FGD: The Red Wings are Coming!

Kent Wilson
November 01 2013 09:49AM

 

 

The former juggernaut Detroit Red Wings aren't quite as run down as their unfortunate home town, but cracks are finally starting to show in the armor. Right now, Detroit is 14th in the league in terms of score-close possession, a metric they routinely dominated for years. Datysuk and Zetterberg are growing long in the tooth, but for now remain top drawer two-way players. 

The divide between them and the rest of the club continues to grow, however. Absent Lidstrom, the team doesn't have a third elite leg to support the rest of the average stool (yeesh...talk about your clumsy metaphors). Only three other forwards are in the black in terms of possession so far - Bertuzzi, Alfredsson and Abdlekader. And Bertuzzi mostly plays with Datsyuk and Zetterberg (meaning he's not driving that number). Alfredsson is 40-years old and Abdelkader hangs out at the end of the rotation. Johan Franzen is close (49%), but there's a big drop off after him.

The biggest disappointment for the Wings must be Stephen Weiss. He has the worst possession rate on the team (43%) even with a sky-high zone start ratio (57%). Weiss was a pretty good player in Florida for a long time, but his numbers started slipping over the his two seasons as a Panther. He was supposed to anchor the Wings second scoring line, but he's sinking the boat instead.

All of which is an overly long way to say - the Red Wings are still good, but they don't appear to be ridiculously good anymore. They have two elite forwards, some decent support pieces and a whole bunch of meh. If the Flames can cage Datsyuk and Zetterberg (easier said than done, I know), then they have chance to outplay the Wings so-so depth.

The Lineup

Hartley announced yesterday Backlund would slide back into the line-up and Joey MacDondald would get a turn after Ramo's *ahem* "performance" against the Leafs. Her's how things will probably shape up:

  • Glencross - Stajan - Jones
  • Galiardi - Colborne - Cammalleri
  • Baertschi - Monahan - Hudler
  • Bouma - Backlund - McGrattan

  • Russell - Wideman
  • Brodie - Butler
  • O'Brien - Smith

  • MacDonald

A lot of plaudits have been handed to Joe Colborne over his recent play and particularly his 23 minute game vs Toronto the other night, but I still find the decision making governing his usage rather bizarre - at least relative to other players on the club. Colborne has certainly looked better over the last few games compared to his first few (where he was completely lost) and in general I am not opposed to coach playing the heck out of a few young guys this year for informational and developmental purposes.

Here's the thing - Colborne hasn't been that good so far. Certainly not "usurp Backlund" good. The former Leaf has been fed some of the softest minutes of any forward on the team (65.5% zone start) and yet on Wednesday night he boasted the worst even strength scoring chance ratio on the Flames (3 for, 9 against). He's nowhere near a 20 minute per night center yet and I don't see what he's done to privilege him above players like Backlund or Baertschi (who have seen their minutes limited or slashed at both ES and on the PP).

Maybe it's a motivational thing. Maybe Hartley is using different reinforcement techniques with different players. But on the face of it, the disparate treatment of certain guys on the team seems...incongruous.

The Opposition

It's the Datsyuk line and then everyone else. Via Daily Faceoff:

  • Zetterberg - Datsyuk - Bertuzzi
  • Cleary - Franzen - Alfredsson
  • Tatar - Weiss - Abdelkader
  • Miller - Andersson - Eaves

  • Kronwall - DeKeyser
  • Quincey - Smith
  • Kindl - Lashoff

  • Howard

Detroit's blueline is somewhat underwhelming as well. Kronwall is a legitimate top pairing guy at this point and most teams could probably get away with Smith and Ericsson (currently injured) in their top-4, but the rest of the defense brigade is trouble.

DeKeyser was a highly sought after College free agent, but he's only 24 games into his NHL career. Quincey is kind of the Wing's version of Chris Butler - he has some tools, but always seems to end up a scapegoat at the end of too many games. Kindl is still trying to find his way at the NHL level and Lashoff (Brian, not Matt) is a 23 year old rookie and former free agent signing who has been plying his trade in Grand Rapids for the last few years. HIs resume reminds of Adam Pardy's when he made the Flames a few years ago. 

We've discussed the forward unit, though I'd like to add I continually wonder what power Todd Bertuzzi holds over the Detroit Red Wing organization - he's 38 year old, he was a suspect two-way player even as a Flame back in 2008-09, he hasn't scored more than 45 points in six seasons and he only has four points 12 games this year...and yet he's skating with Dats and Zetterberg at ES. I don't get it.

Sum it Up

Detroit's first line is a powerhouse and can take a game over all by themselves. Calgary has no true power on power option that can be reasonably expected to take them on, but some nights you have hold the big guns in check via luck or hard work (or both). The key to the game will be to minimizing the damage from those guys and then outplaying the Wing's much softer underbelly.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Dr. Philosophy
November 01 2013, 01:06PM
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Actually, I think having an average stool on two legs is both possible and a good thing.

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#2 Colin.S
November 01 2013, 10:54AM
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The best part of Backlund sitting is they are expecting more offense from him, that's why he's sitting isn't he, they were saying they wanted more points from him? So when they activate where do they put him? Between Bouma and MacGratton, I'm sure he's gonna put up a ton of points from there.

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#3 Kenta
November 01 2013, 10:13AM
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We don't have the luxury of great depth or experience at any position. Treating Backlund like a doormat and playing him on the fourth line is a joke. Monahan has cooled off over the past few games - is he in the press box next or does the tough love approach only apply to European youngsters like Sven and Backlund?

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#4 Scary Gary
November 01 2013, 10:02AM
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This Backlund thing is frustrating.

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#5 @Gingras34
November 01 2013, 10:27AM
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Scary Gary wrote:

This Backlund thing is frustrating.

It's ridiculous. Guy works harder than any other player on the team. Plays the toughest mins among FWD's, 41% OZS. And they scratch him? I'd ask for a trade if I was him.

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#7 jonahgo
November 01 2013, 09:29PM
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this is a very unprofessional way for macdonald to announce his retirement.

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#10 kittensandcookies
November 01 2013, 10:17PM
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Hey MacDonald, Halloween was yesterday. Take off the goalie costume.

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#11 Parallex
November 01 2013, 10:58AM
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After Baertschi got his 4th line game + benching he got to go right back alongside Monahan and Hudler... let's see what Hartley does with Backlund. If he's going to be fair about it he'll put Backs with Galiardi & Cammalleri but If he's not he'll stick him with the pluggers again.

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#12 mattyc
November 01 2013, 11:29AM
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Love the Brian Burke op.ed on fighting, particularly this:

Reduced to its simplest truth, fighting is one of the mechanisms that regulates the level of violence in our game.

Leave aside that the only evidence he has to support this claim is anecdotal, the logic is also completely flawed. The simplest truth: violence regulates the level of violence.

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#13 Parallex
November 01 2013, 12:25PM
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Yeah, I'm pretty much ambivalent to fighting... I just don't like goons. To put it another way I'm fine with watching hockey players fight I just don't want to watch fighters try to play hockey.

I say just make the instigator penalty non-optional. You can go ahead and fight if you want but it better be worth risking handing a two minute PP over to the other team and if it wasn't then whatever it was it wasn't worth fighting over in the first place.

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#14 mattyc
November 01 2013, 12:28PM
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@Parallex

I agree as well on the agnosticism. I kind of liked watching O'Brien pummel Ashton, if only because it satisfied some sort of primal justice. Ashton got 'punished' for stepping out of line, and the balance of good and evil in the universe was restored.

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#15 Parallex
November 01 2013, 12:50PM
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Millions says Prob lines has Backlund playing with McGrattan. Stupid, just stupid.

In the spirit of domebeers... Furthermore, I think Bob Hartley should be Fired.

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#16 Baalzamon
November 01 2013, 07:46PM
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MacDonald has effortless side-to-side movement. In that he puts no effort at all into moving side-to-side.

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#17 kittensandcookies
November 01 2013, 10:18PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Okay. So...

If you watched a car speed by you and thought "That guy's going really fast. Like, 100." And a cop beside you with a laser guided speed recorder leaned over and told you it was actually 65, would you discount his evidence?

Depends. How much grit did the car have?

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#18 Kevin R
November 01 2013, 10:01AM
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Hope Backlund does draw back in tonight. He usually has his best games against Detroit & would love to see him have another one to get out of Hartley's doghouse. Flames play well against the Wings, should be a good game.

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#19 SmellOfVictory
November 01 2013, 12:51PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

To be fair to the coaching staff, Backlund certainly isn't a perfect player. In the offensive zone he can definitely be "too passive" at times - throwing the puck on net from bad angles or just inside the blueline and cheating for defense, but those are problems he can work through safely on the ice given how complete his game is otherwise.

I wonder how he'd do as a defenceman. He's already got the defensive aspect of playing forward down, he has one of the hardest slapshots on the team, and he's good at distributing the puck. Might be a little late in his career to say "try a new position", but the Flames could use someone other than Chris Butler in their top 4.

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#20 maimster
November 01 2013, 09:32PM
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Clyde wrote:

You are correct. And, the only one that really matters.

Holy hell, is this a tired discussion! The battle over whether smart statistical analysis has value in understanding and appreciating sports has been over for a long time. If you choose to ignore it all, fine, go ahead. But if you think you can't appreciate the wonder of the athletes playing hockey at the same time you're doing a deeper dive into their performance through numbers, that only says something about you, not everyone else.

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#21 Brent G.
November 01 2013, 09:35PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

You are a troll. And I think you meant different opinions.

Shouldn't be such a dick dude

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#23 Burnward
November 01 2013, 10:00PM
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One save away again. Monahan sure be filthy though...that kid is officially legit in my book.

Oh...and Clyde, I got your back.

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#25 TRAV
November 01 2013, 01:28PM
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I can understand playing your heavyweight when the other squad has big tough guys in their lineup. I prefer real hockey fights that result from on ice events but I have argued here in the past that I can support a McGratton in the proper situations. I DON'T think he should be in the lineup tonite. This would have been a perfect game to get one of the kids in from Abby. Detroit doesn't fight and won't be intimidated by McGratton. I would far rather see a Knight on the fourth line. You can't tell Backs to play better offensively and then plug him between Bouma and Grats for seven minutes. I think that maybe coach potato had suggested rolling four decent lines. To me this would be a great game to employ that strategy.

Finally are there any free agent Dmen that we could bring in and then swap at the deadline for a draft pick. It seems maybe we are thin down on the farm with injuries etc...

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#26 beloch
November 01 2013, 01:35PM
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At least it's not McGrattan and Jackman tonight. There's that at least.

Backlund probably just needs to start a fight to be fully reinstated. He's clearly not truculent enough for somebody's taste right now.

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#27 Dave
November 01 2013, 02:42PM
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@the forgotten man

Rebuilding does not mean tanking to get high draft picks. It means putting together a team that can win now and in the future. Building a team through the draft is just one strategy (I believe the best one) but how can you know if the rebuild is working or what changes need to happen if the players and coaching staff are purposefully losing?

I just get sick of hearing that the team needs to try and lose. I don't want to cheer for a team that has no will to win.

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#28 winelover
November 01 2013, 02:45PM
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Is is nice to see full year stats for Colborne's sheltered life but a more realistic stat would be to review the immediately prior games to the Toronto game. The 4 previous games. Sheltered? If Hartley had given Colborne 1/2 less offensive face off and 1/2 more defensive face off per game Colbornes offensive face offs and defensive faceoffs would be nearly identical. (actually he would have a greater percentage of defensive face offs). Why did he get more minutes against Toronto? During the 4 previous games he was +4 while Monahan was -2 and Backlund -1. In addition he had the same points as Monahan and one more than Backlund despite playing 23 minutes less than Monahan and 18 minutes less than Backlund. It is true that plus/minus stats and points depend heavily on who you play with and who you play against just as the "chance stats" quoted. Taken in isolation they are use less. If Backlund gets big minutes every game and Monahan gets big minutes every game and Stajan gets big minutes every game how the "H" are we to play and develop other centers whether they be Colborne or other players on the farm? Play them all; in all situations; and sit them all as well to give all a look. Moving forward we have to give ALL a shot and this is the year to it to determine who you want to keep moving forward.

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#29 clyde
November 01 2013, 03:37PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

I'm a bit torn on the fighting in hockey debate. I certainly don't like the goonery and staged fights (go watch MMA if you're into that type of thing), however I do find myself getting amped up when there is a "natural fight".

One thing I wonder is if there would be more interest in playing the sport if fighting was removed. I know quite a number of parents who don't want their kids to play because of the fighting aspect. There was a news story I saw recently indicating that fewer Canadian families are having their kids play hockey. Beyond the financial and time burdens, I wonder how much of that relates to fighting?

I teach my young kids about how fighting is bad, and so on. Then I take them to a hockey game and wonder if I should cheer and yell as the fight is going on or keep quiet and explain why everyone else is screaming and yelling.

There are a lot of very physical sports that don't allow fighting, why should hockey be different? Anyone watch Auzzy rules Football? One of the best, physical sports to watch IMO. Rugby, Football, etc. Why is hockey the only major sport to allow fighting? I think the game could be played without it.

I played in Europe when there was very little fighting. It was usually us Canadian guys going after a very dirty player. lol. The stickwork, spitting, cheap shots, kicking, etc were horrendous. The crowds were very passive as the game was very structured and featured a great deal of trapping and obstruction. They would get very excited when there was a bit of emotion through a hard hit, scrums and the odd tussle much more so than even a goal. I have noticed some leagues, especially the KHL have started employing tough guys and I'm sure it is in no small part in order to get the fans a little more excited. However, an interesting thing happened in Sweden a few years ago. They changed what they were doing by realizing they needed to develop players with a grittier playing style. Not necessarily fighters but guys who would go to the tough areas and compete much harder in the physical areas. The first generation of this type of player included guys like Kronwall, the Sedins and Douglas Murray. It took them 6-7 years but their victory in the 2006 justified that what they were doing was right. Coaching against a Swedish team is much different than when I played against them as they are no longer willing to be intimidated. You ask a question asked by many. Why should hockey be different than other sports? I would say that why wouldn't it want to be unique? I don't want soccer or basketball on ice. I teach my younger players that they are not to fight and would like to see that as a rule until pro. There is nothing worse than seeing or having been that 16 year old getting challenged and fighting a 19-20 year old. That is when fighting is very dangerous in my opinion. Plus,if you are a third line talent you feel that if you back down, you may not be playing much longer. At the NHL level, I understand why most coaches employ the guys they do. It needs to be understood that the vast majority of these guys are not as talentless or dumb as many on this site feel they are. They understand their role/job. They sometimes sit for many minutes and are thrown out cold against 1st liners who have been playing. Sometimes they do not fare well statistically but their goal is to bang some bodies, hopefully get the puck deep and change some momentum. They are often some of the smartest players and best team guys. Detroit tries to get by without a tough guy but they are not anti fighting. If they could find another Probert, they would be all over that.

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#30 beloch
November 01 2013, 09:20PM
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Brutal giveaway by Glencross on that PP. Yes, circle back into your own end and then try to thread the puck through two Wings. Brilliant!

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#32 Veggie Dog
November 01 2013, 10:23PM
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@ChinookArch

For someone mocking the grammar of another, this post is rife with mistakes...

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#33 SmellOfVictory
November 01 2013, 10:19AM
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I wonder if Detroit regrets letting Flip go and singing Weiss in his place.

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#35 the-wolf
November 01 2013, 01:24PM
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Backs on the 4th line again? I really don't get it. I, along with others here, am also starting to wonder if BB is influencing Colborne getting 2nd line minutes. What a waste of not only one of our best players, but our best young players.

Where is the MSM with the hard questions on this btw? Get some cameras and mikes in front of Harltey and make him explain himself.

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#37 piscera.infada
November 01 2013, 08:30PM
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@beloch

I don't really get the distaste for Russel. I think he's been very good to start the season. Great skater with the puck.

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#38 gussey
November 01 2013, 10:38PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Okay. So...

If you watched a car speed by you and thought "That guy's going really fast. Like, 100." And a cop beside you with a laser guided speed recorder leaned over and told you it was actually 65, would you discount his evidence?

Not necessarily. But cops radars, like stats, are not always right. That's why there is court.

If your walking downtown and get approached by two shady crackheads.. Do feel safe because you were told crime in downtown has dropped by 38 percent this year? Or would you like to have a guy like mcgratten standing next to you?

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#39 Burnward
November 01 2013, 10:48PM
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But to post a serious response.

I think the disconnect between "Stats" guys and "Hockey" guys is pretty easy to explain.

"Hockey" guys watch a game and base their opinions on what they see and how they perceive it. "Stats" guys like to break down the numbers and take truth from that.

The problem is, you can never use numbers to convince a "Hockey" guy that what he has seen to be true isn't.

Then what follows is usually "Stats" guy telling "Hockey" guy he's an idiot, throwing all kinds of fancy stats to back up his argument and "Hockey" guy is left with little to defend himself with besides anger at "Stats" guy.

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#40 Kevin R
November 01 2013, 11:54PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Okay. So...

If you watched a car speed by you and thought "That guy's going really fast. Like, 100." And a cop beside you with a laser guided speed recorder leaned over and told you it was actually 65, would you discount his evidence?

& that my friend is why I enjoy the stats. They give incredible insight when perception is skewed. Problem is stats cant explain everything either. I feel if you can find a balance of the 2, then you are one intelligent hombre & have a pretty good fix on what is happening, which should theoretically influence decision making. Which is why Backlunds treatment these last 3 games is mind boggling.

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#41 mk
November 01 2013, 11:37AM
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At times I wonder if management knows what they have with Backlund and is purposefully giving him the short end of the stick to get a better read on other players. That doesn't jive with what they're saying though.

If he would just have a 10-game stretch with good line mates and actual PP time, he'd probably produce enough offense to stick in a top 6 role.

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#45 Bean-counting cowboy
November 01 2013, 01:43PM
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I'm a bit torn on the fighting in hockey debate. I certainly don't like the goonery and staged fights (go watch MMA if you're into that type of thing), however I do find myself getting amped up when there is a "natural fight".

One thing I wonder is if there would be more interest in playing the sport if fighting was removed. I know quite a number of parents who don't want their kids to play because of the fighting aspect. There was a news story I saw recently indicating that fewer Canadian families are having their kids play hockey. Beyond the financial and time burdens, I wonder how much of that relates to fighting?

I teach my young kids about how fighting is bad, and so on. Then I take them to a hockey game and wonder if I should cheer and yell as the fight is going on or keep quiet and explain why everyone else is screaming and yelling.

There are a lot of very physical sports that don't allow fighting, why should hockey be different? Anyone watch Auzzy rules Football? One of the best, physical sports to watch IMO. Rugby, Football, etc. Why is hockey the only major sport to allow fighting? I think the game could be played without it.

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#46 Baalzamon
November 01 2013, 02:26PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

I wonder how he'd do as a defenceman. He's already got the defensive aspect of playing forward down, he has one of the hardest slapshots on the team, and he's good at distributing the puck. Might be a little late in his career to say "try a new position", but the Flames could use someone other than Chris Butler in their top 4.

You just... blew my mind.

That had never, ever occurred to me before. Mickis as a defenceman.

I do like him as a center, though (and I really think that's the position for which his skillset is best suited) but at least if he was to play defense the pressure to put up big point totals would abate. It would also reduce the pressure to draft a big-time dman for a while (theoretically).

That is... very interesting.

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#47 RKD
November 01 2013, 05:46PM
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Brian Burke is coaching this team from behind the scenes, already called Sven out publicly. I don't think he is a fan of Backlund either. He wants guys like Colborne playing a lot. He probably wants truculence in the lineup as well. This is why we see Jackman and McGrattan over guys like Roman Horak.

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#48 chillout
November 01 2013, 06:23PM
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@Bean-counting cowboy

you've obviously never been in a scrum. tons of face punching and dirty stuff going in there.

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#49 schevvy
November 01 2013, 06:43PM
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Is it too early to retire the new jersey and never speak of it ever again?

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#50 Ryan Pike
November 01 2013, 06:49PM
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@schevvy

I think it looks pretty good. The logo's just too wacky for me.

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