Oilers receive more criticism for barring Sheldon Souray from training camp

Thumbnail image for oilersgmtambellini.jpgPerhaps the most surprising news of this week came when the Edmonton Oilers announced that wayward defenseman Sheldon Souray would not attend training camp. Apparently we’re not alone in wondering how, exactly, such a move will make it easier to trade the useful but injury-ravaged blueliner.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson feels the same way, pointing out that a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets (one team in need of a point man with a rocket shot like Souray’s) would be much more willing to give Souray a try if he was ready to go right away, a possibility that is much more limited if Souray isn’t attending training camp.

Isn’t it considerably easier to trade an asset who’s in an NHL jersey, playing games, especially one with the checkered injury past of Souray, than it is when that player is gathering dust and skating with, say, the University of Alberta Golden Bears during training camp?

NHL teams want to see if Souray is not only productive with the puck on his stick, but healthy, don’t they? The Columbus Blue Jackets could seriously use his bazooka from the point, in concert with speedy playmaker Kris Russell on the power play.

But for general manager Scott Howson’s intrigue to move to solid interest, you would think he would want to see Souray on the ice if he hasn’t been in a game since breaking his hand in a fight with Jarome Iginla nine months ago.

Not only that, but if the season starts and it’s November and a team gets antsy for an offensive guy, aren’t they going to be less gung-ho for a trade if they’re going for a player who needs to feel his way into games because he’s had none in camp, or early in the season?

Absolutely, on both counts.

Thumbnail image for sweatysheldonsouray.jpgMatheson interviewed an NHL agent who made a great analogy. Keeping Souray out of training camp is like putting up a house up for sale but stating that it needs major renovations.

I can see the logic in wanting to “stand their ground,” but I doubt that Souray would be such a cancer that he’d infect the culture of the team and poison newcomers such as Taylor Hall. He’s not an outright necessity on a team that has some decent potential point producing defenseman including Tom Gilbert and turnover machine Ryan Whitney, but would it hurt to have a guy with some skill like him anyway?

The Oilers are resolute in making this decision, but they better be prepared to deal with the fall-out that comes with it. Their options probably boil down to paying Souray to $4.5 million to play in the AHL (according to CapGeek.com), trading him for negligible value or even wasting cap space and money by letting another team claim him on re-entry waivers. They aren’t in a great position either way, but now it seems like they’ve traded an uphill battle for climbing up a mountain.

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    Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia vs. Canada

    MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of Russia skates against USA at Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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    Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their  World Cup semifinal game.

    Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.

    It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.

    Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov will center that line instead.

    If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever

    The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.

    Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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    The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.

    On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.

    “Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com.  “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

    It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.

    The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.

    Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

    Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.

    According to the hockey-reference database, the only defenseman that has scored more goals at that age through their first two seasons is Phil Housley.

    After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.

    Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take

    VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of Russia comes into the game against Canada during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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    Admit it: you miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

    Saturday presented the latest reminder that hockey’s just a little less fun thanks to the absence of Mr. Universe, as Bryzgalov regaled ESPN’s Craig Custance with his impeccable analysis of the drubbing Russia received from Canada during the 2010 Olympics.

    You see, Breezy initially described Canada’s start “like gorillas out of a cage,” but upon further reflection …

    … Well:

    “Not gorillas,” Bryzgalov said. “More like Orcs from ‘The Hobbit.’ You watch that movie, right? Big. Mean. Scary.”

    Fantastic.

    Now, it’s possible that Bryzgalov meant “Lord of the Rings” rather than “The Hobbit,” but both series featured “Big. Mean. Scary” orcs, so who knows:

    Really though, it paints quite the picture. Imagine, for a moment, Shea Weber or Brent Burns decked out like that one especially big, mean and scary orc. One can only imagine the Photoshop masterpieces that may sprout up thanks to the vivid story Bryzgalov told.

    ***

    Now, there are some great bits leading up to Saturday’s Canada – Russia semifinal. PHT should have more to come tonight.

    Sportsnet looked back at a moment in which a seemingly sure-thing Canadian team hit a brick wall in a Russian opponent. NHL.com provided a fascinating look at Mike Babcock and his quest for control. TSN captures a moment of sorts for Steven Stamkos.

    There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but Bryzgalov’s takes are truly one of a kind, and they’ve been truly missed.

    Bruins’ Vatrano to miss three months with foot injury

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    Frank Vatrano is supposed to be one of the young players the Boston Bruins will be counting on this season to help replace some of the offense they lost when Loui Eriksson signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

    Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.

    The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.

    General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.

    Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.