Given the outpouring of feedback that came in after the last mailbag column, we’ll devote the last couple question spaces to correspondence that technically doesn’t meet my question-answering standards. (Hey, when you get your own mailbag, you can make your own rules.)
If the L.A. Kings "win" the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes this year, should the rest of the NHL begin to tremble? With a top six group of Stamkos, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov, Mike Cammalleri and Patrick O'Sullivan up front; Jack Johnson and Thomas Hickey as building blocks on D; and Jonathan Bernier between the pipes, the future is eye-blindingly bright. Can this team be a dynasty if the cap doesn't tear them apart? And on a completely unrelated topic, why doesn't Carey Price get any consideration for the Calder Trophy? Thanks!
Chris Bettridge, Toronto
That is indeed a scary scenario, although I’d love to see what happens when that group gets pitted against the similarly stacked Penguins, Blackhawks, or Capitals.
But I wouldn’t be so certain all those forwards would be around for even the short term. Frolov and Cammalleri in particular have had their names increasingly bandied about in the rumor mill the last couple years; and, as you hinted at, the salary cap will almost certainly force Kings management into some tough decisions over who to retain and who to deal away to fill roster holes.
Price won’t win the Calder simply because he hasn’t had a full season as a starting goalie, while the likes of Patrick Kane, Nicklas Backstrom and, to a lesser degree, Jonathan Toews, have had all year to prove themselves.
If he can realize his astounding potential, Price will just have to settle for being the target of eternal adoration in Montreal.
Who’s your NHL MVP this year? Roberto Luongo? Evgeni Malkin? Jarome Iginla? Thanks,
Jason Fraser, Moose Jaw, Sask.
None of the above, and not because I don’t think all three of those stars have been central to the success of their teams. However, I like to stick to the technical definition of the Hart Trophy, which goes to “the player most valuable to his team (italics added).”
Luongo definitely belongs in that group, but to me, there are more worthy candidates this season. If I had to put three guys on a ballot today, I’d include Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, and, my personal frontrunner, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
We’ve already seen what happened to the Red Wings when Lidstrom was lost to injury. And the Devils and Capitals would be nowhere near where they are right now without Brodeur and Ovechkin.
RE: What the Future Holds – I agree with Hal Montford's assertion the NHL approves of the violence in their brand of the game. I too am sick of the lack of respect and sportsmanship. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the league encourages the violence. But I strongly disagree this "implicit approval" is given to "appease the non-Canadian hockey market." Does Hal really think most Canadians disapprove of the violence on the ice? The sold-out arenas in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal would say otherwise. The 40 percent of the NHL's revenue coming from Canada would say otherwise. The fact Canada's major junior leagues often follow guidelines set by the NHL would say otherwise. Don Cherry – a Canadian – once asserted nobody goes for popcorn when a fight breaks out. Colin Campbell, league disciplinarian and a Canadian, was quoted in THN as saying about the NHL, "We sell hate." The reason most American sports fans don't take NHL hockey seriously and the reason the NHL wallows at the bottom of pro sports in North America is because of the violence. Face it; NHL hockey is the liaison between legitimate sport and the WWE. And until the league decides what it wants to be - a great game or a bloodsport - the NHL will never gain the respect hockey deserves. And let's not put the blame all on Gary Bettman. I'm not his biggest fan, but most of the decisions regarding changes in the NHL game are made by the GMs and ex-NHLers – many of them Canadian – who lack the foresight, vision and creativity to take the NHL to the next level – a level that should have been reached years ago.
Louis Chirillo, Vancouver
I’m sure the Canadian Society of Irrational Devotion to Hockey Violence is applying to have your citizenship revoked as I write this. But good on you for avoiding the nationalistic blinders that have helped brainwash so many of our countrymen into believing the NHL’s brand of hockey is inherently superior to all others.
In my answer to Hal, I should’ve specified that, like you, I don’t believe fighting hasn’t been curbed so American audiences will tune in. There are thousands of people on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border who don’t – and never will – understand that one can appreciate fighting without appreciating it as part of hockey.
Fortunately, we’ve also got smart folks like yourself, and Colorado resident Marise Downing, who sent along this telling response to the same mailbag column:
I want to add my opinion to the violence in hockey issue. I'm hoping you keep on talking about it and pushing for something to be done about it. I love hockey, but I hate the violence and fighting in it. And, as far as bringing in fans to the sport, as some people claim fighting does, I can tell you every single person I know who doesn't like hockey says it's because of the fighting. Every single person! Now that's not a huge number of people, but when it's 100 percent of the sample, I think it's significant. And I've also talked to other hockey fans who've told me they have had pretty much the same experience. If hockey wants to be one of the "big boys" in sports the NHL can't allow it to go on. If they want to remain a fringe sport, they have the right idea with standing back and letting this idiocy continue. Just the other night in the Avalanche game with the Kings – with Scott Parker on the night's roster, I might add – Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos were both slammed into the boards. Svatos is now out for the rest of the season with major surgery needed. And Smyth is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder and concussion problems. Oh, just what any sport needs – two major players on a team knocked out in one night with such stupid, vicious hits! Thanks for the chance to vent on this.
Marise Downing, Greeley, Colo.
Thanks for the encouragement. And let’s pray more key NHLers aren’t sidelined – temporarily or permanently – before the league snaps out of it and changes the game for the better.
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