Diving into the mailbag
One of the great perks of this gig is that you're never lonely. The merry mailman visits every day with satchels of love letters and thoughtful inquiries from readers such as yourself. So let me share the wealth and warmth while I address your pressing stretch drive concerns:
Just the cover? Oh no, the curse is pervasive and all encompassing. How to apply it is one of the first things they explain at our orientation seminar. Clearly I was paying attention.
That said, I'm not sure I can take all the blame for Boston's alarming skid. Coming on the heels of a six-game winning streak -- their longest in four years -- the wheels have come flying off the Bruins Express and you can place the blame squarely on the team's veterans.
The glad tidings are that none of these things are a sign of The End Times. The Bruins have overachieved all season because they've bought into coach
The bad news? The Bruins are in the midst of a brutal run that sees them playing 10 games in the first 16 days of March. That means little practice time for Julien to make the necessary adjustments. This schneid will demand more from him in terms of in-game management, something he's been criticized for in the past.
With apologies to those who believe in the SI curse, I still hold that this team has what it takes. But the vets, guys like Chara and
And the Yankees? They're a stone cold lock for 121 wins and a sweep of the Series. How's that for a whammy?
I'll never forget what may have been the worst beating I ever took as a cub reporter. Being much more brash than bright, I thought it was perfectly reasonable to ask a veteran on a team that was swirling down the drain whether their late-season swoon was actually a blessing in disguise, seeing as how it would guarantee them a shot at a very highly regarded prospect.
"You know what? [Screw] him," the vet said. "I'm sick of hearing about him. He could be the second coming of
Clearly, he didn't find my thought to be as clever as I thought it was. But I did learn a universal truth from that dressing down: the thing about pros, as opposed to fans, is that not one of them cares about next year. All that matters is winning
So I'm guessing the better part of Leafs Nation is experiencing the same inner turmoil as you while they watch the team discover its inner Red Wings on this late-season run. Toronto's chances of landing a blue-chipper around whom long-term success can be built are dimming with each win. Barring some miraculous and bold work in the offseason by temp GM
Although there's only a slight chance they'll go after an impact free agent scorer like
One of the keys will be to re-sign impending UFA
Bottom line: I think the 'Yotes need at least one more year of building from within.
I'm not sure the Bolts could coax another squad to part with a used bus or pair of tickets to a hot Las Vegas show in exchange for Denis. He's currently in minor league exile and hasn't exactly dazzled with Norfolk, where he ranks 41st in GAA, and 39th in save percentage. His problem there is the same as it was in the NHL -- lack of consistency. He's a world-beater one night, then the dog's breakfast the next three. He lets in one and it gets into his head. Hard to believe that Denis has delivered so little on the promise he had as a junior.
Denis the menace is on the books for nearly $3 million next season, so expect the Bolts to buy him out this summer. But even if he offered himself at the league minimum, it's hard to imagine another club having any interest.
Helenius, the team's first-rounder in 2005, holds considerably more promise, but this isn't a bull market for unproven netminders. He's worth more to Tampa Bay developing in their system.
You're right, though, about the overall state of the team's prospects. It's abysmal. Tampa's talent pool is widely regarded as one of the league's least promising. There are some intriguing options, though. I like
As grim as it all sounds, things still could turn around for the Bolts. If Smith ratchets up his play, the Lightning will be a much improved team next season without having to rely on any reinforcements from within.
Don't write Lombardi off just yet. It's funny how things work out some times. Just two weeks after dealing backup
That's a bad break for those who were left to fill out the sweaters and kill off the rest of what has been a bleak, disheartening season in sunny LA, because Cloutier may well be the least qualified goaltender to earn an NHL paycheck.
Still, things may not be as dismal as they appear. Playing Cloutier certainly makes sense for a team that is trying to sew up last place. He's the Kings' best chance to grab the first pick in this summer's draft. But they will also use the time to try out some players who have a chance to contribute next season, including Swedish stopper
Ersberg, who turns 26 on March 8, was signed as a free agent by Lombardi after proving himself as the best goalie in Swedish Elitserien last season. The opportunity that opened up after the LaBarbera injury and Aubin trade gives him a chance to insert himself into the mix for next season along with
Although it's only one game, Ersberg certainly looked like a potential option on with his 40-save shutout of the Senators on Thursday night in his first start on home ice -- and third overall. You expect agility and reflexes from a small goalie, but it was his rebound control that gave him the edge against Ottawa. That performance should earn him the start against Montreal on Saturday. We'll have to see how he does against a team that's firing on all cylinders.
I'm sure there are several clubs out there that would love to do just that, and not just to avoid those situations where a shattered shaft forces a player into playing defense like a spider monkey. Using wood sticks would save a fortune because they're cheaper and their durability means a drastic reduction in shipping expenses -- no small consideration there.
But there's no chance that'll happen. The vast majority of players feel more comfortable with the modern composite, and no team is going to make a decision that would tamper with that good feeling. And think beyond the current roster: no team wants to make itself a less appealing destination for free agents by taking a step like that.
So until the manufacturers come up with a stick that combines lightness with enhanced durability, equipment-induced "power plays" will continue to be a frustrating feature of the game.