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Penguins, Ken Holland and conspiracy theories (Puck Daddy Countdown)

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.) 

10. Rob Scuderi-havers 

Rob Scuderi was traded twice this season. The first team that acquired him got bounced in seven games in the first round. The second team that acquired him got eliminated in five. The team that got rid of him in the first place humiliated its first-round opponent and seems like it probably has the best chance to win the Cup.

Is that a coincidence? Who's to say, really?

9. CalgaryNext

Remember when the parent company for the Calgary Flames, Hitmen, Stampeders, and Roughnecks — a multi-million dollar corporation — went to the City of Calgary and said, “We'd like you to give us $890 million to build a new stadium for the football team and arena for the hockey and lacrosse teams? And remember how that was really gross?

Well, the City of Calgary ran the numbers on the proposal and it turns out that $890 million would have been a little more like $1.8 billion. And the city council rightly told the Flames where they could put that request. Kent Wilson had a really good examination of why this idea was doomed to fail from the start, but it basically boils down to “The Flames just really wanted a bunch of money with very few actual specifics other than, 'But just give us the money though.'”

So now they're going back to the drawing board on the whole thing and the city council seems to at least be willing to listen if the Flames have an actual concrete plan to go with. I wouldn't plan on holding your breath for that.

8. Possibly feuding with your best player

Okay maybe you say that there was just no way to have gotten Vladimir Tarasenko onto the ice for that power play over the weekend. It's almost a buyable argument. You can almost see where Ken Hitchcock was coming from with that. Maybe. Sorta. If you squint at it.

But in your critical Game 7, at home, against the team that made a nasty habit of eliminating you from the playoffs the last few years, you only play him 14:31? That was just eighth among Blues forwards, and didn't even come close to meeting the team-leading 22:17 from David Backes. And just from looking around the morning after, it doesn't seem like too many people had questions for Hitchcock about it. Couldn't find a single quote about it.

Yeah they won, slayed the dragon, all that stuff, but this is quickly becoming an issue large enough that it needs to be addressed. There was no reason to rest the guy; in a Game 7, you empty the tanks.

Again, you could explain away the weird TOI situation in Game 6, because while he didn't get out on the power play, the Blues only had one of those, and Tarasenko led the team in time at 5-on-5. But again, in Game 7 he only got 13:35 at full strength, and that was just fifth. It doesn't begin to make sense if you're trying to win a one-off. Period.

And honestly, it's just not good coaching either way.

7. Ken Holland

The Red Wings getaway day sure was interesting. Jimmy Howard understands he might very well be on his way out, Pavel Datsyuk is probably gone, but most importantly, Ken Holland says the Wings aren't in a rebuild.

No no no, you don't understand! They don't need to rebuild. They just need to ….... add size? And that they're going to focus on drafting big kids?

Indeed, at the beginning of the season James Mirtle had them tabbed as the 19th-biggest and 19th-heaviest team in the league (and also the seventh-oldest but who's counting?). But hey uhhhhh no one look at all once here, but I'm looking at the Penguins lineup and they're the 26th-heaviest and 24th-biggest team in the league. I wonder what it is that allows them to succeed. Do you think it's all the “having good players” they do on a regular basis? I wonder.

The good news is that it's not like teams that decide to go chasing size don't have a long history of ending up coming out the other side of the rabbit hole extremely disappointed with the returns or anything. Nah that literally never happens. Teams go out and get a bunch of 6-foot-4 guys and it actually makes them better.

As long as those 6-foot-4 guys are also All-Stars. That helps a lot.

6. Conspiracy theories


People want to believe there are reasons beyond “they didn't win four games in the playoffs” why their teams failed to win in the playoffs.

And like a lot of nutbars out there, the answer usually settles on “grand conspiracy.” The latest batch of chemtrail-truthing in the NHL came out of both Minnesota and Florida.

In Minnesota you have people looking at a photo taken from a goofy angle which appears to show the puck completely over the line, but it was not over the line and oh well the Wild are really not that good anyway and even if it had been a goal it would have only forced overtime so please stop with this. I thought we covered the whole “parallax view” thing with the Flames in the playoffs last year, but well, everyone wants an excuse.

The same is true in Florida. Did the refs miss a trip? Yes. Is that a play that ever gets called a trip in the NHL, let alone in the final minute of a one-goal playoff game? No.

And look, that's not good. The league has a serious problem related to referees managing games instead of calling things the right way, but one thing Gary Bettman or anyone else in the league's front office 100-percent-for-sure-did-not-do was find a way to screw a team in a burgeoning-at-best southern market out of a deeper playoff run. For what reason? Ratings? Yeah, people love the frickin' Islanders. Huge national audience there. Definitely large enough to make the league create a massive conspiracy to make it happen.

However, both these conspiracy theories do highlight serious problems for the league. The “puck over the line” thing is related in its way to the “guy across the blue line before the puck” thing that's been such a huge ass-pain in this postseason. There are clear deficiencies in how these things are examined, and they always provide room for whining as a result. I've been told it's difficult to figure out the “put a chip in the puck” process, which make sense once they're explained to you (i.e. chips tend not to survive vulcanization) but something better needs to happen here. The current situation is untenable.

Meanwhile, game management sucks. Studies have shown that refs provide “makeup calls” more often than not — that is, a team only gets two consecutive power plays in about 40 percent of cases — and the tendency is to be even more generous if the other team's power play scored a goal on the previous attempt. Like, it's a serious problem if you believe, as one should, that the game should be called fairly in all instances, with the same standards for what's a hook or a trip or a hold applied uniformly. If you put a puck over the glass, that's called the same at 0:01 of the first period as it is at 19:59 of the third. And on the one hand, that would be nice to see throughout the game, but on the other, that's basically asking for a return to the insanity of the 2005-06 season when teams were getting 10 power plays a game. It's a tough balance, and it sometimes results in stuff like this. I don't want to say “Oh well,” but I guess, “Oh well.”

Listen, any time you have a question as to whether the NHL is capable of pulling off a conspiracy, the answer is, “You're giving their competency far too much credit.”

5. Tough decisions

The Kings are going to be in tough this summer to do everything they may want.

They already have about $64 million committed to the cap for next season (once you take the Vinny Lecavalier retirement into account) but that's to just 15 players. If the cap doesn't move very much — and it doesn't seem as though it will — it very quickly becomes difficult to say, re-sign Milan Lucic and Brayden McNabb (an RFA) and a backup goalie, and one or two other players. Plus also keeping in mind that Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending UFAs in 2016-17? Yikes.

Some very difficult roster decisions are in the offing for the Kings and probably will be for several years to come. That core is locked up for a good, long time. For better or worse. It's potentially a real problem. Not sure there's a good way to solve it, either.

4. The IOC

So when it comes to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, the IOC says it won't pay insurance costs for NHL players.

First of all, it cost $32 million to cover travel and insurance costs for Sochi, but could be as little as $10 million in PyeongChang. So the IOC is like, “Yeah we don't need to get involved in helping to cover costs.” Which makes sense to an extent but also seems to significantly endanger the chances of the NHL going to the Olympics in 2018.

We'll probably know more around the time of the World Cup in September, and while the situation is potentially worrisome, it's probably also overstated. How much of this is posturing? Guess we'll find out then.

3. The Penguins

Yeah when you use your third-string goalie for two games and your backup for the other three and still absolutely demolish a team that has probably the best goalie in the game right now, that seems like it's good for your chances in these playoffs.

2. The Sharks

Also yeah when you beat maybe the most impressive team in the league this year in five games, that is likewise very good. I really hope they win it all against the Penguins in seven games. I hope a lot that this is what happens.

1. John Tavares

For a while now, it seemed like a situation where John Tavares was just going to be a relatively anonymous exceptional player on an okay team.

But he (and also Thomas Greiss) willed the Isles into the second round. That Game 6 performance was masterful and maybe this is him finally turning into a nationally recognized super-talent, which he has been for a while now and people kind of said it sometimes, but perhaps not often enough.

I think the Lightning/Isles series will be a very good one. And hopefully, for everyone's sake, Tavares plays a huge part.

(Not ranked this week: Chicago.

Ah jeez really is a shame to see such a morally good team. Boy do I feel bad about seeing that happen in the first round to an arch-rival. Wow.)

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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