Vancouver’s Rick Rypien was granted an indefinite leave of absence by the Canucks Thursday. Let’s hope he can take on his problem (or problems) and return as a productive athlete.
More importantly, let’s also ask why another enforcer – one who was suspended six games this season for grabbing a fan in the stands – has seemingly buckled under the pressure of being paid to punch and be punched.
Considering the on- and off-ice struggles of Chris Simon, John Kordic, Ryan VandenBussche, Link Gaetz, Donald Brashear, Chris Nilan and many others, it seems clear one of two things is true: (a) the enforcer role has a negative effect on players, or (b) the job attracts a type of person prone to lapses in good sense and logic.
Either way, Rypien’s hiatus suggests the NHL take a closer look at the job of designated puncher.
On to your questions:
Adam, when I read your article “Time to Deal (Jarome) Iginla” in a recent edition of The Hockey News, I could not agree more. Except for one thing: who's gonna take him? Really, who? I think the Flames should wait until he's on a good streak so they could give potential trade partners something to think about when they question his play. What do you think? Should they wait, deal him now, or not deal him at all?
Spencer Camus, Summerside, P.E.I.
In the eyes of many, the logical destination for Iginla is Los Angeles. The Kings have enough cap flexibility for this season (and years to come) to absorb the two years and $14 million Iginla has left on his contract.
Los Angeles also has a sufficient stockpile of promising young players and prospects that would be needed to do a deal with the Flames. Despite denials from Flames brass, if Calgary is out of the playoff race by the trade deadline or prior to it, I think they’ll seriously consider all options – including moving their captain.
Hey Adam, I'm 13 years old and I want to become a journalist for The Hockey News – and I want to steal your job (sorry). I have a 96 percent average in school and I know a lot about hockey. Can you give me some tips?
Kody Farrow, Dalmeny, Sask.
No. No I can’t.
OK, fine then. More than anything, you should know that you’re still a very young person who needs to gain experience (in writing and in life) before you can write for an august publication like THN.
My advice, then, is to keep writing as much as you can; learn about the language and everything you can do with it (just as a plumber needs to learn about all his tools before he can go on the job); figure out what sets your writing apart from others and work on accentuating that difference.
Oh, and watch a lot of hockey. That’s more or less a must at THN.
Hey Adam, as an Edmonton fan, I was just wondering if the Oilers have a chance at the playoffs next year?
Max McPeak, Edmonton
I’m not an Oilers booster (or really, a fan of any one NHL team), but it makes me sad to know some Edmonton fans already are talking about next season. Unfortunately, that’s probably going to happen more and more in the coming weeks, unless the Oilers embark on an amazing turnaround in the last three-quarters of the regular season.
Like the New York Islanders, the Oilers have to be asking themselves just how long a youth movement can go on without much progress before management and ownership takes a hard look at the team’s direction – and core talent group.
The good news is that Edmonton does have some talented youngsters. But the longer the misery goes on this year, the more I can picture GM Steve Tambellini following the Florida Panthers’ pattern and breaking up the Oilers’ band.
If he can do that and change the chemistry by adding a few veterans, there’s no reason Edmonton can’t be a feisty group challenging for a low playoff seed next year, like the Panthers appear to be doing this season.
Adam, why can't Alex Ovechkin wear his jersey "out" in the back like everybody else? And what is with his skate laces hanging down in the front? It looks so sloppy and unprofessional – the exact opposite of a hockey player.
Margaret McGinn, Philadelphia
I don’t mind Ovechkin’s personal style in the least. Too often, the hockey world demands lock-step subservience and uniformity from players; in a media world where personality and color matter to the bottom line, the NHL could use more athletes willing to be different from the rest.
Vanilla’s a nice flavor, but it isn’t the only one.
Hey Adam, I've been into your column for a good couple of years now - big fan. I'm after a virtuous opinion regarding an issue that's frustrated me in recent years.
The NHL has very precise definitions for its end-of-season awards and I obviously didn't get the memo when the league tweaked its selection criteria for the following awards:
Jack Adams Award: Awarded annually to the coach of the worst – or most unexpected – team to reach the playoffs.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Total points minus PIM. Player with the highest total wins.
Hart Memorial Trophy: Awarded impulsively and unconditionally to the recipient of the Art Ross Trophy.
The accuracy of this ridiculous criteria is astounding over the past 10 years. When will Mike Babcock get credit for his contribution to his (albeit very strong) team's success? Are defensemen going to continue to be sideshows in the Crosby-Ovechkin-Stamkos show for the next 15 years?
Jon Bremner, Perth, Western Australia
Those are some pretty astute observations you’ve got there. When it comes to voting for the NHL’s year-end awards, some members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association probably only look at hard numbers. I try and ask people in the league whom they’d vote for before casting my ballot; believe it or not, they make the same connections you’ve made in your question.
A lot of confusion would be avoided if the league merely clarified what each award actually means. For instance, if we made the Hart the award for the NHL’s best player, it would end all debate as to what a “most valuable player” really is.
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.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.