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Posts Tagged ‘Nicklas Lidstrom’

The All-Star Game & Ovechkin Inquisition

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

[Originally post on www.betonhockey.com on January 25th, 2012]

Well it appears I got my wish, and partially to my own chagrin. Alex Ovechkin will not be attending or participating in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game after all. Not because the vote for him to be there (which was clearly based on his reputation, not his current point total) was reversed, but because he’s pulled himself out.

Ovechkin was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for his hit on the Penguins’ Zbynek Michalek. Interestingly, the Penguins defenceman was not hurt, and Ovechkin was not penalized during the game for the play, but those points are apparently neither here, nor there. Ovie sat out his first of three on Tuesday, and is not permitted to return to NHL action until the Capitals play the Montreal Canadiens on February 4th. Since this prohibition period overlaps with the 2012 NHL All-Star Game on January 29th, Ovechkin has taken it upon himself to suspend himself from the All-Star Game (in addition to the Skills competition, which he “retired” from earlier in the season) as well.

Now some might call this Ovechkin taking the “high road” and doing the right thing – he does make a good point after all. But those in the media looking for a juicy storyline may see this as Alex either protesting the suspension laid down on him by the league, Alex just wanting to take a few days off (ala Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk in 2009, who declined their invitations, and were promptly suspended one game each for doing so), or maybe, just maybe, Alex realizing he’s not an all-star this year. Having an off-year or not, Ovechkin is a superbly talented hockey player that brings more than his share of much needed attention to the game. But what is this All-Star Game really all about? Or perhaps more importantly, after holding this game for more than 60 years, what has this game become?

Here’s what we know: these days, the ASG is lauded every year as being a farce of hockey. There’s no hitting in the game, and there’s a school-yard style team picking format; yet the NHL still keeps tally of nearly 30 individual records (most goals, assists, games played, and even penalty minutes, to name a few), charge over $100 for tickets, and give away a vehicle to the game’s MVP (Hey all you millionaires that all own 10 cars already, we’re going to get the 50 richest of you together all in a group to play a game, vote for the best, and then give him another vehicle that he’ll never drive, and will probably give away. Sound good? Great. Good talk, guys.). So someone tell me, are we fans and the participating players supposed to take this game seriously, or not?

If we aren’t, then Ovechkin should go/should be made to go, because it doesn’t matter what he’s done this year, it’s all about his entertainment value, and the extra dollar amount his presence at the game can generate through advertising, ticket and merchandise sales – and no one in the league is more entertaining at his peak than him (though Ilya Bryzgalov has been heating up lately). And if only for this reason, he should be there so Phil Kessel could have his moment of revenge to photograph Ovechkin being picked last.

But if we’re supposed to take it seriously, and get excited about the prospect of someone like Steve Stamkos or Rick Nash breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of four goals in a game, or Mario Lemieux’s record of six points in a game, then Ovechkin should not be there for a number of reasons: one, because he’s legitimately suspended, and shouldn’t be able to pursue those feats while barred from the game; two, because he simply hasn’t been good enough to be there this year; and three, because lots of other guys deserve to be there ahead of him this year and pursue those milestones.

So NHL, what’s it going to be? Is this game worth me clearing my weekend schedule to watch your programming, or should I just trust that Sportscentre will be able to piece together a decent enough highlight package for me to get the gist of it? At least I know there won’t be any idiots skating around in it wearing sunglasses and a Tilley hat with flags stick out of it this year.

 

Hockey Talkie: Gretzky-ASG-Ovie Tidbits, NHL’s Visor Rule and Evgeni Nabokov’s FAIL

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Right off the bat, Happy belated 50th birthday to my boyhood hero Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all-time, and who will incidentally never read this birthday greeting. To read my old “meeting Gretzky” story, click here.

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While I didn’t see Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal being picked as NHL All-Star Game captains, I am interested to see who they pick first. And perhaps more interestingly, who they pick last.

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Are we going to find out after this season that Ovechkin had been using corked sticks prior to this year, or something to explain the slump? Could he have been injured this whole time and not have admitted it?

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now wears a contact lens to bring his vision up to 20/400 when playing

After seeing Joe Thornton get busted open above the eye with an unintentional(?) high stick from Vancouver’s Alex Burrows recently, I immediately thought to myself, how dumb is every player in the NHL that doesn’t wear a visor? If that stick hit “Jumbo” Joe half an inch down and to the right, he’s possibly blind in one eye for life, his career is probably over, and all for no good reason. I only inserted “possibly” and “probably” because Bryan Berard suffered an eye injury which he came back from, but needless to say, if he’d been wearing one, he would never have been in a predicament to make a comeback.

I’ve heard the negative side of the issue which is basically “you can’t see as well with them” and “he’ll be a worse player with one on because his vision is obstructed”, but I seriously don’t buy those arguments at all. The things are totally transparent for starters. Secondly, if they get dinged up, just replace them. For people like myself that have to pay $30 to $130 a piece for visors, this is a little easier said than done; but for guys whose yearly contracts end in a number with the word “million” after it, this is peanuts, and the trainer will even install it for you.

It’s strange too, because, as far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong), visors are mandatory at every level of hockey up to the NHL. That being said, you know that every player who’s in the NHL came up playing with one on, and we all started out wearing those ridiculous (but safe) full cages. And if you go a little further, a lot of players who were scouted to junior teams were observed playing well enough to commit to while playing with a cage on. So if we know that every player who makes it to the NHL has played well enough to get there with an “obstruction” on their face their entire career prior, we know that the “lowered playing ability” notion is complete garbage.  Didn’t Sidney Crosby wear a full fishbowl in the World Juniors and do just fine?

The only time I’ve had the opportunity to not wear a visor has been in beer league, or out on the pond. To be quite honest, when you get going skating fast enough, the wind starts drying out your eyes and they start to water a little bit, which starts to cloud your field of vision, and affects your play. To me that’s the only legitimate vision obstruction.

So it’s gotta just come down to aesthetics then, doesn’t it? The old cliché of looking cool? How many guys have to either have close calls, or actually have life altering injuries that mess their vision up (see: Bryan Berard) before the NHL mandates visors?

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The whole Evgeni Nabokov thing is one part ridiculous, and one part Jersey-Shore-level-drama-induced crazy. Interestingly, so is the NHL’s waiver system.

How a player can be claimed by one team after he’s been signed by another doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, but apparently it’s within the rules (explanations are welcome).

Doesn’t this seem a little Eric-Lindros-refusing-to-play-for-the-Quebec-Nordiques-because-they-were-brutal-at-the-time ‘ish?

Obviously Nabokov wants to play for someone who has a shot at the Cup, and if anyone does, it’s Detroit; so their signing him was an obvious ideal. But doesn’t every player want to play for someone who has the potential to win the Cup? I highly doubt there are many NHL’ers who don’t have hoisting the Cup over their head in the back of their mind somewhere, even if they don’t admit it on camera. So what gives Nabokov the right to be more selfish picky selective about where he plays than anyone who made it there by traditional means?

Playing in the NHL’s rival KHL is a bit of a blackballing move from what I understand, so for guys looking to make their way back into the NHL from there are far behind others trying to get the same chance. So the struggling Islanders, who need to fix a goaltending situation, snap up Nabokov, which they have every right to do. Evgeni then apparently hangs up on Islanders GM Garth Snow (later saying it was an accident), refuses to report to the team, and makes a statement saying,

I think I’m going to stay home for now, I’m sticking with my decision. It’s nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s just that I’m at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don’t see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that. I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, ‘Wow, what’s the point?”‘

 

Well, I’d say the point is to play in the NHL again, wouldn’t you? He may have put up some good goaltending numbers for a few seasons, but this guy is nowhere near a level that he can just pick and choose who he plays for. Maybe Ray Bourque got away with that in Colorado, but I assure you, Nabokov’s not there yet.

So now New York looks great because they have a bargaining chip they can easily double their money on if they choose (getting Nabokov at near league minimum is a steal) and they’re really no worse off considering their current standings position, and Nabokov looks like a selfish (albeit, rich) idiot sitting at home, suspended. Welcome back, Evgeni.

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