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The Penalty Box: Let's hear it for 'Sarge'

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com

Crashing the Net continues its homage to Skid Row, started in last week’s Opening Faceoff in this week’s Penalty Box.

But this week’s mailbag is about much more than metal bands of the past. The Devils’ leadership situation and long-term prognosis is under discussion by the Penalty Box inhabitants, as is the upcoming World Junior Championships and the return of Scott Niedermayer to the Ducks.

The Penalty Box also continues the ongoing dialogues about enforcers and the best possible points format for the NHL standings. Colton Yellow Horn and the NHL Winter Classic also make an appearance in this week’s sin bin.

You, too, can join the discussion by dropping CTN a line about anything in the hockey universe. Send your comments, criticisms and/or kudos to roarkeblog@nhl.com. Remember to include your name and keep it relatively short if you hope to spend some time in the Penalty Box. CTN looks forward to hearing from you all.

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Mr. Roarke,
I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment of Sergei Brylin being the ideal captain for the Devils. He doesn't receive the sufficient amount of recognition for the role he plays on the team, and quietly, but effectively fills any position he is asked to assume. There are too many leaders on the Devils to appoint just one, and I feel the decision might have been too hasty. I just hope the whole situation does not cause any bitterness or resentment among the players. What's done is done though, and I am definitely glad a trooper like (Jamie) Langenbrunner received the C. Now, of course, Brylin wouldn't be as intimidating or outspoken as Scott Stevens, but that responsibility is all for Brent Sutter. In my honest opinion, he is the best off-season acquisition made by the Devils. With a demanding coach in Brent Sutter, veteran leadership to guide the rookies, and an experienced backup goaltender that will surely give Marty Brodeur a lift, do you think the Devils are possible Cup contenders? To go deep, further than the second round? No doubt, there are a few holes to fill -- a top-line center, and a top-pairing defenseman. (Patrik) Elias has been playing pretty decent as a center on the top line, not as consistent, and the defense, collectively, has been above average. In the long run (playoffs), do you think they can continue their success (beyond just their current nine-game win streak) with the team they have now? Tried to make it short and sweet, but I kind of got carried away!
-- SA

SA, you make some very valid points about the Devils. But it is too experienced a team to be broken up by a soap opera involving the captaincy. It’s unfortunate that Patrik Elias was stripped of the captaincy, but he has handled the situation as well as can be expected. CTN believes that he will start to play better now that all the leadership issues have been decided. CTN also believes that most of the players expected Lagenbrunner to be named captain when he returned from his injury hiatus. It is a role he has been groomed for since his time as a young player on the powerhouse Dallas teams of the late ‘90s. He will handle his responsibilities with poise and class and keep this veteran-based team together. As for your broader questions, CTN does believe that the Devils will have the goods to contend for a Stanley Cup, as usual. Anytime a team can trot out Martin Brodeur in a playoff game, it has a better-than-average chance to win. The team has some balanced scoring as well, which has not always been the case. Plus, Sutter was a great hire. He will keep an accomplished team hungry through what can be a long and demanding regular season. His fresh ideas are already paying dividends for the club. The one thing that the Devils need to be a top-notch threat to come out of the East is to add another top-tier D-man. Colin White and Paul Martin are a solid 1-2 punch and Andy Green is developing spectacularly. But their bottom three is not exactly the sturdy foundation that has been a hallmark of the Devils’ three championship teams. But, with that said, it would not be surprising to see the Devils still playing hockey in late May this year.

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Good day to you sir, Another awesome CTN and another excellent intro with the great "Youth Gone Wild" by Skid Row! Think I shall be listening to that album on the way to the coast tonight! I don't suppose you have any idea where I could catch any coverage of the World Junior Championships in the UK?

With the lack of trading in the NHL this season what do you think of Brian Burke's "take-back" formula with teams absorbing a percentage of the outgoing salary, which would likely encourage trading. The added bonus being trades create a "buzz," which can only help the League winning over fans.

I'm glad Scott Niedermayer has decided to return, not because it will improve the Ducks, who have struggled without him and Selanne, but because he is a joy to watch on the ice.
Kindest regards
-- Aidan Vedder

Aiden, hope you had a good trip to the coast. Certainly the tunes were top-notch. CTN suggests the “B-Side Ourselves” EP by Skid Row if you haven’t heard it. The band does covers of the Ramones, Jimi Hendrix, KISS Rush and Judas Priest. CTN could do without the Rush tune, but Priest’s “Delivering the Goods” –with a cameo by Rob Halford himself – makes the disc worthwhile by itself. CTN is not sure about an English outfit that is covering the WJC, but does suggest that you log on to NHL.com every day for the best coverage of the tournament. Brad Holland will be on the ground filing daily reports from the Czech Republic and we will have a few surprises and special guests, we hope. Stay tuned.

As for Burke’s “take-back” idea, it certainly is intriguing. CTN believes Burke to be one of the keenest minds in the game and one of its most adept traders, so CTN is loathe to dismiss any of his ideas. But CTN does have some concerns about the long-term ramifications of trading salary in a salary-cap system. And, yes, CTN welcomes you in welcoming Mr. Niedermayer back into the NHL fold. The opportunity to watch his effortless skating stride is an early Christmas present, for sure.

***

Hello,
First off, a much belated welcome back to you! It's good to have CTN back, as it's always an entertaining read. Now, on to business. I'd like to add my two cents on a couple of things discussed in your most recent column.

First off, on the case of goons, enforcers and agitators. I would say that goons would be defined as players who wreak havoc, giving out cheap shots and the like. Enforcers would be the players who defend the stars against the goons. Agitators are just the mouthy, annoying players who try to throw other plays off their game. Although some can play hockey, many are basically useless except for fighting (Boogard, McGrattan, Belak). Of course, they protect the stars and can make room for their more talented teammates, so they still fulfill a function on the team.

As for the NHL's point system. Why not have it be, two points for a win, no points for a loss. Simple as that. I mean, I don't see anything wrong with ties, but if you must have winner, then so be it. But the loser's point is messing up the standings. As of Dec. 5, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in eighth place, even though at least three or four teams had more wins, because the Leafs had six overtime losses. They had six more losses than wins (an 11-11-6 record) but they were still a playoff team. Colorado missed the playoffs last season despite having more wins than eighth-place Calgary. This is completely unfair. So I say, "Get Rid of the loser point!"

Thank you for your time,
-- Gabriel

Crosby

Gabriel, let’s go back to front in answering your ed-mail. First, the points controversy. To say that it was unfair that Colorado was edged out by Calgary despite the fact that Colorado had more wins is just plain wrong. CTN understands your frustration, but every team in the NHL was told what the rules were entering the season and they all played by said rules. When it was over, Calgary had managed to amass more points in the system agreed to by all 30 teams. Nothing could be more fair, in fact. In a hypothetical world, CTN would like to see the League go back to the system used during CTN’s formative years. That system allowed ties – which CTN believes are a legitimate result for regular-season action – and awarded two points for a win, one point for a tie and no points for a loss. But CTN also has no problem with the current system. In fact, CTN has little concern about how the points are divided, as long as it is clear before the competition begins.

Finally, on your point about enforcers/goons/agitators, again CTN must be take exception with your point. Any player in the NHL can play hockey, period. They might not play it as elegantly as Sidney Crosby, but they can play it better than 99.9 percent of the population. And, attempts to pigeonhole players into the groups you have are a disservice to not only the players’ talents, but the game itself. CTN feels very passionately about this point.

***

I liked your article on Team Canada, but one thing that makes me mad about Team Canada is that they look over some good players in the WHL. One is Colton Yellow Horn, who missed three games because of NHL camp. If not for that, I believe he would be leading the league in scoring. But, only time will tell as he is now in the top-5 in league scoring. TJ Fast is another player – not so good with the goals, but a solid defenseman. I wish the NHL scouts would pay more attention to Colton’s stats and less on his outside-of-hockey life. Thanks for listening.
-- Zac Fabian

Zac, CTN is always here to listen to hockey rants. I’m not too sure where you are going with this one, though. Yellow Horn is a very good player, but he is 20 and as an ’87 birth year is ineligible for selection. Also, he has been looked at extensively by NHL scouts. “The Brocket Rocket” has had free-agent tryouts with both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs in the past. Plus, CTN does not think that it is off-ice issues, as much as a lack of size, which has hurt Yellow Horn’s pro chances. He has also been given the opportunity to play for Canada in the past, particularly at the U-18 level, so I do not think that there has been any sort of institutional bias against Yellow Horn.

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Reading your memories of the outdoor game in Edmonton was great because I was there too. Thanks for helping me relive those fun few days! When I got home, I typed up my own story and made a little booklet, including the certificate we got as we left the Stadium, ticket stub, etc. I'd never been so cold in all my life but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. The event at Rexall Place with all the players the night before was really special too. On the flight home, I sat behind one of the refs, Kevin Pollock. When I asked what is was like to be out there, he casually mentioned he had frostbite on both of his little toes, but said that it was a great honor to be able to participate in such an historic event. I think I'll watch the game in Buffalo from the warmth of my living room, though! Hope you get to attend and have a great time.
-- Jan Snyder, Spring, Texas

Jan, it sounds like you have made yourself quite a little keepsake there. CTN has trouble sometimes even remembering to print out his stories from big-time events. CTN knows he will regret this down the road, but such is life. Sadly, CTN will not be going to Buffalo for the NHL Winter Classic. CTN’s oldest, Alex, has a New Year’s Eve birthday (he will be 3) and CTN plans to be home for that. But, fear not, NHL.com will have a crack traveling party to bring you all the sights and sounds from Buffalo. Dan Rosen, John McGourty and Adam Kimelman will all be on hand to document all the action, so plan now to make NHL.com your one-stop shopping destination for all things related to the NHL Winter Classic.


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