15 Things I Learned After 15 Days and Nights of Playoffs
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
By Stan Fischler
• LUONGO'S SAYONARA SONG: Before the season started, 33-year-old, Roberto Luongo told the hockey world that he wants to win and that "The Canucks give me the best chance." And they did, taking the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight year. But when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup, Roberto is like fourth-round-fiddle in a square dance band. That explains why Cory Schneider has pushed Luongo off the podium and into the Used Goalie Lot. Guranteed, at least four netminding-deprived teams will take him off g.m. Mike Gillis' hands; that would be Toronto, Columbus, Chicago and Tampa Bay.
• THE CURIOUS HOCKEY LEXICON: When a serial whack-man such as Raffi Torres virtually ends the artistic Marian Hossa's career with an airborne shoulder-to-head hit, the perpetrator has to produce a convenient alibi. In this case, the Coyote pleaded that it was "a hockey play -- just trying to finish my hit out there." Nice, but actually that statement really is another way of saying I did something filthy-dirty, but it's part of the game. Judging by the suspension levied by NHL Warden Brendan Shanahan, that kind of "hockey play" will go the way of wooden sticks.
• WHOA! YOU FORGOT SOMEBODY(S): One of the more interesting end-of-season prizes is the NHL's general manager's award picked by a vote of all 30 g.m.s. The Blues' Doug Armstrong, Florida's Dale Tallon and David Poile of Nashville comprise the trio of finalists. The Maven buys that but I cannot understand why the Flyers' Paul Holmgren and Coyotes' Don Maloney were left out. Or, to put it another way, I would have preferred five finalists since all qualify after a season of creative work.
• NEW AWARDS NEEDED: I say you never can have too many league prizes. The two ones that I'd submit would be one for the best DEFENSIVE defenseman. They can call it the Bill Quackenbush Trophy or Rod Langway or any other notable backliner who stayed back with skill. The Rangers Dan Girardi is the kind of guy of whom I'm thinking. Another trophy should go to the NHL's most underrated performer. I'd call it the Dickie Moore or Jacques Lemaire Award. Each of the aforementioned starred for different Habs dynasties but were overshadowed by the Richards and Lafleurs of their day. For 2011-2012, I'd go with Radim Vrbata, who tallied 35 goals for Phoenix, a career high for the 30-year-old sniper.
• DUMB AND DUMBER: Steve Yzerman's credentials as a general manager will be under scrutiny from here on now that it's apparent his team was torpedoed en route to playoff haven by inferior goaltending. That happens -- see Toronto for proof positive -- but it did NOT have to happen in Tampa Bay. During the 2010-2011 season the Lightning's Mike Smith compiled a laudable 13-6-1 record and went 1-1 in the playoffs with a 1.00 goals against average.
So what does Yzerman do? He unloads the 30-year-old Smith, who Don Maloney immediately signed for his Coyotes. Unlike Tampa Bay, Phoenix has a playoff team -- now in the second round. And if you want to know why, any Chicago Blackhawk will tell you that Smitty out-goaled Corey Crawford by the length of an Olympic-sized hockey rink. As he bade Smith good-bye, Not So Wise Yzerman gifted Dwayne Roloson with a new one-year $3 million contract. Thus, a hockey version of "Dumb And Dumber!"
• RUN, GOALIES: Remember the days when S.O.S. alarms would go off throughout the hockey universe if an offensive player so much as had a half-inch of his skate blade in the goalie's crease. First, there'd be a War Room look and then a DISALLOWED annoucement. Nowadays, crease-crashing is as normal as inhaling and often just as productive. Not to take anything away from the Capitals but Mike Knuble did a masterful job of first bumping and then shielding Tim Thomas from Joel Ward's series-winning shot. It was patently rule-book-ILLEGAL, according to the Goaltenders' Union but okay the way today's NHL is being called.
• BYE-BYE, BRUINS: Boston lost for a lot of reasons, starting with the fact that no team wins the Cup two years in a row anymore. And, furthermore, never will. On top of that, the Bruins high command never was able to replace the leadership and clutch scoring of 2011 hero Mark Recchi. Losing Nathan Horton didn't help either. Finally, Tim Thomas was unable to produce goaltending miracles as he did a year ago. Third-stringer Braden Holtby was better!
• CAPS OFF TO THE CAPS: It has been a tumultuous year for Washington hockey fans and their adorable owner, Ted (I'm Really A Brooklynite From Sunset Park) Leonsis. It started with stories about Alex Ovechkin being a coach (Bruce Boudreau) killer. leading to Dale (Islanders Fans Should Stop Hating Me) Hunter's arrival with a one-year contract, no less. But Hunter proved his Junior hockey coaching success was no fluke and he pushed his club into the playoffs. When his team wins a Game Seven without a goal from The Great Eight, there's something to be said for Hunter and his Caps. And that is, YAY!
• A COYOTES WAIL: Just wondering; but if the Coyotes have a truly sensational run to the finals -- a la Devils 1995 -- might that hidden sugar-daddy come out of the Phoenix woodwork and save the Yotes for Arizona?
• HOORAY FOR ROY: Talk is heating up in Montreal that Hall of Famer Patrick Roy will become the Canadiens next coach. The famed goalie has been as successful coaching Junior hockey in Quebec City as Dale Hunter was in London, Ontario. Wise, witty and wonderful with the media, Roy would be the ideal man behind the Montreal bench. But first, Habs advisor Serge Savard wants to hire a general manager. The Maven has an idea; let Roy do both!
• DOUBLE-TALK, CHI-STYLE: How about this for a gratuitous kick in the (goalie) pants; after his Blackhawks got eliminated by Phoenix, g.m. Stan Bowman was asked about the just-average goaltending of Corey Crawford. "Our goaltending in general was not our strength this year," said Bowman. "It don't think it's fair to lay the blame on Crawford." Sorry, Stan, but you already did!
• HARD TO BELIEVE DEP'T.: Considering how difficult it's been for Cup-winners such as Chicago and Boston to repeat, it's amazing -- in retrospect -- what Bill Torrey and Al Arbour's Islanders accomplished between 1980 and 1984. Not only did the Nassaumen win FOUR straight Stanley Cups but they went on to compile a record that no team ever will come close to matching. The Isles won nineteen -- as in 19 -- consecutive playoff series! That feat alone qualifies them to be considered one of the greatest teams of all-time if not THE greatest!
• SHARKS TO THE DENTIST: Once again, the Sharks have been de-toothed and the wonderment in San Jose is all about ownership's feelings about its general staff. They can't blame it on Dany Heatley anymore and Joe Thornton played his heart out as a legit captain. Both g.m. Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan are being scrutinized by fans and the media but both likely are safe for another season because of a quirky chain of command. San Jose neither has a CEO nor a president. There are six executive vice-presidents only one of which is a hockey man -- and that's g.m. Wilson. The Maven doubts that Doug will fire himself; or his hand-picked coach.
• CLICHE DEPARTMENT: I wish I had a dollar for every time a player says: 1. We need more traffic in front of (fill in any goalie's name) net." 2. "We have to play it simple." 3. (After a bad loss). "We all have to look in the mirror." 4.(Before a Game Seven). "This is what we dreamed about when we were playing street hockey."
• BEST MOCKED COACHING CHANGE: Approximately 438,912 hockey fans -- not to mention assorted media geniuses -- mocked Dean Lombardi's choice of Darryl Sutter to replace Terry Murray behind the Kings bench four months ago. But, as the song goes, "Who's Got The Last Laugh Now?" Lombardi, of course!