Inhale deeply. Go ahead. You may not get another chance for a while.
It's pretty rare you get a breath of fresh air in the NHL.
Nowadays it's a cliché to say the cliché is a player's best friend.
That's why it was so refreshing to read Viktor Kozlov's answer when he was asked Wednesday why he signed with the Capitals as an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
Â“Why? Because they gave me the best deal," the 32-year-old said with a chuckle.
A good 95 percent of Kozlov's ice brethren would have spouted the standard-issue, Â“This is a good young squad with lots of potential,Â” or, Â“I really wanted to play for a team who can compete for the Cup,Â” with the latter being an out-and-out lie.
So an early-season tip of my hat to Viktor. I may have trashed you in the past for not living up to your potential, but on this day you're my favorite player.
I'm well aware the vast majority of youngsters are taught the team is more important than any single individual and that edict results in them growing up into guarded pros, worried that speaking their mind is tantamount to showboating.
But let's face it, the entertainment of a game lasts three hours - if you're lucky enough to see an entertaining tilt - and fans need something to fill the void between the final buzzer and the next puck drop.
Â“We just haven't been getting the bounces, but we're going to give 110 percent going forward,Â” makes my eyelids heavy and certainly doesn't make me want to tune in (or buy a ticket) the next time you hit the ice.
It may not seem like a big deal and maybe it's more important to me as I read hundreds, if not thousands, of dry, flavorless quotes every week. But I'd be willing to bet the occasional, Â“We're going to kick their ass tonight,Â” or Â“Their goalie couldn't stop a beachball,Â” would go a long way towards lighting a fire under the fairweather follower and give the rabid fan something to discuss.
Throw the fans a bone and maybe they'll chew on it for a while.
(For a more entertaining and eloquent exploration of the cliché, read Adam Proteau's Proteau Type column in the Oct. 23 issue)
MAROONED Still on the topic of Kozlov, a source close to the situation recently told The Hockey News one of the main reasons the Isles lost so many of their top players to free agency during off-season was the fact GM Garth Snow tendered low-ball offers, basically alienating his troops.
Snow's UFA replacements - Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Jon Sim - have the Isles out to a 3-1-0 start, but if even a couple of them begin to falter, it will almost certainly leave the sophomore GM wishing he'd opened up the purse strings a little more.
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