Red Wings would find same problems if they wanted to trade Hasek
Happy New Year to everyone. I'm no Chinese astrologer, but I do believe this is the year of the puck. Let's just hope it doesn't turn into the year of the lockout.
The Mailbag please...
Don't you think, at this point, Dominik Hasek would serve as better trade bait for the Red Wings than Curtis Joseph? No slight against either of these great goalies, but do you concur with me that eventually Manny Legace will assume the No. 1 position and make everybody forget both? -- Greg Scupholm, Battle Creek, Mich.
I said last year during one of CuJo's rough patches that I thought the Wings should just go with Legace. He has been the best backup in the league over the past three or four years, and based on his modest salary of $1.1 million, he's also a tremendous bargain.
But Legace is untested as a starter over the long haul, and the Wings would be foolish to go into the postseason trying to use Legace as their starting goalie. Joseph's previous playoff failures and Legace's lack of postseason experience make it clear that a healthy, focused Hasek is the only option if the Wings are serious about winning the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in eight seasons.
Hasek has been decent when he's been healthy this season, but his inability to stay healthy is worrisome to the team. That is the biggest reason why the Wings are still carrying three netminders even though general manager Ken Holland has been trying to unload Joseph for nearly six months now.
If Detroit wanted to trade Hasek, it would find itself in the same situation as with attempting to trade Joseph -- no one would take on Hasek's salary. Much as teams don't want to pay $8 million for Joseph, they definitely don't want to pay $6 million for a clearly declining, injury-prone netminder like Hasek.
But that's not even mentioning the fact that Hasek has a no-trade clause and surely wouldn't accept a deal to ship him out of Hockeytown. When he agreed to come out of retirement, he did so with the understanding that it would be for one final run at the Cup. So there is no way The Dominator would want to be uprooted from a comfortable situation with a contending team in Detroit to play the final few months of his career elsewhere.
CuJo has already been sent to the minors twice this season, but both times he's had to clear waivers. Last season, two guys who got shuttled up and down were Jason Spezza and Mariusz Czerkawski. Czerkawski had to clear waivers before he was sent to Hamilton, but Spezza didn't have to deal with the waiver process. At what point in someone's contract or career does the waiver thing take effect? -- Phil, Winnipeg
The waiver process is based on the amount of service time in the NHL, depending on a players' age when he breaks into the league. If a player breaks in at age 18, he is given a five-year exemption from waivers, while if he begins his NHL career at 19 it is a four-year exemption. However, once someone plays in 11 or more games in a season, that exemption is reduced to three seasons, regardless of whether that player remains in the NHL.
It sounds more complicated than it is. Basically for young guys such as Spezza, they are able to be sent down as many times as the team wants to without exposing them to the waiver wire. But for veterans such as Joseph and Czerkawski, each time the team calls them up and then wants to send them down to the minors again, they are required to clear waivers before being allowed to report to the minor league team. Additionally, if players are returning from injury teams can send them to the minor leagues for conditioning purposes without subjecting them to the waiver process.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for San Jose, but the Sharks currently find themselves in playoff contention and chasing the Pacific Division lead. If they're still in that position after the All-Star break, do they abandon the rebuilding and make some trades for a playoff run, or do they stick with the rebuilding? -- Scott Moran, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
The end of February is usually when teams decide whether they are going to be buyers or sellers in the trade market leading up to the deadline. I have to believe that the Sharks would be buyers if they can keep it up for another two months. Especially with the free-agent market going to be flooded due to the number of players whose contracts expire at the end of this season, the dealings leading up to the deadline could be especially intense this year.
Sharks head coach Ron Wilson told me Thursday he doesn't feel like the team needs to do much tinkering with the roster. He's pleased with the group of players he has right now, and notes that the Sharks are still one of the youngest teams in the league.
San Jose will get a boost to its lineup when Milan Michalek returns in a few weeks. Getting a solid young two-way star like Michalek back may be better (and certainly cheaper) than anything general manager Doug Wilson could do on the trade market.
I don't think the Sharks' roster in its current form is a threat to win the Stanley Cup, but with a couple of small tweaks they could turn into a contending team. The recent hot stretch of Evgeni Nabokov sure would look good in the postseason. As would the secondary scoring help that players like Jonathan Cheechoo and Nils Ekman have provided.
Another player who probably deserves All-Star consideration but won't be looked at is Frank Kaberle. He has been great this year because he never seems to panic and has played very well on the power play. He and Andy Sutton have been among the best moves that Don Waddell has made. -- Mark Borders, Kennesaw, Ga.
Several Thrashers fans wrote in extolling the virtues of Kaberle, but I had to pick the submission from my wonderful hometown, of course. K-Saw in the house!
I had Frankie Kaberle listed in my second tier of defensemen, along with Jay Bouwmeester, Roman Hamrlik, younger brother Tomas Kaberle, Brian Leetch, Wade Redden and Alexei Zhitnik. Atlanta's Kaberle has one goal and 21 assists in 37 games, good for fifth on the Thrashers in scoring and just five points from setting a new career-best in points for a season.
Kaberle has been especially big on the power play, with 13 of his 21 assists coming on the man advantage. It has definitely been a breakout season for Frankie, but probably not quite up to All-Star quality.
What about Kevin Weekes? The Hurricanes are around .500 and he is near the top of the conference for fewest goals allowed. -- Jeff, Vancouver, Wash.
Weekes is probably deserving of consideration for the All-Star Game, but I had him No. 7 on my list of Eastern Conference goaltenders and I only decided to go six deep with my list.
A lot of people are calling for the elimination of the red line to increase scoring, but I have concerns about that. Won't the defensive-minded coaches order their defensemen to stay further back, thereby reducing the offensive contribution from the rearguards? So I have another idea. Don't you just hate when a great looking offensive opportunity is nullified by a player being slightly offsides, or worse, when a whistle happy linesman blows a close play offsides? How about changing the offsides rule to allow any part of a player or their equipment (i.e. the stick) to be touching the line before the puck enters the zone. This would give the offense six extra feet to play with. -- William Sleeman, Vancouver, British Columbia
I love crazy ideas that people submit about ways to tinker with the rules of the game, but this one may be among the best I've ever heard. It would obviously need some testing to take place in the AHL (much like the wider lines as currently being tried out), but I think it has some promise to it.
The obvious benefit to dragging your stick behind you to touch the blue line would be as you rushed into the offensive zone on a breakaway. But dragging your stick behind you would make it more difficult to corral the puck on a firm pass through the middle. This would be an interesting tradeoff for the fleet forwards to get used to, but I think this idea could have some legs to it. Well done, William.
What is it going to take for Islanders owner Charles Wang to dump general manager Mike Milbury? Islanders fans can't take it anymore. This franchise needs a major "attitude adjustment". I'd love to see former Rangers GM Neil Smith get a shot with the Isles. He once worked for them as a scout during the dynasty years. -- Engin Suvak, Uniondale, N.Y.
The Islanders have been the hottest team in the post-Christmas break, and Engin submitted this question on Dec. 26 before the league returned to action. But it's interesting to hear an Islanders fan clamoring to have the architect of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup team take over on the Island. I have no insight into Wang's relationship with Milbury, but it's clear that he is very patient and trusting with him. And judging by New York's play over the past few games, Milbury's patience with players like Mark Parrish is paying off, too.
Milbury certainly has been given a long leash with the Islanders, but often times successful businessmen such as Wang rely on their instincts. Certainly there were many calculated, bold moves that he made to build his multibillion dollar computer empire, but good instincts were probably a big part of it, too. And if he wants to keep Milbury on board, we are in no position to tell him otherwise.
Two questions this week caught my fancy and got me thinking about ways to improve the game. Doesn't the league notice the difference when they look at old film of the game and compare it to today? The ice surface needs to be widened, maybe not to international size, but at least five to 10 feet. And why when they reduced goalie pad size did they not also go back to 10-inch wide pads? How many humans have legs wider than 10 inches? There should be no loss of safety. -- Ian Borden, Tallahassee, Fla.
Anyone who watched old games on ESPN Classic would clearly notice a difference between hockey then and now. But sports evolve, and the NHL is presently in a very defensive mode where we are seeing what could be described as a golden age of goaltending.
I've long extolled the virtues of the bigger international ice, and I would love to see NHL owners someday acquiesce to this. But the smaller goalie pads are much more likely to happen in the near future than the bigger ice is. One of the big arguments made by proponents of smaller pads is that they are made to protect the goaltenders, not to aid them in making saves. Watching Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the playoffs last season, it was obvious that his pads were aiding him in stopping the puck, as his high-sitting shoulder pads allowed him to plop on the ice in the butterfly and just let the puck run into his pads and trickle harmlessly into the corner.
What do you think are the odds of Glen Sather losing his position as GM/coach of the Rangers? This man has done nothing but further run this team into the ground since he arrived here but it seems like Mr. Dolan is in love with this guy. Also, what would you do to get the Rangers back on track for the long term? We have some decent kids that are rotting away in Hartford. Call them up and give them some playing time? Sign more free agents? I and most Ranger fans that I know believe than an infusion of youth and a coaching change is the way to go - why don't the people who are running the Rangers know this? -- Chris Delano, New York
I don't think Sather is in any danger with the Rangers, unless he opts to step down from one of the positions himself. Just last week I said that Doug MacLean wasn't going anywhere in Columbus unless the Jackets hit a rough patch ... well, they had a tough week and MacLean stepped down as head coach on Thursday while keeping his president and general manager titles. Slats has done a decent job behind the Rangers' bench, and with Leetch turning his game around after a slow start in coming back from injury, the Blueshirts could be a team poised to make a move up the standings.
New York is always active on the trade market, so it surely will be a player coming down to the deadline. I don't think bringing up kids like Chad Wiseman, Cory Larose, Dominic Moore, Garty Murray or Fedor Tjutin would really be the answer. Big-market teams like the Rangers operate their farm system as a means by which to acquire veteran players via trade to fill in the gaps. While you may argue that they haven't done a good job of this over the past six seasons, I'm sure that one or more of the aforementioned players is likely to be dealt before the trade deadline. That's the M.O. of big-money clubs like this, and Slats is likely to be around to oversee that for at least another season or two.
What kind of impact do you think the young phenom Sidney Crosby will have on Canada during the World Juniors? -- David Foot, Newmarket, Ontario
Super Sid is having a very big impact on Team Canada, even if he's not showing up in the box score as much as some people had hoped for.
Not a question but a comment. Here's why I had a hard time filling out my NHL ballot: you are forced to pick the specified number of players at each position. If there's only one guy I want, but the ballot says vote for two, it wouldn't accept my ballot until I selected another. Then, it asked for more personal info than the IRS. Come on NHL, loosen up. I ended up not submitting anything. -- Brendan, Washington D.C.
I can't blame you for being leery about submitting so much personal information. I'm always hesitant to put my name, address, phone number, etc. on Web sites requesting it. I understand that from their perspective they want to know what their demographics are, but when your mailbox is full of junk mail as the result of some of these companies selling their lists to marketers, you just want to scream.
My father has never once in his life used an ATM, and while my parents were visiting from Wisconsin over Christmas, my wife pulled up to the drive-through ATM to make a deposit. My dad broke out into the cold sweats, apparently worried that all of our financial information would immediately be broadcast worldwide on every network. He was nearly apoplectic when the ATM was out of paper and didn't spit out a receipt. He jokingly said, "Now the money will end up in the account of the guy in the car behind you." People have different levels of phobias regarding keeping their information private (not everyone is as extreme as my father, who wields a paper shredder on home documents on a regular basis), but it is understandable not to want to offer up so much information.
I think that requiring this litany of information also discourages kids from voting, and the NHL should really market its All-Star Game and voting process more toward kids. I remember how seriously I used to take voting for the MLB and NBA All-Star games growing up. I'd study my ballot at the game, or sometimes even take it home so that I could compare stats in the newspaper to decide on who was more deserving. Giving kids more of a reason (and easier process) to vote would be a smart move in the future for the NHL.
Although not an official stat, what is the difference between a shot on goal and a scoring chance? -- Dale Downing, Phoenix
A shot on goal is any shot which would've gone into the net had the goaltender not stopped it. Even if the puck is trickling slowly toward the net, if the goalie needs to stop it to prevent it from going in, a shot on goal is recorded. A scoring chance is an arbitrary judge of how many legitimate opportunities a team had to score. If a player breaks in alone on the goaltender and fans on his shot with the puck trickling wide, that would be regarded as a scoring chance but not a shot on goal.
Conversely, if a defenseman weakly dumps the puck into the zone and it happens to go on net with the goaltender stopping it, that would be a shot on goal but not a scoring chance. The judge of what is a scoring chance is more arbitrary than what is a shot on goal, but it helps determine which team is actually coming closer to scoring. Often times a team might rack up 35 shots on goal in a game, but most of them come from the perimeter and aren't really legitimate chances to score. But other times, a team may only get 20 shots on goal, but most of them are in close and were good chances to score. So keeping track of scoring chances is just a measure of which team is controlling the run of play by getting good chances to put the puck in the net.
You mention your love for Newcastle United, a soccer team in the English Premiership for those unaware of who the team is. My question for you is: Should Alan Shearer be considered as a possible transfer candidate if he can bring the Toon Army a sizable transfer fee from, say, Real Madrid or Chelsea? -- Mike, Los Angeles
I believe that I'm going to make the final question of each Mailbag one pertaining to Newcastle United. I think the Magpies would have to consider moving Shearer if it could generate a large infusion of cash for the club. Their problems are greater than something that one superstar could fix, so if they get a mega offer from one of the free-spending European clubs then Newcastle would have to consider letting Shearer go and pocketing the cash to spend on two or three players rather than just one star.
Jon A. Dolezar covers the NHL for SI.com.