Mr. Harper Goes to Scotiabank Plaza
Canada’s No. 1 hockey fan? Or an embattled politician who knows when it’s a good idea to rub shoulders with increasingly famous teenage hockey players?
You be the judge. Prime Minister Stephen Harper did visit with members of Canada’s national junior team this morning before practice amidst a forest of Blackberrys, guys and gals talking into their sleeves, pistol-packing security types and even a bomb-sniffing dog. Harper gave the team a puck with his signature on it along with a five-minute chat, while the junior nats gave him a red Team Canada jersey with his name along the shoulders.
Pretty standard stuff.
Can’t tell you what the PM thought about all of this as there was more furtiveness to his visit than even Mats Sundin’s Garbo-like arrival in Vancouver yesterday. Harper was barely seen and certainly not heard from, so his thoughts on the Canadian goalkeeping situation or whether Angelo Esposito should stay on John Tavares’ line were not available.
But you can look for pictures of a smiling Harper with Tavares, Cody Hodgson and the boys. That’s what this was all about. Don’t think the junior nats needed the pep talk.
Other questions from this week’s WJC goings-on:
Can you please explain why goal differential is so important? I don’t understand how it can be when there are no ties in the round robin portion of the tournament.
A: There are no ties in the game, but you could have had three-way ties in the standings, although that’s no longer possible. That’s when goal differential could have kicked in.
Q: Hey Damien,
I am just curious, what's the knock on Taylor Hall? He wasn't selected for Team Canada juniors. Is it because of his age?
Mike Shelley, Moffat
A: Doubt there’s any knock at all. This is a tournament for 19-year-olds, and the competition for spots this year was fierce, even with eight eligible players in the NHL. It may have simply been that the skillfull Hall didn’t offer an element the Canadian team lacked with players like John Tavares, Cody Hodgson, Jordan Eberle, etc. Hall will undoubtedly get his shot next year.
Q: Mr. Cox,
1) Why doesn't the Junior tourney just clip down to a four team tournament? Maybe with some sort of qualifying tournament or games some months before the big show. It seems pointless to invite filler to get demolished by the top four.
2) Why would Canada run up the score to 15 against a hapless opponent? I remember tourney's and games I was in, even at the Junior level, where the coach would tell us to make the extra pass, and hold off a little when destroying a team. In some instances, the scorekeeper would stop putting the goals up on the board. The point was to show some class, and give the opponent some dignity.
Ian Donnelly, Toronto
A: With four teams, you’d have a hard time putting together a decent schedule for television, and TV numbers and revenue helps drive this event. It’s barely a tournament at that number. Eight teams seems to be the number that makes the most sense. Don’t forget, there is a B Pool tournament in the fall/early winter in which teams not currently in the A Pool can qualify for next year.
In terms of running up the score, well, at that point they had to because of the silly goal differential rule. Best suggestion I’ve heard is to only allow teams to add a maximum five goals, so getting to 15 would be pointless. That said, you’ve got to play the games, and having Team Canada try not to score would have been more boring than watching them try to score as many as possible against the hapless Kazakhs.
Q: Hi Damien,
If you were the Leafs and picking first and the draft was tomorrow, who do you take and why? From a Leafs perspective (yes, I dare to dream). I'd say Tavares. He looks really good and we already have our rock on defence Schenn. Or would you take Victor Hedman for a twin towers on defence? That's tempting too.
Jason Johnson, Toronto
A: I wouldn’t base the choice on what the Leafs have now, that’s for sure. You take the best player, regardless of position, and besides, the Leafs lack depth at either position. Right now, I couldn’t say which would be the better pick. Both look like big-time players that would play on your roster for years to come. A much tougher choice will come at No. 3, with a host of players competing to be the player taken after Tavares and Hedman.
I’m not trying to be evasive. But I just don’t have a strong preference between Tavares and Hedman at this point. The only thing I would say is that 6-foot-6 defenceman who can skate and move the puck are rare indeed.
Lots of positive words about Pat Quinn's "stabilizing influence" with the Juniors. I still feel that although he is an excellent coach, that the head coach of the Junior team should be seen as a developmental position. A young coach who shows the abilities to pull together groups on a short schedule and win gold in this tournament, and then go on to have success in the pros would be a logical Olympic head coach candidate. I hope this does not begin a trend of brining in older out-of-work NHL coaches for the junior team instead of treating this tournament for what it should be - an opportunity to develop people who can contribute to National success at the highest level.
How do you weigh in on this topic?
John B., Brampton
A: The job of the Canadian junior coach isn’t to develop players in a two-week window. It’s too win the gold, period. You bring in the coach that gives you the best chance to win, and in this case, with Benoit Groulx quitting the job late in August, Quinn was probably the best choice given his success with the under-18 program. But I don’t think this is the start of a tread – it was more of any emergency situation.
Q: Hi Damien,
James Van Riemsdyk of the U.S. jr's looks like a player with a real good NHL career ahead of him. I understand he's a Philly prospect. I know the Flyers were willing to give up a rather large package for Tomas Kaberle last year. Do you think they'd still be interested in Kaberle for Van Riemsdyk and a first rounder? Any idea if Kaberle is ready to waive that no trade, or if this is a Burke style trade? Am I dreaming in technicolour when I picture the Leafs actually gaining these type of young promising players (as they obviously seem dead set against getting a shot at either of the two great ones available in the draft).
Bradley Meldrew, Toronto
A: I think Van Riemsdyk is precisely the kind of prospect the Leafs would love to land in exchange for Kaberle, Nik Antropov or one of their veteran players. Whether they can pull that off depends on a variety of factors, and you can ask the same about whether Minnesota might be willing to sacrifice Colton Gillies to get a veteran or whether Montreal would consider dealing away P.K. Subban if they could enhance their Stanley Cup chances. I believe Kaberle and Pavel Kubina will waive their no-trades, and Burke’s ability to translate those players into assets for the future will be his first major test as Leaf hockey boss.
Instead of his regular Thursday hockey mail bag, Damien Cox is taking your questions and comments about junior hockey and will answer a selection all week in his blog. Whether it relates to the Maple Leafs, Team Canada, or any European hotshots, send a note to Damien and check back every day for the answers. Click here to send Damien a question.