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Countdown to hockey day

Marian Gaborik only played 17 games last season in Minnesota, but he scored 23 points. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Marian Gaborik only played 17 games last season in Minnesota, but he scored 23 points. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s a bittersweet time for Canadians today – not because Wayne Gretzky has left the Phoenix Coyotes (more on that later in the mailbag), but because today marks the release of the final chapter of the Trailer Park Boys saga.

THN.com content specialist Rory Boylen and I will be checking it out after The Hockey News Radio Show tonight, but first, a quick story about THN’s relationship with the Trailer Park Boys:

A few years back, square in the midst of TPB mania in Canada, I made some inquiries as to whether one of the stars might want to contribute some thoughts about hockey; it made sense to ask, given that the sport – or at least, interesting versions of hockey – is featured prominently in the show.

I was thrilled when word came that “Bubbles” (a.k.a. Mike Smith – though not Mike Smith who once served as GM for the Jets and Blackhawks, nor the Mike Smith who plays goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning) was happy to write something.

Unfortunately, some of the higher-ups at the magazine didn’t share my enthusiasm, especially when they saw how liberally Bubbles peppered his column with F-bombs.

We wound up running a heavily redacted version of the piece, but I still loved it. It’s in the archives somewhere, so I’ll do some digging this weekend and see if we can run it in Monday’s blog.

Until then, here are this week’s questions and answers:

Adam, if you had the first pick in a hockey pool, who would you take?
Derek Schwartz, Calgary


Derek,

I had the first pick in last year’s THN office pool. I picked Alex Ovechkin without a moment’s hesitation. I would make the same choice this year, in the same amount of time.

Now just don’t ask me if I won the pool. I’m all about looking forward, not backward.

Good day, Mr. Proteau. I saw your pre-season picks for the Western Conference. The Blues out of the playoffs? You stink. That is all.
G.L. Bowman, St. Louis


Good day, G.L.,

I’m guessing you’re not a stickler for details. Otherwise you might have seen my explanation that the Blues are going to be part of the large mix – that also includes the Oilers, Blue Jackets, Kings, Wild and Stars – fighting for one of the West’s final playoff seeds.

I could’ve written my No. 8 pick as Edmonton/St. Louis/Columbus/L.A./Minnesota/Dallas. However, that would’ve earned me nothing but more accusations as to the quality of my general odor.

Let’s allow the season to play out before we establish who is fresh as a daisy and who is foul as flatulence.

Hey Adam. Great column. I have a question regarding the Phil Kessel trade. Why didn't Brian Burke utilize the offer sheet option?

Giving up two first-rounders, who conceivably could both be top-10 picks, and a second-rounder seems like a steep price, especially for a player the Bruins showed little interest in re-signing. Thanks Adam.
Marc Cole, Ottawa


Hey Marc,

The main problem with the offer sheet is the Bruins could’ve matched Toronto’s contract and retained Kessel’s services, leaving the Leafs with a whole lot of bupkis.

Now, the Bruins likely would’ve been foolish to match the offer, as it would’ve thrown their payroll structure out of whack and forced them to either deal another player or bury a contract in the American League. But as we saw in 1998 during the Red Wings’ legendary feud with Carolina over Sergei Fedorov, sometimes logic takes a backseat to competitive emotions.

In this case, the Maple Leafs got the guy they wanted and the Bruins parted ways with someone they really didn’t want (at least at more than $5-million per year) in return for salary cap flexibility and more shots at selecting and developing young, cheap players for the future. That’s probably as close to a win-win restricted free agency situation as you’ll get these days.

Adam, I am a New York Rangers fan. They keep getting big-name players like Markus Naslund, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, but they can never produce like they did with their old teams. But now that they signed Marian Gaborik, do you think he will help the Rangers like he did in Minnesota?
Ryan DeGouveia, Cambridge, Ont.


Ryan,

If Gaborik is healthy, few people I know doubt he’ll put up some great numbers with the Blueshirts. But the reason he wasn’t the runaway prize of this summer’s unrestricted free agent pool is because of his seemingly always-tentative health.

Oh, and part of the reason the Rangers have to keep paying (and overpaying) big-name players is because they’ve failed to produce enough high-end NHLers through their own player development system. Baffling and abysmal signings such as Wade Redden and Donald Brashear aren’t the sickness, but rather, the symptom of larger organizational failures in Manhattan.

Hi there, Adam, so finally the Wayne Gretzky era comes to an end in Phoenix. Do you think he’s as bad a coach as people are making him out to be?
Shauna R., La Quinta, Calif.


Hi there, Shauna. I don’t want to go into great detail about my feelings regarding how Gretzky has been treated, mainly because I just finished writing my column on that topic for the Oct. 12 edition of The Hockey News magazine.

But I do think the darts that have been thrown in Gretzky’s direction during the Coyotes’ off-season struggles are way off target. In fact, the way the league has allowed him to twist in the wind – the same way they did when they brought in No. 99 and Mario Lemieux as pawns to try and end the 2004-05 lockout before the entire season was lost – turns my stomach.

People can try and judge Gretzky the same way they’d judge any other NHL coach – and in terms of win-loss record, that’s entirely fair. But when you’re talking about arguably the greatest player of all-time (and somebody who has been the best ambassador the sport has ever seen), you’d think the NHL would’ve acted in a far more responsible manner to protect Gretzky’s good name.

Let’s put it this way – the league didn’t think twice about ponying up $140 million for a franchise that’s never turned a profit and also guaranteed they would cover the entirety of the Coyotes’ losses this year.

But did they figure out a way to keep Gretzky (someone whose presence and effect on the game has made those owners even richer) happy and connected to the organization he had a huge emotional (and yes, financial) stake in?

Nope. Shows you what the real priorities are in the NHL head offices, doesn’t it?

Ask Adam appears Fridays on TheHockeyNews.com. Proteau also answers readers' questions in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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

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