Every Friday, a trio of SI.com staffers sits down for a discussion of the hockey world’s hot-button issues ... except for today, when All-Star Game conflicts have limited us to Michael Blinn and Al Muir, maybe the second-best duet in history, as regular Sam “Predator” Page is en route to his native Nashville via Norfolk Southern boxcar and thereby incommunicado at least until he jumps off somewhere for sterno and a can of beans. Among our topics: Dennis Wideman's meltdown, John Scott All-Star predictions, trade talk and coaches on the hot seat. First up:
• Your thoughts on the Dennis Wideman situation?
Michael Blinn: While I think the fact he might have suffered a concussion, and that should be taken into account in whatever Hockey Ops decides to do, it’s not an excuse for trucking an official. He should definitely sit down for a while.
Al Muir: I don’t know how many dozens of times I’ve watched this and I still can't wrap my mind around it. The Milan Lucic thing? That makes sense to me. In fact, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often in the heat of the moment. But what Wideman did was completely beyond the pale. Players don’t think that way. So, like I wrote after it happened, I really believe he short-circuited after that hit he took. Like you said, it’s not an excuse. He’s still responsible for his actions. But the blow to his head will be taken into consideration.
MB: My biggest hope here, though, is that it helps to foster a pretty serious discussion between the league and the Players’ Association about head injury protocol. Wideman’s lights were clearly flickering after he got hit in the corner, so how he got back into the game for 12 more shifts should be a much bigger problem for both sides.
AM: And hey, where was the NHL’s concussion spotter on this? Surely that person saw Wideman stumbling after being rocked by Salomaki and reported it to the team. If they did, what was the team’s rationale for not following up on the concerns of a league official? And if the spotter didn’t report it ... what exactly are they doing up there? Do they have any power at all or are they just a Cover Yer Arse move by the league?
• What are you expecting from John Scott in the All-Star Game?
MB: Gimme six goals, 10 assists and at least five hits on the stat sheet.
AM: Hits? He has to catch someone in order to hit ’em, bud, so unless he’s rocking his own guys while they’re sitting on the Pacific Division bench, I don’t think that’s happening. He’s going to pot a couple of beauties, though. Everyone’s going to be looking to feed him. MVP? It could happen.
• Other than Scott, what are you most looking forward to this weekend?
MB: Oh lordy, the chirping. The NHL’s best players are also some of the best trash-talkers, and depending on who’s mic’d up, we should hear some Grade-A smack.
AM: You’re on to something there, Mike. Forget this 4K crap. We don’t need better video. Give us more inclusive audio. Line the glass with mics, put that on a separate feed and watch hockey fans line up with wallets in hand. That’d be a whole different level of entertainment.
This weekend, though? It’s all about the skills competition for me. Always fun to watch the guys try to one-up each other. And if the hockey gods are kind, we’ll see Shea Weber win the hardest shot competition in his hometown. It’ll be glorious.
• We’re exactly one month away from the trade deadline. Play matchmaker and fix up two teams that can help each other.
MB: I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible at this type of thing, but here goes: Islanders send Travis Harmonic to the Jets for Dustin Byfuglien. Both teams have the cap room to make this deal work in the now, and Hamonic’s incredibly cap-friendly hit ($3.857M) through 2020 helps Winnipeg re-sign Andrew Ladd. Byfuglien, on the other hand, could jolt some life into the Islanders] power play and help fortify their possession game for a playoff run.
AM: Since we’re just havin’ fun here, let’s go big: The Stars are in position to do something special this year, but they’re still a step or two behind Los Angeles and Chicago in terms of depth and experience. Think a combo of Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara might bridge the gap? Eriksson is a reliable two-way forward who can work the front of the net on the power play and chip in on the penalty kill. He has the versatility to fit anywhere in their top nine. Chara is slowing down but his leadership and ability to handle heavy minutes would be a huge asset on a team that’s dressing two rookies and one sophomore on its blue line. The pair combine for a cap hit of over $11 million, but the Stars will have just enough room at the deadline to accommodate both. The Bruins would be looking for defense in return, and the Stars have plenty of organizational depth at the position. This package might cost them two of Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns or Julius Honka along with a high pick and another prospect (Roope Hintz would look good in black and gold). It would be a high price, but a team that once gave up a prospect named Jarome Iginla for a couple seasons of Joe Nieuwendyk understands that sometimes you have to pay to play. And hey, they owe the B’s one for the Tyler Seguin steal, don’t they?
• The NHL saw four coaches fired by this time last season. This year, just two. Do you think that will change before the season ends? Which team(s) might benefit from a fresh voice?
MB: I’ve been seeing a growing number of voices calling for Michel Therrien’s job up in Montreal, with many folks citing his roster management (mismanagement?) as a big part of the Habs’ struggles. Mike Yeo’s seat in Minnesota could heat up the entire Twin Cities’ region. Patrick Roy seems more and more like a one-note bench boss, though I’m not entirely convinced the Avalanche brass is actually watching anymore.
AM: Marc Bergevin vowed to stand behind Therrien just the other day, though, and it’s tough to bring the hammer down on a guy who hasn’t had his No. 1 goalie/best player since the middle of November. Yeo I could see, but Chuck Fletcher has saddled his coach with a soft roster. He owes him at least one significant trade before he hands him the blue folder. Roy might deserve it, but I’m not even sure that Joe Sakic has the authority to fire him. That’s a long way to go to say this: I don’t think there’ll be any more changes this season. (But if there is one, it’ll be in Anaheim.)