10 players to watch post-Olympics: Take 5
HNIC's senior online reporter Tim Wharnsby dishes out the latest news, buzz and inside information from the hockey world.
1. Upon further review
The Phoenix Coyotes were widely applauded for landing Wojtek Wolski on NHL trade deadline day. The Coyotes desperately needed Wolski's offence in the absence of Scottie Upshall, out for the season after undergoing knee surgery.
The Avalanche, however, did well to obtain 21-year-old Peter Mueller and minor-league prospect Kevin Porter. Colorado dealt a talent like the 24-year-old Wolski, who is eligible for salary arbitration in the summer, because of the emergence of young players like right wing Chris Stewart (21 goals in 58 games) and Brandon Yip (11 goals in 26 games) among others.
Although Mueller's production dropped sharply this season, he and Porter have combined for 45 goals in 247 games. That total includes Mueller's debut goal for the Avalanche in its 4-3 win in Anaheim on Wednesday. Wolski has scored 73 times in 302 career outings.
2. 10 players to watch post-Olympics
An interesting development to keep an eye on in the NHL's stretch drive will be how some Olympians perform after their time in Vancouver. Here are 10 players to watch:
- Martin Brodeur — How does he rebound from being benched early in Vancouver?
- Pavol Demitra — He was one of the biggest surprises at the Winter Games. Can he carry on his success with the Canucks?
- Ryan Kesler — He emerged as a force and a leader with the U.S. team. Like his Vancouver teammate Demitra, can he maintain this level of play with the Canucks?
- Evgeni Nabokov — Can he overcome his horrible outing against Canada?
- Alexander Ovechkin — Ouch. First the big loss to the Canadians and then his archrival Sidney Crosby scores the gold-medal winner in overtime.
- Miikka Kiprusoff — The Flames netminder bounced back to win bronze after a terrible game against the United States in the semifinals.
- Ryan Miller — Can he sustain his successful Olympics or will exhaustion be a factor?
- Drew Doughty — Did anyone depart Vancouver with more confidence in his game? Maybe after his coming-out-party, we'll see him contend for the Norris Trophy candidate.
- Rick Nash and Eric Staal — Unlike the other 21 members of the Canadian Olympic team, these two perform for teams —Columbus and Carolina, respectively — that have no hope of making the playoffs. It will be a difficult six weeks for them, but hopefully we'll see them back with Canada for the world championship in Germany.
3. Andy Murray back in the game
Switzerland has hired Andy Murray as an assistant coach for the 2010 world championship in the spring. Murray, who was fired by the St. Louis Blues earlier this season, steered Canada to three world championships in 1997, 2003 and 2007.
The new Swiss head coach is Sean Simpson, a Canadian who coaches Zurich in the Swiss league. Simpson and Murray are friends. Simpson, a former Chicago Blackhawks prospect, played for Murray in Zurich in the 1980s and the pair coached Canada together at the past Spengler Cups.
4. Flames flicker in post-trade deadline game
Maybe we make too much of games like the Calgary Flames experienced on Wednesday. But here were the ninth-place Flames, honouring their Olympians like gold medallist Jarome Iginla and Kiprusoff, ready to roll into a 20-game sprint to snatch that final playoff spot in the West and they floundered with a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Was this a statement game to general manager Darryl Sutter that acquiring a backup goalie in Vesa Toskala and a depth defenceman in Steve Staios was not enough?
Imagine you're Iginla, who set up the gold-medal clinching goal in overtime, and you've just returned from the high of winning gold and playing on a line with Crosby and Staal. Now the right wing looks over to his Calgary linemates in Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman and it's a major letdown. That line generated just one shot on goal against Minnesota.
The Flames find themselves with a 15-15-3 record at home. Only the Edmonton Oilers (11-17-4), St. Louis Blues (12-16-5) and Toronto Maple Leafs (11-14-5) have worse home records.
5. Canadian Olympic party continues in Calgary
More than 70 Canadian Olympic athletes who competed in Vancouver have accepted an invitation from the Flames to attend their game at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Friday against Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.
Classy move by the Flames and the gathering should be one heck of a party.