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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    Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

    CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

    The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

    Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

    He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

    Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

    With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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    The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

    The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

    He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

    With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

    Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

    Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old:

    Gretzky defends McDavid’s outburst after Manning incident

    WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23: Wayne Gretzky (L) and Dale Hawerchuk drop the puck in a ceremonial face-off between Blake Wheeler #26 and Connor McDavid #97 during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Fred Greenslade /Getty Images)
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    PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

    McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

    “I guess we can put the whole ‘if he did it’ thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that,” said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers’ loss.

    “I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,” Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. “I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.”

    Gretzky didn’t mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

    “And Connor, he’s going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him,” Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. “He’s been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.”

    Related: McDavid accuses ‘classless’ Manning of injuring him on purpose

    Bishop trying not to let contract situation affect his play

    TAMPA, FL - JUNE 06: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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    Ben Bishop was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, and that makes it particularly striking to see his numbers a quarter of the way through 2016-17.

    After 18 starts, Bishop is 8-10-1 with a .906 save percentage. He got the hook after two periods last night at Amalie Arena, where he surrendered four goals to the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 loss.

    Last night marked the third time in his last five starts that he’d surrendered at least four goals, and one of the goals he allowed looked like this:

    So, do things feel different this season?

    “I feel fine,” Bishop said today, per Lightning Insider. “We go back and watch the games and technically it’s all there. There is really no difference from the way I’ve played the last couple of years to now. I don’t like saying this, but it’s been a strange season with goofy goals on tips and bounces, goals off your own players. So I think if you took some of those away, the numbers would be pretty similar to years past. I would like to get the wins a little higher.”

    Bishop, of course, is a pending unrestricted free agent who is unlikely to re-sign with the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay. On July 1, the 22-year-old re-signed through 2019-20.

    Vasilevskiy is also 6-2-1 with a .929 save percentage.

    So in that regard, it’s a bit like the situation we’re seeing in New York, where Henrik Lundqvist is struggling and Antti Raanta is thriving.

    The difference is Lundqvist isn’t going to be looking for a new team anytime soon. Remember that Bishop “was close” to being traded to Calgary in the offseason. He could still end up there in free agency, depending if Brian Elliott bounces back.

    Bishop says he’s trying not to let his contract situation affect his state of mind; however, he admits he’d “be lying if I said I never thought about it.”

    “It’s definitely there in the back of your head,” he said.

    The Lightning host the Penguins on Saturday.

    Expect Vasilevskiy to start that one.