My mailbag's loaded with your comments, questions and ideas
One reader suggests an NHL Rivalry Weekend when the most bitter foes meet
A Winter Classic in Cowboys Stadium with its monster video screens is a fine idea
I still believe that Roberto Luongo will leave Vancouver and return to Florida
You get plenty of correspondence in this business, and my natural guilt complex makes me always want to give at least a sentence or two in reply. You take the time to write, I'll take the time to respond, even to the haters. Of course, when I blow up and become world famous (any day now, any day) that might change.
You especially get a lot of correspondence when you do a weekly NHL Power Rankings for a big outfit like SI.com. One thing is true about NHL fans: they love their teams and let you know when they don't like where you ranked them. According to my in-box lately, fans in at least five NHL cities think their teams should have "Sacco and Vanzetti" (look it up) on the back of their sweaters for the level of injustice in my rankings. Then there are the worrywarts who don't like it when their teams are ranked so high, especially by a well-renowned jinxer like me (hello, Minnesota Wild).
So, the lesson remains: you can't win. But not every email is about my Power Rankings. Here's a sampling from the latest batch:
Just wanted to float an idea out there for you, and hope that maybe it would pick up steam: what do you think about the NHL picking a weekend in February or March (after the NFL, before March Madness) and calling it "Rivalry Weekend" or something like that. Every team in the league plays a home-and-home series with their rival (or a "fake" one for those without one).
Boston-Montreal; Ottawa-Toronto; Buffalo-Philly; Devils-Islanders; Penguins-Rangers; Capitals-Hurricanes (only because who else would you pair Carolina with?); Lightning-Panthers (who else would you pair Tampa Bay with?); Jets-Coyotes; Kings-Ducks; Sharks-Stars; Oilers-Flames; Wild-Canucks; Avalanche-Blues; Red Wings-Blackhawks; Predators-Blue Jackets (who else would you pair either with?)
Build it up with advertisements and sponsors and make sure to plan it so that NBA arena schedules don't get mixed up. As long as they plan ahead of time, I'm sure they can prevent the NBA, concerts, etc. from booking for the one night the teams would need their arenas. It would be yet another event to add to things like the day after Thanksgiving game, the Winter Classic, the All-Star draft, Hockey Day in Canada /America. The only downside would be the scheduling.
-- Ryan, Rochester, NY
I like the idea. It needs some tweaking, though, a little distillation. Some of these matchups just have no shot of being real rivalries. Rivalries are almost always between very old teams. History makes rivalries. There have been a few exceptions. Detroit-Colorado; Boston-Vancouver is now a great one. But Wild-Canucks? Not going to be a rivalry. Avalanche-Blues?Capitals-Canes? Nope.
A lot of hockey people believe the all-time best rivalry was/is New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders. It's a shame the Islanders haven't been a real NHL team for so long now. That tends to hurt a rivalry, but it still doesn't stop Rangers fans from chanting "Potvin Sucks" at every single game.
Toronto-Ottawa isn't as intense a rivalry as Toronto-Montreal. Ottawa will always be a tough place to develop a rivalry because when the game is over, fans mostly just get in their cars and drive back to their various urban/suburban towns far away from business-park heavy Kanata. A great rivalry city has to have multiple, well-stocked barrooms just outside the arena where everyone can go to hash over the game while having a few pops.
Overall, I think the league has enough manufactured rivalries with the Classic and the Canada/U.S. hockey days. Let's keep that one on the back burner for now.
You can say "nice try" about Brad Marchand protecting himself, but there was nothing malicious about that. It was borderline clipping and I can think of two instances in the Cup final last year where a Canucks player did the same to the Bruins. You didn't hear anyone here complaining about it.
-- Adam, Boston
So, no one in Boston complained about Alex Burrows' bite on Patrice Bergeron, or Aaron Rome's hit on Nathan Horton, or any diving allegedly done by the Canucks? I seem to recall things a bit differently.
Look, I like Marchand. He's a little ball of hate, but it was a dirty hit, a low-bridge job that caused a serious injury. It wasn't a hip check, like some of his apologists want to believe. He ducked and sent Sami Salo flying over his back while aiming for the knees. It was a submarine job. Five games from Sheriff Shanahan was the right call.
You wrote: "The much bigger aspect was Vancouver's stand-up-and-fight attitude toward the Big, Bad Bs. Everybody saw Boston bully the Canucks physically in last spring's final. If the Canucks had showed the kind of fight then as they did Saturday, they would probably be the ones wearing rings."
Did you even watch the game? What sort of fight attitude did Vancouver show? Was it Dale Weise backing down after telling Shawn Thornton he'd go? Was it six Canucks jumping Thornton? The Canucks won due to horrendous officiating that gave them 11 power plays, one that mistakenly cost Boston Milan Lucic. The Canucks showed once again that they are a gutless, whiny team coached by a guy who has no honor (based on his comments after the game). Vancouver is a soft team that will not make the final this year because they won't get the calls they want, and can only play their style. Plus, their supposed number one goalie is a complete mess who was to afraid to start in Boston. I'm sure that will turn into a total mess for them at some point this season if they go to Cory Schneider."
-- Mike, Boston
You need to stop beating around the bush, first off. Second, the point I was trying to make was: even though the Canucks may not have won all the fights that day, or maybe they didn't always fight "fair", they did play with a nasty edge. This is why they got the Bruins off their game so much by taking retaliatory penalties and putting the deadly Canucks power play on the ice. The Canucks didn't do that enough in Boston in the Cup final. At the first sign of trouble, they all packed it in and waited to get the B's back in Vancouver. That strategy finally fizzled out.
As for Roberto Luongo, I agree. Boston might always be in his head. His play there in the final was just brutal. So maybe he starts all the games in Vancouver and Schneider starts 'em all in Boston next time.
I don't know who else outside your media world is implying that the Rangers are a fluke. Is it because they're way better than media darlings like the Capitals, Flyers and Penguins? Or because most of the media hates giving New York credit because they love tagging the Rangers as overspenders and underachievers? If you think this team is a fluke then you haven't been watching. Like your buddy Mr. Cazeneuve, who left the Rangers out of the playoffs in his preseason predictions. Or Stu Bickel (NOTE: SI.com's blogger is Stu Hackel) who wastes his time writing columns about how coach John Tortorella deserved his fine (for criticizing the officiating in the Winter Classic). Who cares? I guess this is what people with no athletic ability do...they write about mundane topics and promote self righteous pontifications. You should thank your lucky stars you get paid whatever you do to watch hockey and write your generic opinions.
-- Justin, Queens N.Y.
And this love letter came in during a week I had the Rangers ranked No. 1 overall.
Tough crowd in Queens.
Loved your article about the Winter Classic moving west. Don't forget Dallas. I'm sure Jerry Jones would love to host the event in Cowboy's Stadium. He might even have the Cowboy cheerleaders skate around the ice in bikinis. Anything to attract a crowd.
--- Ken, Fort Collins, Co.
Yes! I love this one. A winter Classic inside Cowboys Stadium, with skating cheerleaders and all. Brilliant! Wait, though: won't the heat from that giant JumboTron melt the ice? Who cares! This would be spectacular. Make it happen, Gary Bettman!
It appears your magic 8-ball believes the Blues will be able to put more pucks in the net the rest of the season. While the Blues have surprised us with their outstanding play since Ken Hitchcock took over, I am concerned with two areas. First, the Blues haven't been able to shoot the puck out of a paper bag, much less put the puck in the net consistently. Second, I am concerned that the ongoing outstanding play of Brian Elliott will not continue. Magic 8-ball, will Elliott win the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe? Will the Blues win their first Stanley Cup?
-- Mike, St. Louis
I've had my Magic 8-ball since I was 7, and rarely has it let me down. But I need to see what this team is going to look like after the trade deadline before giving the ball a good shake and asking. Mind you, I love the Blues as they are now. Hiring Hitchcock was the top stroke of genius by an NHL team so far this season, and the Blues are big, fast and skilled up front. But I would like to maybe see another top-six forward in the lineup, maybe a bigger, tough D-man somewhere.
As the 8-ball often says to me: "Ask again later."
If Roberto Luongo leaves Vancouver (as I predicted in my 2012 NHL forecast), I doubt very much if he comes back to Florida. I saw Jakob Markstrom play a few games early this season and I will bet that as long as he stays healthy, he will be a star in the NHL. The only reason he was sent down was to have him play every day because the Panthers have those big one-year contracts with Theodore and Clemmensen.
-- Joel, Coral Springs, Fla.
Well, first off, Theodore and Clemmensen are making a combined $2.5 million on both of their contracts this season. I'm not sure that amount is "big." Second, while I agree that Markstrom is a good prospect and likely the Panthers' goalie of the future, there might still be a two- or three-year window where another netminder can come in and be the main guy while Markstrom keeps learning.
Luongo could be that guy. He's still got game, he's well remembered in Florida, he liked playing there, and he'd sell some tickets -- something to always consider with the Panthers. So, I'm sticking with my prediction on this one. Luongo moves after this season, and Florida is prime real estate.
Thank you for your questions people. Keep 'em coming. -- Adrian