Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Rant answers: Flyers' goalie, Pens' injuries
By Pierre LeBrun
Another week, another chance for you puck heads to vent. Let’s take a look at the ones I picked:
gladius710: Why does Brian Elliot all the sudden start trying this year??? When my Avalanche got revenge on Craig Anderson, throwing away their season last year by thumping Ottawa this year, it was very satisfying to watch. However, I was hoping to get the same kind of payback on Elliot, who was just as bad as Anderson was, but he shut us out, which did not make me happy. Why can't a goalie say "I want to play good in Denver?" Varly and Jiggy are better than what I have been used to, but they are still both not playing to their potentials.
My take: Both the Senators and Avalanche are scratching their heads this season wondering where this version of Brian Elliott came from. One thing I can tell you is that sometimes when a player’s livelihood is suddenly threatened, it can act as a life-changing moment. Elliott went to camp in St. Louis not knowing if he had a job. He had to battle Ben Bishop for the backup job with zero promises from the Blues. Heck, he signed a two-way contract. There’s a kind of hunger, survival instinct, that sometimes comes out of that. It reminds me of Dan Cleary going to Detroit years ago on a tryout at camp. His career almost ended right then and there. I think Elliott is playing with a chip on his shoulder after realizing he was in danger of losing it all.
PHIGatorFan: Lebrun, what is Ilya Bryzgalov's issue? As a Flyers fan who thought the goaltending carousel was finally over, clearly it isn't (or at least this year it isn't). Do you think it was the HBO cameras? Is it him collapsing under the pressure he said he was prepared for? Is it a new system? Or should we just stop making excuses for him and say he's what some say he is -- a headcase.
I really want to like the goalie, especially after his '24/7' interviews. But, he's paid to be a top-5 goalie in the NHL, not a comedian. Unfortunately, I'm about to take over the reins on the "Trade Bryz Bandwagon," although that won't ever happen.
Concerned Flyers Fan
My take: Let me first say I honestly believe Bryzgalov will settle down and Flyers fans will be able to relax. Having said that, I must bring you back to a conversation I had with a former teammate of Bryzgalov’s last summer. We were chatting about his deal in Philadelphia and he said to me, "Bryz is a great goaltender. I just wonder how he’s going to handle everything else there in that market."
The player left it at that, but it clearly left me with the impression that he was questioning what was between the ears for Bryzgalov, not so much his technical skill. And right now, that is exactly what I believe Flyers’ brass is worried about: Bryzgalov’s mental toughness.
Like I said at the beginning of this answer, though, I truly think Bryzgalov will fight through this and figure it out. Sometimes it just takes a while for a player to get used to a bigger market.
lebo0508: Pierre, WHATS GOING ON IN PITTSBURGH!?! Two years in a row and I've never seen a team as decimated by injuries as the Pens have managed over the past two seasons. Is it just my fanhood bias or is it getting to unprecedented levels? And as for the talks for the Pens to make trades, I don't think they should. You have a team top to bottom built strong and young for the long haul. One or two new guys won't save this team, why waste any of the talent we have? Just play the AHL baby pens this year and bring back the pro squad (and hopefully a fully recovered Crosby) next Fall!
My take: It is quite unreal how the Penguins have been felled by injuries the past two years. And not just injuries in total, but to the very best players on their roster. I don’t view it as anything else but bad luck. As far as what GM Ray Shero can do, I think he needs to first determine, along with Sidney Crosby, what Crosby's future is for this season before Shero can do anything on a large-scale basis. I think the Penguins still believe Crosby will play again this season. If at some point in time Crosby and the Penguins decide he won’t play this season -- and again, that’s not the feeling I’m getting right now -- then Shero has lots of cap flexibility to see what’s out there.
Canadiens interim coach Randy Cunneyworth said he is trying to learn French.
Fpt03: Montreal handled this coaching thing terribly. First off, Gauthier, you don't apologize for hiring the coach that is currently behind the bench. And secondly, if you want to apologize, apologize for running what used to be one of the proudest franchises in the NHL straight into the ground. Also, all of the people Randy Cunneyworth's hiring, you are not a fan. If you were, you wouldn't care what language the coach speaks. So stop claiming to represent Montreal fans because you clearly do not.
My take: Lots of passion in this one. Not much else for me to add. I especially like the part where you say Gauthier ran this team into the ground. If the Canadiens miss the playoffs, I’d be shocked if Gauthier kept his job.
Raging_Fury: Pierre, I was so happy to see the NHLPA give the finger to the league on their new realignment plan. It was ridiculous! Two conferences had more teams than the other two, and the fact that they were thinking about reseeding the teams for the conference finals was maddening. Who'd wanna watch L.A. play the Sharks for the Cup (other than you)? I read Custance say once that he'd rather play in a weaker 8-team conference than in a tough 7-team one. Who said that'd be the case? How about being stuck in a brutal 8-team zone, seeing a week 7-team one cruise to the playoffs? I can't believe that Bettman went through all this trouble just to keep Detroit in the West. With so many teams losing money, the NHL must realize that hockey doesn't belong everywhere! We should only keep the teams with a strong fan base, the teams that don't rely on some visiting teams to survive. Call it 'Natural Selection Hockey Edition' if you will. There are two East-zone teams to play in the West: Detroit and Columbus. The only reasonable thing to do is to swap the Wings with the Jets, and leave everything else as is. It's working just fine. As far as the Jackets go, I like what the unnamed GM said to one of you: "the league should buy that team and fold it" with one other request: Add the Islanders to that list as well.
My take: Well, whether or not you’re in favor of the realignment plan voted on by owners last month, that’s one thing. But as I wrote over the weekend, I truly believe this decision by the union not to give realignment its blessing has more to do with sending an opening message ahead of the upcoming labor talks. And that’s fine with me. I’m not sure this is the issue I would have chosen to get it done, but I do believe it was important for the players at some point early in this process to show a united front and inform the league and everyone else that they weren’t going to be pushed around once labor talks began. As long as everyone understands the real overtones of this realignment squabble, it’s not that difficult to comprehend from that perspective.
moorparkkingsfan: To quote Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles, "What in the wide world of sports is going on here?" Why are the Kings having so much trouble scoring goals? I just don't get it. It's not like they don't have talented offensive players. I have never seen a collective group of players go through a slump like they have with the talent they have. Will Dean Lombardi look to make a trade and try to shake the doldrums out of the team? And who might they target? They might make the playoffs with this team, but I don't think they go very far if they do.
My take: Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard when I saw the Blazing Saddles reference. One of my all-time favorite movies. Mel Brooks rocks. But to answer your question: Kings GM Dean Lombardi is not thrilled with the production of his wingers so far this season. That’s been a big letdown for his team offensively. And it’s why if the Kings are still in a playoff spot come February, he’ll be focused on looking for an upgrade at wing.
VatchyoPooperz: My rant has to do with the Canucks. Why do they complain about everything? Canucks complaining about Marchand and calling him dirty. Do they look at their own team?? Alex Burrows is as dirty as they come. Bites a guy in the finals, then on Saturday when Thornton tapped him on the back of the leg, he jabs at him with his stick chest level starting a brawl in which Lucic gets kicked out. Hitting and fighting is not dirty! Biting and spearing is. Not to mention how many times did we see Canucks talking smack back and forth with the Bruins, like from penalty box to penalty box. But then when they line up next to each other and drop the gloves, the Canuck player steps back and doesn't drop them and says "hey, hey man I didn't do anything, what's going on here". That's why Van can't win the Cup, because that is what they are made of. I hope Canucks fans enjoyed the Cup ceremony last June because that is as close as this team will ever get to it again. Sack up! Sorry for the rant!
My take: Well, given the lack of objectivity among fans in the cities of Vancouver and Boston, let me be the voice of reason here given all the backtalk after this terrific Saturday game. Claude Julien began this with his postgame rant Saturday. That’s a fact. Alain Vigneault was asked to respond to Julien’s comments and he did, which stirred the pot further. Then the Bruins responded again Monday to Vigneault’s comments. OK everyone, school recess is at 10 a.m. Hey, it’s been great for the media covering both teams, that’s for sure. A rematch in the Stanley Cup finals would be fantastic.
Shiggityshwa22: Pierre, this rant is about the play of John Tavares. I know you haven't even talked about the Isles in three months and probably won't again this season, but the level he is playing at is by far the best of his career. If the team surrounding him was even close to average, he'd be the talk of the league; but since he's on Long Island where our only national televised game was for the return of Sid, nobody even knows that he is still in the league.
My take: Completely agree on Tavares, he’s been fantastic this season. Like Rick Nash has endured in Columbus, it goes largely unnoticed when your team continues to play like a bag of hammers. I wonder sometimes if Tavares regrets having signed his extension in September. But like Nash, I give Tavares credit for wanting to be loyal to the team that drafted him and wanting to be part of the solution, not the exodus.
gbongman: Pierre, I really only have one thing to "rant" about and it is about next years Winter Classic. I know there is discussion on where it should be and who should be in it, and I believe the answer is clear. In 2013, the Winter Classic should without a doubt be held in Minnesota at Target Field, and should play the Dallas Stars. Minnesota, as everyone knows, is the state of hockey and a place where the game is brought outdoors all winter long, and now that the Wild have proven that they are a team to be reckoned with again, I feel they have earned the right to play in the Classic. Also with the wonderful addition of Target Field, Minnesota now has a proper venue for the Winter Classic to be played at. Now as for who they should play, I think it is obvious that the Wild should face off against the Stars, and the Stars should wear the original North Star uni's since that was the original Minnesota team. It will be a fantastic game of old versus new, a perfect way for the Winter Classic to start breaking away from Original Six teams and begin to incorporate other teams from around the nation into the sports favorite game of the year, the Winter Classic.
My take: Love your idea. I know from talking to league sources that Minnesota is at least on the radar to eventually get a Winter Classic. And the great hockey fans in Minnesota deserve one, too. But at this point, my bet is on Detroit hosting next season.