Friday, October 21, 2005

Sophomore Sensations

The media has been focusing a lot of attention on the rookies coming into the league this year like Crosby and Ovechkin but there's a stellar second year crop of exciting young players that are making their mark too.
The marquee rookies we know about: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin are living up to expectations and leading their teams in scoring.

But alert poolies know the NHL also boasts a very impressive sophomore class. No fewer than eight second-year pros are currently leading their NHL teams in points or goal scoring, and most should remain offensively consistent all year.

Five are from Canada - Carolina's Eric Staal, Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Boston's Patrice Bergeron, Montreal's Michael Ryder, and Florida's Nathan Horton - and it's not hard to imagine these emerging stars suiting up for their country in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

From Europe, there's Marek Svatos in Colorado, Anaheim's Joffrey Lupul, and Chicago's Pavel Vorobiev. He's off to a slow start but let's add Tuomo Ruutu of Chicago to this list of sensational sophomores although he is currently nursing a sore back.

Obviously talented, these players are also remarkably mature. Perhaps that poise is one wee bit of good that's come out of the NHL lockout. Many of these young pros played in high-flying Europian leagues or in the AHL, logging quality ice time where if there was an NHL season last year they probably would've been mired on third and fourth lines.
I think we're really seeing a changing of the guard with all these first and second year young guns coming into the league and establishing themselves. It's exciting watching this infusion of talented new players and it bodes very well for the NHL.

Bettman's Star Rising

Not many would've predicted this a few short months ago but for the moment anyways Gary's star is ascending dramatically with the early season success of the NHL.
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman's had been falling faster than George W. Bush's popularity. It was Bettman who locked out the players. It was he, a non-hockey guy recruited from the National Basketball Association, who had taken the NHL to the precipice of an abyss too frightening to contemplate.

He was seen as the neatly groomed little fellow whose carefully crafted lawyerly words seemed at odds with the gravity of the longest and most passionate labour stoppage in professional sports history. The league appeared intransigent, the players the aggrieved parties.

"He's gonna kill the game" was a familiar comment from fans.

Flash forward 15 months and the role reversals of the disputants has been breath-taking. Bettman -- dare we say it -- is now wearing the white hat.
Like I said it's been quite an impressive turn around... we'll have to wait and see if it stays that way. There's plenty of possible road blocks to ultimate success that still must be negotiated but I have to admit his efforts and direction so far have been praise worthy.

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