- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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You guys love your rants. And you’re good at it. Let’s take a look again this week:
back2back0809: I'm tired of hearing how Detroit's .500 road record isn't good enough for the playoffs! When you're dang near perfect at home you can afford to have that record and this formula will win playoff series. Detroit is almost a guarantee to be a top two seed in the West, insuring them of home ice for the first two rounds. Just look at the standings, there isn't a whole lot of teams that have a great road record. It's tough to win on the road in the NHL, just ask the last 20 teams that visited the Joe.
My take: Bingo, well said. With the Wings headed for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the West, their dominance at home will be a nice weapon come playoff time. And in my mind, not enough is being said about the Wings tying the all-time home winning streak at 20 games. This is a superb achievement. Yes, I know, the advent of the shootout has forced a result each and every night and that wasn’t the case before 2005. But I would argue what makes Detroit’s streak so darn impressive is that never before has the NHL had this much parity. I mean, the difference between the best team in the league and the worst is not that great at all. That wasn’t the case before 2005 and certainly not in the 1970s and 1980s, when the powerhouses hammered the lightweights night in and night out. Point being, the Wings winning 20 straight at home in an age in which the rosters are so closely matched on talent -- well that’s an amazing feat.
hockeystud41: I am so disappointed with Dale Hunter as a coach. I agreed that Bruce Boudreau needed to go, but Hunter was supposed to bring discipline, accountability and a fire to the team. He hasn't done any of that. The Caps were LUCKY to lose by two to San Jose Monday, they were dominated in every aspect of the game. And Hunter's making awful personnel moves. Mike Knuble was a healthy scratch so Hershey callup Joel Rechlicz could get a 10 minute misconduct and 1:30 of total ice time. At least with Bruce, after a game like that he would hold a tough practice to let them know this wasn't acceptable. Now all that will happen is half the team won't show up for an optional skate. Where is the discipline Hunter was supposed to bring? If the Caps don't make the playoffs, then it's already time to look for a new coach.
Canuck1215: You can change your coach, but until the captain of the team remembers he's an NHL hockey player and not some trend setting playboy, the discipline problems will remain. For as much talent as the team has, games and Cups are won in the hard work put in during practice, offseason workouts and through being a TEAM, not just playing on one. Parallel Ovechkin and Stamkos. Two great talents, but why is one only improving on his greatness, while the other barely stands out in most games he plays. Just look at their offseason training regimen. The millions these players are paid is not just for the 82-game season plus training camp and playoffs, it's to maintain the high level and intensity even during offseason workouts.
My take: I’m with Canuck1215 on this. The leadership has to start with your franchise player and Alex Ovechkin continues to be inconsistent this season. Let me put it to you this way, I asked an NHL scout to rank the following four Russian stars recently, Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. And he answered, "Really close between Datsyuk and Malkin, they’re 1a and 1b, then it’s Kovalchuk, and Ovechkin a distant fourth."
elenchus23: I brought this up earlier but it bears repeating so people stop making assumptions. The Western Conference is no longer better than the Eastern Conference. They are practically equal in points per game. Second, the EC teams have allowed well over 100 more goals than the WC teams. I don't know if that has to do with better goaltending/defense in the WC, or better shooters in the EC, or a combination thereof. I am just tired about hearing that the WC is better/more competitive when they really aren't this year. Not to mention the Atlantic is the best division in hockey by a good margin, so the Rangers deserve to be No. 1 in the rankings...and I'm a Wings fan.
My take: Totally disagree. There remains more elite teams in the West than the East. To me, the top Cup contenders at this point, in no particular, are Rangers, Red Wings, Sharks, Bruins, Canucks and Blues.
The second level of contenders I would slot are the Predators, Flyers, Penguins and Blackhawks.
Bottom line? That’s six from the West overall and four from the East. That’s good enough for me to say the West remains stronger.
And yes, the Atlantic Division is very, very strong, but I still think the Central Division is tops in the NHL this season.
folksed: I'm not one of those blowhards who thinks that Shannahan or anyone at the NHL ever thinks "That would have been a suspension, but it was a Red Wing that made the hit" or "I wasn't going to suspend him, but he hit a Red Wing."
But even still, there is the appearance of favoritism toward Detroit. As a Blues fan, I wasn't overly upset that Ian Cole was suspended in late December for his hit on Justin Abdelkader (although three games seemed a bit much for a first time offender). But, I had a huge problem with the NHL not even reviewing a nearly identical hit by Datsyuk on Jackman the very same week.
Now, Zac Rinaldo is being suspended for a pretty marginal hit against, you guessed it, a Red Wing. The first angle I saw looks like he gets the head, but when you see it from the side angle, it's pretty clear to me that he just gets him high on the chest and it was Ericsson's fault for not looking where he was going.
Again, I don't think there's a conscious bias, but the way suspensions are levied, there is an appearance of favoritism. Do you agree? And, if so, what do you think the NHL could do to fix it? I think they should review more hits. Now that Shannahan is explaining his rationale for suspensions, I for one would have at least liked an explanation on why the NHL thought Cole's hit was a suspension but Dasyuk's was not.
My take: For the last time, I don’t believe for a second the league shows any kind of bias toward or against any team. That’s conspiracy stuff, and it’s silly. And by the way, remember when Brendan Smitth got nailed with an eight-game suspension on Sept. 30? It was for three preseason games plus five regular-season games. The Wings were mighty upset with that one.
psflcom: I can't do it anymore! I can't find reason to defend Lindy Ruff's existence behind the bench in Buffalo anymore. I love the guy...I remember lying in bed as a child listening to the Sabres games on a hand-held AM radio...but, he HAS to go. I don't understand what his issue is with the Sabres youth. Zack Kassian and Luke Adam belong with the big club...they need to play. There is no reason for them to be in Rochester when you consider the Sabres' No. 1 center is Derek Roy who has 11 goals, 27 points, is a minus-8 and averages 19 minutes per game. Luke Adam? 10 goals, 20 points, minus-6, was getting just over 12 mins/game. Patrick Kaleta has contributed 5 goals, 7 points, minus-4, getting 13:40 of ice time. Kassian has 3 goals, 6 points, minus-1, 12:50 of ice time...in HALF the games (39 games to 20) Kaleta has played. SO FRUSTRATED!!! Get the kids out there and lets see what they can do...I've watched Roy float long enough...and I am quickly tiring of Kaleta's stone hands and childish antics. HELP!!
My take: I truly feel for Sabres fans; they deserve better than what they were handed this season. They were bathed in high expectations with a new, deep-pocketed owner, but it’s all come crashing down. It’s going to be real interesting to see what GM Darcy Regier is able to accomplish before Feb. 27. The pressure is on him to shake up this roster. Not so much to be sellers, but rather move pieces around to get this team on track for next season.
RickG3187: Hi Pierre, As a die-hard Bruins fan, it's been quite a year watching my boys defend the Cup. However, there is one thing that drives me up the wall more than Tim Thomas' politics and Tyler Seguin's best disappearing act, and that is Joe Corvo. He has been an absolute disaster, and no one is talking about it. We made the mistake last year of picking up Tomas Kaberle to help our backline offense, and luckily all it cost us was a draft pick and a prospect. This year, I believe the addition of Corvo to do the exact same thing may cost us a chance to repeat. Everyone saw how frustrated Patrice Bergeron got at the end of the 6-0 beat-down Buffalo put on us the other night, and I firmly believe it was the lazy, careless, nonchalant backhand pass Joe Corvo softly sent up the boards directly to the forechecker who proceeded to net the last goal of the night, which caused the normally cool-headed Bergy to smash his stick on the goalpost and slam the bench door after he changed. It took nearly four whole years for Claude Julien's system to come together in Boston, and Corvo has seemed almost disinterested in attempting to fit into it. We picked Corvo up for his offense, but it seems that the only time he's near a puck while its in the net is when he's fishing it out of his own. Its time to swap out Corvo for a depth forward, bring up young Steve Kampfer and give him a shot, much like Adam McQuaid stepped up for us last year. I'm sure the depth guy and bag of pucks we get for Corvo will do a whole lot more for our team than what we've been seeing here in Boston the last few months.
My take: I agree with you that Joe Corvo hasn’t been a good fit in Boston. But I think the reason it’s not a big story is that whether he was going to be a big fit or not, he wasn’t going to be much of a deciding factor in the success or failure of the defending Cup champs this season. He’s a support player, not a core player.
10mrooney: Pierre, I'm sure that I'm the 1,000,000th person to bring up the Hawks' struggles but its just starting to get ridiculous. I'm fully aware that the defense only decides to show up half the time and that Nick Leddy just can't kill penalties, but its not all on them. First of all, I'm not going to be one of those guys who says to fire Q (Joel Quenneville), because I don't think he's the problem, but someone on that staff needs to realize that Leddy should never kill a penalty the rest of the season and that having four forwards on the power play just doesn't work for this team for whatever reason. When Sharp was out, they moved back to three forwards and two D-men on the power play and it saw a spark, and then when Sharp came back they go back to four and one and the power play doesn't do a thing again. As for the penalty kill, there's not much to say other than it all starts between the pipes and there needs to be a change there, Nabakov please. Stan Bowman needs to be on the hot seat right now, I understand he has a ring but that was Dale's team and I can't help but think if Bowman were calling the shots that summer that Hossa would have signed long-term elsewhere and Havlat would still be a Hawk and the Cup never would have been won. With the exception of Jamal Mayers, not one move has been successful under the Bowman era. Frolik, fail. Campbell trade, fail. Brunette, fail. O'Donnell, fail. Lepisto, fail. Stalberg,fail. Niemi, fail. Crawford, fail. Stan needs to be held accountable sooner or later and Tallon never should have been let go, all he did was build one of the best team's to win the Cup in recent memory and was fired for someone who was more of a yes man.
My take: The special teams are a disaster, so Coach Q has to take part of the blame for that. I don’t think they’re going to make a change in-season, but I still think Joel Quenneville has to take some responsibility there. Right now, the Hawks' management is focused on improving the blue line before Feb. 27, and sources indicate they’re trying mighty hard to do just that.
9hPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald