Each week, CBCSports.ca senior hockey writers Scott Morrison and Tim Wharnsby conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the hot-button issues in the NHL.
1. Does two trades — the second, Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins from the New York Rangers for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust, finalized late Monday — push the Calgary Flames into the playoffs?
WHARNSBY: I don't like the Flames chances of advancing to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. There always is the possibility that the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche, who have dropped three in a row, could suffer late-season meltdowns in the final two months of the season to aid Calgary's cause. But it's probably going to be a sprint to the finish between the Flames and the Detroit Red Wings for the eighth and final spot in the West. I like Detroit's chances because they will soon get back Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen from injuries. Detroit and Calgary each have 27 games remaining and are tied with 62 points. They have similar schedules down the stretch. They play a home-and-home in mid-March. The Flames have 13 games against teams above them in the standings, while Detroit has 14 against clubs with better records.
MORRISON: I think the Flames need another deal beyond the Toronto trade, but let's deal with that one. The Flames gave up the best player in the deal in Dion Phaneuf, but they are good and deep on the blue-line and it clearly was not going to work in Calgary for him. In Ian White, they get a very good defenceman who handles the puck well and will fit on their power play. Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman are good additions in the room and up front. Jamal Mayers gives them fourth-line depth. None are first-line players and it strikes me that is what the Flames need unless the sum of the parts is ultimately what the Flames require. Still, they need another addition to get to the playoffs.
2. Should the NHL continue to participate in the Olympics after Vancouver?
MORRISON: In a word: no. I don't think shutting down your business for two weeks is the right thing to do. The goal is to win the Stanley Cup, not a gold medal. The condensed schedule, especially this season, has been wicked. I also believe the Olympics should be open to other/amateur athletes. Call me old fashioned, I miss those underdog teams trying to wrestle the old Russian bear. For me, the cache of Canada's NHLers versus the rest of the world's NHLers just isn't there — hasn't been since the Iron Curtain fell.
WHARNSBY: Well, Mr. Old Fashioned, I would like to see NHL players continue to participate in the Olympics to not only appease the elite-level players but the fans. There are not enough best-on-best events anymore at this level. We've had only two World Cups in 15 years. I completely understand the rationale behind the concern of shutting down the NHL for two weeks and the injuries that have mounted in the condensed schedule. But let's try to find a solution to keep the Alex Ovechkins and Evgeni Malkins happy — they want to play in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympics — as well as the loyal fan base in Canada, Europe and the United States. Could the NHL go to a reduced a 76-game schedule in Olympic years, or how about investigating the possibility of moving the hockey tournament to the Summer Games? The NBA season starts and finishes a few weeks later than the NHL, yet basketball is a summer Olympic sport. Why can't hockey go the same route?
3 . What is the best line in the West right now: Sedin-Sedin-Burrows, Brouwer-Toews-Kane, Marleau-Thornton-Heatley?
WHARNSBY: All three lines have been dynamite this season, but right now the Sedins and Alexandre Burrows have the edge. Maybe I'm biased because I just watched them dominate the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (then again, who doesn't dominate the Leafs these days), but the Canucks are rolling with seven victories in a row. Vancouver has scored 29 goals in this streak and this trio has been responsible for 14 goals and 39 points. Since Daniel returned from his broken foot on Nov. 22, Vancouver has gone an impressive 22-8-2. But anyway you slice it, the three clubs are a cut above the rest in the West because of their top lines. The Blackhawks have gone 23-9-2 since Nov. 22 and the Sharks check in at 20-5-5 in the same time frame.
MORRISON: Tough question and there is no wrong answer. The twins and Burrows have been spectacular and have shown they really are front-line players. The Chicago kids — with or without shirts — are absolutely terrific and fun to watch. But I still like the Sharks' big line and they have been excellent from the minute they were put together. They have size, speed, toughness, two great shooters, a superb playmaker in Thornton. And they produced when no other forwards were scoring. Like the twins, this line just has to prove it in the spring.