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Rant answers: Season finale!

4/3/2012

And here we are, the final Rants of the season! I’ll be on the playoff trail the next two months solely focused on whatever series I’m involved in, so this wraps up our regular-season Rant soap box. You guys have been terrific again this season with this, and I thank you for taking to the boards with such passion. Let’s take a look at what I selected for our final week:

TwinsFan10157: Pierre, honestly, is there ANYTHING, ANYTHING positive about a team that is out of the playoffs but winning this late in the season? Take my Wild, THEY NEVER get a top-3 pick and here we thought with all the injuries they've suffered this season that no way this year's team (which has been tanking for 3 months) can hang around and win games no matter how hard they try, BUT NO! Instead, THE WILD PICK NOW to decide to win 3 games in a row, all against playoff teams (thank you very much) and fell all the way from possibly second or third overall in the June draft to 7th! AGAIN, a MIDROUND PICK! Is there seriously anything positive at all from my Wild winning this late in the season because I just want to rip my hair out (as much as I love them) for continuing to win when it seemingly gains them nothing!

AND

atchi020: As a WILD fan, I could not be more disgruntled. Starting from 1st in the NHL to falling out of the playoffs to injuries to the late-season collapse and flop. Now, after they tossed the great start and were sitting in place to get a top 3 pick in the draft, they decide to go on a 3-game win streak against playoff-caliber teams? Could being a Minnesota sports fan be any worse? Please get us Parise back to his home state!

My take: I certainly empathize with Wild fans this season. You got teased in early December and then hit over the head with the reality hammer the rest of the season. This club needs to find some offense moving forward. I don’t mind the young pieces on defense. I will also say I like how GM Chuck Fletcher and his staff have restocked the organization's depth. The cupboard was bare when he took over. That hasn’t quite translated yet at the NHL level but there are some quality prospects coming. You saw 20-year-old Jason Zucker join the team last week, he’s part of that wave. And yes, if Zach Parise hits the July 1 market, you better believe Minnesota will be all over him, although the Wild will hardly be alone (Detroit, Rangers and a list of other teams will be in the hunt).

Girouxsalem28: It really ticks me off when I hear all of these "experts" talking about how it was the Flyers' fault for the brawl Sunday. They seem to point out the incident when Brayden Schenn crosschecked Sidney Crosby, saying that they can't go after the face of the NHL and it's a blatant attempt to hurt him, etc. Didn't anyone see Crosby initiate any of it? He hit Schenn after the goal and Schenn retaliated. I don't understand why nobody in the media other than Philly members see this.

My take: I think you’re seeing the coverage through your own Flyers-colored glasses. I know here in Toronto the footage on TSN showed both Crosby’s shove of Brayden Schenn and the melee at the end. The bottom line is, there isn’t a smoking gun here. I don’t blame Schenn or the Flyers at all. Nor do I blame Crosby or the Penguins. You’ve got two intense rivals and the blood was boiling all game long. Good old-fashioned hockey, if you ask me. Nothing wrong with it. And this is the difference between the orchestrated line brawls between the Devils and Rangers, which I hated because it was decided ahead of time and had no bearing on the game, compared to the late-game theatrics Sunday afternoon that were a spontaneous, emotional reaction between players whose emotions reached a boiling point. There’s a clear difference between both instances, and put me in for the latter any day.

Dubsg123: One of the things that really grinds my gears is the fact that once again, Anze Kopitar is being overlooked for the Selke. There is a reason that the Kings are the second-best defensive team in the NHL with the third-best PK. Kopitar is matched up night in and night out against the league's best players/lines. He is the first choice for centerman during the PK (and yes, we have Mike Richards). His plus/minus is in double digits even though his team only has a plus-15 goal differential (thanks to their inability to score for 80 percent of the season). Very few players are more valuable to their team than Kopitar is to his (one of the few who mean more plays in between the pipes behind him). I know you as an appreciator of the Kings...so what gives?

My take: Excellent points, sir. And I will indeed have Kopitar among my five choices on my official NHL ballot for the awards (I got my ballot last week; going to fill it out sometime this week). But my No. 1 vote will go to Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins this season. I think even more than Kopitar, he’s long overdue. He’s had another thoroughly consistent, two-way season for the Bruins and I believe he’s honestly the best defensive forward in the NHL today. But hang in there, my friend, Kopitar’s day will come.

SumNoob: I'm sick of the mediocre on-ice product the Flames have put out in the last two decades. We're becoming the Leafs of the West. I want a big change without a drawn-out Edmonton style rebuild. Do you think GM Jay Feaster can pull of a decent retool this summer with the expiring contracts we have? Without moving Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff (pretty sure Iginla is retiring a Flame), who goes, who stays?

My take: I spoke with a Flames source Monday and it’s clear there’s no appetite for an Edmonton-style rebuild. But change is indeed coming. Three straight years out of the playoffs is not sitting well with ownership whatsoever. The fact half of Calgary’s roster has expiring contracts will allow the Flames that natural window to exact change. But personally, I believe the Flames need to sit down with captain Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to finally have The Chat. They need to know from those two quality veterans if they want to stick around for this retool. If not, would they agree to waive their no-trades and provide the Flames with the return in assets both those stars would fetch? If Iginla wants to finish his career in Calgary and be a mentor for the younger, retooled Flames, that’s fine as well (similar to what Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips have done in Ottawa). But either way, Flames ownership and management have to have that chat with Iginla and his agent, Don Meehan.

AIs76ers: I know you won't post this, you have never once acknowledged the issue, and you refuse to engage in this debate, but it's time for you to own up to the bias the NHL holds in the Penguins favor. It is totally out of control and it might rob the fans of a deep run by the better Pennsylvania team. Even NBC's announcing trio acknowledged that the Penguins were guilty of a handful of automatic slashing penalties (the exploding sticks) that somehow went uncalled, plus Crosby's violent slash on Claude Giroux on a faceoff that Giroux won cleanly. Today all we hear about is the crosscheck on Crosby. Enough already. It was a penalty and it was called. The goal erased it. And, whatever happened to a penalty for diving? All afternoon the NBC announcers praised Crosby for his strength on his skates, then he flopped like he had been shot. Not to mention, if you rewind the play back a little bit, you will see that Crosby took an equally dirty shot at Schenn, but ESPN has so far refused to show this. I have yet to read a single ESPN writer calling out Vitale for his knee-to-knee hit on Grossmann, which was not exceptionally dirty, but because he is a fringe player his only option was to stick out a leg to make the hit. Then he targets Danny Briere. The only reason that his was not dirty was, again, because he is a fringe NHL player. He targeted Briere's head and followed through with an elbow. And then after it is all settled Arron Asham (another guy who isn't a legitimate player) instigates an additional fight. Yet somehow the Penguins will not hear from the league. Asham and Bylsma should get their automatic suspensions, and maybe Laviolette, too. Enough is enough. I am not going to say that the NHL is actually rigging games or encouraging refs to make the wrong calls, but it is clear the officials are applying a different standard with the Pens.

My take: And this is why we call you guys "fans." In this case, short for "fanatic." You view everything through the tainted glasses of your team, in this case, the Flyers. Honestly, I’ve covered the NHL for 17 years. I would tell you if I thought for a second that the league in any way favored a team over any other. The mere suggestion is simply moronic. You can watch every single game and see missed calls for/against your team. The NHL’s on-ice officials don’t pitch perfect games, and some nights it’s even worse than that, I agree. But to honestly think "the fix" is in on any level is nothing short of ridiculous.

MaizeandBluePucks: Too many things to rant about with my Leafs.

My take: I've been living in Toronto since 1995 and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it -- even for Maple Leafs' standards. Most of my friends and certainly my brother-in-law, Mitch, are die-hard Leafs fans, of course. I’d characterize their mood as a mixture of disdain, disbelief and genuine hurt. This is a huge offseason for GM Brian Burke and his front office. I think they made a wise choice in hiring Randy Carlyle as coach and a fresh start at camp will help prove that; I think the Leafs have greatly improved their organizational depth, but they’ve struck out so far on some of their key decisions at the NHL roster level. James Reimer wasn’t ready to be a No. 1 goalie. Their blue line had quantity, yes, but not enough quality. The top-six forward group remains small. And Dion Phaneuf is not captain material. The Leafs need to land a No. 1 goalie, a No. 1 center and shift a few of their parts on a roster that crumbled mentally over the past two months. Not an easy offseason, at all.

cnato14: Here I have a rant Pierre.... WHY THE FUDGE IS CHARLES WANG STILL THE OWNER OF THE ISLANDERS!? This man has run the organization into the ground; he feels the need to rehire a below-average coach in Jack Capuano, who has done nothing to try to bring this team up from the cellar of the Eastern Conference. I think that something on Long Island needs to change soon or else the once perennial contender Islanders will be looking for a new home.

My take: I feel your pain, brother. I’ve written this before in this space, but Islanders fans to me are the most loyal in hockey. How can you remain a fan of this team with Wang as owner? Successful organizations begin with stability at the top. But if he’s willing to continue to sink money in this team, the NHL certainly won’t stand in his way. It’s been hard enough to solve ownership issues in Phoenix, and even in decent markets in New Jersey and St. Louis, that the league isn’t going push out an owner who wants to still own a team, even if his eccentric ways hurt the team’s on-ice performance. It’s hard to find deep-pocketed people who want to own sports teams of any league.

sporty7527: When is this gimmick known as the shootout gonna go away? I find it appalling that a game of hockey has to be decided by a skills competition to determine a winner. Up through 2004, there was never anything wrong with ties. The best teams won their fair share of games. The Red Wings had no problem posting 100-plus point seasons when ties were in place. They set the record for wins during the time of ties. Now you have teams breaking franchise records for points in a season, and it's tainted by the all the shootout wins that, prelockout, would have been ties. You have teams like the Devils having 12 of their 45 wins won by shootout or the Penguins, who have won 9 of their 48 games by shootout. You take the shootout away, the Flyers are ahead of the Pens. Teams like them seem reliant on the shootout, and you have teams sitting back to get to a shootout. It doesn't matter if they were outplayed during an entire game. If they can deke out a goalie, they can still get rewarded with a win. And the shootouts are now more and more frequent. The 5-minute OT flies by. Why not make it 10 minutes? Defense slows the game down in OT, so 10 minutes might do better than just 5. I bet if that's implemented there'd be a lot more wins by actually scoring in OT than ties or relying on who can best deke a goalie in a shootout.

My take: Amen, brother. I’ve been anti-shootout on these pages for years, as most people know. I like Ken Holland’s idea: 3-on-3 overtime for five minutes following the 4-on-4 overtime period. So, 10 minutes of OT in all. That would greatly reduce the number of shootouts.

YogitheDuck: Week in and week out I come to you complaining about the Ducks. Everywhere from my disgust with Ryan Getzlaf, games like this last Saturday's against Phoenix, where we put up a season-high 44 SOG but we can't even buy ourselves one goal, and the woes for next season: possibly losing Selanne and fears of a repeat of this season.

Again, I would like to start with my disappointment with Getzlaf. He is the Dos Equis man of the Ducks organization: "I don't always score against San Jose, but when I don't, it's because I missed an open net." Missing that shot only confirms my feelings towards our captain. Lazy play, lack of motivation and leadership that is more than burned out. How can the Ducks afford to let Teemu retire when he is the force keeping them halfway alive and motivated?

Pierre, once again, what do the Ducks need to do to be the team they were in 2007 and be viable contenders for the Cup, or at least be a playoff-seeded team?

My take: Here’s something that will drive you even crazier: Since Jan. 1, the Ducks are 23-14-5 for 51 points, ranking first in the Pacific Division, fourth in the Western Conference and eighth in the NHL (courtesy of Ducks PR). In other words, that’s the team they should have been in the first half, too. But it seems to happen every year when the Ducks get off to a slow start. Last season, they were able to dig out of the hole and make the playoffs. You’re right on Getzlaf, he’s had a very disappointing season. For my money, he’s got the tools to challenge for the Art Ross Trophy. It’s mind-boggling that he hasn’t put it together yet. I think GM Bob Murray has some big, big decisions to make this offseason about the core of this team, where it’s headed and why he thinks they can’t figure it out on the ice. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Getzlaf, because all you’re going to do the next decade is try to replace him -- No. 1 centers of his ilk are few and far between.

But this team needs some sort of shake-up.