It's been an embarrassing season in Washington so far.
If you’re reading this Friday morning, I’m currently en route to Montreal for a weekend of runken ebauchery (sorry, the “d” key on my laptop is only working intermittently; hope I won’t come across as a ick because of it).
Look for the full recap – hopefully, not filed while awaiting bail from a holding cell – in Monday’s blog.
I’m a long-suffering Capitals fan and so far their season has been an absolute disaster. While that’s not unusual for the Caps, I, like a lot of fans, went into the season with renewed hope with their off-season acquisitions.
What, in your estimation, has gone so horribly wrong? Can you foresee coach Glen Hanlon or GM George McPhee keeping their jobs much longer? Do you think a trade is warranted to shake things up?
Thanks, Patrick Hastings, Wiesbaden, Germany
Obviously, your email arrived just before Hanlon was fired on Thursday. And you’re not the only one who expected big things out of the Caps. For instance, I picked them not only to make the playoffs, but to win the Southeast Division. And this is quite possibly the last time I’ll ever again admit to doing such a thing.
What really stands out to me is their abysmal power play –ranked 24th in the league. The offensive talent the Caps have should be doing a fair amount of damage at even strength, but with a man advantage, they should be deadly. That they’re not speaks to a lack of synchronicity and confidence, two areas every coach ultimately must answer for.
Will a trade help? Not at this stage, it won’t. Other GMs will be looking to pounce on McPhee in his team’s weakened state, and bamboozle the hell out of him. What they really need is Alex Ovechkin to step up – the way Ilya Kovalchuk did in Atlanta after Bob Hartley’s dismissal – and straighten the situation out from within.
Do you think Randy Jones can be a top-level defenseman?
Ryan S., Toronto
Top-level? No. Mid-level? Yes. Top of the mid-level? No. Middle of the mid-level? Yes.
What do you know with regard to next year's schedule change? Is there going to be realignment as well, or just a new schedule?
I think the NHL has painted itself in a corner, as 30 teams don’t divide too well. I have yet to find someone who likes the six divisions. Would two conferences be bad? Just the West and the East, with all 15 teams lumped together; two home games and two away games against the 14 teams in your conference, and one home and one away game against the other conference’s 15 teams.
If my math is correct, that’s 86 games. Could this be a possibility?
Many thanks and let’s go Islanders,
C. Felix Reardon, Raleigh, N.C.
An Isles fan in Raleigh? Is that like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn? Or washboard abs grow in an NHL press box?
Anyway, the league looks ready to end its failed scheduling experiment, cut back the amount of divisional games to six per year, and work out a system that allows each team to play every other team in the league at least once per year.
It’s not enough – all the cool kids know that teams should have home-and-home series against all 29 teams – but it’s better than the completely ridiculous setup they have now.
If there’s expansion, there will be realignment, with Detroit the most likely team to join the Eastern Conference. But I don’t think increasing the number of regular season games is going to happen. Many think the schedule is too long right now, and asking fans to pay more for games that matter less is not be the ideal route for the league to take at this point in its history.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of losing all the divisions and I like the following schedule setup: six games against each divisional opponent; two games each against the other 25 teams; and eight “wild card” games that can be tailored toward special relationships between teams (e.g. the six Canadian franchises).
This way, every fan gets to see every team in the league and there’s a good deal of flexibility with which to adapt to future rivalries.
Anything else you need me to fix, NHL? Oh yeah, the dumb way you allot standings points. We’ll get to that after Glenn Stein’s question.
With the addition of the shootout, there has been a significant increase in the number of three-point games in the NHL. Has there been any discussion of changing the way standings points are awarded (e.g., no point is awarded for winning a shootout, but shootout wins are the first tiebreaker instead of overall wins)?
Glenn Stein, Nashville, Tenn.
The short answer is, yes, there has been much discussion, both at the league level and in the media, regarding ways to improve the points system. And once again, the league is moving with glacier-like quickness to address it.
Your proposal is interesting and has some merit, but I prefer a process that most rewards teams that win in regulation or overtime. Give each regulation or OT win three points, every shootout win two points, and every shootout loss one point, and I’d bet you’d see a drastically different and more exciting brand of game than the one that’s out there today.
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