Tag Archives: Don Cherry

Taylor Hall: A Player to Watch

Memorial Cup MVP Taylor Hall is expected to go early in the 2010 draft.  Having been profiled by the legendary Don Cherry during his Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, and awarded rookie of the year in both the OHL and CHL in 2008, all eyes are on Team Canada and Hall for the World Juniors. Hall scored a hat trick in the 3-0 shutout of Slovakia following in the footsteps of last season’s top pick, John Tavares. Both scored a hat trick during the IIHF World Junior Championship.

With the search on for the youngest and most charismatic player, hockey boys who used to play the puck on frozen streets now have made it to the big time. Hall led all OHL players with 23 goals, 54 points; Tavares had only two more points than Hall.  Taylor Hall already has the maturity to play in the league.  His style can only be witnessed in the awe of the goals he puts away that most goalies couldn’t even prevent.  If you are not familiar with his work, look up his scoring videos online. Hall finds the tiniest hole and fits the puck through, with skill not miracles.  This young Canadian brings both style and substance.

A product of Kingston, Ontario Hall’s rap sheet includes Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the year for the 2007-08 season, the Wayne Gretzky Trophy in 2008-09, and national attention centered on Hall last year as MVP of the Memorial Cup.  Hall has played the past two seasons with the Windsor Spitfires, a team who reside across the riverbanks from the Detroit Red Wings.  The area lives hockey and for the city of Windsor to bring home the MVP and the Cup was an uplifting time for a downtrodden city greatly affected by the auto industry collapse.

In an interview from the Ottawa Citizen, Taylor Hall was quoted “he patterns himself after players like Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins and Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks, because they’re fast and they’re not the biggest guys.”  Hall has shown speed and an ability to excite the fans and the media.  At the World Juniors games, Hall was cheered on as a star, the hopeful for Canada. With the crowd chanting his name, Hall was awarded MVP after winning over Slovakia.  Humble and hardworking, this future NHL star has demonstrated his talents before the masses.

Canada blasted through their opponents with dominance, and faced USA in the quarter semi-final.  It was a voracious scoring match to prove who’s the best on the border, with a 4-4 tie ending in a Canadian shootout victory.

Team Canada and Taylor Hall earned a bye round, and moved on to play Switzerland Sunday in a semi-final match-up. Hall scored a beautiful goal against the Swiss opening up the lead to 3-0 in the second period.  The third period led hall to open ice and an amazing wrap around goal adding to the win over Switzerland 6-1.

Canada met the USA for the gold medal game on Tuesday, and Hall scored one goal; however, it was not enough to beat the USA for Gold. Team USA beat Canada 6-5 in overtime.  Hall had a total of six goals in the World Junior Championships

Hall has patience and plays as a team member rather than a grandstander. With his name atop the rookie draft list for next season, he will become not just a household name in Canada but global.  The draft isn’t close, so no predictions can be made of where he may play.  Put Taylor Hall on your wish list for next year’s fantasy leagues.  I’ve forewarned you.

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Playing Rough Costing Players

Fines for players and suspensions are growing in the NHL, so is this a case of protecting the integrity of the game or funding the newly acquired Phoenix Coyotes?  Or something else?

Boarding, roughing, hits, that’s what you expect when playing hockey. Speed of the skater directly impacts his ability to control hits, but a skilled player should have the brake power necessary to avoid injury.  Things happen, though.

When Alexander Ovechkin became the latest player suspended for a hard hit, the debate turned to the physical type of play Ovechkin demonstrates.   He’s not a mean guy trying to take someone down, but rather athletically fast and dangerous.  Coach Boudreau has the greatest player today on his roster, but at what cost?  Ovechkin had to pay just shy of $100,000, however his reputation of being a good player hasn’t been lost.  Unlike other players whose paychecks include hits and big penalty minutes, Ovechkin should not be perceived as a fighter or bad guy on the ice.

Fans love the physical nature of hockey.  That’s why we watch Alexander Ovechkin play.

Don Cherry has criticized Ovi in the past for grandstanding, and his egotistical emphasis of his play.  But when you are born to play, the play becomes you.  Alexander Ovechkin maintains his identity in truth.  Some have jumped on this suspension as an opportunity to vilify one of the greatest players to play hockey, in other words, “we told you so.”   The stance taken is that Ovechkin would eventually crash and burn because of his charismatic style of play and his karmic attitude toward life.

The NHL wants to be a positive influence, especially for the younger crowd, so Ovechkin’s nonchalant attitude needs to be reprimanded before kids seek him as a role model. Too late.  Good sportsmanship is not Ovechkin’s problem.  His problem, apparently, is that he doesn’t care what others think about him.  To kids this means he doesn’t buy into peer pressure or conformity to be true to who he is and who he has become.

Yes, Alexander Ovechkin plays aggressive hockey and a suspension isn’t surprising at this point in his career.  But the villainous character of Ovechkin only exists in the imagination.  His hit on Tim Gleason is just many that will happen in his career.  For any player a hard hit will occur and a scandal will brew on whether it was a low blow or accident.  Hockey fans have lost count of the suspensions this year due to nasty hits, and frankly support those deserved suspensions.  But these players are not evil.

Hockey has always had the defenders as the tough guys; the blue line was the dangerous point of no return, but as hockey has evolved all players are expected to defend their zone.  Look at left-wingers Sean Avery and Daniel Carcillo, who are the scrappers and cause chaos on and off the ice.  Perhaps the NHL is trying too hard to present Disney on Ice rather than Rangers vs. Flyers, or Capitals vs. Canes.

Winners and Weaknesses- Week 1.5

Wild West:

Are they for real?  The young guns of the Colorado Avalanche have come out and shocked the NHL community.  The bandwagon is buzzing in favor of Wojtek Wolski who stuck it to Puck Daddy with a productive weekend of scoring, who is on one of my fantasy rosters.

Rookie of the Year, according to Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada, goes to Avs’ Matt Duchene who showed his smooth moves and ability to play in tempo despite the awe of sharing the ice with his favorite team growing up.

Paul Stasny kept up the pace, as well as fighters Cody McLeod and Darcy Tucker scrapping their way to victory.

Can’t believe the Phoenix Coyotes Czech line with Radim Vrabta-Petr Prucha-Martin Hanzal who set up and scored.  The Coyotes home announcers were as shocked as I was on the upgrade in play.

The Detroit Red Wings are a bit injured after a slow start to the season with Jonathan Ericksson leaving with an injury and two losses in Stockholm where the fans love the Wings. The Detroit Free Press reported, “There may not be much to talk about when it comes to Ericsson. He took a shot off the unprotected part of his ankle, above the boot, after scoring his goal in the first period Friday and could go for only 1:03 in the second period before leaving the game for good.”  Darren Helm, and Villa Leino can step up due to the Wings depth of players. But can they repair everything?

Former AHL groomed goalie Jimmy Howard’s debut was not good as the Wings are showing off their new star power.

St. Louis Blues are 2-0 and leaders in the division; don’t read into the first few games, right?  Looking good with the return of Paul Kariya, veterans Keith Tkachuk, Andy McDonald, and energetic upstarts, as T.J. Oshie will make the Blues tough to contend with.

Players to watch:  San Jose’s Ryan Clowe with 9 PIMs.   Coyotes Radim Vrbata for solid scoring and Scottie Upshall for 6 PIMs

Eastern Promises:

The New York Islanders also debuted top pick John Tavares who was also drafted in both of my fantasy leagues.  Injured Kyle Okposo is back and playing with an awareness of the need for his skills to bring the team back to its former glory.   My pick Mark Streit proved a worthy early round pick for defense with a Gordy Howe hat trick against Pittsburgh, despite losing the game in OT.  But good fantasy points, nonetheless.    Excitement around the new team and the Lighthouse Project has the Strong Island fans happy for the 2009-10 season for now.

Can the New York Rangers live without Sean Avery– is he really needed?  King Henry had it under control as usual.  Donald Brashear threw a few punches for good luck.

The Montreal Canadiens are mourning on Day 1- Andrei Markov was a huge loss, enough said.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ huge Monster of a goalie, Jonas Gustavsson still could not hush the goalie controversy week one.  Vesa Toskala’s struggles have been well documented, but the urgency for the Leafs if more than just in net.  Canadian teams are falling short compared to south of the border.

Players to watch:  Zdena Chara had 14 PIMs and Milan Lucic added 5 PIMs in one game.   Columbus Blue Jackets had an impressive win over Vancouver in the Canucks home opener.