Hockey Canada fires back at IIHF article

The IIHF World Championships, held every summer (during the NHL
playoffs) that is supposed to feature the top talent from around the
world. Usually that’s the case, except when the players that are invited
are still in the playoffs or have some sort of injury that prevents
them from playing.

This season, a number of players have bowed out
of the Worlds, generally citing overall fatigue after a long season —
that included the Olympics — and likely a wholly disappointing playoffs
exit.

Szymon
Szemberg delivered a scathing attack
on those players that have
declined to play this season, saying that they have forgotten “what
brought them riches and fame”. He singles out a number of players, most
notably Sidney Crosby, who he says have no good excuse for not
attending. Tired? Ha! That’s just a wimp’s way out. Here are some
excerpts from his article:

You have heard this many
times before: “It’s an honour to represent your
country. I feel proud every time I put on the jersey.”

Well,
pride and honour seem to be very selective qualities. When a player
wants to play – in the Olympics, for example, where he finds the stage
big enough and the setting appealing enough – he talks about pride and
honour.

Tired is a divorced mother with two young kids who double
shifts as a
nurse assistant and cleaning lady to make ends meet.

Why is a
22-year-old Sidney Crosby tired when a 34-year-old Ryan Smyth is
answering the bell for his country despite having represented Canada at
the Worlds already on eight occasions?

He goes on to
question the decisions of Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas
Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Mark Streit, Niklas Backstrom, and Alexander
Steen, among others.

Deciding to single out Sidney Crosby, by far
the most polarizing name in hockey, was sure to draw the ire of some.
Before I get to my thoughts on this mess, here’s
Hockey Canada’s reaction:

Sidney Crosby‘s
the guy they singled out — he’s played in two finals (in 2008 and
2009), he’s played in the second round of the playoffs (this year), he’s
played in the Olympics for us,” said Salmond. “I don’t think it’s fair
to single him out. We respect where he is and we respect what he’s done
for us and I think what he’ll do for us in the future.”

Canadian
team captain wasn’t too happy either:

“I don’t think it’s fair to mention him,” said Whitney. “Obviously,
any big tournament would like to have one of the world’s top players,
(but) the IIHF doesn’t understand how hard the NHL is, how hard the
schedule is. …

“I think (the IIHF) should concentrate more on making it more
appealing for guys like (Crosby) to want to come over here and play.”

In principle, I can see where the Szemberg is coming from. The IIHF
goes to great lengths to put together some extremely competitive and
well-run international tournaments each season, and it’s frustrating
when the world’s best players turn them down.

Yet this is also a case of biting the hand that feeds you, as there
is likely zero chance the IIHF Worlds get any recognition without the
NHL players that attend each season.

This year, a good number of players invited to the Worlds played an
82-game season, in the Olympics and participated in the playoffs. I
don’t care if that player is 18 years old, that’s a heck of a lot of
hockey. With training camp starting in September, these players have
just a few months off to recuperate and take some time off. Some players
are able to continue to play or fight through injuries to play, but
that doesn’t mean they love the game any more than ones that turned down
a chance to play.

This is also a great chance for non-Olympic players to represent
their country internationally, with players like Steve Ott having a
blast in Germany.

As far as Crosby goes, if there is one player that no one should
question his loyalty to Team Canada it’s him. This is the guy who is the
savior of Canadian hockey, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime at
the Olympics. Pointing to Ovechkin and going “See!!” isn’t the same,
especially when you consider how things went for him and Russia in
Vancouver.

I understand the message, sort of, but that was far from the right
way to go about sending it.

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    San Jose Sharks’ defense looks very promising

    SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 03:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues and Brent Burns #88 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks go for the puck at SAP Center on January 3, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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    In the long term, there are some questions about the San Jose Sharks’ defense.

    For one thing, Brent Burns is due what could be a raise almost as big as his Burt’s Bees beard.

    What’s even more troubling is, like the Sharks’ forwards, the defense’s upper ranks might see Father Time nipping at their heels. Burns is 31, Paul Martin is 35 and three defensemen are 29 in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and newly signed blueliner David Schlemko.

    This isn’t to say that the Sharks will age as rapidly as Melisandre, but that group prompts more questions about how long San Jose’s window might be hope.

    Quite a promising present

    So, maybe it won’t be a strength forever … but wow, this group sure looks promising on paper heading into next season.

    Burns gets the most attention thanks to his booming shot, strong all-around skills and bizarre presence, yet Team Canada isn’t oblivious to Vlasic’s subtler brilliance. Paul Martin might be slipping a bit, but he’s still a useful player.

    The signing of Schlemko really ties the room together, though.

    The point isn’t that Schlemko is a star or better than the likes of Jay Bouwmeester. The very different nature of their roles makes a comparison a little risky.

    Instead, it argues that Schlemko is the sort of supporting cast player who can push the Sharks closer to having a quality defenseman on the ice during every shift.

    Beyond those four blueliners, the Sharks have some interesting options. Braun enjoyed some nice playoff moments. Brenden Dillon has his flaws, but perhaps he’d flourish if used in more protected situations.

    With Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo among those waiting in the wings, it’s not as though the Sharks are totally devoid of young talent on defense.

    In an age where it almost feels like teams would give up vital organs for difference-makers on defense, San Jose’s group looks primed to rank among the elite. After struggling when the likes of Roman Polak were caught in bad situations, the Sharks have a great chance to trot out a remarkably balanced group in 2016-17.

    Let’s argue about EA Sports’ NHL 17 player ratings

    91rinneea
    via EA Sports
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    EA Sports released top player rankings for NHL 17 about a week ago, but it isn’t too late to needlessly argue about them.

    The top 50 overall ratings is probably the best place to start, but EA also shared top 10 lists for centers, defensemen, goalies, left wings and right wings.

    Now, it’s important not to take this stuff too seriously. There are plenty of things to cool down any diehards who feel like Their Guy was disrespected, but do note that ratings sometimes get tweaked.

    Still, there are some fun observations and debates that can come from pouring through these rankings, especially if you’re … well, bored.

    Shea Weber vs. P.K. Subban

    Did Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin chime in on the debate? /Scratches chin

    Weber came in with a blazing 94 rating:

     

    Weber wins the digital battle with Subban, who lags behind as a 91. To the naked eye, EA seems to disagree with the analytics-based argument that Subban is the better all-around player than Weber at this juncture:

    Here’s the thing, though: if you break both down rating by rating, each guy looks pretty great in NHL 17. Perhaps the real debate comes down to whether Weber really is that great defensively or not.

    Then again, maybe EA just has a blind spot for Nashville Predators past and/or present? Pekka Rinne‘s high rating is sure to ruffle some feathers:

    91rinneea

    To give you some context, that 91 rating ties Rinne with Cory Schneider and places him ahead of the likes of Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask.

    Some other debate-starters

    Need some other fun ones to bicker about? Sure you do:

    ***

    Again, take it easy with this stuff. None of these choices are “Mike Richards being higher-rated than Anze Kopitar” bad.

    You can have a lot of fun batting around different observations, as these player rankings often provide an interesting window into the way the hockey world sees things.

    And, hey, at least Dustin Byfuglien‘s getting some much-deserved recognition.

    NHL says it isn’t bothered by Coyotes’ salary cap methods

    PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 02:  Dave Bolland #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers skate after the loose puck in Game Three of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 2, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is deftly playing the system when it comes to the salary cap to the point that some might accuse him of exploiting loopholes.

    If the NHL bristles as such tactics, they’re at least not showing it in public.

    In taking on the absolutely dead money of Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk along with the possibly dead money of Dave Bolland, the Coyotes are getting to the cap floor while saving money in the actual cash they’re dishing out.

    The Score’s Ian MacLaren succinctly explains the savings they’re enjoying thanks to these clever trades:

    That’s how the league is viewing Arizona taking on the salaries of Chris Pronger, Pavel Datsyuk and Dave Bolland. The cap hits amount to almost $18 million but result in less than $2 million in actual salary paid out by the club, while simultaneously allowing it to reach the cap floor.

    Honestly, it’s difficult to shake the image of Gary Bettman & Co. bristling at the tactics of a franchise they’ve defended year after year amid myriad arena issues.

    Today’s Slapshot’s Craig Morgan caught up with Bill Daly, whose overall message is that the league is OK with what Arizona is doing.

    “I would say that it’s a matter that we monitor, like all other areas of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), and if we believe it starts to be abused in a way that is inconsistent with how the system is designed to work, at that point, we would try to correct it in collective bargaining with the union,” Daly said. “I would say we aren’t at that point on this issue — we do not view it as the loophole that‎ some describe it as.”

    One key point from Daly is that he doesn’t view Bolland’s case as the same as that of Pronger or Datsyuk. The critical distinction is that Bolland at least hopes to become healthy enough to play again.

    (Chakya’s update wasn’t particularly optimistic in that regard, but a return isn’t totally inconceivable since Bolland is just 30.)

    Best of both worlds for Coyotes

    Again, the Coyotes are really reaping the benefits of this gameplan. Not only are they saving real dollars by absorbing other teams’ dead money, they’re using those trades to acquire promising assets like Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse.

    These are the sort of moves that make the team look bright today and possibly terrifying for opponents in the future, even if the 2016-17 product may be a little hit-or-miss.

    Time may tell how the NHL truly feels

    To some extent, we probably won’t know how the NHL truly feels about this situation until the next CBA eventually gets hashed out.

    Then again, the league did make a big stink about cap circumvention during the memorable days of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations, so perhaps such maneuvering really doesn’t bother the NHL?

    Maybe, but you’re free to picture Bettman grumbling about Chayka’s moves either way.

    (H/T to the Score.)

    Alex Ovechkin tweets about tying the knot with Nastya Shubskaya

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    via Alex Ovechkin's Twitter page
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    Alex Ovechkin shared the news via his official Twitter feed that he married Nastya Shubskaya.

    His message includes a caption that translates to “This is happiness,” according to NHL.com.

    Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks indicated that the two got married during a small, private ceremony, so it might have actually happened a week or so ago.

    Here’s the Ovechkin tweet from Sunday:

    This continues a run of big news for Capitals players, with a life-changing event for Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well:

    There were some fun jokes on Twitter about the happy news, with this one possibly taking the cake:

    This summer figures to be a busy one from a hockey standpoint for Ovie, as he’s been part of various activities and will represent Russia at the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

    In case you’re wondering, Ovechkin will soon turn 31.