(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
7 – The best policy
This weekend, I saw the stupidest thing I ever saw on NHL Network. Which is clearing a pretty high bar, if we’re being honest.
Remember that ear wax vacuum commercial where the guy didn’t know how to use a Q-tip? That guy was extremely stupid. And this was worse: Bill Peters caught a bit of flak from the talking heads whose names I did not catch for saying a goalie with a save percentage in the .870s (at the time) has been bad.
Like, he said it would be nice if he could get a save from a guy who can’t even stop pucks within 25 points of the league average, and for the NHL Network guys that was a bridge too far.
Look man, if your goalie’s having a bad week, calling him out doesn’t help, right? Especially if it’s a good goalie. Everyone goes through slumps and throwing a guy under the bus is just kinda being a jerk. But Eddie Lack’s time in Carolina has been an unmitigated disaster; in 44 appearances over two seasons, he’s on .897, and this year it’s .883. That’s beyond horrible. You could find just about any goalie in college hockey or major junior to do the same thing and it costs you a hell of a lot less that a $2.75 million AAV.
I know there’s a whole big goalie club or whatever and goalies are always going to come out for each other and defend the fraternity. But good lord Eddie Lack has been so far beyond inexcusably bad there’s nothing else to be said. Or at least there should be nothing else.
How about this: Over the past two seasons, only five goalies have at least 40 appearances and save percentages below .905. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi (.905 and .902, respectively) are well-documented problems for the Stars. Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec (.902 and .901, respectively) get the same criticism in Winnipeg.
So how does Eddie Lack (.897) not deserve to be called out by a frustrated coach whose team can’t get a save and is otherwise very good?
Maybe you argue that calling him out doesn’t accomplish anything even after 44 games. You’re probably right. But to not be able to criticize the guy who’s cost you 16 percent more goals than an average goalie would have? Grow up.
6 – GM meetings
What I love about these GM meetings is that they broadly acknowledge the myriad problems the league faces today.
Then, after that acknowledgement, they also say, “What do you mean we should change them? All those cool goal reviews that spend 12 minutes trying to figure out if a guy had his skate two centimeters off the ice 16 seconds before a goal was scored? They’re actually not a problem even though we all said they were.”
Meanwhile, they’re also kicking around ideas like “What if we just had one faceoff dot directly in front of the goals to increase scoring?” as if that’s not, a) stupid, and b) not the issue. Find a picture of a goalie from 1987 — the era all these old men want so desperately to return — and one from today and you tell me what the real problem with goalscoring is.
The big canard in the whole goaltending debate is goaltender safety. “These guys shoot the puck harder than ever!” Yeah but materials science has advanced sufficiently in the last 30 years to make that not matter. Goalies’ chest protectors can at this point withstand the impact of a puck launched out a howitzer. Same with leg pads and arm pads and everything else. So they don’t also need make a 6-foot-2, 210-pound goalie stand in his crease appearing to be roughly the size of Andre the Giant.
Meanwhile the NHL twirls its thumbs shaving two inches here and there off the width of leg pads saying, “We’re trying to make a difference here.”
Put me in charge of all this stuff and I solve your problems by close of business that day. I’ll only charge you $300,000. Worth the money, in my opinion.
5 – The Sabres
Wysh’s post Monday encapsulated the problem nicely: That blue line is so bad it doesn’t really matter how good the offense and goaltending is. Maybe Tim Murray should have offer-sheeted Jacob Trouba. Just thinking out loud!
4 – Seeing what you want to see
Remember like two weeks ago when everyone had concluded the Bye Week (more like Bye Weak ha ha ha ha ha!) was such a bad thing and ruined so many teams’ seasons? Well now Columbus and Anaheim came out of their bye weeks and won a few games, so we’re right back to, “Actually the bye week is insanely good and everyone loves it.”
I don’t care one way or the other. Let the guys take a week off. Whatever. But my only thing is let’s not draw any serious conclusions about how a mid-season week off affects teams, and…
What’s that? The GMs are absolutely certain to draw conclusions this week and probably change things for the worse based on a sample of like 80 games?
Well that’s a big surprise to me, I gotta say.
3 – Jumbo Joe
Jumbo’s finally starting to slow down a bit this season, with only five goals and 36 assists in 65 games, but he’s also 37 and still a pretty damn good center at both ends of the ice (53 percent adjusted xGF%). Don’t hurt ’em Joe.
But damn, one thousand assists in an era with an ever-increasing league-average save percentage? How many guys has he made millionaires? It’s incredible to think about. We’re gonna miss ol’ Joe when he goes, lemme tell ya. Not really appreciated in his time, either. Shameful, really.
He’s one of the best playmakers to ever put on a pair of skates. In the modern age, when it’s been more difficult to score than literally ever, he’s uniquely talented.
Major blessings to Jumbo! I have loved him forever!
2 – Olli Jokinen
On the other hand I wanna pour one out for the career of everyone’s favorite ol’ waffle boy, Olli Jokinen.
Olli Jokinen officially retires as a Florida Panther & subject of world's greatest gif pic.twitter.com/2tfSm458aY
— Sean Leahy (@Sean_Leahy) March 7, 2017
He retired this week at the age of 38, and is, for me, the archetypal B-plus player who could make a difference for your team if you acquired him but who therefore gets overrated and everyone ends up thinking he sucks.
This dude had nine straight seasons of at least 50 points from 2003 to 2012, and therefore got robbed of another season of high-end production by the full-season lockout. That’s solid No. 3/4 forward production, but most of it was done in relative anonymity in Florida, Phoenix, and Calgary.
He was scapegoated and ridiculed in the end but man he was real good at hockey there for a few years, wasn’t he? Just from watching back then, I bet if the deeper-numbers stats existed from his mid-20s, he would have routinely ranked among the better two-way centers in the league.
Y’know what Jokinen really was in the end? The kind of guy you could pick up in your game of NHL 07 or whatever and have him really make a big difference. Like, a nice 85-rated center for yourself who does a little bit of everything, and does it well.
I really liked Jokinen, and all the players like him too. Perpetually under-appreciated right up until he’s not.
1 – Deadline haters
Boy if you thought the trade deadline sucked before this season, you must have felt really validated a week ago. That was by far the worst trade deadline I’ve ever seen, and if you’re looking for someone to blame, turn your lonely eyes to Las Vegas.
Those guys screwed everything up! We hate those guys now!!!!
(Not ranked this week: Really hating Josh Ho Sang for totally legitimate reasons that have nothing to do at all with how he’s perceived in hockey for what are very legitimate reasons also I’m sure.
As long as we’re getting all mad at this kid for wearing the number of one of his favorite players, let’s also not forget how insulting it is that Taylor freakin’ Chorney’s wearing Bobby Orr’s No. 4 for two years. I hope there’s a petition about it I can sign. I’m a rational adult who cares about this stuff because it’s only a reasonable thing to do and for no other reason.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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