Kukla's Korner

Tasca's Take

Stepping Out

Not surprisingly, the decision by Tim Thomas not to attend Monday’s ceremony at the White House honoring the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship team has generated some heated debate.  A firestorm is always ignited when a star athlete snubs a presidential invitation.

Healthy debate is good, and convincing arguments can be made on both sides of the ledger.  Some people think Thomas is out of line.  Others say he’s exercising a personal right.  Regardless of your political affiliation, you have to respect Thomas for having the courage to stand up for something he believes in passionately. 

The Bruins’ response to the situation is interesting on a number of levels.  Immediately, the organization went into damage control mode.  President Cam Neely issued a statement saying the club was disappointed in Thomas’ decision.  He made it clear that Thomas’ political views by no means reflect those of the Bruin franchise.

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  Tags: tim+thomas;+president+obama;+white+house+visit;+bruins

The Rat Pack

There seem to be two general reactions to Brian Burke’s lament last week about the so-called “rats” taking over pro hockey.  In one regard, he’s echoing the sentiment of old-time hockey fans who yearn for the days when players regularly policed each other on the ice.  Those who disagree argue that Burke’s stuck in the past, unable to come to terms with the lack of tough guys in today’s game.

Regardless of your opinion on Burke’s managerial abilities, it’s hard not to like the man.  He’s extremely candid with the media and has always been willing to accept responsibility for his failures.  Burke’s passion for the game is palpable, and his tendency to shoot from the hip is a breath of fresh air in a day and age when cookie-cutter responses to tough questions are commonplace in pro sports.

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  Tags: brad+marchand;+brian+burke;+rats

Just Deserts

Unless you have a fondness for cocky, pompous, and narcissistic human beings, it’s hard not to smile upon learning that Sean Avery has been placed on waivers by the Rangers. 

Nobody has enjoyed watching Avery become John Tortorella’s personal whipping boy more so than yours truly.  Even though the Ranger coach hasn’t publicly chastised his mouthy winger, it’s obvious that Tortorella has absolutely no love lost for Avery.  The fashion guru has played a mere 15 games this season, having served as a healthy scratch for the Blueshirts’ last nine contests. 

Avery’s career is now at a crossroads.  No NHL team wants anything to do with him, which isn’t particularly surprising considering it’s virtually impossible to think of another player who’s been more disrespectful towards his teammates, his opponents, his coaches, and the game in general, than Sean Avery. 

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  Tags: sean+avery;+rangers

Point of No Return

Over the past few weeks, I’ve pondered writing about a variety of topics, namely realignment, Sean Avery, and no-touch icing.  But it’s hard to get off the concussion train, especially when you consider how many premier players are sidelined with head injuries right now.

Even the most passionate hockey fan would be hard-pressed to remember a time when so many stars were out with concussions.  It’s almost as if the scrambled brain epidemic is getting worse, even though body checking is seemingly at an all-time low. 

I’ve always been of the opinion that virtually nothing can be done to combat concussions.  Nothing, that is, outside of banning body-checking altogether.  It’s simply impossible to avoid violent collisions in a game played at such a high speed.

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  Tags: head+shots;+todd+gill;+max+pacioretty;+andy+sutton

Great Expectations

One of the great things about the Stanley Cup playoffs is when a seemingly marginal player takes the hockey world by storm by putting together a spectacular post-season performance. 

It happens virtually every year.  Names like John Druce, Paul DiPietro, and Dave Lowry come to mind when I think of players who came out of nowhere to catch fire for a brief two-month period, never to be heard from again.  Last year, Sean Bergenheim was the Cinderella story, while Ville Leino turned the trick the previous season.

The problem with an average player displaying remarkable scoring prowess during a short playoff run is that it raises expectations.  John Druce was nothing more than a checking forward when he potted 14 goals in 15 playoff games for Washington back in 1990, but the 24-year-old’s impressive post-season binge changed his career forever.  From that point forward, he was expected to be a goal-scorer.

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  Tags: buffalo+sabres, montreal+canadiens, scott+gomez, ville+leino

The Gauntlet

After a lengthy bout with laryngitis (not ideal for a radio broadcaster), I’m looking forward to the holidays.  Something tells me the Buffalo Sabre players are, as well.

I can’t remember the last time a hockey team was lambasted like the Sabres have been over the past 11 days.  That’s probably because I can’t remember the last time a team’s star goaltender got run over by a charging forward, only to have the goalie’s teammates stand by idly, watching the guilty player escorted away from the fray with a smile on his face. 

Granted, Ryan Miller isn’t having a stand out season, but he’s still one of the elite netminders in the game.  He’s a consummate professional, and in many ways, he’s the face of the Buffalo franchise.  And even though Jhonas Enroth is a more than capable replacement, the fact that Milan Lucic was allowed to steamroll a Vezina Trophy winner with no consequence is a disturbing development.

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  Tags: boston+bruins, buffalo+sabres, milan+lucic, ryan+miller

The Road Not Taken

It’s always fun for hockey fans to keep track of a hot prospect.  It’s even more enjoyable when the prospect is being compared to Sidney Crosby.

Almost everyone will agree it’s unfair to compare a 16-year-old teenager to an established NHL superstar.  But it’s difficult to ignore the fact that Nathan MacKinnon is from the same hometown as Crosby (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia), played at the same Minnesota prep school (Shattuck St. Mary’s), and is projected to be the number one pick in the 2013 NHL draft, as Crosby was in ‘05. 

Now playing junior hockey for the Halifax Mooseheads, MacKinnon is a tremendous talent.  Scouts rave about how quickly he reaches top speed.  At 5-foot-11, 179 pounds, MacKinnon isn’t afraid to go into the corners and play in the trenches, and he’s only going to get bigger.

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  Tags: baie+comeau+drakkar, halifax+mooseheads, junior+hockey, nathan+mackinnon, qmjhl

More Than Meets the Eye

To me, there is no visor debate.  It’s only a matter of time before visors are mandated in the NHL.  The Chris Pronger injury will only expedite the process.

What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that the visor discussion goes well beyond a player’s personal choice.  There will always be hockey players who don’t want to wear shields.  For some guys, it’s a macho thing.  Others feel visors impede their vision on the ice.  That’s all well and good, but the bottom line is that visors will be required very soon, if for nothing else, as a cost-saving measure.

The fact of the matter is that insurance companies charge higher premiums to cover NHL players because many don’t wear visors.  As more players suffer eye injuries, those premiums will continue to skyrocket.  From a financial standpoint, the NHL and its member teams would be foolish not to make visors mandatory. 

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  Tags: chris+pronger, neck+guards, richard+zednik, visors

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Last week, I talked about how Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier made a huge mistake by re-signing defenseman Andrei Markov.  This week, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman gets the same critical treatment. 

Hindsight is always 20/20, and some would argue that it’s unfair to second guess a personnel decision this early in the season, but the horrid play of Dwayne Roloson has to make you wonder why the Lightning brought him back for what is seemingly his 37th year of pro hockey. 

Granted, Yzerman wasn’t goofy enough to sign Roloson to a multi-year deal, but the fact that he was unable to bring in a younger goaltender to backstop a club that is clearly built to win now is proving to be a colossal blunder.  Roloson has been absolutely brutal, sporting a goals against average above 5.00.  Anyone who’s watched Tampa in the early going knows that many of the 18 goals he’s allowed this year are of the shoddy variety.

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  Tags: dwayne+roloson, lightning

Rolling the Dice

As Paul pointed out last night, Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson has suggested changing the age at which teenage hockey players are draft eligible from 18 to 19.  He cites a statistic indicating only 12% of Canadians play in the NHL before age 20.  He also uses the draft class of 2003 to support his argument, claiming the 2005 NHL lockout forced many current NHL stars to spend another year in junior hockey, which supposedly benefited their development.

I’m not so sure it’s fair to draw a correlation between the amount of time a player spends in junior with his performance as a professional.  Some players spend five years in junior hockey, and have incredible overage seasons, but obviously that doesn’t guarantee them success at the NHL level.  With that said, I understand why 18-year-olds are being rushed into the league faster than ever before, and I can also see why Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League is dismayed by the situation.

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  Tags: draft+age, junior+hockey, nhl+draft

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.

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