Sergei Makarov scored 86 points in 80 games as a 31-year-old rookie in 1989-90, winning the Calder Trophy. An age limit was put on the award shortly after. (Photo by Scott Levy/Getty Images)
Buenos dias and welcome to the newest THN mailbag – unless you’re reading this at noches, in which case, buenos noches and welcome to the newest THN mailbag. You know the routine by now: a selection of your questions appears here (and in THN’s magazine and on our Sirius/XM Radio Show) along with my answers. I’m thankful for all your questions, whether or not I get to them. Here’s the latest batch:
Adam, who do you think is the best team in the NHL right now?
Cameron Thompson, Boston
The Chicago Blackhawks. No question. Next question.
Adam, has the NHL ever considered matching the penalty to the injury in cases of egregious action? In other words, if your illegal check knocks a player out for 10 games, then you are suspended for the same length of time. I would rather see the league add the injured player’s salary to the salary cap of the offending player. That would get the message across to all players, coaches and owners.
Frank Quinn, Philadelphia
This type of solution has been discussed for many a year, but the NHL never has seriously considered implementing it. First of all, you’d need full buy-in from the NHL Players’ Association and I haven’t heard or talked to one NHLer who would be in favor of it. But beyond that aspect, the system you propose is too radical in terms of its impact on the salary cap and the opportunity to even debate its worth has just passed with the conclusion of recent collective bargaining negotiations.
Don’t get me wrong – I still think the league needs to be much tougher on players. But the practical realities – and the NHL’s clear prioritization of profit over a more safe workplace environment for its talent – make it very difficult to move closer to that goal.
Adam, do you think the Penguins will make a play for Magnus Paajarvi? If so, what do you think it will cost them?
T.J. Chapman, Pittsburgh
I wouldn’t rule it out, but the Pens’ search for help on the wing likely includes far more accomplished NHL veterans than a relative newbie like Paajarvi. Think Jarome Iginla first and foremost, but also, think someone such as Ray Whitney, who may be available if the Dallas Stars fall out of playoff contention.
That brings me to my larger point: we can’t really tell exactly who will be on the trade block until we get within two weeks of the April 3 trade deadline and see which teams are more likely to be buyers and sellers. It’s impossible to do that now.
Hey Adam, do you think the NHL should get rid of the age rule for the Calder Trophy and allow players of all ages to be considered for it?
Joe Cordova, Burnaby, B.C.
No, I think the league has it right by stipulating any Calder-eligible player be no older than 26 during their rookie year. Remember the reason this rule was implemented in the first place: veteran Russian star Sergei Makarov won it – at age 31 – in 1990 despite playing professionally for the former Soviet Union’s Red Army team for the previous 11 years.
He was technically a rookie because he hadn’t played an NHL game, but everyone realized that was essentially the only “new” quality he possessed at that point. Of course, we’d be unlikely to see such a scenario these days, although I guess a player could spend years in the Kontinental League and come over to the NHL near the end and still play well enough to merit consideration under your philosophy.
If that did happen, I think we’d see some justified anger over the allowance of a relative greybeard going up against fresh-faced teenagers. No rule is ever perfect, but going back to the league’s old system of labeling rookies is less ideal than the current rule.
Hey Adam, with the recent injury to Erik Karlsson, the question was raised as to why all NHL players don't wear Kevlar socks. Sidney Crosby, despite his battles with concussions, still plays with four inches of chin strap dangling from his helmet. At least half the goalies in the league don't wear a proper dangler or neck protector, many guys wait until after a serious eye injury to wear a visor, and I'm convinced everybody who uses a mouth guard thinks it's a long-lasting piece of chewing gum.
So my question is, why don't players take their own safety more seriously? Equipment is only effective when worn properly. Accidents happen, yes, but players often are their own worst enemies when it comes to injury. Nobody has to be told how to wear a cup, so why can't they learn how to tighten their chinstrap? Thanks as always.
Steve Dicker, Paradise, Newfoundland
I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, I’ve covered this league for too long to ignore the reality that players believe they’re indestructible until fate and their opponents prove otherwise.
On the one hand, I can understand why: from their earliest years playing the game, most elite players never face serious physical issues and have countless numbers of people telling them they’re the closest thing we have to hockey gods. You’d probably overestimate your ability to stay safe if that was happening to you on a daily basis.
But more importantly, as noted above, the NHL seems completely unwilling to demand more of players in regard to protecting themselves to the fullest degree. Yes, it’s fair to say players should be comfortable on the ice, but there’s a big difference between comfort and unnecessary risk. The pressure has to come from the owners and league to awaken players to the real risks.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.