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Where does Malkin fit in?

After posting 77 points last season, Evgeni Malkin is on pace to score 72 points in 2010-11. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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After posting 77 points last season, Evgeni Malkin is on pace to score 72 points in 2010-11. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

I’m going to set this week’s AA file up as if I were lame-o rapper will.i.am:

This is a mailbag column. You should read it. It has words in it. They are worth reading. Check it out. Check it out. Check it out. Check it out. Check it out. Check it out.

Hey Adam. In the Nov. 22 edition of The Hockey News, you answered a mailbag question by saying the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin Era "has now been replaced by the Crosby/Ovechkin/(Steven) Stamkos" Era. There are no doubts that Crosby and Ovechkin are emblems of the pinnacle of this sport and that, given his recent history, Stamkos is very much on the cusp of such status.

However, I can't help but feel like poor Evgeni Malkin is getting left out in the cold. Just two seasons ago he was in that conversation deservedly, but it seems after one injury-plagued season he's been written off in a sense. Some pundits contend he does what he does because of Crosby, but I believe that to be a two-way street.

So why is Geno being relatively snuffed out as a face of the league when his skills are clearly in that Crosby/Ovie stratosphere?
Chris Linton, Lethbridge, Alta.


Chris,

No hockey observer I speak with believes Malkin’s talents have up and abandoned him, but his statistics suggest he’s on a downward trajectory.

In fact, even with a recent hot streak of five points in his past three games, Malkin is still on a 72-point pace, which would be the worst offensive total of his NHL career.

The guy is 24, so there is no need to panic just yet. But there’s no way Malkin gets mentioned in the same breath as Crosby and Ovechkin (and, yes, Stamkos) until he replicates the form that had people regarding him highly in the first place.

Hi Adam. With the Bruins' offense finally coming together, David Krejci proving he can be a No. 1 center and all four lines producing points (and their cap problems coming to a head with the returns of Marc Savard and Marco Sturm), do you think it would make sense to try to move Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder and maybe Matt Hunwick (as everyone in Boston is saying), or should they try to dump Savard and Sturm?

I know the season is young, but Sturm seems to be injury-prone now and the Bruins have proven they have the firepower they need without Savard in the lineup. I know they're both good players, but I don't know that we should start messing with a team that seems to have found chemistry.
Mandi Mahoney, South Boston, Mass.


Hi Mandi,

You raise a good question (one I’m sure Boston GM Peter Chiarelli and his management team are asking themselves all the time) that there aren’t any easy answers for.

There are pros and cons for keeping or moving all of the players you’ve mentioned. But here’s what’s indisputable: Considering Savard’s concussion history, teams aren’t going to go near his sizeable contract until he demonstrates he’s healthy enough to function in the league for an extended length of time.

Sturm and Ryder are both unrestricted free agents following this season, which instantly makes them more attractive to salary cap-conscious GMs. Wheeler and Hunwick will be restricted free agents, which probably makes them most attractive of all.

Moving any of those players could upset the competitive balance that has the Bruins looking pretty good so far this year, but you could say the same for any team. Success in the NHL is about gambles and hunches sometimes; that may be tough to hear and handle, but it’s the truth.

Of course, all these potential moves depend on how long David Krejci will be out for and how quickly he’s able to pick his production back up once he does return.

Hi Adam. Do you think hockey would be better served if player salaries were not disclosed to the general public? I'm tired of hearing the media discuss player performances compared to their salaries. I think this would increase the fans’ enjoyment of the simplicity of the game. Thanks.
Jeff Miron, Barrie, Ont.


Hi Jeff,

I’m afraid the horses left that barn long ago. I don’t disagree with your weariness for the financial side of the hockey business, but the reality is the NHL, through its use of the salary cap, has made player salaries a vital component of its day-to-day operations.

While it’s true fan expectations of NHLers can be altered by the salaries, there is no turning back from the days of full disclosure we’re in now. It’s like rink board advertising: it would be ideal to remove it, but there’s no chance of it happening.

Hi Adam. I've been in Canada long enough to notice the NHL complaining about lack of revenue. Back home, we have a rugby tournament called the ITM Cup. They play round-robin and playoffs.

Running parallel to the tournament is a tradition called the Ranfurly Shield and this is what might solve both problems. It has no bearing on points – just bragging rights – and you can only win it by playing the current holder at home. So, for example, Calgary wouldn't normally care if Philly is playing Atlanta in Atlanta, but if the Flames were going on a road trip – where we'd play Philly potentially for the shield – you might sell a few of those pay-per-view games in Calgary.

Also, if the NHL refuses to allow more East vs. West games, they could at least make it worth more for when they do happen. It would cost nothing to implement and they could name it the Bobby Orr Cup or the Lemieux Shield or the Proteau Trophy. Do you reckon something like this could fly in the NHL? I know I'd be more likely to get some PPV games.
Zac Borrows, Hawera, New Zealand


Hi Zac,

If I had to reckon, I’d reckon that, although your suggestion is intriguing, it would be tough to convince most NHLers a regular season game (even one dressed up as something more) is anything other than a regular season game.

Now, let’s say there is a natural rivalry – Calgary vs. Toronto, for instance – that might be worth setting up as a “trophy game.” The Canadian players on the Leafs and Flames might be more excited for the showdown, but do you think a European or American would be? Maybe, but maybe not.

And even if both sides agreed to it, you should know my good friend Jeff Marek of CBC Sports and Hockey Night In Canada is trying to get the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy renamed the Proteau Trophy. So that option would be gone.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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