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Playing the point on many issues

Friday, 02.08.2008 / 9:00 AM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

Veterans Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer returning to play for the Anaheim Ducks midway through the season rankled one Ice Age reader.
Ducks vs. Rangers game highlights 
We still have plenty of suggestions for future sites of the Winter Classic, but the mail bag also produced several other notes that bear comment.

Remember, if you want to sound off on hockey, drop a note to iceage@nhl.com.

***

Hey Phil!

I just got done reading your article about Selanne coming back to the Ducks. First, I’m a huge L.A. Kings fan, so that probably taints my view a bit, but I’m not a Ducks hater and have rooted for them in every game they’ve ever played, except when they play the Kings.

I know Selanne and Niedermayer are amazing players and any team would want them in their lineup, but I think it’s an odd precedent to allow them to just strut right in to the lineup more than halfway through the season. To me it’s a strange way to bring a team together and can create resentment among the other players. Of course, none of them will admit it, but I know it’s there. Take a guy like a Mathieu Schneider. Always a quality defenseman year after year wherever he plays and now to have Niedermayer just roll right up and start taking minutes away from him. If I were Mathieu I’d be a little upset and disheartened.

What’s your feeling on guys like Selanne and Niedermayer who have had many amazing seasons, but then can’t make up their minds on what they want to do and after a few months of just sitting around the house being nagged by their wives and kids finally realize that it’s a gazillion times better to lace ‘em up night after night then just sitting at home?

I think it’s lousy for team chemistry, but I’d appreciate your insight.

Thanks and Go KINGS!!!

-- Thomas Q. Anderson

Phil Coffey
Phil Coffey is NHL.com's editorial director. He has covered the NHL since 1981.
Ask Ice Age:

Got a question? Nursing a gripe? Itching to call Phil Coffey every name imaginable? Well, you can achieve all these goals through the magic of email. Send your questions, comments and critiques of Phil's photo to iceage@nhl.com and look for the answers in the mailbag section of Ice Age each weekend.

 Ice Age  |  Mailbag  |   Quoteworthy

Hi Thomas. Great question!

I think you have to give both Selanne and Niedermayer the benefit of the doubt here. Both are character players who are popular with their teammates, especially the gregarious Selanne. Niedermayer is a much quieter individual, but no less likeable. So, I don’t think there will be any animosity within the dressing room or at least no more than the usual grousing about things. Remember, players want to win. Schneider may not like playing fewer minutes, but at the end of the day, having Niedermayer aboard makes the Ducks better, so you don’t worry about it.

As for the timing of the decisions, I think everyone would have liked the decisions much earlier in the season. But keep in mind, both players have over 1,000 regular-season games under their belts and have earned plenty of respect with their games and actions over long careers. Ducks GM Brian Burke has indicated this was a one-time deal and he would not be so accommodating in the future.

I think it’s very difficult for an athlete who is looking at the end of his career. There is a lot to weigh. From the outside, it’s lucrative and glamorous and all that, but the reality is lots of travel, a physical toll on your body and lots of time away from family. So, give these guys a pass this time, they’ve earned it.

***

Hiya Phil-san,

Last year I asked you when Center Ice Online will be available outside of the U.S. for us poor masses who are dying to catch some of the action of our favorite team. You advised me to watch out for it on NHL.com (and I think you said I would get an e-mail, but I am still waiting, lol just kidding) Well this year finally it came true here in Japan even. It has been a while since I read your column though (sorry, yes we are always busy busy here ;)...

Anyway, first the comments mixed with question. The Penguins are hanging in there so far, but frankly their injured list looks a lot like the starting roster of any other team, so I wondered, do you think it is time to seriously start trade talks? Or how about getting Peter the Great? I know that is a pipe dream, but why not? I would really like to see Hossa at Crosby’s or Malkin’s side, but I do not know what the Pens could part with. Any ideas to make that happen? Sundin is not a good idea. If we wanted a player like him we could ask Mario to come back for the final 30 games (I am sure he would be in the best shape of his life ;) I believe Mario is now at least as good as Sundin would be, even with the time off. If not Hossa, what other winger do you see out there as being available AND being able to help Sidney and the Pens get it to the next level?

Ty Conklin seems to be a savior right now, and that is great, but it got me wondering with three goalies now having almost equal time in the NHL. I know to qualify for any goalie award they have to play around 25 or 26 games, right? So conceivably Conklin, Sabourin, and Fleury could all get to that point. If they all put up great numbers do you think they could get two goalies in the running? Has that ever happened before?

Also something I just noticed ... If you trade a restricted free agent to another team, he remains restricted, right? Could you not then just try to give him an offer sheet and maybe screw over (pardon my Japanese) the other team twice in the progress? I guess that would be tampering or some such and obviously very unethical, but is there anything in the rulebook to prevent that?

By the way, I was too young when the Penguins came to Japan to play the Predators ... I want them back ;) Both since the Preds have Kariya, who has Japanese roots. Well I can wait a year and maybe I can get a ticket to Stockholm somehow...

-- Reiko from Osaka

Hi Reiko. Just a hunch, but I don’t think the Penguins are going to make a big move prior to the deadline. Now having jinxed myself, let me explain why. Despite having Sidney Crosby injured, the Pens haven’t fallen off the table and are right in the thick of things in the Atlantic. Evgeni Malkin is eating up the minutes nicely, so there is no pressing need to give up a lot of assets for a rental. Of course, investing in a player like Marian Hossa for the long haul would make the Pens more than a little more interesting to watch than they already are!

As for trading a potential restricted free agent, there is no rule against it. But remember, a team that has one of its restricted free agents signed to an offer sheet can match the offer or receive compensation, so there are consequences for the signing team.

***

Hi Phil,

Looking at the standing today, Nashville is in 8th, Vancouver is in 9th. Both teams have identical records (26-21-5), both teams have won one game in regulation against the other, and they have the same goal differential (+8). NHL.com lists four tie-breakers: games played (same), wins (same), head-to-head record (tied), and goal differential (tied). So why is Nashville ahead of Vancouver, and what would happen if the season were to end this way?

-- Sebastian Cox

I believe goals scored is the next category, which is why the Preds got the nod.

***

I think outdoor games do much more for the league than having teams go overseas to play ... What's with going to Prague?

-- Deb Guzzetta

An outdoor game and games in Europe are not mutually exclusive of one another. The Czech Republic and Slovakia both have a long, rich hockey history and the NHL has scores of players from the region like Jaromir Jagr, Dominik Hasek, Vaclav Prospal. Ales Hemsky and 50 other players born in the Czech Republic, so a game in Prague is an opportunity to reward the fans of a country that has done much for hockey.

Ditto Sweden, obviously.

***

I heard that Flames are going to trade Alex Tanguay for Canadiens Michael Ryder to make room for signing Dion Phaneuf, Kristian Huselius, and Daymond Langkow.

-- Jimmy Lee

Rumors are rumors, Jimmy. Remember, most never happen.

***

I am a Devils fan and maybe I'm being prejudiced, but everywhere I look there seems to be something about Crosby or the Penguins in some way shape or form. A few days ago, there were three articles on nhl.com in a row about how Crosby was injured and how the Penguins are going to do without him. I mean, I don't know if it's just me and I'm seeing things, but I really think the NHL is in love with Crosby. Of course he's the one who scores the game-winning goal in the Winter Classic. Of course when he "leads" the Penguins to the playoffs in the 2007 playoffs, the NHL makes sure all the Penguins games are televised by every station they can get. And more recently, Crosby has gotten injured with an ankle sprain. So of course the NHL has put out about six articles about how the Penguins will do without him, how other teammates will have to step up in his place, how his ankle sprain will keep out for a good long while. If it was anyone else on the Penguins the league would put maybe one article out, but not the 5-6 they do for Crosby.

Don't get me wrong, Crosby is a great player, he knows how to play hockey, but I don't think one player deserves more attention than anyone else in this league. Take this example: Jay Pandolfo was injured pretty badly a few weeks ago and is out for at least 3 months or so. I didn't see anything about that anywhere in the news. Crosby's injury is everywhere you look. He's an overrated player who doesn't deserve all the attention he is getting.

-- Josh Weinreb

It’s just you Josh.

Let’s face the fact Josh, Sidney Crosby is the reigning NHL MVP as well as the leading scorer last season. He also is one of the most prominent players in the game. When he gets hurt, it’s news. If you will recall, when he was injured, there was no immediate diagnosis pending further examination. That’s one story. The next was the news that a further diagnosis wasn’t possible until the swelling subsided. That’s two. When the diagnosis of the high ankle sprain was made, that was story three. Seems pretty reasonable to me, which is why we handled it that way on NHL.com. Newspapers, television and other web sites are going to handle it the way they see fit. Look at it this way, you may be sick to death of election coverage in the U.S., but that’s the hot news, so you’re going to get it like it or not.

By the way, Crosby isn’t overrated. I’m sure you will agree that Martin Brodeur isn’t overrated, but I’ll bet I can find a Ranger or Flyer fan who will tell me he is in about a second.

***

The 'H' in the legendary Montreal Canadiens'
logo stands for "Club de Hockey Canadien".

I have been a hockey fan for about 10 years, and still don’t know a lot about the teams’ history in the NHL. And in the south (Georgia) you can’t find many answers.

When the Montreal Canadiens come to town I always wonder what the "H" on the jersey is significant of. I know it is for Habs, but I don’t know what a Hab is!

What the heck is a Hab?

-- Wendy Foster

Hi Wendy. Actually, the “H” in the Canadiens’ logo dosen’t stand for Habs. It stands for Club de Hockey Canadien. In 1917, at the founding of the NHL, the Canadiens changed their name to that from the previous Club Athletique Canadien.

As for “Habs”, in 1924, Madison Square Garden owner Tex Rickard was falsely told by someone that the "H" stood for "habitant", a French word that in those days was used to denote the farmers of Quebec. Rickard was told that the French players on the team came from the farms and that they were therefore "habitants" or "habs". At the time, the Canadiens were recognized as the French team of Montreal as opposed to the Montreal Maroons, the English team.

***

I am watching the Kings at Calgary right now and just wanted to comment on something the TSN color guy said. He was talking about what he called a new strategy for shootouts regarding Calgary's game against the Wild. (Dion) Phaneuf was put out on the shootout and took a really hard slapper that went off (Josh) Harding's shoulder. The TSN guy was saying that putting out a hard-shooting defenseman to shoot high and attempt to purposely injure a goalie to make it easier on the next shooter could be a new shootout strategy. He was talking about this as if it was a good thing. First of all, if this was (Mike) Keenan's intention, which I cannot really speculate on, I really hope it wasn't, he should receive some kind of punishment. Wait, this is Colin Campbell I'm talking about, I guess Keenan should at most receive a friendly phone call. Also, the TSN commentator talking about purposely attempting to injure goalies is despicable. What do you think about this?

Faithfully watching my Kings occupy the cellar,

-- Jeremiah Beckham

I didn’t hear what was said directly, so I’m gonna have to make a dreaded assumption. I gotta believe what was said was done tongue in cheek.

As a strategy, that doesn’t make sense to me on two very important levels. First, goalies are very well protected and by just squaring up to the shooter are not going to get hurt. And if the announcer in question was talking about shooting high accurately to hurt a goalie, that’s much harder to do than just roaring in and making a series of moves.

***

My name is Luc Stone. I am 22 and I am the kind of hockey fan that the NHL has been trying to get watching the game. Prior to the lockout I grew up an avid hockey fan, but got extremely bored in the late ‘90s and early 2000s with the state of the game. The lack of speed and skill in the game in favor of the trap and clutch-and-grab game turned me off of hockey. Not even when a local team ran for the Cup could I bear to watch whole games.

After the lockout I decided to give hockey another chance. I was delighted with most of the changes that the NHL made to increase the pace of the game. However, listening to the bigger nets controversy and with watching the IIHF hockey championship I am wondering if any thought has been given to increasing the size of the NHL's ice surface?

Bigger nets will not result in better hockey, just the same hockey with more goals. However, after watching the IIHF championship, I was amazed too see how much more creative and exciting players could be with the extra room. I think the biggest thing that has hurt hockey has been giving today’s bigger, faster and stronger players the same amount of room that they had back in the 60s. Today's better-conditioned players can get from place to place faster, and push harder than they could back in the days when the summer consisted of drinking beer.

I know it would be expensive and hard to change all the older arenas to international size ice, but even a hybrid between the NHL's ice and International size would give the skill players more room to do their stuff.

-- Luc, Lethbridge, Alberta

Hi Luc. This argument comes up every time the Olympics roll around. Some strongly advocate for bigger rinks, but I’m not convinced and haven’t been for years. At the last two Olympics, I have seen teams use defensive systems that were every bit as stifling as those seen on NHL rinks. I remember one game in 2002, when the Germans negated Team Canada’s speed and skill by lining up four players, sometimes five, across the blue line and forcing Canada to play a dump-and-chase game. So, while bigger ice looks like the solution on the surface, it has its drawbacks as well.

***

Here are some additional opinions on where to play a future Winter Classic.

***

Since we are all mentioning sites for the next outdoor game, I would recommend Colorado. I would fly out to Colorado to see them play Detroit outdoors. I know there are a lot of big rivalries in hockey, but Colorado vs. Detroit is at worst one of the best rivalries the sport has seen. Realistically though, any place with a good fan base would work.

-- Matt Cortese, Clementon, NJ

***

I was wondering where the next Winter Classic will be held. On nhl.com it said the next winter classic would be at Yankee Stadium, but I wanted to know where it would be exactly. Have you decided what teams will be playing for the next game? I would like to see Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals. I am asking as a hockey player and a person who loves watching the games as well. I am mostly asking because I would like to get tickets for this game.

-- Thomas Skafidas

No decision has been made on the site of the next Winter Classic, Thomas. There has been plenty of interest in various places to hosting another Winter Classic, but nothing official yet.

***

I can think of no better location for an outdoor game than on a frozen Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta. Think of it... snow capped mountains and the picturesque Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in the background ... the essence of “pond hockey.” Better yet, how about an All-Star Game outside ... judged shoot-outs, the best hockey talent on a breath-taking stage. Of course, the logistics of putting together such an event on a frozen lake, and where to put the fans are serious issues to be dealt with first, but man, what a sight that would be.

-- Matt Takaki

***

One Ice Age reader favors a Toronto Maple Leafs vs.
Buffalo Sabres matchup for the next Winter Classic.

Hey Phil,

My idea for winter classic (Ice Bowl 2) would have to be Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres again at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Tickets would sell faster then the previous Winter Classic, and a rivalry between Toronto and Buffalo should make for a good game. But one thing is certain, if you put any type of outdoor sporting event in the middle of a blizzard, Buffalo, NY, fans will go through whatever it takes to show their support and love for the game. Appreciate your time and maybe I’ll be able to watch the game.

-- Peter Schueler

***

Of course everyone wants to host, or be a part of, the next ice bowl. For those of us that were there, and represented the NHL so well, we feel it is only fair to include the Buffalo fans in the next one.

It should be held in Toronto (appeasing the Canadian fans), and feature the Leafs vs Sabres. Leafs and Sabres fans know this is one of the best rivalries in the NHL, and having the outdoor setting would only add to that.

After next year’s game, there should be a 5-year break. If we do this every year, it would definitely lose its luster after a few years.

-- Kurt Ruesch, Buffalo

***

I loved watching this year’s Ice Age in Buffalo and I loved seeing it in Edmonton at the Heritage Classic. It was great to see the large crowds enjoying the best live sport in the elements. It truly showcases the NHL and it's superstars. And I think it would be great to do one game a year, maybe not on New Year’s Day because of college football, but maybe the week before the Super Bowl where there is a free weekend and hockey would be the only game in town sort of speak.

And I think a game with over 105,000 screaming fans on a cold January night rooting on there beloved home team would be the perfect place to showcase this great sport. And that place is Columbus Ohio. Sure most hockey fans can't believe that a game in Columbus would work, but it would. Columbus has proven to be a great place for hockey, just ask anybody who has been to this past year’s NHL Draft or seen a game in beautiful Nationwide Arena, voted the best fan experience in sports. And as a whole, people in Columbus and Ohio for that matter are rabid sports fan as proof by the loyal following of the Buckeyes, Browns, Indians, Bengals, Reds and, yes, our Columbus Blue Jackets! And with Ohio States Horseshoe just a couple of miles down the road from downtown and Nationwide Arena that holds well over 105,000 people you have a perfect venue to flood for a historic game. And you have a young team that is getting better and on the threshold of being a great team with young stars such as Nash, Zhredev, Klesla, and Leclaire to name a few what better team to spotlight on world television. I can think of two others, Pittsburgh and Detroit. Teams that have their share of superstars and global appeal and, oh by the way, are both about three-hour drives from Columbus, so their fans can travel the short distant to help fill the 105,000 seats. Plus, these are teams that people in Ohio love to watch and many root for like people in eastern Ohio root for the Steelers and people in Toledo root for the Wings. It would be the largest crowd in history to see a live hockey game and that alone would make people interested, but also being on during the week before the Super Bowl you'll have people watching that normally doesn't and if you have the game at night it should be cool enough to keep the ice solid. So I think the Ice Age needs to come to the Shoe.

-- Kevin Schroeder (Bluejackets Biggest Fan)

***

I saw on NHL.com that you were accepting suggestions for future outdoor games. Even though these have probably been suggested, I would like to share what I would like to see played outdoors!

I would like to see a Canadian team vs. an American team.

The NHL All-Star Skills Competition and game.

And a game played at Heinz field in Pittsburgh.

-- Steve

***

The Winter Classic is a great idea. I heard somewhere that the NHL is thinking of doing one in Canada one in the US each year, which is good. Finding a way to do an Islander-Ranger game, as one of the biggest rivalries in the NHL would be a huge hit. Yankee stadium may be a hard place to do, but why not another venue, even the Meadowlands. The NY Giants and NY Jets play there, why not the Islanders/Rangers? Keep it in NY, Shea Stadium. There has to be other venues more willing to do the game than trying Yankee stadium for the marquee name.

-- Pat Gormley

***

I'm a Ducks fan, and the Los Angeles Kings are crosstown rivals, so how about a Winter Classic between the Ducks and the Kings at the Rose Bowl in L.A.? Winters in California are sunny with cool temperatures. It wouldn't compare to a game played outdoors such as Buffalo or Montreal in December, but the idea of playing outdoor hockey in 68 degree weather in the sun, I think it would be different. And the teams would be playing in front of a crowd of 100,000+ people, provided the game is sold out. Just an idea........

-- Steve Van Berckelaer, Anaheim, California

***

My name is Matthew and I'm 14 years old. I think next year's All-Star Game should be played outdoors and that should serve as the Winter Classic. These players would also be very talented and there would be no hitting or any rough play in such a fun game like this.

However, if this doesn't work out, I would like to see a Devils-Rangers Winter Classic. These teams have great rivalries and these games are always close and exciting and games televised on NBC should definately be exciting.

Matthew Gutierrez

***

My name is Derek Smith. I am in the 10th grade and my idea for Winter Classic is next year the weekend before Christmas break what I would like to see is a matchup of one of the fiercest rivalries in hockey. I would like to see the Canadiens play the Maple Leafs at a neutral location somewhere in between. I think it would be an exciting hockey game as well as a potentially historical and extremely memorable Winter Classic.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.



 

Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis