Wednesday, September 07, 2011
I'd say something about the Russian plane crash but its all too sad. All of the families left with an absence in them. Its too horrible for words.
Last August and September we did a little project here on the Summit Series in 1972. In the next week or so I am going to start posting a new series, a look back at the 1976 Canada Cup. The first Canada Cup was the first best on best tournament ever held and in the minds of many the Canadian team was the greatest hockey club ever assembled. This was the first of five Canada Cups, a tournament Canada won four out of five times. I always get a kick out of Canadian hockey angst, although I am a fullfledged participant in it. There have been a dozen best on best tournaments if you include the 1972 Summit Series. Canadian clubs have won eight of them. No other team has won more than one. That's excellent. Unlike the English, who groundlessly feel they are automatically favourites for every major soccer tourney they enter, we Canadians actually have reason to believe that we will emerge triumphant.
So how good was this club and who drove the bus for it is what I want to see. This is a different situation than last year's look at 1972. Unlike that club which had quite a few players who I did not see in their prime, including my boyhood idol Stan Mikita, by 1976 I was a big hockey fan and had been watching NHL hockey for a few years so I have memories of most of the Canadian players involved. I actually watched the tournament although I was eight at the time so I don't remember much about it other than Sittler's famous goal. I certainly don't remember Bobby Hull, who was gone to the WHA by the time I became a hockey fan, and so it will be interesting to see him play. Also this is Bobby Orr's swan song, even playing basically on one leg he was named tournament MVP, so I am curious to see him as well.
And unlike 1972 there is not a huge mythology around the 1976 team. Its been thirty five years and there was not the drama of 1987 or 2010 or even 2002. This club sits there with the 1991 and 2004 Team Canada clubs, superb, victorous, but anonymous in a way, partially because of the coldly efficient way in which they triumphed when all was said and done. This was a great team on paper and on the ice.
Without even cracking the DVD shrinkwrap yet, looking at the Canadian roster online there are two things that stand out. First of all the roster is compact unlike the bloated collection of players from 1972. There are twenty two skaters. Secondly is the astounding quality of the Canadian team with sixteen eventual hall of famers on the roster.
Anyways times have been busy as hell for me so I'm hoping to get the games watched and posted within the month. I hope you enjoy reading about this series as much as I hope to enjoy writing about it.
Soon, very soon, Oilers' camp is going to open up and NHL hockey is going to return.
Its probably going to be another long year unless Tambellini addresses the defence and goaltending before the start of the season. I don't see that happening really so barring a miracle its going to be another long Greyhound ride although likely there will be many more anonymous handjobs than last season.
There are positives. There are four actual left wingers on the roster and three actual centres and three actual right wingers and when is the last time we could say that? Of course Hemsky and Smyth will likely be traded for futures come the spring but for now we can enjoy the deepest corps of forwards the Oilers have had since the 2006/2007 season, deep enough that a guy like Teemu Hartikainen will probably not make the team, despite showing that he could probably play in this league right now in his cup of coffee last season.
Just as Brian Burke said the other day that the Leafs' roster is pretty well set so too is the Oilers'. You could write a lot of names down in pen.
LW - Hall, Paajarvi, Smyth, Eager, Hordichuk
C - Horcoff, Gagner, Belanger
RW - Eberle, Omark, Hemsky, Jones
D - Whitney, Gilbert, Smid, Peckham, Sutton, Barker
G - Dubnyk. Khabibulin
So we're looking at probably two forward spots and one spot on the blue. Of course injuries will change all of that as well but for now this is what we are looking at.
So we have Petry and Chorney likely battling it out for the final D spot.
And if Brule is healthy (and he's skating so one assumes he is, although one assumes he will come down with an irritated labia or uncomfortable rectum soon enough) then there is one of the two forward spots gone.
So that's one spot left and Nugent Hopkins will get very chance to win it I would think and my guess is unless he is completely lost out there he will get at least nine games.
There's your roster folks, barring trade (unlikely) or injury (waiting for the first shoe to drop over here).
Posted by Black Dog at 3:10 PM