Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
In this week's online mailbag, Adam Proteau answers questions on the Sharks trading Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton, his thoughts on hockey's advanced stats revolution, Alex Ovechkin leaving the NHL for Russia, and more.
This is the latest THN mailbag. If you want to submit a question to be considered for the next one, send me one via this form. Thanks to those who’ve done so.
What do you think the chances Sharks GM Doug Wilson moves either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau before the start of next season?
Eric Semmelmayer, Pleasanton, Calif.
I wouldn’t hold your breath on both players being dealt, but after San Jose’s stunning first round playoff collapse against L.A., I think the odds are very good that at least one of the two will be wearing a new uniform next season. I’ve spoken to Wilson often over the years and he’s made it clear his organization doesn’t react to one post-season series loss in a way that would hurt the organization over the long term. But his comments in the wake of the Sharks’ disastrous end to this season indicate he’s no longer interested in recommitting to the same core group.
It’s unlikely Wilson will deal a young star such as Logan Couture, but simply allowing Dan Boyle to leave as an unrestricted free agent and buying out or trading Martin Havlat isn’t enough of a change to that core. The cuts have to go deeper and it might be better for all involved if one of Marleau or Thornton moves on. Both players have no-trade clauses built into the three-year contract extensions that begin in 2014-15, but in his post-playoff news conference, Wilson spoke of “flexibilities and windows” he could take advantage of to make moves happen. So yes, I'd expect something major to take place with one of their veterans.
I was wondering where you stand on the use of advanced statistics/puck possession metrics and the use of analytics in hockey? Do you love them and think they can stand alone, do you hate them, or do you think they necessitate the use of other factors, including watching the games, regular stats, opinions, etc.? Should all coaches, players, and GMs be actively employing these analytics to further the success of their teams?
Nick Stoyan, Toronto
I wouldn’t say I love or hate hockey’s advanced stats revolution, but I’m not at all troubled by it. This is hardly a development that’s unique to hockey and if any statistic can provide insight into the game, that’s something everyone should embrace. Journalists, GMs, coaches and fans who scoff at it have every right to their opinion, but they’re likely to look like the same dinosaurs who turned their noses up when the internet and social media first came into prominence.
Journalists in particular are paid to be cynics first and believers second, but we’re also supposed to follow the stories where they lead. There’s no doubt advanced statistics have become part of the hockey vernacular and professional storytellers like me have to incorporate them into our work. That said, I’m still interested in the human side of the game more than any formula or percentage. We all appreciate the sport for different reasons, and I think there’s room for people who enjoy narratives and for those who prefer to break down the game via advanced stats; indeed, the two can be combined into stories just as easily as they can be written about separately.
For me, it all comes down to this: hockey isn’t universally successful enough to shoo away different angles of interest. To each, their own.
Since you think Alex Ovechkin should go back to Russia because he is no longer the player he once was, do you believe Sidney Crosby should spend the next year or so in his parents’ garage shooting pucks in a dryer?
Louis-Pierre Smith Lacroix, Quebec City
Clearly, you’ve read my recent magazine column in which I suggest Ovechkin should head to the Kontinental League. And clearly, you’ve misinterpreted the argument I made in that piece. I never said the Capitals star was washed up; rather, I said that, given the way things have (not) worked out for him and the team in Washington, it would be better for Ovechkin and the Caps if he did what Ilya Kovalchuk did.
I also said Ovechkin moving to the KHL wouldn’t stop him from heading back to North America’s top league a couple of years down the line. (The same is true for Kovalchuk.) If his absence allows the Capitals to become a more balanced squad – the way the Blue Jackets did after franchise cornerstone Rick Nash was traded – why shouldn’t it be considered by Caps management? And think of the hero Ovechkin would be to his fellow Russians by returning home for a few years. The truth is, there are good reasons for him to consider the move, even if it might seem preposterous to some people.
This isn't really a question about the NHL, but I’ve realized that every major city other than Winnipeg in western Canada has a WHL team. Why not Winnipeg? Is it because Manitoba has the Brandon Wheat Kings? Maybe we have the Winnipeg Blues in the MMJHL? Or is Winnipeg too focused on the Jets to get a WHL team?
Isaiah Rawluk, Winnipeg
The short answer is that, while Winnipeg has the facilities to support a Western League franchise, there’s no current ownership interest to make it happen. The Jets’ ownership’s most recent statement on the possibility of acquiring a WHL franchise is clear: they’re not going to purchase the Kootenay Ice or any other team and relocate it to Winnipeg, as they’ve got their corporate hands full operating at the NHL and American League levels. Until that changes – or until another group steps up to act as a tenant in the MTS Centre – it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
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.