By Allan Muir
• Maybe they can get that Strombone guy in return. If Vancouver GM Mike Gillis is saying on record that there's a provisional deal in place for Roberto Luongo, the early season's biggest drama must be about to close. Or not. Who knows. Key point is buried at the end of the column: Luongo's been the consummate pro during all this trade speculation, preventing the process from turning into a soap opera. This time around, being the anti-Tim Thomas is a good thing.
• Let's not discount this free beer idea. The special warmup jerseys and pregame speeches were swell, but the healing process actually began with a competitive effort last night in Columbus. New GM John Davidson promised that his team wouldn't be outworked, and the Jackets backed him up in theirt 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit. A consistent, focused effort will go a long way in C-bus...at least for now...
• More saves, fewer bears. It's not enough for Ilya Bryzgalov to simply become the consistent, high-performing puck stopper he's paid to be. He has to stop being a sideshow if he wants to succeed in Philly.
• Let's just call it "advanced concern". There's no panic in Carolina ahead of the team's home opener, despite that 5-1 beating Florida laid on Hurricanes the other night. They might want to worry a bit about Zach Boychuk. More than four years after being taken 14th overall, there's no indication that he's physically ready to play at this level. UPDATE: Boychuk has been scratched for tonight's game against the Lightning according to 'Canes beat writer Chip Alexander. • Two years of Russian finally pays off. The KHL announced it will stage the Cup of Hope for its non-playoff teams. Up for grabs in the parallel postseason tournament? How about 15 million rubles (close to $500,000 in U.S. dollars) and a draft pick. What's not to like? The playoffs are the NHL's most valuable asset, so adding something, another layer, albeit with a different prize, is like a second helping of dessert. Even something as simple as a single loss-elimination tournament means additional HRR for owners and players and extended engagement for fans in non-playoff markets. Put the first overall pick into play and you've got a winner. The only loser? The World Championships, which would see Canada and the U.S. send its D teams.