"I'd have to say (Andrew) Alberts. He looks like the Mall Cop guy. It's pretty good."
- Vancouver's Ryan Kesler on which of his teammates has the best Movember moustache.
"I'd have to say (Andrew) Alberts. He looks like the Mall Cop guy. It's pretty good."
- Vancouver's Ryan Kesler on which of his teammates has the best Movember moustache.
There's little doubt Shane Doan has the character to be a great addition to a team looking to win, but we're not sure he has what it takes on the ice anymore.
It would certainly make for a great headline, and even a better story, to watch Shane Doan skate off in a sultry night in June with the Stanley Cup lifted over his head. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to see one of the great guys in the game get rewarded with the ultimate prize before calling it a career?
So when Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, one of the best news breakers in the business, said on the weekend that Doan might be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender, it undoubtedly conjured up a lot of sentiments among those looking for a feel-good story. No question it would be that.
But would it make sense? Well, it certainly would have last year at this time when Doan already had 15 of his 28 goals and looked like he still had a lot left in his tank. This season? Not so much. Doan has only four goals in 42 games and is playing less and certainly contributing less than he has in years. One big reason for his dip in production is his shooting percentage, which has plummeted to just 4.4 percent this season. Doan is shooting the puck almost as much as he used to despite getting about two fewer minutes of ice time per game, but is not finding the back of the net.
All of which makes you wonder whether a trade deadline deal for Doan would make any difference, either for the team getting Doan or the Coyotes. To be sure, the Coyotes would not be getting much in return for Doan. If he were traded on Feb. 28, which is deadline day, he’d still have about $883,000 of cap hit remaining, half of which could be obtained by the Coyotes. So the price to acquire Doan for the stretch run and the playoffs would not be a high one. (If you listened to our podcast, you heard me say there would be $1.8 million remaining after the deadline. Mea culpa on that one.)
But would it be a good move in a practical sense? Well, there are a couple of variables there. First, do you believe that Doan is simply having bad puck luck, something that could very well change with a new team? Or have the hands that have served him for 1,500 games and seen him score 400 goals abandoned him for good? If you’re a true contender, would Shane Doan really be the player to put you over the top?
Perhaps Doan could play on a strong team’s fourth line and add that certain intangible ingredient to a team that needs a veteran presence. But with the game going more in the direction of speed and skill on all four lines, do you really want a 40-year-old guy having to play every other night and keep up with the best players in the world? Let’s put it this way. Jaromir Jagr is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but in the past couple of playoffs in which he’s participated, he’s looked older and slower and less capable of accomplishing things than he has in the regular season. If you get Doan, the danger is you might be paying as much as $800,000 in cap space for a very good cheerleader, the way Ed Olczyk was for the New York Rangers in 1994 and Denis Savard was for the Montreal Canadiens two years later. They both held up the Stanley Cup in street clothes.
It seems to these eyes that Doan might just have waited one year too long to play this particular card, if indeed he’s willing to move from the desert to be a rental. (A call to his agent, Terry Bross, was not returned.) There were so many years previously that Doan had this very opportunity and he turned it down, which might give you the impression that winning a Stanley Cup wouldn’t be all that important to him. So has anything really changed this season?
There were years, even most recent ones, when Doan would have and could have been a difference maker for a team looking for that extra piece to put it over the top. Now, though, that ship appears to have passed. As wonderful as it would be to see, it’s difficult to believe there would be a string of suitors at the Coyotes’ door leading up to the trade deadline.
Winnipeg has allowed three or more goals against in eight of their past 10 games, and with Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, the Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran Ondrej Pavelec.
It took 47 games and more than three months, but with the season potentially slipping away as their goaltending fails them, the Winnipeg Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Pavelec’s recall from the minors comes the day following the Jets’ 5-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which is the fourth straight defeat Winnipeg has been handed and the eighth time in 10 games that the team has allowed three or more goals against. Bringing Pavelec up is a move the Jets certainly hopes can stop the bleeding, because right now coach Paul Maurice is likely aching for someone, anyone, to come in and stop the puck with some consistency.
As he comes up from the Moose, Pavelec is sporting an 8-7-2 record, 2.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 18 outings in the AHL, and he’s only two days removed from putting in his best effort of the entire season. Sunday evening against the Chicago Wolves, Pavelec was tested 44 times, but he allowed only one puck to elude him, turning aside 43 shots in a 4-1 Manitoba victory.
Pavelec’s trip back to the big league doesn’t come simply as a response to him having one good outing and yet another Jets loss, though. Over the past several weeks, the idea of calling up Pavelec has been bandied about, especially as both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled to piece together anything that resembles the type of run of play one would expect from a big league starter.
At times it was hard to fathom a scenario in which a young, growing team like Winnipeg wouldn’t stay all-in on their young netminders, hoping one or both would find a way through this tough stretch. With Pavelec available to possibly give the club a jolt, the Jets have decided that might be exactly what they need.
And if the move is one viewed to be out of desperation, that would be because it is. There’s a reason Pavelec has spent more than half of the campaign buried in the AHL along with his $3.9-million cap hit. But save pulling the trigger on a trade that would bring the Jets a starting netminder, what other options do the Jets really have? Eric Comrie is a promising prospect, but another young goaltender added to the mix is the last thing Winnipeg needed right now.
Don’t go thinking Pavelec will be the Winnipeg’s idea of a long-term fix, though. He is as stop-gap as stop-gap options come.
Over the course of his career, Pavelec has been a below-average netminder, boasting a career .907 SP and bloated 2.85 goals-against average. Though he had the best season of his career in 2014-15 — his .920 SP was substantially better than any year prior — he followed it up with a .904 SP mark in 2015-16. Comparatively, Hellebuyck’s difficult campaign has seen him post a .907 SP, and his career SP is .912. Hutchinson is a career .908 SP goaltender, with a tough .894 SP throughout this season.
All the Jets want right now is someone who can come in and stop some pucks. If that’s Pavelec, great. If that’s Hellebuyck or Hutchinson, better. But the fact of the matter is that with only a few months remaining, the Jets have the league’s third-worst points percentage during a season in which they were supposed to be taking a sizeable step forward. That needs to change, and maybe the increased competition in goal — or the veteran presence — is enough to turn things around.
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The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.
Referees review a goal. Image by: Len Redkoles/Getty Images
The NHL as just introduced bye weeks for each team, an idea borrowed from the NFL. How about stealing more ideas like trading coaches and a wild card weekend?
You may have noticed something unusual about the NHL schedule in recent weeks: Certain teams have disappeared, taking up to a week off at a time. That's thanks to the new bye weeks, a concept negotiated between the league and NHLPA last year that kicked in for the first time this month.
The bye weeks – which are actually five days long, not a full week – are meant to give players on each team one league-mandated midseason break to rest and recharge. The idea borrows heavily from the NFL, which gives each team one week off during its 17-week schedule. But not everyone is a fan, with Toronto coach Mike Babcock calling the idea "100 percent wrong for player safety."
So sure, the jury's still out on this one. But that doesn't mean the league shouldn't be thinking ahead to the next inspiration they could draw from the competition. So to give them a boost, here are five more ideas the league could
steal borrow from the NFL.
1. Trading coaches
The big trade rumor in NFL circles these days doesn't involve a star player. Instead, it's a coach – New Orleans Saints' boss Sean Payton, who reportedly could be headed to the Rams.
That's not all that rare in the NFL, where more than a few big-name coaches have been traded over the years, including Bill Parcells, Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick. It happens in the NBA and MLB as well – Blue Jays fans may remember the deal that sent John Farrell to the Red Sox a few years ago.
The concept isn't completely unheard of in the NHL, but it's only happened once. That was in 1987, when the Nordiques sent Michel Bergeron to the Rangers for a first round pick. That deal didn't really work out for New York; Bergeron only lasted two seasons, never making the playoffs, and the deal ended up costing them the fifth overall pick.
Maybe that's why we haven't seen a similar move since (aside from the forced draft pick compensation the league briefly implemented and then abandoned a few years ago). But it would be fun to see it come back. Jon Cooper for Claude Julien, WHO SAYS NO?
2. Acknowledging referee mistakes
Referees make mistakes. It happens. In fact, if you got fans of various sports together in a room, it probably wouldn't be long before they were arguing over whose officials were worse. It's the nature of fandom – we always think the guys in stripes have found a way to screw things up.
But in the NFL, the league doesn't pretend that it never happens. The league reviews each game, and admits when the officials blew it. The league's head of officiating is also on Twitter, engaging fans with explanations of close or controversial plays. And if the refs miss one, someone explains what went wrong.
It's certainly not a perfect system. Obviously, those admissions come too late to change the results, and are of little comfort to teams victimized by blown calls. (Some players aren't shy about expressing that sentiment.) And there's no doubt that some officials would prefer the league stayed silent, rather than hanging them out to dry.
But the approach has one major benefit: credibility. When the time comes for the NFL to defend a call, they can at least point to other cases where they took the lumps. That creates at least a little bit of credibility in the eyes of fans, who don't assume that the league will just take a knee-jerk stance of defending everything.
Compare that to the NHL approach, where everything is fine, and the league has virtually never seen a mistake that they've publicly acknowledged. That just creates an atmosphere where everyone thinks every close call that went against them was missed, and that every hare-brained conspiracy has some basis in reality. The NHL can't defend its officials effectively, because it never acknowledges when they do screw up.
Nobody's perfect, and nobody should expect perfection from officials. But a little honesty from the league itself isn't too much to ask.
3. Wild card weekend
The NFL just held its wild card weekend, featuring four games that determined which teams would move on to the divisional round. Granted, last weekend's games ended up being duds, with all four home teams winning easily. But the weekend generally produces at least a few memorable games, much like MLB's similar play-in round.
The idea of the NHL adding a wild card play-in game of its own, or even a short best-of-three series, has been around for a while. The format would see one or two teams in each conference added to the playoffs, creating matchups between the #8 and #9 seeds (and perhaps also #7 vs #10) that would play out immediately after the season ended.
Many fans don't like the idea, since adding extra teams to the postseason could be seen to water down the importance of the regular season. But there's a flip side to that – the presence of a wildcard round makes finishing with a higher seed all the more important, since teams won't want to risk having to play a short winner-take-all series. Far better to get some extra time off to recuperate, while your future opponent has to fight through an extra round.
Look at this year's Metro Division, where four of the league's best teams are fighting for top spot. It's a fun race, but ultimately it won't mean much – all four teams are going to make the playoffs, and none will be rewarded with an especially easy matchup. But if those teams were fighting to avoid a wild card round, the regular season starts to take on some serious importance.
4. Actually explaining challenges
The NFL was the first league to embrace instant replay reviews, with the NHL following suit years later. And unlike football, the hockey world is still relatively new to coach's challenge, which were just introduced a few years ago. It shows. The NFL system is far from perfect, but the NHL could learn a lot from it.
Here's what happens when an NFL challenge occurs: First, the referee makes a clear announcement about what's being challenged, and what the ruling on the field was. Then he goes under the hood, reviews everything about the play and emerges with a ruling, at which point he explains what he saw and why the call is or isn't being changed.
Granted, some of those explanations are clearer than others, and some of the rules that the league actually reviews for are a mess. But as a fan, you're rarely left guessing about what went into a decision, even if you may not agree.
Compare that to a typical NHL scenario: The referee announces that a challenge is taking place, and probably forgets to tell us what the call on the ice was. He puts on the headphones, breaks out his iPad mini, and reviews the play. Then he makes a vague announcement which basically amounts to either "goal" or "no goal," with little or no explanation. Sometimes, he'll even repeat the whole process for reasons nobody understands.
Also, the NFL's microphones work. Let's look into how they manage that.
The whole thing is just a smoother process in the NFL, and a big part of it is due to league at least trying to explain what's happening. NHL refs probably wouldn't like it, since they make every announcement looking like terrified first-graders giving their first book report in front of the whole class. But they'd get used to it. And hockey fans would be better off.
5. Treating overtime losses like losses
OK, stay with me here. Sometimes, NFL games go into overtime. And when they do, something crazy happens: One team wins, and one team loses. That's it. The losing team doesn't get a half-win in the standings as consolation for coming really close.
I know what you're thinking: "Surely that results in terribly boring playoff races, since we all know that giving partial credit for losing is the only way to have parity even though that actually makes no mathematical sense when you think about it." Believe it or not, the NFL has somehow persevered. I'm told their games even occasionally get decent TV ratings.
It's true that the whole "every game is worth the same in the standings" approach isn't unique to football (and baseball, and basketball, and pretty much every other sport). But maybe hockey could give it a try some day, just to see what happens.
No? You say that's completely off the table, Mr. GM of a team that lost 45 games and still claims to have a winning record? OK, can't say we didn't try.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.