THOUGHTS FROM THE BOOTH
By Dan Robertson
March 11, 2013
A LONG SEASON IN SYDNEY
There’s an old saying that if not for bad luck, some people would have no luck at all. That old nugget applies to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in 2012-2013.
It’s not like the Eagles would have been in a position to contend had they stayed 100% healthy this year, but injuries basically sunk their season. It’s not just how many injuries they’ve had to deal with, it’s who suffered them. Willam Carrier, Kyle Farrell, Jakub Culek and Loic Leduc are four of the top five or six players on the Eagles roster and none have played since early January. Carrier was one of the best players in the league in the first half of the season with 42 points in 34 games but hasn’t played since December 14. Leduc isn’t a flashy player by any means but is an NHL draft pick who logged a lot of minutes on defense for Cape Breton before injuring his knee on December 28. 20 year-old Culek was added to the team in November and played a grand total of 9 games before being hurt. Maybe most concerning to the Eagles is the concussion Kyle Farrell suffered on January 9th in a game against Gatineau. I spoke with Farrell before a Cape Breton/PEI game in Sydney on March 8th. The talented forward had to get an exemption from the league so he could postpone his education at Cape Breton University because of his concussion. It was almost two months before he started feeling ‘normal’ again. It’s clearly been a frustrating time for Farrell, who had 29 points in 39 games this season. Largely because of those injuries (the defection of Alexandre Lavoie didn’t help either), will miss the playoffs this season. That will ensure a high draft pick and though I’ve not heard a lot about this year’s draft class, I don’t think any Nathan MacKinnons or Jonathan Drouins will be available. One final word about the Eagles: a fan in his early 50’s struck up a conversation with me after the game on March 8th. He lamented what he saw as a dead atmosphere at Centre 200. “Our fans aren’t loud enough,” he said. “Most of them don’t know what it’s like to drink a pint of rum and go watch a game at the Sydney Forum.”
Speaking of concussions, it goes without saying it’s great to see Sidney Crosby regain his dominant form after going through such an awful time. When he was out and even when he returned to play last season, I read a lot of articles and heard a lot of people say he was done; that even if he were to come back, he would never be as good as he was. I don’t see any of those writers retracting their opinions now and my friends who had told me Crosby was finished are pretty quiet these days. I never thought Crosby’s career was over and I didn’t know that he’d be back to the level he is at right now. That’s the thing: nobody knows when it comes to concussions. Scary stuff.
The reaction was predictable when New York Ranger defenseman Marc Stall took a puck in the eye recently. The ‘visors should be mandatory’ debate started again. I’m probably in the minority here and this might sound cold but why should any of us care if an NHLer takes a puck or stick in the eye if he chooses not to wear a visor? Those players are grown men who fully understand the risk of playing hockey at the highest level. If they don’t want to wear a visor, that is their prerogative.
On the flip side of that, Brad Richards shouldn’t expect that being shoved head-first into the boards from behind to be an acceptable risk while playing hockey. But that’s what he got from Sabres serial cheap-shot artist Patrick Kaleta on March 3rd. Under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, a five-game suspension is the biggest suspension Kaleta could get and that’s what he got. He could have broken Richards’ neck. A 25-game suspension would have been about right.
Full credit to the Toronto Maple Leafs: some fans wanted them to trade Nazem Kadri, some thought he should have been a regular at 18 or 19, many said he was a bust. The fact is, the majority of first-round picks take a while to develop before they are ready to be good NHLers. That was the case for Kadri, who learned with the Marlies under Dallas Eakins, who will be a good NHL coach someday.
In my last column, I wrote about Josh Currie being my favorite for MVP. I might be leaning toward Halifax’s Jonathan Drouin now but Currie hasn’t tailed off at all. He picked up his 10th shorthanded goal on March 8th. The Rocket captain can check the QMJHL records section on the league website and see that he passed Mario Lemieux and Guy Lafleur, who each had 9 ‘shorties’ in their top seasons. Impressive, indeed. Stephane Morin holds the single-season record with 15, set in 1988-89. A lot of things go into making Currie such a dangerous player on the penalty kill but his intelligence is the number one factor.
It was a real treat to be able to watch two truly great university basketball players this season: Jimmy Dorsey of the CBU Capers and Justine Colley of the Saint Mary’s Huskies. One thing they have in common: each is more than just a dominant scorer. Rebounds, assists, steals…you name it, Dorsey and Colley did it all this year. And the great thing about Colley is that she still has a year of eligibility remaining.
The Halifax Mooseheads group of forwards is the deepest the team has ever had. They have high-end scoring (Drouin, MacKinnon), some good checkers (Brent Andrews, Ryan Falkenham, etc) and some guys who can do whatever you ask of them. One of those players is Darcy Ashley, who is putting up career numbers offensively and is also defensively responsible. He’s not a big guy but he plays a big game and there is no quit in him. Ashley was the 25thpick 2010 draft and by the time he is finished his career next season, that will go down as a one of Cam Russell’s best picks in my opinion, considering what Ashley has given the organization. It must feel great these days for guys like Ashley, Brent Andrews and Konrad Abeltshauser who were around when the Moose were at the bottom of the standings. Speaking of Abeltshauser, I have heard six different play-by-play guys call Mooseheads games this season and I’ve heard his name pronounced six different ways. I heard one guy call him ‘Abba-higher’ recently. I must remember to ask QMJHL officials (again) to come out with a phonetic pronunciation guide next season. By then, it’ll be too late for Konrad, whose last name means ‘good knitter’ in German.
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