After a few weeks holiday and an excellent trip to New York, it is nice to be back so close to the start of another NHL season. September is a great month for sports fans, the NFL kicks off, the CFL is into the home stretch, MLB nears the playoffs and most importantly hockey is back.
I’ve seen, read and heard some interesting tales and events the past few weeks.
- I had a lucky meeting with Ryan Whitney on my flight home from New York on Monday. Both of us were transfering in Chicago and we chatted briefly about his summer, the Red Sox and of course his ankle. He tweaked it a few weeks ago, but he got an MRI last week and everything looks good. His doctor told him that a "tweak" is normal with his type of injury and he needs to be patient. I got the sense that patience was not his strongest virtue at this point. He was hopeful that with eight pre-season games he would have ample time to be ready for the start of the season.
- The past few seasons we’ve witnessed the deadly/painful combination of average talent and key injuries and how it can impact the Oilers. While many in Edmonton feel the Oilers have improved, due to trades, UFA signings and another year of experience for the kids, the Oilers blueline is still pretty thin. If Whitney’s ankle isn’t close to 100% the Oilers will be in trouble. Based on depth, or lack thereof, I don’t see any player’s health being more important than Whitney’s. He came to town early to get some extra treatment, which he hopes will speed up the healing process, and for the Oilers’ sake let’s hope he is right.
- Speaking of patience, it seems many in the hockey world need a big dose of it when it comes to Sidney Crosby. Crosby will update the hockey world today at 10:30 a.m; you can listen to it live on TEAM 1260 or watch it on Sportsnet. I’m hoping his update will be that he is progressing and is on pace to return some time this season. Keep in mind that it took Patrice Bergeron 11 months before he was back after Randy Jones crushed him in October of 2007. Crosby has only been out 8 months, and if he needs another three, five or ten months no one should rush him, or jump to conclusions that his career is over. It sounds like Crosby has been cautious during his recovery and if he feels any symptoms he pulls back. Every report on concussions proves that Crosby will be more prone to concussions in the future, but I’m glad to see that he won’t be rushing back. I hope the hockey world supports and urges him to be cautious, and eventually we will see him back on the ice.
- Wade Belak’s sudden passing seemed to rock the hockey world and fans even more than the unfortunate passing of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien. I think that’s because Belak came across as such a happy and carefree character. Many of us use sports as an outlet or release from everyday life. It almost seems like a fantasy that players get paid millions to play a game, and most people would love that opportunity, but Belak’s death re-inforced that athletes are human. Despite all the glory, fame and money they can suffer just like normal people. Some days we like to look at athletes and think how great their life must be, and often it is, but Belak’s passing proved that real life problems lurk in all walks of life. Let’s hope for the sake of players and fans we don’t have to discuss another death anytime soon.
- This is only a hunch, but I see Alex Ovechkin scoring 60 goals this year.
- I also think Taylor Hall will not suffer the alleged sophomore jinx. I see him scoring 38 goals.
- My Over/Under on games played by Ales Hemsky this year is 64. I’m going to surprise you and take the over.
- Magnus Paajarvi is the biggest head scratcher for me. He picked up his play in the 2nd half of the season last year, yet I’m torn on where is game will be this year. For me he is the biggest wildcard, and that could be a good thing.
- What is a realistic expectation for Tom Gilbert this season? Is 30 point realistic? I don’t think points is what we should focus on when it comes to Gilbert. He needs to improve his consistency and his competitiveness. Of course you would like to see him produce offensively, but for me this season he needs to become more reliable. He can’t be a wildcard from game-to-game or week-to-week.
- We are planning a sports road trip. If you could pick one NFL and one NHL venue that would make your "bucket list’ let me know.
- The Buccaneers are my surprise team to make the Super Bowl. I also see the Houston Texans finally making the playoffs. Keep in mind the Texans have missed the playoffs with records of 10-6 and 11-5 in two of the past three years. They will be a legit contender this year.
- Thoughts and prayers for those affected by the Lokomotiv plane crash earlier today. This has been a brutal summer for hockey.