If you’ve ever tuned into the Discovery Channel for the show Dirty Jobs
, you know that just about every profession has some aspects that are, how shall we say it, less than desirable.
That includes being an NHL hockey player. Sure, there are nice contracts, a lot of tender loving care, first-class travel and the like, plus you get to play hockey. But there are injuries, grumpy coaches, grumpy fans, grumpy media and trade rumors.
Those among us who don’t lace up skates for a living love trade rumors. They make the game more fun and are the source of endless debate. But if your name is being bandied about, it may not be as much fun.
With the trade deadline approaching on Feb. 26, the rumor mill is heating up. Just ask the Leafs’ Mats Sundin, who can now phrase “I don’t want to leave Toronto!” in just about every language on the face of the earth.
In the Calgary Herald this past week, Scott Cruickshank had a very interesting take on two Flames and how they deal with rumors.
Defenseman Rhett Warrener pays them no attention. Fellow defenseman Adrian Aucoin, on the other hand, enjoys them. Go figure!
"To be honest with you, I don't hear or know anything," Warrener said. "Honest to goodness, I have no clue what's being said or talked about."
Aucoin is more aggressive in his search for dirt.
"I go on the Internet and read a lot of stuff, just to stay in the loop," Aucoin said. "I've always enjoyed rumours, to be honest with you. I use it to try to lighten the mood up, instead of deteriorating it.
"You've got to have fun with it," Aucoin continued. "The more you enjoy coming to the rink every day, the better you're going to play. You've got to put a positive spin on everything. I like finding out about stuff like that, but it doesn't affect my game. I think people would be surprised by how little it affects us in the dressing room."
Aucoin did say that when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks, he did his best to put the minds of the Hawks’ young players at ease, pointing out the majority of rumors are nonsense.
"I had to explain to them -- normally, when you read about it, it's not going to happen. There's concrete stuff and stuff that's just floating out there.”
Where will Peter go? --There was plenty of talk this week about where Peter Forsberg might wind up this season. Feeling better physically, it was reported in the Swedish press that Forsberg plans a return to the NHL this season, hoping to sign on with a Stanley Cup contender. That got plenty of reaction in places like Philadelphia, Colorado and Nashville, Forsberg’s former NHL homes.
“If Peter’s a healthy player, he’s still one of the best players in the world, period,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “I think he’d make any team better, but we’re not going to worry about that unless it became reality.”
Sure, adding a player like Forsberg seems like a no-brainer, but as we saw at last season’s trade deadline, adding players doesn’t guarantee success, especially if the change disrupts a successful team.
“You always worry about chemistry, but I would worry more about chemistry within the hockey team than with any individual line,” Stevens told reporters. “But to worry about a guy that’s not here … Trust me, I have enough to worry about with what we have.”
Simon Gagne is a friend of Forsberg and he hinted that Forsberg has a sense he wants to help reach the much-anticipated goal of another Stanley Cup.
“When he signed with the Flyers, his goal was to bring a Stanley Cup,” Gagne told reporters. “If you look at the team we have and put him in this lineup, I think he has a better chance to finish something he didn’t do when he was with us.”
In Chicago, GM Dale Tallon has made it quite clear he is eager to make a deal or two. Thursday, the Hawks acquired veteran forward Craig Adams from Carolina for a draft pick. Tallon also wants to add a veteran defenseman.
The Blackhawks have been scouting the Avalanche and Assistant GM Rick Dudley admitted to taking a look-see at some Colorado players in case a deal can be made.
John-Michael Liles, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has found himself as grist for the rumor mill.
“I hear from my buddies all the time about the rumors,” Liles said. “I love Colorado. But beyond playing the next game, I can’t think about that stuff. It’s a business, and my job is to just play.”
Suffice to say, at this stage of the season every team is assessing things. But the advent of the salary cap makes the big deals we have seen in the past tougher to make. But remember, where there’s a will … or in this case, a need.
“Every team seems to need something,” Penguins GM Ray Shero
told reporters, “but the way the system is set up, not every team can have it. It’s not like you can be the (New Jersey) Devils of ‘95 -- four lines deep, seven defensemen deep.”
|Avalanche forward Marek Svatos is back to his
goal scoring ways, with 20 in 43 games so far.
Back on track -- After a terrific rookie season in 2005-06, Ice Age got lots of email from fans who thought Colorado’s Marek Svatos could beat out both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy. He did score 32 goals and 18 assists in 61 games, so there was no question he has a terrific rookie season.
Last season, injuries limited him to 66 games and 15 goals and 15 assists and he disappeared off the radar screen pretty quickly. But Svatos is back with a vengeance this season thanks to a run of good health. Through 43 games, Svatos has 20 goals, but just two assists.
“I don’t know that I ever felt good coming off the surgery,” Svatos told The Rocky Mountain News. “I think I struggled from the start.”
Svatos had a hot start this season, netting seven goal in 13 games. He tailed off a bit, but has gotten hot again, scoring 11 goals between Dec. 15 and Jan. 17. With Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth sidelined indefinitely, his offensive touch is vital for the Avs.
“I try to go to the front of the net and watch the puck and where it goes,” he said. “The loose pucks are there and sometimes you get rebounds. It’s nice to get those bounces.”
In for a penny … -- This scenario has never happened to me, but I can appreciate the logic. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is negotiating a new contract with franchise stud Alex Ovechkin and the parties are talking about something in the six-year, $54 million neighbourhood, which is a very nice neighbourhood I’m told.
So Leonsis gets to thinking that the new contract will end when “AO” is 27 and then could become an unrestricted free agent. Can you say feeding frenzy?
This where it gets a little wild for me, as anyone who has ever seen my checkbook will readily attest. So the Caps come back to Ovechkin and pretty much double everything. He ends up with a 13-year, $124 million deal that figures to keep him in Washington long enough to qualify for a monument.
“If Alex is coming into his best performance at 27, what will he command in the free-agent market then and what will the salary cap be then?” Leonsis said of his signing strategy. “So let’s accept the front part of the offer (the six-year deal), but before we sign the contract, let’s say; ‘We accept this, this is a good place for us, but let’s negotiate your (unrestricted) free-agent years.’ How I looked at it is, we have him until he’s 35 years old, we’ll have him through his best statistical years and his statistics are pretty good right now. And who else would you want as the face of your franchise?”
Room for improvement -- As we tickle the keyboard here, the Red Wings are 33-10-4 and have the best record in the NHL. But according to coach Mike Babcock, there is always room for improvement.
Babcock has elite players in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk up front, and Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski add plenty of pop from the defense corps.
At the start of the season, there was concern the Wings would be too reliant on those players and not get enough pop from the rest of the roster. But Valtteri Flippula, Jiri Hudler, Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen have found the net on a regular basis, a huge benefit.
“I think it’s been growth from within and I think we have to continue to have that in order to get better,” Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. “We think the Mule (Franzen) can be a dominant force in the NHL. Is he now? No. But ... we need him to become that, a physical, dominant player. Filppula, where can he take his game to? What can Hudler do? Is Hudler going to be a guy that when you play really good teams and you’re matching up you’re scared of him and you go away from him. Or is he a guy that plays all the time?
“Cleary, what is his niche? Is he going to be a checker or is he a guy that can chip in on the power play? Those are how we continue to grow, not by adding people.”
|Although Ty Conklin says he's not used to being called a journeyman, he's certainly found a home in Pittsburgh with his play.
Being realistic -- Ty Conklin has taken the good with the bad during his NHL career. This season, there has been a lot of good as he stepped in for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury and caught fire. Heading into play Friday, Conklin was 10-0-1 in 12 appearances. Through it all, Conklin has remained humble and realistic.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been called a journeyman,” Conklin said. “It doesn’t bother me too much. I think the fact that I was with three organizations in one year might have had something to do with it.”
Conklin left the Oilers after the 2005-06 season and split 2006-07 with the Blue Jackets and Sabres.
Helping the cause -- J.P. Dumont always has been an unsung guy, first with the Sabres and now the Predators. Each season, you can pencil him in for 20-some goals and 20-30 assists. Nice, solid numbers. With the likes of Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya no longer in Nashville, he is even more vital to the Predators this season.
“J.P.’s leadership is coming to the forefront,” Predators coach Barry Trotz told the Nashville City Paper. “We are in a critical time. We have some guys out. We are pushing to try to get ourselves back in contention. He has really stepped up. He is participating and getting good results.
“He is really moving his feet now and that is a big thing for J.P.,” said Trotz. “J.P. is doing the hard things. He is going to the net and moving his feet. He is playing well without the puck. He has been stronger on the wall. A lot of the aspects of his game are generated from him moving his feet and being acutely aware that he has to do that.”
Kudos to Trotz -- Speaking of Trotz, congratulations go out to the only head coach in Predators’ history, who coached his 700th NHL game last Sunday.
Trotz is the 13th coach to reach that number with the same team and has earned more than 300 wins already.
Countdown under way -- Teemu Selanne told reporters he will make his decision on whether to return to the Anaheim Ducks this season in the next week or so.
Selanne has been skating on his own as he ponders whether he has the juice for another kick at the can with the Ducks.
“I’ll take this week, and next week and we’ll see how it goes,” Selanne told reporters Tuesday.
Patience the key -- Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky is an unabashed Shane Doan fan, as are many of us around the League.
Doan is one of those guys who cares about his team. But as Gretzky said, sometimes he has to care a little less.
“The funny scenario with Shane is he wants to win so badly,” Gretzky said. “He works so hard to want to carry the team, and when that happens, especially early in the season, he tries to do so much.
”When he finally settles in and gets comfortable with things around him … just plays his game, he’s a big train out there and that’s what he’s doing now, running over people, going to the net, scoring big goals, killing penalties. You couldn’t ask much more of a captain who cares more than anybody I’ve ever been around.”
Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.