The following is from an email exchange between Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe (Down Goes Brown). Each month they will talk some nonsense and debate the biggest topics in the NHL in our monthly review. You can also check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave as they discuss the events of the week.
It's time for our monthly roundup of the NHL, in which we cover the key stories, make incorrect predictions, and generally complain. Mostly the latter.
Let's start with a topic we know pretty well, because we just released a book on it: the NHL's greatest 100 players. The league released its list over All-Star weekend, naming 100 legends as the best of the best. We put together a list of our own, and went the extra step of ranking it. That resulted in an ebook that's now available for purchase.
Having spent the time to research and build out a list of our own, we're on solid ground to take shots at the league's version. So how'd they do? What were the worst picks and/or snubs on the NHL's official list?
Lozo: Bad picks: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Mike Modano, Mike Gartner, Adam Oates, Jacques Lemaire, Grant Fuhr.
Shoulda been picks: Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Henrik Lundqvist, Dale Hawerchuk, Pierre Pilote, Zdeno Chara.
I won't go into detail about why the bad picks were bad, but the NHL seemed like it wanted to reward Cups instead of the quality of player. Except the Cup-less Gartner, which was odd, since the Rangers trading him away in 1994 was a big reason why they won the Cup.
Dudes who played most of their careers in the 1980s were rewarded more than anyone else, probably because the "blue ribbon" panel was made up mostly of people who grew up on that hockey. Did you see the highlights they showed from that era? Guys were scoring on 20-foot backhanders along the ice because goaltenders were about as skilled as your kid brother using pillows as leg pads after getting into the cough syrup.
Top 100 snub? Photo by Charles LeClaire-US TODAY Sports
Our list, however, is flawless and available everywhere e-books are sold.
DGB: Yeah, the focus on the 80s was a bit strange, especially coming at the expense of today's players. I think we'd all assumed that the NHL would put a thumb on the scale and make sure that the current generation was well-represented. That only makes sense—you're doing this as a marketing exercise, so market the guys who fans can actually still pay money to see.
Instead, we got the big three of Crosby/Ovechkin/Jagr, and then a bunch of Blackhawks. That's just weird. I guess the league really did just tally up the panel's votes and go with that.
By the way, James Mirtle had the full list of who was on the panel. With maybe one or two exceptions, it's pretty much a who's who of knowledgeable hockey people. But it's definitely an old-school group, and the old school does love their Cups.
I agree with most of your picks, although I was fine with Fuhr and I think the case of Gartner and even Oates is a decent one. Modano is a strange one, though. I don't know about you, but he's the one guy I got the most feedback on after we left him off our list. I thought we'd get it from outraged Blackhawks fans because we didn't include Toews, or even old-time Habs fans who were mad about Bob Gainey or Henri Richard.
Nope. Instead, it was Modano who people thought was a slam dunk. A guy who played for 20 years, had one second-team All-Star nod, and never cracked the top five in MVP voting even once. If he's not American, I'm not even sure he's in the conversation at all, but people I heard from couldn't fathom a list without him.
Did you have anyone like that where you got unexpected feedback?
Lozo: "Best American NHL player" is right up there with "best Canadian NFL player" in terms of value, so who cares? I'm the third most famous Hoboken resident. It doesn't mean anything. That shouldn't get me on a top 100 famous person list.
People were mad about Mats Sundin. I get it. But he's not top 100. He's like Modano where people hear the name and just assume he's a no brainer for top 100. He's not. I also realize I'm now the second most famous bald person in this column.
Let me tell you what the best part of the All-Star Game was. It was right after the second game when I flipped on ESPN. It was the Pro Bowl only it was the NFC vs AFC... in dodgeball. It was TY Hilton vs. like 8 guys from the NFC. The odds were long. Hope was minimal. Then Hilton caught a throw. And another. And another. Magic was in the air.
Then Hilton dropped an Ezekiel Elliott throw and the NFC won.
There was more emotion and try in that dodgeball game than in either of the first two All-Star matchups. I didn't watch the final but I understand Alex Ovechkin poured Gatorade into teammates' mouths like he was a shot girl standing on the bar with a bottle of tequila and a spout. Those are priceless memories.
DGB: All-Star Games are terrible. Not just in the NHL, but across all sports. There's nothing worse than watching amazing athletes who aren't trying. The NHL All-Star Game is pretty much unwatchable, since the effort level is basically zero. Nobody expects to see fights or blocked shots, but these days the guys won't even take a shot without making 15 unnecessary passes first. There was one play in the first game where the Atlantic had the puck in the Metro end forever and kept throwing it around, and finally it came to Auston Matthews in the slot all alone, and you could just see the horror in his body when he realized he had to shoot. I honestly think he was considering just dumping it into the corner and going off on a line change. Instead, he shot and scored, and everyone looked like they wanted to cry. That's about where I switched it off.
Don't be fooled by their smiles. The All-Star Game sucked. Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Thankfully, we're back to real hockey this week. The NHL sent out a tweet on Tuesday that mentioned 80 percent of the league is within six points of a playoff spot right now. My favorite part of the tweet was that if they had gone with seven points they could have bumped it all the way up to 28/30 teams, but apparently even the NHL felt like that would be too ridiculous.
I guess that having closes races are good—yay, parity?—but that many teams can't really be contenders. Aside from Arizona and Colorado, which other teams can we go ahead and write off completely? I've got the Red Wings and Devils, but it feels like the list should be longer.
Lozo: The Devils are done. The Red Wings are done. The Jets are done. That's about the extent of non-Sakic and non-millennial GM teams I'm willing to say are done, and I'm wary of the Wings and Jets figuring it out. I wonder if the NHL's regular season wouldn't seem so endless if so many of the games weren't three-pointers. If regular-season games mattered more, would you care more?
This will also probably ruin the already ruined trade deadline. Too many teams see themselves as in it and with so few teams selling, they will jack up their prices. "All we want for Matt Duchene is two firsts, your best prospect, a year's worth of ketchup chips, tickets to the Oscars, deep tissue massages twice a month in 2017 and 2018, an old-school Nintendo, and a PBJ with the crust cut off."
I guess the bright side is if Ray Shero thought Doug Murray was worth two second-rounders maybe he does that deal for Duchene.
DGB: The deadline is going to be kind of fascinating, for exactly the reason you mention. Right now there's only two sellers, and one of those doesn't really have any good players. So if I understand the concept of supply and demand—I do not—that should drive prices sky high.
If that's what happens, then suddenly we've got a situation where a smart GM on a team like the Jets or Hurricanes might decide that it makes a lot of sense to get in on that market. It would be the sort of forward-thinking move that could really pay off down the line.
Will anyone actually do it? Probably not, because NHL GMs don't care about anything other than their own job security, and pretending that being in the playoff race in 2017—even though you end up missing by eight points—is far more important than making your team better in 2019.
I wrote about this earlier in the week, but I want your two cents: Which GMs are under the most pressure to get something done over the next four weeks?
Lozo: I want to say none, because all the teams in it or close to in it are either safe or just got there or they are in situations where they are impervious to being fired.
Don Sweeney should be but he's not. Tom Rowe just got the job. Brad Treliving isn't going anywhere. Dean Lombardi isn't losing his job. Ken Holland could urinate on a box of Little Caesars and get an extension. Jim Nill is entrenched. There isn't a guy here that has to worry about missing the playoffs and losing his job.
Pressure will be on Joe Sakic (left) to make moves to set the abysmal Avs up better for the future. Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe Jim Benning. Maybe Jeff Gorton, only because he doesn't want to waste the window of Henrik Lundqvist even though it shut last year. Maybe the reason why there are no trades is because every GM feels safe.
DGB: See, I disagree. I don't think many GMs are in immediate danger of being fired this season, although guys like Sweeney, Garth Snow, Bob Murray, and Doug Armstrong all could all be on the hot seat and Treliving doesn't have a contract for next year. But even some of the guys who are relatively safe have work to do over the next few weeks.
For example, Steve Yzerman isn't getting fired, but he's got a Cup contender sitting near the bottom of the standings and a massive cap crunch coming in another year or two. And even if he decides to punt, he still has to figure out Ben Bishop. Nill is in a similar situation in Dallas, where he knows he's going to get killed if they miss the playoffs after he didn't do anything to fix the goaltending. Murray and the Ducks kind of feel like this is a now-or-never season. And Sakic has to hit a home run or two on big deals between now and the draft, or else the Avs are pretty much screwed.
Don't get me wrong—all of those guys will probably still do nothing, and whine about how the salary cap made their jobs too hard. But I think that's going to be an awfully hard sell for the fans.
Lozo: Hockey GM is the best job. It's basically Peter's dream job in Office Space if he had a million dollars. "I'd do nothing. I'd sit on my ass all day and do nothing."
Don Sweeney could stand in the middle of Boston Common screaming about how Tom Brady is a Trump-loving fascist and Bobby Orr was overrated and he's still got at least one more year in him.
DGB: OK, so if being a GM is easy, let's wrap up by doing their jobs for them. The next time we do one of these will be right after the trade deadline. Give me some predictions for what's going to go down between now and then.
Lozo: John-Michael Liles for a sixth.
Cody McLeod for a seventh.
PA Parenteau for a third.
A sixth in 2017 for a fifth in 2018.
Some guy in the AHL for some guy in the AHL.
Shane Doan refuses a trade to a contender because he has some secret outstanding warrants that will get him in trouble if he leaves the state of Arizona.
Strong calls all around.
I'm sticking with my "Jarome Iginla to the Oilers" prediction from a few months ago. I'm adding Ben Bishop to St. Louis, because that just seems like the kind of midseason panic move the Blues love to make. Brian Gionta goes somewhere for a second-round pick... maybe Ottawa? And I still think the Bruins do something weird. They seem like the sort of team that would fall in love with bringing in Doan. Seeing him finally waive his NTC and then miss the playoffs would be fantastic.
Iginla, a clear top 100 snub, would be a lot fun with the Oilers. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Any parting thoughts?
This is supposed to be a monthly roundup of hockey, and I'd just like to say that on Jan. 5, 2017, the United States won the gold medal at the world junior hockey championships by defeating Canada 5-4 in a shootout on Canadian soil.
Doesn't ring any bells. See you next month.