The Hockey News’ mailbag appears every Friday. I do the answering, you do the asking. I thank you for the questions, even the ones I can’t get to here, in the pages of our magazine, or on our Sirius/XM Radio Show. Let’s get to it:
Hey Adam, we are one year away from the Olympics. Assuming the NHL participates in the tournament, who are the best bets to play goal for Canada?
Jerry Plante, Pembroke, Ont.
The easy answer right now is that Carey Price and Roberto Luongo would be the frontrunners for the job as Canada’s starting goalie. However, I don’t think you can count out Carolina’s Cam Ward from the picture. He’s struggled with consistency this season – his .909 save percentage and 3.18 goals-against average are worse than backup Dan Ellis’ numbers (.939 SP, 1.99 G.A.A.) – but the 28-year-old has the capability of stealing games when he’s hot. As always, though, anything can happen in the next year to either push one of those players out of the picture or bring a new candidate into the mix.
Hey Adam! When are the Toronto Maple Leafs going to sign Paul Ranger to an NHL contract? Their rotating wheel of defensemen in and out of their lineup early in the season is reflective of the Leafs lack of defensive depth beyond a tired/underperforming “Celine” Dion Phaneuf, an injured Carl Gunnarsson and Jake Gardiner.
I can't understand why Gunnarsson was not paired with Phaneuf when healthy this season anyway. Mike Kostka has been OK, considering this is his rookie season, but perhaps playing with Gunnarsson or Gardiner would help spark Phaneuf and bring his plus-minus up, and cut down his minutes so he can not whiff on shots so much. Ranger has been outstanding for the Marlies. He is a dependable two-way defenseman and has considerable size. I would love to see what he can bring when paired with Phaneuf.
With James Reimer's resurgence, strong overall defensive commitment, and balanced scoring without Kessel, it is time for the Leafs to either sign Paul Ranger, or make a trade for a 30-year-old to get into the playoffs as Burke used to adamantly oppose. Whether the Leafs get their butts kicked in the first round or not, it is time for players and management to see at least if they can win in the playoffs, or not, and assess team needs from there.
Nick Stoyan, Toronto, Ont.
There’s little doubt Ranger has been impressive with the Marlies and could help the Leafs’ defense corps, especially now that Gunnarsson is on the injured reserve list with a wonky groin. Unfortunately, Ranger has made the personal decision – still unexplained publicly – to restrict his career to the American League and his Toronto hometown. And he has every right to do it. People make similar concessions in other lines of work and the sports world should be no different, no matter how much players are making or can make.
I’m going to disagree with your assertion the Leafs need to acquire a veteran to push them into the post-season. The problem with Toronto in recent years is they’ve made exactly those kinds of moves – think Martin Gerber – with no discernable benefit. In fact, it usually winds up hurting their draft position and hamstrings their ability to improve in the long term. The reality, painful as it may be, is that GM Dave Nonis & Co. would be best served to stay the current course they’re on and not give away youth and draft picks for a measly handful of playoff games.
Hey Adam, how much longer do you think the Sharks have as a legitimate contender? Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski show tons of promise, but Patrick Marleau and Jumbo Joe are not getting any younger. It's been the same old story every year since the '05 lockout, plenty of regular season success, but none in the post-season. Is this season perhaps the Sharks’ best shot yet at getting the Cup?
Wayne Downing, Oakland, Calif.
I don’t think the Sharks are in danger of falling off after this season, if that’s what you’re asking. San Jose GM Doug Wilson may not have a Cup on his resume during his time with the franchise, but he has led them to playoff appearances in 13 of the past 14 seasons. Moreover, the Sharks have made it to the conference final in two of the past three years. I know a lot of GMs who would kill to have that type of “failure.”
Sure, Marleau and Thornton aren’t rosy-cheeked cherubs anymore, but with Couture in tow and the luxury of a well-managed payroll – San Jose will have nearly $39 million in available cap space two years from now – I don’t doubt he’ll have the ability to acquire talented players who want to play in the California sun.
Adam, this is in response to Ken Campbell’s article (http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/49824-How-the-NHL-can-relocate-the-Coyotes-and-get-its-expansion-money-too.html) on relocating the Coyotes to Seattle. In Seattle they don’t have an arena yet, but will soon. But the Coyotes need to be moved this year. Your other two options are Toronto and Quebec City but neither of them have arenas ready that are NHL-suitable. Do you think moving the team to Saskatoon is a possibility? That city has an arena, the Credit Union Centre, that could easily be ready for NHL hockey on a temporary basis. The NHL would solve its problem in the short term and improve the value of the franchise and relocation fee and get some return from their years of losing money in Phoenix.
Kyle S Kindersley, Saskatchewan
I wish I could tell you and all the rabid hockey fans in Saskatchewan that I think this is a distinct possibility, but I can’t. The NHL would have no desire to drop a franchise into a city for only one season unless it was an absolute last resort. And I don’t think they’re anywhere close to even the third-from-last resort at this stage. Simply put, there’s just not the corporate base there to sustain a team over the long-or-short-term.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.