We've got a lengthier-than normal mailbag column today, so let's get down to brass tacks immediately.
I've been watching Ian White of the Maple Leafs this season closely and have been very impressed by his puck handling skills and shot.
At times he seems to handle the puck as well as Kaberle when gaining the offensive zone and he has a hard and accurate shot from the point. Furthermore, he's improved defensively from last year and has gained more ice time.
My question for you is what do you think his potential is in the future when some of the older (and higher priced) defensemen move off of the Maple Leafs roster? Will he ever be a legit top two defenseman in this league?
Savas Varadas, Huntsville, Ont.
I was speaking to a veteran Leafs observer last week, and it was his opinion that White has been one of Toronto's best defensemen this season.
Granted, the way their blueline corps has performed so far, that's like saying the dude from Extreme was one of the three best Van Halen lead singers of all time. Nevertheless, if you compare White's numbers to Tampa Bay star Dan Boyle Â– who, like White, is a smallish, speedy, offense-oriented D-man Â– you'll see some distinct similarities which should be encouraging for all White's fans.
In Boyle's first NHL stint (in 1998-99, with Florida), he played 22 games and amassed eight points; in White's initial foray into the league in 2005-06, he had six points in 12 games. As well, in Boyle's first full NHL campaign, he put up 22 points in 69 games with the Panthers; last season, White finished with 26 points in 76 games.
I'm not guaranteeing White will follow Boyle's career trajectory Â– and there are people in the industry who believe the Maple Leaf will forever be a depth defenseman Â– but it took Boyle until he was 27 to have his first true breakout year. White is only 23, so any attempts to put a ceiling on his skills now are a bit premature.
In the wake of the Boulerice hit and the discussion about double standards concerning suspensions I was thinking back about an incident last season, involving Colton Orr (the Rangers' 2-minute goon) and Alex Ovechkin. Watch it here.
In an obvious cheapshot, Orr crosschecks Ovechkin in the face much like Boulerice did to Kesler. Outside of Washington, no one really noticed, and Orr got only a three game suspension. Isn't it great to see how the NHL protects its best players from having taken their heads off by some punk who should have no place in the game in the first place?
What's your take on this? And do you concur with the theory that the double standard has something to do with the team the attacked player is suiting up for? After all McAmmond and Kesler are playing for two Canadian franchises, with the Canadian media making a big buzz about everything happening on the ice, whereas about the Caps only bloogers seem to care.
Thanks a lot,
Claudio, Hamburg, Germany
I do agree that, despite the weak rationalizations of fighting apologists, no-talents such as Orr have no place in the game. And as I mentioned in a previous mailbag column, I think that, for as badly as the NHL missed the boat on player discipline prior to this season, the league and its players are finally starting to realize that fact this year.
However, when the topic turns to conspiracies, I'm certain Colin Campbell doesn't only respond to the outcries of particular franchises or media collectives. Moreover, thanks to technological advances such as YouTube, there's no excuse, either from the league or reporters, for any future disgusting assault to slide under the radar.
With the Steve Downie and Jesse Boulerice suspensions, the NHL has established a solid precedent. Turning their backs on it down the road, for any reason, should earn the league an extended thunderclap of raspberries, regardless of where fans and media are located.
You probably read this everyday but I'll say it anyway: I love reading your column on THN. It is always fresh and interesting.
My question concerns Curtis Joseph, a.k.a. CuJo. Is he planning to retire anytime soon, or is he merely just a free agent waiting to be signed?
I mean, the Kings look like they could use some serious help in the netminding department (no disrespect to their goalies). Of course CuJo is not at his best, but he's a solid veteran who I believe still has what it takes to win a few games.
I've also heard rumours of his desire to rejoin the Maple Leafs as a backup. Talk about another team with goaltending controversies. I don't even know who their No. 1 is anymore.
What are the chances of CuJo signing with an NHL team this season?
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for the kind words. Do you mean Â“freshÂ” in a b-boy, urban slang kind of way, or in a Â“good right this minute, but it's gonna stink like hell if you don't keep it refrigeratedÂ” kind of way? I'm hoping it's the former.
Moving on Â– the reason Joseph is on the sidelines is chiefly because of his preference to be a family man and play close to his off-season home just outside of Toronto. He had offers to play from a couple teams, but since those teams didn't include the Leafs, Sabres, or Senators, he decided to wait on the sidelines.
With Jocelyn Thibault firmly ensconsed behind Ryan Miller in Buffalo (geez, sports terminology sounds overly homoerotic at times), it's unlikely he'll get a shot there. But depending on whether Ottawa or Toronto deal one of their current goaltenders, there may yet be a fit for Joseph in the NHL this season.
As an avid fan of the NHL who is English, I was delighted by the success of the NHL's debut at the O2 arena in late September. Given how popular this event was (I'd guess around percent of the crowd were British for those two games) SKY TV has tried to cash in by showing highlights of our own domestic league.
This is a major step forward for the game in the UK to start to attract youngsters into the game and show them the level of skill and entertainment that can be provided by the sport.
Whilst its future popularity will never come close to football (soccer) in this country, it is a small step on the long hard road to the possibility of an English No.1 NHL draft candidate! Given the similar language and climate, the chances of the game succeeding in England is a possibility but, I accept, it will take more than TV coverage for this to happen.
Do you think we have the capacity to one day complete with the Swedes and Russians for the top European league, or is this just a dream?
Keep up the excellent column.
Peter Forster, Sunderland, England
It depends on your definition of Â“one dayÂ”. I don't know how old you are, but I'm 35, and I can't see it happening before the old folks home is fitting me for a bib and warning its cute young nurses not to get too close to my Â“happy handsÂ”.
That's not to say the NHL shouldn't be doing everything in its power to capitalize on the passion of fans such as you. Only with a concerted structural effort that extends past the game's traditional borders will hockey continue to be rightfully known as the most international of North American sports.
Besides, who really knows how long a particuar nation will remain a world power in any particular athletic endeavor? I'm sure there are loads of Americans who believed (and continue to believe) their compatriots will always rule the basketball court, despite loads of current evidence to the contrary.
Many Canadians have a similar sense of arrogant entitlement about hockey, but there's no guarantee my motherland will continue to produce the same percentage of elite NHLers as they do now. Dare to dream, my friend!