AROUND THE LEAGUE: WEEK FIVE

The Converse All-Stars are all the rage with the kids nowadays, and I can see why when they have super cool designs like a cast of video game all-stars sewn on them. Mario and Luigi automatically up the cool factor of any sneaker. But can the NHL connect the dots and up the cool factor of their All-Star game?

The biggest story to come out of the general managers meetings this week was that the NHL is looking to revamp the All-Star game.  I’m not sure if we should be happy or mad that the only thing they think needs tweaking is the All-Star game, but I digress.

Let’s get something clear right off the top. The All-Star game will never be meaningful, it will never be must-see TV, and from my vantage point that is just fine. The game is about schmoozing the corporate sponsors and allowing fans in the host city a chance to meet the stars of the game. The fans and sponsors are the two most important customers for the NHL, so why not try to make the weekend more exciting.

REBOOT

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the league was looking at a complete overhaul in player selection possibly as early as this year.

"If the changes are approved, the East vs. West format would no longer exist. Fan voting would still be utilized to determine the game’s starters, while the remaining 36 players will be selected by NHL’s hockey operations department.The captains of each team will be voted on by the participating players, and those captains and alternate captains will draft their teams as part of a live event in Raleigh during All Star weekend."

The game will never be intense and those who think that dangling home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals in front of the players will make it better are dreaming. It will never be intense, nor should it. But this new format could add a lot more intrigue.

When you think of rivalries in the NHL we think of Montreal/Boston, Vancouver/Calgary, Ottawa/Montreal or Ovechkin/Crosby. All of the best rivalries are within the same division or conference, so with this new format at least we’ll see rivals against one another.

The idea of a draft will be interesting to watch. It sounds like they will hold the draft on Friday night have the skills competition on Saturday and play the game Sunday. The intrigue about the draft won’t be who goes first, but rather who gets picked last.

PICK UP GAME

When you played sandlot baseball or soccer or pickup hockey, you always dreaded being the last pick. I always felt for the kid who got picked last. The final kids stood there, looking down at the ground silently talking to themselves hoping they’d hear their name called. It was even worse when one of the kids looked directly at the Captains, their face filled with fear and desperation while their eyes fought back tears and their entire body pleaded not to be the final pick.

Imagine if they show the draft on TV as it comes down to the final few guys, and you can see them getting antsy reliving the horror of those playground days? Now that’s reality TV.

The idea of a draft and having Western and Eastern conference players playing together is a good move. It will garner some interest, but don’t expect the game to be much better. The best part about the proposed changes is that it will give fan’s a chance to wonder how Steven Stamkos would look alongside Pavel Datsyuk.

The biggest draw could be the "fantasy" aspect of the draft. Most fans are in some sort of fantasy league, and I’m sure they’d love to see how the Captains pick their teams, and if it matches to their own. This new formula makes the weekend more interactive for fans across the league, not just in the host city, and if it garners more attention from the fans it will be a success.

If the players had any sense of humour they would choose Daniel and Henrik Sedin as the captains so they wouldn’t play together.

The big question is: Do the fans really care and it will it pique their interest?

Only you can answer that, so let me know. 

RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • It sounds like ESPN wants to partner up with the NHL again. The Versus deal is up at the end of season, and the league is looking at possibly a 50% increase from the $72.5 million/season of the current deal. ESPN could easily match $110 million/year, and they would do a much better job promoting the game. Versus has a window to negotiate solely with the NHL, but I don’t see Bettman agreeing to a deal until he talks with ESPN.
     
  • Scott Arniel and Guy Boucher haven’t shown any rookie coaching jitters so far. Boucher has the Bolts sitting in 4th in the East with 18 points, while Arniel’s Jackets are rolling along at 9-5 and two points out of first in the West. People expected the Lightning to be improved, but few thought the Jackets would be this good. Nice to see new coaches having success.
     
  •  Is Davis Payne this year’s Dave Tippett? Payne replaced Andy Murray midway through last season, so he is more aware of the Blues than Tippett was with the Coyotes, but the Blues early start is eerily similar to the Coyotes. The Coyotes were 9-4 out of the gate last year and then rode a hot Ilya Bryzgalov and a Tippett’s system to a 107 point season. The Blues are 9-2-2 through 13 games on the back of Jaroslav Halak and Davis’ aggressive, uptempo style. I’m not sure the Blues can reach 107 points, but expect to see them in the playoffs. The loss of T.J Oshie last night will hurt the Blues.
     
  • How long before Brian Burke makes a move to try and improve his offence? He has said on many occasions Ron Wilson isn’t the problem, but it is clear the Leafs have no offence after Phil Kessel, and even Kessel can’t score right now. Burke can’t afford to give up another top-five pick. He has to do something to try and get someone with some offence.
     
  • Andrew Cogliano is a Toronto guy who can’t crack the top-six in Edmonton on a regular basis, but is he better than Tyler Bozak or Mikhail Grabovski? I would argue he is. The Oilers need some grit up front, would Burke trade Colby Armstrong for Cogliano and JF Jacques? Would Oiler or Leaf fans make that trade?
     
  • Jarome Iginla has been a slow starter before, but he doesn’t look confident, happy or comfortable this season. It is very early and the Flames are only two points out of 8th place, but if both and he the team continue to struggle I wonder if Darryl Sutter would move him. He has two more years after this one at $7 million/year and his trade value will only decrease from now on. Who lasts longer in Calgary, Iginla and Sutter?
     
  • Steven Stamkos has 13 goals in 14 games. We will ever see another player come close to 50 goals in 50 games?
     
  • Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t seem to age. His level of play has barely slipped as he enters his 40s. Should he be considered the 2nd greatest D-man of all-time behind Bobby Orr? He makes a strong case.
      

NHL LEADERS

Goals:
13: Steven Stamkos
10: Chris Stewart, Patrick Sharp, Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky
9:   Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson and Alex Semin
8:   Alex Ovechkin and Derek Roy
7:   Ten players tied including the ageless wonder Teemu Selanne and the biggest surprise has to be Brian Boyle from the
       Rangers. His career high prior to this season was four.  

Assists:
14: Henrik Sedin
13:
Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Ribeiro
12: Brad Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Alex Ovechkin, Kris Letang and Crosby
11: Henrik Zetterberg, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mikko Koivu, Duncan Keith, Ryan Whitney, Jean-Micheal Liles, Selanne and
      Stamkos
 

Points:
24: Stamkos 
22: Crosby
20: Ovechkin
18: Getzlaf, Selanne and Brad Richards
17: Sharp, Stewart and Roy
16: D. Sedin, Eriksson, H.Sedin, Semin and Corey Perry
 

Plus/Minus:
+13:
Brooks Laich and Rostislav Klesla
+12: Eriksson
+10: Mike Cammalleri, Steve Montador, Marc Methot and Stephane Robidas
+9:   Tony Lydman and Brad Richards
+8:   Eight players tied including three LA Kings, Jarret Stoll, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams.

John Tavares has the early lead for the green jacket sitting at -13 despite only playing twelve games. Patrick Sharp has ten goals and 17 points, but is an awful -11..

PP Goals:
6:
Stamkos
5: Stewart and Crosby
4: Sharp, D.Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson, Brent Burns, Tavares and Selanne.

Hits:
62: Cal Clutterbuck
56: Ryan Callahan and Tuomo Ruutu
55: Luke Schenn
54:
Troy Brouwer
52: Dustin Brown, Matt Cooke and Ovechkin
48: Ryan Getzlaf and Brent Seabrook

Shots:
74: Sharp
72: Ovechkin
67: Evgeni Malkin
64: Crosby
61: Eric Staal
60: Joe Pavelski
59: Bobby Ryan
58: Brian Gionta and Martin St. Louis
57: Evander Kane and Rick Nash

The three worst, or unluckiest, shooters are P.K Subban (40 shots, no goals), Jack Skille (39 shots, no goals) and Dion Phaneuf (37 shots, no goals).

PARTING SHOT

One of the "this doesn’t fit" stat I’ve seen involves Oiler D-man Tom Gilbert. The Oilers PK is a league worst 69%. There are many reasons why they stink on the PK, but a lot of people have thought it’s because they don’t block many shots.

Gilbert, who might be the least physical player on the team is tied for 8th in blocked shots with 35. He has at least one game in hand, and in some cases two or three on the seven guys in front of him. No one would mix Gilbert up with former Oiler and Leaf, Jason Smith, who blocked shots without fear for years, or Anton Volchenkov, a great shot blocker, but somehow Gilbert is three blocked shots away from being 3rd in the league.

His style of game doesn’t seem to match with shot blocker.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I’d sure do that Cogs-Jacques for Armstrong. What’s not to like?

    Like the new ideas to the all-star game. I’m not exactly a fan of the game and will watch it if I don’t have anything else to do, but a change up should at least work for a year or two.

    Question on Brule. Has it ever been asked to Renney why Brule doesn’t get more time at center? I understand that they want to get the most out of Cogs and such and that just because Brule wins draws it doesn’t make him a good centermen, but what is there to lose by trying him out at center even when Horcoff returns?

  • positivebrontefan

    I love the soap opera that is Brian Burke.
    It surprises me that he has stayed clear of the wrath of the Leafs Nation to date, at least for the most part.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      It’s only a matter of time before his bs will get old with them.

      First he explains that while they lost picks for Kessel they added Bozak so it wasn’t as bad. Now where is Bozak? Then Phaneuf comes in does well and is named captain, now where is Phaneuf? You also have Versteeg who was suppose to be top line player there, what’s he have 5 points?

      But all that stuff cancels out because Mcarthur and Giguere are playing well and Kessel>Seguin.

  • @Gregor

    I’m all for trading Iginla. Love the guy, but its obvious that this team, like Jarome, is on the decline. Loyalty has its place, but does it really make sense to stay loyal to a guy while spinning your wheels over the rest of his contract? All that’s going to do is further prolong the rebuild. At best, the Flames are going to play pre-lockout oilers hockey, scratching & clawing just to get in or finishing 9th or 10th.

    If they hold on to Iginla & Regehr, things are going to go from bad to worse… for a while. It’ll be 5 years before they actually bottom out if they don’t do something now. Whereas, they could be ready to make an impact within 5 years, assuming they could unload their useful vets for picks, prospects & young players.

    Unfortunately, I have a feeling that they will let their guys continue to depreciate until they are shells of their former selves, or until they leave via free agency.

    I was hoping maybe they could swindle Slats. I could see him overpaying for Iginla, but with the season guys like Dubinsky & Callahan are having, I’m thinking it’s already too late for that.

    Bring on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins!

  • Ninjai

    Nice article Gregor. I was wondering, why did you put Vancouver/Calgary as a rivalry? I would argue that the Battle Of Alberta is more of a rivalry. However, as of late it seems that the Nucks have made it a Love Triangle instead.

    I also like the new idea for the All-Star game. It would be great to see players team up with each other no bounderies (i.e. East or West conference).

    Absolutely love the idea of splitting up the SISTERS.

    • In Calgary, the Flames v. ‘Nucks games are already seen as a bigger rivalry that Edmonton Calgary is. I think it has something to do with the fact that we haven’t had a meaningful Edmonton squad in the past several years.

    • Jason Gregor

      I just used that one because it has been more heated than the Battle of Alberta lately, and they have met in the playoffs more recently than the Oil/Flames…plus the article is for all NATION sites.

      • Ninjai

        That makes total sense. You know your team is playing very poorly when the Oilers been demoted from ‘Provincial Rival’ to ‘that other team in Alberta.’

  • VMR

    re: Scott Arniel and Guy Boucher doing well. This seems to be the way to go with coaching. Bring in young new guys and teams seem to do well. I think Renney is ok for now but the Oilers should be looking at a bunch of young guys doing well in the minors to be ready to replace him when the time comes. Most rebuilding teams end up replacing their coach before they fully come out of the funk, just look at Chicago, Pittsburgh, even the Capitals were pretty mediocre until they got Boudreau.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    1st-Penner/Gagner/Hemsky; 2nd-Hall/Horcoff/Eberle; 3rd-Armstrong/Brule/Pararvi; 4th-MacIntyre/Fraser/Jones

    In the words of Captain Picard “make it so!”
    Or maybe the Oilers could make a package deal for Cogs and Gilbert for Komeseric and Armstrong

  • Hey Gregor noticed you mentioned Cogs to Toronto. Do you see Cogliano in an Oilers jerseys at years end? Also same goes with Penner? Khabibulin?

    And yes I no it is early in the situation but I can see the same strides happening with Omark that happened with Schremp. He keeps getting the short end of the stick it seems, although Omark is alot better player than Schremp in my opinion Can you see the same things happening or am I crazy?

      • Ninjai

        Yes I do believe he got the short end of the stick. Being a first round pick and having only 7 games before being given away along with the non stop rash from the organization.

        He didnt do all that bad in his first full season with NYI.

        Now saying that Im not a fan of Schremp and he wouldnt fit into the Oilers lineup today but I really hope the same thing doesnt happen to Omark. I am more an Omark fan and I believe Omark is better than Schremp.

        I just dont want to see the Oil give up on a prospect with ridiculous offensive skill again.

    • Jason Gregor

      I think Cogliano is most likely to go. I don’t see anyone taking Khabibulin with two years left. If the Oilers move Penner, it will depend on how he plays. He will never vow people with a consistent effort, but if he continues to produce they won’t move him…maybe in the summer at the draft.

      I don’t see any comparison. Schremp never got short stick. He wasn’t good enough. Omark has only been here for one camp and 16 games. I don’t think he has been screwed over. Not close in my mind.

  • As a 14 member of the Legion amending the Grandson of a WW2 Vet I ask all of the Nation to please remember those who have sacrificed in the past for our future. Take care everyone. I salute you Grandpa!!

  • Ninjai

    Hey Gregor,

    Just wondering if you would think a trade involving Cogliano should fetch us a dman instead of another forward as we have some capable forwards in OKC? IMO I think if we are trading one of our top 9 forwards we should definitely be considering an upgrade on the d side of things instead of another forward. Do you think we’d be able to get a Luke Schenn in some sort of Cogs package deal? Would the Oilers be interested in Schenn?

  • Dan the Man

    I’d do the Armstrong trade in a heartbeat.

    I’d also like to see a charity component to the all-star game. Maybe a corporate sponsor could offer 10 grand per goal or something like that?

    What I’d really like to see is the losing team having to donate a 100 grand to a charity of the winning teams choice but I can’t see the NHLPA going for that.

      • SmellOfVictory

        I thought eventually part of this rebuild would include an acquisition like a big name like Pronger was in our last successfull rebuild ? Not to mention all the others that were also added that year that were not our draftees . We need a decent core to bring along our wealth of youth we already have in system to be quite honest !

        • D-Man

          When we got Pronger and Peca that year – that wasn’t a rebuild… Simply put, that was a “Burke-like” splash getting veterans… Fortunately, neither player cost us any youth… You can never have enough youth in the system…

          I do like your thoughts on a Leaf trade (your Calgary proposal is way off in leftfield though) – but I think you’d have to give up a bit more… Keep the first round draft pick and deal Penner, Cogs and maybe a 3rd round pick for Versteeg and Armstrong… Although I’d love to see Phaneuf in an Oil jersey, I just can’t see Burke giving up anything more…