Welcome back to 4 on 4! Here is week 17 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Thomas Drance of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Would the NHL even exist without the Blackhawks magical run?
John Hoven @mayorNHL - Salary caps and revenue sharing have brought a level of parity to most major sports, yet the fact remains that when teams are doing well in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, it's the best thing for business in the world of pro sports. Sorry Nashville, a 20-0 run would generate some hockey headlines, but wouldn't do much for the front page of most sports sections. Just ask the UConn women's basketball program. Further, it's great for the sport that one of the oldest franchises - and a proud one at that - has been able to restore most of its luster over since Rocky Wirtz took over the reigns of the once failing franchise. They're once again a major player in the Chicago sports scene and were the toast of the NHL with their Stanley Cup run in 2010. However, it hasn't been a major game changer for the NHL. Now it's time for the league to capitalize on many of the great stories in the sport and do a better job of marketing the overall game and the stars who play it.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - No. The NHL only consists of team east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason Dixon line, anyway. At least, that's what I get from watching the NHL Network. It was awfully nice of Chicago to carry the NHL through these dark days of sold out arenas, record setting TV ratings, and growing popularity even in the most "non-hockey" of markets. Yes, sports fans, without the Blackhawks, none of your teams would matter. Especially you Kings fans out there. You act like winning the Stanley Cup is important. When you move east of the Mississippi, give me a call.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - The short answer is no. The long answer is that ice surfaces everywhere would have melted, precluding the sport of hockey from ever being played again, if it weren't for the unparalleled grace of Patrick Kane's shootout dangles and Marian Hossa's hypnotizing gallops through the neutral zone. The names Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr would have been erased from history books everywhere had it not been Jonathan Toews' two-way brilliance or Ray Emery's convincing impersonation of an NHL goaltender. Simply put, hockey as we know it would have ceased to exist in the domain of human consciousness had it not been for the Blackhawks' ability to win a bunch of games in a row except for the ones they lost. An awe-inspiring accomplishment, and one to which we are all forever indebted.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - Well according to the vast majority of Blackhawks fans the NHL was only founded at the start of the 2008-2009 season anyway. So yeah, the Blackhawks recent streak probably saved the new hockey league that was struggling to draw attention in only in its fourth season of existence.
2. Thoughts on Jake Gardiners agents tweet “#FreeJakeGardiner”
John Hoven - I might be in the minority here, but I don't have a huge issue with it. While traditionalists of old school managers might not like it, it's a social media thing - which isn't their bag of tricks to begin with. Gardners' agent was just stating his opinion while the Leafs were mired in a three game losing streak. He's an agent, his job is to push for his client. That's what he was doing. Further, Gardiner has been putting up decent numbers in the AHL (30 pts. in 40 games), so it wasn't totally unjustified. And with Korbinian Holzer's struggles, along with Komisarek and Liles being healthy scratches, he was feeding the thoughts of the natives who are becoming a bit restless. As another agent noted to me this week, the only bad thing about it was the fact that Brian Burke isn't still the GM there - because he response would have really put the story over the top.
Bryan Reynolds - The question really should be, how do his agent's other clients feel about it? Left out? Like he isn't pulling his weight for them?
Honestly, agents are supposed to push for their clients' well being, and that's all that happened here. If a GM or coach allows that to sway their decision making process, good for the agent & player, and shame on the brass. Otherwise, it's Twitter, and we really shouldn't be getting ourselves all worked up. After all, we really should save our feigned rage for the next time a NHL team tells us we're welcome for beating the Canucks.
Derek Tanabe - My first thought was that it's kind of weird his agent follows me on Twitter. Apart from that, self-interested as he might be, he's probably dead-on. I wonder how deafening the calls for Randy Carlyle's head would be if his goaltenders weren't playing out of their collective mind so far this season (call it the Reverse Alain Vigneault Syndrome). He seems to have severely mismanaged his lineup this year, particularly on defense. He's taken a player in Dion Phaneuf who's made All-Star games and been a Norris finalist playing on the right side and inexplicably moved him to the left, where he's struggled immensely; he's giving Mike Kostka huge minutes against the conference's superstars and he continues to ice an over-the-hill John-Michael Liles. Gardiner is easily better than the latter two options as well as guys like Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser and could significantly improve the Leafs' woeful territorial play at even-strength as well as their league average power play.
Thomas Drance - I thought it was pretty funny.
From a Canucks fan perspective, I'm particularly amused because Ben Hankinson is also the agent for the most common resident of Canucks headcoach Alain Vigneault's puppy-dog chateau: Keith Ballard.
So a couple of weeks ago the Vancouver media was using the "#FreeKeithBallard" hashtag in jest while Gardiner's agent spoke with the team about other his client's ice-time. A week later Hankinson deploys the "#FreeJakeGardiner" hashtag and I have to think the seed of the idea was planted by the Ballard chatter a week earlier. How good is that?
3. Keep or Trade: What would you do with Jarone Iginla?
John Hoven - What you do is buy a time machine and go back to 2010 or 2011. Then you trade him. His value was worth much more then and the assets in return could have set the franchise up nicely for many years to come. Now, it's probably two years too late and the return will be a fraction of what it could have been, as he'll become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Iginla will still command a bounty of a few pick(s) and/or prospect(s) - maybe even a roster player as well. But, nothing like a few years ago, where it might have been a four for one trade. Good ol' Kipper would be an intriguing trade as well, yet there probably aren't too many suitors for his services, as the goalie market looks to be a buyer's market right now. Calgary keeps buying instead of selling and they've really pinned themselves in on this one.
Bryan Reynolds - Depends what team I'm running. If I have to run the Dewalt Tools of NHL teams, the over priced and living off their name Calgary Flames, I am trading him faster than Doug Risebrough can blow a first round pick. If I am running anyone with a chance to make some noise, I want him on my team. Since he is currently a member of the Flames, you have to expect that he will be traded, but the Flames will throw in a first round pick and a young prospect for some fourth line grinder, and bag of pucks, and non-existent 8th round pick. Most likely to the Coyotes.
Derek Tanabe - Trade him. Trade Miikka Kiprusoff too and, assuming he'll walk as a free agent next summer, get what you can for Jay Bouwmeester. Ultimately, the decision rests with all of these players as pretty much every Flame on the roster has a no-trade or no-movement clause of some sort but the Flames will almost assuredly miss the playoffs this season and need to start building around what appears to be a promising core up front in Mikael Backlund and Sven Baertschi. For all the doom and gloom in Calgary, they do have some valuable depth pieces in place at least for the near future like Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak, Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman. If they can flip Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester for high-end young talent, they might be able to return to the ranks of competitive hockey clubs sooner rather than later.
Thomas Drance - I'd probably build a time machine, warp back to a time two or three seasons ago when Iginla was still a dominant two-way force (as opposed to a player who can still get it done offensively, but at his age gives much of it back in his own-zone) and trade him.
Unfortunately for the Flames and Jay Feaster, they can't figure out waiver rules. So tearing a hole in the space-time continuum is probably beyond them.
As such they should still move Iginla for whatever they can get at this year's deadline and begin to rebuild in earnest. The Flames will still recoup a whole bunch in return for Iginla this season - even if they won't manage to acquire the bounty they probably could've netted back when Iginla was still in his prime and the Flames still were only a playoff bubble team.
4. When will Drew Doughty score his first goal?
John Hoven - Sure, if he visits Jake Muzzin at the hotel and tries out some NHL13 on Xbox. While much is being made of his offense, or lack there of, if the Kings keep winning, it becomes less of an issue. As both Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi have talked about, he's being asked to play a different role this year. Those extra minutes and tougher situations have him pretty gassed lately. Sure, he's still getting the power play time, but the goals just aren't going on. At the same time, the Kings have more offensive weapons on the PP than they did just two years ago - i.e. Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards. Yes, it would be nice to see something like his end-to-end rush from Game 2 of the SC Finals, the skirting of the blueline floater in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals - but, with the way it's been going this season, goal number one will probably come off of someone's skate or shin pad.
Bryan Reynolds - March 30th, at the 2:02 mark of the second period. It will break a 1-1 tie and will be the resulting game winning goal against the Wild. It will be assisted by Jonathan Quick. You can count on all of this happening, so be sure to place really awkward bets with your co-workers that result in you doing something really embarrassing if you lose, like wearing an Oilers sweater to work.
Derek Tanabe - Probably on Saturday against the Sharks just to spite me. It's bizarre though; he's averaging more shots per game than he ever has before in his career and is taking those shots from, on average, a shorter distance to the net than all but a few defensemen in the league. You have to think the pucks will start going in for him at some point. It's just been an awful-luck season for Doughty who's still playing elite hockey but hasn't been rewarded for it in the slightest.
Thomas Drance - Shortly, I'd think. His shot-rate has actually jumped up this season over last year, so it's mostly the percentages that are eating Doughty's grape.
I have to think that'll change in short order, unless Doughty did something truly offensive to the hockey gods this past offseason.
It's also worth remembering that even if Doughty only scores a couple of goals this season - or put another way, even if you take away 60% of Doughty's offensive value - he's still so good in his own end and in transition, that he'll remain one of the top-five defenseman in the NHL.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - selected as 2012's Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports. As a member of the Professional Hockey Writer's Association, his insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). Works for Engagementlabs. He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.
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