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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Rant answers: Pronger's controversial call, Minny's woes, Atlanta's reversal of fortune

By Pierre LeBrun

The rants were downright terrific again this week, puckheads, even if I don't see eye to eye with many of them. Let's take a look:

HisDudenesss: What is wrong with the Minnesota Wild? Their ups and downs are driving me crazy. Every now and again, they play a period where they look so fantastic, they look unbeatable. Like the 1st against Nashville, Detroit or Tampa. Then there are other times where they play periods that are so abysmal they might as well have sent a local PeeWee team in to play instead like the games against the Rangers and Flyers last week. ... I don't know where to check this stat, but i'm pretty sure the Wild are the worst 2nd period team in the league. Why can't they play decent for 3 periods in a row? How do they turn it around?

My take: Love your handle, by the way. Dude, you are correct: Minnesota is the most unpredictable team in the league. Forget the second-period stats. To me, one of the most important barometers of where a team truly stands is its 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio. This is little truer as a stat than simply looking at 5-on-5 goals for alone. It gives you the ratio both ways. As of Monday, the Wild were 27th in the league with a 0.77 ratio. Only Edmonton, New Jersey and the Islanders were worse, and that's not pretty company to keep. And what it tells you: In trying to decipher the good Wild from the bad Wild, the bad Wild may be closer to reality and may take over as the season wears on.

pelti: The Pronger unsportsmanlike call has me pretty disgusted with the NHL. It really shows the abject lack of accountability in officiating. The call was egregiously wrong. All Pronger did was extend his arm for a moment, with his back to the goalie. It doesn't really matter whether he was calling for the puck or screening the goalie, because he was making a hockey play. There is no rule against screening the goalie. The so-called "Avery Rule" which does not appear in the NHL rulebook, doesn't even apply here, because Campbell's clarification of rule 75 specifically says that facing the goalie is what made Avery's stick-wave unsportsmanlike. The two plays are worlds apart. ...

I also find it ridiculous how many people have come out saying the call made sense. It really goes to show the perceptions and reputation the Flyers face in every game. They are guilty until proven innocent in NHL circles. How can pointing left for about a second be called "unsportsmanlike" in a league that repeatedly lets headshots go? Barely 24 hours later, Crosby scored his 200th goal on a play where his teammate, Kunitz, buffaloed Kiprusoff while the shot was being taken. Where's the outrage for that?

brucewaynegretzky: There's a lot of chatter here about the Pronger call. I know you and others have said you think it was the right call. I disagree pretty strongly, but that will happen. What I would really like to hear your thoughts on are whether or not there is a more strict version of the rules applied to the Flyers. It feels like questionable calls always go against them. I'm a Flyers fan, so maybe there is some hometown bias there, but the prevalence really does seem to suggest there's something else going on here. Your thoughts?

My take: That was a quality rant, pelti, even if I disagree.

First of all, it was indeed the right call Friday afternoon; kudos to young referee Ghislain Hebert for getting it right. Pronger clearly waived his glove in front of Miikka Kiprusoff's face. That's an unsportsmanlike conduct (USC) penalty. It does not matter that Pronger wasn't facing Kiprusoff. The spirit of the rule is the glove being in the face.

"The spirit and intent of the USC rule is to keep an acceptable hockey decorum in the game, in this case when a player is screening," Terry Gregson, the NHL's director of officiating, told me Saturday. "This type of act is outside the normal boundaries and needs to be controlled for the good of the game."

As for the league somehow calling the game tighter when the Flyers are involved? I've always said fans see the game with tainted glasses, in this case black and orange.

thevman0730: How in the world are the Blackhawks 4th in the newest power rankings and yet they have played 4 more games than the blues (who are 17th now) and are only a point ahead? I know the blues have not been playing well as of late but I think this gap is a little too much.

My take: Because I wrote the rankings this week and I can do as I wish. The rankings are meant to be an expression of where we believe things stand and where we believe teams are trending. Just like when I ranked your Blues first overall a few weeks ago. C'est la vie!

alexwarner87: Pierre, there is the belief that the Leafs could go 0-82 and the building would still be packed every night. Yes, Toronto is a hockey market unlike any other sports market, but I believe that with 6 straight years of no playoffs (lockout counts) that the fans are starting to take note. Tickets -- while still sold out -- are no longer sold aftermarket for obscene prices. In fact, brokers are getting stuck with tickets for some games. Clearly this must be alarming for both MLSE and the NHL. Do you see any long-term affects arising out of the Leafs six years -- and counting -- of futility? This is the NHL's most watched team.

My take: You make some excellent points. I live here in Toronto, and while I still think this club has the biggest and most loyal legion of fans, I have felt some nuances shift in that relationship. It's perhaps more anecdotal than anything, because most of my pals are Leafs fans, but I sense a more angry lot, a less-forgiving lot. Perhaps it's because they built up their hopes after the hiring of GM Brian Burke, a hiring I still believe was the right call and one that may still pay off. But right now, the picture looks bleak. The Phil Kessel deal is tough to swallow. Leafs fans are more agitated than I've ever seen in the 16 years I've lived in this city. You may be right.

toderek: Derek here from La Cabane in MTL. I'm losing it with my team (the B's)! So much talk, so much hype about being contenders etc., and they always seem to lack that extra oomph that separates the "real" teams from the ones that just want to make the playoffs. I know it's way too early to start demanding heads to roll but they have to do something (other than just to get under the cap moves), they have to play and become dominant like the washington, philly, etc., do!!!

My take: Derek, great to hear from you. For those visiting Montreal, make sure to check out his establishment. As for your Bruins, I wonder if the talk of impending trades/moves was affecting some guys in that dressing room with Marc Savard's return coming at any time. It's human nature to feel that way, to be looking over your shoulder. I know a few Devils insiders believe that's been a major issue in New Jersey since Ilya Kovalchuk signed, forcing the Devils into cap issues. Boston moving Matt Hunwick on Monday night could ease those tensions in the Bruins' room. GM Peter Chiarelli said moving Hunwick would clear enough cap space for Savard's return.

rjs162: I would like an apology from all the MAF haters; that is all.

My take: Ha! Love that. Marc-Andre Fleury is indeed making his critics eat some crow right now.

Pengwin7: I haven't had anything to vent about since Kovalchuk was traded out of Atlanta. Non-Kovalchuk money is money well spent. Pengwin is very, very, very happy with the post-Kovy Thrashers.

My take: Love this rant, too. Isn't amazing how the fortunes have changed for the Thrashers and Devils since that February trade? Had Ilya Kovalchuk re-signed with Atlanta, the Thrashers would have very likely never made that wonderful trade with Chicago that got them Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, who are currently their two leading scorers.

harry2299: Do you believe the Kings were overhyped with the way they started the season? They've looked flat for the past two weeks and seem to be a scoring forward short of being a legitimate contender in the deep Western Conference. Also, do you believe that Dean Lombardi will make a necessary trade if the team continues to slide? Signed, A Kings Fan In Early Season Panic Mode.

My take: I think you've got a young team reading its own preseason clippings, for sure. That happens. The Kings need a good talking-to. They need to remember the sacrifices that made them one of the great young teams in the league. They're not paying the price right now. As for Lombardi, yes, I think he's got several different moves he's studying. He's a well-prepared GM and will strike before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. The Kings have more cap room than other contenders and are planning to use it.

Moshj5927: Is it just me or does Randy Carlyle get a free pass? He is lucky to get 50% out of his "superstars" and yet Murray keeps saying that the coach is safe. I think the Ducks need a change in their style of play not to mention a coach that is going to whip Getzlaf, Perry and Selanne into shape. These players should be in the Stamkos, Crosby, Ovechkin conversations but they are not because they are not challenged by their coach to do better. Maybe I am tough on these players, but to watch an entire game is frustrating to see all of these guys loafing around the ice. Seriously, 4-1 after having 4 days off!!! Without Hiller/McElhinney where would this team be???

My take: Mosh, I understand your frustration as a Ducks fan. I believe Randy Carlyle is one of the best coaches in the league. But sometimes -- and that time may be coming -- you stay long enough in the same place and the players stop responding. It's why great coaches like Scotty Bowman didn't stay in the same place forever; the late Pat Burns coached four different teams to impressive levels of success. But like any coach, the players stop responding after a while. It may be that time has come in Anaheim.