And the winners are . . .
As the curtain comes down on the regular season, here are my choices for the campaign's best, worst and most engaging performances, players, signings, moves and other esoteric categories.
Even the NHL can't make up its mind. The Hart Trophy page on the league's web site says in one spot that the award goes to the player judged to be most valuable to his team. In another spot, it goes to the best player in the league.
The distinction is legitimate. Most voters will give the nod to
St. Louis was a floundering, last place squad when he took over as the No. 1 netminder in late January. Since then, the Blues found an identity and clawed their way into a playoff spot with just two games to go. While there's plenty of credit to go around for that success, the calming presence of Mason was the foundation. Without him, the Blues are weighing the merits of
Cashing in on a broken play, Ovechkin picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone just ahead of
After taking a pass in the neutral zone, he carried the puck alone into St. Louis territory, then slowed up to wait for help. But with a line change underway, Wheeler was on his own against four defenders. Smartly, he drove to the net, took one hit, spun off it, and beat another defender with an outside-in deke to close alone on Manny Legace. His first bid was denied, but he managed to pick up the rebound and bury it to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
The Canadians were trailing the Russians in the dying moments of their semi-fina at the 2009 World Juniors. Just when it looked like the defending champs would go for the fold, the Canadians found a way. With their netminder pulled in the final seconds, they buzzed the Russian net. The puck was nearly cleared by a defender before
Cases in point: Mirasty and Yablonski won't ever have to worry about the tax implications of drawing an NHL paycheck, but they do know how to put on a show.
Problem is, Modano signed his last deal after the age of 35, which means that his $3.25 million cap hit stays on the books whether he plays or not. The Stars, already dealing with the debacle of a playoff DNQ, can't take the hit of losing the most marketable player in franchise history . . . even if he's a nonfactor on the ice. Though he's talking like hanging them up is a possibility, expect him back for the final year of his deal.
My bad. Vermette has been anything but a square peg for the team's obvious hole down the middle. In fact, next to
Honorable mention to
Jokinen popped in the odd goal, but rarely was an offensive force. There were too many nights when he seemed disengaged from the fray, and too many lengthy droughts. Most damningly, there were loud whispers out of the room that he was alienating the team's core young players. Having to dump him after just five months hurt . . . but probably not as much as it did to watch
As a free agent, Gustavsson can sign with any team, but reports suggest he's looking for a place where he can play right away. Toronto, Colorado and Philadelphia provide obvious opportunities, but don't rule Dallas out. The Stars need someone reliable to back up
All that said, I appreciate hearing the songs sung well and with respect, and no one does a better job than this former
Some have an oddly comfortable symmetry to them. ("Pour some sugar on me," "Ma! The meatloaf!") Others are jarringly forced. ("She blinded me with science!" and "Come with me if you want to live!") Doesn't matter.
Personally, I want to hear him yell, "Mulva!"
Former NHL officiating great
First, the CHL imposes no limit on the curve of a blade. Obviously, there are pros and cons to going the banana route, but the willingness of some NHL snipers to skirt the current rules hints at a perception of the benefit. Before they do anything drastic like increasing the size of the net, why not try this? Anything that gives scorers a slight edge against today's oversized, over-padded netminders deserves consideration.
Second, the CHL has addressed the pointless posturing (and massive time waste) of those post-whistle scrums. Though it's not yet in the rulebook, the league issued a directive to all officials and coaches. Essentially, they allow one scrum per game. After that, the officials go to the coaches and inform them that the next scrum will result in a penalty to one of the participants. Any player involved can be given a minor at the discretion of the referee, but one team will always end up shorthanded.
"If there are roughing minors to each player, one will get an additional minor," Shantz said. "If there is pushing or shoving, one player only will get a minor penalty. The result in each game I saw was the players tested the limits and when it was called one time, the scrums ended. There was no pushing and shoving that caused the linesmen to spend time and effort separating guys who are shoving each other and yelling at each other just for the show of it."