Welcome to Week 8 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com, 4 on 4. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Dimitri Filipovic of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Pros/Cons if the NHL adopted the fighting discipline rules the OHL rolled out this week.
John Hoven @mayorNHL - Very difficult question to answer given the limited space provided here. When it comes to fighting in the NHL, most people have a very passionate opinion about it, one way or the other. Moving to something like the OHL is doing would be a huge experiment and a Catch 22 at the same time. Ten games is certainly an arbitrary number - why not five games, why not 15? The bigger issue at play here may be the instigator rule that was established in 1992. It may not be working as intended and should be heavily evaluated. Also, more fights are staged now than ever before (insert Laraque clip with Ivanans). These need to be eliminated quickly. It looks very bad to the fans watching at home when you see two guys talking about - and the agreeing to - a fight. There's no denying that scraps like the Wendel Clark and Marty McSorley series during the 1993 playoffs add drama to a game or rivalry. However, with the recent deaths of enforcers and an increased knowledge of the long-term impacts concussions can have, the ongoing need for fighting needs to be examined closely. Is fighting still an integral part of the game? It sure feels like it's been on a sharp decrease since the 2004 lockout. If so, why is the instigator rule still there and are the combined set of rules working to their full potential? Although Commissioner Bettman has repeatedly said there is a place for fighting in the game, it appears like it's eventually going to be removed from the sport.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - Pros:
-Maybe the number of players that we find to have CTE goes down. Maybe. We don't know what causes it, but surely getting punched repeatedly doesn't help the matter. If these rules could lead to one player, one human being, over the course of 100 years not dying from something related to CTE, then the rule would be a success.
-Media might cover the game more. The stupidity of "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out" lingers with us. Non-hockey fans still think the NHL is a goon game, and compared to the international game, they are right. Maybe, just maybe, these types of rules would help market the game.
-We could finally be rid of one of the oldest debates in hockey. Imagine if you didn't have to ever read another "fighting is stupid" column? That would be grand.
-Loss of the enforcer mystique. How can you not love the story of a guy like Derek Boogaard? Comes from absolutely nothing, and makes his way to making millions, all by throwing some punches. The tragic end to his story mitigates all the positives, but the story of his rise to fame in certainly compelling.
-The loss of a job for peripheral talent. These guys deserve a job as much as anyone.
-The propagation of more people like Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows. People claim that heavyweights don't keep these guys in check. Maybe not on the ice, but the guy who has to take the beating because Burrows decides to spear Pierre-Marc Bouchard for some imaginary rivalry is certainly going to have words with Burrows in the locker room. Get rid of the heavyweights, and the heavyweight pests are going to prosper.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - I think anything that accelerates the extinction of the designated enforcer in hockey can only be a good thing. In my opinion, fighting definitely has a place in the game but watching Shawn Thornton and Cam Janssen beat the crap out of each other solely to justify their existence is something the NHL can do without. The main drawback I see with the rule changes, although it seems like the OHL addressed it by excluding fights in which the opponent was issued an instigator penalty from the 10-fight limit, is players strategically goading opposition power forwards into attaining the magic number. Overall, though, this does seem like a step in the right direction. In the short term, it may just lead to a distribution of fighting majors throughout the lineup instead of an absolute reduction in total fights. I'd say that's a good thing; if Darcy Hordichuk and Krys Barch types accumulate just three fighting majors in a year while continuing to be terrible at hockey, there's no reason for them to be employed and that's positive for the game.
Dimitri Filipovic @CanucksArmy - I still believe that fighting has a place in hockey. There’s still something breathtaking about seeing two guys throw blows in the heat of the battle. But its impact is blown out of proportion thanks to the media-driven narratives regarding how it changes momentum, and energizes a team. It has marginal value, and we’re seeing that in the direction that the game is headed.
There were 188 fewer total fights last year than in 2008-09 (the peak). Ever since then, there has been a steady decline. Given how fast the NHL game has gotten, if you can’t play, you can’t play (see what I did there?). It’s as simple as that. A player needs to be able to contribute to your team in multiple facets of the game. And that has spelled the end of goons.
In fact, there were only 18 players in the league who eclipsed 10 fights this past season. That’s all a long way of saying that I don’t think that it would have any sort of major effect, other than potentially speeding up the process that we’re already seeing taking place.
2. Are the Calgary Flames additions (Wideman, Hudler, and new coach Bob Hartley) enough to propel them into the playoffs? If no, what’s missing?
John Hoven - Outside of Western Alberta, is this a serious question? The Flames appear to be chasing something that just isn't there. Any objective party would likely agree, Jarome Iginla should have been traded. He's getting on in years and the Flames don't have the horses now, nor the prospects coming, to right that ship anytime soon. Barring a complete blow-up and rebuild, they're headed towards an 8-12th place finish for the next five years. Answer this as fast as you can, who is the Calgary Flames number one center? The fact there isn't a clear cut answer should tell you all you need to know. Is it going to be Roman Cervenka, are they converting Mike Cammalleri to center or do they plan on giving Mikael Backlund a chance? Regardless, opponents aren't intimidated. Iginla, an aging Mikka Kiprusoff, an overrated Jay Bouwmeester and a crew of largely role players - it's not a recipe for a division title. So, just how bad did Bob Hartley want to coach again to take that gig?
Nathan Eide - No. They are still missing top end support for Jarome Iginla, depth at all positions and Jay Bouwmeester from 5 years ago. Frankly, Calgary would be better off selling anything they can and going into the toilet for two or three years to stockpile young talent and refresh the organization. As a Minnesota Wild fan, I have seen for years what happens when your team is just bad enough to miss the playoffs year after year. The team stagnates and isn't able to get over the hump.
Derek Tanabe - If Dennis Wideman is the answer, you know you're up the creek without a paddle. I don't believe he is, though, and I think the Flames will be farther away from a playoff spot next season than they were in 2011-12. Calgary has declined into a fundamentally poor hockey club whose only stretches of controlling the flow of play last season came with David Moss in the lineup, and he's now in Phoenix. It seems like the entire team, save for Jay Bouwmeester on defense, is comprised by players who never could or no longer can handle difficult minutes, forcing players like Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay and, last season, Olli Jokinen, who are much better suited for protected scoring roles at this stage of their careers to do battle with the Western Conference's best forwards who almost uniformly outmatch them. Pretty much the only reason the Flames were competitive at all last season was Miikka Kiprusoff's .921 SV%. Save for last season and 2009-10, Kiprusoff has been well below league-average every year since 2007. Should we expect him to sustain his success from a year ago? At 36, I wouldn't count on it and unless Leland Irving takes a big step forward in his development, there's no legitimate backup to challenge him. I doubt Hudler and Wideman are enough to make up for the losses of Jokinen and Moss and, frankly, this was a much worse team last year than their 9th place finish might have led some to believe anyway.
Dimitri Filipovic - They’re pretty close, sure. All that’s missing is some pixie dust, and a trip to Neverland.
By my calculations, there are 12 teams that I believe are better than the Calgary Flames heading into this season. And frankly, I would listen to an argument for the Edmonton Oilers, too.
They missed the playoffs by only 5 points last season, but that was with Miikka Kiprusoff submitting what may have been his best season since ’05-’06. Based on his age and his recent track record, it's simply unreasonable to expect him to be able to replicate what he did last year.
The biggest thing that will hold them back is their general lack of talent up front, and I think that come trade deadline, we could see the unthinkable – Jarome Iginla wearing a different uniform.
3. What are your favorite and least favorite arenas to watch a hockey game?
John Hoven - A few years ago I ranked all of the leagues buildings (http://mayorsmanor.com/?p=622) and not much has changed. While some will cry 'homer' because I'm based in Los Angeles, the fact remains that Staples Center is one of the better buildings in the NHL to watch hockey in. It's always sold out, the energy is on par with any arena in the country for big games and the overall game experience (including pre-gaming at LA Live) make it top notch. Now, for the absolute best experience, nothing tops Madison Square Garden. Come on, it's MSG! Love 'em or hate 'em, seeing a Rangers game in the Big Apple should be enough to get any hockey fan's heartbeat pumping al little faster. Just as good as either building would have to be the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. There actually isn't much brotherly love at a Flyers game. You're either cheering for the home team or you're the sworn enemy. Even so, the site lines are amazing and the food is great. For the three worst buildings - and most will ask how Nassau Coliseum isn't on this list - you can easily look to the Pacific Division. The Honda Center, the Shark Tank and Jobbing.com Arena are just terrible. San Jose is all concrete and steel - giving it more of an industrial park feel than a major sporting arena. And being in a half-full arena in Phoenix probably makes fans feel like they're at the least cool party in town.
Bryan Reynolds - Rexall Place has to be the worst place to watch a game in the NHL. Not because of the arena, but could you imagine watching the Oilers 41 times a year? Yuck.
It seems all of the arenas I have been to outside of Minnesota are long gone now, so this one becomes more difficult. I can only imagine that Nassau Coliseum is a terrible place to watch a game. Or do much of anything for that matter. I attended a game in Phoenix when they played at US Airway Arena. We could not see an entire defensive zone of the ice. I don't want to step on the toes of the main audience of this site, but I cannot imagine watching hockey in an arena built for basketball. I hope for your sake, it wasn't like it was in Phoenix.
The best arena to watch a game? How can you beat the Xcel Energy Center? The original open concourse model, the X has been ripped off by every arena & stadium built after it. The food sucks, but the arena itself is still a matter of near perfection, especially at 12 years old. Don't believe me? Come visit. You'll change you tune in a second. Unless you're Devils fan. They have the same rink, but better food.
Derek Tanabe - I haven't been to a large enough swath of NHL arenas to really pass judgment on this, unfortunately. The Shark Tank and Staples Center are both great venues for hockey but having never been to the likes of the Bell Centre, TD Banknorth Garden or Joe Louis Arena, I don't have much of a point of reference to judge where they stand league-wide. Purely from a lighting perspective, the Xcel Energy Center, the Rock in New Jersey and Rogers Arena televise extremely well while games in Rexall Place, Madison Square Garden and Pepsi Center are sometimes painful to watch.
Dimitri Filipovic - I have only been to GM Place Rogers Arena, Rexall Place, and the Pengrowth Scotiabank Saddledome, so I don’t exactly have a murderer’s row of viewing experiences in my pocket.
Rogers Arena is a good time, if you’re sitting in the 300-level amongst the actual fans of the team. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in a crowd of suits, who are too busy messing around on their smartphones to pay attention to the game.
4. Which NHL broadcasting duos do you always tune into? Who makes you change the channel?
John Hoven - Ah, what the Center Ice package has given us all. Without it, ten years ago - heck five years ago - this question really wouldn't even be relevant. Now, viewers at home have the privilege of being able to watch games from around the league and truly gauging who's the best and who's the worst. Again, call me a home all you want, yet any honest answer will rank Bob Miller and Jim Fox at the top. These two are impeccable. Words can simply not describe the magic they create when calling a game. Bob brings a smooth call, with perfect emphasis at the right time - while Jim brings an analysis that is simple enough for first time viewers to understand, yet complex enough that long-time fans can still learn something too. Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson (CBC) also call a good game, as do Chris Cuthbert and Ray Ferraro (TSN). Although he's clearly biased towards the Flyers, I actually enjoy listening to Bill Clement as well. Like the buildings mentioned above, when you're making a list of the worst announcers in hockey, look no further than the Pacific Division. I would love to hear somebody try to make the argument that the team of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda in San Jose - or John Ahlers and Brian Hayward in Anaheim - are anything other than downright terrible.
Nathan Eide - Mike Emrick. Since we can't ever seem to get Gary Thorne to cover the NHL here in the Twin Cities, Mike Emrick's style and professionalism is top-notch. He is able to turn even a mundane game into something scintillating. Unfortunately, he's often paired with the two people who get me to turn the channel and curse my television faster than just about anyone else on the planet. Pierre McGuire and Ed Olcyzk absolutely ruin everything they cover. Whether it's inane commentary, blinding homerism (Olcyzk has never met a Blackhawk with whom he hasn't wanted to get an apartment) or uncomfortable interviews, when these two are on NBC, my remote is in overdrive.
Derek Tanabe - The Dallas Stars have been far from an exciting team over the past three seasons, repeatedly missing the playoffs, often playing to sparse crowds at home, and icing few legitimate stars outside of Jamie Benn, Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson. But their terrific announcing tandem of Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh have almost singlehandedly made their broadcasts worth tuning into. From Reaugh's expansive vocabulary that helps prepare viewers for the SAT just as well as it complements his uniquely honest analysis of the game to the cadence of Strangis' play-by-play which is perfect for the sport, the duo is humorous, informative and, best of all, just appear to be having a good time. I'm also a big fan of Carolina's duo of John Forslund and Tripp Tracy, the Kings' Bob Miller and Jim Fox and the Panthers' Steve Goldstein and Bill Lindsay. On a national level, I enjoy the play-by-play work done by Dave Strader in the U.S., and Jim Hughson and Chris Cuthbert in Canada, but the rest of their broadcast teams (which generally involve the likes of Brian Engblom, Glenn Healey and Pierre McGuire) routinely drag them down.
Dimitri Filipovic - Sometimes, when I’m down in the dumps, I like to put on a little Jack Edwards. For the first few minutes, I genuinely find his commentary hysterical. Quickly, though, I find myself hate-watching, with passion.
Canucks broadcasts are a difficult watch for me. It’s weird watching a game on mute, but sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish the silky smooth tones of Jim Hughson weren’t invading my personal space.
I will point out that my plan as of right now is to have Rick Jeanneret be the ‘MC’ at my wedding. So take that for what it’s worth.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - voted the Best Sports Blog in Los Angeles. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.
Dimitri Filipovic is an Associate Editor at Canucks Army. His one purpose in life is to edutain the masses, at any cost. You can follow him on Twitter at @SoYoureAnExpert.