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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Rant answers: Isles' mess, Sharks' defense

By Pierre LeBrun

Another week, another collection of excellent rants by our ESPN.com puck heads. Let's take a look:

Ivesty: Lebrun, When is Stamkos finally going to get the love like Ovi and Crosby? The kid ties Crosby for most goals last year, and is putting up better numbers than both Ovi and Crosby this year, with a weaker supporting cast. Yet, you barely hear boo about him... When are the NHL analysts going to finally give him his due? I am starting to lose all respect for all hockey analysts. Why can't they focus more attention on the other stars on the ice outside of DC and Pittsburgh? There are some very exciting players on teams all over the league, lets showcase all the NHL stars not just two.

My take: Oh my, what timing Ivesty! Check out the tremendous Stamkos feature from my colleague Scott Burnside. The best reporting on Stamkos since he's entered the league. Make sure to read it all.

Claven5577: I think the Islanders mess needs to be addressed in an unprecedented show of force by the league. The latest circus moments are the attempted circumvention of the SALARY FLOOR, increase of prices, dismissal of Billy Jaffe, 12-game losing streak, press credential pulling of Chris Botta, the complete and seemingly intentional destruction of this team by the ownership since they didn't get their Lighthouse Project approved, and the firing of Scott Gordon (coach #?) as a scapegoat for the incompetence and contempt this management crew seems to have for the fan base. Couple that with the endless amount of things over the LAST 20 YEARS (Milbury antics, other ownership issues including a con man buying the team, fishermen, NYLES, Yashin, yadda, yadda, yadda), and many people not even realizing this team still exists, the league has to say enough is enough. They are hurting the rich heritage of this once great team, the fans and the brand that is the NHL. League needs to expel Wang from ownership until a proper ownership group who will responsibly operate this franchise like a professional sports team is found. If that means picking them up and moving them to Quebec or Winnipeg so be it. I'd rather this team not exist than continue down this path of insanity.

My take: It is utterly sad, is it not? A rink that's half empty for every game, a team that's last overall in the league and the bizarre off-ice distractions like the Jaffe and Botta situations. First, let's be fair: not that many teams would survive the long-term injury losses of Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, not to mention the other injuries. Those two guys were arguably the best two players on the team last season. Still, it's ugly. My biggest concern if I were an Islanders fan is what John Tavares and his powerful agent Pat Brisson (Crosby, Toews, Kane) will think once the star forward's entry-level contract is up in July 2012. Your top priority right now must be to make sure you don't lose his enthusiasm for wanting to stay in Long Island.

sjmarky: San Jose Sharks: Slow defense, mediocre goaltending, no chemistry, no intensity. Every other game they appear to be just going through the motions. Wilson chose McLellan to install a Detroit-style system, and then dealt away all the players who could play that system. This team is weaker than either of the last two, who couldn't win in the playoffs. Before the season, I figured the Sharks to finish third in the Pacific, sixth or seventh seed, and a first-round exit. I may be wrong -- they're not even that good. What do they need, other than three defensemen, a different coach and a captain who feels like playing once in a while?

My take: I wrote before the season that I thought they were a top-four blueliner short, having not replaced Rob Blake, and I think that's more clear than ever. My bet is that GM Doug Wilson will try to address that between now and Feb. 28. Also glaring is that outside of star defenseman Dan Boyle, they've only got two goals from the rest of the blue line corps combined. Jason Demers has been disappointing. I'm not as concerned with the goaltending, they'll be fine. The Sharks are right in the middle of the 30 teams averaging 2.74 goals against per game; it's not that bad, although it is off from the 2.55 they averaged last season, good for eighth in the league. Hang in there Sharks fan, way too early to give up on this talented team.

spiritfan8: Can we skip the team love, or lack thereof, for a minute and ask how it is remotely possible that not one single NHL exec has a problem with the fact that their head disciplinarian has just shown himself to have a big problem with impartiality? I really don't care how all the head guys are marching in lockstep and proclaiming in unison what a great guy Colin is, and how honorable he is. He effed up, pure and simple. ANY other business in the world, and he'd be out on his #### by now. Even for the NHL, this is absolutely breathtaking.

My take: The league's GMs and owners have indeed been solidly behind Campbell in the aftermath of this e-mail controversy. Even Marc Savard has! But I did have one NHL GM tell me last week that while he fully supports Campbell, he wonders if the episode doesn't at least warrant the discussion of whether or not it's time to change how the process for league discipline is performed. Whether or not this particular GM would bring that up internally with the league? Who knows.

rubyhawk204: Okay, last week's game between the Canes and the Pens had a goal that made no sense. The puck was under Peters, he got pushed by his own D-man and the puck ended up in the net. But that was after the whistle blew. After a lengthy review, the goal was called a "good" goal. How did the no-goal call on the ice get overturned with no concrete evidence either way? And even if the puck crossed the line slightly before the whistle, there's that whole "intent to blow" rule. Please explain this to me, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

My take: Actually that's an easy one. I checked on that with the league and the ref in question totally screwed up on that play. He should have stuck with his no-goal call and said that he was in the process of bringing the whistle to his mouth before the puck went in, which means it wasn't a reviewable play. That's why you saw Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice gesturing like he had a whistle going to his mouth, that's what he was also arguing. And he was right.

rjs162: can i complain about all the same complaining every week?

My take: But that's the point! The weekly rant!

metaljunkie003: I'm sick of the stinkin' Red Wings fans always thinking their team gets no love! The team is good -- everyone understands they are one of the top Cup contenders. Everyone that's a real hockey fan -- in Detroit or not -- knows that Datsyuk is one of the best, if not THE best player in the league. Just because every time someone talks about hockey it is not necessarily about the Wings does NOT mean they get no love. I mean, Wings fans are basically saying "Our team is so good that everyone should just agree that we should stop playing right now and hand Lord Stanley's Cup over to them for infinite possession." I'm sick of it. Face it: there are other good teams in the league. They are going to be talked about sometimes. Get over it. Your precious Wings will be in the top five (most likely top three) of the Power Rankings most of the year, and they will be one of the favorites for the Cup. NOW STOP GRIPING ABOUT THE ATTENTION THEY SUPPOSEDLY DON'T GET!

My take: It is strange to see how many Red Wings complain to me about their team coverage. I've written so much about them in my career I can't even count how many stories. And I'm headed to Detroit soon to do another story on them. I mean, what else do you want Hockeytown fans!

StarZoneX: Pierre, I have read numerous comments that if a hockey fan plans to avoid watching the Winter Classic (and subsequent Crosby-Ovi hype) then they are not a true hockey fan. Somehow the media in Washington and Pittsburgh (as well as some national media) think we are not hockey fans because both the excessive Crosby-Ovi hype as well as the NHL's failure to recognize other stars (dare I say Western Conference stars) actually turns some of us lifelong fans off to this Winter Classic matchup. Must I really "bow down" to the Crosby-Ovi hype to be a "true" fan? Frankly, there is a good chance my alma mater will likely be playing on Jan 1 at the same time -- am I at least excused from watching this overhyped matchup?

My take: You can skip the game and you'll still be a good hockey fan, no worries pal. You may miss a thrilling affair, yes, between two teams that don't like each other, two superstars that don't like each other, and enough talent on an outdoor ice to make your head explode. Having said that, this will be my fourth Winter Classic and despite the electric matchup, I must admit they are beginning to look the same to me. But you know us jaded media types, we're like that.

MUTiger0834: When are the Columbus Blue Jackets gonna get some love and earn some respect that they deserve? You'd have to say that they are one of the best smaller market teams (and top NHL teams overall) so far in the early season (12-6-0 through November 21). And shockers of all shockers, they are 7-1 on the road, and coming off a three-game West road trip sweep. If this team can pick up their play at home and continue to "be greedy," as Coach Scott Arniel wants them to be, they could be a scary foe in the Western Conference. Even though it is early on, this franchise may have finally turned the corner...

My take: It hurts my feelings that you don't read our Cross Checks Blog. There on Nov. 4 you would have seen major "love" from yours truly on the surprising Blue Jackets. I also posed the question on twitter a few weeks ago, whether these Jackets were this year's Coyotes, the surprise team that comes out of nowhere. Got a mixed response from users but it's a question worth pondering.

justplayinj21: Pierre, I have wrote in every Monday. I am a diehard MN Wild fan. I can't seem to figure this team out. We win games that it doesn't look like we deserve but we keep taking some key games down. I am not so much venting, but how do we beat Detroit in Joe Louis then come home and get throttled by the Rangers?! Is it because it was the second game in two days? Also what do we need to do to get our five-on-five scoring up??? Do you believe once we get PMB and the Tenderness back we can start generating a lil more? Also remember you said the Wild will not make the playoffs... Sir you are wrong, and I continue to say I will wager anything you want on it!

My take: I spoke with Wild GM Cliff Fletcher last week and yes, five-on-five scoring is a major concern (29th in the league). Some of that comes from slow starts to the season from several regulars (who lack confidence right now, Fletcher said), including Havlat. But I also think Havlat has played his best hockey of the season over the past 10 days or so. Still, doesn't seem to be enough offensive jam on this team for them to make the playoffs.

jbowcott1414: Hi Toronto.

Let's meet up some time.

Sincerely,

The Back of the Net

My take: Haha, that's the best of the week. Well put. So you're saying being ranked 28th in the NHL in offense bothers you? Can't blame you. But it's also not surprising. Read any writer's preview on the Leafs from September and it'll say the team needed to win a lot of 2-1 games this year. That was the framework for this season. But what has killed the Leafs again this year on the other end of things has been the PK, ranked 28th in the league. When you can't score goals, you need your PK to stop the other team from doing so.