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Welcome to the fifth edition of the Hockey Education Committee mailbag! For those of you who are new readers to this series, please make sure to read the four previous editions of the mailbag:

I, II, III, IV

Before I launch into your questions, I have to give my congratulations to a special team. Team Canada's under-20 team won the gold medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships. Canada won their fifth consecutive gold medal in the event, yet this team was somehow more special than the rest of them thanks to their never-say-die attitude and status as a quasi-underdog. For more of my thoughts on the game, please read my blog on the subject.

Now, onto the mailbag, where for the very first time, I don't start with a question from The Captain. Today, my leader comes from another regular contributor...

In your last mailbag, I saw a record like 33-11-3. I thought they eliminated ties. What is the extra column for? And how are points awarded?
         -The Rookie, Germantown, WI

I'm sorry for being unclear on this in my last mailbag. The last column counts for overtime losses. Some people also have another column in the standings for shootout losses, but here I have them grouped with the regular overtime losses.

The points system for the NHL is not too complex. If a team wins a game, whether in regulation or overtime, it counts for two points. A team that loses in regulation gets no points, but a team that loses in overtime or in a shootout gets one "consolation" point. You are correct, though, that ties do not exist anymore in the NHL.

Onto my next question...

G'day! I always like reading the mailbag in case I learn something new. Before the season, I had four bets for the Cup winner: San Jose, Detroit, New York Rangers, and Anaheim. I reckon two of them are shot to bits. What do you think my chances are?
         -The Aussie Hockey Fan, Warragul

I'd say your chances are pretty good. I'm about 95% positive that either San Jose or Detroit will end up hoisting the Stanley Cup in June.

The last time I wrote about the Stanley Cup and who I thought would win, I said that I still believe in my Red Wings and that the Sharks will likely flame out in the playoffs. My stance on Detroit hasn't changed one bit (they still have the best experience and best big-game pedigree), but my anti-San Jose stance has definitely softened a little bit. This San Jose team just doesn't look like they'll ever quit.

Big Joe Thornton may not be the most sterling playoff performer, but his supporting cast has definitely shown that they will be able to step up. Devin Setoguchi could become the next great playoffs star, and the Sharks have a very solid defense and a stud goalie in Evgeni Nabokov, both key ingredients to a playoff contender. If the Red Wings falter in their quest, then the Sharks should be more than good enough to take the Cup. I wouldn't call them 1 and 1A, but they're definitely the top two.

The next question comes from yet another return contributor, with very likely my favourite question of the year.

Could you give us a bit of insight into one of the most under-appreciated lines in NHL history, the Grind Line?
         -Putting On The Foil in California

The Grind Line is one of my favourite lines in NHL history. It originally consisted of Detroit Red Wings checkers Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Joey Kocur, but the third member switched to Darren McCarty after Kocur's retirement in 1997, giving it the familiar form that people hear about.

This line was an incredibly vital part of the Red Wings through their two consecutive Stanley Cups wins in 1997 and 1998. They were a defensive line that shut down opponents, kicked serious behind, and never ever quit. They were almost always matched up against their opponents' top line, and wore them down thanks to relentless effort. They never hesitated to mix it up with opponents.

Draper was an incredible face-off man, and was more than sterling defensively, winning a Selke Trophy in 2004. Maltby was the solid checker who often had a knack for frustrating opponents into cheap penalties. McCarty was a classic enforcer, often seen with blood on him, with a knack for scoring big goals. They all helped protect Detroit's skilled players and ensured that Detroit would not be messed with.

Here's a question from a regular reader, yet a first-time contributor to the series.

Can you explain no-touch icing and give us your views on the subject?
         -Your Friendly Neighbourhood British Hockey Fan

In the NHL, icing is when a player shoots the puck from his own side behind the centre red line into the other end of the ice behind the opponent's goal line, and it is touched by the opponent. The diagram of the average ice surface is shown below:

Hockey Rink Diagram

However, in every single amateur league around the world, icing is called without the opponent touching the puck, making it... no-touch icing.

Touch icing has gotten its fair share of criticism, mainly due to injuries suffered by defensemen when going back to get the puck for icing while being chased by a fore-checked. One of the most recent examples of this is Minnesota Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster. Last season, when going back for icing, he was pushed into the board by San Jose Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell, resulting in a broken femur that he still hasn't recovered from.

However, I don't think that the NHL should go to no-touch icing. One of the main qualms against touch icing is that players are put into dangerous situations, yet in the NHL people should be able to avoid those dangerous positions. If there is going to be an icing call, it should also be because the team deliberately got rid of the puck to delay the game. Keeping touch icing ensures that it is only for real cases.

--------------------
THE HOCKEY GLOSSARY!!!

Crossbar: the top bar of a goalie net
Cycling the puck: an offensive system that is espoused by most hockey teams, where it is passed around deep in the offensive zone into the corners, to set up a goal
Power play: when a team has a man advantage (or two) thanks to a penalty/penalties on the opponent
Composite: the main type of hockey stick used in the NHL, which is made up of various light metals as opposed to wood
-------------------

Time for one more question...

Do you think the current system of playoff seeding is fair; i.e., the winners of the divisions being seeded 1, 2 and 3 despite the fact that a non-division winner may have a higher point total?
         -Your Friendly Neighbourhood British Hockey Fan (again)

This is a very difficult issue to tackle. On one hand, there's the belief that there should be a reward for winning your division, which is home-ice advantage. One the other hand, there's the fact that a lot of poor teams who lucked into an awful division end up hosting a superior team, which could be seen as unjust.

Personally, I like the idea of there being a reward for winning your division, which is a home playoff series. Each team plays 24 games within their division, and coming out on team means that you were able to take care of business among your immediate contemporaries.

However, what I think would work better is a system similar to what the NBA has right now. In the NBA, each conference's top four teams (three division winners and top non-division winner) are seeded according to their record. It means that not only division winners get their reward, but teams that are vastly better are seeded accordingly. It's a win-win in my books.

Thank you very much for reading this week's mailbag! Please FanMail me any questions you have, or any terms you want to be defined. Hope you enjoyed!

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