Random Thoughts on the NHL for End-August 2013.

With August winding down an only a couple of weeks until NHL training camps open, here’s my take on some recent notable news.

- Canada’s Men’s Olympic hockey orientation camp received considerable media coverage this week. That’s understandable given the country’s obsession with all things hockey. Besides, Canada is the defending Olympic gold medalist, and there’s sweet bugger-all going on for real hockey news.

A number of pundits, bloggers and fans are engaged in the guessing game of which invitees make the cut for the final roster. Considering the dire dearth of real news for hockey fans and pundits to discuss, I certainly can’t fault them.

I refuse to participate, however, simply because so much can happen between the start of training camp in mid-September to when the official roster is announced in December.

Some players deemed certainties to make the club could be knocked out of contention by injuries. Others could be affected by a poor start to this season, whilst players who weren’t invited (Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, Dallas’ Jamie Benn) could play their way onto the roster.

Steven Stamkos is among the few "locks" for Team Canada 2014.

Steven Stamkos is among the few “locks” for Team Canada 2014.

I will, however, state the only certainties to make the roster (barring injuries) are Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Claude Giroux, and yes, Roberto Luongo, if for no other reason than his international experience.

Other certainties are:

Team USA – Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Jonathan Quick;

Team Sweden – Henrik Lundqvist, Erik Karlsson, the Sedin Twins, Nicklas Backstrom, Loui Eriksson and Henrik Zetterberg;

Team Russia – Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin, Andrei Markov and Sergei Bobrovsky;

Team Finland – Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi, Teemu Selanne, Mikko and Saku Koivu;

Team Czech Republic – Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Tomas Plekanec and Jakub Voracek:

Team Slovakia – Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa Marian Gaborik and Jaroslav Halak.

 

- The comments by Russian stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk supporting their country’s anti-gay laws have disappointed some NHL fans and upset others.

While I consider those laws repugnant and strongly disagree with Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, let’s remember they and their aspiring Russian teammates aren’t exactly in the best position to speak out against those laws even if they wanted to.

They hope to represent their country in the first Olympic Games on Russian soil in nearly 34 years. It’s as big a dream for them to win Olympic Gold as it is for any player in another hockey-playing nation, moreso when it’s on home ice.

If they spoke out against those laws, they risk embarrassing the Russian government (never a good idea) and being banned from participating in the Sochi games.

Besides, if Kovalchuk and Datsyuk genuinely believe their country’s laws are justified, they’ll have to live with the consequences of their beliefs.

 

- If you enjoyed Roberto Luongo’s summer drama, wait until the regular season begins.

Is it possible for a 34-year-old goaltender whose best seasons appear behind him to regain the once-stellar form which elevated the Canucks among the ranks of the league’s best clubs?

If so, will it be enough to overcome the shortcomings of this ageing club?

If he fails to improve, will the Canucks pick up half his salary to bolster their attempts to trade him, or do they go the compliance buyout route next June?

If Luongo does rebound, will it actually improve his trade value?

We won’t have to wait long for the answers.

 

A recent ticket promotion by the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues to “Keep the Red Out” – minimizing the attendance of visiting Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings fans whenever those teams come to town – will be worth watching this season.

Over the years, Blues and Predators home games can feel as though it’s been taken over by boisterous Red Wings and Blackhawks fans. To combat this, the Blues and Preds are selling a package for those particular games this season eliminating single-game ticket sales.

For those who aren’t Blues or Predators season ticket holders (or those holding another multi-game package), you must buy a multi-game ticket package for subsequent games not involving the Wings or Blackhawks.

Some critics suggest by trying to minimize the number of Blackhawks and Red Wings fans in their arenas, the Blues and Predators could suffer at the gate during those games.

Then again, if it succeeds, other clubs could employ the tactic with fans of their hated rivals.

 

- Two certainties approaching this season: The NY Rangers will re-sign Henrik Lundqvist to a multi-year extension at some point before his eligibility for UFA status next July, as will the Toronto Maple Leafs with Phil Kessel.

They’re two of the richest teams in the league, and without their two superstars, their playoff hopes are significantly weakened. They’ll open the vault for both guys.

 

While I’ll acknowledge anything can happen when it comes for free agent signings, I don’t expect Ilya Bryzgalov will be playing in the NHL this season.

He received too much bad publicity since signing with the Philadelphia Flyers in June 2011, which hurts his free agent value.

Sure, a rash of early-season injuries could make Bryzgalov more palatable to teams in desperate need of a goaltending boost, but the negativity about him should keep him out of the NHL for at least this season.