September 21 News and Notes

Robert Cleave
September 21 2011 11:27PM

              

 

Training camp is in full swing, and that means that the proper business of hockey is underway, so a review of some of the news around the league is in order. In this week's go-round, the Flames get the roster down to a more reasonable configuration, the Jets have a noisy start to their exhibition campaign, and Brendan Shanahan has a full plate three nights in to the pre-season.

Flames: 

The club sent away the likely suspects this afternoon as they culled the herd in advance of this weekend's tilts versus the Oil. I wouldn't have minded seeing Patrick Holland one more time, but beyond that, there wasn't anything remotely surprising, particularly given the over-stuffed nature of the Flames' forward corps. There's hardly even enough pre-season time for the actual players, let alone any fringe types.

One youngster is still in the mix for the moment, of course, since Sven Baertschi will get at least one more skate with the big kids this weekend. That seems about right as well, based on the bits and pieces I've seen over the last week.

The young man has the feel of a player that knows what he's doing at the offensive end. He's not quite the finished article on the bad side of centre ice, but if he was he wouldn't have gone 13th, so there's no real worry there. If the club was short a few bodies he might even get nine games in, but barring a spate of injuries he's headed back to Oregon for the fall. Next season might be his time, though, with the Flames having potential for a few open spots as they shed contracts. 

Last night's pair of games had one unfortunate occurence mar proceedings, as Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond ran Matt Clackson into the side boards late in the third. PL3 has a hearing scheduled with the new czar tomorrow morning, and I'll confess that the efficacy of employing players like him or Ivanans makes no more sense to me than it ever has. They prevent nothing, fix nothing, and as I've been prone to note, they never play when the games mean the most. I'd rather see Paul Byron or Lance Bouma on the roster than either of those gents, since they hold the promise of athletic competence. 

The Flames play the evil-doers from the north end of Highway 2 this weekend, and Edmonton began trimming things as well today by sending a few juniors back to their clubs. That group of cuts didn't include the Nuge, of course. I suspect he has a very good chance of getting his nine games in at the minimum, and I wouldn't be shocked if he stuck.

That said, unless the Oil are under the impression that they're ready to win this year, he could likely use one more year of physical maturity and one more season to beef up his EV play. In comparison, Taylor Hall was a much more robust specimen last fall, and the scenario that Gilbert Brule endured in Columbus should be a warning for any team thinking about keeping a smallish 18 year old around on spec. Kid's smart, though, and unlike Brule he didn't partially rely on being a physical force in the Dub, so he's used to surviving on guile.

 

                           

Jets:

That sense of restraint regarding 18 year olds should be employed by the Winnipegs as well, although the pressure to keep a player that lights up the scoresheet in pre-season will always be great, especially for a team that might start the season a bit short on scoring. Mark Scheifele had himself a very nice night in his opener, and although his first step still seems a bit deficient at times, the vision and hands were in full effect against Columbus' scrubs. 

I was in attendance at a very loud MTS Centre last night, and I have a few other observations from the Jets' pasting of the Blue Jackets' C team. First, I completely understand why Zach Bogosian frustrated Thrasher fans. He's talented as all get out, but his decision making is sub-standard. He lingered in possession a few times last night and made a couple of shaky reads at the offensive blueline that lead to Columbus odd-man rushes. 

That said, it seems to me that he's unschooled as much as anything. A player with his obvious ability often gets away with playing a bit recklessly as a junior, and that's fine as far as it goes. At the pro level, defencemen need to learn safety first, and then with a bit of seasoning they can learn when to make an extra move with the puck or pinch to keep a cycle going. Atlanta always seemed like a poorly organized outfit, so it's possible that better coaching can still help Bogosian's cause. I've mentioned this before, but Charlie Huddy might end the season as Winnipeg's best acquisition of the summer if he can help Bogosian pair his tools with a bit more tactical nous.

Another bit of business that jumped out at me, and this might seem odd given his reputation as a careless player, was that Dustin Byfuglien might have a lot less of the crazy in him than people think. I watched Atlanta play about 20 games last season, and the one thing that struck me was his general aura of calm when he had the puck. It's certainly within the realm of possibility that he was simply lit out of his gourd on those nights, of course, but innocent until proven guilty and all that.

Jokes aside, last night was no different, and with the quality of opposition duly noted, he appeared quite calculating in his forays up ice. He was the best Thrasher defenceman at limiting shots against last season, and it wasn't just because he was in the other team's end by accident. He's quite a bit better than one might expect at turning pucks over in his own end and starting transition, and his decision making was sound at both ends of the rink.

 

Elsewhere:

As I mentioned up top, Brendan Shanahan has a bit of work in front of him over the next few days. Beyond the Leblanc hearing, he's almost certain to have a chat with Jody Shelley after a late, silly hit on Darryl Boyce: 

 

 

Dumbass. There were a few other gents acting up this evening as well, as Mattias Olund, Dan Cleary and Mikkel Boedker all received majors for varying acts of stupidity, so the new lord of discipline isn't getting a chance to ease into things.

In recovery news, it sounds like hockey's best player is making progress. Sid Crosby is still in limbo, obviously, but he's skating rather than just sitting in a dark room, so the news holds some promise of better things. Marc Staal is skating as well, even though he's still suffering the after-effects from tangling with his older brother. The Rangers' top D finished out the 10/11 season, which does make one at least slightly suspicious about his care after the injury. 

As a reaction to one of last season's most frightening plays, the Bell Centre has become the first NHL rink to incorporate the new acrylic glass system and the curved pieces of plastic that replace the stanchions in the vicinity of the player's benches. The tempered glass that was in place in several arenas last season, including Calgary, will be gone league wide by the start of the year, and the curved stanchion replacements will be in place soon after. As I've mentioned before, the only losers in this scenario are Zdeno Chara and the Montreal police, and I hope they'll be able to overcome the hardship.

 

               

 

Filthy Lucre:

The Dallas Stars went through their planned bankruptcy as scheduled, and rumblings of others aside, Tom Galiardi might end up being the one legitimate suitor for the club. The Stars' history suggests that it should only require interested ownership to make a go of things, but my sense is that there's only so long a non-traditional market can be taken for granted before the locals tune out, so it would be behoove all parties to get their affairs in order fairly soon.

All quiet down in the desert, as the City of Glendale continues its search for someone, anyone, to take on the Coyotes. The city council has gone about business in a much more restrained manner as of late, which is likely a good thing. The fashion that infamous council meeting last spring was conducted would have chagrined any sensible person, and although those types of folks seem in short supply in the CoG, maybe they're finally learning to keep schtum about matters until they're actually settled.

In the interests of fairness, it is possible that I'm being a bit hard on the good burghers of Glendale. The Coyotes have only been wandering aimlessly in the desert for 15 years, and although it's not exactly a record to be aiming for, they do remain roughly a quarter-century shy of matching the historical standard-bearer

That's all for this week.

 

1a1030a8151ca7a0d81aea58f0fb1dbc
Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 Kent Wilson
September 22 2011, 08:38AM
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@ChinookArch

Derek Zona of the Copper and Blue has a good post on that matter this morning.

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#2 ChinookArch
September 22 2011, 07:05AM
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I really don't understand the strategy of employing 'heavyweight specialists' - what a waste of money. Put me down for dump him in Abottsford.

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#3 xis10ce
September 22 2011, 10:05AM
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I know it's old news, but what really kills me about picking up P3L isn't that he's not talented, and in reality bring nothing to the table from a skills prespective. It's the fact that we had to forgo a draft pick to get a forward that will hardly play in our already tightly packed lineup.

The whole situation is just leaving a bad lingering taste in my mouth.

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#4 Kent Wilson
September 22 2011, 10:14AM
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@xis10ce

Yeah. A 5th rounder isn't worth much, but a below replacement level player is worth even less.

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#5 xis10ce
September 22 2011, 10:22AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Yeah. A 5th rounder isn't worth much, but a below replacement level player is worth even less.

While I do generally agree with you, the Red Wings show us good scouting can yield pure gold with 5th round or higher draft picks. Datsyuk was a 6th rounder and Zetterberg a 7th. Granted those are the exceptions to the rule. Hell even look at Holland for Calgary, a 7th rounder showing some potential.

My point is they are giving up potential (albeit yet unproven) for what I consider to be essentially nothing.

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#6 Monaertchi Gaudnett
September 22 2011, 11:17AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Derek Zona of the Copper and Blue has a good post on that matter this morning.

That article, even though it was written by an Oiler fan, does a better job of saying what I've tried to say on here a few times.

Tough guys who can only stay in the NHL by being fighters are a detriment to their team, they do not improve it in any measurable way.

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#7 Kent Wilson
September 23 2011, 09:04AM
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@RexLibris

All of your evidence is anecdotal and hypothetical. if you can prove (rather than baldy assert) goons actually deter any of the antics described here, then I might listen. But even then you'd have to prove those benefits outweigh the various detriments pure fighters bring to the line-up.

The Flames didn't play with an "enforcer" last year. No one ran around trying to knee Jarome Iginla. There wasn't an inordinate amount of post-whistle face washes. The Flames fouth line was much better for the lack of a goon.

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#8 FireOnIce
September 22 2011, 12:44AM
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Throw the book at PL3, make an example of him and suspend him for the whole season.

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#9 Kent Wilson
September 22 2011, 12:50AM
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@FireOnIce

haha. I applaud the sentiment, but fear your hopes will go unanswered. If he gets any games, I'll be shocked.

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#10 jeremywilhelm
September 22 2011, 09:39AM
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Ugh. PL3. If the team wants a fighter, keep Bouma. At least he won't take a bad penalty.

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#11 Kent Wilson
September 22 2011, 11:23AM
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@xis10ce

Well sure. Once in a blue moon, a 5th rounder is a difference maker. The overall probability of a 5th round pick becoming Dastyuk (let alone an everyday NHLer) is about 5% overall.

That's a 5% better chance that P3L will be worthwhile though.

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#12 mayhemsince1977
September 22 2011, 11:36AM
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Wow! Everyone is picking on the Big Guys. Let me give a different perspective on tough guys.

First, the tough guy does not help the team by scoring goals. I am what would be considered the "small guy". Now, I realise I do not play professional sports, but I have been in some fairly competitive games/situations. While I myself am not very physical, I honestly do appreciate and believe that the deterrent effect is real.

No, the enforcer does not stop anyone from taking their best shot at me. What he does do is prevent anyone from taking advantage of me (refer to Marchand speedbagging Sedin). Having this in the back of my mind DOES provide me with a peice of mind. I do know that my speed and aggressiveness (not necessarily physical) does improve.

While this will not prevent anyone from gooning me, if I can score an extra 10-15 goals a year because I am more relaxed in the game, is the tough guy worth it? If the guy is a loose cannon, that is a different story.

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#13 RexLibris
September 22 2011, 12:22PM
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The 5th rounder trade for P3L may seem like a fair swap in that 5th rounders are considered to be longshots to make the NHL and of course whenever a conversation turns to late picks somebody is going to mention Datsyuk, Zertterberg, or even Hornqvist. But from my perspective, if my GM were offering up picks for a player with P3L's limited abilities, I'd be upset because, even if you have a substandard drafting record, I think it's better if my team gets to freely choose their player rather than just taking somebody who has been made available a la carte. If Feaster really wanted someone to fill that role why not just be patient and sign someone like MacIntyre, Konopka, or Hordichuk on July 1?

As for the draft picks, obviously I'd rather have more of them than fewer, except in cases where you can leverage them for a deep playoff push. However, having said that, I'd get really annoyed if my team were a consistent cut-off team and kept moving picks for players that might get them into the playoffs. These teams always chant the voodoo line of "you never know when you get there" which is a fallacy. The last team to actually win it and have the gamble pay off was Carolina and I'll be the first to say that had they run into a better team they would have been done. GMs who prey on those teams that move those picks for rental players are often the ones smiling like a cheshire cat come draft day.

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#14 Monaertchi Gaudnett
September 22 2011, 02:05PM
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@mayhemsince1977

I don't understand. How does he stop anyone from speedbagging you if he can't stop them from checking you?

Since the wonderful Marchand speed bag incident was in the playoffs, and therefore no enforcer was dressed, how could he have prevented that situation? If it happened in October, how would an enforcer have prevented it? He wouldn't be on the ice when a Sedin is, so Marchand is free to embarass Sedin. Should an enforcer get onto the ice at the same time as Marchand later, to try and exact some measure of revenge, Marchand and the Bruins will use that opportunity of having a pylon on the ice to make some offensive advantage for themselves.

If you can explain HOW an enforcer stops anyone from embarassing you, but not from turning you into a yard sale, I'd love to hear it.

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#15 mayhemsince1977
September 22 2011, 02:36PM
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@ Beeker73

I should have been clearer in my comments. I agree with you that an enforcer cannot neccessarily stop gooning. I was trying to state how the tough guy affects MY play. It is all mental. When I get smacked around, it is comforting to know that I can get up to protect myself someone will step in to stop the one sided massacre. I feel alot safer knowing that someone large is standing behind me in support. Cheezey, yes; but also true.

I should also state that I am grouping more that just fighters in the enforcer category. They could be just plain mean like Pronger. He does not fight but he sure deters a lot.

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#16 Domebeers.com
September 22 2011, 02:48PM
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I think those of you looking for pure hockey reasons to have an enforcer on the team are going to be looking for a long time.

My questions is why pretend? In one off situations, having an enforcer on your team can help. Over 82, you might get one or two of those games, but with the Flames it is probably more because of Edmonton, which leads me to my second point

Not everything done by a hockey team is for hockey reasons. Take a step back, and you will see that hockey is a form of entertainment. Now you can see the logic to employing enforcers: Because the crowd likes fights.

Fights get cheers, they create buzz, they get your team in the headlines, they do a lot of things that someone looking at the pure hockey equation will miss.

I think the problem isnt with enforcers on the roster per se. Again, I think they do act as deterents in 'given situations', and for that reason they add value. It's just that 'given situations' if we are being honest, dont happen all that often. The problem is carrying an enforcer on the roster for large portions of the season, at least in my opinion.

Because you know, or can get a good feel, for when 'given situation' is going to come up, and that is probably in games against the Oilers. Carry the fighter in Abby, and when those games come up, call him up to play, and then when it is over, send him down.

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#17 the-wolf
September 22 2011, 03:43PM
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mayhemsince1977 wrote:

Wow! Everyone is picking on the Big Guys. Let me give a different perspective on tough guys.

First, the tough guy does not help the team by scoring goals. I am what would be considered the "small guy". Now, I realise I do not play professional sports, but I have been in some fairly competitive games/situations. While I myself am not very physical, I honestly do appreciate and believe that the deterrent effect is real.

No, the enforcer does not stop anyone from taking their best shot at me. What he does do is prevent anyone from taking advantage of me (refer to Marchand speedbagging Sedin). Having this in the back of my mind DOES provide me with a peice of mind. I do know that my speed and aggressiveness (not necessarily physical) does improve.

While this will not prevent anyone from gooning me, if I can score an extra 10-15 goals a year because I am more relaxed in the game, is the tough guy worth it? If the guy is a loose cannon, that is a different story.

Yes, but there's a difference between someone who can play and is tough vs. a tough guy who plays 3 or 4 minutes a night at best and accomplishes little other than a stage tilt with the other team's uselss tough guy.

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#18 the-wolf
September 22 2011, 03:45PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Well sure. Once in a blue moon, a 5th rounder is a difference maker. The overall probability of a 5th round pick becoming Dastyuk (let alone an everyday NHLer) is about 5% overall.

That's a 5% better chance that P3L will be worthwhile though.

Exactly. If you take the stance that late round picks will never pan out and continually move them then you'll just never know what you could've had.

Success in drafting is partly about how many picks you have.

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#19 RexLibris
September 22 2011, 05:57PM
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Domebeers.com wrote:

I think those of you looking for pure hockey reasons to have an enforcer on the team are going to be looking for a long time.

My questions is why pretend? In one off situations, having an enforcer on your team can help. Over 82, you might get one or two of those games, but with the Flames it is probably more because of Edmonton, which leads me to my second point

Not everything done by a hockey team is for hockey reasons. Take a step back, and you will see that hockey is a form of entertainment. Now you can see the logic to employing enforcers: Because the crowd likes fights.

Fights get cheers, they create buzz, they get your team in the headlines, they do a lot of things that someone looking at the pure hockey equation will miss.

I think the problem isnt with enforcers on the roster per se. Again, I think they do act as deterents in 'given situations', and for that reason they add value. It's just that 'given situations' if we are being honest, dont happen all that often. The problem is carrying an enforcer on the roster for large portions of the season, at least in my opinion.

Because you know, or can get a good feel, for when 'given situation' is going to come up, and that is probably in games against the Oilers. Carry the fighter in Abby, and when those games come up, call him up to play, and then when it is over, send him down.

Um, either you're using the Oilers anecdotally from about a decade ago or you mean bring up the fighter to beat up on the Oilers, because my team from '06-'07 to '09-'10 was pretty much the punching bag (sometimes almost literally) of the league. Not so much last season and likely not this one, so I can see needing an enforcer for those games, but I think having a goon on the team for the last few years has been more of a requirement for games against the Canucks, or if you find yourself surrounded by drunken Saskatchewan Roughrider fans (yes, I realize "drunken" and "Saskatchewan Roughrider fan" is redundant, but it gets the point across).

Sadly the BOA hasn't had the same element of, shall we say bloodsport, that it used to years ago.

And I disagree that enforcers are there to entertain because the coach ices the lineup and only an idiot coach is interested in the fan's enjoyment of the game. He wants to win so he doesn't get his walking papers. Enforcers are there because not everything that a player does can be penalized but it does sometimes have to be punished. Late hits, snowshowers, facewashes, spears, and so on. That's why guys like Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows make people sick, because they hit and dive and whine and take advantage of vulnerable players but don't "answer the bell" when someone challenges them on it. When the league can find a way to penalize those players then fighting loses it's appeal for an organization. When some AHL neanderthal knees Iginla and takes him out for 4 months is a 2 minute penalty and a 6-game suspension that'll be served in some minor league backwater really going to feel like fair recompense? It's situations like those that tempt GMs and even other players to want to play with those guys.

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#20 Monaertchi Gaudnett
September 23 2011, 08:54AM
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@RexLibris

"the coach ices the lineup" --Tell that to Brent before christmas last year.

"Enforcers are there because not everything that a player does can be penalized but it does sometimes have to be punished. Late hits, snowshowers, facewashes, spears, and so on. That's why guys like Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows make people sick, because they hit and dive and whine and take advantage of vulnerable players but don't "answer the bell" when someone challenges them on it." --By not answering the bell, you mean they don't fight. So what does this say about the usefulness of fighters? If they did fight, would they fight PL3 or GlenX?

"When some AHL neanderthal knees Iginla and takes him out for 4 months is a 2 minute penalty and a 6-game suspension that'll be served in some minor league backwater really going to feel like fair recompense?" --Are you the second coming of Nostradamus, or trying to make an unrealistic point with unreal examples?

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#21 RexLibris
September 23 2011, 03:18PM
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Yeah, sorry Kent I guess I wasn't really making my point very well. Essentially what I was trying to say is that I disagree with what Domebeers argued about how a team can be well served by having an enforcer and that the NHL enjoys the benefit of having them in the league because it provides another aspect of “entertainment” in the sporting entertainment business model. Having an enforcer on the team is often justified because the league, to date, has been an imperfect system in regards to protecting the safety of their players and so teams have sought an imperfect solution. In other words, an enforcer often finds a place on a roster due to a cynical need to attempt and prevent your player from being the victim of predatory hits. If it works at all it’s probably only to a limited degree. With that in mind, I believe it would be pointless for the league to simply outlaw fighting until it can show that it can properly enforce the rules and protect the players. Shanahan's actions this week seem to point in that direction and I am truly encouraged by what I have seen so far. I look forward to the day when a team doesn't have to save a spot for some thick-necked gorilla because someone might touch their star.

Granted, some teams haven't needed an enforcer because they have a level of toughness and physicality throughout their ranks, or like Detroit where they have made taking a penalty too dangerous to risk trying to run one of their players or going down a man because of a fight. When I used the example of Iginla it was because I was on FN. It has been Calgary's extraordinarily good fortune that he has been largely injury-free. But look around to other teams and see how many of them dress goons to deal with players like Ott and Avery. If you think I’m being paranoid ask the people in Florida how they felt watching David Booth laying unresponsive on the ice. A hit like that is what GMs fear the most, where a star player of theirs is taken out because their opponent felt there would be no significant consequence. With the rewriting of the rules and a new commitment to enforce them I hope that that is no longer the case. And no, Beeker73, I’m not pretending to be clairvoyant, I was thinking of a pretty specific example from as far back as last spring (changing the details to make it more relevant to the FN site). Would you consider a suspension of Aaron Rome fair trade for the loss of a clutch scorer like Nathan Horton? Rome got a decent suspension under the previous regime but given Campbell’s inconsistent record on suspensions for egregious hits with intent to injure I don’t think I’d be too comfortable with the Canucks feeling that this was an acceptable way to counter an opponent.

I don’t know that I can support my argument with anything other than anecdotal evidence at this point, but then again, my argument wasn’t meant to be a defense of having fighters on the roster so much as an explanation of why they seem to find employment year after year and in opposition to domebeers’ argument. My last point is with regards to Domebeers’ assertion that sports are entertainment and that this definition somehow justifies the employment of goons and the circus that ensues when players like Shelley get regular paycheques. Saying that fighting helps promote hockey as an entertainment business with the contemporary fan seems out of touch. Sorry to be so blunt, but all I have read and heard from hockey fans and hockey media with a vested interest in the “entertainment sporting model” is that fighting in hockey, staged fighting specifically, isn’t working and that the toll has become far too severe for many to stomach. Sadly, that hasn’t prevented teams from employing fighters like Derek Boogaard, Chris Simon, Raitis Ivanans, or Steve MacIntyre because one team does it and that team’s goon injures another team’s star. And thus starts the escalation because players become scared that they are going have their careers threatened by some nameless thug who can barely skate in one direction. Bob Stauffer, who does colour for the Oiler games here and who is a very connected hockey media personality has often said that he favours having a bona fide enforcer, someone who has a chance to win any fight he is in, as a way of deterring anyone from taking liberties. His argument is one that I think you believe I am making, and I need to say that, with all due respect to Stauffer, I am absolutely not. The kind of game that I look forward to is one that is similar to how the international game is played, with heavy forechecking and solid hits where talent is at a premium and there is no tolerance for playing to injure. And yes, I realized when I wrote it that Brent isn’t a good example of a coach having free rein to pick his players, but I never actually mentioned him. Most coaches don’t play for Darryl Sutter.

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