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Maven's Ravin': Once Over But Not Politely

By Stan Fischler
January 26, 2012

Muhammed Ali was the all-time iconoclast. "The Greatest of All-Time" was at one point despised for his public views and later revered. Tim Thomas is being drawn and quartered for snubbing the White House, but that was to be expected from THE latter-day Billy Smith. Remember, in 1983 after his Isles won their fourth straight Stanley Cup. Smitty essentially told off the Dominion of Canada on national television; not to mention NHL President John Ziegler.

Scott Howson is -- far and away -- the luckiest general manager in the NHL. How he has kept his job while orchestrating the worst team in Blue Jackets history defies credulity. The Columbus payroll is inflated beyond all reason and the signing of James Wisniewski for six years ($33 million) has to be one of the most absurd contracts in NHL annals. Figure Craig Patrick to take over the GM job this Summer.
   
• All-Star Games are more likely family reunions; lots of hugs, story-telling (some true) and a pleasant skate. It's conviviality-plus. And there's nothing wrong with that. In the first Official NHL All-Star Game -- Fall, 1947 at Toronto -- the champ Maple Leafs played the rest of the All-Stars. In that game, Chicago ace Bill Mosienko broke his leg and the Blackhawks were essentially done for the season. After that, the lads played a bit less hard and less and less until what we now have; fun and soft games.

• Without doubt, the consensus has Henrik Lundqvist as the A-Number-One-Yankee-Doodle-Ipsy-Pipsy goaltender in Bettman, inc. That said, a large asterisk accompanies Henny's seat at the top. You guessed it; the asterisk only will be removed when the Sweetheart of Sweden leads his Rangers past the first round, past the second round and, at the least, into Round Three of the playoffs. Regular season starring is just fine, but the citizens of Rangerville want more this year.

The Sabres bought a bit of time with their shootout win over the Devils on Tuesday night at The Rock. Like Winnipeg, Montreal, Tampa Bay and the Islanders, Buffalo still has a shot at the playoffs, albeit, a longer one than Toronto, New Jersey and Florida. Therefore, if you are GM Darcy Regier, do you trade your goaltending jewel Ryan Miller? Even if he's not shining like a 14-carat ace? The Maven says he stays in Sabreland!

Alex Ovechkin remains a marquee player; no question about that. Is he still the NHL's poster boy? Not by a long shot or a slapshot. His production has slipped; his Caps are out of the Elite category and his overall demeanor has taken the gloss of what had been the man who shared center stage with Sidney Crosby.

• As for Sid-The-Not-So-Kid, I'm constantly asked about his NHL future. I give the same reply I do for those who query me about Rick DiPietro: I did not go to Harvard Medical School, nor any other med university. Therefore, I am not a doctor and therefore -- again! -- I do not know.

• There are some zany columns out there in Blog World and one of them happens to be The Puck Stops Here's rating of "Worst Player So Far This Season." The latest choice is Brad Staubitz of Minnesota. As TPSH points out, the Wild's not-so-ace has played in 41 games, has zilch points and averages less than seven minutes per game. His team-leading 73 penalty minutes explains why he's the club's best fighter; not best player.

• Staubitz will be one of the players in mind when general managers discuss the issue of eliminating "Staged Fights" -- and tangentially, staged fighters -- from The Game. Apart from fighting, a player such as Staubitz hardly gives his team its money's worth when he pulls down $575,000 annually and barely manages to get his skates wet. That helps explain why Brian Burke sent Colton Orr -- he gets $1 million per annum -- back to the American League; a waste of time and money.

• In any given year, the San Jose Sharks are picked to either: A. Reach the Final round; B. Win The Cup. This year The Hockey News assured us that Todd McLellan's club would finish second overall in the West.  McLellan has a 179-77-37 record, but no Cup. P.S. As always, his Big Fish will disappoint this Spring.

• Like their forebears, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Winnipeg Jets have nifty uniforms. Nor does the similarity end there. Every year the Birds-Turned-Planes enter a tailspin after the All-Star break. As always there are a few encouraging players -- Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Ondrej Pavelec -- but not enough for a playoff berth. The only difference is that the Jets pack the Winnipeg barn every night; and that's a BIG difference.

• When it comes to finding a buyer for the NHL-owned Phoenix Coyotes, the bywords are "Where Are You?" As long as there remains silence on the Phoenix-Glendale front, the possibility remains that the Coyotes will wind up either in Quebec City or Seattle next Fall.

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