I’ve never been a big fan of certain types of media institutions. Like other institutions where accountability is nonexistent, and who you know and what you know about them are more important measuring sticks for who gets ahead than quality of workmanship, intelligence and integrity things don’t bear much resemblance to any objective reality. When you can make reality whatever you want simply by writing it and it getting the rubber stamp of approval from someone who’s job is to make sure there’s a block of words to put between the important advertisements, you get a similar level of responsible behavior as adorn the pages of TMZ and other outfits of its ilk.

Here’s an example of what comes from the Ivory Tower for those of us not gifted with the natural ability to be allowed on the premises:

From: @Proteautype
Sent: Feb 12, 2011 9:52a

What?!?! I could’ve sworn NHLers adored fights! RT @Nicole2987: “It’s not a hockey game. It was just stupid.” -Kris Letang

sent via web

On Twitter: http://twitter.com/Proteautype/status/36437536544915456

Which is Adam Proteau’s way of knocking a huge, sprawling issue involving two entire team rosters, coaching staffs, the on ice officials and players put on injured reserve because of a previous meeting and eradicating all the complexities so it can be understood by a select type of individual. Marching in lock step with the obliteration of the complex is the removal of truth, sense and logic. In short while decrying the violence of an individual game that just about anyone can agree was over the line, he extinguishes credibility by setting up his own strawman to further decry the violence he claims to be against. Note, at best this is a self servicing claim and may just be an outright fabrication. After-all, just a short while ago he attacked someone who has been involved with hockey at every level and made his own implied threat of violence against them.

From: @Proteautype
Sent: Feb 11, 2011 10:54a

What’s gotten into Mike Babcock? Is he really saying a headshot ban wouldn’t curb physicality in hockey? Obviously, he needs more headshots.

sent via web

On Twitter: http://twitter.com/Proteautype/status/36090810319503360

As anyone knows, you get to win the Stanley CUp as a coach multiple times by accident and without any knowledge of the game. Just as you win the Jack Adams award for best coach out of pure pity, and not for any actual competence. Therefore, according to logic and consistency equal to what Proteau has displayed Mike Babcock is a pitiful coach with no understanding of the game. In truth, to any observer with the same level of intellectual firepower Proteau displays has to wonder how Babcock even has a job.

For the benefit of those prepared to defend Proteau, I’ll put it into one simple summary.  Taking things out of context, distorting them beyond recognition, all while engaging in outright hypocrisy is lower, viler and more contemptible than any sort of honest head to head goonery by and between adults. Not that anyone should be surprised by this, he is the columnist who calls Matt Cooke a victim.

Tonight hockey fans across the continent get to witness two division leading teams square off. Added to the spice is the lack of familiarity. The Red Wings have the highest average roster age in the NHL despite the skewing having the oldest skater in the NHL in Recchi and the sixth oldest goalie in Thomas on the ice, the Bruins are right about middle of the pack. The Red Wings have been to the mountain top several times and with much of their core more than a little grey, the question of whether they can last long enough to make the sixteen step climb again is a legitimate one. The Bruins core players are mostly in their early to mid twenties, only Chara and Thomas are over thirty of the teams core talent.

Both teams are also blessed with Norris Trophy winning defensemen. Nicklas Lidstrom is the marshal of the Detroit blueline and gets it down with positioning, good skating, and crisp passes. The Bruins warlord is Zdeno Chara, the largest player in the NHL. His strength, reach, hitting and enormous stride give opposing players fits. Up front, the two teams are headlined by great two way players. Bergeron, Lucic and Marchand for the Bruins opposed by Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Don’t expect the (fun) fight filled games you’ve seen recently like the Dallas or Montreal games, instead the San Jose or Los Angeles games are better comparables. The Wings don’t have enough players inclined to go toe-to-toe with a team like the Bruins or Flyers. Expect at tight checking, puck possession game tonight with a lot of the action taking place in the neutral zone, and above the top of the faceoff circles as both teams struggle to keep the other from getting quality scoring chances.

Tale of the tape:

  • The Red Wings are the #3 offense, the Bruins are #5. But the Bruins have more goals 5 on 5.
  • The Bruins have allowed the least goals, the Red Wings are not nearly as good and only 9 teams are allowing more goals per game.
  • Detroit’s best period offensively in the second. The Bruins are best in the third.
  • The Red Wings have the sixth best powerplay, the Bruins has spiraled down to 18th.
  • The Bruin’s have the better penalty kill at 13th, and the Red Wings are 18th.

Expect two fights or less, 6 goals or less and not many penalties tonight, the game is a key measuring stick game for both teams and there’s not much time to get healthy if anyone gets hurt. Boston is on top of their division by three points with two games in hand, while the Red Wings are five up on Nashville with a single game in hand.

Some people will look at the recent fight filled hockey games by the Bruins against the Dallas Stars and the Montreal Canadiens and conclude that the Boston Bruins are just a bunch of goons. This is a bit hard to support since few teams composed of goons manage to be near the top of the goals for and against categories. Both require discipline and the Bruins possess both.

What separates the Dallas game and the Montreal game is pretty simple. The Dallas game comes from how similar the two teams are, and how similar their positions were, plus a general dislike. The Montreal game is as much about the rivalry as it is about the difference between the teams. The Habs have traditionally been fast moving, smooth skating team with small forwards. The Bruins have been built with punishing forwards and defense for decades.

In the Dallas game, the guys to drop the gloves were, for lack of a more convenient cliche, the usual suspects. Shawn Thornton, Adam McQuaid, and Gregory Campbell have the lions share of Boston’s fighting majors this season. Combined the three have 31 fighting majors. I’d be willing to bet that Thornton has more points than anyone else with as many fighting majors, and both Campbell and McQuaid spend a healthy chunk of time on the Bruins effective penalty kill, so labeling any of them pure goons demonstrates a slight lack of information. In the Dallas game, the fighting also started from the word go as each team, then both were division leaders set out to show they would not be run out of the building.

The Montreal game is simply the continuation of North America’s greatest sports rivalry. The two teams had played three times previously, and there had been a lot of chippy play and big hits. The two teams as a rule bring out the best and worst in each other, PJ Axellson had two fights in one night against the Canadiens which I think were two thirds of his career total. David Krejci has both of his NHL fights against Montreal this year, both times with guys who were having their first NHL fights Michael Cammaleri and David Desharnais.

In last nights game, the fighting was up and down the roster. the goalies had a “fight”, the Moen, Pyatt, Pouliot, Hamrlik for the Canadiens, and Thornton, Mcquaid, Ference,  Boychuck, for the Bruins. One should not lose sight of who started the nastiness. Price repeatedly cross-checked Lucic including leaving the crease to do so. Pacioretty went after the still healing nose of Kampfer, and Weber tossed Marchand into his own goalie. If Canadiens fans, and certain national journalists are upset by the game (in which the Bruins had less penalty minutes) they should look no further than the bench, or possibly behind the bench of the bleu, blanc, and rouge. They walked into a cave and slapped a bear in the face.

While Savard is a nearly peerless playmaker who can make passes that only a handful of other men can, I’m not convinced his loss is fatal to the playoff hopes of the Bruins. In 25 games he was a -7 and put up just 10 points. Unlike last year or the year before he did not contribute to the penalty kill, and even with him the power play wasn’t stellar. That said, as of right now the Bruins still lead the northeast division, have a great PK, and a solid record against most of the other top teams in the east. They have won their last three against Carolina, have won against Washington, have a shutout over Philly, and have beaten the Penguins, the Lightning have been grounded, and Atlanta fell apart after their last meeting with the Bruins. It is true that the powerplay will become more of an issue in the playoffs, but even there we can look forward to some growth.

Potential replacements for the center position currently filled by Zach Hamill could be either a 1st line production center, of which their are very few, and fewer still on teams that would be willing to part with them. Or they could be a third line checking center. Bergeron can fill either of the two roles, and Krejci is best suited to being the secondary scoring line role.

For either position, given the deficiencies of the team and its playing system this center should have a few qualities:

  • At least 3 trips to the playoffs.
  • a faceoff percentage over 50%
  • the ability to play on both sides of the puck
  • drive to thrive

Some possible candidates are:

  • RJ Umberger, former Flyer, current Blue Jacket has seen action in the playoffs, on two different clubs.  Plays both center and left wing. Umberger is also a big body at 220 and would give the center position much needed size.
  • Brooks Laich, will be a UFA this summer, plays the PK, blocks shots, hits and has been a 20+ goal scorer three times.
  • Vladimir Sobotka, already familiar with the Bruins system, good at faceoffs, was important for the Bruins in the playoffs last year, is fearless and will be able to stand the media attention here in Boston.
  • While the least likely prospect, if the Penguins decide to pull the plug on the season with no time table for Crosby’s return, and Malkin due back about the same time as Savard, Jordan Staal would give the Penguins cap room, and probably get them either a roster player and a probably a 1st round pick and prospect in return. With this they could address their chronic weakness on wing, and their cap crunch.
  • Patrick Sharp, is probably on the team with the most ability to pull the plug on the season and not have a huge fan backlash. While he’s slightly below 50% in faceoffs, he’s got 51 games of playoff experience, a cup ring, 26 goals, and is on pace for a career points year despite the draw down in talent around him.
  • By the trade deadline, despite my preseason pick, the LA Kings could fall out of the race. In which case both Jared Stoll and Michael Handzus might serve the team better by serving someone else for a draft pick. Both are UFA’s either this summer or next and while neither is a number one center, they could fill the third line role admirably. Both have extensive playoff experience as well.

Of them all only Handzus has a no movement clause, Staal is probably a pure pipe dream or too expensive, and that leaves Umberger as likely being the easiest to get with the highest ceiling. I’d be kinda shocked to see anyone of these guys land here, but Chiarelli did say he’d be busy this trade season so all things are possible.

For long time fans of Marc Savard, this press conference was scary on a number of levels. Obviously Savard’s health does come first, and it’s alarming in the extreme to watch a guy who normally burbles and rarely stop talking even long enough to breathe, stumble over words, and speak in a slow staccato. Savard as we all know normally speaks confidently, with humor, and energy. When he talked about feeling normal during the game before he was hit by former teammate Matt Hunwick. Savard does not blame Hunwick, and states that Matt has contacted him not once, but twice.

With his ability to track questions, and dodge them I’m less anxious about this being a career ending injury than I was before the conference.  Chiarelli states he definitely feels there is an equipment issue that needs to be addressed.  I suspect we’ll see some changes to the NHL’s equipment by the time next season starts.  Peter also said he is taking a look at Zach Hamill as a center, but hesitated only a moment before saying they were hoping to make a long run in the playoffs, and might want an experienced player.

One other bit of nonsense that can be brushed aside as pure idiocy is the nonsense about his being unpopular. Chara, Bergeron, and Recchi were all in attendance, Kampfer was there to help him off the ice and Matt Hunwick a former teammate contacted him not one but twice.

Since every blog on the internet needs a few regular features just to keep itself going, and I refuse to resort to naked link salads here’s my new one.

Off the Faceoff is a semi-regular feature filled with a varying number of one line thoughts, mostly on hockey.

Faceoff 1:

Someone who was discussing concussions and punishments recently questioned the NHL’s ability to survive the long-term loss of players like Marc Savard and Sidney Crosby.

Response: B!tch Please! If the NHL can survive the lockout, Gary Bettman’s inability to explain anything to his daughter, the retirement of Bourque, Gretzky, Bossy, the coverage on Versus, and the media ignoring it most of the time, even losing two top centers won’t kill it.

Faceoff 2:

Some people have called the Pepsi Maxx commercial with the couple in the park where one party is a touch domineering, and a little psycho is either sexist or racist.

Response:  Are you high? I keep forgetting that not only is every relationship made up of 100% equals in every way with no jealousy, but that’s exactly what will get peoples attention in advertising too. (For the record I’m a black Coke fan.)

Faceoff 3:

Phil Kessel has been telling tales out of school up in Toronto. Apparently he doesn’t like being told to work in more than one zone, and even when it’s clear the coach is more interested in his efforts than his results he’s resumed full sulk mode, with no apparent claim to responsibility.

Response: It’s Phil Kessel. Zero personality, zero drive, zero accountability. I’m convinced if Sean Avery and PK Subban had both been in the All Star Draft they would each have gone before Kessel. Say what you will about Avery and Subban, both bring it.

Faceoff 4:

The Colorado Avalanche recently signed Petr Forsberg to a contract for the rest of the season.

Response: Clearly the thin air is getting to management. When you have a major issue on defense, and particularly with having a mobile defense, and you’re in the top third of the league for scoring you don’t solve the issue of a nonexistent penalty kill by adding a guy who hasn’t played in the NHL since April of 2008, and is one of the 20 oldest skaters in the NHL on top of it.

Faceoff 5:

Ilya Kovalchokes the Hab’s.

Response: Have you learned nothing? Seriously, the evidence goes back years. Kovalchuck is good at head games, feeds off the crowd and does not hate being the villain.

The Offer Sheet is probably the most over-hyped and under used tool in any teams arsenal, but it remains appealing, very appealing especially if the targeted player isn’t in your division. The unicorn puck moving defensemen is the most lusted for player type in all of the NHL right now. This summer the opportunity for some high end men in that position is huge. A number of teams could improve greatly there, and other strong teams could deal from a position of strength or at least long term sustainability from here until the fall.

Two of the most interesting defensemen who have expiring deals are playing together. One is if not at the end of his career, at the late middle. The other is approaching or at the top of his powers. The ownership in Pheonix needs to decide how deep their pockets are, and if they can afford several more seasons of mediocre hockey without making it to the conference finals at least. So the negotiations for UFA to be Ed Jovonovski and RFA Keith Yandle are both hugely important. While trading Yandle to a lottery team might allow them to bring back a first round pick that could be used for Larsson or some other elite prospect, it’s doubtful that any rookie is going to jump into the NHL, especially from Europe, and spend even a single day atop the NHL scoring stack for defensemen.  I’ll be amazed if Yandle’s salary less than doubles next season.  Jovonovski is probably looking at a cut in pay to around four million a year or possibly a bit less. He’d make a great compliment to a team with a good deep roster and a good shot at the cup.

The like many of the “budget” teams, the Atlanta Thrashers have to fear someone putting a gun to their head and hard for one of their studs. Dustin Byfuglien is that stud. He’s lead the scoring race for defenseman for a lot of the season, he’s big, he’s lethal on the powerplay and skates pretty damn well for a guy drafted in the 7th round and told to go to the AHL and lose some weight when he turned pro. Five million a year is probably a little on the low side for a ring bearer, and the six plus he might get elsewhere is potentially outside the budget. With a total of 5 RFA’s and 6 UFA’s to sign or replace July 1st, the balance of money and need could lead to one of their best being on the outside.

The most talented player on the Nashville Predators roster is unquestionably Shea Weber, this season he’s making $4.5 million, tying him for second highest paid player on the team with David Legwand. Weber leads his team in scoring and maybe the only player on the team casual fans can name. While it’s entirely possible Weber and or management didn’t want contract negotiations to be a distraction during the season, it’s now approaching the eleventh hour. If Weber leads the team into the second or third round of the playoffs, its doubtful his contract demands will go down. Trading him now would be insane, not trading him if he’s unsigned at the draft could be just plain stupid.

While probably a bit under most peoples radar given that he plays in the hinterland, has three legitimate household names at forward, and one at goal on his team and the team singed a big name free agent last summer, Christain Ehrhoff of the Vancouver Canucks is likely to draw more and more attention as the regular season wains and the playoffs being. With Edler out with a back injury, Ehrhoff leads the Vancouver defense in scoring, and compliments it with a quite respectable 72 blocked shots. The soon to be 29 year old German is part of a crowd of players who will be UFA’s this summer on a team that is projected to have spent over the cap already.  I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t at least test free agency. Who knows where he’ll land if he does?

Drew Doughty is probably the most wanted and least attainable  of this summers RFA’s, adding him to the mix in Washington or Saint Louis would be a tectonic shift in their makeup, pairing him with Chara and Boston, or Pronger in Philadelphia makes their teams instant cup favorites. That said, I can’t see any feasible offer sheet not being matched by the Los Angeles Kings. For that matter, unless there are other major subtractions from the team first I can’t see Doughty wanting to move. He’s got great weather, the most underrated center in the game in Anze Kopitar, solid goaltending in Quick, and a captain who’s got the right attitude. Management has shown it knows how to draft and develop as well. Appealing as it might be to see someone waive a $7 million dollar a year contract under his nose, I’m not willing put money on it.

Of all these players I’d have to say Jovonovski and Ehrhoff are the most likely to be wearing a different uniform by the time training camp starts.

The eastern conference is deeper than the west this year, and I can’t really see any of the top six in the east falling out. Carolina and Atlanta may have a dog fight until game 82 is in the books, and the New York Rangers just need to stay healthy. The new wild card will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Malkin likely out for six month they could buy, sell, or do nothing. Any of the three could set off an avalanche of movement.

Carolina Hurricanes, they have a bit of a history of movement around the deadline. With the most goals allowed of any team currently in the eastern conferences top 8, it’s a no brainier what they should add. Where they are going to add a solid blueliner is a mystery, but one they probably need to solve. With Staal, Skinner, and Ward pulling the train they are unlikely to to get embarrassed in the playoffs. With less than a handful of others making an impact it’s hard to see them getting to the promised land.  Sending off one or two of their forward prospects for an NHL roster defenseman might be the best way to tighten up the back end and provide a mentor for Jamie Mcbain.

Atlanta Thrashers, despite their improvements on defense, their defense is still worrisome with 178 goals allowed, only the last place Edmonton Oilers have allowed more goals. It is highly unlikely they can somehow morph into the best defense in the league through any possible combination of trades and promotions between now and the playoffs. The good news is that with the tenth best offense in the NHL they probably don’t need to. With even a slight upgrade and the firm ministrations of coach Craig Ramsay, a better defense is more than just possible it’s highly likely.  The other area the team is lacking is in commitment. People just aren’t in it to win it. This can probably be traced back to a game against the Bruins in which they had their mojo broken over their heads. They need to get it fixed or see if they order some on Amazon or Ebay.

Despite the disappointing year for Ryan Miller and company they are just five points out of 8th place, and have four games in hand on Atlanta, and two on Carolina.  With new ownership, a ton of cap space and a great goaltender anything is possible. Trading Connolly to say Pittsburgh or Calgary or another team needing a center for the post season might be a good thing long term. If it could bring them back a solid pick, if a trade and sign deal could be worked a deal that exchanged him for Ottawa’s Karlsson might serve both teams well. This may just be the most interesting team to watch over the next three and a half weeks. Tweaking either their offense or defense a little probably gets them over the hump and in but not very deep, so it becomes a question of long term vs short term strategy.

I bet you didn’t know the Florida Panthers were 11th best in goals against right now. If you did, see the man at the door for a gold star. Sadly they are also 19th in goals for. The question of what this team does is anyone’s guess. Dale Tallon has shown a willingness to make moves that could lead just about anywhere. Maybe he swings a deal to send Vokoun out west to the San Jose Sharks, or goes digging for some former BlackHawks in Atlanta or Toronto. It’s even conceivable a team with enough injuries might decide they need Denis Wideman.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in a very long time and was conversely widely criticized for holding on to Bouwmeester too long when his contract was ready to expire just a short time back. With little to offer but prospects and depth forwards, trades might be pretty hard to come by.  A little judicious movement could see the team slide back into the lottery where they could land next years Jeff Skinner or Kevin Shattenkirk.

New York Rangers need only stay and get healthy to stay in a nice spot. The with Fedetenko set to be back before the deadline, and Christensen having just climbed off the IR, they could be movers at the dead line upgrading here and there. With 3 million and cap space and a few movable assets, the blue shirts are in a position at least a dozen NHL teams would like to be occupy. With the part-time demotion of Michael Del Zotto to the AHL, one can’t help but wondering if he’d be available to teams shopping for a mobile blueliner.

Who needs what, and will they go for it? While it is tempting to call everyone in the west below 3rd place a bubble team, I think I’ll limit my writing time by leaving off a few teams.  In the east the bubble is a bit smaller, 10 points separate the seventh place New York Rangers and the eleventh place Florida Panthers.

The Colorado Avalanche are fifth in goals for, and yet somehow 12th in the Western Conference in the standings. That “somehow” becomes a lot easier to pin down when you notice they are 29th in goals against, and that their penalty kill almost doesn’t exist. Their penalty kill ranks 27th in the NHL, the only two other teams with a PK in the same zip code who can see the playoffs from their house are the Dallas Stars and Atlanta Thrashers. Clearly they need to scramble their resources and pick up a PK specialist or two, and certainly a defensive defenseman. If they decide to sell, Chris Stewart, and Owen Sound Attack (OHL) prospect Joey Hishon would bring a nice return.

The Phoenix Coyotes. They are eleventh in goals for, and 16th in goals against. They could really pick either position to improve at, and move forward contently. If they are going to make moves they certainly have the cap space to do it. They also have some very nice assets if they decide to become sellers, they do have plenty of assets that could bring them good picks or prospects. Jovanovski’s contract is expiring, and while he has an NTC, he might waive it if the Coyotes decide to run up the white flag.  While it don’t see it happening unless the budget in Phoenix is going to shrink next year, Yandle is a skating blank check. As a different GM, I’d cheerfully send two first round picks on a sign and trade deal and probably include a prospect or player in their.

The LA Kings are possibly the most puzzling team outside the top 8 in either conference, along with the BlackHawks they have the highest goal differential of any team not currently in their conferences top 8 at +20. While they are 17th in goals for, they are 6th in goals against. As it has since before training camp, the lack of talent on their left wing is dragging down an otherwise strong team.  As sellers, Brayden Schenn is probably the premier prospect yet to graduate, and UFA to be Justin Williams could add scoring to a team looking to make the jump into the second season.  As buyers  goal scoring couldn’t hurt, but they may just need to play consistently from here until April to make it in.

Chicago has an aggressively mediocre defense this year at 15th best. While Corey Crawford is showing he’s got some mojo and putting out a very solid 2.19 GAA and .919 Sv%, he’s started exactly half the games this season, is a rookie. While the Blackhawks won the cup last year despite Niemi, this is a notably weaker team than last years edition, and with some key players banged up right now. I don’t know if the defending champions are good enough to win because of Crawford. As little cap space as they have, I’m not sure they will be buying. As much talent as they traded away since winning the cup I don’t see what they have left to sell without spiraling into obscurity again.  Like their LA competitors, consistent play is probably what they need to make it to the playoffs. One intriguing trade piece (which management has already stepped on) might be Brent Seabrook. A team like the Carolina Hurricanes who don’t use high picks on defensemen might be willing to take a swing at him especially if they are in the mix at the deadline.

Calgary Flames, with an “interim” general manager all things are possible. They are right in the mix for a return to the playoffs, but with essentially zero cap space making moves will probably be as picturesque as making laws or sausage. They are right up against the 50 contract limit, and have several unproductive large contracts some of them attached to no trade or no movement clauses. I’d be shocked to see any large moves, and the off season doesn’t look much better. If they can somehow manage a few tweaks that will galvanize the team, either end would be good, they are 16th in goals for and 17th in goals against.

The Blue Jackets probably have to be blown up if they can’t make it out of the first round this year. They are just four points out of the playoffs right now. How this is possible while being 25th in goals against and 21st in goals for is anyone’s guess. Me personally, I’d start the fire sale now and see what draft picks can be grabbed for this years draft and what prospects can be grabbed.  They have a pretty deep system, and adding a few other good picks to it means they can probably make a good run in two years and spend about what they are now.