Give Tavares time to grow

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

"Does anyone have dibs on Sidney Crosby's DNA?" It's not often an issue of The Hockey News will elicit that type of response. But that's what my reaction was after reading a cover headline from the Oct. 25 issue:

"Meet phenom John Tavares: Hockey's Next Next One."

Tavares is making waves with the Oshawa Generals and is so talented that the OHL altered its rules to allow fledgling players of his outstanding calibre to be drafted.

He's also 15 years old and won't get a sniff of the NHL entry draft until 2009.

Can embryos with offensive upside be far off? Forget GMs and war rooms -- we could move the entire entry draft to a fertility clinic. "With the third-pick overall, the Washington Capitals select vial #573GX. Congratulations!"

Peterborough Petes coach Dick Todd has already compared Tavares' play to a young Wayne Gretzky. And it's common knowledge that as soon as The Great One's name comes up in any reference to style, attitude or bone structure, it's the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a bonfire.

It should all seem very bizarre -- until you remember the continuing obsession over Sidney Crosby. However, as the increasing media attention around young players becomes commonplace, it doesn't necessarily make it acceptable.

To be fair, the intense focus on Crosby was exacerbated by a lockout and the fans' hunger for a captivating story. But does it seem appropriate to already be crowning Sidney's successor when we have yet to discern if his foray into the NHL was a successful one?

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh fans, the team has had a freakishly brutal start to the season. Crosby has made his offensive presence known, but the mounting frustration is evident.

He's been caught on multiple occasions hacking his stick in anger against the boards, and during a game against the Lightning earlier this month in which he was wired for sound, he was heard begging teammate Zigmund Palffy for assistance.

Was it an emotional outburst demonstrating love for the game, or a sign of underlying immaturity?

Possibly both.

Regardless, Sidney Crosby was ready for the NHL, and the lockout provided extraordinary circumstances that forced him to rapidly mature into a new face for the league.

But now that the difficulties of the CBA are behind us, it would seem logical to take one's foot off the gas, and allow other young players like Tavares to develop without the glare of the media's intense scrutiny. There are certainly enough distractions in the hockey world to keep us otherwise occupied.

Give Tavares the time to grow up that Crosby never had.

ADMIT IT: Whether during the World Series or a plain old regular-season NHL game, how many times have you made a running dive for the remote control, only to begin frantically pushing the mute button? While viewing an NHL game early last week, I was informed that killing a 5-on-3 penalty could lead to a shift in momentum -- for the record, this was on a Canadian network. That was topped by Game 3 ramblings in the 14th inning of the World Series, with this non-sequitur tidbit: In the time that the game had been played, a person could fly from Baltimore to Iceland. Here's a hint to all colour analysts: We realize your job is to fill airtime, but perhaps you could tell us something we don't know ... and that is potentially relevant.

ROOF IT: What was the real reason behind the Minute Maid Park roof fiasco during Game 3 of the World Series? MLB didn't want Houston fans to suck all the air out of the stadium every time jinxed Astros closer Brad Lidge threw a pitch.

AROUND THE RIM: How many times have we now heard Team 1200's Dean Brown refer to the trapezoid behind the net as The Forbidden Zone? It sounds like something involving velvet curtains and a trap door for Dominik Hasek to fall through ... Jean Van de Velde has announced that he will attempt to qualify for the Women's British Open next year, as a protest against the allowance of women qualifying for the men's event. It makes sense -- after all, sporting a skirt while wading into water hazards will be much easier than awkwardly rolling up his pant legs.

ERIN NICKS IS AN OTTAWA-BASED FREELANCE COLUMNIST. CONTACT HER AT ERINNICKS@YAHOO.CA


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