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Campbell's Cuts: Early thoughts

Sidney Crosby opened the new season with a pair of goals and an assist in two games. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Sidney Crosby opened the new season with a pair of goals and an assist in two games. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

I realize it’s really, really early, but…

…it’s great to see referee Stephen Walkom back on the ice. It has been five years between meaningful whistles for Walkom and the on-ice product is better for his return.

…there have been 23 games so far and 21 fights and not a single instigator penalty has been called yet. That’s a joke.

…I really enjoyed the first episode of CBC’s Battle of the Blades. Now let the deluge of “Hey Campbell you don’t like fighting so you must be a homo” hate email begin.

…the San Jose Sharks got a goal Saturday night from Benn Ferriero that was assisted by Jason Demers and Frazer McLaren. Huh?

…I still can’t understand the NHL. It has 15 games Saturday night, zero Sunday and two Monday. Does the league have that much of an inferiority complex when it comes to football?

…I don’t understand Hockey Night in Canada. It revives the hugely popular Peter Puck segment, then shows it only on the late game.

…the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild is doomed to fail. You can have all the bulk you want, but it doesn’t mean squat if you can’t kill penalties and if your opponents aren’t particularly intimidated by your lineup. But when you lack the critical elements of foot speed, skill and smarts, you’re as good as dead in today’s NHL.

…the Montreal Canadiens rebuild is paying immediate dividends. The Canadiens have holes in their game to be sure, but they’ve received timely scoring and their new acquisitions are a big reason why. Of the six goals they’ve scored so far, four have been scored by players GM Bob Gainey went out and acquired over the summer and at least one of Gainey’s summer pick-ups has been in on all six goals.

…Martin Brodeur, Nikolai Khabibulin, Vesa Toskala, Jonas Hiller, Cam Ward, Ryan Miller, Pascal Leclaire, Cristobal Huet, Semyon Varlamov, Evgeni Nabokov, Roberto Luongo and Chris Osgood all have save percentages in the .800s.

…Wojtek Wolski is picking the perfect time to set himself up for a breakout season. After two seasons of decline, Wolski is giving early indications he could be a big-time offensive producer.

…if all the stars align themselves, perhaps the Colorado Avalanche will be a better team than many of us thought they’d be. Of course, in order to do that, they’d only have to finish 29th or higher overall.

…as it turns out, losing three of your four best defensemen has an effect. The Carolina Hurricanes defense is extremely thin without the injured Joni Pitkanen and the departed Anton Babchuk and Dennis Seidenberg. Jay Harrison is a hard worker and a great kid, but when he’s your No. 6 defenseman, you have blueline issues.

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…the St. Louis Blues, it turns out, are for real. They might have the most underrated young talent in the game today.

…the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks don’t have any problems that solid goaltending won’t cure rather quickly. We’re pretty confident the Canucks are going to get it before long. The Red Wings? We’re not so sure.

…using a new stick, Sidney Crosby has two goals in two games. During last year’s playoffs, Crosby proved he could be an elite goal-scorer in the NHL and there’s no reason to believe a player with his talent level, smarts and gumption can’t be a consistent 50-goal scorer if he stays healthy and selfish enough.

...it’s clear the Edmonton Oilers will show more fight and determination under Pat Quinn than they have in the past couple of years, but it probably won’t be enough to overcome a serious dearth of top-level talent.

…the Dallas Stars still don’t do anything for me.

…cancel what we said on this website two weeks ago about Luke Schenn probably not suffering from a sophomore jinx – at least for now. His first two games this season were probably worse than any of the 70 he played in 2008-09.

…it’s too bad the NHL rinks aren’t more like those in Europe. In the four games played to start the season in Europe, there were three delay of game penalties called, primarily because the glass around the players’ benches isn’t as high as it is over here. That forces players to come out of their own end to make a play instead of chipping it off the glass. And if they don’t, it forces a turnover and a quality scoring chance.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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

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