[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. Holding the bag
The Canucks weren't exactly a mess this year and the underlying numbers point to their having been mostly unlucky, but nonetheless they're going to miss the playoffs; and in a market like that, someone had to pay.
And so it was that Mike Gillis was let go after years of being viewed as perhaps one of the 10 best GMs in the league. I wrote a few weeks ago that this was inevitable, though one strains to see how doing it now, rather than after the end of the season, does anything but distract from this pointless final few games.
Some would call that childish. They'd be right.
But make no mistake, the reason he's being fired is not the missing of the playoffs or even the Luongo trade, which was a small miracle. It's the Schneider trade. And it's the fact that John Tortorella is being given the NHL Coaching Credibility Club-mandated benefit of the doubt. "It takes time to learn a system," and so on. It matters not that basically everyone on the team save for Mike Santorelli has underperformed expectations with Tortorella in charge, which should logically indicate a problem other than "a down year for (put player name here)."
The Schneider trade is what begot so many of the team's problems. From a perception standpoint, as well as one of performance. If the Luongo trade is wrangled at any point in the last few years, none of this is being discussed, and Gillis still has a job. But he asked for the moon for too long, dragged the drama too far, and in the end got too little in return.
The ultimate benefit of trading Luongo is no longer answering questions about who's the starter, and getting out of that contract. That they got any assets back at all is something of a coup. But that doesn't matter in the short term. The team is worse. Gillis signed Luongo to that poison contract, then had the league reverse engineer its CBA to punish him. If the latter hadn't happened, who cares about the rest?
It was indeed time for Gillis to go, but the how and why get a little cloudy here. Doesn't really matter now, I guess.
5. Zac Rinaldo, why don't you come to your senses?
There's going to come a time, and one can't be too sure when it will be, exactly, when the so-called “rats” of this league are run out of it with pitchforks and torches. The problem with this is that there's no real way to say when it will happen, except that it won't be any time soon.
The problem is that teams keep employing them. Obviously. They only get so many chances these days, as we've seen with Patrick Kaleta and Matt Cooke. They're told they can either reform or take a hike, and those two, at least, have chosen to take the former tack in hopes of earning a few million dollars more. Can't really blame them. Even Brad Marchand, as sneaky-dirty a player as there was in the game just a few years ago, has largely shaped up and stopped trying to injure people who had slightly aggrieved him.
Cooke and Marchand, though, at least had the benefit of being reasonably good and useful hockey players beyond their repeated and obvious attempts to injure opponents. Kaleta did not, and boy did Gary Bettman ever drop the hammer on that dude earlier this season as a consequence.
One guy who falls more into the Kaleta realm in terms of injuriousness/bad-at-hockeyness is Zac Rinaldo, who was suspended this week for a negligible amount of games given his status as a repeat offender. (Having been suspended in Feb. 2012, and fined for two separate incidents of ultra-violence in the same game just a week before that. Since then, he's gone more than 100 games without trying to kill someone, which is good and admirable, as these things go.)
Then Sunday night he tried to remove Chad Ruhwedel's head late in a nothing game, in which the Flyers were already dominating. Left his feet, targeted the head, gave him a concussion, the whole nine yards. Clear intent to injure. Match penalty and a suspension.
The reason he got so few games, though, should be obvious. As blatant as this was, it also came in Game 77 (and against a prospect who's only just now making his way into the NHL, rather than a star), meaning that there were only four games left for the Flyers in the regular season. Convenient how that suspension worked out so he wouldn't have to miss any playoff games, isn't it?
But this is exactly the kind of person the Department of Player Safety should be hitting with seemingly outlandish suspensions. In much the way Rinaldo laughed at picking up two separate fines for one game just over two years ago (saying, “The slew-foot really shouldn't be in the game but 6-nothing we were down and someone had to stir the pot,” which is just about the most reprehensible, unapologetic thing he could have said), a suspension this small means nothing to him.
Another failure of the league's supplementary discipline system because factors other than player safety (the playoffs, optics, etc.) matter more to DOPS than the thing that's in their department's name. Not hard to see why no one ever learns anything.
4. Anyone who wants to trade for Evander Kane
It hasn't been the greatest season in Winnipeg for Evander Kane. He's only seventh on the team in scoring, with just 17 goals and 22 assists despite getting more than 20 minutes a night. Part of this is due to his low shooting percentage (7.1, versus a career average of 9), and despite a career-high shot rate of 3.97 per game, which is second in the league behind only Alex Ovechkin.
But to that point, he went into the weekend with only two goals in his last 21 games (on 72 shots, or 2.8 percent, which is deeply unlucky), and consequently found himself healthy-scratched against Toronto on Saturday. Coach Paul Maurice has not divulged a reason for this, but it might have to do with the lawsuit he's facing for assault, or the fact that he was spotted drinking a beer behind the bench at a Raptors game the night before.
On Monday, when Kane and the Jets returned to Winnipeg, the forward was not really willing to answer any questions about the issue, and of course the local media tried to goad him, asking if he would like to be traded, and saying he brought an “attitude” to the proceedings.
One even said a guy walking down the street wearing a Kane jersey should be “embarrassed.”
Weird how this kind of talk wasn't thrown around when Ondrej Pavelec got popped for a DUI.
The thing is, though, that these media guys are right. Kane 100 percent should want out. And whoever trades for him this summer is going to get a gallon of milk for quart prices.
3. An eye for an eye, unless it's certain people's eyes in which case that kind of stuff has no place in the game
Things got a little ugly in Saturday night's Avalanche/Blues game, and it led to a lot of pearl-clutching about the way in which stars are treated by other players. Except not in the way you might expect.
All the trouble started when Patrick Bordeleau, a more or less useless hockey player who has no business being on an NHL roster, but who has somehow gotten into 123 games over the past two seasons, took a run at St. Louis's No. 2 defenseman and U.S. Olympian Kevin Shattenkirk. Got his elbow up, that kind of thing. Shattenkirk was fine, apart from a little blood on the face, but boy did that ever piss off the Blues bench, as you might expect. A guy who gets seven minutes a night going high on one who plays 21 will do that.
Now, normally in these situations you send out Roman Polak or someone like that to sort someone out, but Blues captain David Backes decided to take matters into his own hands and show the Avs that if they want to go at one the Blues' stars, the Blues would go at one of theirs. The star he opted to go after was Nathan MacKinnon. They wrestled for a little while, and in the end took offsetting minors (Backes for cross checking, MacKinnon for roughing), with the Blues captain also getting dinged with a 10-minute misconduct. Fair enough, really.
So who was upset about this Hammurabian doling out of frontier justice? Don Cherry and the people who think like him. Really. Because, you see, Li'l Natey MacKinnon is just a li'l fella and he don't fight even a li'l bit!!! And big meanie boy David Backes is a big ol' bully and there's no way he should be allowed to get away with that kinda stuff no sir. Not on a li'l 18 year old kid who is really just a li'l guy after all!! If you wanna fight someone, why not pick on someone yer own size Dave you big ol' punk. This was a gutless move, yessiree. No honor for brainless thug David Backes.
Now suppose the situation is reversed. Polak takes a run at Jan Hejda, draws blood. And Paul Stastny tries to get Patrik Berglund to fight him. It's the same principle, right? But would there be this outrage about it? One has to assume that the answer is no. And it's not because Berglund is 25, or because Berglund has never been in a fight. It's not even because he wasn't the No. 1 overall pick, because if anyone tried that with, say, Sidney Crosby, everyone would be fine with it. It's because of all of those things are true: MacKinnon is 18 and never fights and was the No. 1 pick.
Now look, I agree that this was a dumb thing for Backes to do, but the reason why isn't that MacKinnon is a high-quality rookie. It's that if he'd done it to anyone it would be an asinine thing to do. Again, the Blues have Polak, who's okay, and Ryan Reaves, who like Bordeleau sucks at hockey but is a hell of a face-puncher. They should serve as pretty hefty deterrents, under the caveman ways espoused by many un-evolved knuckle-draggers, but did not in this case. Why? Who's to say? And it's not like Backes going after MacKinnon is some mismatch. He's probably the second-best player on the entire Blues roster (behind Alex Pietrangelo) and thus posed, in terms of player-quality, an “equal fight” to MacKinnon despite having considerable size on him. If Reaves tries to feed MacKinnon, then your “honor” beef is perhaps more legitimate.
This is just further evidence of morons wanting to Please Think Of The Children only in certain cases when it suits their argument. The law cannot be doled out this selectively (and indeed, arbitrarily) if it is to be taken seriously.
And it shouldn't be. And it isn't. Not by fans or pundits or players. Not really. Unless they personally disapprove of it for idiotic reasons. In which case it has no place in the game.
2. Being Dave Bolland
Much has been made of the Toronto hype machine and those who gleefully and reflexively duck their heads in the sand when they hear anything that even sounds like “corsi,” but gee whiz if they haven't been outdoing themselves for the last few days.
With the season more or less over, at least from the point of view that the remaining games are effectively exhibitions, the attentions in Toronto have turned to who will be signed, and re-signed this summer, with many agreeing that Dave Bolland should be chief among them.
One problem with that: Dave Bolland reportedly wants $40 million over the next eight years.
Dave Bolland is a lot of things, but “worth $40 million” is absolutely not one of them. And so the question for the Leafs becomes whether they think he's worth anywhere near that? Obviously the can afford to give every player on the roster $5 million per season if this is a cap-free world, but that's going to be about 1/14th or so of the cap next season, and their roster is already littered with dead-weight overpayments (Bozak and Phaneuf and of course Clarkson, among several others).
And the thing is, there isn't one person saying, “Well Dave Bolland is definitely worth $5 million a season until he's 35 years old.” But what they are saying is, “You have to give him that anyway.” Because you see his value on the ice, as a 40-point third-line center, is such that it cannot be quantified with mere statistics. This is because he is viewed in Toronto as being somewhat talismanic. At the time all this talk was really kicking into overdrive, the Leafs had enjoyed his services for just 23 games, and they'd only won 11 of them, but many of those losses were during that long recent losing streak, so something was clearly wrong before he came back healthy. Prior to his injury in early November, the Leafs had won 10 of his 15 games, so clearly he is magic.
So magic, in fact, that it should come as no surprise Darren Dreger is even floating the idea of the team trading more productive players (i.e. the oft-injured Joffrey Lupul) to free up cap space they could then use to “help Bolland.”
Help him do what? Who can say. But he needs all the help he can get.
1. Jeremy Jacobs (...wait, is that right? It is? Okay.)
Jeremy Jacobs gets a lot of flak from a lot of hockey fans and for good reason. He's driven all three of the Gary Bettman lockouts because he feels the players are greedy and should be shaken down at every available opportunity. He raises ticket prices regularly, and he is very much a real-life Mr. Burns. But you have to give him credit where it's due.
This summer, the TD Garden will begin the early stages of a two-year $70 million renovation. Cost to the city's taxpayers? Zero dollars. Unless you buy Bruins tickets, prices for which are going up 20 percent in a lot of cases.
But you have to give Jacobs credit: He's only charging what the market will bear for tickets, and people are going to grumble about paying an extra $1,000 for their seats or whatever, but they're also going to pay that money. At least in this case, people are getting something for their money — maybe not anything especially tangible with relation to their in-game experience — but something nonetheless. They pay because the team wins.
Jacobs is often painted as greedy, and it's easy to see why, but the fact that he didn't even bother trying to wrangle with the city to get something — anything — out of residents, in the way that, say, the Florida Panthers are trying and the Phoenix Coyotes have already done, is at the very least refreshing.
Again, unless you buy Bruins tickets. But would you rather see some of that money be put into a new concourse or shoveled onto Jacobs' money pile?
(Not ranked this week: Anyone who doesn't watch the NCAA Frozen Four starting tomorrow night.
We'll have a preview on Puck Daddy tomorrow morning (or maybe afternoon, I don't know!!!) but the point is that this is one of the best hockey weekends of the year, and if you miss it, you're a sucker!)
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Mike Gillis
- Patrick Kaleta
- John Tortorella