Questions that Need Answers: First Edition

We’re be trotting out a new weekly feature starting today. It will focus mostly on the NHL, but if there’s a sporting story big enough to be mentioned in the same breath as hockey, we might consider it.

Questions That Need Answers…

(Okay the name is really lame, but Wanye likes it, he says QTNA will be a hit, but if you have a better suggestion feel free to send it.)

WHERE did Mike Green come from?

The Calgary native, and former Saskatoon Blade, is scoring goals at a rate we rarely see from D-men. Twenty-two goals in only 44 games so far this season, and he just set a record with a goal in eight straight games.

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Mike O’Connell set the record in the 1983/84 season, but he only scored 18 goals all season. In fact, O’Connell never scored more than 18, and only had 105 in his career. He wasn’t a consistent offensive threat.

Green was never a big goal scorer until he got to Washington. He scored 14 twice with the Blades, and I doubt any scouts thought he would become the premiere goal-scoring D-man in the NHL. He led D-men in goals last year with 18 and is a lock to do it again this year.

Compare Green to some of the best defencemen who ever played, and he might start getting attention as one of the best goal-scoring D-men of all time.

  • Scott Niedermayer: Career high 15 goals in 2006/07
  • Nicklas Lidstrom: Career high 20 in 1999/00. He scored 18+ twice.
  • The Human Rake: Career high 14 twice with St. Louis.
  • Al MacInnis: 28 goals three times with the Flames.
  • Rob Blake: Career high 23. Scored 20+ only twice.
  • Brian Leetch: Scored 20+ five times, with 23 being the most. Last D-man to score 100 points when he potted 102 in 1991/92.
  • Chris Chelios: Scored 20 once.
  • Doug Wilson: Had 39 in 81/82, then had season of 22 and 23 goals.
  • Denis Potvin: Had two 31 goal seasons and a 30-goal campaign.
  • Phil Housley: Had six straight 20-goal seasons, with 29 being the most.
  • Scott Stevens: Career high of 21 and never scored 20 again.
  • Randy Carlyle: Won Norris with career high 16 goals and 83 points in 1981.
  • Larry Robinson: Career high of 19 twice.
  • Ray Bourque: Career high of 31. Had eight 20-goal seasons.
  • Bobby Orr: Had a six-year stretch of 33, 37, 37, 29, 32, and 46 goals.
  • Paul Coffey: NHL record 48 goals in 85/86 and had and six other seasons of 29+ goals.

These are the Norris trophy winners since 1968, excluding Rod Langway who won twice, but he was not an offensive D-man. He scored three and nine goals when he won in 1983 and 1984. Phil Housley is the only name on the list who didn’t win a Norris, but he is fourth all-time in goals by a D-man so I included him.

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Green is putting up numbers rarely seen in the NHL for a D-man, and considering this is only his third full season, there is a good chance we are seeing the emergence of the next great scoring D-man.

Even the Capitals didn’t know how good he was. They took another D-man, Jeff Schultz, at 27th in the 2004 draft before taking Green 29th. Here are the D-men taken ahead of Green in the 2004 draft:

  • Cam Barker: third overall to Chicago
  • Ladislav Smid: Ninth to Anaheim
  • Boris Valabik: 10th to Atlanta
  • AJ Thelan: 12th to Minnesota
  • Andrej Meszaros: 23rd to Ottawa
  • Jeff Schultz: 27th to Washington
  • Mark Fistric: 28th to Dallas

Based on Green’s junior numbers, no one could have predicted he would be the premiere goal-scoring blueliner right now. He might score 35 goals this year, which would be the sixth highest total for a D-man ever.

Considering Bruce Boudreau plays him 25:33 minutes a game, and just under 2:30 on the PK, Green will get consideration for the Norris. He is also +28. If Green scores 30+ goals you can guarantee he will be a finalist for the Norris, and could beat out Zdeno Chara and Nick Lidstrom. He is a player you should watch down the stretch.

WHY hasn’t John Tortorella, Ted Nolan or Pat Quinn been hired?

These are the three names that most Oiler fans throw out when the FMNF train gets rolling, yet Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Tampa didn’t hire them when they gave their coaches the boot this season.

The reason those names are brought up the most, is because they are the only names many fans know. I doubt many knew anything about Dan Blysma, the new Pens coach, or Cory Clouston. And that’s fair, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good coaches.

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Those three gents are all coaches who made a name for themselves by being boisterous (Tortorella), controversial (Nolan) and honest (Quinn), but that doesn’t mean they are the cure to a team’s coaching woes.

I’m not sure if Quinn will ever get another job, due to his age and his style. He’s old-school, and coaches more with emotion than system play. If he does get a job, he will have to have two experienced and talented systematic assistants.

Nolan is a head case, and in my opinion a bit over-hyped. Yes he won the Jack Adams trophy in 1997, but he had a goalie named Hasek who was pretty darn good. Nolan has won ONE playoff series as a coach, but it’s more his reputation of not being able to work with others that haunts him.

Ask any successful head coach, and he will tell you that you have to get your four of five best players on your side, and then the rest of the team will follow suit. Hasek was clearly the best player, yet Nolan and he had a running feud. I know Hasek was a flake himself, but great players make great coaches, not the other way around.

Nolan fought with John Muckler and there were reports that he and Garth Snow didn’t get along in the end either. While he might be a decent coach, the baggage that comes with him is too much for most teams to chance.

Tortorella will get another gig, but he has hinted he’d rather get a job in the summer than midway through the season. He is the most attractive of the three names, and he wants back in the league, so don’t be surprised to see him in an American market this summer.

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WHEN Roloson is playing well why can’t he told onto his stick?

Is it just me or does Roloson lose his stick more when he’s playing well? Early in the year, when Roloson was just average, I can’t remember him losing his stick at least once a period like it seems he is lately.

Roloson is a goalie, so he’s weirdo to begin with, but when he is playing well he seems to mishandle to puck more and lose his stick more frequently. It’s a strange phenomenon, but if he keeps stopping the puck I guess it doesn’t matter.

WOULD you re-sign Roli in the summer?

At the start of this season I didn’t even think he would be an option for next year, but here we are in February and now you at least have to give it some thought. Roloson is a battler, and that’s why it might make sense to offer him a one-year deal in the range of $1.7–2.2 million.

The Oilers have $44 million committed to 17 players next season. They have room to sign a big-ticket scorer or a goalie, but not both. Roloson wouldn’t cost that much, and his play has shown he can still get the job done. If he carries the Oilers to the playoffs and gets them to the second round would that be enough to sign him for another year? I say yes.

HOW annoying will all the Sundin-back-in-Toronto talk be this week?

I wonder how many minutes TSN, Sportnet and the Score will dedicate to Sundin starting Wednesday. Hell, they probably will have a clip about his return today, and he doesn’t play there until Saturday.

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I’ve always said the NHL should take notes from the NFL and NBA when it comes to hyping up games. The NFL is great at it, even though it is much easier when you play 95 per cent of your games on one day, but even the NBA does it with their marquee match-ups.

Last week the two best NHL teams — San Jose and Boston — played on TSN, but there was barely any hype. I watched the game and it was awesome. It had a playoff feel to it, yet not many hockey fans watched it.

If you’re a fan of the NHL then this was a game you should have watched, don’t say you are a hockey fan but only watch your team. That makes you a fan of your team. I know we can’t watch every game, and very few of you have an understanding woman that will allow you to watch 145 games a year, but this was a game you should have seen.

And I bet more of you would have had you known it was on. So there was little to no hype about that game, but this week we will be sick of the Sundin-returns-to-Toronto story. I’m sorry, it’s not that big a deal, unless you’re a Leafs or Canucks fan. The reason it isn’t a story is because Sundin wouldn’t say %#[email protected] if his mouth was full of it.

He is boring, bland and won’t say anything interesting. Wilson and Burke weren’t there when he was so even those blowhards will have a hard time saying something interesting:

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Reporter: Did the Leafs annoy you that much so you would screw them over and not accept a trade last year and then sign somewhere else?

Sundin: I loved my time here. The fans were great, my teammates were great and I really miss that Swedish restaurant on King Street.

Reporter: So you didn’t screw them over intentionally?

Sundin: Like I said, I loved my time here. I really wanted to win a Cup in Toronto and I thought we could still make the playoffs last year so I wanted to stay and lead. If the ship was going down the Captain should go down with it.

Reporter: Have you ever been on a ship?

Sundin: I never had until I took the ferry to Victoria. It is beautiful. I actually took it every day for two weeks. It was calming, and I even saw a pod of whales. They were pretty, and we have an orca on our jersey so I related to them. The ferry ride helped me calm down and turn my game around. I never had that option in Toronto. Driving on the 401 isn’t that relaxing compared to a ferry ride.

Reporter: So you are blaming our lack of a seaway for not winning a Cup here?

Sundin: It might have played a part. Luongo and I are taking the ferry on a weekly basis now, and we think that will be the key to us going deep in the playoffs. Did I mention I love my teammates in Vancouver? They have been very welcoming, and I even got my #13 from Mike Brown so that was special.

Reporter: Did you give Brown anything for doing that?

Sundin: That punk asked me for $500 if you can believe it, so I told Mike Gillis and he promptly traded him to Anaheim. I have a pro-rated contract, I can’t afford giving some no-name $500 for MY number.

Okay, so there is no way Sundin would say anything that exciting, but I’m sure you will be sick of his return by Wednesday.

WHAT is up with Shaq?

Did you watch the NBA All-Star game introductions yesterday? Did you see Shaq? My god, he’s freak.

I had never heard of Jabbawockeez before and I’ll admit they had some pretty good dance moves, but Shaq has some big gonads. Most guys if asked to do that would pull out a quick ten-second routine and then smile and walk off.

Not the big man, he busts it out for a full two minutes, and then he goes on to be Co-MVP of the game. I didn’t watch the game because, well, it’s an All-star game, but his intro was the best part.

Fans want to see the personalities of the players, and Shaq does it better than most (you can even follow him on Twitter). Outside of Jeremy Roenick, and now Ovechkin, rarely does an NHL player ever show their fun side. Once again, NHL and the NHLPA feel free to try and market your players. Letting the fans see their personality isn’t a bad thing.

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Really. It isn’t.

  • RCN

    Maybe Rolli has small hands and should be using a junior sized stick instead of a seniors size stick? Or maybe Rolli could try standing instead of swimming and floundering while he throws his stick away and attempts to shake off his mask? QTNA that!

  • RCN

    @ Greg MC:
    Good point. He's gone from pitiful to lousy. If you've got stats at hand, I'd be interested to know his career free throw percentage and his worst for a single season. I thought Shaq was somewhere in the .400s one season.

    By the way, the man really is a monster. A few of us got a chance to chat with him one day before the Oilers skated at the training centre the Kings and Lakers share about 10 years ago.
    Georges Laraque and Sean Brown looked like a pair of 9-year-olds standing beside him.

  • RCN

    @ Robin B:
    LOL. Shaq always struck me as someone who doesn't take himself too seriously and enjoys life.
    I saw Georges last summer while in an electronics store shopping. My wife and I were having some questions with the staff and Georges overheard and offered some suggestions. Down to earth nice guy.

  • RCN

    No matter what the Oil do in the rest of this season and the playoffs, they have to sign Rolli for about $2 million and get that high end winger and then hope Rolli/ JDD have what it takes to carry the load. Rolli played well at the end of last year and has carried it through this year and maybe the age thing but not playing much for years will work.

  • RCN

    Thinking about your last sentence, Jason, I think the most thankless media job ever has to be interviewing professional hockey players. I'm guessing that you could pretty much write the scripts without even talking to these guys:

    Okay…look in the mirror…110%…keep plugging away…done!

    I'd love to see what Tortorella could do with the Oilers, but I also realize it will never happen.

  • RCN

    Robin B wrote:

    Questions that need to be answered: Instead of wasting time stumbling around like he just had a stroke, why doesn’t Shaq practise his free throws?

    Not sure if you were being serious or not, but no definite amount of practice would make a difference, his hands are too big. For most centers aka Big Men in the NBA, hand size is an issue with freethrows and its virtually impossible to help them improve, that's why you see most centers in the NBA should FT at around 50%-60%. It takes a certain amount of finesse to shoot free throws and when you have hands as big as his, you can't put spin on the ball, it's the equivalent of you and I grasping a baseball or squashball in the palm of our hands. It's a crapshoot.

    And FTR, Shaq was great yesterday, and the game was great. NBA All-Star weekend TRUMPS anything that the NHL has to offer, although I will say that the NHL All-Star game in MTL this year was very entertaining.

  • RCN

    Shaq is the MAN…….He wins CHAMPIIONSHIPS…..Ovechin will do the same, and he will win many, many of them…..But, hopefully not until Tambo makes a monster deal to bring him to his rightful home in god country….Etown!!!!!

  • RCN

    Shaq also has difficulty shooting free throws because of a wrist break when he was a child. Because of this, he can't bend his wrist back far enough to get his hand under the ball, which means he will have an unconventional shooting form, no matter how much he practices. Your hand, forearm, and upper arm should make a "C" shape when shooting, but he can only make an "L" shape.

  • RCN

    I'd rather have the oilers go after Manny Fernandez than re-sign rollie. We need a top-10 goalie to go anywhere in the playoffs and he's been there before. I doubt he'll be back in Boston as a backup. Relying on a 40+ year old goalie to take you deep in the playoffs is unrealistic