James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Picking Up the Pieces

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Note: this is the last Dose until the 2013-14 season gets rolling. Thanks for the support and enjoy what should be an exciting (and then relaxing) summer "off."

 

Obvious exceptions for people with “horses in the race” aside, the end of an NHL season can generate some serious mixed feelings. At least if you’ve been following the proceedings in exhausting, near-comprehensive detail.

 

On one hand, a marathon is over with. A wave of speculation about who might or might not be “clutch enough” finally meets a reality-soaked wall of results.

 

Of course, the flipside is that the next games that “count” won’t happen until October.

 

“No more hockey?!,” our inner children cry. “But what will I do now … watch another sport? Develop a different hobby?”

 

Yup, it’s a tough puck-shaped pill to swallow, but don’t fret too much. With the 2013 NHL Draft mere days away, buyouts just around the corner and the free agent period set to truly kick off in early July, things won’t get too hauntingly hockey-free until August (or so).

 

Regardless, dry those eyes and read some scattered hockey thoughts.

 

KANE, RAISED

 

I imagine the Conn Smythe voters would agree that 2013 was one of the more difficult playoff years to pick a postseason MVP.

 

There’s really nothing wrong with choosing Patrick Kane. He tied for second place on the postseason scoring leaders list alongside Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic with 19 points, behind only David Krejci (who towered over all with 26). His two GWGs aren’t mind-blowing, but they came in prominent moments, as he scored the 6-5 OT tally in a wild Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and sent the Los Angeles Kings packing in OT during the third round.

 

In a weird way, his pedestrian 10.2 shooting percentage charms a nerd like me, because it means that he didn’t get insane puck luck. When you consider the fact that no one else in the top five of playoff scoring registered less than David Krejci’s 16.1 shooting percentage, things could have very well gone more swimmingly for Kane.

 

Aside from the 2008 Calder Trophy, Kane’s resume seemed glaringly lacking in fitting individual achievements (beyond All-Star nods). The Conn Smythe seems quite appropriate from the most captivating - and possibly most talented - American hockey player.

 

CONN ARTISTS

 

Kane fits the storybook trophy win bill perfectly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was the most deserving. In all honesty, I’m not certain who really deserved it. Still, I’ll trot out an argument for some of the most compelling runner-ups. (Sorry, Jonathan Toews, you were heroic but … three goals in four postseason rounds just isn’t going to cut it.)

 

Corey Crawford - My goodness, can people lay off the guy’s glove already? Maybe it could really become a complex, but I think people disregard the notion that possibly every goalie in the last 20+ years is more vulnerable “top shelf” than anywhere else.

 

Sure, some have rapier-like gloves, but if you shot any of them with “Kill Bill” truth serum, I’d bet every single one of them would admit they’d rather see most pucks coming toward their pads than their gloves/upper-body.

 

Crawford sported a handsome .932 save percentage. That isn’t as strong as our next contestant’s number, but it’s the type of mark that should dispel silly notions of him being an anchor. After all, if he was a weak link, then wouldn’t he have allowed more than one of the Bruins’ blistering 12 shots to beat him in the first period of Game 6?

 

Tuukka Rask - You basically need to move Heaven and Earth - or in Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s case, beat a Golden Age Detroit Red Wings team - to win the Conn Smythe on the losing team.

 

That’s a shame, because there’s a bevy players (*cough* Chris Pronger *cough cough*) who were literally the most valuable assets in a given postseason despite defeat. It’s hard to argue that Tuukka Rask might have been that guy in 2013, as he managed a .940 save percentage despite facing the two best regular season teams in the NHL.

 

Don’t feel too sorry for the impressive Finn, though; he’ll make a handsome amount of money this summer, even if his RFA status will limit the Benjamins a bit.

 

David Krejci - Speaking of guys on the losing team, what about the guy who’s now led two of the last three postseasons in scoring?

 

I’m not necessarily saying Krejci should’ve been the man, but I am a little startled that his name was mentioned about as frequently as Voldemort’s when it came to MVP candidates. To wit: no other 2013 postseason player even breached the 20-point barrier. It would have taken Conn Smythe-winner Kane between eight and nine more games to match Krejci’s 26 points, at least on his overall playoff scoring rate of about .83 points per contest.

 

Doesn’t that warrant a few token mentions, even if he got a little lucky and didn’t shoulder the same kind of overall burden that Patrice Bergeron did?

 

Misc. - Seriously, there were a lot of nice candidates. Patrick Sharp scored 16 points and seemed to look dangerous against any opponent, something that Kane and Toews seemed to struggle to do here and there. Zdeno Chara was such a brick wall that late-series struggles became a huge story. (Incredibly, despite four points in the Final series, he still finished one point behind Kris Letang’s 16 as the lead for playoff scoring among defensemen.) Subtler players like Duncan Keith and Patrice Bergeron were probably worthy of a couple stray runner-up votes, too.

 

Ultimately, I’m not quietly grumbling over this decision like I am others - seriously, Pronger is a true villain, yet the most villainous thing is that he’s without a single Conn Smythe - but you can make a strong argument for candidates other than Kane. Especially when it comes to the two goalies.

 

ROTOWORLD STAFF POOL


Rotoworld's staff playoff pool is over. As you can see from the results, the top three were easily the cream of the crop while your humble(d) author's team was the opposite of the cream of the crop. (A dried husk, maybe?)

 

1. Ryan Dadoun
2. Brian Rosenbaum
3. Corey Abbott

4. Michael Finewax
5. Steve Lampert
6. Marty York
7. Kevin Brown
8. Jimmy Hascup
9 My sad bunch
10. Corey Griffin

 

Congrats to Ryan, Brian and Corey. Also, thanks to Fantasy Postseason for hosting the pool. It's a great option for postseason fantasy action. Just be warned: it can be a crueler mistress than the regular season version.

 

QUICK HITS

 

To say that you, the hockey fan, can fully take a breath yet is a lie. Again, buyouts and the draft come this week, while free agency falls on July 5 (but there could be signings before then). Really, the smoke won’t fully clear until mid-July or August, I’d say … The word is that the Philadelphia Flyers are waffling on the Ilya Bryzgalov buyout question. Dare I ask if they should boldly attempt to informally “re-negotiate” Breezy’s contract by buying him out and then signing him to a more feasible deal? I guess I just did, although that might be a little crazy, even for the zany old Flyers … Expect plenty of wildly predictable buyouts, like Mike Komisarek, however. Some will fatten the free agent pool (please Brad Richards, oh please) more than others, but it could be entertaining nonetheless … Plenty of fascinating guys who only have the 2013-14 season left on their deals, too. Could contract squabbles make Kris Letang this year’s Jordan Staal (or James Harden, if you’re an NBA fan)? Will the Flyers get anything close to the bargain on Claude Giroux that they’re enjoying now? So many fun possibilities … Finally, the top few picks should be especially interesting. Personally, I’m not all that offended by the Colorado Avalanche’s bluffing-or-maybe-not interest in Nathan MacKinnon. The team had problems scoring, too, so if they think MacKinnon is easily the best player available, then they should take him. It’s not like the first round - or even the draft - is the only route to improving a squalid defense anyway, right?



James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than two years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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