News that Dave Cameron has been hired (allegedly) to be Paul MacLean's assistant in Ottawa is sure to raise a few eyebrows, none more so than mine, which almost flew off my head when I first heard.
There's a bit of a wink and a nudge (and possibly a blind horse) attached to this hiring if you've at all been following the Senators coaching search this summer. It is indeed strange that owner Eugene Melnyk's first choice to coach the Sens ends up with the consolation prize and, essentially, the title of "Coach In Waiting".
And before we get any further, there's no reason to cast aspersions on Cameron's qualifications. Everyone agrees he's a good coach and that he's likely ready to be in the NHL.
This is purely about optics here, and Melnyk somewhat poisoned the atmosphere when he seemingly hijacked the hiring process by publicly casting his vote for Cameron. Ultimately, GM Bryan Murray proved he makes the hockey decisions by hiring MacLean from the Red Wings organization, but this latest news is sure to crank up the gossip machine to full power.
Obviously MacLean approved this hiring, but did he feel pressure to accept Cameron from up above or was this a hire based only on merit? We may never know the answer, and it may not be important anyways.
It's important to remember that we are debating the finer points of assistant coaches here. The fact that this is big news probably means we are all insane or, as others would put it, "passionate". The truth likely lies somewhere in between.
The end result is that Ottawa is adding an intelligent and highly rated coach to their staff, even if the process was riddled with politics. This is Ottawa, after all.
A lot of ink has been spilled on the idea of the Canucks being "Canada's Team" during their failed Stanley Cup run, and ultimately the rejection of that team because they were just way too hard to like for anyone with a conscience, Canadian or not. Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun described the Canucks as "soccer-style divers, finger biters and whiners", and you'd be hard pressed to find a better description out there, although I'd add "inexcusably cocky" to that list (see Roberto Luongo's comments on Tim Thomas if you have any doubts). It also didn't help that a solid core of their fans have proven to be raging psychotics, trashing their city, beating up innocent people, stabbing Bruins fans and leaving them to bleed in the streets like animals, throwing glass bottles at reporters, attacking homeless people, and then having the gall to get so mad and disgusted with themselves in the aftermath, with the whole world laughing at them, that the supposed "good samaritans" opposed to the riots have now called in death threats to that rich polo kid and his family after he confessed to trying to light a cop car on fire. So, it's a sin to riot in the streets but its okay to harass and threaten someone's life for doing so? It's all very civilized isn't it? Even Oakland Raiders fans are probably thinking "Woah, that's completely out of control".
Then you throw in the merciless and completely unfounded booing of Gary Bettman as he tried to present the Stanely Cup, believing that there was an NHL conspiracy to make sure they lost to the American-based Bruins, and a general manager who has never been seen to smile on camera, and you have the makings of the most hated team in the NHL since the New Jersey Devils of the mid to late 90's or perhaps as far back as the Philadelphia Flyers in the 70's. But the Devils were hated for being boring, the Flyers were hated for being too violent. The Canucks are hated for a whole cornucopia of sins, many of which have been deemed "un-Canadian" by the Canadian press, just like the cops in Vancouver trying to tell us that the rioters weren't Canucks or hockey fans, but "anarchists and criminals". Of course, that's a lie too outrageous to leave unchallenged.
Of course, there were "anarchists and criminals" rioting, but they were probably outnumbered 10-1 by everyday normal Canadian kids who love hockey as much as the next guy, but just decided that now was going to be their only opportunity to go completely insane and escape the consequences. To pretend that the thousands of rioters weren't hockey fans is just ignoring the problem, and setting yourself up for a repeat the next time the Canucks make a run, maybe as early as next season. Stop trying to blame everyone else, accept responsibility and make the necessary changes to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's what rational people do when they screw up big-time.
If I trashed my own house because my favourite team lost a hockey game and I tried to tell my wife that a bunch of criminals and anarchists ran in through the back door and burned everything, I'd get one of my wife's patented death stares and would probably wake up in the emergency room hours later in a body cast with divorce papers on the bedside table waiting to be signed when I recovered the use of my hands.
I don't really get the hand-wringing about another Canadian team failing to win the Stanley Cup either. If this was the Olympics or World Juniors, I could understand, but I don't see nationalism having any place in the NHL. This is a club-based league and there's nothing wrong with Canadian fans loving the Bruins or Rangers or Red Wings or whoever south of the border. A lot of fans inherit their love of teams from parents or for any other weird reason you can think of. I fell in love with the Red Wings because the first pack of hockey cards I ever opened had a Steve Yzerman rookie and my dad told me he was from Ottawa. Then I saw a picture of Ron Duguay and that hair of his and I knew the Wings were my kind of team. I didn't care that they were terrible during those years in the early to mid-80's. My old man loved the Hawks and there was no sense that I had to cheer for the Habs or the Leafs just because they were Canadian. Being forced to cheer for some random Canadian club still left in the playoffs is a cruel sort of pressure, especially when that team is full of "divers, whiners and finger biters". And what if that team was the Toronto Maple Leafs? Do people really expect fans in Ottawa to cheer on the Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final? (Luckily, this scenario will never happen).