Canada's head coach Babcock directs his team during their men's team ice hockey practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Star-studded Canada will be ‘a work in progress,’ says Babcock


SOCHI, Russia — The starting goalie will be Carey Price, backed up by Roberto Luongo. The healthy scratches will be P.K. Subban and Matt Duchene. Now that the line-up decisions have been made, Team Canada can begin its quest to repeat as Olympic gold medalists.

Just don’t expect magic right off the bat tonight, even against tournament minnow Norway, or tomorrow versus the long shots from Austria.

“We’re just gonna be a work in progress,” head coach Mike Babcock said Friday after practice.

Babcock was asked how much of the structure of Team Canada will mirror that of his Detroit Red Wings.

“Lots of it is what we do in the NHL,” he said, “then maybe a few tweaks because of the size of the rink, neutral zone-wise, penalty kill-wise, even power play.

“No one talks about how short the end zone is. It’s a big difference. There’s lots of things that are a little bit different. We’ll find out as we go.”

On an Olympic-sized rink, the distance from the blue line to the goal line is six feet shorter than on an NHL rink. Olympic rinks are also wider and have longer neutral zones, with more space behind the net.

“Obviously it’s an adjustment going from the NHL-sized ice to the Olympic-sized ice,” defenseman Duncan Keith. “The more we play on it, the more comfortable we’re going to get.”

How much chemistry has the team been able to build in limited practice time?

“It’s coming along,” Keith said. “Obviously it’s not where it would be if we were together for six months. But there’s so much skill on the team that hopefully we can gel quickly, and keep getting better.”

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?