By Ryan Lambert
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Prior to this week's GM meetings, word started to trickle out that the 30 general managers of the NHL were doing the unthinkable: considering the reinstatement of perhaps the single worst, most pointless, counterproductive, and counterintuitive rule the sport of hockey has seen in last 30 years at least.
That's right, it's the return of the red line.
Nick Costonika talked about such a change at length the other day, getting some very choice quotes from guys on both sides of the issue.
The reason for this proposed change, according to advocates of building a wall in the middle of the neutral zone, is that it will slow the game down and make it safer. Concussions are bad!!!!, after all, and anything the league can do to protect players from getting them is of the utmost importance — except, Jake Voracek and Kris Letang recently learned, when it's not.
So the solution is to outlaw stretch passes that, in theory, make the game faster and allow guys to sail through the neutral zone at Mach 3 and get clobbered into next Sunday by 230-pound defensemen.
And yes, by all means, let's do that. When and if that were to ever actually happen. In much the same way that outlawing fighting isn't going to prevent guys from getting these terrible brain injuries because so few guys actually get concussed during them, reinstating the two-line pass won't prevent concussions because two-line passes, as far as I've been able to figure out, have never actually caused one.
You can say allowing stretch plays encourages players to create a faster and therefore more dangerous game, but that's like outlawing steak because a guy choked on it in a restaurant where no one knew the Heimlich.
(Coming Up: Will Columbus trade top pick?; Kings are in trouble; dissecting Brian Burke; Tuukka time will wait for six weeks; Johnny Oduya is working out; Jeff Skinner's nasty snipe; Bruce Boudreau vs. refs; Chris Stewart scored a beauty; fun with Folignos; what's wrong with Alex Ovechkin?; Giroux does the Datsyuk; Grant Besse's awesome night; and a way to get Antti Niemi back to Chicago.)
In fact, why not look at the Joe Thornton hit that concussed David Perron. The pass that he got caught watching came from inside his own zone when he was skating over his own blue line. So let's take out the one-line pass as well. Make everyone tic-tac-toe it through the neutral zone. And in fact, why not take out the forward pass, while you're at it? That would make sure everyone's good and safe forever, because the league will fold because no one will watch or go to games because the sport will be boring as hell.
The other reason it's stupid, of course, is that it's quite literally designed to increase the amount of offense seen league-wide. Now, my understanding of the causes of the lockout — or at least the thing everyone says is the cause of the lockout (not unlike how idiots say slavery was the reason for the Civil War) — is that there just wasn't enough scoring.
"People don't like 2-1 and 3-2 games, they want to see 4-3 and 5-4!" Remember?
The removal of the red line solved that problem, at least for a while; scoring has dipped back to pre-lockout levels in the past two years. And so everyone in the NHL's corridors of power thinks the solution to this is to bring back a rule that very much engendered every hockey fan's least-favorite four-letter word: "Trap."
To put it another way: If Ken Hitchcock thinks a rule should be instated in the NHL, it's not going to be conducive to more scoring, is it?
Proponents say that bringing back that terrible, awful, no good, very bad rule will have a positive and downright thrilling effect for fans, as well. Specifically, that it'll bring back a focus on skill. (As though the ability to thread a stretch pass from one blue line to the other is somehow not a skill.)
"All the rule changes we made we designed to increase the skill level, but it's become a slap shot from the far blue line and a guy chips it in and you go chase," Steve Yzerman said over the weekend.
Hey, Steve? Yeah, hi. Ryan Lambert here. You know why you see that all the time? Your coach plays the 1-3-1, and that's the only way to beat it. All the crybaby garbage kicked up by the Flyers earlier this year was result of that. I'm sure you remember. Also, you're against no-touch icing because "it bores the game." Uh huh. Well then. No cognitive dissonance there!
There is, for any rational observer of the game, no good reason to bring back a rule that, in case we all slept through the lockout, no one liked. Its possible reintroduction should be viewed for what it is: An attempt to look proactive on the concussion epidemic without actually doing anything to solve it, and making the "product" worse in the process.
The illegal two-line pass was the dumbest rule in pro sports when it was eliminated, but bringing it back now would lower that bar considerably.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim lost to Dallas 2-0 on Saturday and instead of being upset that his team was shut out, Bruce Boudreau was steamed with the officials. "If that penalty on Lehtonen by Getzlaf was a penalty, I'll be a monkey's uncle," Boudreau said. "Even the Brookbank penalty, there was two guys battling. Why do they choose our guy? Both equally doing the same thing. I could go on and on. I said it [last week] in L.A. and I'm now sounding like a whining little crier. But it's not good enough." Well he got part of it right.
Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask spoke to reporters for the first time since injuring his groin and said that of the "four-to-six-weeks" prognosis he got, he'd expect to be out closer to six, confirming what Peter Chiarelli said earlier this week. Bad news for the Bruins. Tim Thomas hasn't been sharp lately.
Buffalo Sabres: More Sabres forwards injured. Yes, again. Thomas Vanek sat out Saturday's game, and both Matt Ellis and Patrick Kaleta picked up knocks during it, and didn't return to action. Vanek remains doubtful for tonight's game against Montreal.
Calgary Flames: Matt Stajan has three points in his last two games. He had nine in his previous 45. Now granted, those games were against Montreal and Winnipeg — not the stiffest competition — but still, look out Evgeni Malkin.
Carolina Hurricanes: Pretty solid individual effort by Jeff Skinner to score his second in a 4-2 win over Tampa. What a shot.
Chicago Blackhawks: Think Johnny Oduya is working out okay for Chicago since he was picked up in a trade? He had a goal and an assist on Friday to pick up his first points for his new team, but he's also stepped up his defensive game, playing more than 20 minutes a night. Chicago has lost just one game out of five since he came aboard, and that was to St. Louis. The teams it has beaten are no slouches either: Toronto (okay, one slouch), Ottawa, Detroit and the Rangers.
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs picked up a shootout win over the Oilers on Saturday and San Jose got shut out by Phoenix, moving Colorado into the eighth and final playoff spot, and the team most people assumed would be a juggernaut in the West into ninth. Granted, though, the Avs have played three more games than the Sharks. But still.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A Montreal writer (not always the most trustworthy source, I understand) says Columbus is expected to trade the No. 1 overall pick at the draft. But with Nail Yakupov possibly out a while with a concussion, will they get the value they're probably looking for? Didn't matter where Jeff Carter was concerned, right?
Dallas Stars: Brenden Morrow returned to the Dallas lineup on Saturday after missing his previous 18 games, scored a goal in a 3-0 win but also took three minor penalties against Anaheim to broaden the gap between the Stars and Sharks in their division. The only team left in Dallas's vicinity is Phoenix.
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Don't look now, but the Red Wings have won just three of their last nine games and still have a number of players dealing with injuries. And they have one road win since Feb. 4. Over Columbus. Which shouldn't even count. Their road record is 16th in the league.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers re-called Linus Omark last week and apparently it's terribly important that he step up his game. He has just one point in eight games this season after putting up 22 in 51 last year.
Florida Panthers: Yesterday was the first game of a critical four-game home stretch for the Panthers that could really help to solidify their playoff spot. They were 16-9-8 at home headed into those games.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are outside the playoffs right now and things don't look even a little bit easier going forward. Their next seven games are against Detroit, Anaheim, Nashville, San Jose, St. Louis, Boston and Vancouver. Yikes.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are going to host Minnesota North Stars night on March 29 in an effort to distract their fans from the fact that they're missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. "Remember how much you guys liked Neal Broten!?"
Montreal Canadiens: PK Subban was an absolute wrecking ball Saturday night in the Habs' 4-1 win in Vancouver. Ryan Kesler got perhaps the worst of it, though Roberto Luongo probably would have said the same thing if he ever saw the shot on Subban's goal.
Nashville Predators: Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn are really doing quite well together in Nashville. Andrei scored two goals in a win over Detroit, and Sergei had the primary assist on both of 'em. The first was particularly Sedin-like.
New Jersey Devils: Anders Nilsson looked primed to pick up his second straight shutout against the Devils, but then with the score 1-0 Islanders and time running out, David Clarkson and Marek Zidlicky scored 14 seconds apart to ensure a New Jersey road victory.
New York Islanders: Saturday afternoon, the Islanders announced they had signed Owen Sound Attack undrafted free agent Mike Halmo. Saturday night, Halmo proved just how much he wanted to fit in with the team responsible for the sideshow act against Pittsburgh last season, gave Nail Yakupov a serious concussion. Same old Islanders.
New York Rangers: Prior to yesterday's game against the Islanders, the Rangers had lost three straight and allowed Pittsburgh to get a real close look at what the top of the conference might look like. All teams go through slumps like this at some point in the season, of course, but Evgeni Malkin has to look like the tyrannosaur in Jurassic Park in their rearview mirror right now.
Ottawa Senators: The Sens' Nick Foligno didn't know how to react when younger brother Marcus scored late in the third period to tie the game for his Sabres. "I was happy and pissed off at the same time," Nick said. "It was definitely a weird emotion. Now that the game is over, I'm definitely, as a brother, really happy for him." Ottawa went on to lose in a shootout.
Philadelphia Flyers: Turns out the kids still love Jaromir Jagr, as he was ranked the 18th-best player in the league by his peers. What's baffling, though, is that Zach Parise barely cracked the top-30.
Phoenix Coyotes: Since Dave Tippett took over behind the bench for the Coyotes, they've won 94 of the 110 games in which they've scored the first goal. Remember, division rival Dallas fired this guys.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Here's a really damn interesting point: Sid Crosby's contract is up at the end of next season. What on earth do you pay him? For how long? Whoa, that's a noodle-scratcher.
San Jose Sharks: "Time's not running out until game 82 is played and the buzzer's gone," said Todd McLellan, who has a rather tenuous idea of how time works, after his team's 3-0 loss to Phoenix. The Sharks have won three games in their last 15.
St. Louis Blues: What a goal by Chris Stewart. What a goal what a goal.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Is it time to give Dustin Tokarski a run-out as the team's No. 1 goaltender? He couldn't possibly do any worse than Tampa's other options at this point, right? Oh what's that? He gave up three goals on 25 shots against Carolina on Saturday? Hmm.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Great profile of Brian Burke in the Globe and Mail, but at some point doesn't everyone get sick of the media dissecting every aspect of his life like he's a frog in a 10th grade biology class?
Vancouver Canucks: Chris Higgins has been fighting staph infections for the last two months and is only now starting to feel better. He mostly played through them, which is an odd combination of horrifying and baffling.
Washington Capitals: It's time for another "What's wrong with Alex Ovechkin?" article. This time, he's not carefree any more.
Winnipeg Jets: When the Jets miss the playoffs this season, they're going to lean heavily on the injury excuse. I mean umm, they're dealing with a lot of injuries right now. Jeepers it's tough out there.
Gold Star Award
Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret's in Minnesota — Jack Jablonski's teammate — led his team to a state Class AA title victory 5-1 over Hill-Murray, an upset in a postseason run in which the team was the underdog in every game.
How good was Besse? He scored ALL FIVE of his Red Knights' goals, and THREE of them were shorthanded. Bananas, feel-good, out-of-the-movies stuff right there.
Minus of the Weekend
Hey Boston Bruins I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything but maybe stop giving up 2-0 first-period leads to your opponents. You did it twice this weekend. It's not a good idea.
Play of the Weekend
I really try hard not to give this to a shootout move ever, but sometimes Claude Giroux forces your hand.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "Blackhawkswincup" has a good sense of player value.
D Douglas Murray (2.5M x 1 yr)
G Antti Niemi (3.8M x 3 yrs)
D Niklas Hjalmarsson (3.5M x 2 yrs)
G Corey Crawford (2.66M x 2 yrs)
What sin are you referring to, Mr. Bandy? My sin of drilling?