Rant answers: Moving Brad Richards, unpredictable squads, trouble in New York

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
5:32
PM ET

The passion is so evident in these rants this week. You puck heads love the game and love your teams. But with that comes heartache and frustration. Let's take a look:

nintendogg516: Pierre, Trading Brad Richards away is nothing short of suicide for the Stars, right? I mean, aside from King Henrik, who do the Rangers have that could possibly put us in a better position to compete for the rest of the year? Marinjury Gaborik? I don't think so. I'll concede that we're pretty solid at the center position, but I don't think Ribiero can handle first line responsibilities and continue to produce at his current level. Please call our front office and convince Newy to disconnect the line to the Rangers front office. Sincerely, A Hopelessly Hopeful Stars Fan

My take: I know from talking to a Stars front-office source that should they decide to move Richards before this season's Feb. 28 trade deadline, it's only because (1) they weren't able to sign him to an extension and (2) they're offered the kind of deal that sets them up "for the next five years." That was the way the Stars source described a possible Richards deal. If the Stars move Richards, and there remains the chance that they won't, it'll be for a package that helps the team long term. So whether it's the Kings or Rangers or any other team ponying up for Richards, young assets will be the key component.

justplayinj21: Pierre, what in the world is going on with the Wild? I know everyone says they are the most unpredictable team in the NHL but seriously what is going on! PMB is back, he looks great, but the rest of our offense is horrible, besides Havlat, he is playing a ton better. I just want to know is the problem our coach? I know we brought in the New D coach and well I think its helped, I just don't understand how do we get back into being a playoff quality team??? So angry, I don't want to give up on the Wild, but its looking bad.

My take: Another week, another Wild rant. Very passionate fans in one of the league's best hockey markets. I picked the Wild to miss the playoffs before the season because I just felt there wasn't enough top-six offensive talent to compete in the tougher Western Conference. I've certainly been proved right so far. What's more amazing is that the power play is in the top 10 in the league, but even that can't rank the Wild higher than 24th in goals per game. That's because the team is 27th in five-on-five goals. Brutal. I suspect changes are coming. I think Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has seen enough and over the next month will attempt to make a move or two.

jhaefner12: Sidney Crosby. Best player in the league and the world right now. And if you would like to dispute that good luck.

My take: You will get zero argument from me. He's taken his game to yet another level this season. And he's doing it without star linemates. Steven Stamkos has Martin St. Louis, Alex Ovechkin has Nicklas Backstrom, the Sedins have each other, but Crosby? Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis -- not chump change by any means, but not All-Stars. Sid The Kid is having his best season ever right now. I was talking to Bobby Orr on Monday about a different story, but before hanging up, he wanted to mention how impressed he was with Crosby, particularly how much work the Pittsburgh center put into his craft. You know you're doing something right when you're impressing Bobby Orr.

csoula5: Struggling to understand my San Jose Sharks this time around, its more than frustrating at this point. There have been some bright spots (i.e. Logan), but for the most part it's reasonable to say that we suck most nights. If you go back and look at the last few games you'll see Justin Braun and Mike Moore get turned inside out on every goal, true both have offensive upside but on the defensive end they are not ready for this. I understand that we have three starting defenders laid up right now, but we should still be able to compete in our own zone. Not to mention when our D is healthy it ain't nothing respectable this year anyway, and I am not speaking of Danny Boyle (who is exhausted). I know DW is patiently waiting to make a move that's good for our team but while he calmly tries to work the system, we keep slipping into NHL obscurity... Pierre, it comes down to this, we are beginning to not believe anymore. We are frustrated, we have some of the most dynamic forwards in the game, we want to win, we need to win. Maybe its time for DW to do something, we have had DW's back for years, its time he has ours.

My take: Rob Blake's departure left a giant hole on defense, one that was never filled. Not that the Sharks didn't try, having signed Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet this past summer (only to see Chicago match it) and having tried to sign Willie Mitchell (although he chose Los Angeles). A source told me last week that the Sharks' priority is to nab a top-four blueliner before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. No surprise there. In the meantime, Sharks coach Todd McLellan is trying to snap his team out of its maddening inconsistency, although Monday night's convincing 5-2 win at powerhouse Detroit might just be what the Sharks need to turn their season around. I spoke with McLellan on Thursday in Ottawa about their inconsistent season. "Our frustration, the coaching staff and management, probably matches that of the players, and that's a good thing when that's happening," McLellan told ESPN.com. "We do have some pieces that have proven they can play when they put it all together and they're focused and going in the right direction. When it's not happening that way, we can be scrambling around and be very unproductive."

The slow start to the season is "something we're not pleased with, something we're trying to turn around," the coach told me. "But we have a large group that returned that had that experience from last year and played the right way, that did the little things you need to do to have a chance for success; right now, we're struggling to get that consistency from everybody on a given night. We'll get it from four to five guys or a line or a pair of D-men, but not everybody at the same time."

CammieBuckeye: I was at the Penguins-Blue Jackets game in Columbus on Saturday. I am a fan of both teams. I grew up a Pens fan but went to Ohio State for five years and have a soft spot for the Jackets. The crowd at the game Saturday was seriously split like 75-25 in favor of Pens fans IN COLUMBUS!!! The Pens fans were more rowdy, way louder, and overall it felt like a Pens home game. Mason was getting taunted in his own building for crying out loud. I did a summer internship with the Jackets, so I know how hard they work to promote hockey in Ohio State football country. The Crew (MLS) draw pretty well but they have won and are generally a successful team. What changes do the Jackets need to make to get better on the ice so opposing teams like the Penguins won't turn their games in C-bus into de facto home games?

My take: Cammie, despite a recent slide, the opening quarter of the season had been a splendid success for the Jackets, and I think it starts with a clever hiring behind the bench of Scott Arniel as coach. So kudos to GM Scott Howson on that one. But developing a passionate and loyal fan base needs something the Jackets have never accomplished: winning playoff rounds. The team has been to the playoffs only once and lost in the first round. That's a long decade-plus of futility and rebuilding, and rebuilding, and rebuilding ... The Penguins have legions of fans from being in the league since 1967, but more importantly since winning two Cups under Super Mario in the early 1990s and another Cup under Sid The Kid two years ago. That's how you breed the most passionate fans. Until the Jackets do anything in the playoffs, it's going to be hard to win over that market.

JanneyShanny: Pierre, is it within your power to pull some strings and get Detroit sent to another division? The city of St. Louis would appreciate any efforts made.

My take: Sorry, out of my control. But wouldn't you miss hating them?

al8hockey: Inconsistency really has bitten the Bruins lately, I really don't get it. Earlier last week, they were on fire, especially Timmy, shutout the Flyers then rolled over the Lightning without a scratch on them. Then they go up to Toronto, where they should have added motivation to win, not only because of Kessel, but because of the lottery pick. Toronto was all over them and they let up a goal with 42 left. Is this a defensive problem? Or is it just the grind of an NHL schedule? The B's are too talented to have these moments where they seem like they are a JV team vs. a real NHL team.

My take: You can't be at the top of your game for 82 nights. I wouldn't worry too much about the B's. They're going to pass Montreal and win the Northeast Division. Once Marc Savard gets his legs under him and produces like the old Marc Savard, that'll give the Bruins better balance up front and they'll be a much tougher team to shut down. Be patient!

jlabelle120586: The New Jersey Devils have been my favorite team in all sports since I was four years old. In the 20 years since, I have never been so frustrated than watching them the past two weeks. In that time, they have a respectable (relative to the rest of the season) record of 3-3 with impressive wins over the Caps and Flyers. In the same span, I watched them sleepwalk through tilts with the Islanders and Habs. Those two games aside, you can see flashes of how good this team can be (see the win against Washington on the 22nd). In the words of an Orbitz gum commercial... WHAT THE FRENCH TOAST?

My take: I can't believe how old you just made me feel. Another week, another Devils rant. It's too late now for this team to make the playoffs; I think that's pretty obvious to anyone. But the priority at this point should be getting Ilya Kovalchuk (five goals in 26 games) going so that next season isn't another flop. He's a Devil for life, so they need to find a way to make the team successful around him and with the Russian star playing a central part. To me, that's the only thing that matters at this point. And if John MacLean can't figure it out, the Devils have to find a coach who can.

nyiballs: For the past few years, when I would tell people I'm an Islanders fan, I'd get laughed at and chided mercilessly. I'd have to explain to them that we have good young talent, that we were rebuilding a depleted farm system, and that by 2012, we'd be a force in the league. I would look past the DP contract, and try to justify it by saying a No. 1 goalie at $4.5 million was a good deal. I'd look past dropping a respected GM in favor of the backup goalie by saying that Snow actually made some shrewd moves and good picks in his first few years. I'd look past Wang's lunacy by saying how he saved the franchise from the likes of Spano and the Gang of Four... I just can't do it anymore though. The sideshow has gotten so out of control, that all hope is lost. Islanders fans are probably the fewest in numbers, but conversely, could be the most passionate in hockey. To survive these past 20 years, it takes a special type of devotion. But Wang has fallen into the same pattern as all of the other owners -- buying the team because of the lucrative possibilities surrounding the land around the arena, getting stonewalled at every attempt to develop the land, and consequently, gutting the team (players, staff, etc) in order to mitigate their massive losses. It is all too apparent that a new arena will never get built. Save us all of the trouble and move the team somewhere where the ownership and local economy will support them. I'd rather watch them succeed somewhere else at this point.

My take: Honestly, I feel for Islanders fans. This once-proud franchise was the model for all franchises in the early 1980s. The fan base was incredibly loyal and true. Charles Wang has completely destroyed this team. GM Garth Snow is a smart man and knows the game, but his hands are tied working for this owner. I wish I could say the future is bright and all that stuff, but I can't. At this point, I can't guarantee John Tavares will want to stick around past his entry-level deal if things continue like this. Yikes. It's ugly.

swaggaz39: As a long time Caps fan, I am [glad] that the Caps are out of the dark ages (2003-07), but I would like to nominate the Caps for the most inconsistent play over the last 12 or 15 games, when they have lost games and been shutout. Anyways, if the Caps can ever balance our unstoppable-ish offense and sound defense with good goaltending. I think they could make a long playoff run. Agree? Disagree?

My take: Monday night's meltdown to Toronto, coughing up a 4-1 lead with two late goals in the third period, is just another example of why people are concerned when it comes to Washington's playoff mettle. The team has to learn how to close out a victory. The Caps sat back way too much Monday, and allowed the Maple Leafs to establish a forecheck and get back into the game. Scott Hannan was a solid pickup, but this team still has to prove it can play good enough defense to win a championship.

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