Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Catching Up

It has been an interesting last few days watching the 2010 edition of the Mastercard Memorial Cup or what is fast becoming the "Taylor Hall Show." If there was any question as to who was going to be the first pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft; that question has been answered by Hall's performance as his Windsor Spitfires look to repeat as Mastercard Memorial Cup Champions.

If the Edmonton Oilers do not select Taylor Hall then one might expect Oiler fans to burn down Rexall Place. Hall has for the most part turned the Mastercard Memorial Cup into his own personal showcase.

In 3 games, Hall has put up a 4-2-6 to lead all scorers during the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup and insuring that his Windsor Spitfires will play in the Cup finals for the 2nd straight year. It is a performance that has silenced those like myself who felt that Tyler Seguin was more deserving of being taken first.

I am eating a nice portion of crow after saying for Tyler Seguin is the better pick because Hall's numbers had the benefit of playing with a better supporting cast. Of course Hall himself has a lot to do with why he is raising his own stock as he is showing that whatever supposed holes in his game he has that Hall is addressing them.

Hall has played well in all 3 zones which is something he was not supposed to be good at; perhaps when you are so good on offense as Hall is that people (myself included) expect perfection at all ends of the ice.

Crow does not taste so bad when it is served on a delicious plate like the Memorial Cup.


The beauty of hockey over any other sport is that you can never take anything for granted as well as no matter level of game is played; hockey players play hard even if the game is supposedly meaningless.

The Windsor Spitfires owned both WHL teams they faced in the round robin portion of the Mastercard Memorial Cup earning a spot in the finals after 2 games. The Moncton Wildcats suffered one really bad loss to Brandon and a heartbreaking loss to Calgary and were not supposed to have a chance against Windsor.

To make matters worse for Moncton was that their star goalie Nicola Ropel was unable to go for reasons not disclosed. Their backup goalie Shane Owen was discarded by the Erie Otters at mid-season and hardly had played during the QMJHL playoffs.

The makings of a massacre right? No way as the Moncton Wildcats showed their heart forcing the Windsor Spitfires to dig deep and play 12 minutes into overtime before falling 4-3. While the loss eliminated the Wildcats from the Memorial Cup; the Wildcats let the rest of the hockey know that they were as good a team as any of those play in the Cup.

So now the Mastercard Memorial Cup is down to 3 teams with 2 rivals playing 2 games to decide which one gets to play Windsor on Sunday for the Championship. The hometown Brandon Wheat Kings and the WHL champion Calgary Hitmen play first the final game of the round robin portion then face off on Friday in the semi-finals.

If anyone thinks Wednesday's game has no meaning then they do not understand hockey; Calgary eliminated Brandon in the WHL Eastern Conference finals and are playing in front of the Brandon fans. If you want to watch a war then make sure you tune in on Wednesday night and get a taste of why covering prospects is more than a job.


Thanks in part to the play of Brandon Dubinsky the United States avoided being demoted to Division 1 at the IIHF World Championships and to be honest they should have been demoted to send a message to American born hockey players. Yes NHL players view playing for the Stanley Cup as the top of the mountain but the rest of the world does not always agree.

Top US and Canadian players who are not playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the most part tend to turn down invitations to play in the World Championships and one of these days it will come back to bite either country. No US team has ever been demoted at the World Championships and had this team been the first then all the good feeling gained by the efforts by the junior teams would have been lost.

2 straight gold medals by the Under-18 squads and the dramatic gold by the Under-20 team was supposed to help jumpstart USA Hockey. The silver medal in the Olympics was heartbreaking but acceptable but a demotion in a championship that is not viewed seriously a giant embarrassment.

European players I am sorry to say view playing for their country as a major honor but sometimes North Americans don't. That mindset needs to change or one day there might be an Olympics where the US or Canada does not play.

(Taylor Hall courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

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