Feb 072013
 

You Wanna Go?

This season has had more than it’s fair share of fights. As of February 5, the Vancouver Canucks have had 7 fights. Same with the Habs, but I preface the date because as I’m writing this, they’re about to play the Boston Bruins. Their fight count could be 20 by the end of that game.

A fight gets a crowd going, gets a team going, and fuels a good rivalry, but no one wants a player to sustain serious injury.  Two fights in the last couple of weeks have me going hmmm… because they involve the same team and show the right and wrong sides of fighting in the NHL.

First, we have the right: During a fight between the Philadelphia Flyers’ Max Talbot and the New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, all the shirt-tugging, pushing and pulling injured Callahan’s shoulder. Sensing that something was wrong, Talbot stopped and waved over a training, calling for medical help.

Now, the wrong: On Tuesday, the Flyers’ Zack Rinaldo fought the Tampa Bay Lightning’s BJ Crombeen. After Crombeen slipped to the ice, Rinaldo continued to pound him.

Rinaldo is a notorious fighter in the league, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a jerkoff. Would Kevin Bieksa keep throwing punches once a guy is down? I don’t think so.

To me, fighting is part of the game, but what makes it tolerable is the code – the etiquette – and Rinaldo broke it just days after his teammate, Talbot, was a poster child for it. Hmmm… I never thought I would say this but Rinaldo needs to take a lesson from Talbot.

Freaky Friday

Disney came out with a movie in the 1970s called Freaky Friday in a mom and daughter switch bodies. Every time I watch a Vancouver Canucks game this season, I can’t help but wonder if this has happened to Henrik Sedin and Zach Kassian.

First, Zack started scoring goals, and at one point, he was among the league leaders in goals scored. Then, Zack’s leading the Canucks in scoring, and as of today, he’s still tied for 3rd with Henrik in team scoring.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, our demure Swedish Captain is turning into a goon taking roughing penalties and throwing checks like he’s… well, Zack Kassian. The Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is actually sidelined – missing the Oilers’ game last night against the Dallas Stars – due to an injury resulting from a Henrik Sedin hit. It’s a total head scratcher. If Henrik drops his gloves next, I may just lose my mind.

The Mysterious Coin

The Canucks announced that Cory Schneider will get the start against the Minnesota Wild. Sure, Roberto Luongo is on a hot streak, but this isn’t about what makes sense. This is about what the coin says. Coach Alain Vigneault once again flipped his coin, and this time it came up Cory.

I am honestly starting to believe that AV soaks his chewing gum in vodka. He’s enjoying this too much, especially considering the media, the fans, and Schneider’s agent are all taking the goalie controversy very seriously.

I want to see this coin. Is it a loonie? A twoonie? A quarter? Does it have pictures of Cory and Bobby Lu on either side? Where does AV keep this coin? Is it always in his pocket? Does he lock it away somewhere with his crystal ball, voodoo dolls and a pack of vodka-infused chewing gun? If the media doesn’t insist on filming a coin toss before the end of the season, they’re not doing their job.

Feb 062011
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Martin Brodeur and Jarome Iginla

If Canada was really serious about hockey – if Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the hockey fan he says he is – then NHL Trade Deadline Day would be a national holiday.

Other than the opening night of the season, no other day on the hockey calendar offers hockey fans as much hope.

What about July 1st, the first day of free agency? Only if your team is a buyer.

Draft day? Only if your team has a first-round pick.

The beauty of NHL Trade Deadline Day is that it serves fans of all teams. Every move can be painted as a step toward a better tomorrow.

The only question is if that better tomorrow is this year, next year, or a few years from now.

Between today and what will be the busiest day in Canadian sports broadcasting (February 28th), thousands upon thousands of words will be said, tweeted and written about who will be dealt, and for what, on Trade Deadline Day.

Except for this column.

Here is a list of players with “tradeability” (aka trade value, brought to you by the same naming folks who brought you “drinkability,” “dunkability,” and “Sham-wow”), who won’t move at the deadline.

Martin Brodeur

Brodeur is 38-years old on a team that’s not only facing a long rebuilding process, but suddenly is losing ownership investors. What is there left for him to do in the Garden State? He’s got one year left on his contract at a cap-hit of $5.2 million. Colorado and Tampa Bay are two teams in particular who are looking to make a playoff push and have the cap space this year and next. Nonetheless, there is every indication that Brodeur is happy playing out the string in New Jersey.

What’s that saying: better to flame out than fade away? Patrick Roy wouldn’t fade away like it seems Martin Brodeur will.

Jarome Iginla

Without a membership to the Great Water Buffalo Society of General Managers, there’s no way of knowing for sure. However, it seems the goal of trading in the NHL is to move an asset when it is as close to its peak value as possible, hopefully before it stops returning on your investment entirely.

Jarome Iginla has done everything and more for the Flames. He won’t be more valuable two-years from now (power forwards rarely age well). The Los Angeles Kings are desperate for an impact forward. They have some interesting young talent, including Braydon Schenn and 57 goalie prospects (ok, a slight exaggeration). It seems logical to make a deal.

Nevertheless, Jay Feaster has told everyone who’ll listen that his veteran stars (Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff in particular) are safe, because his blueprint is to find a few core players and build a winning franchise around that core.

How this is a different approach from 29 other teams in the league is a head-scratcher. Perhaps someone should check that Feaster is talking about the same core group that has failed Calgary every year since a Stanley Cup run six years ago.

Tomas Kaberle

Pausing a moment while Leaf fans finish screaming in frustration… Looking back at the history books, practically every Stanley Cup winner has had a quality puck-moving defenceman anchoring its powerplay. The market for Kaberle should be big, with any of Tampa Bay, Colorado, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Phoenix, Carolina and the New York Rangers having cap space and playoff aspirations.

The problem is the Maple Leafs can’t afford to be a lottery pick again, and no other defenceman on the roster (including “Neon” Dion Phaneuf) has shown any aptitude with the puck. Seriously, it’s like watching the film 2001 before the obelisk showed the prehistoric apes how to use tools, some nights.

Adding to the situation is that Kaberle (depending on which source you trust) has never used his no-trade clause previously wielded his no-trade clause like Thor wields his hammer.

The last remaining member of the infamous Muskoka 5, there’s no reason for Kaberle to agree to be traded somewhere for a few extra months of hockey (inconveniencing him and his family).

Watch for him to simply wait out the year, go play in the World Championships, and choose his destination (probably featuring lots of sunshine) on July 1st.

Hey, it’s kinda the same choice former captain Mats Sundin made, isn’t it?

Ales Hemsky

Since most of the NHL Trade Deadline Day media originate from Toronto, you can expect future stories about how the Edmonton Oilers, in the midst of a scorched-earth rebuild, are looking for prospects and draft picks for their best players.

Make no mistake, despite the day-to-day improvements of Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky is Edmonton’s best player. Granted he’s injury prone, but he is also a magician with the puck – Glenn Anderson-like skills with a playmaker’s heart and vision. There is greatness in him, and for the Oilers to be great once again, they need to hold onto all the elite talent they can.

The great Terry Jones seems to agree.

Brad Richards

Another impending UFA. However, the Dallas Stars need a playoff run not only to help sell the team, but to add some much needed money to the team’s bottom line.

As the Jamie Langenbrunner trade demonstrated, this is a team adding, not subtracting, talent from the roster. Richards isn’t going anywhere (yet).

Alex Kovalev

Detroit General Manager Ken Holland has a theory that teams that score more than three goals a game usually coast into playoff spots. Somewhere lurking inside Alex Kovalev is Hall-of-Fame talent. With the right motivation, in the right situation, Kovalev could easily help a team get to that three goals-a-game level.

Sadly though it seems the mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma that is Alex Kovalev will finish his career without one last, great flourish. His latest knee injury, when added to his reputation, probably scares off any team that might be interested.

The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings make some trade-sense, as they might be the last two teams that would be able to motivate Kovalev. However, it appears neither team can afford his contract.

Sergei Gonchar

Some will argue that getting Gonchar out of Ottawa would be a coup, since few defencemen in the past decade have seen the offensive side of the game better. As previously discussed, the best teams in the league always have a good puck-moving defenceman at their disposal.

The problem for the Senators is that the best teams in the league don’t want to pay a 36-year old with beer-league defensive skills $11 million over the next two years.

It’s shocking that, despite the Kovalev and Gonchar contracts, Eugene Melnyk is still looking to keep Bryan Murray inside the organization in some capacity after this season is over.

Maxime Talbot

Yet another UFA, Talbot might just be the most recognizable “other guy” amongst Penguin forwards not named Crosby, Malkin or Staal. He’s earned this recognition with his speed, grit and determination – all the characteristics a Cup team needs in abundance. Some team will overpay for his services in the off-season (probably Toronto).

Earning just over $1 million, Talbot would be a classic Trade Deadline Day acquisition for a young team on the rise, or a team on the cusp of something special. The thing is, this Penguins team is one of the latter.

They have no real reason to move Talbot.

Kevin Bieksa

Vancouver’s favourite whipping boy, salary cap issues looked like they would finally force the Canucks to move Bieksa at the start of the year. Instead, injuries have allowed the maligned blueliner to not only stay in the lineup, but reward the team with maybe the best play of his career.

His poor decision-making will forever keep him from being a true top-pairing defender, but every team in the league wants depth on defence for the post-season.

Bieksa, as a second-pairing, second-powerplay defenceman, would be an attractive option to a few teams, including the New York Rangers.

In keeping Bieksa, the Canucks already have what other teams will be looking for on NHL Trade Deadline Day.

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