NHL

AROUND THE BOARDS: Shootouts get a look

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
AROUND THE BOARDS: Kelley's look at the NHL

Shootouts shot down ... or were they?

If you're wild about shootouts, like the one on display in this past weekend's NHL All-Star game, you're pretty much alone. Sources tell FOXSports.com that the topic was hardly a lively one in the recently concluded general managers' meetings which came directly after the All-Star game. Leading the way in the nay column was Vancouver general manger Brian Burke: "No, no. For God's sake, no," Burke said. "To me it's no different than having the NFL decide games by throwing footballs through a tire. I think it's a gimmick. As long as I'm in charge of Vancouver, we're not voting for it. "I'd be shocked if there's much sentiment for it, but who knows? It's something that works in the minor leagues as far as I'm concerned, but I don't want to see it here." But hold on a minute. Despite what you might read and hear elsewhere, the NHL is not peopled with stupid people and there was a reason that the league went to that format after the now traditional four-on-four overtime affair. That's because it's trying to gauge just how much people like it. Shootouts have long been a staple in Olympic competition (remember Nagano?) and world competition and the minor leagues. While I will admit up front that I am not in favor of them as a means of deciding games, it would be wrong to say that they aren't wildly exciting. People in the Office Depot Center were either standing or on the edge of their seats as the format was used to end the game in Florida, a far cry from the way baseball concluded its All-Star game. And for the life of me, I don't ever recall a moment of drama in football's Pro Bowl. And opposition to the format is not unanimous among the GMs. "You're talking to an old IHL guy," GM Rick Dudley told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I know I'll probably get criticized for saying it, because not a lot of people in my job do, but I think it's one of the most exciting things in sport. I've watched it 1,000 times and it's an amazing thing." Quite frankly, it is an amazing thing: exciting, entertaining and a goal-lovers delight (not bad in the area of great saves either). As a traditionalist, I'm against it, but I'm starting to waiver at least in regards to regular-season games. This is a league that needs to give something to its fans in terms of more entertainment. If the NHL is unwilling to devise ways to open up scoring during the regulation 60-minute portion of the game, the shootout likely will at least keep fans in their seats until the end. That's the reason it was in the All-Star game last Sunday. The NHL keeps a close tab on what its fans want. Despite protests from Burke and others, this is something that will be monitored, experimented with and, someday, get due consideration.

Fast facts

  • Of the 41 player's who participated in last Sunday's All-Star game, only home-town player was under the $1 million salary mark. He was in at $968,000, but is expecting to start contract negotiations soon.
  • New Jersey's recent win over Washington was the ' fourth in a row and upped their record to 12-0-1-1 in the last 14 games. The 14-game point streak is the longest in franchise history, with an overtime loss in Los Angeles on Jan. 25 as the only negative mark.
  • After the came from behind to forge a 4-4 tie with the St. Louis on Thursday, they ran their record under replacement coach Glen Sather to 0-1-1-1. They have led in all three games and come away with two of six points, leaving them four points from eighth in the East for the moment. They've given up 12 goals in the three games, including five power-play goals. That kind of lack of dedication to defense is what got Bryan Trottier fired, but MSG's boss insists that Sather's job is not at risk even if the miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
  • As of Friday morning, Colorado's 35 points on the road (14-5-4-3) tied the team with Ottawa, St. Louis and Vancouver for second in the league behind the Philadelphia . Colorado's problem has been at home, where the Avs had a losing record going into the weekend home games against Detroit on Saturday and Calgary on Sunday.

    about who?

    Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire got his contract extended earlier this week. It's believed to be for three more seasons, but it almost doesn't matter. The relationship between Lemaire and general manger Doug Risebrough is so strong that Lemaire would likely never be fired. In fact, he never has been fired. He walked away from coaching in Montreal and New Jersey when he felt he wasn't effective any longer. He likely would do the same in Minnesota. Rare is the coach in that situation.

    Looking for the big turnaround

    Our adopted team, the Nashville , generally have been woeful after the All-Star break. Three out of their previous four seasons they've sniffed around at a playoff berth and then crumbled down the stretch. They would seem to be reverting to form in their first game after the break when they went down 5-2 to the Detroit in the second period, but then they rallied to forge a 5-5 tie. "We talked about that, after reading all the articles that said we'd taken a nosedive after the break,'' coach Barry Trotz said. "If we want to earn some respect, this is the time to do it because everyone's cranking it up. All these games are important, and we have to kick our game to the next level.'' Said Preds defenseman : "At some point, we as a team need to take that next step and play well after the All-Star break. It's a tougher grind, no doubt about it, and every team is up for its games. But it's important for this organization that we show we're making progress, and that we can take the next step."

    This bites

    We told you earlier this season that the San Jose were hoping to make the most of playing 15 of 18 games at home (with the three roadies never away from the West Coast). They wanted to close a five-point gap between themselves and playoff contention and maybe even take a run at Pacific Division leader Dallas. It didn't go well. The team that started the drive at .500 and five points behind a playoff spot and 11 points behind Dallas is now a game below .500, six points out of a playoff spot and 22 behind Dallas. Up next is a seven-game, 11-night trip that will make or break the team's playoff chances.

    A final salute

    We would be remiss if we didn't bid a fond farewell to recently retired NHL defenseman Joe Reekie. A 17-year vet, Reekie didn't get a contract offer for the start of this season and called it a career this week. Most casual fans never heard of Joe Reekie. He was a journeyman, but he is also what the NHL is all about, guys who never quit. Early in his career, he tore up a knee in one of his very first NHL games. It was bad, and when he came back he didn't skate very well and was re-assigned to the minor leagues. He cried that day because he thought the dream had ended in the cruelest way possible, but he worked hard, rehabbed the knee and came back to log a career as one of the better stay-at-home defensemen the game has seen. Reekie made his mark in the game through seven seasons in Washington, but he also played in Buffalo and with the New York , Tampa Bay and Chicago. Critics might argue that he was an NHL defenseman simply because of expansion, but that's not the case. Expansion may have given him his opportunity, but he made it happen registering as a plus on the plus-minus charts for 14 consecutive seasons and notching a career mark of plus-151 over 902 NHL games. It's sad that Reekie never got to the 1,000-games mark. Had it not been for that early knee injury, he would have hit the milestone, but even without it he had a noteworthy career. Teams were better defensively because Joe Reekie was in their lineup. What better praise can you offer to a stay-at-home defenseman?
  • Who's he?
    Heading into the All-Star break you probably never heard of — unless of course you are a Nashville fan — but we think you will. Before the break, Hall was third in rookie goals (12), first in power-play goals (six) and second in power-play points (10). Nice numbers, but there's more to the package. Our Nashville correspondent reports that the 22-year old, a Michigan State grad, is one of those players who is almost always first on to the ice for practice and last off. He is respectful of his peers and even of the locker room attendants, who report that not only does he pack his own bag for road games, but he almost always drags it out onto the loading wagon. That's a trait that never fails to impress assistant equipment manager Chris "Frosty'' Scoppetto "We never once asked him to do that for us," said Scoppetto. "He's just a very respectful guy who doesn't take anything for granted. It's always 'please' and 'thank you' with him, and he's always very appreciative of what we do." Says Hall: "I know that you only get one first impression, and rookies are always more scrutinized than players in other points in their career. It's all about making a good impression and appearance, and the way you take pride in yourself. I think rookies might have to do things a little bit more than the next guy." That kind of respectful approach doesn't garner a lot of attention in the "me-first" world of pro sports, but in the circle of friends that is an NHL locker room, it does. This kid is going to be heard from.
    Five things you should know
    1. After winning 4-3 at Montreal on Tuesday, the Atlanta under Bob Hartley (fired from Colorado) are 6-2-1-0 and just two points behind the free-falling Carolina in the Southeast. 2. Goalies got the pub when Boston, with former Montreal netminder , squared off against Hackett's ex-team. The won, but the overlooked sidelight was a goal from who snapped a 27-game scoreless streak that dated back to Oct. 14. Injuries have also slowed Lapointe this season, but his scoring touch deserted him long before he missed 17 games with a broken foot and then five more with a groin problem. 3. The Detroit have 10 short-handed goals this season. Tying them in that category are the Columbus . The Jackets, who don't have near the firepower of the , had three short-handed goals in each of their previous two seasons, but their penalty-killing is excellent this season, allowing them to take offensive chances. 4. So much for building off a streak. Buffalo goaltender recently set a club record (bettering the legendary Dominik Hasek) by posting 221 minutes, 58 seconds of scoreless hockey (three-plus games) about two weeks ago. The then allowed 15 goals in their next four games going 0-2-0-2 in a series of listless efforts that prompted a "bag" skate Wednesday. "I hate these practices," Ruff said. "I didn't like them as a player, I don't like them as a coach. But I promised them earlier in the year if we don't get the effort." 5. Dallas goalie stopped three breakaways against the St. Louis on Wednesday. He credits the breakaway competition in the All-Star skills competition for honing that element of his game.
    Owner watch
    Prospective Buffalo owner Mark Hamister figuratively got the stuffings kicked out of him this week. As we told you first last weekend, Hamister's deal fell apart. The state refused to front him any money and his partner and chief funder, Todd Berman, pulled his cash from the deal. Hamister said he was suspending, not ending, his attempt to buy the bankrupt franchise, but his prospects are bleak. "I still love this town," Hamister said. "I still think the Buffalo are important, but I couldn't pull it off." Hamister was on the edge of tears when he made that statement.
    In the Next 48 Hours
  • Turco puts a 13-game unbeaten streak, a personal best, on the line Saturday when Dallas plays Phoenix.
  • Look for Minnesota goalie to get a start soon. He's back from missing a month with a sprained knee, and the are looking to get him back in game-shape.
  • Expect New Jersey goaltender to notch an eighth straight 30-win season as early as his next start Friday night against Atlanta. That would be an NHL record.
  • F.Y.I.
    Amid all the stories of doom and gloom in the NHL, consider the somewhat bright fortunes of the Edmonton . The O's have 14,700 season ticket holders, sixth-best total in the league. They average 16,600 per home date while giving out the fewest comp tickets in the game (our Edmonton correspondent reports some 200 a game, other clubs give from 800 to 2,000). Why does it work so well in one of hockey's smallest markets? Community involvement. The team isn't exactly community owned like the Green Bay Packers of the NFL, but it's close. There are some 37 owners, each with a small but crucial investment in the club. They support it for one reason and one reason only: To keep hockey in Edmonton. It's a nice story. Pro sports and a community that cares about them, the payoff being the players care just as much about Edmonton as Edmonton cares about them. "It's a great place to play," says longtime Oiler . "It's a hockey environment and it's a small town that's easy to live in. A lot of guys think bigger is better, but once they get here, they don't want to leave."
    Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
    Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, Oilers, Stars, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Sharks, Blues, Panthers, Predators, Jets, Wild, Martin Lapointe, Dominik Hasek, Todd Marchant, Marty Turco, Manny Fernandez, Adam Hall, Olli Jokinen

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