Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Rant answers: Woeful Southeast Division, stagnant Blackhawks' defense
By Pierre LeBrun
You guys don’t disappoint. Another week full of wonderful rants. Let’s take a look:
WingsFan1993: Pierre, I'm going to do the impossible. I'm going to call out the Wings's OFFENSE. Yeah, I said it. Not the lackluster special teams, not the lack of depth in the nets, THE OFFENSE. I am SICK and TIRED of watching this team spend 40 minutes to get ONE goal on the road. They fall asleep, take far too long to get the rush going, and end up getting down one, two, or even three goals early on because they can't put the biscuit in the basket. This needs to be addressed RIGHT NOW. How did Chiarelli do it last year? He tinkered. His mentality was one that wins Stanley Cups: enough is NEVER enough. Either Holland opens the cupboard and makes a few hard decisions to bring in a scorer who can get this stagnant road offense going, or we're in DEEP trouble. This team has proven they cannot function without Howard, as well, and a serviceable rental in the nets would help as well... Get a scoring winger. It's plain and simple. We have plenty of bottom-six PKers, and once Eaves returns and gets back to game-shape and game-speed, the PK will improve. Meanwhile, our PP has dropped to 14th overall and is, along with the offense in general, in need of a major boost. It's a winger or bust, Pierre. It's as simple as that. I don't ask much of Holland, just make a decent deal to improve the depth of the roster. Let's admit it, even with how outrageous the hopes, expectations, and costs most GM's are putting out, that's not an impossible task with as much cap room and expendable prospects that we have. This is a win-now fan base and we're not afraid to get angry. Even at the Wings.
My take: Hard to believe I’d ever have to answer a rant about the Wings’ offense in my entire career. Overall this season, they sit sixth in the NHL in goals per game with a 3.07 average. Not too shabby. However, to your point, oh clever one, the discrepancy between home and away is quite evident. The Wings have scored at an electric clip at home, averaging a whopping 3.83 goals per game at Joe Louis Arena, but only 2.52 goals per game on the road. Of course, that mirrors the home and away records of the Wings, who can’t lose at home (20-2-1) but are only 15-15-1 on the road after losing in Phoenix on Monday night. Know this, the Wings are looking to add a forward, and given Ken Holland’s excellent track record at getting what he wants, I’m going to bet on him delivering that forward before Feb. 27.
Supa918: Pierre, Why does leading a division take precedence over point totals? The Southeast division is weak, yet Florida is third in the East with 59 points. Point wise, Florida should be in eighth. The Pacific is weak and San Jose is in third despite having less points than the team in sixth. The luxury of being in a weak division currently gives you a bit of an unfair advantage over teams in stronger divisions. Home ice is a big deal in the playoffs as you well know.
My take: Without rewarding divisional leaders with top-three seeds, what would be the point of divisional play? The top-three seeds are the last reason why there is any relevance at all in divisional play. Mind you, had the NHL’s realignment plan gone ahead for next season, this would no longer be in play, obviously, with the league moving away from six divisions and going to four conferences. No doubt owners and the league will want to try to push it through for the 2013-14 season, although they’ll need the players’ blessing via collective bargaining, so your complaints about the divisional seeding may only have a year and a half left of shelf life.
jeffjaguar: Pierre...in a recent rant answer you tried to defend the nonsensical idea of having some games worth three points in the league standings and others worth two points with the comment that the little Napoleon oops the commissioner feels the currency system provides very close playoff races. Well if what has happened in the East the past few years is any indication, once the teams settle in at the beginning of March there is hardly any change in the eight playoff teams as it is very hard to make up ground what with the number of three point inter-conference games. Right now in the East, there is starting to be some separation and it's beginning to look like the following teams are pretty well placed...NYR, Bos, Pit, Phi, NJD, Tor, which leaves a falling Ott team and the battle between Wash and Florida for the SE lead and two of the last three will take the two remaining spots. Is the current point allocation system conducive to allowing teams to come back once they fall seven or eight points out of a playoff spot? Do you see much change at least in the Eastern Conference playoff teams I have listed?
My take: If anyone has followed my reporting over the past decade, they will know one thing for sure: I’ve long advocated going to three points for a regulation-time victory, two points for OT/SO win and one point for OT/SO loss. I once again tweeted that sentiment on Monday. My frustration with the current system is that it makes it nearly impossible for teams to come back from lower in the standings and bridge the gap in the second half. Take Tampa Bay as a recent example. The Bolts have gone 6-0-1 in their past seven games entering Tuesday night’s home game with Los Angeles yet still are 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East (although eight points back of the Southeast lead/third seed in the conference). There are just too many OT/SO loser points that clutter the standings. Three points for a 60-minute victory would better reward teams that are actually on a roll. Interestingly, the NHL’s 30 GMs toyed with the three-point win idea, even recommending it as something that should be studied when they emerged out of the February 2004 GM meetings in Henderson, Nev. (I was there.) But coming out of the 2005 lockout, the idea was dropped. The league likes it the way it is because it keeps the standings closer, which is true. But my argument is that I’d rather have standings that are more in tune with what’s really happening on the ice.
WingleBeast: I am absolutely sick of players taking a run at someone after they have laid a perfectly legal check. I get sticking up for your team mates, but you look like a dumb goon when you take offense to every time a team mate hits the glass or ice. The league needs to start suspending players who start retaliatory scrums after a legal hit. During my 12 years of football, I was taught to keep my head up and, if I didn't, then I should learn to take a hit, sure you would get waxed once in a while, but the only person to be mad at is yourself. Certain players should have the guts to get up from an open ice check, compliment the other guy on the hit, and tell his teammates to stop being idiots cause he had his head down.
My take: Wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s something that’s crept into the NHL game over the past decade and it’s just plain silly. If it’s a clean check, dust yourself off, take the guy’s number and get him back with a clean check later in the game. Case closed.
jmcleod512: Thanks for doing this every week, Pierre. I've ranted about the Blackhawks defense before, but I thought it'd be improved by now! It's apparent to anyone that their team defense (forwards and defensemen) are simply not showing up, which is odd given that Toews, Hossa, Bolland, and Sharp are some of the best two-way guys you can offer. Why isn't the defense clicking??? Can a trade solve it, or is it a problem with their style of play???
boz_20: Why can't my Blackhawks keep the puck out of the net? Everybody (including me) was glad when they were able to unload Campbell's contract. While I agree he was overpaid, I'm beginning to wonder if it was worth it. A puck handling blue liner that also can score. Those are hard to come by and while I believe Leddy and Hammer are good, they obviously don't have the impact Soupy had. Who should the Hawks go after before the trade deadline?
My take: As Devils GM Lou Lamoriello once told me years ago when I asked him about his struggles on offense that particular season, he said it wasn’t how many goals you scored but rather how many more you scored than allowed in. Despite the Blackhawks’ painful defensive struggles (25th in league in goals against per game), they are still 13th out of 30 teams in goals for-to-goals against ratio -- which as some of you readers know is my favorite statistic. Not helping matters this season is the penalty kill ranked a putrid 27th -- that’s certainly a major factor. Overall, I see lots of blame to share here. Corey Crawford has struggled, but both his defense and forwards have struggled overall in their team defensive game. The Hawks are on the lookout for a defenseman and once they get him that will help things, but in the end the answer must come from within this group. Team defense is about commitment.
joe4935: My rant, Pierre, is about you. What's it take to get my comments posted to your chats or emails? I've tried funny (in my opinion, at least), throwing in French words, pretending I was a GM, compliments -- really, I'm all out, except for mentioning poutine or your hometown, both of which I kind of think seem overdone already. So while I'd like to hear who you think the Habs would be willing to part with once they admit they're not going to make it this year or next, I guess what I'm really looking for is for my name to be immortalized by you giving me a shoutout. And it'd really be gravy if you answered my question to boot.
My take: There you go, you’re posted. And by the way, I’m breaking the rules by even posting this since that’s not really a rant! My sense is that the Habs will move Hal Gill for sure. Travis Moen, like Gill an unrestricted free agent on July 1, could be interesting. Lots of interest in him from contenders, but the Canadiens should think about re-signing him, given their lack of size.
Shiggityshwa22: Being an Islander fan is so frustrating. I mean seriously, what have we done that the hockey gods feel we deserve multiple decades of torture and punishment? (I think 10 years is a fair punishment for allowing Milbury to be an NHL head coach and GM) Every year, we start off losing game after game, setting ourselves up nicely to acquire a lottery pick. Suddenly, however, we start playing good hockey and winning games after our games are of any significance. Someone buy me a freaking beer.
My take: I’ve said this before, but there are no fans I have more respect for than die-hard, loyal Islanders fans. It’s been a tortuous road, to be sure, the last two decades. Hang in there, though. John Tavares and the gang have some major promise. Now if we can just figure out the whole arena thing.
thebrownster29: Hi Pierre, my rant is with the Kings. How in the world are they not scoring more goals? One goal in the last two games, can't anyone score in LA? And when in the world is Simon Gagne coming back? Dustin Penner's four goals, relativeley speaking, on this team would probably equate to 12 goals on any other halfway decent scoring team. Man, I have watched the Kings for years, and never seen the offense this anemic.
My take: When I watch the Kings, two things come to mind in terms of their offensive struggles: They need a serious upgrade on the wings, which is why GM Dean Lombardi is working the phones to see what’s out there, and there’s a general lack of foot speed on this team. The Kings just not as fast as most of the contending teams in this league, and in today’s game speed is a huge part of having success. Those would be the two areas I would be focused on in terms of wanting to improve my team if I were Lombardi.