Saturday, December 18, 2004

Mirtle’s Saturday News & Notes

Here’s a grab bag of some things happening in hockey.

MacInnis set to retire
It’s looking very unlikely that future Hall of Famer Al MacInnis will ever play another game in the NHL. MacInnis suffered a serious eye injury at the start of last season and the eye hasn’t made significant progress. Look for MacInnis to be joined by Detroit’s Steve Yzerman as retiring players who will be first ballot inductees in 2008. MacInnis’ rifling shot will be missed by everyone but the goalies.

Not locked out, locked in
As reported by the National Post last week, European clubs are going to be locking NHLers in once the season is officially cancelled. “If the season in cancelled, clubs in countries like Russia, Sweden and Switzerland and some other teams will look to ink longer-term deals with no out options in their contracts,” said agent Pat Brisson. Many European teams would be burned if the season miraculously did start, as some clubs are carrying as many as 11 NHLers.

Birch makes the cut
After starring in the CBC reality series Making the Cut alongside Florida Panther GM Mike Keenan, Jack Birch was hired by Keenan as the Panthers new director of hockey operations. At least someone got an NHL job out of that snoozefest.

Aebischer no playbischer
The Avalanche netminder is playing for Lugano but has only played in just 11 of 30 games. A native of Switzerland, Aebischer is one of the country’s best players ever, but has been forced into a backup role due to the play of Rüeger Ronnie. Aebischer’s teammate Alex Tanguay is also playing for Lugano.

Andrew Ladd struggling
Ladd, the fourth overall pick in the draft last season, has had a tough time so far in his WHL season. Coming off of a shoulder injury over the summer, Ladd has just 24 points in 33 games for the Calgary Hitmen, leading some to speculate that he wouldn’t make the Canadian World Junior team. Ladd was, however, selected to the team over WHL leading scorer Eric Fehr.

No place like the ECHL
Nashville defender Shane Hnidy has joined the small band of NHLers playing in the ECHL, the league which serves as the minors for the minors. How guys can play in the NHL one year and not be good enough for the AHL the next baffles me.

Zee hangs them up… again
Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski played 10 games in the United Hockey League for Kalamazoo before deciding to retire from hockey. Zalapski, 36, last played in the NHL during a 12-game stint with the Flyers in 1999-2000. Zalapski was picked fourth overall in 1986 and had his best season with Hartford in 1992-93 when he netted 65 points. I saw Zalapski when he tried out for the Vancouver Canucks two years ago, and he looked overweight and slow. Some guys lose it early, and others, like Mark Messier, will play long into their 60’s. Nevermind, Messier’s just a freak show.

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