1. This is it, huh?
I kind of can’t believe last night was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Even if you think it ends up being a long series (and I do; I took Bruins in seven), that means only two weeks left of the season at most. June 26, a Wednesday, is the date of that Game 7, if necessary. And that feels really weird. Obviously this is the deepest into June the league has gone. Even Game 7 of the 1994 Cup Final, itself similarly delayed by a lengthy work stoppage, went until June 14, making that game 19 years ago tomorrow.
The season only began in January, but it feels oddly long, perhaps owing to just how deep into what is normally drafting season things have gone at this point. It sure feels like we’ve watched teams play a lot more than 50-something games at this point, doesn’t it? These games have seemed a lot more arduous than perhaps what I’ve been used to seeing. Harder hitting, maybe. Possibly more shot-blocking. I honestly don’t know.
Maybe, too, it’s because I spent the lockout this time around watching as much hockey as i ever do during the NHL season. In 2005, we didn’t have the viewing options we do now. There were routinely college games and junior games and AHL games and even KHL and Swiss league games that you could just watch, whether it was on TV or streaming online. Last time around I simply found myself going to more college games; probably 50 or 60 in one season where they usually only play on weekends and the longest campaigns go about 45 games.
Maybe too it was all the attention, 24 hours a day, that was being paid to the lockout itself. The negotiations. The setbacks. The whining. While I’m really proud of the stuff I wrote about the lockout (and specifically how full of crap Bettman and the owners were throughout) it kind of wore me down. I can’t believe the season started in mid-January. It feels like forever ago.
2. An actual word of praise
In the past few weeks I have been criticized by those who would prefer I blow sunshine and puppydog kisses up the asses of Flames’ management for, more or less, thinking any decision they make is a bad one. This obviously isn’t what I think, but with that unfounded and oversimplified criticism in mind, here’s something I actually liked from a Flames front office type…
John Weisbrod the other day apparently said something along the lines of the team is actively planning for the guy they take at No. 6 to not be ready to contribute in the NHL for at least a year or two. That was very heartening. I was at least a little concerned that they would, given the desire to sell tickets and maybe force their way into the playoffs, ferry whomever they take there into the league posthaste, or at least before he was ready. That they’ve stated they won’t do this doesn’t mean they won’t in actual practice of course — and who knows, maybe the kid shows up on a training camp invite with little expectation and, like Patrice Bergeron for instance, bullies his way onto the NHL roster through sheer force of will and ability.
But at least they’re couching expectations in such a way that they might not try to cram this kid into the league for the sake of doing so. I didn’t expect that much, really. Such is the subtle bigotry of low expectations, I suppose, but nonetheless, sometimes the Flames surprise me to this day.
3. Wow it’s actually happening (maybe)
As I was writing this just now Gary Bettman and Bill Daly got up on a podium and told the media that no, it wasn’t an absolute certainty that the Phoenix Coyotes would be playing in Glendale next season. Maybe they’ve said this kind of thing before, but those instances always felt like one of those things where they were trying to bully the Glendale City Council into giving them another $25 million for no real reason, content to continue slumming it in the cruel indifference of the desert.
Obviously a lot can change between now and the end of the month, when it seems likely that the league would need to have a decision by, and this looks for all the world to be another Atlanta situation where – "hey, what do you know!" – there just happens to be a suddenly-interested buyer in Canada who would just love to put an NHL team in a too-small rink and sell it out every night and move a billion jerseys for the New Nordiques or whatever.
That it’s gone on this long is obviously kind of hilarious but at the same time oh well, Glendale was always a pretty crap market, even when they occasionally sold out playoff games, and more or less no one on earth — save for a few thousand people, maybe — will mourn the death of the Southwestern experiment. It was a disaster, and was probably always destined to be.
4. Whither Jarome now?
So the Penguins’ grand dream has come to its end and with it Jarome Iginla’s latest run at a Cup, and that has left many to speculate about the future of the former Calgary captain. He’ll probably have to take a paycut, everyone seems to agree, and there will probably be a line around the block for him.
I’ve seen some speculation online that he might sign back in Calgary but that’s just not going to happen. Instead, he’ll have to settle for the most realistic contender with the room to sign him with the cap going down, and of those there don’t seem to be many. Chicago has some. Boston more. Pittsburgh more than that (until this morning when the signed Malkin for a bazillion dollars – ed.). San Jose, Los Angeles, Detroit. These all seem possible destinations, but none more probable, really, than the other. I’m very curious to see where he lands, but I’m not sure that anything would really surprise me, either. Outside a move to a bottomfeeder. Which, again, isn’t going to happen.
5. Stay out of the free agent defense market
Mark Streit, at 36 and clearly on the decline, wants four years from Philadelphia, who acquired his rights yesterday. The funny thing is, he seems likely to get it. Likewise, Sergei Gonchar, who’s 39, just got $5 million a year from Dallas for the next two seasons, for reasons known only to Jim Nill. A $5 million mentor for Alex Goligoski? That doesn’t seem an absurd waste at all.
What this says about the way teams, like say, Calgary, are going to have to pay for free agent defensemen is, well, it’s not anything good, that’s for sure.
Around the Nation
Eric T. writes an open letter to a couple of academics who waded into hockey analysis without doing much research on what has already been accomplished over at NHLNumbers:
But most of all, the biggest stylistic issue I have is that I feel that claims this surprising need either stronger evidence to support them or more discussion of the uncertainty surrounding them. Certainly, conventional wisdom is wrong in places and some of the value of quantitative analysis is helping to identify those places. But if my model had Roloson as a top-five goalie, I would ask how that came about before I proclaimed him a star.