Caps coach wants Sid back

Sidelined with a concussion, Sidney Crosby skates during a Pittsburgh Penguins practice in Calgary...

Sidelined with a concussion, Sidney Crosby skates during a Pittsburgh Penguins practice in Calgary on October 7, 2011. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:14 PM ET

The suits at Hockey Night in Canada must have been collectively gutted by Sidney Crosby’s comments on Saturday that he is not yet near an immediate return to action.

Inside his office at the Verizon Centre, Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau probably was a bit disappointed, too.

You can understand why the HNIC brass would be depressed upon hearing Crosby say that he needs more practice time to absorb contact, something that has been missing during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ intense stretch of 10 games in 17 nights. The hope was that Crosby might be back for next Saturday’s visit to Toronto against the Maple Leafs, a best-case scenario that would have provided a ratings bonanza.

As for Boudreau, logic would suggest he would want to see Crosby out of the picture for as long as possible, since the Pens superstar has proven to be the biggest pain in the, uh, Ovies for Boudreau’s Caps.

After all, would Batman look forward to the Joker getting out of jail?

Would New York Jets coach Rex Ryan pick up nemesis Tom Brady from the hospital after the New England quarterback had undergone a minor procedure?

Of course not.

Why, then, would Boudreau want Crosby, easily Public Enemy No. 1 among Caps fans, to be back as soon as possible?

“Because of what he means to the sport,” Boudreau said during a phone interview. “The league is a better league with Sidney Crosby in it.

“I look in the paper every day to see if he’s back. I’m a fan of hockey. He’s been out too long.”

It was during the Winter Classic at Heinz Field between the Caps and Pens on Jan. 1 that Crosby first suffered concussion symptoms after being hit inadvertently by David Steckel. A second blow to the head in a subsequent game against Tampa Bay sidelined Crosby to this day.

With Crosby yearning for some consecutive practice days, a quick glance at the schedule shows the Pens do not have more than two days between games until Oct. 30-Nov. 2 — one day after meeting the Leafs.

As for Boudreau, the always-candid Caps coach had plenty to say on a variety of issues.

-- ON HIS JOB BEING ON THE LINE:

The vultures and buzzards have momentarily stopped circling overhead after the Caps got off to a perfect 6-0 start heading into Saturday’s huge tilt against Detroit.

At the same time, as QMI colleague Chris Stevenson pointed out in Saturday’s Sun, the Caps’ unblemished record covers up some warts.

In the end, Boudreau knows that if this talented teams falters or falls short in the playoffs yet again, cries to axe him will bellow throughout the U.S. capital.

“You have to have a thick skin,” he said. “It’s the nature of the beast. It’s part of the job. It’s reality. I’m human and I don’t like it, but you have to take the good with the bad.

“I don’t read the papers or listen to the stuff. But it’s hard to tune it out when your friends tell you about (the criticism) or the kids hear about it.”

-- ON ALEX OVECHKIN:

For those who claim The Great Eight might not be the best team player, Boudreau disagrees.

“He’s been great,” Boudreau said. “We’ve spread out the power play time and he no longer plays all two minutes, but he certainly does not come into the coach’s office whining about having his time cut.

“People see this happy-go-lucky guy but they don’t see how hard he works behind the scenes.”

-- ON TOMAS VOKOUN:

“I knew he was a quality goaltender, but he’s a great guy too. He’s a big reason we are off to such a good start. (GM) George McPhee did a great job bringing him here.”

-- ON HIS TEAM’S DEPTH:

“We are probably deeper than we’ve ever been. We have a legitimate checking line in Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward. We’ve equalized a lot of our ice times.

And at the back end, this is the first time Dennis Wideman, Mike Green and John Carlson have been healthy enough to play at the same time. Puck movement from the defence has definitely been a strength.”

FEELING LIKE A KING

When Mike Richards boasts about what a tight-knit group the Los Angeles Kings are, there always will be critics in Philly who feel it is his backhanded way of slagging the Flyers.

That is not true. Nor is it his intention.

In the end, after setting up the winning goal during his much-ballyhooed return to the City of Brotherly Loathe on Oct. 15, Richards no longer wants to talk about his Flyers days, especially given the excitement he is feeling toward his new team.

“I haven’t seen a locker room this close since my second year of junior in Kitchener,” Richards said in a phone interview from Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon. “It’s been awesome.

“I didn’t know anyone out here, but the guys have been great helping me get set up. I’m living in Manhattan Beach, just down the road from a couple of them.

“I knew how good Drew Doughty was, having played with him at the Olympics. But the guy who has surprised me is Anze Kopitar. I didn’t know how good he was or how hard he worked.”

Richards is now part of the Battle of L.A. rivalry between the Kings and Ducks, pitting him against his buddy Corey Perry. While the two were gold-medal teammates at the world juniors and Olympics, they once engaged in one of the most entertaining scraps in recent history while in junior, Richards with Kitchener, Perry with London.

“We’re friends now after winning those titles together,” Richards said. “We’ll battle each other, but I wouldn’t predict we’ll fight again.”

For those who want to check out that 2005 Richards-Perry fight, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSnXEhNoxaA.

QUIET RIOT FOR T.O.?

Potential rioters beware. The eyes of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment are watching you.

Of course, legions of sarcastic Torontonians would suggest the Leafs have never provided a legitimate reason to riot in recent years.

No matter. According to Richard Peddie, outgoing president of MLSE, contingency blueprints are in place in the event of such an emergency.

“When we go deep into the playoffs, we have plans in case something happens, just like we have disaster plans,” Peddie said in a phone interview. “Whether it be riots or some other event, we understand we can be a target, especially being a gathering place for so many people. You have to be ready.”

Peddie refuses to use the Vancouver riots of this past June as an example, perhaps out of respect for the city and the Canucks’ organization. Instead, he pointed to the recent Occupy Toronto movement.

“Today, with all the social media around, people can organize a gathering of the masses like that in no time, via email, texting, Twitter, you name it,” Peddie said. “It doesn’t take long.

“Growing up in the Detroit-Windsor area, you see the way people react to sports teams. You must be prepared.”

ZIZE’S PRIZES

To Wayne Gretzky:

A well-earned mulligan

Whether it be through time or money, The Great One has done more for charity in this country than many sporting legends of his ilk. That’s why, even if certain observers felt he was preoccupied and distant at times during his visit to East General Hospital in Toronto several days ago, Gretzky deserves a benefit of a doubt. Maybe he was under the weather, maybe not. Whatever the case, after all the causes he has aided over the years, cut him some slack.

To the Vancouver Canucks:

The Good-Guys Award

By the time the tear gas and smoke had cleared from the post-final Vancouver riots, countless stories had been penned about the Canucks allegedly being the “most hated team in Canada.” Maybe so. But the organization recently did itself proud with its classy pre-ceremony honouring the late Rick Rypien.

To the building once known as Maple Leaf Gardens:

Some respect

With MLSE grinding out some legal issues with Ryerson regarding the refurbishing of the building, the Carlton St. Cashbox no longer will be called Maple Leaf Gardens any more. Too bad. For those of us who grew up at that grand old rink, complete with the candy apple vendors outside and the cups of flat cola with clear plastic lids inside, it will always be Maple Leaf Gardens, no matter what the lawyers say, no matter how many supermarkets are built inside. They can take away the name, but not the memories.


Videos

Photos