Sniping over lack of scoring In NHL

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

The NHL was supposed to open itself up to its talent post-lockout.

The individual evidence of that is lacking.

In 2002-03, back in the trapping, holding, hooking, red line days, the NHL had one 50-goal scorer.

It will have one 50-goal scorer this season.

In '02-03, it had five 40-goal scorers.

It might have five 40-goal scorers this season -- no more than six.

And while there is a marvellous array of scoring skill in the league, beginning obviously with Alex Ovechkin, the difficulty of goal-scoring remains: Scoring is up, scoring chances are up dramatically, but the high-end scorers still are being compressed. In the first season, post-lockout, there were five 50-goal scorers, two the next season, three the year following. Just one this season.

There has to be a happy medium between that and the high-scoring 1980s.

This and that

Who would have believed this? A team coached by Wayne Gretzky, greatest scorer in hockey history, has scored the fewest number of goals in the NHL ... Time was, we knew what all the referees looked like and acted like in the NHL. But with the veterans disappearing one by one, this year Rob Shick and Don Koharski, next year Kerry Fraser, Dan Marouelli and Bill McCreary, a little bit of fun is gone for the hockey fan who can no longer identify one official from another ... According to the NFL ruleschanges, defenders can't hit a quarterback high any more, and can't hit him low. Which means what? Maybe they should change the quarterback's uniform to indicate the areas where he can be touched ... This doesn't speak well for the Raptors or for Jay Triano's hope to be retained as coach: His record against teams going to the playoffs is 4-24 ... Next up for solid Maple Leafs rookie Luke Schenn: Improving his shot, especially his confidence in his slap shot.

Hear and there

Among the many things wrong with the Montreal Canadiens: They have only the second-best Koivu in the NHL ... Weird part about Bob Gainey coaching the Habs. As GM, Gainey was a near-recluse. You couldn't find him. Now he has to be front and centre every day, answering questions in two languages. He does it well, but he must hate it ... So what's less fun? Playing for a Ken Hitchcock-coached team or playing against one? ... No matter how you view the top three MVP candidates in the NHL -- from Ovechkin to Evgeni Malkin to Pavel Datsyuk to Zdeno Chara to Zach Parise, you can't muster a vote for Sidney Crosby. And who would have predicted that? ... The two best NHL goalies in the second half of the season are named Mason: Chris in St. Louis. Steve in Columbus ... Curt Schilling announced his retirement on his blog, not long after Charlie Villanueva was using Twitter during a game. How long before all athletes stop talking to the media and make all their pronouncements on their own forums? ... Among the best games Schilling ever pitched: His Game 5 shutout of the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series, the night after the Jays had scored 15 runs against the Phillies.

Scene and heard

With less than a year to go to the Vancouver Olympics, why is the Canadian Olympic Committee changing presidents and why is the national speed skating team making managerial changes? Shouldn't this be a time for stability instead of change? ... My definition of March Madness: Having a CIS hockey championship that nobody pays any attention to ... As if the price to play golf in Ontario wasn't high enough already, our Liberal Party friends have just added 8% to the cost of green fees, 8% to the cost of gas to get you there ... When Shaquille O'Neal was asked what he thought of Portland centre Greg Oden, Shaq answered: "I don't."

And another thing...

Wonder if Memphis freshman Tyreke Evans still will be available when the Raptors pick in the NBA draft? He's the kind of athletic guard the Raps need ... The Vancouver Canucks are 19-10-4 with Mats Sundin in the lineup, but that said, Sundin's overall impact has been debatable: The ex-Leaf has just 23 points in 33 games (a 57-point pace) and only four even-strength goals. He's 10th on the team in ice time ... Dwight Howard and Chris Paul should get more buzz for the NBA MVP award. Happy birthday to Denny McLain (65), Walt Frazier (64), Earl Campbell (54) an Hardy Astrom (58) ... And hey, whatever became of Nick Stajduhar?

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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