Rookie sensations

Adam Proteau
Nov 27, 2007

Nicklas Backstrom is starting to close in on Chicago's two dynamic rookies. Author: The Hockey News


Rookie sensations

Adam Proteau
Nov 27, 2007

Before we get to this week’s mailbag, here are a few important questions to ask yourself before you send in your questions:

(a) Have I, in fact, actually asked Adam a question?
(b) Have I insulted Adam personally and/or professionally before or after posing my question? And if so, do I still expect him to answer it? And if so, what’s wrong with me?

If you answered “yes” to (a), and “no”, “no” and “I don’t know, but I promise not to submit another question until I figure it out” to (b), your odds of an answer increase exponentially.

Hi Adam,

Two questions that are burning me as the season chugs along (and the family watches me fade further from them):

1) Why all this “ultra protection” of the goalie when he leaves the net? Meanwhile, when he’s perched in the crease, it seems the refs have a very liberal interpretation of running the goalie. You can’t touch them behind the net, but you can bend them over backwards in the crease. It doesn’t make sense.

2) Since the NHL instituted the diving penalty have you ever seen anyone called for diving, except for when a real infraction was called? I have yet to see anyone called for trying to draw a penalty without one taking place on the same play. Isn’t that contradictory? If you dive shouldn’t that negate the penalty? If there is a penalty shouldn’t that call off the dive? I’m confused.

3) (I know I said two questions but I thought of this while I was typing) When it comes to the schedule, why not eight games against all your divisional opponents (8 x 4 = 32) and two games against every other team (2x25 = 50)? That’s 82 games.

If I’m a Rangers fan, why would I wish for four games against Tampa and only one against San Jose? You’d still be playing 52 games in the conference and 30 outside. Let the top two in each division automatically make the playoffs and add two wild card teams (this to pacify the conference-first contingent). Why hasn’t this been suggested?

Bob Lombardi, Jericho, VT


1) Trying to make sense of the NHL Code and the manner in which the league’s rulebook is interpreted is like trying to comprehend the enduring popularity of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour; sure, there are those who’ll passionately defend each, but many more are turned off by the sheer lowbrowery of it all.

2) I haven’t seen a game in the past couple years when a diving penalty has gone unaccompanied by a hooking/tripping/interference call. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened, nor is it to imply it’s something head of officiating Stephen Walkom instructs his employees to do, but there’s clearly a philosophical link among the zebras, or, at the very least, the appearance of one. You and I both know image is everything, so that’s an area that definitely deserves the league’s attention.

3) Most NHL types I speak to are sick of playing their divisional opponents eight times. Ten percent of the year is too high a price to pay to keep Eastern Conference team owners’ travel costs as low as possible.

And while every franchise will have a handful of conference opponents that don’t warrant a four-game series, there are just as many that do. Maybe you don’t want to see the Bolts twice a year, but do you want to see the Maple Leafs, or the Senators, or the Sabres more than once? There’s a tradeoff there, is what I’m trying to say.


So after a bit of a quiet start, Nicklas Backstrom is climbing the rookie scoring charts; do you think he has a shot to beat out Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane for the Calder, or has one of them already won it?

Rob Lewis, Washington, D.C.


Backstrom absolutely has time to catch Chicago’s Dynamic Duo. If you recall last season, Kings center Anze Kopitar looked very good early on before injuries took their toll on him; and if Paul Stastny had 10 extra games last year, he very well may have passed Evgeni Malkin for the rookie scoring title and the Calder.

Backstrom is just two points behind Toews and eight behind Kane in this season’s rookie scoring race. Catching up would help his Calder cause, as would a turnaround in fortunes for the Capitals.


Are the Oilers close to getting Jaromir Jagr? If they are, who are they willing to give up for him?

Roy G., Saskatchewan


Who told you this? More importantly, has he or she had his tongue removed to serve as a warning to wanton rumormongers everywhere?

Let’s put it this way: Jagr has as much chance of wearing an Oilers jersey as Roberto Luongo has being traded to Mike Keenan’s Calgary Flames. In a deal that doesn’t send Miikka Kiprusoff to the Canucks in return.


Do you think rookies playing in the NHL the year they are drafted – Patrick Kane in Chicago, for example – will become the norm for the NHL? And do you think teams will start drafting players they think can play right away instead of down the road?

Michael Jones, Tucson, Ariz.


I think teams always aim to draft players who can contribute as soon as possible. And if there were an entire first round of players who contributed as Kane has, I’d be more likely to suspect an oncoming trend.

The post-lockout NHL undoubtedly is less of an older man’s league, but the majority of young players will continue to require at least a few years of development in minor pro and/or Europe to compete with the big boys. Kane, Toews and a few others are simply notable, wonderful exceptions to the rule.

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Rookie sensations