Ilya Kovalchuk miss a meeting? Didn't surprise one former teammate.
"[That] is not unusual for Ilya," Bobby Holik told Jeff Marek and Kelly Hrudey on Hockey Night in Canada Radio. Holik, who spent three seasons with Kovalchuk in Atlanta, met with the winger to explain the importance of being on time.
While Hrudey will find it hilarious that I'm writing about someone else's lateness, it's obvious Holik's message did not get through. Saying he likes Kovalchuk personally - "very nice guy, everyone likes him" - the former Devil carved him during the segment.
"It's still something that doesn't make sense. The trade at the deadline didn't make sense, the Devils' signing him didn't make sense. If you want to talk about team first and everybody plays for the team, why do you sign [a] player who's not exactly known for that?
"If I want to make my team to the next level, that's not the player I'm going to go after."
Yikes. But Holik's always been brutally honest. (Glen Sather issued a gag order to him during one of the Rangers' disastrous seasons.) Holik, however, hit on the key point here. How many Devils took less money to play in New Jersey? How often have they been ordered to worship at the altar of "team?"
Now a guy making $100 million US missed a meeting after an ugly start to the season. People were wondering if John MacLean was going to get canned. If MacLean didn't act, he'd lose everyone.
Better a firing than a mutiny.
1. Fantastic story from AHL Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson: In April 1994, he was playing for Portland. With six days off after the final regular-season game, coach Barry Trotz gave his players a 48-hour vacation. They had a team party. The next morning, Nelson was woken by assistant coach Paul Gardner, telling him he'd been called up. His equipment was at the airport and he had 45 minutes to catch the flight. Arriving in Washington during the pre-game meeting, Nelson scored the only goal of his NHL career. It was the winner in a 4-3 victory over the Jets.
2. Here's the kicker: He's never seen it. We couldn't find any viz. If anybody has it (April 12, 1994), let's get it to him.
3. Wanted to see if Rick Rypien would apologize to the fan he grabbed. He didn't. My take: Mike Gillis is a lawyer. Laurence Gilman (Canucks VP of Hockey Operations/Assistant GM) is a lawyer. Gary Bettman and Bill Daly are lawyers. The NHLPA is full of lawyers. The moment an uninjured James Engvist talked about going to court, they decided not to provide extra ammunition. That's why no personal apology; and the suspension was lighter than expected. We'll never know for sure, but if Engvist had kept quiet, I wonder if the ban would've been longer.
4. I don't think you'll see glass along the player exits. In a gate-driven league, you want fans - especially young ones - to get a high five.
5. No problem with Wes McCauley's Monday night ejection of Dustin Brown. Tough call in high speed. What McCauley - and the rest of the referees - must realize is that there's no shame if the league decides it wasn't a hit to the head. It is their job to make a competent split-second on-ice decision. It is the league's job to review. The system works best that way.
6. Disappointing to see the relationship between Kerry Fraser and the NHL deteriorating so badly. It went sideways in 2006, when Fraser's refereeing son-in-law, Harry Dumas, was fired. Hopefully, time will heal the wounds, because Fraser and the league did a lot of good for each other over 30 years.
8. Mike Milbury, Craig Simpson and I are in the hotel bar in Philadelphia. A man walks in and looks at Milbury, who says, "Don't hate me because I used to kick the Flyers' asses." The guy says, "Don't worry, I'm from Pittsburgh." The reply: "Oh, I kicked their asses, too."
9. Good read: GQ's Alexander Ovechkin article. I'm convinced a lot is for show, because Ovechkin thinks that's what people want from him. I'd bet the most honesty in the piece is what he says about Evgeni Malkin.
10. In the past four games, the Capitals had 26:08 of power play time. Ovechkin was on for all but 1:27 of that. Too much? Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who lead in extra-strength time on ice, don't see as high a percentage.
11. Prediction: cutting down Ovechkin's shifts becomes a big story sometime this winter.
12. Two players whose shift length is definitely bothering their coach? Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel.
13. Appreciate Ted Leonsis' accessibility, but this Ted's Take was excessive. For the Capitals, it's all about the playoffs. Why get uptight now?
14. One NHLer, on the hit that gave Drew Doughty a concussion: "You'd think a guy with Erik Cole's injury history would know better."
15. Daniel Briere, asked if he ever took another look at Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup winner: "Once was enough."
16. The Flyers think Sergei Bobrovsky has a chance to be something really special, once he learns the difference between playing in the KHL and the NHL. Number one: He's struggling with the amount of traffic in front. Number two: in the Russian league, you play deep because there's so much passing. Here, you must challenge because of the shooting.
17. Speaking of traffic, Randy Carlyle had a good line about the Flyers' strategy. He said they take the puck to the net, then try and put it and the goalie inside. Curtis McElhinney says St. Louis is the most aggressive Western team, with David Backes being particularly effective.
18. McElhinney, after his 40-save performance in Philly, said he'd never played with any goalie like Miikka Kiprusoff. "Nothing bothers that guy."
19. Carlyle said Brian Burke and Bob Murray didn't want the "$5 million players" breaking their feet blocking shots on the penalty kill. When you're struggling, things change. Ryan Getzlaf isn't getting shifts, but Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan get one or two a game. Lubomir Visnovsky is out there even more.
20. Thanks to his great playoff, Ville Leino says players try harder to finish their checks on him. During his hot start, Josh Bailey noticed defencemen giving him a bit more room, because he can now beat them if they over-challenge.
21. Biggest difference for Luke Schenn? Improved fitness to the point he can have more of an impact later in shifts.
22. Why are fines to players capped at $2,500? Seems ridiculous. The NHLPA argued that if the number was higher, the league wouldn't suspend, just take money. The reason for such paranoia? Remember Gil Stein's practice-only suspensions? No games, just cash.
23. Islanders goaltending consultant Sudarshan Maharaj believes 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson can play two or three more years. "When I do drills with him, he says, 'Is that all you've got for me?'" Maharaj adds that Roloson is so economical with his movements that the goalie has no joint pain. Who is similar? Manny Legace (playing overseas at 37) and Chris Mason.
24. A lot of angst about Roberto Luongo, especially with Cory Schneider off to a great start. Let's see where this is 60 games from now. He's making major changes and there's an adjustment period.
25. Can't believe how many players are complaining about the ice at the new rink in Pittsburgh.
26. Ottawa prospect Bobby Butler has three goals in seven games despite adjusting to a new stick. In the AHL, 29 of the 30 teams have a deal with Reebok. In exchange for a great price on equipment, all players must use that company's stick. You are allowed three exceptions, but Butler doesn't have seniority.
27. Lone holdout? The Albany Devils. Lou Lamoriello feels his players should use any stick they want. And, since you're wondering, it wouldn't happen in the NHL, where players can cut individual deals.
28. Every year, one player wins the Cup for the first time and becomes a new man. This year, it's Marian Hossa.
29. Meant to write this a few weeks ago: Talk to players who never won the Cup, and you realize how much close defeats hurt. Wade Redden still gets upset by the 2003 Game 7 loss to New Jersey. In 2001, weeks after Colorado beat the Devils to win it all, I came across Darcy Tucker as I got my hair cut in the same place as his wife. (Staring at the keyboard, I realize how bad that sentence sounds.) He remained devastated by Toronto's playoff loss that year, feeling the Maple Leafs could have won it all. Upon retirement, Tucker said 2002 hurt equally badly.
30. Back in 2001, I almost got throttled when saying I didn't think the Leafs would have beaten the Avalanche. Now, he agrees that Toronto may not have won either series (2002 would have been against Detroit), but just wanted the chance. Ottawa's a different story. The Senators might have beaten Anaheim in 2003.
World Series: Giants in 7. National League home-field advantage makes a difference.
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