In this week's mailbag: Free agency fallout, a blueliner's worth to a Cup contender and an inquiry about a long-in-the-tooth canine-nicknamed goalie.
What kind of moves do you think they have in store for us long-suffering Islanders fans? What do you think they need? (I've already heard all the jokes)
Sean Healy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
No joking about it Â– the Islanders are in major trouble, despite their recent signings of Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie. Call it the Curse of Ryan Smyth, because both the Isles and Oilers have seen their off-season plans blow up in their faces.
As I said in my last blog entry, grossly overpaying Ruslan Fedotenko isn't the best way for Garth Snow to start over again. I suspect Snow will have to seriously explore the trade market, much like Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe will have to do, in order to acquire at least one more impact player.
Even if Snow does pull off a major deal, the Islanders will still be in tough to make the playoffs when you consider the drastic improvements the Rangers and Flyers have made. My sympathies to you and your fellow Isles fans.
Is it true that the team with the best and toughest defensemen is the one most likely to win the Stanley Cup?
That seemed to be the case this year, as the best (Scott Niedermayer) and the toughest (Chris Pronger) teamed up to help lead Anaheim to its first championship. The same can also be said when the New Jersey Devils took home the cup three times between 1994 and 2003, as Niedermayer and Scott Stevens were prominent on all three occasions.
However, look at the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. Neither of those teams had top-shelf blueliners, yet their solid Â– if unspectacular Â– defense corps, combined with white-hot goaltending performances, helped put them over the top.
If there were a strict formula to follow, at least one Cup-winning GM would've started a consulting company by now. Employing a Pronger-type never hurts (except when he's suspended), but it takes much, much more than that to win at hockey's highest level.
I was wondering if you had any info about Curtis Joseph leaving/retiring at the start of the Â‘07-08 season from the Coyotes?
Retirement isn't far off for Joseph, but the Coyotes certainly are. New GM Don Maloney took the job knowing full well the franchise's experiment with short-term, veteran fixes is at an end, so I'd expect him to deal for a young-ish goalie to share duties with Mikael Tellqvist.
CuJo, on the other hand, will be hard-pressed to find a team willing to anoint him as its starter in net. He'll likely have to accept a backup role and hope injuries or other predicaments afford him more playing time.
I enjoy your blog; thanks for the mix of info and entertainment.
I have a simple question, but I doubt there is a simple answer:
While many (most?) NHL owners complain that they are still "losing money," why do they keep raising the salary cap? I suspect the "losing money" thing is just an accounting joke anyway, but still I am reminded of all the owners who wrote ridiculous contracts and then created a lockout situation so the league would have to protect owners from themselves.
Looks like the league has not done enough yet.
What was the reason for the lockout again? I must have been asleep!
It certainly seems an eternity ago that commissioner Gary Bettman was stumping for lockout-related sympathy by portraying himself and the owners as the guardians of the game. Pardon me while I choke on my soup thinking about that nose-stretcher.
The deeper we get into the current labor deal, the more apparent the owners' true motives become.
Firstly, it was about removing Bob Goodenow from his perch as dictator of the NHL Players' Association. (And I agree with that move; as Goodenow's replacement Ted Saskin Â– who is in the process of being replaced right now Â– demonstrated, the NHLPA was long overdue for a change in philosophical direction.)
Secondly, the lockout was as much about Â“savingÂ” small market teams as it was about boosting the bottom lines of the league's leviathan franchises. Although the salary cap has now reached the $50 million plateau, that's still light years away from the $70-plus million some teams were dropping on salaries prior to the fall of 2004.
By my expert mathematical calculations, that's $20 million more in annual profit for Mike Ilitch in Detroit and that bloody faceless teacher's pension fund in Toronto. That's why neither of those teams minds spending to the cap these days Â– and why, since a portion of the revenue they bring in goes to the weaker franchises, other owners aren't saying much, either.
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