Monday, November 29, 2010

Roy Returns, Represents

It has been, and will be, a couple of eventful days for Olivier Roy. He made his return to Cape Breton Sunday afternoon, for the first time as a member of the visiting team, and backstopped his Acadie-Bathurst Titan to a win over the Screaming Eagles. Roy played (spectacularly) in Sydney for the last three seasons before being dealt in the off-season. The Eagles visited Bathurst earlier this season, only to be shut down as Roy earned his 100th career win, and it seemed that another deflating result was on the way in Roy’s Cape Breton homecoming, with him sitting on a goose egg until about 9 minutes left in the game. He stopped 23 of 25 shots in the 4-2 victory.

On top of coming away with the win, he also got a warm reception from the crowd of 3,363 at Centre 200. I missed the pre-game, but as I understand it, he got an ovation when he was announced as the starting goaltender. Deservedly so, as the audience recognized the outstanding work of a goalie that stood on his head to deliver wins that the Eagles had no business collecting over the course of his time there. He got another (relatively) loud ovation when he was named 2nd star, though the crowd had thinned out considerably as the game was delayed for penalties to be sorted out with three minutes to go and the home team down 4-1.

Next up for Olivier Roy: Buffalo, New York. Hockey Canada will name the selection camp roster for the World Juniors Monday and Roy will be at camp, he’ll make the cut, and he’ll be the starter as Canada seeks to reclaim its spot at the top of the podium. For Eagles fans, it’ll be great to watch him dazzle on the international stage as he did in the black and gold for three seasons. Canada will get to discover the secret that we’ve known for three years; the goalie factory in Cape Breton has produced another beauty. The sting will come when Roy shuts down the Russians or kicks out four scoring chances on an American powerplay, and Gord Miller utters the phrase, “Olivier Roy of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.” Watching Roy reach the peak of his junior career representing the colours of another club will be bittersweet, but that’s no reason to not be damned proud of him. And a gold medal sure wouldn’t hurt.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garrett Clarke's Series of Unfortunate Events

With the Halifax Mooseheads officially washing their hands of Garrett Clarke today, I figure it’s about time I weigh in. The troubled defenseman was dealt to Shawinigan today for a 4th round pick after being removed from the roster (read: kicked off the team) at the start of the month. The trade period doesn’t open until December 19th, of course, but that’s A-OK apparently; more on that later. Matthew Wuest of Metro Halifax has a good take on what Clarke is all about, if you’re not up to speed.

In short, Clarke has a penchant for taking selfish, poorly-timed penalties. A quick glance through the scoresheets from earlier this season reveals this, in the form of putting his team down a man when a scrum would have otherwise led to coincidental minors, or nuking a Mooseheads powerplay by taking a penalty early in the man advantage. I saw him once this year, in Sydney during pre-season, and the Mooseheads were set to go to the powerplay after someone took a run at Clarke… until Clarke chased that player wielding his stick like a baseball bat. There was no follow-through, but it was enough for an unsportsmanlike call. It seems like this is the kind of thing that happened all too often over the last season-and-a-bit, ultimately leading to his departure. Oh, and this may be a good time to mention that many observers deemed him to be much more disciplined coming into camp this year compared to last year.

The part that puzzles me is the absolute outrage from many Mooseheads fans about what went down. Obviously Clarke is a very talented player, there’s no denying that, and the few occasions that I did see him play, he stood out in that regard. So yeah, if your best defenseman is sent home, then traded for below value, you’re probably going to be pissed, and that’s fine. But many seem to think that Clarke didn’t deserve this fate, despite being a headache, albeit a skilled one, since arriving in Halifax. How many second chances do you want to hand this guy? He left Lewiston under similar circumstances, complete with less-than-market-value trade, which is why I also don’t buy the criticism of Bobby Smith/Cam Russell, and believe me, I’m no supporter of Russell.

The Mooseheads made a low-risk, high-reward deal to land Clarke in the first place, and now they ship him out in the same fashion. I don’t see why it’s a disaster for the Mooseheads like some seem to think. No doubt those cries will grow louder if Clarke thrives in Shawinigan, but it doesn’t change the fact that things weren’t going to work in Halifax. And if nothing changes with the Cataractes and Clarke’s lack of discipline/possible off-ice issues puts him in the doghouse with a third team in as many years, possibly leading to the blueliner with mid-round draft potential going unpicked in June… can we really say that Bobby Smith and Cam Russell made the wrong move on this one?


Some additional Clarke thoughts…

The whole Clarke situation has been a mess, including the transaction side of things; as Buzzing the Net’s Nathan White noted earlier, Clarke could play up to ten games as an affiliated player with Shawinigan before being traded. He’s now been traded, before the trade period actually opens, but will still be treated as an AP until the trade period. Of course (Wuest chatted with Cataractes GM Martin Mondou today to further clarify things, post-trade). My question is this: why would Halifax rush to complete the transaction before the trade period? That 4th round pick isn’t going to win them any games between now and then, and the two teams play on December 1st. My assumption (and I could be totally wrong on this) is that since Clarke was still Halifax’s property and only on loan to Shawinigan, the Mooseheads could have denied Shawinigan from dressing Clarke against them. Now that the deal is done, Shawinigan can make that call. If that was an option that Halifax had (and again, I don’t know that it was), could you imagine the fallout if Clarke knocks Marty Frk out cold with an open ice hit, or breaks Luca Ciampini’s ankle with a slash? THAT would be a mess.


Finally; if Clarke gets his act together, and Shawinigan manages to somehow sway Michael Matheson from the NCAA route… what a blueline that would make for their Memorial Cup pitch. Matheson’s decision probably wouldn’t come until after the host was named, which Shawinigan is bidding for, and recruiting Matheson seems to be a one-in-a-million chance to begin with, but the top prospect from the past draft would be a huge boost to their chances to represent the Q next season.