GOLDEN HANDSHAKE

 

I used to have nothing but respect for Kris Draper, until he decided to open his mouth about something as trivial as a handshake.  During what could be described as nothing more than a wild post game scrum on the ice of the Joe Louis Arena after Pittsburgh’s victory – the captain Sidney Crosby was the man of the moment.  Everybody and every media outlet wanted a moment to interview him before he was handed the Cup.  As it would turn out, Nick Lidstrom and Draper, after “waiting and waiting”, decided to head into the dressing room.  By Crosby’s estimation, he shook hands with about half the team, excluding the captain Lidstrom.

"Nick was waiting and waiting, and Crosby didn't come over to shake his hand. That's ridiculous, especially as their captain, and make sure you write that I said that!"  OK, I did – what’s your point Kris?  If Nick himself was so concerned, why didn’t he wait for Crosby to get into the handshake line, or why didn’t he make it a point to go to Crosby and shake his hand?  As I see it, the Penguins beat the Red Wings, not the other way around.  Furthermore, why didn’t Nick seem so concerned?  Why did he head to the dressing room so soon when he could clearly see Crosby was preoccupied by the media frenzy?

"I had no intentions of trying to skip guys and not shake their hands," Crosby said. "I think that was a pretty unreasonable comment. The guys I shook their hands with, they realized I made the attempt. If I could shake half their team's hands, I'm sure the other half wasn't too far behind. I don't know what happened there.  I have no regrets. I've been on both sides of it, and it's not fun being on the losing end. But it doesn't change anything. You still shake hands no matter what."

And that should have been the end of it, but then last year’s playoff MVP, Henrik Zetterberg, had to put in his two cents, a full two days after the fact no less!:

"I think that's one thing you should do.  I don't know why he didn't do it, it's disrespectful."

Really?  So why did Lidstrom make like he actually understands when asked?: “Sidney was probably caught up in the emotions and everything”.  You think?!

Personally, I like Gordie Howe’s take on it.  "When we had it you lined up at the blue-line and just banged hands.  You're punching them in the nose and five minutes later you're going to shake his hand?  To hell with that. Maybe they shouldn't even have the players out there."  Agreed.

Besides, I still maintain perhaps Nick should have went to Sid – even after the fact while they were celebrating in his team’s building, like he got the chance to do last year.  You want the golden handshake?  Here you go.

Now, I can understand the Detroit players being upset over losing – it’s tough to come all this way and leave empty handed.  Yet, even though the Red Wings can hang their skates high for having been there right until the bitter end, it’s unbelievable to me how some can spoil it for everybody.

But I’ll tell you what – if you didn’t enjoy this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the seventh heaven Stanley Cup final, the bad sportsmanship shown by the losing team notwithstanding – well, then you just are not a hockey fan – period.

Congratulations and a huge tip of my hat to Sidney Crosby and the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions – the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The final was an awesome series where both teams in their own right deserved to win – but by my estimation, when it came right down and dirty, Pittsburgh won because they just wanted it more and were able to get it done.  As the comparisons to the Oilers of the 80s continue to be made, how many more championships can this team win?  Well, apparently the rest of the NHL has taken notice, particularly those who didn’t even qualify for the postseason…


ALONG THE BOARDS

The NHL and its top three teams in the draft order kept us in suspense right until the very end, and then didn’t surprise us at all.  The 2009 NHL Entry Draft from Montreal, amid all the hype, was anything but predictable.  The three players expected to go first were picked in order.  In fact, of the first 10 picks, only one was really off the board.  As we always do this time of year, here are the NHL’s future stars:

#1 – New York Islanders – John Tavares – They always say in the draft you pick the best player available – well this year there were three, but in the end, Garth Snow took the type of player you build a franchise around.  It should come as no surprise Tavares was picked 1st overall, but as I was saying, right up until the very minute they called his name, it wasn’t a sure thing.  At the end of the day, though, fans in Long Island get a guy who broke Wayne Gretzky’s OHL scoring record.  How good is this guy?  The OHL had to make a special exception for Tavares to play before he reached the age of eligibility.  It was thought the NHL would make a similar exception last year, since he would have been 18 by the time last season started, but the league would have none of it.  Trust me, though, John Tavares will be well worth the wait – and at least we got to see him play in that awesome World Junior tournament.  Pittsburgh, you have company in the Atlantic division now.

#2 – Tampa Bay Lightning – Victor Hedman – Well, as of this writing, they still haven’t decided if they’re going to trade Vincent Lecavalier before the 11 year deal goes into effect, which, sadly was kind of looming around the entire draft, but at least they addressed the one position which was a real sore spot for them last season – defense.  Hedman was a key contributor to Team Sweden’s run in the World Juniors last winter, and if it wasn’t for John Tavares and the rest of Team Canada, the Swedish junior men’s team may have won it all.  The Bolts will not be sorry they chose him.

#3 – Colorado Avalanche – Matt Duchene – It’s been awhile since the Colorado/Quebec franchise had a draft pick in the top five, but after last season, it wouldn’t have surprised anybody if they ended up with the top pick.  In centre forward Duchene, they get a player of John Tavares caliber, but apparently with better skating skills.  Of course, they say you can’t teach an ability to score, and time will tell which player adjusts to the faster NHL game better.  Being a fan of the Joe Sakic/Patrick Roy era of the Avs can’t hurt either.

#4 – Atlanta Thrashers – Evander Kane – Another key to Canada’s success at the World Juniors, Kane, of no relation to Chicago’s Patrick, is one of those players who will probably play right out of Junior.  The Thrashers could use him, or anything.  In Kane, though, they get a good two way player who can score – he drew a key penalty for Team Canada in the final game against Sweden, and on the ensuing power play Canada scored.  Every team needs a game breaking player like this.

#5 – Los Angeles Kings – Brayden Schenn – Brother of Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn, this selection marks the first time in the history of the draft two brothers have been picked in the top five in back to back drafts.  Schenn was picked #5 in the 2008 draft, and is a player Brian Burke claims will be a future Leaf captain, which is probably the biggest reason why he couldn’t trade up to get Brayden, or even Tavares.  It seemed everybody was asking Burke for Luke, and he wasn’t about to give him up.  In Brayden, the Kings get a player who can add to their exciting young lineup.  They don’t really address their biggest need on defense, but Schenn can be a franchise player someday.

The theme of the Canadian teams seemed to be draft big.  Toronto took the “other” big guy from the London Knights, Nazem Khadri.  Ottawa took the big defenseman from the 2008 Memorial Cup Champion Spokane Chiefs, Jared Cowen.  Edmonton took the fast Swedish skater and big scorer, Magnus Paajaarvi-Svensson (although it’s important to note they could have had the little defenseman with the big heart and passion for the game – Ryan Ellis, he ended up in Nashville).  Montreal took the big local name, Louis Leblanc – and finally got a cheer from the crowd (they’re already comparing him to the likes of Guy Lafleur and Jean Beliveau – whoooaa!!!  Not so fast Habs fans…).  Vancouver went with Jordan Schroeder, a top product of the Minnesota junior hockey program.  And Calgary went with another big Swede – Tim Erixon.

Clearly the central scouting this year kept a big eye on the major junior circuit in North America, and the Swedish Elite League.  Teams in 2009 picked a record 7 Swedish players in the 1st round.  In the grand scheme of things, however, North America still rules – 17 of the first 30 players picked are Canadian or American.  Perhaps not so surprising, with still the absence of a transfer agreement with Russia, the first Russian player didn’t get drafted until the 2nd round.

Names you might recognize – Ray Ferraro’s son Landon was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings – they didn’t actually get to pick until #32 because they traded down from #29 in a draft picks trade with Tampa Bay.  We of course all know Ray nowadays as a TSN analyst.  Only time will tell if Landon ends up becoming as prolific a player as his father was.  In fact, time will tell if sons of Ray Bourque, Ulf Samuelsson, Mike Foligno, Steve Smith, and more even make the very teams which drafted them.  Of course, another of Mike Foligno’s sons, Nick, already plays for the Ottawa Senators, but his younger brother Marcus is now property of the Buffalo Sabres.  As if those heated Buffalo-Ottawa rivalries needed any more sparks.

So there you have it – a little bit of the future, today.

Before I step aside for the summer, here’s an update on the Phoenix Coyotes – they might actually remain in the desert.  Of course, by now you’re probably aware Judge Baum’s decision on the Jim Balsillie bid to buy the team and move it to Hamilton was thanks, but no thanks.  This week an offer from Jerry Reinsdorf, who already owns the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox, submitted a $148 million offer for the team, and if the bid is successful, the team will not be going anywhere – yet.  While the offer is $64 million less than Balsillie’s, Balsillie would have moved the team – if Reinsdorf becomes the new owner he would have to enter into a new lease agreement with Glendale and the jobing.com Arena.  Word on the street is the Coyotes financial woes run deep – but, then again, so too did the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins before them.  Since then, the Senators and Sabres have both done alright – the Senators were in the 2007 final, and the Sabres were in the final four two years in a row before ever so slightly missing this year.  Then, of course, the Penguins are fresh off their Stanley Cup win.  Thanks or no thanks to Jim Balsillie and his failed scheme to bring the former Jets back to Canada, it appears the Desert Dogs will be just fine when all is said and done.  Another thing is pretty clear - it’s highly unlikely Wayne Gretzky will be returning as coach.

These seasons go by way too fast for my liking – and the shortness of life in this dimension was brought to the forefront all too often this month – of course, last time around I talked about Peter Zezel who is no longer with us.  Then, towards the end of this month, in a few short days, as Hollywood was already laying Ed McMahon and Farrah Faucett to rest, we lost the real King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, just as I was fresh from poking a little fun at Jonathan Roy, dubbed the French Canadian King of Pop.  Life’s too short folks, so enjoy every second of it – and don’t let anybody tell you any different. As our favorite sport goes on a short vacation, don’t forget to keep your bookmarks updated and check back here periodically.  You never know when something will set my mouth off faster than Sean Avery’s…here, or in the blog.  And as you've seen recently, it doesn't necessarily have to be hockey related.

 

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