When Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson chose to change his goaltenders prior to a shootout in a regular-season game earlier this week, the move was treated as though it was a breakthrough, if not, irrational thinking.
In fact, in the most significant shootout in Olympic hockey history, Canadian coach Tom Renney would definitely have changed goaltenders, if his backup hadn't been injured at the time.
Renney tells that story now, long after Peter Forsberg scored the famous shootout goal in 1994 on Corey Hirsch, (I have the stamp to prove it), enabling Sweden to win the Olympic gold medal.
Hirsch, his starter, wasn't considered a good break-away goalie. Manny Legace, the backup, was the choice of the coaching staff, not to start the game, but to end it. And Renney admits now he would have switched to Legace if it was physically possible.
The irony now: Hirsch is the first-year goaltending instructor for the Maple Leafs. If anyone knows what it is to lose in a shootout, it is him. Whether Wilson chooses to switch goalies again is another matter. But know this: In a game far more important than an October NHL match, a coach of high quality would have done exactly the same thing.
THIS AND THAT
It is more than six months since Mats Sundin played an NHL game. That is the length of most Leafs seasons. If his heart isn't in playing, and he has yet to commit to that, why not be honest with yourself and just say walk away and end all this mind-numbing speculation? Most athletes have to be dragged away from the game -- not dragged back to playing ... Never mind sending D Luke Schenn back to junior. Right now, he is top three among NHL rookies and a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate ... Something happens to goalies who play for the Senators. Like, suddenly, they lose their co-ordination or their brains. No team lets in more ridiculous-looking goals on a regular basis than the Senators, no matter who is in net ... I fear that rookie Mikhail Grabovski, who cost the Leafs a second-round pick, has major-league legs and minor-league hands.
HEAR AND THERE
If you hear Canadian NHL owners whining about the plummeting loonie, ask them this: When the Canadian dollar was worth 10% more than the U.S. dollar not that long ago, why didn't they load up on currency then? ... The athletes I feel for are the Americans playing in the CFL, figuring their salary was worth 20% more at home when the season began than it is as the season is about to end. That is a big hit for players who don't earn much ... All this talk about Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal turning the Raptors into contenders is awfully nice, but I still look at their roster and see that they don't match up well with most NBA teams at shooting guard and small forward ... Now playing for the Minnesota Wild: Greedy Gaborik. He is not the best player in hockey, he just demands to be paid like he is.
SCENE AND HEARD
This is what Pat Gillick does: He steals reliever Brad Lidge from Houston in a trade that costs him Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo. Without Lidge, the Phillies don't win their division and don't get to the World Series ... There is nothing wrong with Jason Blake. This is what he is. The reality on him, other than his ludicrous contract, is he can skate, but he can't shoot the puck ... "One word to describe Curt Schilling?" World Series goat Mitch Williams was asked on Off The Record. The answer: "Jackass." ... Department of Dead Man Coaching: Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys. He has that look about him ... The two best players in the CFL -- Henry Burris and Anthony Calvillo -- are coached by longtime NFL assistants and quarterback coaches, (16 NFL seasons combined) John Hufnagel and Marc Trestman ... True story: Evan Longoria became a third baseman because he couldn't beat out his college shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. That was the left side of the infield at Long Beach State ... For once, Bud Selig did something right. Tampa gets home-field advantage in the World Series because the AL, with Rays lefty Scott Kazmir pitching, beats the NL, with Lidge on the mound, in the all-star game. And what are the odds of that happening again? ... Football can't be any more fun to watch than Ottawa and Guelph was yesterday in a CIS playoff game ... And hey, whatever became of Nelson Liriano?