The group of roughly 750 players that make up the NHL is a fluid one, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when some notable names don’t make the final list when opening night rosters are finally pared down.
That being said, I am surprised, because some guys I just assumed were gimmes, even if they were in camps on tryouts (Theo Fleury and Jason Allison were not in this category). It just goes to show you, though, how salary cap issues and the value of experience often battle each other in a GM’s decision-making process. Here are some interesting winners and losers as camps wind down.
Dan Hinote, RW, San Jose – Well, technically Hinote does not play for San Jose because the Sharks cut the veteran, who was in camp on a tryout basis. To me, this was a shocker because Hinote is known as a great guy in the room and the Sharks need such a person. Over the summer they lost Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick and Brad Lukowich; all savvy veterans. Hasn’t this team had a little grit problem over the years? Why do they keep getting less gritty, aside from the acquisition of fourth-liner Scott Nichol? This was a weird one to me.
Darryl Sydor, D, St. Louis – Sydor’s teams have been to four Stanley Cup finals in the past 10 seasons, with the veteran D-man earning rings in two of those years (Dallas and Tampa). His addition to the Blues, who signed him after a tryout with the team, comes at the expense of youngster Jonas Junland, who unfortunately doesn’t get to play in front of his home Swedish fans with St. Louis taking on Detroit in Stockholm to open the season. Junland, who has size and skates well, will likely get his shot next year after a little more seasoning with Peoria of the American League. Sydor helps ease the burden left in Eric Brewer’s injured absence, plus gives the Blues that deep playoff experience they hope to tap into later this year.
Randy Jones, D, Philadelphia – Another big shocker, the Flyers waived Jones over the weekend, ostensibly to make room for rookie Danny Syvret, who impressed team brass with his pre-season performance. Jones, who struggled with injuries last season, is a big, tough blueliner when healthy and getting him through waivers and back may be a tall order for Philly should they require his services later in the year.
J-F Jacques, LW, Edmonton – I was watching a bit of the Vancouver-Edmonton pre-season tilt Sunday night and Jacques stood out – and not because it was bizarre to see the hulking winger on the top line. Playing with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, Jacques set up a power play goal on a beauty pass in front of the net to Horcoff, then went out the next shift and demolished Canucks defenseman Sami Salo with a stiff hit behind the net.
Jacques, who missed most of last season due to back surgery, has largely split his pro career between the Oilers and the AHL, but looks to be positioned to do big things this year. Rob Schremp, he of the everlasting potential, but no NHL follow-through, was waived and you have to think Jacques’ performance and the signing of Mike Comrie had something to do with it.
Sergei Shirokov, RW, Vancouver – Despite an injury setback, the Kontinental League import has been on fire for the Canucks with seven points in four pre-season games, tops on the team. Will his ascent come at the expense of young center Cody Hodgson, who has failed to impress? It would be a monumental upset if Hodgson doesn’t make the team, but who falls in his stead? (True, they don’t play the same positions, but forwards can be moved around to fill out the roster with the best available talent.)
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly throughout the off-season, his column – The Straight Edge – on Fridays, and his prospect feature – The Hot List – on Tuesdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.