Since Brad has requested more hockey blogging, having just watched the Flames play their third consecutive game against the Avalanche seems a good time to mention how much I hate the schedule and wish that they had changed it this year. Aside from Crosby only appearing every three years in non-conference cities etc., the NHL seems to have the strange idea that rivalries are created by quantity, which I think is quite wrongheaded. The sheer number of games against divisional rivals makes each one less, not more, compelling.
Another interesting thing is that although Brad is a Canucks fan he didn’t like the Luogno trade. As someone who hates the Canucks, I wish he was right but think he’s crazy. The only goaltenders I would definitely rather have are Brodeur and Kiprusoff; you never know until he gets a playoff run, but I think he’s truly an elite goaltender, and to get him for lower-tier goaltender and the rapidly decaying corpse of Todd Bertuzzi is an incredible trade. (I’m also grateful to the Panthers for generously donating Kristian Huselius to our cause; what a pathetic operation they’re running down there.) The Canucks are a much different team that they were 3 years ago, and one I think is much better suited to winning in the playoffs: ace goaltender, strong and underrated defense, smart forwards. If Naslund snaps out of it, they would really scare me in the playoffs. The Flames, meanwhile, now have their best team on paper since they were the league’s pre-eminent franchise under Bush I, but the actual performance of the team has been pretty spotty. (The team defense, in particular, is a lot shakier under Playfair.) They should be a top contender, but with Nashville having added Forsberg…I’m not sure.
Speaking of trades, the even more important one was Pronger. As my hockey correspondents know, Game 7 or no Game 7 I thought Edmonton was an obvious ringer before the season; losing a defenseman of that calibre is a huge, huge loss, and their run obscured the fact that they barely made it last year with Pronger–I think you can send the flowers. And while it’s not entirely Lowe’s fault–you can rarely get close to full value when a star demands a trade, and while Lupul was being oversold nobody could have foreseen how awful he’d be–it still seems to me that when you trade a great player 1)within the conference, and 2)to the team that has the other candidate for best defenseman in the league, you really need to do better than that.
I also have to say (although the World’s Most Dangerous Professor will be outraged) that I’d like to see the Isles make the playoffs for Nolan, whose blacklisting was a disgrace. It’s an interesting struggle between an exceptional coach and an organization that thinks it’s a good idea to promote your backup golatender to GM. I doubt they’ll make it, but if they could sneak in ahead of the *(^% Leafs it would be pretty sweet.