[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. Teams with a lot of Olympians
With the Olympic break now over, the NHL's 30 teams are turning their attentions toward the final 20-something games left on their schedules. Many are going to try to shore up their playoff chances, or status as contenders for the Stanley Cup, while others are just playing out the string on lost seasons.
However, it would appear as though those teams with the largest numbers of Olympians might actually be in a position to struggle more heavily than their less talented counterparts. A new study published in the International Journal of Sport Finance recently found that since the NHL began going to the Olympics, the average team sent 4.47 players each to the Olympics from 1998 to 2010, but not surprisingly, those that were in the top five in the league sent far more (6.4) than those in the bottom five (2.9) and it seems as though the extra workload might get to those more successful teams overall.
Namely, teams' goal differential seems to suffer when their Olympians come back. For every guy sent to the Games, goal differential dropped 0.088 goals per game from pre-Olympic averages. So for example, if this trend holds true, the Chicago Blackhawks — having sent a whopping 10 players — would lose .88 goals per game from their differential (currently at 0.73 goals per game), meaning that they'd end up in negative territory in this regard for the rest of the season. I'm not sure that's going to happen, but when you factor in the ways in which the others among the top-five Olympian-havers (the Blues/Red Wings, Canadiens, Canucks/Penguins/Rangers/Ducks all carrying nine, eight, and seven apiece, respectively), I can see how that works out overall.
Of course, this study doesn't take into account “advanced” stats like PDO — which would certainly weigh heavily on player selection, as those who are outperforming career averages would be both more likely to be taken based on their higher-than-usual numbers, and then to regress in the back quarter of the season — but it is interesting.
I'm not exactly going to put a lot of stock into any arguments that the Red Wings faltering down the stretch is due to the Olympics more than, say, their generally not being very good this season to begin with, but yeah, it probably will play a role.
Nicklas Backstrom having been banned for the gold medal game because he took allergy medicine is not really the best thing the IOC could have done in that situation, but the reaction to that decision has been roughly a trillion times worse.
Some writers have called it “shameful” — which is a strange way to paint a guy having tested positive for ludicrously high levels of pseudoephedrine, by some estimations as much as four times the normal dosage one would get from a normal allergy pill — and the Swedes themselves all but said it was a conspiracy to doom their chances for gold, for reasons unspecified.
Here's the thing with this: Even I knew you couldn't take certain kinds of allergy meds during the Olympics. I am, last I checked, not an Olympic athlete, or support staff for such. So how did it get through team doctors and players themselves? How did no one think this might be an issue, given how iffy the IOC is with this stuff? Backstrom says he takes Zyrtec in the NHL, and we have no reason to disbelieve him, but someone's gotta figure out well in advance whether you're going to be able to take a pill that's not banned by the league but is banned in international competition. That's where the blame should lie.
5. Ryan Miller's trade value
It seems as though all that talk that the Sabres would trade Ryan Miller to (fill in the blank with a team having an even margin need for an upgrade in net) has dried up a little bit recently because, guess what, the goalie trade market is soft for sellers. This is a thing that happens every year, and yet every year we sit in amazement that no one wants to give up huge assets for a rental goaltender.
Now, it seems like the Sabres are looking to re-sign him instead.
I am hearing that it is not likely that Ryan Miller will be traded by the Deadline and Sabres are turning attention towards re signing him.
— Brian Lawton (@brianlawton9) February 25, 2014
Who knows if that's going to work? I know the goalie market is always going to be a tough one for teams looking to offload guys, especially guys with big contracts, but isn't getting something for him — literally almost anything — better than letting him walk in the summer?
4. Also, Martin St. Louis's trade value
Almost immediately after they put the gold medal around his neck, rumors that Martin St. Louis asked out of Tampa as a result of the bitterness of his not having been selected for Team Canada by his own GM began to pick up some significant steam.
That, of course, got all the rumor-mongers in the world so so so excited for the ways in which their teams could rip off Steve Yzerman and probably make him cry. First and most notable of these was a one-for-one trade that would send St. Louis to Broadway in exchange for Ryan Callahan, who by the way probably still wants like $42 million this summer. This was advanced by, of all people, former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason, and pronounced all but a certainty until it was poo-pooed by people who would know much better about this kind of thing, like Bob McKenzie.
This did not however stop Boston Globe writer Kevin Paul Dupont for floating the even more laughable idea of St. Louis for Reilly Smith. Nor did that stop the majority of Bruins fans who follow him on Twitter from saying they'd take a pass on such a deal.
Tough bounce, Marty. You're not even worth Reilly Smith. I guess people really are worried about that 0.088 goals per game you're going to cost whoever trades for you.
3. The power of the press.
You'll recall that the Czechs got more or less clobbered during the Olympics, barely clawing their way out of a soft Group C (also featuring Sweden, Switzerland, and Latvia) having won just one game of the three they played, then beating the even-worse Slovaks before succumbing to the US 5-2.
Their overall goal differential wound up being only minus-2, which is something, I guess, but this did not prevent their coach (Alois Hadamczik) being forced from the job once the tournament came to an end.
Who was to blame for this? Perhaps his goaltenders, who conceded eight goals in two games outside the preliminaries. Or maybe his forwards, who scored just seven in three in the opening around against what was, again, the worst group of all. Well, that's not it.
Alois Hadamczik resigned as head coach of the Czech national team. He called it "coup caused by seditious media".
— Pavel Barta (@bartic63) February 24, 2014
Most people probably haven't heard the word “seditious” used since John Adams was in office, but boy if that's not a great quote.
Wow, a Canada gold medal. What's amazing about this is that people went from “This team is in a lot of trouble” to “this is one of the best hockey teams ever assembled” because they scored four goals in the semifinal and final. It was always amazing. Why is that so hard to see?
Of course, the Olympics being over means that the NHL is finally back, and what better way to get you back into the groove of watching a series of hilarious disappointments than back-to-back nights of the Buffalo Sabres being on national television? While this is being written prior to Tuesday's sure-to-be-exciting makeup game between Carolina and Buffalo, that was but the appetizer for a Sabres/Bruins clash Wednesday night that will, if it's like previous Sabres/Bruins tilts this season, be unwatchable. However, there is the added bonus that a number of players will also still be recovering from jet-lag.
What have we done, o National Hockey League and its television broadcast partners, to deserve such joy in our lives?
(Not ranked this week: Olympic PDO, banking on a borderline ECHL/AHL goalie to help you through a playoff push even if he did stop all those shots against Canada, Dan Bylsma's imperviousness to criticism, people who still think Olympic participation doesn't help the NHL, All those cheery reports of John Tavares not requiring surgery as though that makes anyone feel better, the Red Wings' playoff chances, Dustin Brown, People who miss waking up at 7 a.m. to watch hockey (i.e. insane people), Team USA's forecheck, Team USA's power play, Team USA's credibility, Team USA's ability to spell “intense,” Team USA's everything else.)