We’re in the midst of the NHL’s interminable pre-season schedule – and with the optimism that abounds this time of year from just about every corner of the league, I can’t keep focused on one topic. So let’s look at a handful of pertinent issues this week, shall we?
AW GEE, RAFFI!
The Columbus Blue Jackets know they’re in for a tough battle to secure a berth in the post-season this year; as such, they need all hands on deck to take on the likes of Detroit, Chicago and other Western Conference forces on a nightly basis.
So you’ve got to believe Blue Jackets management felt as if it had taken a boot to the delicates when newly acquired winger Raffi Torres got injured while engaged in a meaningless pre-season fight Sept. 30 with Blackhawks enforcer Ben Eager.
Torres, who was playing his first game since tearing up his knee Dec. 12 as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, separated his shoulder after falling to the ice with Eager on top of him. He is expected to be sidelined six weeks.
Naturally, the Jackets backed Torres for adhering to the time-honored notion of sticking up for one of his own.
“It was unfortunate, because he was trying to show everybody he was going to be a good teammate,” Columbus GM Scott Howson told The Hockey News. “Anybody who loses one or more of their top players is going to have to deal with a significant impact. But every team has injuries. Raffi’s injury is disappointing, because we saw him as a significant piece in our top nine.
“And for a player coming back from surgery, it was going to be hard enough. Now he’s going to have something else to deal with. From a personal standpoint for him, it’s probably going to take a little longer to see him at his best. That’s the disappointing thing for him, and the team.”
Disappointing, to say the least. It’s always disappointing when players don’t realize that, when you’re injured in coming to the aid of a teammate – in Torres’ case, going after Eager for slashing Jakub Voracek – you render yourself unable to come to the rescue of other teammates until you’re healthy enough to make the same error in judgment again.
Can we please drop a cone of silence around anybody – players, coaches, media – who insists on ripping the NHL for playing games in Europe? All the whining does is demonstrate how spoiled North Americans are when it comes to watching the best hockey players on the planet.
Put yourself in a European fan’s shoes for a second. Can you imagine what it would be like if you got to watch Canadian or American kids in their formative years, only to see them leave to ply their trade overseas? How would North Americans react if they had to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to catch their prodigal sons on TV?
Something tells me there would be pitchforks, lawsuits and mob scenes involved.
So suck it up, pampered puck people. Consider yourselves fortunate you get to see these guys play as often as you do. And try to show some empathy for your fellow inter-planetary hockey-lovers.
TO SNATCH A PRED
My eyebrows recently violated a number of sovereign airspace regulations, so shocked was I to hear the news Jim Balsillie remains interested in becoming an owner of an NHL franchise. Yup, the same Nashville Predators team he was unsuccessful at purchasing in 2007.
I josh, of course. The fact the Research In Motion magnate remains undaunted by commissioner Gary Bettman’s transparent distaste for him should shock no one. Since he became a multi-hundred-millionaire, Balsillie has been patient-but-resolute in his efforts to join hockey’s ultimate ownership fraternity.
He and his attorneys understand that with every passing year and every team adorned with a “for sale” tag, it becomes more and more preposterous for the league to shoo him away. Time is on the man’s side; the only pressing question is how long he’ll wait before challenging the NHL’s territorial boundaries in court and moving his franchise to Southern Ontario whether Bettman approves or not.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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