Fact: Most summers the SBN hockey blorgy heads pair off and rattle off questions to a team in the opposing conference. We all learn a little bit about another team we don't see often & it starts the slow uphill grind towards the preseason craziness. Everyone wins.
Fun fact: We skipped last summer, so the last time we did this was back before the 2010-2011 season when we were paired with - wait for it - Stanley Cup of Chowder. Who knew that what started as friendly banter between loving hockey fans would 10 months later warp into vitriol, finger biting and Horton headaches?
Crazy idea: If we assume this blog has mystical powers (which we are) and can predict the next opponent to rip out Vancouver's heart and smash it into little pieces during the Cup finals, then let's all stare daggers at the fine people over at Raw Charge and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After the jump we answer the first three questions from Salo's new team. They didn't even ask if Balls of Steel takes SPF 30 or SPF 50. We're betting 50; those Nordic lads are pretty pale.
Nucks Misconduct: Let's put our best foot forward here. WHY THE FUCK COULDN'T YOU BEAT BOSTON IN GAME SEVEN BACK IN MAY 2011? HUH? WHERE WAS STAMKOS THEN?!
Raw Charge: Blame Colin Campbell. Really. I’m serious. I mean, you know how bad he had bumbled player discipline during the Stanley Cup Finals. Well, he did the same thing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Nathan Horton went after a fan in the stands after Boston’s game six loss and that’s an automatic suspension per Good Ol’ Collie’s own decree, right? Right?!? Nooooo… It was too important a game to suspend Horton for violating the rules and crossing a line that Campbell had called uncrossable just a year earlier. And who scores the game winning goal of game seven? Huh? Horton, who should have been forced to sit.
As for Mr. Stamkos, where was he? Getting smashed… And I mean that in the most hockey-related sense of the term.
NM: Ahem…sorry. Our bad. *smacks self repeatedly*
RC: No, no, Colin’s bad. We’re just as bitter about how our season ended as you guys are about yours…
NM: Anyway, we have some questions for the fine people down in Cigar City. What's your grade for Stevie Y in his two years on the job? What do you think has been his highlight and lowlight so far?
RC: Wait, wait, wait... Steve Yzerman's allowed to have lowlights? Other than the kind you put in your hair? When did that happen? Why didn't we get the memo for that?!
Seriously, though, after two years, can Yzerman actually have a highlight or a lowlight? It's such a small sample to draw from, really. While he's certainly has some success – and not so much success – nothing has really defined his tenure as of yet. Other than wanting to let prospects and younger players develop, much of the team has stayed relatively intact since he took over.
Outside of the actual game of hockey, one could speculate that perhaps his greatest successes thus far have been who he's hired as his coaches. Guy Boucher is arguably one of the better coaches in the NHL, while Jon Cooper – head coach of the AHL team – is a very bright and upcoming talent himself. It would probably be safe to say that the fruits of Yzerman's labors probably won't come to light for another couple of years yet.
NM: Following 2008-2009 - a season in which you iced a comical 21 defensemen and finished 27th in GAA - you scooped up our buddy Mattias Ohlund in free agency. Last year you finished dead last with a 3.39 GAA and you jumped on Sami Salo during free agency. Do you see a brighter horizon with your pairings going into next season (and beyond) or should we ready Alex Edler for you now?
RC: For what amounts to the fourth year in a row, the Bolts revamped their defense entirely. That revamp started in February leading up to and on the NHL trade deadline. The Bolts picked up young D in Brian Lee and Keith Aulie. They had previously traded for Brendan Mikkelson with your old friends, the Calgary Flames, and of course there was the addition of Salo and Matt Carle during the 2012 off-season.
Salo seems like a temporary addition to the defense; a veteran presence to compliment Eric Brewer on a more regular basis. Mix in Victor Hedman and, yes… yes there is a brighter future on defense for the Lightning.
NM: As long as we brought him up, what is the latest on Ohlund after his knee surgeries last season? Assuming there is some semblance of a season, are you banking on seeing #5 back?
Recapping Mattias’ surgeries last season – he had it on both knees at the onset of the 2011-12 season to remove "loose bodies", with a rehab time predicted to be 8 weeks or less. But something was wrong with his left knee. There was too much pain doing normal things, skating itself was out of the question. He continued to try rehabbing the knee back into shape, but the pain persisted and worsened. Finally, Ohlund conceded to surgery to deal with what was wrong: Bone on bone contact in the knee, causing the pain. Mattias ended up having radical reconstructive knee surgery on February 23rd, 2012. A piece of titanium has been inserted where cartilage used to be. He’s been rehabbing since. The last published report about his comeback attempt said he wasn’t skating.
The surgery isn’t designed for athletes to return to competitive form; it’s designed to solve the issues. The question isn’t "where will Ohlund play when he returns" as so much, "Will Ohlund ever play the game again?"
He’s working on coming back, and he wants to come back… But it’s not realistic, given the surgery and his layoff, to expect much from him upon return. Proving that he can indeed come back might be the extent of what to expect from Ohlund.
The Bolts have eight defensemen on one-way contracts right now, nine if you include Ohlund. I would say the Lightning isn’t banking on his return – but they’re working with him closely in his attempt.
[Check back in tomorrow when we reference Miley Cyus, Jedi's and a different kind of Pyatt. Also check out Raw Charge for our take on the state of the Canucks right now.]