Ritter's Rant: Trapezoids, Forsberg, Espo, O'Canada, and More

Mark RitterSenior Writer INovember 11, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 17: Center Angelo Esposito #57 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates during an NHL pre-season game at the Sommet Center on September 17, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

NHL GMs are huddling in Toronto this week to discuss a number of rule, equipment, and schedule issues. Among them are the goalie’s trapezoid, which the GMs have agreed to keep in place.

Fact is, the trapezoid has done more harm than good. Once upon a time, NHL goalies were able to roam freely outside of their crease and, if their skills allowed, were able to use their stick-handling skills to help clear the zone.

With the trapezoid in effect, NHL defensemen and forwards alike are getting hammered against the boards at an alarming pace, leading to a considerable number of head injuries.

Before the trapezoid was invoked, the goalies used to give the players an extra second by playing the puck, which helped protect them from checkers flying in from beyond the blueline, which is no longer the case.

So I ask you, Mr. Commissioner, considering only about five or six goalies could really use their stick-handling skills to their advantage, was the rule change really necessary?

It is being reported on NHL.com the Colorado Avalanche have their eye on Peter Forsberg. In a word, why? Why would you want to mess with the early success that the Av’s have enjoyed by bringing in a player who will only be effective if he plays on the first or second line? Don’t play with fire, you’ll get burned...

One of the main reasons for Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson success is his awesome size which, most times, enables him to cover the entire bottom of the net. Another reason is his vision and ability to anticipate the shooters, something that is tough to teach.

Toughest team to win a face-off against? The San Jose Sharks, 56.8%. Toughest player to win a face-off against? Paul Gaustad, Buffalo Sabres, 68.1%. Combined record of both teams heading into Tuesday night? 21-8-3, read into to it what you will...

Once upon a time, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin stated he felt Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin would have a good NHL career. With all due respect, we're still waiting Mr. Malkin. Thus far, Kulemin has been less than stellar.

I know he’s had some tough breaks to deal with, but with a 2-11-3 record through 16 games, you gotta think it’s just a matter of time before the “fire Paul Maurice” rumors get started. For the record, if the Hurricanes do fire Maurice, they will regret it.

I started thinking out loud yesterday, and a player's name I hadn’t thought of in quite a while popped into my head, Angelo Esposito. Originally drafted in the first round (20th
overall) of the 2007 NHL entry draft, Esposito is now buried in the Atlanta Thrashers' system.

Playing for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, Esposito has a grand total of four assists through eight games. At just 20 years old, there is plenty of time for Esposito to develop, but for a kid that was once considered to be a top five prospect, the road to the NHL looks to be an uphill battle.

Why do I bring up Esposito? Well, for starters, once upon a time he was a tremendous playmaker, and his puck-handling abilities are well documented. With the Leafs looking for a young player to grow with free agent acquisition Phil Kessel, would it be a wise move for Leafs GM Brian Burke to make an offer for Esposito?

Drawing the line at a minimum of four shots taken, two Colorado Avalanche players ranked in the top three in shootout percentage. Marek Svatos sits at a 75 percent success rate (three for four), Milan Hedjuk sits at a 50 percent success rate (two for four). The best in the NHL? None other than Sidney Crosby, who is four for four. Think he’s gearing up for the Olympics?

Heading into Tuesday night;s action, nine (Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dustin Penner, Ryan Smyth, Brad Richards, Corey Perry, Dany Heatley, Brooks Laich) of the top 15 point producers in the NHL were Canadians. That said, the top three (Anze Kopitar, Alex Ovechkin, Marian Gaborik) are all Europeans.

Penner and Laich were afterthoughts, while Smyth, Richards, and Marleau all had various degrees of support from the so-called “hockey experts.” If you could only take two of these players, which ones make Team Canada?

Until next time,

Peace!

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