Before we get to your latest batch of questions, let’s take a brief look at the latest of Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire’s annual “I can’t understand why everyone perceives me as a defense-first coach” laughers:
"We don't score a lot,” Lemaire said of the Wild, which, surprise-surprise, is fourth in the NHL this year in goals allowed per game, but only 16th overall in goals-for. “We don't give a lot. It's funny. We feel we have a better team offensively than last year, yet we're scoring less than last year. That's how it goes."
It’s OK, Jacques, you needn’t be afraid of your true self. Embrace the dark side like Alain Vigneault has!
I know you're probably delighting in their struggle, but why do you think the Devils are off to such a bad start? The loss of Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski can't have had that big an impact, could it? I think even the Rangers are noticing that the Gomez hype doesn't always show up on the ice…
Eric Alt, Los Angeles, Calif.
Nope, no delight in the Devils’ struggles whatsoever. But I will say that there was nothing more predictable than them selling out their first game in the new building, then reverting back to the usual sparse crowds immediately thereafter. Until this team embraces 21st-century marketing, they could have the nicest arena on earth and still not draw flies.
Back to your question. You’re right, the losses of Gomez and Rafalski, in and of themselves, aren’t the main culprit behind New Jersey’s woes this season. But when you combine their departures with that of Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens, and a Hall-Of-Famer goalie in Martin Brodeur who clearly has been worn down by overuse, the cumulative negative effect would be difficult for even a model franchise like the Devils to recover from.
Oh yeah – and when your best-paid player (Patrik Elias) has the second-worst plus-minus on the team, you’re not going to rocket up the standings, either.
I’ve heard various broadcasters refer to hockey games and sometimes even periods of games as "tilts". Where did that come from?
Glen Tomek, Danville, Calif.
When you use the word as a noun, “tilt” can simply mean a match or contest of some sort. I’ve heard and used it often, although never to describe a single period of a game. Forward me the name of the broadcaster(s) who uses it that way and I’ll have him/them excommunicated from the biz post-haste.
With all the talk regarding this year's class of Hall of Famers, do you feel Ed Belfour will one day be inducted?
Jason Brownell, Rochester, N.Y.
There’s not a doubt in my mind Belfour gets in. Sure, some of his off-ice, er, hobbies will not endear him to the Hockey Hall of Fame induction committee, but his personal and team achievements are unassailable.
I just hope they hand out pillows and blankets for Belfour’s induction speech. That’s going to be some world-class awkward comedy gold.
Do you think it'd be good for the NHL if Gary Bettman was fired? If he was, who would you like to see as commissioner?
Jeff Lowry, Sellersburg, Ind.
The easy answer: yes, I think the NHL could benefit from having new blood at the top. Though he’s vilified unfairly in some cases, Bettman is also vilified very fairly in others and if the cracks in the league’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement get much bigger, he’s going to have some ‘splainin’ to do to his owners.
That said, the owners – as well as the structure they’ve set up governing the manner in which Bettman can do his job – are equally to blame for the league’s slide off the mainstream radar.
A good example could be seen in a Toronto Star story this week about the growing unrest among small market NHL teams over a little-examined clause in the CBA that could cause them to lose more money than they did prior to the lockout.
“We knew the clause was there but it wasn't something we looked closely at," one small-market team owner told the Star. "We thought we'd deal with it when we had to. It's clearly a big problem."
We thought we’d deal with it when we had to. Anyone seeking the perfect motto for the perennially short-sighted NHL need seek no further. And until the league becomes pro-active in its approach, it won’t matter who’s running things.
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