by Joe Tasca on 12/10/12 at 10:00 PM ET
On the same day he left the Saint John Sea Dogs to join Team Canada's National Junior Team selection camp in Calgary, former Memorial Cup MVP Jonathan Huberdeau was suspended four games by the QMJHL for injuring a linesman over the weekend.
While the league-imposed ban won't affect his ability to compete in the World Junior tournament later on this month, columnist Neate Sager thinks Huberdeau's antics could impact his chances at being named captain of Team Canada:
It wouldn't do for an outsider to suggest who should be captain, but it is certainly a valid jumping-off point. The standard of decorum for someone who wears a letter and plays on the first line for Team Canada is a little different than it was for, say, sandpaper guys Steve Downie, Stefan Della Rovere and/or Brad Marchand when they wore the Maple Leaf.
Discipline is supposed to win out over emotion. At the same time, Huberdeau and Weegar have history and the Sea Dogs star saw someone take a liberty with Tesink, one of the Sea Dogs' core players. In a QMJHL context, Huberdeau had to do something, but resisting the linesman's restraint is way beyond the pale.
Sager covers junior hockey as well as anybody, but it's ludicrous to suggest there's a "standard of decorum" for a top-scoring captain of the Canadian World Junior team. Indeed, Huberdeau's decision to toss aside a linesman in order to square off with an opponent was a regrettable one, but to imply that the Florida prospect is some kind of loose cannon unworthy of the captaincy of his national junior team is downright asinine.
Over the years, many of the top-scoring captains on Canada's World Junior team have played the game on the edge, namely Kristopher Letang, Mike Richards, Martin Lapointe, Eric Lindros, and Theoren Fleury. Countless other great Canadian juniors who played with a snarl never served as captains, but were still considered strong leaders in the dressing room, including Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, and Darcy Tucker.
Jonathan Huberdeau displayed a willingness to stand up for a teammate, a reaction that's worthy of commendation, not condemnation. To his credit, Sager admits as much. And while Huberdeau may have been a little overzealous in his effort to initiate the altercation in question, his actions were by no means flagrant in nature. He simply lost his cool in the heat of the moment, as most hockey players do from time to time, and a linesman took a bad spill as a result.
Interestingly enough, many Sea Dog fans have complained that Huberdeau hasn't been playing up to snuff this season. Saint John is in a rebuilding year after a second straight Memorial Cup appearance, and several fans in the Port City have accused Huberdeau of dogging it as he waits for the NHL lockout to end. There's no way of knowing for sure, but it's a criticism that's far more damaging to a player's character than his eagerness to defend a teammate on the ice.
When it comes down to it, Huberdeau's decision to drop the gloves late in a meaningless game required guts, passion, and leadership. If history is any indicator, those traits will only endear him to Hockey Canada officials.
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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.