert name of skilled forward here) + bad contract?
Steve Miner, Toronto
A: As I’ve said before, there are no untradeable contracts, just unimaginative GMs. Anything is possible. Look at Tampa Bay. They’ve got the Brad Richards five-year, $39 million contract with another four years to run, as well as a roster that desperately requires depth at all positions.
So let’s spitball, here. If you were the Leafs and offered Bryan McCabe and Andrew Raycroft, or Kubina and Wellwood, would the Bolts be motivated to make a deal? Maybe. The point is that its not only about whether Richards is worth more as a player than Kubina and Wellwood combined, or McCabe and Raycroft combined. It’s that combined with their impact on the salary cap.
So do I think it would be possible for the Leafs to move their bad contracts, specifically those of McCabe and Kubina? Absolutely.
Q: Now with Ian White signed to a long term deal, and Anton Stralman's performance at the World Championships, it seems safe to assume the starting 6 Leafs blueliners next season will be McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina, Gill, White, and Stralman. So what do the Leafs do with Colaiacovo, Wozniewski, and Kronwall, keep them as spare defenders in case of injuries, either with the Leafs or down with the Marlies, or trade them?
Sylvie Boudrais, Toronto
A: The Detroit Red Wings just lost the Western Conference final to Anaheim largely because two of Detroit’s best defencemen, Mathieu Schneider and Niklas Kronwall, were out with injuries. Still, the Wings got as far as they could with the likes of Brett Lebda and Kyle Quincey. The moral of the story is that you need eight NHL defencemen, not just six.
Out of that group of nine blueliners you listed above, I count four proven NHL vets and two rookies with upside: White and Colaiacovo. The other three – Stralman, Wozniewski and Kronwall – are unproven, and Kronwall may be headed back to Europe if he can’t get a one-way contract from the Leafs.
So I don’t see the Leafs as having spare defenceman at all. I see them as having a shortage of proven NHL rearguards, even though defence remains the club’s deepest area.
Q: Hi Damien,
In light of the Pronger suspension, what do you make of the NHL's inaction regarding Daniel Alfredsson's cheapshot hit from behind on a Buffalo defenseman (Ales Kotalik?) in game three of that series for which he wasn't even penalized? While Alfredsson didn't hit his victim in the head, he certainly drove him head-first into the boards with wanton disregard for his safety. In my view, this is the NHL's #1 enforcement problem: the wild inconsistency with how it treats hits from behind.
Geoff Read, Toronto
A: I agree. Alfredsson left his feet to hit the Buffalo player – it was Henrik Tallinder – and clearly hit him from behind. It deserved at least a major and a review. The fact the NHL doesn’t take stronger action on these types of hits proves – again – it doesn’t mind them being a regular part of the game.
Q: Hey Damien,
With the new officiating, it would make sense to me for the NHL to start using a 1-minute penalty for infractions that don't directly interfere with a scoring chance. For example, offensive or neutral zone hooking, holding, tripping, and of course, for the dreaded shooting the puck over the glass. If an infraction interferes with a scoring chance, it would still be two-minutes. So what do you think? And what are the chances the NHL competition committee will makes a change to the arcane 2-minute penalty?
Scoop Furlong, Ottawa
A: I think it’s a good idea. And I think there’s no chance the NHL will look at it. It’s been suggested before, but for whatever reason the league appears wedded to the notion that penalties are either two minutes, four minutes, five minutes or 10. The notion of a one-minute penalty is interesting, except that with the success rate with which teams are able to kill penalties, I wonder if teams wouldn’t just take those minors after a while, knowing there was a limited cost attached.
Q: I totally agree with you about the 2 minute penalty for a little tap on the butt by a stick when you see the real transgressions that take place in any hockey game but do you honestly think that 5 and a game would be a deterrent for high sticking?
Didn't the N.H.L. already try something similar in the early 90's? You could actually see players trying to pop a zit in an effort to draw blood out of there faces to force the 5 and a game penalty for drawing blood. Do we also have to painfully endure the referees conveniently not seeing a star player's infraction as was once quite painfully and famously done many years ago. Personally I think it would lead to more players flinging there heads back as if they just got nailed by a 21 year old Mike Tyson right hook.
Micheal Taylor, Whitby
A: For starters, I wouldn’t worry about looking for blood. A high stick is a high stick, and five and game for every high stick would indeed act as a deterrent. Look at how much hooking and holding have been reduced, and those are just two minute minors!
As far as whether it would encourage dramatic over-reactions, there’s a straightforward response. First, you could make such calls immediately reviewable by head office in Toronto, and any deliberate and obvious fakery could have the call reversed and the miscreant booted out of the game and suspended. No Rivaldo crap here. The player initially identified as the high-sticker would stay in the game and his team would go on the power play. If you can review as high-stick resulting in a goal or a puck deliberately directed into the net with skate, you can review this stuff just as quickly and clean up the garbage.
Click here to send Damien a question and he'll answer a selection in his mail bag every Thursday in this space.