Q: Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted first overall (in 2003), just before Eric Staal. Would you or the Penguins make a player-for-player trade, Fleury for Staal, if it was offered now?
Tommy, Dallas, Tex.
MOLINARI: The concept you raise never will get beyond the hypothetical, so there isn't a lot to be gained by devoting much time or energy to considering it. Credit is due, though, for presenting a new variation on the Didn't-the-Penguins-screw-up-by-taking-Fleury-instead-of-Staal? theme that seems to be so wildly popular in some circles.
Obviously, Staal has accomplished more since entering the NHL than Fleury has. Just as obviously, he's spent most of his career on a better team than Fleury, and plays a position where guys generally can be productive more quickly than a young goaltender can.
All but the most devoted Fleury-bashers, though, presumably will acknowledge there are a couple of factors that would mitigate against the Penguins going through with the exchange you put forth.
The first, and most obvious, is that the Penguins don't exactly have a dearth of accomplished young centers. Staal would be a tremendous addition to the Penguins -- or any other team -- but with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin already on the payroll, they're not exactly struggling to come up with capable bodies to play in the middle on their top two lines.
What's more, since the timeframe stipulated for the proposed trade is "now," dealing Fleury would remove the only goalie in the organization who is, or could be reasonably expected to develop into, a difference-maker. Dany Sabourin looks to be a capable backup, Ty Conklin has done OK in the NHL and John Curry and David Brown might be able to play at this level someday, but the current blueprint for developing a Stanley Cup contender would have to be shelved until a goalie with the proper pedigree could be added to the mix.
Then again, since this entire transaction is a work of fiction, perhaps the Hurricanes simply could be compelled to throw Cam Ward into the deal, at which point it would become a lot more viable for the Penguins.
Q: It seems like the penalty shot is viewed as a more significant 'reward' for an infraction, compared to a simple minor penalty. Are there statistics that compare the chances of getting a goal from a penalty shot to a two-minute power play success rate? It seems like it would better for most teams to get a two-minute power play rather than one shot on goal.
Rich, Seven Fields
MOLINARI: Penalty shots generally are converted at about twice the rate of power plays so they are, in fact, a far more attractive option.
Last season, for example, NHL players scored on 25 of 70 penalty shots, a success rate of 35.7 percent. Power plays, on the other hand, were converted at a 17.6 percent clip.
Going into last night's games, the gap was smaller than usual, although stats generated over just a quarter of a season don't necessarily look like the ones that will have developed by the time April arrives. So far in 2007-08, teams have been scoring on 18 percent of their chances with the extra man, while three of 13 penalty shots (23 percent) had resulted in goals.