NHL

ALL-STAR NOTES: No Leafs in Fla.

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 

SUNRISE, Fla.

To the best of anyone's memory, Sunday was the first time in National Hockey League history a member of the Toronto did not play in the All-Star game. Needless to say in the always-intriguing world of NHL politics it likely was not an oversight. There's more than a little tension between the NHL and Toronto. The Leafs, especially under coach and general manager Pat Quinn, don't mind "tweaking" some NHL directives, especially when it comes to orders not to criticize officiating or speak out about financial matters. The league, in turn, has had no problems regularly issuing massive fines to the Leafs. So this season when the Leafs pulled both forward and goaltender from the lineup citing injuries and then played both in back-to-back games in the days leading up to the All-Star break, it didn't go unnoticed. "It's possible that we were overly lenient in excusing them," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said when asked about the absences. "That may be something we have to monitor, from our own standpoint, more closely. The good news is that most of our players, virtually all of them, love the honor and love being here as part of our weekend. ... If we really have to be more vigilant and police injuries, maybe we'll have to be. ... This is a very physical game, and guys play hurt a lot, and if what you're saying to me is we should have been tougher, maybe we'll have to look at that in the future, but we issue the excuse not for them to play. Nobody just gets to pull out unilaterally." Quinn merely said that the Leafs are always willing to cooperate in things that benefit the league and that the current situation was simply "unfortunate." Sources tell FOXSport.com that Sundin felt pressure about the way the disclosure of his shoulder injury was first handled and had wanted to play in the game. Both issues are likely to be discussed behind closed doors.

Hull playing both sides

The impact of 's comments about the state of the game have reached all the way to the commissioner. Hull rocked both sides of the hockey world when he said — among many other things — that 75 percent of the players are overpaid. Bettman seemed to enjoy the comment, but he carefully crafted his answer. Asked if Hull's comments interested him, the commissioner indicated that the comments of all players interest him, "sometimes more than others." Bettman also walked the fine line about Hull not being invited to the game. "Selecting the All-Star teams is a delicate balance," he said. "You want to put your best stars out, but you also have to have a broad representation. We have gotten away — courtesy of the YoungStars game — of having to have every team represented in the All-Star game itself. Every team is, subject to injury, represented in the course of the weekend. At some point you look at how many players you put on a particular team, and I think the hockey operations department, in conjunction with the fans, in conjunction with the general managers, does a very good job in trying to strike a balance." That may be true, but neither the hockey operations department nor the general managers reveal their vote and it's fair to say that over the course of his career, Hull has made as many enemies as friends in both camps. Fans, however, voted Hull third among Western Conference wingers and didn't get to see him play.

Let the rumors commence

The NHL general managers are scheduled for three days of meetings after this weekend. In between rounds of golf, sets of tennis and some walks on the beaches, expect the seeds of numerous trade tumors to be planted. Already the Philadelphia are rumored to have great interest in Buffalo All-Star right winger , and Satan has hinted he might be inclined to move on to a team that is in a better position for long-term success than the bankrupt . Satan averages about 35 goals per season, so he will be sought by more than one team. But general manger Darcy Regier recently told FOXSports.com that trading high-profile players is a delicate matter and one that usually involves decisions from ownership. Not having an owner complicates the situation in Buffalo.

Saving face

Credit Anaheim general manger Bryan Murray for talking former Florida defenseman Sandis Ozolinish into playing for the Eastern Conference in the game Sunday. Ozolinish had skipped the interview session Saturday morning and didn't show for the skills competition Saturday night. He was of the opinion that he would be booed by Florida fans (He was traded Friday from the to the Ducks and the trade is very unpopular here and viewed by many as a salary dump) and was uncomfortable representing the East now that he is a member of a Western Conference team. Murray made a personal plea for Ozolinish to play and he did.

The power of trees

Now that St. Louis defenseman won the hardest-shot competition (a record seventh time) with a wooden stick, the bloom might come off the rosy predictions that composite sticks will rule the game. The composite's have some advantages, including durability and a give that adds to velocity on a shot, but some players complain that they are more difficult to work with when handling the puck, especially taking a hard pass. Now that MacInnis has proven that it's still possible to have power with wood, the debate is sure to take on another dimension. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Sabres, Red Wings, Flyers, Blues, Maple Leafs, Ducks, Panthers, Miroslav Satan, Brett Hull, Ed Belfour, Mats Sundin

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