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Should the Oilers have taken Larsson?

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

We’re almost at the start of another hockey season and I’m preparing for it by taking a vacation next week. That means my THN colleagues will be answering your questions in my stead, so keep on keepin’ on with the questions.

Hi Adam. I was a bit surprised when the Oilers chose Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as their No. 1 pick, as I feel that Adam Larsson would have been a better choice for a team with as much offensive talent as the Oilers. Do you still think Nugent-Hopkins would have been the first overall pick if Larsson were Canadian?

Ulf Bradling, Stockholm

Hi Ulf,

If we were talking about this 25 or 30 years ago, I might be inclined to agree with you hinting that xenophobia plays a role in certain teams’ personnel decisions. But not in this day and age. While there was a case to be made for Edmonton adding a potential future all-star to their defense corps, I think there’s an equally valid argument for drafting a bona fide No. 1 center to play with Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi for years to come.

I also think the Oilers aren’t going to be very good this year and will have another shot at selecting a high-impact defenseman at or near the top of the 2012 draft. But there’s simply no evidence they are avoiding non-North American players intentionally. Just ask Paajarvi, Linus Omark, Anton Lander and Oscar Klefbom, all of whom are Europeans and all of whom are Oilers property.

Adam, with the recent losses of so many hockey players this past summer, why is Tom Cavanagh never mentioned? As Mike Gaffney put it, “He was the best player, but he also was the most coachable player. He was the guy who wanted you to push him the hardest. He was a coach's dream.” Cavanagh may not have achieved as much as Rick Rypien, Pavol Demitra or Derek Boogaard, but he still deserves some recognition. He will be dearly missed by friends and family. May he rest in peace.

Tristan McLoughlin, Winnipeg


You make a great point. I’ve tried to include Cavanagh’s name in discussions of those hockey has lost in this horrific summer, but I think the fact he was for the most part an American Leaguer made it easy for some to focus on the players connected to the NHL.

That doesn’t make Cavanagh’s suicide any less tragic. Like Rypien, Cavanagh’s friends, family and employer were well aware of the mental illness he was struggling with, but he wasn’t able to overcome what ailed him.

Nevertheless, you or anyone reading this can honor him by purchasing this shirt. Proceeds will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Cavanagh’s memory.

Hello Adam. I saw your appearance on "Off The Record" recently. You were talking about NHLers who got into trouble with the law. You included Chris Simon in the list of players who ran afoul with the law. I don't recall Mr. Simon having legal issues. Mr. Simon had been behind on child support in the past, but that was a custody matter. You have done a great disservice to Mr. Simon by lumping him with NHL players with criminal behavior. This is bordering on slander.

Chris Simon has gotten into trouble with the NHL head office over his level of play in the past. I have met the man and he is a fine individual. It appears that you don't respect Mr. Simon to accord him a benefit of the doubt on legalities. But I will give you the benefit of doubt because you were caught in a panel debate on television and decided to throw out names that popped into your mind. You owe Mr. Simon an apology for making outlandish associations with criminals. You need to have better discretion when you are engaged in a debate on television. Thank you for your time.

Henry Buswa, Orillia, Ont.

Hello Henry,

The point I was trying to make on that show wasn’t to indict the character of Simon or any player, nor was it to deny them their humanity. While I don’t recall exactly how I phrased it – and you’re right to note that panel discussions can get rushed and stray from the initial topic of conversation – I was trying to underscore how troubled enforcers have been as a group over the years.

In that sense, Simon was a totally legitimate reference to be included with the likes of Steve Durbano, John Kordic and a slew of other former enforcers. He had some notorious on-ice incidents – including a baseball-swing of his stick into Ryan Hollweg’s chest and stomping down with his skate on Jarkko Ruutu – that, if they occurred in another sport, could easily have resulted in criminal charges.

That said, I understand Simon had serious personal issues that would have clouded his judgment. As well, he has done many fantastic things for the First Nations community and deserves as much respect for that as any positive thing he’s done in a hockey rink. But I’m not going to leave him out of the discussion of troubled enforcers because of that.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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