Some hockey thoughts from a scribe who wonders what the heck happened to the off-season:
MATTHEWS' CONTRACT: I was like many others who wondered what the heck the Toronto Maple Leafs were doing by dragging out No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews' contract negotiations. Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello is notorious for being tight-fisted with bonus money and there was fear he was trying to withhold such money from Matthews. Turns out those fears were unfounded. Matthews got every penny that was coming his way and the Maple Leafs got their first legitimate No. 1 centre since Mats Sundin left town. In typical Lamoriello fashion, the Maple Leafs boss shrugged his shoulders and said, “What was the hurry?”
CANADA'S PLAYOFF RECOVERY: Last season the seven Canadian-based teams missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I am not a betting man, but I believe at least five of those teams – The Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and the Maple Leafs will make serious pushes to be in the playoffs in 2016-17. By the way, this does not mean I don’t believe the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks won’t make a serious run for the playoffs, but it will likely be a bigger challenge for them.
'C'ING INTO McDAVID'S FUTURE: Spent a little time with budding superstar Connor McDavid this past week and came away believing he has matured immensely over the past 12 months. When I first met McDavid he came across as a little standoffish. Friends of McDavid insist that side of his personality is simply shyness. Nevertheless, the Connor McDavid I chatted with this week was forthcoming, honest and opinionated. It seems like only a matter of time before the Oilers slap the captain’s ‘C’ on his sweater.
SUBBAN SHOULD KEEP SMILING: Reading between the lines, it seems the Canadiens wanted a player who would mourn every defeat like it was a death. That certainly isn’t P.K. Subban’s shtick and that was why he was traded for fellow defenceman Shea Weber. If that is indeed the case, my suggestion to Subban is to keep on smiling. Give it everything you have on the ice and then enjoy everything else life has to offer
LINDROS AT SMASHFEST: It was nice to see Eric Lindros at Dominic Moore’s annual charity ping-pong tournament, Smashfest V, in Toronto on July 21. Lindros was among the Class of 2016 who are to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the fall – and it’s about bloody time. I don’t care if you like Lindros, his mom and dad or the fact he opted to not report to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Quebec Nordiques; none of that matters in the big picture. What matters is Lindros was the best player in the world for a few years when he had his health and he put up superstar numbers while intimidating the poop out of his opponents. It is embarrassing that he was not a first-ballot inductee
HALL OF VERY GOOD: Still trying to figure out why Rogatien Vachon was chosen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. My recollection of him was he was a very good goalie, but not a great goalie proving once again, it’s not what you do, but who you know. The Hall of Fame is for great players; not very good players.
SHOULD-BE HALL OF FAMERS: Theoren Fleury, Steve Larmer, Rick Martin, Paul Kariya, Alexander Mogilny and (it pains me to say) Tom Barrasso
SIGN YOUR NAME: While I was at Smashfest V, I happened to glance at the many autographed jerseys that were being auctioned off for charity. I couldn’t make out one name. When I was a kid and got an NHL player’s autograph, I could actually read his name. Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe had exquisite autographs. Now it is just illegible squiggles. What a pity.
EVANDER KANE: Not saying he is guilty of anything, but when is Evander Kane going to grow up? This kid has superstar skill, but rank amateur decision making ability. He is only 24 years old so there is plenty of time to grow up, but you have to wonder how long teams will want to bother with him
YOUNG GUNS SCARING VETS: Spoke with a few veterans who will be participating in the World Cup and to a man they said they fear playing Team North America, the team made up of players 24 years old and younger. One player summed it up by saying, “We are in a no-win situation. We are supposed to beat them so if we do, it’s no big deal. If we lose it is an embarrassment.” Frankly, I wouldn’t take it that far, especially now that Matt Murray of the Penguins has served notice that he’s a legitimate NHL goalie.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.