Each week we’ll take a look at some of the most pressing questions around the NHL, as well as some of the more ridiculous things hockey fans seem to care about. It’s The Comeback weekly hockey mailbag!
1. Nervous Ducks
@davelozo as a Ducks fan how worried should I be?
— Derek Rotz (@TheDerekRotz) November 30, 2015
My belief before the season was, as long as the Ducks received slightly above-average goaltending, they would win the Stanley Cup. Only five teams have worse 5-on-5 save percentages than the Ducks, who are 9-11-5 and 10th in the West. So, in a way, my prediction can’t be considered incorrect because the goaltending has been awful. I’m a genius!
The Ducks will be fine. They are a top-10 possession team with the second-lowest PDO. Things will normalize. You know how we all understand that at some point Donald Trump’s numbers will tank, that the country will have an epiphany of, “Wait, this is the guy we are giving the nuclear codes?
That’s what will happen with the Ducks’ numbers.
Or, the team will revolt against Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks will have one of the most disappointing seasons in the NHL history. Hockey is crazy. For me to sit here and present 100 percent confidence in a hockey opinion would be disingenuous.
2. There’s the young guns, how about giving the old guys a team? Can you please assemble an Over-35 roster for the 2016 World Cup?
I want a team of guys who do nothing but fight and call them the World Stars, but apparently the NHL isn’t accepting my ideas anymore. World Star!
As for Team Old, here’s what I got, choosing players with birthdays no more recent than 1980:
Wings (9): Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin, Joel Ward
Centers (4): Henrik Sedin, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Joe Thornton
Defensemen (7): Zdeno Chara, Marek Zidlicky, Brian Campbell, Mark Streit, Francois Beauchemin, Willie Mitchell, Dan Boyle
Goaltenders (2): Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller
Because of national affiliations, there’d be no way to assemble a usable roster of old men. (Ed note: so what you’re saying, Dave, is that there’s no country for old men.) But if we could put that aside, this would be a fun squad. And by fun, I mean fun for a second and then they’d take the ice and remind us all of our mortality for 60 minutes as our childhood heroes are passed by younger, faster players much the way our own youths have passed us by.
Still, I’d buy a ticket to a Young vs. Old game. I’d pay no less than $100 to watch scrawny 18-year-olds bounce off the robust ass of 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr and see 39-year-old Jarome Iginla set the tone by rag-dolling 20-year-old Sam Bennett as he tells him what it means to show Calgary the respect it deserves.
3. As you know, Cleveland is sort of the hub of the professional hockey universe. I was thinking of going to an NHL game this year. Which nearby city should I choose: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Columbus or Detroit? (Note: I have been to Columbus before. I have also been to Pittsburgh for a game but it was at the old arena. Never to Buffalo for a Sabres game or Detroit at all.)
When advising, please consider hockey entertainment, arena awesomeness, food/beer in the city and my wallet.
First, let me point out that this question is, “I want to escape from Cleveland, so could you tell me if Buffalo is a better place?” That’s sadness at levels I’m not capable of understanding, and I hope I never develop that strain of empathy. I’m sobbing right now.
The only city in that group I’ve never been to is Buffalo. But I know a lot of people who have been there for Sabres games or world juniors. No one, and I mean no one, gets home from Buffalo ever says, “I can’t wait to get back there.” If you want chicken wings, do you know where you can get them? Literally anywhere in America. Don’t go to Buffalo.
I like Columbus. If you’ve been there, it’s fine. The rink is nice, the city is inexpensive. Don’t go back if you can go other places.
That leaves Detroit and Pittsburgh. The Penguins’ arena is first-class, but I’m going to recommend a Red Wings game. Here’s the main reason: You can’t get a cab in Pittsburgh. It’s impossible. It’s a major city that lacks any sort of regular cab flow. I once stood in front of a Marriott for 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon before I was able to get into a cab. There was even that guy who is outside hotels blowing a whistle, walking out to the road to get a cab and nothing.
So imagine spending a night or two there and trying to get a cab at 2 a.m. It’s not great. People have hopped into stranger’s vans in the wee small hours out of sheer desperation. Every walk home in Pittsburgh feels like the moments before a Law & Order episode begins. You need a cab to get most places, yet the city has a total of nine of them, so good luck.
Go to Detroit. You get to watch a game in an old barn, tickets are cheap, as are drinks around the downtown area. Dive bars galore. There’s a good hotel about two blocks from the arena. It’s probably as old-time an experience as you can find in the NHL these days, so go see a game there before owners gouge taxpayers into shelling out cash for a new arena.
4. Is Evgeny Kuznetsov for real? Are the Capitals?
Yes and yes. Kuznetsov won’t shoot 18.9 percent all season, but he’s a difference-making forward the Caps have lacked in years’ past. If the Capitals face the Rangers again in the postseason, Kuznetsov will probably be the reason the Capitals actually win the series this time.
The Caps are probably the best team in the East. What scares me most about them is Brooks Orpik. He’s perfectly fine and OK, but in the playoffs, he could be the anchor around the Caps’ necks. His numbers are good considering his zone starts, but man, nothing kills a team like a defenseman that can’t skate or move the puck.
It’s the sort of problem that won’t matter until the second round of the playoffs and beyond, but it may, in fact, be a problem. All teams have their issues, so this is hardly one that can’t be overcome.
5. If NHL coaches were MMA fighters, who would be the ultimate champion?
He’s one of the younger coaches in the league and he has a way about him that makes you think there’s a maniac bubbling just below the surface. You see him on his porch. He smiles. He waves. But little do you know that if your dog crapped on his lawn that morning, he would have put you in a sleeper hold and stole your newspaper.
Yeo is 6-foot-1 and about 200 pounds and it all looks real solid. Maybe John Hynes and his lower center of gravity would give Yeo trouble on the mat, but man alive what Yeo would do Mike Johnston, Bob Hartley and Patrick Roy inside the octagon.
6. Who is the current NHL version of Kobe Bryant? Who do you think will hang on too long and have a final year that makes everyone unreasonably sad?
It’s really tough to find that level of greatness along with such a horrendous end. Martin Brodeur’s seven games last season with the Blues were sad. Zdeno Chara is the seventh-oldest player in the league, and while he’s not his once-dominant self, he’s still pretty good. He also signed his contract a long time ago, so it’s not as though he’s clinging to the pro sports life.
And my contention has always been this: play until they have to have security escort you from the building. If you want to take the ice as a husk of your former self, I say go for it. Playing professional sports is probably fun in ways idiots like me will never fully understand, so if an all-time great wants to hang around in his 40s, do it. You don’t owe me anything. It’s not your job to preserve my silly childhood memories.
If someone wants to give you money in return for something you’re good at, you should never feel shame about taking it if that’s what you want to do.
Although, if 41-year-old Chara signs a one-year deal with Las Vegas in 2018, I may cry a little.
If you want to be a part of next week’s mailbag, send at tweet to @davelozo.