[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
6. Jersey piping
The St. Louis Blues announced their new uniforms this week, fortunately bringing the number of teams that still stick with the visible “piping” down the sides or down the sleeves of their jerseys down by one.
You'll notice that when jerseys of this type are introduced, everyone says, “Oh this jersey looks so great.” St. Louis's new ones are gorgeous. Fits in pretty well with the rest, too. Boston's? Great. Carolina's? Great. Chicago's? Great. Dallas's? Great. Edmonton's? Minnesota's? Montreal's? Both New York teams? You can go right down the list.
Jerseys without piping or unnecessary stripes are the ones people like the most, and the reason why is simple: Those things are ugly and unnecessary.
The good news is that another one biting the dust here brings us that much closer to a piping-free and more aesthetically pleasing National Hockey League. Hopefully everyone else will join the ranks soon. And then we can turn our collective attentions to getting rid of the real scourge of uniform wearing in this league: black jerseys.
There are two teams in this league that should be allowed to wear black, and it's Boston and Pittsburgh. That's it. (And I'd listen to an argument that the Pens should go back to powder blue full-time.) Kings go back to purple — there's not enough purple around here — and everyone else throws their black thirds in the garbage. Then we never speak of it again.
5. Expectations in Colorado
This is something that gets harped on a lot, but the Avalanche seem to think that last year wasn't in any way a fluke, and continue to espouse that belief. This seems very dangerous, to me at least.
The problem the Avs had last season, as Joe Sakic told the Denver Post, was that their fans didn't really trust them to do all that well, and with good reason: They made the playoffs once like five years earlier and were complete garbage in the time since. This season, they won their division and posted 112 points, and Sakic says they want to improve on that next year, and advance deeper into the playoffs.
The reason I'd be worried about this, were I an Avs fan, is that the numbers all say this team is exactly like the 2009-10 team that limped into the playoffs and got bounced nice and early. And at least those Avs had the advantage of being able to claim the Sharks juggernaut was the team that bested them; these guys? Losing to the Wild? Come on.
The Avs will point to the fact that having spent an extra $14 million in actual cash (not cap commitments) will make them more able to sustain success, because they've added to their “depth” and their “toughness.” The toughness, by the way, comes in the form of too-expensive Brad Stuart, way-too-expensive Daniel Briere, and too-expensive-but-at-least-still-useful Jarome Iginla.
At this point in his career, Stuart is so far past it he forgets what “it” ever was, and will likely be a detriment if used as a top-pairing defenseman, which is exactly how the Avs are likely to use him. And Briere is a player who has no tread left on the tires. None. If you want to spend $4 million on a fourth-line... ahem, “scoring” forward, then so be it, but to expect any kind of anything from him — beyond disappointment — is foolhardy.
Iginla, on the other hand, is still a guy who could potentially provide 30 goals (if he is, that'd be the 13th straight full season in which he's done so), and the Avs have plenty of people to get him the puck, but the wheels just aren't there any more, meager as they might have been even in his heyday; no one ever looked at Iginla skate and praised his economy of movement or his ability to get up and down the ice. He also just turned 37. He'll still be able to fill the net on the power play, but if you're relying on him to keep up with Gabe Landeskog or Matt Duchene, you're not going to come away happy. He's likely to be the third man in on every zone entry, if he's lucky.
As for this depth, well, I'm not sure Zach Redmond and Jesse Winchester are guys you can lean on when injuries pile up.
If this is a team that's really supposed to be able to come anywhere near the season it posted last year, then this is not the kind of improvement it needed to see. The young players will continue to improve, sure, but expecting a Vezina-type season from Semyon Varlamov, or any other of the many lucky breaks the Avs got last season is problematic. Fans are going to have expectations because that's what they do, but for an organization to go around building them further, for improvement based on these types of offseason acquisitions? Even more of a problem.
4. The Craig Anderson extension
Not sure I get this at all.
Let's say, okay, Craig Anderson at 33 years old is able to give you a .911 save percentage for each of the next three years. That's slightly below the league average over the last several seasons combined, and I'm not really sure that's something you want to pay anyone $4.2 million for, let alone someone whose career numbers are as all-over-the-map as Anderson's are from one year to the next.
It's especially baffling because this is a team that's loath to spend money. In terms of actual dollars given out, they're going to be in the bottom two or three in the league, if not dead last. So let's say they only want to spend $56 million this season — the floor being $51 million — does Anderson being a sub-average goaltender warrant 7.5 percent of that number? Maybe you say yes anyway, and ignore that he's historically been pretty prone to injury.
But consider that the Sens have Robin Lehner, who is by all accounts going to be a very strong goalie in this league sometime very soon, just sitting there on the bench. He got into 36 games last season and his numbers were very slightly better than Anderson's (.913), and at just 22 years old, the chances that his numbers improve are much higher than the chances that Anderson's simply do not decline.
All things considered, if you think Anderson is a No. 1 goaltender, then $4.2 million is a pretty good price for him. But the evidence suggests that he's not, and even if he was, there's a cheaper and probably better option just opening the door for line changes.
This deal isn't terrible or anything. It's perfectly fine for now (and might be less so in only a year), but it just doesn't make a lot of sense.
3. Pop psychology
Sidney Crosby took a ton of undue heat in the wake of the Penguins' postseason flameout, and not even the revelation that he was injured did a lot to get the braying “See? Jonathan Toews is the best player in the world” morons off his back.
And so now the Penguins have apparently taken that into consideration, and are going to try to do more to “lessen the load” Crosby carries as the best player on earth. Further, Mike Johnston will also try to give Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury a little more room to “be themselves,” because they are funny guys who like to laugh and it seems like Dan Bylsma might not have let them do that or something? Like he was John Lithgow in Footloose or something.
But the thing is that, like, making Craig Adams or Chris Kunitz answer a few more questions from the media so Crosby doesn't have to isn't what he needs. He needs players to play his wings who can actually keep up at his level.
The good news for Crosby, though, is that the Penguins' actual biggest problem last season, for which he was eventually blamed because that's how it goes when you're Sidney Crosby, has been addressed. The team has a lot more help for him now than it did for 2013-14, and the added depth is probably going to go a long way toward making the Penguins a much tougher out in the postseason.
And really, that's all Crosby needs: Someone to do things he physically can't, like save the Penguins from getting over when he's not actually on the ice. The off-ice stuff isn't a big deal.
2. Making him earn it
Speaking of the Penguins, and their goalie specifically, it was really nice to see Jim Rutherford come out this week and say, “Nope, we sure don't want to extend Fleury before the end of the season.”
This is a really good idea because while Fleury was pretty good last season, and didn't completely melt down in the playoffs (though his .915 there matching his regular-season performance was at least partly a factor of getting to play the Rangers at their no-scoring-est), there's no reason to believe that a goalie turning 30 in November, with career numbers like Fleury's (.910) is going to be able to keep it up.
One of the Pens' problems the last few years, and it's led directly to the lack of depth that made them a near-perennial second-round loser, is the team's rush to give huge money to anyone who's even half decent on that team, regardless of circumstance. Rutherford saying, “Well, let's be careful about this,” is a pleasant change of pace.
But what's interesting is that Fleury's camp is totally fine with this. They don't want an extension either. Presumably because they're counting on a big contract year from a player long viewed as a “franchise goaltender.” It might not be a good bet, though. He's a potential headcase who's only ever slightly better than league average in the regular season. He has never posted a save percentage north of .920 in a full season of work, and that portends a tough road to his getting “franchise goaltender” money.
But it's smart for the Penguins, that's for sure. Being risk-averse in this situation — and just giving him a 20 percent raise or something — would have been an easy thing to do; you keep the guy you've had for a decade-plus because he's a known quantity, rather than trying to see what Thomas Greiss or someone else you grab in free agency provides you in Fleury's stead.
1. PK Subban as captain
Max Pacioretty recently revealed that he and PK Subban have talked about who would be captain next year for the Habs, and that they're both fine with the other getting it.
As wonderful as it would be to give PK the C, what are the odds he actually gets it over Pacioretty or, say, Tomas Plekanec?
They can't be good, right?
(Not ranked this week: D'oh.
As a long-time showrunner for The Simpsons, Mike Scully has likely had to deal with a lot of crap over his years of service, and during the recent Every Simpsons Ever marathon — which as far as anyone sane should be concerned, ended when they stopped showing Season 8 episodes — he was more than happy to share some stories.
Part of that was the fact that the NHL didn't want the show to feature Krusty drinking out of the Stanley Cup and then throwing up into it immediately thereafter. They did it anyway, and it was funny.
Frankly, though, the idea of a cartoon clown not-actually-vomiting in the Cup might be not even be one of the more objectionable things that's happened to the trophy in real life, let alone fictionally. Certainly you can be Kris Draper didn't get an angry letter when he let his infant daughter poop in the Cup nine years later.)
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