From near and far
Victor Hedman is the No. 1 prospect in many minds leading into the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
From near and far
I didn’t take my daily “snark” additive because I wanted to mention how continually amazed I am when it comes to the vastly diverse parts of the world you’re writing questions from.
Last week, we had emails from Quebec, Seattle, New York, Ontario, Tennessee, British Columbia and Virginia; this week, we deal with inquiries from Ohio, Alabama, Honduras, Pennsylvania, Alberta and Michigan.
It really gives you a sense of the wide appeal the game has – and sometimes it’s heart-cockle-warming enough to make a dude all trembly-like in the bottom lip area.
Okay, enough of that sentimentality. Nurse – my additive and a small paper cup’s worth of water, por favor!
In regards to the NHL team spending cap: I understand the maximum, but why the minimum? Why do they endanger the smaller-market teams like this?
David Shine (loyal CBJ fan), Fostoria, Ohio
The minimums were put in place to satisfy a couple of parties. The first group was comprised of owners of big-market, high-revenue teams who didn’t want to pay into any revenue sharing program that permitted the teams receiving the financial help to stash the cash for their own pockets rather than putting it into player salaries.
The second group, of course, was made up of the players themselves. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why they would want to ensure a certain level of expenditures.
I don’t think the NHL intended to endanger small- market teams. I think the NHL is rife with tales of calculated short-term gain resulting in uncalculated long-term pain – and this is another example.
As the Blackhawks' front office slowly grinds toward a revolution that will only – rightfully – end in Dale Tallon's replacement by Stan Bowman, how and when will they finally move Nikolai Khabibulin? Do Hawks fans actually have to wait until some playoff team loses their top netminder to injury?
The Hawks should have had an exit strategy in place if they intended to sign Cristobal Huet. If they moved Habby before camp they could have kept Robert Lang, instead of pining for a veteran center like they are now. Even if Khabibulin has to go through the waiver process and be sent to Rockford, there's gotta be a better answer than $11 million in the net!
Al B., Montgomery, Ala.
Sure. (Sorry, that’s an old-school R’n’B reference I’m not strong enough to pass up.) This situation definitely could have been avoided. When Tallon targeted Huet as the free agency period approached, he needed to have a trade in place to dump Khabibulin.
Even if he had to take back some other team’s cap headache in return, it’s unlikely the size of the headache – which you’d banish to the American League, if you couldn’t pawn him off on somebody else, anyway – would be to the tune of more than $6 million.
Unfortunately, I think they’re stuck with him until a team such as Ottawa – or hey, maybe even Philadelphia – pushes the you-know-what button. No GM in his right mind would bet his season on a guy who hasn’t shown much in the way of consistency since he left Tampa Bay.
Currently the Maple Leafs desperately need scoring, so John Tavares could be a great solution. They also have a pretty solid defense. In two or three years you could have a core of Justin Pogge-Luke Schenn-John Tavares.
If you have the No. 1 pick in the next draft, who do you take?
Mike B., Stratford, Ont.
I was discussing this topic with my THN colleague and fellow Trailer Park Boys aficionado Rory Boylen the other day; perhaps it’s because I haven’t seen him play a lot, but I might leave Tavares for the team picking second and take Swedish phenom Victor Hedman instead.
Could the Leafs benefit from having a potential star at each position if they selected Tavares? Absolutely. At the same time, it’s much more difficult to find top-end defensive talent – especially the kind like Hedman’s that can also make a difference on offense – than it is to collect highly skilled forwards.
Also: I wouldn’t wager any pink slips or paychecks on Pogge becoming a star. This current season is going to go a fair ways as to determining his future in Toronto.
As another year kicks off, I have learned about some of the rule changes that are supposed to promote more offensive chances throughout the game. A few of the changes seem productive, like the rules about faceoff placements and such, but to me these seem just like short-term solutions to the bigger problem hockey is facing: lack of consistent scoring chances.
As the game grows and players get faster and smarter, the offensive players are simply running out of time and space seemingly all the time. I believe the best way to change this is to expand the ice surface. The extra space would give the players that extra space they need to negotiate through the zones with more space and time, which would make defending more difficult.
Has the NHL considered such a move to a bigger ice surface, or is this idea simply impractical?
Wes Heinle, York, Penn.
For the most part, I agree with you. I think low-risk, unentertaining coaching methods also have more than a little to do with it, but there’s no doubt too much time is spent in the neutral zones and cycling the puck in the corners.
Some hockey people will tell you moving to an international-sized rink would give coaches even more opportunity to keep the play away from the goaltenders; they very well could be right, but we won’t know until about 30 or 40 years from now when the majority of the NHL’s current arenas need replacing and they have another shot at experimenting.
Remember what I wrote in the first answer of today’s mailbag? That whole part about short-term gain and long-term pain? That’s exactly what happened the last time the league could’ve expanded its rink surfaces; many owners didn’t want to remove the seats – and the money that came along with their sale 41 nights a year – that would’ve needed to go to get bigger ice, so they stayed with the same blueprints. Real visionaries, eh?
What is the deal with the referees kicking players out of the faceoff? Can you explain to me how this works?
Adam S., Toronto
I can, but not here. Why? Because I just answered this question for the Ask Adam feature that appears in the Nov. 3 edition of the magazine, on sale now.
In fact, the person who I answered in that issue was named Adam Scicluna. He also called Toronto home. Now, I’m no Anderson Cooper, but are the both of you the same person? Either way, fork over a few measly bucks and find your answer there.
With the Leafs being more than $10 million under the salary cap, I was wondering if they dropped the ball (or puck) by not signing a couple $3-million forwards in the off-season.
I know they had $7-million reserved for Mats Sundin, but how about now? Not looking for any quick fixes, but is there anyone Cliff Fletcher could sign (or trade for), that would fit with his "plan?" Someone who can put the puck in the net?
Aaron Etches, West End, Roatan, Honduras
In my humble estimation, Fletcher is doing the right thing by not spending on players who don’t deserve it and/or aren’t going to help the Leafs win once they’re past this latest retooling phase.
The last guy in Toronto who did that brought you Jason Blake, Pavel Kubina and multi-year contract extensions not only for Bryan McCabe and Darcy Tucker, but also for Andrew Raycroft, Chad Kilger, Wade Belak and Boyd Devereaux.
Sometimes less really is more – and until the Leafs have stocked their system with enough prospects who can contribute in the NHL, I think it’s folly to hire talent that’s going to make you good enough to not finish 14th or 15th in the Eastern Conference, but bad enough to stay around the 9th or 10th slot.
As a girl from Calgary, I'm a huge Flames fan. Not sure if anyone else out there has noticed, or asked this question of you previously, but what is with the seemingly biased reffing going on? It seems the refs have got something against the Flames.
Is there anywhere a concerned fan can go to register complaints against unfair reffing? I would like to see a review panel for such complaints, to encourage the refs to call legit infractions and let the teams (all teams, not just the Flames) get on with the game. It would be so nice to see a game where talent can shine through, unhindered by bogus and lame calls.
Refs have a place in the NHL, but I think there is too often an over-zealousness that should be checked. Where can I make a protest? Thank you!
Abby May, Calgary
You can always write or leave a message for Stephen Walkom, head of officiating, care of the NHL. But believe me when I tell you that just about every fan in the league believes the zebras have it out for their team.
Every year, I hear from all kinds of fans saying the exact thing you’re saying. I’m not intending this as an insult, but it’s almost like a mass paranoia stretching beyond the hockey world into all corners of professional and amateur sport.
That’s why I think, though there’s certainly room for officials to improve, there’s simply never going to be a system that satisfies everyone.
If the refs don’t call things through the eyes of those who behold them, fans will always suspect something heinous is at work. I guess it’s easier for some people to believe they’ve been slighted on purpose than to accept their hometown heroes didn’t do the job.
I love the blog. Just a quick question: When do tickets for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver go on sale? How do I buy them?
Sean Carlock, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Tickets for the Vancouver Games are sold through each country’s official ticket agency. In Canada, you can start the ticket request process by visiting vancouver2010.com; in the United States, you have to go through cosport.com.
Remember, there’s no guarantee you’ll win the ticket lottery to be eligible to buy seats. Even if you are that fortunate, be prepared to sell off at least one non-vital organ to afford them: tickets for the gold medal game start at $350 a pop, and go up to $775 each for the best seats.
Ask Adam appears Fridays only on TheHockeyNews.com. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.