The halls have been decked and the turkey’s eaten. Now is the time to fearfully step on bathroom scales and brave the malls to return that sweater your well meaning aunt bought for you. Oh, and actually enjoy ome hockey for a change.
– First order of business – most of the Gaudreau shirts have either been delivered or are in the mail. I only have a handful left in my possession, but they should be out the door by the end of the weekend at the latest. Thanks to everyone who ordered a shirt and I hope you’re happy with it (or them if you got more than one).
– The Abbotsford Heat have really struggled to score goals and win games this month. Their downturn after a red hot start reinforces the lesson that there is no special magic to scoring goals at the pro level and that success dependent on high percentages is always volatile and subject to reversal over time.
I re-iterate that just as the Heat weren’t as good as they seemed in October/November when everything was going in, they likely aren’t as bad as they seem now though. At some point, the puck will start going in a bit more frequently for them.
– Related, the Heat recalled David Eddy yesterday. What’s surprising is they have yet to give Mitch Wahl a shot, despite the fact he is leading his ECHL team in scoring by a wide margin (30 points in 23 games). It’s taken Wahl a long time to get back on his feet after being concussed in his rookie pro season, but he was a quality junior player and given his performance in Utah (and the team’s struggles in the offensive zone) it would be interesting to see how he would do at the next level.
– I have taken in as much of the WJC as possible so far, in particular the US games since John Gaudreau is a major part of the team. I came away suitably impressed by his hands and creativity, but there’s still obvious areas where Johnny G will need to improve before he can move up to the pro game. He’s small, of course, so he’s very careful to stay out fo corner battles and the physical stuff. That’s a matter of survival for a guy his size, but it’s something that just doesn’t fly beyond the minor leagues. Which isn’t to say Gaudreau is going to have to start throwing his body around and cracking skulls, but more strength and more engagement in tough areas is required to move up.
That said, he’s very crafty at sneaking inside of the oppositions reach and snaking the puck away before the other guy knows what’s going on.
Other guys stood out for my on Team USA: Galchenyuk, of course, because he’s already dominant. If there’s NHL hockey this year, he’ll be on the Canadiens roster (although buring a year of a cheap ELC on a half/third season probably isn’t all that wise). The probable top-5 pick Seth Jones, on the other hand, didn’t impress me in the first game. Dude has a lot of tools, no question, but his puck handling and decision making seemed…awkward for a guy with such a high profile. That, he’s young and it was only one game.
JT Miller centers Gaudreau’s line and he hasn’t impressed me at all. He’s big and can skate, but the play died on his stick in the offensive zone more than once. A 15th overall pick by the Rangers in 2011 and an AHL player this season, I expected Miller to run things in this tournament, but he was thoroughly "meh" on Thursday against the Germans.
Jon Gillies, in contrast, looked pretty good in his period of work yesterday. Calm, controlled in a few tough situations including a 5on3 PP for the Germans. He’s only 18 and years away from challenging for a pro spot, but the early returns on that third rounder couldn’t be much better for the Flames.
Finally, Pat Sieloff was officially added to the American roster today. I have yet to see their game against the Russians, so I have no observations on him yet.
– Finally, of course, some labor news. The players haven’t officially made the move to disclaim interest, although the union was given "permission" to do so by a player vote prior to the Holidays. They have until January 2nd to get things under way.
The league had been quiet for a couple of weeks until proffering a new offer today. Apparently, this proposal extends the player contract limit to six years and allows teams to buy-out a player without a cap penalty (although the dollars would still count against the players share of hockey related revenues). In addition, the $300 million "mak whole" provision is back on the table
I doubt those few "concessions" get things done on their own, but it does prove the league is willing to move a bit on things they previously declared sacrosanct.
The union is holding a conference call this afternoon to discuss this latest offer. I still expect some give-and-take over the next few weeks as we hurtle towards a supposed deadline to save the season, so the real hope now isn’t that this ends the lock-out but that it actually spurs meaningful talks.