Puck Daddy Countdown: Olympic rosters, all-star boycotts and pulling the chute

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John Scott looks on during the 2016 All-Star Final Game between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference in Nashville, Tennessee (Frederick Breedon/AFP Photo/)
John Scott looks on during the 2016 All-Star Final Game between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference in Nashville, Tennessee (Frederick Breedon/AFP Photo/)

7. The U.S. women’s hockey roster

Call me crazy here, but the idea that Megan Bozek and Alex Carpenter aren’t two of the 13 best American-born forwards is idiotic on its face, right?

Speculation is that these two world-class women’s players weren’t on the team for the same reasons that USA Hockey has humiliated itself in plenty of best-on-best international tournaments over the past several years (including the men’s Olympic and World Cup tournaments): These elite players didn’t fit the roles their coaches would have wanted, so they had to stay home.

Well, jeez, that’s definitely not a good indication of the thinking that goes into these kinds of things, or the fact that this country’s hockey-decision-making geniuses have learned literally nothing from the “Bring Your Best Grinders” strategy that has failed utterly and spectacularly in Sochi and the World Cup. The Canadians have the right of it: Bring (mostly) your best players and tell them to play hockey different if they have to.

Because at the end of the game, it’s the team with the most goals that wins, and if you win 5-4 because you brought superior talent, that’s a hell of a lot better than losing 2-1 because you left that talent at home.

6. The U.S. men’s hockey roster

Okay so this isn’t so much USA Hockey’s fault, but I read that Olympic roster and was instantly depressed. Chris Bourque is probably the best hockey player on the roster, all things considered, and while he has been an elite AHLer for a long time, he’s only ever been an AHLer for a reason, right?

The roster is a collection of “I remember him” guys, “Really, him?” guys, and “Who is he?” guys, which is, I guess, to be expected. If you’re underwhelmed, that’s kinda by design, but you have to also keep in mind that you have no idea which players Canada will bring. In fact, this is the first Olympic roster released, so we just have nothing against which to measure it. Put another way: You’re almost certainly going to be underwhelmed by the Canadian roster as well.

Of course, we can still quibble. I couldn’t tell you a thing about this Ryan Zapolski, who plays for Jokerit in the KHL, except to look at his Elite Prospects page and tell you he has a .935 save percentage this year. Good number! But the college kids? Ryan Donato and Troy Terry are no-brainer picks, but Jordan Greenway and Will Borgen are not. Wouldn’t you rather have Adam Gaudette up front or one of Jordan Gross or Daniel Brickley on the blue line? If you don’t know college hockey too well, let me answer for you: You would indeed rather have that.

With all the KHLers going under the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Russia banner, this is Russia’s tournament to lose.

And the viewers’. They will definitely also lose.

5. Glare delays

It seems to me, right, that the fact that there are delays for the glare of the sun off the ice in every Winter Classic would be a good indicator that the game should maybe possibly potentially be moved to a little later in the day when there won’t be as much sun hitting the ice just so.

My understanding of astronomy is that the planet we live on moves around what I call The Sun Of Earth in a fairly predictable pattern. Rarely has our beloved Big Hot Thing In The Middle Of The Solar System risen at 3 a.m. and gotten everyone all startled. In fact, it doesn’t rise at all, but rather the Planet Earth revolves on something called an “axis” and then it looks like the sun is rising but in actuality it is staying in a fixed position 91 million miles away at this time of year. I’m pretty sure.

I guess maybe they just hope for it to be cloudy every year and I think that’s happened like one time ever.

Here’s an idea, though: Maybe next time, play the outdoor game indoors. Let’s see where that takes us.

4. Henrik Lundqvist’s outdoor game record

With a win in Monday’s Winter Classic, Henrik Lundqvist improved to 4-0 all-time in outdoor games. “Ooo,” says everyone, “What’s his secret?” I did some digging and I think I figured it out: He played the Flyers when they were good but couldn’t get a save a lot of nights, then the Devils, Islanders, and Sabres when they were among the worst teams in the league.

Hope this helps.

3. Decision time

We’re getting to the point in the season now where teams should really be thinking of pulling the chute on 2017-18 and looking to the future.

A few weeks ago I crunched some numbers and found a bunch of teams would have to play at a 100-plus point pace for the rest of the year to hit the 92-point threshold, meaning they were effectively going to be locked out of the playoffs. Now, in 2018, that number has only grown.

Ahead of Tuesday’s games, nine teams would need to play at a roughly 100-point pace for the entire rest of the season to make the playoffs: Arizona (138), Buffalo (120), Ottawa (109.3), Montreal (106.8), Edmonton and Vancouver (104.9), Detroit (102), Florida (100.2) and Pittsburgh (99.6).

The Penguins are theoretically capable of it because they’re the Penguins, but it seems incredibly unlikely they’d do that. As such, all these teams have to start thinking about the pieces they’re going to sell off in the next month and a half or so. They’d probably be wise to do it sooner than later because right now it’s more of a seller’s market.

Another six teams are in the “they need to play at a more than 92-point pace” zone that hasn’t hit 100 yet, but the more they lose, the sooner their Tragic Number arrives. Those six teams? Calgary, Philly, Colorado, Anaheim, Minnesota and Chicago. You can see a few of teams going on runs that push them into the “buyer” category at the deadline, but not even most of them. Maybe Chicago? Maybe Anaheim? Probably not Minnesota, right?

So I dunno. Seems like the sooner you put up for-sale signs, the more likely you are to get a deal early and get a good return.

2. The latest Islander call-up

I’m seeing double here: Four Sebastian Ahos!

1. An All-Star boycott

I love love love love love the rumor this week that because of the whole “You can’t go to the Olympics” thing, a ton of the league’s best players are going to shockingly and mysteriously come up with little knee and back injuries, or maybe the flu. Bill Daly addressed those concerns ahead of the World Junior outdoor game, saying he didn’t think that was likely. And also that if guys skip for anything other than a legit injury, they are subject to a one-game suspension.

For some guys maybe this isn’t that big a deal. Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews both likely have at least two more Olympics in their future even if they have to sit out 2018. But if I’m Sid Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and a few other guys in their late 20s and early 30s — for whom this is likely the last Olympics for which they will legitimately be considered — there is literally no way I show up for this.

Hell, I wouldn’t show up, period, because the Olympic decision is another example of owner greed and maneuvering for upcoming lockout-related negotiations so they can say, “Well we’ll give you the Olympics back” just in time for Beijing, which they’d be going to anyway because China is such a massive market for the league going forward. Like, this is transparent as can be that it’s exactly how the league will play this.

Anyway, if I’m an NHLer, me and all my NHLer friends boycott this so hard that it’s nothing but John Scott-type guys who don’t know how to skate backwards and play 12 minutes a night, max. Let the NHL groove on that.

(Not ranked this week: Nothing.

I wish you nothing but joy and happiness for 2018, folks!!)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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