Photo: Alex Brandon, AP
If you had asked me only a few years ago whether or not I thought the NHL should eliminate fighting, I would have emphatically told you no. My defense at the time was that a) it is part of the culture of the game and has been for decades b) a good fight can cause a momentum shift c) it’s entertaining.
But as the years have gone by and the game has evolved, my point of view has evolved with it. Rather than look back at fighting’s importance in the past or even its acceptance — albeit curbed — in today’s game, the brightest minds in hockey should always be looking forward.
Make no mistake, whether you think fighting in hockey should be eliminated, watered down, or even championed, the league is chipping away at its importance. The instigator penalty, the determination to eliminate staged fights, and now the crackdown on helmet removals is evidence of the league’s evolved thinking.
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In case you missed it, the NHL and the NHLPA approved a rule change for this season that implements hybrid icing for use this season. Hybrid icing was used during the preseason, and for all intents and purposes, is a race to the face off dot. If the defenseman wins the race, the play is blown dead. If the forward wins the race, the play will continue. This rule change is to hopefully eliminate injuries like this to Joni Pitkanen, who will miss the entire season with a heel injury from this race.
Since it’s going to be a slow day, I found myself over at ESPN looking at their player rankings. They did a vote of their internal writers, voting on the top defensemen and forwards for this coming season. Starting with the defensemen (top 50), Ryan McDonagh came in at #10, Dan Girardi at #14, and Michael Del Zotto at #38. At forward (top 100), Rick Nash came in at #28, Ryan Callahan at #34, Derek Stepan at #47, Derick Brassard at #87, and Brad Richards at #97.
Both articles are worth a read, even if it is just to argue that they got the rankings wrong. Personally I don’t look too much into rankings, especially since ESPN has a habit of relying too much on the previous year. I’d take career averages/trends over a hot/cold year.
Stepan > Kadri
In case you missed it, Nazem Kadri signed a two-year bridge deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs last night worth $2.9 million per season. Kadri has just 99 NHL games played –only one full season– and has a line of 23-37-63 over those 99 games. In his only full season, the lockout shortened season, Kadri put up 18-26-44. That 18-26-44 should look familiar, since it is the same line Derek Stepan put up last season. That should mean that Stepan’s market value is $2.9 million, right? Well, not exactly.
The problem is that Kadri has just one full year under his belt. He was bouncing between the AHL and NHL for the first two years of his pro career before that. Stepan cracked the roster immediately, and has three full years (without missing a game) under his belt. The point total for this year may have been the same, but Stepan has 212 NHL games played and a line of 56-84-140. That is an average of 0.66 P/G (1.91 P/60). Kadri’s average was 0.63 P/G (2.35 P/60).
Just an aside: I don’t know where I can find career –or even three-year average– P/60, which is the stat I wanted to use here. P/G isn’t terrible, but P/60 is a more accurate reflection. However, the point is still made. (Thanks George)
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Earlier this offseason, the NHL approved a few changes, ranging from smaller goalie equipment to shallower nets. Justin discussed the smaller goalie equipment, you can read his piece from the link provided in the previous sentence, but the shallower nets are something that few have discussed. The nets were made smaller from behind, but the size of the opening remain unchanged. The nets themselves were not made smaller, but the dimensions were changed in an attempt to open scoring a bit from behind the net.
The area behind the net is known as Gretzky’s Office. As you can imagine, it is an area where playmakers set up and see the play develop from behind the net. Gretzky was particularly adept at seeing the entire play develop and set up his scorers with perfect passes. While Gretzky’s Office is not utilized as much anymore, it is still an area where playmakers can sit and read the play for offensive chances.
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For several years running we’ve been nominating certain individuals as the “worst GM in the NHL,” as defined by team performance, bad trades and lackluster free agent signings. Last season’s award went to Scott Howson, who has since been fired by Columbus.
Going a bit further back, 2011’s award went to Paul Holmgren, who still holds his post in Philadelphia…for now. 2010’s award went to Darryl Sutter, who was fired shortly thereafter by the Flames. Past nominees include Brian Burke (fired by Toronto), Pierre Gauthier (fired by Montreal) and Garth Snow, among others.
So while these posts are meant to be fun and get us through the dog says of summer, in reality, the nominations really haven’t been too far off.
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In case you were wondering, last week I kinda had a post recapping our new division rivals’ offseason moves. I emphasize the word “kinda” because I only finished about half of it before it got published. Little scheduling SNAFU. Whoops.
Let’s try this again shall we?
The Rangers only major acquisition of the offseason was the hiring of new coach Alain Vigneault. Barring any late-summer trades, the Rangers will mostly rely on a new voice in the locker room to be the key difference maker this coming season. However, a few of our new ‘Metropolitan Division’ rivals made some very interesting moves this summer. Some of them voluntary, others not so much (sup Kovy?).
Here’s a look at which teams in our new division should improve, which teams appear to have taken a step back and which teams will likely to duplicate last year’s efforts.
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The NHL has a long history, it should have used it.
Throughout the summer (a brief one, thanks to the abbreviated 2012-13 season) we’ll discuss aspects of the league that invoke discussion as well as continue to discuss everything New York Rangers. First up, missed opportunities.
Once again the National Hockey League has missed a trick. When the league pushed through realignment they had an ideal opportunity to bring the league’s storied past into play. Just like how the league renamed the Lester Pearson trophy after Ted Lindsay, the league should have renamed the newly formed divisions after former great players and legendary hockey league innovators.
Hockey had an opportunity to respect its tradition and pay homage to those that made the game what it is. It had an opportunity to move beyond mere geographical titles, and the commercial priorities of individual clubs with their TD Gardens and HP Pavilions. The league had an opportunity to use history as a selling point to the national hockey league and to provide some meaning to divisions.
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The 2014 NHL schedule has been released, and the Rangers will be playing in the newly formed Metropolitan Division with the Devils, Flyers, Penguins, Islanders, Capitals, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets.
As for the schedule, the Rangers will open on October 3 in Phoenix. That game will be the first of nine games in a row on the road, as MSG plans to re-open its doors after the third and final summer renovation. The first home game will be on October 28 against Montreal.
Due to the Olympics, the schedule is a bit condensed. The Rangers will play eight back-to-backs and six three-in-fours, with a few tough stretches there. Their first three-in-four is at LA, San Jose, and Anaheim, and their first six games are against teams that went to the playoffs last season. They also have a four-game west coast swing in late March-early April, play ten of thirteen games on the road from mid-March through early April, and have a five-game road trip in November. However, the Rangers do play ten of thirteen (including seven of eight) at home in January-February, and nine in a row at home in December.
In case you’re not on Twitter, Ilya Kovalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL. Kovalchuk, 30, leaves 12 years and $77 million on the table from the Devils, who will have a $250k cap recapture penalty for the next 12 (!!) years, until 2024-2025. Signing Kovalchuk cost the Devils a first round pick (due to the circumvention issue), and probably cost them Zach Parise as well.