I don't remember an awful lot from my first year statistics class, but the professor managed to burn one truism into my head: sample size matters. So I understand that, when considered in the grand 82-game scheme of the NHL's regular season, a 10- or 12-game segment is relatively small.
Of course, that doesn't mean it's insignificant -- which is why trends that take shape in the early going may not dictate the course of the season, but they can't be ignored, either. With that in mind, welcome this edition of I Know It's Early, But...
Red Wings fans, always quick to prematurely push the panic button, may finally have something to worry about. The team that always found a way seems lost. The Wings can't score (only one,
Can the Red Wings get it together? Sure...but this feels like more than just an early hiccup. They're carrying nine bodies that weren't wearing the winged wheel when last season started, so there's no denying this is a different team. And while chemistry is an issue, it's not the biggest one.
This team simply isn't as talented as last season's squad.
I'm already starting to waffle on my preseason prediction that this would be the year that passed without a single coach being fired. The frustrating inconsistency of the Ducks makes
Coming off a strong finish to 2008-09, Anaheim looked to have everything going for them. They added much-needed secondary scoring (
The Ducks have yet to put together a 60-minute effort, the special teams are largely ineffective and his game plan seems ill-suited for the talent at his disposal.
The next couple weeks could decide Carlyle's fate, and a brutal schedule that features a pair against the Penguins and Coyotes and singles against the Canucks, Wings, Devils and Blue Jackets suggests that he probably shouldn't make any long-term plans in the Orange County area.
Who might step in if Carlyle fails to right the ship?
I think the Devils could be in trouble without
Want proof? Take another look at 2007-08. The Devils had a 3-6 record last season without Martin, and two of those wins came against an AHL-caliber Lightning squad. They buckled without their glue. New Jersey managed to win Thursday night against the undermanned Bruins, but they'll be in tight for the next six weeks if they ask for too much more from the likes of
It's never too soon for
The first is a textbook hip check on the Blues'
Just as confounding:
The hits-to-the-head issue isn't going away.
I fully believe that hitting is as intrinsic to the game as scoring and don't want to see rules enacted that diminish the physical element. At the same time, it's clear that, for all the talk from players about respect, there's not an awful lot of it in the game. An opponent's head is, for many players, a fair target. In fact, more than a few players and commentators described this play as a "clean hit to the head" in the aftermath, and that may have been more shocking to me than the actual blow.
In my book, the only clean hit to a head comes when gloves are dropped and both players accept the imminent danger. Anything beyond that deserves a second look.
So, what should the league do to minimize the chance of another career-ending concussion...or worse? First, address the hard caps on shoulder and elbow pads. Ask players and they'll tell you that those things are as responsible for the carnage as the impact itself. Campbell has said that the NHL is considering unilateral implementation of restrictions regarding pads because instability within the NHLPA is dragging out the process. If it happens (forgive my skeptical nature), then good on him. As 75 years of the game's history shows, shoulders and elbows don't need to be armored like an assault vehicle to be protected.
But that's a rather passive step, isn't it? It's like strapping a pillow on the baby's bottom instead of taking him off the balcony. The NHL needs to follow the lead of the Ontario Hockey League, which instituted a specific head checking penalty in 2005 and...surprise!...has seen no dip in hard, physical play. Allow the refs to penalize this contact with something other than an intent-to-injure major (which they clearly hate to call, given the game-changing advantage it creates) that will also give them leeway to recognize that size discrepancies and the speed of the game -- and yes, sometimes the actions of the victim -- make some head contact unavoidable.
The presence of such a rule wouldn't eliminate the infraction, but it might give pause to that growing number of players who see a cheap shot to the head as just another way to make a statement.
I'm thinking the Americans are starting to look like a serious contender at the Olympics. Canada always enters these tournaments with two distinct advantages: superior goaltending and a confidence built on a legacy of winning. The U.S. won't be able to match that swagger, especially with a transitional lineup up front. But, in
"Miller's getting a lot of [defensive] help that he hasn't in the past," one scout said of his hot start in Buffalo, "but he's taken his game up, too. I haven't seen anyone playing better this season. Give him a lead, he locks it down. If [the Americans] give him a couple goals, he's going to be tough to beat."
Doesn't Colorado need to start mixing in the occasional win in the face-off circle? Last season, the seven teams with the lowest winning percentage in the circle missed the postseason, and right now the Avs are dead last in the league at 45.9 percent. So many breaks are going the way of the NHL's hottest team right now that this hasn't been an issue...yet. But when their balloon pops, don't be surprised if their inability to control the puck off the draw serves as the needle.