For me, one of the great things about a vacation is it usually leads to a nice drive along an Ontario highway where I can be alone with my thoughts and introspect for a few blissful hours.
Since I just finished a week’s vacation, I wanted to start off this mailbag column – by the way, note the new day; we’re switching from Fridays to Tuesdays until hockey is back – by revealing what I learned about myself this time. Here it is:
Were I given the choice between (a) never again having to hear Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock And Roll”, and (b) ending forever the existence of all mosquitoes, the decision would haunt me for the rest of my life.
Speaking of tough decisions (segue alert!), it’s getting more and more difficult to choose just five or six inquiries for each column, given the fact that your questions continue to flow in like a band of salmon leaping furiously upstream to spawn in cold water.
(Okay, so my metaphorical skills are as rusty as, um, a band of salmon leaping furiously upstream to spawn in cold water. Sue me.)
Do players take into account the cost of living in each city when signing a free agent contract? (For example: the same contract will buy more and have greater value in a city such as Edmonton than it would in New York.)
Daniel Deshe, Columbus
I wouldn’t go so far as to say every NHLer is wise enough to understand the concept of cost-of-living differential; after all, this is a league that employs “non-insane automatons.”
However, each and ever player agent worthy of his NHLPA accreditation makes their client aware of all circumstances that can affect his bottom line.
Will Joe Sakic come back? If he doesn't, what will the Avs do to fill the void? Also, do you like the Avs’ new look with Darcy Tucker and is there still a hole in the goalie area? Thanks,
Chris Stone, Denver
According to a couple broadcaster pals in the Denver area, the sense around the Avs is still positive when it comes to the possibility of Sakic returning. And I’m sure I speak for every member of that team when I say you don’t replace what he brings to the organization.
Do I like what Colorado has done this off-season? Chris, I’m trying to be nicer this summer. Don’t make me not be by giving you a truthful answer.
I will say that, if people are expecting Tucker to be the catalyst that elevates the team’s performance, odds are they’ll be sadly mistaken. Tucker can be a significant auxiliary player, but his age and broken-down body suggest that’s about the limit for him now.
And that goaltending tandem? Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft? Yikes. Where have you gone, David Aebischer?
Great column; always interesting and informative. Two questions for you: First, I may be wrong, but somehow it feels as if NHL players are more on the move than in other sports. How does the massive turnover of players from team to team under the salary cap structure in the NHL compare to that of the other three major professional sports in North America? With all this movement, I'm curious. Second, how do you think this many players changing teams affects team chemistry, especially in light of the fact that so many are short term "rental" players. Thanks! Keep up our favorite THN column.
Mike Jones, Philadelphia
Certainly, player movement from team-to-team in the NHL has picked up since the lockout. But I don’t believe it’s close to the turnover seen in the NFL, where you need at least 10 Megabytes of RAM (don’t ask me what that means) to follow a single team’s transactions in any one off-season.
Without taking the time (time I don’t have) to compare numbers, I’d harbor a guess the NHL is closer to Major League Baseball or the NBA in that regard.
How does that affect player chemistry? Not much, I think; these guys are used to changing faces and mix-and-match personalities since their earliest playing days, so they’ve developed a thick skin by the time they make it to the NHL.
I was just curious about your opinions regarding the Michael Ryder acquisition by the Bruins. Do you think that he will have a comeback season under Claude Julien? Who do you think his linemates should be? And finally, do you think that the Bruins will be competitive and maybe pass to the second round of the playoffs this season?
Bobby C., Montreal
I’ve already made clear my belief that Ryder’s contract, at least, in principle, is beyond the pale – not to mention, a backhanded slap in the face to fellow Bruin Marco Sturm.
Could Ryder enjoy a resurgence thanks to this reunion with his old coach? Far stranger things have happened. But I’m sure you’ll forgive my skepticism that it will happen, especially on a team that had the seventh-worst offense in the league last season.
His ideal linemates? Well, if Ryder can’t score alongside Marc Savard or a healthy Patrice Bergeron, he can’t score at all.
And yes, I do think the potential is there for Boston to get as far as the second round of the playoffs in 2009. They almost beat Montreal in the first round last season and they should be more familiar with one another (read: better) in ’08-09.
You are so wrong about the Redden contract. As a loyal Blueshirts fan, I love the idea of Redden and our other elite defenseman Michal Rozsival combining to make nearly $12 million next year. That No. 1 pair is nothing compared to elite game-breaker Markus Naslund, who is primed to score 18 big goals and 47 HUGE points for us and make us forget that Jagr dude. If that isn't enough, since those three guys make up, like, I don't know, two thirds of our cap space, you are going to be shocked and awed by the precocious Petr Prucha flying up and down the wing on our FIRST LINE. Watch out, NHL, here come the Rangers. (I will now drop the radio into my bathtub. God, I hope I don't miss).
Jim Mauceri, Staten Island, N.Y.
See, this is why I could never be one of those people who hates New Yorkers. You guys do sarcasm as well as anybody.
And I couldn’t agree more with you regarding your team’s off-season moves. Does anyone feel truly confident guaranteeing the Rangers will make the playoffs next year? Not this cat.
Can you tell me what's going on with some teams and why they have so many forwards signed? Tampa and the Rangers have about 15-16 NHL quality forwards signed and I see a few more teams have 13-14 forwards that could play any night and not be out of place. Are these teams expecting to package some players in trades? The same could be said for Florida, Pittsburgh and Carolina and their depth on D. Whatever happened to depth from the minors? Are we in line for a bunch of minor deals leading up to training camps?
Chris McElwain, Vancouver, B.C.
There usually are a few deals completed around the beginning of camp and this year should be no different.
To be sure, some teams still are a work-in-progress. Tampa Bay bigwig Brian Lawton has already publicly admitted as much; and, in addition to the franchises you’ve mentioned, teams such as Phoenix, Toronto and Minnesota also have some extra bodies around that will need relocating.
Minor league depth is a much tougher achievement in the salary cap era, simply because low-level players either are perpetually moving to an NHL team that can give them even the slightest raise, or they’re plying their trades in a European pro league that can provide them a significant bump in salary.
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