Welcome back, NHL.
Don’t worry – not much has changed since you’ve been away, save that Dominik Hasek can’t make any saves for a while due to a strained abductor muscle (which is a fancy way of saying groin injury) sustained in the opening minutes of the Olympics.
The Czech Republic’s other all-world superstar, Jaromir Jagr, went down with a groin injury in the middle of the bronze medal game and didn’t return. The injury didn’t look as bad – but could be much worse – than the hit-from-behind delivered by Finland’s Jarkko Ruutu on Jagr in a preliminary game.
Who else got hurt in the fun and Games?
Philadelphia’s top line took a hit when Simon Gagne sustained a bone bruise in his knee; he may be out for a couple weeks. Peter Forsberg, who went to Turin battling a nagging groin injury, survived the experience – and came away with his second Olympic gold medal, no less – but the intense schedule, heavy travel and heady post-Olympic festivities likely means the Flyers are getting back a sleep-deprived Swedish superstar.
Then there’s Vancouver, which saw defenseman Ed Jovanovski get hurt just prior to the Games. And then, at the Olympics, Canucks blueliners Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo both got injured, and their return date is unknown.
Those three defensemen average about 25 minutes of ice time – each – per game. Only one other Canucks D-man (Bryan Allen) plays as much as 20 minutes per night.
Right now, Vancouver’s blueline is awash in minor-leaguers and unproven prospects. Factor in an uncertain crease situation – is Vancouver really going to go into the playoffs with Alex Auld as its No. 1? – and the Canucks’ position as pre-season favorites suddenly looks quite different.
Question of the Week
Should Wayne Gretzky step down as executive director of Canada’s men’s Olympic team?
No, no, no.
For the simple reason that you don’t blow everything up because of one bad experience.
Yes, Canada’s men’s hockey team was the disappointment of the Games. No doubt a-boot it. And yes, maybe there should have been more of a youth movement (Eric Staal, Jason Spezza, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf). The kids would’ve brought desire and energy to a team that desperately needed those elements. There’s something to be said about youthful enthusiasm – look at Alex Ovechkin on the Olympic all-star team.
But also look at the team Gretzky’s group selected. Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St-Louis, Brad Richards, Gagne, Todd BertuzziÂ…there’s no way that bunch should have been shut out by Switzerland, or shut out three times by the same 2-0 score. That’s not a management mistake. That’s a players-need-to-look-in-the-mirror mistake.
70 games in Olympic years
One more time, for the record: the NHL, if it intends to continue participating in the Olympics, needs to cut down its schedule to 70 games in Olympic years, and take a week off before the Games so the teams can properly prepare.
What we saw this year in Turin – teams arriving the day before games, and trying to adjust to a six-hour time difference on the fly – isn’t feasible, or fair.
Also, if the recent talk that the World Cup is being put out to pasture proves true, it’s important the Olympics are respected as the definitive best-on-best men’s hockey tournament. That means giving the players and national teams the time and resources they need to put forth their best efforts.
It’s once every four years. Do it right.
Todd Bertuzzi made my mother swear.
Seriously. She was so upset The Hockey News chose to put Bertuzzi on the cover of the Olympic preview issue that she dropped an expletive in a recent telephone conversation.
A pretty good one, too. It might even rhyme with puckÂ…