Puck Daddy Countdown: NHL needs goaltender interference clarity

Referees have been calling off goals left, right, and centre over unclear rules. (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

7. McDavid being in Edmonton

This poor kid. He’s so good and he’s never gonna get anywhere. What a loss for the sport.

6. Leafs guys demanding trades

So Josh Leivo either did or didn’t demand a trade over the weekend, which is understandable because he’s not exactly a heavily used player for the Leafs.

Which is fair on both sides. He’s probably a top-nine NHLer on just about any roster, but given the Leafs’ forward depth — they have it in spades — and the fact that Leivo very clearly isn’t in that group, why wouldn’t he want out?

But this presents a big issue for the Leafs (which we’ll talk about more in-depth in a minute): They have too many good players and not enough roster spots. The Marlies are currently making their case for one of the best AHL teams ever, and certainly in the modern era. At some point those guys have to come up to the big roster, and it’s not a matter of “Lou signed too many old guys who suck!” At least, not entirely that.

The Leafs have been so good at drafting and developing this could be a kinda big thing for them going forward. You only get to have 20 guys on the roster every night. Not sure what you do when Holl and Sparks and Kapanen and Johnsson and Dermott and Bracco and Soshnikov and Aaltonen and Rychel and Timashov all need to at least make their case as NHLers.

I guess the idea here is to trade them before they demand to be traded so you can get a little more for them, but aren’t you just kicking the can down the road? Yes, but that’ll be at a time when you’re now paying Matthews, Nylander, Marner et all a lot more than they’re getting on the ELCs, and you gotta mix in those guys.

So yeah, it doesn’t hurt to lose Josh Leivo. It also doesn’t help to lose Josh Leivo types unless you’re using them to pull rentals.

5. Probably trading Max Pacioretty

Meanwhile the Habs are almost certainly facing a Max Pacioretty-less future sooner than later, which is fair enough if you’re gonna blow it up. But the thing is, one imagines the Habs won’t blow it up. They have too many guys that will keep them mediocre and competitive-ish. Which is no way to live.

Jonathan Drouin isn’t going anywhere, and I guess you gotta keep some expensive guys around for cap purposes regardless, but if you trade Pacioretty this team gets non-competitive in a hurry.  And not in a way that allows them to really make any waves for a future of what you’d call competitive success.

Also, people really want Marc Bergevin to trade Tomas Plekanec, and some are suggesting that if he doesn’t he can or should lose his job. And it’s like, I mean, okay sure I guess. What’s the difference, really? At this point? Not much. Re-signing him would be a bad idea, but what does Plekanec fetch you on the market? A middling pick maybe? Perhaps a B prospect? Yeah, the Habs are great at drafting and development.

Bergevin should lose his job regardless of outcomes on this season or any given trade or non-trade, and even when or if he 86es Pacioretty, he shouldn’t be allowed to play with any of the pieces he gets back.

4. Polak is back baby!!!!

Okay so Mike Babcock got his binky back and instantly re-inserted Roman Polak into the lineup after a few games’ absence in which the Leafs largely looked dominant. Why put him back in? Ah, well, it’s to help on the PK.

Never mind the fact that Polak almost certainly doesn’t help on the PK even if it perhaps appears that way, why would you — if you’re the GM or team president or whatever in this scenario — allow Babcock to keep doing this? The defensemen brought in to fill in for him and Ron Hainsey while they were out were, to a man, really good. Maybe you’re not taking as many penalties if you don’t dress a Polak type at 5-on-5 — and let’s be honest, he’s gonna get plenty of time at full strength too — and that diminishes the need for A Good Penalty Kill, however Babcock wants to define it.

This stuff is so predictable and so dumb and so avoidable. But this game hasn’t changed as much in these people’s minds as it has in reality, so we still gotta deal with this.

3. What trading Rick Nash means

If the Rangers are looking to trade Rick Nash, and by all accounts they are, that almost certainly signals they’re really ready to clean house and offload some contracts. Some guys aren’t going anywhere, like Shattenkirk, Staal, Zibanejad, Kreider, etc.

But if you want Nash, Zuccarello, maybe even Ryan McDonagh, well, pick up the phone because Jeff Gorton is listening. And he should. The team’s not that good, and it’s done meaningfully competing. The days of letting Henrik Lundqvist drag just-okay teams kicking and screaming deep into the postseason are long since over.

This is the right call from Gorton and the only way this team is going to improve. The fact that they’re reportedly willing to dangle McDonagh — who has one year left on his deal after this season — shows the depth to which Gorton is and should be willing to sink.

At the same time, though, it was reported Henrik Lundqvist is not super excited about the prospect of being traded himself (not that anyone has the ability to take on that contract) and will therefore almost certainly stick around for the long term regardless of what Gorton does to other parts of the roster. That’s likely to keep the Rangers competitive enough that they’re never going to approach the draft lottery for another few years at least. Simply put, he would have to drop off an awful lot to get the Rangers into serious contention for a top-3 pick.

Which, hey, I guess that’s life when you have one of the best goalies ever, but it’s also counterproductive. But at least the Rangers are being realistic and responsible. That’s what you want when your team is on the decline.

2. Getting Mark Scheifele back

Not much discussed in all the Jets’ winning ways of late is that they are looking like a serious M*A*S*H* unit. By my count, they have seven players of varying quality out of the lineup for at least a bit: Mark Schiefele and Jacob Trouba are the most important by far, of course, and the former has been out since around Christmas.

So the fact that he is nearing return? That’s very good. The fact that the Jets didn’t completely stink while he was out (along with a few other notable Jets over the last month and a half or so) is pretty indicative of their rather high quality. In fact, since the game Scheifele first missed, they’re 10-2-4.

And you can make the joke of “maybe they don’t want him back then!” Ha ha ha very funny. But for real, getting a player of his caliber back in the lineup is really good and important for their future success, especially with Nashville nipping at their heels.

Let’s put it this way: Scheifele hasn’t played in 15 games and he’s still fourth on the team in scoring. Damn dude.

(Meanwhile, Blake Wheeler having 14-44-58 in 53 games this season is real impressive given all the injuries suffered in Winnipeg this season. Man, they’ve got some talent up there. Especially that Hellebuyck kid. Where’d he come from?)

1. Inscrutable rules

This league, boy.

Much like the NFL and its rules about what is and isn’t a catch, it seems like no one can figure out what’s goaltender interference and what isn’t. And also what’s an illegal hit and what isn’t.

It’s almost like the league keeps the language vague so it can arbitrarily decide things on a case-by-case basis in an effort to, I don’t know, frustrate literally everyone at least 20 percent of the time.

It’s great. I love it and I’m not mad. I’m laughing about it, actually.

(Not ranked this week: The Olympics?

Oh uh, I guess Olympic hockey is starting soon. I might DVR it but I gotta save room for Blue Planet II, so…)

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

(All statistics via HYPERLINK “http://corsica.hockey/”Corsica unless otherwise noted.)