Welcome to Hockey Central: Ask the Insiders where fans get to pick the topics. This week, the Insiders answered several questions including whether Eugene Melnyk would be fined for his comments on Matt Cooke; what the Maple Leafs would need to offer the Avalanche for holdout Ryan O’Reilly and whether the NHL should follow the NFL’s lead and offer a coach’s challenge for disputed penalty calls.
JEDDORIAN ASKS: What would the Leafs have to give up to get Ryan O’Reilly? He seems like the perfect missing forward the Leafs need. Gardiner? Gardiner, Colburn and a pick?
CHRIS JOHNSTON: The possibility of the Leafs trading for the rights to Ryan O’Reilly is intriguing on a number of levels. GM Dave Nonis has made it clear that he doesn’t have much interest in trading picks and prospects, but it might be something he’d be willing to do in this case because he would be acquiring a player who recently turned 22. O’Reilly would also fill an important need at centre, where the Leafs have lacked depth since Mats Sundin’s departure in 2008. As for the price? The Avs are reportedly looking for a roster player/top prospect and a draft pick. Jake Gardiner and a high pick might get it done.
JEFF MAREK: The Av’s are looking for a combination of a roster player and a draft pick. Ideally they’d look to get back a top six forward to fill the spot created by ROR’s absence but if they’re not looking at a specific position I think a combination of Jake Gardiner and a first round pick gets the discussion started.
BRIAN LAWTON: The ask would be astronomical in the Gardiner, Frattin and Kadri range. Can’t blame Colorado for asking as Ryan is young but a more proven commodity. No deal happening at this levee. Maybe one forward and Gardiner gets it done but I don’t see the Leafs considering that realistically either. Can’t blame a GM for shooting for the moon!
BRAD MAY: I believe Colorado would want a first round pick along with a roster player. Perhaps one of Jake Gardiner or Nazem Kadri plus a former first round pick in the system like Stuart Percy or a future first round pick. Colorado values O’Reilly as a first line centre and the price might be too high.
GORDON HAYES ASKS: Will Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk be censured/fined for his thoughtless and inflammatory remarks re. Matt Cooke?
DAREN MILLARD: Gord, can I call you Gord or do you prefer Gordon? I don’t expect the NHL would formally sanction Eugene Melnyk for the comments. He is passionate and takes offence to any challenges to his team. I have no doubt there was a phone call made from the NHL office just reminding Melnyk that he should take a nice deep breath before commenting and the league didn’t find any malicious intent on Matt Cooke’s behalf.
DOUG MACLEAN: Gordon, I understand Mr Melynk’s frustration over the Karlsson’s injury but I didn’t like his reaction to Cooke. I believe any owner has to be above this type of response. I don’t believe the league will fine him but I suspect he would receive a call from Mr Bettman.
CHRIS JOHNSTON: Melnyk is going to get away with this one. If anything, the Sens owner made himself — rather than the league — look bad with his rant following the injury to Erik Karlsson. He was clearly frustrated after losing his Norris Trophy-winning defenceman for the season, which will make the playoffs an awfully tough task for an Ottawa team already missing Jason Spezza. Melnyk needs to be careful moving forward. Remember that the league also let him off the hook in October when he made some controversial remarks about the lockout to Bob McCown on The Fan 590.
JEFF ASKS: Would you support video review of penalty calls? One possibility could be similar to the current system in the NFL where a coach can challenge a call at the cost of their time-out?
DOUG MACLEAN: Jeff, I don’t support vídeo replays for penalties. Enough already! We are taking more and more out of the refs hands and I don’t see them improving because of it. I believe in vídeo replay for goals (i.e. kicked in etc). I may consider it for goalie interference. Not in favour of a coach’s challenge at this time as we have too many stoppages now.
CHRIS JOHNSTON: This is something the NHL’s general managers have considered in the past and are expected to discuss again when they meet next month. The biggest concern about giving coach’s a challenge is how much it might end up slowing down the game. It could also end up being used as a tactic to get extra rest for players late in a game, etc. However, I think an argument can be made that the negative aspects associated with it are outweighed by the benefit of getting the call right. If this is to be introduced, it will have to be restricted — say one challenge per coach per game.
BRIAN LAWTON: No I would not, and here is why: First, the length of games in my opinion is currently at its limit. Fans don’t want to be at a game any longer than they currently are. Second, hockey is blessed to have the best officials in the world. Highly skilled and well trained, I love the job they do! I wouldn’t change a thing. As a matter of fact I would love to see the names put back on the refs jerseys. I always loved this as a player!
BRADLEY ROGERS ASKS: Since the lockout many players are turning their back to contact, which is dangerous but also frustrating as a fan because penalties are being called when they shouldn’t be. Has the NHL and NHLPA discussed a solution to this issue for not only the players safety but the integrity of the game?
BRAD MAY: This is a trend that’s irreversible until they allow contact or some interference when battling for the puck. Responsibility lies on both parties but it is flawed because at this time, responsibility lies solely on the player making contact. The issue is the puck carrier is trying to protect the puck as well as draw a penalty. It’s awfully difficult to give a penalty to the puck carrier for not protecting himself and therefore the NHL should allow a little contract before the hit so the aggressive player can influence the position and direction of the puck carrier. The game would be safer and it will give the aggressive player a little latitude to influence the battle.
JEFF MAREK: It’s has been discussed at every level of hockey to be honest with you. It’s a horrible tactic and one that we see happening all too often in the game. The NHL Department of Player Safety does take into consideration whether a player turned his back at the last second in order to draw a penalty so you know they take this seriously. Would they ever go so far as to penalize a player who did this? Now THAT would be a bold statement (and I can’t see it happening). One player I spoke to last season about this phenomenon told me players are actually encouraged to turn their backs because only good can result from it: either you protect the puck and keep possession if an oncoming player stops before finishing his check or two, you draw a penalty which the coach will always reward (all players are taught to look for situations to draw penalties). Question is, is a two minute power play worth a potential broken neck?
GRTSKI99 ASKS: Oilers brass preach patience but something is still missing. No big line centres and the kids are being pushed around. Is the brass blind?
NICK KYPREOS: No, the brass isn’t blind. You can add a tough guy on a fourth line without blinking. But big physical players who can play top six minutes is like finding a needle in a haystack. You think teams want to give up a Malone, McGinn, Cooke, Ott, or Marchand without the Oilers over paying anytime soon? Oilers need to be patient even if it means missing the playoffs again. These type of players come at a premium and with no supply it will be tough to find one.
BRIAN LAWTON: No I don’t think so. It takes time to acquire quality players in today’s game especially with how close the league is competitively. GM’s are better educated and deals happen more infrequently than ever so the process just takes time. The Oilers are moving forward as evidenced by their play thus far this year. Just don’t expect a Cup just yet!
SCOTT MORRISON: If the issue is the kids are being pushed around, adding some toughness deeper on the roster shouldn’t be a problem. As for big line centres, there are several teams that require a big centre that can play on one of the top lines and that is not an easy item to fill on the shopping list, witness what has happened in Toronto the past few seasons.
CHRIS JOHNSTON: I certainly understand your frustration, GRTSKI99, especially since I’m assuming you’ve watched a lot of ugly Oilers losses the past few seasons. But in today’s NHL, even with three No. 1 overall picks on your roster, there really isn’t much substitute for patience. I’m sure the Edmonton brass would love to add a big line centre, but they find themselves in line with 29 other teams on that front. As a result, fans like yourself probably wouldn’t be happy with the price they would have to pay to get one. I believe the heat is getting turned up on GM Steve Tambellini — and rightfully so — but the Oilers still look to me like a team that can challenge for the playoffs. They’re making progress.
BIGAL6884 ASKS: Which upper echelon team that was considered a preseason Stanley Cup threat will be the first to pull a blockbuster trade? With a short season and more than a few teams underachieving, it may be a domino effect.
NICK KYPREOS: I loved watching Philadelphia over the years handle their roster. They are a very emotional organization. Whether its a trade or free agent signing, this team doesn’t stand still for very long when things aren’t going very well. The loss of Pronger and failing to land Weber has crippled the momentum. Factor in Ed Snider getting up there in age, and its abundantly clear he wants a Stanley Cup like yesterday. This team needs to shake it up now before its too late.
SCOTT MORRISON: I agree with Nick that Philly would be the most anxious to make a deal or two. They need help on the blue line, could use another scoring winger and perhaps even an upgrade in the backup goalie position.
BRIAN LAWTON: Philly has a history of being impatient and with Mr. Snider turning 81 this year and his desire to win a championship again I could see them making a big move!
CHRIS JOHNSTON: The team I’m watching closely is the Pittsburgh Penguins. GM Ray Shero has seen his team fall short of a championship the last three years largely for reasons beyond his control — injuries, chief among them. But all is right again in Pittsburgh, with Sidney Crosby chasing another scoring title and the Pens among the Eastern Conference leaders, and you can be sure Shero will do all he can to give his core another chance at the Stanley Cup. The top priority is a winger for Crosby. Should the Calgary Flames decide to part with captain Jarome Iginla before the April 3 trade deadline, there could be a fit in Pittsburgh.
KEN12 ASKS: Shea Weber seems to be struggling mightily so far this season. Do you think it’s just “one of those things” or might he be unhappy that the Predators matched the offer sheet from the Flyers? What does he need to do to get it going?
BRIAN LAWTON: No absolutely not. Shea Weber loves Nashville.
If Shea had truly wanted to leave Nashville then he along with guidance from his agent would have signed a one-year free agent offer sheet with Philly in the $8-10 million range. An amount Philly could have still managed under the cap short term.
The one-year offer would have guaranteed that Nashville would have lost Shea for nothing at the end of the season as he was an impending UFA. As Shea and his agent would have known, Nashville would have been prohibited under the last CBA from signing and trading Shea for one full year which would have taken him to UFA status. Shea had a chance to guarantee his freedom and get paid if he truly wanted to and he chose not to!
Ultimately, Shea elected to sign a 14 year offer sheet which he knew would offer Nashville an opportunity to match it and keep him in Nashville for a very long time. The front loaded money is painful for a smaller market team to absorb but it is really just a matter of financing the upfront payments.