LAKings.com Presents 4 on 4 - Week 14
Week 14: Four writers answer the biggest questions surrounding hockey.
Welcome back to 4 on 4! Here is week 13 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. What do we do about this shootout?
John Hoven @mayorNHL - The problem isn't the shootout itself, it's the value of the win. If a shootout isn't a 'real' win, then it shouldn't be credited the same as a win in regulation. From a butts in seats standpoint, the majority of people don't like ties. There's been a nice correlation from when the shootout was instituted after the 2004-05 lockout and the popularity of the NHL (i.e. record revenue figures). So, even though a game comes down to a skills contest, it's one of the most exciting ways to decide a regular season game and the entertainment factor is priceless. However, fixing the standings where things get tricky. Traditionalists want to use team point totals as comparables to past records, but really that concept was thrown out when the shootout was first introduced - and creating the 'three point game' problem. There are dozens of solutions to explore, with the most popular involving awarding three points for a regulation win. However, I'll throw something else out for consideration - simply give two points for regulation wins only. If a game is tied, skip the overtime and go straight to the shootout. At that point, it's what the fans want to see and most teams seem to be playing for anyway. Then, give the winner one point and the loser gets what losers deserve - zero points. Isn't the idea of sports to win? If so, stop rewarding teams with a point for not-losing in 60 minutes. A loss is a loss, zero points for you.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - This thing is so ridiculous, i say we just take it to the logical end. Make it like the breakaway contest in the All-Star game festivities. Have the guys grab some props, use three pucks, change to figure skates, add in a triple lutz, and a team of three judges selected from MLS, MLB, and the NFL judge them on a scale from 1 to 10. Who ever has the most points after three shooters wins. Also, let's expand it into the playoffs. What better way to determine who hoists the greatest trophy in sports than by showing off some costumes and puck juggling?
Seriously. This thing needs to die. The NHL sets itself up to be ridiculed by casual sports fans. Do the rules change in any other major sport from regular season to the playoffs? It's just stupid. If we aren't going to get rid of it, at least make Gary Bettman take his chances at each arena once a year. At least then I might find some sort of entertainment value in it.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - Jettison it into the sun. The usual, and valid, argument against it is that it's simply an utterly unsatisfying ending to a hockey game. But that isn't even close to the extent of its implications, given the related institution of the loser point. Across the board, teams tend to play far more conservatively late in the third period with the score tied, making for flat-out boring hockey. I try not to be a purist about the sport, and I'm really not at my core, but the shootout is a despicable scourge on hockey that must be ended.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - Eliminate it. It's basically a coin flip, and frankly, I miss ties. Ties are fun particularly because they're deserved. Teams can blow a two goal lead, limp through over-time and still come away with a win in the shootout? That team didn't deserve the two points. They deserved the one for the tie. All the shootout does is artificially increase parity. I can't stand it!
2. Does the NHL need to rethink their Goalie Interference Rules?
John Hoven - Something's not working right here. On one hand, goalies are like quarterbacks in the NFL, in regards to protecting them and their safety being paramount for the game. But, when there's a legitimate goal and the opposing player never touches the goalie (especially outside the crease) and gets an interference call, there has to be some revisions by the league. Nobody wants 'open season' on the goalies either, so tell the sympathizers to calm down. All said though, there may not be any easy way to massage the current situation. For starters, there are many factors to consider: is the goalie in or out of the crease, did the forward actually make contact with the goalie and the thin line between incidental contact vs. a penalty. Video review probably isn't the answer either. After previous use of video wiped out dozens of goals because players were in the crease - and one call was famously not reversed in the Stanley Cup Final (looking at you Brett Hull) - the NHL ended up abolishing that rule. They need to fix this one though, as fans watch hockey for offense more than anything else. And that's the major difference when trying to draw an analogy to a quarterback - the NFL protects that position because they want offense. From a high-level view, any rule that reduces goals in the game of hockey is the exact opposite of what the NHL should be trying to do.
Nathan Eide - No. The goaltender needs to be protected. You can't declare open season on someone in a vulnerable position. The goaltender should be more off-limits than a quarterback. If anything, they should be tougher.
Derek Tanabe - I think so. I wouldn't necessarily be in favor of drastic changes but just like, once upon a time, the NHL alterred its policy on goal validity with skates in the crease (Sabres fans may have wanted to look away for that last bit), it might be a decent idea to allow for a bit more official discretion in waiving off goals. Particularly on goaltender-initiated contact, the rulebook seems rather vague and it might be time to at least permit incidental contact in the crease without voiding goals scored.
Thomas Drance - I think they're fine, though I'd like to see the NHL call diving more often. In last night's Canucks - Wild game, Ryan Suter pushed Dale Weise into Niklas Backstrom, who dramatically fell back, knocked the net off its pegs and negated a scoring chance in the first period. Now if Weise had legitimately run him, I'd think that should be a penalty. But goaltenders know that these rules are exploitable, and to even that out I think the referees need to crack down when they take advantage of that.
John Hoven - Not to sound too simplistic here, but the NHL's Department of Player Safety has pretty much explained the difference (WATCH HERE) - well, at least on the Stoll hit. Cam Fowler stopped short just before the boards. They've essentially said that if a player turns (changes direction) or stops, then the burden of responsibility is reduced for the hitter. In this case, that didn't give Stoll a free pass or a free hit on Fowler. It only means that because Stoll followed through normally (i.e. he didn't lead with his elbow or leave his feet), it wasn't worthy of a fine or suspension. The biggest thing that fans miss in this situation is that just because Fowler was hurt doesn't mean Stoll did anything wrong. Hockey is a tough sport. Hard, legal hits can lead to injury. Dubinsky's hit on Scuderi is different, as Scuderi's head is much closer to or is the principle point of contact - so that immediately raises a red flag. The play also appears to have more of an 'intent to injure' factor. Thus, a fine (and in my opinion, a suspension) was warranted.
Nathan Eide - I disagree wholeheartedly with both disciplines. Stoll's hit was as dirty as they come, Dubinsky's didn't deserve anything more than maybe a minor. I was shocked that Stoll not only got away with it on the ice, but didn't end up being Shanabanned. Shows how arbitrary the NHL's disciplinary system still is. Frankly, I'm beyond trying to understand.
Derek Tanabe - I'm still amazed that Brad Watson, deliberately turning to avoid the impact of Stoll's blatant boarding, opted not to call a penalty on that play. At any rate, it was clearly suspension-worthy in my view as Stoll explicitly applied pressure to the back of Fowler's neck while dangerously and awkwardly forcing him into the boards. I realize every controversial hit is now required to be referred to as "the kind of thing that has no place in this game," but that was the kind of thing that has no place in this game. I'm more sympathetic to Dubinsky's decision-making on his hit as he appears to pull up, establish body position and somewhat attempt to impede Scuderi's progress as the Kings defenseman travels into the boards before applying the check. The end result was still dangerous as Scuderi was shoved face-first into the glass, but I think the fine Dubinsky was assessed was probably the appropriate punishment.
Thomas Drance - I think they handled the Dubinsky hit on Scuderi more or less appropriately, and probably should've treated the Stoll hit the same way. Neither call outrages me though, this is a tough game to officiate and actually so far this season my impression is that the play has been relatively clean league wide, especially when judged against the standard of last season.
4. Is the NHL ready for all this expansion talk? Which players from your team would you expose to an expansion draft?
John Hoven - For ease of the realignment desired - four divisions of eight teams each - the fact is the NHL needs 32 teams. In a perfect world, the two new teams would go to cities that will generate the most cash up front. Thus, if the Coyotes move out of Phoenix, it's better to relocate them to a city in one of the two western time zones (i.e. Seattle or Las Vegas) and leave expansion for the real big fish - Quebec City and a second team in Toronto.
As for the expansion draft, the Kings protected their goalies from Nashville, Columbus and Minnesota in the most recent expansion drafts. And Dean Lombardi valued netminders during the 2000 expansion draft as well, making separate deals to protect Evgeni Nabokov from being chosen by Minnesota or Columbus. This time around, Jonathan Bernier will likely be traded before any such draft was to take place. So, he becomes a non-factor. Using the rules of the 2000 expansion draft, teams would be able to protect either (A) one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards or (B) two goalies, three defensemen and seven forwards. LA's most likely scenario is option A, where they would protect goaltender Jonathan Quick; defensemen Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov; forwards Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Dwight King, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams.
Perhaps the most interesting debate would be if Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner and/or Simon Gagne were resigned by Lombardi. All three are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer. With new deals in place, you'd likely look to add them to the protected list - thus having to exposing one (or more) of the names listed in the previous paragraph.
Bryan Reynolds - No, the NHL is absolutely not ready for expansion. There are too many teams already struggling to stay profitable, while other teams give up their profits to make sure those failing don't go bankrupt. After watching the North Stars leave as an impressionable young person, I would never want a team to move. That said, if there are markets that the NHL thinks can be successful, let's look at getting the teams we already have in places where they can succeed. After all, there are only so many billionaires that can con cities into building them new stadiums to avoid moving to Seattle. Not to mention the fact that we already have 7 rounds with 30 teams drafting, and teams are drafting their neighbor's kid in the 7th round just to make the kid smile. Now we need more teams to dilute the talent? Nah.
Now, if there were expansion, the Wild would be smart to leave their bottom nine open to be plucked. There just isn't much there worth protecting, to be honest. They would protect the guys you expect them to protect, but if it were me, I give the new team a chance to take some of the contracts off my hands. Chuck Fletcher has worked hard to build the bottom six into something that resembles a hockey team, but none of these guys are irreplaceable. For d-men, I protect Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Tom Gilbert. If some team really wants to start their existence with Justin Falk, let them do it. Please note: All of this is assuming that players on ELCs are protected. If not, the Wild would be protecting a number of young guys in Houston.
Derek Tanabe - Assuming the rules are the same as they were in 2000, I'd have the option to protect a goalie, five defensemen and nine forwards. Off this season's Sharks roster, I'd likely leave Thomas Greiss, Douglas Murray, Brad Stuart, Nick Petrecki, Matt Irwin (reluctantly), Michal Handzus, Adam Burish, James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins unprotected.
Thomas Drance - Expansion money, especially from sucker Canadian municipalities who will pay through the nose with public money if it brings the populist nectar known as professional hockey to their city, is just too attractive to the league's owners. So expansion will happen, and we'll have 32 teams at some point during the course of the current CBA. It sucks though, the talent is already pretty diluted in a thirty team league and several franchises have structural financial issues as it is. But that's professional sports these days.
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.