Nikolai Khabibulin is 7-0-2 so far this season. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Hello. This is the THN.com mailbag. You send in questions and I answer as many as I can, either here, in the THN magazine, or on THN Radio on NHL Home Ice. Still not quite sure how it works? Move your eyes below - and prepare to stand back in wonder!
Hey Adam, why do goalies - like a fine wine - get better with age?
Trevor Allen, Sydney, Australia
To be honest, I don’t think goalies are all that much different than any other player, or for that matter, any person or profession outside hockey. They improve because they gain enough on-ice experience - and have success in that experience - to keep them more relaxed and focused than a first- or second-year player. And if they can’t make that adjustment from bag of nerves to nerves of steel - kind of like Columbus goalie Steve Mason hasn’t been able to the past couple years - they’ll quickly find themselves out of the NHL.
That’s why you see veterans such as Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur play into their late-30s and early-40s - if the body hasn’t given out, the mind and mental backbone make them more dangerous than when they were young and green.
Morning, Adam. Glad to see Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, wished we’d got him for Jersey. Columbus is now in the basement again without him. The Jackets improved every season under Ken. He’s the only coach to take them to the playoffs. They fired him during the 2009-10 season...why?
Joe Connor, Pennsville, N.J.
Afternoon, Joe. I think coaches are fired far too easily these days, but at the time Hitchcock was fired in February of 2010, the Blue Jackets were 22-27-9, 11 points out of a playoff spot, and won just three of 24 games after starting out 12-6-2. Clearly, the team couldn’t continue down the path it was on.
In retrospect, it’s easy to romanticize Hitchcock’s effect on Columbus’ players. But as we’ve seen with current coach Scott Arniel and a host of others, it doesn’t seem like anyone could coach that group to success right now.
Hi Adam. Nikolai Khabibulin has had an awesome start to the season. Should he win the Vezina this year, that honor would add to a list of accolades including a 2004 Stanley Cup and by the time he is done probably close to 400 wins. What are his chances on being inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame? He has the added advantage of being a trail-blazing Russian goaltender in the NHL. Thanks.
Tom Monteath, Swansea, Wales
Khabibulin’s brilliant start to this season can’t be denied, nor can his past achievements. But unless he almost single-handedly carries the Oilers to a Stanley Cup this year, I think his entry into the HHOF is questionable.
Induction into the HHOF is based on a number of factors, including a player’s consistency, and I don’t think you can make the case Khabibulin has been the most reliable goalie. Have a look at his career numbers for both the regular season and playoffs and pay particularly close attention to his save percentages from season to season. They’re not Ken Dryden-esque, to say the least. I don’t think he makes it in, but stranger things definitely have happened.
Hey there Adam. I want to see Sidney Crosby back in the NHL as much as anybody, but are you as sick and tired of all the non-news as I am? It seems three to four times per week we see a Crosby interview or a news story saying that he “won’t be back this weekend.” I think there should be a moratorium on all Crosby stories and interviews until he plays his first game. Don’t jerk the fans around, Sid. We wish you all the best, but do everybody a favor and either put up or shut up! (Side note: you could easily replace "Sidney Crosby" with "Andrei Markov").
Second question, I know there’s only one set of numbers for referees, as opposed to 30 sets for players, but don’t you think it’s time the NHL recognized such greats as Kerry Fraser and Bill McCreary? Even if the number is "honored" (not retired) like they do in Toronto, a rookie zebra having No. 2 or 7 on his back has awfully big skates to fill. I know I wouldn’t want it. Thanks Adam.
Steve Dicker, Paradise, Nfld
Hey there Steve. As a media type whose job it is to pay attention to all reports, I’m definitely the wrong guy to defend the proliferation of Crosby health stories. It is wearying to say the least, but it is also a reality that isn’t going to change.
I mean, if there was an Internet and 24/7 TV coverage and all kinds of sports talk radio back in the heyday of Wayne Gretzky, don’t you think there would have been the kind of overkill we’re seeing in regard to Crosby? I do. There’s simply no way media assignment editors are going to take their teeth out of that carcass until all the meat is gone - in this case, that means when Crosby finally returns to action - and then the attention will turn to his health from day to day. It’s really unavoidable. And if it was Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady going through so serious a struggle in their respective sports, it’s absolutely true that we’d see relentless around-the-clock coverage of them as well.
As for the officials: yours is a nice thought, but I can’t see it happening. For one thing, I doubt the NHL would be eager to pay tribute to Fraser; he’s been refreshingly frank in his role as a TV analyst for TSN, but that’s not something the NHL’s power brokers look at with a whole lot of fondness. And I know most officials don’t want to be “the story” in any situation, so I can’t imagine they’ll demand such a thing.
Hello Adam. Do you think NHL hockey can survive in Winnipeg the second time around? My family and I have half-season tickets and the arena is just wild nightly. But the question is, can it last? Or will the novelty wear off after a couple bad years? I suppose it comes down to how big of a fan you are. But what do you think?
Jayson Saltel, Winnipeg
Hello Jayson. Yes, I do think the NHL can do better in its second stint in Winnipeg. But it depends on a number of moving-target factors: the strength of the Canadian dollar and the economy in general; the NHL’s next collective bargaining agreement; and most importantly, the management and on-ice success of the team.
Without getting positive results in those areas, it will be a challenge for the franchise to be profitable. And then it will depend on ownership’s willingness to cover any losses until such time as conditions change. The first Jets franchise ran out of owners willing and able to do that, which is why it became the Coyotes.
With that said, I think we’re a ways away from that possibility coming to pass. Enjoy the team that you have!