this week + last: doesn’t sound like a sutter

After 45 games, the Leafs appeared to be hitting a wall.

Toronto’s chances of making the playoffs, according to the, now stand at 21 per cent.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that things aren’t going anywhere near what our expectations are, that’s for sure,” coach Randy Carlyle said on Thursday.

Canadian GM Steve Yzerman announced the team he’ll be taking to Sochi for the Olympics next month, which is when Michael Farber from Sports Illustrated took to Twitter: “My Canada includes Martin St. Louis.”

But Wayne Gretzky, for one, approved of the players selected: “I really think he put together a good team,” Gretzky told Pierre LeBrun of “He’s got skill, he’s got size, he’s got depth, he’s got a good coaching staff, and they’ve done all their homework. They’ve done everything they can do. Now it’s up to the players to play at the level that they need to play at to bring back the gold medal.”

The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox called the Winter Classic a gimmick ahead of the big New Year’s Day game between Leafs and Red Wings in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Farber: “No, I am not in Detroit. Since ’03 Heritage Classic in Edmonton – Hype vs. Hypothermia – I have been strictly an indoor hockey writer.”

Toronto’s Phil Kessel: “She is gonna be chilly tm out on that ice”

On the day, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk told his coach, Mike Babcock, “Well, we’re being too careful with the puck. We gotta be because you’re scared to turn it over. There’s so much snow.”

In front of a record-setting crowd of 105,491,tThe Leafs won, 3-2 in a shoot-out. Cox, post-game:

NHL gimmickry and ambition collided with frigid, blustery, irritable Mother Nature to produce a compelling outdoor game as a remarkable 82 TV cameras peered through an unceasing snow squall to broadcast every moment to 160 countries.

“I never talk to my team after we lose ever,” Babcock said. “I did today. I said you should be proud. You have an off day tomorrow. Enjoy your family today.”

“To me,” said Babcock, “today was a home run for hockey,”

After bombs ripped through lives in Volgograd, in southern Russia, The Globe and Mail’s Roy MacGregor listened to Alex Ovechkin’s thoughts on the subject. “It’s awful,” he told reporters in Ottawa. “I don’t know what people doing that kind of stuff for. I feel so sorry about the families and the people who were there.”

When you hear this kind of situation happened, you think ‘Oh my God!’ You just feel bad. I don’t know how to say it, but just say ‘Why? Why you have to carry a bomb with you and push the button and destroy you and destroy everybody? If you want to do it, do it by yourself somewhere in a forest or in the mountains. Nobody is going to care about it. This is just stupid.

Boston’s goalie, Tuukka Rask, talked about the danger of terrorist attacks at Sochi’s Olympics, where he’ll be defending Finnish nets: “You trust the system that nothing will happen. You can’t live your life in fear.”

“He’s a dirty player,” said the goalie in Colorado, Semyon Varlamov, and he laughed.

Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, he was talking about. As reported in The Denver Post, having scored the overtime goal with which the Jets beat the Avalanche,  “the 265-pound Jets defenseman glove-punched goalie Semyon Varlamov twice during his celebration in the crease, undoubtedly connecting on the second jab.”

Colorado coach Patrick Roy thought Varlamov should be “flattered.”

I’m not going to make a big story of this. It was unnecessary. I mean, I don’t think he had to do that. But at the same time it’s positive. In which way? It shows Varly gets under teams’ skin. The more Varly plays like this, the more you’re going to see an incident like that, which is great in some ways. At the same time, it was classless, there’s no doubt.

“You don’t have to be God to beat them.” That was the Finnish goalie, Juuse Saros, talking about Canada last summer in a interview with Yahoo! Sports.

In December, in Sweden, the Finns proved the point by beating Canada 5-1 in a semi-final at the World Junior Championships. They went on to beat the hosts in the final; Canada lost to Russia to finish fourth.

“This isn’t just our game anymore,” said the Canadian coach, Brent Sutter. “These countries take a lot of pride playing the game, too, at a high level, and developing great prospects and great players.”

Talking to reporters after the bronze-medal loss, Sutter said, “You guys and a lot of people in our country expect us to win every year, just because we’re Canadians. And rightly so. We want to portray it’s our game.”

The reality is that junior hockey now across the world, there’s a lot of good teams. There’s a lot of good players in each country. It’s shown in this tournament.

With others from Hockey Canada, Sutter said it’s time for Canadian hockey to take a good long look at itself in the grassroots, go back to basics, school kids in the fundamentals of the game, stop pushing them to win, win, win.

Don Cherry had some thoughts about that. “I still can’t believe Brent said this,” he told told Joe Warmington from The Toronto Sun. “It doesn’t sound like a Sutter.”

“We don’t need a hockey summit,” Cherry said. “We have great hockey players.”

Dick Irvin the Younger was made a member of the Order of Canada for (said Rideau Hall) “his contributions to hockey as a beloved broadcaster and author, as well as for his charitable activities.” FromThe Regina Leader-Post:

Though he’s listed as being from Pointe Claire, Quebec, the longest-serving member of the Hockey Night in Canada team was raised and educated in Regina.

“Teams had been kind of sitting on the Oilers preferred zone entry of late,” noted a blogger, Tyler Dellow.

Everybody felt bad for Marty St. Louis, left off the list this week of the Olympic team. Wondered The Globe and Mail: can the Olympic men’s hockey team win gold without him?

“You guys can imagine how I feel, obviously, I’m extremely disappointed and I’ll just leave it at that,” St. Louis told reporters.

The debate over whether the winner of last year’s Norris Trophy was a good for Sochi ended: P.K. Subban was on.

“P.K. is a guy that provides a dimension, the ability to transport the puck, run a power play, he can make a big play to win you a game,” said Detroit GM Ken Holland, one of the managers who chose the team that was announced on Tuesday. “He can be a game-breaker.”

Toronto lost to Washington on Friday night. Randy Carlyle:

We’ve been begging, kicking, pleading, kissing, everything you can to find a way to play with confidence. It seems we’ve squeezed our sticks on simple D to D plays. But pucks were rolling on us and ending up in peoples’ feet. It’s mind-boggling. There’s not a lot of easy breathing around our group right now. We need to churn out points to feel good about ourselves again.

“Is Toronto Maple Leafs’ Randy Carlyle coaching himself out of a job?” The National Post wondered; elsewhere on the web, the question about the Washington game was “Randy Carlyle’s Last Game?”

In an article alongside a poll of readers asking how many games should Carlyle be allowed before he was fired, The Toronto Star‘s Dave Feschuk suggested the coach needed to “emphasize more speed, less Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em hockey.”

Twenty-two per cent of those who responded to the poll said, no more games, all done, fire him now.

(Credit: Bobby Hull by LeRoy Neiman, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of Time magazine)