By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com
April 2, 2011 9:40 PM
Anaheim Ducks fans have been pleading for months for Teemu Selanne to commit to at least one more NHL season in southern California. On Monday, the Finnish Flash became the first 40-year-old NHL player to record a three-goal, five-point game.
Photograph by: ROSE PALMISANO, MCTEASTERN CONFERENCE
Hindsight is 20-20
If you pumped Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe full of truth serum, he would say he should have traded current Pittsburgh Penguins forward Mike Comrie to the Ducks in 2003 for the Anaheim first-round pick Corey Perry and a first-round choice the next year, rather than trying to get Anaheim GM Bryan Murray to also sweeten the deal by reportedly giving the Oilers over $2 million (what the Oilers had paid as part of Comrie’s signing bonus). Murray dug in his heels, so Lowe sent Comrie to Philadelphia for Jeff Woywitka, a first-round pick (they took Rob Schremp) and a third-rounder (they took Danny Syvret). Hindsight is always 20-20, but Perry, who could win the Rocket Richard Trophy this year, would obviously look awfully good with Taylor Hall and Co. now.
Celebrating 50 years in Jasper
DJ Bowen in Jasper has been working overtime to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Jasper Arena and he has the Oil Kings playing Prince George in an exhibition game there on Sept. 9. In 1961, the Oil Kings played the Edmonton Flyers to open the building. Glen Sather played for the Oil Kings that game and Doug Messier for the Flyers, and they’ll be hanging their jerseys in the arena to salute that long-ago game. Sather and Messier might not be there, but hopefully they can send video messages. They’re bringing in some of the players from those teams — Greg Pilling and Vince Downey have committed as ex Oil Kings and they might get Roger Dejordy who played for the Flyers that day. They’re having a banquet on Sept. 8 with the NHL’s icemaker Dan Craig as guest speaker.
This ’n that
- Referee Bill McCreary, 55, who did 15 Stanley Cup finals and three Olympic final games, worked his last NHL game Saturday in Washington, completing the circle. His first one was a Capitals game in 1984. McCreary, who spent the lockout building kitchen cabinets and might fall back on his carpentry skills now, was old school. Players could talk to him, unlike some of the new zebras who shoo players away. McCreary was talked into working one last year after shelving retirement plans, and the rule of thumb is they don’t work playoffs in their final season, so this is it, three games short of 300. There’s a huge hole at the top of the referee chain now with Kerry Fraser, Dan Marouelli, Don Koharski, Mick McGeough and Rob Shick also packing it in.
- Best bang for the buck in the NHL: New York Islanders Danish forward Frans Neilsen. Only $525,000 and seven short-handed goals. “He’s our best all-around player even though his stats (44 points) don’t necessarily show it,” said Islanders captain Doug Weight, who was behind the bench against the Rangers Thursday night, after shutting down his season.
- The New York Rangers are discovering what the Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes already knew. Wojtek Wolski, a healthy scratch in two of the last eight games as the Rangers scuffle to make the post-season, is talented but doesn’t have a motor that’s always revving. He’s gone 14 straight games without a goal, and would rather not play in tough areas to score.
- Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is out, but it might not be a concussion from a Brian Rolston shot that smacked off his mask. It might be a bruised collarbone from a Dion Phaneuf ripper. They say it’s not serious, but can they get to the playoffs without him?
- Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart won’t be added for Canada’s world under-18 championship team in Germany because he’s still got a cast on his broken wrist and his game isn’t where it should be to play in the worlds, but forward Travis Ewanyk has a shot. He went against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the Red Deer series. He’s a heart-and-soul kid and could be a second or third-round NHL draft in June. Some scouts say he might get more interest than teammate Michael St. Croix.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs are winning without Tomas Kaberle, but their power play has been awful in his absence, with only an 11.7-per-cent success rate.
- Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman figures he’s being unfairly painted the bad guy for his hard hit on Sidney Crosby into the end glass in early January. “It’s easy to point fingers, but I don’t think it was my hit that caused the problems. I’m not an overly physical player. I would make the same play again,” said Hedman, who believes Dave Steckel’s blindside wallop on Sidney on Jan. 1 was the blow that gave Crosby the concussion.
- Unless he bombs in the playoffs, goalie Dwayne Roloson can expect a contract offer from the Lightning before July 1. Maybe only a one-year deal for $2 million, but Roli and Anaheim Ducks’ Teemu Selanne are showing no signs of aging. Roli turns 41 in October. Tampa Bay may use hotshot farmhand Cedrick Desjardins as Roli’s backup next season. The only problem with Desjardins is that he reinjured his shoulder the other night on the farm and they may be worried about his durability.
- In case you’re wondering, Anson Carter is living in Atlanta now after founding the hip-hop record label Big Up Entertainment, but he hasn’t divorced himself from hockey. His name has come up as part of a group sniffing around to buy the Thrashers.
- We should give a plug to Leduc’s Mike Williamson, who’ll be coaching Canada’s world under-18 squad this month. “Hockey Canada opens their doors to give guys a chance. He’s a young guy and a good coach (with the Calgary Hitmen),” said Hockey Canada’s chief scout Kevin Prendergast, when scouting the Red Deer-Oil Kings playoff this week.
Renney on the Teemu bandwagon
Count Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney as being on Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne’s bandwagon, but when it came time to helping his sister-in-law with her playoff hockey pool a short time ago, he waffled. “She wanted to take Teemu and I told her, ‘You know playoffs are a little different (with tighter checking) and I’m not sure,’ so she went somewhere else. Surprised I haven’t heard from her yet. I’m sure she’s thinking, ‘You’re a hockey guy, right?,” laughed Renney, stunned at Selanne’s five-point night against Colorado this week. Renney says Selanne’s greatest attribute is his emotion.
“He still loves to play. That should be what it’s like for every great player winding down. He’ll go out on his terms. Some guys try to hang on, but Teemu can still skate and he’s got such great offensive instincts. He knows where to go.” Will he keep playing? “Getzy (Ryan Getzlaf) and I are working on him every day. We’re three-quarters of the way to getting him to come back. I think he can play another couple of years,” said Corey Perry. “This is a guy who comes to the rink every day with a smile on his face. I’ve learned a lot of things from Teemu.”
This ’n that
- Adam Larsson’s Skelleftea team is in the Swedish Elite League finals against Farjestads (Karlstad). Larsson, who only turned 18 in November, was playing 23 minutes a game on the back end for Skelleftea against Lulea in the semifinals. Farjestads has been carried by goalie Alexander Salak, who could be the backup in Chicago next year. The Blackhawks got Salak from the Florida Panthers in the Jack Skille-Michael Frolik trade this season.
- Jarret Stoll’s only miss in nine shootout attempts this year came against Boston goalie Tim Thomas. “Hit the crossbar,” said the Los Angeles Kings centre, who can’t fathom why he’s so deadly this year. He was only four for 13 before this remarkable stretch. He always shoots. No clever dekes. “They keep telling me to keep doing what I’m doing until they (goalies) stop it.” There was an interesting scenario on the first Los Angeles power play against the Oilers on Tuesday. Stoll took the right-side draw, then hustled back to play the right point with his big shot.
- The Oilers are apparently in the hunt for Swedish free-agent goalie Victor Fasth, 28, who starred for AIK this season. If so, where does that put Nikolai Khabibulin? He has two years left on his deal at $3.75 million per and they can’t buy him out because they signed him after he was 35. Fasth had a .945 save percentage in the playoffs after winning the goalie-of-the-year award in the Swedish Elite League. “Rose from nobody to superstar this season. Extremely fast, mentally strong, only weakness high shots on the stick side,” said one long-term Swedish league reporter. Only question I have: The Monster Jonas Gustavsson was supposed to be all-world coming out of Sweden, and he has struggled for the Toronto Maple Leafs the last two years. I’d feel better if Fasth was a Finnish goalie. Are there any bad ones? You can bet the Colorado Avalanche are sniffing around Fasth, too.
- T.J. Oshie, suspended with pay for two games this week for sleeping in and missing a St. Louis Blues practice, gave his paycheque (about $20,000 on his $850,000 salary) to two charities in St. Louis.
- Los Angeles play-by-play man Bob Miller and Oilers caller Rod Phillips have something in common: they’re the only guys who got to describe Wayne Gretzky in his prime. “That trade of Gretzky. No. 1 sports trade of all-time. People have said, ‘What about Babe Ruth?’ I say, ‘He was a pitcher (in Boston), not a home run hitter,” said Miller, who was in town for Phillips’ last game.
- Everybody is trumpeting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Red Deer, but scouts are also salivating over defenceman Mathew Dumba, who’ll be in the draft next June. “He could be the next Drew Doughty,” said a scout, who has watched prospects for the last 20 years. Dumba has great skating ability, wonderful lateral movement across the blue-line on the power play, and he has no fear with the puck. “Sometimes we have to rein him in a little bit,” said Rebels coach Jesse Wallin.
- They say you never know how valuable a guy is until he’s not there, and the Chicago Blackhawks miss centre Dave Bolland’s feisty demeanour and solid defensive work. Will he be back for the playoffs as he tries to clear the fog from his concussion? It doesn’t look good right now.
- Since the San Jose Sharks were whipped by the Oilers at The Tank on Jan. 13, they have lost four games in regulation in their last 32. Guess that was the wake-up call coach Todd McLellan was looking for.
- Oilers team president Kevin Lowe was in Kitchener on Friday, presumably to scout hard-skating Swedish winger Gabriel Landeskog. Yes, they could use a big winger, too. They have needs everywhere.
- Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk will be back today after missing seven games with a charley horse but now Niklas Kronwall is out with a sore shoulder. Will the injury parade ever end for the Red Wings?
- David Musil’s stock has dropped with the draft upcoming, but part of that is the Vancouver Giants don’t have much offence so the puck stays in their end a lot longer. He’s a little worn out. But Frank Musil’s son has a man’s body already and he doesn’t turn 18 until next month. Most feel he’ll go in the second half of Round 1. Maybe the Canucks will take him, since he’s in their backyard, or maybe he’d be a perfect defenceman for Detroit, who can afford to wait on him.
- Prince Albert Raiders centre Mark McNeill, who is definitely on the Oilers’ first-round radar with the Los Angeles Kings pick from the Dustin Penner trade, will be the focal point of Canada’s under-18 world team if the Raiders lose to the Saskatoon Blades. Most scouts feel he has more skill than Oilers draft pick Tyler Pitlick (Medicine Hat Tigers), but isn’t quite the heavy body Pitlick is. If the Blades fall, Hockey Canada wants defenceman Duncan Siemens, who could be a top 10-12 pick in June but he hurt his knee this week when he tried to check McNeill.
- Should the Colorado Avalanche put the top-three draft choice in play for either Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier or Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider? Absolutely. I see the Kings being a better bet because they need top six forwards, especially wingers, and they could use Kitchener Rangers’ captain Gabriel Landeskog in the draft more than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Sean Couturier, although general manager Dean Lombardi is always reticent to give up his drafted players. The Kings could easily sweeten the pot to get the fast forward T.J. Galiardi from Colorado too. The Kings think Jonathan Quick is better than Bernier, and they could pick up a veteran backup over the summer such as Alex Auld, Ty Conklin, Mike Smith or Martin Gerber. Gerber is about to come back from whiplash on the Oklahoma City Barons roster.
- I know the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are missing Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland right now, but they were rested and had to score late and win in a shootout against a Columbus Blue Jackets team Friday that was missing their captain Rick Nash, the night after the Jackets lost in Washington. Joel Quenneville is a heck of a coach and Jonathan Toews is a great captain, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in Chicago going far in the playoffs — if they make it. This year’s Hawks struggle far too often to win games.
- The three New York area chapters (New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils) of the NHL Hockey Writers Association have decided to pass on voting for the NHL player awards as a show of support for the sharp, hard-working Chris Botta having his credentials taken away by the Islanders earlier this season. The Islanders sent out a statement saying this was hurting the possibility of their Michael Grabner being rookie-of-the-year or Frans Nielsen getting Selke consideration. Maybe so, but the Islanders did a stupid thing with Botta, one of the most respected bloggers in the business, because they didn’t like something he wrote. The NHL will have something to say on the matter, probably on Monday.
- If you’re a renegade team, do you make an offer sheet on the Kings’ Group 2 free agent defenceman Drew Doughty, who starred for Canada in the 2010 Olympics? Offer him $8 million a year for 10 years, and who cares if the compensation is two first-round draft picks, a second and a third? Or do you figure you’re wasting your time because the Kings will match it, no matter the price or term? The Kings have $48 million committed next year for 16 contracts and have to re-sign forwards Wayne Simmonds and Trevor Lewis, too. They likely will let Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky walk as unrestricted free agents.
- Hockey Canada might be looking at London Knights bench-boss Dale Hunter to coach their world junior team for the tournament in Edmonton and Calgary this upcoming Christmas. Ryan Huska in Kelowna, who was Dave Cameron’s assistant last year in Buffalo, is also a possibility. Cameron, who’s coaching in Mississauga, the junior team that Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk owns, may yet find his way to Ottawa in some capacity.
- Oilers goalie prospect Olivier Roy, who just got signed to a three-year contract, had a nightmarish playoff for Acadie Bathhurt against Victoriaville. He was pulled from the first three games, giving up 12 goals against 46 shots. They went with backup Robert Steeves in the last game, and were eliminated in overtime. In today’s big-goalie game, Roy is fighting an uphill battle size-wise, at six feet and 170 pounds. As Chris Osgood said a few months back, “I don’t know if I’d have made the NHL today with all these six-foot-four, six-foot-five goalies.”
- Many people figure Washington Capitals defenceman John Carlson has had the dirty end of the stick in Calder Trophy talk, even though he’s on their first pair with Karl Alzner. Carlson has 32 points and is plus-18. Only sure thing: forwards Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner will be two of the three finalists for rookie of the year. “I’m shocked Couture is scoring so much at the NHL level after watching him in junior (in his best year he had 39 goals). Didn’t think he had it in him,” said one longtime amateur scout who didn’t have the San Jose Sharks centre rated in his top 20 in Couture’s draft year (ninth overall in 2007).
- Ryan Smyth, whose heart never left here, gave retired play-by-play man Rod Phillips a bottle of scotch as a thank-you before leaving town with the Kings Tuesday. Former Oilers video coach Brian Ross, now working in player development with Billy Moores, also stopped by the broadcast booth to bequeath a bottle of Phillips’ favourite stuff on his final night. Classy by both guys.
- Nobody is watching the Saskatoon-Prince Albert junior playoff more closely than the Los Angeles Kings, who would love an upset so they can bring in centre Brayden Schenn, the MVP of the world junior tournament. If Jarret Stoll hadn’t had such a good training camp, Schenn might have been kept this year in Los Angeles. The only question with bringing Schenn in now if the Blades lost would be his defensive play, but they need an offensive centre. Michal Handzus can’t be a No. 1 with Anze Kopitar out. He’s big enough, but too slow. He’s fine on the cycle but he doesn’t back anybody off on the rush. Defencemen just get up in his face.
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