Eddie Olczyk has never been shy about giving his opinion, especially in his current position as an analyst for NBC, Versus and CSN Chicago, the network that broadcasts Blackhawks games locally.
On Monday, Olczyk dropped by the NHL.com offices to talk about a host of topics, including the job NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan has done in doling out suspensions during the preseason, the goaltending situation of the Washington Capitals, the remodeling of the Philadelphia Flyers and what will happen with potential free agents Zach Parise and Shea Weber.
Q: Brendan Shanahan has been a busy man during the preseason. How do you feel he's done so far as the new disciplinarian?
Olczyk: Obviously it's a very difficult position to be in, but I think what has happened is the laying down of the groundwork for players to understand. I think we all know when players do not have a regard for their opponent. I actually had that conversation with (NHL Commissioner) Gary Bettman four years ago, we were talking about diving. I suggested why don't you penalize the diver on a penalty call. At that time, the thought was, we don't want to penalize intent. Now, a lot of what you're seeing with these head hits, the intent is what they're penalizing, when a player intentionally targets and goes out of his way to hit somebody. You are technically getting in the mind of a player. We know for the most part what's a hockey play and what's a guy not having any regard for the other player. It's a work in progress, but hopefully players will start understanding you have to be in control.
I don't think it's as black and white as maybe it's being portrayed from where I sit. Because everybody knows it happens so quick and there's a lot of moving parts, so to speak, when guys get in a tough position or move themselves, a change of direction. I'm hoping the physicality doesn't come out of it, because I think what you saw in a lot of situations in the exhibition was there was not a lot of contact, and rightfully so, because guys don't want to put themselves in that spot.
Q: Is this like any other new thing in the NHL where players will eventually adjust and learn, like the clutching and grabbing rules after the work stoppage?
Olczyk: I think it's similar, but I think this is a much longer work in progress. I think those other things are cut and dry. To me, those were black and white -- the hooking, the obstruction, the holding. This is a part of the game that's always been there. The teaching aspect of it, from coaches to players, it's understanding how to make body contact. I like what the League has done with saying body position and body contact -- the center of the body has to be the point of contact.
Now, it may be from 10 feet out and you get to two feet and the guy moves or dives. I'm not sure where it's going, to be honest with you. I've been a lifer in the League, and I'm not sure where it's going. What I think is going to end up happening is the physical part of the game is going to take a step back. For how long, I don't know, because guys are starting to understand you could hurt somebody and you could hurt your team because you're thrown out and or it's a five-minute penalty and it's going to cost you money at the end of the day.
I think teams have to understand when evaluating players. Look at the Brendan Smith hit on Ben Smith. Here's a young guy trying to make the National Hockey League. Brendan is coming one way, Ben's coming the other way, he curls and drags and moves out of the way, Brendan is going by him and he's got to stop him and he chose the wrong way to do it. The teaching aspect is how do players learn from that? Do you stop? Do you just go at him? Do you just go over there and slide on your stomach? Do you just dive over there? That's the gray area for players. I think it's all give and take right now. A lot of players I've talked to in training camp with a lot of different teams, and they're not sure.
Overall, I think it's a great thing because we want to protect the players.
Q: In non-headshot news, what did you think of the Kings' offseason?
Olczyk: Getting Mike Richards, signing Simon Gagne, finally signing Drew Doughty ... to me, I think they were looking for somebody to come in behind Anze Kopitar and they finally have that guy. I'm a huge fan of Mike Richards. I'd want him on my team. I would want to play with a guy like that and what he brings and I think the Kings were missing that. I don't know if they have enough finish offensively … yet. They might, I don't know.
Q: Speaking of Richards, what did you think of all the moves Paul Holmgren and the Flyers made this offseason?
Eddie Olczyk is not totally convinced that the Flyers will have enough offensive finish after of all the moves GM Paul Holmgren made this offseason. (Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI)
Olczyk: I'm not sure. I don't know if they have enough offensive finish. Carter and Richards scored huge goals and were important players. But you look at the job Paul Holmgren has done there, and they were near the bottom three in the League not too long ago. They did great drafting, getting a guy like Giroux. Their 'D,' when healthy, you can argue that it's tough to find a better group than those guys. Now they got the goalie. Ilya Bryzgalov has never been in a situation where he's had a lot of pressure. Philly's a much different animal than Phoenix. The only comparables they have are the "Ph" in their names. That's it. To me, that will be interesting how that works out. I like their team, I just don't know where that other offense is going to come from.
Q: Shea Weber and Zach Parise are two supremely talented players on one year-contracts. What do you expect to happen with them?
Olczyk: Those are two franchise players that can conceivably be on the move during the season. To me, player-wise, no bigger stories than those guys. How will they react? Their teams, where are they in the standings? Can those teams afford to just let them skate out of town and get nothing for them? Those guys are organization-changers for the best and you maybe don't ever recover if you don't get full-market value for them.
Hey, maybe they'll re-sign. I have tons of respect for (Predators GM) David Poile and (Devils GM) Lou Lamoriello, but it becomes a business.
Q: Does it come down to whether the Predators and Devils are in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline?
Olczyk: If I'm a competitor, I'm already on the phone with both of them (the GMs). Those guys don't come around very often. I think a lot will have to do with the success or lack thereof with those players. I can see the talk around Parise being, "Get him out here and look out."
Q: Did the Capitals do enough in the offseason to get themselves over the hump?
Q: What don't you like about Tomas Vokoun? Is Washington a different animal compared to Florida?
Olczyk: I watched him a lot when he was in Nashville. I think I know the goalie very well. Florida, I don't think was a very fair assessment for him. They were in transition, had guys going in and coming out. I just see those other two guys ahead of him right now as far as goaltending and talent. Nashville always had pretty decent teams and he could never get them over the hump. They decided they wanted to go in another direction and when you have a guy like Pekka Rinne sitting there, you can afford to do that.
I think Washington, last year, half was one way, half was the other. Their 'D' is pretty good, too. Mike Green has to stay healthy, Nicklas Backstrom has to have a better year. You can go on and on with about eight or nine teams. If they get "this," and the GM is allowed to spend a little money, they got a legitimate chance.