Shayne Corson wants back in the NHL, and there is apparent interest from a number of teams. From what we're being told, Corson has been working hard to returning to the lineup and is currently examining his options on which team he would like to join. The front runners, apparently, are the Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens. Corson seems to want to stay in the Eastern Conference, to stay close to his children, and many a Leaf fan I have spoken to are in a bit of a panic about this. What if we play him in the playoffs? What if he goes against Sundin? What if Tucker plays below his potential because of his family relationship with Corson? To all of you, I say one thing stop. Stop worrying. It's ridiculous, because only if we are lucky will we see Corson in the Eastern Conference.
Corson is a cancer in the dressing room - his history is chalk full of stories of causing descent in dressing rooms, and more often than not being the problem rather than the solution. His melodramatic departure from the Maple Leafs last season in the midst of their series against the Flyers was a perfect indication of what kind of athlete he is - play me, or I'm taking my ball and going home; team effort be damned - I want to play too. Corson was scarcely effective last season after a full season of being involved with the league - while I still think he can be an effective fourth line player, there is no way I can see him being the defensive force that was often used to shut down the opposition's best offensive player in the playoffs a few years back. I just hope he doesn't sign on with the Canadiens - though they need some toughness and size, I just can't see Corson co-existing in that dressing room without tearing it to pieces.
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According to the scuttlebutt I've heard from a score of different sources, Ed Belfour's back injury is more serious than first thought. Belfour has been rumored to have a herniated disc in his lower back, must the same type of injury that currently afflicts Owen Nolan. General consensus is that if Belfour's back doesn't start to feel better on its own, and fairly soon, it means season ending surgery for the Eagle which is basically playoff suicide for the Leafs. Anyone who has watched backup Trevor Kidd grind his way through the past few games know that if he is relied upon to take the Leafs down the stretch, they would be hard pressed to win a playoff game, let alone a round. In his last 4 starts, Kidd has surrendered 17 goals with a 4.10 GAA, and a marshmallow-esque save percentage of .838. These are hardly the trim, svelt numbers needed to have post-season success. With this in mind, and the fact that this is likely Toronto's last chance for quite a while to make a real drive for the Stanley Cup, what are their options?
They have several, but we will get the less-than-credible ones out of the way first. Trevor Kidd cannot, I repeat CANNOT, be expected to produce anything even closely resembling playoff success. If he is left in net, the Leafs won't win a round and yes, it really is that simple.
Next, they can attempt to stick within their system and put their faith in young Swede Mikael Tellqvist. While Tellqvist has all the signs to be a superb goalie, one has to question if that time is now. He usurped the position of number one goaltender on Team Sweden in the World Cup last year from Tommy Salo, and performed remarkably well. He has not, however, seen any kind of NHL level action since mid-November. Could the Leafs play him down the stretch, and hope he blossoms in that drive? May swap starts with him and Belfour should he recover and get some rest? That is a possibility, though it is a big question mark it is very likely that Tellqvist can't handle the pressure of NHL playoff hockey in a pressure cooker like Toronto.
Lastly, there is always the option of a trade but one must also question who is available, and if they really are an upgrade. The options are as follows :
- Tommy Salo, Edmonton. He
has been shaky at best at times, and streaky to a tee. He has
been a huge asset in Edmonton, but has never regained his confidence
after the famous goal against Belarus in the 2002 Olympics. He
has no real playoff success, and would likely cost the Leafs
more than he is worth.
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The Alexei Zhamnov rumors have been heating up so much, there is an official "Zhamnov Watch" in full effect among media outlets. Among the front runners for the Blackhawks star centre are the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, and New Jersey Devils. The Canucks would only benefit from signing Zhamnov, though they may be better served seeking out a guy like Jeff O'Neill to bring some grit alongside the Sedin twins however the search for a solid number two centre has been a long and fruitless one for the Canucks, which may force Brian Burke's hand on this one. Going the other way could be any number of prospects - only if the trade itself goes down will we know for certain which ones. The Sharks could also use the services of Zhamnov - with a surprisingly potent season under their belts, they could use all the help they can get come playoff time but only if it means shipping out draft picks and prospects. The Sharks have had such great chemistry this year, it would be a game of Russian Roulette to disturb it. As far as the Devils are concerned, I can't see a free-skating guy like Zhamnov fitting into the defensive system of Pat Burns - for further proof, see Igor Larionov. All in all, I could see him going to the Canucks with names like Jason King being thrown around, its hard to believe the Sharks could offer up someone of equal caliber and potential (perhaps with exception of now injured Milan Michalek.).
Oh how the silly season brings the Leafs rumors a swirlin'! Yes, one must adore this time of year that is completely devoid of logic and reasoning a time when Phil Housley is the second coming of Bobby Orr, and watching your first round opponents sign Rob Ray sends shivers up your spine. Leafs fans are undoubtedly the worst for this I know this because I am one, but I'm the intelligent kind who is well aware that no team will take Robert Reichel's contract off our hands, and we are not going to acquire Peter Forsberg for Wade Belak and a ninth round pick. As such, I'll keep all the illogical rumors shoved underneath my desk, and attempt to take a look at the ones with at least a slim chance at fruition. This week, I'll look at a trade brought to my attention this morning involving the Leafs and the Washington Capitals. This trade was supposedly reported on a Washington radio station during an interview with none other than hockey journalism's equivalent to the dalai lama, Bob McKenzie. He said that a deal involving the Caps acquiring Leafs forwards Nik Antropov and prospect Kyle Wellwood, as well as defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Pierre Hedin. In return, the Leafs would acquire centre Robert Lang and powerplay quarterback Sergei Gonchar, along with utility forward Trent Whitfield. This deal sounds plausible, and I don't mind it at all. Robert Lang is one of the leagues top point getters, as a more than adequate replacement to Nik Antropov. However, Lang is the number one guy in Washington would he flourish as much as a number two centre? I would say likely, yes he would likely be paired with Alexander Mogilny, who is a superior player to Peter Bondra. Gonchar is an upgrade to Kaberle, and is slightly bigger but with the same drawback that he doesn't know how to use his size effectively. If they can split up the powerplay units with Gonchar/Klee, McCabe/Pilar, it could be quite effective. The loss of a great player in Wellwood is a loss, as is Hedin, but one must give up something to get something. Whether or not it happens is another matter altogether it tacks on a large amount of salary to the Leafs budget, and gives up more of their future. All in all though, it sounds at least realistic. Also of note, McKenzie was quoted as saying the Leafs have a smaller deal in mind with the Carolina Hurricanes for Bob Boughner in all likelihood being a mid-round draft pick. Obviously, a good move to get a solid gritty defenceman. Personally though, I'm curious as to whether this interview even happened a lot of things get blown out of proportion.
Out of Anaheim, Keith Carney is rumored to possibly be available to a potential suitor. Oh my where should the lineup start. Bryan Murray would be licking his chops at the prospect of the offers that Carney would garner for his team I doubt there is a playoff bound squad that wouldn't be faxing in an offer sheet or burning up the phone lines. After Carney's warrior performance in last years Cinderella run for the Ducks, the NHL stood up and took notice as to just what this guy can do. If he can find that magic again, there is no telling what potential teams might give up in order to to acquire the bruising blueliner. Although no formal offers have been reported, it will only be a matter of time before they start popping up around the outlets.
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For two of the biggest 'tough guys' in hockey today, Tie Domi and Georges Laraque can be bigger cry babies than I've seen in recent memory. Worse than Jaromir Jagr's claims that his broken heart from his girlfriend affected his hockey playing abilities. Worse than Shayne Corsons walkout on the Maple Leafs during last seasons playoffs due to lack of ice time (more on that later.) Yes, Tie and Georges have proven that despite the abilities with the gloves off, it appears that off the ice they keep their booties and diapers firmly on.
Early this season, rumors were swirling that Toronto GM John Ferguson was shopping Domi and his 2 million dollar per year salary (on pace for 7 goals, 24 points, and 220 penalty minutes - for those keeping score, that's 286,000$ per goal, 83,333$ per point, or 9100$ per minute.) Ferguson obviously believed that, for what Domi was costing the club, they were not getting nearly enough of an investment. Someone one day made the mistake of telling Domi he was a skilled hockey player, and the slide has been noticeable ever since. Upon hearing the rumors, Domi instantly said that if indeed he were traded, he would instantly retire thus, obviously, quashing any hopes of getting anything worthwhile in return for him. Laraque is guilty of much the same crime - he has been a healthy scratch several times in Edmonton this year, and has not played up to snuff. With trade rumors swirling, particularly to the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, he went on to say in his periodic column on RDS.ca that if he were traded, he would stop fighting. Period. He would refuse to drop the gloves, knowing full well that its his meal ticket in this league. Each one of these players claim their "love for the city" and "desire to do everything they can to make this a championship team." Personally, it seems more to me that they are spoiled brats in the bodies of grown men.
As much as I would like to appreciate the fact that they have an innate desire to bring a championship to their respective cities, Laraque and Domi have to remember something. This is a business players get traded, sometimes when they truly don't want to be. What cuts the wheat from the chaffe, and the true professionals from the also-rans, is the willingness to accept this aspect of the life and career they have chosen. They can attempt to string an emotional tune, quoting lines of loyalty to their squad, but the truth is that as much as they want to help win a Cup, its obvious the organizations don't feel they can help. Last I checked, it was the general manager who ran the team - and not the players. Domi and Laraque like their cities, and don't want to move. That is understandable but to have a temper tantrum, stick your jaw out while stamping your foot and saying "No!" with your arms folded across your chest makes you less a man, and more an indignant child. Why don't you pout a little more Tie, I don't truly believe you want to stay in the Big Smoke. While there is no outright solution (if there was, each team would have done it by now I'm sure), it would be ideal for my cynical mind to see them each traded to a bottom of the barrel team for future considerations, or a 9th round draft pick. Perhaps I am too spiteful but I'm also a firm believer that children who misbehave need to be punished.
My two minutes are up. I'm out of the box.
First off, my utmost apologies for the lack of a column for the past couple of weeks - due to some fairly serious health problems that occurred, combined with catching up on the work I missed during that time, my column had to take a back burner. Apologies also to the people who sent me emails during that time discussing the column - I try to be diligent at replying, but sometimes the time just isn't there!
It looks like, at current pace, 5 of the 6 Canadian teams are going to be making the post-season (sorry Oiler fans, looks like years of trading away your established talent for questions marks has finally caught up with you.) With the remaining five teams gearing up for a playoff stretch run, I decided to take this opportunity to write my views on what each of these teams need to look at in order to properly position themselves to be a viable contender in the drive for the Cup.
CALGARY FLAMES : Although the emergence of Shean Donovan and Matthew Lombardi as legitimate scoring threats on a Flames team that desperately needs offence has helped them thus far, they still need more depth in that area. Craig Conroy isn't having a great season, though it isn't horrid either, and Dean McAmmond hasn't been playing as well as hoped. The ongoing talks of a trade with Montreal, swapping Denis Gauthier for Yanic Perrault would be a good idea it would bring faceoff strength to a team that could use it, as well as Perrault's above-average playmaking abilities, while not overly depleting Calgary's already deep blueline. In regards to goaltending, Roman Turek has to go - regardless of the return, they should shop this guy for whatever they can get in order to free up some money to acquire more scoring talent. I believe that McLennan and Kiprusoff can carry the load, even in the post-season.
MONTREAL CANADIENS : Size, size, and more size. With the amazing seasons of Michael Ryder, Mike Ribiero and Pierre Dagenais, offence doesn't seem to be as big of a problem for the tricolore this season. Jose Theodore is making another bid as a Vezina candidate, and Sheldon Souray is having a career year. However, they still are in need of someone who has a large body, and isn't afraid to throw it around. Jeff O'Neill in Carolina screams at me like a jet engine for this - he would be a perfect fit, adding grit, scoring, and speed to the Canadiens. Size on the backend couldn't hurt either - while Souray and Rivet aren't small guys, they're not going to clear the front of the net with the effectiveness they need. Todd Simpson would have been a good option, but that boat has sailed. If they can pull off the aforementioned swap with Calgary, they put themselves in a far better position on all counts.
OTTAWA SENATORS : Is there anything that this team REALLY needs? I don't think so and before anyone begins to think about Patrick Lalime, forget it. He's having a bad patch during the season, but he is still one of the leagues elite goaltenders, and is not going anywhere - Ottawa won't touch another goaltender, I can promise you that. The Sens can definitely use more grit on the forward lines though - with the loss of Vaclav Varada, they can definitely use someone who isn't afraid to get in the oppositions face and make them look over their shoulder at any given moment in the game. Sean Avery out of LA seems the most likely option. Georges Laraque is not going to be moved - not to Ottawa, not to anywhere. He stated on his weekly column on RDS.CA that if he were traded, he would refuse to fight. Almost as bad as much of a crybaby as Tie Domi's statement that if traded he would instantly retire but that's a whole new column on its own maybe next week.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS : The Leafs need to get healthy before anything else if they can get all their players healthy at once for the playoffs, they boast 3 lines that can legitimately score goals (Roberts/Sundin/Mogilny, Ponikarovsky/Nieuwendyk/Antropov, Renberg/Tucker/Nolan), and one line that can be effective defensively (Stajan/Reichel/Fitzgerald). I know Domi is missing here, and I've done that purposely - personally, I don't want him to play. Perrott is also left out and as such, there is a distinct lack of fighting muscle in this lineup. That just goes to show the diversity Toronto will have to choose from in any given situation though the trade deadline will most likely change that scenario. What the Leafs do need is depth on defence - frankly, the Leafs are not going to win the Stanley Cup with Aki Berg as #4 on the depth chart, regardless of how well he is playing sans Jyrki Through-Me I mean Lumme. In a perfect world, the Leafs would be able to swing a package together for a guy like Mattias Norstrom - the stay at home stalwart they need to seriously contend. However, rumors have it they are looking at Sergei Gonchar. This isn't the answer, though he can't hurt, he won't really add either a move sideways rather than a move forward, since his increased ice time will negatively affect the play of Bryan McCabe.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS : Second line scoring depth! Calling Brian Burke - Alexei Zhamnov is only going to help your club, and looking at Olaf Kolzig wouldn't kill you either. Zhamnov would be dynamic up the middle, though a guy like Jeff O'Neill would be nothing but good for the Sedin twins to play with, especially in light of Magnus Arvedson's recent injury woes. Olaf Kolzig would also be a guy who would be worth inquiring about, and paying a substantial price for - Kolzig is everything that Dan Cloutier is not; a Vezina trophy winner, an elite #1 goaltender, and a guy who has backstopped a team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Don't get me wrong, Cloutier is a good goalie but he isn't going to carry a team through the post-season. Not yet anyways.
Sean Burke is going to become a Philadelphia Flyer - of this I am certain, as well as most of the hockey community. With Jeff Hackett just waiting for documentation guaranteeing him his salary for the remainder of the year, he is set to retire at any moment, thus clearing the way for Burke to enter the fold. Rumor has it that Mike Comrie will be the central figure going the other way, though this will obviously bring on the addition of other players and/or picks to the deal. Dennis Seidenberg and Branko Radivojevic are the likely players to be thrown in for Philly and Phoenix respectively. This deal would definitely bring in an established number one goaltender to the Flyers, and will make them a bonafide contender the big question mark is Burke's health. Can he stay healthy playing in a rough and tumble environment like the Flyers? Burke gets injured with frightening consistency, and playing in a more rugged and physical Eastern conference is not going to help that. If he stays healthy, watch out for Philly. If not, chalk up another deadline gaffe to Bobby Clarke.
As I've been writing this article, Eric Weinrich has been dealt to the St. Louis Blues, apparently for a 5th round draft pick. If this is any indication of what the trade deadline will bring us this year, its going to be a very weird time - Weinrich is a top four defenceman, who can log 20 minutes a night. Sure, he doesn't have a lot of offensive upside, but he's a defenceman and he does his job well. To sell him off for a 5th round pick is scary, and an obvious salary dump to bring in Burke the Flyers could have gotten at LEAST a 3rd rounder.
With Philadelphia having all but won the Sean Burke Sweepstakes, what ever are the New York Rangers to do? Glen Sather is vocally and admittedly unhappy with the play of Mike Dunham, and is now shopping for a netminder. Reports say he is talking to Minnesota about Manny Fernandez, but one has to wonder if this is a good move it seems more a change for the sake of change, as Fernandez has undoubtedly benefited from the Wild's trap defence. If I were Sather, I'd be looking in the direction of Calgary's Roman Turek, and Edmonton's Tommy Salo - each are underachievers who would fit in very well with the rest of the Rangers, but most importantly these are guys who have shone in parts of their career, and can hopefully do it again.
Funny how the firesale talks in Washinton have died right down! A few weeks back, Peter Bondra was practically house hunting in Ottawa, Sergei Gonchar was learning his way around the Eaton Centre in Toronto, and Robert Lang was buying a bulletproof vest for the walk to his car in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit (I know, cheap shot at Detroit, but I just had to.) Yet none of these deals have yet to happen, and haven't even been talked about in quite some time! Makes you wonder how much the media really DOES blow these things out of proportion.
So Don Cherry is going to be on a 7 second tape delay from now on? There are a lot of questions that stem from this, but none more important than the following :
Not so much about the delay - I think its ridiculous I absolutely love tuning in to Coaches Corner at the first intermission, and listen to Don's take on the current events in the world of hockey. Yes, he made a comment about European and French players being the ones predominantly wearing visors, and who are participating in most of the illegal stick work that has been plaguing the NHL. Fact of the matter is that a lot of what he is saying is true. Visors is a moot point you wear one, you don't wear one, its your choice its like forcing a goalie to wear a throat protector, which no one says a word about. Its an amusing situation, because the gravity of a skate blade to the throat is far greater than a stick in the eye (if Clint Malarchuk taught us one thing, that was it - cheers to all those paramedics who saved his life on the ice that night in Buffalo). Again, though, that is another column. What bothers me the most about this situation is the overly sensitive special interest groups that have gotten involved in this - particularly, but not surprisingly, some abstract member of the federal government who is of the French community. Federal minister Denis Coderre (stop me if you have ANY idea who he is no one? Ok good ) was quoted as saying ``Frankly, I think when you're talking about ethnicity all the time and calling French men wimps, it's unacceptable. Its time for Don Cherry to stop pushing French Canadians around."
Ladies and Gentlemen, doesn't it make you warm and fuzzy to live in a country where your tax dollars are paying for some insignificant member of Commons to get on his soap box and cry bloody murder about his poor and oppressed French countrymen at the hands of the tyrannical media juggernaut that IS Don Cherry? And of course this wouldn't be at all a blatant attempt to get Monsieur Coderre's name in the news even though his mother probably wouldn't even recognize his name on a ballot. Its Canada's latest political bandwagon - jump on, condemn the bigot and appear that much more politically correct to your constituents as you overpay yourselves for making little to no progress at improving our country on any level. As a half French Canadian myself who speaks the language and is fairly familiar with its history, I find Don Cherry to be absolutely hilarious - you take his comments with a grain of salt and while it is true that most anyone else would be fired for his comments, he is not just some guy. Don Cherry is an icon in the hockey community, and Canada itself. He tells it like it is - something not many people do anymore. He's been around longer than any of those politicians who condemn him, and loves this country and his heritage tenfold to their own I heartily await to see Denis Coderre shed a tear for Canadian soldiers that lose their lives on peace keeping missions, like Cherry has on live television. Let him say what he has to say.
My two minutes are up. I'm out of the box.
The Maple Leafs were a Cinderella story a month ago. They were beating the elite teams, getting stellar performances every night, with new guys stepping up their game when it was needed, and causing every urban planner in the city to bid for the honor of planning the Stanley Cup parade route. The Leafs are still a Cinderella story - but midnight struck around two weeks ago, and the golden carriage has once again become the pumpkin. They have gotten rocked by the Philadelphia Flyers in each of their meetings, being outscored 15-2 in their three contests this season. They have lost four of their past five games, and have been outscored 16-2 in those four games. Suffice it to say, the blue and white are going to have to do something and do something soon. The question is what is the need? The off the cuff answer would be the coveted "stud defenceman" everyone keeps talking about. While there aren't any available at the moment by trade or free agency, the Leafs already have their stud; look no further than Bryan McCabe. He's logging nearly 30 minutes of ice-time per night, is on the ice in all situations, and is sixth in league scoring by defencemen even after missing 7 games at the beginning of the season with a knee injury. Perhaps another scoring forward, then? That won't do it with Sundin, Mogilny, Roberts, Nolan and Nieuwendyk already on board, it would be nice, but not a necessity. A rugged. stay-at-home defenceman? That would be a great addition, but with the exception of Vitaly Vishnevski in Anaheim, there isn't much. I believe that I have the answer to this question. What we need is a tool. A Hammer. Actually, we need THE Hammer.
We need Roman Hamrlik.
A former number one overall pick, a bonafide number one defenceman, he brings all three of those elements to the ice. He can log 25 minutes a night. He has a nasty streak and can clear the front of the net. He has a booming point shot, and can contribute offensively. With the Islanders struggling recently, and their two biggest point producers on the IR, a trade may be needed. What can we offer? I would have to say that we could put together a package of Nik Antropov, Matt Stajan, and Ric Jackman. One would argue that we're mortgaging our future with this and in part, yes, we are... but not as much as you think. Antropov is a china doll, and in my opinion doesn't have the tools to be the offensive force everyone makes him out to be. Stajan will be a great two-way centre one day, and his loss would be the one we'd feel the most. Jackman will be a utility defenceman for his career though he has shown flashes of brilliance, and why he was drafted fifth overall in 1996 by Dallas, he is greatly inconsistent. Whether this would happen or not remains to be seen, but in my world, it's the move I'd make. John Ferguson wants to make a deal to put his mark on this team and this would be a blockbuster.
* * *
It looks like Jeff O'Neill is going to be the trophy catch at this year's trade deadline.
With Carolina playing absolutely abysmal hockey, and O'Neill struggling immensely with only 8 goals (3 of which have come since word spread that he might be on the block - showcasing himself to get far away from Tobacco Road perhaps?), it is hardly surprising to find them trying to move their third highest salary at 3.7 million - and why not? Teams are going to line up to grab this guy for the post season. He's a top line sniper, with a lethal shot, size to spare, and speed to burn. I'd look for the Flyers to make a push for him, offering Simon Gagne if they don't move him for a new goaltender. I'd also look at the Montreal Canadiens to consider making a push for him - it addresses their need for size up front, and a genuine scoring threat. As far as trade bait, I wouldn't be surprised to see a high round draft pick, and a guy like Joe Juneau or Yanic Perrault. As a Leaf fan, I would love to see him flying down a wing with Nieuwendyk and Nolan beside him. Package him back up with Glen Wesley, and I could see the Leafs landing him for Tucker, Antropov, and a mid round draft pick (3rd - 5th round).
The Devils are rumored to be offering winger Grant Marshall and prospect goaltender Ari Ahonen to the Calgary Flames in exchange for centre Craig Conroy. If I were the Devils, I wouldn't be making this move. Not so much for Marshall, but Ahonen is the future of Devils goaltending, and the insurance policy for years to come when Brodeur's days are over. The Flames already have a logjam of goalies right now, they don't need more and I don't think Conroy is worth that kind of return. If the Devils are desperate, watch the Oilers if they aren't playoff bound, they'll be able to get Adam Oates for next to nothing.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Leafs have an interest again in Sergei Gonchar. Although it would be fantastic to see him and Ken Klee reunited on the Toronto blue line, don't hold your breath. The Leafs have more pressing needs than an offensive d-man with the worst plus-minus in the NHL, and Washington is going to expect a big return if they let go of one of their most popular players especially if the stories of Olaf Kolzig being shopped are true.
The Ottawa Sun is also reporting that a deal between the Senators and Oilers for Georges Laraque, widely renowned as the best fighter in the NHL, is nearing completion. This would definitely be a boon to the Senators - after losing Vaclav Varada for the season, and not having the Rob Ray factor from last year, he would be an asset. Are the Sens preparing themselves for a possible series against the Leafs by adding toughness? It wouldn't surprise me, though I'm curious as to who or what was going the other way.
As the trade deadline approaches, names have started creeping up into the rumor mill. Sergei Zubov and Richard Matvichuk are rumored to be available from the Dallas Stars, along with Alexei Zhitnik of the Buffalo Sabres. Kristian Huselius has been rumored to be available from Florida, along with Georges Laraque in Edmonton and Alexei Zhamnov in Chicago. I believe the most covted catch will be Eric Brewer of the Edmonton Oilers if he is made available, it will be a veritable feeding frenzy. It will be interesting to see how things progress before then.
* * *
What is it that you think of when you hear the name Jeremy Roenick?
Personally, I think arrogance, dirty play, and Patrick Roy's classic comment in the 1996 playoffs ("I can't hear him. My two Stanley Cup rings are clogging my ears." - still a gem.) So is it any surprise that, after getting clipped with a second high stick for the second time that night (ok, ok, the first one was from his own teammate), that he spits blood from his gashed lip at referee Blaine Angus, and then throws a water bottle at him from across the ice? Not really. The call should have been made, and Angus blew it, which is quickly becoming the trend in todays NHL. The more high sticks there are, the fewer are being called. More of note is Roenick's off-ice media rants - slamming the officials and the league itself for its poor quality officiating directly after the game, then attacking commissioner Gary Bettman directly the next day saying :
""He forgot that the NHL merged with the WWF and we hide razor blades in our pockets and cut ourselves so we can get calls. I'm just surprised that you can get fined $91,000 for throwing a water bottle on the ice. It's like fining Gary Bettman for all those lies about the collective bargaining agreement coming. He throws those around like they're candy. The NHLPA should fine him for those."
I guess there is only one thing I can really say to this kind of behaviour
Its about time.
Now I do not condone Roenick's actions at all - in fact, I find it to be more than a little ironic that he is screaming and yelling about high sticks when my most vivid memory of him was his "accidental high stick" on Alexander Mogilny in last years playoffs, after Mogilny was singlehandedly dismantling the Flyers defence. Watching the replay a few times, that was anything but accidental. That, however, is just irony juxtaposition if you will. The fact remains, though, that the officiating in the NHL has become not just bad, but dangerous. Owen Nolan came within an inch of becoming a Bryan Berard replay, and though he probably should be wearing a visor, there was still no call on the play. There is not a game out there anymore where there isn't a plethora of stick work, almost entirely done by players who would never drop the gloves (and yet another reason to drop the instigator rule). The fact of the matter is that until now, no one said a word. No one called bluffs, and told it how it was. As a fan, I don't want to hear these contrived notions about the CBA, about the officiating, about the financial situations of teams. In laymans terms, don't feed us cow manure and call it chocolate ice cream. Just because our annual salary doesn't equal the sum total of the GDP of some small countries, we aren't stupid people. I personally am glad that Roenick stood up and said the things he said - the time is now for the players to be honest, and to tell it like it is. Officials should be accountable for their actions, and I want to see THAT in the media. Forget reporting that JR had a disciplinary meeting with Colin Campbell - we know that's going to happen. What I want to hear about is that Blaine Angus had a disciplinary meeting with Andy Van Hellemond. I want to see Blaine Angus in the media scrum after a game, being grilled by reporters and having his answers repeated on SportsCentre at 6 and 11pm. As fans, we don't deserve anything less than the truth - and at least for one fleeting moment, that's what Mr. Roenick gave us.
My two minutes are up. I'm out of the box.
First of all, I'd like to welcome you to the first of what should be several editions of "Two Minutes For Instigating". Every week, I'll be taking a look at one or several of the significant occurrences or issues that has befallen the NHL, as well as a look at the more significant trades and rumors of the week. So without further adieu, I welcome you!
The goaltending situation in Phoenix is perhaps the most intriguing of the NHL (many would contest Detroit, but I disagree - its too dragged out now), and yet I find it intensely amusing. With Brian Boucher setting a new modern day NHL record w/ 5 consecutive shutouts between the pipes (and at time of writing this column, still going), there is now renewed and heated talks that Sean Burke will be on his way out of Phoenix soon and that the number one goalie position has just been usurped. This is a possibility, but is a good decision? I have to say no. While Boucher has played very well during this string of games, and made some dazzling saves, it would be a complete folly to hand him the starting job at this point in the season. Right now, the Coyotes hold that final, and very tenuous, playoff spot in the Western Conference, with the likes of Dallas and Minnesota nipping at their heels. With a very tentative hold on a playoff spot, would it be wise to ship out Sean Burke, an established starting goaltender who was nominated for a Vezina just 2 seasons ago, based on the performance of a goalie who is known for his streaky nature? This is not to take away from Boucher, his play has been more than impressive, but I still don't think he has what it takes to be a reliable starting netminder in the NHL and if Mr. Gretzky wants to keep that net loss at the end of the season as small as possible, he'd be well suited to play a few home playoff games. However, if Boucher can keep up his play and replicate his playoff run w/ the Flyers from a few years back, Burke may yield a solid return at the deadline that time is just not now.
I have to take a minute here and refer to one rumor I heard concerning the Rangers looking for an experienced blueliner. This rumor came from none other than Larry Brooks, the hockey writing industry's answer to a question no one asked. First off, there are very few teams in the NHL who aren't looking for help on the blue line. Secondly, and the most shocking, was that he quoted Dmitry Yushkevich as a possibility. Now I may not be a well-respected member of the sports journalism community, nor do I have the in-depth contacts that the professionals do, but if Brooks actually did his homework he would know that Yushkevich has already played 10 games for Yaroslavl in his native Russia, and therefore is no longer eligible to play in the NHL this season. If the Rangers want veteran defencemen, try taking a look at Roman Hamrlik and Eric Cairns of the Islanders, Richard Matvichuk and Sergei Zubov of the Dallas Stars, or Chris Therien from the Flyers (who, incidentally, could have been had at the waiver draft for free, just like Boucher).
I hear so many rumors in a week, and some of them just jump out at me. One rumor that I heard about on the Satellite Hotstove is one of those - the move of Alexei Zhamnov to Tampa Bay. This may seem like a good move on the surface, as Tampa is fairly shallow at centre but Zhamnov is a scoring centre, and the Lightning already sit fairly well equipped at that position with Vincent LeCavalier and Brad Richards. If the Lightning want depth at centre, they should look at a checking line forward - the likes of Sean Avery in LA, Tyson Nash in Phoenix, or Kevyn Adams in Carolina.
Another rumor I heard on SHS was the clause in Sergei Fedorov's contract with the Mighty Ducks that states if he so desires, he can dissolve the remaining years on his contract at the end of this season and become a UFA if he so desires. While this is true, the idea that he'd go back to Detroit is way out in the weeds. Pavel Datsyuk has fully blossomed into the scoring machine many expected of him, and Kris Draper is on pace for a 30 goal season - the Red Wings are fully stocked at centre. It will be interesting to see how it turns out though it all revolves around the new CBA, and if he wants to abolish an 8 million dollar contract when he could get FAR less than that on the open market if a salary cap is put in place.
A persisting rumor that keeps popping out is Yanic Perrault going to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Denis Gauthier. I can't see this happening, because it doesn't address the Habs number one concern - size up front! While Michael Ryder, Mike Ribiero and Pierre Dagenais have stepped up their game to add additional scoring, the Canadiens are still a small team. While Gauthier would help, he wouldn't help the area that needs it most.
Lastly, I want to talk about an article I read in the Toronto Sun this morning by Sun Media that quotes Avalanche winger Teemu Selanne with saying he "hates NHL hockey". The articles quotes Selanne's interview with Finnish magazine Kiekkolehti as saying "This is horrible. Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and I have talked about it and come to the conclusion that this does not make any sense," He also goes on to say that "While having lunch (Jan. 2 in Vancouver), we talked about how sorry we feel about the guys coming into this league. You cannot enjoy this anymore." Now call me a bit cynical, but I work 40 hours a week sitting behind a computer. I don't exactly get a ton of exhilaration from my job, but I still do my job and don't complain at the water cooler so where does a hockey player, making several million dollars per year, get off complaining that he isn't having fun anymore? Sakic, Forsberg and Selanne make a combined salary of nearly 27 million dollars for eight months "work" (if you can call playing a game work), they make more money than I think the entire floor of staff will make in their lifetime. Don't talk about how you feel sorry for the kids coming up into the league, they're still playing the game they love, and being paid incredible amounts of money to do it. Professional athletes have completely lost touch with reality, and forget they live a lifestyle that is only a fantasy to 99.9% of the population. This could not have been put better when Alexei Kovalev was on the much-used Penguin trading block last season when asked why he wouldn't stay in Pittsburgh for less money (roughly 4-5 million per year), he responded "I have a right to feed my family, don't I?" Yes, Alexei, you do if your family is all of Russia! The bottom line is that Selanne is just another overpaid player, blaming his declining skills on the evolution of the game. Once known as the Finnish Flash, Selanne is now more like a Finnish Fizzle. The truly great players in the game the Forsbergs, Sakics, Sundins and Hossa's can all still declare residency in the NHL scoring leaders, though the numbers may not be as high. Selanne can't because, frankly, he's not as good as he once was. So stop complaining, and try elevating your game, instead of whining to the papers like a cry baby prima donna.
Those are my two minutes. I'm out of the box.
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