LAKings.com Presents 4 on 4 - Week 12
Week 12: Four writers answer the biggest questions surrounding hockey.
Welcome back to 4 on 4! Here is week 12 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 Canucks goaltending situation make a good reality show?
John Hoven @mayorNHL - Not so sure about a reality show based on the Canucks' two goaltenders. Both guys have been saying all the 'right things' far too often to create any sort of buzz. So, probably not - because a bunch of politically correct talk wouldn't keep the show on the air for more than a few weeks before it was cancelled. Now, open the idea up to the whole Canucks organization and there's at least a good 24/7-style four-week run in there. You'd have the goalies, GM Mike Gillis claiming he has a "trade in place" for Roberto Luongo, coach Alain Vigneault teetering between vague comments to the press and occasionally using his 'blame game' card, the never-ending sea of injuries that surrounds the team, a pair of Sedin brothers just being the Sedin brothers and footage from every road game could be great - as the Canucks are easily the most hated team in the league right now. Yet, if stories of diving, cheap shots and whining weren't enough to convince a reality company to get behind the project, there's always this to fall back on - Cory Schneider does some pretty funny impressions of several teammates. While that won't carry a full 13-week TV season, it's at least a starting point for a 30-minute special on Comedy Central.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - Reality television sucks, so the Canucks would fit right in, yes. The drama up there is contrived, unnecessary, and completely idiotic. Sounds like week two of every reality show ever made. If @Strombone1 is actually Roberto Luongo on Twitter, the guy definitely has a sense of humor, and Schneider is just unknown enough outside Vancouver to be able to make himself into the villain if need be. Of course, at some point Mike Gillis would pull some sort of surprise twist, and send the two out to play forward, and there would be calls that the show jumped the shark. It would all be very sad.
Much like Vancouver.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - Undoubtedly. In fact, I think Alain Vigneault should just solder two nets together and enclose Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider within them, initiating a cage match to the death to determine the Canucks' starting goaltender.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - The question isn't whether or not Vancouver's seemingly never ending "goaltending controversy" would make for a good reality show, the question is would it make for the best reality show.
I think it would, but there's have to be an open bar that would never close I figure. Only then could it really approach the heights of the consensus pick for "best reality show of all time" which, of course is Temptation Island.
The season opener last weekend, in which Cory Schneider was scored on five times by the Anaheim "don't call us Mighty" Ducks and was pulled for Roberto Luongo made for stupendous drama (even though the game was disappointing for every Canucks fan and every fan of tightly contested hockey). The characters are big: Mike Gillis, Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Dale Tallon, Roberto Luongo, Roberto Luongo's Twitter account and Cory Schneider; and the plot lines are big: Burke's firing in Toronto, Nonis' hard-ball after the fact, Luongo's presumed reluctance to waive his no-trade clause to go elsewhere so long as Florida is in the mix and Mike Gillis' attempts to soothe an impatient Vancouver fanbase and the braying Vancouver sports media.
So yeah, I really see no reason this wouldn't make for must watch network television. Let's get Mark Burnett on the phone!
2. Have fans forgave and forgotten?
John Hoven - Face it, they always do and every pro sports league knows it. For all the people who rightfully voiced their frustrations during the NHL lockout, the announcement that it was over was like a giant switch being flipped all around North America. Fans in nearly every city showed up in record numbers - just to watch training camp! Then, NBC reported record ratings for Opening Weekend in major markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - plus Phoenix, of all places. Fans have also been sharing their excitement through their wallets. On Thursday the Sabres sent out a tweet claiming the team store sold more merchandise last week than during the entire 2010-11 season. One week compared to a whole season? Fans in Buffalo are clearly back on board. Truth is, the NHL fan isn't your typical sports fan - they spend more on average than fans of the other 'big four' sports even though they're smaller in total numbers. People might still be hurt or angry or some other similar feeling, but that hasn't stopped probably 98% of them from watching and going to games. It's no surprise either. Most fans view sports as an escape from their everyday lives - the kids, the job, etc. So why would the average hockey fan deprive him/herself of something that brings them such happiness? They won't. There's more love than loathe for the sport. Hockey is about passion and hockey fans have an abundance of it.
Bryan Reynolds - For the most part, yes. Hockey fans screamed and shouted about how high up on their horse they could get, and how they were never coming back. Without fail, every single fan I saw who wrote something along those lines is now tweeting about the NHL. This was completely expected, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of it. Passion leads to anger when it is unrequited. Once the game returned, fans fell back in love with their abusive suitors and bought up tickets and merchandise by the bucketful. Hopefully the NHL doesn't make that out to be a sign that locking out the league once every eight years or so is OK, but with the leadership shown thus far... who knows?
Derek Tanabe - By and large, it would appear so. Television ratings are as high as ever, arenas are filled to the brim and some teams like the Blackhawks reportedly had people add themselves to the season ticket holder waiting list before the lockout was even lifted. To some extent, it's unfortunate fans have been so quick to forgive the NHL. This surely only emboldens the league to stage future lockouts as the chance of serious fan retribution seems nonexistent. More poignantly, though, it underscores the fact that the NHL has a monopoly over the highest level of professional hockey in the world. It's obviously admirable and important to support minor, rec league and college hockey but fans have nowhere else to turn but the NHL if they're seeking the greatest tier of talent the sport has to offer. That's what allows the league to unilaterally lock out its players and that's what ensures the fans will always return. It's a good system for the NHL but is it good for hockey?
Thomas Drance - Oh yeah. Fans have forgiven and forgotten. The show is big enough to trump any pettiness or vindictiveness among hockey fans, as the record television ratings and completely packed arenas (even in non-traditional markets like Florida) can attest to.
3. True or false? The Kings will miss Matt Greene.
John Hoven - Of course they will. Come on, you're talking about the guy who scored the final goal in Game 6 of last year's Stanley Cup Final. Now back to reality, where - despite what he did on June 11, 2012 - Matt Greene will never be known for his offense. Looking at the stats, he averaged 16:40 of ice time last year during the regular season. That was fifth most on the team among defenseman, or about what you'd expect from a guy playing on the third pair. He was also plus-4, which was better than Drew Doughty. Normally you'd think a five-six defenseman might be easy to replace. Yet, there are several notes that can point to Greene's value to the Kings. He was third on the team in blocked shots (behind Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi) and averaged the second most minutes played when they were short-handed (only trailing Mitchell). The Kings have been one of the best penalty killing teams over the last few years and Greene deserves a large share of the credit. He also has been second on the team in hits the last few years, so they'll miss his physical game as well. Finally, Greene not only wears an 'A' but brings leadership to the locker room, something coach Sutter pointed out several times this week. Losing Greene was bad enough, but having him out of the line-up at the same time as Mitchell may be too much for the Kings to overcome. Hence the rumors that GM Dean Lombardi is actively seeking a trade. Just one problem, defensemen like Greene and Mitchell are pretty hard to come by.
Nathan Eide - 15 points isn't exactly difficult to replace, and he isn't exactly a Dikembe Mutumbo when it comes to blocking shots. Sure, he's mediocre at moving the puck out of the zone, and plays a reasonable positional game, but let's be honest here; Greene is a replacement level defenseman, one the Kings will have little difficulty replacing with a warm body who can likely increase the scoring output.
Derek Tanabe -False. Matt Greene isn't a bad player per se, but his skillset is eminently replaceable. He struggles to move the puck out of his own end, his skating is barely NHL-caliber and despite his reputation for solid defensive play, he takes a boatload of penalties primarily because he gets caught out of position so often. He's physically imposing and a useful, crease-clearing penalty killer (at least when it isn't him in the box) but I don't think the Kings are any worse off with Jake Muzzin in their lineup. I find it hard to envision a scenario in which L.A. would actually miss Greene. Willie Mitchell, on the other hand...
Thomas Drance - True. The Kings defense-corps is a massive strength of the team, and one-through-six they're as good as any other NHL team (except maybe the New York Rangers). Beyond that, however, the Kings lack quality depth and the injuries to Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell have exploited that.
I've written at length (HERE) previously about how lucky the Kings were to have their top-six defenseman (Martinez, Scuderi, Doughty, Mitchell, Voynov, Greene) healthy throughout last years postseason. They were the first team in a generation that didn't have to contend with a serious injury along the blue-line during their successful Stanley Cup run. In the early going this season, they're going to have to.
Even without Greene and Mitchell the Kings are an elite club, but they won't be quite as dominant as they were last Spring until they get that wicked top-six back together.
4. Without Lidstrom, and now Holmstrom; do the Red Wings fall into bottom 7 obscurity?
John Hoven - First off, it would take a prolonged period of not making the playoffs for the winged-wheel to travel into obscurity. They'll more likely continue being one of the best draws in hockey for several years to come, as they've banked a lot of good will with their fan base via the success they've had over the past 15-20 years. That said, will they fall out of the top eight playoff spots? Most likely. But, not for long. If anyone can save the Red Wings from obscurity, it's GM Ken Holland. He has a knack for finding gems late in the draft, making shroud trades and hasn't found the salary cap era to be too much of a hindrance thus far. However, this time around he's not replacing Sergei Fedorov or Steve Yzerman - he needs to replace one of the five best defensemen of all time, Nicklas Lidstrom. Even with Mike Babcock behind the bench, one of hockey's elite coaches, there is a gaping hole on their blueline that will likely be their short-term downfall.
Nathan Eide- One might want to sing "Ding, dong, the Wings are dead!" but I wouldn't go that far ... yet. This is still a team with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Kronwall, et al. plus Ken Holland finds a way to win. While the shine may be off the rose and they aren't going to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents ... in a shortened season, their age will be less of an issue. They will make the playoffs, and give someone fits in the first round, but I can't see them moving past the first round.
Derek Tanabe - I can't bring myself to count out a team with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on their roster. At even-strength last season, the Wings scored 54 more goals than they allowed. As good as Lidstrom was (and he was pretty good, if you haven't heard), no single-player loss is enough to make a team anywhere near 54 goals worse. They'll have struggles with that thin blueline corps and perhaps they're no longer a perennial Cup contender, but the Wings' forward depth is as strong as it's been in years while players like Ian White are underrated but talented pieces on defense. As long as Babcock is behind the bench and Datsyuk and Zetterberg are on the ice, this is still a great puck possession team, and they should be able to ride that to at least a 6th or 7th place finish.
Thomas Drance - I think so, more because of Lidstrom's absence than Holmstrom (Holmstrom was a fourth liner already).
Speaking of which, in terms of the "garbage goal gene" Holmstrom was the heir to legendary L.A. Kings left-winger (and current front office executive) Luc Robitaille. They had different styles (Holmstrom was an immovable force, Lucky Luc had the uncanny hand-eye coordination and timing) but if you wanted a greasy goal in the slot - those two were the best of their respective generations. Who takes up the torch now? I think Alex Burrows is up there, Boston's Nathan Horton is a contender too, Patric Hornqvist in Nashville certainly fits the mold and in terms of Kings forwards I'd say Justin Williams is the best net-presence guy (or at least he was, before the Carter acquisition allowed him to become more of a playmaker on L.A's top-line). I'm really curious to see which current NHLer steps up.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - selected as 2012's Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey 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.