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Another season, another mailbag

Friday, 09.28.2007 / 12:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

With a younger team than in years past,  it's hard to predict what to expect from  Guy Carbonneau and the Montreal Canadiens this season.
Hard to believe that summer already is over and it’s opening weekend in the NHL, albeit a long-distance opening weekend for those of us in North America what with the Ducks and Kings starting things off in England.

But here we are and Ice Age is ready for another season of providing news, notes, quotes and connecting with hockey fans from across the globe.

Kicking off this season’s mailbag is longtime Ice Age contributor Dick Janes.

***

Hi,

Glad you're back and well rested, I hope. I too am looking forward to yet another great year for the NHL and hockey, and am certainly becoming most “antsy” as I wait for that first puck to drop.

As always, at least since the late ‘40s, I'll root for my team, Les Habitants, although I think Les Canadiens may need to fill some fairly deep holes if they want to add another Cup to the already bulging showcase. If they erase my doubts, well WOW! But, if they can't win it all, then I'll be rooting for a new team to win, one whose faithful fans haven't as yet felt the sweet taste of a Cup victory.

While I griped a lot about the officiating last year, I will readily admit the "stripers” did much better than their efforts in previous seasons. Hopefully that trend will continue. While no one can be expected to achieve perfection in calling fouls, especially those which in many cases are subjective evaluations requiring instant judgments, I would hope that more evenness can be obtained for all calls. A good start might be a meeting at center ice by on-ice game officials on major penalties, to be sure that all agree that the call was right, and the penalty assessed correctly. Or maybe an instant replay might be initiated, as is done now for questionable goals. The problem there is the inordinate amount of time required to get it right, but perhaps that is the whole point, eh?

Best wishes for the coming season.

-- Dick Janes, Las Vegas

Hi Dick. Glad you’re back for another season.

The Canadiens might not rank among the favorites in the East to start the season, but I think this will be a very interesting team to watch because of the number of young players who figure to get a baptism of fire in the NHL.

As for the officials, I hope you got to read the stories and see the video that Shawn Roarke sent from his visit to the officials’ training camp this summer. He was very impressed with the work ethic and professionalism shown by the officials.

***

Mr. Coffey,

It seemed like the Rangers stole Alexei Cherepanov with the 17th pick (2007 Entry Draft). Although he has two more years left on his contract with his current Russian team, do you see him playing this year or possibly next year? Out of all the rookies, can you see any one contributing to his team?

-- Nick

Hi Nick. It’s tough to tell what will happen with Russian players these days because there is no transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russians at this point. That might be one of the reasons the Rangers were able to grab Cherepanov at No. 17 because of the uncertain status of when these players will be available to play in the NHL.

As for the rookie class this season, all eyes will be on Chicago, where Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews are very impressive.

***

Dear Mr. Coffey,

First off, I love your article and read it multiple times an issue.

Former Penguin Alexei Morozov signed a new three-year contract with Aq Bars Kazan in the Russian Super League.
Secondly, with all this free-agent stuff going around, I'm reminded of an article I read a while back about Alexei Morozov coming back to the NHL. I was a fan of his when he played for the Penguins (and lit up the Devils) and was wondering if you'd heard anything about whether or not he had made a decision to stay in Russia or come back. Any news would be helpful.

Also, do you think Morozov is a player better-suited for the modern-day NHL, as opposed to the pre-lockout NHL, and what team could best use him?

-- David Livenspire

Hi David. I believe I read that Morozov is going to play this season in Russia and then look at his options regarding a return to the NHL.

Good point on how he will be more effective in a style of play with less holding and interference. Makes him an attractive option for a team. As for who would want him, I think there will be scores of teams eager to “kick the tires” on bringing him back to the NHL.

***

Hey Phil,

A quick question. What is the purpose of the 7th defenseman for the NHL and the teams? I see there are 3 pairs of defensemen. Is the 7th just to fill in case of injuries? A reserve dressed and ready to go if needed? Thanks!

-- Daniel, Detroit

Hi Daniel. Virtually all NHL teams keep at least seven defensemen on their roster to have an available player in case one of the top six defensemen can’t play. But the seventh defenseman doesn’t dress for games, unless the coach opts to use seven D-men. Teams can only dress 18 skaters and two goalies per match and the normal ratio is 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies. A team can opt to dress a seventh D-man, but then would only dress 11 forwards.

***

Hello Mr. Coffey,

I would just like to point out something about the story you wrote on Saku Koivu. At first, he talked to the press, saying that he thought the team would make the playoffs, but that we can forget about winning the Stanley Cup. He tried to save himself on the second interview.

Even though these comments are realistic, it is my opinion that as team captain, he simply cannot talk like this, and it is unacceptable. It's like saying to the rest of the team: "Hey guys, we're gonna work like crazy for 82 games, but for nothing because we won't go far in the playoffs. Let's forfeit the whole season right now."

This is another case of one guy putting his foot in his mouth, and I think he regrets it. This is loser talk, and I can't understand how a captain of a team could talk like this.

Thanks for reading, keep up the good work.

-- Alex

Hi Alex. I’ll take realism over pie in the sky talk any day, but that’s just me. I certainly don’t consider Koivu a guy who uses “loser talk,” but rather one who is realistic about what to expect. Remember, if he comes out and predicts a Stanley Cup for the Habs, he would be equally roasted for not being realistic.

Trust me when I tell you that NHL players are acutely aware of how their teams stack up in the pecking order around the League. I’m sure nothing Saku said bothered his teammates in the slightest.

***

I am so excited that hockey season is almost here and am thrilled to read yet another wonderful addition of Ice Age. The one thing I'm disappointed in is that there is no new picture of you to look at!!!

Who do you think will win the Southeast division this year?

-- Vik, Raleigh, North Carolina

A new mug shot, er head shot, will be upcoming, so stay tuned. As for the Southeast, how can I pick anyone but your beloved ‘Canes?

There is much anticipation for the new Reebok Edge NHL jerseys, which make their regular season debut this weekend.
New Jersey … No, I don’t mean the state & subsequent beast of a stadium that doesn’t look anywhere near being ready for hockey season. I meant the new “frocks” & apparently a necessity that Mr. Bettman & company felt that there was a need for change in this department. Bottom line, I don’t really like them and I see no purpose for them other than bleeding the fans of more $$ while the NHL enjoys what must be a very lucrative licensing arrangement with Reebok. Can’t we leave some tradition well enough alone or must everything be re-invented under the guise of trying to increase interest in the game south of the Canadian boarder? And just out of curiosity, do these jerseys have “fight belts”? Happiness to me? Gary Bettman tendering his resignation in a spanking new Rangers jersey!

-- Chris Casper

OK Chris, first question, too much caffeine or not enough?

Here is my take on the new jerseys. I’ve seen the new material demonstrated and its ability to wick away moisture is very impressive. As the system gets tweaked, I think we will see some benefits on the ice.

Now, as for the fans having to buy the new jerseys, the reality is you DO NOT have to buy them. That’s a choice for those involved. If you don’t like them, don’t buy them. If they are too expensive, don’t buy them. No one is standing with a cattle prod making anyone buy these. The choice really is a personal one.

As for Prudential Center, I pass it each day on my way to and from work and it is a pretty impressive sight, not a beast in the least.

***

Phil,

Always good to read your column. I was glad we had the chance to work together and I know you have a true love of the game. Couldn’t agree more about Max McNab … having been there for the early years (in New Jersey) too, he was a bright spot in a very bleak reality. Later, we all knew what he had done for that franchise. I always loved how Max was never surprised to see me and/or my sister and mother at games on the road. He would simply ask when he saw us; “So, will you be in (fill in the name of the town that was next on the schedule)?”

What a guy!!

-- Glenn Kass

Hey Glenn, long time, no chat.

Couldn’t agree more on Max McNab, one of the special, special people you come across in you life. He held on to draft picks when other teams were offering some tempting packages that would have helped the Devils in their early days. But he won’t go for the quick fix and ended up drafting some excellent players. He put the foundation in place for the success of the franchise.

***

Hi Phil,

Big fan, wouldn't mind seeing a few more posts, but the season's approaching so I imagine we'll see them more and more as it gets here.

Anyways, what's going on with John LeClair? Is he going to officially announce retirement or sit in free agency until his 40s?

I wouldn't mind seeing him sign a one-day contract with Philadelphia so he could retire with the team he was with for his best years. Or maybe even Montreal. What do you think will happen?

-- Chris Cleorux, Ottawa, ON

Hi Chris. No official word, but if I had a guess, I would say John LeClair is going to announce his retirement at some point this season. It also wouldn’t surprise me to have him sign a one-day deal with the Flyers and retire as a Flyer.

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