This is THN’s online mailbag – and a special Valentine’s Day mailbag at that! Well, it’s not love-related. You know how it works. If not, I’m sure Wikipedia has a handy description. Thanks to all who submitted a question.
The Vancouver Canucks are just three years removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, and two years removed from a President’s Trophy. Once a perennial Western Conference powerhouse, this team had suddenly fallen from being elite to out of the playoff picture heading into the Olympic Break. Who is to blame most? Owner Francesco Aquilini for allowing management to spend too much money? General Manager Mike Gillis for making many questionable, head-scratching moves? Or the players?
Is it also time for this team to start a fire sale in the offseason, moving as many veterans as possible? Or can they only hope the prospects will shine soon?
Alex Hoegler, Vancouver
As I mentioned yesterday in my column, I think it’s time for the Canucks to start making big moves prior to the March 5 trade deadline. They’re an old team (12 players will be at least 30 or older by the end of 2014) and there are no elite-caliber prospects on the horizon who can compete with the likes of the young talent you see in Western Conference powerhouses such as St. Louis, Chicago or even Colorado.
Who’s to blame? I can’t blame the players for agreeing to lucrative, long-term deals. However, I can blame Gillis for throwing them out there (and including no-trade clauses for most, if not all of the core) so willingly and I certainly can blame Aquilini for hiring John Tortorella – a poor fit for this team’s personality, and someone who’s showing he has no answers for what ails them – as head coach. Gillis has run this team like the player agent he once was; he should have been dismissed after royally bungling their goaltending situation last season. Read more
The Olympics have arrived and so has another of THN’s online mailbags. Thanks to all who submitted a question.
If the Leafs are buyers at the trade deadline, which type of player should they target without interrupting the chemistry of the team? Or should they go with David Clarkson on the third line with David Bolland and go with the depth they have presently?
Gordon Gallant, Cap-Pele, N.B.
Unless an injury opens up a large hole in the lineup or the Leafs go into a massive tailspin after the Olympic break, I don’t see Toronto doing much of consequence. They’re essentially salary-capped out, so any transaction made by GM Dave Nonis would need to send bodies/talent out of the organization in exchange for whomever he acquires – and for that reason, it’s far more likely they’ll add depth/role players on short-term contracts. And with the way they’ve played leading up to the break, there’s nothing wrong with that. Read more
We got lots of good questions in for THN’s mailbag this week. Thanks to everyone who submitted one or more. And feel free to continue sending them via this handy form.
Hi Adam, What is wrong with the Capitals’ goaltending? Their goalies, particularly Braden Holtby, have allowed an astounding number of goals within two minutes of a Caps goal (last time I checked a few weeks ago, it was over 22, but I am certain that number is higher). Is the issue coaching, defense, or the goalies themselves? How should they address this problem?
Ben Gorbaty, Baltimore, Md.
I don’t blame Holtby for all of the Caps’ woes. As I said Thursday after Columbus rolled over them, I think Oates is the last guy in line for serious criticism. Holtby isn’t at his best right now, but the bigger question is why GM George McPhee put all the chips of his veteran-laden team on a 24-year-old goalie who has yet to play 100 regular-season NHL games. It took Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop until he was 27 to blossom into the Vezina Trophy frontrunner he is this season.
Complicating matters is the fact Washington’s defense corps is not known as the NHL’s biggest shutdown unit. Read more
How many different ways can I write an introductory paragraph to THN’s online mailbag? The answer may surprise you, but probably not. Here are this week’s best submissions. Thanks to all who took the time to send in a question. (And remember, if you want to ask something for a future mailbag, direct your questions via our handy form.)
Was the two amnesty buyouts per team a one-time provision in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, or can teams continue to buy out players annually?
Paul Gridelli, Chicago, Ill.
This must be a trick question, because the answer is neither. The NHL’s amnesty buyouts were implemented in the wake of the 2013 CBA, but allowed the two buyouts per team to be used either last summer or in the summer of 2014.
The grand majority of franchises still have both buyouts to use if they so desire; only four teams (Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia and Toronto) have used both, and only eight teams (the Islanders, Rangers, Detroit, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Washington,) have used one. So it’s fair to expect that we’ll see more buyouts – and teams potentially making trades with organizations like the Flyers or Leafs to use their buyout on an acquired player in exchanged for a dumped contract or unwanted asset. Read more
After a month’s hibernation, the THN online mailbag is back. If you’re new to the routine, you submit questions here and I answer them either here or in THN magazine. Thanks to those who continued sending in questions in my absence. Here’s this week’s batch:
Adam, after watching the “60 Minutes” TV feature on the Alex Rodriguez/steroids scandal, I was curious. Could there be any kind of performance-enhancing drug use in the NHL?
Chris Small, North Vancouver, B.C.
The NHL doesn’t believe its players have a culture of PED-dependence, but as Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said in the summer, it would be naïve to think some players aren’t using some stimulant to give them an on-ice edge. Considering the NHL has stated publicly it won’t test for the presence of Human Growth Hormone until at least the 2014-15 season, any player is free to use it without penalty.
The NHL isn’t completely Wild West territory for PED use – the 2013 collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA includes random tests for substances (other than HGH) banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency – but it also isn’t the pro sports industry leader on the issue. So yes, there’s a better-than average chance some kind of PED activity exists. Read more
Hello there. This is the last mailbag I’ll be doing until I return from vacation the week of Jan. 13. Thanks for all the questions you’ve submitted this year. I wish you, your family and friends a safe and happy holiday season.
I’m struck by the absence of Francophones from the lists of offensive leaders. Only Martin St-Louis is among the top 20 scorers. Is this just a temporary demographic anomaly, or has some kind of major sociological change taken place in Canada?
Steve Sherman, Munich, Germany
I have yet to see conclusive proof that Francophone players are disappearing from the NHL. Certainly, the demographics in Quebec are changing – as they are in every part of Canada – but you still see dynamic talents such as David Perron (who is one of the top 20 Canadian scorers this season) and St-Louis making significant impacts for their teams.
A few years ago, former NHLer Bob Sirois released a book alleging bias against French-Canadian players, but I think the bigger factor in the relative lack of big names at the top of scoring lists is that the rest of the hockey world has caught up to French (and English) Canada.
The glory days of the 1950s and 1960s were especially glorious because the NHL was a relatively small league, at least in the sense of worldwide participation. But since the influx of Europeans and the growth of the game in the U.S., it’s only natural that Canada’s influence would be diluted. And given how popular the sport remains in the province of Quebec, I’d expect we’ll continue to see Francophone players assert themselves for a long time to come.
What gives with the lack of interest in Jose Theodore? Sure, he’s 37 (although Tim Thomas is 39 and he managed to drum up some interest) and had sub-par numbers last season (as if he was the only Panther guilty of this), but in the last full season, he had .917 save percentage, which increased slightly to .919 in the playoffs (his best playoff numbers since leaving the Canadiens). So why haven’t more teams come knocking? Is he just unwilling to leave the sunny state of Florida? Also, I’m sorry for the overuse of comments in parentheses (sort of).
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.
It’s mailbag time. This will be my second-to-last Ask Adam file before departing on an extended vacation until mid-January, so get your questions in soon. Otherwise, enjoy this week’s batch of the best inquiries readers submitted.
Quick question: why do NHL teams choose not to release eligible rookies (such as the Flames with Sean Monahan) to participate in the World Junior Championship? I can understand if the team is deep in the playoff hunt and the player is integral to the team, but with the Flames far from contention, why not give Monahan a chance to participate in a high-end international tournament? Certainly that would do more for his development than the few NHL games he’d miss.
Sure, they risk him suffering an injury, but he’s probably more likely to be injured playing for the Flames (and therefore against bigger, stronger players) anyways, so I really can’t wrap my head around it, but hopefully you can.
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.
I’d say the value of sending a young NHLer to the WJC is up for debate among NHL people. Many would agree with you, but there are others who think that having a prospect develop in-house, in hockey’s top league, will help them acclimate faster to it than would another tournament filled with spindly teenagers.
Furthermore, the way hockey is played at the WJC, there’s no guarantee Monahan would have less chance of being hurt. The stakes are higher at the WJC than they would be for a stretch of NHL regular-season games, so there’s every possibility he could be injured while representing his country.
Ultimately, team brass may have decided that a year where Monahan only has to worry about one set of teammates, one city and one focus would be better for him. And nobody can say with authority they’d be wrong to think that way.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call THN’s mailbag.
Here are this week’s questions.
Will Michael Del Zotto be able to bring back anything decent in a trade for the Rangers? It seems he is on his way out.
Thomas Murphy, Vernon, N.J.
Del Zotto’s stock has dropped this year – his ice time is down more than five minutes a game to an average of 18:03 – but he’s still only 23 years old and talented enough for another team to take a chance on.
The issue in moving him isn’t as much about talent as it is about money. Del Zotto earns $2.9 million this season and while that’s not an unaffordable number for many teams, the problem is what happens with him when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Even if you’re an NHL GM interested in his skills, what type of money and term do you give Del Zotto at this stage? And bear in mind, your hand could be forced if another GM signs the player to an offer sheet. That’s about as dangerous as it gets for NHL management teams these days.
Still, I’d be shocked if there were no takers for Del Zotto. One bad year won’t exclude someone with his skills from getting another shot. It’s just a matter of finding the right talent match in return – and rest assured, the Rangers aren’t going to give him up for a mid-round draft pick and future considerations – as well as the right financial fit.