It’s too early to worry about the Blackhawks and Lightning, the real NHL season doesn’t start until January, Stan Fischler writes.
* Both the Blackhawks and Lightning slow waltz from the starting gate should not cause alarm. Both Joel Quenneville and Jon Cooper understand the Punch Imlach Theory: that is, the real NHL season doesn’t start until January.
* Whether it was a trip or a toe-pick on Connor McDavid, it’s senseless to suggest that there was any hint of a deliberate attempt to injure the whizkid. The tragedy of it all comes down to this — pardon the bromide — A Hockey Play Gone Bad. That said, the Oilers have to hope that Leon Draisaitl has the goods to at least adequately replace McDavid.
* Every month in every way, the Bruins’ long ago decision to trade Tyler Seguin to Dallas looks almost as bad a move as Bobby Orr’s even-longer-ago emigration to Chicago.
* Wisecrack of the Week: Long before the Crosby-Ovechkin Era arrived, Darryl Sutter once described his aversion for trading stars for draft choices this way: “Draft picks have a way of ending up as bartenders.”
* The Steven Stamkos’ contract water torture reminds me of Ryan Callahan’s last weeks with the Rangers. Cally loved the Big Apple like The Stammer loves Tampa. Nevertheless, Ryan exited Broadway and Steven may bolt the Bolts. I say he wants to play for Toronto.
* Best team in the NHL right now is the Rangers. Even when they play a bum game they manage to win. Skating in three-quarter time, they’re faster than most of their opponents.
* My Reader Letter of the Week comes from Gus Vic who sums up the Rangers this way: “The Blueshirts are an odd group. They’re mediocre for stretches yet I never get he sense they’re in trouble. They can win any game they play except for those in Montreal.” (Yeah, and the next time they’ll beat the Habs in Habtown.)
* Both the Coaches Challenge and 3-on-3 are well-intentioned changes to improve the game. However, the lukewarm response from fans tells me that there are better solutions. How about four-on-four for five minutes and then three-on-three for three minutes if necessary? And, then, heaven forbid, the shootout.
* The newest super pest to arrive on the scene is New Jersey’s Bobby Farnham. And if you don’t believe me, ask Kyle Okposo and a few dozen other Devils foes. There’s a lot of Ken Linseman in Farnham.
* Urgent Message To Bob Murray: DON’T FIRE BRUCE BOUDREAU. (I doubt that he will.)
* John Tortorella wisely advised the civilized world not to expect instant miracles from the Blue Jackets. Fair enough, but if Torts fails to get the Columbians in high gear by New Year’s Eve, we’ll start wondering whether the Tortorella hiring was for real or just a publicity stunt.
* If the Capitals are going to be anything beyond an Ovie-entertaining team, Washington’s defense has to show me more than it has so far. This point was underlined during last Tuesday’s visit to Madison Square Garden. Furthermore, the 5-2 loss to the Rangers proves that Braden Holtby is no Carey Price. Nor Henrik Lunqvist for that matter.
* Hidden behind the endless McDavid-Eichel “Who’s Better?” rookie stories lurk a couple of nifty forwards named Dylan Larkin and Oscar Lindberg each a Calder Trophy candidate. Lindberg is succinct in evaluating his super start: “I wasn’t expecting it — but I’m happy.”
* Asked to name the best player he’s seen so far, Red Wings scout Mark (Hall of Famer) Howe offers Filip Forsberg and Evgeny Kuznetsov. “Do either of them eventually get any better than (Alex) Ovechkin?” asks Howe. who then answers his own question. “I don’t know.”
* Isn’t it remarkable how coaches can soar from the subterranean to the stratosphere in one easy season. The current Exhibit A happens to be Lindy (Occasionally Gruff) Ruff. In all fairness, Ruff’s latest lofty stature is due in large part to the wisdom of his boss, the very under-played GM Jim Nill.
* I’ve been a Paul Maurice fan since his Hartford days. Another example why is what the Jets coach told Elliotte Friedman about Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd with new contracts in the offing: “These are two solid guys who work hard, don’t bitch, and know they will be getting paid.”
* A personal request that makes sense. The NHL should order all players to skate without a helmet during pre-game exercises. It would give fans a chance to see what the stick handlers look like without the head gear.
* The best-little-mentioned Shootout artist in the NHL happens to be New Jersey’s Jacob Josefson.
* The MacLean who I’d like to see behind an NHL bench instead of behind a mike, is Doug. He’s savvy, intense and rates one more coaching gig.
* Three Characters I Dearly Miss For Different Reasons: 1. Vladimir (I Love Pop Tunes) Nabokov because he remains my all-time favorite goalie interview. 2. Marty St. Louis because he was the best little NHL man since Henri (Pocket Rocket) Richard. 3. Mike Keenan. I haven’t forgotten how he piloted the 1994 Rangers to the Cup.
* Apart from the top-drawer goaltending they get from Cory Schneider, the Devils other three most important players who’ll determine whether or not New Jersey is a playoff team are Travis Zajac, Adam Larsson, and Lee Stempniak. By the way, Ray Shero knew what he was doing, hiring John Hynes to run New Jersey’s bench.
* Here’s the Lou Lamoriello quote of the month, or year: “The Maple Leafs should be the Yankees of the NHL.” (Lou should know, he once worked for the Bombers.)