Down 3-2 in Round 1, Travis Zajac's overtime-winner sent the Panthers-Devils series to Game 7. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Hello there. By now, you probably are aware this is the THN mailbag. I’m sure I need not explain to you that I answer questions submitted by you in this space, as well as in the pages of The Hockey News magazine and on the THN Radio Show.
I’m also positive you don’t have to be reminded that I thank you for all the questions, even the ones I don’t get to. Now let’s get to what you know is coming next:
Adam, when will the New Jersey Devils get respect? I realize they haven't had much playoff success since 2003, but everyone immediately counted them out. This is a team that had three players in the top 25 in regular season scoring and allowed the second-fewest shots in the league.
Erik Tuomisto, Northumberland, Pa.
Ah, we’re back to the ever-present “respect” question. First of all, at the risk of horn self-tooting, I wrote an entire THN magazine column prior to the playoffs in which I identified the Devils as my dark horse Stanley Cup pick. I thought they had enough veteran experience, as well as a sense of urgency given some of the issues they’ll face in the off-season (i.e. Zach Parise’s pending unrestricted free agency and the franchise’s financial troubles that many suspect will lead to a bankruptcy announcement after the playoffs end) to do some damage and I’m happy that turned out to be the case.
But, as I’ve said before, the notion of fans and/or media paying deference to a team that hasn’t won a championship in nearly a decade is one that’s a little naïve. This is a results-driven business and when teams win enough games, they receive more respect. Should New Jersey eliminate the Rangers and go on to win the Cup, they’ll be showered with laurels and the like. Until then, they’ll have to fight for them, just like the other 29 NHL teams.
Hello Adam! The Vancouver Canucks were eliminated in the first round, but everyone expected them to do way better. Was it because of goaltending or lacking of offense or something else? Thanks!
Myron Bolitar, New York
Roberto Luongo took a ton of heat for not standing on his head and stealing games for Vancouver against the Kings before understudy Cory Schneider took over for him – and when you look at his playoff stats (including a gaudy 3.59 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, he clearly deserved some criticism.
However, Luongo wasn’t the sole reason the Canucks were turfed. I believe most teams that make a Stanley Cup final one season have a difficult time making another deep playoff run the following season. Mental and physical fatigue becomes an issue and all the things that have to go right for a team to make the final - injuries, fortunate bounces and officials’ calls - often don’t continue to go right.
But here’s a novel concept: They got beat by a better team - at least, a better team when the playoffs began - and deserved to lose. As we’ve seen, the Kings are no fluke. They were playing desperation hockey just to make the playoffs and have continued it throughout the post-season. That said, is it possible they will bow out in the first round of the 2013 playoffs? Absolutely – and for all the same reasons that have made victims of other former Cup finalists.
Adam, what would you think if the NHL put in a rule that stipulated teams would not be able to make a line change after being called for a penalty? This would be similar to what the league does now on icing calls. Your thoughts?
Mark McDonnell, Pennsauken, N.J.
It’s an interesting proposition that has merit, especially now that the league has established a precedent of sorts with its icing calls that penalize the offending team by keeping tired players on the ice. Indeed, considering the notable dip in power plays, this could be a great way to provide the non-penalized team with a slight advantage that wouldn’t change the game any more than the icing call line-freeze has.
Now, does that mean it will happen? Not for a while, at least. The NHL’s Research and Development camp has yet to even test it out – and the grand majority of the minor rule changes they have experimented with (including shallower nets and the green goal verification line) haven’t been adopted for actual league play. Icebergs move faster than the NHL in this regard, unfortunately.
Hey Adam, why are so many people insisting the Penguins have to trade one of their “Big Three” centers? I think it would be very risky to trade one of them, especially with the injury problems they've had. I would unload some of that salary on their defense, like Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, and/or Brooks Orpik if that's what it took to keep Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
Ryan Turner, Pittsburgh
I was talking recently with Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster for a magazine story on Brad Richards, who Feaster had to trade when both were in Tampa Bay. The situation then – similar to what the Penguins and GM Ray Shero are facing now – came to a head when Feaster realized he had to move one of Richards, Vincent Lecavalier or Martin St-Louis in order to address other needs.
Feaster wanted to make a trade at the draft, not at the trade deadline, but new Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie forced his hand – and pushed him to move Richards when he more than likely would’ve dealt Lecavalier. Feaster did try to acquire players who would fill holes in the organization (goalie Mike Smith, winger Jussi Jokinen and defensive center Jeff Halpern), even though he and management could have chosen to hold on to all three and strip away what little depth they had in other areas.
We’re getting close to the same breaking point in Pittsburgh. Sure, it’d be better in many respects (if not easier) to move those Pens defensemen, but you’re not addressing the real problem – the defense corps’ overall performance as a unit (to say nothing of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s collapse). It’s nice for promotional purposes and your overall depth at center, but when the foundations around that core are cracking and crumbling, nothing those three stars can do will overcome it.
That’s why the Pens have to at least consider offers for Staal (I wouldn’t trade either Crosby or Malkin under any circumstances). They can’t get as much help by trading any defenseman as they can by moving him.