Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
It’s a shame one of the countries that can least afford to endure key injuries is suffering them just before the Olympics.
As of today, Finland is without one-third of its top two lines with Saku Koivu out with sprained knee ligaments and Teemu Selanne on the sidelines with a broken jaw. And if the Finns have any aspirations of even coming close to duplicating their silver medal performance in 2006, they’d better hope they can get one or both of them back.
It would be a devastating turn of events if the Finns were to arrive in Vancouver without Selanne and Koivu in the lineup. Selanne would be a particularly difficult one to overcome because, despite the fact he’s 39, when he has been healthy this season there has been no indication his level of play has dropped off at all.
While Koivu certainly is not the same player he was when he and Selanne tied for the point title in Turin with 11, his leadership and grit would be missed by a Finnish team that, when it is successful, always represents a triumph of the collective over the individual. Selanne and Koivu are among the best players ever produced by Finland and both have a winner’s mentality and a history of producing in crucial games and situations.
And the problem is, it’s not as though they could be easily replaced, the way players of their ilk might be slotted in for Canada, USA or Sweden. Ironically, goaltending is always an important position in this tournament, but the Finns would have been better off had they lost one of their three goalies instead of a forward.
If all three of their stoppers were to go down between now and the Olympics, the Finns would be able to replace them with Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask and probably wouldn’t miss a beat. (Notice I didn’t say Vesa Toskala?)
Of the two, Selanne is definitely the less likely to be able to play. He broke his jaw Jan. 13 and is expected to be out two to six weeks, which puts his Olympic participation in serious peril.
Koivu is expected to miss two weeks after spraining his knee against the Los Angeles Kings the very next night, but after seeing the injury, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t much worse. When Jarret Stoll of the Kings fell on Koivu’s knee, it was one of those situations where the top part of his leg went in one direction and the bottom went the other.
IS THAT ALL?
Any display of charity when it comes to the Haitian relief effort is commendable, but is there anyone else out there who thinks the NHL’s contribution of just $100,000 is a joke?
Aside from the contributions made by individual teams and players, the NHL is donating no more than Samuel Dalembert of the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s embarrassing.
The NFL and its players’ association are giving $1 million to the effort, as are Major League Baseball and the NBA. But the NHL is seeing fit to donate $3,333.33 per team to one of the worst natural disasters of this generation. That amounts to about a night for four in the platinum seats at the Air Canada Centre.
Again, not to disparage a show of charity, but the NHL is very active in raising funds for breast cancer research. According to statistics from the American and Canadian Cancer Societies, about 45,000 women die each year from breast cancer. The death toll from the Haitian earthquake could be as high as 200,000, which represents more than four years of breast cancer deaths in North America.
It’s time for the league, perhaps at the behest of the NHLPA, to step up and make a more substantial donation.
The Washington Capitals have finally succeeded in becoming the biggest game in town at the NHL level. Now the next step is for the organization to capitalize on this momentum and begin to develop a few more players to one day play for them.
The Capitals have been charter members of the NHL for almost 36 years, but the Washington area has produced just one NHL player, former Capital and Potomac, Md., native Jeff Halpern of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jarred Tinordi, son of former Capitals defenseman Mark Tinordi and a Maryland native, is playing for the American under-18 team and is a first round prospect for this year’s draft.
Not exactly a sterling record there. On a recent trip to Washington to work on a piece on Alex Ovechkin, I witnessed a practice for a local high school team where some of the players couldn’t even skate backwards.
The Capitals and other teams in non-hockey markets would be well advised to follow the lead of the Dallas Stars who, under executive Jim Lites, have built rinks and run minor hockey leagues in Dallas, efforts that are reaping rewards with a number of promising young Texas-born players on the horizon.
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 Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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