Friday, January 06, 2006

Some WJC thoughts

By now, the tournament is over, so maybe I'm a day late and a dollar short, but looking back on the whole 11 day experience:

- On the booing soap opera: it happens. I've seen some bloggers apologize for the actions of those in attendance at GM Place, and I get that some of us are feeling embarassed as Canadians because of the actions of (I believe) the vocal minority, but at the end of the day, is this really a big deal? Jack Johnson cheap shotted Steve Downie and got an appropriate response. To those who say, he's only a kid - he's 18 years old. Far from some innocent schoolboy. He made a dumb decision and heard about it accordingly. This doesn't make him a bad person, but also doesn't mean those who boo are out of line. If Dion Phaneuf had done that to Phil Kessel last year in Grand Forks, would the response been any different? Well, maybe it would've, because to boo, you first have to care.

As for the international implications of the whole saga, I'm not sure there are any. While some have tried to tie it to the ever increasing gap between the two nations, I believe it's more rooted in hockey. The U.S. has emerged as a world power, and as Canadians, we're quite protective of "our game". The fact so many predicted the U.S. would walk all over Canada likely didn't do them any favors as far as winning people over.

- On the Senators prospects end, I really liked what I saw of Ilja Zubov. I'm sure playing with a world class player like Evgeni Malkin enhances your play, but even on his own, he looked quite good. Great wheels, a decent shot, and he seems to have no problem backchecking. Everyone appears to think he'll end up being an NHLer, so the Sens look to have stolen one by picking him 98th overall. Assuming, of course, that whole IIHF transfer agreement nonsense gets solved.

The other high profile Sens property I kept my eyes on was Brian Lee, mostly because I knew so little about him anyway. When he was selected by the Sens 9th overall in June, there was a collective "who?" sentiment throughout Ottawa. With more high profile names still available at that point, it was a puzzling pick.

What I saw of him here did little to win me over. He's a decent skater, I suppose, and based on the fact he got time on the PP, I guess he's considered a good passer, but he looked far too soft for my liking. The Sens already have one too many soft American defenceman. He was taken off the puck with hits throughout the tournament, and didn't seem to have any desire to elevate his game when the going got tough.

On the other hand, three blueliners who were still out there when the Sens picked Lee, Marc Staal, Ryan Parent, and Luc Bourdon all had monster tourneys and had me thinking each would look mighty good in the black, red, and gold down the line if only they had been selected instead.

I hate to make judgements on a young player so soon, and based, really, on so little, but I'm not too excited about this one.

- Leaf fans should be excited about their goaltending future, what with the two best goalies in the tournament being Maple Leaf property, but all this talk about Justin Pogge playing for the Leafs as soon as this year, and maybe even next, seems mighty lofty. Playing in Toronto is hard enough for a grizzled veteran. You want to throw a 20-year-old between the pipes and force him to deal with that pressure?

When was the last time a netminder that young made the kind of difference you're expected to achieve in Toronto? Patrick Roy back in 1985? You're hedging your bets that he'll be that?

You've got a tremendous prospect. Don't rush him into a spot he might not be ready for and shatter his confidence all together. Ask the Rangers how that went when they tried it with Dan Blackburn.

- How soon before Ottawa gets to host one of these things? No offense to Vancouver, as by all accounts they did a terrific job, but if this thing is awarded to the city that has best supported junior hockey in the past, I can't think of a more deserving region. The Ottawa 67's, even with NHL competition in the city, consistently draw some of the biggest crowds in the CHL and the Gatineau Olympiques have a loyal, borderline rabid following. The city certainly has the facilities to make it work, and the people in the community (Jeff Hunt, Cyril Leeder, Roy Mlakar) to run it professionally.

Ottawa was apparently the runner-up when Vancouver was awarded this tournament, and they will likely bid again the next time around, even though the early word is Montreal is the favorite because of the whole Canadiens anniversary thing.

Montreal is less than a few hours away, so I wouldn't be too mad at them hosting it, but I believe it's time the nation's capital got their shot.


At 4:25 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

If Pogge plays for the Leafs this year or next year it will be a mistake. He, and almost every young goalie, needs at least one full season in the AHL if not a couple. Just look at Marc-Andre Fleury and Rick DiPietro who were both rushed to the NHL and at best were both mediocre and often downright awful. Very few goalies have played well in the NHL at age 20. It just doesn't happen. Tellqvist is now 26 and this is the first year you could say he is having a very good year and as a Leaf fan is the very first year you could say with some confidence that he might be ready for a bigger workload. The season in St. John's last year probably did him oodles of good.


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