Bluelines: Captain Considerations & Goaltending Questions
Monday, September 17, 2012
By Stan Fischler
• Considering his super-positive impact on the Rangers, Ryan Callahan spent the early part of his career egregiously overlooked by just about everyone but his Rochester-based agent, Steve Bartlett. In a Hockey News Yearbook "Captains America" feature, author Ken Campbell points out that Callahan actually would have been bypassed in the 2001 Ontario Hockey League Draft were it not for Bartlett. The rep lobbied then-Guelph Storm coach Jeff Jackson to give Ryan an audition. "Bartlett begged Jackson to draft Callahan," writes Campbell. The same scenario developed later when Cally was ignored in his first NHL draft year before the Blueshirts plucked him in the fourth round in 2004. "Callahan is more prototypical of the Rangers transformation to the NHL's hardest-working team than anyone else on the New York roster," Campbell concludes.
• Speaking of captains, one of the more intriguing challenges for Peter DeBoer will be selecting the next skater to wear New Jersey's "C." As Devils boss Lou Lamoriello so aptly put it, "You don't replace a Zach Parise; you just don't do that." Nevertheless a replacement will be in order with the top candidates ranging from a superstar, a grizzled veteran to a promising sophomore to an enforcer-turned-sniper. Translated: Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryce Salvador, Adam Henrique and David Clarkson. No question, Kovy would get the honor should he so desire it but there's a possibility that he had enough of those responsibilities in Atlanta. Salvador's work ethic and respect with which he's held by teammates make him a suitable candidate. Yet in this era of youthful leaders it's possible that the Lamoriello-DeBoer high command will opt for the amazing Henrique. After all the Avalanche recently named peach-faced Gabriel Landeskog leader of the Colorado sextet.
• A pair of enigmatic Buffalo forwards are expected to lift their games a notch or two for 2012-2013. Cory Hodgson, of whom much had been anticipated in Vancouver before his trade to the Sabres, is considered a "good addition" by his g.m. Darcy Regier." Cory is going to fit in very well with a group of players -- not just the team as a whole but even a younger sub-set whether it's Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis or Drew Stafford," says Regier. The other forward who played below par last semester was Ville Leino. I'm talking about a former Flyer who tallied 19 goals and 53 points in 2010-2011 with Philly. The left wing wing was moved to center should go back to his natural position on the portside.
• My kingdom for a goaltender could be Jack Capuano's wish as he analyzes the 2012-2013 horizon. Veteran Evgeni Nabokov is the natural starter for the Islanders and Rick DiPietro remains the un-known quality because of his history of injuries. With Al Montoya no longer an Islander, the ice is open for a young back-up -- but who? The possibilities include Finnish-born Mikko Koskinen, Swedish prospect Anders Nilsson and the French-Canadian, Kevin Poulin. At 6-5, 220 pounds, Nilsson is a physical presence along with Koskinen (6-6, 205) but Poulin (6-2, 211) has impressed me the most so far. Only training camp will give us a hint and, more likely, a spate of games in The Show.
• Sean Burke played for eight teams in an 18-season NHL career, and has been the Coyotes goaltending coach since 2009. But while he is passing on his goaltending knowledge to the masked men in Phoenix, his prized pupil is his 17-year-old son Brendan. The younger Burke, who plays for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, posted a 2.55 goals against average and a .919 save percentage after January 1st last year. Now, as he enters his second year in Portland, Brendan could wind up as the Winterhawks’ main man in between the pipes this year.
• Speaking of goaltenders, one masked man who might not be on the move is Roberto Luongo. Despite the Canucks’ attempts to trade their franchise goalie, no deal came to fruition. But, Louie is content in Vancouver for the time being. “I’m still playing with a bunch of guys that I love and respect,” Luongo said. “There’s no reason for me to be frustrated.”
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