My goodness, how things pile up during a five-week vacation, even if it is during the dog days of summer when nothing is supposed to be happening in hockey. Nonetheless, an eventful off-season continues to march on and with that in mind, we present news and views on some of the hot-button topics in the NHL these days:
NEWS: Dany Heatley holds a news conference prior to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp to clear the air concerning his demand to be traded from the Ottawa Senators.
VIEWS: If Heatley were trying to dispel the notion that he’s a petulant, self-absorbed jerk, he failed miserably. “Epic fail” as the kids say these days.
NEWS: Canada takes to the ice for its Olympic orientation camp with Stephane Robidas, Dan Cleary and Milan Lucic among the hopefuls.
VIEWS: Unless one of those guys has the greatest first half in history, don’t expect any of them to be on the team that plays in Vancouver next February. Back in 1998, Bob Clarke tried to prove he was smarter than everyone else in the hockey world by including Rob Zamuner on the Olympic team. Canada won’t make a mistake like that again because the people who run the program now know star players can fit into any role on a team and excel at it.
NEWS: San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson promises earth-shattering changes, then spends the summer doing almost nothing to his roster.
VIEWS: Perhaps he’s still waiting around to make a deal for Heatley. Perhaps Wilson’s decision to not make a bold move will prove to be disastrous for the Sharks. But there’s also the chance that doing nothing might be the best thing for him to do. Back in the mid-1990s, there were calls for the Detroit Red Wings to trade Steve Yzerman and remake the roster after a series of playoff failures that were almost as disappointing as those the Sharks have endured the past couple of seasons. They resisted the temptation and Yzerman developed into a Hall of Fame leader and multiple Stanley Cup champion.
And three years ago when the Red Wings lost in the first round of the playoffs, people said they were too soft and too European. The Red Wings seriously contemplated tearing their team apart, but once again remained true to their beliefs and were rewarded with two Stanley Cup-final showings and an appearance in the Western Conference final in the three years that followed.
The crucial question for the Sharks is, can they seriously contend for the Stanley Cup with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau as the heartbeat of their team? There is a legion of hockey observers who think not, but there was a time when people didn’t think Yzerman was capable of leading the Red Wings anywhere.
NEWS: The NHL’s board of governors votes unanimously to not approve Jim Balsillie’s bid to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes. Balsillie responds to the claim that he lacks the “integrity” to be an NHL owner by besmirching the reputation of, among others, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
VIEWS: Hey, wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of palace revolt against NHL commissioner Gary Bettman by the board of governors over this? Wasn’t Bettman supposed to lose his job when the board realized Bettman was trying to keep a solid hockey market from replacing one that is a revenue-sucking failure? Even though the bankruptcy courts will ultimately have more of a say than the NHL’s board of governors, Bettman’s status among those who effectively employ him remains rock solid.
NEWS: The NHL is still investigating whether or not the front-loaded contracts awarded to Chris Pronger by the Philadelphia Flyers and Marian Hossa by the Chicago Blackhawks represents a circumvention of the collective bargaining agreement.
VIEWS: Of course they do. But should we be surprised? After shutting the league down for a year to supposedly get a CBA that would level the economic playing field, large market teams have spent the past four seasons doing everything they can to get around the terms of the agreement.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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