Not only is Henrik Lundqvist leading the way in Vezina Trophy talk, he's also in the running for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
Greetings. This is the last mailbag I’ll be answering for a couple weeks - vacation time beckons - but that doesn’t mean you should stop sending in your questions. As always, my THN colleagues will step in and do their best to deal with what’s on your mind. Until we interact again!
Hey Adam, I'm a big Habs fan and I really like Carey Price. I'm pretty sure they won't trade him because he is the future of their franchise. Montreal hasn't had the best season and they're making a few changes, trading away Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitsyn. My question is, do you think Montreal will make more big changes at the end of the year? Thanks.
Brett MacIsaac, St. John's, Nfld.
It depends on what you mean by big changes. I suspect GM Pierre Gauthier will be fired the day after the regular season ends and that’s a significant change. In terms of the players, though, I doubt you’ll see whoever replaces Gauthier tear down the roster and start from scratch.
The Habs aren’t trading Price and it would be a major shocker if they got rid of P.K. Subban or Tomas Plekanec. They’ve got some decent prospects – three of whom are in the Top 50 of THN’s upcoming Future Watch edition – but they’re not teeming with them, either. And as we know, they’ve got at least one salary (Scott Gomez’s) that stands in the way of quickening their NHL turnaround.
In sum, Montreal is like a lot of teams – a decent amount of depth and talent, but not enough to put them in the mix with the leading Stanley Cup contenders. The Habs are much more likely to try and slowly improve than tear down what they’ve already got. We saw the Devils and Senators reject a massive restructuring and both teams quickly got back into the playoff mix this year. That’s likely what Habs officials are hoping to see in 2012-13.
Adam, the New York Rangers decided to stay the course at the trade deadline instead of adding some needed top-six scoring. In the playoffs, do you think their top-notch defense led by Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, coupled with all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist, will compensate for their limited offense and will allow them to make a long playoff run?
Tom Urtz, Highland Mills, N.Y.
It’s certainly possible the Rangers could go on a deep playoff run this year. Lundqvist has been unreal – to me, the Hart Trophy race is between him and Evgeni Malkin – but their recent history leaves room for doubt. They’ve made the playoffs five of the past six seasons, yet never played beyond the second round. And until their core shows they can take the next step, it’s foolish to assume they will.
I also wonder whether an injury to a key Blueshirt will derail their potential. Their top five point-producers haven’t missed a single game this season – and with the demands coach John Tortorella has in terms of all players blocking shots, it’s quite possible one or more major contributors could be on the sidelines before or during the playoffs.
Clearly, you have to respect what Tortorella has done this season. But it would be wrong to presume it’s a fait accompli it will assure them of post-season glory.
Adam, as happens more often than not, trades seem to fizzle out for one reason or another. But the relatively light trade deadline got me thinking about some players that one expected to be traded who were not. While I'm not surprised a Rick Nash trade fell apart, I was surprised to see Jaro Spacek and Bryan Allen remain in Carolina. Any reasons as to why Rutherford held onto these two pending UFAs? Sincerely,
Leonard Machut, Newport News, Va.
I’m sure Rutherford would answer that the price teams were willing to pay for Allen and Spacek wasn’t sufficient to make him move the players. But to be honest, I’m a little confused as to Rutherford’s bigger plans.
I mean, it’s great to give your team a vote of confidence heading into next season, but to see Rutherford re-sign both defenseman Tim Gleason and right winger Tuomo Ruutu to contract extensions at the same time the Canes were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference wasn’t good optics. He could have traded both players for draft picks and young players and still re-signed either in the summer.
Rutherford could wind up being right if Carolina gets off to a strong start next season. But if the Canes stumble again and bury their playoff chances before the 2013 All-Star Game, Rutherford’s decisions this season should be remembered and heavily criticized.
Hi Adam. Really appreciating your column, always insightful. I'm a Capitals fan from Sweden, only been following them and the league since that mad run for the playoffs in ’07-08, but I've come to love the sport and the league and I’m doing my best to watch every Capitals game. My question: In my mind, we have an OK top-four defense group. In terms of puck movement, Mike Green, John Carlson and Dennis Wideman are solid and Karl Alzner could and should be a shutdown type D-man for many years to come.
Apart from them we have Orlov and we might pick someone good at the draft. In my mind, we have a surplus here, no matter how this season is going. What do we need? A good power forward. Sure, we have Alex Ovechkin (who seemingly has turned from a sniper into a power forward, right?), but apart from him the top six really lacks power. Dustin Brown appears to be on the block and the Kings really need a puck moving D-man since the departure of Jack Johnson.
So: Brown for Carlson. Thoughts? I realize you might not have the time to answer before L.A. deals Brown, but I still would love to hear your thoughts on what you think the Capitals need and should do in terms of roster moves. Kind regards,
Henrik Vilén, Malmö, Sweden
Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, the problem with your proposal is this: the Kings already have a puck-moving defenseman in Drew Doughty. Granted, Doughty has suffered through a subpar season (no doubt in part due to his contract stalemate with GM Dean Lombardi), but I’d say he has higher priorities right now than adding another puck-mover.
As we can see, the Kings’ highest priority is goal production. And getting rid of Brown, one of the smartest players in the league and a guy who responded to trade rumors by raising his offensive game, wouldn’t get that done unless there was a better offensive talent coming back.
As for the Caps, all bets are off on exactly what they need until this year is through. If they fail to make the playoffs, GM George McPhee will be at a crossroads in terms of his core players and we could see much more significant changes if the on-ice results aren’t there.
Hey Adam. Just wondering about a little piece of history that occurs three or four times each game: announcing the "last minute of play." How long has that been done at an NHL game? Thanks.
Jerry Plante, Pembroke, Ont.
When the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) put that question out a few years ago, one answer that came back was that the last minute announcement was started in the early part of the 20th century in the old Pacific Coast League. As the story goes, teams would announce the final minute to alert concession stand workers that crowds would soon be coming. That information couldn’t be verified by SIHR, but it does make sense.