Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: No NHL Olympics? Follow the World Cup plan

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

There's been a lot of talk about what will happen to international hockey if the next collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow NHL players to participate in the Winter Olympics.

Russians have said they'll go anyway (so much so that it's been brought up as a point of contention in the ongoing Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) negotiations). Fans have said they wouldn't watch without them. Everyone probably agrees that the game as a whole would suffer on a global level.

But it wouldn't have to.

The World Cup just wrapped up and it serves as a perfect model for what life after NHLers playing Olympic hockey could look like.

(Coming Up: The continuing Kovalchuk drama and silly contract reports; banner sadness for Red Wings rookie; the Jackets seek to continue their arbitration streak; Staal report from Carolina; reality check for Voros; PK Subban(notes) is honored; strong support for keeping Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes) in Chicago; Burkie goes to the beach; the latest on Modano and Minnesota; and two trades that would help out the Oilers but not really the Flyers or the Canucks.)

They have Olympic soccer too, but it's a tournament that, despite the gravity that is often lent to events of that type, is limited to U23 players and a few veterans per team. But the fact that it's U23 doesn't preclude the world's greatest from playing; Lionel Messi, widely regarded as one of the two or three best soccer players alive, helped Argentina win gold in Beijing.

Under those rules, Sidney Crosby(notes) could have suited up. Same goes for Toews, Kane, Stamkos, Backstrom and Kopitar.

Of course, to keep the global game from dying out, the IIHF would have to pitch in as well and do what FIFA does: make the sport's biggest tournament out-of-season and take place less frequently.

For better or worse, the IIHF considers its yearly World Championships to be the greatest crown it can award. But look at the rosters of players involved and try to pass them off as anything but second-rate. Sure, teams have a smattering of top-quality players. Russia brought Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk(notes) among others, Canada had Stamkos, the U.S. had... well, OK, the U.S had a really awful team.

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But the Czechs won it all with a team led by a creaky Jaromir Jagr(notes) and Jakub Klepis(notes), last seen stateside being fairly awful for the Wild in 2008. And that's not the kind of side that should be winning gold medals.

The problem is that the tournament takes place while the NHL playoffs are going on, and guys are understandably reluctant to play in a tournament so soon after their long, difficult season ends.

If the IIHF moved it back a month or so (which would start it around the same time as the World Cup started this year), and the Players' Association actually encouraged players to participate like FIFPro does, then the talent at the World Championships would get better in a hurry.

Remember how awesome the 2005 World Championships were? It's because a bunch of NHL players actually played in it (for lack of anything better to do). Making the tournament mean more — by having it take place every four years rather than every one — might give them a reason to keep doing so other than, "We got eliminated from the playoffs and I don't have a vacation booked for another six weeks."

Hell, that might even actually get it on TV in the U.S.

The World Cup actually made an entire country care about a sport that it normally is at best indifferent toward, and we saw that hockey can get a bit of a buzz going for itself when the United States almost won a gold medal.

There's plenty of room for sports coverage during the summer, when the biggest news is normally a couple baseball scores, NFL training camps and some mediocre free-agent signings in hockey and basketball (LeBron/Kovy years excluded).

Sure, the World Championships don't carry the historical gravity of the Olympics; but if we do end up having to worry about it, it's not like this isn't doable with a little cooperation.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Aaron Voros(notes) is "very" and "extremely" excited to be traded to the Ducks, because he says their skill players like Ryan Getzlaf(notes) and Corey Perry(notes) play with an edge. No one tell Voros that he's not going to get any shifts with them.

Atlanta Thrashers: Atlanta defensive prospect Paul Potsma was excited to hear that new coach Craig Ramsay likes having his defensemen jump up in the play. Why? Because Potsma scored 15 goals in 63 games from the blue line as a rookie in the AHL last year.

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Boston Bruins: Bruins prospect Joe Colborne on moving from center to wing in his first full pro season: "Everyone knows the Bruins have 17 good centermen right now." That's almost not even an overstatement.

Buffalo Sabres: Some Buffalo fans may be concerned that the back end will suffer with the free-agency defections of Henrik Tallinder(notes) and Toni Lydman(notes), but Darcy Regier says not to worry because they brought in Leopold and Niedermayer. I'm not sure if he's aware that they signed Rob and not Scott.

Calgary Flames: Finally some good news for Flames fans. Ales Kotalik(notes) — and more specifically his $3 million cap hit for the next two seasons — might get buried in Russia. Maybe. But maybe not. But hopefully.

Carolina Hurricanes: Hey, here's a name you haven't heard in a while: Jared Staal. He's in 'Canes prospect camp and will play in the AHL next year. Based on his last name alone, I'm sure Jimmy Rutherford will soon be preparing a contract offer comparable to whatever Ilya Kovalchuk gets.

Chicago Blackhawks: In the wake of the Niklas Hjalmarsson offer sheet, the Chicago Tribune ran a poll asking if the 'Hawks should keep either him or Antti Niemi(notes). The stupefying results at press time: 48 percent believe they should keep Hjalmarsson. ...What?

Colorado Avalanche: In the Avs' continuing quest to acquire everyone that has ever been associated with the Boston University hockey program, they have not only re-signed Brandon Yip(notes), but also his former college teammate and former Calgary farmhand David van der Gulik(notes).

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have had their arbitration dates set with both Jared Boll(notes) and Anton Stralman(notes), but things are likely to get resolved before the hearings. The Blue Jackets have never in franchise history been through an arbitration hearing.

Dallas Stars: Something you may not have considered — the Stars are quite cash-poor at the moment because of that whole "their owner is going through bankruptcy and can't support the teams he owns" things. This makes them, like the Blackhawks, very vulnerable to offer sheets.

Detroit Red Wings: Prospect Landon Ferraro is having a rough go of things. First he gets a knee injury, then comes back too early, then has a falling out with his junior coach and doesn't officially have a team for next year. And now the Detroit Free Press calls him a "former Red Wings prospect."

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Edmonton Oilers: Seriously, does anybody know what's happening with Mike Comrie(notes)?

Florida Panthers: You know things are bad for Florida's blue line when fans are actually excited they signed a college free-agent defenseman and even I've only heard his name in passing.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings will meet with Ilya Kovalchuk soon, but they sure won't sign him then, no siree bob.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild say they're not after Mike Modano(notes) for sentimental reasons, like his history with hockey in Minnesota. Of course not. That's what first-round draft picks are for.

Montreal Canadiens: PK Subban had a good week. Not only did he go to Habs development camp despite obviously not needing to do so, he also just won the AHL's President's Award, which is given to players in recognition of outstanding accomplishments. Dude was a plus-46 in 77 games in his first pro season.

Nashville Predators: The Preds still haven't decided who they're going to get to back up Pekka Rinne(notes) this coming season. I hope whoever it is can take a joke.

New Jersey Devils: Just about a week after the paper reported they signed him, it also reports that the Devils have tabled a 17-year offer for Ilya (or: "Llya") Kovalchuk. Yeah, I totally believe that.

New York Islanders: While the town of Hempstead's supervisor and Charles Wang wrestle over just how big the Lighthouse Project will be (she says "like half of what you want it to be," Wang says, "Seriously I'll fight you for real"), it turns out that county officials are going to support the Isles' idea. This, of course, marks the first time the Islanders have gotten any support from anyone on Long Island since Clark Gillies retired.

New York Rangers: Look, I get that Rangers fans are a bit delusional, but declaring the eventual Ilya Kovalchuk contract, the details of which we obviously don't know, when he's 34 will be unequivocally "worse than Redden's" is laughable. Nothing anyone pays a player like Kovalchuk is ever going to be worse than Wade Redden's(notes) contract.

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Ottawa Senators: Sergei Gonchar(notes) was officially introduced in Ottawa the other day, and said that their offering him a three-year deal was what made him decide to sign there. Really, Gonch? Getting a third year at a few million bucks when everyone else was offering two because you're 56 years old helped you decide that? You don't say.

Philadelphia Flyers: Broad Street Hockey has been getting some seriously good coverage of the Flyers' prospect camp. Probably as a means of distracting themselves from the horror of the eventual Simon Gagne(notes) trade.

Phoenix Coyotes: Quick, how many Coyotes defensemen can you name? Even if you're new Phoenix draft pick Brandon Gormley, the answer is two. Said he: "You've got guys like Ed Jovanovski(notes), (Keith) Yandle, those (other) guys, you can learn a lot from." WHAT ABOUT DEREK MORRIS(notes), BRANDON?

Pittsburgh Penguins: One fan wonders why people think the Pens need to upgrade their wingers. Well, I can answer that. The best wing they have under contract, from a 2009-10 production standpoint, is Pascal Dupuis(notes), who hasn't scored more than 40 points since 2003.

San Jose Sharks: Hjalmarsson's agent says that the Sharks' offer sheet wasn't anything to do with taking a run at a team in a vulnerable cap situation, but rather because he was their best option to replace Rob Blake(notes) at that budget. OK buddy.

St. Louis Blues: This is the closest thing to Blues news this weekend: They've signed Brennan Evans to fill the role of official opponent puncher for their AHL affiliate. With an average of 15.6 fights in the minors every year since the lockout, Evans is very, very good at his job.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts' upcoming prospect camp will hopefully answer some questions, including how good the team's future in net looks. A positive note is that it can't possibly be worse than the past.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke is going on vacation. After signing a free agent like Brett Lebda(notes), he's earned it!

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks have re-signed their favorite tough guy with a sissy-sounding name, Tanner Glass(notes). He got just under a million dollars less than Derek Boogaard(notes).

Washington Capitals: Semyon Varlamov(notes) changed his jersey number from No. 40 to 1, and that might be a bad thing. Goalies wearing No. 1 for the Caps have an all-time record of 266-334-84, says the Peerless Prognosticator.

Gold Star Award

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Spain won the biggest sporting event in the world Sunday. I figure that counts for something.

Minus of the Weekend

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Dean Lombardi.

Please tell more newspapers about how you plan to drag the Kovalchuk negotiations out a liiiiiiiittle bit longer, Dean-o.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "moneygoalie31" wants to help out the Oilers.

To EDM: Gagne, Carle and the rights to Carcillo

To PHI: Souray, Cogliano, Deslauriers and Jones/Jauques

To EDM: Bieksa and Hodgson

To VAN: Penner and Brule

Oh yeah, mission accomplished, moneygoalie31.

Signoff

You know, the feeling that you're feeling is just what many of us call "a feeling."

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can email him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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