Every facet of the hockey world has now arrived in Los Angeles for the 2010 draft: Coaches, GMs, scouts, players, agents, soon-to-be-players, media and the fans. It actually seems like more of an event here than it was in hockey-mad Montreal last year.
And your Nation Network correspondents, myself, Robin Brownlee and Pat Steinberg are all over it.
There is more of a buzz due to the trades and player signings the past few days, and many GMs want to get in on the action now. Brian Burke and Darryl Sutter want to make an impact and according to many in both cities they are literally itching to make a move.
The Toronto media is certain Tomas Kaberle will be moved, and Sutter has never been shy to make a move. I bumped into a member of the Flames organization this morning and he said the Flames feel they have to do something. He wouldn’t elaborate on anything specific, but acquiring a centre is the most pressing need.
TOUGH GUYS TOUGH NOT TO LIKE
I was fortunate enough to grow up and witness the most heated era of the Battle of Alberta. The Oilers and Flames were both great teams, the Oilers were just a bit better, but those battles were epic. Beyond the great players, Tim Hunter and Dave Semenko were next in line, if not near the top, as fan-favourites.
After slugging it out for 16 years in the NHL Hunter retired and instantly became an assistant coach in Washington. After five years with the Capitals he moved to San Jose for six years and is now entering his third year behind the Leafs bench as an assistant.
Hunter was drafted as a D-man in the 3rd round, 54th overall by the Atlanta Flames in 1979. As a 19-year-old he tallied 14 goals and 67 points in 72 games for Seattle in the WHL. He did so while racking up 311 PIMs as well.
Hunter is like most tough guys; well-spoken, witty, honourable and great story tellers off the ice, but tough, mean and intimidating on the ice. Last night I stood attentively as Hunter regaled me and some others with some great stories.
THE ART OF INTIMIDATION
Hunter’s 2nd NHL game was in Calgary against the Boston Bruins. His second shift he lines up beside Terry O’Reilly. “He skates over and lines up beside me at the dot and I’m a tad nervous. Just before the puck is dropped O’Reilly steps on my stick and breaks it. ‘Now what you going do he says,’
“Without hesitation I say ‘Go back to the bench and get another stick.’"
“The game was on hockey night in Canada and afterwards O’Reilly told me he’d heard about me and used this tactic as intimidation because he didn’t want to fight me. I wasn’t exactly excited about the idea of fighting him either, but it was a great lesson in intimidation.
“Many years later I’m playing for the Canucks and we’re taking on the Flames. In my last year in Calgary I tutored Paul Kruse and Sandy McCarthy a bit, and now I’m lined up beside Kruse right in front of the Flames bench. Just before the pucks dropped I remember O’Reilly’s move and step on Kruse’s stick and break it. What you going do now I growled? ‘Ahh come on Hunts, I just spent an hour working on that stick.’
Hunter’s facial expressions and body language make his stories all the better, especially these two. He told us many more tales and when I asked him what he says to the young tough guys in today’s game he had this insight.
“I tell them you can’t worry about the smack talk. I had a thousand guys tell me they were going to kill me just before we dropped them. I’m still standing today, so I tell the guys never let the other guy get in your head.”
A scout of 20+ years in the NHL told me he heard the Bruins are so interested in trying to secure Taylor Hall they offered the Oilers Milan Lucic to take Tyler Seguin. After pulling myself up off the floor I looked at him and said, “Are you for real. There is no way they’d do that.”
He was adamant this is what he was hearing. I think this shows that as the draft gets closer even long time hockey guys can get caught up in the “What If” game. I just can’t see it happening, but it is fun to hear some of the strange stuff that is floating around the draft.
The Oilers and Gilbert Brule look like they are headed to arbitration later this summer. The Oilers will qualify Brule, but he will file for arbitration. Brule’s camp will be looking at something along the lines of $2 million/year or more. Will this affect Brule’s status with the team? We might find out this weekend.
The Oilers paid Robert Nilsson $2 million/year two years ago and have regretted it since, and I wonder if that will affect their thinking. I like Brule’s game now more than Nilsson’s two years ago, but we’ll see what the Oilers think.
The Florida Panthers met with Cam Fowler yesterday, again today and want to see him again tomorrow. The Panthers were rumoured to be leaning towards Gudbranson but clearly they are interested in Fowler.
I like the Colin Fraser deal. He adds a bit of size, skates well enough and will actually bring some grit down the middle on the 4th line. If he can improve in the dot he’ll help even more. Getting him for shot-in-the-dark (6th rounder) makes it look even better. He isn’t a saviour but he will add more energy than Marc Pouliot or Ryan Potulny would provide on the 4th line.