Kukla's Korner Hockey
from James Neveau of NBC Chicago,
The truth of the matter is that when you combine the flair with which he plays the game, the quality of his playoff performances, and the emerging maturity that is redefining his image in the minds of Chicago fans (and is catching nationwide notice, for that matter), then there is no other conclusion than to say that Kane is the face of hockey in the United States.
Guys like Parise and Quick may be able to match Kane if this were a question simply of ability, but when you factor in the star power, as well as the allure of playing for one of the game’s most storied franchises, then Kane is without equal in this discussion. At only 24 years of age, Kane is (hopefully) far from finished in this league, but when all is said and done, then he may end up usurping guys like Mike Modano and others as the most legendary American to ever lace up a pair of skates.
from Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said Monday he had some thoughts on who his captain would be in Sochi, but he hadn't made a final determination. Toews figures in that slight reservation. Sidney Crosby is the consensus pick to be captain, but maybe Toews is better suited for the role.
In seven instances wearing a Team Canada jersey, Toews has won gold six times. He has the knack of being able to do whatever his team needs him to do at the right moment.
Many will argue -- and I'm firmly in this camp -- at this moment in time, Toews is the best player in the world. Durable, clutch and complete. He is The Franchise in Chicago and maybe Canada too.
Crosby is an offensive genius, but his defensive game is lacking. And while he leads with his play, he's not exactly Abe Lincoln when it comes to oratory skills.
Toews took a strong stand during the lockout and is never afraid to speak his mind. It's not hard to imagine him getting up in the dressing room and setting things straight.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
The angles are different. There’s less emphasis on pounding the net with shots. It’s easier for forwards given more room to manoeuvre to simply wander into traffic-free areas where they aren’t very effective.
But you can’t talk your way into understanding the big ice, although bringing in Ralph Krueger to provide some helpful tips is worth a try.
You’ve got to play your way into understanding it. Many of the players in the Canadian camp have limited experience and have even had some success overseas, either with club teams or while playing for Canada.
Rick Nash, for instance, had 26 goals in 44 games for Davos back in the 2004-05 lockout. Jonathan Toews and Price were the heroes of that memorable shootout at the 2007 world juniors in Leksand.
There’s little know-how left over from the punchless ’06 Turin team. Luongo is back. Jay Bouwmeester and Dan Boyle are defencemen back to compete for a spot on the Sochi roster while Marty St. Louis, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal and Nash are veterans from that flaccid Italian campaign who may be in Russia.
That should be a bigger concern than goaltending. How do you pull players off an NHL-sized rink in the middle of the season, plunk them on to the big ice with only a couple of practices and hope they can navigate the rink as well or better than Europeans who have skated on it their whole lives?
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
There is no tactful way to ask why Canadian goaltending, at this particular juncture in history, is so mediocre. But it is.
Marty Brodeur is the past, and of those we thought were the future, Marc-Andre Fleury has fallen off the edge of the Earth, Cam Ward is stuck on a loss machine in Carolina and Price has been a human roller-coaster.
It didn’t used to be this way. For generations, we rolled blithely from one star to another to fill our international needs: from Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito to Grant Fuhr to Patrick Roy to Brodeur, with brief detours to Eddie Belfour or Curtis Joseph or Bill Ranford, and it was never an issue.
Now? If the cold-eyed sizer-uppers in the peanut gallery are correct, it could be a big issue for Canada in Sochi, not quite six months from now.
"Obviously the last couple of years have been hard on Roberto but I think our goaltending is as good as anybody else's,” said defenceman Dan Boyle. “The difference between the top goalies on other (international) teams is so minimal.
"I think the media's talking about this because we've been so used to having Brodeur for all those years and Patrick before that and all of a sudden we don't have one of those Hall of Fame stud guys."
from Brian Stubits of Eye On Hockey at CBS Sports,
This week the focus at USA Hockey's Olympic Orientation Camp is only on USA Hockey and the Olympics early next year in Sochi, Russia. But let's not forget that these guys are mostly all in the NHL and have their own teams and situation from those teams to deal with.
Which makes things like this so interesting ... and potentially awkward. Seth Jones, the No. 4 overall draft pick this summer by the Nashville Predators, has himself a roomate here outside Washington like everybody else. His roomate? Former Predators star defenseman Ryan Suter, a man Jones is more or less going to be tasked with replacing.
"He played in Nashville for quite a long time and was obviously a pretty good defenseman there," Jones said Monday of his temporary roomate. "I like to ask him questions. I haven't really had a chance yet because we just got here yesterday but it's nice getting to know him and ask him quesitons about Nashville."
Now Trotz has an excuse to knock on the door...
from Miachael Russo of Russo's Rants,
A big theme today was the fact that the Americans are going to Russia to win. They’re not underdogs like 2010. They’ve medaled in every major tournament recently. It’s to the point that the U.S. expects big things when it goes to these tournaments (just ask guys like Phil Housley, Grant Potulny, Mario Lucia and Mikey Reilly, who won gold at the last world juniors).
“If I go back, winning a silver medal, there’s something special about it but I didn’t feel special about it for a long time,” said Edina’s Brian Burke, the 2010 GM who is the 2014 director of player personnel. “When you win a bronze medal, you win, the other team leaves and you get your medal. When you win a silver medal, you have to watch the other team get their gold medal, and that’s hard.”
The U.S. wants to win gold this time around. A big theme was also the fact that the U.S. with NHLers didn’t medal in Nagano or Torino but did in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. In other words, they have to come up with a team that can compete on the bigger ice. That will go into how the staff assembles this team. So that could really open the door potentially for skaters, like for instance, Gardiner and Leddy.
“I don’t want to overplay it as a huge, huge factor,” Poile said. “It’s something we have to adapt to.”
from Craig Custance of ESPN (paid subscription),
Here's an early handicap of how the American goalies line up heading into the season:
1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Back in 2010, when Quick was in Vancouver as the third Team USA goalie (essentially to gain international experience at the highest level), I asked him what it was like to have the label of USA Hockey's goalie of the future. Even being at the Olympics in the flesh didn't make it any easier to the expectations that he'd be starting in goal for the Americans down the road.
"That's too hard to even think about," he said. He's accomplished so much since then that's it's almost hard to envision anybody else in Sochi as the American No. 1 goalie. He'll return to the Olympics, not as a kid gaining experience, but as an experienced goalie with a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe trophy and a career playoff save percentage of .929, including .946 and .934 the last two seasons. He starts the season as the favorite.
2. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
We look back now at the 2013 playoffs and remember Corey Crawford's resiliency and ability to bounce back from bad moments to help propel the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup. And at times, we forget just how close Howard came to ending Chicago's run and carrying Detroit to the Western Conference finals in an outcome that might have further raised his profile like Crawford's. The Red Wings were up 2-1 in the third period of a Game 6 that could have eliminated Chicago and Howard's strong play that series was a huge reason.
Howard finished the 2013 playoffs with a .924 save percentage and in three Detroit wins over the eventual champs, allowed just two goals in a postseason that solidified him as a playoff performer. He gained international experience in the 2012 World Championships, where he went 5-2 with a .910 save percentage.
Custance lists the rest of the goalies in this order, 3. Ryan Miller, 4. Craig Anderson, 5. Cory Schneider and 6. John Gibson.
Over the next few days the majority of hockey news will be pertaining to the Canadian and US Olympic camps.
I don't plan on throwing every news story out there but instead will be selective on stories I believe are worth reading.
On the Canadian side, just about every major MSM person is following the Canadian camp and by now you should know who those folks are.
If you'd like to add more MSM follows, please feel free to leave a comment.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org