Dennis Goddard, Gibsonton, Fla.
Dennis Goddard, Gibsonton, Fla.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has thrown his support behind a play-in wildcard game for the playoffs. Holland has never had a bad idea...until now.
It’s not often, if ever, that your trusty correspondent disagrees with one of the brightest, most progressive voices in hockey. But when it comes to the notion of holding a wildcard play-in game to give one more team per conference a chance to make the playoffs, that’s where I have to draw the line with one Ken Holland.
Speaking to Gary Lawless of tsn.ca, the Detroit Red Wings GM and the man who brought us 3-on-3 overtime opined that he would like to see the playoff pool expanded to essentially have three wildcard teams instead of two. The wildcard team with the best regular-season record of the three would be guaranteed a playoff berth, while the next two would hold a one-game, winner-take-all event to decide the second wildcard team.
There hasn’t been much of an appetite for this sort of thing among the game's power brokers, thank goodness, but there wasn’t much of an appetite for 3-on-3 overtime at one time, either. Holland can be very persuasive. Not sure if he hypnotizes his fellow GMs by swinging one of his four Stanley Cup rings on a string in front of their eyes, but he has a way of getting them to come around his way of thinking. Here’s hoping they resist the temptation this time.
Here’s why. Because any excitement the wildcard race would create in the markets that are involved would be mitigated by the notion that the league is once again rewarding mediocrity. These teams have 82 games to prove they’re in the top half of the league. That doesn’t seem, at least to these eyes, to be too much to ask. A better idea would be to just give each of the No. 9 seeds a nice, shiny Participation Trophy and send them home for the summer.
Geez, Louise, don’t we have enough parity shoved down our throats by the NHL already? Let’s see, when a team is killing a penalty it is allowed, for reasons nobody seems to be able to explain, to ice the puck with impunity. And if it gets scored on, the penalized player is allowed back on the ice. Players can glove the puck ahead in the defensive zone, but not the offensive zone. The NHL has a draft to ensure that all the best players are distributed fairly. The NHL has a salary cap to prevent rich, large market teams from having a competitive advantage. Teams that lose in overtime or the skills competition get a single loser point for just showing up, which already creates trumped-up playoff races and bogus .500 teams. Someday when the league and the players can agree on it, they'll get around to streamlining goaltending equipment. The NHL awarded a trophy to the best defensive forward for more than 20 years before it decided to get around to establishing one for the league’s top goal scorer. Rather than reward excellence, the NHL has time after time tailored its rules and philosophy to bringing great teams down to the others’ level.
And this would just be another example of that. Last season, the Minnesota Wild limped into eighth in the Western Conference and lost their last five games of the season. The Colorado Avalanche finished five points behind the Wild, losing each of their last six games of the season. Wow, that would have been some game, eh? The only problem is that the way those teams were playing down the stretch, the league might have had to postpone the start of the playoffs to let them finish the game. When you take into account the 11 bogus points the Wild gained for losing in overtime and shootouts, they lost six more games than they won last season. And they still made the playoffs. That’s quite enough, thank you.
Had there been a play-in game in 2011-12, the Los Angeles Kings would have had to play the Calgary Flames in Game No. 83 of the season. If the Flames had won, the Kings would not have gone on to win their first Stanley Cup. If there had been one in 2014-15, the Winnipeg Jets would have faced the Kings and had they lost, we would have been deprived of their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks, one that went four straight, but might have been the closest, most intense and competitive sweeps in the history of the game.
Look, most teams are already in the playoff race until the last quarter of the season. Unless they’re really bad, like say, Colorado is this season. The league constantly trumpets how close its games are, conveniently failing to point out the fact that it’s only that way because nobody scores goals anymore. The NHL loves its parity, but enough is enough. It reminds me of house league hockey where scorekeepers stop adding goals to the winning team if the margin between the teams is more than five goals, as if the kids are too dumb to figure out that they’re actually losing 14-0 if the scoreboard only says 5-0. It’s all a part of the everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality that many observers think is adding to a sense of entitlement in kids that they are now taking into adulthood.
I’m not about to wade into that debate at the moment, but one thing I do know is that there’s no place for it in the best league in the world where the players are also smart enough to know when they don’t belong in the playoffs. And it’s the NHL, which stands for National Hockey League, not National House League.
A pair of captains find themselves in the rumor mill early in the campaign. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog are both potential trade chips in the hunt for improvements on the back end.
Last June, the Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world by shipping defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for blueliner Shea Weber. For months leading up to that move, Subban was the subject of frequent trade speculation.
Nearly six months after the Subban deal, another notable member of the Canadiens' core surfaced in the rumor mill. The Score's Sean O'Leary includes Habs captain Max Pacioretty among his site's list of six NHL players who should get ready to pack their bags this season.
O'Leary believes the Canadiens must stabilize their blueline beyond Weber. In his opinion, the emergence of Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk makes the 28-year-old Pacioretty “expendable.” After three straight 30-plus goal seasons, the Habs captain has bounced around the lineup. Prior to his two-goal performance in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings, he was on pace for only 17 goals.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos doesn't believe the Canadiens intend to trade Pacioretty, but points out some teams think his situation bears scrutiny. He notes there's some friction between the winger and coach Michel Therrien over his usage this season.
Kypreos echoes O'Leary's comments, claiming a lot of teams wonder if Pacioretty could become a trade chip to boost Montreal's blueline depth. His colleague Elliotte Friedman suggests it could be difficult for the Habs to get equal value.
It's no secret Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman. Despite Friedman's speculation about the type of return Bergevin could receive for Pacioretty, a scorer of his calibre will attract considerable interest in the trade market.
If Bergevin is willing to move Pacioretty, he should get a solid return. Given the winger's $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2018-19, it would likely have to be a dollar-for-dollar deal.
The Anaheim Ducks could be a trade partner. They're loaded with good young defensemen and could certainly use an experienced left winger such as Pacioretty on their scoring lines. Bergevin could cast an eye upon Cam Fowler ($4 million per season) or Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million).
Such a move, however, would leave Montreal thin on left wing and weaken their offense. While the Habs are among the top-10 in scoring, they've struggled of late in that category. Shipping out a proven 30-goal sniper in Pacioretty won't help them. Prior to the Subban trade, many observers (including yours truly) doubted he'd be dealt. Bergevin's shown a willingness to make big moves for the right return, so perhaps a Pacioretty trade isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.
AVALANCHE CAPTAIN LANDESKOG MOVED FOR BLUELINE HELP?
The Canadiens aren't the only club that could trade their captain for blueline help. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports of “rumblings” the Colorado Avalanche could move left wing Gabriel Landeskog for a big-minute defenseman.
Like the Habs, the Avs must improve their depth on defense. They enter this week averaging 31.8 shots-again per game, ranking among the league's worst.
This isn't the first time Landeskog, 24, has popped up in the rumor mill. There was some talk last summer linking him to the Ducks and then-unsigned blueliner Hampus Lindholm, though that speculation didn't go very far.
Matheson wonders if the Avs might offer up Landeskog to the New York Islanders for rearguard Travis Hamonic. The Isles reportedly seek a scoring winger for John Tavares' line. In recent weeks, there was also talk of Landeskog's teammate Matt Duchene being peddled to the Isles.
Despite the rumors and the Avs' ongoing struggles, GM Joe Sakic maintains his belief in core players such as Landeskog and Duchene. Following last week's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Sakic told Terry Frei of the Denver Post he still has faith in his core, claiming the club's poor start is a team issue.
Sakic doesn't sound like a GM keen to shake up his roster. That doesn't mean, however, he won't that option. Former coach Patrick Roy can no longer be labelled the bad guy for their poor play. Sooner or later, the core players could pay the price.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Marek Svatos had traces of codeine, morphine and an anti-anxiety medication in his blood when he died in November. The 34-year-old played 344 games in the NHL, almost all of which came with the Avalanche.
According to the Douglas County Coroner’s Office in Colorado, former Avalanche winger Marek Svatos died of a drug overdose.
Svatos, 34, shockingly passed away on Nov. 5, and in a coroner’s report released Monday, it was said that traces of codeine, morphine and Xanax, a prescription anti-anxiety medication, were found in his blood. The Denver Post, which first reported the coroner’s report, added that Svatos had a history of heroin use and had previously been in rehab.
The Denver Post also reported that Svatos was dealing with “suspected depression, prior suicidal ideation, and ‘recent life stressors.’ ”
Svatos was a member of the Colorado Avalanche for several seasons and a key contributor to the club during the early part of his time in the NHL, but his career was derailed by a number of injuries, forcing him to retire from the game by the end of the 2013-14 campaign. All but 28 of his 344 NHL games came as a member of the Avalanche, and he scored 96 goals and 164 points in his six seasons in Colorado.
The best season of Svatos’ career came during his rookie campaign in 2005-06. The then-freshman Svatos netted 32 goals and 50 points and was a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy, and, were it not for injury limiting him to 61 games, he may have finished the season ahead of Sidney Crosby for second in rookie goals. Crosby finished with 39, and Alex Ovechkin, the Calder winner, led all rookies with 52 goals and 106 points.
Svatos’ career eventually took him to the KHL in 2010-11, and he attempted an NHL comeback with the St. Louis Blues, which led to a waiver claim by the Nashville Predators and, later, a stint with the Ottawa Senators. He couldn’t find a fit, however. He did not play the following year, and finished his career with one nine-game season in the KHL and another 26-game campaign in the top Slovakian league with his hometown club, HC Kosice.
Following his death, Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, a teammate of Svatos’ for four full seasons at the start of his career, said Svatos was a great teammate and lamented his death at such a young age.
“He was a great player with a lot of skill, and a lot of fun to be around,” Sakic said, according to the Denver Post’s Terry Frei. “He loved the game of hockey, loved to be around it, loved to have fun. He was quiet, but had a great sense of humor.”
Svatos is survived by his wife and two young sons.
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Capitals' mite Micha celebrates his goal
A young Washington Capitals fan took part in the Mites On Ice intermission game, and he delivered one of the best goal celebrations you’ll see this season.
For all the shoot the puck, obstacle courses and human bowling there is to be found during intermissions, it’s hard for anything to really top watching a bunch of kids who are new to the game rip around the ice in an intermission scrimmage.
And it’s even harder to top the mites game, or what Canadians know better as Timbits hockey, when the game features a goal celebration that is big-league ready, as was the case during the first intermission of Monday’s game between the Capitals and Sabres.
The first mid-period break in action between Washington and Buffalo featured the Capitals’ Mites On Ice, and, more importantly, it introduced us to one of the all-time great goal celebrations. During the action, a youngster named Micha scored on a breakaway, fell to his knees and celebrated for a full 15 seconds, hollering with excitement, pumping his arms and raising his stick above his head:
Micha definitely took some of his celebrating cues from his favorite player, Alex Ovechkin, but we wouldn’t mind seeing Ovechkin with an homage to Micha.
The Capitals would go on to win Monday’s game 3-2 in overtime, but no word on how exactly Micha celebrated Marcus Johansson’s game-winning goal.
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