Each week, CBCSports.ca senior hockey writers Scott Morrison and Tim Wharnsby conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the hot-button issues in the NHL.
1. If you could start a franchise today and had your pick of Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, who would you choose?
WHARNSBY: I'll take Ovechkin. The big difference between Pittsburgh's playoff success and Washington's close-but-no-cigar results is that, from 2001 to 2006, the Penguins benefitted from six consecutive drafts in which they had a Top 5 selection, including a pair of first overalls in Crosby and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. I believe that if Ovechkin had the same sort of draft help, the Capitals may have won a Stanley Cup by now, too.
MORRISON: The correct answer is both. What a tough decision that one would be, although you certainly couldn't go wrong. Both are absolutely brilliant and fun to watch. Based on a lot of statistical factors you would have to say Ovechkin, but I'm going to say Crosby. He was a captain at a younger age and he has led his team to the Stanley Cup finals twice, winning last spring. So far Ovie hasn't won that hardware. Yet. Not that it is all on him, either, but the teams are similar and, last spring, Crosby won the battle that mattered the most.
2. Did Bob Gainey make an impact in his time in the general manager's office of the Canadiens?
MORRISON: He didn't win a Stanley Cup in Montreal, which is how they measure genius that city. But I still think he did a pretty good job, nonetheless. They made the playoffs in four of his five full seasons, had a .569 win percentage and finished first in the Eastern Confernce one season, though they never went deep in the playoffs. Did he make an impact? Yes, but he didn't win the big prize.
WHARNSBY: The Canadiens won a Cup — the Calder Cup in 2007 with their AHL farm club, the Hamilton Bulldogs. To me, that says that Gainey and the management team he assembled in Montreal made an impact in restocking the team with solid draft picks and sound prospects. But the Canadiens likely peaked too early in Gainey's tenure because of young goalie Carey Price's outstanding start to his pro career. He followed up his world junior heroics for Canada by leading the Bulldogs to the AHL title. This tricked Gainey into believing Price was ready. Price played well with the Habs in 2007-08 and was a big reason why they grabbed the Eastern Conference regular-season title. But that team wasn't as good as its record. When Price lost his form under the pressure of the playoffs, many of the Habs lineup problems came to the forefront. Gainey was able to fix the Canadiens' troubles as a result.
3. With the men's hockey tournament slated to begin in a week, what are your medal predictions for the Vancouver Olympics?
MORRISON: Another tough question. A country could have a great tournament and still finish third or fourth or fifth, the competition is that tough. I think home ice will ultimately be an advantage for the Canadians, though the pressure will be intense. But I think Canada will dig down and find a way to get it done. I like the coaching, the goaltending and Crosby will lead this team to gold. And they will beat the Russians and Ovechkin in the final, with the Russians taking silver. They have tons of firepower, but I'm not as impressed with the defence. The Swedes, the defending champs, will finish third and Mikael Samuelsson will fire them a raspberry!
WHARNSBY: We've seen six different countries wind up in the gold-medal final in 1998, 2002 and 2006. Goaltending obviously has played a big role in the wins by Czech Republic, Canada and Sweden. Right now, I'm not sure if Canada's goaltenders are playing well enough. Canada does have excellent depth and sound leadership beginning with executive director Steve Yzerman, head coach Mike Babock and his assistants. But with Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov playing so well, Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin up front, I'll take the Russians in the gold-medal final over Canada. The Czechs, on the strength of goalie Tomas Vokoun, will snatch the bronze.