Overdue Mail Bag
PHILADELPHIA — Folks, got a confession to make. Been neglecting the mail bag, as a few of you have pointed out to me in emphatic tones.
So with Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final just five hours away, here's my attempt, with apologies, to play catch up.
Actually, we're going to highlight a piece of mail this week from Trevor Belrose of Kanata:
Q: Hi Damien ,
It's pretty remarkable to see the impact the extraordinary draft class of 2003 has had, both in the Olympics and the playoffs. If the '03 draft were re-done today, who would the top 10 picks be? And, how long does it take before we can fairly judge a draft class? Thanks. (I like discussing the 2003 draft with my dad, who's a diehard Leaf fan. Just saying.)
A: Love these kind of if-it-were-done-all-over-again questions, so thanks Trevor. This one is intriguing because the '03 draft - Marc-Andre Fleury was the first pick – was packed with all kinds of talent, much of which remains with the same clubs that did the drafting seven years ago. An exception would be Dion Phaneuf, taken ninth that year, who ended up being dealt to the Leafs.
So in '03, the top picks were: 1. Fleury (Pittsburgh) 2. Eric Staal (Carolina) 3. Nathan Horton (Florida) 4. Nikolai Zherdev (Columbus) 5. Tomas Vanek (Buffalo) 6. Milan Michalek (San Jose) 7. Ryan Suter (Nashville) 8. Brayden Coburn (Atlanta) 9. Phaneuf (Calgary) 10. Andrei Kostitsyn (Montreal).
If those teams could all have a mulligan, my guess would be the new order would be:
1. Ryan Getzlaf (went 19th) 2. Shea Weber (49th) 3. Mike Richards (24th) 4. Zach Parise (17th) 5. Brent Seabrook (14th) 6. Eric Staal (2) 7. Corey Perry (28th) 8. Fleury (1st) 9. Dustin Brown (13th) 10. Ryan Kesler (23).
Obviously, there was great value for teams outside the top 10 that year, and my list doesn't include Patrice Bergeron (45th), Joe Pavelski (205th), Dustin Byfuglien (245th). As well, the three D-men that did go high - Suter, Coburn and Phaneuf - all still have a change to be big-time players but have more developing still to do.
Like this year, with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin battling for the first overall selection spot, my do-over draft would have Getzlaf and Weber battling for the No. 1 spot. Wonder what Ray Shero, now the GM of the Penguins, and Jim Rutherford, still the GM in Carolina, would prefer? I'm pretty sure Florida and Columbus would have been much happier with Richards and Parise than they were with Horton and Zherdev.
Fun exercise, though. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Here's a few leftover questions from recent weeks:
Q: Hi Damien,
I'm shocked at how little coverage I've seen regarding the Scott Hartnell 'goal' in game 3 that was ruled a goal after a video review. As Craig Simpson commented when looking at the replay, the angle of the camera (it was positioned way too far toward centre ice) made that replay useless, in my opinion.
Do you have any info regarding approval of the eye-in-the-sky camera positions? I sure hope the series doesn't end on a similar replay. I know that there will never be a perfect system for reviewing goals in hockey, but I think the best chance is to have a few mini cameras built in to the goal posts and crossbar. That overhead camera position in Philly has to be changed, though.
Bill Tamblyn, Toronto
A: Here's the deal. Philly and L.A. are the two NHL cities in which the rinks don't allow the overhead camera to be position directly over the crossbar, which is the No. 1 view the NHL replay officials prefer. In the Wachovia Centre, the camera is in front of the crossbar. In the Staples Centre, it's behind. Both are problematic. Essentially, it comes down to costs, and the cost of installing a camera for one game to avoid being obstructed would be enormous in both rinks. The NHL believes that will multiple views, it can work around the problem.
But I'm with you. I'm still wondering if that puck was in.
Q: Hello Damien,
I'm just wondering what's going on with Nikolai Kulemin? Why aren't the Leafs signing him? I heard his agent wants him to go back to Russia? Why would his agent want him to go back to Russia when he's obviously NHL material? Damien, what's going on? Is there even any talk of signing him? Do you think it's worth signing him back? Because I sure do! HELP! Much appreciated!!
Leaf Fan, Manitoulin Island, Ont.
A: Kulemin had a breakthrough year, although 16 goals while getting lots of first line duty doesn't exactly make him a star. To me, he looks like a solid second line winger with a ability to be physical and grind it out.
The Leafs want him back and he wants to come back. But there's a difference in opinion on the price. I believe it will be resolved. My guess is the Leafs want to be in the $2-2.5 million range while Kulemin and his agent are instead looking at $3-3.5 million. I think it'll get done, but you never know. Neither side has great leverage. The Leafs can't afford to lose Kulemin, but I'm not sure there's another team in the league that would pay him a penny over $2 million, and that's being generous.
I think I may have come across a solution for the touch-icing issue that Brian Burke touched on in his recent press conference. If a potential icing is occurring, and the offensive player reaches the area between the top of the faceoff circle, and the dot opposite the goalie before the defender can play the puck, the icing is waved off. This keeps the flow of the game going. If, however, the offensive player is below the dot as the defender plays the puck, this will be whistled as icing before the puck is played. I feel that this would alleviate the injury factor to both players, while giving the late arriving forechecker the opportunity to defend against a rush up ice. The only caveat I would include is that the icing must originate from the near side of the far blueline; anything from the defensive zone would result in an automatic icing call. Let me know what you think.
Stu Campaigne, North Bay
A: I'm probably the wrong guy to ask on this issue. I don't have a problem with the icing rule as it stands. I think the risk factor is exaggerated - have you seen a problem in this final - and I would hate to take the race for the puck out of the game. If there's a rule that preserves that race while making it a safer play, of course I'd be in favour.
Q: Why isn't Seattle ever mentioned as a possible location for an NHL franchise? It's the 12th largest television market in the United States, the city has a longstanding hockey tradition (it hosted the Stanley Cup Finals in 1917 and 1919), and amateur and junior teams in the area have always played in front of solid attendance.
I realize there are arena issues, but with the NBA Sonics now out of the picture, it seems like a city ripe for the picking by the NHL - and certainly one with more potential than the likes of Kansas City or Las Vegas.
Josh Lavine, Toronto
A: From time to time, Seattle has come up, but not lately. No rink and no interested owner. That about covers it.
Q: Why is Chris Pronger such a dirty player? Some might consider it merely petty, stealing the game pucks from two Chicago wins, but I look at it as a clear extension of the goonery that Pronger has had on display since 1995 when he hit Pat Peake in the throat with his stick. It's been worse since he left Edmonton, two one-game suspensions in the 2007 playoffs, an 8 game suspension in 2008. Several suspension in his career for intent to injure. What a classy guy.
Arthur Bailey, Red Lake
A: Well, he plays the way he plays because it's been a very good formula for about 17 years now. He's certainly on the edge of the rulebook all the time. Most of the time, I don't see it as dirty. I just see him get away with a lot of interference, holdups and crosschecks, but he's awfully smart and most of the time seems to understand what will get called and what won't.
Q: Brian Burke and others (you?) have been saying that the Leafs will be able to acquire high draft choices by trading their open cap space to teams with cap trouble (i.e., buying out bad contracts with the possibility of sticking the players in the minors, if necessary). So far, there doesn't seem any evidence that teams with cap trouble have had to resort to that step.
Did something happen to change the economics? Do you think it is possible that the Leafs could acquire a first or second round draft pick by acquiring an expensive contract with cap problems, such as Brian Campbell's from Chicago?
John Hunt, Harvard, Mass.
A: It's only been five years since the NHL instituted its salary cap and much remains theoretical about it in terms of how it will alter team's behavior. I think you saw earlier this season in the Cam Barker-Kim Johnsson a team (Chicago) forced to move a younger player not because it wanted to, but because future cap considerations forced it to. I think there's more than a few teams out there that are still operating under old philosophies, hoping contract problems will somehow go away or they will always be able to make an old-style hockey trade to compensate for lost talent. I'm guessing this is going to change, but we'll see.