- Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone! Hope you all had a great holiday.
- International hockey is afoot! I am somewhat concerned about the state of Canadian Hockey. I know we will always be the front runner due to the ridiculous popularity of Hockey in Canada, but other countries are certainly making inroads. Canada’s somewhat easy dismissal from the Spengler Cup tournament is one obvious example. The struggle continues, but Canada’s contribution to the World Junior Hockey Championship is not the juggernaut we’ve seen in previous years. Canada suffered a pre-tournament loss to Finland before the real games started, and have already dropped a game to the Russians in the round robin. Hopefully some national pride can be salvaged by tournament’s end – Canada has alwayus captured a medal on home soil. Personally I’m spoiled, if it’s not Gold I’m disappointed.
- Some Bizarre stuff coming out of Edmonton, as the much maligned GM Peter Chiarelli thought it was a good idea to trade his franchise player’s friend for his on-ice arch nemesis. Edmonton made a few deals bringing in three new defencemen – Alex Petrovic, Robin Norell and Brandon Manning. If you’re an Oilers fan you know who Brandon Manning. He’s the guy that broke Connor McDavid’s collarbone. In a later game McDavid blew up in the post game presser (notably the only time McDavid’s ever had such a tantrum) about how Manning was bragging about it and getting in his face. Conversely, one of the players going to other way (Drake Caggiula) is a good friend of McDavid’s. He’s also one of the few Oilers providing secondary scoring at a time when new coach Ken Hitchcock is looking for better production from the bottom 6. The case made against the Oilers supposed high octane offence of late is that if you put Leon Draisatl and Connor McDavid on the same line then the Oilers are a one line team. Manning is a 28 year old third pairing defenceman with a fat contract that was riding the pine in last place Chicago. He won’t provide secondary scoring or solve their defensive woes. Sure, McDavid and Manning have both said all the right things in the media, but you can’t help but shake your head at this move.
- I suppose it was still slightly less boneheaded than Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites publicly picking a fight with his top superstars. Tyler Seguin seemed contrite about it, wisely so as he’s had some controversies follow him around and he wants to shed the problem child label. Jamie Benn on the other hand seemed real angry about it. I respect both reactions, but Lites certainly cost himself some money. When those guys contracts come up they will remember this as either a reason to demand more $ or as an excuse to walk. They both just signed huge extensions though, so this either makes them a questionable investment or trade bait. Huge public beef with higher ups isn’t raising their trade value either.
- Terror in Leafland as Frederik Andersen has gone down with a mysterious day to day injury. For all the hype over AustOn Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner most Leaf fans know that Andersen is our MVP. Journeyman Michael Hutchison was picked up from Florida to shore thing sup, but without their marquee goaltender the Leafs long term ambitions are moot. We’re not the Lightning who can shrug off Vasilevskiy being injured for a month. Vasilevskiy won the starting job in Tampa completely unproven when Tampa Bay decided they just didn’t want to pay Ben Bishop like a rising star when he was injury prone. Toronto has no such blue chip prospects, though I think many Toronto fans will be watching prospect Ian Scott in the World Junior Championship with overly ambitious plans for the week after the tournament.
- The Outdoor Game happened between a hated Boston Bruins squad and an overexposed Chicago squad on the downturn. I don’t mean to rag on the Blackhawks, heck, I took some abuse on boxing day for wearing a Blackhawks jersey (it’s Christmas colors!). But they are now 0-5 in Winter Classic games and just aren’t very good. It should also be noted that both teams “special” jerseys were hideous, and the venue ran out of food and beer by the end of the first period. I think I’m officially cynically over the whole outdoor game thing, but if other people are down I’m willing to change my tune. I think it had a lot to do with trying to convince my lady to go to the game – “What, you don’t want to spend New Year’s Day in the freezing cold at a Hockey game with huge crowds, terrible traffic and limited amenities? Who needs food?”