Friday, February 29, 2008

Heavy hearts in Windsor as the Spitfires return to action

The Windsor Spitfires resumed their OHL season on Thursday night, ten days after the tragic passing of the team's captain Mickey Renaud.

The last week and a bit has been a hard one for the players, management and fans of the team, as they all tried to come to terms with death of the popular captain, who collapsed at his Tecumseh home and never recovered.

The Windsor area resident was laid to rest last Friday afternoon, as hundreds of mourners paying their respects for the hockey player who held a special place in his hometown as someone who was quite involved with community activities.

Thursday night marked the final public act of the grieving process for their captain. With some of Renaud's family members and friends on hand for the night, a celebration of Renaud's life took place in the pre game skates as both the Spitfires and opposition Belleville Bulls wore special hockey warm up sweaters with Renaud's number 18 prominently displayed.

Prior to the ceremonial face off, the Bulls turned over their uniforms to the Spitfires, while the Spitfires one by one also took off their jersey's and placed them as centre ice.

It was an emotional scene for the sell out crowd at the Windsor Arena, many of whom were dressed in red in tribute as was requested by the Spitfires management.

At the face off, the Belleville Bulls sent out Keaton Turkiewicz, a former Spitfire. Windsor sent out no one, indicative of a player that can never be replaced. The puck was then presented to Renaud's brother Remy, handed over by the longest serving Spitfire Bradley Snetsinger.

The Spitfires who have been through much in the last ten days, will now try to turn their attention back to hockey, a hard enough challenge at the best of times but now made a little harder by the passing of one of their character players and one of the most popular of Spitfires to play in Windsor.

With a little help from their loyal fan base, they'll find a way to make the journey together. Which is the way it should be.

Windsor Star--Windsor fans bid tearful farewell to late captain
The Canadian Press--Spitfires pay tribute to Renaud
Windsor Star--Renaud's spirit lives on

13 shifts in as a Pen and Hossa may be done for the week

The Pittsburgh Penguins showed off their shiny new additions on Thursday night in Boston.
Having given up the most on trading day, and for some too much, the Penguins were anxious to see how former Atlanta Thrasher Marian Hossa was going to fit in with his new team mates.

As things turned out, they’ll have to wait a little bit longer now to see where it’s best to play Hossa, who he lines up with the best and to begin to benefit from his well known scoring touch.

Hossa was done for the night after ten minutes and twelve seconds of ice time; thirteen shifts were all that he would participate in after a knee on knee collision with Boston’s Glen Murray. The inadvertent collision sent Hossa to the dressing room for the rest of the game with a strained MCL in his right knee and now will see him heading for the MRI machine on Friday; the early prognosis was for at least a one week break before he will be expected back in the line up.

While Hossa was being looked over in the dressing room, his new team mates were being worked over to a degree back on the ice.

The Bruins took the play to the Penguins early on in the game and found that Pens goaltender Ty Conklin wasn’t going to have a particularly stellar night. The two early Bruin goals were both the type that Conklin no doubt wishes he could have back, seemingly caught by surprise on both of the Bruin markers.

Continuing to struggle with the puck after the two quick Bruin goals, he eventually would be replaced by Marc Andre Fleury when Conklin surrendered the third goal of the evening. Fleury was making his first appearance in a Penguin uniform since December 6th and was fairly reliable in the nets, though he two was victimized for two goals by the Pens, though his stats of 16 saves on 18 shots at least provides a bit of good news for the Pens who were wondering how he would bounce back after such a lengthy absence.

The Bruins though were full value for their 5-1 victory; they played like the Bruins of old, hard nosed, refusing to back down in the corners and generating many scoring chances by hard work and hustle.

General Manager Peter Chiarelli made no moves on deadline day, seemingly happy with his assembled crew, who have slowly begun to reward both he and head coach Claude Julien for their patience, with some impressive play in all parts of the game.

The Pens who believe they now have the necessary pieces in place to make a run for the Stanley Cup, will once again have to tread a little water, as they have through the Sidney Crosby injury.

The original plan when the Penguins picked up Hossa was to have him join up with Crosby on what would on paper be a very productive pairing. Now with both injured, the only way they’ll be getting in synch is when they take time on the rehab table getting their various maladies taken care of.

Globe and Mail--Penguins suffer double loss
National Post--Sturm lifts Bruins; Penguins' Hossa injured
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review--Penguins lose game, Hossa to injury
Pittsburgh Post Gazette--Hossa hurt; Penguins lose

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Well I think that went well, didn’t it?

A few years back Rick Mercer starred in a fine Canadian Television program called “Made in Canada”. The way that each episode would end and the catch words that the show became known for, featured Mercer turning to the camera and uttering the now famous “I think that went well!”, usually after the latest debacle that came to pass at Pyramid productions unraveled.

Well if they ever get around to featuring a hockey team in the lead role of a similar style of comedy, perhaps Bryan Murray could take a screen test, because if anyone could understand how things can unravel, it’s going to be the new head coach, GM and babysitter of the Ottawa Senators.

A little over 24 hours after Murray dismissed John Paddock from his job behind the Senators bench, Murray found out first hand just how much frustration Paddock must have endured as the stable of well paid hockey players once again found ways to lose, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers.

With Murray once again behind the bench, it had been hoped that the shock therapy would spur the Sens on to the form they first exhibited at the start of the season. Instead after a rather physical bit of sport in Philadelphia, it was physical therapy that the Sens required as a number of Ottawa’s players found themselves on the receiving end of hits, shoves and punches.

Things got so bad for Ottawa that at one point even Flyers goaltender Martin Biron was throwing his weight around, shoving Jason Spezza after the Senators finally had a goal to show for three consecutive games of work. Biron who took exception to Spezza’s celebration, shoved him twice once in the back and again in the chest, a push that set off a small skirmish which much to the anger of Bryan Murray found Spezza kicked out of the game.

The Senators woes continued on the injury front as well on Thursday night, as Anton Volchenkov was forced from the game in the second period after he suffered a bruised chest after blocking a shot.

For his return while he would have preferred a win and a few more goals, Murray said he was happy with the Senators effort, found goaltender Ray Emery to be sharp and focused. The Senators at least seemed more engaged in Thursday nights game, as opposed to the previous two embarrassments, which eventually cost Paddock his job.

Murray’s work is just underway now to try and find a way to have the Sens regain their early winning ways of October and November. The debut effort however, provided much the same result that has troubled this team for the last two months.

The loss was the Sens seventh in nine games and the fifteenth losing effort in twenty two, a trend which would put them in dire straits as far as repeating as Eastern Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup.

Philadelphia Inquirer--Flyers win 2d in a row

The million dollar shots!

Darwin Head, who by now is most likely the most popular sawmill worker in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan put on a pretty amazing display Wednesday night as he captured the Chevrolet Million Dollar Shootout broadcast live on TSN from GM Place in Vancouver.

Darwin was the lucky one chosen from over 8.6 million entries and was flown to Vancouver to take his shot during the Canucks/Avalanche game Wednesday night.

Standing on the far blue line, he managed to finesse fifteen of his 20 available pucks into the far end net within the required 24 seconds, a feat good enough to win him one million dollars. Prior to his million dollar success, Head and two friends, Lance Badger and Randy Bout, each won Chevy Malibu hybrid cars when they easily put 15 pucks in from centre ice. They're good luck also gave a fan in the audience at GM Place his own Chevy simply by being in the right place at the right time.

Darwin had practiced for the last couple of weeks back home in Prince Albert, braving the cold Saskatchewan air to put in his practice shots on an outdoor rink. When he arrived in Vancouver he picked up a few hints from Bobby Orr, who is a spokesperson/goodwill ambassador for GM and who is the face of the Chevy Million Dollar Shootout.

Head, who as a boy grew up and played hockey on the Mistawasis First Nation reserve just outside of Prince Albert, found that those old skills didn't desert him. With the crowd clearly on his side he managed to sneak goal number fifteen into the net just before the time had expired.

The lifetime Saskatchewan resident says he has no plans to quit his job and will pay off his house and take care of his family with his winnings. With a success rate of 15 for 20, he might want to see if there is some interest in his skills with some NHL teams, at 35 he might have a few more years left in the tank to put some of that touch to work.

At a million dollars for this year, he's already ahead of more than a few third or fourth line NHLers who can't claim fifteen goals to their name, even goals shot into an empty net...

Saskatoon Star Phoenix--Sask. man wins $1m in hockey shootout at Vancouver Canucks game
Winnipeg Sun--Shooter has a million reasons to smile
ESPN--Sawmill worker wins $1 million, car in contest at game
Vancouver Province--Saskatchewan sawmiller on target for million-dollar shootout
TSN--Head wins $1 Million shootout grand prize

Missed opportunities may haunt Canucks

They’re not very jolly, because there is no Olli!
Some are despairing, after losing out on Marian.
And with not enough to offer for Brad,
Vancouver fans were left more than a little sad.

The lack of action by the Canucks as the trade deadline arrived on Tuesday has the loyal Canuck fans a little concerned over the playoff aspirations of their favourite team.

While the Western Division seemed to retool for the playoff run, the Canucks put down their trading tools and decided that no renovations were really required. With the exception of an exchange of Matts, the Canucks seem to have decided that the foundation of Roberto Luongo was strong, and that the current design to the Canuck blue print is more than enough to make a run come the spring.

That is of course, providing they can battle their way into the playoffs, a challenge that may be a little harder now that Colorado, San Jose and Dallas have strengthened their line ups and primed themselves for run on the playoff spots.

The Canucks reportedly had tried to land either Richards or Jokinnen, but with both teams looking for a goaltender the Canucks found themselves on the outside looking in as Richards moved on to Dallas and Jokinnen just sat around Miami ready to resume his duties with the Panthers.

The one deal that Dave Nonis did negotiate was more of a housekeeping measure, reducing some cap space and eliminating a player in Matt Cooke who probably wasn’t coming back after this season anyways. While Matt Pettinger is no doubt glad to be back in his BC home, and will provide some grit and youth to the line up, he’s about 43 goals short of the caliber of player that the fans of the Canucks had begun to believe that they needed.

The Canucks for the most part will head into the stretch drive and a hopeful playoff appearance with much the same line up that they went into the playoffs last year with.

Counting on Roberto Luongo to do his part is probably a safe bet for Nonis, but he certainly could have made the task a little easier had he been able to bring in that extra scoring threat that Vancouver always seems to be short of.

Nonis said that he likes the make up of his team and felt confident in them as the playoffs beckon, time will be short before the fan base will be able to say if they share in that confidence.
Vancouver Province--Are the Canucks cooked?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pushed panic button pushes Paddock out the door!

After two consecutive lack luster efforts and a continuing slide that threatens to undermine all of Senator’s owner Eugene Melynk’s plans, the Ottawa Senators decided that with only 18 games left to stabilize their ship that the navigator had to be tossed overboard.

General Manager Bryan Murray dismissed his hand picked successor and Assistant Coach Ron Low on Wednesday, after watching the Sens impression of non contact public skating on Tuesday from Boston.

Murray the architect of this edition of the Sens, was unable to swing a major deal by the trade deadline and instead was left with the less than desired option of having to fire his coach in order to spark the sliding Senators.

Part of the blame must surely be assigned to Murray, who has let the goaltending situation fester for the last three months, a lack of action that now leaves Ottawa heading towards the playoffs with no discernible number one in the nets, and more alarming a pair of goaltenders that seem to have no confidence left.

It’s a trait that suddenly seems to have spread to the rest of the line up, as the Senators make far too many errors for a seasoned veteran club, turning over the puck in their own end, allowing the opposition to carry the play and most alarming of all the Sens have hit a scoring drought of worrisome proportions.

Paddock, the former assistant coach under Murray and the once head coach of the farm club was hung out to dry by his players. He was a straight talking coach, one who was not afraid to speak his mind, and in an era of the entitled athlete that apparently wasn’t what a coach should do.

A few weeks ago, when asked about the troubles that his goaltenders seemed to be having, his answer was that they “need to stop the puck.” A simple and obvious statement, that apparently didn’t sit too well with either martin Gerber or Ray Emery, who both had reportedly asked to be traded in the last couple of months.

Emery has been a skating sideshow for a good portion of the season, missing practices, missing flights and showing a lack of focus on his team and team mates that has surely had to have been a distraction.

Gerber, who had been fairly successful early on in the season, now seems challenged to stop a beach ball let alone stone the opposition on a nightly basis. Frustrated with Paddock’s win and you play system both he and Emery seemed at times to be unconcerned as to whether they played or not. One thing was certain, the win and you play plan never seemed to gain much in the way of traction, as the two alternated games for a good portion of January and February.

Murray had the option to solve that problem before Christmas, before the soap opera theatrics got out of hand and before the potential alternatives were snapped up. The Phoenix Coyotes managed to find a pretty successful option in the nets off the waiver wire, something that the Sens GM somehow managed to let slide by without so much as phone call.

Interestingly enough Murray says that he first began to worry about his team just before Christmas, but yet did nothing to try to reverse what was becoming a rather troublesome dynamic in the capital.

The Sens problems now however go much deeper than the troubled situation in the nets, defensively the team looks like it would be hard pressed to shut down a minor bantam squad on a good night.

And unless the high profile and formerly high scoring forwards on this team rediscover their scoring touch, then the playoffs will be a short and unhappy period of time for this group of Senators.

Paddock paid the price today for this teams inability to focus on the job at hand, but if Murray really wants to find out where the problems were he needs to have his players find a mirror and take a good long look.

Globe and Mail--Paddock pays the price

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Before the Buzzer went

Sixty minutes of phone calls, faxes and e mails before silence descends on the NHL’s rumour mill for this season.

The Rangers make their first entry to the days events working with a familiar old Ranger in John Davidson to work out a deal with St. Louis, that brings Christian Backman to Broadway for a draft pick in the fourth round of this years draft.

TSN— Rangers acquire Backman from Blues
Sportsnet— Blues ship Backman to Rangers for pick

The leafs move another player off the roster sending Hal Gill to Pittsburgh as Cliff Fletcher collects more draft picks for his successor, this time the Leafs receive a 2nd and 5th round selection.

TSN— Leafs send defenceman Gill to Penguins
Sportsnet— Leafs deal Gill to Penguins

As the clock ticks its final minutes the Hossa sweepstakes come to an end, as the Thrashers and the Penguins strike a deal which sends Marian Hossa to the Pens with Pascal DePuis, Atlanta receives Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first round pick in return.

TSN— Penguins land Hossa from Thrashers
Sportsnet— Scoring stable adds Hossa

After the buzzer the stragglers begin to filter in, those teams that contacted the league by 3pm ET, but didn’t get the information flow moving until after the deadline hour.

Minnesota trades a sixth round pick for Chris Simon, who leaves his troubled times behind in Long island for a new start in the American mid-west.

TSN— Wild acquire Simon from Islanders
Sportsnet— Isles deal troubled Simon to Wild

Detroit shores up their battered defence as they select Brad Stuart from the L A Kings line up, giving the Kings a 2nd and 4th round pick in the upcoming draft.

TSN— Wings get defenceman Stuart from Kings
Sportsnet— Wings get defensive help in Stuart

The Rangers are back in the trading pool, this time picking up a trio of players from Phoenix, heading to the Big City are Josh Gratton, Frederik Sjostrom and David Leveneu, the second Hossa of the day gets traded as Marcel is off to the desert along with Al Montoya.

TSN— Coyotes trade Sjostrom in multi-player deal
Sportsnet— Rangers swing deal for 'other' Hossa

Florida seemingly clearing up their power problems once again deal with the Leafs, this time acquiring Chad Kilger from the leafs in exchange for a third round draft pick.

TSN— Leafs trade Kilger to Panthers for pick
Sportsnet— Kilger dealt to Panthers

Brian Burke doesn’t go the day without a deal, picking up defenceman Marc Andre Bergeron from the Islanders for a third round pick

TSN— Defenceman Bergeron goes to Anaheim

Burke then adds more depth to the goaltending spot when he retrieves J S Aubin from the Kings for a 7th pick overall, proving that it really is a small world after all in southern California as both Duck goaltenders now go by the name JS.

TSN— Ducks acquire G Aubin from Kings

The two most prominent teams of the day then make a deal with each other, as the Capitals and Thrashers exchange players, with Joe Motzko heading for Atlanta while Alex Giroux is off to Washington.


Nashville makes a pair of deals acquiring Jan Halavac from Tampa Bay for a 7th round draft pick.


The Predators then pick up Brandan Bochenski from Anaheim for future considerations.


From the trading floor observatory-- It’s closing time

The final hour of the trade window was a rather calm affair, with a few housekeeping trades working their way through the system, leading up the most anticipated moment of the day, when Hossa leaves the Hotel…

The final hour starts off with confirmation that Marian is indeed still lounging around the room, probably snacking on some fine room service cuisine, using the wireless Internet service to check out the latest rumour and maybe once and a while picking up the phone to make sure that the line is still in service.

While the network panel groups leave him to whatever may be his thoughts for the hour the last hour of dealing gets underway.

Word comes out of Florida that there has been a massive power failure in the southern part of the state,(something that they're surely used to by now) leaving the Panthers in the dark both perhaps accounting for the lack of movement in the Olli Jokinnen prospectus.

There’s no power shortage in Toronto where the various network websites all originate from, but there’s some serious sluggishness in the access to them over the last few hours. TSN seems agonizingly slow and Sportsnet while still viewable also responds in a lethargic way. Clearly if you're looking for an Internet fix it's time to seek out other options.

So it's over to HNIC Radio we go on the CBC site, with a fairly good feed available and low and behold they too have the Hossa hotel watch on full boil, too bad we never hear what the name of the hotel is from any of our sources, we could have asked for the Marian Hossa suite at our next visit.

While HNIC slinks around the hotel district they also update a number of deals, and feature some solid background information on the days happenings, featuring some familiar HNIC faces in Elliot Friedman, Cassie Campbell and Scott Morrison.

The minor deals begin to filter in for the final hour; Hal Gill is off to Pittsburgh for draft picks.

The Rangers pick up Christian Backman from the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round pick.

And then as the final minutes approach the anticipated deal of the day, finds Mr. Hossa making plans to check out of his hotel room and he’s off to Pittsburgh where he’ll join fellow team mate Pascal DuPuis who was also shipped to Pittsburgh, the Pens send Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen and prospect Angelo Esposito, plus future first round draft pick to Atlanta.

Pierre McGuire seems to be the most against the trade, suggesting that the Pens are damaging some chemistry in Pittsburgh, giving up too much for a rental player and taking away a familiar line mate for Sidney Crosby with the departure of Armstrong.

Reminders are made that Hossa has some history with Ray Shero the Pens GM, as they were both once part of the Senators organization.

While everyone tries to figure out if the Pens have made the right or the wrong move of the day, the final tick of the clock passes by, the deadline is in effect and while there will be a few trades confirmed over the next hour or so, no more applications will be received at the league offices.

The post mortem now begins, sifting through the deals determining winners and losers, wise traders or foolhardy risk takers, who may soon see the error of their trades.

And in Montreal, finally a weary hospitality worker can clean out the Hossa hideaway, no longer the focus of the hockey world, now back to just another hotel room, apparently with a great view of Montreal however.

As the final hour approaches

The fifth hour of trading provided some interesting changes with the Blue Jackets moving two veteran players, the Canucks sending one of their character players east and the Islanders picking up some strength for a draft pick.
Columbus sent captain Adam Foote back to the Colorado Avalanche, the only team reportedly that Foote would consider a trade to, the Blue Jackets received a conditional draft pick for 2008 or 2009 and a fourth round pick in 2009

TSN—Avalanche bring back defenceman Foote
Sportsnet—Foote traded back to Colorado

The Blue Jackets then moved Sergei Federov, sending the mysterious Russian to the Washington Capitals, where he’ll join up with a team heavily stocked with Europeans and Russians. Heading for Columbus is Theo Ruth a highly touted young defenceman.

TSN—Blue Jackets trade Fedorov to Capitals
Sportsnet—Fedorov to join Ovechkin

The New York Islanders add some depth to their blue line as they pick up Rob Davison from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a seventh round draft pick in the 2008 draft.

Islanders add Davison from San Jose

Vancouver and Washington exchanged a couple of matts on Tuesday, as the Canucks sent Matt Cooke, a strong character player for Vancouver to the renovating Capitals. Heading to Vancouver is Matt Pettinger a left winger that the Canucks are hoping adds some intensity in the corners.

TSN—Canucks trade Cooke to Caps for Pettinger
Sportsnet—Canucks add scoring in Pettinger trade

The hour winds down with still more possibilities making the rounds, but few details to go to the bank with as the final hour of trading gets ready to start.

From the trading floor observatory-- Blowing up the Blue Jackets

Doug McLean’s old team is certainly no more; the Blue Jackets begin to dismantle their line up as they send Adam Foote off for a reunion with the old guys club in Colorado and send Sergei Federov off to Moscow on the Potomac.

Blue Jacket GM Scott Howson had a rather unhappy Adam Foote on his hands of late as the captain expressed his concern over the direction of the blue Jackets in the last little while and quietly had suggested that he was agreeable with a trade, but only under the condition that it be back to Colorado. As the deadline hour moved closer, Hoswon made the move returning Foote to where he found most of his success in the NHL.

As for Federov well, Federov is Federov, and enigma at the best of times, and one who never seemed to show Blue Jacket fans all of the flash of his days from Detroit.

What is interesting is the approach from the two destination cities, the Avalanche seem to be seeking to recapture the Stanley cup with a good portion of the line up from back in the days of 1999, Foote rejoins the Avs and will renew acquaintances with the recently signed Peter Forsberg and the recently recovered Joe Sakic. One wonders if the Avs aren’t maybe trying to get Patrick Roy to pull out the pads for one more skate around the rink…

Over in Washington there’s a very Russian theme building in the American capital, which if nothing else should guarantee a good walk up crowd from CIA operatives eager to learn more about the revived Russian threat. Federov will join the heavily European styled Capitals including catching up with fellow Russians Ovechkin, Semin and Kozlov a sleeper cell of hockey talent that if it catches fire could take the Capitals into the playoffs and surprise everyone for a few rounds.

They’ll be anxious to see how these plans play out in both Washington and Colorado, the reaction in Columbus however may be a little less enthusiastic. The Blue Jackets at five points out of a playoff spot were teasing their fans with perhaps the franchises’ first playoff appearance, where the developments today leave that plan remains to be seen, but suddenly you don’t get the impression that playoff tickets are about to be printed in Ohio.

A deep breath and back to work

Hour four of the deadline marathon sees only a couple of deals unfold, with Ottawa finally showing signs of movement towards the end of the hour. No major names but some interesting pieces of the various puzzles being shifted around the league.

Before the Senators pick up some assistance however there is word of moves out of Colorado, where Ruslan Salei makes his plans to head for Florida while the Panthers pick up Karlis Skrastins and a third round pick.

TSN--Avalanche get Salei from Florida
Sportsnet--Salei to Avalanche

Chicago then steps up to make a few changes to their line up, first off they deal Tuomo Ruutu to Carolina receiving Andrew Ladd in return,

TSN--Hurricanes get Ruutu from Blackhawks
Sportsnet--Hurricanes acquire Ruutu

The Hawks then move Martin Lapointe on to the Senators, for a sixth round draft pick a rather solid move for Bryan Murray who loses no players and picks up some more charcter for the dressing room.

TSN--Senators add Lapointe from Blackhawks
Sportsnet--Sens acquire Lapointe

From the trading floor observatory- - Let’s give them something to talk about

The lunch hour back east and the breakfast hours of the west proved to be busy times for the NHL’s General Managers.

The early portions of this block from 11 am-1 pm ET and 8-10 am in the West didn’t’ get off to a great start, we were treated with details of Marian Hossa’s hotel room view, apparently a stunning vision of the landscape keeping him occupied as he awaits his fate.

TSN delivers the news at 8:20 that the Leafs nation can rejoice with news that the great dismantling has begun, with Wade Belak trading snow shovels for sunscreen and a move to Florida.

Over at Sportsnet this sets off a wide ranging discussion on where the Leafs may go next with trades, seeking to discover who might be next to take flight from the Air Canada centre.

While the fixation with the Leafs reaches a boil at Sportsnet, TSN is busy interviewing Red Wing GM Ken Holland who doesn’t give much away, except that he would like to make a small deal in order to shore up a few concerns with his line up.

The Sharks and Sabres cut a deal which sends Brian Campbell to San Jose, a move that will cause more hand wringing in Buffalo as yet another talented young player moves on to greener pastures, a recurring theme in Sabreland over the last few years.

The flood of trades picks up with Tampa Bay finally making the splash of the day so far with Brad Richards off to Dallas, as the Stars add some potent scoring potential for the showdowns to come in the Western Conference.

Montreal shocks the trading panels with their move of Christobal Huet to the Washington Capitals, leaving Carey Price as the starting goaltender of the Habs who look to be serious contenders in the East this year. Making for a lot of pressure on the young goaltender, whether Huet stays in Washington remains to be seen, some suggest he may be flipped shortly.

The different networks take a breath to digest all the action of the hour, TSN seems quicker to the interview window, with a string of interviews with many of the major participants in the trades of the first couple of hours of Deadline day.

By 915 in the west, Colorado and Florida have swung a deal with Ruslan Salei heading to Florida while the Panthers pick up Karlis Skrastins and a third round pick.

A few minutes later Chicago begins what will be a couple of snap trades that catch the attention of the chattering crews, they send Tuomo Ruutu to Carolina receiving Andrew Ladd for their troubles. Then they make a deal with the Ottawa Senators, who pick up Martin Lapointe from Chicago for a sixth round pick in the 2008 draft.

Sportsnet is still stuck on the Leafs expressing frustration at the limitations of the no trade clause and other impediments to more bodies being shuffled along out of Toronto.

TSN moves along considering more moves for Ottawa, with Chris Neil coming up for discussion as a possible piece of the puzzle in Ottawa, though they suggest that by picking up Lapointe Ottawa may be out of the Marian Hossa derby.

Hossa apparently still gazing out the window at the view of Mount Royal, perhaps nibbling on some room service as the suitors line up to barter for his services.

Bulk rates on moving available now

The third hour of the festival of shifting line ups, saw a flurry of trades take place in about twenty five minutes.

First across the wires was word that the LeafsNation had moved Wade Belak to the Florida Panthers. A not unexpected move as Cliff Fletcher begins to dismantle the Ferguson era Leafs collecting draft picks as the exodus from the Air Canada Centre begins.

TSN--Maple Leafs trade Belak to Panthers
Sportsnet--Belak to Panthers

Brian Campbell leaves Buffalo for the road to San Jose bringing a seventh round draft pick with him for the Sharks use. Steve Bernier and a first round draft pick go back towards the Sabres. The notoriously frugal Sabres continue along on their path of shedding proven talent whenever the price gets too high. For the Sharks it's a major upgrade on the blue line and should pay dividends in the playoffs.

TSN--Sharks acquire Campbell from Sabres
Sportsnet--Campbell to Sharks

Tampa Bay continued to make moves and reducing salary sending Brad Richards and goaltenderJohan Holmqvist for Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern. The Bolts drop a fair amount on their cap level with the move and build for the future especially with Smith. For Dallas it’s a move that shows that the Stars are serious about this playoff run and is a good addition to their offensive potential.

TSN--Lightning trade Richards to Stars
Sportsnet--Richards dealt to Dallas

Montreal provided the shocker of the day thus far as they rounded out the third hour, sending Christobal Huet to Washington for a second round draft pick, which consensus says is merely a transit stop for Huet with a possible second move to come shortly. What remains to be seen is if Montreal picks up another goaltender or if they flip the puck to rookie Carey Price for the playoffs.

TSN--Canadiens trade Huet to Capitals
Sportsnet--Huet dealt to Caps

From the Trading floor observatory—Speculation but few revelations

They’ve run out of spoons at Sportsnet, as the day moves on the Sportsnet situation room (sure hope they ran that by Wolf Blitzer at CNN) we learn that they’ve laid in the yogurt but have no spoons for the hard working rumour chasers. Should have gone with yogurt tubes, poor planning at Sportsnet…

As for the situation room, we are given a quick tour of what’s available on the net for the dedicated trading deadline devotee, which features a number of links to different trade items.

Sportsnet doesn’t have a trade to report yet, but they do let us know that Mike Comrie is not going to be a deadline feature player this year, having just signed a contract extension with the Islanders.

By 715 at TSN James Duthie is reading viewer mail, taking e mails and recounting the thoughts of the viewers at home, a few more hours of this and they’ll be breaking out the phone books of the thirty NHL cities and naming the names.

There’s a Marian Hossa equipment update on TSN by 718, it’s still in his stall at the Bell Centre ready for use tonight, maybe to be moved over to the Montreal side or maybe to be moved out to parts unknown.

The Reporters discuss the state of the Anaheim Ducks and whether Brian Burke is going to make a move or two or if he’s happy with his line up as it is.

Sportsnet has the Paddock bug at 725, with their own speculation that the Ottawa coach is on thin ice, though they don’t have him packing his bags just yet.

Bryce Salvador is on the trading block goes the rumour from Sportsnet, possibly bound for New Jersey for Cam Jannsen. Not quite confirmed they move on to other items, as that happens TSN’s jumps in with their confirmation of the deal at 734, Sportsnet verifies their own rumour at 7:35

More speculation on Marian Hossa’s future at Sportsnet, as they set the table for a potential move of the Atlanta sniper, though they have no candidates just yet.

Chris Kelly is also put out as on the market now, meaning we suppose that Ottawa is starting to percolate a deal or two.

The hour winds down with TSN hanging around the Thrasher’s practice waiting for Hossa, who it seems won’t be practicing today, told to stay at the hotel until further news comes out.

Perhaps he’s watching television waiting to see if he crosses a floor or crosses a continent.

We interrupt our programming with…. A trade!

Whoo, hoo. Seven thirty Pacific Time and finally somebody has to pack a suitcase.

Sportsnet discusses a rumour that Bryce Salvador is on his way to New Jersey for Cam Jannsen, while their panel moves on to other items TSN confirms the trade at 7:34, one minute later Sportsnet gets to close the deal they speculated on.

Clearly not the blockbuster that either network is hoping for, it at least provides for a brief moment of substance over suggestion.

The networks remain hopeful that this is just the trickle of an anticipated flood of movement to come in the next four hours or so.

TSN--Devils acquire Salvador from Blues
Sportsnet--Devils acquire Salvador

From the Trading floor observatory- - Chasing rumours

The marathon moves on, potential trades with the same names, with mainly the same destinations still in the incubation stage, much like a Senators power play of late with little finish around the net.

In fact the second hour of the day takes on a decidedly Ottawa theme.

At TSN, Dave Hodge and his Reporters crew are in the house, as the Sunday morning panel assemble to pass on their sage advice on the day’s happenings, Hodge boldly predicts that Ray Emery will be gone from Ottawa by the end of the day.

About a half an hour later, TSN expands the exodus list for Ottawa.

TSN’s has decided to carry the Paddock must go theme on through the second hour, at 650 they check in with their Senators reporter Brent Wallace who citing Senators sources says that Paddock’s days may very well be numbered. The TSN rumour mill suggesting that Bryan Murray is set to return to the bench to handle his stumbling charges.

Wallace also reveals that both Martin Gerber and Ray Emery have asked to be traded, which consensus seems to be would be a positive move in Ottawa. Pierre McGuire tracing a lot of Ottawa’s troubles to when Ray Emery signed his contract and a change in the goaltending coaching dynamic took place.

Ottawa became the salvation of the second hour thanks to their woeful performance on Monday night, providing a few talking points for talking heads.

Sportsnet almost dangles a trade in the closing moments of the second hour of coverage, the thought that Brad Richards was on the move, a move that Pierre LeBrun debunked for the time being, though were advised that Dallas may be in the mix for the services of Richards, perhaps Dave Nonis in Vancouver decided to sleep in for an extra hour..

We leave the second hour behind with James Duthie discussing the Spice Girls, a very worrisome trend that needs to be terminated without delay. The hockey universe is out of its orbit when we learn more about Posh and Scary than Hossa and Emery.

From the Trading Floor observatory--The opening scenes

Dress for success; is this the key to a winning broadcast this year?

The first thing that jumps out as we settle in for these seven hours of the circles of hell known as the trading deadline, is that we should make sure that the coffee urn is always full, this may be a long, long morning.

As the big network shows get underway though it seems that fashion statements are going to be the most obvious thing to talk about in the early rounds.

If we are to judge our content by the way it looks, then all business is taking on casually informative as the opening hour gets underway.

Ties it seems are not only frowned upon in the new NHL, they’re also an optional fashion accessory at Sportsnet. As the first hour of the trading shows winds down, it would seem that like prisoners heading for lock up, the ties and loose clothing have been collected at the door.

Sartorial splendour is the order of the day at TSN though, as the talking heads are all decked out in some spiffy looking suits, complete with a wonderful collection of ties, some fine looking rags that would make Don Cherry a happy man.

The TSN’s crew resembles a gallery of George Clooney’s while the competitors all look like Gary Busey laying in wait for starlets on a red carpet.

Over at Sportsnet the panel looks as though they’ve already been up all night, slugging back gin and chasing down rumours, it’s a more casual look for the Rogers crew, with open collars and ties nowhere to be seen.

And it may be the early hour or the angle of the cameras but it certainly look as though one of the many panel’s assembled have been crammed into a rather tight spot. If things get heated, it won’t be much of a reach for Keith Primeau to reach across and slug co panelist Bill Clement.

We do a quick click over to the Score (timing is everything and our first two attempts land during some kind of wrestling commercial marathon), eventually we find the assembled cast of the Score, who like Sportsnet have decided to go without neckwear, though we suspect that may be more budgetary than any kind of sense of hip fashion trends.

Unemployed Former GM’s are finding the sun shines again, with Bill Watters and Don Mclean sharing their thoughts (sans ties by the way) over at Sportsnet while John Ferguson Jr. examines the so far less than rapidly developing events of the day at TSN.

The first hour is turning into a rehash of everything we’ve heard in the last three weeks. The TSN line up is the stronger of the bunch so far, the more recognizable names, the sheer number of the cast at least providing for a new face every few minutes to rehash the same old same old.

Though from TSN we learn that the carpets have apparently been cleaned in Montreal and that John Paddock may not have much of a shelf life left in Ottawa, though it would be nice if perhaps they could flesh that thought out a bit, providing more than just a throw away line in a morning of throw away lines.

Overall, it’s a triumph of visuals over substance in the first hour for TSN, as Fernando once said from his hideaway, they looked marvelous!

Prospal back where he started from

The transaction took place before the lights of the sports network cameras ever were turned on, more or less a preliminary bout for the main event of Tuesday’s marathon of speculation.

The Philalelphia Flyers who are looking for a bit of offence, picked up Vaclav Prospal from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a floating scale of a draft pick that will rise or fall depending on the Flyers eventual place in the standings.

If the Flyers should make it to the Eastern final, then the Lightning will receive a second round pick in the 2009 draft, if the Flyers should still come up short this year, the Bolts will be provided with Calgary’s pick in the third round of 2009. Also part of the deal and heading to the sunshine state is defensive prospect Alexandre Picard.

Prospal brings his pace of 29 goals and 28 assists in 62 games to a Flyers squad that is desperate to replace the missing offence that the season ending injury to Simon Gagne has presented.

His days in Tampa seemed to become numbered as he and coach John Tortorella seemed to bang heads more and more frequently over the last number of months, that and a need to clear some financial room in the Tampa vaults made moving Prospal a likely scenario.

The Flyers would seem to be the winner of the deal in the short term, providing Prospal can get his head back into a situation where the games actually count and the future includes a possible playoff run.

It marks a return to the team that drafted him back pm 1993 and where he played his first two years in the NHL before beginning his wandering ways which took him through Ottawa, Florida and Anaheim before he found himself in Tortorella’s doghouse.

The Flyers are hoping that there’s still a bit of the hunt left in the old dog getting his second chance in Flyer town.

They're at the post!

It's probably one of the most anticipated days for the Canadian sports networks that there is. One which sees each network creating armies of experts, statisticians, rumour mongers and occasionally even a fact checker or two.

The NHL trade deadline, a form of made for TV mini series, will play out from the early morning of 5 am on the Pacific coast, to 3 pm of Eastern Canada, 4 and 4:30 for Atlantic and Newfoundland fans.

In between, will be talk, talk, talk and more talk. Whoever has the concession on throat lozenges is possibly set to be a very rich entrepreneur.

The two major networks TSN and Sportsnet have over the last few years treated the Trade Deadline Day as an operation almost military in its design. The planning has been ongoing for months, the promotion growing more frenzied by the week.

Sidekicks and specialists all come armed with their sneak previews of potential trades, speculation on what each GM is seeking and what they may be willing to give up to get it.

It's a day not for the faint of heart if you're a player, the day is a nerve wracking one for those players that are on the bubble with their respective teams, not established enough to be an untouchable (if such a thing exists anymore) but talented enough to be potential fodder in any blockbuster concoction.

The Score once again has plans to join the battle for your undivided attention, promising to be on top of the developments as they happen, while they put on a good effort, they just can't compete to the almost Mutually Assured Destruction plans of TSN and Sportsnet.

And while most Canadians that are interested will remain with the television, clicker in hand to surf the different offerings, there will be a number of internet options as well to keep fully up to date.

Below we'll provide some links to a number of stories and spots where you will be able to find out the latest details of Trade Deadline Day 2008.


CBC Sports--Trade Watch 08
Globe and Mail--On the Block? Log
Canoe Sports--Deadline Day

No changes seen for Calgary

Tuesday morning, when the first of the trades finally begin to trickle out, don't expect to hear too many coming out of Calgary, as Darryl Sutter finds that he's content for the most part with what he has, and doesn't anticipate being very busy through the day.

As for the most mentioned of Flames over the last month, Darryl Sutter has said that Alex Tanguay is going nowhere, and has been taken off the trade list, if he ever really was on it.

Sutter said that he believes his team is good enough as it is, he likes the group of players that have been assembled, he likes the way they are pulling together and he’s quite confident that they’ll make an extended stay in the playoffs this season.

With all of that confidence, it’s hard to see too many change of address cards being taken to the post office after 1 pm Calgary time Tuesday.

Sutter’s Flames have been decidedly better in the last month or so, more consistent, more confident and more successful. Mike Keenan, notorious over the years for a short leash, has been rather generous at times with his team, dishing out praise, accepting feedback and generating ideas that seem to be paying off for Calgary on the scoreboard and in the standings.

With Miikka Kiprusoff beginning to return to the form that shut down many an opposition team in the last few years, the goal stopping is in fine shape.

The much discussed Tanguay has finally broken free of a slump and has made key goals at important times in the last couple of weeks. Captain Iginla continues to loom larger than life for the Flames, while Dion Phaneuf delivers the Flames calling card of late the crushing check.

Owen Nolan, has slowly begun to exhibit much of the leadership that Darryl Sutter had hoped to see when he acquired the former Shark In the last few weeks, Nolan has been an inspiration on the ice, playing the body, willing the puck into the opposition zone and providing an edge to the play that had been missing in the early part of the season.

Over the weekend the Flames pulled into first place in the Northwest Division, a spot which of course is subject to the whims of that night’s play but, first place for now has a Calgary address and that provides the Flames with thoughts of higher seeding in the playoff round.

With his team showing that their core group is more than up to the challenge, there probably won’t be much that Sutter will want to add. If a remarkable deal should present itself, he’ll no doubt consider it, but not at the expense of the chemistry that he’s built this season.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Canuck’s conundrum

In the last two weeks the Vancouver Canucks have begun to show some of the form that many had hoped to have seen from the Pacific coast for most of the season. They have pulled off some impressive wins, despite key injuries and the need to rely on young call ups from the Manitoba Moose, who have been on a steep learning curve but adapting well.

And this is where the decisions will become tough for Dave Nonis; his team has never looked more on top of their game than they have in these last two weeks. They have not only defeated some of the top teams in the Western conference, but dominated them.

And while they are in a dogfight in the playoff race, they are surely a far more confident squad today than they were just before the all star break.

While they get a head start on the competition from the get go with Roberto Luongo, the remainder of the line up is begging to gel nicely, especially on the defense which has been impressive of late in controlling play in their own end.

With Brendan Morrison due back in March, and providing the injury bug doesn’t rear it’s ugly head again prior to the playoffs, the Canucks may finally be able to ice a consistent line up night after night.

How Nonis filters all this will dictate the amount of activity that the Canuck’s are involved in during Tuesday’s trading countdown.

The hot deal supposedly percolating in Vancouver is one that would see the Tampa Bay Lightning continuing with the salary clearance sale and shipping Brad Richards west. If he arrives in Canuckland, its thought that the recuperating Morrison may no longer be in the Canuck’s plans.

Olli Jokinen’s name also has been popping up on the Canuck radar; with Ryan Kesler apparently the frequent subject of inquiry from like minded GM’s looking for youth, energy and cap space.

There has been no secret in Vancouver that they need some additional scoring, far too often shutting down the Sedin’s has been the equivalent of closing the door and turning off the lights for the night. Adding a Richards or a Jokinnen to the mix would give the Canucks two key lines to work with, improve the power play and change the focus of the attack down the stretch to the playoffs.

Dave Nonis’ first trade of note as GM was the Roberto Luongo deal, a key ingredient to the Canuck’s long term future and the insurance policy on the goal line that Canuck fans have been long hoping for.

He now has to decide if his team as it is has finally turned the corner, or there is one missing ingredient out there that will make the difference for a team that had such high expectations only a few short years ago.

Tuesday will tell if he’s know as Deadline Dave or Do Nothing Dave, either way his decisions will go a long way in deciding if the Canucks are just hanging on for the playoffs, or if they’re planning on staking a spot in the upper reaches of the playoff pool.

Vancouver Province--Willing to pay for Richards?

Sens shut out of the Sundin celebration

If Bryan Murray didn’t have any deals percolating on Monday morning, by 10:30 Monday night he was probably on the phone, trying to find some kind of a spark for his struggling squad.

On the eve of the NHL trading deadline, Murray’s Senators were humbled in their own home town, by their worst possible rival the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs despite their subterranean place in the standings, played as though they were the favored team for a playoff run. Taking the play to the Senators and running them around their own rink. A night of carnage on the scoreboard, that left Ottawa fans reeling as the Leafs tallied five unanswered goals in the victory.

Ray Emery the frequent subject of trade speculation didn’t do very much to enhance that prospect, as he surrendered five goals on 16 shots before being replaced by Martin Gerber in the third. If Emery wanted to be free of the pressure of playing in Ottawa, he probably didn’t help out his cause, though as has been the case for most of the season, the blame doesn’t necessarily all land in the nets.

Once again defensive shortcomings rose to the top of the worry list, with an inability to clear the puck or the space directly in front of the embattled Senators goaltender.

Offensively the Sens again found frustration as they fired 31 shots at Vesa Toskala, only to find the Leaf goaltender more than ready to turn aside whatever the Sens were ready to dish out. What would have been a sure fire goal into an empty net was denied to the Sens, as Leaf defenceman Tomas Kaberle blocked a Mike Fisher shot to preserve Toskala’s shut out. A sign indicative of the way that the puck was going for the Sens once again.

The Toronto scoring came from an energized D’arcy Tucker another of the frequent possible trading chips in Cliff Fletcher’s poker pile, Tucker became an Ace in the possible trading deck with two power play goals and an assist on Pavel Kubina’s goal. Dominic Moore and the non waiveable Mats Sundin, were the other scorers for the Leafs.

While the Leafs are more thank likely not playoff bound, they will certainly play the role of spoilers if given the chance. Adding to the Senators woes with Monday's 5 – 0 drilling.

The Sens have won but two of their last seven games, having surrendered first place to the Devils all while they watch the Canadiens pulling up in the rear view mirror.

It’s with all that background that Murray will enter Tuesday’s trade deadline. The last name being bounced around the capital was a possible return of Marian Hossa to Ottawa, an event which if transacted, would complete the snookering of Atlanta.

The Senators, having already gained Dany Heatley ironically in a trade for Hossa a few years ago, could once again strip the Thrashers of another offensive threat. Though if completed, it would be a trade that would be a hard one to explain to Thrasher fans, unless some huge names came along for the return trip.

Another name that has Sens fans thinking of the possibilities is Buffalo's Brian Campbell, who according to his agent has apparently played his last game as a Sabre. While it seems hard to think believe that the Sens and Sabres would ever strike a deal, Campbell would certainly be a solid addition to the Sens blue line.

Murray is now facing a situation where he is more of a desperate buyer than a patient seller. Ottawa is running out of chances to stake its claim to the Stanley Cup, what Murray does on Tuesday could very well set the table for either another long run into the playoffs. Or if the current malaise continues a very early exit, one which won’t be well received in the nation’s capital.

Forsberg fools us all (well everyone outside of Denver)

"We're proud to announce to our fans that Peter Forsberg has decided to come back and play with our franchise where he's enjoyed so much success early in his career."--Colorado Avalanche executive Vice-President and General Manager Francois Giguere, announcing the return of Peter Forsberg to the Avalanche.

When last we heard of the Perils of Peter, the most talked about foot from Sweden had apparently decided that he wasn’t quite up to a comeback for this year.

That was last week, and with his decision supposedly made, the teams in the Forsberg Derby turned their attention to other prospects, as all the while it seems that Francois Giguere flew below the radar and grabbed the former Av to return him to the Rocky Mountains, with Forsberg signing a one year deal today to finish off this season in Colorado.

Giguere said contract talks with Forsberg heated up over the weekend, so while the hockey world was fixated on Mats Sundin’s sleepless nights of decision, the Avs were burning the midnight oil and burning their fellow NHL compatriots who had all given up on the prospect of a Forsberg return.

Forsberg will join up with an Avalanche that has just seen the last of their sidelined stars return to the line up with Joe Sakic’s reunion over the weekend with his team. Besides Sakic, the Avs have just finished playing through injuries to Ryan Smyth and Paul Stastny.

While that trio work their way back into playoff shape, they’ll soon find Forsberg lining up along side them, it's expected he'll be ready for action in a bit over a week. The surprising announcement today makes for a move that now showcases the Avs one of the most loaded of teams, that is providing everyone’s maladies remain healed and their return to action and effectiveness isn’t slowed by too much rust.

Should all fall into place over the next few weeks, the Avs have suddenly moved up the list of top contenders heading into the playoffs this spring, providing of course they manage to qualify. The Avs have been struggling in the last few weeks and at the moment are on the outside looking in, Forsberg's first task upon arrival may be to help move the team to within striking distance of a playoff spot and a shot at the second season.

Usually the drama of the trading deadline takes place either weeks ahead of time, or on the day itself, this time it was deadline eve that sent the hockey world talking and more than a few GM’s to scratching their heads as to what just happened!

Globe and Mail--Colorado lands Forsberg
Rocky Mountain News--Forsberg returning to Avalanche

Photo from the Denver News website

Flames blaze their trail to the top of the Northwest

The overcrowded upper reaches of the Northwest division have a solitary leader heading into Monday morning, the Calgary Flames winners of their last four games jumped to the top of the standings in the Northwest with a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in front of a disappointed St. Paul, Minnesota crowd.

The Flames despite being out shot by a ridiculous margin of 108-60 in their last three games, have counted the only statistic that really matters, six points for wins.

Once again, the key to the Flames victory belongs to Miikka Kiprusoff, who shut down the Wild, as he stopped all but one of the 38 shots directed his way in Sunday’s game.

While he’s holding up his end of the deal, his team mates continue to struggle on the offence, winning most of their games in “ugly fashion”, not much for the highlight reels but more than enough for the paying customers at home who are starting to believe that this years edition has what it takes for a lengthy playoff run.

With wins in six of their last eight and spectacular goal tending almost every night lately, it would be hard to argue with anyone wearing a flaming C these days

Globe and Mail--Top notch win for Flames
Calgary Herald--Kiprusoff carries Flames into first
Calgary Sun--Xcel-lent victory takes first
National Post--Flames take over top spot in Northwest
Photo from National Post website

Mats won’t waive goodbye to Leafs

It would appear that when Mats Sundin took a pay cut and signed that no trade contract last year, remaining a Maple Leaf was exactly what he wanted out of hockey. Sundin spoke out on Sunday about the recent flurry of speculation regarding his status as a Maple Leaf and relocation will not be in his immediate future.

In a statement released by his agent, Sundin touched on the many issues that have been bouncing around in his head over the last few weeks as the overheated Toronto situation remained on high boil.

"I have always believed I would finish my career as a Toronto Maple Leaf so the actual request was still a very difficult one for me to contemplate. I have spoken to and listened to my family and those closest to me about this issue. In the end, there is no right decision in a situation like this one.

"I cannot leave my team-mates and join another NHL club at this time". "I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."

And unless something drastic should come about in the next twenty four hours to make him change his mind, Sundin will remain a Maple Leaf. His decision will make him a player more likely to be watching the playoffs this April than participating in them.

In a way it’s a bit old fashioned for a player to think of his team first and not his personal situation. Sundin would have been a valuable commodity on the trade market had he wished to increase his chances to hoist the Stanley Cup in June.

But having spent fourteen years in a Maple Leaf uniform, he says that it just wouldn’t be the same coming in as a rental player just to get his name on the Cup. Toronto fans haven’t always been particularly loyal to their captain, so you have to wonder if his own loyalty isn’t a tad misplaced.

In a league that seems to have become one of self serving manoeuvring on the part of both players and management, it’s refreshing in a way to see someone still consider his responsibilities to those he works with and for.

Sundin showed a lot of character in the way he handled this latest episode of the perils of Leafdom, he certainly comes out of it looking better than the organization that can’t ever seem to do the right thing at the right time.

Toronto Star--Sundin stayin put

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Perhaps a gold watch and a handshake next time

Nobody in the NHL puts on a pre game ceremony like the Montreal Canadiens; they do it up right as they say. An event that provides the required pomp and ceremony befitting one of hockey’s oldest and most respected franchises.

Saturday night they saluted long time captain and current GM Bob Gainey with a sweater retirement that left few dry eyes in the house. With old friends Guy Carbonneau and Doug Jarvis with him and his family by his side, Gainey basked in the applause of the Bell Centre crowd and watched as his number was raised to the roof, forever to be enshrined in Montreal lore.

It was a ceremony that would surely motivate any player to follow Gainey’s lead of hard work and dedication. However, on Saturday one team apparently took the lesson to heart more than the other and it wasn’t the home squad.

The Columbus Blue Jackets with their young phenom from Montreal, Pascal Leclair in the nets played party crashers on Saturday with a solid 3-0 victory over the still in commemoration mode Habs.

The Blue Jackets were the ones with the jump, the ones quick to the net and the ones that went into the corners to pull a puck out, much like a younger Bob Gainey would do for the rouge, bleu et blanc for so many years.

The current crop of Habs must have still been trying to comprehend all of that history, for they seemed lost when the time came to take to the ice. Leaving the home crowd destined to be disappointed that the feel good aura of the pre game wouldn't be a lasting effect by the time came to go home arrived.

The story on the night, other than the well deserved honours for Gainey was the play of Lecalir. Who turned aside 31 shots for his first shut out in Montreal, achieved in his first game ever back home. He was the difference in the game, as his Blue Jacket compatriots bottled up the Habs making his work appear effortless.

With the win Leclair picked up his ninth shut out of the year, a league leading total that bodes well for future success for the Blue Jackets

Canadiens Head coach Guy Carbonneau was disappointed that his team couldn’t provide their boss with a win to go with the glow of the night, but as the game wore on Carbonneau could be seen quite frustrated at the state of his teams play.

They far too frequently gave the puck away or were caught out of position, a lack of focus that has continued for two consecutive games now and has reared its head over the las couple of weeks.

Montreal had been flirting with overtaking the Senators for first in the east the last few games, but with a couple of losses on their end and Ottawa returning to form to degree the space is growing again between the two rivals on the 417.

Montreal will try to get back on track on Monday night when they play in; they owe their GM an IOU for Saturday night, after providing such a downer to what had been such a grand occasion.

Gainey might be content if they find some of that passion that they had only a week ago, when they appeared to be believers that they were ready to not only compete but dominate.

Somewhere on the NHL network this week there may be some old footage of Gainey during his playing days, the current crop of Habs could do a lot worse than sitting down and watching a few minutes to see how to regain that intensity and the zeal to do whatever it takes to win.
Montreal Gazette--Canadiens blanked
Dallas Morning News--Bob Gainey is pure class