In this week’s reader mailbag, the topics include the influence of French-Canadian players in the NHL, former Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore’s future in the game, and the Bruins trading some of their biggest young stars.
Hello there. This is the last mailbag I’ll be doing until I return from vacation the week of Jan. 13. Thanks for all the questions you’ve submitted this year. I wish you, your family and friends a safe and happy holiday season.
I’m struck by the absence of Francophones from the lists of offensive leaders. Only Martin St-Louis is among the top 20 scorers. Is this just a temporary demographic anomaly, or has some kind of major sociological change taken place in Canada?
Steve Sherman, Munich, Germany
I have yet to see conclusive proof that Francophone players are disappearing from the NHL. Certainly, the demographics in Quebec are changing – as they are in every part of Canada – but you still see dynamic talents such as David Perron (who is one of the top 20 Canadian scorers this season) and St-Louis making significant impacts for their teams.
A few years ago, former NHLer Bob Sirois released a book alleging bias against French-Canadian players, but I think the bigger factor in the relative lack of big names at the top of scoring lists is that the rest of the hockey world has caught up to French (and English) Canada.
The glory days of the 1950s and 1960s were especially glorious because the NHL was a relatively small league, at least in the sense of worldwide participation. But since the influx of Europeans and the growth of the game in the U.S., it’s only natural that Canada’s influence would be diluted. And given how popular the sport remains in the province of Quebec, I’d expect we’ll continue to see Francophone players assert themselves for a long time to come.
What gives with the lack of interest in Jose Theodore? Sure, he’s 37 (although Tim Thomas is 39 and he managed to drum up some interest) and had sub-par numbers last season (as if he was the only Panther guilty of this), but in the last full season, he had .917 save percentage, which increased slightly to .919 in the playoffs (his best playoff numbers since leaving the Canadiens). So why haven’t more teams come knocking? Is he just unwilling to leave the sunny state of Florida? Also, I’m sorry for the overuse of comments in parentheses (sort of).
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.
This was a timely question insofar as Theodore has announced he is joining French-Canadian broadcaster TVA as an analyst. So his career is officially over.
Why didn’t teams come knocking? A couple reasons: first of all, the goalie market is as flooded as it’s ever been. And when teams are facing a salary cap crunch (or internal budget limits), it’s much easier to seek a solution that involves a cheaply-paid rookie or youngster looking to prove himself than it is to shell out a couple million for a veteran like Theodore.
As well, it wasn’t as if his last season was a complete anomaly. His numbers fluctuated wildly toward the end of his career and he was never among the league leaders in any category during that span. This isn’t to say he didn’t have a career to be proud of – any man who has his name on a Hart Trophy has succeeded beyond most of our wildest dreams – but storybook endings are few and far-between in the sports world.
The Bruins’ recent trade of Tyler Seguin made me think about when they sent Joe Thornton to the Sharks. What was the deal then? Also talk about being irresponsible off the ice? How many superstars can the Bruins afford to give up on?
Paul S. Baxter, Somerville, Mass.
No, Thornton’s off-ice activities had nothing to do with that deal. Essentially, he’d been given up on by then-Bruins GM Mike O’Connell and coach Mike Sullivan and Boston was looking to shake up their at-the-time moribund squad. I guess you could say they did, but they did it with one of the worst deals in modern NHL history (getting back Wayne Primeau, Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart in return).
The Seguin trade is a different animal. First of all, they got a very solid player back in Loui Eriksson; but more importantly, they deal away a player who didn’t fit in with the veteran, Stanley Cup-winning team’s all-business attitude. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli may yet come to regret moving him a few years from now, but you can at least comprehend the logic behind it.
When it comes to Thornton, however, it was a wrong move from the get-go – and an example of the petty way that franchise once did business. Luckily for Bruins fans, Chiarelli was much smarter about hanging on to the talent he had. And the Stanley Cup they won under his tenure is all the proof he’ll ever need.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.