(In my best Pavel Datsyuk impersonation): Mailbag extra long this week, so introductory paragraph extra short.
Long time reader, first time writer. As a Capitals fan I loved what we did this season, loved it so much I took holidays and went to all the home playoff games, and my fingernails just grew back.
I just wanted to know your season highlights – was it Alex Ovechkin ripping it up against Montreal with his missing tooth? The emergence of the Penguins? The machine-like efficiency of the Red Wings? The spontaneous combustion of the Senators? The reincarnation of the Blackhawks?
For me personally, it was the emergence of Alex the GR8 and the Capitals; we knew he was good, but the dude dazzles and should clean up in the awards. What are your highlights?
PS – I am moving permanently to Perth, Western Australia. I am gonna miss hockey; don’t know what I will do. Any suggestions?
Antonio Sujeevan, Ajax, Ont.
As a Caps fan, I guess you’re pretty happy after the NHL Awards Thursday. I was, as well, especially for Bruce Boudreau, an amazing guy whose ascendance to the top of the coaching ranks was certainly right at the top of my list of favorite stories this year.
I also got big kicks out of the Blackhawks’ long-overdue resurgence, the upstart Canadiens, Sam Gagner and Nicklas Backstrom, Johan Franzen’s massive head (I fully expect Indiana Jones to run out of his mouth someday soon, followed closely by a giant stone ball), Marc-Andre Fleury’s roller-coaster season, Martin Biron’s success, and Ne-Yo performing at the All-Star Game in front of Atlanta hockey fans who thought someone thawed out MC Hammer.
I could go on, but those who’ll be editing this probably prefer I don’t.
You’re moving to Australia and you’re complaining? I’d miss hockey, too, but I’m sure I’d find consolation by wiping my tears on sunbeams and beautiful Aussie women.
You should be able to access NHL games down under by subscribing to the online version of the league’s Centre Ice package, but you’ll be paying a pretty penny to do so. But if you’re as cheap as some of my family members, the best way to stay up to date on all things hockey is, of course, by visiting THN.com.
Just so you know, I am a big fan of your articles. Every time I get the latest installment of The Hockey News I immediately skip to your “Proteau Type” article. Not only are they accurate in the opinion itself, but are cleverly written in a sarcastic manner that makes them so interesting to read.
As for my question (which is much shorter than my compliment), do you think Olaf Kolzig belongs in the Hall of Fame?
As with many things in life, flattery will get you everywhere in this space. You’re too kind, and frankly, I wish you’d transfer some of that excess kindness to a handful of nasty s.o.b’s who regularly barrage me with their predictable bile.
Whenever I get a Hall of Fame question, I prefer deferring to the wisdom of THN Senior Special Sections Editor (and our Hall of Fame expert) Brian Costello.
When I asked him about Kolzig, the words “chance” and “no” were used, and not in that order.
Yes, Kolzig has a Vezina Trophy under his belt, but he’s never won a Stanley Cup and has just one first-team NHL All Star honor during his 15 seasons in Washington.
As Brian notes, if Mike Vernon and Andy Moog aren’t in the Hall yet, Kolzig won’t be, either.
During the Flyers-Capitals series and to a lesser extent, Flyers-Penguins, some commentators hypothesized that the league wanted to see an Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby match so badly the refs were looking the other way a great deal.
Putting aside the gentle bias of home team broadcasters, I’m having a hard time believing Stephen Walkom and his staff would stoop to doing this, regardless of what would make for good TV.
My question is: am I far too trusting of the sanctity of unbiased officiating? (Be honest, now…)
Carolyn Greene, Zionsville, Pa.
I’ve already been accused of being the Gloria Allred of NHL officials, but I’m going to go ahead and defend them again.
Yes, the officiating in these playoffs left much to be desired. Yes, there were nights conspiracy theorists had a lot of material to work with. But a big part of me thinks the reason for the increased debate regarding NHL officiating is the PR disaster the NBA’s men in stripes are currently suffering through.
Here’s my bottom line: Until somebody comes up with a shred of proof that the NHL is working with its zebras to fix games, I’m giving Walkom and the league the benefit of the doubt.
Right now, they deserve at least that much.
Do player bonuses count towards the cap? If a team like Pittsburgh could sign a player like Marian Hossa for a relatively low sum ($4M) and then include several performance bonuses, would this give them some wiggle room cap-wise?
I, for one, would love to see more bonuses in contracts. It seems far too many players wait until the year their contract expires to up their play, and I’ve always thought that including bonuses and stipulations regarding production for scorers would further motivate players to perform.
Mark McAuley, Hastings, New Zealand
The short answer is, yes, bonuses count towards the cap. For a more accurate explanation, I refer you to the Frequently Asked Questions section of nhlscap.com, one of THN.com’s website partners.
It certainly seems like some players get motivated only when they’re due for a new payday, but the truth is, there are lots of factors that play into performance levels.
If everybody could flick a switch when they wanted to, we’d have a league full of Alexei Yashins on our hands. And I’d think you’d agree, nobody wants to see that.
I’m a lifelong Bruins fan from Nova Scotia. I absolutely bleed black and gold.
I’m just wondering, with the draft and unrestricted free agency season approaching, is there any hope for us? I have never seen a Cup come to Boston. I watched my idol Raymond Bourque bring another team’s championship to Boston and I get let down year after year, but I stick with them no matter what.
We have great players in Boston, we just have terrible ownership! Rumors about signings of Ryan Malone and former Bruin Brian Rolston are making my mouth water.
Please, if there is anything you have heard, answer this question. I can’t stand the suspense!
Andrew James MacNeil, Cape Breton, N.S.
Haven’t heard anything specific, however I’ll answer you anyway.
You won’t find a harsher critic of the Jeremy Jacobs Era in Boston than yours truly, but I’ve got to give ownership and management their due for a better-than-expected performance in 2007-08.
(And, on a side note, Jacobs’ $10-million donation to The University at Buffalo’s heart-vascular institute deserves a wild round of applause.)
The Bruins already have $48 million committed to salaries for the upcoming season, meaning they likely won’t have room to add the talents of a Malone, Rolston or Hossa. Still, thanks to GM Peter Chiarelli’s patience and coach Claude Julien’s stultifying defensive schemes, the future in Boston looks as positive as it has in many a year.
I think teams are sometimes too quick to fire the coach (case in point: Sharks firing Darryl Sutter; Sharks firing Ron Wilson; Kings firing Marc Crawford).
Which 2008 firings, if any, do you think were premature?
Dick Estel, Fresno, Calif.
Firstly, I wouldn’t say the Sharks erred in firing Wilson, nor would I say it was wrong for the Kings to pink-slip Crawford. The former had a number of chances with a talented group and couldn’t win when it really counted; the latter made some serious mistakes – e.g., anointing Dan Cloutier the team’s clear-cut starting goalie without any real basis for it – during his short stint in L.A.
Likewise, I’d say virtually every recently dismissed coach had it coming, with the notable exception of Joel Quenneville in Colorado. All that guy did was win 131 games in three seasons with an Avs team that was never mistaken for a bona fide Cup contender.
Hard to imagine what anyone else could’ve done with that crew.
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