Lots of news this week in the NHL – and much of it was of the non-ideal variety, including bad concussion news on Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger. But let’s not dwell on it and instead get to your usual assortment of interesting questions. And, as always, I also answer mailbag questions in THN magazine and on THN Radio on Sirius/XM’s NHL Home Ice channel live from 3-4 p.m. Eastern (the show is also posted on THN.com as a podcast).
Hey Adam, the Capitals seem to have problems all through the lineup. The offense, defense and goaltending just don't seem to be clicking. Of all these problems I feel like the goaltending is the easiest fix. Why haven't the Caps called up Braden Holtby from the Hershey Bears? He is playing well in the AHL this year and it would put pressure on both Vokoun and Neuvirth.
Ben Gorbaty, Baltimore
For as underwhelming as Tomas Vokoun has been – definitely a contender to be on my Top 10 list of the NHL’s biggest underachievers this year – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to inject Holtby into Washington’s unsettled situation.
Sure, you can look at his brief NHL stint last season (10-2-2, 1.79 goals-against average, .934 save percentage) and say he wouldn’t be out of his element. However, that was on a Caps team that wasn’t neck-deep in the turmoil they’re still trying to work their way out of now. Remember, Neuvirth looked good (27-12-4) last season as well, but he’s struggling like just almost everyone on the team.
Bringing Holtby in would also shift the focus directly on the 22-year-old and could potentially damage his confidence if he isn’t able to help the Caps turn things around. Better to let the entire roster pull itself out of this slump than pin your hopes on a barely-experienced player.
Adam, do you think the Flyers can keep up their great form without Chris Pronger?
Ian Maclean, Port Hope, Ont.
I do. While the loss of Pronger for the season is a serious blow to the Flyers’ chances at a deep playoff run, the franchise still has a very good defense corps without him. Comprised of Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros, their current top four blueliners would gladly be taken by many of the league’s GMs.
Like all NHL teams, the Flyers have to deal with the issue of injuries to key players at some point during the season. That’s why depth is so crucial – and because the Flyers have some of the best depth at all positions, they’re set up to deal with a veteran absence or two as well as any franchise.
Hey Adam, with as much emphasis that the NHL has on the Winter Classic in the U.S., you would think that they would have the Heritage Classic each year as well. I look forward to the Winter Classic each year but would be just as pumped to watch an outdoor game in Canada between two Canadian teams. Do you see them trying to set something up each year in the future? Maybe tie it in with (fill in your Canadian holiday) Day?
Josh Wray, Indianapolis
I also enjoy the outdoor games – maybe more for the spectacle of it than the actual games themselves, which can be choppy and sloppy at the best of times – and would be happy to see Canada get one each and every year.
That said, I don’t disagree with the NHL’s policy of being selective with them. The more these particular events are staged, the greater the likelihood of having a total and complete weather-related washout. We nearly saw that become a reality in Pittsburgh last January, when the game had to be moved from Jan. 1 to the following day. So I’m good with a Canadian outdoor game every two or three years, just to be on the safe side.
Hi Adam. What’s wrong with Magnus Paajarvi? In International hockey, he is one of the most dangerous players on the Swedish national team. In Edmonton, almost nothing. I mean, NHL hockey and international hockey is quite different (at least in the size of the rink), but Paajarvi is a big kid and a great skater with good handling.
Stan Gajdos, Ostrava, Czech Republic
Paajarvi hasn’t suddenly lost the skill set that helped him put up 15 goals and 34 points for the Oilers last year. Like a lot of sophomore NHLers, he simply hasn’t been able to adapt to the adjustments teams have made on his game.
To wit: Jordan Eberle told me at the start of this season the opposition has keyed in on Edmonton’s youngsters to a larger degree and they were already getting the other team’s best defenders this year. With 11 goals and 32 points in 31 games this year, Eberle clearly has stayed one step ahead of the other side, but with only three assists in 25 games, Paajarvi has not.
There’s also the fact that Paajarvi is just 20 years old. As I said in a recent piece for The Hockey News magazine, I think the hockey world puts way too much pressure on young players to continue an upward trajectory in their career progression year after year. That’s just not the way hockey careers go. So I think a little patience, even if it winds up being a year’s worth of patience, is the proper prescription for Paajarvi. And sending him to the AHL to find his game shows the Oilers are willing to do the smart thing and take their time with him.