James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Pucks and Politics

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You know, when it comes down to it, politics don’t mix very well with a lot of things. Obviously, there’s religion. Something tells me that politics and blind dates fail to cooperate in a meaningful way as well. Google tells me that politics aren’t a great partner for the following things:



Really, to be honest, politics seem to mix poorly with most things, especially if you prohibit snarky answers like “corruption” and “money.”


Even so, I’d argue that politics should stay at least an international-sized hockey rink away from sports. As corny as it sounds, big events really can be a time when people with little in common can suddenly relate on a harmless level? (Especially with booze and fried food often involved.)


With that in mind, the big moments of political defiance can take some joy out of the escape like a bad accent in an otherwise well-made period piece. When a player doesn’t do the usual during a national anthem, awkward questions are often required. Steve Nash has balanced himself on an interesting tight rope by combining an almost unanimously likable style of basketball with undeniably outspoken liberal beliefs.



One could argue that Tim Thomas bares a lot in common with Nash from an abstract standpoint. He exhibits a dazzling style that shouldn’t work, but it does. There’s an underdog vibe to his success; Thomas is under-sized, unorthodox and was barely drafted while Nash is the catalyst for a system that supposedly cannot win a championship.


Nash is also the rare Canadian who succeeds in an American-dominated sport while Thomas is the unusual* American star in Canada’s religion-sport. On a Boston Bruins team whose rough stuff makes them a tad bit polarizing, Thomas has been that scrapper-turned-superstar who always seemed affable.


It’s unfair to say that suddenly changed with one snubbed White House trip, but let’s make no mistake about it. For better or worse, many hockey fans will never look at Thomas the same way again.



The question is: how will this strange situation affect him, fantasy-wise? That’s really tough to say, but it’s not crazy to wonder if there might be some kind of impact. He’ll have to deal with questions for quite some time and could very well regret the timing of this story. Instead of enjoying a glorified mid-season victory lap, All-Star weekend will present plenty of times to talk politics over pucks.


Maybe that’s what he wanted, but he should be careful what he wishes for. Worse yet, fans of the 29 other teams might think of some “creative” ways to give him grief for his White House snub. It might not even matter in markets that might generally share his stances as hecklers can be hypocrites.


Considering Thomas’ track record of shoving naysayers doubts right back in their faces, it wouldn’t be surprising if that just ends up lighting his fire. Your guess is as good as mine, but if nothing else, this adds an interesting wrinkle of intrigue after things were settling in to an almost blandly dominant state.


* - Naturally, Nash is more of a rarity than Thomas.



For the second season in a row, Alex Ovechkin threw a check that earned him a suspension. This time around, he received a three-game ban for his dirty hit on Zbynek Michalek.


Naturally, losing an explosive player like Ovechkin for three games isn’t a fantastic situation for fantasy owners. Even so, it could actually be a decent big-picture boost if Ovechkin follows through on what he’s rumored to be considering and sits out the All-Star weekend.


If Ovechkin does that, he’ll essentially get a vacation – albeit unpaid – until Feb. 4, which essentially gives him two weeks off. Considering Ovechkin’s physical style of play and inability to say “No” to international summer tournaments, it wouldn’t be shocking if this break was what the doctor ordered for the Russian star.



While Ovechkin seems to be a toss-up (maybe leaning toward “vacation”), it sounds like Jonathan Toews is all but certain to miss the All-Star weekend. That’s a bummer for fans of the event, but most fantasy owners could care less. The only disappointment for that group is that Captain Serious won’t play tonight … Jamie Benn could very well play in the All-Star Game this weekend as he tries to recover from an appendectomy … Jordan Eberle and Kris Letang were added to the ASG rosters in wake of some injuries and “pass” decisions. So let me ask: who should replace Ovechkin and Toews if they decided to rest up during the exhibition weekend?



Jimmy Howard collected his league-leading 30th game of the season while the Red Wings won their 17th consecutive game in Detroit, extending their franchise record mark in the process … Perhaps I put the whammy on Evgeni Nabokov because he was on the wrong end of a 3-0 shutout as his team lost to Jonas Gustavsson and the Maple Leafs. Who knows if it will last, but “The Monster” is actually playing some gigantic hockey lately … Alex Goligoski signed a four-year, $18 million deal to stay with the Dallas Stars.



Nathan Horton has a “mild” concussion, which is more than mildly worrisome … Chad LaRose is day-to-day with a lower-body issue … Brenden Morrow joins Benn on the injured reserve … Ryan Malone remains banged up with his upper-body issues. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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