Steve Downie hasn't endeared himself to some of his fellow NHLers, including the Leafs Jason Blake. (Photo by Graig Abel/ NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s July 31st, so you know what that means: Sixty-eight days until the start of the NHL season!
OK, so it also means we’re smack in the middle of the dog days of summer, where the hot topic is how your slo-pitch team is faring, unless you’re on the golf course or at the beach, of course.
But I’m not and if you’re reading this, you’re obviously not either. So I’m going to try and create a little debate, stir a little emotion and draw the ire of those stuck in their ways. For you hockey-starved fanatics twitching for the blades to hit the ice, hopefully this provides you with the ambrosia you need to survive through at least one more day of the hockeyless season.
Here are a few generalizations I take exception to and write off as storytelling myth.
1. The Detroit Red Wings win with the neutral zone trap
Bogus. There is a rather large difference between the trap and a puck possession style of game, but it’s really easy to explain: For one you don’t have the puck; the other, you do.
The Red Wings are stacked with the best collection of pure skill in the NHL. Some specialize in scoring goals, some in landing big hits, some in standing in front of the net, but it all comes together to lift Stanley Cup banners to the rafters.
You know what all the Red Wings players have in common, though? They can all create offense. It’s easy, the other team won’t score if they don’t have the puck; you will. Teams such as New Jersey and Boston play the trap and make it to the post-season on the strengths of their systems (just look at that New Jersey defense and tell me the trap doesn’t win them games), but not these Wings.
2. The Philadelphia Flyers are a legion of goons
Every time I hear this one I shake my head and exhale with a raspberry so large it leaves a dusting of dew on my computer screen.
Sure, they unloaded a couple vicious hits that did warrant the suspensions levied on them, but the team doesn’t huddle before games and discuss how they’re going to decapitate their next opponent. Let’s face it, in this day in age they could find themselves on that other team next week.
Here’s how it is: the Flyers play a physical brand of hockey that happens to intimidate and frustrate, which leads to these absurdly sensationalized labels. If the Flyers really were goons, you can bet Alex Ovechkin and Alexei Kovalev would not have survived a playoff series against them. It’s unfortunate the odd bad hit can soil such a fun style of hockey, but their game is the good ol’ hockey game.
3. The salary cap means more teams can survive in Canada
As much as I want this to be true, if the NHL ever put teams in Hamilton, Winnipeg, Halifax and Quebec City all it would take is the Canadian dollar to come back to earth for them to lose any advantage provided by a sprawling, rabid fan base.
Remember how close Edmonton and Calgary were to being bankrupt a few short years ago? The NHL has enough franchises up for sale in the U.S. right now; if these teams moved to Canada it likely wouldn’t be long before they began to feel economic pressure.
That is, of course, unless you have billionaire oil barons running the team like they have in the Kontinental League, but Canada doesn’t have that.
Of course, with that said, I do believe one, maybe two teams, would be able to relocate to and have long-term success in Canada. Just don’t overdo it.
4. Speed beats strength every time
There is no doubt the Wings and Penguins fall into the speedy category, but what about the other two Conference finalists?
The Stars have some serious bangers (Stephane Robidas and Brenden Morrow, to name a couple) and the Flyers, well, we all know their reputation.
Dallas should have given Detroit a run for their money, but after two exhausting series’ against other big bangers Anaheim and San Jose, the Stars simply had no gas out of the gate (Detroit played an eighth seed and a depleted Avs squad).
And that is exactly why those types of teams are effective come playoff time, they will wear you down over a seven-game grind.
The Flyers dominated the skilled Canadiens, heck, the big bad Bruins, who didn’t beat the Canadiens all season long, nearly knocked them out in the first round. Why? They pushed them around and wore them down. Even the Wings have some muscle that helped put them over the top. Ever heard of Niklas Kronwall? Tomas Holmstrom? Johan Franzen?
Rory Boylen is THN.com's web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.
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