Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: Why NHL offseason is at once great and awful

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

For most of us, the journey was over a while ago.

Of the NHL's 30 teams, just 16 make the playoffs, meaning that it has officially been the offseason for 14 teams (and their fan bases) since April 11, more than two months ago.

Since then, those teams and fans have had to stand idly while others joined their ranks. First the Devils crashed out, and that meant half the league was watching the other half from their couches. Then the Avs and Sens joined them. The next day, the Preds and Sabres did the same. The Coyotes succumbed the day after that, followed by the Capitals.

What once were 30 had, in the course of only 17 days, become eight. The field was whittled to four 16 days later. Then two just 10 days after that, and another 16 days anon, only the Chicago Blackhawks remained.

Because this is a competition, it's only fair that just one team be allowed to emerge truly victorious from their nine-month campaign. Unlike the regular season, which only eliminates fewer than half of the league's teams from competing for the game's ultimate prize (still ridiculous, by the way) over the course of half a year, the playoffs cull the unworthy so dizzyingly quickly that those victimized are often left wondering at how one misplayed, bouncing puck or ill-timed line change ruined what could have been the best spring of their lives.

There is, however, an inherent, unfair tyranny in that.

(Coming Up: The Ducks deny Bobby Ryan(notes) deal; Forsberg almost was a Flyer; Buffalo's lament; the Panthers are almost paying you to see games; Cheli's children; Kings assistant resigns in shame; speculating Souray to Sharks; Kovalchuk's money; Bears near Calder; Phaneuf takes over Leafs' ‘C'; an awful Gagne trade; and why Chris Pronger(notes) has, once again, captured our hearts with snarky humor.)

It takes just about six months of expectations building, ebbing, rising, falling in 30 cities across a continent to get to the postseason, and failure prior to that time is one thing. Teams with obvious fatal flaws don't deserve to make the playoffs (those with less-obvious ones, like the Flyers, apparently do), because no one wants to sit through a four-game Sharks/Oilers bloodbath. But for the teams that do deserve to be there, the playoff system can't seem especially equitable.

The Capitals were, as far as their record is concerned, the best team from October to April, and they emerged from 67 of their 82 contests in that time with at least a point. It's a very impressive feat, and one that literally doesn't matter at all because they never figured the Canadiens — the 19th-best team in the league this season — would have the audacity to attempt to block their shots.

Hardly seems fair, at least for the Caps. The sum of their six months, during which time they categorically proved to be the best hockey team on the planet, rendered completely meaningless in two weeks.

But summer is the great leveler. It's the offseason, and every team in the league is back to where they were in September. Wondering how everything is going to shake out isn't just for the Maple Leafs and Panthers.

The Blackhawks have ample cap-related worries. The Flyers still don't have a goalie. Just because a team won the Stanley Cup, or made the finals, or suffered a second-round upset, or just missed the playoffs, or had a couple ping pong balls in the draft lottery really doesn't mean anything any more.

There is, after all, always next year.

What We Learned

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Anaheim Ducks: Ducks general manager Bob Murray on those rumors that his team would trade Bobby Ryan for Tomas Kaberle(notes): "Ridiculous." This, by the way, is the correct response to rumors of this type.

Atlanta Thrashers: A comprehensive study by Birdwatchers Anonymous confirms what you probably already knew: The Thrashers were really bad at drafting from 1999 to 2005.

Boston Bruins: Both sides in the negotiations between the Bruins and Johnny Boychuk(notes) are optimistic they'll get a deal done. Joe Haggerty thinks the negotiations probably start around Matt Hunwick's(notes) current salary of $2.8 million.

Buffalo Sabres: The lede from this column in the Buffalo News says Sabres fans asked themselves one question while watching Chicago win the Cup Finals: "Why couldn't this be our team, our style, our Cup?" The shortest answer I can give is the Sabres didn't miss the playoffs in nine of 10 years starting in the late 90s.

Calgary Flames: Long story short: Ian White(notes) is going to get a bunch of money in arbitration from the Flames this summer.

Carolina Hurricanes: Buried deep inside a post about how Ray Whitney(notes) has not completely given up on returning to the Hurricanes, there is this terrifying fact: "The (Canes') self-imposed budget this year could be no higher than $44 million." Hoo boy are they going to be BAD next year.

Chicago Blackhawks: Many of the Blackhawks already have plans for their day with the Stanley Cup, and most involve taking it to their hometown. Hint: Don't let Kris Draper's(notes) baby sit in it.

Colorado Avalanche: Not surprisingly, the Avalanche have every intention of constructing their team in much the same way the Blackhawks have. The difference being Colorado has vast tracts of cap space. And won't use much of it.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have already begun planning their prospect camp, which will take place later this month. Among the invitees is Cam Atkinson, who you might remember as 5-foot-6 kid that embarrassed Wisconsin in the NCAA title game and led the NCAA in goals last season. A shocking omission: Nikita Filatov(notes).

Dallas Stars: Who should the Stars try to poach from the Blackhawks? Joel Quenneville says, "Cristobal Huet."

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Detroit Red Wings: Chris Chelios(notes) says he plans to spend more time with his kids now that he's retired. His kids will probably be unavailable, however, since they have to work to pay their mortgages.

Edmonton Oilers: At least someone out there is advocating that Tambellini consider trading down and getting something out of Boston. I think it's an excellent idea. Oh, wait, it's saying Tambellini should be trying to acquire BOTH picks? Yeah that'll never happen.

Florida Panthers: Earlier this week the Panthers offered season tickets for $5.60 a game (that's $229.60 a season). And had a free cookout. Now don't you wish you lived in a market where no one cared about hockey?

Los Angeles Kings: Mark Hardy, the... um, embattled Kings assistant coach resigned from his job. And by "resigned," what I mean was he was fired but allowed to tell people he resigned.

Minnesota Wild: The Minnesota Wild are having a draft party, as most teams do these days. So if you're a Wild fan, swing on by Aperitif Restaurant & Bar in Woodbury and watch your team draft another overrated Minnesotan ahead of several demonstrably better players.

Montreal Canadiens: They caught the Philly scumbag that vandalized Montreal reporter Pat Hickey's car.

Nashville Predators: Hobey Baker winner Blake Geoffrion recently Tweeted that he would sign his contract with the Predators at his Nashville-area elementary school Tuesday. The Predators, meanwhile, say no deal is in place.

New Jersey Devils: The agent that represents Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) in Russia — as opposed to the one that represents him here in North America — says that Kovy wants to sign in the KHL. His incentive for saying this is, I'm sure, not financial.

New York Islanders: Islanders prospects Calvin de Haan(notes) and Casey Cizikas(notes) will attend Canada's World Junior camp in August, but de Haan will be too injured to participate. That's a helluva shoulder injury.

New York Rangers: Want to ask Brandon Dubinsky(notes) a question? Sure you do. As of this writing, a whopping 14 people have asked him a question, so you can see the public is really clamoring to hear his thoughts.

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Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza(notes) and his wife had a baby girl over the weekend. The Senators are considering flipping the newborn to the Rangers for a second-round pick in 2012 and an infant to be named later.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers wanted to sign Peter Forsberg(notes) for the stretch run. I assume it's because he was pretty good for them last time and they feel that his not playing in the NHL for two seasons would only help matters.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes say they will use more kids next season in an effort to basically do what the Blackhawks did, much like every other relatively young team in the league. Kyle Turris(notes) is expected to be one of the players they use at the NHL level, but I feel like I said that last year too and look how that worked out.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Brooks Orpik(notes) underwent surgery for a sports hernia. It all worked out OK. This is major news in the offseason.

San Jose Sharks: Because Rob Blake(notes) is retiring, Jim Matheson thinks they should consider trading for Sheldon Souray(notes). Because they'd only have to pay him $4.5 million despite his $5.4 million cap hit. 'Course that's $4.5 million and a gigantic cap hit for him to miss like 50 games.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues raised $60,000 to fight breast cancer. That was nice of them.

Tampa Bay Lightning: If you want to be an assistant coach for the Lightning, it's time to get your resume in order. Guy Boucher hasn't picked anyone to do the job yet.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Dion Phaneuf(notes) will be named captain of the Maple Leafs on Monday. Subhead says, "Will follow Mats Sundin(notes) as wearer of the C." Sometimes the jokes write themselves.

Vancouver Canucks: Nucks Misconduct asked readers to put together their speculative 2010-11 Canucks teams. The results were hilariously stupid.

Washington Capitals: Monday night, the Hershey Bears could win their second Calder Cup in three years, and third in the last five. To summarize: They are good.

Gold Star Award

It actually bothers me that I've grown to like Pronger this much.

Minus of the Weekend

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No hockey forever. I'm sad all day.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "PhiltheThrill81" wants Simon Gagne(notes) in L.A.

To LA:

Simon Gagne

To PHI:

Bernier or Quick

Teubert

Let's get it done.

Signoff

I'm invited into very few personal homes.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can email him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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