Hey everyone, with the NCAA season over, it’s time to roll out a new feature for the summer. It’s a mailbag column. People love those.
How is it possible that one team is already through to the Conference Final? Didn’t the playoffs start just, like, a week ago?
Well since we’re chugging right along, there’s a whole bunch of new pressing questions that people need answered. And folks, who better to answer questions about hockey than your old buddy RL?
No one, that’s who. So here we go:
Zachary Martindale asks via email:
“Which point system should the NHL use for its regular season?”
First of all, I have to say this question was so good because my man Zachary not only asked it, but also wrote several paragraphs comparing various point systems — and even included his own, which awarded no points for any losses and brought back ties — and had two separate charts.
The email also pointed out that under just about any system, the actual teams that made the playoffs wouldn’t change, except that a 3-2-1 system like the one the IIHF uses would have put the Islanders in over the Maple Leafs.
Personally I advocate a system where the number of points awarded per game does not change. The idea of three-point games existing in a world where you only get two points for any sort of win is galling, especially because there’s no incentive to win in regulation except to avoid giving your opponent a guaranteed point and a coin flip’s chance at one more.
I also don’t like the idea that a loss in even a 3-on-3 overtime is worth the same as a shootout loss. Theoretically, having the ability to not-lose at 3-on-3 should be rewarded more than losing at 3-on-3.
Which is why I like a 5-to-0 points system. It awards points like this:
Again, the reason I think a shootout loss should be more valuable than an overtime loss is that you pushed it as close to a coin flip as you possibly could without winning. But teams would be so desirous of coming out on the right side of that huge swing between four and one point that playing conservative at 3-on-3 wouldn’t happen.
Good question. Very fun. Will never happen.
Kung Fu Kyle asks:
“What are the most obvious moves the Blues need to make for next year?”
If we’re all agreeing Jake Allen is their goalie, then the only real changes they need to make are in their depth. They’re bringing together a pretty good collection of higher-end young players at the forward and defensive positions (though obviously they need someone besides Parayko who can get the puck up the ice reliably).
I mostly like this team’s roster.
If you can find a way to not-play some of the guys the Blues played down the stretch, both on the blue line and up front, this team gets a lot better. As long as Allen is good — and I would say he wasn’t in the Preds series — this is a pretty strong Western Conference team already, and shoring up its few remaining depth issues will help a lot.
Another change I would make is to go back in time and not-fire Ken Hitchcock but my understanding is the technology just isn’t there yet.
Dan Michaelson asks:
“Have the Preds proven that they have the best D-corps in the NHL with their performance during the playoffs?”
I don’t think they really had anything to prove in this regard in the first place. This has been the best 1-4 (with a rotating cast of minor characters in the 5-6) pretty much since the start of the second half when everything came together.
All the talk about “PK Subban might actually be more like a No. 3/4 defenseman” was obviously silly on its face, but the fact that he’s only the best on this team by a relatively slim margin, and that there’s not a huge dropoff from second-best to fourth-best tells you plenty. Add in two guys who, in the playoffs, seem to be acquitting themselves well in support roles, and you’ve got a group that will bring you plenty of success.
Ask me on any given day who the second-best defender in this group is, and it’s likely to change. I think Ellis and Ekholm are both very good No. 2/3 defenders, and while Josi is probably a little overrated, he’s still clearly a No. 2/3 as well. When you have three guys like that, you’re going to go far.
I think what’s happening here is people are actually watching the Predators now, and seeing they play fun hockey in which the defense supports the offense getting the puck up the ice to an extent most teams can’t. You watch good teams for 10 games over two-plus weeks, and all of a sudden you start to say things like, “This is the best D-corps in the NHL.”
This happens all the time when good players on lesser-known (that is, not-on-TV-as-much) teams make deep playoff runs. If the Flames hadn’t gotten crushed in the first round, people would suddenly have a lot of good things to say about Dougie Hamilton and TJ Brodie, too.
This always had the potential to be the best ‘D’ in the league. Now it is. People are just now catching up.
Mike Haley asks:
“If Mike Sullivan has one more great regular season and another 4+ playoff wins – where do you start putting him on a top coach list?”
I’m starting to wonder if he shouldn’t already. The fact that the Penguins keep rolling despite all these big injuries, the year after winning a Cup and then finishing second in the best division in the league by far, is a testament to his quality.
You can say — and believe me, people have said, “Well look who his forwards are.” It’s a great group to be sure. But we saw what Sullivan’s predecessor (I want to say his name was Mike something? Steve? Who can remember?) did with this same group: jack squat.
And look, remember when everyone said Mike Babcock was a genius despite having Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and so on to send over the boards every shift? Why should Sullivan be treated any differently?
If they make another Eastern Conference Final (or more) under this guy, then follow that up with another 100-plus point season and roll over whoever they play in the first round, anyone who’s still a holdout on the “Sullivan is an elite coach” bandwagon is just mad that he’s not Canadian.
Angry 1999 Banner asks:
“If NYR can only buyout Staal or Girardi, which should it be? Basically, what’s the summer plan for to fix the blue line?”
I think the addition of Neal Pionk out of Minnesota-Duluth is a crucial one. He seemed NHL-ready this season and having the ability to bring in a guy like that on an entry-level deal is vital with the Rangers relatively close to being capped-out.
They have about $12-13 million to spend, not accounting for any rookies (like Pionk) they can bring aboard, and some RFAs they have to re-sign, including Mika Zibanejad.
If you’re only going to buy out one of those two guys — and maybe hope the other gets claimed by Vegas — I think the one you have to buy out is Girardi, because he’s used in more high-leverage minutes and is also 33, signed for three more seasons. Theoretically he has far less value than does Staal in a potential trade, though I can’t imagine there are too many Staal suitors out there either.
Other than that I don’t know how much fixing the Rangers blue line actually gets. While the supporting crew beyond Ryan McDonagh isn’t great, it’s not that bad either, especially if you put Skjei into a bigger role and maybe find a relative bargain on the open market come July (there are always good depth options available).
But the thing is, time is of the essence. People are complaining about Henrik Lundqvist in these playoffs but he’s about .930 right now. Maybe you think his below-average regular season is a harbinger of things to come, which requires more immediate triage. But again, there are a lot of Rangers contracts the team is just stuck with.
In a perfect world they’re both gone. In a more realistic one, you keep Staal and don’t let Vigneault put him on the ice in late-game situations where you’re trying to protect a lead. But that’s a whole other thing.
Finally, JR Lind asks:
“Did the Preds win surpass WrestleWar ’89 as the greatest moment in Nashville sports history?”
As we all know, WrestleWar ’89 was a largely mediocre show, which included a famously terrible TV title match between Sting and the Iron Sheik. However, the show is also really memorable because of the Heavyweight title match between Ric Flair and the champion Ricky Steamboat.
Flair spends most of the match working the knee to weaken Steamboat for his patented finishing hold, but Steamboat’s knee buckled on an attempted body slam and Flair rolled him up for the pinfall.
It’s widely considered one of the greatest matches in the history of professional wrestling, and you can watch all of it here:
Of course, Flair and Steamboat had two other five-star matches in 1989 alone. They also, unofficially, had a match that surpassed them all at an untelevised event in Maryland the same year. You can find actual CCTV footage of that here, but the quality’s not great since it’s from 1989 and a single camera quite a ways from the ring.
Anyway, to answer the question, no, as good as the game was a 3-1 regulation win in a Predators/Blues game — no matter the stakes — does not equal this match. Is it more important? Probably, yeah, but Ryan Ellis didn’t put anyone in the Figure Four for a good three minutes, so I gotta say Flair/Steamboat are still the reigning champs.
(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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