Friday, December 01, 2006

5 More Things Adam Has Noticed

First off I want to apologize to Adam. I've been very busy these past two weeks and missed putting his article up the first time. Here it is, check it out, it's a great read


Five Things That I've Noticed...

The first thing that I've noticed, is the emergence of Rod Brind'Amour not only as a scoring threat, but as both the on-ice and off-ice leader of the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. Rod has always been a solid leader, and has been one of the veterans that the team depended on for several years now. However, his play of late, has taken quite a load off of young star Eric Staal, who is playing well, but not exactly at the incredible pace that he was a short year ago.
Brind'Amour started the season slowly, but has lit it up of late, all the way into 3rd place among the NHL leaders in points. His 10 goal, 23 assist performance a quarter of the way into the '06 - '07 season is just off Jaromir Jagr (37) and Marian Hossa’s (35) point total and he has been scoring points in bunches. The 36 year old hasn't had this kind of jump since his days with the Flyers, and I must say that it is really nice to see. Brind'Amour has contributed so much in his time in Carolina, playing whatever role he was asked of, and working hard to allow the coaching staff to expect more of a scoring presence from him. It's good to see that the hard work that he continues to exibit off of the ice allows him to excel and may lead the 'Canes back to the promise land.

Another thing that I've noticed, is the fact that I don't think there anyone in the NHL that has been ignored as far as being honoured with "Superstar Status" more than Marian Hossa? I know that he is well respected, and people know of him; however, does he really get the recognition that his skills deserve? The 27 year old Slovak native is currently creeping up on the top two scorers, sitting in 2nd overall in points with 35 total (17 G, 18A). Hossa has been one of the most consistent scorers since joining the league full-time with the Senators 1998, to the point that you can almost pencil him in for 30+ goals, and 80+ points. However; with him flying high out of the gate, combined with the play of his linemates, Hossa could crack the 50 goal, 100 point marks for the first time in his career. With his previous career high, a 45 goal performance in 2002, Marcel's older, wiser, and more productive brother will look to add to his 92 point campaign of a year ago, which happened to be his first in a Thrasher uniform. Playoff performance has somewhat hindered him in the past...but then again; name an Ottawa Senator that hasn't had their playoff performances plague their career! (speak now or forever hold your peace Mr. Yashin, Alfredsson and Chara) Anyhow, I'd love to hear some more conversation about Hossa's skills, and I think that this year may be the one that we will be hearing more about the high scoring Thrasher.

What in the world has happened to Robert Esche? Esche has been struggling so much this year that he may be playing himself out of the NHL. In what has already been an intense rollercoaster ride of a career, his ballooning statistics are becoming so unbearable, they are hard to be believable. Currently, the Flyers former number 1 has a 5.64 GAA, and less than acceptable .820 SV% and has appeared to have lost his confidence and ability be a dependable 'tender. Perhaps a re-hab stint, or a trade out of the "City of Brotherly Love" will be completed to shake him up and get him out of this funk.

Next thing, is a question of whether or not the next chapter for the Columbus Blue Jackets will be a positive. With a qualified coach stepping in (as Philadelphia Scapegoat Ken Hitchcock has signed a 3-year deal to be at the helm) Columbus has the opporunity to right the path that they have so strongly veered off of in the first quarter of the season. They are a team that was thought to have enough talent to make some noise, perhaps even fight it's way into the playoff picture, and yet has fallen flat on its' face again. Jumping out of the gate garnering 5 out of a possible 6 points in their first 3 games, the Jackets have had an extremely difficult time putting the puck in the net by not scoring more than 3 goals for the next month, on their way to lighting the lamp only 50 times in their first 23 games. This issue has lead to their dreadful 6-15-2 record, placing them not only last in their division (which just so happens to be by far, the most lacklustre in the NHL), but also last overall.
How does this happen? I'll tell you. David Vyborny is their leading point getter with 18 points, while Rick Nash leads the team in the goals with seven. Neither stat being earth shattering. The scary thing is, they are two of the only five on the team to break into double digits in points! (Modin, Zherdev and Fedorov all locked with 12 being the other three) This has happened after most of the talk prior to the season expressed concern over their lack of an experienced goaltender. Fortunately, with the bulk of action placed squarely on the shoulders of 24 year old Pascal Leclaire, (with a few spot starts for 32 year old "rookie" Fredrik Norrenna) the Jackets have been getting decent goaltending and have even at times kept them in some of the closer contests that they have been involved in. Another major problem has been the fact that their off season acquisition of Fredrik Modin and the signing Anson Carter have been (to put it gently) a big bust thus far. The duo has chipped in with a combined 9 goals and have yet to provide the impact that they were so desperately brought in for. With the fact that the Jackets have yet to challenge, or even be in the mix of a playoff hunt in their brief 6 year existence, after setting a franchise high of 74 points last year, this is definitely not where they were hoping to be early in '06 - '07. Will Hitch be able to put it all together, and make this franchise a successful, competitive one? Only time will tell on that, but my bet is that it won't be this year, and unless they buy into the system that Hitchcock puts in place, they may be able to for a couple more seasons either.

Finally, the last thing that I've noticed, is that recently Georges Laraque was quoted as saying that he fears the "common enforcer" will no longer be a part of the NHL in as close as 2 seasons. It's a fact that the everyday thug that plays four minutes a game, but somehow accumulates an incredible 300 penalty minutes over the course of a season, is basically just eating up a roster spot. In today's game, with the speed and skill being showcased, it's apparent that Laraque has a point. I read somewhere that currently 12 teams have yet to suit up an enforcer for even one game, while there are seven teams that float one in and out of playing and being a healthy scratch, which leaves 11 teams that nightly dress what you would call a typical enforcer. In many ways, I am actually for this. Now don't get me wrong, I always have and always will enjoy a good tussle, and alike most NHL fans fall into a complete frenzy when two heavyweights go toe-to-toe.
Regardless, back in the '60's and '70's a majority of the players could defend themselves and for the most part, could score 20 goals if they had to. Of course they had role players, but it wasn't until the mid-'70's where the true enforcer was born. The names roll off like a fond memory, Dave "Tiger" Williams, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz are the originals of the position, followed by Laraque himself, Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Donald Brashear, and have been added to by newbies Brian McGrattan, and Derek Boogard. I'd like to think that the next generation "enforcer" will be a gritty hard-nosed player that can put the puck in the net, all the while being able to defend himself in a tilt against another tough as nails type. Players like Sean Avery, Chris Neil among a few others seem to have the idea down. They are players that may have broken in as a defender to the star player, but have displayed the ability to contribute in more ways, and can skate, pass and actually play the game with purpose unlike yesteryears punch'em up champs. Maybe this means that the classic Probert vs. Domi (all three rounds) type match-up will never occur again. What it does mean though, is that each roster will have a nice mix of superstars, skilled players and youngsters trying to earn their keep. And, as a fan of the new NHL, that's something that I look forward to.

One way or the other, right or wrong, those are just some of the things that I've noticed.

Adam Forsyth