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Flying ‘C'

No one can question whether Jason Smith is captain material. He is.

Smith is a hard-rock defenseman who does all of the things that don't appear on the scoresheet and he's a team-first type that coaches love.

A longtime Oilers leader who wore the ‘C' for five years in Edmonton, Smith was recently voted by his new Flyers teammates to don the all-important letter for Philadelphia. And there's no doubting his qualifications or his determination; he'll lead by example and let his actions on the ice speak for him.

Still…you have to wonder where Simon Gagne is in all of this. The left winger is coming off back-to-back 40-goals seasons – including 47 in 72 games in '05-06 and 41 on a god-awful team last season – and he's in his prime as a player at 27 years old. Yet, it's the 33-year-old new guy that gets the ‘C'.

Oh well, here's guessing that Gagne will be satisfied with the ‘C' that he did get – center Daniel Briere, the summer's big free agency prize.


Bill Wirtz and Ken Danby may not have had a lot in common, but the hockey world lost two influential men with the passing of the Chicago Blackhawks owner and Canadian artist last week.

“He loved the Blackhawks, he loved the NHL, he loved the game of hockey, but he had a greater love and that was the Wirtz family,” former NHL commissioner John Ziegler said at Wirtz's funeral on Monday.

The Wirtz family has owned the Hawks since 1954; Wirtz took over as president in 1966. Chicago won its first division title in that 1966-67 season and the Hawks went on to win 13 division titles under Wirtz.

No Stanley Cups, though, as Chicago last claimed NHL supremacy in 1961.

Danby was best-known for his “In the Crease” painting of a goalie standing hunched in the crease, which he painted in 1972 and has sold over 200,000 prints.

At what Price?

Holy Patrick Roy, who's the 20-year-old masked man in the Canadiens' net?

None other than 2005 first-rounder Carey Price, selected fifth overall behind Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Bobby Ryan (Anaheim), Jack Johnson (Los Angeles) and Benoit Pouliot (Minnesota).

Price's presence in Montreal surely means he'll get a legitimate shot at the starting job; otherwise, what's the use of spending such an important developmental year getting eight or 10 or 12 starts?

Price is coming off a 2006-07 season in which he started the year in the WHL, won world junior gold in January and then moved up to the AHL and won the Calder Cup in June.

He's averaged about 65 starts in each of the past three seasons (including playoffs); the Canadiens have to keep him busy – or they should send him to Hamilton and let him learn the ropes in the AHL.


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Shane Wright, Brandt Clarke Loaned to Canada’s World Junior Camp

After missing out on last summer's world juniors, Brandt Clarke and Shane Wright are loaned to Team Canada ahead of selection camp.

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Erik Karlsson's having a solid season, but his contract makes it hard to trade for him. However, a rumor suggests some folks with the Oilers are interested.