Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Outdoor games; Wild improvement; Silfverberg's new deal
[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. Shocking opinions about Randy Carlyle as a coach
Mike Babcock left the Detroit Red Wings to go to the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer. You might have heard about that.
Well, he replaces Randy Carlyle, and you'll never guess in a million years who thinks that's really going to be good for him. Wow, it's Nazem Kadri. You got it after all!
Said Kadri of his incoming coach, and the team's entire managerial structure:
“Now, I’ve got guys who kind of have your back and are willing to go to bat for you,” said the 24-year-old Londoner. “Before, you kind of felt like you were drifting by yourself. But I know Shanny (team president Brendan Shanahan) and Mark (Hunter, the team’s director of player personnel) are behind me 100 percent. They want to see me succeed and they’re going to give me all the opportunities this year to do it."
You mean Kadri, who was being stapled to the bench after multiple-point nights because of Carlyle's vision for how the team Should Play, might benefit from a good coach and a front office that actually values useful things in hockey? Hmm. Hmmmmm.
Of course, Kadri being 24 and all is usually right around the time Babcock liked working quote-unquote young players into big roles in his lineup with Detroit, so if you're looking for someone in Toronto have a good season, this might not be a bad place to start. Put him with James van Riemsdyk and watch them score a lot in losing efforts.
6. Outdoor games
Earlier this week, Gary Bettman said that outdoor NHL games, of which there will be three next season, are “far from being overdone.”
This is patently untrue in a lot of ways. For example, there are so many outdoor games. Like, so many. Like, in the last three seasons alone, in North America there were 43 of them between college, junior, and pro hockey. That is a lot! So the idea of two outdoor games in the space of less than a week in Minnesota and Denver is not something that should have the average hockey fan all kinds of psyched.
At some point, apart from the performers during the first and second intermission, these all just start to feel so rote that you don't even care any more. They blend together. In the 2013-14 season, I personally went to five outdoor games. It's too much at some point.
But to Bettman's point, outdoor games are not made to cater to the average hockey fan. They are made to cater directly to fans of the teams in question, and average sports fans in those cities. The Winter Classic, perhaps, extends beyond that narrow window, but who knows at this point?
The league, and the teams involved, still rake in major cash for these games, all of which are being held in football stadiums this year. From the above-linked TSN story, the ticket price just to get in the door for a Stadium Series game is $109. That's a huge gate, especially when you consider the old rule of thumb that teams make about $1 million per home playoff game (though that number has likely gone up in recent years). That also doesn't include ticket sales for alumni games, souvenirs, and so on, either.
You and I may think they're overdone, but for Avs and Wild and Bruins fans this year, they're going to be fun. And the league knows that this is a hell of a way to part those people from hundreds of dollars.
5. Expecting improvement for Minnesota
And when it comes to the Wild, people seem to be expecting improvement this season from last year's seventh-place, 100-point finish in the Western Conference. Among them? Well hey, it's Zach Parise.
The Wild, up against the cap, really haven't done anything this summer except re-sign some guys and bring in Mike Reilly. They also lost a few guys to free agency (but in some cases, like Matt Cooke, it was addition by subtraction). But let's be honest about Minnesota's chances here. Given what we know about the overall quality of this roster, doesn't 100 points seem like the approximate ceiling they should have reached?
Yeah, they were uncharacteristically unlucky in the first half of the season. Through Jan. 31, their 5-on-5 save percentage was tied for the lowest in the league at .902, and their shooting percentage was tied for 11th from the bottom. Not great in either scenario. But then after that point, they tied for the third-best save percentage, and had the highest shooting percentage. In some ways, you might say things evened out and they finished more or less where they should.
They ran into a Chicago juggernaut in the postseason, which is what this playoff format basically guarantees will be their fate forever, and got predictably clobbered.
If Minnesota is going to improve, all the young players on their roster will have to be better, and none of the older ones can really drop off. But to use Parise as an example, how many more 33-goal seasons does a 31-year-old have in the tank? What about Ryan Suter? What about Mikko Koivu? It's a major concern.
4. New jerseys
So there were two new third jerseys leaked yesterday. The Ducks' is pretty nice if a little too... orange, I guess. The Avalanche's is.... too busy. And comically enough, a throwback to a team that now plays in New Jersey.
But the absolute stunner in this is the speculative and deeply awful Red Wings Stadium Series jersey. Colorado's is fine. Real simple, real nice. But that Detroit jersey belongs in the trash.
3. The Jakob Silfverberg extension
I think it's safe to say at this point that Jakob Silfverberg will never become the Bobby Ryan replacement most people in Anaheim probably hoped. Silfverberg set a career high in goals this past season with 13, while Ryan had a bit of a bad season and only posted 18. So you see the problem here.
But with that having been said, locking up a guy for four years who will only be 25 come mid-October isn't a bad move. Nor is getting him for the just-right price of $3.75 million against the cap.
Silfverberg is a borderline top-six player in terms of his role with the cub, but stuck in a big group with a number of other guys who can likewise be used in a similar fashion. That, of course, allows you to have a really good third-line, and Silfverberg can move pretty seamlessly between either. He was also fifth-best on the team last season in points per 60, was on the ice for more penalties-for than penalties-against (plus-2), and is a positive possession player.
If you can get all that for $3.75 million, you're in really good shape. And hey, the Ducks need value contracts anyway, because of that insane Ryan Kesler extension earlier this summer.
2. Center depth
Pittsburgh down the middle at the end of last season: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Sutter, Daniel Winnik, Max Lapierre.
Pittsburgh down the middle at the start of this coming season: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino, Erik Fehr, Matt Cullen.
Yeah, that's a lot better.
1. Phil Kessel
Speaking of the Penguins, no one in the league is more lovable than Phil Kessel. That picture on Monday? Magnificent. He's gonna score 40 walking away next season, and now that he's out of Toronto, people might even start treating him like a human being.
(Not ranked this week: Mark Croce.
Every word out of this creep's mouth about the Patrick Kane allegations should be taken with dump truck full of salt. Despite his protestations, he of course has a financial interest in this, for a number of reasons.
1) As the owner of the bar where Kane reportedly met his alleged victim, he could be held liable for over-serving or something along those lines if it really comes to that.
2) “That's the bar where...” reputations don't wash away easily after high-profile cases like this take place.
3) Kane was scheduled to have a big ol' party at the bar in question on his day with the Cup. Also, he seems to hang out there a decent amount, and I bet that brings with it some notoriety for the bar itself, plus big spending whenever Kane is there. Just a guess.
Moreover, and far worse, is the amount of victim-blaming Croce squeezed into just a few quotes. Here's a fun newsflash to think about: Even if everything he said about what he saw that night were true, that sure doesn't make what allegedly happened next okay, or unavoidable, excusable, understandable, or anything else that isn't a synonym for “disgusting.”
But Croce's attitude toward this stuff echoes a lot of what we see among NHL fans, and even within the league itself. Regardless of whether charges are ever brought against Kane all this garbage should be instructive with regard to how women are treated in the NHL, the world of sports, and society as a whole.
The “innocent until proven guilty” thing you hear a lot of guys who wear backwards hats spewing these days is legally true, and no one but the people who were there know what actually happened last night. But presuming Kane's innocence in a legal sense isn't the same as withholding judgment in the court of public opinion. In fact, people who say “Kane is innocent until proven guilty,” are only putting a nicer spin on the same message from the clods who say flat-out, “She's lying.” Because to say he's innocent until proven guilty is to implicitly say that his accuser is lying.
(Lying because she wants in on all the benefits sexual assault survivors get, like.... well I'm sure there have to be some. There actually aren't, you say? Very strange.)
Why is Kane getting the benefit of the doubt here? Safe to say it has a lot to do with three Stanley Cups and 205 career goals. Pretty similar to why Bobby Hull gets a statue and a nice job with the team despite accusations that he beat up at least two of his wives on a regular basis, and may or may not have said, “Hitler had some good ideas.” Pretty similar to why Mike Ribeiro still has a job in this league. Pretty similar to why Slava Voynov will get a new contract the second his legal quagmire is navigated.
But please, Commissioner, tell us more about how this league doesn't have a problem with women.)
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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