Happy Thanksgiving (and consumer-insanity Black Friday) to my American friends. You don’t have to pepper-spray one another to get your question answered here (or in the THN magazine and on THN Radio). Just make it relevant, relatively non-time-sensitive and I’ll try my best to deal with it. Now on to our questions, all from Americans this week:
Hey Adam, the Ducks’ lack of success the past few weeks has been really confusing. They have their all-star goalie back, one of the best lines in the league, and what seems to be a solid defense that has not changed since last year. Their team is virtually the same as last year, but they cannot get the goals or the wins. What is your analysis on the Ducks losing these past weeks? And will this turn around soon? Thank you.
Brent Kelly, Anaheim, Calif.
I think there are a number of factors behind Anaheim’s woes: for starters, Corey Perry is on a pace that would leave him with 19 fewer goals and 40 fewer points than he had last season; Ryan Getzlaf is on track for his worst offensive year since his rookie NHL campaign; and Bobby Ryan is on pace for the worst full season of his pro career. Doesn’t matter how talented they are – if they’re not producing, the Ducks are in trouble.
Then there’s that allegedly solid defense corps. It might have been passable with veteran Lubomir Visnovsky in the lineup, but when the 35-year-old was sidelined two weeks ago with a broken finger that could keep him out a month, the domino effect on the rest of the blueline group was not positive. Finally, goalie Jonas Hiller isn’t stealing games for them as he has in previous years.
You can’t point to one of those particular problems as the sole cause of the Ducks’ losing skid. Indeed, each individual’s struggle makes it more difficult for the others to overcome theirs. And it doesn’t look like there’s a miraculous second-half-of-the-season comeback in the cards for them this year.
Adam, what is really going on with Roberto Luongo? An upper-body injury? They won't say what it is. It seems like no one is reporting on this. It's like he has just vanished from the face of the earth. For those of us who care for this man I think the media and journalists should help us out here.
Don J. Murphy, Albuquerque, N.M.
Because you live out in the land of Breaking Bad (a.k.a. the greatest TV series of all time – and yes, I’ve seen and loved The Wire), I’m going to assume you don’t pay much attention to the non-stop, fishbowl coverage of Luongo that takes place here in Canada. In any case, Luongo’s mystery ailment is apparently now gone and he’s ready to return to action.
But the bigger issue here is the NHL’s policy of allowing teams to hide injuries through the most vague descriptions. The reasoning for doing so –that teams will target a player’s injured area(s) if there was full disclosure of them – isn’t used by any other big-time professional sport. If players did indeed target an injury, they could be suspended harshly enough to scare the rest of the league straight. But this is the reality, unfortunately, that leaves fans and media in the dark.
Hello Adam, I was recently reading the latest rookie issue of The Hockey News. When reading about teams’ sophomores, I couldn't help but think about how Logan Couture should have won the Calder Memorial Trophy over Jeff Skinner. Skinner had 31 goals and 63 points and his team did not make the playoffs. Couture, however, had 32 goals and 56 points, while helping the Sharks to the playoffs. I can't help but feel that, because he helped the Sharks with a lot of depth, he should have won rookie of the year.
Joshua Howell, Pittsburgh
You’re writing to a guy who had Couture first (and Skinner second) on his Calder ballot last year, so you’ll get no argument from me. I saw Couture as the more complete player and a guy whose numbers would have been more impressive had he not been playing behind stars such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. The Canes have Eric Staal, but not the same degree of top-tier depth possessed by San Jose, giving Skinner more opportunity.
That’s not to say Skinner won’t be a better player than Couture when it’s all said and done. But I think some voters get caught up in focusing on one particular skill, rather than the all-around talents that don’t show up on a scoresheet.
Adam, the Avs are sliding dangerously and Joe Sacco’s job has got to be in danger. The question is, who is out there to replace him?
Cole Hamilton, Boulder, Colo.
With coaches, as with goalies, there are always options out there. Maybe the Avs bring back former coach Bob Hartley, or take a chance on Chicago Wolves bench boss Craig MacTavish. Maybe they go the minor-league route and hire a relative unknown the way Minnesota did with Mike Yeo and the way Dallas did with Glen Gulutzan. Maybe they shock the world and hire a crusty old-timer like Mike Keenan, who is ready to jump back into the mix at the drop of a hat.
Hey Adam. In a couple of weeks Antero Niittymaki will be healthy and the Sharks will have three goalies. With the quality play of Thomas Greiss, Niittymaki could be expendable. Who needs a goalie such as Niittymaki, who might trade for him, and what might the Sharks get in return?
Allen Rudolph, Los Gatos, Calif.
I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself in supposing Sharks GM Doug Wilson will move Niittymaki instead of Greiss. The latter is 25 years old and Niittymaki is six years his senior, so who’s to say Wilson couldn’t fetch more on the open market for Greiss?
As for teams that are interested in acquiring a goalie, it’s tough to say given the changing dynamics of the market from week to week. Not long ago, the Leafs were wringing their hands over the injury to James Reimer and disappointing play of backup Jonas Gustavsson, but now, Gustavsson has redeemed himself (at least in the short term) and Brian Burke may not be willing to pay a high price for a netminder.
Regardless, it seems like Wilson will be able to move one of them for a mid-tier prospect and/or draft picks. Both Greiss and Niittymaki are more affordable (in terms of the cost of acquiring them) than a Cory Schneider or Jonathan Bernier would be and should move first.