The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings appear to be in a dead heat for the Pacific Division with Dallas and Phoenix. (Photo by Evan Gole/NHLI via Getty Images)
Welcome to the first THN.com mailbag of 2012. Thanks for your questions. May your year be as tremendous as the Boston Bruins look right now – and may you avoid any Blue Jackets-like disasters.
Adam, Do you think the NHL will ever do away with the "loser point"? I thought the whole idea of the 3-point game was to encourage teams to play aggressively in overtime rather than playing for the tie; but with the shootout firmly in place, teams no longer have that option. We are the only sport in the world that rewards a team for losing because they tried hard and came close.
Shane Zdebiak, Winnipeg
Although the loser point is to a large degree a mockery of the standings – creating the illusion of parity when the system makes it virtually impossible for teams to make up ground late in the season – there is next to no chance the NHL will toss it on the scrap heap and adopt a system that would give fans a more accurate picture of their team’s competitive state.
Look at the Pacific Division. The Sharks lead it right now with 48 points; the second-place Kings have 47; the Stars have 45; and the Coyotes have 43. That’s five measly points separating four teams – and if that pattern continues, that means those teams will be able to sell tickets to their fans for the entire season. As a business plan, that’s a spectacular success. Ergo, there’s no reason for the league to look to another system. As you should know by now, the league isn’t always interested in fairness, especially at the expense of profit.
Hey Adam! In light of Jacques Martin's recent firing, there are many obvious questions, but they still need to be asked. Where do the Canadiens go? Do they hire a new coach like Pierre McGuire, Patrick Roy or Randy Carlyle? Do they keep Randy Cunneyworth as their coach? And finally, will the Canadiens make a successful push for the playoffs? Thanks!
Shai Reef, Montreal
Hey Shai! Lots of questions there. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone – especially GM Pierre Gauthier or team owner Geoff Molson – has any idea of how they’ll be answered. For the reasons I explained in the previous question, I believe it will be very difficult for the Canadiens (who currently sit 13th in the East, seven points out of the final playoff spot) to make the post-season this year.
That likely will spell the end for Gauthier and Cunneyworth. From there, it’s anyone’s guess which direction the organization will go. Maybe they bring in former Avs/Thrashers coach and Stanley Cup winner Bob Hartley, or look to former Pens bench boss Michel Therrien. McGuire’s name has been mentioned in regard to numerous GM vacancies and as a Montrealer and TV personality, he’d have enough cachet to give the franchise a fresh start.
I’ve said before the Habs have enough talent to avoid a full-on rebuild, but given Gauthier’s status as a product of the Bob Gainey management era, it’s time for a new blueprint for Montreal. That’s the one thing I’m expecting to see.
Adam, why do the Maple Leafs hang on to Ron Wilson? Who signs his paycheque – Brian Burke? I’m not a T.O. fan. The further they sink to the bottom the better. But really, how does he keep his job? Thanks, and Happy New Year.
C. Webster, Haliburton, Ont.
I’ve made clear on many occasions I’m not a Wilson-basher. If you focus on his record during his first three seasons as Leafs coach, you’re missing the point entirely. Toronto’s franchise was in a head-to-toe makeover and the talent Wilson was supplied with couldn’t have gotten any team into the post-season.
Only when Wilson was given decent goaltenders to work with (around this time last year) did we see the team’s fortunes begin to improve. And really, when you look at what he did with an underdog American team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics – nearly knocking off the heavily favored Canadians in the gold medal game – it’s clear this isn’t someone still employed based on the largess of his boss.
Wilson’s contract extension over the holidays was necessary to head off a buildup of speculation that would have been a distraction as Toronto pushed to make the playoffs. If the Leafs stumble and miss out on the post-season, he’d be 50-50 to return next season. But I think the one thing this franchise has been missing in recent years is the type of coaching consistency seen in Buffalo and Nashville. Keeping Wilson around would send a message to Leafs players that they have to live up to management’s expectations, not the other way around.
Hey Adam, as a former competitive player whose career nearly ended after several severe concussions and a two-year recovery, I have a question about helmets. During my time of recovery I noticed Anson Carter wore a one-piece Mission helmet. I used this helmet and had no more problems. Why is this helmet that was touted as the anti-concussion helmet not mandatory equipment, especially in light of the recent awareness to the severity of this injury?
Stewart Marks, Riverton, Man.
Sorry to hear about your struggles, but glad you’re better. Unfortunately, neither the Mission helmet nor any other head-protection equipment has provided a safeguard against concussions. Why? If you really think about it, any helmet’s primary function is to protect the skull from taking a direct, damaging hit. Since concussions happen when the brain rattles around violently against the skull, there’s nothing a helmet can do to prevent that from occurring. That’s why you see people like University of Toronto anesthesiologist Dr. Joseph Fisher proposing alternate potential solutions like a protective collar around a player’s neck that would keep more blood around the brain, providing a buffer and reducing the amount of violent head-shaking that takes place during regular hockey contact.
That’s not to say advances in helmet technology won’t someday make a difference in reducing head injuries. But there’s no arguing for head protection as the clear and sole solution.