Insights & Insults
SI.com writers trade takes and shots on hot hockey topics
This week: Cup final, Tim Thomas' ploy, GMs and new coaches, and Dance Moms
The Kings' Mike Richards has been MIA; JD to the Blue Jackets would be huge
Here's why Tim Thomas will likely end up sitting out a lockout-shortened season
Yet again, our intrepid scribes set aside their quills to chew on the week's top news from around the NHL.
MUIR: First off, Adrian, I appreciate you pressing pause on that Dance Moms Season One DVD you've been tweeting about to talk a little stick and puck. We've had some interesting developments around the league over the past few days, not the least of which is that we're still playing hockey. Most of us thought the power of Quick was about to compel the Devils out of the Cup final in Game 4, but New Jersey took advantage of a surprisingly lethargic Kings team to extend the series. It was a good result for all of us who weren't quite yet ready for the offseason. Outside of finally recognizing that taking a lead is a good thing, I didn't see anything in the Devils' approach that suggested they were ready to turn this series around. Did you?
DATER: Oh, Allan, to quote the Jim Stafford classic Spiders and Snakes, "You fool you." You simply don't get it, do you? The Devils are right back in this thing. They got a win in a CLOSEOUT GAME IN LOS ANGELES and went home, with a Hall of Fame goalie in net and their best players back to being their best players. See you in LA for Game 6. But leave the "Full Newark" collar behind will you?
MUIR: I'm not sure an empty netter from a guy who was last seen on the side of a milk carton qualifies as a return to "best player" form. And that Hall of Fame pre-approval form that Marty got in the mail didn't do him much good the last two times he faced the Kings in that mausoleum in Newark. Nope, you can spout all the K-Tel quotes you want. I think we'll see the same Kings that we saw play Game 5s against Vancouver and Phoenix. They're not going home for anything other than a parade.
DATER: We'll agree to disagree, even though I'll be right. But seriously: the Kings haven't been anything special in this series. As you correctly pointed out in our live chat here for Game 4, they were only up 3-0 because of a couple lucky bounces in Newark. There is nothing in their game to confidently predict a win in Game 5. OK, so they're 10-0 on the road. So what? It's a new game, a new series.
MUIR: That whole line has been a bigger bust than Battleship in this series. I'll give Jeff Carter a pass for finding the gas pedal on that one overtime shift, but beyond that, they've been a non-factor. Richards is a guy who needs to be involved physically to be at his most effective, but he's been invisible on the forecheck and I can't count the times I've seen him lagging a couple strides behind his man in the Kings' zone. Penner? He's always been a guy who needs the wind at his back. If Richie and Carts aren't rolling, you can't expect anything from him.
DATER: It's true. This is why they frustrate their owners, GMs and coaches at times. Carter especially. I mean, let's not start teeing off on a couple of guys who are on a team with a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, in their first years with the Kings. I mean, Paul Holmgren and the entire Flyers organi-i-zation are going to look bad if these two hoist the Cup. I do believe the Flyers got plenty out of the deals that sent them away, and they will be rewarded some day for it -- if they ever find a goalie. But the fact remains: Carter and Richards are playing for the Cup and the Flyers aren't.
MUIR: Poor Ilya Bryzgalov. The guy is sitting at the table, enjoying dinner with a couple of retired space monkeys and wondering why his nose started bleeding all of a sudden...
Alright, now that your boy David Jones just signed a crazy new deal with the Avs (four years, $16 million), the next big free agent to sign might be . . . John Davidson. Reports out of St. Louis say the Blues director of hockey ops took advantage of his own 30-day FA window and interviewed with the Blue Jackets last week. No word on what position might be available for him, but if Columbus can get this done...I mean, forget about Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. This would be the biggest signing of the summer, wouldn't it?
Davidson was the architect behind the Blues' revival, and he would bring instant credibility to a franchise that keeps finding new feet to shoot. More than a reliable goalie, more than a resolution to the Rick Nash situation, this franchise needs to give its fan base a reason to believe. Davidson would provide that. And hey, the Blues did alright snatching Ken Hitchcock from Columbus. Time for the Jackets to return the favor.
DATER: Allan, you are bang-on in this assessment, which only happens as often as Venus traversing the Sun, as just happened the other night. John Davidson is a smart and good man, and it's no coincidence the Blues got things turned around under his watch. I miss his calls on TV a lot, actually. So if things don't pan out with another team, maybe he'll get back behind the mic. That would be a treat. But assuming the Blue Jackets do the right thing, they will hire him in a heartbeat.
As for David Jones, he was one of those fortunate guys with good timing. He only potted 37 points in 72 games last season with Colorado, but 20 of those points were goals. 20 is the new 40 in the NHL. You get 20 goals in this league now, you get paid.
MUIR: Word is that Davidson's window closes today to pursue other opportunities. And, yes, he's a great broadcaster. As a fan, I'd love to have him back in the booth. But he has a chance here to fix a broken franchise, to reconnect it with the fans, I think that's the sort of challenge that would drive him, not sitting in a booth with Doc Emrick once a week. And you know, if he's in the mix, I'm guessing Rick Nash reconsiders his trade demand. He might even be able to lure a couple of decent goalies to town. If he could bring along Fran Tarkenton and Kathy Lee Crosby, that'd be incredible!
DATER: For readers who are under 85, a singer named John Davidson was the former host of That's Incredible, a show from the '70s. I watched it religiously. In fact, I bought a John Davidson album a couple years ago in a bargain bin.
Columbus was a sad situation this season. And you know this as well as I do: their troubles really started the day they gassed Hitchcock -- less than a year after he took them to their one and only playoff appearance. I mean, really? How dumb was that?
I saw a tweet today from someone I thought was bang-on: all forwards do today is "chip the puck up the wall to get it out." What happened? Where did the scoring go all of a sudden? I need explanation for this.
MUIR: I've always subscribed to the "Safe is Death" newsletter, so don't ask me to defend chip 'n' chase hockey. Speaking of which, let's welcome Michel Therrien back to Montreal! This is one unimaginative hire, no? I'm not saying this cat can't change his spots -- Hitchcock stunned everyone by doing just that this season - -but everything we've seen from this guy suggests that's *exactly* the style of hockey he'll have the Habs playing. While teams like LA and New Jersey and, for that matter, last year's finalists Boston and Vancouver, have succeeded by playing a more aggressive, challenging brand of hockey, it looks like Montreal's fans can look forward to lots of pucks being knocked off the boards in an effort to keep the goals-against down. Fun! But hey, he speaks French, right? Good thing the Rocket's not around to see this.
DATER: It's strange, but that's the way it is in Montreal. It's just a totally bilingual city. More French than English, really. I can't sit here and say it's wrong for the Canadiens to INSIST on having a coach who speaks both languages, but, I mean, plenty of their best players haven't spoken French. Did that bother the fans when they scored a goal but couldn't put into French words how they did it? And yet, Mike Keane was pretty much drummed out of Montreal in 1995 because he refused to learn French as the Habs' captain.
I think Therrien is a good coach, though. I think he'll actually do fine in Montreal.
MUIR: He might get results next year -- he usually does in his first season -- but I don't see him being anything more than a stopgap. We're talking Les Glorieux here. They deserve someone with a little more imagination.
Maybe if they're looking for a little imagination up front, they could call the Predators, who confirmed this week that they're ending the Alex Radulov experiment. Not a surprising move, all things considered, but this is the first domino falling in what looks to be a very pivotal summer in Nashville.
Pudge is clearly the most offensively gifted player ever to wear that sweater. He's a guy whose return was actively championed by captain Shea Weber, and now he's being cut loose. You have to believe team leadership was consulted on this decision, don't you? After all, David Poile needs to give Ryan Suter and Weber a reason to believe in the future of the franchise. If they signed off on this, then things must have been worse in the room than we've heard. They've decided that this is a guy they don't want to share a trench with.
So maybe Poile tries to trade his rights as an RFA, but he has no leverage. Odds are Rads is going to be playing for Sergei Fedorov and CSKA Moscow next season, so if Poile gets offered a pick or a mid-level prospect, he has to bite. In the end though, that's lousy management of an asset that could have netted so much more if only he'd been left in Russia.
DATER: Absolutely right. Radulov was a disaster, and you kind of had the feeling it would happen that way. It was just kind of sneaky how they brought him in like that. It was bad karma. He was awful in the second round, and yet I don't think that Nashville's problems in that series should be pegged to him.
David Poile is the one who brought him in. It's his fault. Poile kind of has one of those charmed lives as a GM, doesn't he? I mean, he seems like a fine GM. But the hard truth is: none of his Nashville teams have ever made it past the second round. In Montreal, that gets you fired. In a place like Nashville, it gets you an extension.
MUIR: At least the postseason's not a rumor in Nashville like it is in Edmonton. Steve Tambellini was just handed an extension despite missing the playoffs in each of the four seasons under his watch. Tom Renney, a guy who I think did a fantastic job there, was gassed after just two years behind the bench. There won't be any more fall guys. This has to be Tambo's last stand. They haven't announced the term of this contract, but I'm guessing two years, three, max, to finally show some results. He'd better do a good job picking his next coach. I don't think he'll outlast him.
DATER: Steve Tambellini got an extension. Just think about that for a while.
MUIR: Running out of time here, so let's quick-hit the rest of the news. Let's start with Bob Hartley landing with the Flames. I think it's a great hire. Tough, smart hockey man. Not sure he's got enough groceries to make dinner in Calgary, but he'll exact an honest effort from the boys.
DATER: He's one unique cat, let me tell you. Covered his teams for four-plus years in Colorado. Players didn't like him much. Called him "Bobby Heartless." But players didn't like Scotty Bowman, either. Not comparing Hartley to Bowman, but who says a coach is supposed to be liked? Hartley's a winner. Always has been. He'll do well in Cowtown.
What do you make of Tim Thomas' pledged sabbatical? I think it's a con, sorry. It's calculated. I could be wrong. But money always talks. What, does he think his skills won't erode as a 39-year-old? Does he think teams will be beating down his door after a year out of the game, out of sight, out of mind? I don't think so.
And yet, I do believe Dominik Hasek will get an offer, after saying he wants to return at age 47. Tim Thomas is just a kid!
MUIR: You want to talk unique cats, the conversation begins and ends with Thomas. The guy has been one of the game's best stories over the past few years. In person, one of the nicest, most earnest guys you'll ever meet. But I agree. This seems like a play. He felt jilted by the trade gossip, and this is his way of controlling his destiny.
Will his skills erode if he follows through? No doubt...but he'll Facebook about how hard he's training and some desperate GM will be willing to take a chance on him at 40. And he'll probably make up the $3 million he's losing this year and then some.
On the plus side, good for Tuukka Rask, who has quietly played the good solider and deserves his shot at the job. Also: it's the end of the line for Discover's "You're not Tim Thomas, this is Tim Thomas" commercial.
DATER: Listen, I love Tim Thomas. I love his rugged frontier individualism. I love the fact that he won me $360 in the hockey writers' game-winning goal pool last year, in Game 6 of the final. I drew Rich Peverley's name, and he had the first goal of Game 6. It finished a 6-0 shutout, but the Canucks had a 5-on-3 for like the last two minutes of the game. I was sweating bullets up in the press box!
Ahem. (Straigtens tie)
But I'm sorry, this is a ploy. It just so happens the Bruins might have been thinking of trading him this fall. So what happens? He says he'll sit out. Now the B's have to pretty much kowtow to his wishes as to what team he might be dealt, under threat of sitting out. It's too suspicious to a conspiracy-minded guy like me.
Let me reiterate how much I like Thomas, though. Did you know that he was a former Avalanche draft pick (Quebec, actually) and was at the Avs' 1997 training camp, and that Patrick Roy saw him play and said. "No no, you must never play like this."
MUIR: Roy once told me my shirt was ugly. Shows how much he knows.
Actually, Thomas might be ahead of the curve here. While he's holed up in Colorado, getting ready to audition for season two of Doomsday Preppers, the great game is inching closer to another nuclear winter. Trevor Linden, the former president of the NHLPA, told a Vancouver radio station that he anticipated a labor stoppage that could delay the season until at least December. His logic: most owners of American-based teams struggle to fill the building during the early months. Shutting the doors and canceling those games wouldn't kill them.
We know the league wants to follow the NFL and NBA and recapture a larger percentage of hockey-related revenues. We also know that the PA is disinclined to relinquish any ground after making most of the concessions last time around. This has the makings of a very long offseason.
DATER: You know what? Do it, NHL! Go ahead and just trash your own game again. It's your sport. We were just about over the last disaster of a lockout and now the same garbage is about to happen again.
I'm going to get really, really, really, really, really bitter about this if it happens. And I will forever live in spite for the game if they do this again. OK, I'll probably forget everything when the first game resumes. But I really, really am going to get mad about this. Are you serious NHL? You going to shut down the sport AGAIN, right when you had momentum again (Cup Final ratings notwithstanding)?
I'm going to get too worked up if I continue this Allan, and I know you have to get back to your DVR recording of the latest Duets episode. But I will leave it at this: if the NHL has another work stoppage, it will stamp out some of the last remaining feelings of innocence I have for sport.
OK that was too melodramatic maybe. Who am I kidding? I have no innocence left. I will just end up hating all the guys in suits who ruined everything a long time ago. It's incomprehensible to me that there could be another lockout.
MUIR: How is it incomprehensible? The reason it's going to happen is because it worked so well last time. The players can threaten to go to Europe or stamp their feet and hold their breath until they turn blue, but we all know the owners have the money and so they have the power. If Don Fehr is promising the players a different outcome, he's delusional. Maybe they get the right to play in the Olympics and gain a seat at the disciplinary table and a couple other scraps, but in the end the owners will get their larger percentage of HRI. The sooner the players accept this, the sooner they can get back to a job where scoring 20 goals equals a $4 million payday. And as soon as the ticket windows open, we'll be there, cash in hand.
DATER: It's sad but true. The players never win. Their careers are finite. Owners' dollars last forever very often... unless you are the owner of the Phoenix Coyotes.
MUIR: And there's another great topic with Glendale City Council voting on a new lease agreement today, but we're out of time. AD, enjoy the rest of Dance Moms.