May 3, 2003
Canucks forward nhl's most dominant. Koivu's complaints from world
tourney have a familiar ring for Canadiens fans
By RED FISHER
The Montreal Gazette
By now, it's imagined, most of you know which players are among the
finalists for the National Hockey League's awards. As always, there
are a couple of surprising omissions among the 21 nominees for seven
Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and Martin Brodeur are finalists for
the Hart, but where's Todd Bertuzzi, the NHL's most dominant forward?
He's almost surely a victim of a split vote with linemate Naslund,
but if I had a vote, he would have been on my ballot along with
Naslund and Forsberg, who probably will win.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Al MacInnis and Derian Hatcher are the Norris
Trophy nominees, but where's Zdeno Chara? At 6-foot-9, he's the
tallest player in NHL history, but this guy can play. He's the
biggest reason the Ottawa Senators finished No. 1 overall.
Lidstrom is a likely winner for a third year in a row in a close race
with MacInnis. The Detroit defenceman also should win the Lady Byng
as the league's most gentlemanly player - if only because it's his
fifth nomination. Give this one to Mike Modano in a race with
Marty Turco posted an NHL record-low 1.72 goals-against average and
Ed Belfour easily was the Maple Leafs' most valuable player, but
don't look beyond New Jersey's Brodeur and his 41 victories for the
Calder Trophy nominee Barret Jackman won the lottery when he was
paired with MacInnis. He's the best of a trio that includes Columbus
left-winger Rick Nash and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg. In a perfect
world, Nash would win if only because Jackman and Zetterberg were
surrounded by a far better group of players. He won't win, so ...
heads it's Jackman, tails it's Zetterberg.
Minnesota's Wes Walz is an interesting finalist for the Selke Trophy,
but the winner will be either Jere Lehtinen (my choice) or John
Jacques Lemaire, Jacques Martin and John Tortorella - all good
choices - are in the voting for coach of the year, but where's
Anaheim's Mike Babcock? My vote would go to Lemaire.
A familiar refrain: It's been almost a month since the Canadiens
ended a 77-point season to forget during which Saku Koivu would sit
at his Bell Centre stall trying hard to explain "why" and "what if"
"We have to learn from our mistakes," he would say.
"When you lose, it doesn't feel too good," he would add.
"We have to score on the power play ..." he would mutter.
Seems like yesterday, doesn't it? Or, at least, Wednesday, when
Finland fell 2-1 to the Czech Republic in the first world
championship game played in Turku, Captain K's home town. It's where
he played for three seasons before joining the Canadiens eight
So there was Koivu on Wednesday, Finland's captain, once again trying
hard to explain "why" and "what if" after a loss.
"We have to learn from our mistakes," he told Canadian Press writer
"When you lose, it doesn't feel too good," he added.
"We had some 5-on-3s ..."
Say what?: Is there anything quite as silly as the lockdown taken by
silly NHL people involving injuries to their millionaires?
As you probably know, they've now taken to describing injuries as
either "upper body" or "lower body" injuries - all the while
expecting media persons to accept their explanations. An option for
some is a flat-out lie which, I am happy to report, respected analyst
Glenn Healy wasted no time reporting as one during TSN's Game 3
telecast of the New Jersey-Tampa Bay series.
On his first shift of the game, Devils defenceman Scott Stevens
crumpled to the ice after a shot by Pavel Kubina hit him in the left
ear. Before the start of the second period, the TSN audience was told
that up to that point, no official announcement had been made on the
extent of the injury to Stevens.
"I spoke to one of the New Jersey executives during the first
intermission," Healy snapped. "He told me it was a groin injury."
In the next breath, he added: "That's the NHL for you!"
Mindless reactions: As you'd expect, the Stevens injury upset some of
the Devils. What you don't expect are mindless suggestions from
several players, starting with goaltender Brodeur, that Tampa Bay
defenceman Kubina was aiming for Stevens's head with his 50-foot (or
"I saw his face, it was kind of weird," Brodeur told reporters. "I'm
not saying he was laughing or anything, but it was a weird look. He
didn't look too concerned."
Oh, sure. Kubina jumped on a bouncing puck and zeroed in on the head
of the New Jersey defenceman.
"It's definitely conceivable," argued John Madden. "When I was
playing in the minors I saw guys intentionally shoot the puck into
Gimme a break! What's a 50-foot (or longer) unscreened shot got to do
with a player intentionally shooting the puck into the bench?
Stevens, who returned for Game 4 and was the best player on the ice,
had this reply to the accusations from Brodeur and Madden: "He was
going to dump it around behind Brodeur, but sometimes you catch the
goalie cheating toward the corner to stop the puck. So why not throw
it on net and see if you can fool the goalie? It'd be pretty hard to
hit someone in the head with the puck rolling like that if you tried
to. So no, I don't believe he was trying to," added Stevens.
Lemieux to the rescue?: When you're having as much trouble winning as
the Dallas Stars, it's time to look for help from veteran players -
and who's better at playoff time than Claude Lemieux?
A groin injury has kept Lemieux out of the lineup for five of the
Stars' 10 playoff games, but he was back on Wednesday for his 231st,
and moves ahead of Guy Carbonneau into sole possession of second
place on the NHL's all-time list in this afternoon's game - only four
behind behind the leader, Mark Messier.
Time flies when you're having fun, doesn't it?
Acting up: Did you happen to catch Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock
on the telly following his team's 2-0 victory over the Ottawa
Senators? He described Ottawa as a dirty team after several Flyers
were cut by high sticks. The most serious injury was to defenceman
Kim Johnsson, who needed more than 20 stitches to close an ugly gash
over his right eye following a Martin Havlat slash - with no call.
Would you believe Hitchcock was breathing what appeared to be fire
and brimstone over what he perceived to be dirty tactics by the
Senators? "This is going to be an interesting series," he promised,
with menace implicit in his eyes. "This is going to be a very
interesting series." Then he unclipped the microphone from his shirt,
and stalked out of the press room.
Would you also believe his floor show was pure Broadway worthy of a
Tony rather than an Adams Trophy? It's an old, old story. Coaches in
the six-team league were delivering similar messages - all of it
dedicated to intimidating on-ice officials in the next game of a
A big question: And oh: how about this performance on the boards,
choreographed by Pat Burns.
A lot ... too much ... has been mentioned about Tampa Bay scoring the
winner in Game 3 shortly after officials ordered defenceman Colin
White off the ice - leaving the Devils with one defenceman and four
forwards on it.
The reaction from Burns after his team's 4-3 loss: "After all these
years in the league, am I that stupid that I would put four forwards
and one defenceman on the ice in a 3-3 tie in the third period?"
I wonder if Burns was surprised when his question to the media was
greeted with a discreet silence. And answer this: hasn't Burns been
around long enough to know that changing on the fly still is allowed?
It's no surprise: I hope you're not surprised that Rangers GM Glen
Sather has been given permission to talk with Larry Robinson about
the team's vacant coaching spot. I also expect you won't be surprised
if Robinson doesn't get it, largely because he sounds somewhat less
than anxious to pursue it.
"If that team can't win with the GM behind the bench, there's
something wrong there," Robinson told Newark Star-Ledger writer Rich
Sounds to me as if Larry isn't anxious to take over in Boston,
either, where GM Mike O'Connell fell on his face after firing coach
Robbie Ftorek late in the season. On the other hand, it's not as if
Robinson has to worry about putting food on the family table. His
sweetheart deal as a consultant with the Devils is worth $400,000 per
Around the NHL: I am excited, and I hope you are, too, that the
Callaway Golf Co. has signed a licensing agreement with the NHL to
manufacture and sell products bearing the logos of its teams. Sadly,
no Canadiens were able to attend yesterday's press conference at Golf
Town Scarborough (Ont.). I suspect they were all on other courses
using another company's products. ...
Did you notice Pierre Turgeon was a healthy scratch for Wednesday's
Anaheim-Dallas game. On the other hand, don't shed a tear for Lucky
Pierre. After all, he still has three years left on the five-year,
$32.5 million contract he signed with the Stars. ...
I believe Vancouver's Brad May when he says he had no choice dropping
his gloves with Minnesota tough guy Matt Johnson seven seconds into
Game 3. According to May, Johnson said: "Please fight me." I've got
to think nobody would make up something like that. ...
You should know that Guy Lapointe is the latest of the Canadiens to
put his memorabilia on the auction block. ...
You're aware, of course, that the last eight teams to start the NHL
playoffs with six wins, as the Mighty Ducks have done, have made it
to the Stanley Cup final. ...
Kevin McCarthy, an assistant with Carolina the last four seasons, has
tossed his hat into the rink for the vacant coaching job in
Pittsburgh. He's been with the Hurricanes organization the last 11
years. Ted Nolan and Kevin Constantine are others. ...
Remember Mike Danton, who was sent home by New Jersey GM Lou
Lamoriello during the regular schedule and then promised to sue the
organization if it didn't trade him? Well, here's a surprise for you -
or is it: now his agent says the forward will report to training
camp in September and "play wherever the Devils tell him to play."