Your rants, my answers

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
10:56
PM ET

The holiday spirit did nothing to assuage our loyal ESPN.com puckheads from ranting away again Monday, and I say good for you. Let's take a look:

MichaelsLandy: In the recent Penguins-Flyers game, there were three more or less scripted fights in 16 seconds. I am not against fighting in hockey, but I believe it should be as a result of the play. If something happens on the ice, then whoever is there should deal with it. But the increased amount of fights that are essentially scripted (two goons climb over the boards, jaw at the faceoff circle and drop the gloves) are unnecessary. The NHL did a lot to speed up the game post-lockout and to create offense should scripted fight be eliminated or at least a 10-minute penalty. I'd much rather teams carry guys that can play rather than the goon that is only used when another team has one.

My advice: Well, if you remember last March's GMs meetings in Naples, Fla., this is exactly something the group tried to tackle. The GMs voted to implement a rule change for this season which would see "staged fights" further penalized. Staged fights are ones that occur right off a faceoff, the kind of pre-arranged dances between heavyweights that you see regularly.

The proposed rule change would have seen players who were guilty of staged fighting receive an additional 10-minute misconduct penalty on top of the regular five-minute penalty for fighting. League data showed some 20 percent of fights from last season fell under the "staged" category right off a faceoff. Problem is, the rule change died a quick death before it even got to the competition committee for further discussion, let alone the board of governors for a formal vote.

That's because NHL tough guys, led by Georges Laraque, vehemently opposed the rule change and made their case against it at the NHL Players' Association meetings in Las Vegas in June and successfully killed it. It didn't even come up at the competition committee meeting later that month. It was dead and gone. As Laraque told me in Vegas, he thought the rule was stupid anyway because in order to avoid a "staged fight", he said tough guys would agree to wait a few seconds and meet in the corner to fight instead. Oh, well; it was a good thought at the time.

kldavis1191 I'm tired of the game being slowed down by pucks getting deflected out of play when players go down to block a shot. Shot blocking has become an integral part of the game, but when 2 or 3 players are sliding around on their stomachs in their own end, it's just ridiculous. If a player leaves his feet to block a shot, and deflects the puck out of play, it should be 2 minutes for delay of game.

My advice: This rant got ridiculed on the message board, but, truth is, a very intelligent hockey man had similar thoughts a year ago. In October 2008 at a one-day GMs meeting in Chicago, Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey proposed a radical rule change, or least suggested GMs think about it: players would be required to have at least one skate on the ice to block a shot; no more sliding in front of shots. His thought was that too many shots were being blocked by the full-body slide. The suggested rule change was if a player didn't have at least one skate on the ice and blocked a shot, it would be a two-minute delay of game penalty. The idea, however, didn't garner enough support.

Pengwin7: Pierre, we all know that Scott Niedermayer is a lock to make Team Canada, but should he be? I say no. ... If you sort defensemen who have played at least 20 games and at least 15 minutes per game, you get a list of 116 guys (about 4 per 30 teams).

Here are the players with MOST goals AGAINST on ice per 60 minutes of ice time:

WORST
1. Jack Johnson. 3.66 GAA. (36 GA this year)
4. Zack Bogosian. 3.51 GAA. (35 GA this year)
12. Scott Niedermayer. 3.20 GAA. (30 GA this year)
50. Mike Green. 2.57 GAA. (27 GA this year)
62. Zdeno Chara. 2.31 GAA. (25 GA this year)
91. Duncan Keith. 1.98 GAA. (22 GA this year)
99. Jay Bouwmeester. 1.78 GAA. (19 GA this year)
105. Chris Pronger.. 1.57 GAA. (16 GA this year)
115. Andy Greene. 1.25 GAA. (12 GA this year)
116. Christian Ehrhoff. 0.94 GAA. (9 GA this year)

Now, I'm not one to rag on a guy for a poor plus/minus if his forwards aren't scoring, but you have to lock it down on your own end of the rink, too. Niedermayer has a TEAM WORST minus-11. That fits in nicely on the tail end of his last six seasons of plus/minus numbers (plus-23, plus-20, plus-8, plus-6, minus-2, minus-8, minus-11). See a trend? And while we are on the subject of "playing defense," neither you nor Burnside nor Hradek should be throwing the name Jack Johnson or Zach Bogosian around for a spot on Team USA.

My advice: Penguin7, as always a well thought-out point. The numbers don't lie with Niedermayer. But, after speaking with some people on Team Canada's management team, I think there's also a thought that Niedermayer is trying to do too much on an Anaheim team that has struggled most of the season. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has to play the 36-year-old defenseman too much in order to make up for a blue-line corps that lost Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin heading into this season.

Niedermayer is fifth in the league in ice time per game at 26:25 per game. That's a lot. On Team Canada, Niedermayer won't have to play a ton of time; he may not even be on the power play. He'll be surrounded by an All-Star cast and won't have to carry the team on his shoulders like I think he is right now. And the bottom line is, the Canadian management team wants an experienced and poised presence leading what will be a fairly young group in a tournament where an entire nation will expect nothing but gold. There are intangibles involved that don't show up on the stat sheet.

fowz14: Why isn't the Team Canada taking a serious look at Jordan Staal? All he does is play big minutes night in and night out against the opponents' top line. He is putting up points (10/11/21) and has two short-handed goals to boot. It has been said by you and others that they need a balanced team to win this thing. Staal would be one heck of a great third- or fourth-line center.

My advice: I actually believe Jordan Staal is very much on the radar for Team Canada. I don't think it means he's a lock, but I think he's a player GM Steve Yzerman & Co. have talked about. What really helps Staal is his versatility. I spoke with Yzerman last weekend, and while he obviously would never divulge names on his roster, he did mention he doesn't want to use guys out of position too much. The fact that Staal can play wing or center greatly helps his chances. Staal also had a great Cup finals this past spring right in front of Yzerman and the Wings. We'll see if that's good enough come Dec. 30.

jumpthruahoop: I am sick and tired of watching my team (the Flames) win one and then lose one. Year after year we are plagued with inconsistency, and I have no idea why. Before the season started I was so hopeful that this year was going to be different because of the signing of JayBo. The only good constant this year has been Kipper. Other than that, we are a sorry bunch of inconsistent idiots skating around. Not to mention, I am completely and utterly sick of Olli Jokinen. That guy plays with no heart. You NEVER see him winning 50-50 pucks, and every time he gets a chance in front of net, he dumps it wide. Darryl Sutter, PLEASE GET RID OF JOKINEN!

My advice: Once in a while, I like to throw one of these rants to a beat guy covering the team in question. We sent jumpthruahoop's rant to veteran Flames writer Randy Sportak of The Calgary Sun, and here was his response:

"Inconsistent? Geez, they went 10-2-2 in November, so I don't know if you can call that inconsistent. In December, they have struggled (3-5-1). You want to talk inconsistent? That's Vancouver beating Washington, but losing to all the bottom four teams in the conference more often than not, or Edmonton winning five straight on the road and then falling apart at home. As for the Flames problems, here are a few reasons:

1. Travel. From the start of November until Dec. 15, they played 21 games and 15 were on the road. That included two trips to the Eastern Time zone, two trips to California and hops out to Dallas to start it and Nashville in the middle. Think that's easy? Try it. It doesn't matter how many zeroes are on the check, it's tiring. When you start making mental mistakes, it leads to problems.

2. System-wise, it's tough for players to play 2-1 games, even when they're winning. Guys start hearing about a lack of goals, so they push for them a little harder, which means taking chances and being out of position defensively. That's the key thing coach Brent Sutter is working on this week.

3. Jokinen. You're right; he hasn't been the player we expected. He and Jarome Iginla just don't mesh. Neither is a fantastic passer, and they both end up trying plays that won't work instead of just shooting. In theory, they should work, but they don't, and I'm not sure they will. What they need is a true playmaker on left wing -- Kristian Huselius? Sometimes combinations don't work. Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull didn't click as expected, either.

The Flames aren't at Chicago's level, but are among that next tier. They're in a rut, but I expect they'll win the Northwest Division."

Thank you, Randy!

DatsyukFan56: OK, Pierre, so the Red Wings are now the Grand Rapids Griffins, let's get that one out into the media pronto, with seven of the top 10 players out, these are not the Red Wings. But that is not my rant; my rant is more of a plea. i need help ... lots of help ... having sat about 50 feet from one of the greatest saves in Stanley Cup finals history, i can still NOT shake this from my head ... it was my favourite (misspelled it just for you) goalie of this new generation against my childhood and favourite team. I see the same empty half of the net that Lidstrom sees. I see him take the stick back. I am thinking, "YES! GREATEST ENDING EVER!" as the puck travels and as it's supposed to hit the back of the net, my section and Lidstrom and the Wings celebrating together, momentum shifting, Wings going to win this thing in OT, out of nowhere comes Fleury and his torso.

I see this on a weekly basis, out of nowhere, a flashback/nightmare. Used to be an hourly flashback on my long ride home (drove nine hours for the game), then a daily dose of it. Now we're down to a weekly flashback. I need advice on how to get through this season. I need advice on how to get past LAST season. Nothing, and i mean nothing, regular season record, goals per game, goals allowed per game, power play ranking, presidents cup winner, post season penalty kill percentage, NOTHING matters except earning your fourth win in the Stanley Cup finals. Adieu.

My advice: Datysukfan56, this was a great post. Thanks. I think you speak for a legion of Wings fans who are going through tough times. Before we get to this season's issues, let's step back for a second and get a reality check. I'm sensing some very spoiled Hockeytown fans are crying in their beer when a little adversity comes their way for the first time in nearly two decades. Not only has this franchise made the playoffs 18 straight seasons and won four Stanley Cups during that span, the Wings have made eight conference finals appearances in the past 14 seasons. Think about that -- your team being in the final four eight of 14 seasons when there's 30 teams in the league. That's just unbelievable.

OK, things are tough this season, no question. But again, some clarity. Half the team is in the medical ward, and not just anybody, but key, key players. May I remind you what happened to Pittsburgh last season when they had injuries like this? They were out of a playoff spot in February. Then, they got bodies back and, voila, the rest is history. Now, I'm not suggesting the Wings will come back and win the Cup. I do think they're in a bit of a regression overall, but they're certainly a playoff-bound team once they have all their players in the lineup. Everyone in Hockeytown, take a deep breath and relax. Thank you.

Rainbirdmelody: You want a rant? How about a request? A simple wish for Christmas. All I want is the Flyers to play one game with the heart and talent I know they have. Just one game. Is that asking too much? I would like to be excited as I once was that the Flyers are in the Winter Classic but how can I be? Although they have faired well against the Bruins this year I am still concerned. I had planned on having a Winter Classic party that would consist of mostly non-hockey fans, as I live in Kentucky, but now I'm not so sure. Would I rather watch alone or risk the humiliation of another poor effort? They are a better team than they are showing. Do we need to have a little story time with them? Maybe read them The Little Engine That Could? Stop dwelling on the losses and move on. Improve starting tonight. Can I have my Christmas wish?

My advice: Another great rant! Awesome, Rainbird. It's not the NHL's fault since we all figured the Flyers would be a contender this for this season's Winter Classic, but it is somewhat embarrassing for the league to feature a Flyers team that's in the basement. Maybe the league should have stuck with the original idea of having the high-flying Caps in Boston, instead. Having said that, I would not pull the plug on these Flyers just yet. There's lot of talent on this team, and I think you have to give coach Peter Laviolette a little more time to right the ship. One of the problems with the condensed NHL schedule is coaches don't have a lot of time to teach. Real practices are hard to come by. Once Laviolette finds a break in the schedule and gets to do more teaching, I think you'll see this group turn it around.

Devilspep: The Devils lose Gionta and Madden this offseason, everybody says that they won't be able to score goals with Lemaire bringing the "trap" back, and that this was going to finally be the year they didn't make the playoffs. Fast forward to today and, of course, they were all wrong. Devils have the best record in the league have been scoring just as many goals as under Sutter last year and rank top 3 in defense. Does the Devils' model of consistency prove that it is much better to build from within the farm system than it is to "buy" championships with big name players like hmmm the Rangers try to do? In the Cap Era to me it seems like that is the model to follow.

My advice: Pre-lockout, post-lockout, it doesn't matter. The Devils have been a model organization ever since GM Lou Lamoriello came on board. It's not just the drafting (thank you, David Conte) and developing that has helped the Devils sit among a small group of ever-competitive teams over the past two decades, but it's also the motto and identity of the whole organization that shapes every player who ever dons the uniform. It's about hard work, putting the team first and doing the little things that don't get recognized in order to gain group success.

The Devils, overall, have never gained the kind of national attention they probably deserve, and some of that in my opinion comes from playing a market where the Original Six Rangers continue to clobber the Devils in terms of popularity and fan following. Last season, I made my first trip to the new Prudential Center. I was amazed by what I think was the best-looking facility in the NHL. And I'm equally stunned by the number of empty seats, game in and game out. I know the tickets are expensive, but a 20th-ranked attendance (as of Monday) is well below the kind of support this team deserves.

UnbiasedSportsFan: My rant: Conference disparity. It's getting quite lopsided. The Western Conference's worst record is currently one game under .500 while the Eastern's No. 8 seed is sitting right at .500. Shouldn't the best 16 teams make the playoffs? Hard to do with the Eastern Conference sending virtual byes to the playoffs every year.

Can the NHL think about doing something like the Canadian Football League playoffs? If the lowest-ranked seed out East has a worse record than a non-playoff team out West, give that Western team the shot at the playoffs. The BC Lions played in the CFL Eastern Finals this past year. Made for a better two games than the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would have brought.

There is no way anybody will be able to tell me that the Panthers or Habs or Rangers will give the Pens or Devils or Caps a better series than current non-playoff sitting teams like Detroit or Vancouver would. Not even close. ... What do you think, fellow Canadian?

My advice: Is the West deeper and stronger? Yes, of course, and the Pope is Catholic. It's been that way for a few years now, and there's nothing wrong with that. Over time, the cycle changes. Look at football. For years, the NFC was dominant through the 49ers and Cowboys, but then came the AFC's Patriots and Steelers of recent years. Eventually, the Eastern Conference will get develop more powerhouse teams. Besides, who won the Cup last season? Pittsburgh.

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