A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.
1. That was no way to go out.
Shane Doan being told his tenure as the NHL’s longest-serving captain was over in a 10-minute, “we’re going younger” meeting this summer with the only franchise he’s ever known.
So, don’t go out that way.
Go out this way instead:
Picture a 41-year-old Doan, a familiar “C” on the upper left of his red-and-white Team Canada sweater. The national anthem is playing, and a medal is draped over his neck. Tears are in his eyes. Maybe yours too.
Doan is still a free agent. Four or five teams have reached out, according to his agent, Terry Bross. It’s possible Doan waits until mid-September, right before training camps open, to decide whom — if anyone — he’ll play for.
How about Canada?
With an NHL contract, Doan becomes a bottom-six winger on a decent team or maybe a second-line forward on a bad team.
Join the national team, as he proudly has on so many occasions, and Doan is an instant leader and a real contributor.
Despite a World Cup gold, two world championship golds and three silvers, Doan is not an Olympic medallist. The one year he did rep Canada in the Winter Games (2006), the nation finished seventh and Doan’s own participation fell under a cloud of controversy and litigation.
Doan can help his (underdog?) country and help write his own last chapter on a grand stage.
Become an Olympian again, and Doan maintains one-NHL-franchise-for-life status, he won’t have to move away from his wife and kids, and he gets to exit — win or lose — in an event so much more memorable than an otherwise meaningless 3-1 April loss in the desert to the Minnesota Wild.
2. Team Canada’s brass absolutely has its collective eye on the cluster of aging NHL veterans who might be in tough to secure employment for the 2017-18 season.
“When you start thinking about those names, it’s an interesting group of people,” Hockey Canada president Tom Renney told Sportsnet 960 this week. “Some of those people I’m sure would love to be part of the team. They are people we’re paying attention to.”
Management plans to wait until NHL camps wrap to make commitments on these active legends — after they’ve exhausted their professional opportunities. but we don’t have to wait to draft our Old Guy Dream Team, which includes Martin Brodeur in a rare management-goalie role because as if he doesn’t want it:
There are also a few Canadians whose NHL careers are either officially or unofficially done. We’re wondering if any of the following could be lured out of the woodwork for a shot at an Olympic medal: Brian Campbell, Mike Ribeiro, Andrew Ference, Cody Hodgson, Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier.
is more fun than racing.
— Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) June 29, 2017
3. Let’s make a generational shift.
Canada’s assistant coach, Dave King, has identified four potential junior players who could make the nation’s Olympic squad — and no player, regardless of age, is being ruled out in what is being painted as a true meritocracy.
The catch with evaluating juniors is that you’re gauging how they play against kids on small ice, not professional men on big ice.
As the prospective roster stands now, Canada GM Sean Burke says it’s unlikely a teenager makes the cut.
“That doesn’t a month from now, two months from now, a guy doesn’t emerge,” Burke qualified to Prime Time Sports. “A guy who plays his [nine] NHL games might be sent back. Is he a guy who comes into the picture? It’s a bit of a moving target.”
Nolan *cough* Patrick.
4. Remember when Ted Nolan transformed the Latvians into a respectable hockey force in 2014, then spun that showing into another NHL head coaching gig with Buffalo?
Certainly the No. 1 goal of those involved at every level of Canada’s men’s squad is gold, but a happy byproduct of a stellar performance at PyeongChang could mean an NHL stock spike for players, managers and coaches alike. Burke would love to go from scout to GM status. It’s a safe bet Ben Scrivens would leave Minsk for, say, Calgary. And Willie Desjardins, Canada’s bench boss, is explicit about his desire for another kick at the can.
“For me? Sure, I hope it happens,” Desjardins told Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup.
The 60-year-old is a hockey lifer, a coaching’s-in-my-blood guy who’s enjoyed success internationally as well as the AHL and WHL levels. He was fired because he couldn’t turn the Vancouver water into wine.
“That was a tough go there. There were challenges. A different situation certainly can have different results,” a diplomatic Desjardins said of his Canucks tenure. “You learn from that experience, and you come back a better coach.”
5. When the Montreal Canadiens signed 39-year-old defenceman Mark Streit — last seen as a healthy scratch on a depleted Penguins roster — a segment of Habs fans vehemently disapproved. It’s impossible to argue that Streit is an upgrade over the homeward-bound Andrei Markov, but a one-year commitment for $750,000 is a fine rate.
Upon Streit’s signing, one of my favourite hockey reporters, NHL.com’s Arpon Basu, pounded out a thread of tweets. I’ve pasted them here:
A little story about Mark Streit.
I had to interview him for a story I did on Nico Hischier and Swiss hockey during the Cup Final. Seeing as Streit was a healthy scratch for the Penguins and it was a game day, I asked if I could wait to speak with him and was told yes. Streit was on the ice with the other Penguins scratches and they were put through a heavy workout after the morning skate. I was waiting outside the Pens room, and there was a little monitor with a live feed on the ice, so I could see when they came off.
After about 45 minutes, I noticed the Penguins were leaving the ice, and then saw them walk into the room one by one. Almost all of them were young AHL guys, and I was looking out for Streit so I could tell him I wanted to talk to him when he was ready.
Except Streit wasn’t there.
So I looked back at the monitor and saw that Streit was still on the ice, doing laps at top speed. Streit, a 39-year-old veteran, was the only player on the ice and did those laps for another 15 or 20 minutes after everyone else was done. When he finally came off the ice, sweat literally dripping off every inch of him, I went up to him to say I wanted to talk to him. He said, no problem, give me a sec. I expected him to change and shower and get dressed before coming out to talk to me, but no.
Streit was there two minutes later, still drenched in sweat having only removed his equipment standing in a freezing cold hallway. Streit spoke to me for 15 minutes, spoke eloquently about Hischier, the state of Swiss hockey and his role as a pioneer for his country.
At the end, I thanked him for his time, and he apologized for making me wait. I repeat, HE APOLOGIZED FOR MAKING ME WAIT.
If you don’t think Streit is worth a chance this season for a hair over the league minimum, we can’t agree. If you’re not following @ArponBasu on Twitter, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
6. Interesting parallel between the Rangers and Senators as we approach massive years for their No. 1 centres. Mika Zibanejad and Kyle Turris have gone from being in a friendly battle for the 1C role in Ottawa to being the undisputed No. 1 pivots on two Eastern clubs with playoff expectations. Both, ultimately, were unwanted by the teams that drafted them.
Turris is heading into a critical contract season; he’s set to be 2018’s most desirable UFA centre not named John Tavares. With a Derek Stepan trade and a $26.75-million payday, Zibanejad just sung his way to New York’s man in the middle.
“Even before signing, seeing Derek being traded was a little bit of an alert to me that I might get a chance to play a bigger role,” Zibanejad said on Tuesday’s conference call. “You always want more responsibility and a bigger role. I’m working really hard to make sure that I’m taking advantage of the chance I’m getting.”
Centre depth could be an issue for the Blueshirts, prompting beat man Larry Brooks to twice float the idea of a Tyler Bozak trade.
Kevin Hayes moves up to No. 2 centre, new guy David Desharnais is the best best for No. 3, and the fourth spot looks to be decided in camp.
Can't be more excited to be back playing at the MSG and in front of the best fans for the next 5 years! Wanna thank everyone involved! pic.twitter.com/263Zu3s5mu
— Mika Zibanejad (@MikaZibanejad) July 25, 2017
7. The fans are on top of ya. The Detroit Red Wings are rolling out a six-part video tribute to Joe Louis Arena, The Final Farewell. The first three installments (watch below) feature memories from fans, current Wings and alumni. A nice eulogy.
8. The backdrop for McDavid’s Olympic comments Wednesday was a fun, kid-friendly marketing event for the Rogers Cup tennis tournament.
McDavid competed with Genie Bouchard and injured Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez on a Toronto tennis court in a series of mini games. These can be terribly awkward but insightful exercises: How do these masters of their own domain act in a wholly, unusually and terribly public situation?
Bouchard, who won the event, came off the most at ease. She has a wicked sense of humour and embraces her role as a tennis ambassador.
Post-victory, she was asked what athletes from other sports can learn from each other when they meet in situations like this.
“That they can be really bad at other sports,” Bouchard quipped. Everyone laughed.
Sanchez played it straight: “For me, it’s cool to see their grind. As an athlete you understand what they go through to be at the level they want to be at. Interacting, seeing what their life’s about, maybe there’s something you can work into your routine.”
McDavid’s handling of the scene stood out the most.
The MVP is still a low talker, but his volume and confidence in front of the microphones and cameras has elevated two notches over the past year. He cracked jokes, took a stance, and remained humble when he beat Sanchez in a pitching accuracy competition: “I can’t throw a ball 100 mph.”
During the event’s scrum, all three fielded questions at the same time. The first four questions were all directed toward Bouchard, so McDavid jumped in on a question about Genie’s hard court preparation.
“I feel great, thanks for asking,” McDavid piped. “My hard court game is really nice.”
We’re not talking P.K. levels of charisma here, but McDavid is finding his voice, a level of comfort in the make-believe.
Here’s hoping the heir to Crosby’s throne keeps on this track of revealing himself a little more each year. Hockey robots are impressive, but we prefer our heroes as human as possible.
Connor McDavid just beat Aaron Sanchez in a pitching competition. “I might have to” start playing hockey, says Sanchez.
P.S. Sanchez is so atrocious at hockey, he couldn’t help but swear into a hot mic as he tried in vain to slap balls into a target net. Earmuffs, kids.
9. As strong as McDavid’s stance on the Olympics is, there’s another level to reach. Young players like McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel and Mark Scheifele are taking the hit for the older stars not ensuring Games participation wasn’t written into the CBA. Lesson learned.
When the next round of negotiations start, we’d love to see McDavid get involved. The NBA is a players’ league because its best players take an interest off the court.
10. Bouchard says she doesn’t look at her social media mentions, so the tennis star missed Mikhail Sergachev (no longer a member’s of Bouchard’s Canadiens) firing back and defending fellow Russian athlete Maria Sharapova this week.
Sharapova has won titles when she hasn't been taking meldonium tho ,everyone makes mistakes,but she's the real champ
— Mikhail Sergachev (@sergachev31) July 26, 2017
11. I co-hosted the Tape II Tape podcast with Ryan Dixon this week (listen below), and we had a chance to pepper Vegas Golden Knights beat writer Steve Carp about the team he covers. Some interesting things Carp said:
• GM George McPhee will likely shop David Perron and James Neal at the deadline, hoping for second-round picks in return but probably settling for thirds.
• Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas’s other impending UFA scorer, is likely to re-sign, partly due to his relationship with coach Gerald Gallant.
• Vegas still holds 11 defencemen, nine of them lefties. McPhee would love to move Luca Sbisa. “He’s 27 but he’s got a lot of money [owed to him],” Carp said. “I”m not sure if George didn’t overplay his hand a little bit in taking all these defencemen thinking he could flip ’em quickly for picks.”
• Carp’s money is on Neal for the Knights’ first captain. He said there’s no indication that McPhee has interest in bringing in a veteran UFA like Doan, Iginla or Jaromir Jagr.
12. So many of the 30 arbitration cases filed by RFAs this summer have resulted in long-term settlements, including testy ones, like Tomas Tatar’s, and ones based on a single good year, like Viktor Arvidsson’s.
He’s combustible, sure, but Robin Lehner’s numbers playing behind some pretty defensively suspect teams suggest he’s a legit No. 1 goalie in this league.
The Sabres goalie ended up with a one-year, $4 million deal. This is new GM Jason Botterill saying, “Prove it. We need to see more.”
I like it. Ask Ken Holland how he feels about giving Peter Mrazek $4 million for two years when he hit RFA status last summer.
“I like this city and I want to keep building with this team. There’s a lot of potential here and I want to be a part of it,” Lehner said in a Buffalo radio interview. “I just want to keep getting better.”
Lehner will be a restricted free agent again next summer and could really put the screws to management with a stellar winter. Or give Botterill cause to keep costs down.