Martin St. Louis

What does the future hold for small players?


Like speedboats among freighters, the majority of undersized hockey players who made it to the NHL did so because they were quicker and more agile than their larger, more powerful counterparts.

But what does the future hold for those that hope to emulate the likes of Tyler Ennis, Jeff Skinner, Steve Sullivan, Cory Conacher, Brian Gionta, and Nathan Gerbe?

Because according to Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, the freighters of the NHL aren’t so slow and cumbersome anymore.

“The difference that I’ve seen in the last three years is, all the big players can skate like the little guys,” said Hitchcock, per Sportsnet’s Mark Spector.

And as if that wasn’t troubling enough for diminutive types, at least one general manager believes the way the game is played (and called) has started once again to favor the bigger player, as it did before the 2004-05 lockout.

“When I took this job, we decided on a style of play that resulted in great success,” said Canucks GM Mike Gillis last week after his team was swept out of the playoffs. “And clearly, the landscape has changed and we have to address those changes. We don’t have a choice. It’s not something I necessarily agree with. But that’s what we face, and that’s what you have to do.

“We have to make the changes and adjustments necessary to compete for a Stanley Cup. It’s my intention to do it and recognize what’s going on and make sure we have a team that’s better equipped.”

Gillis knows better than anyone that the last two teams to win the Stanley Cup did it with size and strength, since both the Bruins and Kings beat Vancouver.

Not that Boston and Los Angeles are bereft of skill; obviously, they aren’t. But there’s no question they favor a heavier, more physical game.

The worry for Canucks fans is that Gillis is overreacting based on a small sample size. What if the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this year? Chicago finished the regular season ranked 30th in hits. Patrick Kane isn’t a giant. Neither is Jonathan Toews. The ‘Hawks are a great team because they have the puck all the time, and they know what to do with it.

Of course, Kane was drafted first overall, while Toews went third. They aren’t your typical players. Nor, for that matter, is Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis, the league’s top scorer. The reason he’s such a great story is because not many small, undrafted players do what he’s done.

Perhaps Gillis feels that, absent a blue-chip draft position, getting bigger and stronger is his best option in an NHL where big and strong doesn’t have to mean big and slow anymore.

GM says Blue Jackets are ‘off the rails’ right now

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On Monday, PHT discussed the Columbus Blue Jackets’ troubling start, even if it felt like it may be too early to raise concerns.

Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline on Tuesday.

“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.

Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?

Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”

Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.

Portzline goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.

Next four games: Three out of four at home
Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.

As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.

For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.

via AP

Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.