Dave Gagner Shines with Sam!

Personally for me a more fitting script could not have been written when it comes to the events of Tuesday night’s Euro-Can Cup game between the London Knights and their opponents the LINZ Blackwings. Not only was I shocked beyond belief to see one of my heroes in Dave Gagner suit up for the Knights but I also got to sit back and enjoy the inspirational thrill that this 45 year-old gave all the fans in scoring two goals and in the process earning player of the game honors in what was a relatively easy 7-2 Knights victory. “It was surreal,” Gagne who was originally selected first round by the New York Rangers in 1983 said. “I was just trying to play simple and not embarrass myself, to tell you the truth. After the first goal I started giggling and after the second, I was wondering what’s going on here?” Being a huge Gagne follower throughout his days in the NHL I naturally began following his son Sam who was selected first round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2007. Sam who scored 118 points with the Knights in his draft year had the thrill of not only playing with his dad in this Euro-Can Cup game back in London but also matching his dad with two goals of his own. “It was a pretty big thrill for me,” Sam said. “I was pretty young when he retired and I only remember a little bit of him playing and from watching the highlights.” The Knights who finished first in the Midwest Division with 101 points dominated LINZ from the drop of the puck. Still that didn’t dampen the spirits of a group of LINZ fans who were waiving flags and singing throughout the game. Besides for Dave and Sam Gagner other London players to score were Brandon Prust, Marc Pouliot and Matt Clarke.

Replying for LINZ was Daniel Oberkofler and Brad Purdie. Again the story for me was seeing the rejuvenated Dave Gagner who previously skated with the team and lost a bit of weight in getting ready to play. Perhaps this perfect night might have him thinking of a possible NHL comeback?

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San Jose Sharks Captaincy Issue

There was quite a bit of head scratching among NHL hockey executives and fans alike when last week San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan announced that heading into training camp the positions for team captain and assistants would be wide open. After that statement became public many in the hockey circles were trying to figure out if this was meant as a shakeup for the team heading into the season or perhaps if it meant that Patrick Marleau whose been captain since 2004 and Joe Thornton who was last year’s assistant are perhaps on the trading block. Even though the Sharks had a tremendous regular season in winning the President Trophy with 117 points it was still a disappointing finish as they lost in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks. Thornton, who became a Shark in November 2005 showed his optimism by saying that he supported what the coach is doing and fully understands the motive. “I think it might be innovative,” Thornton who scored 86 points last year said. “I think more teams will probably look at this and say, ‘hey, we can’t get by the second round, some team aren’t making the playoffs,’ maybe they’re going to change it too, so I think it might be innovative on San Jose’s part.” Not all agree with the 11 year veteran. Many San Jose fans are wondering if perhaps McLellan did this to fire up Marleau and Thornton or perhaps if it was done to wipe the slate clean on a club that has drastically underachieved for a couple of years now in the post season play. Showing to be a team player Marleau who was drafted second overall in 1997 did not make an issue after hearing this announcement. “I’m just here and I want to win so if they think this is what we need to do to win, then I’m all for it,” Marleau who scored 71 points last year said. “We’ve had really good teams there in the past and we haven’t won it and maybe this will be the thing that takes us over the hump.” Even though various rumors have been circulating that Marleau is about to be traded the veteran forward isn’t buying into that talk and fully expects to be wearing the teal this coming season. “It hasn’t been expressed to me that way so I can’t really speculate on what’s happening in the back but as far as I know, no, it’s not going to transpire that way.” Meanwhile critics have often pointed to Thornton’s lack of production in playoff games. In 76 post-season games this London Ontario native has produced only 12 goals and 41 assists.

Martin Brodeur or Roberto Loungo, Who Starts for Canada?

Even though the birth certificate says that he’s 37 years old and coming off an injury plagued campaign there is no reason to believe that four time Vezina trophy winner Martin Brodeur shouldn’t be the undisputed starting goaltender this coming February for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Vancouver Olympics. Brodeur who has backstopped the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup titles in his illustrious career was also instrumental in helping Canada win Gold at the 2002 Olympics when he posted a 4-0 record and a sparkling 1.80 GAA. Last year after missing 50 games due to badly injuring his left elbow some were wondering if the durable goalie was beginning to show his age. In 31 games last season this 16 -year veteran who was drafted in 1990 by the Devils won 19 games and had a microscopic 2.41 GAA. “In the last three years I have won two Vezina trophies, so my seasons were pretty good,” Brodeur said in response to those who think he should be replaced as the starter by a younger goalie. “Last year I had five shutouts in 31 games and 19 wins. I was rolling pretty good. I was doing my share, like I’m used to. So I feel like I’m still on top of things, and when the Olympics come around I will be up for the challenge.” Brodeur who last season broke Patrick Roy’s record for all time wins by a goalie will have his strongest competition from 30 year-old Roberto Luongo who was the backup at the 2006 Olympics. Besides for Luongo who plays for the Vancouver Canucks three young emerging talents in Stanley Cup winners Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Cam Ward (Carolina Hurricanes) will also get some strong consideration once the Team Canada orientation camp opens up in Calgary. “I’m dealing with the top goalies in Canada, so regardless if you think I’m going to be number one, I still have to go out and prove it,” Brodeur who has 557 career wins said. “This year is going to be a great challenge not just for me, but the other guys too.” Heading into the upcoming season all eyes will be on this veteran goalie who with 101 career shutouts is only two behind the record held by the great hall of famer Terry Sawchuk. My question is how can a legend who has an Olympic gold medal on hi resume along with the Stanley Cups and so many records not be an automatic choice for Canada’s starting goaltender at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Dany Heatley Side of the Story

Without question I would love to have the talent of a Dany Heatley on my team but it’s his attitude off the ice that is really beginning to rub me the wrong way. Over the years I’ve enjoyed watching him accomplish feats such as winning the Calder Trophy in 2002 when he scored 67 points with the Atlanta Thrashers and of course the following season when he dominated the All- Star Game and in the process was voted the game’s MVP. In 2003 Heatley who was a Thrashers first round pick in 2000 had his world turned upside down due to reckless speeding. Following a team event that September Heatley as all hockey fans will remember lost control of the wheel and badly smashed his car. This accident took the life of Heatley’s Thrasher’s teammate and best friend Dan Snyder who never recovered from his massive head injuries. Meanwhile Heatley was left with a torn ACL, MCL and a broken jaw. This young superstar was charged but managed to avoid jail time as a direct result of the support from Snyder’s parents who showed love and support for Heatley. After that difficult 2003/04 season I understood why and had no problem as a fan when Heatley who was being counted on to lead the Thrashers in the future requested a trade. He talked about how he was always reminded of the nightmare when he passed the area of the crash and that he wanted and needed a fresh start. Upon being traded to the Ottawa Senators it seemed like Heatley was happy and found peace. He was producing on the first line with Jason Spezza and captain Daniel Alfredsson. A few months after the Senators came within four wins of winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 Heatley happily agreed to a lucrative six- year deal. I have to say that I was very shocked when during this off-season this two time 50 goal scorer demanded a trade. This was a move that I didn’t understand and after hearing his press conference on Friday I’m still left with a lot of questions. The major issue that I had was when he expressed his disenchantment towards coach Cory Clouston who upon taking over on February 2 cut the veteran’s ice time. I can understand an athlete being upset about that but the struggling Senators began turning things around under Clouston and had a lot more success the rest of the way. It wasn’t like his ice time was drastically being reduced and I would think that Heatley who let’s face it is lucky to be playing hockey would be more of a team player and excited about how much better the Sens did during that two month run. “If that’s what it is, I think the coach and the player can resolve that issue fairly quickly,” Murray said. Reacting what Heatley said Murray wondered if perhaps his forward wants out due to the fact that the Senators have had two disappointing seasons after playing in the Stanley Cup finals. “We haven’t played that well over the last year, but being that he’s one of the highest paid guys on the team it’s is responsibility as much as anyone to make this team play better and have success,” Murray said. Currently Murray has spoken to three or four teams. “I told them if they’re not somewhat straightforward in the proposal in the next few days I have to, at some point in time, say Dany is going to come to training camp,” Murray said. What makes moving him so challenging is that Heatley is on the books for a 7.5 million dollar cap hit over the next five years. “He’s a high-paid player with a long term contract and for a team to get him they have to have space, and the list of team they have approved limits that to a degree. Time wise we could still do it but we have to prod a couple of teams to act fairly quickly.” Once again Heatley stressed that yes he would report to Ottawa’s training camp on September 12 if he hasn’t been moved.

Pascal Leclaire is in the Capital

Since signing as an unrestricted free agent back in July Ottawa Senators fans have been excitedly talking about what veteran scorer Alex Kovalev will bring to the team. While this 36 year-old who is coming off a 65- point season will provide some essential offence one must keep in mind that the most significant addition was made last March when goalie Pascal Leclaire was traded to the nation’s capital. This former 2001 Columbus Blue Jackets first round draft choice who has shown glimpses of his elite talent only played 12 games last season for the Jackets due to an ankle injury he suffered last October against the Minnesota Wild. Leclaire who had season ending surgery last January and lost his starting job in Columbus to rookie and Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason is excited about the high expectations Ottawa fans and management have about this upcoming season. ” It’s a different kind of pressure, but it’ll be fun,” Leclaire who is only 26 years-old said. “For me it’s really exciting to be with Ottawa now because I’ve never been in the playoffs, and I want to be there and it’s a great challenge.” Two seasons ago Leclaire showed his potential when he enjoyed a breakout season in winning 24 games while posting a microscopic 2.25 GAA in only 54 games. Unless Leclaire gets hit once again with the dreaded injury bug there is an excellent chance that in April he will be the first Senators goalie since Patrick Lalime in 2003/04 to be the undisputed number one. “From a personal level, I just want to get back to where I was before getting hurt,” Leclaire said. “It was a rough year for me last year. I was never really 100 percent. The injury is behind me now and I want to get back in a groove and have fun.I missed hockey a lot. I’m ready to go into the season and see what happens, play on a regular basis.” Ottawa fans can be forgiven if they are taking a wait and see attitude with this former first round pick. Afterall even though he became a Senator last March he still hasn’t played a game in their uniform. When it’s all said and done I believe that Leclaire who has 45 total wins in his NHL career will play a major role in helping the Senators make it once against into the post season.

NHL Short Notes

Jose Theodore Loses his Son

Washington Capital’s goalie Jose Theodore has suffered what no parent should ever go through and that’s outliving your child. This 12- year veteran who won 32 games last year for the Capitals recently lost his two- month- old son. Theodore’s sister in law Veronique Cloutier made the announcement on Thursday during her radio show broadcast near Montreal. Theodore and his wife Stephanie have a three year-old daughter named Romy. “We are aware of the heartbreaking news,” said Capitals GM George McPhee. “At this time we ask that everyone respects the privacy of Jose and his family.”

Cowan Now A Sabre

A few days after signing Mike Grier the Buffalo Sabres added some more grit when they signed another unrestricted free agent in forward Jeff Cowan. This eight- year pro has played in a total of 413 games with the Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks where in his career he has scored 81 points and 695 penalty minutes. Last year Cowan played with Peoria in the American Hockey League where he scored 15 points and accumulated 94 penalty minutes.  

Festerling Remains With The Ducks 

The Anaheim Ducks were busy on Thursday as they inked their young defenceman Brett Festerling to a two- year contract. This 23 year-old who posted five assist in 40 games last season was originally signed by the Ducks in 2005. Financial terms of the contract was not disclosed.

Dany Heatley will Break the Silence

Ottawa Senators scoring star Dany Heatley will finally break his silence by shedding some light on why come September he doesn’t want to be playing for the Senators. Since exercising his no trade clause in blocking a trade made in late June that would have sent him to the Edmonton Oilers, Heatley who is a two time fifty goal scorer has remained silent and has avoided the media spotlight until now. Not wanting this trade request story to be a negative attraction when he takes the ice on Monday to practice with the Canada Olympic orientation camp Heatley will be with his agent Stacey McAlpine when he addresses the media on Friday in Kelowna B.C.. During this time he will discuss and answer questions about what led to wanting out of Ottawa. “There are several factors and a variety if reasons,” McAlpine said about why Heatley decided to ask for a trade. “However, out of respect to the Ottawa Senators and all involved, Dany is not getting into specifics… that will remain confidential.” Showing to be an honorable person Heatley who since June refused to discuss the specifics that led him to ask for a trade said that he would report to Senators camp if he’s not moved. While that’s all well and good I just wonder if he will still be welcomed in the dressing room. As of Thursday rumors have been running wild that the San Jose Sharks are once again in hot pursuit of Heatley and will offer long time Sharks captain Patrick Marleau.