[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.]
6. The draft lottery
The hockey world at large is having a bit of a panic about this whole “tanking” thing — hell, the league might hide the draft lottery in an intermission on the first day of the playoffs to save everyone from the... uh, embarrassment I guess? — and now that the season is drawing to a close we're facing down the very real possibility of two teams finishing the season with fewer than 60 points, which seems insane. It would be the first time since the 2005-06 season that such a thing happened.
So the question now is “how do we fix the draft lottery?” People who are very smart, and those who are less so, all have their opinions as you might expect, and they range from the asinine to the intriguing. But the best and most obvious thing to do to discourage tanking is...........
Don't incentivize losing with a draft that gives the best players to the worst teams!
Wow, how has no one thought of this before? Now, there are a lot of ways you can approach it after that, but if you want to avoid that whole “fans cheering when their team gives up a game-winner thing,” that's the only way to do it. Any Sabres fan in the current system who wouldn't want their team to lose is being a dope at this point in the season; might as well guarantee yourself Eichel or McDavid rather than hope they finish, like, 26th eh?
The league will never eliminate the draft, nor (probably) will it ever allow a system that gives middling teams the best chance to get generational talents. Middling teams often don't need the help — unless they're the Flames haha — but it encourages signing actual hockey players and not the collection they've put together in Buffalo.
Until such time as a change is made to the current system (p.s. How does next year sound?) the complaining about it serves very little purpose. If you really don't like it, invent a time machine, travel to 2010, and force Darcy Regier to run his team competently.
I don't know what to tell you otherwise. Like it or not, this is just a good management strategy from Tim Murray.
5. Compelling Leafs opinions
Stop me if you've heard this one before but someone in the Toronto media thinks the guys playing out the string for the Toronto Maple Leafs “don't care” about playing hard or whatever.
I mean, what a great take. “The Leafs don't care!” How do guys come up with this stuff? A very original idea.
4. Selling playoff tickets
The Boston Bruins kicked up a heck of a sobfest north of the border on Monday when they put playoff tickets on sale before they clinched the playoffs. The Ottawa Sun described the move as “cocky” (hilarious that it is a Don Brennan headline, by the way) as though this hasn't been standard operating procedure across the league.
Like three weeks ago, the Sharks made it clear to people looking to make a deposit on season tickets — for which the prices are going up, hilariously — that they'd be able to get discounted playoff tickets. And the Sharks are a hell of a lot more out-of-contention than the Bruins, who at least occupy a playoff spot.
And look, is it possible that the Bruins falter and Ottawa picks up the slack and the teams swap positions? Sure. But the difference is that tickets have been selling well in Boston all season, and it didn't take a borderline ECHL goalie catching fire for a month and a half to get an apathetic fanbase interested again. It's not revelatory to say, “Fans don't care when the team is bad,” but Senators fans turned around so fast after ignoring the team all season that the earth's rotation slowed.
It takes a lot of gall for a stadium full of empty seats to get this upset over a team which has sold every ticket for years trying to sell more tickets, but then these are also the same people who like to throw room-temperature hamburgers at their favorite players, and also the people who scold those first people for doing so.
And by the way, if you want to buy Sens “March to Playoffs” tickets — which sure seems to imply a playoff appearance for the trailing Ottawa club — you can go ahead and click here. Very cocky if you ask me.
3. Masterton nominees
Yes, it's that time of year: Local PHWA chapters are naming Masterton Trophy nominees from among the players they cover, and that's always a fun time. They're always fun to see.
You go from legitimate champs — guys whose careers were pretty close to over like Marc Staal and Pekka Rinne — to the usual old players who are still playing and the team doesn't have another decent candidate on hand — Daniel Henrik Sedin and Shane Doan. And then there's the usual bizarre ones: Kris Russell (he blocks a lot of shots!) and Mike Weber in Buffalo (he plays for the Sabres!).
Over the next week or so, the rest of the nominees will come out, and splitting them up into categories like, “Deserving,” “Undeserving,” and “Haha what?” is always a great late-season sport.
(And by the way, Russell being Calgary's nominee and not, say, I don't know, Matt Stajan — whose newborn son died last season — is just bizarre. Maybe Stajan didn't want to be nominated, but man that's not a good look.)
2. Alex Ovechkin
Well hey what do you know Alex Ovechkin is gonna end the season with 50-plus goals for the second year in a row and sixth time in his career. And now that he's getting decent goaltending behind him again — thanks to all his teammates playing something resembling an actual defensive system — wow he's not a minus player at all.
Barry Trotz can't believe that a five-time Rocket Richard winner is actually good at hockey and not a bad lazy idiot.
My favorite Ovechkin stat: He's been a minus player three times in his no-defense-playin' career.
Actually, no. My favorite Ovechkin stat: He has 472 goals and 891 points in 755 career games and people act like he's garbage. He'd have 550 goals no problem were it not for two lockouts that robbed him of 126 games.
But yeah this guy's a bum who completely changed his game in one season. That's much more plausible.
1. Tinted visors
Hey, if guys are still having concussion problems so severe that they can't tolerate bright light, maybe slapping a pair of sunglasses on them isn't the best way to deal with their brain injuries. I don't know, I'm not a doctor.
This seems an awful lot like one of those things where guys are rushing back to get more games in even though they haven't fully shaken out the cobwebs, which is another way of saying "fully recovered from a potentially very serious brain injury."
This isn't one of those things players or team should be taking lightly, especially in the case of Matt Calvert, whose team has about as much of a chance of making the playoffs at this point as you do sitting at your desk reading this.
Here's a good idea, just in general: If doing your job as normal following a brain injury means, like, having really headaches so bad you have to wear a thing on your face to avoid them, while also big men trying to knock you down and cause further injury, maybe you say, "Thanks but no thanks."
Oh, Calvert's on an expiring contract, you say? Well I never would have guessed that in a million years.
(Not ranked this week: Asking players and coaches what they think of tanking.
In the last week, the Coyotes and Sabres have played each other twice, so obviously the watchword was “tanking.” That meant every lazy reporter in both cities got to ask players, “Hey are you guys, like TRYING to lose or something?” And then for the 73rd time this year, Brian Gionta gets to be like, “No we're trying real hard we're just bad!” and then that's 20 easy column inches.
Turns out players don't try to lose every game and neither do coaches. They are playing for jobs and stuff so they don't. But you knew that. Because this column was written on like Oct. 5 and then repeated once every few weeks for the entirety of the season.)
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