The common gripe about this year’s NHL Draft, before and after, was how unexciting the top picks were. I agree. Canada has run out of Staal brothers and Russia will probably poison the next Malkin with Polonium before they let him go. None of these “kids” are ready for the NHL neither if the teams that drafted them are smart. Philly’s choice is on his way to study business at the University of New Hampshire next season, a good decision because he was in the US Development Team (under 18) but I think we’ll be seeing him in the Junior tournaments.
The upside to the Draft was the top two picks being Americans: Patrick Kane (Chicago) and James Van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia). Americans made up 30 percent of this year’s prospects too. The US’s plan set in motion spiritually by Herb Brooks is starting to pick up steam after the hiccup in the late Nineties. I think many of these guys will get the US to have a better showing in the World Cup and what may be hockey’s last appearance at the Winter Olympics (doubtful because Canada would only have curling).
Van Riemsdyk looks promising for my pathetic Flyers. He’s from New Jersey too so that helps with the fans, unless he grew up loving the Devils. Should he do well in the NCAA, I think UNH is in Division I, he could help put them back on top in a couple years. Right now, there are trade rumors over Pitkanen, finally. It would involve a three-way trade between Philly, Carolina and Edmonton. Joni goes to the ‘Canes, Erik Cole goes to the Oilers and the Flyers get Torres. Hmm, I’d rather have Cole, defense is covered with Timonen, Holmgren needs to get a couple good forwards. He would be cheaper and less disappointing than Scott Gomez of NJ or Daniel Briere of Buffalo. Until I see my Flyers hit the ice in the Fall, I have to remain skeptical on their chances. Too bad I can’t find the odds on them from the various casinos, I will spend five to ten bucks on them in the futures section.
Closing out with other teams, I am happy to read how Pittsburgh did the classy thing by signing Mark Recchi for one more season unlike John LeClair. Recchi joined the 500 club last season and he will be 40 next year, probably one of the oldest forwards still going strong. The Penguins still won’t win a Cup in my opinion, they’ll probably just dominate the Atlantic with their new rink. He has two rings anyhow, he’ll be leaving on a good note. Rumors are spreading over JR playing another season in Phoenix. I hope they’re true. Sure, his glory days were really with Chicago but he’s more of a celebrity in the Sun City. He doesn’t have far to go on the 500 goal record, if Gretzky had any heart, he’d give Jeremy one more season even if it were on third line and special teams. The guy puts butts in seats, is a great interview for TV, wants to win and surprised everyone last season with his 10th hat trick at his age; I’m still pissed at that game not being televised. If Gretzky is willing to take back Rick Tocchet as an assistant coach after the whole gambling ring affair, why not give JR one more season at 10-15 minutes a game?
Okay, one more thing. I loved how the Philly paper called Nashville’s escape-the lease plan Springtime for Hitler. By signing away all the good players (d-man to Philly, goalie to Florida) and letting their free agents go (Kariya and Floppa Forsberg aren’t really a loss), the current owner is guaranteeing this team will go from third in points to the cellar. Should attendance stay below the 14K average, the team can break the arena lease and move. I don’t think the diehard hockey cities do as badly on a crud evening. Then again, I’m sure it has always been a struggle there. Nashville is part of NASS-CAHR turf (quick sound bite of Deliverance) and attendance never improved as this franchise gave Detroit a hard time. Pretty sad since most cities love a winner. What is now baffling me is how the current owner developed cold feet over selling to the Crackberry guy? Is Bettman threatening him? Or is there a tax deduction no one is aware of? Either way, first order of business with any owner, dump the lame name and mustard-yellow jerseys.