Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google
 
SHARE

Think of the defensemen! Think of the goalies!

Friday, 02.20.2009 / 10:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

It is only right that Ice Age takes the lead in getting a cease-and-desist order against Alex Ovechkin for all these dekes that are making NHL defensemen look silly.

Personally, I am a great fan of defensemen, having attempted the position back in the Stone Age. Note emphasis on the word "attempted." But I digress. What Ovechkin pulled on Montreal's Roman Hamrlik Wednesday night simply wasn't right. Now I'm sure all of you oooohed and ahhhhed at the moves. Yeah, well they were pretty slick. And then you must have jumped up when he poked the puck into the net. Yeah, that too was sweet, but no, it has to stop. It just isn't fair.

"You have to try something new," said Ovechkin, who's on pace to reach the 60-goal mark for the second consecutive season. "Sometimes I try in practice, and (coach) Bruce (Boudreau) says 'What are you doing?' And I say 'Sometimes I need to change my game,' so I'm changing and it's working."

Want to help out Alex? How about trying to solve the world financial crisis and leave poor defensemen, and yeah, goalies too, alone!

"It shouldn't surprise any of us," defenseman Mike Green said. "He loves to score, and he's going to score no matter how it goes in -- if it's on his stomach, back, whatever, he's going to try to score. I think I was more impressed with the backhand around the defenseman."

Careful Mike, with the way you're going, you'll be the next one on the list.

Still a fan – After being fired as Penguins coach, Michel Therrien admitted he was surprised. But he also noted he isn't bitter about developments that saw him go from coaching in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final to being out of a job.

"Honestly, I didn't see it coming," he told TSN's Michael Landsberg. "I got some great memories about coaching that team and I thought that two years ago we surprised a lot of people."

Injuries and the loss of several key players to free agency last summer didn't make Therrien's any easier this season as veterans like Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi moved on. But that's all part and parcel of the business.

Therrien also spoke very highly of Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"They are leaders," he told Landsberg. "When we talk about leaders it doesn't have to be the 'rah-rah' thing in the dressing room, for me leadership starts on the ice. What more could I have asked of them? On Sunday they were No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring in the league. You can't ask for more."

"He's a great captain, not only a great captain, and we all know about him as a player, but the number one thing is, he's a great person," Therrien said of Crosby.

Right at home – Regular readers of Ice Age know Ken Hitchcock is held in great esteem in his corner, both as a coach and for his ability to get the word out on hockey in a strong, clear voice.

In a terrific profile in the Columbus Dispatch, Aaron Portzline writes that Hitchcock's inspiration comes from getting to the rink very early each morning.

"I love the solitude of the rink in the early morning," Hitchcock said of sitting in the stands at Nationwide Arena, alone with his thoughts. "I can think when it's that quiet I sit there and soak it all up while I'm getting ready for the day to get rolling. You can feel the building and all the stories it has to tell, almost like it's alive.

"To me, it's a beautiful place to be, especially when they have the curtains pulled back from the upstairs windows and the sun comes shining in on the ice."

Hitchcock, who won his 500th career game Thursday night, can be a tough taskmaster to his players, but being at this level and teaching the game is his mission.

"How many people come to work every day and don't feel like they have a job?" Hitchcock said. "That's how I feel about my job. It's a lot of stress and pressure, but it doesn't feel like work to me.

"I could never repay the game for all it's given me. It's given me a great life, great friends, wonderful memories, unbelievable travel. And more than all that, it's given me a sense of belonging every day. A sense of belonging to something that's much bigger than you are -- your team, your city, the great fans."

Is this the end? – No one will ever say Peter Forsberg didn't try. Forsberg's balky foot problems cropped up again earlier this week as he was attempting to play for Modo of the Swedish Elite League and the gifted forward sounded like he was reaching the end of his rope – or the road that leads to the rink.

"I will think for a couple of days before I make a decision, but it doesn't look good," Forsberg told the Swedish media.

"I don't know what to do," Forsberg said.  "I can't play if I don't feel 100 percent. I don't know what happens now. I have to check if there is some last thing we can do to fix the problem.

"I am not that surprised. It has happened before and I was prepared for it this time as well," Forsberg said. "It seems impossible to fix the problem. I have tried it all."

Hats off to Wesley – Belated congratulations to Glen Wesley, whose No. 2 was raised to the rafters at RBC Center in Raleigh earlier this week.

Wesley was a cornerstone player for the Carolina Hurricanes for 10 seasons and had played with the Hartford Whalers for three seasons prior to the move to franchise shift to Carolina. He began his career as a Bruin, drafted with the third pick of the 1987 draft and played for seven seasons in Boston. All told, Wesley played in 1,457 regular season games, scoring 128 goals and 409 assists. He played in additional 169 playoff games, scoring 15 goals and 37 assists and was part of the 'Canes' 2006 Stanley Cup championship team.

In a classy move, the Bruins came out and sat on their bench during the ceremony, further enhancing the honor for Wesley.

"This organization thrives on class," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe. "He's one of our former players, and in our case, I think it's important for us to be out there."

Prior to taking a last lap, Wesley shook hands with each player on the Hurricanes bench, then stopped briefly near the Boston bench to shake hands with Aaron Ward, a teammate on Carolina's championship team.

Eye openerPeter DeBoer has enjoyed a successful rookie season as coach of the Florida Panthers, but recent events, like the dismissal of Michael Therrien as coach of the Penguins, made DeBoer realize that success – and security – in the coaching business can be fleeting.

"It does amaze me a little," DeBoer told reporters about Therrien's firing. "I don't think it sends a great message for coaches around the league. ... It's almost too easy to get rid of the coach now. It used to be that you'd at least try to fix some things with some trades before you got rid of the coach. Now with the salary cap it's so hard to make a trade that the coach has kind of gone to the No. 1 spot on the list when you're trying to make a change, and that's unfortunate."

Meanwhile, in Montreal – General Manager Bob Gainey has decided to take his wrath out on the players rather than his coach. Alex Kovalev has been told to stay home for a while, Sergei Kostitsyn has been sent to the minors and veteran Mathieu Schneider acquired in a trade.

Keeping Kovalev home from a road trip while casting doubt on his future in Montreal was the most pointed of Gainey's moves.

According to Pat Hickey in the Montreal Gazette, Gainey said he "suggested" Kovalev take a rest away from the team, and while he added that the situation would be evaluated at week's end, Gainey wouldn't offer any guarantee Kovalev would be back in the lineup Saturday afternoon when the Ottawa Senators visit the Bell Centre.

Will Kovalev be traded?

"Nobody's called me yet," Gainey said.
"I could never repay the game for all it's given me. It's given me a great life, great friends, wonderful memories, unbelievable travel. And more than all that, it's given me a sense of belonging every day. A sense of belonging to something that's much bigger than you are -- your team, your city, the great fans." -- Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock
In a French interview, Gainey's remarks were even more pointed.

"The team has no need of (Kovalev's) services the way he's currently playing. He's tired and he isn't playing with any emotion."

Kovalev has struggled this season, scoring 13 goals and 26 assists. He has been ice cold since winning MVP honors at the 2008 All-Star Game in Montreal, scoring 1 goal and 4 assists. Last season, Kovalev scored 35 goals and 49 assists.

"He's the kind of player who's judged on his production, how many goals he's scored, how many points he's scored," Gainey said. "That's the bottom line for a player like him. How he gets there is the place where the confusion is.

"To score goals and help others score goals, you have to do a lot of different things to make that happen. When production is not happening, to stay on task, to do the small, mundane, mandatory things to help the team is a harder thing for some players than others. But I have to say if he wasn't doing those and he had twice as many points as he has now, we probably wouldn't be standing here."


Quote of the Day

My focus is always just to play as well as I can and do my job, no matter where the faceoff is.

— New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on using his speed to his advantage
Winter Classic sweepstakes