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The Penalty Box: Rolling out the welcome back mat

Thursday, 10.25.2007 / 12:33 PM / Crashing the Net

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

Crashing the Net made its successful season debut last week and it is clear from both the quantity and quality of the e-mail coming into the ol’ mailbag, its debut was long overdue. Not only that, but it appears that it took the readers far less time to hit mid-season form than it did for CTN himself.

With that said, let’s get onto the mailbag. Remember, it is easy to be a part of the Penalty Box discourse. All it takes is an e-mail, including your name and hometown, on a subject near and dear to your heart. It can be about something discussed in CTN, or it can be about virtually anything else. Just keep it as short as possible and make it as intelligent as possible. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Each week, CTN uses the best submissions in the latest edition of the Penalty Box.

All correspondence can be sent to roarkeblog@nhl.com.

Now, time to move on to this week’s letters.

Can we end the debate now? Clearly Stastny should have gotten the Calder! LOL.
Welcome back, CTN.
--Ted O’Leary

Ah, nice to see you have not lost your sense of humor, Ted. As some of you remember, CTN’s take on the rookie race was among the most controversial of the entire 2006-07 season. Many people felt I dissed Colorado’s Paul Stastny when I picked Pittsburgh teammates Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal as 1-2 in the Calder race. And, I must say, if the Calder voting stretched into the first month of the sophomore season, there is a good chance Stastny would have won the award on the basis of his finishing kick last spring and his start to this fall. Thanks for the welcome back, though, Ted!.

***

Hello Shawn
So, the season has finally started as CTN is on the scoreboard. And what a start; of all the mail you've got over the course of the past year you chose my little appreciation about the Schubert interview. Considering the fact you listen to a mentionable amount of German bands I guess you have a knack for my beloved country. Comes in handy, as I have a knack for yours. Speaking of German hockey players, again, I'm looking forward to Friday night/Saturday morning -- Sabres at Blue Jackets on NASN and Jochen Hecht leading Buffalo as the first German captain of an NHL hockey team (at least for a month).
With all those many transfers, I don't know whether you noticed it, but guess who arrived this week in Mannheim, Germany, to play for my favorite team? Dan McGillis. He was the checking standout in my NHL 2002 PC game in his years as a Flyer and now I'm curious how much he can contribute to the Eagles.
Oh, I've nearly forgotten you were in London. Is there a chance the NHL will drop the puck in Europe next year again? Don't you have any influence on this matter? Wouldn't Germany be a fine place? I would also be satisfied with Prague. At least it’s cheaper than London. Please do everything possible. So, that was much ado about hockey. Have a nice weekend.
-- David Gross

David, CTN loves most things German. As CTN has made clear, CTN loves German music. KMFDM and Rammstein are in heavy rotation on the current CTN play list. In earlier incarnations, the Scorpions, Accept and Warlock all saw extensive play on the CTN rotation. Heck, at one time, CTN was even quite fond of Nena, the seductive vocalist that made 99 Luftballons a 1980s anthem. CTN also is very fond of German beer, particularly dopplebock and kolsch varieties. CTN also likes German hockey. The Goc brothers always have been on the to-follow list, ever since Sasha had a short stint with the Devils a few years back. Stefan Ustorf also has been a favorite, ever since the Salt Lake Olympics. Dan McGillis is a quality player that seemingly lost his way and then found himself a salary-cap victim in New Jersey. He should help your boys out greatly. As for another European game, that is far beyond the realm of CTN. But from all reports, things look extremely good.

***

Shawn,
Great to have CTN back for another year. Are you dropping the "Working the Boards" segment of CTN? Anyway, now that Atlanta has chased another coach out, whom do you see taking the job? What will it take to can Waddell? How long can he keep holding onto his job with no real top defense pairing? Ken Klee is your big off-season pickup? Please. It seemed to me that the best goalie they had coming out of camp is in Chicago in Freddy Brathwaite. Well until Lehtonen's gimpy groin gives out again -- as it did against the Rangers. I see the birds will be heading back into the draft lottery again. Who is an NHL ready D-man come this July, and will they get him?

Keep up the good work. I look forward to Friday mornings and CTN.
-- Craig Lowe, Atlanta

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 18: Head Coach Don Waddell of the Atlanta Thrashers watches play against the New York Rangers at Philips Arena on October 18, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)

Craig, things are not as bad in bird-land as you think. Clearly, Don Waddell is feeling some pressure, but that is to be expected. CTN sees the GM taking a while to find the coach because if Waddell picks wrong, it might be the last coach he hires during his tenure. That fact likely means Atlanta will get a re-tread from the coaching ranks, but it would be far more interesting for the team to get a first-time coach. The club is young enough, in CTN’s opinion, to listen to a young, fresh voice. The talent in Atlanta is better than you think. Yes, the defense could use some bolstering, but the club has several intriguing defensemen in the system – Chad Denny, Arturs Kulda, Tobias Enstrom and Grant Lewis jump to mind. But if the Thrashers want to look at defense again this spring, there will be some prizes out there up for grabs, headlined by OHL defenders Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and Mike Del Zotto. As for “Working the Boards,” it is in semi-retirement at the moment. It may make a return, but it is not guaranteed.

***

Hey Shawn,
Glad to see you back with this blog. I was wondering where the update was or if this had been shelved in its infancy. Nice, short and simple first post to get back into the season. One point I think that should be made about Brodeur's slow start should also be the extremely long road trip that the Devils are having to begin the season. A new group of players, new coach, loss of key players from last year's team are tough to deal with, and being on the road for so long can just make it worse. But Brodeur will be back. Brodeur -- and the Devils -- have been written off the last two years and they've always come back. So I really don't doubt them.
Also, you said that CTN has three distinct acts. Does that mean you will no longer be continuing with "Working the Boards"? If so, that would be a shame because it's one of the few times the unknown or under-appreciated players get the respect they deserve.
Keep up the good work!
-- Jordan O'Brien, Toronto

Jordan, great to hear from you again. It is the dedicated readers – and e-mailers – like you that urged CTN off his lazy butt and back into the blogging game. As for your fear that the unknown, under-appreciated players will not have a presence with the retirement of “Working the Boards,” have no fear. CTN always will be home for the mockers, grinders, plumbers and black aces that give this league -- and the game in general -- its unique personality. Now, onto the Devils. CTN is not worried about New Jersey, either. Brodeur will be back to his old form before long and Brent Sutter will get the team playing its new style effectively in short order. One thing I will say about the Devils already is that they are a much more exciting team to watch this year. The nine-game trip to open the season was surely hard on this club, but CTN thinks it will also provide some long-term benefits as it gave the new players an opportunity to bond away from the every-day distractions associated with being at home. Also, Arron Asham already has emerged as one of CTN’s favorite players in this early part of the season.

***

Hi Shawn,
I realize that this query has very little to do with you, but I have corresponded with you before on past columns and am very hopeful to get a response about this one. With all the changes to NHL.com (and team sites), why the decision to do away with the shift chart? Because a good portion of Calgary Flames games are not televised -- or are shown only on pay per view -- the shift chart often was consulted to find out which players were playing with whom, which players were taking consistent shifts, and which players were getting benched mid-game, among other things. The shift chart was chock full of information, and disappeared with no warning at the end of last season. This has been a hot topic on the Flames’ blogosphere -- which you can link to off of my page, http://hittthepost.blogspot.com -- as many of us are missing its presence in the game summaries.
Hope you are well.
Sincerely,
-- Erin Tobman

Erin, CTN always is eager to help the dedicated hockey fan. CTN did some asking around and it seems that the shift charts no longer are being charted in the manner that they were last year. There are some applications to the scoreboard page that have not yet been fully implemented. Also, CTN finds that the play-by-link on each score sheet serves as a virtual shift chart, listing the players on the ice for each recordable event in a game. Rarely do more than a few seconds elapse before the next event, so it is easy to track who is playing with whom and how much time – and in what particular situations – each line and defensive pairing is getting. If you haven’t, given it a try, check it out and see if it helps. If not, hopefully, we will have something else coming soon that will solve your quandary. Let CTN know how things turn out for you and the rest of the Flames fans.

***

Mr. CTN,
Do you think Henrik Zetterberg's fast start to the 2007-08 season will shake the Gretzky-imposed "most underrated player in the NHL" title?
--Derek Chavez

Derek, CTN thinks Zetterberg always will be underrated by the general hockey fan, in much the same way Nicklas Lidstrom has been overlooked for years in Detroit. The thing with Zetterberg is that he does everything well, but also seemingly without effort. That fluidity often leaves the viewer thinking Zetterberg isn’t as good as he really is. He is a top faceoff man. He can score as adeptly as he can set up others. He plays solid defense, and there are few players that can match his skating ability. So far in his young career, the only knock on Zetterberg is his inability to stay healthy. Zetterberg has missed 15 or more games in two of the past three seasons. But if he stays healthy, Zetterberg could be in the running for the scoring crown this year. And that means that come April, it will be hard to call Zetterberg underrated any more.

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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure