Martin St. Louis

Babcock: St. Louis voted unanimously as Stamkos’ replacement


Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider might not like it, but there was no fierce debate among Team Canada’s coaches and management after Steven Stamkos was ruled out for the Olympics.

The group held a formal vote and St. Louis was unanimously chosen over Flyers captain Claude Giroux and the remainder of the field. That revelation comes after Snider suggested that St. Louis made the team due to “politics” because Tampa Bay Lightning GM and Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman “had to pick his own guy.”

Snider added that anyone who thinks that Giroux doesn’t belong on Team Canada doesn’t know anything about hockey.

Detroit Red Wings and Team Canada coach Mike Babcock countered the argument that St. Louis’ addition was politically motivated.

“It would have been easy for Steve to say, ‘Marty is on the team because I said he’s on the team,'” Babcock told the Tampa Bay Times. “That, to me, is not how you manage. In the end we feel we had an opportunity (for input), and that’s all you can ask for.”

Given how rich and deep Canada’s talent pool is, it was inevitable that there would be amazing players left off the team, as was initially the case for St. Louis and still is for Giroux. That being said, St. Louis won the Art Ross Trophy last season and has 55 points in 57 contests in 2013-14 despite losing his superstar linemate, Stamkos.

He’s performed at an elite level without any meaningful decline or off-season since 2002-03 and was also one of the biggest omissions from Canada’s squad in 2010. At the age of 38, this will probably be his last Olympics.


Stamkos ‘excited’ for St. Louis, but being ruled out of Olympics was ‘a little shocking’

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.