SUN Hockey Pool

League parity a plus: Bettman

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

When asked what he likes about the NHL game these days, commissioner Gary Bettman said the competitive balance.

“Every game is up for grabs and every game matters,” Bettman said Thursday after a luncheon in Calgary. “Teams are going to make or miss the playoffs by a point or two, which means the game played in February or October are as important as the games in March and April.”

That parity is one big reason why it’s nearly impossible for trades to happen before the March 3 deadline.

It’s taking away fun for fans.

As of today, with more than 60% of the season complete, only two teams are heading to full-fledged sell-off mode — the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes.

Which means there are nowhere near enough skaters in play.

Sure, by the time the March 3 deadline comes there will be other teams in that boat — hello Toronto, Tampa Bay and Columbus to name a few — but it’s not enough to make things all that interesting yet.

At this point, there will be bidding wars for the likes of potential unrestricted free agents such as Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Alex Tanguay or Matt Stajan, but that’s a mighty short list.

Not all that enticing, either.

Ilya Kovalchuk is expected to join that group, as well as Colby Armstrong, Raffi Torres, Steve Ott, Marek Zidlicky and Paul Kariya.

But with the salary cap having become the magnet which has pulled so many teams to spend close to the maximum and the number of teams who believe they have a chance to make the playoffs, trade talk remains more fantasy than reality.

That’s why you have the absurd daily rumours of Dion Phaneuf going to (insert city here) all over the internet, spreading like wildfire.

People who love talking about trades — and there are plenty of them out there — don’t have anything to discuss.

When you have way more buyers than sellers, the result is too many nonsense ideas being floated by self-proclaimed experts instead of anything actually possible.

The NHL may enjoy the fact fans of nearly all its teams can still hold out hope for a playoff berth and — in some cases — an improbable playoff run.

But a tradeoff is more fantasy than reality involving trade winds.

Flaming C-notes

Last year’s horrible Flames powerplay was pinned on head coach Mike Keenan and assistant Rich Preston for not practising the man-advantage. Who’s fault is it this season? At least Brent Sutter and his crew are trying new things — Olli Jokinen on the point, Robyn Regehr in front of the net — but the results are no better. Maybe if the players tried moving the puck quicker and were actually ready to shoot instead of trying one more pass, things would improve ... Speaking of Jokinen, when he was acquired last season, he said he was looking forward to playing in a hockey market where the city’s emotions swing up and down with the team’s fortunes. Asked whether he enjoyed the reaction on the heels of Monday’s 9-1 loss to San Jose, Jokinen replied: “I don’t read the papers or watch the news reports. No problem. There’s a lot of media people in here when times are good and a lot when times are bad. I don’t mind, as long as you smell good and brush your teeth. I also made sure my girls were with me when I went out, so maybe that’s why people were nice.”

Hockey talky

Can’t help but think any team out there with playoff hopes and only one proven goalie should take a stab at getting UFA-to-be Marty Turco from Dallas ... For all those who hope their team will nab Eric Staal from the going-nowhere Carolina Hurricanes, the fact the club slapped the “C” on his sweater, taking it away from Rod Brind’Amour to do so, should quell such talk ... For all those expecting the Phoenix Coyotes to fade down the stretch in the same manner as last season, consider that only three players, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defencemen Sami Lepisto and Zbynek Michalek, will play at the Olympics. The Coyotes will have plenty of rested key players for the final six weeks. The Calgary Flames are in the same boat with only Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Miikka Kiprusoff slated to be in Vancouver ... Without personally knowing Mike Danton or anyone else involved in his life, here’s to hoping the former NHLer who spent time in prison has taken a major step in his life by playing hockey for St. Mary’s University, getting an education and hopefully ridded himself of negative forces from his past ... When Canada’s world junior team arrived in Calgary for a exhibition game, coach Willie Desjardins bristled at the question whether captain Patrice Cormier could be suspended for a drive-by elbow on a Swedish player in an exhibition game the night before. Maybe somebody should have done something then, because Cormier obviously didn’t see any problem with such a play as displayed by his disgusting hit on Quebec’s Mikael Tam in QMJHL action.

You don’t say

“The only thing we did (right) was the bus was on time to get to this game. The bus driver was the best thing we had.” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet after his team was trounced 8-2 by the New York Rangers.


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