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THN.com Blog: Costly choices

John Tavares is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Islanders, but nothing is certain. (Jamie Hodgson/THN)

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John Tavares is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Islanders, but nothing is certain. (Jamie Hodgson/THN)

I was trying to explain to my kids the other day what an oxymoron is. I should have cited the example of “off-season” when it comes to hockey and their dad’s place of employment.

People I encounter are routinely surprised to learn our summers here at THN are just as busy as our winters, with the only down time coming around the beginning of August (Queue the sad, sombre violin music). I won’t bore you with the details, but I will use the steady pace as an excuse for today’s blog entry, a potpourri of tiny thoughts from a scattered brain.

• There is plenty of chatter about the Islanders not selecting John Tavares with the first pick Friday night, that they may trade down or opt for either Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene. My gut says that would be ill-advised. The Isles have a history of making curious transactions, ones that give the “we’re smarter than everyone else” impression. Sadly, they haven’t been. Nobody will second-guess them if they select Tavares and he doesn’t emerge as the best player from the draft. At this point, he’s still as close to a consensus No. 1 as there is; any course of action other than making him their pick is loaded with increased peril.

• Free agent buzz among agents: the most coveted prizes such as Jay Bouwmeester and Marian Hossa will still get their fat contracts, but it’s the middle class that will get severely squeezed. You’d think the smart play would be the inverse after so many big-money deals have hamstrung teams in the salary cap era.

• Love the idea of an outdoor game at Fenway between the Bruins and Flyers on New Year’s Day. Not so crazy about turning the day into a doubleheader with a Flames-Leafs follow-up as was originally suggested, but ultimately nixed. A twin-bill threatens to detract from the spectacle and uniqueness of a solo show. Can you have two “Winter Classics” on the same day? Don’t they cease to become classic if there’s more than one?

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• Brent Sutter may have been the best free agent coach available, as his big bro’ suggested, and if the Flames are successful it’ll make for a nice, fairytale storyline. If, however, Calgary doesn’t go deep into the playoffs sometime in the next couple years, the heat under Darryl’s GM chair intensifies exponentially. Coaches, we all know, are hired to be fired; how much more difficult is it to terminate a sibling? And how does that impact family dynamics (not to mention family dinners)?

• Early, early choice for comeback team of 2009-10? The Dallas Stars.

• The 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame class is a great one – and the last of its kind. Starting in 2010, women will be eligible (rightfully so) for the first time and we’re assuming the maximum two will gain entry. The question is, which two? At first blush, my votes, if I had any, would go to Angela James and Cammi Granato.

• For all the bitching and moaning we hear (and do) about things wrong in the game, we have to give credit to the NHL for nudging the on-ice product in the right direction. Three of the four Stanley Cup champs since the lockout  – Carolina, Detroit and Pittsburgh – have been founded on speed, skill and finesse with enough toughness to complement the core talent. They also ranked among the most infrequent fighters in the years they won it all. Anaheim, of course, took a different tack, but was still stacked with high-end talent. The trend bodes well for the future.

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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