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Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Rant answers: Wings woes, Rangers' upside

By Pierre LeBrun

Excellent rants this week, my friends. It's tough being a hockey fan when things aren't going your way! Let's take a look at what you had to say:

Marc.Sims: For almost the last ten years, its always been a privilege to watch the Ottawa Senators make it to the playoffs, though doubts always persisted around the team. Almost every year they were on these runs, I would disagree with anyone saying the Sens won't make the playoffs ... but I would find myself agreeing with anyone who contends that they are not a playoff team. ... This year, I don't see the Sens making the playoffs, and they certainly do not look like a playoff team. So what is there to do? So LeBrun, what would you do in such a situation? Make a trade? Ride it out? Fire personnel?

My take: First off, owner Eugene Melnyk needs to decide whether or not Bryan Murray is his GM past this season because the kind of changes this roster needs should be carried out by the man who is going to run this team for a few more years. Murray's deal is up at the end of the season. Murray also told me this past weekend that he must decide whether he wants to do this past 2010-11. That's another important decision.

Once the GM question is settled, the operation begins. Alexei Kovalev is an unrestricted free agent after this season and is obviously gone. Chris Phillips is also a UFA; I would try to move him (he has a no-trade clause) and get a high draft pick or good prospect in return. If Phillips wants to return to Ottawa on July 1, leave that door open. And really, if I'm the GM, outside of Erik Karlsson, the door is totally open on any of these players if there's an offer.

Valkrane21: Pierre, do you think the Rangers could play for 60 minutes every game instead of one out of every four or five games? It's really getting ridiculous. Look at the last two games they've played. Montreal and Philly are both teams that they have huge problems playing against, and I expected them to get dominated for 60 minutes in both games. But the fact that they controlled the third period (or most of it) in both games actually bothers me even more than if they would have been dominated for 60 minutes. The way they controlled the flow of play made it seem like the ice was tilted, and I'm getting sick and tired of seeing this happen for 10 or 15 minutes a game, and the effort being nonexistent for the rest. ... Too bad these guys can't seem to make it last for more than a period.

My take: Let's remember where most people had the Rangers before the season started. Eighth? Ninth? Tenth? They've had a wonderful, surprising season. The best part of it is that it's the homegrown Rangers players making the difference. Let's not get greedy here. There are going to be nights when they just don't have it; they don't have a bona fide No. 1 center. The offense will be an issue some nights. But these guys are working for coach John Tortorella, and they're fun to watch. Take the good with the bad!

RobbyVee: Here in the West, all we hear is 'Nucks and Wings. The Hawks aren't dead yet like you hear from the front running fans that became Hawks fans on June 9,2009. One guy had the nerve to call them terrible. 20 wins in the entire 2003-04 season is terrible. Maybe it's a good thing for all the longtime Hawk fans; you know, guys who know who guys like White, Pappin and Martin were. The front runners can go back to watching reruns of Family Guy. Stewie and Brian know more about the NHL then they do.

My take: That is an interesting point. Just a few seasons ago, the United Center seemed too big for hockey because it wasn't getting filled. The bandwagon jumpers certainly came on board last season. But that's OK; winning is the best sales tool in the world. Your job as a longtime Hawks fan is to educate newer Hawks fans and remind them of the Alexei Zhamnov era.

holstkakert5: The dallas stars are getting no recognition; they were projected for second to last in the conference, now [they're] contending for one seed. What do they have to do to be recognized as a team no one wants to play?????

My take: I ranked them fourth overall in this week's Power Rankings; what else do you want, buddy? But here's some good news for you: I'm in Vancouver this weekend and plan to write a Stars story off Monday night's game. Some national coverage is coming your way!

grantconnor8990: I have read the reports that Doug Wilson has no intentions of firing [coach Todd McLellan] or his staff during this horrible start to 2011 for the Sharks, but can we take a look at the defense please? When the Blackhawks canned their defensive assistant coach (our current defensive coach) their defense improved significantly, and as it appears to me, defense is our huge weak point. Inability to handle the forecheck, break out of the zone, and play physical in our own zone really add up to a defensive core that is painful to watch.

At this point I can't tell whether it would be best to shake things up with a coaching change, a trade or simple waive a couple of the underachievers on our blue line to give [Justin] Braun, [Derek] Joslin, [Jason] Demers, etc., more of the load. Clearly things aren't working as it sits now, so what can we do?!

My take: GM Doug Wilson told me point-blank this past weekend that McLellan isn't going anywhere, which is the right decision. This is not a coaching issue; this is about players underperforming. It's also about a blue line that lost Rob Blake and never replaced him. Wilson is on the lookout for defensive help, but it doesn't grow on trees. As Sharks fans, you should be relieved San Jose didn't sign Anton Volchenkov or Sergei Gonchar to those contracts in July!

prashanthiyer: The Red Wings injuries. This is getting ridiculous. I thought last year was bad, but now with [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Daniel] Cleary, [Tomas] Holmstrom, [Mike] Modano, [Jimmy] Howard, [Chris] Osgood and Brad Stuart out, this is nuts. My rant is basically this: I know Mike Babcock gets overlooked for coach of the year consideration because he runs the Red Wings juggernaut, but with the amount of injuries the Wings have had this year, to still be the No. 2 team in the NHL is something otherworldly. Look how much Pittsburgh has struggled after Crosby went down. ... Ultimately, Babcock has to be in the running for the Jack Adams, and if the Wings keep this up, he has to win it.

My take: I totally agree. I actually mentioned several times last season that Babcock was doing some of the best coaching of his career by keeping the injury-riddled Wings afloat. Unfortunately, the Jack Adams Award is one of the few awards I don't get to vote on (the broadcasters do). To be fair, it was hard not to agree with Phoenix's Dave Tippett receiving the honor last season. But with Babcock doing it again with all the injuries in Detroit this season, he's definitely a coach who deserves serious recognition if the Wings survive.

karthi: Pierre, what the heck is wrong with the Sabres? Why are [Lindy] Ruff and [Darcy] Regier never ever taken to task for the pathetic performances this team puts out against mediocre to bad competition? It's why they missed the playoffs after [Chris] Drury and [Daniel] Briere left and why they are going to miss the playoffs this year. Each year that passes is a year less of having Ryan Miller in his prime. They should be fired immediately along with Larry Quinn.

My take: I have to disagree with you, my friend. Money, money, money ... the Sabres have never had any. GM Darcy Regier has had to let players go because he couldn't afford to pay them market value. Toni Lydman, for example, was a big loss; but the Sabres couldn't match what Anaheim gave him. Coach Lindy Ruff? He'd be hired by another NHL team within days of a firing; he's a great coach.

Here's the hope now for Sabres fans: a prospective new owner in Terry Pegula with deep pockets and a passion for the team. Once his purchase goes through, it might present an exciting, new era for the team and its passionate fans, an era when the club could be able to compete financially with the big boys.

mcgrizzle20: In a world so perfect, My Blue Jackets would be a playoff contender each year not a perennial pretender. But here we are, so I need some opinion from someone other than a Red Wings fan (I moved to Michigan from Columbus a few years back). Is Scott the right coach? Do we need to move some of our forever underperforming "rising stars" [Derick] Brassard, [Nikita] Filatov? Is it our poor drafting? Help me, Pierre, to understand why I have suffered for 10 years.

My take: Why have you suffered? Poor drafting, for many years. Yes, Scott Arniel is definitely the right coach. Steve Mason's struggles are a major hit; they need get him back on the right track. The blue line is not good enough. It's tough to attract good free agents to Columbus because there's no track record of success, so the team overpays for average players (Mike Commodore).

BrewsHouse: YO LEBBY ... the Flyers are just continuing to play great hockey, even without the presence of a guy like [Chris] Pronger. They are ONLY sending 1 player to the AS game this year. Now I understand we have so many players contributing this year, and the wealth is being spread out all over the place. Flyers will have at least 9 20-plus goal scorers this year ... pretty ridiculous all said and done. So in the understanding the guys like Crosby and Eric Staal get more attention because they CARRY their team, it's still frustrating that i feel the flyers should be representing at least 2 more forwards (probably 5). Pretty upset that Briere got snubbed too considering what he is doing. ... Pick a team full of all-stars, then have them play against the flyers for the all star game. Ha, ha! ...

My take: Although I think it's foolish for anyone to lose any sleep over the All-Star Game or its rosters, I do agree it's brutal that Briere isn't there. Major oversight. He deserved it. As one of the best teams in the league, the Flyers deserved to have more than one representative there.