- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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Some well-thought-out rants this week. And others that were just plain angry. So we thank you. Let’s take a look:
R.DK: POUTINE!!!! Now that I have your attention, do I ever HATE the shootout! It doesn't prove who the better team is on any given night. And the worst part is I know it's not going anywhere. You're an insider, how do we get rid of the gimmick?
My take: Well, I can’t resist a rant that starts with poutine. Mmmm ... But I digress. Yes, the shootout. I’m not a fan of it, either. To me, it’s run its course. But the majority of fans still seem to love it, judging from the reaction in the stands when a shootout is happening. That’s good enough for the league. Most of the NHL’s 30 GMs also are down on the shootout, which is why they voted in favor of adding the "ROW" tiebreaker rule two years ago. That minimizes the importance of the shootout for a standings tiebreaker (only regulation and overtime wins count for the tiebreaker). In addition, Red Wings GM Ken Holland is on record saying he favors extending overtime to including a second five-minute period of three-on-three play. I’m fully in favor of that. Obviously, that would reduce the amount of shootouts held every year. Right now, though, the shootout is here to stay, like it or not.
ClarkAveSTL: I have to rant about the Ben Bishop trade. As a Blues fan, I hate to see him go. He is looking sharp for Ottawa already and I'm not sure Brian Elliott will have the long-term success the Blues are hoping for. The trade is good for Bishop, seeing as how he is 25 and might not have seen any serious playing time for the Blues for at least a couple more years. But I really feel like the Blues let one get away on this one.
My take: I understand your frustration, because I believe Bishop has No. 1 potential. But the fact is, Bishop was going to walk out the door July 1 as an unrestricted free agent and the Blues would have got nothing in return for him. At least they got a second-round pick. And don’t tell me you think the Blues could have re-signed him. I don’t think Bishop would have wanted to remain blocked by two goalies in that organization. In Ottawa, he’s got a better shot.
hawkfreak1010: As an Avalanche fan, it's extremely frustrating for me to look at the current standings in the Western Conference. To be more specific, it's frustrating that the teams they are battling with for the eighth and final playoff spot all have significantly fewer wins than the Avs, but because they lose more of their games in OT they get rewarded with a point. SJ: 10 OTL, LA: 12 OTL, Phoenix: 11 OTL and Calgary: 13 OTL!!!! The Avs have five OTL and 39 wins, which is three more than San Jose and Phoenix, four more than Los Angeles and five more than Calgary, yet they are all separated by no more than two points!! I understand what the system is supposed to be doing, but it's completely unfair for a team to make the postseason over a team with more wins!! Isn't winning what you're supposed to do in sports, not hold off a team until OT and then lose?
My take: Totally agree, my friend. Hence my column a few weeks back about why Steve Yzerman and I favor three-point, regulation-time victories. The bottom line is that three points for a 60-minute win (like in European soccer) would better reflect teams that "win" games. But I understand the league’s view on this, which is that the current system keeps closer races to the wire. You can’t deny that. Still, I think a truer reflection of the balance of power should be the ultimate goal. And that’s what three points for a regulation win would give you.
MJMcGurk: My rant is about the lack of effort night in and night out by the Washington Capitals. They are fighting, not literally of course, for the final playoff spot. Yet they go into Chicago and it takes them over 16 minutes to register a shot on goal. This has been the norm lately, especially on the road, and it certainly doesn't get better at Detroit and at Philly. I can live with the loss at Winnipeg. They came out with some fire. But that is the exception and not the rule for them.
My take: Easily the most disappointing team of the NHL season when you consider the talent level and expectations. I point to three key reasons, in no particular order:
1. Nicklas Backstrom's concussion. He is their best player. There, I said it. Once he went down, it made things all the more difficult for all kinds of reasons. He’s their most consistent player. They just can’t win regularly without him.
2. Alex Ovechkin. He’s played better of late, but 32 goals doesn’t cut it for a player of his talent and compensation. Until he agrees to commit 12 months a year to his game like his compatriots Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk, the Caps will be worse for it.
3. Goaltending. Veteran Tomas Vokoun has been decent, but he was only a one-year stopgap. The hope, or the plan, in the Caps' front office was that Michal Neuvirth would react to the Vokoun signing and bring his game to another level. Instead, his 2.85 goals-against average and .900 save percentage have him ranked among the bottom. He’s been a huge disappointment.
shelbycoker: I'm tired of all this crap saying the Panthers aren't a legitimate NHL team. They just came off a four-game homestand winning all four while missing their best player for three of those games. They embarrassed the Bruins and Maple Leafs. The Panthers deserve way more credit than they get. In fact, I think they have the talent to make a run for the Eastern Conference championship this year!
My take: Hey, Tampa reached the Eastern Conference finals last season and Montreal the season before that. So by now we all know that in the mediocre East, anything is possible. As for the Panthers, they have been a terrific surprise. GM Dale Tallon has a tremendous eye for talent, having helped build the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. But you also have to be honest and point out that the Panthers are leading the weakest division in the league in the Southeast. It’s not their fault the division is weak, but that is the truth nonetheless.
CalvinMN: You want a real rant? I live in Minnesota, where hockey is ingrained in our culture, and the Wild are absolutely terrible. We lost to Columbus twice -- in the same week. We have fewer points than every team in the Eastern Conference. We’ve already been shut out three times this month. We’re last in goals scored -- by a 16-goal margin. We have no depth at forward. Our defense is inexperienced. Our third-string goalie is now our starter. I don’t think any of us expected to stay at the top of the league, but falling to 28th didn’t seem possible. Leave it to the Wild to defy the odds! I know we’ve been brutalized with injuries -- we’ve heard that excuse before -- but winning teams find a way to win. I know Chuck Fletcher started with a piecemeal roster and an empty prospect cupboard, but when are we going to push through all the excuses and get a winning attitude in Minnesota?
My take: Cannot blame you one bit for feeling so frustrated. Sitting first overall in early December and now close to the basement of the NHL, that’s got to rip a Wild fan’s heart out. The biggest problem to me is so obvious: offense. This team needs a serious upgrade in its top-six group. I know that’s what Fletcher was trying with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, but that hasn’t worked out well. Zach Parise is a UFA on July 1. I’d be shocked if Parise doesn’t include his native Minnesota among the teams he’d consider. That’s the move this franchise needs.
obrand6: If I'm a Nashville player right now, I'm absolutely livid that Alexander Radulov is coming back just in time for the playoffs. To think that all year, you battle hard to succeed only to have this guy come in and take a roster spot away from you. You HAVE to think it will mess with team chemistry, right? If I'm Shea Weber I'm letting everyone -- including Radulov -- know that NOTHING will change and that I'm still the undisputed leader of this team.
My take: To the contrary, in terms of Nashville players’ reaction. My understanding is that Weber has actually been totally supportive of Radulov's returning. It’s all in the name of trying to win this year. Keep in mind that Weber and fellow stud blueliner Ryan Suter are free agents on July 1. This is a big year for Nashville in so many ways. I’m told Weber and Suter totally embraced the idea of Radulov coming back to help the Preds now.
banzai51: Let me leave this here for everyone. Since we're all tribal in our complaints and can't talk about hockey beyond our local. ...
(My team) is not getting the (choose one) love/respect/officiating it deserves! (Player on my team) is having a phenomenal year, but all anyone can talk about is (choose one)the Crosby injury/complain about Crosby coverage. (yep, I'm including that for you Pittsburgh).
When is Brendan Shanahan going to do his job!!!! (My_Player) got machete attacked by (Player I hate) and nothing from the NHL front office. The refs didn't even call a dang penalty!! OUTRAGE!!! (Insert Old Time Hockey nonsense here).
My take: This was too good to ignore.
GdoubleG22: One word: accountability. Where is it within the New York Islanders organization? How long must I, as a die hard fan of this team for all 20 years of my life, be subjected to this incompetence, mediocrity and sheer buffoonery? At a certain point, you cannot blame the players anymore. Commish Gary Bettman needs to step in and make Charles Wong hire a GM with more experience than just being a career backup goaltender. Capuano is not an NHL coach and Snow is not an NHL GM. After declaring that he fully expects the team to make the playoffs, shouldn't someone within the front office be losing their job after again being a bottom dweller in the Eastern Conference? Pierre, what needs to be done to right the ship?
My take: It starts at the top. The owner’s unpredictability makes it an unstable franchise. I’ll actually give GM Garth Snow credit for being able to do a passable job under those circumstances. I know this doesn’t make any Islander fan feel any better because they’ve heard it so many times, but I don’t think they’re that far away. They’ve got a superstar, cornerstone play in John Tavares and a decent supporting cast with some intriguing prospects in the system. But yes, while Wang remains the owner, one never knows if that kind of promise can ever be fulfilled.
Ludlumtc: Good morning, Pierre. I appreciate the coverage you provide here on ESPN.com. I haven't ranted in a while, but my rant this week is in regards to goalie interference, in specific to the call on Tomas Holmstrom Saturday night at the Shark Tank. Reviewing the video of the penalty, to me it seemed Antti Niemi basically stuck his stick out as Homer was skating by. If anything it should've been a delay of game on Niemi. I know there are only eight eyes in real time on the ice that are in control of that aspect of the game, but c'mon that is just a weak call. It seems there is too much grey area in that aspect of the game. The last few years, the NHL has done a pretty good job of cleaning and defining this stuff. When will this issue be clearly defined?
My take: There was some talk of this last week at the NHL GMs meeting. My understanding is that the league will once again make this a point of emphasis with on-ice officials over the rest of the season.
Goaler82: I hate that LEGAL hits result in fights today in the NHL. I understand defending your teammate if they receive a dirty hit but can't NHL players take legal hits anymore? I think players who start a fight over an unpenalized hit should get an extra penalty. Make the team pay for it with a penalty kill.
My take: I could not agree more. It’s something that crept into the NHL game about a decade ago. If it’s a clean hit, there should be a fight. Take his number and hit him harder next shift. Not sure why this has changed.
stlbluenote11:Pierre, this rant is directed towards the media. Saturday the Blues beat the Lightning 3-1, and were the first team to make it to 100 points. They were also the very first team to clinch a playoff birth. Were they on the homepage? No. They at least had to be the lead on the NHL homepage? No. They were fifth on the list. Really? Is the bias really that big? News is news, and the team that is first in the NHL needs to get some respect, regardless of the size of the market. A Journalist's job is to get the story out there, the one that means the most to the league. The Blues were the first to clinch a spot, and that is more newsworthy than any score on that day. Florida can wait. Pittsburgh can wait. The Rangers have had their time. The team that is getting stuff done day in and day out deserves the credit. Get your act together and realize that the Blues are legit this year. Get used to writing about them, they're going to be in the playoffs for a while.
My take Well, you’ll be happy to know that yours truly is planning on beginning his two-month playoff trek in St. Louis come the first round. So there you go, ESPN.com in the house, baby!
13hScott Burnside and Craig Custance