Elliotte Friedman is back with his 31 Thoughts and Raw Charge is ready to react to how they affect the Lightning and the rest of the league.
Friedman’s first “31 Thoughts” column starts off with a lengthy discourse on the Matt Duchene and his current situation in Colorado (link has an autoplay video). As the opening of training camp looms, he is still a member of the Avalanche and General Manager Joe Sakic continues to wait for someone to drop a golden goose trade offer on his desk.
While the Lightning haven’t been mentioned as a potential trade partner, the situation does show a difference in mentality between Sakic and Tampa GM Steve Yzerman. The “will he or won’t he” trade drama has been percolating for nearly an entire season in Colorado and isn’t getting any clearer. If a similar situation was taking place in Tampa, rest assured it would have been resolved (one way or another) a lot quicker.
Mr. Yzerman has twice been faced with unhappy star players during his reign in the Bay Area (three times if you believe everything written before Steven Stamkos signed his extension). The first was Marty St. Louis wanting out for various reasons. Within two months of reportedly asking for a trade, a franchise icon was dealt to New York.
Then there was Jonathan Drouin. His saga in Tampa has been well documented and while it seemed to stretch on forever, Mr. Yzerman managed to end it before it got even uglier. He avoided a potentially nasty restricted free agent negotiation and picked up a tangible asset in return. Did he sell low on Drouin? Possibly, but he also avoided a lot of negative attention that could have had an adverse effect in the locker room.
At some point, the idea of “shut up and play good hockey and it will be easier to trade you” was probably conveyed from Mr. Yzerman to Drouin and it worked out. With Duchene entering what Friedman called “a cone of silence,” perhaps that same message has been received by Duchene. In the end, Sakic has to make a decision to either announce that his star is here to stay or settle for a deal that might not be 100% to his liking.
Duchene for Subban?
Friedman also mentions the rumors of Duchene going to Nashville in exchange for P.K. Subban. While the likelihood of it happening is quite far-fetched, the notion of Subban being traded every off-season is intriguing. He could be a league-wide ambassador for the joy of hockey. Every fanbase should get the chance to root for him on their own team.
The Lightning aren’t directly mentioned in any of Friedman’s 31 Thoughts. In fact, the only familiar name to appear is Stamkos in a passing mention about David Pasternak. Friedman links Pasternak’s 20-year-old season to similar seasons by Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, and Ilya Kovalchuk. While the Boston forward isn’t quite in their league at their age, he is close enough that he should see a significant bump in salary once Boston gets around to making a deal.
Player Safety Department
Midway through his thoughts, Friedman delves into the George Parros hiring by the NHL’s Player Safety department. In it, he quotes Parros’ description of a person he is looking to hire to work with him,
I think it’s important to have different viewpoints. I look at positions and I look at skill level and the type of player, maybe even where they’re from. I’d certainly like to have someone that’s an offensive type of player, has a lot of points on the board, a long career obviously always helps.
Would Marty St. Louis be interested in working for the league? Other than launching a private-investment company last month, the future hall-of-famer has kept a relatively low profile since his retirement. As a three-time Lady Byng winner and a smaller player who was subject to a lot of the treatment that the league is supposedly trying to eliminate (slashing) he would be a perfect partner for Parros.
Catching a mid-season breath
Friedman chatted with Anaheim Ducks aging forward Ryan Getzlaf about the wear-and-tear of the hockey schedule and if teams might be willing to rest some of their players during the season in order for them to be healthier during the playoffs.
While Getzlaf admits his conversation with the Ducks wasn’t very in-depth, the fact that they would even discuss it shows that some parts of hockey’s “grit, grind, and tough-it-out” mentality might be changing. The simplest solution is to shorten the season to 65-75 games. However, this is never going to happen because owners don’t want to give up the revenues that those additional 5-6 home games generate.
The alternative would be having the players have more time off during the season. They can do that by lengthening the season, as the NBA has, or not throwing a fit if individual teams decide to rest some of their players during the season.
While this season won’t be as compressed as last season since there is no World Cup of Hockey to delay the start, there are still stretches where a day off might benefit a player. Case in point for the Lightning: they kick off the season with back-to-back games against the Panthers and three games in four nights. Steven Stamkos is coming off of major knee surgery. Does it make sense for him to play in all three games?
Every article written about his recovery has stated that he won’t likely be 100% until sometime in December, so why add stress and increase the chance of a setback by making him play in all three games? Resting him on a Saturday night in October might pay off during the playoff stretch in April.
The “stitch me up and get me back in the game” crowd will definitely take issue with players taking the occasional game off, as will the players themselves, but if it helps accomplish the ultimate goal—winning the Stanley Cup—isn’t it worth it?
Near the end of his column Friedman has a nice thought about Parker Gahagen, a goalie who is seeing some time in San Jose’s rookie camp. He currently hasn’t signed with a team because of confusion with his service obligation with the Army. After attending West Point, Gahagen technically has a five-year obligation to serve in the army; however, in recent years other athletes have seen that time deferred or altered.
While his NHL future is currently in limbo as the Department of Defense struggles to define a coherent policy when it comes to blue-chip athletes at their academic academies, it would be interesting to see if USA Hockey makes a play for him. Gahagen, a 2017 Hobey Baker nominee, could be a target to make the 2018 Olympic squad. If the NHL continues its absurd boycott of the Olympic games, the story of an Army graduate backstopping the national team could be an irresistible headline.