[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
7. The NHL15 demo is out!!!!
Wow it looks exactly the same as NHL14, NHL13, and NHL12. Cool but the jerseys flutter on the next-gen consoles so get your $60 ready right now!!!
6. The Sharks
A thing Doug Wilson talked about in the immediate wake of the Sharks coughing up that three-game lead against the soon-to-be-Stanley Cup-winning Kings was that sometimes you need to tear things down a little bit in order to build them up even higher. Something to that effect, anyway.
The point was that the Sharks would make some tough personnel decisions in the coming months in an effort to be actually and truly competitive for the Cup in the future. Leaving aside the fact that had the Sharks not run into a juggernaut Kings team (and let's be honest here: A team of the Sharks' quality has to be awful unlucky to lose four straight games to anyone) they would have very likely gone on for at least one more round, there is the fact that this was all very nebulous. Who would be traded and who let go seemed very much up in the air.
So far they've traded the rights to Dan Boyle to the Islanders, which makes sense because Boyle is likely to be old and expensive and not really that good any more (negative relative corsi, for instance), and now seem poised to trade at least Joe Thornton and perhaps Patrick Marleau as well.
These plans are not, however, foolish in and of themselves. Both are on the wrong side of 30, just starting new contracts (on which Wilson himself signed off less than a year ago, but that seems beside the point), and still likely to have some amount of value in the trade market. Trading both seems to be overdoing it a bit, but then we don't know what teams will be willing to part with for them; the recently suggested idea that Tyler Bozak would be the centerpiece of a Thornton trade, however, seems laughable.
But those are two very, very good players who make the Sharks better, even if they are old, and the return is likely to not equal their lone contributions. Have teams gotten better after trading a Joe Thornton type? The Bruins would say yes, but it took them a while. And that was when Thornton was in his mid-20s, not mid-30s. But doesn't the Sharks window seem a bit narrower in some ways? They don't have a world-class goaltender, they don't have a ton of depth, and even their “younger” stars for the most part aren't that young any more. Setting things back a year or two doesn't seem a particularly wise move.
It's probably safer to go forward with the team as-is for another year or two and see what there is to see, but Wilson seems married to the idea of trading Thornton at the very least this summer. He apparently hasn't learned his lesson from what the Kings did to the Sharks and everyone else in this postseason, either, because right now it seems they're very focused on trying to re-sign Mike Brown of all the players in the world.
Let's make no mistake here: Mike Brown sucks, and for the Sharks to think that he and players like him in any way contribute to success is refuted pretty plainly by what the Kings and Blackhawks — indisputably the two best teams in the league this year — did in the regular season and playoffs. No need for enforcers. No one on the roster getting seven minutes a night at most, like Brown does. Their fourth lines are actual good hockey players and contribute to the actual success of their teams.
If you're going to concentrate on making changes to a team you don't think is capable of competing for a Stanley Cup, you don't scuttle Joe Thornton and re-up Mike Brown. That's lunacy.
5. Resale Value
The way things are going, that guy who got a ticket for $1 might end up having that price point honored after all.
Although I will say that the Dwight King goal probably shouldn't have counted given how the rules are currently set up. But then, the rules are currently set up to be as vague and dumb as possible, because this is the NHL we're dealing with, and the decision to allow judgment to enter into things is, in and of itself, inviting trouble.
That's the thing you always hear about, right? Taking subjectivity out of the officials' hands; they've done it with other rules like high sticking (and actually added more with hybrid icing, but that's a safety issue), so the fact that it goes into something as important as goaltender interference decisions seems a little strange.
You could ask 50 fans of random teams and you'd probably get a pretty even split between people saying King's all-important goal should have been allowed, and those who would have waived it off, because the NHL's rules on the subject are so vague. Even getting replay involved probably doesn't help sort out the issue.
So what's to be done? You can't implement that hard-and-fast “foot in the crease and the play is dead” rule again, because a) That never worked, and b) Ask Brett Hull how closely it was enforced.
And you can't make the rule that you just can't make contact with the goalie ever, because then it would be the goaltenders initiating contact and then dropping like Mike Smith during a stiff breeze.
What's that? There's no real solution to the problem? That doesn't seem very NHL-y at all, no sir.
3. “Tough bounces”
Saw where a lot of people over the last few days were talking about the fact that the Rangers “deserve better” than they've gotten, because they're playing the Kings very tight and have, by some observers' estimation, had the better of play for the majority of the games played to this point.
It's tough to say, exactly, which games these people have been watching.
The fact of the matter is that the Rangers were really only good for the first periods of Games 1 and 2, and maybe half of the second period of Game 2 as well before Game 3, when they ran things from front to back. But once the Kings stopped living in mortal fear that Jonathan Quick was going to give up softies — which is all he did in conceding the first two goals in each of Games 1 and 2 — they dictated everything. You don't have something like 54 percent possession with the score close in three games and happen to also get outplayed for the majority of them, score effects or no. Sure, getting to a pair of overtimes essentially means games become coin flips, but the Kings have carried play.
So enough about the “tough bounces” and the goals that should have been disallowed. Maybe you say the series should be 2-1 right now instead of 3-0, but the fact that it's shaping up to be a sweep shouldn't strike anyone but Rangers fans as being inherently unfair. The Rangers are getting crushed by a team that is significantly better than them.
It is funny, though, that the only game in which they obviously outplayed the Kings front to back was the one in which the Rangers never led and in fact had their brains bashed out in the goal column. The Kings were lucky to win, let alone pick up a 3-0 shutout. That's life.
2. Conn Smythe Performances
With the Stanley Cup Final all but over, many in the media took Tuesday's media availability to try to determine who should win the Conn Smythe as the playoffs' most valuable player. They had a few to choose from.
Justin Williams seems an obvious choice, especially if you want to put significant weight behind his ability to score goals in Games 6 and 7 of any given series. That's not a skill he's going to need in this Cup Final, of course, but he's a point-a-game guy and boy if he hasn't been great.
Then there's Anze Kopitar, who continues to be excellent in all parts of the ice, and has more points in these playoffs than anyone. And Drew Doughty, who might just be the Best Player In The World depending upon who you ask but please don't ask me because I will say that he is not.
You might even be able to make arguments for Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik, who have been excellent. I'd listen to those for sure. (Just please, don't act like Jonathan Quick has been good in this postseason because he hasn't. He's been a little worse than average and had one really unbelievable Game 3 on Monday. That's not the same thing as being the most valuable player.)
Who knew that having three or four guys who could win it would be an indication of your team being really, really good? Probably better than the Rangers only having one legit candidate, and he's the guy who's given up 11 goals in three games here.
1. The Kings
Wow they're really good. Huh. Who knew? Oh yeah it was the advanced stats they led the league in all season. Right right right.
(Not ranked this week: The Keeper Of The Cup.
The downside of all these Cup Final elimination games is, yes, that there's no more hockey until mid-September. The other downside is that you have to constantly hear about how The Cup Is In The Building and see that weirdo who carries it around shuffle around in his little white gloves and Anton Chigurh haircut.
I can't stand that guy. He does all these radio hits every summer and the hosts always ask, “Anything crazy happen with the Cup ever?” And he goes, “Yeah but I can't talk about them. Let me tell you about the time it ended up at the bottom of Mario Lemieux's pool for the millionth time though. You're not sick of that story yet, right?”
Great stuff. Never sick of that goober.)
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Joe Thornton