Every week, Sportsnet’s Eliotte Friedman writes a column called “30 Thoughts” and it’s basically the NHL article I look most forward to, as it gives—you guessed it—30 tidbits about the goings on the NHL based off of info Friedman has gotten from his sources.
In the past, former TheScore.com writer Justin Bourne wrote the second article I most looked forward to, “Thoughts on Thoughts” in which Bourne picked his five favorite Friedman thoughts and elaborated.
Unfortunately for those who loving reading Hockey articles—but fabulously for Justin Bourne himself—Bourne was hired by the Toronto Marlies as their video coach and so his article has ceased to exist.
However! As is the American way, I shall not let a good idea go to waste! So for this column, “The Backcheck,” I am going to rip off Coach Bourne and basically co-opt his idea for TheThreeFour.com’s purposes.
Each week, following Elliotte Friedman’s wonderful piece, I will go back (get it? Backcheck?) through—however many—tidbits that interested me and give my opinion on them. It may be five, like Bourne’s; it may be 1, who knows? Whatever topics need to be elaborated on shall be.
[Ottawa Senator’s Eugene] Melnyk is the most unpredictable owner in hockey, by a mile. You never know what he’s going to say. But if he’s consistent about one thing, it’s that he expects the Senators to be great. In the 2010 playoffs, GM Bryan Murray prevented him from entering the dressing room to give a speech during an intermission of a game they were losing.
As a life-long Leafs fan, I don’t like the Senators, but boy does this make me have even more respect for Bryan Murray and the job he’s done in Canada’s capitol.
Most hockey fans know that Melnyk is a loose cannon, but he has also never had the struggles of his franchise pinned on him. Over in Edmonton, a lot is said about how their owner is too much of an Oilers’ fan and his emotional ties to the Edmonton-old-boys-club has hindered their ability to turn a new leaf; but in Ottawa, Melnyk is never really placed as the pinpoint of the fan base’s ire. That’s a credit to Murray and his ability to a) take the heat when maybe Melnyk deserves it, and b) convince Melnyk, super fan though he is, to leave the hockey decisions to the men he’s hired. Convincing a billionaire to leave his billion dollar hobby alone has to be tough, but Bryan Murray seems to have done an exemplary job during his tenure in Ottawa.
His drafting, coaching hires, and trade record are something completely different, but at least he’s kept his owner’s lunacy out of the way of his operation (although, maybe if his owner would cool it and Murray could focus, he wouldn’t have been fleeced in that Jason Spezza deal ).
- One coach whose team was recently torn apart by Sidney Crosby: “He looked distracted earlier in the year. Whatever was bothering him … well, he decided it wasn’t going to bother him anymore.”
My guess for what was bothering him is documented here, for those interested in revisiting my theory, but in a nutshell, I think he was a little hurt when reports surfaced that Mario Lemieux was looking to sell the Penguins shortly after hiring a Head Coach (who is now fired) without consulting Crosby. I don’t know if the Lemieux thing was actually a concern of Crosby’s—as he’s as tight lipped as NHLers come—but you can be damn sure that the firing of Mike Johnston is a HUGE reason why Crosby’s game is back to Crosby form.
- Niklas Backstromwill start for Calgary against his former teammates in Minnesota on Thursday. I’m told the Wild praised him for how he handled practising, but not playing, this season. Backstrom replied, “Even when it was difficult with three goalies, they went out of their way to help me.” He mentioned assistant coaches Andrew Brunette, Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason would always be on the ice for him, and that several current players would make an effort, too. I mentioned something Wade Redden once said, that Curtis Leschyshyn told him not to quit angry at the game instead of going to the minors. Backstrom nodded early in the question. He knew exactly what Redden meant. “I thought a lot about that,” Backstrom replied. “Remember everything hockey has given me.”
Every year that I’ve been an NCAA Coach, before our first game of the season, I remind my players to remember everything hockey has given them, all the time other people have spent to get them where they are and all the time they have spent to get themselves to this point. Once players finish their careers here, I tell them that no matter what they do next—play professional or move on to the next phase of their life—I hope they leave the game, whenever they leave the game, with a smile on their face. All of us spend our whole lives in the game, and to leave it disgruntled would almost make all the time and effort all those years a waste of time. Leaving satisfied makes every sacrifice along the way worthwhile and it also makes it a lot easier to transition. If you’re angry with the end, you’ll never be able to leave the grudge alone; if you go out satisfied, you’ll only look back fondly on the game.
- GMs were also informed that Las Vegas and/or Quebec City (should one or both get teams) would likely not pick any higher than third in an amateur draft, although those discussions are still in their infancy. That fits with the most recent expansion. In 2000, Minnesota chose third (Marian Gaborik), while Columbus followed one spot later (Rostislav Klesla).
This would be a big miss to me. The NHL is worried about tanking and the structure of the draft lottery? Well here is a built-in way to fix all that, at least for one year.
If the NHL expands by one team, give that team the 1st overall draft pick in the amateur draft, and if there is a so-called “prodigy” in that draft, the new expansion team has someone to build their market off, and every other team in the league will know there is no point in trying to tank for the #1 pick.
If the league expands by two teams, give one team the 1st pick of the expansion draft and the 2nd pick of the amateur draft, and the other franchise the 1st pick of the amateur draft. How they would determine which franchise gets what could be as simple as a lottery, a coin flip, or anything else, but at least for one year, tanking for the 1st overall pick would be a non-issue.