SUN Hockey Pool

Fleury says a lot about those who say very little

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Theoren Fleury spent 15 years in the NHL trenches and never was one to back down from speaking his mind.

That's why the news that he would be penning a regular column for a Calgary newspaper has been met with much enthusiasm in the journalism racket. Generally, when athletes are asked to pen columns, at Olympic Games or World Series, or wherever, their observations are often mundane and goody-two-shoes positive.

But don't expect that from Fleury. The former all-star winger has only just begun to pen his column and some of his points already have created a buzz in the hockey world.

For instance, the Oxbow, Sask., native railed this week against officiating in the league, suggesting there are too many penalties called. He also took a run at the way the game is coached in the NHL now, with the emphasis on defence, and how boring that makes the game.

But, to many of us in the business, his most valid point may be the way players are coached to speak after games and practices -- talking, without saying anything.

Hockey players have a reputation as being, with apologies to Don Cherry, great guys, but also some of the most boring athletes on Earth. Fleury, who rarely was boring, believes it's time to encourage athletes to speak their minds, which, ultimately, would help sell the game.

"There are (a) lot of intelligent, funny, personable guys in our sport. But all you hear is cliche, cliche, cliche," he wrote. "It drives me crazy. I guess the powers-that-be just want the players to sound boring. Guys, it's entertainment. But they don't want anybody rocking any boats. They don't want them to say anything, tell anyone how they feel, what they think about different issues. That's a shame."

Amen to that.

SHANNY TALK

Brendan Shanahan, he of the 39-year-old legs and the 23 goals in 73 games last season, is inching closer to signing with the Philadelphia Flyers, or so it seems.

Shanahan had been working out patiently at the New York Rangers' practice facility this fall, waiting for general manager Glen Sather to clear up some cap room and find a spot on the roster for him.

But a couple of weeks ago, Shanahan let it be known through his agent Rick Curran that he is now open to offers, although he wants to stay near the Big Apple, where his family is located. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have expressed interest, as have St. Louis and Chicago.

Curran said that Shanahan is in good shape and would be ready to play in two or three days, and is looking for only a one-year deal, perhaps for as little as $800,000, which is apparently doable for the Flyers.

BLUE CROSS

The Maple Leafs have been surprising healthy this season (although don't tell that to defenceman Mike Van Ryn, who is out for at least a month with a concussion, broken nose and broken left hand after being face-planted into the boards by Montreal forward Tom Kostopoulos on Saturday at the ACC).

But pity St. Louis. The Blues have recorded a disappointing 11 points in 12 games this season, but there is a good reason for their struggles. No team in the NHL has suffered as many key injuries as the Missouri squad.

The Blues' injured list this season includes: Paul Kariya (foot), Manny Legace (hip), Erik Johnson (knee), T.J. Oshie (ankle), D.J. King (shoulder), Jeff Woywitka (foot), Jonas Junland (shoulder), Lee Stempniak (knee), Alex Pietrangelo (neck, knee), Chris Mason (appendectomy), Ben Bishop (groin) and Dan Hinote (leg cut).

AROUND THE NET

A few Philadelphia Flyers have taken to wearing those titanium necklaces that are said to provide energy -- the same necklaces that a lot of major-league pitchers don these days ... Former Columbus Blue Jackets boss turned radio talking head Doug MacLean can only sit back and watch the team he assembled in Ohio slowly be taken apart. Current general manager Scott Howson already has moved two of MacLean's draft picks, Nikolai Zherdev and Gilbert Brule, both of whom were traded over the summer. A third, Alexandre Picard (No. 8 overall in 2004), was put on waivers on Thursday and yesterday was sent to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. One story has a certain hockey writer hearing MacLean say this about Picard at the 2004 draft: "We just got our third-line left winger for the next 10 or 15 years." To which the scribe responded: "That's what it's come to? Taking third-liners in the first round?" MacLean's supposed response: "F--- you. What the f--- do you know about this game?"


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