Five Thoughts for Friday

Boro/Cowen, Hoffman drama, and of course Chris Neil in today's Five Thoughts!

1. That Borowiecki/Cowen pairing

Mark Borowiecki and Jared Cowen don't make a good pairing. That much seems pretty clear to most. They're decent on the PK, but they get hemmed in when they can't just ice the puck. Cowen's looked pretty good with Chris Wideman actually (in a very small sample size). The problem is the two of them were out there in the last two minutes of last night's game defending a lead. I don't know why they get the reputation of being good defensively. Maybe because they hit more? Maybe because they get stuck in their own zone more? Either way, I'd rather see Erik Karlsson out there in the last minute to defend the lead because he keeps the puck in the opponents' zone more often. They don't even get the goalie pulled. You can only block so many shots before you're way out of position and the puck's still in your zone.

Travis Yost touched on this a bit yesterday when talking about Dan Girardi, and how he isn't very good at shot suppression or preventing scoring chances, but he has a reputation as a shut down guy. I know I'm not an NHL coach, but I think teams need to get away from this idea of confusing "defensive play" with "bad play". Running around your own zone and hitting and blocking isn't necessarily good, because it means you're stuck in your own zone. Marc Methot is defensively good, as proven in another Yost article. There are good defensive defencemen, it just should show up in suppressing shots or quality chances or something. Cowiecki isn't defensive - they're just bad together.

2. Mike Hoffman drama

There seems to be this rumour going around that Dave Cameron and Hoffman don't get along. You could maybe see that partly in how he didn't get into the shootout lineup after scoring a beauty during the game, but I don't think that lines up. First of all, it doesn't stack up with their interaction on the bench:

I think if they weren't getting along, Cameron would avoid him more. Not to mention take him off the top line and the second powerplay unit, things he was more than happy to do last year. For now, I think it's fair to say it's more that the coach is trying to spark Bobby Ryan than that he has something against Hoffman.

3. The NHL is less than 50% Canadian

For the first time ever, less than half the NHL players used to start the season are Canadian. To me, this seems like a surprise. I figured this would've happened a while ago with the growth of the game in Europe and the US, not to mention the rise in European scouting. It looks like what delayed this event from happening was the huge decrease in Russian players when the KHL became a serious threat. (Whether or not the players would actually bolt for Russia.)

Personally, I think this is a good thing. I think this means the talent level is rising. It means international hockey will become more and more exciting. It possibly opens the door for more diversity in the future, though I'm not holding my breath on that.

What we'll all see on Saturday night are Don Cherry's thoughts on this revelation.

4. When is a goalie to blame?

I was skimming through this story from the Bleacher Report, about whether to buy or sell on surprise fantasy hockey hot starts, and I was struck by one sentence in particular: "[Martin Jones] had his worst game in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers but wasn't at fault for the goals conceded in that one." It got me thinking - when is a goalie to blame for goals scored against them? I mean sure, if they let in an awful one, we can all agree. But what if it's scored on a rebound? That's sort of the goalie's fault. At what point is the defensive coverage so lax that we say the goalie wasn't to blame?

Sometimes goalies make unexpected saves. Often goalies bail out their defence. Overall, we expect goalies to stop ~92% of shots to be considered good. How do we know to give them a break? It all seems very subjective to me. Saying "he wasn't to blame" seems like an excuse when you're trying to cover up the negative data that doesn't agree with your conclusion. I guess I expect better than that from an argumentative piece. Maybe not from Bleacher Report, but in general. Saying "all the data agrees except for the data that doesn't but it doesn't count" is a pretty weak argument.

5. Chris Neil at 900 games

It's amazing to think that Neil, the 161st-overall pick from Flesherton, ON in the 1998 NHL draft has hit 900 games. Ottawa picked Mathieu Chouinard (a cult hero on this blog), Mike Fisher, Chris Bala, Julien Vauclair, Petr Schastlivy, and Gavin McLeod ahead of Neil that draft. Only Fisher has played more NHL games, and for the rest of the names, it's not even close. In the 1998 NHL re-draft, put him as the 23rd-best pick from that draft.

Say what you will about the guy now, but in his heyday, he was a guy who could beat you in a fight or on the scoresheet. A career-high of 33 points is great for a career fourth-liner. He's currently 31st on the all-time PIMs list, and likely to move up a few spots this season (he's only four out of the top-30).

With Neil, you also can't forget his charity work. When Fisher was traded, Neil and his wife Caitlin became the honourary chairs for Roger's House. When he retires, I hope it's as a Senator, and I hope he sticks around in some capacity. Maybe as a trainer, maybe as some kind of arena person - nobody can get a crowd excited like Neil.

And in honour of Chris Neil, I'd like to end with possibly the greatest moment of Neil's career. Game 3 against the Ducks in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, when he scored a goal the day after his first child was born. That sticks out in my mind as my favourite memory of him.

However, since I couldn't actually find that highlight, here's another great Neil moment, from some more recent history:

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