Sean Avery, Joe Thornton and more hot topics from my mailbag
With the first round winding down, it's time to dig into the mountain of missives that have filled my mailbag. And now, what's on your mind:
The Rangers recognized before bringing Avery back into the fold that he could, on occasion, plant both feet firmly on the wrong side of the fine line he skates. Case in point: that pair of "what-was-he-thinking?" stick fouls that put New York on its heels and could have cost them their 2-1 lead. The penalty-killers saved his bacon, but
"If we keep flirting with discipline problems, we'll lose, and not just one game," the coach said in his postgame press conference. "Momentum changes. We've been flirting with that all series long. You cannot keep going to the well like that with the lack of discipline we have shown at times and expect to continue to compete in the series."
Tortorella recognizes Avery's value. He was quick to praise the winger during the regular season, stressing how valuable his speed was to New York's forechecking game. But he hasn't seen that same level of effectiveness in a series where the forward seems to be paying more attention to the little devil sitting on his shoulder than the angel.
With a chance to put the Capitals down, I'd tell Avery to slip into one of those fine designer suits instead of the Rangers' road whites for Game 5. Not that I claim any insight into Tortorella's thought process, but I'm guessing that's what he'll do, too.
Have to agree that Thornton's Game 4 performance was uninspired. Ah, why be nice? An empty sweater would have been an upgrade over a player who spent his night gliding effortlessly around ice while putting up a well-earned minus-3 rating. Thornton wasn't even a passenger in that one. More like a stowaway.
Truth is, his apparent lack of drive is putting him in a position that's getting tougher and tougher to defend. The guy just doesn't seem to want it badly enough.
I remember a feature that
It would be nice if not-so-Jumbo Joe could take a page out of
We all know Thornton has that within him. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him dig deep and come up with a couple of dominant performances to get the Sharks back in this series. But that odds are he won't.
It's getting to the point where we might just have to accept that Thornton is what he is: a guy who just can't match the intensity and drive of players like
I'm guessing that Thornton's passport is safe. Even if he did change his citizenship, he'd be ineligible to play for Team USA because he's represented Canada in an IIHF event. So he'll remain
On talent alone, Thornton merits lengthy consideration. It's hard to overlook the fact that he's averaged better than 100 points over the past four seasons or that his vision and hockey sense are off the charts. At the same time, you have to believe the Canadian brain trust is carefully monitoring what's shaping up to be yet another low intensity playoff performance and wondering if there are better options out there. Both
At this point, either player would be a better option. Of course, that's
Going by the early returns, let's call this swap a win-win. In fact, I might have to give the edge to the Ducks. So far, Whitney's turning out to be one of the best acquisitions of the deadline. He was brought in to stabilize Anaheim's blueline over the long term (he has four years left on his deal at a very reasonable $4 million per). The surprise has been how large a part he's played in the team's surprising run since the trade.
What really caught my eye is his ability to adjust to the role he's been given with the Ducks. In Pittsburgh, his skating and puck-handling abilities put him in a position to lead the rush out of the zone. In Anaheim, he's paired with
Don't underrate the impact of
I've been as critical as anybody of Osgood and Detroit's casual approach to defense this season, but I'm not sure why anyone would choose now to take a swing at the guy. Sure, he gave up five goals to a team that won't be confused with the 1971-72 Bruins, but he was on the road playing against a desperate squad fighting for its playoff life. More importantly, he gave up one goal less than the guy at the other end of the rink. That means Osgood gets the W and the Wings skate off with a four-game sweep of the Blue Jackets -- in which they gave up just seven total goals. That's fairly salty.
Osgood is still viewed as the weakest link in Detroit's chain, but until he loses a series this spring, he deserves a little slack.
I understand the disappointment, but you're focusing your anger on the wrong guy. You need to point the finger at
And let's be honest, it's not like that call flipped the series upside down. The Jackets had scored just two goals in the previous three games and simply weren't good enough to beat the Wings. One way or another, the result would have been the same.
Unless you're the sort of guy who'd wear an Atlanta Thrashers Steve Stamkos sweater, I'd advise you to save your cash. Barring a bold (and costly) trade, the Avs aren't getting Tavares.
The chatter you're reading about is understandable, especially when a player's been the presumptive top pick for as long as Tavares. Scouts start picking at his game, focusing on the flaws instead of the positives that won them over in the first place. It hasn't helped that Tavares was decidedly average in the just-concluded series that saw his London Knights ousted by the Windsor Spitfires. Blame some of that on a bum shoulder, and give some credit to an outstanding Spitfires team, but that's the sort of performance that makes some scouts say "Uh-oh."
Of course, those scouts all are employed by teams that are picking lower in the draft and would be thrilled if Tavares dropped to them.
There's no doubt that some teams rank Swedish defender