Understanding goalies, Cam Ward and protecting players (Wednesday Countdown)

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings.)

7. Those three Canadian teams

Have a look at the bottom of the standings. It's Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton. No wonder Hockey Night in Canada ratings are down again.

Toronto we all knew was going to be bad, sure. Edmonton without Connor McDavid producing at a high rate (i.e. Game 5 of the season right through his injury) has been a disaster and we probably should have seen that coming. Calgary is a team everyone should have known was going to bomb despite the improvements, because Bob Hartley is flat-out not a good coach.

But despite these realities, only Toronto seems to be the team prepared for openly being a calamity. Edmonton and Calgary are acting as though they've been caught with their pants down somewhat, despite the beach-softening about “winning the Masters on nothing but 40-foot putts” from executives.

And to that end — plus Toronto's position as the most-talked-about team in the league — you're starting to hear a whole lot of rumors that one desperate GM out in Alberta is going to make a panic move, and maybe Toronto would be willing to oblige them. Tough to buy that, because in interviews that are growing increasingly pitched from behind the recorder, Brad Treliving seems to have adopted a zen-like “What can ya do?” attitude. I've said before I think Calgary makes a coaching change before it makes a roster change, and that seems judicious. Others have speculated that they might be waiting for the coach compensation rule to be nixed so they don't have to give up a draft pick, and that makes sense too.

But at the same time, if Calgary can get something that looks like, but actually isn't, a panic move accomplished, that would behoove them. “We gotta shake up this roster,” Treliving could fret to a rival GM. “We'll take future considerations if you want Kris Russell!” Meanwhile, Kris Russell is awful despite his good reputation as an in-zone defender, so that's actually a net gain for Calgary. Treliving should feel no pressure to make this team win. It's not really his problem. He's done everything he reasonably can to improve the roster, but Hartley's pre-game talk every night involves the term “stretch pass” at least 30 times, so they still stink. Oh well. Maybe you get Auston Matthews out of the deal.

Edmonton's tougher to figure out though. People — including me — thought they'd be better this year, and they are not. Lots of problems with that roster, but injuries are of course the biggest. One wonders if Peter Chiarelli feels pressure to trade “soft” skill players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle, which is what the media has been saying he should or perhaps will do for about a week. That's worth talking about in greater detail, so I'll do that in tomorrow's Huge If True.

Point is, though, that people are positively howling for a trade from one of these entirely hopeless teams. They'd all be wise to stand pat instead.

6. Understanding goalies

How great is this quote from Ken Hitchcock, one of the best and most successful coaches in recent NHL history?

That's right, baby. No one understands goaltenders! Not GMs and not coaches and not other players and certainly not fans. It is a position carrying a level of mystique to the layperson that the Orient once held for Western Europeans. Which is why if anyone tries to tell you they understand why a goaltender has or hasn't been successful, you're going to hear a whole lot of mumbo jumbo about confidence and headspace and all that kind of thing. It has exceedingly little to do with actual goaltender quality.

Which kind of explains the continued use of...

5. Cam Ward

After Monday night's horrific performance against the Rangers, Cam Ward is down to .898 for the season. Last season he was .910 (below league average). The year before that he was .898. The year before that, he was .908.

So here's a question: With almost 120 games of data over the last four years, how do you keep going back to the well on this guy?

Okay, sure, Eddie Lack has been abysmal, but how do you not give a guy you've just traded for and extended a chance to show that he's not actually an .870-something goalie? Ward is clearly what he is: A goaltender with no ability to stop the puck at an NHL level any more.

Each of the goals he gave up on Monday was more embarrassing than the last. Maybe you say he got screened out on the Mats Zuccarello opener. Fair. He significantly overcommitted to Dan Boyle and got smoked by Oscar Lindberg on the second. He got humiliated five-hole by Chris Kreider on what was admittedly a bang-bang play. Then he gave the puck away with two Rangers and no Hurricanes in his own zone at the end of a penalty kill.

Carolina's coaches and front office have to understand fundamentally that Ward has long since been passed by as a viable option. Are we really saying a Conn Smythe a decade ago is the reason he still gets trotted out.

4. A Malkin/Staal trade

WHICH WUNNA THESE GUYSS IS GOIN TO THE NEW YAWK RANJIZ?

3. [Redacted]

If the court ever unseals a series of apparently rather untoward documents including emails — which were put under seal at the NHL's request, because of course they were — this could make the Colin Campbell/Marc Savard thing look like a quick splash in the kiddie pool.

Here's Campbell, back when he was the league's head disciplinarian, on the injury of an amateur hockey player who lost his helmet in a fight, cracked his head on the ice, and later died:

“It is certainly scary... stand back a [sic] try and knock the guy out so he falls down on something as hard as concrete... and to think they throw off their helmets lots of times!!!! I guess if I had real balls I would go public and go hard but I won't."

The rules were different back then, of course, but in a separate email, Campbell acknowledges to Mike Milbury that if he'd thrown a suspension to Matt Cooke for effectively ending Savard's career, “we [pooped] the bed on about 10 others this year alone where shoulder checks injured people.” He added, “Let's face it Mike... we sell rivalries, we sell and promote hate and when a player hits another player legally we can't drill him because [REDACTED].”

Those are some pretty damning quotes that TSN's Rick Westhead dug up, and they might be the tamer ones. If that's the case, this could get very ugly.

2. Having a nice good son whom am kind

Of all the people who could be your son in the NHL the nice one you want is P.K. Subban. He is the nicest.

1. Getting away with it

Hey, in furtherance of the above point about protecting players and so on, how about the week DOPS had?

Can't be sure if they were all out enjoying the long weekend and getting some shopping done, but in the space of about 36 hours, Matt Beleskey broke Derek Stepan's ribs with a late hit that they say was 0.1 seconds sooner than the threshold for a late hit, and Johnny Oduya, Viktor Arvidsson, and Brandon Dubinsky tried to decapitate Zach Parise, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Sidney Crosby, respectively.

Combined suspensions for those four hits: One game, to Dubinsky. Oh and Dubinsky says while he accepts that he crossed the line, he's not going to stop playing that way (i.e. cross-checking people in the head and neck in front of the net).

All of which kind of makes you say, “Hmm, so where does the 'player safety' part come into this?”

Like, okay, Dubinsky gets suspended one game. Probably should have gotten more, but he didn't. In what way was Oduya's less-bad, given that he drove Parise's head into the ice? In what was was Arvidsson's a “reaction” move to Colaiacovo?

Separately, even if we accept the Beleskey hit wasn't late, in what way was it not boarding?

Interestingly, three of these hits happened to guys who are “name” players. Parise is probably the best player on the Wild, Stepan is the best forward on the Rangers, and Crosby is the face of the league. If someone targeted Steph Curry or Tom Brady (okay, bad example) like this, their leagues would come down with the wrath of a hundred gods on the offenders.

Instead, in the NHL, you're free to concuss or otherwise injure whomever you like as long as they had the puck 0.8 seconds prior or are standing in the general vicinity of the net.

It's A Man's Game.

(Not ranked this week: Jim Kyte.

Brendan Gallagher did to Jim Kyte what Kyte did to Mario Lemieux. That was savage.

As much as we can complain about DOPS — a lot, it turns out! — the kind of cheap nonsense that went on in almost every game back in the quote-unquote Good Ol' Days. Used to be you could sucker-punch Mario Lemieux and not even get suspended.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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