On the eve of the month when business finally picks up in the NHL, let’s bid farewell to a few topics that determined fans will now be able to forget about and concentrate on more important matters. You know, things like the No. 1 defence pairing in Abbotsford, Liam Reddox’s potential linemates and the over-under for the number of times in the coming weeks and months that the words “Luongo” and “extension” will appear in the same story on the pages of the Vancouver Sun or the Province.
Issue 1: The forgotten sons
As August gives way to September, let the record show that the list of those who remain NHL contract-less — and in most cases, it’s not the players’ idea — includes Mats Sundin, Mike Comrie, Robert Lang, Rob Niedermayer, Radek Bonk, Manny Malhotra, Michael Peca, Chris Gratton, Dean McAmmond, Dan Fritsche, Jiri Novotny, Eric Perrin, Blair Betts, Josh Green, Craig MacDonald, Krys Kolanos, Ben Guite, Maxim Afinogenov, Miroslav Satan, Petr Sykora, Michel Ouellet, Dan Hinote, Ryan Bayda, Dominic Moore, Taylor Pyatt, Kyle Calder, Andy Hilbert, Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Christian Backman, Philippe Boucher, Francis Bouillon, Patrice Brisebois, Jassen Cullimore, Darryl Sydor, Dennis Seidenberg, Manny Fernandez, Olaf Kolzig, Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace, Kevin Weekes and Marc Denis.
Some of the above are gone from the NHL for good and some will eventually sign on somewhere or other. Others may get an NHL tryout and others yet may end up in Europe or in the minors. In any event, it’s just another reminder that for every Raymond Bourque, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky who gets a star-spangled farewell from the game, there are dozens of others who exit stage right with barely a whimper.
Issue 2: Where’s Dany?
L’Affaire Heater is far from over, of course, but at least the summer-long game of “Where’s Dany” is behind us now that the mercurial winger has finally made public comments on the matter of his discontent in the Nation’s Capital. Based on what he said, you have to wonder why he bothered. If weeks of seclusion in his B.C. summer getaway could produce no better explanation than “I’m not happy with my declining role with the Senators” and “I’m not very happy with the way the media has portrayed me in a bad light” then get this fellow and his handlers to Spin Doctoring 101 classes as soon as possible. Then again, for an increasingly unsympathetic figure who has burned his bridges with at least three NHL franchises while playing only for two, public relations has never been a forte.
By way of contrast, one thinks back to Darren McCarty during his time with the Flames when fresh word leaked of his financial troubles, the situation being so dire that his Stanley Cup rings were being put up for auction. There was all sorts of emotional and legal baggage associated with that little revelation but instead of hiding, McCarty agreed to face the media en masse to issue explanations and answer questions. He even managed to preface the session with a joke, innocently looking at the media mob and asking: “Did you want to talk to me about something?” Whatever sins McCarty has committed, his handling of the unpleasant situation had a lot more people rooting for him then than Heatley does now.
Issue 3: The Phoenix Coyotes
The Never-ending Saga of the Phoenix Coyotes is another story that ain’t going away anytime soon, but at least it will soon be a pleasant diversion to sprinkle in some references to Mikkel Boedker, Peter Mueller, Kyle Turris, Keith Yandle, Shane Doan et al when discussing the Desert Dogs. The topic of actual hockey can’t come soon enough, especially since the ownership/bankruptcy wars has degenerated into a nasty game of besmirching the character of that would-be owner or any number of current owners. Taken to its logical conclusion, that game would result in the hockey world noticing an awful lot of unclothed emperors and, well, let’s just say that even Derek Boogaard’s skating is a more visually appealing image.
On that note, we say good riddance to August and welcome September. Let the first “Ha, nobody wants to play in your city/Oh yeah, how many Cup banners do YOU have?” exchange of the season begin.