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The opening faceoff: Don't cry, kids, Santa Roarke is coming to NHL-town

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com

Oh! You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!
He’s making a list,
He's checking it twice,
He's gonna find out
who's naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows when you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Neil Diamond

Yes, Crashing the Net knows that “The Diamond” did not pen the words to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Anyone worth their salt knows that the esteemed J. Fred Coots and James Lamont “Haven” Gillespie co-wrote the Christmas classic back in 1934, right?

Gillespie, by the way, also wrote “That Lucky Old Sun,” which later was covered in amazing fashion by Johnny Cash. It is one of the best covers in Cash’s impressive catalog of fantastic covers.

But “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” has been performed by so many artists through the years that it has virtually become communal property, and CTN happens to be partial to the Neil Diamond version. Who doesn’t like Neil Diamond, right? Being a Boston-area boy, CTN has grown up listening to “Sweet Caroline” on many a summer night. And who doesn’t know the words to – and secretly sing along to – “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” when it occasionally creeps onto the radio.

Truth be told, CTN almost stayed true to his deep-rooted love of metal and picked Dokken’s version of the Christmas classic, which was released this year. But in the end, CTN had to go with a more classic version to adequately capture the spirit of the thing.

So why all this talk about a 63-year-old song and the various and sundry artists that have interpreted its simple message in the past half-century?

Well, first and foremost, it is the Christmas season. And that alone is enough reason to talk about one of the best carols out there. But just as importantly, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” perfectly captures the spirit of CTN’s mission this week.

In the Opening Faceoff CTN, is going to play Santa Claus and deliver some presents to some of the deserving individuals in the global hockey community. CTN has been making a list. CTN has been checking it twice. And CTN knows who has been naughty and who has been nice.

So be good for goodness sake and, perhaps, CTN will place a Christmas present under your tree as well.

The Opening Faceoff

Let the gift-giving begin:

Buffalo: Perfect hockey weather on New Year’s Day so the whole world can see what a great hockey city Buffalo is every other day of the season.

Scott Niedermayer: A renewed passion for the game. Yes, he’s back and surely will give his all to the Ducks this season. But CTN is selfish and wants Niedermayer around for many more years.

Anaheim: The Ducks’ early Christmas present – the return of Niedermayer – will likely help produce more goals, but Anaheim needs more. This is a team that only has three forwards with more than five goals. Anyone have Teemu Selanne’s phone number?

Mark Recchi: A fresh start in Atlanta. Recchi is less than two years removed from being an integral part of a Stanley Cup championship in Carolina. There are some miles left on his body and, hopefully, he shows that with the Thrashers.

Thomas

Tim Thomas: A magic sponge. You know, one of those sponges that every soccer trainer seems to have to cure players immediately of the “catastrophic” injuries they suffer after every foul. CTN is not suggesting the Bruins goalie is a diver, by the way. Rather, that the magic sponge can work its magical ways when the seemingly inevitable real injuries temporarily slow Thomas down.

Toni Lydman: Lydman loves heavy metal. CTN loves heavy metal. This one was a no-brainer: Lydman will find the entire Metal Blade Records catalog under the tree. He’ll be happy; his Sabres teammates not so much.

Eric Godard: Godard has been a good soldier in Calgary. In CTN’s mind, he should be rewarded for such with more ice time than the current four minutes a game he sees.

Jeff Hamilton: At the start of the season, Hamilton was one of the best free-agent signings of the year. Today, he barely plays 11 minutes a game for Carolina as his scoring touch completely has deserted him. So CTN will leave a time machine under Hamilton’s tree to let him recapture the magic of October.

Martin Havlat: When healthy, Havlat is among the most entertaining and most gifted offensive players in the game. The only problem is that he rarely has been healthy since arriving in Chicago. Maybe some Teflon will solve that problem.

Joe Sakic: The veteran center always has boasted a deadly accurate shot, but not this year. Now out with an injury, Sakic still is sporting the second-lowest shooting percentage of his Hall of Fame-worthy career. CTN will fix that problem, however, by providing Sakic with bigger five-holes upon his return.

Mike Komisarek: Nobody has blocked more shots this year than the Canadiens defenseman. Only one player has delivered more hits. So doesn’t it make sense that Komisarek should have his own private whirlpool to soak his battered body? It does to CTN.

Dustin Brown: Young Brown is a human wrecking ball, throwing his body at any opponent that crosses into his field of vision. Nobody in the League has delivered as many hits as this young man. Clearly, he has some sore muscles from all this board-banging. Enter the masseuse provided by CTN to alleviate the pain.

Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin: There’s no denying AO is one of the most dangerous offensive players on the planet today. But there also is no denying that AO misses the net more than any other player in the NHL. CTN will solve this minor blemish by giving Ovechkin a TomTom GPS navigation unit so he more readily can find the net. We’ll rename it an AlexAlex.

Los Angeles Kings: CTN’s delivering a gross of Super Glue to the Staples Center. No team in the League turns the puck over more than the Kings, who have three players among the top 10 in giveaways this season.

Pavel Datsyuk: It’s only a matter of time before the Red Wing Rocket is caught picking an opponent’s pocket. When that happens to the League’s most prolific takeaway artist, CTN will be waiting with the best lawyer money can buy.

Andrew Cogliano: There’s little that hasn’t gone right for the Edmonton rookie this season. His performance in the faceoff circle, however has been a downer. In fact, Cogliano has won less than 40 percent of his draws. But CTN has the solution: Guy Charron’s famous instructional video on the art of the faceoff.

Nicklas Lidstrom: No, Lidstrom is not on the ice for all 60 minutes of a Red Wings game. It just seems that way. But Lidstrom does play a lot – and he is not getting any younger. So CTN gives Lidstrom a day off as a Christmas present.

Daniel Carcillo: It’s hard work to lead the League in penalty minutes. It can be a sometimes mean and painful occupation. Just ask Carcillo. For that reason, an industrial-size bottle of Tylenol in his locker might be the perfect Christmas gift.

Wayne Gretzky: Ah, what to get the man that has everything? It’s never an easy decision, but CTN figures an extra helping of patience – and not the song by Guns N’ Roses – might be a useful gift as Gretzky continues to mold his very young team into a winning program.

Boll

Jared Boll: The Columbus winger has bucked all the odds to earn an NHL job this season. And he did it by fighting his way to the top, just as Rocky did on the silver screen 31 years ago. CTN hears Sylvester Stallone is in the market for a new project, so CTN will pass on Stallone’s contact info to Boll as a present. CTN wants 10 percent of any ensuing royalties, though.

Sergei Zubov: Nobody does his job better and more quietly than the Dallas defensemen. But if CTN gets its way – which it will because it is CTN’s space – that will be solved with a cover story in an upcoming issue of The Hockey News.

Rob Schremp: This young man has paid his dues in the minors. Sure, there are flaws in his game and CTN understands that. But it is Christmas, after all, and Schremp deserves a full-time gig in the NHL to show his worth.

Olli Jokinen: The Florida captain has been everything for his franchise. He is the team’s leader, leading scorer, most clutch player and statesman. So in the spirit of giving, CTN is going to give the big Finn some help carrying the load in Florida.

Brian Rolston: The versatile Wild forward is better than most people think. He can play any position on the ice (except maybe goaltender). And he is a good quote. He deserves a higher profile. Another berth in the All-Star Game would help in that endeavor, so CTN will make it happen. Plus, he will be a treat in the hardest-shot competition.

Mike Ryder: Remember when Ryder was good for a goal on any given night? CTN does, and CTN longs for those days to return. So CTN has just the ticket for Ryder, the Pride of Bonavista , Newfoundland. No, it’s not screech. It’s a dose of confidence.

Trent Hunter: Not too long ago, Hunter was the best forward nobody knew about. He could score, he could defend, he could kill penalties. He could do it all. This year, he has not been able to do much so far, struggling at an almost incomprehensible level. That’s where a DVD of last year’s highlights certainly will come in handy.

Simon Gagne: We all want to see Gagne return from his concussion problems, CTN included. So CTN hopes to deliver Gagne – as well as Boston’s Patrice Bergeron – a series of symptom-free days to hasten the return process.

Murray

Doug Murray: Who leads the Sharks in plus/minus rating? Kyle McLaren? Nope. Joe Thornton? Nope. It’s Mr. Murray. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. But, because you are, CTN is giving the Sharks defenseman a publicity campaign.

Brad Richards: The Lightning forward is a minus-16 for the season. How can that be? He is a much better defensive player than that. So CTN wants to right a wrong and is going to stick a couple of plus ratings in Richards’ stocking. Shhhhh! Don’t tell!

Paul Maurice: The Toronto coach certainly has suffered the slings and arrows of the Toronto hockey community this season. The criticism has abated recently as Maurice has led his boys out of the wilderness. But the critics never are far away, and rest assured, they will return with a vengeance at the first opportunity. That’s why CTN hopes Maurice will accept these ear plugs offered by CTN.

Tobias Enstrom: Certainly, Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews have to be considered the front-runners for Rookie of the Year. But it shouldn’t be a closed case. There are some other good rookies out there and Enstrom, in Atlanta, is one of them. So, CTN will deliver some Calder Trophy votes under his tree this Christmas.

That’s it. CTN’s gift sack is empty and CTN’s work is done. It’s time to head home and have the traditional Christmas Eve cookies-and-milk snack before enjoying a CTN Christmas at home.

CTN wishes you and yours the happiest of holidays. And feel free to add your own gift suggestions for members of the global hockey community by e-mailing your ideas to CTN at roarkeblog@nhl.com.

Also, Crashing the Net is taking a holiday hiatus and there will be no blog next Thursday. CTN will see you in 2008. Have a happy, healthy and safe New Year’s, one and all.

The Opening Faceoff | The Breakaway | The Penalty Box

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