Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
from Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press,
Not half a day into the beginning of an orientation camp for NHLers hoping to play for Canada, and whispering this latest era of NHL participation is near an end was growing louder.
"They won't be going to Korea," was a common refrain among media in Calgary for Hockey Canada's orientation camp, featuring 47 Canadian-born NHLers, along with a management team and coaching group largely culled from NHL staffs.
Team Canada simply chose to not go on the ice rather than fork over the cash to insure a few light skates. That doesn't bode well for future NHL participation.
The International Olympic Committee will pay in the neighbourhood of $8 million to insure NHLers playing in Sochi, a price tag that was a major sticking point in negotiations.
The NHL wants to revive the World Cup, playing every second year, and the ever-increasing cost of insurance will be a convenient excuse if and when the league makes its move to bow out of the Olympics.
Control over broadcast schedules, revenue, game sites and costs make the World Cup concept far more attractive to the NHL and its owners. Playing late in the summer and not interrupting the NHL season is also a benefit to the league.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
"The big-ice game is the big equalizer. It's the game that you can get swallowed up by as a North American player," Hitchcock told ESPN.com in a separate interview Sunday. "If we were guilty of anything before Torino, it's that we didn't do enough detail preparation knowing the changes in the game that were going to get played. The first mistake was an honest mistake -- that all of us felt there was a sense of obligation to that group from 2004 because they played so well."
At the management staff news conference Sunday, Lowe could not have spelled it out any more plainly.
"We are much more open-minded to have a different team than the gold-medal team in Vancouver," Lowe said. "Not that we were close-minded for '06 after Salt Lake but certainly respectful of the group that had won in '02. You know, there were the incumbents, the ones who had won … We felt they were still capable of delivering as a group. Well, this is a lot different than the National Hockey League. It is four years removed from [the Vancouver Olympics].
"The biggest lesson is foot speed -- for all players," Lowe added. "You have to be able to skate, and you have to be able to move the puck. We've seen that time and time again -- in '06 and [at the] World Championship the last couple of years. It's quite evident.
"The team will be made up of players who can skate, think and move the puck. There could be a number of changes from the gold-medal team in Vancouver."
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.
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