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Matheson ponders an ‘Ovechkin divorce,’ reveals Teemu Selanne’s toughest opponents

The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson penned a particularly prolific set of Hockey World columns and blog entries (so much so that I'm stealing one for my Malik Report blog), and we're going to start sifting through four separate columns/entries' worth of observations and nuggets of wisdom with a question that many have pondered but few have tried to analyze:

Is there any logical way in which the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin can engage in a civilized "divorce" (and/or removal of that heavy captain's "C"), or is the team, "Married to Alex Ovechkin for life?"--to the detriment of an increasingly rotating cast of coaches, goaltenders and complementary players?

Since the Gretzky trade/sell to the LA Kings in 1988, we all know anybody can get dealt, although that’s Leonsis’s call, and the question is how many people would give up their tickets to games if Ovie wasn’t there. There’s 100s of people in Caps’ No. 8 jerseys at games in Washington. But, winning often trumps player loyalty and in the time Ovechkin has been with the Caps, they have won three playoff rounds in, this, his 10th year.

It’s not all his fault, of course. Is it Ovie’s fault that Mike Green isn’t anywhere near the defenceman he was a few years ago, in part because of injuries? Is it Ovie’s fault the Caps, at this time, don’t have anywhere near a good enough defence brigade, as a whole. Is it Ovie’s fault that they don’t have enough high-end top 6 guys to support him?

No, to all of those questions.

But, again I’d make some calls to see if anybody wanted Ovie’s contract and it’s obviously a deterrent for just about every team. He gets $10 million in salary for the next seven years after this one. His cap hit is $9.538 million but there’s $70 million left in salary. Mind you, at the end of the contract he’ll only be 36.

I don’t see Ovie being so in love with his homeland that he’d return to Russia as Ilya Kovalchuk did this season, saying goodbye to the NHL after 816 games and 417 goals and turning his back on the 12 years and $66.7 million left on his New Jersey Devils’ contract to play for St. Petersburg in the KHL.

But this is a major problem for the Capitals, who have the most electrifying scorer in the game (Steve Stamkos is catching up),but there doesn’t appear to be enough buy-in from Ovie to be a 200-foot player, to use the parlance of today. To sacrifice some goals to do the dirty, defensive work, too.

The rest of Matheson's column "names names," and it's more than worth your time, but the thrust is what caught my attention.

I'd take the "C" off of his sweater and tell him to worry more about playing the game than being a leader, but that's just me.

Matheson also posited a set of "Short Shifts" that are less than short, including thoughts about the imminent Tortorella-Canucks divorce(?), the possible destination of consensus #1 pick Aaron Ekblad, the Maple Leaf messes that are Randy Carlyle and David Clarkson, newly-minted Minnesota Wild prospect Christian Folin, and an interesting quip from Teemu Selanne...

Now that we’re seeing Teemu Selanne’s final NHL lap, who does he say gave him the most grief as an opponent?

“Chris Pronger. He could be mean. We had lots of battles. He’d be yapping every game, dirty stuff, but it was fun to have him as a teammate,” said Selanne. “The day we got Pronger in a trade, I had a big smile on my face. I knew he was the missing part to us winning the Cup.

“(Chris) Chelios, too. He wasn’t as physical as Pronger, but he was smart. And one player who was really tough was (Vladimir) Konstantinov. He was a little scary. You didn’t want to turn your back. It was so sad to hear what happened to him (limo accident). He was so strong. I had so much respect for all of them.”

As well as this regarding a pint-sized prospect who happens to be property of the Calgary Flames in Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau:

I know Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau, the likely Hobey Baker winner as the NCAA’s best talent, is pint-sized, but I can’t imagine the Calgary Flames not pushing to sign him soon even if he doesn’t fit team president Brian Burke’s big-man’s game model.

His college coach, Jerry York — who’s had Nathan Gerbe, Brian Gionta and Cam Atkinson, all smurfs but solid NHLers, on his watch — swears by the 155-pound Gaudreau, which is good enough for me, although York concedes he doesn’t know of any player who’s ever weighed in under 160 pounds.

“He’s tiny, but I think you have to get him there and see what he can do,” said one amateur scout, who admits to some reservations. “He’s small like Nathan Gerbe, but Gerbe is thicker. And Tyler Ennis is small, but he’ll take on anybody — it never enters his mind he’s 165 pounds.”

Finally, Matheson offers a set of observations titled "This 'n' That":

- I don’t see Derek Roy having more than a one-year shelf life with the St. Louis Blues after they’ve started to scratch him. He’s scored one point in his last 16 games. They can use his $4-million salary to help defray the costs of signing goalie Ryan Miller to what’s likely going to be a $6-million salary next season.


- Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie was named a star for the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL farm team in St. John’s Friday. The 2013 second-round draft is getting a taste of pro before going back to the WHL next year. The Jets have Comrie in their pipeline and a terrific prospect in UMass-Lowell netminder Connor Hellebuyck (1.79 goals-against average, .941 save percentage) whom they just signed.


- With Evander Kane a healthy scratch Saturday for the Jets, doesn’t this signal a sea change? Why can’t they trade this kid? They have to start with their core and deal somebody to shake things up. It’s either Kane or Dustin Byfuglien. Their shining light? Rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba (ninth overall pick in 2011). “He’s their best by far. Zach Bogosian doesn’t think the game as well as Trouba,” said one pro scout.

Matheson continues and notes that Todd McLellan's son is quite the golfer...

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: alex+ovechkin, anaheim+ducks, calgary+flames, chris+pronger, derek+roy, dustin+byfuglien, evander+kane, mike+green, ryan+miller, st.+louis+blues, teemu+selanne, vladimir+konstantinov, washington+capitals, winnipeg+jets


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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.

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