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SIMMONS: Is there still time left for Henrik Lundqvist?

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes a save in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes a save in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.

If the world was a perfect place, Henrik Lundqvist would be traded to Colorado on Monday and go on to lead the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup.

It would be his only Stanley Cup win.

If only the world was just a little more perfect …

Odds are, Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere and his final days with the New York Rangers will play out rather uncomfortably, just as they are playing out now.

But because he’s Lundqvist and because of who he is and how he has always carried himself and what he has represented, it’s difficult to see him positioned as the No. 3 goaltender on his own team when he’s always been No. 1.

Somewhere along the way, not playing for the greatest of teams, you wanted him to win a Stanley Cup because he has always been that Hall of Fame special, you could see that picture with him carrying the Cup above his head some night in June.

Only now, the Rangers goaltending and future is tied up between a pair of rather capable 24-year-olds, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. Lundqvist turns 38 next month. The Rangers apparent rebuild seems way ahead of schedule. There is no place for Lundqvist with this team anymore.

There may be no place for him anywhere in the NHL. The perfect world be damned.

THIS AND THAT

It’s hard not to like Tyson Barrie and then the game begins. If the Maple Leafs can get anything of reasonable value for Barrie, I’d make the deal by Monday’s trade deadline. One, Barrie is not going to be here next year. And two, if Leafs do make the playoffs, he could be as much a hindrance as a help … Kyle Dubas’ best trade, career: Zach Hyman and a seventh-round conditional pick from Florida for Greg McKegg. That’s what’s known as a steal. A month later in 2015, the Leafs named Lou Lamoriello general manager … Best player in the NHL nobody talks enough about: Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers. He’s fourth in scoring, first in even-strength scoring, first in plus-minus among forwards. He’d be a Hart Trophy favourite if he played for a team heading to the playoffs … Best player in the NHL who should win the Hart Trophy: Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s running away with the scoring lead and in the six games with Connor McDavid out of the Oilers lineup, all Draistaitl has done is score six goals and offer eight assists. Since January 1, he has managed 35 points in 21 games – that’s only 136-point pace … I expected more from Travis Dermott this season, didn’t you? … There could be three 50-goal scorers in the NHL for the first time since 2010. It’s very possible that David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews and Alexander Ovechkin will all hit the 50-mark. The last time that happened it was Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos … Ovechkin has had three consecutive 50-goal seasons twice in his career. Mike Bossy, the most natural goal scorer in hockey history, scored 50 nine times in a row, his first nine seasons with the New York Islanders. He retired after his 10th season because of back troubles.

HEAR AND THERE

After the Miracle On Ice 40 years ago, star goalie Jim Craig signed in Atlanta, where the Flames quickly discovered just how much of a miracle it really was. In warmups, players were instructed to shoot directly at Craig, hoping it would increase his confidence. It didn’t. He wound up playing four games for the Flames and 30 NHL games in total … Department of weak cash grab: The California lawsuit filed against Masai Ujiri … Arguments over the scoring in the NBA slam dunk competition and the apparent robbery of Aaron Gordon is like arguing that Bret Hart got screwed by Vince McMahon in Montreal in 1997. It’s part of the show. That’s what it is. There is no legitimate scoring at the slam dunk competition. There is no criterion. There are no rules. It’s entertainment. But unlike pro wrestling, the winner shouldn’t be predetermined … Trae Young wasn’t invited to be part of the U.S. Olympic basketball tryouts, which is terrible for the U.S. and pretty good for the rest of the world. Can we find him citizenship somehow? … The anger that envelopes spring training this year has shifted partially from the Houston Astros to the baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. And the anger from players is more real than ever … The players judge systemic cheating and arranged organizational cheating much harsher than they did individual cheating in the steroid era … Apparently, heavyweight boxing isn’t dead. Deontay Wilder fought Tyson Fury late Saturday night – I’m figuring Wilder wins – and the two are expected to bring home $28 million U.S. apiece from guaranteed purse and pay-per-view numbers. We may not pay as much attention as we used to with boxing but nothing is dead that’s bringing in $56 million for one night of work for the two main event fighters involved.

SCENE AND HEARD

Hyun-Jin Ryu is the real deal. But after him, the Blue Jays starting rotation is likely Tanner Roark, Matt Shoemaker, Chase Anderson and Trent Thorton. In other words, Ryu without Sain and pray for rain … Ryu has a 2.98 career earned run average and moving from the National League to the American League that would equate to about a 3.40 ERA. Fourteen of the Top 20 earned run average pitchers in baseball last season were from the designated hitter free NL … How much did Patrick Mahomes and the inclusion of Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif mean to Canadian Super Bowl LIV ratings? The average audience in Canada was 9.5 million, which is more watchers than the previous two Super Bowls combined. And if we didn’t know how much Quebec audiences love their own, consider this: The Super Bowl numbers to watch Duvernay-Tardif in Quebec were up an unheard of figure of 79% … And no, if you were wondering, the Leafs are not sponsored by Pepperidge Farms … Second round of the playoffs could well have Raptors against the Celtics and Bruins against the Lightning. Somebody great is going home after two rounds in both the NBA and NHL … The NFL will be increasing roster size and practice roster size for the coming season. That’s 200-some players who would normally be available for the CFL who won’t be available anymore … Now you hear her, now you don’t. They’ve done some magic at The Fan590: They’ve made Ashley Docking disappear.

AND ANOTHER THING

Sometimes players change when they go to an all-star game for the first time and begin to realize just how elite their skills may be. Don’t know if this will happen to Pascal Siakam, but he did score a season-high 37 points in his first game back with the Raptors after the break … Years ago coaches would privately wonder if Phil Kessel’s lack of training would eventually catch up to his immense skill. Kessel is 32 and playing this season like he’s at the end. He scored 82 and 92 points the last two seasons in Pittsburgh. He has 35 this season and has two years left on his contract … Kessel was drafted by Boston, 5th overall in 2006. After taking Milan Lucic in the second round, the Bruins selected this undersized winger in the third round. His name: Brad Marchand. Has anyone ever had a better draft than that? … Kessel and Lucic may appear close to done, but Marchand is going great, sixth in the NHL in scoring … It’s looking like a two-man race for the Calder Trophy – defencemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes. But the late surprise is Dale Hawerchuk’s old goalie, MacKenzie Blackwood, who has a winning record in New Jersey … While Bianca Andreescu rehabs her bum knee, a tall, 20-year-old Russian named Elena Rybakina looks like the next real deal. She’s been in three finals already this year … It’s very possible that a team with 95 points will miss the playoffs in the NHL East and a team will make the playoffs in the West with 90 or less … Now that Martin Frk has a new one-way contract in Los Angeles, can he now afford to buy a vowel? … Happy birthday to Jeff O’Neill (44), Julius Erving (70), Pat LaFontaine (55), Jamal Murray (23), Andrew Wiggins (25), Kia Nurse (24), Elaine Tanner (69), Ron Hunt (79), Fred Biletnikoff (77), Henoc Muamba (31) and Ed (Too Tall) Jones (70) … And hey, whatever became of Gustavo Chacin?

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There was no miracle on ice for this Team Canada

Lost in all the celebration of the Miracle On Ice is the forgotten 1980 Canadian Olympic hockey team. Nobody ever mentions them and probably with good reason. They finished seventh at the Lake Placid Olympics.

When the hockey world – and the Olympic world – were in shock over Team USA’s victory over the great Soviet Union, the Canadian players were scattered about, some leaving Lake Placid, some waiting for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

But what’s forgotten over time is this: Prior to the Olympics, Team Canada was better than Team USA. They handled them rather well in the lead-up to the Olympics. The Canadian team, coached by Tom Watt, Clare Drake and Lorne Davis, a rather unconventional co-coach system, had a very close game with the Soviets not far before the Games.

The best player on that team, Glenn Anderson, went on to win a pile of Stanley Cups and make his way to the Hall of Fame. Dr. Randy Gregg won five Stanley Cups playing defence for the Edmonton Oilers. Paul MacLean scored 324 NHL goals in 719 games and has been a longtime coach in the NHL. Jim Nill, a solid player on that Canadian team, has been in the NHL as player, scout, executive, now GM of the Dallas Stars, for the past 38 years.

That was some of the texture on that Canadian team. The Miracle on Ice changed American hockey forever. The 1980 Canadian Olympic team was better than its two weeks at Lake Placid.

The remarkable rise of Kyle Lowry

The evolution of Kyle Lowry, from misunderstood man to NBA sub, to apparently uncoachable hard-headed point guard, to sincerely respected champion and all-star is a lot like the Raptor team he plays for: It is both incredible and almost impossible to believe.

And yet, here are the Raptors, one season after a championship, in contention to repeat as champions – a team no one will want to play come playoff time.

And here is Lowry, who has invented and re-invented himself throughout with twists and turns his career and as recently as in the past two seasons, one with Kawhi Leonard being central, and one without, suddenly a darling and a favourite among NBA coaches around the league.

You hear it now before every Raptors game. You hear the opposition coach talking about Lowry with more than regard, but with a high level of respect. He has become the player nobody expected him to be.

Maybe anger over the years fueled Lowry when he needed it most – and still he can’t let a foul or non-foul call go by without letting the officials know what he is thinking in words or body language – but now it’s an anger controlled: He knows his place, he knows his role, he knows just where he fits in, when to take a charge, when not to.

The eight seasons with Lowry in Toronto: An average of 51 wins a season.

The eight seasons before him: An average of 33 wins.

Analytics to blame for Astros cheating

Andre Ethier spent all 12 seasons of his major league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his ending coming after the 2017 World Series loss to the Houston Astros.

And Ethier, like so many players, has spoken harshly about the sign-stealing ways of the Astros, but with a different twist.

He blames the analytical approach to baseball – not just for what happened with the Astros, but what’s happened with the game itself.

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ethier admitted to his dislike for the analytic approach, where computers and computer operators have taken over so much of the game.

“How much should you allow front offices to really be able to keep manipulating and changing the game?,” he told The Times. “There’s only so much they can get out of this analytical data that a human baseball player can actually go out and execute. What does it lead to next?

“Well, these guys in these front offices have to keep justifying themselves by bringing something else to the table.”

In Ethier’s mind, the game was already about 70% manipulated by statistical data. It was only a matter of time for some team to go one step further and try to get the additional 30% involved. Turns out, that team was the Astros.

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