In this week's reader mailbag, Adam Proteau answers questions on a potential Dmitry Kulikov trade to the Leafs, Montreal's Stanley Cup chances and more.
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.
I’m a pretty avid hockey fan. However, I'm totally confused as to how shift changes are managed. They almost look like a jailbreak. Can you possibly clarify these procedures? Thanks much.
George Nast, Mineral Point, Wisc.
Shift changes are managed by the coaching staff. A coach will call a player’s number, or tap him on the back to let him know he’s up next and from that point, he just has to wait for the player currently occupying his on-ice position to return to the bench. And players have a general idea of how long each shift should be – 45-60 seconds – but of course, in the mania of a typical NHL stretch of play, that’s often easier said than done.
With Dmitry Kulikov in the doghouse in Florida, is a trade with the Leafs imminent and would he be a fit there?
Gordon Gallant, Cap-Pele, N.B.
There have been rumors linking Kulikov to the Leafs, but if you’ve seen Toronto play of late, you’d probably agree one defenseman – especially one who has struggled as Kulikov has this season – won’t be a cure for their defensive struggles.
Now, would Kulikov be an improvement on some of the defenseman the Leafs currently have in place? Absolutely, but that’s damning the 23-year-old Russian with very faint praise. Other teams will be interested as well and may have better pieces to offer the Panthers in return, so I wouldn’t presume he’s a lock to wind up in Toronto. The only thing that seems certain is his days in South Florida are numbered.
I wanted to know what the consensus is on what the Montreal Canadiens need in order to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender?
Andrew Callaghan, Saint John, N.B.
I don’t believe there is a consensus as to what the Canadiens need – and more importantly, I don’t believe they shouldn’t be included in the list of legit Cup contenders. Montreal’s recent hot streak has given more credence to the idea they could do some serious damage come playoff time. That’s provided their key players are healthy, but as it stands now, they’ve shown enough balance of offense and defense, of youthful vigor and veteran knowhow, to make them look very good in the weaker of the two NHL conferences.
Are they comparable to the beasts of the Western Conference? Probably not. But if they can compete and beat out their Eastern Conference rivals, that would deliver them to the Cup final – and from there, anything could happen. So while it’s too early to render a verdict, it’s also too soon to say they’re not close.
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.