Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
Management positions in the National Hockey League, or any professional sport, boil down to a fairly complex relationship between tools and practitioners.
For instance, an owner gives a general manager the tools of money with which to construct his team, and the surrounding personnel and authority to pursue those ends as he sees fit.
Obviously, this takes place to varying degrees. Some owners, like Charles Wang, are stingy with money and overly involved in the day-to-day operations of the team he owns. That's his right, of course, since he's the one signing checks for everyone from the team president to the assistant equipment managers, but that doesn't make it easy for Garth Snow to do his job.
At the other end of the spectrum, though, are larger-market teams, ones that draw crowds and generate significant revenues and for which the owners have little interest in telling the hockey people they're paying to run a hockey team what they should be doing in the running of it. It leads one to wonder why Wang, or any other meddlesome owner, doesn't just make himself the GM, cut out the middle man and save a million bucks a year.
The point, though, is that from the above relationship springs another, similar one. Just as the GM can only do so much with the tools he's given by his owner, so too can the coach only do the best he can with the tools his boss gives him.
This was the problem Alain Vigneault faced this year, and what ultimately led to his being fired despite the fact that he is far and away the best and most successful coach in franchise history by just about any metric.
Mike Gillis, it should be said, probably didn't feel to great about having to fire Vigneault after the team he put together crashed out of the first round in spectacularly embarrassing fashion for the second straight season, after that time they lost in the Stanley Cup Final to a juggernaut.
Not that he didn't feel good out of any great loyalty to his longtime coach — hockey is business, after all, and business isn't personal — but more because the firing was the last bullet in his gun that he had to save himself, and might consequently find himself in a similar position if his new hire doesn't work out posthaste. The tools Gillis gave Vigneault, and will soon give someone new, are woefully inadequate in achieving the results the GM so desperately believes the team should produce.
Let's be honest: It's tough to foresee whoever succeeds Vigneault as the Canucks' bench boss working out any time soon because it's hard to make sand go back up into the top of the hourglass.
Vigneault's biggest mistake this year was not winning that Game 7 two years ago. That was always going to characterize his time in Vancouver, because his team straight-up got its lunch bagged up and handed to it by the Bruins on its home ice.
But ironically, it was that Cup run that also married Gillis to the idea of what this team could be in theory.
Much like the Calgary Flames in the post-2004 Red Mile delirium, Gillis determined not to look for meaningful ways to improve his team this year by making real changes after that five-game pantsing by Los Angeles last time around, but rather to more or less stand pat and hope everything worked out for the best with an aging, oft-injured core.
Of course, the biggest mistake Gillis made this summer, as everyone with half a brain understands, is that he didn't find someone — literally anyone — to take Roberto Luongo off his hands. The reason for this is obvious: He dramatically overplayed his hand, thinking there'd be a line around the block for a goaltender who was by that point 33 and now a full year older than that and whose contract, by his own admission, is borderline untradeable.
Trying to hold him for a ransom of picks and prospects and roster players despite the fact that only one team seemed even especially interested was foolish, and probably what ultimately doomed the Canucks this year. Whatever the package might have been last summer, you can bet the market this time around (if there is one) dictates the return for Luongo is significantly diminished, but the good news is the turnip that looks kind of like Nazem Kadri when viewed at a certain angle won't carry much of a cap hit.
That Gillis had the temerity to sit there in his press conference announcing the coaching change and say goaltending wasn't an issue is ludicrous, and untrue, and disingenuous.
Vigneault is just the latest victim of a GM who couldn't figure out what the hell was going on in the NHL in 2013.
Joe Sacco got fired because, since making the playoffs in a total freak accident two years ago as a rookie head coach, Greg Sherman did absolutely nothing at all to make his team even remotely better in the interim. If anything, things have gotten worse; the Ryan O'Reilly saga was an embarrassment, and he hasn't made a trade for even one roster player with anyone, to my knowledge, in more than a year (unless you want to count Tomas Vincour's two games with the Avs this year, in which case he's wheeling and dealing). The same is true of Glen Gulutzan getting canned in Dallas after Joe Nieuwendyk drove that team into the ground and had to be replaced. Guy Boucher is out in Tampa because Steve Yzerman is a very assured rookie general manager who tasted success too early and now thinks himself infallible, though he's proven time and again to be anything but.
The trend isn't new, but it does seem to be getting sillier.
Not that you can ever expect GMs to fire themselves, and yes it's true that sometimes coaches aren't right for their jobs given how things with a given team are going, but Gillis especially seems like an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of an organization unsure of the direction in which it wants to go. The time to fire him, if you were looking for one, which you shouldn't have been, was last year. Not this year.
Yeah, a sweep is bad, obviously, but what was he supposed to do? The team was so thin on the blue line that Andrew Alberts got four games in the playoffs. He didn't have his starting goaltender for half the series. And when he did his starting goaltender played like anything but.
There's a cloud hanging over the Canucks franchise right now because the guy running it lost whatever magic he used to get all the guys under the vaguely affordable contracts to which they are signed. The Sedins will be 33 by the time next season starts. Alex Burrows, who led the team in playoff scoring, a surprising 32. Ryan Kesler is 29 and maybe never reliably healthy again.
It's no mystery why this team lost ground in the Western Conference this season after winning two straight Presidents Trophies. It was because, in much the same way the Capitals' success was probably only ever the result of a bad Southeast, the now-dearly-departed Northwest actually improved over the summer. The Wild got better. The Oilers got better. The 24 easy divisional games a season the Canucks were able to count on got just a little bit harder, and a combination of that fact plus Gillis' inability to adapt is, ultimately, what got Vigneault pink-slipped.
I found it interesting that Gillis, in his presser, said, "We're in a results-oriented business and if you look at the last two playoffs we've been in, we were the higher-seeded team but lost. There comes a point in time where the message has to change and we have to be better. We simply didn't get the result that we expected, and in this business you have to get results."
Right, and that indicates that he finds himself to be in no way culpable. He blamed the shortened season for his not being able to improve the roster, but not the fact that Vigneault couldn't guide the team Gillis put together to better results. Even if, in saying that, he tacitly acknowledges it was at least in some way flawed. That takes a peculiar type of cognitive dissonance, doesn't it? The ability to say, "I was not able to put together the best team I could," while also saying, "This coach was not able to do what I wanted him to with that team," is one that must be inherent to general managers of professional sports teams.
Because anyone on the outside sees that type of logic as being so full of holes that it could have substituted passably for Cory Schneider in these playoffs. Not living up to unreasonable expectations is a crime now? Put Schneider on the trade block, then.
Gillis also blamed the persecution of the local media for making his and Vigneault's jobs harder the last two years, so maybe the necessity to change the message doesn't reach as far as his desk.
Another thing Gillis said: "I think we're well-positioned to continue to improve and get better and I'm excited about where we're going to go from this point forward."
This is what I'm talking about when I say he has unreasonable expectations. In what way are the Canucks well-positioned to improve? He cratered Luongo's trade value, so the team's not going to improve there. He tied an anchor around his own neck with a payroll that's already above the cap for next season — already-filled-out compliance buyout paperwork for David Booth and Keith Ballard notwithstanding — and a bunch of roster holes to fill. His best players are too old to be relied upon for more than one or two more years. He has one of the weakest prospect pools in the league. And he's moving into a division next season in which at least two and maybe even three of the teams contained therein (depending upon how legitimate you feel the Ducks' success this year to be) are better than his.
Oh, but I guess he's got a great solution for all those problems tucked into a desk drawer, and he's only waited on for the purposes of dramatic tensions.
All brilliant GMs do. Now he just needs a coach to sort it all out.
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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.
No one is ever going to be totally happy with the ways in which the NHL's referees or officials make their decisions. We can all agree on that.
If there's a game in which neither team is whistled for a penalty, both will likely complain that the refs missed calls on the other. If there's a game in which both teams receive 10 power plays, both will complain that the referees were overly harsh in doling out discipline. No one is ever especially happy with calls that go in between those two extremes, either, because unless you win, you aren't happy. And sometimes, even when you do win, you aren't happy.
It's tough to know what, exactly, brought all this to a head in these playoffs. Alex Ovechkin complaining about a league-wide conspiracy in Game 6 after the end of Game 7; Jonathan Toews stamping his feet when his team got clobbered on home ice by its archrival; Sidney Crosby saying the league needs to institute video review for puck-over-the-glass calls; Jonathan Quick abusing officials because the Kings gave the Sharks a two-man advantage in overtime.
Doesn't it strike anyone as being a bit much?
No one likes to lose in October, let alone in the second round of the playoffs, and you might even say that the refs have made a bit of a spectacle of themselves in the last few games. The best thing a ref can do, the old saying goes, is not be noticeable, and things have admittedly gotten a bit out of hand in some instances.
But nonetheless, can you imagine the eye-rolling or outright mockery in Chicago if Henrik Zetterberg had said the same things Toews did after they got creamed in Game 1? Or the uproar if Ryan Callahan of the lionized New York Rangers had complained about a conspiracy to push the series longer? Or the furor if Joe Thornton had done what Quick did after the Sharks gave up a similar late-game 5-on-3 advantage that allowed the Kings to tie Game 1?
What it boils down to is being a sore loser.
It's extremely rare for guys celebrating a 3-1 win to say, "Well, we thought the refs were being a little too generous with us but we'll take it," but boy do the tissues come out when things bounce the other way. Media members covering the final month of the postseason might want to bring their galoshes to the rink as a precautionary measure.
It's times like these you wish the league came down as hard on players complaining about the officials as they do for coaches; Toews and Ovechkin can make a stink but John Tortorella has to pay a $30,000 fine after what he said about the Winter Classic, or $20,000 for saying the Penguins are an "arrogant organization" after Brooks Orpik ran Derek Stepan without punishment.
Why are coaches held to a different standard? Aren't they essentially doing the same thing: Bringing what the league would argue is undue scrutiny to its officials who it would argue are just doing their jobs to what it would argue is the best of their abilities?
Again, it must be said that no ref goes into these games looking to screw the Blackhawks or Kings or anyone else, and the finger-pointing only serves as a means of distracting from the fact that these teams put themselves in the situations in question.
It would be nice if the league would crack down on these guys so this kind of pointless whining stops before it gets any worse. It's one thing to do it in a game, I understand, and that's why you can almost forgive Jonathan Quick for his misdeeds; but when it's spilling over into postgame scrums, there's no need for it.
A quick fine of a few thousand dollars here and there might get them to blame an inability to put more than a goal on the board in 60 or more minutes of hockey on something other than officiating.
It's embarrassing that these otherwise extremely respected players, Toews in particular being routinely painted as this stoic figure who approaches everything in this sport The Right Way, have to resort to this type of petulant whining because their teams didn't win.
Maybe it's to be expected, but if we're going to say these guys are held to a certain standard, then it's time for all involved to start acting like it.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Bruce Boudreau kind of put it out there that the Ducks would have been a little better off with a longer training camp but it's like, c'mon man you finished second in the West despite all the percentages saying you had no business being there. Get ready for a huge step back. "Better start next year?" You went 13-2-1 in your first 16 games. How much better can you do with that roster?
Boston Bruins: The Rangers might want to learn to defend this Bergeron/Marchand play because they're sure not doing themselves any favors by standing around with their hands in their pockets every time the Bruins run it.
Buffalo Sabres: Can you believe no one who had anything to do with a 12th-place team that allowed more goals than it scored was nominated for an award? I sure can't!
Calgary Flames: So the Flames have to re-sign TJ Brodie, one of their best defensemen, this summer. It's going to be very exciting to see how Jay Feaster messes this one up, for sure.
Carolina Hurricanes: "It's not Eric Staal's fault for getting his knee blown out," is the thrust of this Luke DeCock column. His next one will be, "Grass is pretty green if you think about it."
Chicago Blackhawks: This was just about the only thing the Blackhawks did right on Saturday afternoon but wow this shot was something special.
Colorado Avalanche: The company that owns the Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Rapids also just bought the Outdoor Channel, which makes me wistful for the days that I could watch deer hunting before and after every NHL game.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Johansen was good for the Blue Jackets in the second half (5-5-10 in 28 during March and February after 0-2-2 in 12 in January and February), but then only had one point in five games in the AHL playoffs. Is this kid a bust or what? I've never heard of sample size, by the way.
Dallas Stars: Glen Gulutzan is already guest-coaching the Saskatoon Blades in the Memorial Cup, which doesn't seem all that fair to me.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Drew Miller might be the Red Wings' secret weapon. After missing a month, he came back, got a bunch of PK time, and helped hold Chicago 0 for 2 on the power play.
Edmonton Oilers: Will the Oilers make Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff compliance buyouts? Probably not and maybe, respectively.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers getting a new scoreboard last week with taxpayer money means that since the arena opened, the team has received some $138.4 million. The amount Broward County has gotten back on that investment? Just $331,206.
Los Angeles Kings: Tyler Toffoli will never score an easier goal in the playoffs in his entire career.
Minnesota Wild: Hey, so, uh… who's gonna be the Wild's goaltender next year? Is there even a really good answer?
Montreal Canadiens: Hmm, the Canadiens have to get bigger you think? What makes you say that?
Nashville Predators: Roman Josi's new contract is a top priority for the Preds, and they're going to really get to work on it now that Worlds are over, and he was named MVP of the tournament.
New Jersey Devils: No one in the free agent forward crop took more shots than David Clarkson's 180. The next-closest guy was Pascal Dupuis at 140. Boy is he gonna look good on the Maple Leafs' top line next year.
New York Islanders: The Isles have two very good prospects — Anders Lee and Scott Mayfield — coming out of college this year, and those dudes basically are the best prospects beginning their pro careers in the organization.
New York Rangers: This Ryan Callahan goal sure was wonderful.
Ottawa Senators: Gotta agree with this: Erik Karlsson has looked awful through three games of this series. I know what he's coming back from but the longer this goes on the more you gotta wonder if he should've come back from it at all this season. Hint: He should not have.
Philadelphia Flyers: The best thing I read this week was Ed Snider taking a shot at Marc-Andre Fleury for "falling apart" in the playoffs. It made me so happy. (But then again he sure made it sound like Steve Mason is going to get a good shot to start in Philly next year, which also made me happy.)
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 283 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. And how big is this Rob Klinkhammer contract extension? It got three whole sentences in an AP release.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins' power play went 0 for 6 last night after beginning the playoffs 10 for 31 so clearly it's time to panic in Pittsburgh. Everything has gone off the rails. Might as well just forfeit the rest of the series.
San Jose Sharks: I mean I'm not an NHL coach but I think on the penalty kill in overtime you gotta tell someone to cover Logan Couture or something like this will probably happen more often than not.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues consider Vladimir Tarasenko to be pretty important to the team going forward which, y'know, yeah.
Tampa Bay Lightning: "Will Martin St. Louis be a Hall of Famer?" That's an interesting question. You'd have to think so, right? Six point-a-game seasons, a few more that were close, led the league in scoring twice, won a Stanley Cup. Only 88 points away from 1,000 despite missing two seasons to lockouts and not becoming a regular NHLer until he was 24. I'd say yes, but then I'm not an idiot like the morons who vote on the Hall of Fame.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Famous Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield returned from his mission during Game 7 wearing a Maple Leafs shirt under his space suit, marking the second time in just a few hours that someone rocking that logo crashed back to earth.
Vancouver Canucks: Looks like Keith Ballard is going to be bought out. Yeah, I see that.
Washington Capitals: How funny would it be if the Capitals re-signed Mike Ribeiro long-term? Scale of one to 10? Like a million I think.
Winnipeg Jets: Leave it to the Winnipeg media to try to tie Paul MacLean and Randy Carlyle being ex-Jets into a reason they'd be good assistants for Canada in Sochi. Speaking as an American, I put my full confidence behind Carlyle's candidacy. How 'bout Ondrej Pavelec for player-coach for the Czechs while we're at it?
Play of the Weekend
Real nice play from Valtteri Filppula. Real nice.
Gold Star Award
Torey Krug has two goals in his first two NHL playoff games, and also an assist. He also broke up a partial break before he scored yesterday's goal, on which he kicked the puck through his own legs to himself.
Minus of the Weekend
What the hell happened to the Blackhawks on Saturday? Did they think it was a 7 p.m. start?
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "kushh" is living up to the name.
Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Keith Ballard
Josh Harding, Mikko Koivu, Kyle Brodziak, 1st in 2013*
*Canucks keep %10 of Luo and Ballard's contracts (533k and 420k every year)[/quote]
It's the $950,000 cap savings that will really entice Minnesota.
Now I know what it's like to be a crack head. I took one hit of real estate and it blew my head off.
The Flames missed the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, but some aspects of their season were better than others.
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