Around the League - Feb 18, 2010

Jason Gregor
February 18 2010 03:06PM

Thankfully we will get to see some competitive hockey this Sunday on rivalry day. The last six finalists for the Gold Medal will all play one another. In 1998, Russia lost to the Czechs and they’ll battle at 1:00pm MST. In 2002, Canada beat the USA and they’ll square off at 5:40 MST while the finalists from 2006, Sweden and Finland, will wrap up the day at 9:00pm

So far the hockey, both the men and women hasn’t been great. The women are a two-country race and the preliminaries are unwatchable, unless you are a relative or friend of one of the girls. And the men’s games haven’t been great, outside of the Czech/Slovakia tilt (more on that later). I don’t see a solution on how to improve it moving forward. There have actually been some whispers in Vancouver about the validity of women’s hockey remaining an Olympic sport.

Finland, Sweden and Russia need to improve their women’s programs or this sport might be in trouble in 2014 or 2018.

Switzerland is improving every year in men’s hockey, but they will need to continue developing youngsters before they are considered anything but an upset specialist.

It is too early to tell which of the four top teams, Canada, USA, Sweden and Russia look the best. They all won their first game, and Canada, USA and Sweden don’t have a real test until Sunday.

I’m still not a fan of the American’s defense, and with Ryan Miller looking a bit fatigued leading up to the break, I just don’t see them making it to the final.

While the hockey hasn’t been great yet, it will be starting Sunday, I’ve really enjoyed snowboard cross and short track speed skating. Snowboard cross is highly entertaining cross of speed, guts, contact and great agility. Short track has as much bumping as NASCAR, without the two hour race and endless caution flags.

So far I’ve really enjoyed the Olympics. I was in awe of the class shown by Alex Bilodeau moments after his memorable gold medal. In that moment for him to show so much class and grace and then raw emotion when asked about his brother Frederic is why I love sports.

Let’s hope the final eleven days are just as riveting and exciting.

Ice women of the week

Here are a few more Olympians that are not only skilled but beautiful.

Ashleigh McIvor is a Canadian freestyle skier and will be competing in ski-cross. I’ve never watched ski-cross, but I will now.

Kristie Leskinen is a freestyle skier and was the first women to complete a 720 rodeo, two rotations, head pointed to earth. She didn’t make the 2010 Olympic team, but she is worthy of being in ATL.

And lastly Bia and Branca Feres. They aren’t in the winter Olympics, but here is proof why synchronized swimming doubles is better than two-man Luge. These Brazilian beauties would warm up anyone dreary Vancouver day.

Random thoughts

  • I bet I could write complete gibberish right now and no one would notice after seeing those beauties.
  • Let all the talk begin about how Jaromir Jagr can help a team for the playoff run. Before you get ahead of yourself there are some hurdles. He is still under contract in the KHL. And if he did elect to come here, if a team signed him, he’d need to clear waivers before he could play for them. If he is going to come back to the NHL, and that is a big IF, it will happen in the off-season.
  • If the Buffalo Sabres don’t add an offensive threat there is no way they can compete in the east. They don’t have a twenty-goal man yet, and when you look at the firepower of the Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Senators I don’t see them going anywhere. If the Devils and Sabres meet in the first round it could the lowest scoring series ever.
  • Sabres GM, Darcy Regier has always maintained you build your team in the summer and don’t deviate from that. That strategy has helped the Sabres develop home-drafted talent, but outside of one Cup run, it hasn’t got them very far. I wonder if he’ll decide to tweak his mind-set this year.
  • If Dominic Moore is worthy of a 2nd round pick two years in a row, why can’t Steve Tambellini get a 2nd for Ethan Moreau. Both times Moore was a pending UFA when traded. I know Moreau is a $2 million cap hit next year, but that team that trades for him would be getting his services for the playoff push and next year. Dominic Moore, for only a playoff push, garners a 2nd rounder then I’d like to believe Moreau should the same.
  • If Mikka Kiprusoff plays the majority of Finland’s games and they get to the semi finals, the Flames could easily miss the playoffs. He has looked fatigued in previous playoffs when he hasn’t played in the Olympics, so Flames fans better hope the Fins get knocked out early.
  • If Russia wins the gold with 12 forwards and eight D-men and their five-man units I wonder if other teams might look at that strategy rather than dressing one extra forward and defenseman.
  • Does Claude Julien keep track of the shootouts? Patrice Bergeron is 3 for 13 and Blake Wheeler is 2 for 13 in the shootout this year. Why are they still shooting? The Bruins have been in 17 shootouts and are 8-9. They’ve only scored 16 times in 60 shots and you wonder if Julien had let some others shoot if they’d be better. Five for 25 isn’t that hard to beat.
  • The Canucks have six forwards on pace for 50+ points. Only the Capitals have the same balance amongst six forwards. The Canucks need a D-man and 3rd line grit guy with some skill and they could be a legitimate contender in the west.
  • What a great race for the Maurice Richard trophy. The league’s two best players, Crosby and Ovechkin, both have 42 goals heading into the final six weeks of the season. Ovechkin is probably the favourite, but Crosby is so competitive I think they will battle neck and neck until the final week.
  • I find it laughable when people say that Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin will only be Steven Stamkos-like and they aren’t Crosby or Ovechkin. Stamkos has 35 goals right now and will top 40 in his second season. If Hall or Seguin can produce like him the Oilers and Bruins would be ecstatic.
  • I loved the Norway men’s curling pants. Dressing with a little flair is good now and then. It takes a self-confident man to pull these off!

Leaders through the season

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
42: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby
38: Patrick Marleau
35: Marian Gaborik and Steven Stamkos
32: Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk
30: Alexander Semin
28: Anze Kopitar, Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash and Zach Parise

Assists:
59: Joe Thornton
55: Henrik Sedin
50: Nicklas Backstrom (eight assists this week)
49: Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis
47: Ovechkin
46: Mike Green
44: Ryan Getzlaf and Evgeni Malkin
43: Tomas Plekanec

Points:
89: Ovechkin
80: H. Sedin
78: Crosby
76: Backstrom
75: Thornton
71: St. Louis
70: Stamkos
69: Gaborik and Marleau
67: Patrick Kane
66: Dany Heatley and B. Richards

Plus/Minus:
+43: Ovechkin
+37: Jeff Schultz
+32: Backstrom
+28: Alex Burrows and Mike Green
+27: H. Sedin
+26: Daniel Sedin
+25: Semin, Jonathon Toews
+24: Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Knuble and Zach Parise

PP Goals:
15: Stamkos
14: Heatley
13: Mike Richards and Gaborik
12: Crosby
11: Backstrom, Marleau and Kopitar
10: Malkin, Ovechkin, Ryan Kesler, Andrew Brunette, Bobby Ryan, Eric Staal and Kovalchuk

Hits:
252: Cal Clutterbuck
236: Ryan Callahan
226: Dustin Brown
203: Stephane Robidas
195: Brooks Orpik
193: Steve Ott
186: Matt Greene
185: Scott Nichol
182: David Backes and Mike Fisher

Shots:
283: Ovechkin
265: Parise
259: Jeff Carter
226: Crosby
218: Gaborik and Marleau
216: Rick Nash
215: Henrik Zetterberg
214: Phil Kessel, Radim Vrbata and Malkin

Final point

Hey TLP, you were ripping the Canadians and their slogan about Own the Podium, but at least in Canada we can watch the Olympics. NBC's coverage is a disgrace.

I can understand tape delays when the Games are hosted in Asia or Australia when there is time-zone difference, but Canada is in the same time zone. Everyone in the States watches most of their medal performances on tape-delay and after they've already found out via twitter, email or text that an athlete has won. Great decision by NBC.

I guess the USA OWNS the TAPE DELAY. Good on them.

Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 rubbertrout
February 18 2010, 03:13PM
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You see this stuff about NBC?

http://withleather.uproxx.com/2010/02/i-love-you-sven-kramer#comments

Asking the guy who he was and what country he was from IMMEDIATELY AFTER HE WON THE FREAKING GOLD MEDAL!

Kudos NBC on your journalism.

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#2 VK63
February 18 2010, 03:20PM
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two rotations and head pointed to the earth indeed

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#3 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
February 18 2010, 03:30PM
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One thing I miss that isn't in the olympics is those brazilian women.

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#4 VK63
February 18 2010, 03:32PM
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Im slightly surprised Tiger missed those

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#5 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
February 18 2010, 03:35PM
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As for the Moore worth second Moreau should be worth that. Teams are really turned off by that contract next year. Contender don't want that so now you limit yourself to the borderline teams, some of which have internal caps.

Well Hall or Seguin only good as Stamkos, I guess we might as well dump that pick now then.

Assuming Horcoff leading the green jacket still.

Edit: I missed most your show and left off when you guys were talking about women's hockey, any ideas to what to do with the women's hockey?

Edit #2: Oh wow, just realized those are brazilians. I miss the other sides of them.

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#6 Ender
February 18 2010, 03:42PM
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Not that I think Jagr would come to the NHL this season either, but currently him clearing waivers would be a small advantage to the Oilers. Being in the basement has a couple of perks; aging European for rent, anyone?

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#7 Derran
February 18 2010, 03:43PM
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Jason,

So I just saw that I can renew my seats for next year and the Oilers again raised the prices, about $200 for the year. On principal it just kills me.....Can you raise some attention on this issue.

Thanks,

Derran

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#8 Senator Theo
February 18 2010, 03:47PM
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Remember when DP was near the top in goals and assists? That was awesome.

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#9 Senator Theo
February 18 2010, 03:48PM
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VK63 wrote:

two rotations and head pointed to the earth indeed

After looking at those pictures, nothing's pointing towards the earth. *cough*

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#10 The Towel Boy
February 18 2010, 03:51PM
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"I bet I could write complete gibberish right now and no one would notice after seeing those beauties."

...I um...I'm sorry, what?

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#13 MattL
February 18 2010, 04:02PM
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Derran wrote:

Jason,

So I just saw that I can renew my seats for next year and the Oilers again raised the prices, about $200 for the year. On principal it just kills me.....Can you raise some attention on this issue.

Thanks,

Derran

Would you like him to raise some attention to this BEFORE or AFTER you happily pay for the seats anyway?

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#14 Dyckster
February 18 2010, 04:02PM
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Senator Theo wrote:

After looking at those pictures, nothing's pointing towards the earth. *cough*

Well played...and you're not alone.

*Cough, cough*

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#15 Harlie
February 18 2010, 04:04PM
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I guess the Canadian media is really shoving it up the backsides of the US media!

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#16 Racki
February 18 2010, 04:06PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

The Oilers couldn't claim him on waivers and then trade him. He would have to clear waivers again before a trade would go through. That rule is in place to prevent a team making an under-the-table deal with the 30th place team. So being in the basement gives the Oil zero advantage regarding Jagr.

What if they kept him though? Personally I've never been on board with signing Jagr (at least to the crazy contract the Oilers attempted to), but people are often talking about wanting Jagr to come here.

Do you think the Oilers would want Jagr here? And if so, what about making a trade with another team (swap picks, for example) and that team then signs him (stay with me here..). He hits waivers, and the Oilers then claim him first and keep him here. He would have to be making paltry sums of money for that idea to even make sense (I wouldn't want Jagr here during a rebuild, unless he comes cheap and is brought in with intention to teach the youngins a thing or two). Just bouncing some oddball ideas off your head.

edit: of course that also hinges on Jagr actually wanting to play in the 30th best team in the NHL.

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#17 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
February 18 2010, 04:07PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Yes Horcoff leads at -29, O'Sullivan is -28, Brind'Amour is -27, Nilsson is -21 and Staios is -19...The Oilers are well represented with four guys in bottom seven of +/-.

~odd for by far and away the worst team in the league~

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#18 Ender
February 18 2010, 04:13PM
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@Jason Gregor

Doh! Didn't Wanye already have a talk with you once today about interfering with creative ideas by using logic and knowledge and stuff? Don't let this become a habit.~

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#19 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
February 18 2010, 04:17PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

~odd for by far and away the worst team in the league~

you're so sexy when you try to be whitty

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#20 LBH
February 18 2010, 04:24PM
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Gregor

Haven't checked up on your ethical issue since the Olympics started, have you finally disclosed this issue that you talked about a month or so ago?

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#21 rubbertrout
February 18 2010, 04:25PM
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LBH wrote:

Gregor

Haven't checked up on your ethical issue since the Olympics started, have you finally disclosed this issue that you talked about a month or so ago?

Of course not.

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#22 Bryzarro World
February 18 2010, 04:41PM
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Couldn't read anything after the pics. They just kept getting better and the twins..... OMFG!!!

Great article.... Marvelous.... Top Drawer

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#23 Bryzarro World
February 18 2010, 04:50PM
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Harlie wrote:

I guess the Canadian media is really shoving it up the backsides of the US media!

Sideways and Dry....

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#24 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
February 18 2010, 05:11PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

you're so sexy when you try to be whitty

Witty

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#25 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
February 18 2010, 05:21PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Witty

well, lookie here at who is correcting spelling on the old interweb...

***runs away sobbing because of the shame***

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#26 jeanshorts
February 18 2010, 06:49PM
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Speaking of hot Olympians, did anyone else sit there and watch Great Britain take on Sweden in women's curling for like 3 hours yesterday purely because of Eve Muirhead?

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#28 RossCreekNation
February 18 2010, 08:35PM
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RE: Jagr

I'd be stunned to see Jags sign ANYWHERE this year. I would not at all be stunned to see him in Edmonton next season. Of course, not until after the Kovalchuk overtures.

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#29 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
February 18 2010, 09:55PM
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@cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

:)

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#30 Racki
February 19 2010, 09:56AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

If they signed him he'd still have to clear waivers around the league, and since they signed him they wouldn't get first crack to claim him, so unless everyone else balked at JJ then he wouldn't be an Oiler. But he won't sign this spring, and I doubt he signs in the summer, unless someone offers him big money.

You missed what I was getting at... I said to make a deal with another team.. have that team attempt to sign him. He goes through waivers, we pick him up on waivers, since we're likely going to be sitting at the bottom of the league.

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#32 Racki
February 19 2010, 11:13AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Okay, that would be a shaddy way to do it, but people might wonder why the Oilers would pick up a 38-year-old when they are battling for the 1st overall pick. It makes ZERO sense to sign him now. At least from where I sit.

No arguing that ;) As I mentioned in the original post, I've actually never been on board with signing Jagr, just wondering if it would be a possibility, since people in Oil country seem to be in love with the guy.

It would only really make sense if he were signing here for cheap. And really, I think it makes even less sense for him to come here anyways, especially if he's not on the top line.

It's olympic break, and needed something to talk about. lol

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#33 Boris
February 19 2010, 12:46PM
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OMG check this out.

http://www.spike.com/video/bia-branca-feres/3017180

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#34 David S
February 19 2010, 08:46PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Speaking of hot Olympians, did anyone else sit there and watch Great Britain take on Sweden in women's curling for like 3 hours yesterday purely because of Eve Muirhead?

Cheryl Barnard is wearing a nice tight outfit tonight.

*rapidly becoming a fan of women's curling*

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#35 beevbo
February 20 2010, 10:16AM
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"If [Jagr] is going to come back to the NHL, and that is a big IF, it will happen in the off-season."

When I read something like this I tend to assume the writer has some kind of inside-track reason for such an opinion. You know, not just his gut feeling. But in this case that's ALL Gregor had, but because this morning (Feb. 20th) Jagr said he's eyeing a return to the NHL.

http://www.ctvolympics.ca/hockey/news/newsid=47299.html#jagrs+eyes+return+nhl

Sports writers tend to blur the line of journalism and editorial quite often, so I guess I should expect things like this. It's just a little annoying, is all.

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#36 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
February 20 2010, 12:27PM
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beevbo wrote:

"If [Jagr] is going to come back to the NHL, and that is a big IF, it will happen in the off-season."

When I read something like this I tend to assume the writer has some kind of inside-track reason for such an opinion. You know, not just his gut feeling. But in this case that's ALL Gregor had, but because this morning (Feb. 20th) Jagr said he's eyeing a return to the NHL.

http://www.ctvolympics.ca/hockey/news/newsid=47299.html#jagrs+eyes+return+nhl

Sports writers tend to blur the line of journalism and editorial quite often, so I guess I should expect things like this. It's just a little annoying, is all.

I don't see an issue here, Jagr said himself it will be in next year if he makes the move back to the NHL.

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#37 beevbo
February 20 2010, 01:44PM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

"and that is a big IF"

To me this implies that the big "if" is whether Jagr would come back to the NHL at all, and I believe that's how it's suppose to read. This is proved to be outlandishly incorrect within days of the statement.

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