Every Friday, a trio of SI.com staffers will sit down for a discussion of the hockey world's hot-button issues. This week, Sam Page, Michael Blinn and Al Muir talk about Patrick Kane, enlarging the nets, the surprising Devils, the surging Ducks and the weekly wild card. First up:
• Was Patrick Kane treated fairly by the media during the investigation into his alleged sexual assault? And now that he’s off to a ridiculous start, leading the league in scoring and generating excitement on almost every shift, is it OK for all fans to start cheering for him again?
Sam Page: I didn’t read a ton of editorial writing about the investigation, but short of forgetting to insert the word “allegedly,” I don’t know what would qualify as unfair to Kane. As far as rooting for him goes …I suspect the one thing fans who kept cheering for Kane during the investigation and those who didn't have in common is that his strong start didn’t affect how they felt.
Al Muir: That’s an interesting point, and I don’t think you're alone there. I think this episode made plenty of people question what they expect of their sports heroes and if that led them to set the bar higher, good for them. There are hundreds of guys in this sport who live up to those standards on and off the ice and are worthy of their support. And it is definitely worth emphasizing that the district attorney in the case found no credible evidence that Kane committed a crime. Unfortunately the incident didn’t help with his reputation for hard partying that led many to wonder if something ugly could have happened.
As far as how he was treated by the media, I saw very little coverage that I thought was unfair. Kane’s ardent supporters may disagree—and I heard from plenty of them—but I’m good with what I wrote over the course of the investigation. And I gotta say, I have a lot of respect for the guys at The Buffalo News and the Chicago papers who covered this. It was not a fun story to work.
• Colin Campbell said on Wednesday that the NHL might have to consider eventually increasing the size of the nets in order to goose scoring. Are you on board with that idea and, if so, what sort of change do you foresee?
SP: I fear all change, including but not limited to: revised weather forecasts, new businesses opening in my neighborhood, and pre-empted network television. So I’m not crazy about the idea of bigger nets. I also fear the new nets would put even more pressure on teams to find giant goalies, making it impossible for average-sized humans to dream of a career between the pipes.
MB: Consider me staunchly against. The league seems intent on punishing goalies because they’re too good at their job. Cutting down their equipment, changing playable areas ... whenever scoring gets low, the first thought always is to mess with how goalies play their game. Maybe some folks just need to accept that more scoring doesn’t necessarily equate to better or more exciting hockey.
Some food for thought: Through the first 227 games of the season, there were 1,417 power play opportunities (or six per game) which teams scored on almost 20% of the time. Those 280 goals accounted for almost a quarter of the league’s total of 1,196. Maybe tightening up on all the clutching and grabbing, and calling penalties could create more opportunities for goals and some extra excitement along the way.
But it’s like hockey genius Mike Babcock says: Radical change already is happening because we’re sitting around doing nothing while goalies get undeniably bigger.
The response doesn’t have to be drastic. Maybe the posts are angled slightly so that shots that hit the inside edge are directed in, or the height of the net goes from 48 inches to 49 inches, just enough to account for the width of a puck. That’s space that would highlight the skills of snipers like Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Seguin and that guy who plays for Washington. And when they’re lighting it up, it’s a better game.
• The Anaheim Ducks are 4-0-2 in their past six games. Have they simply caught a bit of a tailwind or have they found their way back from their early-season struggles?
SP: The Ducks haven’t been overly impressive, but Corey Perry’s finally come alive. Keep Perry hot, get Ryan Getzlaf going and baby, you’ve got a stew going. I could see them being this season’s team that limps into the playoffs as a low seed and then destroys its first round opponent.
MB: I think Sam gets this round, if only because of the Arrested Development reference. My issue with the Ducks for a while has been goaltending–I’ve been skeptical of Frederik Andersen. He’s always struck me as the beneficiary of playing behind a very good team, but his early play has me rethinking my position. If his current level of play keeps up and Perry and Getzlaf find their offensive game, there’s plenty of noise for them to make in the Pacific.
• The Devils might be the best surprise of the new season. Can they keep up their pace?
MB: All of the Devils’ possession numbers defy their success. I feel like we went through this with the Avalanche in 2013-14. I’m not saying it’s all going to come crashing down soon, but maybe Devils fans should enjoy it while it lasts.
keeps them out of the basement, at best.
AM: Logic says this team comes back to earth sooner than later. Like you said, every indication leads to the conclusion that the Devils are not that good ... every one except the standings. Sometimes teams just ignore their deficiencies (the Devils have many) and focus on their strengths to pull them through, like the Avs did two years ago and the Flames did last year. And New Jersey has some strengths: Schneider in net; Adam Henrique is healthy; they're good at limiting high-danger chances. And maybe some of the puck luck they missed out on last season is landing in their laps this time around. They're 5-1 in OT/shootout after going 6-14 last season. Yeah, I definitely could see these guys grabbing a wild card spot.
Finally, the best place to get a burger is...
AM: You also feel strongly about Teen Mom Orlando, so your taste is highly suspect. In-n-Out is clearly the best fast food burger. Sit down, nothing beats Windsor’s Motor Burger. Order the Deux Chevaux and thank me later.
MB: You’re both wrong. It’s Donovan’s in Woodside Queens. As always, add bacon if you can.