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Now That The Dust Has Settled...


Jason Chen

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First off, a big congratulations to the Big Red Machine, winning gold on home ice. Canada's 14 gold medals, if you haven't heard for the millionth time now, is the most by any country in Winter Olympics history. It's no small feat, and as cliched as it sounds, Canada's success has really united its people from coast to coast. The importance of "Own The Podium" was not lost in the eyes of the government and this is great news for the traditionally under-funded Canadian athletes, with the federal budget expected to double its annual contribution.

With such initiatives from the Canadian government expect more and more gold medals for Canada's trophy case. It seems only fitting anyway, amidst the Molson, HBC, and Tim's commercials that we should be good at "conquering winter." Sure, the Americans won more medals, but we can always say we won the most golds, and perhaps the ones that mattered to us most. In both men's and women's hockey the Canadians were victorious over their southern rivals, even though the women's post-game celebrations drew the ire of the IOC. But, as Roy MacGregor says, "so what?"<img src="http://media.nj.com/star-ledger/photo/-da5f91bb0cd558bd_large.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">

The USA-Canada game was one for the history books and I don't remember Salt Lake even coming close to receiving as much hype as it did. If Gary Bettman still doesn't understand why NHL players need to be in Sochi, then I'm not sure if anything in this world will convince him. Hockey in North America is reaching its peak, with USA Hockey introducing a slew of new stars. Hockey Canada has always had a steady stream of quality talent, but Sidney Crosby has garnered the most attention since Wayne Gretzky. The gold medal game drew the highest TV ratings since the 1980 USA-USSR game and it shouldn't surprise anyone that a vast majority of the American viewers were from the north. However, let's hope that the high viewership in cities without NHL franchises, like San Diego, doesn't give Bettman any funny ideas. Some, however, remain quite pessimistic about hockey's staying power in the States. Of course, it doesn't help Bettman that none of USA's marquee talents play on Southeast Division teams.

The days of European dominance, and questions of whether the North American development programs are heading in the right direction or not, are over. Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg, and the stars of yesteryear don't dominate the NHL anymore. Finland and Sweden have probably seen the last of their stars from the '90s, while Russia is re-thinking their strategy and selection process. So disappointing was their performance this year that their Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagachev has resigned after pressure from President Dmitry Medvedev.

Just one day after the Closing Ceremonies, the NHL was right back at it again. I must admit, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, that I was suffering from the Olympic hangover and didn't even realize the NHL had resumed playing until I saw the boxscores. If there was any drawback to the Olympics, and this is a minor one, to say the least, was the somewhat uneventful trade deadline. Despite featuring a record number of players, I felt that most of the moves were lateral moves at the very best, with GMs trading for the sake of trading. Here's some winners and losers...

The clear winners, I think, were two playoff teams: the Kings and Capitals. With such a young team, Dean Lombardi made an astute move and got veteran leader Jeff Halpern. The price may have seemed a little steep for the journeyman centre, with Teddy Purcell and a third rounder going the other way, but with the Kings' organizational depth it was something they could afford. I think the Capitals missed some of Chris Clark's presence so they got former Canuck Scott Walker and the underrated Eric Belanger. Milan Jurcina returns to Washington and they also got Joe Corvo as well, and the price wasn't bad. The Capitals really made themselves a contender in this one and I have a feeling they'll top Pittsburgh this time around, despite getting Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Pens just don't seem to be playing as well this year - perhaps the novelty of not having Michel Therrien behind the bench is wearing off a little. Phoenix was surprisingly active during the deadline but I think the bigger story is their success, not their acquisitions.

There was, I think, a clear loser on this day and I think that's the Oilers. The 'Canes unloaded what players they didn't need, but at the end of the day the Oilers were still saddled with the same group of players they began the season with. Only two trades materialized for them: shipping Lubomir Visnovsky to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney and then Steve Staios to Calgary for Aaron Johnson and a pick. Unless Johnson impresses, he probably won't be back next year while Whitney's signed through 2013. Whitney perhaps isn't the type of player that brings a new attitude to the locker room, something that Steve Tambellini has been wanting to do, but the Oilers had to take some salary back. Some people wonder why the Oilers struck a trade with the Flames, but I really think that speaks to the futility of the Oilers' position. They obviously didn't have Calgary in its mind as a trading partner, but the lack of interest from other teams, or the reluctance to part with picks and prospects, probably pushed the Oilers to them. They have some immovable assets there. It's a long road ahead for the Oilers. The sweeping changes didn't come and the team will probably make more noise at the draft. Sam Gagner may be the only player really worth keeping but it's a shame he has to toil there.

<img src="http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/object2/1850/125/n55157749204_7654.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks made some depth moves, acquiring Yan Stastny, Andrew Alberts, and Sean Zimmerman. Zimmerman probably won't see any NHL time in his career, Stastny's a call-up at best, while Alberts is a decent depth defenseman. Seeing as how Kevin Bieksa is still out with an injury and Willie Mitchell's status unknown, Mike Gillis didn't make any moves to shore up the blueline. I was personally pulling for Dan Hamhuis, but the Predators elected to keep him for the rest of the year despite his impending free agency. Gillis' big move last year was getting Mats Sundin, but nothing this year. It's perhaps a vote of confidence from Gillis for this team, but it's still missing some pieces before it's a contender in a tough conference.

But of course, I'll still be cheering for the blue and green. Back to the NHL we go!

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