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Top Line: Thomas Vanek trade a lock; Dan Bylsma criticized; more links

Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders With the Islanders' playoff hopes dim, Thomas Vanek will be dealt, but he may have hurt his stock in Sochi. (Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

• Thomas Vanek is downplaying his Sochi partying scandal ahead of next week's trade deadline. Makes sense, considering how desperately he wants off Long Island, but there's little doubt that his selfish behavior could impact the return that GM Garth Snow can get for him.

• Team USA coach Dan Bylsma was criticized by his players in Sochi, but his team in Pittsburgh has his back.

• The players who stayed behind while the NHL's stars went to Sochi may have to carry the mail for a bit as their teammates wind down from the Olympic experience.

• Could this have been the greatest ever edition of Team Canada? Its former GM, Steve Yzerman, says that it belongs in the conversation. Hard to disagree with him.

• Canada's 3-0 win over Sweden in the Olympic final on Sunday was the latest -- but not the last -- achievement of the nation's golden generation.

• The result was inevitable as soon as Mike Babcock wrote these three names on his white board at Team Canada's orientation camp last summer.

• Was it an IOC conspiracy that led to Nicklas Backstrom being identified as a drug cheat just minutes before the gold-medal game? Several Swedes seem to think so.

• Whether it was a conspiracy or plain incompetence, it was a sad way to end the Games.

• Maybe Chris Kunitz belonged in Sochi after all.

• Was Martin St. Louis really this upset over the initial snub by Team Canada?

"Guys! Hey, guys! I can't see!"

A golden goal post, a bit of pixie dust and P.K. Subban helping John Tavares to the celebration are Roy MacGregor's enduring memories of the women's and men's hockey tournaments in Sochi.

• Rosie DiManno says that the Sochi tournament showed why the world's best players belong in the Games. She says that if the NHL demurs, it's up to the NHLPA to ensure that its players return.

• NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr says that several meetings this summer will set the union's agenda for moving forward with Olympic participation.

• It's too soon to tell whether the NHL's stars will be in South Korea in 2018, but it's not too soon to consider who might make Team Canada.

• Whether at land or at sea, Canadians were locked in for Sunday's gold-medal game.

• This might have been the most Canadian (and Swedish) element of Sunday's Olympic final.

• One player doesn't have to think about what he's wearing to practice for the next week after losing a bet on the game.

• More than 2,500 fans braved a minus-28 Celsius windchill to watch the Jets practice outdoors yesterday on the Assiniboine River. Seriously, what team can say they have more dedicated fans than Winnipeg?

• A commitment to puck possession and the schedule will be crucial to the Senators' playoff chances as they enter the stretch run.

Pekka Rinne is looking for a heavier workload in practice as he aims for a return to the lineup in Nashville.

• The Stars entered the break on a 6-1-2 run that moved them into a playoff spot, but GM Jim Nill doesn't sound eager to make a pre-deadline deal to improve his club's chances down the stretch.

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