Another Friday, another mailbag column. If you’d be so kind as to continue sending your questions via this form, my superiors would be most appreciative.
Great column! Quick question: Any chance we could see Jared Boll line up with Rick Nash and Mike Peca? Boll has to be the most exciting physical player on the ice, not to mention he's got a decent flair for offense (55 points in 66 games with Plymouth in the Ontario League last year).
Peter B., Detroit
I think it’s natural for most coaches to juggle their lines during the regular season – especially on a team like the Blue Jackets, who don’t have much in the way of depth on the wing and are still in the infancy of establishing their identity. So it wouldn’t shock me to see Ken Hitchcock eventually give Boll a shot on Columbus’ top line; but I think it’s more likely Nik Zherdev or Freddie Modin take over on a permanent basis. Ultimately, your top line guys can’t be shy about the physical aspect of the game, but they’ve got to have some proven NHL-caliber skill, too.
And, though it’s true Boll posted some decent point totals in junior, the hockey landscape is littered with players who lit it up on their way to the NHL, but couldn’t produce in the game’s best league. If he does get promoted to play with a talent such as Nash, he won’t have long to prove he belongs there.
Hey Adam, great column.
Maybe you could shed some light on a few things for me: The Leafs still have fans – why? The Canucks can't play defense – how can that be? I'm looking forward to seeing Pittsburgh and Chicago play – what year is this? Philly might win a Stanley Cup – is that possible? Which is stronger this year – the East or the West?
Ian Archambault, Vancouver
The manner in which you pose your queries is certainly different – do all your verbal conversations take the same structure of finishing a statement of fact with a question?
Let’s get to the answers: The Leafs still have fans because Torontonians are suck…um, I mean, very passionate about their team, and, as evidenced by the Harold Ballard era, will support them no matter how much of a laughingstock they become.
The Canucks’ defense corps has looked awful in part because of the absence of Sami Salo, in part because of the underwhelming play of Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa, and in part because the forwards aren’t producing any offense to bail their mistakes out. Now that Salo and Bieksa are on the shelf with injuries, things aren’t looking to get better in the immediate future.
I too think it’s great the Blackhawks and Penguins, among others, are enjoying franchise resurgences. I’ve never been one to bitch and moan about the lack of dynasties in the modern NHL; the league only gets stronger when all of its teams have a legitimate chance at major improvements in short spans of time.
The Flyers definitely are looking like Cup contenders at home, but take a gander at their road record (3-4-0, for the gander-challenged). Not exactly what I’d call the hallmark of a champion, but they’ve still got time to get things right.
Finally, I still like the West over the East. If teams like the Bruins or Canadiens had to face the likes of Detroit, Colorado and San Jose on a more regular basis, something tells me they wouldn’t be playoff teams right now.
A while ago on Versus, Brian Engblom defended the "cheapshot" cross check by Randy Jones. Why do many in the media think that this is "old time hockey" instead of poor sportsmanship?
He blames Patrice Bergeron for skating near the boards to get the puck. Is Engblom brain dead or just at the moron level of the IQ scale? Or is it because he was a defenseman and never completed his degree at the University of Wisconsin? Smart as bull and twice as strong?
Christopher Prevel, Orlando
I’m not going to disrespect Engblom, someone I’ve never met but respect as a former NHLer and solid broadcaster. However, he’s obviously been raised in the longstanding hockey tradition of blaming the victim, and with every passing player who gets stretchered off the ice, that mentality loses whatever merit it deserved in the first place.
Simply put, “old school” players and media are beginning to understand there is only a finite amount of players capable of performing at the NHL level, and everyone – owners, coaches, league officials and players – need to start backing up their clichés concerning the lack of “respect” in the game with some discernable action.
If that fails to happen, there will soon come a day when we’ll all be talking about a star NHLer who has had his career rubbed out in its early stages by an act of recklessness that is quickly becoming something more than an exception. And when that day comes, the lame-o lines about hockey being a physical game won’t be of any comfort to that star’s family, teammates or fans.
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