NHL Notebook: Lose the Shootout, Not CHL 9-Game Clause; Best Goaltenders
They decided another hockey game with a one-on-one skills competition in Calgary on Tuesday, and it was the perfect illustration of why NHL general managers devalued the shootout in the offseason. The Oilers-Flames game was also the latest example of why the shootout has to go soon.
Down 4-1 to their provincial rivals in the Saddledome, the young Oilers valiantly battled back. The exciting future of the franchise was on display. Jordan Eberle scored with 17 seconds left in the second period to make it 4-2. Magnus Paajarvi and Tom Gilbert tied the game before the third period was half-over. In the thrilling final stanza, Edmonton out-shot Calgary 17-10.
What a wonderful game, the kind of mid-week October dazzler the NHL can proudly point to and say, "How often does the NBA provide this for its fans? How about MLB"?
The overtime was a blast. No, it wasn't a classic display of end-to-end, tape-to-tape magic. Overtime at the Saddledome was chaos, with a handful of scoring chances stopped by Miikka Kiprusoff and Nikolai Khabibulin. When it was over, fans of both teams roared. It was over too soon, which is the problem.
After a five-minute break so the Zamboni could clean the runway, they held a shootout to decide whether the Oilers or the Flames would gain the second point in the standings. After 65 minutes of passionate, nasty, glorious, haphazard hockey, Calgary -- the home team that blew the 4-1 lead to last year's 30th place finisher -- "earned" the victory. How? Because over six shooters in the one-on-one skills competition, only one man could score a goal. That player was the Flames' Alex Tanguay, who over the last three seasons has averaged just 11 goals when there are other players on the ice.
The shootout, my friends, is done. Yesterday's news. A gimmick -- honestly, a sincere try -- to come out of the lockout with something to make the fans happy. Maybe in the next CBA they can try ... lower ticket prices!
Last March, Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson shared an idea at a meeting of the league's managers: when we're breaking ties for playoff berths, let's throw out all the points earned by shootout victories. And (cue Movie Trailer Guy) in a league where hardly any man agrees on anything, Howson's proposal was quickly approved by the Board of Governors and competition committee.
The people who run the NHL determined that the shootout was not real hockey.
Play overtime for ten minutes. I'll let the Howsons and the Ken Hollands determine whether the field should be 4-on-4, 3-on-3 -- as long as they play hockey. If no one scores after ten minutes, both teams get a point. We shall call it a "tie." Neither team wins, but everyone wins.
Magnificent Seven: Goaltenders
The criteria is the same as last week's list of top defensemen: for 82 games, plus potentially four rounds of playoffs, who would you want on your team for the 2010-11 season? The chosen seven have a lot in common. None have led their team to a Stanley Cup. None have played in a Stanley Cup Final. Not one of them even plays on a team picked by anyone, other than family members perhaps, to be in the Final this season. Please do not take this as a sign of disrespect to Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo or anyone else. This is just one man's top seven. Put any of them on one of the league's best teams -- Rinne may already be on one -- and imagine the results.
1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres: I really do wonder, even though Miller is still just 30, what the burden of carrying a team for so long will do the length of his career.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes: And to think, Don Maloney got him off waivers from Anaheim. Such an amazing talent, you can't blame Dave Tippett for wanting to start Bryzgalov every night.
3. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames: No, I'm not just going with the hot hand as Kiprusoff carried the Flames over the last week. Like Miller, Kiprusoff lifts Calgary a lot more than he's given credit for.
4. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Five seasons completed in the NHL, a three-time Vezina finalist. Lundqvist is the rare New York athlete who is the antithesis of over-hyped.
5. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues: He may have had his breakout party for four weeks with the Canadiens last spring, but Halak might prove his true worth over a full season by getting the Blues back to the playoffs.
6. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: 6-5 with his skates off, a mountain of a man with his gear on. To top it off, the Finn is as flexible and quick as any of his peers. If Rinne played in Toronto, they would have already named a street after him.
7. Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers: Since a contender cannot add his $5.7 million cap hit -- at least not until trade deadline day -- Vokoun is embracing the challenge of returning the Panthers to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Every game he starts, Vokoun gives them a chance.
Keep 9-Game Junior Clause As Is
With each NHL season, more and more we hear the cries of a half-dozen or so general managers twisted over a major decision this time of year:
"There's nothing left for him to learn in junior hockey."
This week, "him" could have been Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks or Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes or Alex Burmistrov of the Atlanta Thrashers. The issue at hand, of course, is whether to keep a super-skilled teenager in the NHL or return him to Canadian junior hockey.
Once a player with junior eligibility remaining plays his tenth game of the NHL season, the first year of his Entry Level Contract is regarded as honored. For example, Nino Niederreiter -- the fifth overall pick in the June draft -- played his ninth game for the Islanders on Wednesday in Montreal. Now that New York has returned him to the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, the club still has him for all three years of his ELC.
The problem for many GMs is that there is no middle ground. Developing these vital assets in the minor leagues is not an option. It's the NHL or juniors. Some managers have quietly commiserated with their colleagues about the potential of a change. How about allowing us one "exception" from each draft to stay in our club's system once signed?
There is some merit to the proposal. However, it's not going to happen. And it should not happen.
Many of the Canadian junior clubs -- those in the Big Three of the Western, Ontario and Quebec leagues -- generate surprisingly substantial revenue. However, the teams are also in the business of developing young hockey players. They've done a good job of it for decades. As much as you couldn't blame a Rick Dudley in Atlanta for believing his franchise (not his OHL team, the Barrie Colts) is the ultimate investor in Burmistrov's future, and should have all the say in where a first round draft pick should go, a change would be a killer for the junior teams.
Any alteration of the junior rules would face quiet opposition from a surprising faction: the scouts themselves. Said a veteran Eastern Conference scout of the three junior leagues: "As tough a choice as it is for the GMs, and as much as a big part of me wants to see our guy in our system as soon as possible, I like it the way it is. Across the entire league, you maybe have five to ten of these cases a year. That's not enough to mess with what's been a good system for a long time."
Heroes of the Week
The Edmonton Oilers, the Oilers Ladies and the franchise's Community Foundation raised $100,000 on Sunday as part of the league's NHL Fights Cancer initiative. The team held its second annual Rally Against Cancer fundraiser, selling limited edition Oilers scarves which came with cards signed by the players. Throughout the month of October, each NHL team will conduct fundraisers for Hockey Fights Cancer. The Oilers really knocked it out of the park.
-- The Comeback Player Within the Month has to be Carey Price, who has turned jeers to cheers in Montreal. Have a feeling it's going to be a rollercoaster ride all season for the Canadiens' No. 1 goalie, but he showed a lot by fixing his game under pressure.
-- Can we start mentioning Steven Stamkos in the same sentence as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin? Yes, with 18 points (8 + 10) in nine games after a 51-goal season, I believe we can.
-- Through seven games this season, James Wisniewski is 2-9-11 -- all but one point picked up on the power play. The defenseman could be an unrestricted free agent in July. When the Ducks traded him to the in-need Islanders, it was the perfect stage for a player who feels he was slighted in Chicago and Anaheim.
-- Even if it meant trading four more players, the Blackhawks were never going to deal Patrick Sharp. Arguably the most underrated player in the league, Sharp is the glue in the Chicago room and has nine goals in his first ten games this season.
-- The best players-for-players trade of the offseason will likely be Boston's acquisition of Nathan Horton. Peter Chiarelli was very wise to provide the flashy right wing with the change of scenery he craved when he asked out of Florida.
-- Congratulations to Jim Devellano, who deservedly enters the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 8. Not many people can say they were on the ground floor in the building of two great teams, as Devellano did with the Islanders and Red Wings.
-- NHL Elite Four -- 1. Nashville 2. Washington 3. Detroit 4. Tampa Bay
-- NHL Bottom Four -- 27. Buffalo 28. Ottawa 29. Edmonton 30. New Jersey.
-- Today's Three Stars -- 1. Tom Lysiak 2. Dave "Tiger" Williams 3. Peter McNab