By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning’s short list of must-read hockey stories:
• With the 25th anniversary of The Trade (Aug. 9, 1988) just around the corner, there’ll be lots of ink spilled over the deal that sent Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings and, in the process, changed hockey (mostly) for the better. But you probably won’t read a piece that is more randomly awesome than this one from last summer that explains who Gretzky was babysitting when he heard the news.
• The Washington Capitals have invited an undrafted forward to their rookie camp, which wouldn’t be much of a story if Nathan Walker wasn’t Australian. Here’s an older piece from the IIHF that sets up his amazing story.
• Capitals blueliner John Carlson was thrilled with his invite to the American Olympic camp, but says that it is only the first step to reaching his goal.
• The IIHF has suspended Alex Edler for the first two games of the 2014 Sochi Olympics as a result of his illegal hit on Eric Staal at the World Championships. It could have been worse — there was talk of five games — but this still might be long enough to kill his chances of being selected to Team Sweden.
• Some players are entering sports old age at 35, but not Pavel Datsyuk. Helene St. James says the sublime center is aging like a fine wine.
• Patrick Roy brought Francois Allaire with him to Colorado to tackle one significant challenge: help struggling Semyon Varlamov find his game. But is the man who coached Roy to greatness in Montreal so many years ago still up to the challenge?
• Here’s how the St. Louis Blues almost lost one of their top prospects to baseball.
• Apparently there’s an ongoing debate as to who might be the most popular athlete in Philadelphia history. One wag suggested it was current Phillies’ second sacker Chase Utley. Bill Meltzer, on the other hand, is ready to make the case for Bernie Parent.
• Philly prospect Anthony Stolarz couldn’t find his place in college hockey, but discovered success when he transferred to the London Knights of the CHL.
• Now that management has burned through the checkbook, it’s time for the Winnipeg Jets to play like a cap team.
• CBC News offers up a nice piece on Jordin Tootoo’s just-completed trip to Nunavut.
• If you want to get a jump on your 2014 draft knowledge, take a look at Canada’s roster for the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, which pits the world’s top U-18 players against each other. Canada’s lineup will include center Michael Dal Colle, defender Aaron Ekblad and winger Jake Virtanen.
• NHL.com looks at seven players who are trying to avoid the one-hit wonder tag. The one guy I worry about: Sergei Bobrovsky.
• David Staples examines the pros and cons of offering a long-term deal to Justin Schultz. He’s a great young talent, but a long-term deal at this point seems a little too risky.
• Lucas Lessio and Connor Murphy are two of the top Phoenix Coyotes prospects who are under the microscope in this piece.
• Jared Cowen is the last member of the Ottawa Senators without a contract. The trick here is determining the value of a player with such immense promise, but who has struggled with injuries.
• I’m opening up to some elements of the whole advanced analytics craze, but this is where the stuff gives me crazy-head. A new book is out that takes a look at all the numbers and decides that the Edmonton Oilers were the worst team in hockey last season. Apparently, the fact that each game played comes with a result, and those results were accumulated to determine that Florida really was the worst isn’t enough. Edmonton only finished ahead of them because of, you know, luck. Good lord. Sometimes it’s worth remembering the immortal words of Bill Parcells: You are what you are. There may be any number of arguments to be made than a team is better/worse than it appears to be, but the results are the results. And the only stat that matters in this argument is that Florida had fewer points than Edmonton. End of debate.