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Hockey Scores & Recaps Standings Stats Teams Matchups Players Minors College Juniors SI Almanac Final thoughts on the season

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Posted: Fri June 19, 1998

NHL Mailbag

At long last the season is done—only eight days 'til the draft!—which means a brief, puckless respite. Thanks to all of you for your letters. I've often learned from them.

It was a rough year for the NHL, what with dull, obstruction-filled games for the first half of the season; Paul Kariya's frightening injury; the Olympic disaster; so many childish coaching changes; and a playoff schedule that went on and on while almost one tuned in on TV. But let's not come down too hard. The league pressed on, giving us Dominik Hasek and Teemu Selanne; Wayne Gretzky and Rob Blake; the Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars; and the St. Louis Blues on the power play. Commissioner Gary Bettman, whatever else one might say, continued to work extremely hard for his sport. And the season ended with the Red Wings' moving, unprecedented tribute to Vladimir Konstantinov (whose name, by the way, unfortunately will not be engraved on the Cup, because he was never on the active roster).

So rest up, hang your skates on the closet's last hook, and we'll talk about this great game down the line. This will be the last Mailbag until Aug. 1, when we'll start answering questions every few weeks until the puck drops in the fall. Then, once again, we'll have plenty to talk about.

Given Detroit's dominance and second straight sweep in the Stanley Cup finals, how do you think the Wings compare with the great Islanders dynasty of the early '80s?
—Marc Musman, New York City

They compare fine, but they're still two Cups shy of equality. The Isles had a great, tone-setting goalie in Billy Smith. The teams aren't all that dissimilar—both built via the draft. The Islanders relied a bit more on their stars—Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin—though their role players (Butch Goring, et al.) were effective. The Wings are probably a bit deeper overall. By the way, I seem to remember a young Marc Musman who used to cheer wildly for those Island boys. He hung out with a guy named Andre.

Without trying to sound like an angry Caps fan, I cannot understand how you can say that Detroit is so much better than Washington. If that were true the Wings would have won every game by two or three goals. Instead, the Caps had a chance to win or tie the first three games. I think Washington, overall, has been outplayed but was in every game except the last one. Regardless of who writes your paychecks, you still only give opinions—and not fact. I hate to hear "I told you so" in regard to this series. Because no matter the game total it was a lot closer than anyone says. Besides, didn't you pick Buffalo?
—Brian Dale, Alexandria, Va.

Yes, I picked Buffalo to beat Washington in the Eastern Conference finals, and I was wrong. That won't be the last time. I hope to be right more often than wrong (in the playoffs I predicted 12 of the 14 series correctly) but that may not always be the case. My projections and analysis are simply opinion. They are based on a good deal of reporting, upon much thought and upon consideration of all sides of an issue. That is how I construct any opinion on any matter—paycheck or not.

I hear the frustration and anger in your tone and feel sympathy for you and your fellow fans. But there is this simple fact: The Washington Capitals were completely outplayed in every game of the final series. They never had a chance. I know the scores were close, but that is extremely deceiving. The Caps got great goaltending from Olaf Kolzig (as expected), and that was all that kept them from being blown out. It sounds a bit like you didn't watch the games, and only read the box scores. If you had been watching you would have seen the Capitals struggling gamely, but being completely unable to keep up with or control a far superior team.

This isn't a question, it's a comment on your Game 3 Reflections article. I was offended by your comment that Detroit should win on the road to avoid a "joyful riot" back home. Obviously you didn't take the care to notice that nothing happened last year. We had a few arrests for drunkenness but there was no rioting, people were just out enjoying themselves. This is not the old Detroit where we try and burn down the city when we win. If you want that, try Chicago in the last few years. It's clear to me that you don't know much about my city. We are doing everything we can to change our image and your comments aren't helping any.
—Kevin Brady, Detroit

My apologies. I in no way meant to denigrate Detroit. My comment about the "joyous riot" was meant to be read for its general sense—i.e., that the potential for fallout is always greater when a team wins at home, wherever that is. I've had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in Detroit over the past few months and have found it a fair and friendly place. Glad to hear from someone so civic-minded. Keep it up.  

Related information
Previous Mailbags
April 16: Setting the stage for the scramble
April 21: Reasons to get upset
April 24: No Sabres insurance needed
April 27: Let's not go to the videotape
May 1: Them's fightin' words
May 5: Calling Mr. Crawford
May 8: Lemaire couldn't stand the heat
May 12: The best of the best
May 15: Winging it with Fedorov
May 19: Skills equal thrills
May 22: Eastern champs will be good—but not that good
May 26: Substance over style
May 29: The coaching carousel continues
June 2: Sabres could use a sniper
June 5: Is Olie the Goalie a keeper?
June 9: Can Osgood shake detractors?
June 12: Is Stevie Y underrated?
June 16: Will Detroit coaches take wing?
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