Fight Rants with Rants, How Hockey Week Works

I was contemplating a blog post, until I saw Mr. Stearns call me out on the blog. Yes, I check the blog, and you should too.

At the time the last episode was filmed, nobody HAD shot up the standings. Only two teams had more than 6 wins or 6 losses in the past 10 games. 60% is no barn-burner, and realistically will be cancelled out just 10 games later. If you recall, the last episode was filmed on the 18th, and therefore anything based on the whole of the month of February would be a lie. BUT WAIT, the show Dave is referencing is from the 10th of February, showing just how much changes in 18 days, proving my point further: the L10 statistic is very misleading, and not something one should rely on.

The L10 doesn’t tell you the real story, and at times, nor do the statistics until long after the fact. The L10 doesn’t tell you about Martin Brodeur’s triumphant return, in fact, the 8-2-0 that the Devils have currently shows that they haven’t missed a beat, meanwhile the Devils have hit a whole new level of domination and are scary enough to be discussed on ESPN’s Around the Horn. It can’t possibly indicate the effects of the Rangers’ coaching change, or lack thereof. Even a 3-5-2 doesn’t show just how much the loss of Ryan Miller damages the Sabres.

Can I also point out that David Stearns, the Rant Man himself, said on February 18th’s episode, and I quote, “As far as the standings go? Yeah, they’re tight. They’re not going anywhere for a while. A lot of teams have been fluctuating here and there. You really can’t make any specific movements, or any discussions about specific movements because in the next few weeks, one team is going to be all the way up here and the other one is going to be way down here…The top four teams are locked in and the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th seeds are fluctuating.” This means, if I am not misrepresenting the Rant Man, that statistics only account for so much.

Aside from that, the Vancouver Canucks are a team that has garnered more undeserved media hype than any other team. Calculating wins, losses, and ties over the history of the franchise, it is the farthest under .500 of any franchise. In two Stanley cup finals appearances, it has come up with nothing. This team has wasted chances with many good, and some I dare say great, players. Markus Naslund was poised as the greatest thing since sliced bread. He dominated in a western conference shared by Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. Matthias Ohlund was touted as this great defenseman, There were teams that made Dan Cloutier look good! Now they have Roberto Luongo, supergoalie extraordinaire, and bring in Mats Sundin with a boatload of money and more media coverage than I care to handle.

Yes, they’ve had a wonderful February, but how about June? Does anybody honestly expect them to be in the Stanley Cup Finals? I haven’t heard a single prediction that includes them, and I’m not about to give one. I hate wasting time on Vancouver, and I shan’t even put them in the Best Teams to Never Win the Cup, because these Canucks teams don’t belong anywhere near the early-70s Sabres, the early-00s Senators or even the late-70s Kings. Quite frankly, the Canucks are one of those teams who are good year in and year out, but have never had what it takes to make it over the hump, they are another San Jose, another Calgary (though I give the Flames credit for at least going to the finals in 2004), but they will never be a league superpower.

Promise? Only the promise of looking good and failing miserably when it counts. They can take a seat next to Patrick Lalime and the Philadelphia Flyers in the “not accomplishing diddly” section.

Teams get hot, teams go cold, and some teams just don’t have it in the Playoffs. When the Canucks can do something substantial in the postseason, I’ll talk about them. In the meantime, I’ll let all the other analysts do that job.

What I would like to talk about is the status of some other things in the NHL. Knowing our viewers, all 5 of you, I’d like to address the falling Buffalo Sabres. Unless Buffalo makes some sort of trade for a goaltender, or finds that diamond in the rough Cinderella goaltender in their own minor leagues, or through some miracle Ryan Miller comes back, their playoff hopes are over. This is a team that has what it needs to make an impact in the playoffs.

In a depth chart full of “who?”s, “huh?”s and “he’s ok”s beats the heart of a team. …and I do mean TEAM. This phenomenon is rare, shown a handful of times in history, the most recent great example being the undamphousse’d San Jose Sharks, but it is one that must be celebrated. Who are the superstars on this team? If you’re a Sabres fan, I’m sure you shouted a few players at your screen just now. If you’re a simple enjoyer of hockey who is not well versed with every team’s rosters, you’re probably thinking pretty hard, and the answers you came up with are injured. Somehow, this team prevails in the face of such adversity. That is something to be admired, and is darn impressive.

That brings me to my next theory, one that the Rant Man has disagreed vehemently with me about: teams cannot win championships with a terrible goaltender. Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, Mike Richter, Tom Barrasso, Bill Ranford, Mike Vernon, Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith, Ken Dryden are the Stanley Cup winning goalies of the past 30+ years. No terrible goalies. You could make arguments about Ranford, Vernon, and Fuhr…but you’d be hard-pressed to call them terrible for the season in which they won a championship. Let’s face it, a goaltender is an essential part of any successful team. Patrick Lalime is not good enough to excel in the playoffs. He showed that while playing for an excellent Senators team, one of the aforementioned best-to-never-win-the-cup. Let’s face it, Roger Crozier and Rogatien Vachon weren’t spectacular either, no matter how fond our memories of them are. Buffalo NEEDS a goaltender if they plan for any kind of success beyond April 12th.

Aside from that, the Penguins have swept into that playoff vacuum left by the Sabres, with Marc-Andre Fleury winning his 100th game, moving him into 3rd on the most-wins-by-a-Penguins-Goaltender list behind only Tom Barrasso and Ken Wregget. Has this become the evidence to silence Fleury critics? If you consider that Rick Kehoe is the Penguins’ 3rd leading scorer, you can see that if you fight long enough, you can gain accolades. You cannot call him less than OK, but he has still yet to show that he is great, something that will only come with a Stanley Cup win. Those who doubt this, think about where Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perrault, Rod Gilbert, and Adam Oates fall on the list of greatest players. Ask a football fan about the greatest players, and see how Dan Marino takes a huge hit because of his lack of Super Bowl victories.

Back on-topic, the Penguins have battled their way back into the playoffs…for now. They need to achieve 7th or preferably 6th place to have a chance at making it past the first round. A rather difficult schedule will settle only one thing: If the Penguins make it to the playoffs, they have earned it.

Chris Kunitz will help that. The Penguins gave away a good puck-moving defenseman, but they have no shortage of those. They needed a scorer to augment Crosby, Malkin, and Sykora (the team’s only 20-goal scorers). Sure, they lost a good player to gain a player of lesser skill, but they filled a need by trading someone who wasn’t essential. Adding Tangradi, a fantastic scorer who should develop into a player the Penguins will need in the future, makes this deal completely worthwhile, and has already showed that it might pay off. Those complaining are bandwagoners who don’t remember that Paul Coffey got traded in February 1992 for far less, before we brought home our second consecutive Cup.

It has been far too quiet in the NHL, I’m still waiting and hoping for those big deals to happen.

Ok, I’ve talked enough…or should I say, “ranted” for long enough. You’re up, Rantman.