Devils hardly short-changing NHL fans

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:15 AM ET

Do NHL teams really need four lines and three defensive pairings?

Do the fans really lose when cap-challenged teams ice less than the mandated 18 skaters?

While many credit Darryl Sutter’s Calgary Flames for pioneering the art of “running out of runway” and having to play shorthanded due to a lack of salary-cap space, the practice has actually happened a handful of times every year since the cap was introduced.

However, with the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings unable to dress a full compliment of players mere weeks into this NHL season, it’s clear the inability to afford call-ups due to injury is going to be a growing trend.

But while pundits suggest such cap ‘mismanagement’ sullies the integrity of the game, the reality is it’s not catastrophic. Yet.

There’s obviously a magic number of players a team can’t afford to start a game with, but it says here that number is south of 14.

Fourth-liners generally play four to eight minutes, meaning their absence requires other forwards to play an extra two or three minutes a night — hardly an issue for today’s ultra-fit athletes. Five defencemen is more than enough.

Sure, starting a game with so few skaters is risky given the possibility of further injuries or ejections. But while playing shorthanded isn’t ideal, it’s not as big an issue as some suggest.

Interestingly, when the Flames ran out of options two years back and played shorthanded their final few games, they asked the league to make an exception and allow for callups. They were declined.

The NHL and its GMs are concerned about the issue, but it can’t be resolved unless the players and the owners agree to reopen the CBA.

Fans needn’t share their concern because while it’s embarrassing, it doesn’t affect the product much.

Now, more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering how it took so long for Casey Printers to destroy his career … again.

Around the horn

Quick refresher for those who saw Sean Avery lay the lumber on Mike Komisarek twice behind the play in Friday’s game at Madison Square Garden: Komisarek used to date Dion Phaneuf’s girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert, and was thus one of the intended targets when Avery made his famous ‘sloppy seconds’ comment … Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon will have his Stanley Cup ring personally delivered to him Tuesday by a Chicago Blackhawks executive. Tallon, who was demoted from Hawks GM to advisor in July 2009, said it was emotional to learn his name had been engraved on the Stanley Cup and getting the ring will be even more moving, as his former club didn’t have to do either for him … Interestingly, when asked if he saw similarities between the rebuilding job he did in Chicago and the one he’s faced with now in Florida, Tallon said he figures he actually has much better building blocks to work with in Miami. That combined with the number of draft picks he has in hand is scary.

Parting gifts

Red Wings GM Ken Holland tells my Hockey Night in Canada colleague Pierre Le-brun he’s got a groundswell of support for a great new overtime format he’ll table at next month’s GM meeting. In an effort to reduce the number of games settled by shootout 15% last year), he’s calling for an eight-minute sudden-death format that starts with four minutes of four-on-four and follows with four minutes of three-on-three. He wants a scrape before OT starts, but concerns are that would take too long. Ya, like anyone is going to tune out just before overtime ... David Letterman on Brett Favre’s alleged groin text: “The league is investigating this, and to verify now that it actually is Brett Favre, the league is thinking they may have to bring out the chains for a measurement.” … Proof it’s possible to have it all: Yankees stud Alex Rodriguez is getting paid by both teams in the American League Championship Series by virtue of almost US$25 million owed in deferred compensation from his previous deal in Texas.


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