Happy Friday. This is the THN mailbag. Questions and answers will follow below.
Adam, I have a question regarding Team Canada's potential defensive core at the 2014 Olympics. With all the consideration for Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, shouldn't Dion Phaneuf be getting some serious consideration?
Phaneuf is a much more responsible and physical player in his own end than he gets credit for. Sure, the flashy offense might not be there anymore, but Team Canada has enough guys who can bring the goals.
Nicholas Stoyan, Toronto
While Phaneuf has been a workhorse for the Leafs defense corps and is quietly having one of his best season in Toronto, he’s seen as being on the periphery of Team Canada not because of any one of the three players you mentioned, but because of the bigger group: barring injury, 2010 Olympians Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty and Shea Weber are locks – and that leaves five spaces Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban, Bouwmeester, Marc Staal, Vlasic, Phaneuf and others to compete for. Phaneuf is also 28 – not old, but not a longer-term Olympic asset like Pietrangelo or Subban.
And of course, injuries in the coming weeks always have the potential to open up a spot or two. So I wouldn't say it’s impossible Phaneuf makes it, but it’s still a long(ish) shot.
Do you think the Flyers can turn it around? And possibly repeat what they did in 2010?
Eric Barriault, St-Constant, Que.
The Flyers no longer look like the Washington Generals, but I’m not sure you can compare this season to their run to the Cup final in 2010. That year, they were coming off of a conference quarterfinal appearance; this year, they’re coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs altogether.
As for their playoff chances this season: the problem isn’t that they aren’t going to play well the rest of the way – it’s that they have to play very well and hope that many of the teams in front of them suffer near-total collapses from this point on. This is why a good start to the year is so crucial; once there’s a pecking order established in the first month of the season, teams at the bottom of it can only climb back into contention for a playoff berth if they have help.
In the second round of the playoffs, are the pairings divisional or conference? If they are divisional, what happens when there are five teams from one division and the first place team in the three-team division loses in the first round? What are the tie-breakers for seeding? I know it's early, but I like to have the big picture.
Cyndie Stevens, Pittsburgh
In essence, the pairings remain divisional. The system is a bit convoluted, so pay close attention:
In the opening round, the division-winner with the most points in the standings standings points will play the wild card team with the fewest points. Tie-breakers for teams with an equal number of standings points are as follows: first, the number of wins a team has; then, by the number of regulation or overtime wins. That system opens up the possibility of a team crossing over to the other division in their conference. In the second round, there is no re-seeding, so the top division seed still playing will again take on the lowest division seed that won its first-round series.
Is it the perfect system? No, not at all. But until the league expands by two more teams and includes them in the 14-team Western Conference, there’s not going to be ideal equity. That’s what the NHL Players' Association initially objected to when the league first proposed divisional realignment, but the reality is there’s no system that will please everyone.
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