Each week, CBCSports.ca's senior hockey writers conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the latest hot-button issues in the NHL. Tim Wharnsby and Jeff Marek square off in this edition.
1. Does Alexander Ovechkin deserve to be suspended for his hit on Brian Campbell on Sunday?
MAREK: While the Ovechkin hit may satisfy some of the criteria for a suspension in this situation I’m going to say no. Was it from behind? Yes. Did it injure the opponent? Yes. Is he a repeat offender? Yes. But this was not the deliberate cross check from behind by Max Lapierre on Scott Nichol as many have tried to paint it. That was a deliberate ramming into the boards at great speed. Ovechkin pushed Campbell at an awkward angle going behind the net and the defenseman’s skate caught a rut. Viewed at full speed it looks a lot more vicious than it really is. When you slow it down you can see Campbell’s skate go wonky as Ovechkin pushes him. It’s not a cross check, not a shove into the boards it’s a 220-pound body leaning on another a few feet away from the boards. Play on.
WHARNSBY: Nobody is sure of the NHL chief disciplinarian’s checklist consists of when he is investigating these sorts of hits. But as you point out, Ovechkin’s hit was from behind, and he is a repeat offender of other reckless acts this season. So I think he deserves to sit another two games as he was for his knee-on-knee collision with Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason on Nov. 30.
2. Which of the top contenders do you have the least faith in with the playoffs less than a month away?
MAREK: Once again I’ll say the San Jose Sharks. For all the times they look like worldbeaters they’re also capable of laying a huge egg. The presence of Dany Heatley has helped the squad, and Joe Pavelski seems to be building off his excellent Olympic tournament, but I have very little faith in goalie Evgeni Nabokov to win the big game. And that blue line is not solid enough to compensate for average goaltending in the playoffs.
WHARNSBY: You want to see good teams playing well late in the season, but both the Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks have bumbled and stumbled since the Olympic break. The Hawks have gone 3-3-1 to San Jose’s 3-2-1. Just as you have a concern with Nabokov, I don’t have confidence in Chicago’s goaltending tandem of Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi. Even though the Blackhawks have yielded a league-low 24.5 shots against per game, Niemi and Huet have combined for a horrible .863 save percentage since the Olympics.
3. If you were the Edmonton Oilers and won the draft lottery, would you select Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall or Cam Fowler?
MAREK: If I were the Oilers I’d probably look to trade down with whomever is at the No. 3 position, pick up another pick or an asset and select Cam Fowler (or maybe even Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs). The Oilers have good young forwards joining the squad as early as next year. Forwards like Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, to complement Sam Gagner and the returning Ales Hemsky. What this franchise needs is a stud on the blue line more than it needs another skilled forward.
WHARNSBY: Oilers president Kevin Lowe admitted in a radio interview Edmonton’s CHED last week that there is not much that differentiates Hall and Seguin other than "Hall appears to be a little more ready physically." But I believe the Oilers should take Seguin because he plays the centre position. A dominant centre is more difficult to find. Seguin is a playmaker, and although he is not as powerful as Hall right now, he can skate and play the game at full speed. I believe he has more potential to fullfil than speedy and determined Hall.