The first round of the 2012 NHL playoffs are over and with three Game 7s, astonishing goaltender performances galore and no shortage of controversy – what a round it was. And of course, the grand majority of your mailbag questions are post-season related in one way or another, so let’s get to them:
Hey Adam, now that my Sharks are playing a few well-deserved rounds of golf, it seems like a good time to speculate about possible roster changes in San Jose over the next 12-18 months. I believe the current group no longer has any chance at a Stanley Cup and that the Sharks need to start an immediate (but gradual) rebuild on the fly.
So with that in mind I ask you: realistically, what kind of return could the Sharks expect for guys like Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle and (maybe even) Joe Thornton, assuming that any no-trade clause issues could be resolved? Who would you see as potential trade partners? Thanks!
Bob Ewing, McKinleyville, Calif.
You’re far from the only person who believes Sharks GM Doug Wilson should tie some dynamite around his current core of top talent and detonate it this summer. However, Wilson has heard these calls for years now and always resisted any temptation he may have had to start over with a new group.
That said, if he does choose to start the dismantling process, I wouldn’t expect him to move Thornton (still the team’s all-around best player) or Boyle (whose value to Tampa Bay was realized only after he’d been traded; I don’t think Wilson will make that same mistake). Both of those players are under contract for two more seasons and help set the tone for the team. And Clowe had such an off-year – he was seven goals and 17 points off his 2010-11 totals – I don’t know that you’d get full value for someone who won’t turn 30 until September.
That leaves Marleau, who went pointless in the Sharks’ first round series with St. Louis. He also is signed through 2013-14 and carries a hefty salary cap hit of $6.9 million, but the 32-year-old still scored 30 goals and 64 points in the regular season. Martin Havlat was injured for most of this year, but can put up similar numbers when healthy. That could make Marleau expendable.
Where would Marleau go? Impossible to say. Wilson likely won’t deal him within the division, but otherwise he’d be looking for a team that could offer some depth on defense, more grit at forward and perhaps some prospects to help them stock up after dealing away some good young potential NHLers. Can’t guess where he’ll find that particular combination, though.
Adam, now that the four skilled teams have been eliminated from the Western Conference playoffs one has to wonder about the return of the game to a pre-lockout state. No doubt the four winners deserved to advance, but I wonder if they would have had they played under the way the game was called immediately after the lockout?
It looked like there was a lot of marginal hooking, obstruction and holding going on albeit in a more subtle way. While the league is thrilled that these "new" teams are moving on, from a marketing perspective the 2-1 games and grinding pace is, well, boring. Is the new NHL going back to grinding checking game? Is this a change in tactics for the future? Or did the universe just align right for 2012?
Frank Szewczyk, Lisle, Ill.
I don’t think anyone could argue the playoffs haven’t seen a drop in the standard of what qualifies as a penalty. You may argue that is the way it ought to be, but that’s a debate for another day.
Nonetheless, the majority of teams that still are playing got there on the strength of their goaltending, not because of a proficiency at obstruction. Six of the eight remaining teams got outstanding performances in net and the two that didn’t – New Jersey and Philadelphia – have two netminders who can steal a game.
Being good at draping yourself all over your opponent will make it tougher on them to score, but your own goalie must be a brick wall – or get a lot of shot-blocking help, as many have received – for true team success at this time of year.
Adam, I really enjoy The Hockey News magazine, but it really irks me that the Florida Panthers aren't given enough credit for their accomplishments this season. They are the Southeast champs and some respect and recognition should be given. Thanks!
Donna Bruner, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Believe me, all of us at THN have a lot more respect for the Panthers after the way they performed this season. They’re still a work in progress in the bigger picture and will need their younger players to blossom before they can run with the league’s truly elite teams, but GM Dale Tallon and coach Kevin Dineen did outstanding work and there’s much to be excited about in the coming years.
But I’m curious to know what you think we could do in terms of respect and recognition. This was the first time Florida was a playoff team in a decade and they weren’t a playoff lock until relatively late in the regular season. In other words, they’re hardly in a position to be celebrated over the likes of teams such as St. Louis, Vancouver or the Pittsburgh Penguins. Should we have dedicated an entire edition to them?
Here’s how the Panthers can haul in more recognition: play at least this well next season and continue to improve. If teams keep winning, they’ll be given their due by many more media outlets than ours.
Adam, There is already talk of Dan Bylsma being replaced. Do you agree with replacing him and if so, by whom?
Phil Powell, Pittsburgh
There is? Well, whoever you’re talking to about replacing Bylsma should be replaced by someone who knows what they’re talking about, because the Pens coach is going nowhere.
Anyone who saw Marc-Andre Fleury’s utter collapse and the Keystone Kops-ish showing by the defense corps in front of him realizes Bylsma wasn’t to blame for their first round series loss to Philadelphia. He is one year removed from being named the league’s best coach and if GM Ray Shero were foolish enough to fire him, there would be no shortage of teams lining up to hire him.