The Contrarian – Optimism Is Important

Demetri Fragopoulos

2016-02-07

Why should teams that have struggled recently remain optimistic?

Parity rules the NHL, and it is having its effects on my hockey pool. I suspect that it is doing so in yours as well. One good week and you zoom up the standings by a fistful of spots. One bad week and you fall back of the pack or worse, into last place.

It is tough to deal with. It wears down your system. It brings in doubt.

The Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens are three teams that are going through this right now.

An article on The Fourth Period quickly details the situation in Minnesota, indicating that “If the Wild does not snap out of its skid, management will take a serious look at a coaching change, though their preference appears to be making a roster move or two.”

Whoever wrote the piece gets quotes from coach Mike Yeo. “We’ve been searching for answers for [why this keeps happening] for quite some time”, and “We’ve tried some different talks or meetings or whatever, we’re trying a lot right now.”

In the end Yeo comes to say that “What it boils down to, the actors for [to] act.”

Over in Ottawa, the situation looks to be a carbon copy as Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star reports, “First, there was a closed-door players-only meeting after an embarrassing 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night”, and “Then there was Friday morning’s practice that wasn’t a practice but rather another meeting – this time with coaches – to hash things out.”

The Senators’ coach Dave Cameron told reporters, “We have to reset. In this business, you have to clarify once in a while that what you’re saying is equal to what they’re hearing. And to clear up any grey area… that is what the theme was.”

We’ve all heard of the troubles facing the Montreal Canadiens. As Sean Gordon of the Globe and Mail writes, “After a dispiriting loss this week to bottom-feeders Buffalo – a game Montreal led in the third period – the Canadiens’ opulent inner sanctum was a mournful, semi-deserted space.”

He describes their descent into “slump-ology: bravado, denial, white-hot anger, grim resolve, relentless positivism.”

His final analysis is to do nothing for now as they would not get much that could help them in the immediate future. It would be best for them to focus on moves during the offseason, which might come a lot earlier than expected this year.

This piece from CTV Montreal has a position that suggests that they think the only thing the Canadiens can do is to fire coach Michel Therrien. At least that is what reporter Francois Gagnon implies by listing out the records of their past coaches to Therrien’s recent win/loss results.

That same Francois Gagnon also suggested that the Canadiens consider trading P.K. Subban.

What do all these teams have in common?

There were in the playoffs last year, and if the playoffs were to start today, they would all be out.

Also, they all point fingers. It’s not me, it’s the players. It’s not us, it’s the coach. It’s not me, it’s the GM. Fire him… replace that guy… meet and discuss why everything is going wrong.

Montreal was the star child early on, and now everyone wants to tear them apart. The Senators had that great run last year, and now people are jumping off the bandwagon. Expectations were that Minnesota would improve on their playoff performance from the year before, but there must be something wrong with this team now.

How about some optimism? How about some faith in what you’ve already have?

This is where I would reference two former NHL coaches: Terry Crisp and “Badger” Bob Johnson.

For those who argue that a player be moved out should heed Crisp, from an article by Adam Proteau, which touches upon trading players. He told Proteau at the time “Being a coach, you sometimes get emotional. You walk into Cliff’s office, saying things like, ‘This player, he’s no good! I want him out of here!’ Cliff would say, ‘Let’s talk in the morning. And in the morning he would say, ‘Crispy, you have two choices: would you rather have this man playing for you, or against you? If you have no problem with him playing against you, we can move him. If you do, he’s staying.’ And that sort of brought it back down to nuts and bolts.”

Apply this same logic to your fantasy teams. Do you want to see your ex-player come back and beat you out of a prize? Then do not overreact. Negotiate and make deals that make sense. Do not make a deal for the sake of making a change.

Back in 2008 ESPN penned an article about Johnson and his passion for hockey. In particular it describes his optimism for his team, “Old-timers in Calgary still chuckle remembering Johnson's disbelief after his Flames had been thrashed 9-0 at home by the Hartford Whalers, pushing his team's franchise-record 11-game losing streak.”

Sounds a lot like what these three teams are going through.

What did Johnson say at the time in response? “I don’t understand people talking about our so-called slump.” The former Flames GM explains, “You could’ve fallen into the room off a spaceship and not realized how bad it was if you were listening to Badger,” and “Badger was like medicine.”

The point, if the leaders believe in the players, then the players will believe in the team.

This is a sentiment that does not necessarily translate to fantasy roster. After all, the players do not know that you have them on your team, but it can be helpful if you should be negotiating with another owner. Don’t be full of bravado, but be confident that your players will perform. If you do decide to deal, you will get a better return.

What should these teams be confident in? I am glad you asked. (Stats as of Friday, February 5, 2016.)

Ottawa is eighth in goals for, while Montreal is tenth. There are eight teams that have fewer goals for that currently make the playoffs.

Montreal has a goal differential of minus-2, while the Wild have a differential of positive-2. Of the teams that are in: St. Louis (0), Colorado (-1), Anaheim (-4), New Jersey (-4), Nashville (-6) and Detroit (-7). There is hope.

These are only some stats to think about. Here is what the players are saying:

“By no means do we feel defeated.” – Erik Karlsson (from the Toronto Star article)

“We start winning a couple of games and people start realizing we’re not giving up… as long as we have a chance, we’re going to keep fighting” – P.K. Subban (from The Globe and Mail article)

“This is a game of confidence.”  – Thomas Vanek (from the Star Tribune)

What is the best way to maintain or regain confidence: Wading in a pool of negativity, or exuding a positive influence?

As Johnson often reminded everyone, “It’s a great day for hockey!”  

Go ahead, try saying that without smiling or feeling good. These three teams only have to be reminded of that.

I am optimistic that they’ll get the message.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency T.B Players
30.8% NIKITA KUCHEROV ONDREJ PALAT BRAYDEN POINT
20.7% ANTHONY CIRELLI TYLER JOHNSON ALEX KILLORN
18.5% BLAKE COLEMAN BARCLAY GOODROW YANNI GOURDE

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