August 11, 2011
Leaf won't rush Lombardi
By Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
The Maple Leafs have already won the trade with the cap-challenged Nashville Predators, unless minor league winger Robert Slaney comes back to haunt them or the bought-out Brett Lebda re-surfaces in the Northeast Division.
That doesn’t mean Toronto general manager Brian Burke will push his luck by rushing centre Matthew Lombardi back for the vital first part of the schedule. Not even in the wake of reports that the centre’s summer of recovery from a severe concussion continues to go better than most people thought.
“It’s too soon to tell,” Burke told Sun Media. “As we always do with head injuries, we’ll err on the side of caution.”
Which means keeping Lombardi out of contact drills at the start of training camp and perhaps no game action until well into the schedule. The hopes is that the club’s new projected No. 1 centre, Tim Connolly, clicks with Phil Kessel and that Tyler Bozak gets accustomed to his likely spot as No. 3 pivot behind Mikhail Grabovski. That would buy valuable time.
Oct. 13 will mark a year since Lombardi’s injury in Chicago when he tumbled head-first into the boards. Prior to that, the speedster had put together a career-best 53-point year with Phoenix.
Craig Patrick belongs to one of hockey’s royal families, was part of America’s Miracle On Ice, managed two Stanley Cup winners and even coached a bit to solidify his place in the Hall of Fame.
So what’s he doing with a maple leaf on his jacket, behind a bench of raw 15-year-olds and headed overseas?
“I love coaching, it’s an age group I enjoy working with and I had some free time,” Patrick explained as the Team Canada selects prepare for the Red Bull Rookies under-16 championships in Salzburg, Austria. “It’s a challenge to get kids this young ready in a short time, but they can see what goes into preparing for (an international) event.”
Patrick and fellow coaches Clement Jodoin and ex-Leaf Ken Strong have many of the best minor midgets in Canada starting Aug. 18 against Latvia. They’ll also be taking on the Czechs, Russia, Slovakia and Austria. Those countries will be putting their national development teams on display. The ever-clever Russians are coached by legend Vadislav Tretiak and the Czechs by ex-Leaf Robert Reichel.
Patrick and Jodoin, who is head coach of the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs and former national junior team assistant, were doing some related work with Red Bull last year when Canada was invited to the first tournament. That team was comprised of 1996 birthdate players from the Toronto area and lost 6-1 to an older Russian team, meaning this year they’re much more experienced, with six returning players and a roster of players across the country.
Captain Dylan Sadowy is one of the GTHL’s top players and three others are drafted by the Western Hockey League, Blake Penner, Josh Uhrich and Haydn Fleury.
Avs have spark
Erik Johnson says Washington Capital fans shouldn’t bother scoreboard watching this year in hopes the Colorado Avalanche finish far down the ladder. The defenceman was referring to the first-round pick the Caps acquired from the Avs in the Semyon Varlamov trade, saying folks in D.C, will be miffed when Denver has a good year,
“It’s not going to be a (high) pick,” Johnson vowed to the Denver Post. “It’s going to end up being a great trade for us. People are saying we got the short end of the trade and they’re happy because they think we’re going to finish at the bottom. We’re not going to do that.”
Johnson hopes he’ll reach full potential, too, in his first full year in Colorado.