Mikhail Grabovski was bought out by the Maple Leafs and would be a good fit at center with Washington, which lost Mike Ribeiro to free agency. (Getty Images)
Why hello there. This is the online mailbag for THN. Below you’ll find questions and answers. Thanks to all who took the time to submit something.
Hi Adam, There is so much talk and controversy in professional sports regarding the use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs, but I can't recall a time where this has ever been directed at hockey. Is it because hockey is a cleaner sport for PED use, has tighter drug testing, gets less exposure in the U.S. than basketball, baseball and football or some other variable? Curious to get your thoughts. Thanks, Adam!
Tyler LaDouceur, Grand Forks, N.D.
The NHL has had only one player found to have used a PED** – veteran defenseman Sean Hill in 2007 – but that doesn’t mean everyone in the league has been clean all these years. On the surface, the most famous effects of steroids (physical bulk) don’t offer much to NHLers other than enforcer types. However, steroids can also be used in an attempt to heal more quickly and to train more intensely.
**Bryan Berard was the first NHL player to test positive for anabolic steroids, but was not suspended, as the NHL did not administer the test. He was banned internationally for two years, however.**
The NHL’s new policy regarding PEDs is an improvement on the previous policy laid out in the last collective bargaining agreement, but it isn’t a giant step forward. For instance, there isn’t a new policy to address the potential use of Human Growth Hormone, but rather, a statement suggesting a committee to study it. Of course, there’s something to be said for taking slow steps in regard to policy, but you would hate to see hockey be degraded in the same way Major League Baseball and competitive cycling have been, simply because the NHL didn’t move swiftly enough to nip this problem in the bud.
If Quebec and Southern Ontario receive NHL expansion teams, would they play in the west, or would two current eastern teams likely move over?
Jeff Laughlin, Summerside, P.E.I.
It’s still unclear what the NHL’s expansion plans are. But if the league does move to 32 teams in the near future, the divisional breakdown – like the new divisions that will take effect this season – isn’t likely to please all parties involved.
If, as I noted in my column yesterday, the NHL picks Seattle as an expansion destination, another round of realignment becomes easier. But in any case, at least one Eastern-based locale (Quebec City or Southern Ontario) might be forced to play a majority of their games in the West.
That’s cause for concern, but let’s put it this way: if a potential owner of a new NHL team was given the choice of being granted entry into the league with the knowledge that team would operate mostly in the West or not getting a team at all, I think we can all guess the owner would still jump at the chance to be part of the operation.
In a recent article, you mentioned that the Caps and Sabres can't keep standing pat. While I agree with your statement, what potential moves do you think could make a difference for these teams?
Ron Watkins, Severna Park, Md.
As I mentioned in the piece, I think the first area the Capitals should start making a change is at center, where they need someone to replace Mike Ribeiro. Former Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski is the perfect fit – at least, out of the remaining unrestricted free agents – in my opinion.
As for the Sabres, I think they have to be very aggressive in moving out goalie Ryan Miller. Yes, the goalie market isn’t slanted in favor of sellers at the moment, but an injury or two early in the season or in training camp could provide the opening Buffalo GM Darcy Regier needs to pounce and get something decent in return for his longtime netminding star. Otherwise, they run the risk of either letting Miller go for nothing next summer, or getting a terrible return for him at the trade deadline (see the Flames’ dealing of Jarome Iginla).
I'm a lifelong Leafs fan. I'm not so sure the Leafs are headed in the right direction with GM Dave Nonis. Aside from my personal views, his recent interview stood out with one glaring comment he made: “We all know that there’s no short-term fixes in professional sports. If you’re thinking short term you’re probably going to do long-term damage.”
After signing David Clarkson, Nonis justified the length of the deal by saying: “I'm not worried about (years) six and seven (of the contract) right now. I'm worried about one (year) and year one I know we’re going to have a very good player." How is the contradiction in his beliefs a sign of an intelligent and organized leader? Are you as worried as I am for the future of the Leafs? Should I exhale and be patient? Or expect a new five years of unorganized chaos? Love your work as always!
Dave Wardle, Sydney, Australia
While I agree there are sufficient grounds for skepticism among Leafs fans, I don’t think it’s nearly the end of the world as some do.
Sure, stats wonks can argue about Toronto’s poor puck possession numbers and James Reimer making the Leafs look better than they are. That may well turn out to be proven this season. However, I’m not sure I’d be as strident in my belief it’s all going to go pear-shaped for the Leafs this year.
I mean, did Toronto’s stats in 2011-2012 foretell the Leafs would finish fifth in the Eastern Conference last season? They did not. There is a chance Toronto will enjoy improved chemistry, growth and improvement among their young players (including new goalie Jonathan Bernier). Maybe not a great chance, but stranger things have happened. And considering Toronto was flirting with home ice advantage in the playoffs last season, I think even the biggest skeptics have to give some credit to Leafs management and coaching.
To me, the biggest and defining decisions of Nonis’ early Leafs tenure will be what he does with Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf (both of whom will be unrestricted free agents next summer). But right now, things are as they usually are with Toronto’s NHL team: neither as bad, nor as good, as emotional extremists would suggest.
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