McCabe will have better backup on Team Canada

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

For a guy who is having such a good year, Bryan McCabe has an awful lot of detractors.

There is a widespread feeling that, on the Olympic stage, McCabe's defensive liabilities will put Team Canada in a precarious position.

But the Team Canada selectors -- a group which includes the coaches who will determine how McCabe is to be used -- are not overly concerned.

Because no one in the National Hockey League wants to be publicly critical of any players, they don't want to talk for attribution.

But not for attribution, there are those who will say that for starters, McCabe will get better support from his Team Canada forwards than he gets from the Maple Leafs.

At the Olympic level, defence is a team-wide concept and not all the Leafs are conscientious when it comes to fulfilling their defensive responsibilities. As a result, McCabe won't be left to fend for himself quite as often.

And if he does cough up a scoring opportunity, he'll have Marty Brodeur behind him, which is also a step up. If it weren't, Ed Belfour would be on Team Canada.

But the organizers feel that because McCabe is such a devastating force on the power play, his offensive contributions will more than make up for any defensive concerns.

Scaling down

Although the Montreal Canadiens and Jose Theodore say they are at a loss to explain the latter's mediocre play this season, other NHL goalies think they have the answer.

They say that in previous years, Theodore played with some of the most oversized equipment in the league.

Now that scrutiny is more intense, he has been unable to keep out some shots that he previously would have stopped.

That's bad enough in itself, but there is also a ripple effect. When a goalie starts having trouble, he starts doubting himself and making adjustments.

More often that not, that only makes the situation worse.

Meals on wings

The rigours of NHL travel have forced some Western Conference teams to change their approach.

In the past, they would leave town in the late afternoon, getting to the destination city in the early evening.

The team bus would take the players to the hotel, then most of them would go out for dinner -- invariably to a steak house.

But now, in order to give the players more time with their families, or to allow them to get more rest, the catering is sometimes done on the plane.

The flight leaves in the early evening, rather than late afternoon and, as soon as it is at cruising level, first-class food, catered by one of the best local steak houses, is served.

The players get the same type of high-quality meal they would get on the ground, but they get it in a much more convenient fashion.

More bombast

The opening of the Olympics provided World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound with another opportunity to present his unsubstantiated view of the NHL to a bunch of bovine media too dim or too dispirited to take him to task.

"Any drug-testing program is better than what they had before, which is the complete denial of the existence of a problem," Pound said.

Oh, really? The NHL denied there was a problem because there wasn't a problem. And if Pound thinks there is no proof of that, perhaps he should check his facts -- assuming of course he does not work solely on suppositions.

With regard to his charges that one-third of the NHL players are substance abusers, he said: "They've dealt with my figures as if I were talking about steroids. I was talking about the full menu of performance-enhancing substances."

This is a favourite trick of Pound's. One minute he is talking about steroids. The next minute he is talking about stimulants -- which are neither illegal nor banned. He flips from one to the other then hides behind the resultant confusion.

If he can't present his views with clarity, then perhaps he shouldn't be on the job.

Another Pound-ism

"Anybody with any experience in hockey knows that stimulants are perhaps the drug of choice."

Now what does that mean? Either "anyone knows" which implies certainty, or it's a matter of "perhaps," which implies uncertainty. Yet both appear in the same sentence. It's another example of Pound flinging accusations without having facts to support his stance.

Yet another Pound-ism

"I'm always amused with them saying with outraged innocence that I have no proof ... This from an organization that, for 30 or 40 years, has resolutely bargained out of existence the possibility of testing their players."

The NHL says that Pound has no proof for one reason. He has no proof. So, instead of offering proof, he affects an air of smug superiority and tries to deflect attention by taking a shot at the bargaining process. By doing so, he again shows his ignorance. It was not the NHL which fought against testing, it was the NHL Players' Association.

But hey, those are only facts. Why let them get in the way of a bombastic performance when there is a submissive audience out there taking notes?

Making moves

Even though the general managers did not make any major recommendations at their recent meeting, they nevertheless started the process for some changes to the game.

When they voiced their complaints about certain aspects, those views were gathered by executive vice-president Colin Campbell and will form the basis of a submission to commissioner Gary Bettman.

From there, the issues will be evaluated and changes likely will be made.

One of the most probable revisions has to do with the unbalanced schedule. Like the fans, the GMs don't like it.

It was a pet project of New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello who based his views on the adage that familiarity breeds contempt. In hockey, he feels, that resultant contempt breeds spirited games.

But judging by the attendance at Devils home games over the years, Lamoriello is no expert on that subject.

The GMs feel, as most fans seem to feel, that there is such a thing as too many games against the same teams.

Also, they don't like the fact the schedule is unbalanced on a divisional basis but playoff participation is determined on a conference basis. If you're a good team in a weak division, you have a much easier time.

The emergence of young stars is a factor, too. Some of these kids are major gate attractions and under the current system, they may come into your building only once every three years.

So look for a change to the system.


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