The best minds in women's hockey will try to improve their status at World Hockey Summit

womenshockey.jpgWhile I didn’t get to see as many games as I would have liked, I came away with a few lasting impressions from watching women’s hockey during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The two biggest ones were:

  • “Despite following (and revering) Jaromir Jagr during his Flowing Mullet Years, it’s still an odd sight to witness a ponytail poking out from a hockey helmet.”
  • “Wow, Team Canada/USA is really blowing out [other over-matched women’s national team]. This is kind of like that time [high school girl X] pulverized my ego.”

Women’s hockey is somewhat like basketball and soccer; much could be done to enhance its big-picture exposure, but I wouldn’t suggest that many people consider it a long-term career path. (Apologies to Cammi Granato.)

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m rooting against the efforts of those who are trying to improve the standing of the “fairer sex” in the sport. The Hockey News has an interesting article regarding the efforts of Canadian Olympic team captain Hayley Wickeneheiser* and others who will state their gender’s case during next week’s World Hockey Summit in Toronto.

* – Who, by the way, earns numerous bonus points for doing the old double gunslinger salute in her photo for that article.

While that article is interesting as a whole, let’s first take a look at the sheer number of participants (something that I believe makes the argument for change in a nutshell).

Together, the U.S. and Canada have 145,000 registered female players. The natural competition in large player pools produces talented athletes. Those two countries have met in the final of every world championship and three out of four Olympic finals.

Sweden, the Olympic silver medallist in 2006, and Finland, this year’s bronze medallist, together have fewer than 10,000 women playing. The rest of the countries in the 2010 Olympic tournament were Russia, Switzerland, China and Slovakia, which combined have fewer than 2,000, according to IIHF statistics.

Even the gap between North Americans and Scandinavians becomes more pronounced in Olympic years.

To curtail the severe gap between North Americans and the rest of the hockey world, there are two contrasting schools of thought. Canadian national team head coach Melody Davidson argues one side of the discussion while Swedish Olympic team coach Peter Elander provides the counterpoint.

Elander suggests capping the number of days a country can centralize a team. He says Sweden won’t give its women as much preparation time together as Canada or the U.S. get, although he points out his country’s female cross-country and alpine ski teams do operate a centralized model.

“If the Olympic tournament should be close, we can’t have the two best teams with the most players with fully centralized teams and the others can’t afford to do that,” Elander said.

Davidson won’t agree with a cap.

“We’ve got to go after the highest standards,” she said. “I think instead of lowering the standards and lowering the expectations, we need to do everything we can to help other countries increase the number of days their players are together, the money that’s in their program, the competition level and all of those things.”

I have to say that I’m on Davidson’s side of the argument; you should never attempt to “improve” a sport’s standing by limiting the amount of talent one (or two) nations produce. Instead of hamstringing those North American programs, they should instead look into ways to bolster other countries’ programs. (Obviously that’s easier said than done, though.)

That being said, Davidson nails the discussion on the head when she says that the perceptible disinterest boil down to two problems: “Number one is social. Number two is financial.” When it comes to women’s hockey and other athletic endeavors, it really becomes an issue of supply and demand. Do women want to play hockey, especially worldwide … and will anyone pay for them to do it?

Wickenheiser, Davidson, Elander and many others certainly hope so.

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    Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

    The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

    The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

    Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

    From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

    Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.

     

    Trade: Capitals go all in for Kevin Shattenkirk; Blues receive picks

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    If there was any doubt about the Washington Capitals going “all-in” to win a Stanley Cup, they erased it on Monday. They sent a pick-heavy package to the St. Louis Blues to land defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, according to a slew of reports.

    Yes, that’s right; the top team in the NHL standings landed the biggest trade deadline target. They also edged other contenders hoping to land Shattenkirk, including division rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

    Do note that the teams haven’t made the deal official by the Blues or Capitals just yet, likely due to the complexity of some of the conditions.

    ***

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports that Shattenkirk is headed to the Capitals, per “multiple league sources.” There are a “few conditions” to iron out, but it’s a go “barring a collapse,” according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    TSN’s Darren Dreger and Frank Seravalli both report that Shattenkirk is expected to play for the Capitals against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

    TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports possible elements of the deal: the Blues will receive a 2017 first-rounder, a conditional second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford as the “main parts” of the trade. LeBrun reports that the Blues likely retained some salary to make it all work, though he believes they retained less than 50 percent.

    There could be more assets involved, though. Also, that second-rounder needs clarification:

    Sanford, 22, was a second-round pick (61st overall) by the Caps in 2013. He has three points in 26 NHL games this season and also played 25 games (compiling 16 points) in the AHL.

    ***

    Almost exactly one year ago, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that he believed the team has a two-year window to win a Cup, or at least as their best opportunity to win it all. He’s backing up those words with this bold move.

    (And maybe he was playing coy by stating that he was only looking to improve his team “on the fringes.”)

    Trade rumblings: Isles interested in Duchene, Caps ponder Shattenkirk

    RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Keven Shattenkirk #8 and Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    As has become a custom, NHL teams are being proactive and making big moves before the actual day of the trade deadline. So, what’s bubbling below the surface even with Ben Bishop and Martin Hanzal off the market?

    Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

    TSN’s Insider Trading segment from Monday night provides a bounty of interesting things to consider, even if it’s important to note that these rumblings don’t argue that anything is imminent. The full video is absolutely worth your time, in part because some bits aren’t covered here.

    An especially interesting potential destination for Matt Duchene

    OK, so the most important part to note is that Bob McKenzie reports that the Colorado Avalanche remain firm on what they want for Matt Duchene: three or four “high-end” pieces, preferably an NHL-ready defenseman. McKenzie reasonably notes that such a deal might be more feasible during the off-season instead of this week.

    The segment does bring in a fascinating possibility, remote or not: what if the New York Islanders go in on Duchene, with Travis Hamonic maybe helping to make a deal possible?

    It might be a long shot – the Islanders are labeled a “dark horse” for Duchene, a market that’s already seemingly shaky since Colorado wants a lot for the speedy forward – but it’s fun to imagine an Islanders center duo of Duchene and John Tavares.

    Tavares was the first pick in 2009 while Duchene went third to Colorado, so this move would be a bit like the Sharks trading for Joe Thornton, who was drafted right before Patrick Marleau in 1997.

    Anyway, that would be fun on the outside chance it could happen.

    The battle for Shattenkirk

    Some people might be tired of hearing about St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, especially since he’s allegedly nixed some deals. Still, there are plenty of interesting teams connected to the high-scoring blueliner.

    TSN’s Darren Dreger notes the Washington Capitals interest in Insider Trading … though it’s possible that Washington is just as interested in driving up the price for other contenders as they might be in acquiring him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman makes the Blues – Capitals connection, too.

    The Blues understandably want to drive the price up one way or another.

    Puck Daddy acknowledges the possibility of the New York Rangers landing yet another blockbuster in Shattenkirk. Former GM Brian Lawton wonders if the Capitals are in a bidding war with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Shattenkirk.

    There … are just a lot of things flying around.

    Assorted bits

    Overall, there’s a lot to take in. Enjoy pondering all the possibilities.

    Mumps hit Wild as Parise, Pominville will not play vs. Kings

    ST PAUL, MN - MAY 5: Johnny Oduya #27 of the Chicago Blackhawks falls onto the puck as Jason Pominville #29 and Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild attempt to get the puck during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 5, 2015 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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    Add the Minnesota Wild to the unsettling pattern of teams affected by mumps this season.

    In their case, two significant players will at least miss Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (on NBCSN, by the way): Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been sidelined with that condition.

    It’s not clear how much time they might miss nor is it clear if anyone else on the team is dealing with symptoms. Here’s a release via the Wild:

    Members of the organization that have symptoms are being tested immediately and placed in isolation for a five-day period. Team doctors recently provided players and staff an MMR vaccination and the organization will continue to work closely with the NHL, NHLPA and the Minnesota Department of Health to help prevent further infection. 

    Uh oh.

    Martin Hanzal and Ryan White are set to make their debuts tonight. Their presence could be especially welcome if this becomes a more widespread issue for Minnesota. (You may remember the Wild dealing with an outbreak in 2014, too.)

    Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder are expected to be in Minnesota’s lineup tonight, according to the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. Russo indicates that assistant coach Scott Stevens may also be dealing with mumps.