Thin Air Sunday: Where’s Hejda?

Some Sunday morning hockey thoughts – 

- I got home from work last night in time to see the Colorado Avalanche melt down in the third period, to the fans in Edmonton’s delight.  The worst, for me, came from Jan Hejda on the Oilers game winning goal.  I would embed the video of it here form NHL.com, but I can’t find the embed code. Help here?

(stick tap to Jay Vean of The Avs Hockey Podcast for the embed location)

 

Oilers break out and it’s 3 on 3.  Ryan Smyth has the puck.  You know, old, slow, tired Ryan Smyth.  The one everyone seems to be beating up for having the audacity to age.  That guy.  And Jan Hejda has Smyth.  You know, free agent acquisition with three more years on his contract (including this one) Jan Hejda.  And as Smyth centers the puck, Hejda chases said puck.  That puts two guys on Eric Belanger in the center and no one on Smyth.  Belanger taps the puck back to Smyth, who puts it across the front of the crease to Magnus Paajarvi who taps it in.  Tap, tap, tap.  If Hejda had stayed on his man, the pass from Belanger to Smyth would never have been an option.  

It highlight’s an issue the Avalanche defense seem to have.  They have no chemistry, they have no trust, and they don’t know where each other are going to be.  When you watch Eric Johnson, who sometimes outthinks his own feet, he has a keen eye for the play.  He directs traffic well, he knows where he should be and where his teammates should be.  But he is out with an injury, and the rest of the Avalanche D needs that direction.  They don’t know where to go.  And it’s painful to watch.

- Homer announcers are one thing.  But right now, the corporate line from the Avalanche is way beyond homerism.  The message is that things are not the team’s fault, that it’s bad bounces and bad luck that lose the games for them.  Over the course of a game, or a period, that may be true.  Luck and bounces can factor in, but when you have control of a game, or a period, or even a shift, you have the opportunity to make or change your own luck.  You can move forward.  If the message is to be believed, the Oilers last night skated the puck so well, it wasn’t the Avalanche’s fault they lost, were out played in the third period, and gave up five straight goals (the last one being an empty netter).  The only one to actually call the Avs out so far has been studio analyst Mark Rycroft.  A former (and more recent than color commentator Peter McNab) player, Rycroft knows what he is talking about, and doesn’t mind saying what the thinks, which is a rarity in today’s controlled media world.  (with apologies to radio announcer Marc Moser, who I don’t hear often enough, so I can’t speak for his performance in this respect)

I think I may have more to say about this later.  But the fans aren’t fooled.  We know a bad team when we see one. 

- No coach firings yet.  Huh.  

- This was the first time I’ve had any time away from work for Hockey Day in America.  I didn’t do anything hockey related, unless you consider last night’s cringe-inducing third period of the Avs game.  Why?  Because I’m busy, damn it.  I had things to do.  I also didn’t know of anything going on in my neck of the woods.  And while this may not be Avalanche country as much as it used to be, we still have a ton of hockey, like Denver University, Colorado College, the Denver Cutthroats and Air Force, not to mention the USA Hockey headquarters in Colorado Springs, and plenty of great rinks all over the state.  Does it say how ignorable hockey can be when a hockey fan doesn’t know what’s going on in his neck of the woods?  

- I haven’t heard much about the Dallas Stars lately.  Other than Jagr and Kari Lehtonen, where’s the stories?  What is going on in Texas?

- We are only 15 games into the short season, but there is only one southern conference team in a playoff position, with Tampa knocking on the door.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  

- 33: Difference between the goal differentials of Chicago and Columbus.  15: Points difference between Chicago and Columbus.  6: Number of teams in the Western Conference with a positive goal differential (as of Sunday morning).  Where are those goals going? Chicago.  

- I read somewhere that New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano could be on the hot seat if the team doesn’t turn things around.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.  When you acquire a goalie exclusively for a free cap hit to get to the salary cap floor, rather than actually spending that cap money on an actual player that could help your team, where does winning factor into the plan?  The Islanders are in a holding pattern that makes the Phoenix Coyotes search for ownership look like a blitzkrieg.  They are just waiting to move to Brooklyn, and then we will see if anything happens.  And if reports that Charles Wang is looking to sell the team are correct, they can expect to hold for a while longer.  

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