Phil Kessel (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
In this week's THN mailbag, Adam Proteau answers questions on looming NHL trades, changing the number of shootout shooters, Phil Kessel's MVP chances and more.
Time for another THN mailbag. Thanks to all who submitted a question.
Adam, what teams can we expect activity from before the trade deadline?
Skjalg Hougen, Baerum, Norway
Although I recently posted my picks for NHL teams that need to make a deal immediately after the Olympic break, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number of teams that will make one. Why? Because circumstances can change at any moment between now and March 5; injuries can force a GM’s hands, as can team slumps and other franchises breathing down their necks in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Certainly, the NHL’s bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary, Florida and the suddenly John Tavares-less Islanders) are extremely likely to engage in a number of deals. But other than that, there’s nothing that suggests any Stanley Cup contender is guaranteed to make roster changes. There are simply too many variables that can impact their present and their future.
Adam, the Olympic rules allowing players to repeat on shootout attempts made for some very exciting hockey, such as T.J. Oshie going four for six in Team U.S.A.'s shootout win over Russia. Would the NHL consider allowing coaches to call on the same player multiple times in shootouts?
Michael Markarian, Washington, D.C.
You can’t rule it out, but the NHL’s use of the shootout has been conservative and that is too radical of a change to ever get serious consideration.
I’m still of the opinion the league should use five (different) shooters rather than the current three. The process is very quick and often can end after only two shots on each side; extending it to five would mean each side would get at least three scoring chances.
To me, that’s a fairer system. Is there a system that will please everyone? Considering the frothy-mouthed hatred some people have for the shootout, the answer is a firm ‘no’. But like any aspect of the league’s product, it can be tweaked and improved.
What do you think of Scott Niedermayer being an NHL head coach sometime? I know he is an assistant coach with Anaheim now, but if maybe things go south for New Jersey, maybe he could replace Peter DeBoer?
Ryan Cadden, Brampton, Ont.
Niedermayer is raising a young family in California and doesn’t travel on road games with the Ducks, so I’d expect in a best-case scenario, we’re years away from seeing him as a head coach.
I’m also not sure the mild-mannered Hockey Hall-of-Famer has the disposition to be a head coach. Stars of his ilk usually don’t. For example, although Larry Robinson did win a Stanley Cup as head coach of the Devils in 1999-2000, he only served as their bench boss for another 165 games (in two different stints with the organization) before resigning in December of 2005 due to health reasons.
Robinson has since worked as an assistant for the Devils and his current employer, the San Jose Sharks. And that demonstrates the difference between the assistant and head coaching positions; because of the temperament and commitment involved, some people are simply better suited for one than the other.
Disclaimer: I am a Toronto Maple Leaf fan. I’ve watched them for over 40 years. Therefore I’m hoping that when I ask this I’m not going to get hammered with a mass anti-Leaf kneejerk reaction in the comments section. Here goes: Should we be saying the words Phil Kessel and MVP in the same sentence? As this is written he is tied for fourth (with Patrick Kane, behind Sidney Crosby, John Tavares and Ryan Getzlaf) in NHL scoring and is second in goals. He is 18 points up on the second place scorer on his team (James van Riemsdyk). Only Crosby is better in this regard, leading Evgeni Malkin by 20 points. Tavares has Kyle Okposo seven points back, Getzlaf has Corey Perry seven points behind and Kane has Patrick Sharp and Toews within 10 points.
Moreover, Kessel anchors one of the most high-scoring lines in hockey with what many critics call 'not a true No. 1 center' who has missed nearly half the season. And oh yeah – the Buds are 10-2-0-1 in their past 13 and Kessel has nine goals and 13 assists in that span. Thoughts?
Stephen J. Holodinsky, Simcoe, Ont.
The notion of Kessel as the Hart Trophy winner would have sounded ludicrous at the beginning of the season, but if voters follow the definition of the award – “most valuable” – he’ll garner some votes. Maybe not a lot of first-place votes, but votes nonetheless.
That said, he’ll have to maintain his strong production for the rest of the regular season to stay in consideration. There are people who will be watching for a drop-off in play and he’ll have to prove those doubters wrong.
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.