THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND
Hockey Watch II: Even Hockier Than Before
By Chad Huebner
Back when “The Far Side of the Pond” was in its first year, merely a puddle at that point, I wrote a column called “Hockey Watch” that was basically a bunch of things to watch for in the hockey realm. I figured it was high time to do another column like this, and no, it wasn’t because I’m running out of new ideas during this stretch of the season. Uh-uh, not at all.
The first “Hockey Watch” column started with this guy, so why not do the same here? Unlike before, though, Crosby’s been on the sidelines for awhile, instead of tearing through NHL defenses like a plow through the snowdrifts. He said feels a little better, which only reminds me of part of the line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”: “I feel a lot better, I’m not dead yet.” Anyway, he’ll be back sometime soon, but it’s not like the Pens are suffering without him, like the Blackhawks were without Johnny Toews. Just goes to show you I do know a little bit of what I’m talking about when I said Evgeni Malkin will have his time in the spotlight, and love every minute of it.
Looks like Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings is a mortal lock for yet another Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defensemen. Maybe the NHL should just rename the thing in his honor, though I doubt Bobby Orr fans would like that too much. Speaking of the trophies Lidstrom has won, does he have enough room in his house for all of them? Maybe they give him smaller copies of the same thing, kinda like Guy LaFleur had in his place (according to a photo I saw of “The Flower”). Makes you wonder. . . but then why is this called the “Gonchar Watch? Because Sergei Gonchar of the Pens has 47 points so far this season, second only to Nik and on pace to score 70 points for the season, a career high (he had 67 last year, so it’s not quite a leap in point production). The only problem is that Gonchar has a plus-minus rating of 0 (compared to Nik’s +40) and Lidstrom’s still plying his same incredible trade at 38. Still, it would be interesting to see a guy like Gonchar, who’s not too shabby himself, win the Norris for once. Kind of breaks up the monotony, ya know? And it gives Lidstrom something to shoot for next year, when he reaches Orr-like totals with 100-plus points. . . maybe.
Clearly, the Sens needed to pull the trigger and make a deal for a solid scorer. But in doing so, they get something from Corey Stillman I always thought they were lacking: championship experience. Sure, the Sens have had a lot of great players that have contributed to a lot of great seasons, but only a few had ever been to the Cup Finals before, and none that have actually won it all. Stillman has done this twice with the ‘Canes and Lightning, two teams no one would have ever picked to win the Cup in 50 years. Now he goes to a team that has an excellent chance of making a return trip to the Finals. If the Sens make it that far again, will we see the Stillman that scored 26 points in 25 games during the ‘Canes amazing run, or the Stillman that was part of the supporting cast (seven points in 21 games) for the Lightning? Do the Sens have enough to go up against the likes of the Red Wings, Stars, Sharks, or even the Ducks for a rematch? Whatever the answers are, remains to be seen by a team that excels in the regular season, but for the most part fizzles in the playoffs. All I know is Mike Commodore, the other part of the deal, makes for a better match with the Sens, because his fiery auburn locks match better with the Sens red unis than the ‘Canes.
Where will he play? Will he play? Best question is: Does anybody give a rat’s ass? Does Forsberg have enough to be a ready-to-go contributor for a playoff-bound team like the Flyers? This isn’t like the situation with Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne who probably thought they were going to come back to the Ducks, and took the time off to keep in shape so they could be a factor immediately. Forsberg did help the Preds last year, scoring 15 points in 17 regular season games, and another four in the five-game opening-series loss. But Forsberg’s age and health are always a question (hasn’t played a full season in five years). I also have to wonder if Forsberg needs a better supporting cast than what he got in Philly and Nashville. He seems to be more of the type that will play brilliantly when he’s surrounded by brilliant players, as was the case in Colorado. If he plays, and plays well, fine, yippee, he can still do it after all these years. Other than that, don’t look to him as your savior, Philly, if that’s where he ends up going.
St. Pierre Watch
It’s only a matter of time before another young star joins the ‘Hawks, and while most people are looking at Jack Skille to make the jump, I think Martin St. Pierre will get there first. Compared to Toews and Patrick Kane, St. Pierre at 24 is absolutely “ancient”. Yet while Toews and Kane were tagged as immediate starters, St. Pierre had to toll away in the minor-league ranks. It sounds like a hardship, but St. Pierre has put up some impressive numbers, including this season, where he was leading the AHL in scoring before the ‘Hawks moved him up to the big team. Even though he’s a center and Toews is a center, couldn’t you just imagine a line with St. Pierre, Toews and Kane? The ‘Hawks would have to move Patrick Sharp to a line with Martin Havlat and Robert Lang. . . oh darn, shucks and gee-willikers! My watching of St. Pierre is limited to the ‘Hawks games, and like every other call up, St. Pierre didn’t look like he was playing to potential. Nevertheless, I admire guys who work their way up to the big leagues.
This is a part of the 80s that was as regrettable as Pat Benatar bandannas and Walter Mondale. Who thought a day-glo watch was cool? Must be the same people who thought George Michael was straight and Benetton’s was a place where kids in third-world countries actually shopped for clothes. The Swiss should have their chocolates and knives taken away from them and be forced to watch “Making Mr. Right” starring John Malkovitch for this fashion monstrosity.
Nothing really wrong or different about him here, just wanted to mention he’s a player in the NHL that you’d want to watch on a nightly basis. Caps fans must be incredibly ignorant to not realize what they have in him.
Red Wings Watch
WHOOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!! A FOUR-GAME LOSING STREAK!!!! LET THE DOWNFALL BEGIN!!!!
Yeah, the Red Wings still lead the Western Conference with a comfy, 12-point cushion, and they’ll no doubt maintain a double-digit lead for the rest of the season, but doesn’t it feel good to see them suffer just a teensy-tiny bit? Complacency and injury could be the two key reasons for the slump, but as a ‘Hawks fan, I’d like to think there’s some sort of karma-cosmic force here, bringing the NHL world into perfect harmony. Or maybe I have no idea what I’m saying anymore, because I’m operating on five hours of sleep typing this column.
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