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The Penalty Box: Ready to rock

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com



Hi Shawn-

I must say, I am pleased with your musical selection.

It's nice to see someone so into hockey and music, which got me thinking maybe you could hold a contest where readers e-mail you a song that best fits the mood of the topic.

It would be a great way to discuss hockey and music at the same time. What do you think?

Who do you think are the best five playmakers in the game? And who are the five most underrated playmakers? 

I was a little surprised by some of the veterans you said would not be playing for the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team. Bill Guerin is still plenty good and he scored 36 goals last season. I also think Keith Tkachuk has some fuel left in the tank.

Who do you think from the 2004 U.S. World Junior Championship gold-medal-winning team can make the Olympic team?

I'm also curious about your opinion of New Jersey's offense and defense. I've felt that the other Devils players haven't gotten enough credit because everyone is focused on Brodeur. Brodeur is one of the greatest goalies of all-time, but does he get too much credit? 

It was New Jersey’s offense that bailed out Brodeur in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

I think Vladislav Tretiak is the greatest goalie of all-time.

Lastly, I want to know how far you think the Sharks should go to sign Brian Campbell this summer.  I have heard – probably from bitter Sabres fans – that he said he doesn't want to sign with the Sharks because he'd be too far away from his family.  Have you heard anything about this? I desperately want him to remain a Shark; he contributes so much with the Sharks in all three zones, and his spin-o-rama goal had my jaw meeting the floor. 

I was happy you included Nabokov as an honorable mention for the Vezina. For most of his career he's gone unnoticed, so I'm happy he is getting the recognition this year.

I want to thank everyone at NHL.com who stays up late just to watch Western Conference teams so they don't get ignored. Thanks for the sacrifice.

Daniel Zickuhr
San Jose


Wow, that is a lot of information in one letter. You sure are full of questions, but CTN loves that. So, let’s answer you point by point.

Brain Campbell has made the San Jose Sharks a more formidable Stanley Cup contender.
WATCH: Campbell highlights
– CTN thinks the musical theme is a great idea. CTN would love to hear suggestions from the Penalty Box community about what songs capture the mood of the playoffs and why. Plus, CTN likely will revisit the song lyrics preview of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that debuted last year around this time. CTN thinks music and hockey is the perfect match and is so happy you feel the same, so please feel free to send in your musical suggestions.

– As far as the playmakers go, CTN thinks Mike Richards, Paul Stastny, Jason Arnott, Matt Cullen and Joe Thornton – yes, Joe Thornton – are underappreciated. CTN knows Thornton is at or near the top of the scoring race each season, but too many fans feel he is not that good a center. CTN believes that is a completely indefensible position.

 – As for Team USA, the Americans must start to turn over their roster. Yes, players like Guerin and Tkachuk could play in 2010, but for what purpose? Their presence on the USA roster would take away spots from younger, fresher players that will help the Americans become a skating, puck-pursuing team that can do some damage in an Olympic tournament.

— Finally, CTN will bet the proverbial farm the Sharks will do all they can to re-sign Brian Campbell. Will it be enough? Only Campbell knows for sure. But CTN knows this much: It was a move Sharks management had to make and kudos to it for pulling the trick and sacrificing some assets to try to win now with a club that clearly is Stanley Cup material.

CTN hopes he has answered your questions. Thank you and come again.


Hello Mr. Roarke! 

I want to express thanks for your kind words about AC/DC. My dad and I like how you connected AC/DC group members and NHL players, especially Angus Young and Theo Fleury. Mr. Roarke, do you know if AC/DC will be releasing a new album soon?

Thank you very much Mr. Roarke!
Yours truly,
Richard
(NHL fan from the far away cold land of Russia)


Richard, always good to hear from Russia. According to reports, AC/DC will be coming out with a new album this year, so we all have that to look forward to. Most likely it will debut late in the year; CTN will keep you updated. The likeness between Theo and Angus was just too rich to pass up. Thanks for appreciating it.

Hello CTN

Let me start by saying I am a huge Ducks fan. That being said, my two favorite Ducks are George Parros and Chris Pronger. The fact that Pronger might be one of the most hated players in the League right now doesn't help. After the "stomping" incident I was reading some reader comments published by a different sports news site and TRULY came to realize how much people don't like Pronger. However, after reading the Penalty Box this week I am encouraged that not everyone hates him. I thank you for not being another "Pronger Stomper.” 
I look forward to your blog every week.  Keep up the good work.

John Marshall
Lake Elsinore, CA


Pronger
John, it constantly amazes CTN, as well, that Pronger is so vilified wherever he goes. In that regard, he reminds CTN a lot of Claude Lemieux – a player that gave his all for the sweater he was wearing and came out as a winner more often than not. His teammates – at least most of them – loved him, but everyone else despised him. Pronger has that abrasive personality that can get the dander up in others and his career has been a lightning rod for controversy, so that doesn’t help his likeability. But CTN will tell you this – if CTN were picking an All-Stanley Cup team, big Chris Pronger would be a top-four defenseman.

CTN –
 
First, I would like to start by saying you are by far my favorite of the many fine feature writers on NHL.com. Always fun and informative, and I find it refreshing that you never seem to take either your critics or yourself too seriously. A quick note about your Opening Faceoff piece titled "The Final Exam." While I agree entirely with you regarding the NHL breeding stock of the Staal family, when you contend that Marc Staal "Clearly has the adaptability genes that his older brothers – Eric in Carolina and Jordan in Pittsburgh – used so expertly in their transition to the NHL game," you unfortunately have the order mixed up. While Eric is indeed the oldest, Marc started his journey to the NHL in January 1987, while Jordan wasn’t born until almost two years later, in September 1988.  With three – soon to be four with Jared on the way – Staals to keep track of, I sometimes wonder if even their father can keep track of what order they were born in, so this is a forgivable error. Anyway, keep up the good work.

Ben Huffnagle
P.S. Let's Go Pens!


The Rangers' Marc Staal is one of Jordan Staal's older brothers.
Shawn,

Your stanza about Mark Staal is spot on – he has a lot of promising years ahead of him; however he is OLDER than Jordan. Jordan came into the NHL first but as an 18-year-old last year, whereas Marc stayed in juniors a little longer and is a rookie this year at 20. Other than that, great article. I agree with most of your synopsis.

Thanks.

Have a great day,
Aaron J. Poyer


Boys, thanks for the heads-up. CTN only has two kids – a boy and a girl – and sometimes it is hard to keep them straight. To have four boys, all so close in age, must be a monumental task for the Staal parents. But clearly they successfully have handled the assignment. CTN only can hope he is so successful in his parenting duties. By the way, it appears that Jared Staal is gaining the confidence of scouts this year and slowly is climbing the draft ranking list for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Look for him to make a pretty impressive charge forward when Central Scouting’s final rankings are released in the middle of April.

Your list of playoff rookies is mostly accurate, as always. I completely agree with your choice of Andrei Kostitsyn in Montreal – the kid can score. Especially with Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev, it's hard to convey how excited everybody is in Montreal to see this guy do his thing in the playoffs. However, I'd like to suggest that his little brother Sergei is just as eligible for your list. This kid came out of the shadows of Pat Kane and Sam Gagner when they all played for the London Knights last year when they eliminated my beloved Greyhounds in the OHL playoffs. The younger Kostitsyn has surprised a lot of people by racking up nine goals and 17 assists in 47 games this year for the Habs. Carbonneau is even using this kid on the point for the best power play in the NHL. Dale Hunter called him "the most NHL-ready player" the Knights had last year, before Kane and Gagne. The more I watch him play, the more he reminds me of Saku Koivu. This kid can pass. He seems to have that Koivu-like ability to see through nine pairs of skates and sticks and hit a player with a pass. He might not have the goal-scoring touch of his older brother – maybe he does, who knows? – but he is dangerous every time he's on the ice because of his speed and his passing ability. Sergei and Chris Higgins, who play alongside each other, have been very exciting to watch.

Also, Phil Kessel surely has to qualify for the list.  The playoffs have got to be what Kessel is waiting for.

Greg
Montreal


Sergei Kostitsyn fits very well into the system the Canadiens are playing.
WATCH: Sergei Kostitsyn highlight video
Greg, first let CTN say you are completely right about Phil Kessel being a serious omission from the first-time playoff performer list. As is usually the case when you try to make a list that includes everyone, you somehow forget one of the most important people on said list. And in this case, CTN is guilty of just that. There was no disrespect of Mr. Kessel intended.

As far as the younger Kostitsyn, you make some very valid points. He is a very exciting player. In fact, CTN was lucky enough to see him play with London last year – against John Tavares and Oshawa, no less – and walked away highly impressed. He has been very good for the Habs this year and has gone unnoticed because of the cast around him and the stories they bring to the table. But there is no denying Sergei is an exciting offensive player that fits very well into the system the Canadiens are playing. CTN looks forward to seeing what the Kostitsyn clan can do in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.


After reading Will Nelson's article about Hejduk for the Selke Trophy, I have two picks myself. Being from Jersey, I am a big Devils fan, and Jay Pandolfo or John Madden would be good candidates for the Selke. In my opinion, Pandolfo and Madden both don't receive the credit they deserve. Pandolfo was voted the Devils' Players' Player award and the Hugh Delano Unsung Hero award. Both players are a tremendous help to the Devils, and they have picked up their scoring this year. And what’s up with the Devils being unable to beat the Rangers? This has been killing all Devils’ fans this year.
Thanks and keep up the good work!!!

Tom


John Madden would be a sound choice for this season's Selke trophy.
Tom, Jay Pandolfo is a great defensive forward, but he is not a candidate for the Selke this year because he simply has missed far too many games to mount a serious campaign. Madden, however, is a sound choice and he is having one of the best all-around campaigns of what already has been a very solid career. He is a defensive whiz that makes shutting down the top center for opposing teams look far easier than it is in actuality. CTN doesn’t think he will win the award, though, because the Devils are punished when it comes to individual honors because of their team-first style of play. But he certainly deserves consideration.

As far as New Jersey’s inability to beat the Rangers, you got CTN. CTN actually thinks the two teams should match up well. It’s not like the Rangers are dismantling the Devs. Two of the wins in the season series have been by shootout and, in CTN’s old-school mind, those games are really ties. So if I’m the Devils, I’m not too worried about drawing their cross-river rivals in the postseason.


Hey Shawn -

Last week you wrote, "Talk about spinning your wheels. The Sharks ran off an 11-game win streak and gained virtually no ground. In fact, San Jose led Anaheim by just three points and Dallas by four after the streak ended in the gripping race for the Pacific Division title."

How can you say that? The Sharks were behind both the Ducks and Stars in the standings and are now ahead of both teams. They made up plenty of ground and are now forcing the Wings to keep winning. Detroit has seven games left and must win at least four of those to keep the Sharks from passing them and taking the conference lead. I know this is almost impossible, but the Sharks are finishing strong.

Thanks,
Ken Rovasio


Ken, CTN guesses he should have made himself clearer. Yes, San Jose made up ground with its winning streak, but the Sharks were unable to put away the Ducks, who won at almost as impressive a pace during San Jose’s unbeaten run. One would think that if a team collected 22 out of 22 points during a stretch, it would put serious distance between itself and the teams chasing it. That did not happen in this case and that is what CTN meant. Sorry for any confusion that may have resulted from CTN’s poor choice of words.





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