Thursday, 1 January 2015

World Junior Championships: Canada 5, U.S.A. 3

Thoughts on the game, as I try to catch up on the sports programming on my PVR during a busy holiday season:

-I don't like Max Domi.  What is he clowning around for, diving and yapping and goading and threatening and douching all over the place?  I can't deny his talent, I won't, but I'm so glad he's not on my Canadiens.

-During the 2013 draft I had a mini-meltdown about all the undersized artistes we were drafting, showy players who other teams gave a wide berth to but somehow we were snapping up, a month after we'd been Gryba'ed by the Senators.  My contention was that we needed to get bigger or continue to get gooned by Daddy Campbell's rigged league.

One of the players I was distraught over, in that we'd passed him up, since he'd had some very nice pre-draft writeups, and since he lasted until late in the fourth round, while we were stocking up on mighty mites Arturri Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto and Martin Reway, was Hudson Fasching.  In my admittedly uninformed fan's opinion, I felt if we're going to take a flyer on a Martin Reway, which Trevor Timmins likened to taking a homerun swing, why not take that flyer on a character kid like Mr. Fasching who happens to be a 6'2" 200 pounder?  If we connect on a longshot, at least it will be on a player who can withstand the National Homicide League.

I've just seen Mr. Fasching in action during the first period, and, uh, man is he ever slow.  Like chugging, ponderous Ryan Walter or Stan Smyl slow.  And I understand why he might land in the 'No' pile for the Canadiens from the outset, that there's no way he'll fit into the system, might as well draft a longshot who might actually be able to contribute if he pans out.  No matter how much Mr. Fasching 'falls' in the draft.

It's like if Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys had a chance to add a 295 pound scrappy intelligent guard who can move to their roster.  They wouldn't even consider it.  They don't need or want spunk or pluckiness, they want massive, infinitely strong 350 pound man-mountains who'll blow holes through any defensive line.  The crafty guard can't do what they do.  Meanwhile, Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme back in Denver was entirely predicated on smart, adaptable, mobile offensive linemen who can pull and block linebackers and safeties in the second level, they'll snap up our hypothetical smallish guard, and thrive with him on their roster.  It's not that one player is intrinsically better than another, just that some can do the job for some teams but not others.

Some NHL teams will fall all over themselves to draft a Brian Boyle or Frédéric Gauthier, and turn their nose up at a Brendan Gallagher, simply due to their organizational philosophy, and it's not necessarily right or wrong.  The Flames won a Stanley Cup with Joel Otto and Dana Murzyn.  We eliminated the Big Bad Bruins last season with Brian Gionta, David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Daniel Brière, Francis Bouillon and Mike Weaver on our roster.  Two seasons before that, the year they were shamefully awarded the Cup, we took them to overtime in Game 7.

Not right or wrong, if the game isn't rigged, if the referees let them play, meaning, if they let the skill guys do their thing without getting held or slashed to a standstill by anti-hockey pluggers.  If the skaters can use their speed to counteract the big players' strength, it's an interesting game, a clash of culture, a study in contrasts.

So Hudson Fasching, I wish you well, but I guess Trevor Timmins had his reasons after all, I'll now ruefully allow.

And I don't wish you that well either, being Sabre property and destined to play against us frequently.  I'm going to go as far as hoping you can attain Mike Hough-level career, but no more.

-Speaking of incompetent refereeing, why the heck wasn't Anthony Duclair given a penalty on the opening faceoff, after jousting with his opponent and giving him a clear, blatant crosscheck to the neck in full view of everyone?  Did the refs think it was an isolated incident, that was certain to never recur during the game?  Did they think that since the American forward took the crosscheck with equanimity, and since he didn't require immediate hospitalization, that the crosscheck they saw was a mirage?

A lot of the post-whistle shoving and jawing and nonsense, almost entirely provoked by the Canadian team, could have been averted had the refs sent a strong message that this would be a hockey game, not an intimidation game, especially since no one was going to have to account for his actions, with everyone visored up and fighting being forbidden in the game.

I'm a proponent of banning fighting in the NHL, but only if the league polices incidents of slashing and spearing and other dirty play with zero-tolerance.  If they let that stuff slide, then I have to agree with Brian Burke, the rats will take over, definitely.

And it's not rocket surgery, there are two dozen HD cameras covering every square foot of the rink during every game.  None of those calls are ever truly 'missed'.  Install a video referee, and give out penalties and suspensions like candy, and the players will learn, the thugs will flush out of the system, teams will build their rosters according to the way the game is refereed, and there won't be fighting, and it won't be needed.  Players won't need to police themselves, they'll be able to focus on hockey, and not look over their shoulder to guard against an approaching Steve Ott or Matt Kassian.

-Samuel Morin seemed more effective than in the early games I saw him play.  Late in the first, he skillfully pokechecked Jack Eichel on a rush by the latter, and then cleared the puck out of his zone with an easy pass to his outlet man.

-Near the end of the game, I was ready to opine that I'd understand if Coach Groulx chose to go with Eric Comrie over Zachary Fucale the rest of the way, he seemed solid enough, with none of the scrambling and bobbles I thought I saw from the Habs prospect.

Then Dylan Larkin scored that late goal, and I changed my mind.  That was a weak goal, and a lapse in concentration that's hard to overlook when evaluating the Canadian goalies.  I'll let my natural rooting interest take over, and advocate for Zach, everything being equal.

-I would gladly take either of Darnell Nurse or Madison Bowey on the Canadiens' prospect pool.  Man those two can move, and hit, and are talented with the puck.

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