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5 things: Nabokov's market value dropping, NHL's discipline repercussions

1/24/2011

1. Nabokov not reporting

So Evgeni Nabokov feels there is no point in reporting to the New York Islanders even though he knew full well when he signed with the Detroit Red Wings this very situation might present itself.

Nabokov told our good friend and colleague Pierre LeBrun that at this stage in his career he didn't think there was any point in playing for the Islanders, who aren't going to be anywhere near the playoffs come April.

We suppose that's Nabokov's right, even though his snubbing of the Islanders rankles.

This, of course, is the same Nabokov who couldn't find work last summer when he was an unrestricted free agent and then bailed on his team in the KHL midway through the season. Not sure how refusing to play for the Islanders will help Nabokov's market value this summer if he ends up being a UFA again.

Wouldn't Nabokov want to show that he's a team player, a guy who can help even the hapless Islanders? Wouldn't he want to show other GMs that he still has NHL stuff and that he's not just a guy who piled up good regular-season numbers with a good San Jose team and then imploded every spring?

You would think.

Of course, Nabokov's future remains more than a little murky right now.

The Islanders could appeal to the league to force Nabokov to make good on the contract he signed for the balance of the year, which would make him Islanders property again next year. It would serve him right if that's how it unfolds.

2. Glencross hurts Canucks

Curtis Glencross scored a goal in Saturday's 4-3 win over Vancouver.

Maybe the Flames make the playoffs, maybe they don't, although they begin the week just five points out of the final playoff spot.

Maybe that loss costs Vancouver the top seed in the playoffs, maybe it doesn't.

Bottom line is that Glencross shouldn't have been playing. He should have been suspended for his careless hit from behind on Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner. That Glencross wasn't suspended is just another mysterious offering from the NHL's dark den of discipline, and it's not like we haven't been beating this drum every month or so for years.

But seeing him score reinforced that the league's inability to get a handle on issues of discipline has far-reaching repercussions.

It didn't take long for the league to hammer Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi with a $50,000 fine for his ill-advised comments about hockey ops executive Mike Murphy. And rightly so. But the on-ice stuff, granted more complex, seems to leave the league fumbling in the dark.

First, it's not even clear whether Glencross was even fined for drilling a vulnerable Stoner headfirst into the boards in a game last week.

There was no official press release announcing the fine, which suggests there was no punishment whatsoever, although there were some reports that Glencross was fined $2,500.

Even if he was subject to a $2,500 fine, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, what message does that send to the rest of the league if indeed punishment is at least in part about sending a message and modifying behavior?

The message, of course, is that the league has no handle on how to keep players safe, but that's not new.

But ask the Canucks how they feel about the non-action by the league. Or any of the teams the Flames may yet overhaul.

We'll never know what kind of impact the non-suspension will ultimately have, but it wouldn't have been an issue had the league acted properly.

3. Forsberg survives tough practice

There were probably 200 fans in the stands to watch Peter Forsberg in his first full practice with the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. Lots of Forsberg jerseys, as well. The one-time Hart Trophy winner got a nice round of applause when he appeared on the ice, although he must be wondering about his timing.

With the Avs coming off two ugly losses at home to Nashville and Boston, head coach Joe Sacco put them through their paces.

"That was a tough practice," Forsberg said with a grin after the workout at the team's practice facility.

As Forsberg noted after the skate, the pace was a lot quicker than what he'd been used to skating with a junior team back in Sweden.

"Struggled the first couple of drills but I was just excited to be out there and see how it goes," he said.

"I was very nervous before the practice, how fast it was going to be, and I felt great in the first 10 minutes and then legs got a little heavy after that."

Forsberg is hoping the Avs can get a win under their belt Monday night against visiting St. Louis.

"Hopefully the guys can get a win so maybe a little easier practice on Tuesday," he said.

Asked about the foot that has given him so much trouble the past seven years and indeed looked to end his career, Forsberg was noncommittal.

"Can't complain. It's been worse. Not going to go and talk about it exactly but it felt OK," he said.

This will be an interesting week for Forsberg as he hopes to get back to NHL game shape. The Avs play Monday and Wednesday and then break for the All-Star festivities. Presumably by the time the teams reconvene after the Raleigh event, Forsberg will have a pretty good handle on his foot and his conditioning, and the Avs will have to make a decision about whether to offer Forsberg a contract.

One thing would seem to be certain, though, barring a complete relapse in the foot department (or many more gassers like Sunday): no one, not Forsberg or the Avs, will know where he's at until he plays in an actual NHL game.

4. Neely votes Bergeron for Selke

I had a chance to chat with Boston Bruins president and Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely while in Denver, and Neely had some interesting thoughts on the Frank J. Selke Award and specifically how he feels Patrice Bergeron should be part of the discussion.

I must admit that of all the major trophies that the hockey writers vote on, the Selke is the one that gives me the most trouble.

The wording of the award reads that the Selke should awarded "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game."

But over time, the award has generally morphed from an acknowledgment of Bob Gainey-type play to overall two-way play with the winner almost always producing significant offensive numbers along with good defensive play.

Not suggesting Pavel Datsyuk, winner the past three years, isn't a worthy recipient. He was and he may yet factor in this year, pending how he rebounds from injury.

But Neely's point about Bergeron is a good one. The Bruins are the best defensive team in the NHL and Bergeron plays every night against opposing teams' top lines. He kills penalties, he takes key draws.

"Just the pride he takes in shutting down top guys," Neely said.

"His whole career he's done that," he said. "I just hope people look at him and give him strong consideration."

5. Understanding the stat sheet

And finally a few stats that continue to confound and confuse. The Nashville Predators are the hottest team in the NHL right now. Still, what’s up with the power play? The Preds are 27th in the league with the man advantage. It’s not like this is a new thing for the Preds, who finished with the 24th-ranked power play last year. On the other side of the coin, though, the Preds are third on the penalty kill.

Speaking of which, how about this? The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks rank 27th in penalty killing. A year ago, with defensive specialist Andrew Ladd and veteran defenseman Brent Sopel in the lineup, they were fourth overall. Not that Ladd and Sopel have been much help to the Atlanta Thrashers when the Thrash have been down a man. Atlanta is 29th on the PK, which may explain why it has fallen into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.