Small Ideas that Could Grow
Some partial notions for a Monday morning:
--Is this the week that Atlanta loses its Thrashers? Or are the attention of the hockey community and the City of Winnipeg again being used to create leverage for a team looking for a better deal where it is?
Problem is, there's no better deal out there for the Thrashers. No lease to be fixed, no money coming from the city (wise). A new ownership group must step up. Now. And that sounds very, very unlikely.
--I'm not one of those guys who is going to lecture you on how you're missing something by not going out to support junior hockey. To me, the customer is always right, and if people haven't wanted to go, that's no failing on their part. But it surely will be interesting to see how the GTA responds to the Memorial Cup in Mississauga, which starts Friday with the Majors playing the Saint John Sea Dogs. It's a four-team tourney that lacks a marquee name, but does have four good teams, all of which come with good stories, and all of which could win the thing.
The Sea Dogs do arrive with four of the top 20 rated prospects for this summer's draft, including centre Jonathan Huberdeau (No. 3), defenceman Nathan Beaulieu (5th), centre Zack Phillips (15th) and right winger Tomas Jurco (20th). The Majors' D-man Stuart Percy from Oakville was ranked 53rd in the year-end NHL Central Scouting ratings. Owen Sound goalie Jordan Binnington, who backstopped the Attack to the OHL title on Sunday, is the third-rated North American goalie.
--An average of $13 million a year for five years for Jose Bautista is looking like a shrewd deal for Alex Anthopoulos, although its early. After the Vernon Wells deal, and the Alex Rios contract, and others like it, it was easy to wonder if the Blue Jays were ever again going to make the right call on a long-term deal for a star player. And man, is this guy a star.
--Joe Thornton vs. Ryan Kesler is going to be a battle royale throughout the Western Conference final. The big news for the Canucks in Game 1 was that Henrik Sedin showed some flash, setting up the tying goal and scoring the winner in the hard-hitting affair. The missing elements for San Jose these days, meanwhile, seem to be Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski. With Thornton tied up dealing with Kesler, those boys need to get it going. Heatley has one goal in his last eight; L'il Joe has one goal, one assist in last seven.
--Apparently, it's all about the diet. Since going gluten-free, Novak Djokovic has soared to become the best tennis player on the planet. Rafael Nadal can't beat him, neither can Roger Federer, and the level to which the unbeaten Serb has lifted his game in 2011 is utterly astounding. He's leaner and fitter, and his 500-horsepower backhand permits him to rarely need to run it to hit his forehand, and therefore he's rarely out of position. He's also the best returner in the game. We'll see if he can keep it up at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
--The death of the NHL's top heavyweight, 28-year-old Derek Boogaard, was a stunning tragedy for his family and reverberated throughout the sport on the weekend. Answers to how he died could make his passing yet more meaningful to those outside the family.
He was rocked by a Matt Carkner right cross to the button on Dec. 9th and never played again, although it sounds like his training was going well. Sadly, he was challenged by Carkner after landing a good, perfectly legal bodycheck in the open ice on Jesse Winchester of the Senators. That the sick nonsense the NHL needs to crack down on but doesn't seem to want to. Boogaard knew his job and accepted it, but surely the guy had a right to be able to play the game within the rules without having to scrap every single time.