Good morning. I believe it is now safe to stow the golf clubs for the winter.
And with that in mind, it's time to make the case: Bryan McCabe for the Team Canada defence, Damien Cox addressing the jury.
That's McCabe, leading the Leafs in scoring, one point removed from the league top, named the NHL's top defensive player of the week (how's that for irony, says Ken Campbell, after McCabe has one of the top offensive stretches of his career) -- and that's just the tip of it, Cox writes:
"Right now, he's not just his team's top blueliner. He might be the best defenceman in the entire NHL."
That's one for you to chew on.
Here's another: these postmodern rules are hard to figure out. Last night's San Jose at Detroit instalment suggested so, anyway: A tasty early-season matchup that at least on the surface, looked shiny and fast and slick. But at least until the final couple of minutes when overtime loomed, it had all the bodychecking and nastiness of Ellen.
Perhaps it was a function of the penalty calls. Tugs and half-yanks that were a penalty, and slashes that weren't. A second-period stretch had a goaltender interference call (Holmstrom was outside the crease, and on his back -- what the?) and a goaltender-handling-the-puck-(barely)-outside-the-area call. Low point came when Dimatrakos deftly lifted Chelios' stick, putting himself in the clear deep in the Wings zone, the Detroit veteran slashing back at him -- and Dimatrakos was whistled for hooking.
I suppose we're going to get our share of these kind of nights. Top blogger Tom Benjamin is concerned already, but for the opposite reason -- "the officials are starting to let things go", he writes, using Saturday's Leafs-Habs tilt as an example. Consistency is all he asks, and a fair trial of the zero-tolerance approach.
These are single-game snapshots -- that's the big picture view, anyway. But the smaller one, on display at the Joe last night, had me crying out for some edge, and wondering whether there can be a medium between "zero-tolerance" and "let 'em play".
Oh, over at ESPN, John Buccigross has an entertaining view worth checking out, as he actually sits in the stands to watch -- "At times, it almost looked like an all-star game," he says. (*shudder*)
He does bring to mind a concept I've long been in favour of: everyone who reports on sports should once a year have to attend a game, paying for the tickets, lining up to get in, lining up to buy the overpriced food and beer, lining up to get rid of it, then taking the subway or fighting the traffic on the roads home -- Mandatory, like visors should be.
Oh, and on the subject of visors, or the lack of them:
ChKris Draper went to hospital last night, after being hit in the face with an errant puck. (C.Y.)
Yup, there goes Chris again, talking about the integrity of the game; how it's played, the media's responsibilities. Let's get to some gossip, shall we?
I wanted to know what Atlanta fans are saying about last Friday's fight night. Let's just say the comments I found are fairly consistent. Some examples:
As far as Andy Sutton’s hit on Darcy Tucker goes, maybe a little hockey karma got him. ... Pat Quinn? Just a senile whiner. ... Tucker deserves every stitch he got. ... Toronto runs the league and everyone knows it. Their passionate fan base runs interference for a shoddy organization. ...Anyone at the game saw Domi look like Greg Luganus for most of the game.
Leafs visit Atlanta November 19. I'm just sayin', that's all. Unbalanced schedule, remember? While we're on the topic of rivalry, wanted to pass this link along. It's worth a look just for the photo of Brendan Shanahan, the guy we have to thank for the new rules/enforcement. At least he hasn't lost his grit.
Hey, Tucker's playing pretty good. You gotta have one of those love-him-on-your-team-but-hate-to-play-against-him guys on your team. I remember absolutely HATING Esa Tikkanen. I think I was just jealous. Check out Ken Campbell's look at Tucker today, who's clicking with Allison and O'Neill right now.
How 'bout the new guys? The two above with Tucker might make up the Leafs' top line, but the best player out there right now is probably Eric Lindros. Over at the Sun, Steve Simmons has a story on how the Leafs are cashing in on Mr. 88 because ... they're the Leafs. Remember, he's a former MVP. He was the last to get the Sidney Crosby hype. Sure is playing that way right now.
Leaving you today with our friend Jeremy Roenick. Hey, hasn't it been a few days since he's mouthed off:
"The owners can sit there and do giveaways and lower ticket prices to get the fans back to the game knowing that what they are really doing is taking it out of our pockets," Roenick tells the Los Angeles Times. "It's important to get people back into the arenas to watch hockey, but it is a lot easier to do when (the owners) know they still get money back because they are taking it out of our paycheck. In essence, the players are paying for all the giveaways and free stuff that the owners are doing. Which is all well and good, but you don't hear about it."
Interesting point from Mike Ulmer this morning. With Brett Hull's retirement, Chris Chelios not far behind and JR turning 35, the NHL is losing all of its great quotes. He's got some good candidates for the new generation -- and an even better candidate for who needs to clam up. Thanks for coming out Sean Avery. (SW)