Five Thoughts for Friday

On Legacies, Perfect Ties, Town Halls and More!

As we enter the last weekend of the regular season, we head once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

I’ve got some thoughts to share with you all:

On Legacies

Last night, Daniel and Henrik Sedin played their final home game as members of the Vancouver Canucks. The twins recently announced their decision to retire at the end of this season, and the last two home games have mostly served as an extended tribute to the franchise’s two greatest players. Vancouver’s relationship with the Sedins is breathtakingly straight forward in a way: they were famously drafted second and third overall in 1999, thanks to some daring draft day manoeuvring by Brian Burke, and have more than lived up to the expectations. They’re far and away the club’s all-time leaders in every meaningful offensive category, and were the centrepieces of some very, very good Vancouver teams. If not for Tim Thomas’ outrageous play in the 2011 Stanley Cup final, they would also be retiring as champions. But, alas, they never did quite reach the summit. Much like Sens fans’ own beloved Swedish champion, Daniel Alfredsson. What do we make of his admittedly more complicated legacy?

It’s been refreshing that there have not been too many (if any?) instances of people holding this “failure” against the twins. They were outstanding hockey players, they played their entire careers for one team, and by all accounts were great teammates and pillars in the community. So much of player legacies are tied up in things that are only partially within their control. I’m glad that for once we’re recognizing excellence for what it was, instead of what it wasn’t.

On Skilled Third Pairing Defensemen:

I debated including this in the Five Thoughts section at all because it’s a subject that I feel needs more attention than I can give it here but I’ve become more and more convinced that NHL talent evaluators have a collective blind spot when it comes to skilled defensemen that don’t necessarily score at a high rate. I’m thinking of a specific type of player: good skater, skilled with the puck, makes quick breakout passes but not necessarily big, heavy shot blockers or big hitters. Chris Wideman is a great example of this type of player on the Senators. Wideman’s long been a divisive player among Sens fans, especially before his hot start to this year, and he hasn’t always totally endeared himself to the coaching staff: remember that Guy Boucher had him playing forward at the time he was injured. This type of player typically finds themselves on the third pairing, playing infrequent, sheltered minutes.

All of this to say that I get the sense that though much of the way that we think about the game has changed in recent years, the way that NHL coaches, scouts, GMs, etc, think about defensemen hasn’t caught quite up. At this stage in the evolution of the sport, it’s probably more important to be able to make a slick breakout pass than to be able to throw a bone crunching hit, or even to consistently block a lot of shots. Injury risk aside, there’s a reason the Sens seem like they might walk away from Wideman but just extended Ben Harpur for two more years: Harpur has more of the skills we traditionally associate with successful defensemen. This is not an issue that’s unique to the Senators: most NHL teams have some variant of this debate every day. There’s a market inefficiency here that I think could be taken advantage of if a team was willing to think outside of the box.

On Town Halls:

The Town Hall meetings slated to be held with season ticket holders next week likely won’t produce any direct confrontations, especially since the team has seemingly made it clear to attendees that questions for Eugene Melnyk and Pierre Dorion will be screened ahead of time. That said, the announcement of the addition of a third meeting to accommodate demand cannot be seen as anything other than ominous. It is only when things are going poorly that as a paying customer you ask to speak to the manager, after all. It’s been clear for quite some time now that the relationship between the team and its fans is, at the very least, strained. This is purely a guess on my part, but it kind of seems like Melnyk is not totally aware of how just badly the well has been poisoned. The Town Halls are badly needed if the Sens are going to restore faith with their fans, but at the same time they will need to be careful about their choice of words because any goodwill built up now will be very quickly forgotten if the club doesn’t subsequently act in good faith.

The organization is in a bit of a strange position, as they are scrambling to revive a faltering season ticket drive and probably need to promise a competitive team. At the same time, it’s been made clear that the Sens could be entering a rebuilding stage. This seems like an awfully tight rope to walk. Next week might tell us a lot about what’s yet to come.

On Perfect Ties:

Have you ever wondered what would happen in the case of a perfect tie in the standings at the end of the year? I don’t mean a situation where two teams finish on the same number of points. I mean a perfect tie. One where the NHL’s tiebreaking formula does not explain who would emerge victorious. Well, friend of the blog Micah McCurdy pointed out a couple of days ago that we might have just that very situation on our hands:

The known tiebreakers are: Regulation and overtime wins, the season series, and then goal differential. Things have changed slightly since Micah’s original tweet but if the Flyers lose their next game by two, and the Panthers win both of their last two games in the shootout then we will have a perfect tie. I’d love for any rules aficionados to chime in here, but it sure seems like the NHL would be in a pinch if this came to pass. I, for one, am praying for the chaos.

On Watching the Play-offs Anyways:

Nothing will ever replace watching the Sens play in the play-offs, but there’s something to the notion of taking in a game without worrying that you might die of the stress. I’m not the type to adopt a second team, though all the more power to you as long as that team isn’t the Habs or Leafs, but I wanted to get a feel for what other Sens fans do: are you watching the play-offs anyways? Just the first round? Do you pick a team? Lemme know where your head’s at in the comments.

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