Each week, hockey columnist Scott Morrison and his protegé, senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby, exchange (mostly) friendly banter on the latest storylines in the NHL.
1. Who would you rather have on your team — Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos? The two tied for the Rocket Richard Trophy last season with 51 goals apiece and Stamkos has the early lead in the scoring race this season with 19 points, four more than the third-place Crosby.
MORRISON: Once again, no wrong answer to that question. Nothing against Stamkos, who is younger, but I give the edge to Sid because of his leadership. He has won, led his team to the Stanley Cup final twice — winning once — and we all know he scored the Golden Goal. He is my guy until someone else comes along and does everything he does and wins.
WHARNSBY: I admire the 20-year-old Stamkos for finding his way after his early-career struggles and his ability to play with elite-level forwards like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. Wonder how many points, however, Crosby would pile up if he was part of the Lightning lineup? I do know it wouldn't be that important to him. Sid the Kid has learned to sacrifice points for wins. Until Stamkos exhibits the same trait, the 23-year-old Nova Scotian with the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal already in his possession has the nod.
2. What's been your favourite story in the NHL this past week?
WHARNSBY: Mark Letestu of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 25-year-old rookie doesn't have the star status of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. But after the first month of the season, the Elk Point, Alta., native has four goals and seven points to place him second in the rookie-scoring race, one point behind Edmonton's Jordan Eberle. After spending four seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Bonnyville Pontiacs and a year at Western Michigan University, the undrafted centre was signed by the Penguins in March 2007. He subbed in for an injured Jordan Staal in the second round of the playoffs last spring. With Staal due back this week from his foot injury, Letestu would have been moved to the wing. But Staal's latest setback — a broken right hand — will give Letestu more time in the middle.
MORRISON: My favourite story is Kings head coach Terry Murray. Well, it's a story Murray told the other day. He recounted that, during the summer, when the Kings were courting Ilya Kovalchuk, he met him for a coffee and had to spring for the $5 latte for the $100-million man. My close second is the Bruins fans chanting "Thank you, Kessel." It's nice to see fans get creative and passionate.
3. What has been your biggest surprise in the first month of the 2010-11 season?
MORRISON: There have been surprise success stories and surprise failures and, to me, the story has been the New Jersey Devils. From the losses to the poor play to the Kovalchuk benching, no one would have predicted the first month would be that bad for the Devils and with no one apparent sign of improving significantly any time soon.
WHARNSBY: I have been intrigued by the impressive start in Tampa Bay that has the Lightning atop the Eastern Conference. Montreal Canadiens fourth-liner Mathieu Darche praised Guy Boucher and predicted big things for the head coach at the NHL level when we had a conversation during the playoffs last spring. Darche had Boucher as an assistant coach at McGill and later as a head coach in Hamilton. Boucher is a deep thinker who has made rookie general manager Steve Yzerman look good with his decision to take a chance on Boucher.