Ask about who might be the NHL’s MVP at the halfway point and you’ll invariably hear names like Ovechkin, Malkin and, these days, Steve Mason.
Why isn’t Mike Van Ryn getting more love?
An astute friend of mine, who just happens to be a Maple Leaf backer, recently pointed out the huge discrepancy in Toronto’s results when Van Ryn is playing versus when he’s absent.
A little number crunching on my part revealed Van Ryn certainly does something to make his team the Able Leafs. In 17 games with the 29-year-old defenseman in the lineup, Toronto has a .588 winning percentage.
If the Leafs had that winning percentage overall, they’d be 11th in the NHL standings.
Peel Van Ryn away and things drop off sharply. In 26 games without the blueliner, the Leafs have a .346 winning percentage. Make that Toronto’s overall mark and the only team it can look down on is the New York Islanders.
OK, so the Leafs’ collective crash was probably going to occur whether or not Van Ryn was lost to concussion troubles after being hit from behind by Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos in early November.
And the way things are going now, if GM Brian Burke thought Van Ryn’s presence would generate more wins for his club, he’d be better off clubbing another part of the defenseman’s body to ensure he stays on the sidelines.
HELP ME OUT
Speaking of violence, I’m not going to beat you over the head with a lengthy take on the much-yelled-about issue of fighting.
I will, however, throw this into the ring.
When people shoot down the shootout, they most frequently use the argument it is simply “not part of the game.”
Subtract the ‘not’ from the above sentence and you’ve got the most prominent reason supplied for why fighting must be included in hockey.
So let’s get this straight; an activity that involves pretty much every skill a player learns from a young age – skating with your head up, stickhandling, shooting, deking – is widely considered to exist outside the bounds of the game.
Fighting, on the other hand, involves none of those aforementioned abilities. Further to that, it occurs exclusively when both teams have been forced to end their pursuit of scoring goals – please tell me we can all agree this is the primary aim on every sheet of ice – because the play has been blown dead so two people can grapple and throw punches.
This is more intrinsically woven into the fabric of hockey than the ability to undress a goalie and put the puck in the net?
There’s simply no way Marek Malik’s between-the-legs shootout winner is less a part of the game than two guys fighting to justify their own existence in the league.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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