Canada released its Olympic hockey roster earlier this week and there were a number of surprising omissions and additions, the most stunning was the card handed to speedster Martin St. Louis, last year’s NHL scoring leader.
Hockey Canada’s GM Steve Yzerman, who also doubles as GM of Tampa Bay, which has Steve Stamkos and St. Louis in its lineup, really disappointed me. In his role with the Olympic team, Yzerman should have insisted Stamkos and St. Louis would be on the team going to Sochi, and the selection process would start from there. His numbers this year and last year speak for themselves as St. Louis leads the Lightning in scoring with 19 goals and 21 assists while Stamkos had 14 goals in 17 games before being injured.
I have a number of issues with this team, especially the inclusion of winger Rick Nash, who seems to be the darling of many in the Toronto media. Nash has nine goals and nine assists in 29 games, and it’s clear to anyone that follows the NHL this guys best days are behind him. Nash has never excelled in pressure situations, whether in the NHL playoffs or at the Olympics. Last year with the Rangers, Nash posted one goal and four assists in 12 playoff games — you couldn’t find him with a searchlight. In his previous playoff stint with Columbus, Nash had one goal and four assists as the Blue Jackets were swept in four straight.
I keep hearing from the Toronto media types Nash has excelled on the international scene. Let’s see how Nash has done at the Olympics. In 2006, he had zero goals and one assist in six playoffs games while St. Louis scored twice and added one assist in five playoff games at the same tournament. In 2010, when St. Louis was not invited, Nash had two goals and three assists in seven games. Nash scored the eighth goal in an 8-2 win over Germany and a goal in a 7-3 win over Russia. Canada beat Slovakia 3-2 in one semifinal while the United States routed Finland 6-1, setting the stage for Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.
Based on the above numbers, St. Louis deserves to be on the Canadian team, no doubt about it. Add the fact St. Louis has great speed and puck handling ability and the tournament is played on a bigger ice surface and he’s a natural fit for the Olympics. St. Louis may yet get to the Olympics as an injury replacement, but the damage to his relationship with Yzerman is unrepairable. Too bad.
On the Canadian blueline, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook should have been included on the 2014 roster with teammate Duncan Keith as this pair was instrumental in the Vancouver Olympics. Same goes for Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang. On defence, right handed or left-handed shot shouldn’t matter, take the best players available.
The Super Bowl is down to seven games with two NFL playoff games today and two more Sunday.
Today, New Orleans travels to Seattle while tonight Indianapolis visits New England. The Seahawks routed the Saints late in the season in Seattle and they’ll likely do it again. Seattle has the top-ranked defence in the NFL and the fourth-ranked run offence with a great, young quarterback in Russell Wilson. The Saints have clever quarterback Drew Brees, but in the end the Seattle “D” prevails.
Indianapolis gave up 44 points and more than 500 yards in total offence against Kansas City last week. The Patriots have a terrific run game in LeGarrette Blount, Steve Ridley and Shane Vereen, plus a great passing game and a clutch big-game QB in Tom Brady. Head coach Bill Belichick and Brady have had two weeks to prepare and I believe the Patriots score at will against Indianapolis. The Colts have a young star in Andrew Luck and he’ll need luck just to keep this close.
The spread for both Saturday home teams is seven points and both teams will cover.
Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers travel to Carolina and although they lost 10-9 late in the season on the bay, they didn’t have top receiver Michael Crabtree. San Francisco has won seven straight and with QB Colin Kaepernick on top of his game, the 49ers win by at least a field goal.
The late game Sunday should be a thriller. The San Diego Chargers, who upset Cincinnati last week, visit Denver, and let’s remember in Week 14 the Chargers travelled to Denver and knocked off the Broncos. In that game, San Diego had the ball for 39 minutes as its run game of Ronnie Brown, Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews kept Peyton Manning on the sidelines. It could happen again.
The spread is nine points and don’t be fooled that’s way too high. This should be a cliffhanger and I’m not certain Denver has the defence to make it to the Super Bowl.
As always, pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.
Grant (Senior) Sonier of the Charlottetown Islanders may be the man responsible for the outside signage at the Eastlink Centre, which reads in large letters TRADE CENTRE.
The personable GM has made more trades on the pro hockey scene ( I consider major Junior a pro league) than anyone in this region, EVER. Over the past three weeks, Sonier traded captain Jack Nevin, assistant captain and New York Rangers draft pick Ryan Graves, top goaltender Antoine Bibeau, gifted Yan-Pavel Laplante and talented Alexis Pépin, among others.
The Islanders have added highly regarded 16-year-old defencemen David Henley and Luc Deschenes, European import Vladislav Lysenko plus Mason McDonald, a 16-year-old goaltender, who is headed to the NHL prospects camp. In addition, the Islanders have a handful of first-and second-round picks. If they draft well, the Islanders could be a Quebec major junior contender sooner than you think.
Well done, amigo!
Kings County Peewees
The Kings County peewees are headed to the International Quebec tournament next month and are holding a major fundraiser today at the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre in Montague starting at 4:10 p.m.
The Charlottetown Islanders will play a mixed fun game versus members of the Montague team that went to the same tournament seven years ago as well as the current peewee team. A silent auction of 40 or 50 items and other draws will be available all to support the trip to Quebec City.
Scotiabank is one of the major supporters and you can too by attending the game and participating in the silent auction.
Live harness racing continues today at the Charlottetown track with post time at 1 p.m. sharp.
The $2,000 feature goes in Race 11 and Pinner, who was last week’s winner for driver Marc Campbell, leaves from Post 3 in a shortened field of six horses. The others entries are Majestic (Brodie MacPhee), Pancetta (Mark Bradley), Miracle Matts (Corey MacPherson), Nobestbfor (Walter Cheverie) and Cambest Kisser (Jason Hughes).
Fans can also watch simulcast racing from Flamboro this afternoon and Woodbine tonight. Toronto’s $34,000 feature has horses like Casimir Jitterbug (James MacDonald), Sparky Mark (Sylvan Filion), Apprentice Hanover (Jody Jamieson), Frankie‘s Dragon (Doug McNair), Mystician (Bill Davis) and Modern Legend (Jack Moiseyev).
I talked to young Johnny Mackenzie (Dave’s boy) this week and he’s in Florida training for Dr. Ian Moore. They have 10 head including Arthur Blue Chip, State Treasurer and four babies by Shadow Play, two colts and two fillies. Dave played on the Island champion midget team last winter and is playing on a rec team in Florida.
Popular trainer James (Friday) Dean, who handled such stakes standouts Doonbeg, Domitian Hanover and Big Bad John, is at the same training centre with 12 head, including six yearlings.
The Meadowlands mixed sale goes next weekend and Maritime-breds Rash Statement, Scamp Finesse and Deep Finesse are entered, as well as top class horses Sparky Mark, Mach Pride, Alexie Mattosie, McTaylor, Art Professor and Aisling.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in
The Guardian each Saturday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.