Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Will it be Thursday that Joe Sakic breaks his silence on his future?

Joe Sakic, the long serving captain of the Colorado Avalanche has been spending his off season ruminating on his future.

Contemplating whether he will return to the Avs for his 20th season with that organization, perhaps making a declaration of his free agent status and a signing with a rival NHL squad or deciding to call an end to a career filled with much success, a couple of Stanley Cups and numerous all star nominations and awards.

Those issues may or may not be addressed on Thursday, when Sakic appears at his charity golf classic in Colorado.

There is no indication that he has reached a decision yet and though the Avs clearly would welcome another season of his leadership, they apparently have not put any pressure on him to make a final call just yet.

For some NHL fans in other cities (Hey there Vancouver!), hope springs eternal that he may play a few more years and take his free agency earned in the off season to a new location, however, many Avalanche observers suggest that the possibility of that happening is not a very real prospect.

And considering his long affiliation with the Avs from their days in Quebec City through to the two Stanley Cup victories in the Mile High City, the idea that he'll play in any other uniform than the Avs seems rather unlikely should he choose to play another year in the NHL.

The speculation was bouncing around the Internet on Monday and Tuesday as a number of press sources pondered Sakic's options for him.

Update: On Wednesday, Joe Sakic signed one year, six million dollar deal with the Avalanche.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From Public Enemy number one, to sweater number seven in Red and gold

“Obviously, I'm well aware that I wasn't the most popular pickup in Calgary Flames history”—Todd Bertuzzi offers up his interpretation of the reaction to his arrival in Calgary, apparently after having spent some time listening to Calgary sports radio over the last few months

The much travelled Todd Bertuzzi was officially introduced to the Calgary media and by extension to Flame fans across Alberta on Monday.

He was part of an airlift of five new members of the Flames brethren, set to take Calgary to the Promised Land or at least a couple of rounds deeper into the NHL Playoffs in May and if all goes well June of 2009.

Bertuzzi, who at one time was probably the most despised non Edmonton Oiler to ever skate at the Saddledome, faced the usual string of questions regarding his much publicized legal troubles on Monday, though not particularly informative for the media hordes as to the progress or lack of in the current proceedings with Steve Moore.

As for his arrival as a Calgary Flame, he was a tad more chatty, admitting that when his name was announced as the latest acquisition by Daryl Sutter the reaction was to say the least mixed. While he is well aware that there is a good segment of the Flames fanatics who consider it complete sedition to allow him to pull on a Flames sweater, he asked for some time to convince those that may never be convinced that he can be a productive contributor to the Flames playoff aspirations.

Acknowledging that playing in Calgary brings a particular type of interest and pressure to his play, he none the less said that he welcomed the opportunity to play in an environment where hockey is a passion for both players and fans.

One particular bonus for him as he prepares to head into a Flames training camp, is the unqualified support of the teams captain Jarome Iginla, who was instrumental in convincing both Bertuzzi and the Flames that Bertuzzi’s addition to the Flames line up was something that could work well for both.

While his legal troubles will continue to pick up headlines as the legal system makes its meandering way to a civil judgment, the Flames are convinced that none of that will prove to be a distraction to the task at hand.

It certainly was a surprise announcement when Sutter added Bertuzzi to his teams depth chart, one which has certainly made the Flames a hot talk topic over the course of the summer, what the fans will now be watching with interest will be to see whether the Bertuzzi of 2008-09 can resurrect the play of the one that for many years found that there wasn’t a lot of cheering for him upon his arrival on Saddledome ice.

As 2008-09 progresses he and many hockey fans will be interested to see how the emotions of the fans shift, that of course will no doubt be controlled by the caliber of his play and the success of the team.
As could be expected, Bertuzzi's introduction proved to overshadow the other four additions to Mike Keenans bench, and his presence certainly became the mains story of the day far beyond the Calgary media crews.

Globe and Mail--Bertuzzi eager to prove he can shine in spotlight
Calgary Herald-- Calgary Flames introduce five off-season acquisitions

Friday, August 22, 2008

A step aside; or was it a step away?

It’s not every day that highly touted draft pick decides that at the ancient age of 19 he’s pretty well had enough hockey. But if indications out of the Columbus Blue Jacket’s camp are correct, Stefan Legein has decided just that. Well for now anyways we guess.

Legein, who played a whack of hockey last year for Canada, Niagara Falls of the OHL and even a short stop in Syracuse, has apparently told the Blue Jackets that he won’t be reporting to training camp this September and he has no timetable in mind for a return to the game and begin his introduction to the professional lifestyle.

Many have spent the day wondering aloud just what has been running through the young man’s head, whether it’s just burn out from too much hockey too early, or whether he really has lost the zeal for a game that like many young Canadians he began in his formative years and has dedicated himself to over the years.

He’s not the first young hockey player to put the skates away, though perhaps he may be one of the highest in profile to do so in recent times. The NHL is awash in former young phenoms who went along for the skate in their first few years only to disappear as though placed in witness protection.

Over the years, more than a few have collected huge signing bonuses, negotiated deals and then failed to live up to their reputations or expectations. It just comes as a bit of a shock when things turn south before they even arrive for the first of the training camp sessions.

Legein may yet become an NHLer, perhaps what he really needs is some time to sort out his thoughts, get away from the fishbowl and determine if pro hockey is really what he wants to do.

While there will be no shortage of armchair athletes who wonder why you would walk away from large sums of cash for what is essentially still a kids game at heart, (though clearly with higher stakes and more generous pay cheque), Legein should be left alone to determine his fate on his own terms.

The hockey culture in Canada and North America to a degree tends to turn young hockey players into autotrons from time to time; punching them out of the foundries that junior hockey has evolved into over the years. The push is always to excel and move on to the next stage, from peewee, bantam and midget on to Junior hockey and then the big show if you’ve become good enough.

Every once and a while though, there’s a reminder that in the end, many of those that survive the system are still just kids, occasionally confused and in some cases quite burned out at an early age.

Whatever his eventual decision, whether indeed he’s stepping away for just a little bit or forever, the decision is his alone to make. It’s after all his life, his career and he has to be the one to decide what is best for him and nobody else.

Columbus Dispatch-- Agent: Legein isn't reconsidering quitting
Columbus Dispatch-- Prospect quits, agent tells Jackets
Globe and Mail-- An NHL dream burns out
Hamilton Spectator-- Has Legein quit cold turkey?
Ottawa Citizen-- Jackets' Legein may be turning back on possible NHL career at 19

Monday, August 18, 2008

Placing Mr. Bertuzzi both firmly driving and under the bus

In a counter punch to the ever on going legal proceedings between Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi , former Vancouver Canuck Head coach Marc Crawford has drawn a definitive line between his stewardship of the Vancouver Canucks and the now historic activities of his then right winger on that infamous night of March 8, 2004.

Crawford has entered a third-party statement of defence in Ontario court, that categorically denies that he had any part in the on ice attack on the Colorado player and further more never urged Bertuzzi or any Canuck to make anyone “pay the price” during the course of that game.

Crawford was drawn into the proceedings in March of this year, when the Bertuzzi side suggested that Crawford must share in any responsibility and damages of the hit.

Crawford’s statement made last month is designed to insulate him from any of the current legal wrangling, moves which might have made him responsible for a portion of any subsequent damages that may be directed towards Mr. Moore as a result of this ongoing court case.

In terms that make the usual “get off the ice” quote issued by coaches worldwide seem rather quaint and definitely parsimonious in quantity, Crawford's legal team issued some legal jargon that has taken those four words and turned them into a 52 word paragraph that portrays Mr. Bertuzzi as a rather disobedient student of the game.

"This was not done under any specific or general direction from Crawford, was a direct disobedience of the instruction that Bertuzzi had been given from the bench to get off the ice, and was a violation of Bertuzzi's duties which Crawford could not be expected to have reasonably anticipated, let alone controlled."

It will be of interest to not only Mr. Moore’s legal team, but Bertuzzi’s as well to see if the statement of defence will suffice to remove Mr. Crawford from the rigours of court room challenges.

While it turns into a case of "he said this; he heard that" as far as the Bertuzzi and Crawford relationship goes, one must think back to the original time and a now vital dressing room board message and how it might have been interpreted as an interesting addition to the proceedings.
Unfortunately, there is no permanent record of blackboard messages, a smoking gun of potential evidence that would have surely have been provided for if this were a TV court drama.

While the two former Canuck principles work out their positions on the legal front, they both will be making their plans for the coming season.

Mr. Bertuzzi prepares for his Calgary Flames training camp, while Mr. Crawford makes plans for his return to the CBC and Hockey Night in Canada.

As for Mr. Moore, he will spend his late summer and early fall entering the fourth year of his removal from the NHL, waiting for closure on the most talked about on ice incident in recent history, waiting to see how his claim for 38 million dollars in damages will turn out.

With him no doubt will be an entire league (not to mention the fans of it) hoping that soon the dark stain of 2004 will be properly and fairly taken care of. The delays and posturing have gone long enough, perhaps there can be final resolution to an affair that has taken far too long to address and deliver a final deliberation.

Rumblings of a Hockey War...

While they're still smiling and proclaiming that co-existence is best, the little skirmishes so far between the NHL and the KHL may be just the preamble to a protracted signing war. One which may very well redefine what the NHL has become in the last ten years.

Alex Radulov became the first "stone in Gary Bettman's shoe" this off season, as he bolted on his former employer the Nashville Predators, moving to Ufa and setting off a bit of a fire fight between the two sides as they strive to interpret sliding dates of enforcement and further intentions.

With the Russian based hockey league looking to find it's feet this season, the real action could come in the 2009-10 season, when a potential KHL universal draft may redraw NHL lineups for years to come.

We'll follow some of the dispatches from the two camps as the two leagues keep a wary eye on developments on both continents.

JULY 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What the kids did on their summer vacation..

Like many Canadian youngsters, a touring group of young Canadians have been enjoying the sights of the Europe this August, with a particular interest in Slovakia and a little hockey tournament that was hosted there in the summer.

The Canadian Under 18 junior squad claimed the Gold this weekend in Piestany, as Team Canada claimed the title in the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka hockey tournament.

The fourth time in five years that a Canadian squad has won the kick off to the always emotional junior hockey international tournament schedule. Canada had a perfect 4 and 0 record in the tournament.

Scoring for Canada in the Gold medal match were Taylor Hall, Carter Ashton, Ryan Ellis, Simon Despres, Brayden Schenn and Casey Cizikas.

Canada defeated their long time junior Nemesis, Russia in the final match of the weekend, outscoring them 6-3 to collect the gold and bragging rights until the World Juniors come along in December.

Hockey Canada-- Tournament Recap

He has regards for Broadway, but may be more likely destined for Broad Street!

The great where’s Mats going to land drama adds another destination on this Sunday, as numerous reports peg the latest destination for the once and now apparently former Maple Leaf centre as Broadway.

This of course will send the Vancouver media into overdrive with the "I told you so’s", this of course after newly enshrined GM’s Mike Gillis’ twenty million dollar temptation seemingly has come up wanting for the Big Swede.

Sundin still spending quiet summer days and nights in Sweden, has not made a public comment in many a moonrise now, but apparently has been quick to the phone with his agent to steer the travel arrangements towards a Big Apple touchdown, or so the latest goes.

The other possibility it seems might be Philadelphia where it’s reported that GM Paul Holmgren is working the abacus to try and make some financial wriggle room to bring in the centre ice presence.

Clearly off the radar now it seems is that building with the blue and white carpeting and with it the other Canadian destination of note Montreal.

The summer long melodrama seems set to continue for a little bit longer, but the fall out will be felt first in Vancouver should Sundin decide that those twenty million dollars aren’t everything. Gillis kind of went out on the ledge in June with his Sundin gambit, a decision that left many wondering if the Canucks had a plan B in place., The answer it would appear will be, uh, er, no not really, unless of course Joe Sakic decides that he’s good to go for one more year and would rather play in Vancouver to close out his career in his hometown. It would make a pretty decent consolation prize (for some better than the original plan) and would at least save Gillis the embarrassment of having to explain how things went off the rails so fast.

For Toronto, the obituaries were crafted on Sundin’s Maple Leaf Days as the regular season was winding down, with few if any really expecting him to return to the Leafs and their latest rebuilding and rebranding operation.

Montreal probably played their best hand in the latter stages of the regular season when they reportedly were trying to work on a trade for Sundin, since those excited days there hasn’t been much in the way of follow up, with little indication that the Swede fits into Bob Gainey's plans for 2008-09.

The New York suggestion seems more of a case of finding a landing spot with a bit of panache, to give Sundin a place to play that still has a bit of intrigue and is worthy of his years of service, especially if he’s letting the Canuck’s Brink’s truck pass by without making a withdrawal.

Philadelphia certainly seems like the strangest fit of the bunch, which judging how this soap opera has played out over the summer, must surely mean that big Mats will be in Flyer’s orange by September…

Headlines of August 2008

Well the vacation is over and we pick up the NHL trail where we seemingly left off, with a super secretive Swede still undecided and the NHL rosters still not quite filled out as training camp looms. We return to the fold with our daily review of the headline of the day...

August 31-- Offseason of change reshapes Sens' defence
August 30-- Stars C Barnes retires, joins staff
August 29-- Senators deal Meszaros to Lightning
August 28-- World junior tournament Alberta bound
August 27-- Sakic back with Avs for $6 million
August 26-- Fletcher happy with changes
August 25-- Blackhawks sign Aliu to three-year contract
August 24-- Union has clause for concern
August 23-- Three clubs bidding to host 2010 Memorial Cup
August 22-- Rangers to honor Graves, Bathgate and Howell
August 21-- Hockey Canada confirms Groulx's departure
August 20-- Legein quitting hockey
August 19-- NHL should take night off when Anderson is honoured
August 18-- Crawford puts the blame on Bertuzzi
August 17-- Sundin reportedly eyeing Broadway