As the Stanley Cup Final between Chicago and Tampa Bay roars to a pulsating finish, many other thought-twisting hockey questions demand answers. The Maven has these for you:
1. Should the defense-strapped Oilers be interested in one of the Devils’ young defensemen?
Answer: Of course they should. What’s more, Edmonton has a slew of forwards who are tradeable. The trick here will be which back liner Ray Shero cares to put on the block; if any.
2. Why would the Penguins even think about unloading Evgeni Malkin? (That’s a rumor floating around these days.)
Answer: That’s easy. The Big Russian is on the downside of his career. And if you saw him do zilch in the Rangers-Pitt playoff, you’d want to deal him too. The issue here is what kind of player would Pens GM Jim Rutherford want in return.
3. What do you think of the idea proposed by a TV executive to have all players shave their beards during the Cup rounds?
Answer: An NBC exec firmly believes that handsome hockey players would look even better if they were clean-shaven rather than wearing rugs under their chins.
4. But playoff beards are a hockey tradition; how can anyone even think about such a dramatic change?
Answer: Yeah, but the one-referee system was traditional for decades. So was games being allowed to end in a tie. So was goalies playing without a mask. You get the point; it’s all about modern marketing vs. tradition.
5. Did Bruce Boudreau deserve to be re-hired by the Anaheim Ducks?
Answer: Only four out of twenty-six coaches got their teams to the third playoff round and The BB Man was one of them. Let’s not forget his Rubber Duckies overachieved all season; it was just a matter of their luck running out against Chicago.
6. Who was your favorite Unsung Ranger for 2014-15?
Answer: Matt Hunwick. From Autumn to Spring, this native of Warren, Michigan did a splendid job for Alain Vigneault and received little notice. He’s a gamer.
7. Will Bryce Salvador return as Devils captain next September?
Answer: An old-school, valiant defenseman Sal has endured a horrendous series of injuries. Yet he promises to show up at camp next Fall even without a contract. The odds are against the Devils re-signing him but if they do you can be sure that a younger man will wear the coveted “C.”
8. Who will play alongside John Tavares when the Islanders open in Brooklyn?
Answer: Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey because they know each other so well and Bailey had a career year in 2014-15 skating next to The Captain.
9. Who was your Rangers playoff MVP?
Answer: Henrik Lundqvist. Who else? And why not?
10. Why is there so little fighting in the playoffs?
Answer: The players are too busy trying to win.
11. Whose head of hair in The Cup Final is much longer than his beard?
Answer: Victor Hedman’s. The Lightning’s ace defender must find a new barber. But that’s for after the Final.
12. What is there to like about the Devils’ rookie coach John Hynes?
Answer: Plenty. A. He’s paid his dues big-time with Wilkes-Barre in the American League; B.Hynes is a no-nonsense, no-frills guy; C. His past and present boss, Shero, knows John like he knows the Collective Bargaining Agreement. D. Hynes is the most underrated of all the new mentors. E. He’s a realist and understands his challenge.
13. Who do you like as the next dominant, young Rangers power forward?
Answer: Kevin Hayes. He proved in the playoffs that he could eventually become a dominant forward for the Blueshirts.
14. Do you have any letters to pass along to Commissioner Gary Bettman?
Answer: I sure do. Here’s one from reader Joe Dionisio of Southhampton, Long Island. “The NHL should be concerned that crowding and bumping the goalie is no longer a technique reserved for desperate moments. It’s now every team’s foremost mantra. “
“On scads of goals, tv analysts are debating whether the forward’s interference was a millisecond early enough to not affect the netminder. Vulture skaters swarm the crease as if the goalie’s pads were made of raw chicken meat.”
15. What is so prevalent in the regular season and virtually invisible during the playoffs?
Answer: Suspensions. The NHL’s playoff discipline process appears to take a sabbatical until the Fall.
16. What’s your favorite playoff coach’s insightful quote of the week?
Answer: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay’s Long Island-bred mentor, was asked to explain whether he’s as calm as he looks behind the bench in tense situations. He replied: “Inside everything’s churning. If I was storming up and down my team would wind up doing it. I don’t want that to happen.”
17. Is the NHL going to do anything about trimming the goalies’ oversized equipment?
Answer: Never mind equipment; what about the oversized goalies?
18. Since seven new NHL coaches have been hired, how come none of the vacancies were filled by John Tortorella?
Answer: My guess is that Torts is one season away from a re-hire. He’s been doing tv analysis during the playoffs; for him it’s much-needed exposure. For sure within a year there’ll be an NHL club seeking a firebrand behind its bench. Then it will be Welcome back, Torts, we missed you.
19. What’s the newest favorite coach’s word that you never heard from bench bosses until two years ago.
Answer: The term is “looks.” For example, “We had several good ‘looks’ tonight.” What the coach really means is “chances” but somebody got this “looks” thing going and, just like the word “awesome,” everyone is using it. Except me!
20. The Maple Leafs last won The Stanley Cup in 1967. They figure their chances of eventually winning the Silver will be better without Phil Kessel. Which team will deal for the sharpshooter?
Answer: Guaranteed there’s a club with a coach and GM who believe they can reform Phiery Phil enough to turn into an asset rather than deficit. it will be an Climb Everest-type challenge. Then again, Everest has been surmounted.