Ian Laperriere goes down to try and block a Brian Rolston slapshot. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
For all the times we in the hockey world chastise, antagonize and vilify NHL players, we should acknowledge the great lengths they go to entertain us. And although it seems like we’ve been saying this every year since the lockout, this year’s post-season has been the best one in a long, long time.
So thanks, gents, for sticking every available body part in front of pucks (I’m looking at you, Ian Laperriere) and leaving nothing in the reserve tanks right off the playoff hop. Now get smart like Laperriere just did and make visors mandatory!
Oh, and if you’re heading to The Hockey Expo tonight between 5-7 p.m., be sure to come by The Hockey News booth and say hello. You can tell me how fighting is inherent to the game and I can tell you you’re wrong.
’Sup Adam. I was wondering who your underdog hero for the playoffs is...ya know, the Fernando Pisani and Johan Franzen types that essentially come out of nowhere. And also, who is your pick as the warrior of the playoffs. Mine is Kevin Bieksa. The guy is a gladiator!
Joel Mitchell, Spruce Grove, Alta.
In terms of an “underdog hero” candidate – for guys my age, we’re talking about the John Druce type – I’d say a player like Pittsburgh’s Tyler Kennedy fits the mold.
Although he’s not an underdog while playing for the mighty Pens, Kennedy’s tenacity gives the rest of the forward unit a nice boost – and he already showed last year (in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final) that he’s capable of scoring game-winners in high-pressure situations.
As for the warrior of the playoffs, it has to be Laperriere, doesn’t it? The guy isn’t anywhere close to a 6-foot-4 walking brick wall, but he plays like he’s got a warehouse full of family jewels. I’d take him on my team any day.
For a special announcement on a new accolade for Laperriere, tune into The Hockey News Radio Show live Friday from 3-4 p.m. Eastern.
What are your thoughts about the famous phrase “defense wins championships.” In my opinion, rarely does a super-powered offense rise up to be the overwhelming reason for a championship team's success, no matter what the sport.
In hockey, gritty backchecking, determined work ethic, flawless positional play and old-fashioned, gut-checking hard work are the reasons Stanley Cups are awarded. We need to focus even more on the players who exemplify these two-way traits. What are your thoughts, ranking the best over time? Thanks, bud.
Mark Groleau, Hamilton, Ont.
Oh lord, you’re not asking me to do an all-time ranking of the best blue-collar defensive players in league history, are you? I wish I had the time and energy to do that, but as I’m sure you know, reality bites.
That said, I agree that you need a more focused defense than a jet-powered offense to succeed in the playoffs.
Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule – Jacques Lemaire, a.k.a. the Sultan Of Stymieing, has failed to get his team out of the first round in the past six seasons – but by and large, unless you can clamp down on another team’s best offensive efforts, you’re not going to have consistent success at the most important time of year.
Adam, in your opinion, is Shattuck-St. Mary’s a superior school to Notre Dame?
Evan Johnson, Winnipeg
I don’t know what the teaching is like at either school, so I really couldn’t say. If you’re asking which school is better in developing young hockey players, it’s also hard to say.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s has an alumni list featuring current NHL stars Sidney Crosby, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise and Kyle Okposo, while Notre Dame’s past attendees include Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Tyler Myers, Rene Bourque and Braydon Coburn.
But let’s not delude ourselves – none of these players made it to the NHL strictly because of their choice in educational facilities (hockey or otherwise).
Hey Adam, this question is for a school project, so I'm hoping you can answer this one. How might the Leafs improve their forward roster for the upcoming season on July 1? Any particular names? Thanks,
Brendan Griffiths, Burlington, Ont.
No offense, but what school assigns homework on the Maple Leafs’ improvement possibilities, Our Lady Of Perpetual Ulcers?
If we leave restricted free agents out of the picture – and we should, since Leafs GM Brian Burke proved last summer that he’d rather trade for a good young player than go the offer sheet route – there isn’t an abundance of talented players who on their own can make that team better.
Toronto almost assuredly won’t go for any big-name, big-ticket items (i.e. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrick Marleau) or in-their-twilight veterans such as Paul Kariya, Saku Koivu or Doug Weight.
The Leafs might be tempted to take a chance on hometown boy Raffi Torres or Colby Armstrong, but other than that, I think Burke makes many or most of his alterations via trade.
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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.
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