Thursday, January 06, 2005


Looking Back & Looking Ahead

A final look back at the WJC and a look to what's in store for the future...

1. The IIHF released its' award winners from the World Junior Championships:

Directorate Awards
Best Goaltender: Marek Schwarz, CZE
Best Defenseman: Dion Phaneuf, CAN
Best Forward: Alexander Ovechkin, RUS
MVP: Patrice Bergeron, CAN

Media All-Star Team:
Goaltender: Marek Schwarz, CZE
Defenseman: Ryan Suter, USA
Defenseman: Dion Phaneuf, CAN
Forward: Jeff Carter, CAN
Forward: Patrice Bergeron, CAN
Forward: Alexander Ovechkin, RUS

You know it's a tough crowd when Rostislav Olesz (7 goals, 3 assists, +8 in 7 games) gets left out in the cold.

2. the IIHF has some interesting wrap-up notes, including one about the attendance:

Attendance at the 2005 tournament was 195,771, which fell short of the record set by Halifax in 2003 at 242,173, and it would have probably been a lot lower if not for travelling Canadians.
It was great to see that the Canadians were essentially playing 'home' games every night as the travelling fans came down in busloads to offer loud and proud support. I wonder what the crowd split would have been for a USA/Canada game...

Oh, and we should also mention the great television ratings here in Canada:

Tuesday's 6-1 Canadian victory over Russia was watched by a per-minute average audience of 3.2 million viewers, the second highest rating in the channel's 20-year history. The all-time world junior tournament high of 3.4 million came during the final in 2003 in Halifax.
The tournament did set a record for overall viewing on TSN, with Canada's six games averaging 1.6 million viewers. The 2003 tourney had 1.5 million.
3. Looking ahead to next year's tournament, the IIHF has released the groups/Pools...

2006 IIHF World U20 Championship Tentative Preliminary Round Groups
Vancouver, Kelowna & Kamloops 26 Dec 2005 - 5 Jan 2006.
Group A
1. Canada
2. United States
3. Finland
4. Switzerland
5. Norway

Group B
1. Russia
2. Czech Republic
3. Sweden
4. Slovakia
5. Latvia

Looking at this setup, I have the sinking feeling that the Czech and Slovak prelim round games will all be played in Kamloops and I'll be 'stuck' with Canada, USA, and Finland ;(

4. Will Brent Sutter be back as Team Canada's coach? As much as we'd love him to be back, I doubt he'll want the job again. From this article,

"It's a great experience but it's a lot of work. There's a big commitment that you have to make towards it.

"It's a long time being away from your own team. It's a six month process and as far as being the head coach you really have to be committed to it. I just need some time to sit back. All I know is there's some great coaches in this country that can do it."
It's a good thing that he didn't make a rash decision in the heat of the moment. It would have been easy to say 'yes' after winning the gold in such spectacular fashion. If Sutter doesn't come back, I hope Team Canada continues to 'handpick' their coaches if they see a quality candidate. Sutter ran the team how HE wanted to run the team, and we were rewarded with great results.

5. As powerful as Team Canada was this year, next year's team will be inexperienced and rather 'frosh' compared to this group. Only Cam Barker and Sidney Crosby will be eligible to return in 2006, and both of them may very well be in the NHL (if there is a season). We could be looking at an entirely new team, which could make the difference between a medal finish and a non-medal finish.

Contrast this to the young Finnish squad who will have nine returnees next year, especially 2006-eligible Jesse Joensuu. The Russians will have TEN returnees, although I doubt Evgeni Malkin and Robocop Ovechkin will be available.

6. What's next in Europe? The European Champions Cup (formerly the Super Six, which was a much better name). The league champions from Slovakia (Trencin), Czechia (Zlin), Germany (Frankfurt), Sweden (HV71), Finland (Oulu), and Russia (Omsk) will compete for money and bragging rights.

Trencin's chances are pretty much in the tank after management somehow allowed Gaborik and Hossa to go to Sweden and not return for the tournament. Trencin has too many mediocre Slovak-leaguers to compete well against these other teams. I'll pick Zlin to win since they are a stacked team with great defense, great teamwork, and great goaltending.

7. Meanwhile, in North America, we're just waiting for the NHL or NHLPA to blink and make a move before the NHL Board of Governor meetings. The NHLPA claims it will not make another offer, and is willing to lose a season.

This gives us another opportunity to slug Gary Bettman, who was ranked as the 5th worst business manager by BusinessWeek Magazine.

Of course, things could change if Bettman gets what he wants:

If the league holds out and wins a salary cap -- or even settles for a hefty rollback -- Bettman could end up looking like a shrewd crisis manager. But it was a crisis that should never have happened..
Bettman is anything but shrewd, no matter what happens. There has rarely been a case of a public figure being so obviously overmatched by their job. It's just too bad it had to be the NHL, and not the boring NBA.

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